Back in the days where people weren’t too fussed about genre labels, when experimentalism regularly hit the high points of the charts and when nobody really gave much of a stuff how much records weighed, remixes reigned supreme. These were mostly shuffled off to the margins of b-sides and exclusive 12″ singles, but there was the occasional album of rejigged and reworked music for our pleasure. Remixing was all over the place, some remixers became more venerated than the people who employed them, and then it all seemed to tail off rather quickly, or at least vanish underground to a place where most people couldn’t find them, except for the very determined. The occasional gem bobbed up to the surface (the Soulsavers’ sublime take on Starsailors’ Four To The Floor being a prime example), but it all went quiet as some remixers went back to being DJs, others started making their own records from scratch, and others carried on messing about for diminishing audiences. This record is a celebration of decades of messing about with other peoples’ stuff.
Of course it’s not a “Best Of”. It’s just a title I did once and am now stuck with. For me, it’s a bit of well-meaning guff at a time of year when I could do with distracting myself and others with stuff that I hope to be vaguely entertaining or perhaps interesting. If not, then it’s given me something to do. It’d be nice if this is how and why all such lists are created, as the prevalence of them now (which is far greater than five years ago when I first had the notion of doing such a thing for myself) is verging on the ubiquitous, and if they all were just to get traffic (as if such a thing was important) then it’s a bit sad for those who still do it out of sheer enthusiasm for what they enjoy doing. Maybe we should try to do something else next year, as it all feels like an accountancy exercise when there’s so much chatter of what publications feel that they should include rather than saluting and toasting the stuff that they wanted to put in.
Everything included here and in the previous twelve months, the years prior to that and – with a bit of luck and a fair wind – the years to come also, is a celebration. I intend to keep it that way.
There’s something rather pleasing about using numbers as something other than passing the time or showing how much there is of something. Tomorrow’s 11/11 is a good example of this as it is with its symmetry and a date that avoids transatlantic confusion, but throw the year into the mix and add the all the digits from 11/11/2014 together and you end up with another eleven. Which is nice. So what better date to usher in the release of a new solo record from one of rock music’s busiest men Alain Johannes (he of Eleven, naturally)?
Bloody queue jumpers. Here’s me with a pile of stuff from the last few weeks to trawl through (a good half-dozen things remain unlistened-to, with two more arriving today and more next week), and just as I start to get things in some semblance of working order, this comes and barges in without a by-your-leave and it’s taking up all my time. Thankfully, in true British style, I can take all of this in my stride with only the tiniest and most imperceptible of “Well, honestly“s and a couple of tuts before carrying on as though nothing happened. Bowie’s going to have to wait a couple of days.
Try as I might, I don’t think that this will ever be a regular occurrence – in my defence however, Saturday is currently the one day of the week I don’t work, so I tend to sleep right through them nowadays rather than seek out fresh compilations to badly wax lyrical about. Nice bit of serendipity today though, as this arrived today (ahead of Monday’s release – one of the benefits of buying direct from a label), I’m already awake and it’s far too cold to go outside and do anything anyway.
I must admit I know very little about Tim Hardin, other than that his story is a troubled one and full of every cautionary pointer for any aspiring singer-songwriter to heed. What I do know is that he left a rich legacy of much-covered work, and that my own attraction to this collection was piqued by the wealth of artists lending their talents to this tribute. A general rule of thumb (such a weird phrase to retain in modern language – look it up!) for me when buying non-charity compilations or tributes to unfamiliar subjects is naturally based upon the assembled artists and whether there are enough I like to warrant forking out the necessary; thankfully there is a veritable host of the familiar and the essential, plus a couple of others who I’d been meaning to give a listen to elsewhere and the remainder made up of interesting unknown quantities. So this compilation should be tailor-made for this desk.
I’m writing this in a bit of a mood, to be honest. I was flattened by a migraine yesterday so missed the first of two shows at Jodrell Bank (last year’s show with the Flaming Lips was a stunner), and overnight we had a month’s worth of rain in one go, so tonight’s gig with Paul Weller is cancelled. Ah well, maybe next year…
On the plus side, my “I’ve got a record player again!” epiphany is paying dividends, to the point where the “From the Past” section (and the section why this whole malarkey exists) is going to suddenly and oddly expand with each “I don’t remember owning that”/thing that’s never been reissued or digitised. If I ever get round to it, a “stuff out of the attic” section may or not appear soon. I’ve got to get it all transferred over to the compy first, so this may not happen any time soon and it won’t be very highbrow, given some of the shockers up there…
Only 5 whatevs this week, I’ve got ironing to do before the football and a shopping list for the attic.
The problem with starting this nonsense early enough to get it all finished before Santa doesn’t bring me any of the stuff I asked for yet again, is that I’m still hearing new stuff and in one particular case, being utterly blown away by it. So, what’ll probably happen is that I shall cheat even more than I already have done and include a joint “something in the top 3″, as I’m not sure exactly where it’s going to go yet. Something as good as this (which I hope to find the time to witter properly about sometime this week) can’t be left out.
Anyway, more on that when I get round to it – bit gutted that Joseph Arthur’s show in Manchester tomorrow (or, as it’s now know, today – as this took longer than I thought it would) is cancelled as I was really looking forward to that, although with any luck I’ll be off to see Sleepy Sun on Tuesday instead providing the temperature doesn’t drop any further than it already has done. Then again, they might be just the ticket to put the cold out my head for an hour or two…
One of the things I like about many of my favourite bands and artists is that they work in ways that go against standard practice, not least because each of these bands are not rigidly staffed; instead choosing to employ wider circles of friends and other interested parties so that ideas remain fresh and the art that is created is cross-pollenated across many bands and genres to the benefit of creator and consumer alike.
A name that springs up on more occasions than most is that of Alain Johannes, whose monicker can be found all over a host of records from many like-minded and open-minded colleagues. It seems weird to me that although I have never actively sought out anything with his name attached to it (which is purely my fault), it’s always a pleasant reassurance when it’s there, like some sort of manufacturer’s guarantee of quality.
So it ended up being a no-brainer to pick this album up as soon as I could, to bring someone from my musical peripheral vision into the centre of attention. And the shift in focus makes for a very welcome record.