Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Beyond our Ken

Ken Nordine's "Colors" grew out of a series of radio paint commercials for the Fuller Paint Company in the 1960s. Yep, you read that correctly. Paint commercials. On the radio. Nordine's free-jazz concoctions worked, though, as you can hear from these few samples. They don't always evoke the particular colour, but his free association clearly hit a nerve with the listening audience, who went out and bought Fuller's paint in such numbers that they kept on commissioning these 90-second spots. The original Philips LP ran to 24 tracks, each of about 90 seconds, with names like Amber, Yellow, Ecru, Azure and Russet. The Asphodel CD reissue of recent years includes 10 extra tracks, with titles such as "Let's Get Naked", and "Kill Your Parents". I'm lying, of course. The extra tracks are named Mauve, Sepia, Coral, get the picture.

I first came across Mr. Nordine through a terrific compilation called "Stay Awake", a Hal Willner project featuring an eclectic mix of artists covering Walt Disney songs. Sinead O'Connor sings "Someday My Prince Will Come", Bonnie Raitt and Was(Not Was) cover "Baby Mine", Tom Waits makes "Hi-Ho It's Off To Work We Go" sound like the soundtrack to Eraserhead. In between you get Sun Ra, NRBQ, Aaron Neville, Suzanne Vega, Harry Nilsson, Yma Sumac and Ringo Starr. And Ken Nordine's dulcet tones bookending the whole experience and hinting at the dark underbelly in much of Disney's work.

More recently he collaborated with Ninja Tunes' own DJ Food on "The Ageing Young Rebel", but his list of collaborations is long and diverse, from Fred Astaire to the Grateful Dead to Moloko. A figure somewhere between Edgar Allan Poe, William Burroughs, Charles Mingus and Charles Saatchi, Ken Nordine is a true one-off.

Download: Olive; Maroon; Burgundy (all deleted Feb 2007--sorry!)

A good 1998 interview

Listen to Ken's Word Jazz radio show

Buy Colors (making the Mighty Boosh seem 40 years too late)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Boom times

Apparently, The Boom Boom Bap is "single of the decade, by a country mile" in this week's Time Out. It'll still sell bugger all, but perhaps it's for the best, as Green seems to dislike the attention anyway. If you want to buy it and risk sending him back to his spare bedroom, it comes out next Monday.

Buy it here!

Scritti Politti tour dates (Man, I never thought I'd get to write those words...)


Despite having the seventh worst band name in musical history*, Grandadbob, who were brought to my attention this week, are quite special and deserving of your hard-earned wodge in the next few months. To my shame, their first album Waltzes For Weirdos passed me by completely, and their second, Garden of Happiness, is due in the shops sometime over the summer. Trawling the web to find out a little more about them, I discover that they're a duo from Sheffield, that they are plying their trade at various festivals this summer, and that they're signed to Norman Cook's Southern Fried label.

Their brand of pastoral electronica will probably be popular with anyone who likes, oooh, let's say Air, Beth Orton, or Zero 7. But I particularly like the track that I'm linking to below. Called Glow In The Dark, it sounds like nothing so much as the Flaming Lips if they roped in William Orbit for production duties. Fantastic, in other words. If this isn't enough to persuade you, the new album also features the legendary Brian Blessed giving it large at the start of the title track. Even more endearingly, the Shakespearian colossus and full-time mentalist apparently agreed to lend his stentorian vocal chords for a token fee and a jar of marrow chutney, the recipe for which is printed on the CD inlay. And when was the last time that the Kaiser Chiefs let you see their chutney recipes, eh?

Download Glow in The Dark (deleted Feb 2007--sorry!)

More Grandadbob info

Buy their CDs and vinyl here

* The six that are worse, in case you were wondering, are Kajagoogoo, Lovespitlove, Gnarls Barkley, Crispy Ambulance, Hoobastank and Oingo Boingo.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Well Red

Not sure when exactly Mick Hucknall and Simply Red became a by-word for naffness, and I'm really not sure it's totally deserved, either. Sure, Mick doesn't do himself any favours with his OTT dress sense, his habit of propositioning naive young ladies in the toilets of the Hacienda ("just slip yer tights off, luv"), the authoritarian streak that led to his band being summarily fired, the excruciating cover versions...and yet...

The case for the defence:
  • their cover of Bunny Wailer's "Love Fire", and its remix by Lee Perry;
  • Chris Joyce and Tony Bowers being the original Durutti Column, before leaving Vini Reilly to form The Mothmen, and subsequently hooking up with Mick and co.
  • Simply Red's Tim Kellett later playing with The self-same Durutti Column
  • Adrian Sherwood saying that Mick Hucknall was the best voice he'd ever worked with;
  • Blood and Fire Records (of which Hucknall is co-owner).
In fact just for the fact that he's the money behind Blood and Fire I'm prepared to forgive him. This peerless reissue label, run by Steve Barrow and Bob Harding, is comaprable to Blue Note in its quality control and attention to detail. Its graphic sense is unmatched in the genre (not difficult really when you look at some of the Letrasetted dreck that comes out of Jamaica), and the emphasis on sonic fidelity is equally rare in the field. Notable successes include reissues of The Congos' Heart Of The Congos and Horace Andy's In The Light; both include numerous dub versions, and Heart of The Congos manages to squeeze pretty much all of the Congos' Black Ark output onto 2 CDs. In their ongoing quest to provide VFM for discerning reggae fanatics, the label has recently dropped the price of many of its CDs to about a fiver, so there's really little excuse for not owning Train To Zion by U-Brown or Tapper Zukie in Dub.

Provided below are a couple of tasters: King Tubby's In Fine Style from Dub Gone 2 Crazy, and Jah Hucknall himself in a Blood and Fire remix of the execrable Ghetto Girl.

King Tubby's In Fine Style (deleted Feb 2007--sorry!)

Simply Red Ghetto Girl- Blood and Fire remix (deleted Feb 2007--sorry!)

Buy Blood and Fire Cds