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OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (2)

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All the greats eventually get the full-blooded cover version treatment with singers and bands queing up to pay tribute to those who greatly influenced them. The late Leonard Cohen has had his songs covered more than most, including various compilation LPs over the years which have been commercially released or given away free with music magazines. There’s even been specially curated gigs at which some of the great and good have appeared on stage to pay tribute.

So many tracks to choose from, but I’ve gone for one which, in its original recording, is not much more than a gravelled voice and some backing oohs and aahs over a toy synthesiser with its cheap drum pattern:-

mp3 : Leonard Cohen – Tower of Song

The opposite tack was taken by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds who, in a drink and drug fuelled frenzy one day in a studio, eventually cut what became an infamous 33 minute version of the track in which all sorts of musical genres are eventually thrown in. It’s not for the faint hearted:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (full length)

An edited version was made available for inclusion of the tribute/compilation album I’m Your Fan, released in 1991:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (album version)

Here’s two more versions worth giving a listen:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Tower of Song
mp3 : Martha Wainwright – Tower of Song

And finally, the daddy of them all in which Lenny C is given the shoegaze treatment:-

mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Tower of Song

Outstanding.

SUMMER NIGHTS (TELL ME MORE, TELL ME MORE)

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With apologies for those of you dropping in expecting to hear a loving critique of the Travolta/Newton-John duet that spent 183 weeks at #1 and prevented many a post-punk/new wave act reaching the pinnacle.

Summer Nights is the name given to an annual ten-day festival of gigs in Glasgow, with the venue being the quaint Kelvingrove Bandstand, originally constructed in 1924 and then totally refurbished and brought back into use in 2014 after a quarter of century of serious neglect. The concept is sound in that a well-known singer or artist gets to headline their own outdoor gig, coming on just as the sun goes down and the audience can begin to think about removing their sunglasses. The reality, certainly in 2016, was somewhat different.

The weather for the duration was dreadful. It rained a lot and a cold wind blew through the trees that surround this most picturesque of locations just a couple of miles from the city centre. Indeed, the wind was so strong that one gig had to be postponed and rescheduled due to fears that the audience were in danger from flying debris or that the bank of speakers conveying the sound would come crashing down.

The seating at the venue is entirely made up of concrete or wooden benches, every one of which is open to the elements. The venue is pretty and its natural shape and setting make for a decent sound….but it’s not the most comfortable of places. Oh and the beer and drinks are stupidly overpriced too….as indeed are the tickets which are £30-£40 depending on the headline act. It’s a lot to fork out for what, due to curfew issues in a built-up area, will be a 90-minute show with the minimum of lights due to the small size of the stage and a universal sound system whether you’re a smooth yet bland crooner or one of the usually loudest most kick-ass bands to come from these parts .

And yet…..my two appearances at 2016 Summer Nights turned out to be among the best gigs of the year thus far.

The cost of the tickets, combined with uncertainty of the weather, always means that I’ll restrict myself to one visit per year, deciding which of the acts is most attractive. In 2014 it was Teenage Fanclub and last year it was Roddy Frame. This time round I plumped for Super Furry Animals over other options such as Idlewild, Van Morrison, Lloyd Cole, Primal Scream and Will Young. The reasoning being that despite having long loved SFA I had never managed to catch them live in person, watching only on my TV screen as they played some sort of festival or other over the years.

The rain poured down all day but somehow it went off in the evening about an hour before the band took to the stage from where they delivered a ridiculously entertaining and energetic set tinged with the sort of silly humour for which they are famed. I don’t have everything they have ever released but still managed to recognise more than two-thirds of the songs with almost all my favourites receiving an airing:-

Slow Life
(Drawing) Rings Around the World
Do or Die
Ice Hockey Hair
Hello Sunshine
Pan Ddaw’r Wawr
Run! Christian, Run!
Hometown Unicorn
Zoom!
Juxtapozed With U
Bing Bong
The International Language of Screaming
Golden Retriever
Receptacle for the Respectable
Mountain People
The Man Don’t Give A Fuck

The latter was a 12-minute tour de force. Not quite up there with this epic 22:30 live version, recorded at the Hammersmith Apollo and released as a limited edition CD single in 2007:-

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (live)

If I was to slightly whinge about it, then it would be that it was all over too quickly and they didn’t play quite enough songs from Fuzzy Logic…..but I came away feeling very happy about my decision to go with them than any of the others.

The following day, a dreadful storm hit Glasgow, It was widely forecast and indeed had led to the Lloyd Cole gig being cancelled even before the SFA one had taken place. The upshot of all this was that a friend of a friend could no longer use their ticket as they were otherwise engaged the three nights later when it was rescheduled. I was happy to be the late substitute, especially as this was the first ever time I had been at a gig with the friend who had offered the ticket.

It was actually a two-headed monster as it was opened by Justin Currie & The Pallbearers.  The main man, despite not having enjoyed much chart success since his halcyon Del Amitri days, remains a popular draw in his home city. He’s still a thin and handsome chap, but I’m sorry to say too much of his set, which combined band and solo material, came across on the listless side.  One very notable exception being this…the track with which he closed the set and which was the subject of this great guest contribution on this blog back in September 2013:-

mp3 : Justin Currie – No, Surrender

I should say that things weren’t helped by the fact that it was pouring with rain and it was freezing, so much so that I was wearing a long raincoat and a woollen hat, both of which tend to come out of the clothes cupboard in November….not at a time when it should be more akin to t-shirts and shorts.

Lloyd Cole was being backed by The Leopards, a sort of Glasgow supergroup who are often seen playing alongside Vic Godard on his regular forays north of the border. They are the perfect foil for Lloyd nowadays, capable of doing justice to both the jingly-jangly stuff from the Commotions days as well as the harder and edgier stuff from the solo years. This must have been about the 20th time I’d seen Lloyd on stage and he’s never let me down. This was no exception thanks to a show that surprised and delighted, sticking solely to songs from the Commotions era and the first four of his solo albums, all of which are hugely underrated and under-appreciated.

Rattlesnakes
Jennifer She Said
So You’d Like To Save The World
Weeping Wine
No Blue Skies
Everyone’s Complaining
Ice Cream Girl
Downtown
Sweetheart
Brand New Friend
2cv
Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?
Like Lovers Do
Perfect Skin
My Bag
Lost Weekend
Forest Fire
Morning Is Broken

It was a magical night, but one in which we all felt old when Lloyd, for the acoustic 1-2 of chevaux/heartbroken, was joined on stage by his now 23-year old son William. I think all the blokes in the audience took a look at William and yearned for the days when we were that thin and had that fine a head of hair. Gawd only knows what the women were thinking…..

Too many highlights to mention. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about it. Just a pity that I had to go to work the next day as it was the sort of night where you wanted to stay out for hours on end, making the most of the natural high the gig had provided. I’m far too old and sensible and with too many work responsibilities just now to contemplate a hangover. But I found that I couldn’t sleep when I got in, and so amused myself with watching the baseball live from Toronto (five hours behind us) where the Blue Jays wrapped up a perfect evening with a win. Lights went out at 3.15 am and alarm went off four hours later. Can’t really recommend it.

Oh and it turned out my friend also had real trouble sleeping after the gig. It was her first time ever seeing Lloyd Cole but she’s determined it won’t be her last. Seemingly while I was watching the baseball, she was playing his songs and having a wee dance round her living room. As I said, the sort of night where you really didn’t want the music to ever stop.

I’ve no doubt the organisers of Summer Nights are already thinking ahead to 2017 and I’ll do my usual of picking out one of the gigs and getting myself along. But it’ll be hard pushed to better those of this year….even if the sun does the unexpected and beats down on us from on high.

Cheers Mr Cole; and big thanks to the boys in the band, especially Mick Slaven for his amazing lead guitar work all night.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Jennifer She Said
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Downtown

Enjoy

HE MUST HAVE BEEN HEARTBROKEN……

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…..when this was ignored.

Lloyd Cole has been active in the music business for well over 30 years now. His live shows remain a real treat thanks to a deft combination of new material and the songs he’s most famous for from his days when backed by The Commotions.

It is a real shame that his solo career has never taken off in the way that it should have for he’s released a lot of cracking albums, particularly since the turn of the century when he began to increasingly concentrate on just his voice and his guitar rather than worry too much about the production and arrangements which in all truth occasionally marred his initial solo works after he split up the band.

One of his finest compositions dates from the late 90s. It first saw light of a day on a very underrated LP released in 2000:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – No More Love Songs

The definitive version however, was released three years later and was the only single taken from the LP Music In A Foreign Language (a record in which Mr Cole did a more than passable cover of a Nick Cave classic).

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No More Love Songs
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Claire Fontaine
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Claire Fontaine (long)

The single is long deleted and hard to get hold of…indeed the b-sides today are actually courtesy of their inclusion on a later box set entitled Cleaning Out The Ashtrays.

Oh and that Nick Cave song I was referring to….

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – People Ain’t No Good

This post is dedicated to Rol Hurst. He’ll know why.

Enjoy

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (13)

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Today’s friend electric describes herself as a ‘music obsessed cooking freak’ which always makes me laugh.

The blog is called I Sing In The Kitchen and the genius behind it is Tricia.

I say genius and in this case I think it’s an accurate use of the word for it really does take someone special and talented to come up with the idea of a blog which has a daily recipe linked into a piece of music or a singer or band. And she’s been entertaining us in this way since January 2011 never ceasing to amaze with the extent and variety of the recipes and the music.

Tricia has an incredible taste in music and is forever using her blog to recommend all sorts of new stuff with a fair bit of it featuring singers and bands from Scotland, many of which were previously unknown to me. The thing is though….Tricia isn’t from my part of the world – indeed she lives a long long way from my part of the world.   Vermont, USA to be precise and it never ceases to amaze me the depth or her knowledge and the extent of her enthusiasm when it comes to Jock’n’Roll.

By most reckonings, I should be getting as far away as is humanly possible from a food related blog.  My taste in food is about as bland, unimaginative and boring as you could imagine and therefore so much of what Tricia so lovingly describes is wasted on me. My idea of cooking is to remove something from the refrigerator, pierce a hole in the cover and press the appropriate buttons on the microwave.

Tricia though, has a real passion for here recipes and recommendations.  Have a read at this from February 2011 and please note the photos are taken as Tricia prepares and completes the recipe:-

Ooh La La! French Macarons With Raspberry-Rose Buttercream.

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Recently my daughter needed to make a French recipe to share with her French class at school. We decided to have a go at making macarons and I am so glad that we did. French style macaroons, or ‘macarons’ en français, are two delicate meringue style cookies sandwiched together with a rich buttercream or ganache. When you bite into a macaron the crisp exterior of the cookie gives way into a slightly chewy center that in turn gives way to a delectable cream filling. Delicieux.

I had never used rose water prior to this recipe. The buttercream recipe only calls for a quarter teaspoon and the smallest bottle sold at my supermarket was 300 ml! Holy Rose Water! Please, if you know of any other good recipes using rose water send them my way!

Please indulge me while I have a momentary flight of ideas:

Rose + Water= Titanic——>Sinking

Kills me everytime!

Back to the baking.

French Macarons With Raspberry-Rose Buttercream

Cookies:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup sifted almond flour

3 large egg whites

2 Tbs plus 1/2 tsp sugar

Filling:

16 oz frozen raspberries

1 cup plus 6 Tbs sugar, divided

2 large egg whites

10 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, softened

1/4 tsp rose water

Directions:

1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.

2. Sift confectioners’ sugar and almond flour into a large bowl.

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3. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites, sugar and a pinch of salt until medium peaks form. Add egg white mixture to almond mixture and fold to incorporate.

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4. Working in two batches, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch diameter plain pastry tip with batter. (Batter will be thin and will drip from bag). Pipe batter in 1 1/4 inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing one inch apart. (Cookies will spread slightly). Let rest on baking sheets at room temperature for 20 minutes.

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5. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven.

6. Preheat oven to 375℉.

7. Bake cookies 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325℉. Continue to bake cookies until puffed and golden on top, about 10 minutes, reversing sheets after 5 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on rack. Carefully peel cookies from parchment.

(The cookies can be made one day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.)

Filling:

1. Bring raspberries and 1 cup sugar to boil in a large saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook until berries are soft, juices thicken, and mixture measures about 1 1/2 cups, stirring frequently, 7 to 9 minutes.

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2. Measure 1/2 cup of raspberry mixture and strain into a small bowl. Cool strained jam and jam with seeds separately.

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(The jams can be made one week ahead. Cover them separately and refrigerate)

3. Combine egg whites, 6 Tbs sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water. Heat until candy thermometer inserted into mixture registers 140℉, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes.

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4. Using whisk attachment, beat egg white mixture at high speed until stiff meringue forms and mixture is at room temperature, 5 to 6 minutes.

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5. With mixer running, add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until each piece is incorporated before adding next. Beat in rose water. Add 3 Tbs seedless jam, 1 Tbs at a time. (If the buttercream should ever appear curdled, place bowl over medium heat and whisk to warm slightly for a few seconds, then remove from heat and beat again. Note: I never had any curdling and have no idea how common a problem that is.)

6. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Using 1/2 tsp jam with seeds for each, spread jam over flat side of half of macarons. (These are super delicate cookies. Handle very carefully or they crush.)

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7. Spoon buttercream into pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch plain tip. Starting at outer edge of flat sides of remaining macarons, pipe buttercream over in spiral. (I had to hold the macaron in one hand and pipe with the other since the dang things would move all over the place if I tried to pipe the buttercream while they were sitting on the parchment.)

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8. Gently press macarons, jam filled side down, onto buttercream coated macarons. Place on sheet. Cover and chill overnight.

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(The macarons can be made 2 to 3 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving)

Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine. (They said they got about 3 dozen sandwiched macarons. Even when I realized, early on, that I was piping the cookies too big I still only ended up with about 24 sandwiched macarons.)

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Here are a few French songs to get you in a macaron mood.

Lloyd Cole-Si Tu Dois Partir

Serge Gainsbourg-Sea, Sex And Sun

DeVotchKa-Viens Avec Moi

Cheers!

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I was lucky enough to meet Tricia, along with her incredible family, when they all came over to Scotland as part of a vacation a few years back.  I read on someone’s Facebook page that she’s heading our way again in the not too distant future….my fingers and toes are crossed.

JC

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 72)

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I wasn’t sure whether or not to include Lloyd Cole in this series.  He was born and raised for much of his life south of the border, but his most formative years, musically at least, were spent in and around Glasgow and certainly you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who wouldn’t describe Lloyd Cole & The Commotions as a Scottish band.

When that band surprisingly broke up at the end of the 80s, it was no real shock that Polydor  decided to keep on the frontman as a solo artist.  I’m not sure however, if they would have been all that happy with the change in direction that he undertook with his debut solo material – there was a very clear move away from indie/pop leanings into stuff that alienated many of his fans. This in turn led to poorer sales, albeit many critics welcomed him as a great addition  to the canon of serious (or po-faced if you want to be cruel) singer/songwriters. I think Lloyd himself was hoping to be embraced by America….but it just never really happened

He’s still going strong and remains a tremendous live act, more often than not just him, his guitar and his tales of life as a musician.  A number of his more recent LPs have had a lot to offer in quality now that he’s moved away from that raaaaawwwwk phase of the early solo stuff. Being honest, if it wasn’t that I was such a fan of his voice, I wouldn’t have all that much to offer positively about the debut solo single from 1990:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No Blue Skies

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Shelly I Do

What I do highly recommend from the early era is this 12″ creepy and atmospheric remix of a single lifted from his 1992 LP Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe…it’s one that I have a second-hand promo copy of picked up very cheaply:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Butterfly (The Planet Ann Charlotte Mix)

Enjoy.