Mid-Afternoon Compilation Saturday: Reason To Believe – The Songs Of Tim Hardin

something to believeTry 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.

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Audioscope – Music For A Good Home Two

There’s a 7 Seconds song called The Music, The Message from their 1995 album of the same name that, like a lot of their stuff in my younger days, struck a permanent chord.  Music, kind of whether we like it or not, guides us and soundtracks us and can occasionally give us the opportunity to do some good.  Or, at the very least, do something that allows someone better qualified and generally better at it to do some good on our behalf.

Audioscope is one such organisation that creates things so that we humble punters can do little things in order so that they can do incredible things for people who really need those incredible things to happen, so in that respect everybody wins.  Supporting homelessness charity Shelter since 2001, they have put on fundraising events featuring a host of musical acts, followed by an album in 2010 featuring experimental artists from past and present all contributing their time and efforts for this common cause.  Next month sees the release of the second of these albums, expanding the selection from the original’s 11 artists to a veritable Legion of 40.  Or, if you want to get all technical and “accurate” about it, half a Centuria.

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Mid-Afternoon Compilation Saturday: Something’s Gone Wrong Again

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that Adland is currently having a right musical pillage of late.  It can be beneficial of course, as it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the music of Nick Drake would remain the secret preserve of a handful of people were it not for a car advert, but the floodgates have currently been kicked wide open with a succession of weird juxtapositions of strangely-covered songs selling stuff: Pixies’ Where Is My Mind? advertising family package holidays, the Stone Roses’ Waterfall playing out a shop that sells spectacles, even the Cure’s Close To Me selling suncream (which doesn’t seem the best marriage of product, music and target market, but hey I’m not an advertising guru) seem like completely sane choices compared to a huge UK store using the Smiths’ Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want for their marquee Christmas TV campaign last year.  And of course these are all covers (it’s cheaper than paying the actual artists, and doesn’t require their permission – as Beach House discovered earlier this year), and pretty much all of the above are reworked as jingles so it’s not that hard to just dismiss them as amusing fluff.

Except one.  A car company who shall remain nameless is currently using an insipid cover of a very good Nouvelle Vague cover of the Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love – stripping it of everything that made it such a brilliant song in the first place and hammering its dreadfulness home in such a repetitive manner that it’s impossible to ignore it.  Amazingly, the band doing the murdering of said song appear in the advert itself – which isn’t only annoying for the sheer cheek of it, but also because they all mime so badly that I thought they were actors paid to turn up and pretend to play instruments that they had never even heard of before, let alone studied enough to look like they knew how to play them.  Gah.

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Mid-Afternoon Saturday Compilation: Echo And The Bunnymen – Songs To Learn And Sing

When I first started to do these weekend asides around this time two years ago, I had this particular record in mind.  Grand Procrastinator that I am though, I never got round to doing anything about it and it wasn’t until last week that I remembered what I was going to do.

In the previous Sunday Whatever, I highlighted a track from Echo and the Bunnymen’s Porcupine, mentioning that the Liverpool band’s finest album wasn’t a “proper” album by my own strict definition.  This is, by some margin, the Bunnymen’s finest forty minutes and one of not that many albums in my collection that I can say – without pause for thought – is utterly essential.

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Mid-Afternoon Compilation Saturday: Thirty One For CALM

It’s certainly been a while since I last did one of these, mostly because my Saturday mid-afternoons have been spent either sleeping off a hangover, or (even worse) being awake during one.  I’m trying to put a bit of structure back into this blog again, so I’m going to have a go at making this a bit more regular.

The last one I did of these was when a bunch of Manchester-based recording artists got together to make a charity record (the wonderful and worthy Manchester Music For Kosovo), and by curious coincidence, this next one is another gathering of Manchester’s great and good coming together for another charitable cause.  CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is an organisation set up to help combat the high rates of suicide among young men in the UK, and this 2-disc compilation has been compiled by local author and DJ Dave Haslam, involving names right across the spectrum of Manchester’s unique collection of contemporary artists, with art direction from local icon Peter Saville, all put out by the Factory Foundation, another charitable organisation concerned with providing music workshops for the area’s disadvantaged children.

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Various – Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues From The Pit 1927-1942

Quite a few of my closest friends are vegetarians.  I have no idea why this is, I have never asked them and have seen no real reason why I should pry into this as it neither alarms nor offends me.  Having said that, there are occasions where I (at a percentage of carnivorousness approaching utter totality, obscuring almost all else other than crisps and the occasional Toblerone) wonder if it would be impolite if I smuggled a Pepperami in one of my socks akin to a Scottish sgian dubh in order to remain polite yet also appease my cravings as I nip outside under the pretence of having a cig (which is tricky in itself nowadays as I’ve given the smokes up for five years or so).  I merely mention this as I suspect that this particular album may have limited appeal within my social circle.  Although beans and peas get mentioned occasionally.

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Mid-Afternoon Compilation Saturday: Manchester Music For Kosovo – Ten

The best way that we can appreciate the present is to look back towards the past occasionally.  Not just so that we can comfort ourselves that things are somehow better, but also to understand that just because something is no longer at the forefront of our attention, it doesn’t mean that human issues end with the cessation of political and/or military involvement.

It’s been a long time since Kosovo was mentioned in the news, or indeed anywhere.  The World’s youngest country is Europe’s poorest.  The violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia has left its citizens without an economic infrastructure, and this will take a long time to turn around.  That the citizens of Kosovo actually have a country however is a fragility worth having and building upon for the future.  It’s wonderful to see a fledgeling nation find its feet, but it needs help in order to do so.

 

Manchester Aid for Kosovo (MAK) was formed one evening in a pub, and within a fortnight, 300 tons of aid was on its way from Manchester, and Manchester Peace Park now stands in the town Podujevo (the scene of  horrendous ethnic cleansing during the conflict) as a permanent reminder of the tragic events of the past and a public monument to the collective hope of the nation.  Ten years ago, a charity compilation called Cohesion, featuring many of Manchester’s established and upcoming talent, united in the aim of raising aid for the then-UN Protectorate.  A decade on, and Elbow and Doves return to contribute to a new album fittingly entitled Ten to celebrate the work done so far and to remind us that much still needs to be done.

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Mid-Afternoon Compilation Saturday – Joey’s Song

Compilations of this nature can be strange affairs.  People can be drawn in on no more than strength of feeling toward its subject or a wish to empathise, sympathise or support.  By this same token, people can be equally averse; the subject could be too close to home and heart or even too distant to provoke a response.

For me, while it certainly helps if the money goes to a good home (although, curiously, this isn’t a consideration when I fork out for any one of the however many records I own that probably just goes towards another leather throne in someone’s boardroom), it’s generally just about how good the end result sounds.  And this one sounds just fine.

 

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Mid-Afternoon Compilation Saturday – Judgment Night

I do like films.  I’m currently ploughing through a 21-disc set of Hammer films from the mid to late 1960s that all seem to have been filmed in the same village in Cornwall, but are fun nonetheless.  So it should come as little surprise that I’m also a fan of film soundtracks.

Movie soundtracks are a strange affair when removed from the film they were created for.  Many struggle to hold my attention, as most are written to be accentuate whatever’s going on up on the big screen, and even being utterly iconic doesn’t always help – Bernard Hermann’s Psycho theme is one of the most famous pieces of modern music, but it doesn’t lend itself too well to a relaxed evening in with the headphones on its own.  Not compared to Lalo Schifrin’s funky approach to, well, everything, anyway.  But this doesn’t mean that the expolitationfest that is the theme to Magnum Force is culturally superior to the screechy strains that accompanied Hitchcocks’ finest hour and a half, it’s just a bit easier to dance to.

 

Then you have the utter greats, where the composer and his work becomes this whole other entity and sit alongside  – Ennio Morricone’s work on Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy, John Barry and Harry Nilssen’s amazing score and song for Midnight Cowboy make great films even better, and stand up as great music in it’s own right.

And there’s also the soundtrack that does away with scores for the most part, and assembles contemporary artists and songs in order to make some cash back when it turns out that the film is a bit crap.  The confusing oddness of Less Than Zero has a musical background that is far more famous than the film itself, as it gave the world The Bangles doing Hazy Shade of Winter, Slayer offering their cover of In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida (a song also covered by Boney M, so there’s probably a musical first in there somewhere) and Glenn Danzig’s finest work in the film’s title track – which, if memory serves me right, was relegated in the film itself to about five seconds on a tinny radio in the background.  And this album fits firmly into this category.

 

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End of Year Doings, Part 3

Yes, quite.

Just realised that in doing a top 35 (which isn’t exactly 35 anyway), splitting it into chunks of ten will eventually offend some law of mathematics or other.  Whoops.

Undeterred by this, the last five(ish!) will be individually added daily next week from Monday – although as I’m attempting a jaunt off down to the South Coast on Wednesday for three days this might get delayed a bit depending on internet connection and whether or not I stuff the car into a snowdrift on the way down there.  Will be brilliant when/if I arrive (not least because of a gig I’ve been looking forward to for months), must admit to being a bit twitchy about the journey although I’m sure it’s nothing that a shovel, spare socks and a flask of Bovril can’t sort out…  Will certainly be finished by next Sunday anyway, as I’m getting to the point where I just want it done and out of the bloody way!

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