Saturday, June 6, 2015

reunions: mother and child reunion


Paul Simon: Mother and Child Reunion
[purchase mp3]

Moving from "Wet" to "Reunion" with this piece.  Here is Paul Simon  (and Art Garfunkel) doing some slipping and sliding.

Within the last week or so several news sources have referenced interview/comments from Art Garfunkel that make a new Simon and Garfunkel reunion seem even more unlikely that it might have already been. Granted, the duo split (after what was known as a difficult relationship) back in 1970 ... but they wouldn't have been the first to get together again for a reunion that would likely prove profitable. They did get together off and on several times over the years - never comfortably, it appears.

After 1970, each pursued solo careers. Garfunkel gravitated more towards film while Simon focused more on the music. 1972's <Paul Simon> album was well received/sold pretty well. Garfunkel - solo -wasn't as successful.

Getting back together off and on, together they managed >My Little Town> in the mid 70s and a couple of memory lane concerts afterwards.

Paul Simon, on the other hand, put out solos albums in 72, 73, 74, 75 ... that included major hits such as Me and Julio Down in the Schoolyard, Kodachrome, Loves Me Like a Rock, Still Crazy After All These Years, and - of course - Mother and Child Reunion.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wet/Water: Energy Orchard's Sailortown

Wet/Water: Energy Orchard's "Sailortown"

So much to say about this band that hasn't been said. Where to begin? Hailing from Belfast, they scored a criminally semi-hit with their track "Belfast" from the 1990 eponymous debut.
Led by Bap Kennedy (brother of the famous pop vocalist, Brian Kennedy), lifted and sent gloriously soaring by the lead guitar work of Paul Toner, Energy Orchard were one of those bands that probably (unfairly) got their shot at a major deal because: Irish. And because: U2. But they deserved better. Much better.

Their first album has been in my regular rotation since 1990, not only for the allegiance it pays to it musical predecessors, Van Morrison being the obvious comparison, but also because it is a collection of rock songs so solid, so perfectly played, so gloriously about the emotional lift that only rock music can bring, as to be timeless. Kennedy's vocals and themes are full of longing and hope; the music rises in hopeful crescendos, a spiritual and strange sort of aching that transcended the limited '90s studio production of gilded keyboard and polished glitz. The best songs on their first album smolder, then blaze like church hymns. The Celtic roots are unavoidable, both because of geographical origins, but also because there is something of that rollicking Irish pub sing-around that sits at the heart of this music. But, like all great bands, Energy Orchard kept that original idealism and took it well beyond the limits of genre.

Energy Orchard went on to put out three more albums (Stop the Machine, Shinola, and Painkiller) as well as double disc live set called Orchardville. The live set burns with a vibrant, ripping energy that never quite came across on the studio stuff, but one senses that labels and producers might have had more to say about that than the band did. It always seemed to me that Energy Orchard, left on their own, would have been much more of the amazing band they were, but also a truly influential rock band. I suspect there was always some meddling prat in their midst, pushing for radio-friendly pop songs. And if you recall early to mid-'90s pop radio, you might forgive the band for only making four albums.

The amazing potential the Energy Orchard had, however, is evident in Bap Kennedy's solo career. An incredible country singer, he's worked with the likes of Steve Earle, and his catalog, which includes a stunning album-length tribute to Hiram King Williams, Hill Billy Shakespeare ( you know him as Hank), is as stellar and legit as anything you'd label as 'real country'.  (Domestic Blues and Lonely Street are amazing, too among others.) Kennedy's still producing albums, including last year's Let's Start Again.

I went to Belfast a few years ago, and listened to Bap's solo stuff, as well as all of the Energy Orchard albums--it was something I always wanted to do: connect the place the music came from, see if the connection of place matched the emotional connection Bap's music had always made with me. It was a good experience, and I couldn't help feeling a little like the protagonist of "Sailortown", their other big hit and one the greatest songs  ever recorded about youth and all it's mysteries and how they can be figured out by escaping, out to sea, through the bottle, in the arms of love. It's a sad song, with an incredibly redemptive sense of celebrating even the darkest of our days.

...I can't sit still, too much on my mind.
Gotta get outta this place, while I'm
Still young and alive.

I'll go walking down to Sailortown,
And I look out to the sea.
When them big ships come sailing in,
Maybe this one's for me.

I've belted out "Sailortown" many a night when I felt the same way. I belted it out in Belfast that night, too, drunk on more than beer and whiskey. The power of great music: even the inherently sad songs, when played with the right kind of guts, can lift you. "Sailortown" has always made me think that no matter what, as long as I had a song (and perhaps a drink or two), I'd get to stay 'young and alive', too...

Sailortown, live :

 and studio:
And, a bonus track, just so you can get an idea of that gospel-true soaring takeoff and comedown these guys did so well, an incredible version of "Hard Street":

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Too obvious, huh? Well, yes and no, especially when the whole vast lexicon of Beach Boys songs that reference water, waves and Waikiki Beach is out there, so why this one? (Waikiki Beach? OK, made that up, but I bet there is one, maybe in the lyric of "Surfin' USA"? Answer: No!). Let me explain, at this time period, early 70s, this was when I suddenly re-got the Beach Boys. No longer lame dudes in candy stripe shirts, this was now a bona-fide band of beats, beards aplenty, sort of Charles Manson meets Paul Revere & the Raiders. Yup, sure the Manson reference is tasteless, but Dennis (R.I.P.) was part of that whole sad and sorry tale. The above image is taken from the very excellent 'Rock Dreams', by artist Guy Peellaert and writer Nik Cohn. Cohn, a longterm fan and "critical friend" of the band and their ouput, aptly contrasts their then world-weariness with the, by now, lost youthful innocence of before. (Lord only knows of what he makes of the currently still touring travesty helmed by Mike Love, but that's another story....)

Anyhow, this is about me and the music. Between 1970 and 1975 I was at what you might call high school, gauche and gawky, trying to find my way in the bitterly divisive cliques of music aficionados. I had decided I was not a full blown heavy rocker: this was the era of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and the like. Quite keen on E.L.P and, less so, Yes, I felt I needed something a bit different. Luckily one of my chums was the son of a diplomat, spending school holidays in exotic climes, a.k.a. the US of A. He drew my attention to the likes of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield and I was hooked. He also had a copy of the Beach Boys Live from 1973. The gatefold sleeve was enough for me, the band looking more like the Dead than the Dead: I just loved the way the cleancut popstars could have decayed so wonderfully. Hell, there were even a couple of black guys in the line-up. Of course, the music was still there, new songs mingling with all the classics, all the more exotic to hear those pristine harmonies emanating from these grizzled mouths. My own backward foraging led me to Holland, the LP not the country, although that was where they cut it. Still my favourite, above Pet Sounds, above Surf's Up. From the funky tropes of "The Trader" and "Leaving this Town," to the mystical triad of "Californian Saga," this hit all my spots. (Maybe not "Funky Pretty," in hindsight.) My titular track, is the 3rd part of "Californian Saga," and is a simultaneous flashback to 60s Beach Boys, with echoes of "California Girls," yet umphed into the 70s by a rather more muscular beat and quirky instrumentation. No surprise that it became a big hit, as a single, in the UK, though I bet the publicity showed more of the band then, as was, rather than their shaggy doppelgangers. Love it, love it, love it. Still do.

Buy the song
Buy Holland or Live
Buy Rock Dreams