Sunday, March 24, 2013

And that's the 7 o'clock edition of the news (Simon and Garfunkel)

Gregarious in his seventies music blog recently wrote about the Tom Clay song What The World Needs Now/ Abraham, Martin and John and wondered aloud if it was the most emotionally charged song of all time.

It's a tear jerker – there is no doubt and the song cleverly manipulates our emotions with its collection of sound bites from the assassinations and speeches by the three Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, most notably Edward Kennedy's moving eulogy for Bobby.

On the plus side, I have always liked the way the ambiguous Hal David line – 'we don't need another mountain' and King's metaphoric 'I have been to the mountaintop' juxtapose.

But on the whole it's a form of middle of the road song married to sound bites shtick that doesn't really hold water. It becomes too manipulative and the little kid's bookending of the song (I don't know what segaration is) becomes cloying and redundant after repeat listens.

So what else is out there that provokes real/raw emotions in a less contrived way? And, yes, I know, we're heading into deeply subjective territory here.

Here are some other contenders:

Simon and Garfunkel's Silent Night/Seven O'Clock News is top of my list (in under two minutes we have a slow build under the hymn of the anodyne newsreader telling us about death and violence in a sixties world where Lenny Bruce has just died but where Martin Luther King is still alive. Chilling! A simple idea – not overdone and leaves us thinking rather than manipulating an emotional response like the Clay contrivance. We also get the trivialising of the news thrown in for good measure).

There are a few more that spring to mind as second equals:

Jim Croce Alabama Rain (probably only emotion for me as I associate the song with my maternal grandmother - like I said - it's highly subjective what works the emotions).

June Tabor And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (I've posted on this before – a sober and unsentimental song about the ANZACs during World War 1)

Bob Dylan Idiot Wind (pretty sure I've posted on this amazingly vitriolic song before too – try the live Rolling Thunder Revue version on Hard Rain for extra venom)

Bruce Springsteen 41 Shots (you can get killed just for living in your American skin is the harrowing message from Scooter, a.k.a. The Boss).

And what about the Fabs you ask? Try George Martin's Pepperland track for The Beatles Yellow Submarine (it conjures up perfect childlike, and somehow, psychedelic swirls of emotion).

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rock and roll music to the world (Ten Years After)

Oh my! I read an emailed Mojo bulletin yesterday on Alvin Lee's death and it blind sided me.

You know what it's like when you read about something completely unexpected - it's an intake of breath and an 'Oh no!' moment. I'm struggling to grasp it quite frankly.

Mojo reported that he died in Spain (where he was living) from complications from a routine medical procedure. What??? How does that happen?

He was only 68 and still active in music (2012 he released his latest, now last, album Still On The Road To Freedom) and although he was never ever going to move the tectonic plates of rock and roll again, like he did at Woodstock with the revelatory I'm Going Home (by helicopter), he was a titan of the rock guitar world and the planet is a lesser place without him.

Readers will remember my other posts on my favourite Ten Years After/ Alvin Lee moments so for today I want to focus on the group's 1968 live performance of Woodchoppers' Ball, the old Woody Herman song.

It comes from the Afters' second album Undead which was recorded live (hardy ha!) in a little jazz club. At nearly 8 minutes long, it can be seen as a precursor to the seminal Woodstock performance. Like that legendary time in space, Woodchoppers wastes not one second in it's fiery trajectory.

Their version clearly displays all the wares - Leo Lyons on breathtaking bass guitar, Ricky Lee's virtuoso drum display and the underrated Chick Churchill on organ. All gel with Alvin's musicality on guitar.

Alvin signs off the performance with a name check for the band members and ends humbly with...'and me'.

Alvin! We loved you man!