A recent trip to my local library resulted in some great albums to listen to during this rainy last week before spring in the little temperate rain forest that I call home. Some of these albums have previously graced my collection in the past, though were culled out of my collection many years ago due to making a big move or two and the need to scale back my material possessions at one point or another. Now, through the miracle of digital technology I am reclaiming some old gems, and of course I am adding some new ones to my musical pallet as well.
So with little ado, here is a brief profile of some great music I picked up on my recent library visit. If I can turn one person on to something good then I consider it mission accomplished;
John Cale - "Words For The Dying" (1989) - The main part of this album is an orchestral and choral setting of four poems by Dylan Thomas, read or sung by Cale. The arrangement around Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is beautiful, and this one hasn't adorned my eardrums for a number of years. I am thrilled to get reacquainted with this one again, especially considering I only ever had this on an ancient cassette, so this will definitely be a step up on CD. It is also a great way to elevate some dynamic poetry.
R.E.M - "Life's Rich Pageant" (1986) - For some reason I haven't listened to this album in years, and a recent playing reaffirmed how great it actually is. This pre-super stardom record was a good foreshadowing of things to come, less murky and more accessible than previous recordings to date, this album began to bring Stipe's dynamic song writing into the forefront. It includes one of the prettiest environmental anthems ever penned, Fall On Me, and the vocal interplay between Stipe and Mills on this one is breathtaking. There is a great mixture of songs showcasing Stipe's emerging political leanings, as well as his penchant for some good Gothic Americana. Also, check out this classic performance of Begin The Begin.
Gang Of Four - "Entertainment" (1979) - Many bands, such as Franz Ferdinand & Bloc Party are indebted to the Gang Of Four for making blistering and dissonant post punk with danceable bass funk riffs. The tributes from Michael Stipe and Flea in the liner notes to the 90's reissue of this album are fully justified. There are a number of classics on this one, including I Found That Essence Rare, At Home He's A Tourist and Anthrax. I first got into Gang of Four via the Dog's In Space Soundtrack in the late 80's. You owe it to yourself to listen to this one if you missed it the first time.
Laurie Anderson - "Life On A String" (2001) - This album from this brilliant and innovative artist is one that I missed the first time around, and this is one I will need to set some time aside for in order to actively engage with it. Among a number of musically varied and playful pieces it also contains a heart wrenching piece called "Slip Away" about the death of Anderson's father. The lyrics are awe inspiring; "You slipped away, Oh death that creep that crooked jerk... He comes, he comes walking. He comes sneaking down that long irreversible hallway. Grabs you in your sleep". This album will definitely be a late night listen (also, check out this clip).
Billy Bragg - "Must I Paint You A Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg" (2003). Inspired by folk icons like Woody Guthrie & Phil Ochs, Billy Bragg started crafting a wonderful mix of plain speaking, working man's folk that was the perfect remedy to Thatcher's Conservative reign in the 80's. I have always admired Billy Bragg for the humanity and humour he brings to his music, able to mix the political and personal simultaneously and with ease. Levi Stubb's Tears is one of my all time favourites, were Bragg brilliantly captures personal loss and heartbreak against the backdrop of a class driven and deterministic society. Thomas Hardy would be proud. Also check out A New England, Greetings To The New Brunette and if you want proof of his continued relevance here's The Price of Oil.