Archive for the ‘Jewel’ Category

Tir Na Nog

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

tirnanogstronguk, Tir Na Nog, Chrysalis, Matthew Fisher, John Martyn, Nick Drake

Listen: Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog
Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog

I was desperate to see Tir Na Nog when they toured the US in ’72. It never happened.

Although being the college concert chairman at the time, having pushed through Rory Gallagher, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Colosseum, Atomic Rooster, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Pretty Things and The Incredible String Band against everyone’s “who the fuck are these people” stances in one school year mind you, it didn’t really allow me any more puts. By then, the budget was spent anyways. Otherwise, they’d have been there.

Tir Na Nog’s second and third albums were released in the States, and I particularly loved that third one, STRONG IN THE SUN. It was, well still is, a seminal recording, right up there with the best from Tyrannosaurus Rex, John Martyn and Nick Drake. Indeed the album includes a cover of his ‘Free Ride’, itself worthy of 7″ status. Tracks like ‘Cinema’ rivaled some of Pink Floyd’s tracks from MEDDLE for being…cinematic, funny enough. If you’d told me Norman Smith, Denny Cordell or Peter Asher had produced some of this stuff, I’d have believed you. The album is that good.

Indeed, Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum was in charge of production, and as with similar duties on Robin Trower’s BRIDGE OF SIGHS, did an A+ job.

When I up and headed for London during summer ’73, I took a night off from The Marquee to see them play a small, sit-down-cross-legged room, God knows the name of it now. But the show remains a vivid memory.

There was a time, around ’85, and Howard Thompson was looking at cover songs for 10000 Maniacs. I guess as a potential single, possibly a one-off film submission or something. I recommended ‘Strong In The Sun’. I thought Natalie Merchant would have done it some beautiful justice and Tir Na Nog could have gotten some well deserved recognition. Didn’t happen. ‘Peace Train’ was chosen instead, against the band’s wishes. Years later, turns out Natalie insisted it be removed from that album. Elektra complied..

There has to be someone out there in need of a great song to revive their sagging career: Nelly Furtado, Jewel, Anna Nalick, Five For Fighting, Vanessa Carlton, Paula Cole or wait, Natalie Merchant.

Joan Armatrading

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Listen: Down To Zero (Mono) / Joan Armatrading

Me, I never tire of Joan Armatrading, and never will. She’s gone through a lot of musical twists and turns, by her own choice, during the last decade. Some of it, quite frankly, is tough for me to tolerate. But like all true greats, meaning seminally true greats, every album contains, minimum, a couple of jems.

During the span of her career, beginning in the early 70′s, I never missed any of her upstate appearances, where she played on a regular basis. After relocating to New York in ’84, I went to every, and I mean every one of her shows. Three nights at The Beacon Theater, I was there for them all. In fact, I’d gladly drive out to Long Island or New Jersey to catch neighboring appearances. There are no plans to end that pattern by the way.

‘Down To Zero’ still slays every female singer/songwriter in sight.

When doing A&R for Columbia in the 90′s, Jewel had her meteoric rise into mainstream ubiquity. Every label, especially Columbia, was looking for their own version of Jewel. So an endless parade of young nursing student types would schlep through the department, many times with an acoustic guitar in tow, or their parents, or worse yet, both. As soon as the sight of this entered my office, I got straight to the point.

“Are you as good as Joan Armatrading?”

To their credit, every last aspiring hopeful knew her, and would always answer, “Well…”

With utmost politeness, I’d ask them not to unpack or even bother playing me their demo, because I couldn’t tell good from slightly better than good, given that greatness had just been established as outside the realm of possibility. Basically, there was no point. Out of courtesy, I’d shuffle them down the hall to others more qualified in the genre.

A few even got signed. None succeeded.

Lightnin’ Hopkins

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Listen: Mr. Charlie (Part 1) / Lightnin’ Hopkins
Mr. Charlie (Part 1) / Lightnin' Hopkins

Listen: Mr. Charlie (Part 2) / Lightnin’ Hopkins
Mr. Charlie (Part 2) / Lightnin' Hopkins

‘Mr. Charlie’, with a spoken word, pre-music setup that characterizes many a Lightnin’ Hopkins song, gets my vote for his best.

It had been eating at me the past 24 hours or so, ever since yesterday’s Willie Dixon post went live. I just knew there was something in the collection that had a similar feel, a record, once finally acquired, that got played so much, my loved one threatened divorce. Then I remembered it, while struggling through midtown during today’s stifling NYC heat, near the Sony building. Charlie, a formerly powerful yet loathsome executive popped into my head. Of course, that’s it. Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ‘Mr. Charlie’

This evening’s reward: a/c, ice water and ‘Mr. Charlie’ on repeat.


Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I'm Not Romantic / Phranc

Listen: I'm Not Romantic / Phranc 02 I_m Not Romantic.mp3

I Enjoy Being A Girl / Phranc

Listen: I Enjoy Being A Girl / Phranc 02 I Enjoy Being A Girl.mp3

Fact: Phranc is a special artist. Artist as in art, you know, paint and stuff; as well as music. Go see any of her exhibitions, she’s tremendous. Buy her pieces or just give her money. She deserves it. Musically, we crossed paths when Chris Blackwell signed her to Island. I was her A&R person, and we hit it off big time. Let me tell you, in addition to all creative assets, she’s kind, fair, honest, generous, a friend for life. I love her.

Didn’t take long to realize she was in fact a real live protest singer (“Take Off Your Swastika’, Bloodbath’ – see video below). Who was doing that then (’91) or even now? And a pop writer all at once.

Never could appreciate most female singer/songwriters. Basically, if they weren’t as powerful lyrically and vocally as Joan Armatrading, I just couldn’t be bothered. All the Jewels of the world should have been exterminated. White girls moaning that their boyfriends had left them. Really, they should’ve just finished nursing school and proceeded with their true calling.

But Phranc is none of that. She is brave, and touching, and controversial. Oh yeah, and fucking funny as hell. Example – her self introduction live: “I’m Phranc, with a P H and a hard C”. Get any of her albums, they’re terrific.

Marc Marot, who ran Island UK, really liked the Phranc stuff when I played it for him on a London visit. He not only agreed to release the album (POSITIVELY PHRANC), but also to issue a single. He did it up right, full colour picture sleeve, B side from the previous album, promotional tour. It’s a great double sider, and not an easy one to find. A perfect single.

Watch: Bloodbath / Phranc

Janis Ian

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

janisianfriends, Janis Ian, MGM, Verve Forcast, Verve, Joan Armatrading

Listen: Friends Again / Janis Ian JanisIanFriends.mp3

I also find it hard to believe I love this record, given my dislike for the female singer/songwriter, should have never quit nursing school types. When I did A&R at Columbia in the early 90′s, with acts like Jewel and Sheryl Crow gaining huge success stories, there were an endless stream of wannabe-light versions coming by to play their demo – or worse yet – perform for you in the office, while manager and occasional friend/sister/brother tapped their toes and smiled along with the music. I got smart fast and soon, before they’d even start, I’d say “Are you as good as Joan Armatrading?”. Of course they would consistently wither out a “no” – so I’d politely say let’s not bother. Made it easier for everyone.

Still, I do play ‘Friends Again’ often. It wasn’t a hit, never even graced the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart. Expecting more political songwriting risk post her ‘Society’s Child’ smash, I suppose this just seemed like fluff. But it’s a happy song about friends, and everyone wants them, so what’s the problem? At least my local Top 40 played it a few times (see chart below). That’s how I heard it. And at 1:42, it never wears out it’s welcome.

wndr9_13_68, WNDR, Janis Ian