Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When the night has come, and the land is dark...

Nicholas Ashford, along with his wife, Valerie Simpson, wrote a string of hit records that defined the soul musical landscape of the 1960's, '70's and '80's.

That landscape was no more epitomised than in perhaps, the greatest, certainly the most joyous, performance of one of their songs - Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's magisterial 1967 hit, 'Ain't no mountain high enough,' undoubtedly one of the great pop moments of that halcyon decade.

Everyone will have their own favourites - whether as a writer or as a performer, Ashford set the benchmark for effortlessly crafted, instantly memorable music. A particular favourite is Aretha's marvellous 1964 recording of 'Cry like a baby,' sweet, pure soul music, expertly and sympathetically created, that brought out the very best in the very best.

It is difficult to imagine a world without the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. They are unquestionably one of the great songwriting teams in musical history - able to break our hearts and, in a vital second, rescue us from our too private despair with the marriage of their unassailably beautiful words and music.

And marriage it most certainly was - Leiber's sharper than sharp lyrics dovetailing perfectly with Stoller's insistent staccato rhythms and similarly hectic counterpoint. Their groove was infectious and it caught the ears and lungs and legs of young America, who listened to and danced to and sang their music, venerating the bands who so fastidiously recorded and performed it.

For this writer, Jerry Leiber co-wrote two of the greatest songs of the Rock and Roll era.

And, courtesy of Youtube, we get to hear those songs, their songs, one more time.

For all time.

For Nicholas Ashford and Jerry Leiber.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our way to fall

Crewdson has been mesmerising us with his highly sensitised photorealistic images for the past 25 years. His work shares convincing similarities to that of film-makers, David Lynch and Todd Solondz - unsettling, claustrophobic, hyperreal - and artists, Edward Hopper and Diane Arbus - both of whom contributed their own highly stylised, occasionally nightmarish, versions of an intrinsically American landscape.

Abrams is publishing a new volume of his pictures.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A million more reasons...

It's been six years since Idaho last released a record. Long years.

In that time, musical fashions have changed, some artists have come and gone. Yet Idaho, and their strangely sculpted musical landscapes, remain.


Their new record, 'You Were A Dick,' is available, both to listen to and to buy, from bandcamp.

Do your ears and, perhaps, your torn heart a favour and listen to one of the most beautiful bands around...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

You didn't understand a word, but you said you did...

Pauline Black's autobiography has been a long time in the writing.

Lead singer with seminal 2 Tone band The Selecter, it's an entertaining read full of anecdotes about the nature of the music industry and the combustible near contemptibles who inhabit it.

Where the book really comes into its own - and where it so differs from other offerings - is when Black describes her childhood. Growing up mixed race, and adopted to a not entirely empathetic middle-aged white couple, the book describes how she finally came to terms with being who she was, even at so comparatively an early age; a young black girl desperately striving to understand herself and the many cultures she was intrinsically part of and culpably attracted to.

It's a marvellous read.