Hit the Road Jack! | Freegal Top Ten Songs to Escape With

by Conor McHale

January was never the easiest month to begin the year with grey skies and chilly temperatures. As if that were not enough the country is enduring yet another national lockdown and we are all told to stay at home and not to venture out beyond 5k of our homes. As we wait in the hopes of returning to normality perhaps a welcome distraction would be compiling playlist for our listening pleasure and what better theme could there be than listening to songs about hitting the road by whatever means necessary, venturing out to the far reaches and leaving all our woes behind. Here are just a few available on the Freegal app that can get you started:

Listen to the full playlist on Freegal

We got to get out of this Place: The Animals
This was a very popular song with soldiers during the Vietnam War. Although not written about that conflict it is a song that resonates to this day and can be applied to any situation. We’re all feeling restricted at present and this sentiment is very much at the back of our minds.

Leaving on a Jet Plane: John Denver
Close your eyes and picture yourself heading down to Cork airport and heading off to sunnier climes. The song was written appropriately by Denver while on layover at Washington airport.    Another Denver classic Take me Home Country Roads evokes West Virginia although he had never been and was inspired by a picture postcard. For Denver West Virginia seemed so far away and exotic it may as well have been in Europe.

Born to Run: Bruce Springsteen
An early anthemic classic from The Boss. Written when he was only 24 it has become a staple of his live shows ever since. It’s a song about roaring down open highways and never turning back.

Come Fly with Me: Frank Sinatra
Another song to tempt one away to warmer locales.  It is a song that heralded the “Jet Set” when travel by plane was seen as something enjoyed by only wealthy people who could afford to travel for pleasure. Michael Buble also does a version of this song.

Freedom ’90: George Michael
George Michael actually wrote this about his experience of trying to get out of his contract with Sony Music, but it became a huge hit.  It feels like a song about bursting out of our confines and going wherever we choose.

Get Away: George Ezra
Ezra wrote this about his anxiety at where to go next after finishing his first album. It’s a common feeling especially during these uncertain times when we all want to get away.

On the Road Again: Willie Nelson
Yet another airplane related song in a sense as this was hastily written on the side of a sick bag on a flight for a little remembered film called Honeysuckle Rose. However, the song itself subsequently became one of Nelson’s signature tunes.

Chattanooga Choo Choo: Glenn Miller
A different mode of transportation this time. Miller is best remembered for his Big Band swing tunes such as In the Mood and Moonlight Serenade, this tune was inspired by the steam locomotive that travelled from Cincinnati to Chattanooga.

Down the Highway: Bob Dylan
This time we are on foot. Dylan released his second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in 1963 which contained well known tracks like Blowin’ in the Wind and Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. This is lesser known song being a stark blues about” walkin’ down the highway with a suitcase in my hand.”

Hotel California (Live): The Eagles
After all this travelling it would be nice to stay in a luxury hotel. Except Hotel California is a state of mind! For the Eagles the song was their interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles. This is their most recognised song and this is a superb live version.

The Bad Penny Review | Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fiona Apple’s surprise LP marks a return after an 8 year gap between albums. It is a percussive, complex, and technically superb album that was produced in Apple’s home, often using iPhone recordings and GarageBand. Spontaneity drives the core of the album; you can hear the songs evolving as you listen. This is intentionally unintentional, during the album’s production Apple stresses that she focused on letting the songs develop during the recording process. Choosing to let improvisation fill in the missing space and working with the music rather than planning it all down to the nth degree. Her poetic and sharp lyricism binds the whole experience together, in a whirl of rhythm, melody and powerful honesty.

The album opens with the powerful, storming track, “I Want You To Love Me”, driven by a piano part that swells and shifts in a hypnotic fashion. Apple broods on the passing of time and the need to be loved, before letting the song unravel towards a bizarre frenzied conclusion. On the next track, the stand-out “Shameika”, Apple begins to explore themes relating to her relationship with women in her life, as she sings passionately about feelings of isolation and being bullied in school, but as the chorus hits, Apple affirms in a moment of calm, “Shameika said I had potential”. This reflects an actual interaction that Fiona had when she was in middle school where a classmate, and namesake of the song, reached out to her. The song ponders how this interaction impacted Fiona and reflects on how help can arrive in unexpected circumstances.

The title track explores the central theme of the album, which as Apple puts it is, “Fetch the f******* bolt cutters and get yourself out of the situation that you’re in — whatever it is that you don’t like”. With stripped back instrumentation and a passionate, charismatic performance Apple invites the listener to sit down and examine the bad situations in our lives and encourages us to break free. This is also explored in the defiant and playful “Under the Table”.

The haunting yet rousing track, “Newspaper” delves into how shared yet private pain can evoke feelings of closeness while it can also lead to feelings of isolation, as Apple lays bare the way in which the man in the song has created division between herself and another woman. This is accompanied by abrasive drums and powerful vocals, the instrumental and melody refusing to stand still. Continuing with themes of division is the stellar “Ladies”, where Apple tackles the ways in which women are pitted against each other by men, particularly in the case of infidelity. Examining how blame and negative emotions are often not directed at the man who cheated, but at who he was cheating with. The use of repetition and the ever diverse intonations on the word ladies, give the impression that Apple is bringing you in and sitting you down for a chat and perhaps an intervention

Throughout its runtime, Apple deals with situations and feelings that are sensitive for people and often can hit too close to home. With a fine lens Apple reflects the nature of the world we find ourselves in. This is hugely apparent in the uncompromising “For Her”. It is a tale of a woman who has been a victim of sexual assault but the man who abuses her does not see it as abuse. Rationalizing his actions and claiming to be defending them from other dangers, leading the abused to question their own feelings. Discussing the song, Apple said she wanted “primary colors. I don’t want any half measures.” choosing to be literal and specific as she felt “it’ll be important to the people it matters to.” These choices pay off in an affecting and powerful song that leaves no punch pulled.

Other tracks continue to delve deep, “Heavy Balloon” is a stormer of a song, with its brash rhythm section and sauntering vocal performance that, much like the title track from John Martin’s ‘Solid Air’, ruminates on the feeling of weight that bears down on people with depression. The chorus is a roaring affirmation that Apple will be alright, likening herself to the way that plants can store energy and release, spreading throughout a garden. Similarly, the track “Cosmonauts”, which had originally been penned for Judd Apatow movie, This is 40,but did not appear on the soundtrack, grapples with the possibility and impossibility of monogamy. Locking the characters in the song in a small space vessel and putting their friction and their love on display, while the chorus latches onto the feelings of hope for the relationship.

The album is kind, brutal and exceedingly honest. It is a record of revelation and exploration, which asks us to pull back the covers and examine the life and situations that surround us, leading to absorbing listening. Pairing these themes with great songwriting, crisp production and superb vocal performances, Fiona Apple has created an inventive and earnest record that will stay glued to my mind for the foreseeable future.

Now available to borrow from the Rory Gallagher Music Library and to stream and download on Freegal, using your library membership: https://corkcitylibraries.freegalmusic.com/

By John Hayes

Top Ten Christmas Songs from Freegal

by Conor MacHale

Normally this time of year as the festive season approaches we would be wheeling out the trolley packed with all the Christmas music for our patrons to borrow. However, as the library remains closed for the time being there is an alternative to accessing a great variety of Christmas music by streaming and downloading all the festive hits on the Freegal app. You can also create playlists in the My Music section so you can stream your favourite Christmas tunes and shuffle them in any random order. Here are a few to get the party started:

Dean Martin: Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
Written by Sammy Cahn who wrote it in California during a heat wave, naturally, this is a festive favourite covered by many singers from Frank Sinatra to Michael Buble. Dean Martin’s sublime laid back vocals make this version stand out.

Bing Crosby: White Christmas
This has been recorded by artists as disparate as Perry Como and Iggy Pop. One of the most popular and well known renderings is by Bing Crosby whose version is one of the highest selling singles of all time. It remains one of the most recognisable of all Christmas songs

Miley Cyrus & Mark Ronson feat Sean Ono Lennon: Happy Xmas ( War is Over)
2020 marks 40 years since the death of John Lennon so it is fitting his son Sean features on this version of his Christmas single.

London Fox Children’s Choir: Walking in the Air
A well known Christmas song from The Snowman, this is given a choral treatment by the London Fox Children’s Choir who also perform arrangements of many well known Christmas carols such as Deck the Halls and Away in a Manger .

Christmas Carols: O Holy Night
Plenty of carols can be streamed and downloaded. Written in 1847, this remains today one of the most popular of all carols.

Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song
Of the many yuletide songs recorded by Nat King Cole, this is a stand out song written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells. Although there are many versions by Perry Como and Frank Sinatra, Cole’s rendition remains a most popular favourite.

Wham: Last Christmas
Beaten to the No. 1 spot in 1984 by Do They know it’s Christmas by Band Aid, this nevertheless remains a pop Christmas favourite. It’s available on multiple compilation albums as well as the recent Last Christmas film soundtrack. The music video can also be downloaded on Freegal.

The Ronettes: Sleigh Ride
Produced by Phil Spector at the heights of his “Wall of Sound” period in the mid 1960s. Check out the Now That’s What I Call Christmas completion for this and many other favourites.

Ella Fitzgerald: Winter Wonderland
A perfect jazz number for the Christmas, this version recorded by Ella Fitzgerald is the most known and a rightful addition to any Christmas song list.

Elvis Presley: Blue Christmas
This was recorded in 1957 at the height of Elvis’s Rock n’ Roll fame. He also recorded a version with the country singer Martina McBride for his ’68 comeback special.

A lot of these songs appear on various compilations thus leading you onto many other Christmas favourites. Note, whole albums can be saved onto your Christmas playlist instead of just picking random songs.

Listen to Playlist: https://corkcitylibraries.freegalmusic.com/browse/playlists/library-playlists/241795

Rory Gallagher – Check Shirt Wizard

This year sees the release of a new addition to the Rory Gallagher live canon in the form of Check Shirt Wizard, a collection of previously unreleased live recordings from his 1977 UK tour.

Album cover

Fitting neatly between Irish Tour ’74 and 1980s Stage Struck, this album showcases Rory at his blistering best. The set does feature performances of songs released on the above mentioned albums as well as 1972’s Live in Europe, however, these performances recorded are excellently re-mastered sonically enhancing the tight and sustained virtuosity of not just Rory, but the band as a well-oiled unit blasting the audience away. With the same line-up as 1974, the ever present Gerry McAvoy on bass, Rod de’Ath on drums and Lou Martin on piano, the listener feels as if they are present at the concert. It is highly recommended by this listener to play this album at a very loud volume!

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This 20 song collection sees Rory fresh from recording and touring on the back of his most recent release 1976’s Calling Card and the set includes many of the songs from that album. Also there is a decent five song acoustic set with Rory in fine form on a dobro and slide version of ‘Too Much Alcohol’ and bringing out the mandolin for the anthemic ‘Going to My Hometown’.  The latter song was a runner up on Cork City Libraries’ and Creative Ireland’s recent Cork’s Favourite Song initiative. Deservedly also, at time of writing, Check Shirt Wizard was at No.1 on the Billboard Blues Chart

All these above mentioned albums and many more Rory related material can be borrowed from the Rory Gallagher Music Library. Enjoy!

by Conor MacHale

The Bad Penny Review | Harry Styles’ Fine Line

When Fine Line released in December 2019 it burst onto the scene and became the third-highest debut for an album that year, and with good reason. The album is a rousing and stylish pop record that wears all of its retro-rock inspirations on its sleeve. Rock royalty Stevie Nicks revealed the album has been what she has been primarily listening to throughout the lockdown, proclaiming “Way to go H. It is your Rumours”.

Fine Line Cover Art

So given that, how does the album hold up to the Fleetwood Mac classic? While it doesn’t maintain the same level of consistent quality in all of its 12 tracks, the vast majority offer a delightful and infectious romp through the sounds of rock and pop, both old and new. You can feel the constant drive to create great moments in every track; with catchy hooks, dynamic song structures and superb production. The album is brimming with confidence and draws you in from the beginning through to the end.

The opening track ‘Golden’ launches straight in with a storming progressive indie-pop song that lays bare his 70s and aforementioned Fleetwood Mac influences but unlike his first solo album it clearly frames Styles as the main attraction. ‘Canyon Moon’ also highlights his folk-pop inspirations with its sunny disposition pitching a tent and setting up a campfire by the time it gets to the first chorus.

Other tracks like the standout ‘Sunflower Vol. 6’ sparkle and shimmer with wavy layers of electronic buzz and jangling guitars. Great vocal moments such as exaggerated breaths before verses, layered harmonies and the joyous and silly outro give the song plenty of memorable moments. This track shows Style’s at his most stylish and confident as he commands the dazzling array of sounds and layers with ease.

‘Lights Up’ blends pop rock with the glimmering shades of indie and balances them out with a bombastic chorus. Ticking the box for a big summer banger is ‘Watermelon Sugar’ with its simple guitar based underbelly exploding after the first verse into a raucous big band anthem that practically demands sunny skies.

Meanwhile, funky pop grooves and piercing guitar solos are aplenty on the single ‘Adore You’, paired with themes of unwavering devotion that invoke memories of early Bruno Mars mega-hits, while the last of the singles to appear on the record, ‘Falling’, features a stripped back instrumental for its reflective subject matter and tries to offers a change of pace. However, the song is a more forgettable pop ballad, lacking the defined sense of character on most of the other tracks.

Lyrically the album often follows an honest and open approach, ‘Cherry’ is a bouncy slice of indie folk that laments an obviously personal break-up, ‘To Be So Lonely’ demonstrates that commitment to looking inward over a sparse and fun instrumental while Styles documents his relationship failings.

The guitar heavy ‘She’ is an atmospheric and airy track that proves infectious, despite it lacking the lyrical quality to offer insight into the concept on display, with its soaring guitars and great vocals.

The thematically self-explanatory, ‘Treat People With Kindness’, sees Styles at his most Magical Mystery Tour. Sporting a powerful vocal performance that holds the larger than life instrumental and backing vocals together the song soars and aims to take all bystanders along with it, even if it does often veer into clichéd territory.

The title track ‘Fine Line’ closes the album with a spacious, melancholy ballad that builds steadily with expanding instrumentation and vocal melodies, until the spectacular introduction of a stellar brass section gives both the song and album a great sense of release.

Overall, Fine Line is a very solid second offering from an artist carving their sound out of 60s and 70s influences and using them to create fun, energetic and honest music for a whole new generation.

 

Now available with your library membership to stream and download on Freegal: https://corkcitylibraries.freegalmusic.com/

 

By John Hayes

 

Rory Gallagher – Blues

UMG / Chess three-disk set

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The booklet in the recently issued Blues has a quote from Rory Gallagher recalling the impact of first hearing blues on the radio:

“the following weekend I went into the library in Cork and I got books out on the origins of the blues”.

Rory was a regular user of the City Library on Grand Parade.  Another time he recalled

“I went into the library once and got Teach Yourself How to Read Music or something, and it said, ‘sit down with your piano’. . . We didn’t have a piano, so that went down the chute”.

It wasn’t just the books on music which drew Rory to the Library.  As a young reader he began a lifelong love of the classic hard-boiled crime novels of writers like Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, James L. Cain, and Raymond Chandler.  This fascination with classic noir is reflected in the titles of the tracks on the second of the three disk set: ‘Prison blues’, ‘Secret agent’, ‘Loanshark blues’, ‘Pistol slapper blues’ and ‘Nothing but the devil’.  These could have been titles of books by his favourite writers, like e.g. Hammett’s Continental op.

It might seem an absurd thing to say but if Rory had never picked up a Strat and plugged in, these acoustic tracks – 12 in all – would be enough to make his name.

You only have to listen to ‘Should’ve learnt my lesson’ – his playing (including an over-dubbed mandolin track) gelling beautifully with Lou Martin’s barrel-house piano.  ‘Prison blues’ and ‘Bankers blues’ are other standouts, and he attacks ‘Pistol slapper blues’ with a relish that is irresistible.  Some of the tracks on CD2 are versions of songs better known in electric versions; hearing a song like ‘Whole lot of people’ for example in an acoustic version gives more space for the listener to appreciate the lyrics, often overlooked in the electric versions.

This should be no surprise to anyone; as early as ‘See here’ on the 2nd Taste album, and through to ‘Out of my mind’ on Deuce and beyond, Rory’s tasty acoustic playing was a joy.

The last four tracks on the acoustic CD are covers of songs by his heroes and mentors – Muddy Waters, Son House, Fulton Allen, and great versions they are, although you’d have to say his cover of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Want ad blues’ lacks the latter’s roguish menace.  Muddy Waters was always Rory’s main man, and you can feel the love in the versions of ‘Can’t be satisfied’ and ‘Blow wind blow’ (the basis for Dylan’s ‘It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry’) both included here.

Of course no Rory fan would accept that it’s all about his acoustic playing, and if there was even the remotest doubt listen to the first three tracks on CD3, recorded live in Glasgow in 1982, with Brendan O’Neill on drums: ‘Why my baby she left me’ (the Sonny Boy Williamson classic), ‘Nothing but the devil’ and Willie Dixon’s ‘What in the world’.  These are some of the best live tracks we have ever heard from Rory and his band. They were lucky to keep the roof on!

Other standouts include ‘Off the handle’ a slow searing blues, ‘I could’ve had religion’, ‘A Million miles away’ – both familiar live favourites but great versions here – and ‘Leaving town blues’ a studio cut for a Peter Green tribute.  Congrats to the production team, chiefly Donal Gallagher’s son Daniel, for getting a raft of great tracks from the RTÉ vaults.  Many Rory fans will have seen or heard them before, but having them anthologised here is a huge plus.

Of course it has to be said what a joy it is to see these tracks issued on the Chess label, how proud Rory would have been.

The only even vaguely negative comment one can make about this wonderful set is ‘What took ye so long lads?’

 

Liam Ronayne

Liam Ronayne
Cork City Librarian

 

 

 

Neil Young in the Ditch

Neil_Young_2012

Neil Young is arguably the most prolific, as well as the longest-lasting, and hardest-working musician in popular music.  His output is so varied that it is difficult to know where to begin to come to terms with his music.  He moved from his native Canada to the USA in the mid-1960s and it feels like he has hardly let his guitar down since.  In this present century alone he has released 17 albums of new music, along with a series of archival recordings, mostly live, curated by Young himself.

Looking back over four decades to focus on one short period in his career might seem a little odd, in that context.  Yet in the opinion of this writer, the three albums he recorded in 1973 and 1974, taken together, amount to his finest work.  He himself coined the name by which this period and its music – ‘The Ditch’ – are known:

Heart of Gold put me in the middle of the road.  Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch”.

The music made by Young during that time was brought to mind by the release in early summer 2018 of Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live.  This album was recorded straight after he and his band had finished recording the Tonight’s the Night studio album.  They went to the newly opened Roxy Club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in late September 1973, and played most of the songs they had just recorded.

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Tonight’s the Night – released in June 1975, although recorded in August 1973 – is so good I wondered what the live set would have to offer, but it is a revelation.  Tonight’s the Night captures Young coming to terms with “losing friends, band members and crew members to heroin” according to music journo Jon Dale, who described the recording process as “a dark occluded affair”.

Many of the versions are even better live than in the studio.  Young’s singing, and his and the band’s playing, are much more engaging; witness for example the soulful guitar-playing on ‘Speaking out’ (Nils Lofgren), a beautiful – though haunting – ‘Tired Eyes’ and scorching versions of ‘Roll another number (for the road)’ and ‘Tonight’s the night (Reprise)’.

The first of ‘The Ditch’ records was Time fades away, a collection of eight songs recorded live during a tour of 65 large venues over 90 days, beginning in early January 1973.  Young took against this record soon after its release and has refused for years to have it released on CD; “it’s the worst record I ever made” he says.  Not so, in fact its honesty and sometimes ramshackle playing offers a way into Young’s deepest feelings.  The rawness only adds to what the listener gets out of it.

The third album of the trilogy is On the beach.  This received negative reviews on its release in July 1974, but is now recognized as one of Young’s greatest.  It is a sobering and sometimes savage pen-picture of America in the dying days of Nixon’s presidency, absorbing and reflecting the awful impact of the Vietnam War and the Manson ‘family’ on the youth of the USA.

But to get back to Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live, one of the striking things is that the sadness and anger of the lyrics are offset by Young’s sardonic and self-deprecating patter on stage.  Surprisingly, in an odd kind of way, this adds depth and humanity to the songs.

The order in which the band play the songs is different to the studio album, and this helps to give Roxy a different vibe:

Studio Album
1 Tonight’s the Night
2 Speaking’ Out
3 World on a String
4 Borrowed Tune
5 Come on baby (let’s go downtown)
6 Mellow my Mind
7 Roll another number (for the road)
8 Albuquerque
9 New Mama
10 Lookout Joe
11 Tired Eyes
12 Tonight’s the Night (Reprise)
Roxy
1 Tonight’s the Night
2 Mellow my Mind
3 World on a String
4 Speaking’ Out
5 Albuquerque
6 New Mama
7 Roll another number (for the road)
8 Tired Eyes
9 Tonight’s the Night
10 Walk On

 

Incidentally the encore, ‘Walk on’, appeared as the opening track of On the beach.

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne          Cork City Librarian

 

 

 

 

Live at the Library – The Vestas

The Vestas: Live at the Library: a series of recorded interviews with contemporary Cork musicians, as part of the Rory Gallagher Music Library 40th celebration.

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Jake Kalilec, Leo Mullane and Fintan Mulvihill are three fine singer-songwriters from Cork, who came together whilst studying music in college. They write and perform some of the finest new music on the Irish scene – heavily influenced by soul, blues, pop and jazz styles, reflecting the different influences each of them brings to the group. This gives their music a refreshing and uplifting feel, with appeal to a wide audience. Their catchy melodies and vocal harmonies range in theme from the heartache of lost love to life on the dole. They have supported Damien Dempsey, Declan O’Rourke, Hermitage Green and many more.

Their new EP “In my Head” features soulful original songs that combine moving lyrics with equally moving melodies.

Here, Sheena Crowley talks to The Vestas about their new EP ‘In My Head’

It’s that Van again!

.. It’s Too Late to Stop Now .. in all its glory

Vol I: the original 2-CD set
Vol II, III, IV & DVD; previously unreleased material (4 disk set)

The early 1970s was an incredible time for Van Morrison; not a period of transition but one of great fulfilment.

Following his breakthrough with Moondance (1970) – Astral Weeks was a whole other thing – he produced a series of albums that together amount to the highpoint of his creative life: His band and the street choir (also 1970), Tupelo Honey (1971), Saint Dominic’s preview (1972), Hard nose the highway (1973), culminating in the live double album .. It’s too late to stop now .. (released January 1974).

In the summer of 1973 he set off on a three-month long tour of North America and Europe with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. Warner Brothers recorded eight sets on that tour – at The Troubadour (23 May) in Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Civic (29 June), and The Rainbow in London (23 & 24 July).  The eleven-strong Caledonia Soul Orchestra was perhaps his greatest band; it included a five person string section, sax and trumpet, guitar, bass and drums, all led by Jeff Labes on piano and organ.  Many of these musicians had been with him since Moondance, and stayed with him through the first half of the 70s.

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That live recording – long-regarded as one of the greatest live albums ever – has now been revisited. The original has been re-mastered and re-issued as .. It’s too late to stop now .. Vol I; this is accompanied by .. It’s too late to stop now .. Vol II, III, and IV & DVD: previously unreleased selections from the gigs in The Troubadour, the Santa Monica Civic, and The Rainbow respectively.  The Rainbow gig on 24 July was filmed by the BBC for a TV special, but never broadcast.  Part of this concert is issued for the first time on the DVD.

So what have we got?

Each night on that tour he paid due tribute to his R’n’B mentors: Ray Charles (‘I believe to my soul’), Bobby Bland (‘Ain’t nothing you can do’), Sam Cooke (‘Bring it on home to me’), Sonny Boy Williamson (‘Help me’ and ‘Take your hand out of my pocket’) and Muddy Waters (‘I just want to make love to you’).  He included the Them-era classics ‘Gloria’ and ‘Here comes the night’ and his first solo hit ‘Brown eyed girl’.   At the heart of these recordings, however, are selections from his early 70s albums; we get a total of 18 of these songs from his six solo studio albums (including 6 of the 8 tracks on Hard nose the highway recorded that spring but not released until later in 1973).  We get two or even three versions of some songs, such as ‘Caravan’, ‘Into the mystic’ and ‘Cyprus Avenue’.

There are surprising covers as well: ‘Being green’ was written for Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street!, he does a version of ‘Purple heather’ that Francis McPeake – his fellow Belfast man who gave us the best-known rendering of that song – would struggle to recognize; both of them had been recorded for Hard nose the highway. As well as that he does Hank Williams’ ‘Hey good looking’ and a punk cha-cha version of that old chestnut ‘Buona sera’.

Five disks to listen to, one DVD 50 minutes long: is it worth it?

The tour was reaching its end when the Caledonia Soul Orchestra pitched up at The Rainbow in North London on 23 and 24 July 1973. Whether it was because Van and his band had got as tight as could be after a great tour, or they were looking forward to the finish, this is the set (volume IV) with the most verve and excitement.  Morrison has returned to ‘Listen to the Lion’ – first recorded for St. Dominic’s Preview – many times, but he and his band nailed a version here that would be hard to better.  Similarly with the versions on this CD of ‘Domino’, ‘Caravan’, ‘Into the mystic’ and ‘Cyprus Avenue’, ‘I believe to my soul’ . . .

The Santa Monica set is more restrained, somehow feels a little flat in comparison. The Troubadour gig, while still good, is maybe not as essential as the Rainbow CD.  The entire package, though, is a must for anyone with more than a passing interest in Van Morrison.

Everything his fans have loved for four decades can be found here: the unique way Van blends gutbucket blues and breath-taking soul with his romantic mystical longings, his unmistakeable voice, all backed by a fantastic collection of musicians, every one of them fully bought into Van’s way of making music.

Liam Ronayne

Liam Ronayne

 

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Header photo: Art Siegel, Wikipedia Commons

Roaming in the Gloaming

The Gloaming and The Gloaming 2

The late George Martin was one time quoted as saying

“can you tell me what music is? It’s completely intangible. It grips you, gets into your soul”.

That quote came to mind when listening to Martin Hayes leading his Gloaming comrades out of their own composition ‘Fáinleog’ and into the first few bars of the traditional jig ‘The Holly Bush’. I wish I could describe the feelings that the transition and Hayes’s fiddle-playing create, but all I can say is, go listen to it.

The Gloaming first got together almost five years ago – a fantastic concert in Triskel Christchurch in December 2012 was one of their early gigs. Since then they have often been referred to in the media as a ‘trad supergroup’. Whatever about that there is no doubting their standing in the world of roots music – Iarla Ó Lionáird (voice and keys) is the leading exponent of the Muscraí singing tradition, and Martin Hayes is the king of east Clare fiddle-playing. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is a wonderful fiddler as well, playing the Hardanger d’amore, his own creation, Thomas Bartlett, from Connecticut is on piano (and organizer / producer in the studio), and Irish–American Denis Cahill, on guitar, is Hayes’s long-standing music partner.

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The Gloaming

That difficult second album! One of the hoariest old chestnuts in music. The Gloaming have got around it with their second, by creating a companion for their first. Not really a continuation, not the same as the first, but together they form a whole, greater than the sum of the parts. The feeling that the two CDs are a pair is reinforced by the visual presentation of the records by the Real World label — beautiful packaging it has to be said. Both have striking but elusive sepia images on the cover, photos by Robert and Shana ParkerHarrison. The back covers and the inside spreads are also very similar, encouraging us to see them as a pair.

Centrepiece of the first CD was ‘The Opening Set’, track 8 on the album! This is a 16-minute masterpiece in its own right, starting with a traditional song from the Muscraí tradition, and building, layer by layer, through six tunes and airs to a cathartic climax.

There is nothing resembling this on The Gloaming 2, and rightly so. It would have been impossible to equal it. But what we have on both are group compositions using Gaelic poetry, the earliest from the Fiannaíocht or Fenian Cycle, and a 16th-century poem, but most are recent — Sean Ó Ríordáin’s ‘Saoirse’, and Michael Hartnett’s ‘An Muince Dreoilíní’ on the first album; The Gloaming 2 begins with two poems from Ó Ríordáin’s Eireaball Spideoige.

the -gloaming2_Cover
The Gloaming 2

Their versions of ‘Samhraidh, Samhraidh’ (on the first album) and ‘Slán le Maighe (on Gloaming 2) are worth the price of entry alone. These take their place among the jigs, hornpipes, reels, hop jigs, and slides.

The music on The Gloaming 2 might not be created for dancing, but I would challenge anyone to stay sitting quietly when listening to tunes like ‘The Rolling Wave’, ‘Music in the Glen’ and ‘The Holy Bush’. Iarla sings the old lullaby ‘Cucanandy’ which he learnt from the singing of Bess Cronin from his home parish of Baile Bhúirne. The Gloaming’s version wanders off mid-way but returns to finish with a credo that would apply to any musician:

“Piper sell your pipes, buy your wife a gown

Piper sell your pipes, buy your wife a gown

Yerra I wouldn’t sell me pipes for all the wives in town”.

The Gloaming last played Cork at a sold-out show in the Opera House last year. The way they’re going they will fill the proposed Events Centre, and still leave disappointed fans outside.

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian