Tuesday Tunes 20: Lockdown Music – Part 2

Last week I went themeless in this series for the first time, by sharing some songs that had come out of lockdown, and I promised you some more. So here we go again: another selection of great tunes to amuse and entertain you and, in one case at least, to tug at your heart strings a little.

I began last week’s selection with Kate Rusby’s version of Manic Monday, by The Bangles. That was a track from her new album of covers – Hand Me Down – which will be released on 14 August. Several of you remarked how much you had liked it so I was planning to share the second video Kate has released from the album – well, I was, until Sunday. Throughout lockdown Kate has also been sharing a video from home each week in what she calls her ‘Singy Songy Sessions,’ SSS for short. On Sunday she gave us SSS#20, which was my favourite of all of her songs. This is Underneath The Stars, which is the title track from her 4th studio album (5th if you count her retrospective album, 10), and was released in 2004. I have no idea why, but when the horn section makes its entrance into the song I always shed a tear – I’ve even done it when seeing her play the song live in concert. I thought I’d at least manage to get through it alright this time, as she couldn’t fit the horn players into her home studio. What could possibly go wrong? See for yourself:

Yes, it happened again, but this time I wasn’t alone! That is such a beautiful song, and I hope you like it too: the effect it has on me is testament to the power of music to move us. And do you think, if I asked them nicely, that Kate and Damien would high five me for also reaching twenty posts: our schedules have been closely aligned!

This week’s second tune is one of those that entertains us. Until they disbanded four years ago, Bellowhead were the biggest folk band in the UK – and they were popular in many other countries too. They were big in size – all eleven of them – and had taken the UK folk scene by storm, winning a number of awards including several for ‘Best Live Act.’ They were the band I had seen most often, comprising multi-talented musicians with an enormous sense of fun, both in their live shows and their occasional videos. They have been much missed and not just by me. But, a few weeks ago, they popped up on Facebook with a video of a kind of reunion. Thanks to technology, they had created a new version of one of their best known songs, which became a regular part of their live shows after it featured on their third album, Hedonism, which was released in 2010. Be prepared for an invasion of fun in your life:

I love the running gag of trumpeter Andy Mellon’s daughter appearing gradually until the sheer glee on her face when she leaps into shot with her poster – in case you hadn’t picked up that word! And Rachael appears to have learned a few dance moves from Bellamy Clark (see last week’s post).

The next tune is another happy, jaunty one too. You may have heard of Colbie Caillat, who has sold millions of records over the past dozen years or so, but you may not know her latest project: a band called Gone West. They have been together for a couple of years, though they knew each other from the days when the others were part of her touring band, and were co-songwriters. Their debut album, Canyons, was released in June, and they celebrated with an outdoor album launch among some stunning scenery. Recently, they have released a lockdown split screen version of their ‘theme tune,’ which is the opening track on the album. I do like a bit of country music, so this was a natural choice for me:

In rather different vein are another band who are superb live performers. I’d hazard a bet, though I’m not a gambler, that few of you will know of the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain (UOGB). Am I right? They have also been releasing a series of videos from their homes during lockdown, all skilfully edited together. As with Bellowhead, there is a large element of fun about the UOGB, as you can see from many of their older YouTube videos: their versions of Theme From Shaft and Wuthering Heights are among my favourites. I doubt you’ll have seen a Lady Gaga song performed like this before, though:

They have been going since 1985, with several band changes along the way. They haven’t, as far as I know, made even the slightest dent on the albums chart, though they have released a dozen or so studio albums, plus some live ones and DVDs of their shows. To be honest, I think they are best as a live act – you get the full force of their musical skills that way, plus their wonderful collective sense of humour. Any band which can perform at the annual Proms series, play Beethoven’s Ode To Joy on ukuleles, and get around 1,000 audience members to bring their instruments and play along with them must have something going for them! If this has piqued your interest do check them out on YouTube – you won’t be disappointed.

Having stretched this series from two to, on occasion, three songs, I shared four last week and have now done so this week too. I’m kind of assuming that I might not do another lockdown tunes post – unless musicians keep feeding me new material – and I’m feeling slightly guilty that I teased you with another Kate Rusby song earlier. In my world, there is no such concept as a surfeit of Kate Rusby, so I’m begging your forbearance one more time. As an extra special bonus fifth tune for this week, here is that second video for a song on Kate’s new album:

Utterly charming! How can anyone not like that? I’m really looking forward to the album, and hopefully there might be more videos to support it. At this rate, I’d have a post of nothing but Kate, but even I can see that might be overdoing things a little. By the way, if you type ‘shake it off’ into the search box at the top of the page you’ll find a previous post about this song, in which I shared the Taylor Swift original and a cover by Walk Off The Earth. Three different treatments of the song, and they’re all great!

I hope you’re keeping well and that your brain hasn’t exploded with the effort of understanding all the changes to the UK lockdown rules. I’m just staying indoors unless I really have to go out: much easier that way! Take care, be safe, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

#ChristmasSongOfTheDay 2019 – Part Two

It seems like several of you enjoyed the first selection of my #ChristmasSongOfTheDay so I’m hoping that there will also be something here that you like. For this second set, I’m taking you through days 7 to 13. Six more will follow next time, and I’ll be rounding off on Christmas Day with the final seven choices. That will make 26 in all – I do a bonus extra post on Christmas Day, for those seeking respite from the traumas of a family celebration, or who just have nothing better to do!

Last Saturday, the 7th, saw the return of one of my all time favourite Christmas songs. For me, this one is right up there with Greg Lake, who I posted in the first set. Jethro Tull have been one of my favourite bands since their beginning, more than 50 years ago. In that time they have released several Christmas songs and a whole album of seasonal fare. This is the one I like best, which is why I’ve shared it in each of the five years I’ve been doing this. This is actually a promotional video, specially made for the BBC’s Top Of The Pops programme, but that doesn’t take anything away from it, as it is the perfect accompaniment for the song:

A couple of weeks ago, before my thoughts turned towards Christmas, I posted Under The Covers, in which I shared a few covers by family-based bands of some great songs. One of the bands I featured in that post – Foxes and Fossils – has recently begun recording again after a bit of a hiatus, and for Sunday 8th, as I like to share a carol on Sundays, I gave you their latest. It was only four days old at that point and already had over 56k views (now approaching 75k): not bad for an unsigned band! Their version of Angels We Have Heard On High is stunningly beautiful. I hope you like it as much as I do:

On the 9th I rectified a (to me) surprising omission. As I said earlier, this is the fifth year that I have been doing this and in all that time I have never shared Steve Earle’s retelling of the nativity story. I can’t think why, as I’ve been a fan of his ever since his first album, back in 1986. This song, Nothing But A Child, is the final track on his third album – Copperhead Road – which was released in 1988, and it is lovely. Someone has made a slide show video to go with it, which complements it very well:

I have often remarked here that I am at heart a folk music fan. For eleven years the UK was blessed to have the talents of the ‘folk big band’ Bellowhead to enjoy. They are the band who I have seen play live the most often. I first saw them at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008, when there was a ‘Folk Prom’ as part of the BBC’s annual Proms season. They endeared themselves to me at the outset when Paul Sartin, who takes the first verse here, welcomed us to ‘the Kensington Folk Club’ and, on the strength of their success there, they were given a whole show to host on BBC4 for Christmas 2009. They played several Christmas songs in their own unique style, and had some guests from the folk world too. This one is the show’s finale, for which everyone who had been in the show joined them on stage – as well as Paul Sartin and Jon Boden, others singing in this are Jim Moray, Lisa Knapp, and the Unthanks. Much fun was had by all and riotous dancing ensued – a typical Bellowhead gig, really:

On Wednesday 11th I made a slight change to one of my usual choices. I have always posted Joni Mitchell’s song River as part of this series but, sadly, the cute video of Snoopy skating to the song seems to have disappeared from YouTube. I still wanted to include the song, but with a little difference. I have long enjoyed the music of Sarah Darling, who has a beautiful voice and writes most of the songs that she performs and records. But she does covers too, and her version of Joni’s song is lovely, so I shared it for you:

For day 12 I shared a version of a carol that I hadn’t included before. Annie Lennox has had a long career, from her early days in The Tourists, via Eurythmics into her solo time. I’ve not followed her that closely but, on the evidence of this, maybe I should have done. A fabulous version of the song, and I love the pagan feel to the video:

Today’s choice is another longstanding favourite of mine, which has featured every year I’ve done this. This is John Mellencamp (aka John Cougar, Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp) in a live concert performance of a Christmas pop classic and, whilst other versions have been chart hits, this one wasn’t – although it does appear on a benefit album, A Very Special Christmas, which was released to support Special Olympics International Inc. This performance is typically boisterous and features a cameo by his then three year old daughter Teddi, who rather steals the show at the end.  The ‘proud Dad’ look on his face is lovely and, thirty or so years on, I hope she is as proud of this as he clearly is:

I closed Part One of my compilation with a lovely Christmas advert which has taken this country by storm. Having done a little digging I’ve found that this is actually the third year that Hafod Hardware have done this, so I’m going to share their two previous productions with you. This is the first, from 2017, and features an early appearance by little Arthur. All three have a backing track from Andrea Von Kampen, who is a real bonus find for me: she is a singer/songwriter from Lincoln, Nebraska, and has the voice of an angel. A good choice by whoever made it: someone who clearly knows good music! This one also includes a subtle visual joke for fans of the Two Ronnies:

That’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll see you again for Part Three. Enjoy your Christmas music!

A #ChristmasSongOfTheDay Part Two

As promised, here is the second compilation of Christmas songs which I have been posting each day on Twitter and on the Facebook page for my blog (usual plug – eyes right!). This also marks the day when I swap to a temporary Christmas theme for the blog – rather in keeping with the generally happy and festive posts I’m sharing this month (back to the usual misery in January!).

We all have our favourites and it would be very easy for me to post the same songs every year. Whilst the majority of this year’s selection have indeed featured at least once before in the four previous years in which I’ve done this, it’s always good to find something new. Sometimes these can arise from deliberate searches for artists on YouTube – often to see if there is a video for something I’ve heard on Apple Music – and on other occasions I just stumble into them! Day 7 was a case in point. This was someone of whom I’d never heard before, but I was rather taken by this one. It ranks at the Stinking Bishop end of cheesiness but is so much fun that I had to include it:

I was intrigued to learn more about Si Cranstoun, so I consulted the oracle – Google – which led me to a short Wikipedia article. What an interesting character! He had apparently been in ska and fifties revival bands, and had been a busker too, for twenty years before getting his first record deal a few years back. He has since made several albums of fifties-influenced songs, and his sheer exuberance deserves to win him a bigger audience – I hope he finds it, because his music is so much more fun than the dross we get on the radio nowadays! There are a number of other videos of him on YouTube, including some from his busking days, so do check him out if you enjoyed this one.

As the 8th was a Saturday, when many would no doubt have been braving the high street in search of Christmas goodies, I thought I’d choose something appropriate to help them on their way. Or maybe not! Tom Lehrer was a consummate writer and performer of satirical songs, and his Christmas offering is a little gem:

Lehrer only wrote 37 songs and performed just 109 times in a twenty year musical career – his day job was as a mathematics professor – but his fame and recognition grew slowly as people told each other about him. He once described it as having spread ‘like herpes, rather than Ebola’ which gives you an idea of his wit and style! He has long since retired from his ‘proper’ career as well as his sideline, but is apparently still enjoying life at the grand old age of 90. I fear that his style is unlikely to be popular today but he was rather good with words: try I Hold Your Hand In Mine or Poisoning Pigeons In The Park and you’ll see what I mean! Maybe we could get a Lehrer revival going, though I dread to think what he’d write about modern day politics on both sides of the Atlantic!

I usually try to post something more relaxed or traditional for a Sunday, like a carol, for instance. I’ve not shared this one before but it seemed to tick all of the boxes for day 9:

I’ve long been a fan of Alison Krauss – she has a beautiful voice and her brand of bluegrass music is very much to my liking. She has made several sorties into other types of music – notably on Raising Sand, the album she made with Robert Plant, formerly the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. That album won five Grammy awards – just a few of the twenty seven she has won to date! I also enjoy classical crossover as a genre, and this is a perfect example of the blending of styles that seems to come naturally to great musicians.

I marked day 10 with a bit of silliness from the best band I’ve ever seen live. Sadly, they split up in 2016, after more than ten years of making hugely enjoyable music and performing some occasionally outrageous live shows – their anti-Valentine’s Day show several years ago is still the only folk music gig I’ve attended where burlesque dancers were part of the show! This song made the BBC Radio 2 playlist on release, but didn’t trouble the charts – a pity, as it would have livened them up a bit. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the inimitable Bellowhead:

No one sleeps while they’re on!

Although, as I’ve said, I try to avoid chart hits – and my musical taste doesn’t really include many of them anyway – I do make the odd notable exception. This one, which I posted for day 11, is from one of my many favourite bands. It goes back to the 1970s when it seemed that everyone was making a Christmas record, many of dubious and variable quality. This is, I think, the only one of Jethro Tull’s three Christmas singles that charted, and they also recorded an entire album of seasonal music. I love this song, and this special promotional video that was made to accompany it on TV fits it perfectly:

And finally, for Part Two of this compilation, here is the song I posted today:

I bought the Band’s first album, Music From Big Pink, when it was first released, and played it to the point where the vinyl was almost transparent! There was just something about them, the songs they wrote, and the plaintive rawness of their performance that really got to me. This song was released on their album Islands in 1977, and typifies so much of what I like about them. There is a beauty and simplicity in the lyrics and the laid back musicianship that, to me, are very fitting for a Christmas song, and this seems a good point at which to conclude my Part Two. I’ll be back again next Tuesday with Part Three and hope to see you again then. In the meantime, you can see and hear each day’s song on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed, if you’d like to keep up to date – just click the links to the right if you don’t already follow me on either or both. If you do you’ll also see posts shared from my Instagram #AdventCalendar, though maybe the less said about that the better!

I hope your pre-Christmas is going well, and look forward to seeing you again next time.