My playlist got a little weird last week. It all began with a version of Paint it Black, the Stones’ song from 1966. The version, a cover, was stunning: slower and with none of the original lyrics. There was an Afro-beat and a funky feel to it, replete with congas and stuff. It was rather good. Instead of the original lyrics, the band covering it occasionally chanted “Paint it black”, pronouncing black as ‘Blaak’. I got curious and found out that the cover version was by a band, or rather, a collective, called Africa who put out just one album in 1968 called Music From Lil Brown. I later found that that Music from Lil Brown was an African-American response to Music From Big Pink, the debut album from The Band, which, of course, is the Canadian-American band that got fame because it was Bob Dylan’s back-up band but which on its own was easily one of the best rock bands that I’ve heard. Read more
Every time this column makes even the tiniest mention of the Grateful Dead or offers on its web version, a download link for one of their concerts, there is one guy, a friend, actually, but also a virulent critic of that band, who makes it a point of making a snide remark. There are many people who consider the Dead’s fans as drug-addled hippies who get lulled into a happy, semi-comatose state by the band’s improv-heavy meanderings. That certainly amounts to gratuitous stereotyping. Read more
Around 10 days back, my colleague in London mailed me a link with a short note that simply said “Yes they are back! And I can die in peace”. The link was to a lyric video (the kind where you can read the lyrics while listening to the song) of The Rolling Stones’ latest new single, Doom And Gloom. And the note from my colleague who’s obviously a huge Stones fan besides being an erstwhile (or, is he still one?) bass slapper himself, is an example of how much diehard Stones fans love the 50-year-old band. Read more
In a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the American actor whose role as the young policeman, John Blake, in The Dark Knight Rises I liked, the musical guests were Mumford & Sons, an English indie folk band. They played two songs live—I Will Wait and Below My Feet—both from their recently released new album, Babel. Both the performances were nice. And I thought to myself that Mumford & Sons were probably better heard live than on albums. I’ve had a copy of Sigh No More, their debut album, for a couple of years but I must admit that although I liked listening to it the first couple of times, it soon got a bit clichéd, repetitive and whiney. Read more
My daughter, about to be eight, has an earworm. You know, a piece of music that seems stuck in your ear so seemingly permanently that you just couldn’t get it out. It’s a song that she hums, sings and dances with vigorously even though it’s not being played anywhere. And I’m happy. Delighted, actually, because the song happens to be Lonely Boy by The Black Keys. Actually, the duo that makes up The Black Keys may also seem like an earworm for Download Central, in case you are one of those readers who for some strange reason follows this column fairly regularly—I don’t know how many times I have written about them, obsessively, compulsively and, perhaps also, maniacally.
One of my favourite podcasts—a free one to boot—is called The Roadhouse. It’s a weekly blues podcast that is into its 360th episode and, for the past five or six years that I’ve been a subscriber, a great way to discover blues music. Run by Tony Steidler-Dennison who calls his podcast a “true labour of love”, The Roadhouse is described is a podcast that gets you “the finest blues that you never heard”. That’s true. Listen to any of the hour-long episodes of The Roadhouse and, even if you’re a hard-core blues fan, you are likely to be surprised by the number of new artistes that you can discover. Read more
Over-produced music has never really caught my fancy. I’m referring to the kind of music that producers or DJs sitting in their bedrooms conjure up using nothing much more than a laptop or two. They either mix and match sound samples or “create” compositions using synthesised sound. I’m probably a bit orthodox when it comes to musicians—I prefer mine to actually pick up instruments and play them rather than use the keyboards of their computers to tweak and program software to produce their music. There are exceptions, though. Read more
When I was small and taking the first baby steps into the world of popular music, it was a few vinyls that one of my uncles played on which I cut my teeth. Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley… he even had a Nana Mouskouri album. I actually remember the Nat King Cole album that he had—a 10-inch LP named Nat King Cole Sings For Two in Love (the slightly tattered cover—it was released in the early1950—didn’t show King Cole but a white couple who seemed to be out on a date). The eight or ten songs on that album, as on most of my uncle’s vinyls, were about love. I was seven or eight when I heard those records and quite possibly didn’t know what the heck they were about but they were an introduction to pop songs, jazz, blues and all of what shaped my later taste in music. Read more