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.

Tuesday Tunes 19: Lockdown Music – Part 1

Rather than finding a theme to throw songs at I thought I’d do something different for this week’s Tuesday Tunes. Musicians have been badly affected by the pandemic: many rely on the income they derive from touring and playing live, and this disappeared at a stroke when we went into lockdown (or quarantine, if that’s what you call it). I follow many musicians on Facebook and YouTube, and have been hugely entertained in the past four months by their efforts to replace that income.

Sometimes, these have been full shows from their homes, with a virtual ‘tip jar’ for us to give them something back. Others have been individual songs – either their own, or cover versions. And there have been many collaborations where bands get together via something like Zoom (other video link apps are available) and someone with some deft editing skills puts it all together. It seemed a good idea to share some of these with you, but when I sat down to make a list I realised there were so many that I couldn’t do them all in one post. So this will become its own little mini-series within my Tuesday Tunes ‘brand’ – at present I have two sets planned, but there could be more! I’m starting with four songs this week.

My first is from an English folk singer of whom I’ve been a fan for many years. I have all of her 16 albums and have seen her live in concert, and she never disappoints. Kate Rusby has been a solo artist for over 20 years but, as she is a folk musician, she doesn’t have much of an impact on the charts: her highest placing on the albums chart is #22 for her album 20, which was a reworking of 20 of her songs to mark her 20th anniversary. The impressive roll call of guest musicians on that album is testimony to how important she is in her field. She has a new album out on 14 August called Hand Me Down, which is a set of cover versions of other artists’ songs. The first track from the album which she released was The Bangles’ Manic Monday. Here is the video she and her family made for it in lockdown:

That is simply adorable. Daisy and Phoebe, her daughters, are utterly charming, and hubby Damien O’Kane isn’t bad either. That reached the iTunes top twenty singles, and was #1 in their singer-songwriter chart. But don’t just take the accolades from me – here is someone who really should know how good this is:

Another family group who have been among the stars of lockdown for me are the Clark family, from Tampa, Florida. The father, Colt, is a musician who I guess plays locally, but as a way of keeping their children occupied and learning they hit upon the idea of teaching them songs to play as a group. They uploaded one to YouTube for friends and family to see, and it took off in a huge way, so much that the family has been guests – from home, of course – on the Ellen show, and have been invited back after this is all over. They now have well over fifty of these songs. They don’t claim them to be professional by any stretch of the imagination, but they have been providing me with a much-needed dose of fun throughout the lockdown. This is the latest from Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids, published yesterday. It has a little bit of added lunacy at the beginning, but stick with it:

As you might have guessed, I do have a favourite in the band: little Bellamy, who is 6, steals every show with her dancing. The ‘Egyptian’ is one of her signature moves, and I was wondering how long it would take them to get round to this one – I hope Susanna Hoffs sees this too!

Keeping the family theme going for just one more. You probably remember John Fogerty from his Creedence Clearwater Revival days or his subsequent solo career, assuming you’re old enough, of course! During lockdown he has been revisiting some of his back catalogue, plus a few covers, with his sons Shane and Tyler and daughter Kelsy. These have either been from his home studio or his ‘backyard,’ which has some stunning location views. They also did a version of Centerfield from the Dodgers Stadium, in honour of his 75th birthday. This is one of my favourites, complete with an introduction from the man himself, explaining where the song came from:

See what I mean about that view? And it’s great to see that John is still as good as he ever was. If you liked that, there are plenty more on YouTube – I think he’s covered most of his old favourites now.

As this is a ‘special edition’ version I said I was going to give you a fourth song this week. I’ve kept these posts to two or three until now, but this one cries out to be included. It is by one of my favourite bands – Old Crow Medicine Show – and shows the fun, quirky side of the band, even in the most trying of circumstances. Black humour at its best:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this version of Tuesday Tunes. If you are watching musicians perform live on Facebook, YouTube, or anywhere else please drop a little something in their tip jar. It will be very welcome and, to borrow a phrase, ‘every little helps.’ Their music has sustained me through the pandemic, as I suspect it has done for many others.

I’ll be back with Part 2 of this mini-series next week. Until then, stay safe and well, and don’t forget to wear a mask 😉

©️Evening Standard

RIP Peter Green

I wouldn’t normally post on two consecutive days, but yesterday saw the loss of one of the greatest guitarists this country – or any other – has produced. Most people of my generation were probably introduced to his music by his band’s number one hit Albatross, but there was much more to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – to give them their full name – than that. I have loved this guy’s music since the very early days, and it seems right that I mark his passing, as I have done with some of my other musical heroes. Sadly, we are all getting older, and those passings are much more frequent than I’d like!

As my tribute, I’m sharing six of the band’s early singles, in chronological order. All were only released at the time as singles, though they have of course featured on many compilations since then. They take me back to the days when bands treated the singles chart as being at least as important as the albums chart – just think how many of the Beatles’ #1 hits weren’t originally on albums and you’ll get my drift.

Their first foray into the top 40 was actually their third single, the previous two having done little in sales terms. This one was my introduction to the band:

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that Carlos Santana didn’t write that song: Peter Green did, and it’s a great showcase for his bluesy voice and superb guitar playing. Released in early 1968, it reached #37 in the UK charts.

Their next single fared slightly better, reaching #31. I wonder if something as soulful as this would reach the top 40 today, amongst all the autotuned nonentities:

Their third hit of 1968 was the one with which they hit the big time, so much so, in fact, that I didn’t need to buy the record – my Mum beat me to it. Talk about a crossover!

That piece of simple beauty reached #1 in summer 1968. Sadly, the US never ‘got’ this incarnation of the band, but they were important here in the UK and two members retained their part of the name for the later version that we know as Fleetwood Mac.

The band had another two UK hit singles in 1969 (out of three releases). This was the first of those:

That reached #2 in the UK. It is, I think, one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and is still one of my top two all time favourite songs, more than fifty years on.

They also had a #2 hit with their next single:

I love the way Peter has to pause for a moment’s thought before announcing the song, and the wry smile when he remembers the title! That was the only one of their singles to chart in the US, attaining a peak of #55. It took a further five years, several changes in band membership, and a change in style before the new version of the band broke big across the pond.

The original line up’s final UK hit came in 1970:

That got as high as #10. It features some wonderful guitar playing, and has a kind of eerie menace about it which I think is great. I remember getting home after buying the single and asking my Mum if she wanted to hear the new record by the ‘Albatross band.’ It lifted her out of her chair!

RIP Peter Green. Thank you for the music, which lives on.