Thursday, 24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from William Burroughs

Here's something to cheer you up as you're suffering post-Turkey indigestion...

William Burroughs' state-of-the-nation address, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986, was published in his 1989 book Tornado Alley. A year later this retitled version appeared on Dead City Radio, a Hal Willner-produced album of Burroughs' recitals set against music by the likes of John Cale and Donald Fagen.

MP3: William Burroughs - A Thanksgiving Prayer

Buy Dead City Radio at Amazon

Gus Van Sant made this video as a promo for the album. I hope MTV showed it at least once.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Robert Crumb's Record Sleeves

If you've seen Terry Zwigoff's brilliant documentary about cartoonist Robert Crumb you'll know that the comics pioneeer loves old American music in almost equal measure to drawing large-breasted women.

Over the years Crumb has married his passion for music with his talents as an artist to illustrate dozens of record covers (most famously Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills).

These sleeves alongside other music-related epheremea are now gathered in a terrific book, accurately titled, The Complete Record Cover Collection (Norton).

It's difficult to browse through the book and see names like Ukulele Ike and the Possum Trot String Band and not want to hear their music.

This is Crumb's cover to a 1978 compilation by bawdy bluesman Bo Carter.

On this track, when Bo sings about troubles with his pencil, I don't think it's an HB graphite he's referring to.

MP3: Bo Carter - The Pencil Won't Write No More

Buy Bo Carter's Banana in Your Fruit Basket at Amazon

Another great cover in the book that sees Crumb playing to his strengths is this one for a 1975 Hokum Boys compilation on Yazoo Records.

MP3: The Hokum Boys -You Can't Get Enough Of That Stuff

Buy The Hokum Boys Complete Recordings: June-Dec 1929 at Amazon

The book also includes all of Crumb's covers for his own band The Cheap Suit Serenaders.

I thought this track from the Cheap Suits' third album was most appropriate.

MP3 R Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders - Fine Artiste Blues

Buy The Cheap Suit Serenaders' Chasin' Rainbows at Amazon

Related Links
R Crumb - official site
R Crumb - Illustrator & Musician - good interview on Leap in the Dark blog
Robert Crumb on WFMU's Antique Phonograph Music Program - great video interview

Saturday, 29 October 2011

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound cover Wilco

Ninety of my most enjoyable minutes each week are spent listening to a podcast called Filmspotting. Between the reviews and top five lists the programme uses musical interludes to break up the segments of movie geekery.

As a fan of both Wilco and the classic soul sound I was blown away when this came through my headphones yesterday after a discussion of Kevin Smith's Red State.

MP3: JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound - I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

Buy JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound's Want More at Amazon

Like Wilco JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound are a Chicago-based band and their second album Want More actually comes out on Monday.

I'm a little surprised they'd not crossed my radar until yesterday. This cover is more than a year old and evidently enthralled Jeff Tweedy enough for the Wilco frontman to invite them to play the band's Solid Sound festival in June.

If you need reminding of what the original sounds like, here's a live version from a gig just down the road from me at the Forum in Kentish Town in 2009.

MP3: Wilco - I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (Live in Kentish Town)

Buy Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot at Amazon

Related Links
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound - official site
Bloodshot Records - label site includes free MP3s
Wilco - official site
Filmspotting - essential podcast for movie fans

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Tom Waits Covers #6: Jennifer Warnes

An admission - I've never heard Famous Blue Raincoat, Jennifer Warnes' highly regarded album of Leonard Cohen covers. Because I only know her from belting out Up Where We Belong and The Time of My Life I'm afraid she's always had a strong whiff of cheese to me.

That set of Cohen covers evidently increased Jennifer's muso cred and as the All Music Guide notes, "suddenly a singer who had seemed like a second-rate Linda Ronstadt now appeared to be a first-class interpretive artist."

It's no surprise then that if she could work her magic on Laughing Len's songbook she could also have a similar effect on the Tom Waits canon.

This bluesy version of the Small Change classic is from Jennifer Warnes' album The Well. Released in 2001 it was her first LP in nine years.

MP3: Jennifer Warnes - Invitation to the Blues

But The Well at Amazon

Invitation to the Blues is in my personal pantheon of great Tom Waits songs. When I saw Tom in concert for the first time in 2000 I'll admit to getting a bit dusty when he played it solo on piano as I looked down from the balcony of the glorious Grand Rex Theatre in Paris.

This is a much earlier live version from a gig in Germany in 1977. You can grab MP3s of the while show over at Captains Dead.

MP3: Tom Waits - Invitation to the Blues (live)

As always do let me know what you think of either of the tracks and also suggest any other great Tom Waits covers I ought to post.

Previous Tom Waits Covers on Carnival Saloon
Sara Watkins - Pony
Solomon Burke - Diamond In Your Mind
Bette Midler - Shiver Me Timbers
Tori Amos & Heidi Talbot - Time
Bruce Springsteen - Jersey Girl (inc. Tom & Bruce duet)

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Sinking of the Titantic

I will happily resort to stereotype and say that the Irish need no excuse for festivities so should we really be surprised that Belfast celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated launch of the Titanic today?

While they're raising their Guinness glasses in Northern Ireland, I'll use the centenary as an excuse to share one of the four songs about the Titanic's fatal plunge from Trikont's wonderful Doom & Gloom compilation, subtitled Early Songs of Angst and Disaster 1927-1945.

MP3: Richard 'Rabbit' Brown - Sinking of the Titanic

Buy Doom and Gloom at Amazon

I would much rather hear this song, recorded in 1927, on repeat than sit through three hours of any James Cameron film. All we learn about 'Rabbit' Brown from the sleeve notes is that he was born "about 1880 in New Orleans where he played extensively both in brothels and on the street".

If this is the sort of music that floats (or sinks) your boat then do buy a copy of Doom & Gloom. As well as three other tracks about the Titanic you'll get songs about floods, the atomic bomb, World War II, car crashes and fires. Party time? Excellent!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Happy Birthday Bob!

Bob Dylan is 70 today. Rather than explain why I find the rasping septuagenarian so endlessly fascinating and add to the screeds being written to mark the occasion I thought I'd simply showcase some of my previous posts about the birthday boy.

An Alternative Blood on the Tracks
This is the all-time most popular Carnival Saloon post - a compilation of cover versions of every song on Blood on the Tracks by the likes of Robyn Hitchcock, Lloyd Cole, Elvis Costello and Tom Russell.

Tom Waits on Radio Bob
Another hugely popular post - all of Tom Waits' comical riffs from Theme Time Radio Hour. Waits is my number one musical hero so you can imagine my reaction when I first heard him contribute to Dylan's brilliant radio show.

Bob Dylan @ The Roundhouse
There was a ludicrous amount of hype before Dylan's 'intimate' concert at the Camden Roundhouse in 2009. Radio 4's Today Programme even ran a piece ahead of the gig. Dylan live can be a mixed bag. As I wrote then, my policy is always "to go with low expectations and an open mind". See the whole post for my full review and MP3s of that night's renditions of Like A Rolling Stone and a version of I Don't Believe You influenced by The Faces.

It's A Mad Mad Mad Bob World
Like so many things in the realm of Dylan, Todd Haynes' film I'm Not There divided audiences. This was what I thought of it after watching it for the first time.

Bob Slayers
On the subject of divisive projects... did you hear the one about the croaky pensioner who decided to make a Christmas record? This post is a digest of immediate reactions to the album on its release in October 2009. I later reviewed the album myself on the BBC Music website.

Around North London with Bob Dylan
A very enjoyable post to write, inspired by an impromptu stroll to Crouch End last year. A little bit of record buying, lunch where Bob once ate and one of my favourite Dylan anecdotes.

Bob Dylan at Newport, 1965
I wrote this after reading Joe Boyd's book White Bicycles. The post includes MP3s from one of the most infamous music performances of all time.

Dylan in China: The First Song
My most recent Dylan post. The was a right brouhaha about Bob's first ever gig in China and whether the authorities there censored his set list. Bob's now had his say on the matter. I speculated that starting the concert with Gonna Change My Way of Thinking was an anti-establishment decision.

Tonight I'll be celebrating Bob's birthday at the Union Chapel in London where Thea Gilmore will perform all of John Wesley Harding. Maybe she'll lead the congregation in a round of "Happy Birthday To You".

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Rapture: Hank Williams Had A Dream

By now you'll be well aware that California televangelist Harold Camping predicted that over the din of earthquakes we'd all be hearing trumpets today as Jesus returns to take believers up to Heaven.

There must be hundreds of country songs about preparing to meet the Maker. It really is the perfect soundtrack to the End Times.

If you're not sure what to expect if Rev Camping's prophecy pans out, Hank Williams can explain all.

MP3: Hank Williams - I Dreamed That The Great Judgment Morning

Buy Hank Williams' The Unreleased Recordings on Amazon

So that's what's on my Rapture juke box, now over to you. What are your favourite apocalyptic songs?
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