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Zwei Riesen gab es im Musikgeschäft der vierziger und fünfziger Jahre, Columbia/CBS und RCA/Victor. Letzterer war in den vierziger Jahren des letzten Jahrhunderts der Größte, dieser Konzern hatte alles, Radiosender, Plattenproduktion, Plattenspieler, was das Herz damals begehrte eben. Aber es gab leider nur Schellackplatten mit einer Laufzeit von höchstens 4 Minuten. 1948 wollte es der kleinere der beiden – Columbia RCA/Victor einmal richtig zeigen und präsentierte die Langspielplatte, 24 Minuten Musik am Stück waren nun möglich. David Sarnoff, Boss von RCA, muss getobt haben.

Bereits ein Jahr später, 1949, konnte er als Antwort die Single  – 45 rpm – präsentieren, entsprechende Plattenspieler konnte er gleich mitliefern. Die Single war natürlich viel erschwinglicher, vor allem für Jugendliche und so dauerte es nicht lange, bis die Single-Platte ihren Durchbruch feiern konnte: nachdem Big Mama Thornton 1953 mit Hound Dog noch eine Million Platten absetzen konnte, schaffte es Elvis Presley 1956 10 Millionen Singles dieses Titel zu verkaufen. Einsamer Höhepunkt: Elton John konnte die bisher meistverkaufte Single aller Zeiten aufnehmen: „Candle In The Wind“, weit mehr als 15 Millionen Exemplare dieser Single wurden bisher verkauft.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Und auch ich konnte als zehnjähriger davon profitieren, dass es jetzt Platten gab, die erschwinglich waren, zwar immer noch 4,75 DM teuer, aber immerhin, die LP hätte ja 21,00 DM gekostet (alles Festpreise damals! Billige Platten, zum Beispiel von EUROPA oder von UNIVERSUM boten keine Originalaufnahmen und wer wollte die schon haben). So konnte ich mir etwa 1965 „The Last Time“ von den Stones kaufen. Die Single-Platte blieb jedenfalls bis Ende der siebziger Jahre ein Format, das ich durchaus schätzte.

Wie ich auf dieses Thema komme? Nein, einmal nicht wegen meiner Liebe zu Juke-Boxen, sondern, weil ich eine ARTE-Sendereihe empfehlen möchte: Achtung, Aufnahme! In den Schmieden des Pop. Diese sechsteilige Dokureihe beleuchtet die Geschichte der Musikaufzeichnung. Und, die gute Botschaft, man kann sie in der ARTE-Mediathek noch anschauen. Nicht alle Folgen sind gleich gut gelungen, nicht alle umwerfend interessant, aber manche wirklich begeisternd.

In der Folge, von der ich oben erzählt habe, geht es um Tonträger und Audioformate:

“ … ein Thema, das trotz seiner Relevanz in der Musikgeschichte oft vernachlässigt wird. Ob Schallplatten, Kassetten, CDs oder MP3-Formate – sie sind immer mehr als reine Speichermedien. Sie sind Abbilder ihrer Zeit, haben gesellschaftliche Bedeutung und sind oftmals Ausdruck für einen gewissen Lifestyle. Ihre Möglichkeiten und Grenzen regen nicht zuletzt auch die Musiker zu künstlerischen Innovationen an.“

 
 

 

 

That’s a broad range, and a „road range“, from Old Scotland to Twin Peaks, from the volume speaking cover of „Silent Light“ to the summer spheres of Lambchop’s masterpiece „Is A Woman“ – and the East Coast vibes of the first two seasons  of „The Affair“. What connects all these quite different works of art, is the „less is more“-attitude of the artists involved. A quiet approach to every aspect of life – even Burnet’s historic crime novel is delivered with a perfect sense of calmness – no reason to add more rage to tragic events. The storyteller’s voice has to keep his empathetic tone, offer shelter from the dark. And, on the other side, a guitarist with elegance whose playing undermines all traps of kitsch and „new age“. There’s enough space – in all our April recommendations – for the haunting and the twilight, for clear blue skies and other „blue moods“.

 

2017 24 Mrz

Humanz

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It’s been a good week in music. Enjoying Fiction/Non-Fiction, then the new Drake mixtape appeared, with some ace tracks like Madiba Riddim (potential lifer) lovely stuff. Then 4 Gorillaz tracks appear on YouTube, complete with animated clips.

The Gorillaz tracks are affecting, especially „Andromeda“ with its joyful but fucked-up feel and repeated phrase „take it in your heart“. An intriguing mix.

So you go find an interview, and you find this: Simply put, we’re in transition, we’re turning into something else,” Albarn said of the album’s narrative. “The album kind of came from this dark fantasy. Just imagine, the weirdest, most unpredictable thing that changes everything in the world. How would you feel on that night? Would you go and get drunk? Would you stay at home? Just watch TV? Would you talk to people?

Wow.

Here is a photo picked at random to go with this post:
 
 
 

 

„Anything that makes you comfortable is dangerous. And routine has always been my Prozac. Writers like me, we lean hard on that Flaubert chestnut. “Be regular and orderly in your life so you may be violent and original in your work.” But if you’re too orderly, too safe, how can you ever do something harder, deeper, stranger? Because there’s the other Flaubert quote, the one that our friend Sterling Watson taught me: “Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” I want to melt the stars and that goes beyond discipline. Sometimes, I feel like Veda in Mildred Pierce, when she goes to audition for a new piano teacher. He closes the lid on the keys, almost on her fingers, and tells her there’s nothing in her fingers, but there may be something in her head. I hope there’s something in my head to make up for what I don’t have in my fingers.“ (Laura Lippman)

Gestern Nachmittag fand ich in der Post Elton John’s „Honky Chateau“, und warf das Album ein, husch auf die Schaumstoffcouch, grüner Tee, sandfarbenes Licht. Oh, gute Musik. Beim zweiten Lied, „Come Down In Time“, lausche ich schon, und vergesse mein ganzes „mindset“ aus Vorbehalten und Abgehaktem. Beim nächsten Stück merke ich, das hier irgendwas nicht stimmt, ich hatte aus Versehen wieder „Tumbleweed Connection“ eingelegt und konnte mich mit einem Mal an den Songs erfreuen, bekam von ganz allein leuchtende Ohren, offenbar war diese Produktion ein Fest, joie de vivre pur.  Was ich am Vortag noch historisierend hörte, erwachte zu verblüffendem Leben. Song No. 7, ein sanfter Schmachter, den auch CSN&Y gerne geschrieben hätten. Die emotionale Palette spiegelt sich in einer Sangeskunst, die alle Register zieht. Ehrlich gesagt, das ist ganz fabelhafter Gesang. Was ist denn hier los?  Ins „Honky Chateau“ werde ich beizeiten umziehen. Ja, wir sind an der Schwelle der Siebziger Jahre, ein alter Toyota saust über den Highway One, es ist nicht mehr weit bis Carmel, und aus den Lautsprechern tönt „Amoreena“.

 

 
 
 

This is interesting. The following five weeks will see the release of some promising song albums from Mount Eerie, Ray Davies, Samantha Crain, Wire, The Mountain Goats, Allred & Broderick (!!!), Mark Lanegan – and Father John Misty. In his Uncut review (May) the music critic draws some parallels between Father John Misty’s „Pure Comedy“ to other works – just double-click for better reading, and get curious! In fact I made a not too inspired interview in Cologne with Josh T. Pearson about that album exactly – and where did we end after talking break-ups and „The Rivers of Babylon“? In a creperie Parisienne where he once worked. Its name something like or „Country Girl“ exactly. (me)

 

 
 

 
 

(45) Songs from the West Coast (2001) ****

Finally, a new Elton John studio album! Finally, a new producer – Patrick Leonard instead of standard Chris Thomas, who’d been around for 20 years, way too long. Released on September 11, 2001. I actually bought it at the West Coast, at Tower Records in Hollywood, where Elton lived at the time. No doubt this is his best album in 25 years – since Blue Moves, I’d say. (Others might say since Too Low For Zero, which is just as acceptable.) 16 years later, this verdict still holds up, only The Diving Board surpassing it. Songs from the West Coast  is much more than a solid, professional effort like Made in England or The One, and it’s neither an imitation of his 70’s sound and style as many reviewers claimed, but a mature and diverse collection of songs by John and Taupin in their mid-fifties. Only in the latter part, one or two songs could have been left as b-sides.

Standout tracks: Dark Diamond, Birds, The Wasteland, Original Sin.

(46) Peachtree Road (2004) ***

Peachtree Road continues where Songs from the West Coast ended – just more respectable, and therefore slightly boring. Elton produced the album himself, which may not have been the best decision. Some fairly good songs, though this time with a few more references to earlier hits and albums. Some of the lesser songs play like they were made for „Wetten dass…?“, though, and the first half is much stronger than the second one, with the overall atmosphere and sound becoming too uniform.

Standout: Porch Swing in Tupelo.

(47) Billy Elliot – musical cast recording (2005) *½

Another musical, this time an immensely successful one based on the successful British film. This time it’s a cast recording instead of an all-star album. Does anyone care? I guess not.

(48) The Captain & the Kid (2006) ***¾

Conceived as a follow-up to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, a kind-of autobiography, telling the story of Elton’s and Bernie friendship since that previous album. A mature collection of songs, not overly fantastic, but very good. A nice piano album recreating „the old sound“ of the seventies.

Standout tracks: The Captain and the Kid, And the House fell down, The Bridge (finally, a solo piano song).

(49) Lestat (2006)

Lestat is another Broadway musical, the first one by Elton and Bernie, based on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. A cast recording was reported to be finished, produced by Guy Babylon (who played in Elton’s band from 1988 until his untimely death in 2009) and Matt Still (who co-produced The Captain & the Kid). After the show’s closing however, EJ’s management stated „there are no plans to release the recording at the present.“ Since I have not seen the show on Broadway, I have never heard the music and therefore can’t give any opinion about it.

(50) The Union (Elton John and Leon Russell, 2010) ****

Leon Russell had been Elton’s idol and influence on the late 1960s and early ’70s, but when Elton noticed Russell and his songs had been forgotten about, he initiated a collaboration album, produced by T Bone Burnett. They composed and recorded 16 new songs, backed by a committed band that includes Marc Ribot and Booker T, among others. Neil Young and Brain Wilson came around to sing on a song each, and Cameron Crowe made a documentary about the recordings.

The Union continues the retrospective line of The Captain & the Kid. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable album with strong performances, sounding very down-to-earth, thanks to Burnett. However, not all of the 16 songs are equally captivating, in particular the second half drags on a bit. (The standard version is 63 minutes, and the deluxe edition is almost 72 minutes, with 16 songs.)

Standout tracks: If it wasn’t for bad, Hey Ahab, Gone to Shiloh (with Neil Young), There’s no tomorrow.

(51) Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)

I don’t really know what that is. Never heard it. I believe it’s a mix of (mostly) old and (a couple of) new songs for another animated movie.

(52) Good Morning to the Night (Pnau feat. Elton John) **½

Provided with 100% creative freedom, Australian dance pop duo Pnau were invited to produce mash-ups from Elton’s recordings of the 70s. As a matter of fact, the results could have been less respectful, but they sound nice, evoking a very 70s disco feeling. It’s not really good. But it’s also not that bad either. It’s what it is.

 

 
 

(53) The Diving Board (2013) ****½

The Diving Board was announced as – at last! – the album to feature only Elton and his piano. Unfortunately, the final album (the release was postponed after its first announcement and re-recordings were executed) is mostly a full band album, save for the opening song and some other sections throughout the 15 tracks, including and two short instrumentals. However, producer T Bone Burnett has helped arrange the songs and a third instrumental in a cautious and unpretentious way; the piano is always in focus of the songs, and 2 cellos, bass (Raphael Saadiq), drums, and, on a few occasions, a choir or a horn section, have usually been mixed in a supportive manner.

It’s furthermore notable that there are no pop songs intended to stand out, no hits, with the album having been conceived as a mature late work, in parts melancholic, in parts joyful, with the odd wink to the past (Can’t stay alone tonight strongly references I guess that’s why they call it the Blues). An arresting album of immensely inspired songwriting. The closing title track is arguably one of Elton’s best compositions ever.

Standout tracks: The Diving Board, Ocean’s Away, The Ballad of Blind Tom, Oscar Wilde gets out. 

(54) Wonderful Crazy Night (2016) ***

Another T Bone Burnett production. Unfortunately, after The Diving Board, this is a disappointment. After three rather somber and introspective studio albums, Wonderful Crazy Night was announced as a return to the colorful and extrovert sound and performance of the 1970’s albums, which is why it’s the first album with the usual live band since The Captain & the Kid. A pity there are hardly any memorable songs on this one. Painting by numbers. And the cover art is just awful and as tasteless as it could possibly get.

Standout songs: The Open Chord, In the Name of you, I’ve got two Wings.

(55) Deep Cuts (2016/2017) ****/*****

So, after you have read through all of this, here is something else I prepared for you: A year ago, around the release of Wonderful Crazy Night, Elton created a Spotify playlist with 20 „Deep Cuts“, i.e. non-hits from his back catalogue:

 
 

 
 

It’s a nice and interesting selection, of which I made a playlist of for my iTunes. Having taken a look at it again after I finished this 5-part blog entry, I am not surprised to see several of my „standout track“ choices in this list (My Father’s Gun, Have Mercy on the Criminal, Amoreena, Razor Face, The King must die, even the very unusual choice Too Low for Zero in addition to Crystal, about both of which I assume none of you co-manafonistas would like). I am rather surprised about the inclusion of a few not-great tracks, such as Leather JacketsLive Like Horses, Shoot down the Moon and Restless. For all those among you who would like to listen to the 20-track collection, I’ve put the iTunes playlist into my Dropbox for you to download. You’ll find a link in the comments. [Non-commercial offer, for private use.]

But, as I don’t really agree with this selection (I think it is, in parts, a missed opportunity) and would like to present a much better one, I have created my very own Deep Cuts collection for you, as a 70th birthday present. I don’t assume you’ll like all of those songs, but I can promise you that anyone with open ears and a love for accomplished songwriting and arrangements will find more some of these choices worth listening to – and will hopefully enjoy as much as possible in this playlist. I’d make a bet that everyone of you will find surprising things in there. Even though it was tough, I forced myself to keep the playlist run under two hours. The first half is more straightforward, whereas the latter part includes a few peculiar choices. I’ll add a download link to this selection as well. Enjoy! (NB: Only two or three of my selected songs overlap with Sir Elton’s own Deep Cuts playlist.)

I just found a readers‘ poll in Rolling Stone (from 2015) which offers ten „deep cuts“ and adds some interesting background information about several of the songs in these two playlists.

previously: part 1part 2, part 3, part 4

Das Interesse an Elton John hatte ich früh verloren. Ich glaube, mich zu erinnern, dass ich einige Lieder von „Goodbye Yellow Brick Road“ mochte, die ich bei Freunden hörte. Aber nun habe ich mir, nachdem ich festgestellt habe, dass unter den Manafonisten etliche treue Hörer des Briten sind, zwei von Ingo hochgehandelte Werke kommen lassen – und „Tumbleweed Connection“ gestern zum ersten Mal in meinem Leben gehört, als SACD,  ein, zwei Songs kamen mir von ferne bekannt vor. Eine Art Road Trip durch den Alten Westen der USA, oder das, was noch von ihm übrig war, anno 1970. Überhaupt keine Frage, das Album hat Schwung, Klasse, die berüchtigten „cinematischen“ Qualitäten. Das exzellente Pianospiel von Mr. John, die ganze Band, ein Feuerwerk an Ideen und Stimmungen. Gerade der hochauflösende Surround-Sound würde jeden Elton John-Fan vom Sofa hauen. Aber letztlich sprangen all die Funken dieses Liederreigens nicht über, und so verharrte ich in einer Sitzhaltung gediegenen Respekts, und erfreute mich am Sound. Vielleicht müsste jemand neben mir sitzen, der leuchtende Ohren hat, oder ein Lächeln aus den frühen Siebzigern mitbringt. Wenn das auch nicht klappt, lege ich das Doppelalbum „Live At The Fillmore East“ der Allman Brothers Band von 1971 auf: dann ist die Levitation auf dem Sofa der Schaumstoffschwestern aus Hamburg-Altona fast garantiert. Fortsetzung folgt.

2017 21 Mrz

The Saxophones

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