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Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 12th Installment: Pete and the HoboSapiens, Downtown Merrylegs, Aaron Bowen, Scott Bricklin, Rose Gabriel, Box for Letters and Paolo Alderighi & Stephanie Trick

September 20, 2017
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my 12th “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the 11th of which ran in May 2016 – I have seven musicians or groups to talk about, all of which were discovered in the open mics I attended since then. (Although I have known some of them for a few years.)

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

First, as a reminder, the idea behind this regular – but occasional – column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to do without it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged wisdom and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing it. So when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – or riding the apartment cycle in front of the TV, which staves off the boredom – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from musicians at open mics (and including EPs on SoundCloud or other sites) or from any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, deep knee bends, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

Pete and the HoboSapiens


Pete and the HoboSapiens – Time and Place

The thing that really gave me the kick in the butt to get my 11th edition of this morning exercise rundown out fast was the reception yesterday of this video to a new project by Pete Cogavin, his new band called: Pete and the HoboSapiens. I just loved this song, “Time and Place,” and sound and video so much that I thought I should get the thing up on my blog along with the other stuff I have been exercising to as quickly as possible. Pete I met in 2010 or 2011 when he was hosting his own evening of music at Shapko in Nice, France. He let me go up on stage to sing a few songs, as he did most people who asked, in his informal open mic at the time. We met the following year too, I believe, and have kept in touch ever since. I loved his voice and music at the time, but it is clearly growing and developing. There is a song-writing skill here, the music is bright and uplifting, it just bounces along, the voice has its distinct Pete Cogavin quality, and there has been some nice effort put into the video. You can also find Pete and the HoboSapiens’ full new CD on Spotify.

The Downtown Merrylegs: Pollen Cloud

Downtown Merrylegs

Downtown Merrylegs

I discovered this Paris-based English band through performing at the Rush Bar open mic, hosted by the genial Charlie Seymour, an Englishman who has spent decades playing music in bars in Paris without us somehow having run into each other until he began hosting that open mic this year! I usually arrived at the open mic too late to hear his opening set – of which I am ashamed – but one day recently when I gave him a copy of my CD, he gave me a copy of his. What a fabulous surprise this CD and band, The Downtown Merrylegs, most of the songs of which Seymour writes and sings. This is British folk rock of a kind I like, but the thing that was extraordinary was when I suddenly realized how close this man’s voice sounds to one of my favorite singing voices of recent years: Wally Page. Page is a little-known Irishman who has, nevertheless, written songs and performed with Christy Moore, the great Irish traditional singer songwriter of Planxty fame. But while Seymour’s voice may be a dead-ringer for Page’s, the stories they tell are entirely their own.

Aaron Bowen and his Wide Sky and other CDs

Wide Sky - Aaron Bowen

Wide Sky – Aaron Bowen

Aaron Bowen has a story to tell in his music, sure, like most singer songwriters. But this San Diego musician who visits Paris regularly, also has a very cool story to tell about his music, the latest which release is “Wide Sky” from More Than Folk Records in Paris. Working in a business in his 20s he suddenly had to sell the business, and found himself deciding to make a life in music. One day, jamming with a friend, he had written a song and wanted the friend or someone to sing it. “Oh, you can try to sing it yourself,” said the friend. Bowen, a fabulous guitar player from a musical family, said to his friend that he could not sing at all. The friend pushed him to try. He sang the song, and out poured the most mellifluous and original voice the friend had heard in a while – and it hit every single note perfectly. Comparisons now often come to the voice of Paul Simon. Whatever. A new singing, songwriting career was born, and Bowen never looked back. I love this CD, Wide Sky, one of two he gave me in recent months, the other being a thing call Spring Demo. But I’ll keep that to myself for the moment! Oh, and by the way, I just wrote that story about his vocals from memory after a night at a Paris open mic many months ago. It is quite possible that I got some details wrong, but that’s the gist of it!!!!

Scott Bricklin, Not Lost at all, on Lost Till Dawn

Scott Bricklin - Lost Till Dawn

Scott Bricklin – Lost Till Dawn

Scott Bricklin is a hugely talented multi-instrumentalist from Philadelphia, who had a previous life on a label somewhere in the U.S. with a band with his brother. Now a permanent Paris expat, he is keeping very busy playing here and around Europe, and has just come out with another album of his cool, laid back folk rock. (At least that’s the way I hear it.) What makes this very homogenous album really interesting for me, and maybe for one or two readers of this blog, is that unlike the last CD of Bricklin that I heard – on which he played basically all the instruments – here on “Lost Till Dawn,” a good most of the CD consists of Bricklin playing along with Félix Beguin and Jeremy Norris. These are the same three performers who played on the first five songs on my CD, “Out of a Jam.” (Beguin also played on two of the other five tracks on my CD.) So it was really cool to hear what other fabulous sounds these guys could make, and it was not a disappointment.

Wrapping Up With Rose Gabriel, Box for Letters and Paolo Alderighi & Stephanie Trick

And so I come to the round up area at the end of this morning exercise report. I’m not rounding up these final CDs because they are in any way lesser in my heart, but because, holy crap, if I don’t get this page out there tonight, who knows how much longer I’ll be sitting on it before I finish it! It has already been so long!

Rose Gabriel

Rose Gabriel

I am not one to love country music, but the songs, stories and vocals of Rose Gabriel’s very personal “Desert Flowers” completely subjugated me. Rose is from Austin, Texas, and I have also seen her a couple of times in Paris. But it was not until I listened to her CD that I really sat back and realized the original voice and stories she had to tell – although the last performance I saw of her at the Rush Bar in Paris was so great that I wasted no time at all listening to the CD she had given me that night!! All about life growing up in Texas, this is very coollll… or rather, hot.

Box for Letters

Box for Letters

I met the lead singer, songwriter, for the Malaysian Band “Box for Letters,” on my last trip to Kuala Lumpur last year, and found a highly original voice and temperament, and another extraordinary story to tell: Here was a man with a promising musical career who suddenly, very young, had a terrible motorcycle accident. Among the multiple injuries were a severely fractured jaw. It seemed his singing and playing career was over. But no. It took him a year or two, but he came back with this beautiful recording – Cerap.

Alderighi and Trick

Alderighi and Trick

Finally, and this is not last as least, Double Trio, is the fabulous live album of Paolo Alderighi and Stephanie Trick, a married couple who are both leading stride piano players. I have written about them several times before on this blog, which is why I am not doing more here now, but this CD (with Marty Eggers on bass and Danny Coots on drums) is a real fabulous demonstration of what this couple can do live in their four-hands act. I had the great pleasure of hearing them in Milan recently, and I can attest to it that this CD is a perfect representation of what they do. Alderighi is from Milan, by the way, and is certainly Italy’s greatest young jazz export, and Trick is from the home of stride piano, St. Louis – where they both spend much of the little time they have when not travelling to put on shows!

Well, that rounds that up. Another morning exercise crop of CDs and SoundClouds, my 12th edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 11th Installment:

May 18, 2016
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my 11th “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the 10th of which ran on 29th December 2015 – I have, fittingly, 11 CDs to talk about, all of which were received from musicians I have met in open mics over the last few months. (Although I have known some of them for a few years.) No, wait, I’m wrong. There is one of them that I received from a friend in England, who is a friend of one of the musicians, and we kind of did a trade of our CDs, mine for theirs. And you could not get two different sounds! Back to that in a second.

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

First, as a reminder, the idea behind this regular – but occasional – column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to do without it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged wisdom and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing it. So when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – or riding the apartment cycle in front of the TV, which staves off the boredom – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from musicians at open mics (and including EPs on SoundCloud or other sites) or from any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, deep knee bends, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Haunting Cello Suites from Kirk Brandon, with Sam Sansbury

Cello Suites of Kirk BrandonThis is the one CD that I did not receive directly from the hands of the musician at an open mic, as I have never met Kirk Brandon. Brandon was the leading member of the post punk, new wave band Theatre of Hate, and then the more mainstream, Spear of Destiny. We’re talking early 1980s Britain, with the former group’s Westworld album rising to 17th position in the British charts. He has had a long, varied and sometimes controversial (can it be any other way for a former punk?) career, including playing in the supergroup Dead Men Walking. I was given this CD, Cello Suites, by a friend in England who knows the cello player, Sam Sansbury, who accompanies Brandon’s guitar and vocals, in a very haunting, minimalistic style of music that holds together from the beginning of the album to the end in an original concept of darkness and light. What the hell do I mean by that? Well, with Brandon’s poetic, but also sometimes outrageous lyrics and declamatory style, you sometimes don’t know whether to laugh, cry or fly. In fact, you do a little bit of all of that. And the CD, although it will never be to everyone’s taste, really invited me to want to listen to it again and again to figure out what it all meant. Ultimately, it’s a unique Kirk Brandon voice and world – definitely cool.

Rusty Golden and His Sober Musical Tour de Force

Rusty Golden - Sober

Rusty Golden – Sober

I discovered Rusty Golden in Bahrain of all places. He was playing keyboards and singing as well as accompanying another singer, at a place fittingly called, Big Texas BBQ & Waffle House. And yet the last thing I expected to find was Rusty Golden, an American musician of the illustrious country and gospel family, his father being a member of The Oak Ridge Boys, a Country Music Hall of Fame band the name of which any music lover in the U.S. knows. Even less did I expect to see that Rusty, after a long and illustrious career with disparate bands, and solo efforts since the early 1970s handed me an album that I found spine-tingling bona fide music that I would first call Rusty Golden, then situate somewhere in the folk-rock, country, pop area. In fact, I kept thinking even of The Band. There’s something about Rusty’s deep down-home vocals, and strong emotional grounding. Did I say “grounding?” This CD is all about recovery, thus the name. And while that’s a theme that you might think you could get tired of over the 13 songs of this album, the answer to that is no way. Working with Scott Baggett as producer, and with some great Nashville musicians – including the legendary bass player, David Hood from Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who has played with everyone from Cat Stevens to Paul Simon to Traffic, Boz Scaggs and Etta James, this CD is lyrically, emotionally and musically first rate. I wished I could have spent more time in Bahrain listening to more of his stuff live, and learning stuff….

Greg Sherrod’s Mighty Blues, Soul and Rocknroll

Greg Sherrod Album

Greg Sherrod Album

I met this blues, rock, soul singer on his first night in Paris on a bit of a European tour he was doing. He had found an open mic – Some Girls, on the rue de Lappe – through my blog, and we immediately hit it off, enjoying each other’s company, and sets behind the mic. We also exchanged CDs. When I went home and then played this CD, I found a whole new world, or rather, three worlds: As the album’s title says, it is Blues, it is Soul and it is Rock ‘n’ Roll. The album is set up, in fact, with those three categories covered section by section. And of course there is crossover amongst the sections. Some people might define some of the blues as rock, etc. One thing is sure: Greg Sherrod has his own voice, and his own world. But he works well within the traditions, and the whole production is first class. Too bad I could never see him with his band in his home area of Connecticut, amongst his fans…who, by the way, paid for this CD in a very successful crowdfunding operation. Thank goodness! Thank them!

Yann Destal’s Ethereal Vocals and Sounds

Yann Destal

Yann Destal

I met Yann Destal several years ago at the restaurant of the Bus Palladium venue in Paris, and I was immediately captivated by the purity of his vocals and emotional delivery. He’s also an exceptional multi instrumentalist, and one of the few French singers I have ever heard who seems not to have an accent in his English delivery. I quickly learned that he might be playing in an unassuming way in an interesting, but far from massive venue, but he had in fact as a very young man had a worldwide hit in the year 2000: Lady, from his band called Modjo. Since that time, he has gone on a solo career, releasing most recently the album, “Let me be mine,” which I received from him while we were both performing at an open mic in Paris called Mammalia. The album actually dates from 2013, but it is fabulous, haunting production, with his airy vocals, and lyrics and almost a concept feel to this. And if Yann plays mostly cover songs in places like that open mic, or the restaurant of the Bus Palladium, the album consists of 13 of his songs, plus the very original take on The Beatles song, “Oh! Darling,” which is so original that at first you don’t recognize it – then you go, brilliant!

Wrapping Up With Vincent Lafleur, Velasco, Florian Gasquet, Ant Henson, Claudio Zanetti, Tsipora and DTSQ

And so I come to the round up area at the end of this morning exercise report. I’m not rounding up these final CDs because they are in any way lesser in my heart, but because, holy crap, if I don’t get this page out there tonight, who knows how much longer I’ll be sitting on it before I finish it! It has already been so many months!

Vincent Lafleur

Vincent Lafleur

As I write these words, I’m pretty sure that Vincent Lafleur is directing the music orchestra on his piano at the crazy Soirée Buzz, in Paris. Vincent is an accomplished pianist, and I have known him for a few years now hosting one open mic or another, and doing the music behind the Soirée Buzz. But until he gave me a copy of his new CD – Mr. Lafleur, “Des racines, Et…” – I had no idea that he was writing his own songs too. And most importantly, where he may sing in English during most of the open mics, here he has written songs in his own language: French. What did not surprise me was that they were written – and sung by him – in the medium in which he seems to feel most at home: Soul. And if Van Morrison can do Irish soul, why not Mr. Lafleur doing French soul! Ok, Mr. Soul, thanks for the CD and 13 songs to savour….

DTSQ

DTSQ

When I showed up at the open mic of the Féline bar the other day I was told I had just missed an incredible electro pop band from South Korea called DTSQ. But I went out front of the place and found them talking to some musicians and I joined in, and together we shared stories of the various bars and venues where they play in South Korea, since I had gone and played there annually for about four years. We knew of some of the same places. I then offered them my CD, and they offered me theirs. Electro, yes indeed, and shocking. Rhythmic would be the word above all others. They gave me both their latest 2015 CD as well as their tour CD of live stuff. I loved how the former was full of fabulously produced electro static, hard stuff and then suddenly, the final track was this somewhat primitively recorded song with the accompaniment of what sounds like a crappy acoustic guitar from the back of some bar somewhere. It was done on purpose as a contrast, no doubt, and it worked wonders.

ant henson

ant henson

Ant Henson I met at the open mic at the Noctambules last year that I helped to found and host. He lives in England but came visiting for a while. His CD, “57,” has as its opening song the clever and catchy, “57 Stars,” and that sets the tone for a wonderful collection of 10 songs that Ant told me he had been putting together for years, including something to do with “teenage angst.” Well, the angst was there, but I couldn’t find the “teenage.” It was very catchy CD most of the way through, with the bopping, lively approach that he gets across in his live performances shining through no problem at all.

Now, I said at the beginning of this post that I had 11 CDs, but I think the list grew from when I began to write it, and today when I finished it and post it. I don’t care! I don’t want to count up the number of titles. Suffice it to say that I have four more to talk about, and keep finding myself going into so much detail! So here’s something I’ll try to shorten:

I met Tsipora at the open mic of the Café Jean in Pars, and found her to have a lively, cool voice full of energy and inventiveness. This was clearly confirmed by her CD, “Mes rêves, mes envies,” which again, like Lafleur’s had the lyrics all in French…and was nicely recorded.

Claudio Zaretti’s CD, “Deux Diamants,” let me know what Zanetti was all about after I’ve seen him many times in live performances around Paris, mostly at the old and now defunct “Le Baroc” open mic. Zaretti has crystal clear lyric writing skills, and melodies that place one right in a French tradition that reminds me of people like Michel Delpeche, although I may be totally wrong on that! Zaretti had a small career a few decades ago, and as I understood it, returned fairly recently to music – this is the result – fabulously recorded and produced.

And speaking of French traditions, this CD called “D” by Florian Gasquet, whom I met at the short-lived Zebre Rouge open mic, for me falls right into the tradition of the French chansonnier who focuses so much on the lyrics, story-telling and word painting…. He’s a good guitar player, too. Five songs on this EP, that will take you right into Gasquet’s world.

Velasco

Velasco

And now, it is always necessary to have a case of “last but not least,” right? In fact, I really really enjoyed this CD by Velasco, an Italian who lives in Paris, and whom I have met on several occasions mostly at the Some Girls open mic near the Bastille. But I did also happen to bump into him in the park in the Place Vendome recently as we were both picnicking! In any case, this CD, called, “Just Begun,” did not really surprise me for its excellent vocals, solid rock backing, and very lively, moving four songs. All in English, we have here a guy like Yann Destal, who has no problem singing or writing in the language of Shakespeare….

Well, that rounds that up. Another morning exercise crop of CDs and SoundClouds, my 11th edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 10th Installment: Cotton Field Scarecrows, Leandro Bronze, Shall We, Steve Kessler, Lorin Hart and Jan Sloane

December 29, 2015
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my tenth “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the ninth of which ran on 9th February 2015 – this post is, as it happens, also the 1000th post on my blog since I started it in March 2010. A thousand posts! That might seem like a lot, but all I know is that it works out to being not one post a day, and every day I miss is an opportunity missed in the blogosphere…. Or something like that. And if you think about it, applying the same effort to putting up a post as I would to writing a page a day on a book, and I should be way, way, way above 1000 posts. So I’m not bragging. But it is a nice anniversary to note.

Less nice is the nearly one year that has passed since my last morning exercise music rundown!!! That is pure laziness. Well, no, in fact, the more time that passes, the more CDs, EPs and other musical listenings that I have to choose from, and the more I feel a foreboding about getting it all down! So without further verbiage, here we go.

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

As a reminder to readers, the idea behind this regular column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged wisdom and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing it. So when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines, that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics (and including EPs on SoundCloud or other sites) or from any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, deep knee bends, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Americana from Malaysia of The Cotton Field Scarecrowes

Cotton Field Scarecrowes

Cotton Field Scarecrowes

During my trip to Kuala Lumpur in March the last thing I expected to find at one of my favorite open mics in Malaysia – or in the world, for that matter – was a Malaysian group that has the Americana feel down to more than a convincing art form. The Cotton Field Scarecrowes (sic), may have a weird spelling for the word scarecrow in the name of their band, but the rest of it is bona fide Americana. Laid back, cool and earthy, deep feeling vocals make this album, “Dancing Hymns And Broken Rhymes” one of my favorite of the year. It is rare that I will listen several times over a long period to a CD from a band I meet in an open mic, but that is the case for this one from The Cotton Field Scarecrowes..

A Duet Made in Heaven, Called, Shall We

Shall We

Shall We

Speaking of open mic connections, one of the cool moments of the end of the year has been discovering a project called “Shall We,” which is a duet composed of Olivier Bernard and Maddie Speed, two people I met in open mics, and whom I introduced to each other at an open mic a few years ago, and who have now created this fabulous duet and released their first Shall We EP on SoundCloud. (And as I write these words Shall We will be making their concert debut in Paris tonight at Le Mecanique Ondulatoire.) Olivier went on to start one of the best open mics in Paris, at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, and Maddie went off to complete her studies in England. Somehow they met up again and Olivier moved to Berlin, and now, they have given us this fabulous EP that I can best sum up as having a feel of Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. In fact, when I mentioned that to Olivier, he said they actually do sing the famous “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” In any case, with Olivier’s deep and sandpaper coated voice along with Maddie’s slightly fragile, smooth and gentle voice, the duet is a peaceful, laid back cool listen – with just the edge of vitality that I look for.

Leandro Bronze, the Powerhouse Personality from Brazil

All right, I can see where this post is leading. I’m onto my third open mic related link here. But given that this is the 1000th post on my blog, and most of the posts are related to my open mic adventures, I think it is probably just as well to devote this entire Exercise Music edition to the musicians I have met at the open mics. I mean, I have stacks of compilation CDs from the various music magazines that I had planned to review. I also have some links to music sent to me from PR people eager to get web presence for their clients – but I don’t know them from a hole in the wall, and none of the music has fired me up. So that’s it. I’ve decided this will be a special edition of music from the musicians from open mics that I met this year. As good a way to close out the year – and the 1000th post – as any.

Leandro Bronze

Leandro Bronze

While my now ex-girlfriend was running what was for a very brief period this year no doubt the best open mic in Paris (and perhaps fittingly now no longer exists, since I started it with her), at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle, one of the regular musicians was the boisterous and gentle giant, Leandro Bronze, who had come to Paris from his native Brazil to try his luck in Europe. Leandro, for whom I always had to raise the mic as high as the ceiling, was forever making up in his bright personality for whatever he lacked in the way of English or French. But it was with his onstage presence, his fine guitar playing and warm, boisterous vocals that he really lit up the room – and indeed, the whole Place Pigalle. His self-named EP, available as a CD, is a reflection of all that. Check it out.

Wrapping Up With Jan Sloane, Steve Kessler and Lorin Hart

Aactually, blog posts are supposed to be fairly short, easily digestible things, and I’ve been running on forever here! So I think that I will have to do a quick roundup on the final three performers that I met and whose music I listened to this year on their albums…. Continuing on from the Noctambules open mic mentioned above, another who showed up several times was the British singer songwriter, Jan Sloane. I must admit that it was not until I heard Jan’s CD, Factor 55, that I truly got the gist of Jan’s very typically and specifically British sound and lyrics sense. His music was so highly personal or specific at the open mic, that I was very pleased to finally be able to say, “I get it now!” When I heard his CD and realized where he was coming from.

The first thing that made me turn my head and ears directly toward the stage of the Baroc open mic (hey, wait, that one no longer exists either, and it was the place I introduced Olivier and Maddie a few years ago, oh, and Olivier’s Ptit Bonheur no longer exists… what’s going on?) was when I heard Lorin Hart talking about how she had attended the Woodstock festival of 1969…. That’s a good line for anyone anywhere in the world to announce their presence on stage! But Lorin need not have such a calling card, since her songs, finely crafted and feelingly sung, do the trick. “Love Come Back” is a beautifully crafted album from a woman who has witnessed a hell of a lot of history.

Steve Kessler and Saturday June

Steve Kessler and Saturday June

Last but not least are the two albums from Steve Kessler and the Saturday June Band. I met Steve at the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar open mic – hey, this one is still in existence, and run by Etienne Belin, formerly of the now extinct Coolin open mic! – and I could hear instantly without knowing anything about him that Steve was a true song craftsman, with lots of experience. The Saturday June Band is one of Chicago’s longtime – more than 20 years – local bands that has played all over town, and continues to do so. What I just loved seeing with these CDs is that the one that was released in 2011 “A Better Place,” actually appealed to me more than the one that was released in 2001, just called Saturday June, under the name of Steve Kessler. I love discovering any writers, poets, painters, musicians, filmmakers, anyone at all who does better work 10 years later….

Well, that rounds that up. Another morning exercise crop of CDs and SoundClouds, my tenth edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 9th Installment: Thomas Arlo, Paolo Alderighi (and Stephanie Trick), Juliette Jules, 3rdegree and Forebear

February 9, 2015
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my ninth “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the eighth of which ran on 28th June 2014– I am in the unusual situation of having misplaced all of the CDs that I intended to review from the last six months! Yes, having made a recent move, the CDs got misplaced and I have no idea where they are. But since this is possibly the longest period between Morning Exercise rundowns, I decided that I would simply approach this instalment from my memory; That probably means it will be a great instalment because it is made of the stuff that stood out most in my memory over this period. Another slight difference with this rundown is that a lot of the EPs and albums here were listened to online only – not sure why those are the ones I remember too….

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

As a reminder to readers, therefore, the idea behind this regular column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged inspiration and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing them. So it is that when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines, that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics, or any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Haunting Rock ‘n’ Croon of Thomas Arlo

Room EP by Thomas Arlo

Room EP by Thomas Arlo

Thomas Arlo is a young American expat musician who I have seen for years at the open mics, almost always playing solo with his guitar and his interpretations of cover songs – Beirut, Gainsbourg, others – in a voice part rock and part crooner, as well as his own well-constructed songs. There’s a touch of Elvis in the croon, and a touch of I don’t know what in the rock. But there’s truth to it, and an otherworldliness. In any case, when Thomas sent me the link to the songs of his first EP, called “Room,” I was truly delighted to find five recordings done in the same complete simplicity and purity of his performances at the open mics, but with some tracks having light touches of overdubbing, other musicians and instruments, and the most effective, a duet with Amélie Pagenel. I’d also seen Amélie at the open mics, but when I heard her voice here, I wondered who was this amazing singer. Thomas now seems to have disappeared to live in Greece – without a word, without a trace – but we’ve got his music here wherever else we might be in the world, and I highly recommend it. My two favorite songs are “Bolder of Men,” which is constructed in a similar way to “Sympathy for the Devil,” (and a touch of Dylanesque diction and phrasing) but is amazingly haunting. And then I like the one with Amélie, called “Either Way,” with alternating singing between the two. So go and give a listen to this great Room, by Thomas Arlo.

Paolo Alderighi and the Italian Stride Piano

Paolo Alderighi & Stephanie Trick

Paolo Alderighi & Stephanie Trick

A few years ago, while flying from Tokyo back to Paris, I loaded my guitar bag above my seat in the Air France flight, sat down and the young man next to me asked about the guitar. We got into a conversation, and I learned that he was a pianist, Italian, and returning from a concert in Japan. We ended up talking music for most of the night flight, and I even let him hear some of mine. What I learned later was that I had been discussing music with one of Italy’s greatest upcoming jazz pianists on the international scene: Paolo Alderighi. I immediately looked him up on YouTube to hear his music, and found this amazing thing of an Italian playing that distinctive American style of jazz piano known as Stride, that arose in parts of the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s – notably St. Louis – and that he was highly respected even in the U.S., and around the world. It was only last September that I finally got a couple of his CDs, and had a real good listen. We have met several times in Milan now, when I travel there for the Grand Prix and if he happens to be in town. And since we first met, he has also had a kind of fairy tale meeting with a woman named Stephanie Trick, an American who is a world leader in the stride piano style: The two of them got married, and now in addition to playing concerts separately, they also play together in the magnificent and awe-inspiring “four-hand” mode. So I listened with great self-division as to which thing I preferred: The CD of the two of them together – “Sentimental Journey” – or Paolo’s solo album called “Around Broadway.” The former is full of punch and dazzling fireworks, while the latter takes classic broadway songs – Berline, Gershwin, Rodgers, etc. – as a starting point, and Paolo then flies off into his own bits of interpretation and improvisation. The conclusion? I love both CDs. But I am no expert at all in matters of jazz piano. So how best to describe Paolo’s music? There’s a great description on the liner notes from the respected Michael Steinman: Although some may characterize Paolo Alderighi as “a jazz pianist,” “a fine young musician,” “a gifted improviser,” his true designation is both simpler and more profound. Paolo Alderighi is an artist.

Introducing Juliette Jules – a French Teenager Gone Global

Juliette Jules

Juliette Jules

And speaking of fairy tales, one of the more interesting stories – and voices – that I’ve heard recently is that of a 16-year-old French girl named Juliette Jules, who was playing songs on her guitar in a park in Paris a while back when she was overhead by a Canadian music producer. The Canadian approached her, listened, spoke, queried, whatever… and ended up taking Juliette Jules on as an artist, recording her, promoting her, and now the 16-year-old is in the midst of a fully-fledged career beginning, with great reviews from around the world for Juliette’s first EP, “Black Crow,” containing her own songs but also the Leonard Cohen hit, Hallelujah. She has been praised all over for a voice of experience beyond her years, but for me, years never matter: Only the music counts. I first listened with a sceptical ear, as someone who has attended more open mics around the world than most people, and so heard just about every form of talent that exists. (Well, not quite.) But from my immediate first impressions with an obvious comparison to Lana Del Rey, I’m picking up new sounds and impressions every time I listen. There is definitely something rich and interesting in this woman’s voice. I can’t wait to hear her live, and to see where the next batch of recordings will take us (she recorded a new series last summer). Definitely a cool story.

A Progressive 3rdegree Takes Me Back in Time

3rdDegree

3rdDegree

At the beginning of the era of progressive rock, I was a fan. I listened to bands like Gentle Giant, Genesis, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Van Der Graf Generator, Yes, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, you name it. I loved it at the time because it was progressive rock music. It was taking rock into another future realm, going the next step, beyond the clichés, beyond the blues. It was adding a classical element to rock too, in fact, but in a “progressive”-feeling way. I never lost my interest in those bands, really, even if I listen to them rarely now, and have rarely listened to them for decades. So all of this is to expose my musical ignorance by saying that although I only had the vaguest idea that there was still a genre called progressive rock, it was really only in reciving an invitation to download the latest album of a progressive rock band from the U.S. called 3rdegree, which is well known in American progressive rock circles, did I realize that progressive rock had actually ceased to progress much since the days I listened to it. But that is NOT to denigrate it! In fact, if you listen to the blues, you realize that it is a style of play, and that it is made up of certain themes, styles, chords, etc., and that it has not exactly “developed” either. Great musical styles do not necessarily have to develop. So I was completely amazed when I listened to this band that has been around since 1989 was playing music that I completely understood the basis to, felt was speaking a “progressive rock language” and that I could comfortably say I knew where they were coming from. The album, “The Long Division,” (wait, what was that Pink Floyd album? The Division Bell?) just felt so familiar, yet at once different. I could understand and identify with the riffs, I could expect certain themes, knew where they came from, whatever. It was an acquired language. Now, the only thing I can say about my initial feelings about the name of this genre is that I feel it unfortunate that it was ever named “progressive,” since that indicates to me that it should be like a James Joyce situation where each novel gets totally more crazy and progressive than the next… or am I mixing up the idea of “experimental” music and writing…. Anyway, suffice it to say that I got a lot of exercise out of the Long Division and the computing I did in my head over progressive rock….

And Finally, a New Beautiful Indie Band, Called Forebear

Forebear

Forebear

And finally, thanks for having got this far with me, if you did. One of the things that made me get this edition out now, was that just a couple of days ago I received an interesting email via my BradSpurgeonMusic.com site, but referring to this blog, with a few links to the debut EP of an interesting indie band from the U.S. called Forebear, inviting me to download the Forebear EP. I had nothing to listen to for my morning exercises and I immediately downloaded it, and listened. I stopped exercising for a while on a couple of the tracks to listen to the music and lyrics!!! I preferred the slightly slower, more folk-oriented songs – if you can call it folk – and especially loved the guitar on one of the tracks, which reminded me distinctly of the sound of a friend of mine who lives in LA also, and whose 1997 album, “Billy’s Not Bitter,” won an LA Music Award for the best independent album that year. There are some fabulous melodies, I really like the singer’s voice, but that ethereal guitar stuff is the winner. As are some of the lyrics, particularly this one line that really stopped me in my stride: “we are same sides of a different coin/permanently engraved with the year we were born” Just go and check out Forebear’s EP immediately.

Well, that rounds that up. Another, rather large, morning exercise crop of CDs, my ninth edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 8th Installment: Aaron Bowen, Marjorie Martinez, Karim Kanal, Zucco San, Joe Psalmist and the usual compilations from Uncut and Mojo

June 28, 2014
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my eighth “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the seventh of which ran on 21 Jan. – I have a whopping collection of something like 10 CDs from various sources, but unique so far in this column, all but the compilations from Mojo and Uncut are from musicians I have met and heard since that last instalment at open mics and through other person connections. None, that is to say, is really well-known.

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

As a reminder to readers, therefore, the idea behind this regular column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged inspiration and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T do exercises. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing them. So it is that when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines, that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics, or any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

Aaron Bowen and His Paul Simon-like Vocals and Virtuoso Guitar Playing

Aaron Bowen Karaoke Fallback Plan

Aaron Bowen Karaoke Fallback Plan

I first heard Aaron Bowen playing at an open mic in Paris a few months ago, and heard enough in the din of chatter, television and pub noise to think that this guy had some kind of real and individual talent, both vocal and on guitar. So it was with no hesitation at all that when I saw he was doing a short concert at another venue that I decided to go and give a listen. When he announced at the end of that show that he had some CDs for sale, I immediately went on my attack and took both. Hailing from San Diego, and just on one of his many visits to Paris, Aaron Bowen has an ethereal sound and fairly involved lyrics, but ultimately an often fast-moving, classic pop-sound to his melodies and rhythms. And his vocals so often sound like Paul Simon, it’s astounding. From intricate fingerpicking to rambunctious strumming, Bowen puts his own being into the performance, and on the CDs you’re still left with a strong, melodious, imaginary world. The first album is “The Karaoke Fallback Plan,” which in no way resembles karaoke, and the other is his latest album, “The Quarryman’s Footbath.” They can be listened to many times, too, these CDs, as you delve into the lyrics and add dimensions to your understanding, slowly, as the full sound is not evident on first listen – i.e., this is not bubblegum pop music lyrics, but more comparable to the kind of involved Paul Simon stuff of that writer’s maturity.

Marjorie Martinez, the Bluesy, Jazzy, Pop Lady of Nice

Marjorie Martinez

Marjorie Martinez

I first heard and met Marjorie Martinez in Nice when I showed up for the open mic jam session of Wednesday night at the Shapko bar and discovered that it had changed days and I had stepped into a gig by Marjorie. She invited me to play if I wanted to, though, and then a sax player joined her, and the night took on the aspect of a jam…before she returned to playing her gig. I saw her a few nights later playing out front of a restaurant with a bass player and keyboard player. By then, I had already listened to her two CDs that I had grabbed that first night, having been enthralled by her guitar playing, vocals, her musicality in general. Think Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Bonnie Raitt. In fact, Marjorie Martinez is a little bit of all them – with a very strong talent for jazz singing as well. She is, it turns out, a major attraction in the Nice music scene, playing all over the place, and recording with some fabulous musicians when not entertaining live. The two CDs that she was selling were both different, with her quartet, being much more jazz-oriented, and the other, called “Travelin’ Alone,” being more pop – middle-of-the-road U.S. country rock style pop, and all in English, her own compositions included. But it’s not easy to pigeon-hole this funky, rocking’ guitar player singer, and even on the album with the quartet her cover songs are by Jimi Hendrix, Lennon and McCartney and Janis Joplin….

The Constrasting Sounds of Joe Psalmist, Zucco San and Karim Kanal

Joe Psalmist

Joe Psalmist

It has taken me three years or so to hear Joe Psalmist in his full band and CD-mode. His new CD, “If I don’t praise you Lord,” is just what it sounds like: One long praise to the Lord in the form of dance and gospel and bluesy melody music from this Spanish expat from Nigeria. I first hear Joe playing his keyboards and singing along at an Irish pub open mic in Barcelona a few years ago and we kept in touch. But we did not meet up again until he invited me to his open mic in April, and I found his vast cross-section of musical vocal talents ranging from classic rock to blues to gospel. This CD is just one long pure praise the Lord hymn of 12 songs that really move you….

Zucco San‘s single “Undefinite Time,” by comparison was a real discovery for me from a musician I have heard in more open mics around Paris than just about any others. I’m used to hearing Zucco’s airy, Jeff Buckley interpretations and other interpretations of classic pop and rock. He almost always wows his audiences with his application and raw emotion; so it was really interesting to hear his voice in a recording like this and see what dimensions it can take in a recording studio. I never had the occasion to hear Zucco San outside of the open mic situation until he invited a friend and I to a showing of some videos and short films he worked on in his other role as actor and musician, and he had some of the CDs there. The music video for Undefinite Time” and the music he wrote for the short film, Toi Femmes, were superb as well.

Karim Kanal

Karim Kanal

Karim Kanal is the only musician here that I have not met. He is my girlfriend’s sometime guitar teacher and a musical mentor at the fabulous Centre Musical Barbara, Fleury Goutte d’Or in Paris, which exists to help nurture young musicians. His CD, “Espace(s),” of his guitar compositions, part lead, part fingerpicking, struck me as a kind of world music fusion jazz kind of thing, that even though it is nowhere near the kind of orchestration of a Weather Report, has a lot of the feel and melody style of such compositions. There’s a little bit of a Pat Metheny feel to this too….

Uncut, Mojo Compilations Give Me a Revelation – at Least to Me

Maybe this is not new as an idea for anyone else, and I never claimed to be a music critic or expert, so what seems new to me is no doubt old hat to those in the know, but when I was listening to the recent batches of compilations from Uncut and Mojo of the latest best music around – according to them – I suddenly had a revelation. I was listening, in particular, I think, to the CD from Mojo for the month of May called “Death Disco” and including such artists from the past and present as Felt, Orange Juice, Bush Tetras, Sonic Youth, The Fall, Young Marble Giants, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu, The Nightingales and others, and then I was listening to the Uncut compilation “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!” followed by the Uncut compilation called “One For the Road,” with lots more recent bands, and suddenly, I said to myself that a lot of the new music around today that has a folk feel to it, using acoustic or only quietly used electronic instruments sounds like the spitting image of the electro music of the 1980s, but yes, with acoustic, “traditional” stringed and keyboard instruments. It is the heart and soul of electro, with similar melodic approaches and vocal styles, but not with electronic instruments. So, is this an original thought, or am I showing my ignorance and there’s already a name for it…?

I may well have been simply over-intoxicated by my morning exercises and the endorphins that coursed through my system, augmented by the same sent via the music….

Well, that rounds that up. Another, rather large, morning exercise crop of CDs, my eighth edition since I started doing this in April of last year….

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 7th Installment: Basement Productions French Fries Music and the Rock&Folk Compilation (with The Burnin’ Jacks)

January 21, 2014
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my seventh “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the sixth of which ran on 24 Dec. – I have a collection of five CDs from the same music company, and one compilation CD from the January 2014 issue of the Rock&Folk magazine, in France.

I did not really expect to do another morning exercise music rundown so early in the year and so soon after my last one, a month ago. I have not been travelling to the Formula One races and so I have not had my usual stash of CDs offered by the Lotus Formula One team, which had a contract with Columbia records and gave away CDs all last season. But then I made a visit to a friend’s recording studio and music publishing company in Paris, and then I found a CD worth talking about wrapped in with the January edition of Rock&Folk….

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

As a reminder to readers in this first of the year’s exercise music rundowns, the idea behind this regular post/column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged inspiration and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T do exercises. That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing them. So it is that when not doing my nightly exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines like Rock & Folk, Mojo and Uncut, and that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics. Then came the Formula One connection from the Lotus team, and I decided that I should occasionally share my morning exercise listening experiences with readers of this blog when I have no open mic news or videos to exploit.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Basement Productions, French Fries Publishing Connection and Collection

Basement Productions Logo

Basement Productions Logo

I met Nick Buxton, an Englishman, in Normandy while vacationing with my family in the late 1990s, at least a decade before I returned to playing music in public and travelling the world attending open mics. I learned then that he had a business owning and running a recording studio in Paris, and as I was a music lover, we kept in touch and I eventually visited the studio. What I found was a massive underground wonderland of multiple studios, recording rooms, equipment, rehearsal and even performance spaces. There can hardly be a cooler recording studio set up in Paris, and as it’s all beneath the foundations of a building or two with arched brick ceilings and passageways from one room to another, I cannot imagine – although I’ve never asked – that there can be complaints about the noise from neighbors.

In any case, a few years after our initial meeting and after my first visits to his Basement Productions studio, I learned that Nick was starting up a music publishing company that he decided to call French Fries Publishing. That has been going on for a few years now, and as I often do during my break from my world travels, I dropped in a few weeks ago to say hello, discuss his business – and mine – and see what was going on in his life. The first thing Nick did as I entered, was to introduce me to a guy whom he called “Louis Alphonso,” as he said what he had been doing lately was to record a new album with this guy. It turned out, he said, that Alphonso used to play in the 1980s British band, Bad Manners, and it was his first solo album, in fact. Nick offered me the CD, and then I started speaking to him about what I was up to, and I mentioned this blog and my morning exercise music. One thing led to another, and I ended leaving the Basement Studios with five albums from the French Fries Publishing venture, including “A Noir,” by this Mr. Alphonso.

I’ve been doing fruitful morning exercises ever since! Basement and French Fries, it turns out, is a hive of activity, a bastion of British-cum-French pop rock music in the middle of Paris, near the Anvers Metro, not far from Pigalle, and there is very much of a family feel to all of the five CDs that Nick gave to me. That means that French Fries very definitely has a point of view, a “sound” if you will. That feel has something to do with the British ska music movement in the 1980s, which the band Bad Manners was part of; but along with some other influences including garage rock and basic singer songwriter stuff. Most of the CDs were produced and/or engineered and/or recorded and/or mixed and mastered by Nick, and his partner Olivier Furter, so that’s another reason there’s a family feel to it all.

Louis Alphonso

Louis Alphonso

The five CDs Nick gave me were the aforementioned Alphonso, plus a band called Simili Skaï, another called Jack’s de L’or, Neon Campfire and GlebBones. The ones that stood out the most for me as I did my morning exercises were the Simili Skaï, which is quite melodic, and the Louis Alphonso – which also, incidentally, DOES have a family connection as Nick’s young child bangs a piano and vocalises on it at one point, and it also contains voices of several other people including Jarvis Cocker (- of Pulp – who uses the studios sometimes), and it gives special thanks for musical influences to, among others, Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson. And yes, there are some weird things on this CD where I can see the influences come in! (Notably, the other liner note: “Produced by Nick Buxton despite Louis Alphonso.) Also, by the way, despite me saying this is a bastion of English music in the middle of Paris, a rough estimate would put French musicians at well over 50 percent of the personnel on these CDs. So this is a mixture of French and English wine, if you will….

Rock&Folk Monster CD 45 and the Burnin’ Jacks

Burnin' Jacks

Burnin’ Jacks

Just when I thought that I would turn this edition of my morning exercise music into the first one that focuses entirely on the production of CDs from one single recording studio and music publisher, I bought a copy of the January issue of the French music magazine, Rock&Folk, because it had Bob Dylan on the cover and because I had not bought any for a few months – behind way, way behind in my reading! (IE, magazines and books piling up in an not-yet-finished-reading mountain.) Then, of course, I realized that I had the latest “Monster CD” of a selection of the latest music by the editors of Rock&Folk, and I had another day of exercise music to contend with. And THEN! Suddenly I saw that amongst the tracks on the Monster CD was a track by a band called The Burnin’ Jacks, the young French band whom I have written about for many years on this blog, and the guitarist of which I have recorded with, whose name is Félix Beguin. I had been watching and playing with the band since my musical adventure began in the fall of 2008, and here they were now included on a compilation CD of the top French rock magazine. So I just had to listen to this and write about it here.

As it turned out, the song that the magazine chose to use on the compilation is one I know very well, and it is one of at least two of The Burnin’ Jack’s repertoire that I had always assumed was some kind of Rock ‘n’ Roll standard. It is called, “Bad Reputation,” and when I heard it again on this CD, I thought, if the Rolling Stones covered this song, everyone would think it was one of their hits from the 1960s. In fact, I’d love to hear them cover it – but I’m pretty sure they could not do as good a job as The Burnin’ Jacks at the moment – who, by the way, had their faces plastered up on a poster all over Paris in recent weeks announcing their concert at the Maroquinerie, which I understand was a massive success last weekend….

And they may be a bunch of guys with bad reputations, but they were in good company on the Rock&Folk Monster CD, with Motörhead, Anna Calvi, the Jacuzzi Boys and Dave Stewart, among others. The most interesting personal discovery for me on this CD was Samantha Crain, who looks like she has to be about 12 years old, but I found her referred to on the Internet as “still only in her 20s…” and I cared little about her looks or her age, because she clearly has a unique voice and interesting songs. The opening track of the CD, by Kendra Morris, was also great listening. But few matched the energy that the Burnin’ Jacks injected into my sit-ups….

Well, that rounds that up. A small morning exercise crop of CDs, my seventh edition since I started doing this in April….

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 6th Installment: Foster the People, The Vaccines, Die Krupps, Manic Street Preachers, Jeff Buckley/Gary Lucas

December 24, 2013
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my sixth “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the fifth of which ran on 26 Oct. – I have a nice healthy five CDs to talk about.

Three of the CDs came from my regular source: As mentioned in my first post, the Lotus Formula One team was giving out CDs at every race this past season to journalists and any other takers and interested people in the paddock, as they had some kind of a sponsorship deal with Columbia Records. So at the last few races of the season, including in Austin, Texas and I don’t know where else, I picked up the new crop. One of the CDs I bought myself, and the fifth I heard while staying at a friend’s place in Austin, and I also met the man who made the CD….

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

As a reminder to readers in this last of the year’s exercise music rundowns, the idea behind this regular post/column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged inspiration and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T do exercises. That did not, however, alleviate the boredom. So it is that when not doing my nightly exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new and old CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines like Rock & Folk, Mojo and Uncut, and that also occasionally buy or get handed from budding musicians at open mics. Then came the Formula One connection from the Lotus team, and I decided that I should occasionally share my morning exercise listening experiences with readers of this blog when I have no open mic news or videos to exploit.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Foster the People Commercial Conundrum

foster the peopleI was enjoying this Foster the People CD from a couple of years ago while doing my exercises, taking in the new folky sound when suddenly I thought I was watching a television commercial for underwear with David Beckham. But even then I got confused and thought that I was watching the Canal Plus pay TV channel as it led into the daily weather or something. It was that, suddenly, I was hearing the music that had become associated in my mind with those two things. The song ‘Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)’ has been used by Guy Ritchie in his directing of the commercial for Beckham’s underwear as well as by Canal Plus for its rubric. Now, this, of course, is the way that musicians make money today. Selling their songs for publicity campaigns and video games and soundtracks and whatever else where in the past a top selling LP would do. The problem, for me, is that I cannot hear this music now without associating it with Beckham’s underwear and Canal Plus’s TV shows. Is it really worth it destroying a good piece of music for that? I guess I’d probably do it if someone offered me enough for one of my songs…. It brings to mind a Frank Sinatra song that I have heard upon landing in Emirates flights dozens of times in the last year or so, which destroyed even the Sinatra song for me.

The Freshness of Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers - Rewind the Film

Manic Street Preachers – Rewind the Film

If this, their latest album, were the first album someone ever heard by the Manic Street Preachers, then they would easily be fooled into thinking that it is a new young band of 2013, with fresh, interesting, inventive songs and pure, strong young vocals. In fact, it is the 11th studio album of this band, the lead singer, James Dean Bradfield, is 44 years old and their first album came out in 1992, more than 20 years ago. That’s like a new album of The Beatles coming out in 1984 or so. Having said that, if someone who had never heard any other Manic Street Preachers’ albums listened to this one and then liked it so much and found it so fresh then went and listened to the band’s third album, The Holy Bible, of 1994, they would then say, “oops.” The idea being that this latest album, out in September 2013, is really great – it’s got nothing of the astounding inventiveness of the early ones, by direct comparison. The acoustic folky stuff is brilliant, and new, and worth the album, in any case. But these Welshmen are obviously still on top of it, just not as edgy or desperate as they were in their 20s.

A Belated Discovery of a Jeff Buckley Beginning

Jeff Buckley Gary Lucas

Jeff Buckley Gary Lucas

I bought the album Songs to No One 1991–1992, by Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas, during my visit to Shakespeare and Company bookstore to see and hear Gary Lucas play his guitar and read from his book about recording with Buckley. He said enough for me to want to hear this thing, which is made of studio sessions, home tapes, and club performances and which was recorded during the collaboration between Buckley and Lucas, between Oct. 1991 and Apr. 1992. It features the early recordings of “Grace” and “Mojo Pin” and the way Lucas described the sessions, I really wanted to hear what I thought would be a pure, unadulterated album of Buckley sounds before the singer made his album, at a stage where he was still in the early stages of defining himself as a musician. I listened to this on my morning exercises, but also during drives around Texas on the car CD player. That was actually the better environment to listen to it, as it is so ethereal and otherworldly that it allows for the mind to float, relax and be occupied with something else at the same time. This is not exactly “easy listening,” either. Lucas described how he basically went and played some chords and Buckley went and sang and he had no real idea at the moment it was being done exactly what was being done or coming out, and it was in listening just afterwards that he realized it was brilliant – something along those lines, anyway. The quality of the recordings is not always exceptional, but Buckley’s vocal delivery certainly is. This is the kind of album that I will actually listen to again and again over the years, despite, once again, it being a hodgepodge collection of material never meant to be an album….

The Vaccine’s Basic Sound

the vaccines

the vaccines

I had heard some stuff by The Vaccines, but never a complete album. So I was delighted to receive this, their second album, Come of Age, released in 2012, from the Lotus F1 team. Still, when you look at their career – founded in 2010, opening for bands like the Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Muse and the Stone Roses, and having their first album become the best selling first album of 2011 and this album being the No. 1 UK seller – you kind of expect a lot more than what you hear. At least I do. It’s a fine album, fine music, great classic-style rock, but I don’t hear any songs that leap out and sound like future classic songs. In fact, maybe they’re the perfect opening act after all….

Die Krupps and the German Machine Sound

Die Krupps

Die Krupps

This album by the German band Die Krupps takes me the closest I’ve ever been in my life to understanding, appreciating and liking post-1970s machine music. This is “a German industrial rock/EBM band, formed in 1980 by Jürgen Engler and Bernward Malaka in Düsseldorf,” to cite Wikipedia. It really took only something that amounted to being just like good old fashioned PR (even though it was not done on purpose) for me to cotton on to this. While in Austin for the U.S. Grand Prix was staying at the home of a friend of mine from Paris who now lives in Austin, and who is friends with Engler. In fact, my friend, Eric Débris, is also one of the founders of machines in punk music, as one of the members of the French punk band Métal Urbain. I had seen the Die Krupps album around Eric’s place, since Eric, who is also a fabulous photographer, had done the album cover photo work. Then Eric invited me out to a meal with Engler and his wife, and we had a nice evening together. That led me to saying to Eric, “I wanted to do my morning exercises while listening to that Die Krupps album before I go.” So Eric put it on. So it was that through the introduction to the musician – Engler is a vital 50ish guy who is still very much in the midst of creative thrall to his band, which will be doing around Europe in February and March – and through me being in the environment of the founder of machines in punk, I suddenly “got” this music with its rough grunting vocals and, above all, hammering, relentless rhythm. It is remarkable that the band has been around since 1980 and is still producing great finished products like this album. Another pull from the Die Krupps entry Wikipedia to fill in from my own ignorance: “The initial Die Krupps sound throughout the 1980s combined synthesizers with metallic percussion. Die Krupps were key in the Europe wide progression of Electronic Body Music culminating with the collaboration in 1989 with British band Nitzer Ebb. In 1992, they began to utilize guitars and more sounds derived from heavy metal music, with the release of their album I and the EP Tribute To Metallica, which consisted of covers of Metallica songs.” And boy is it great for sit-ups and push ups, to say the least!

Well, that rounds that up. A small morning exercise crop of CDs, my sixth and final one of the year since I started doing this in April, or whenever it was…. I’ve done a lot of exercising since then, and hope I can continue to feed the musical habit in 2014 that keeps the exercising alive…

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