Friday, May 16, 2008

June 2008

The Nevstar Music Guide Issue No. 8

Apologies for the month long absence but your humble correspondent was checking out the music scene in Paris. Here then, is a belated June issue which will soon be followed by a July one. Enjoy.

Album of the Month

Hercules And The Love Affair : Hercules and The Love Affair

Readership of the Nevstar Music Guide should hopefully be a wide-ranging aural experience. We have (so-far) covered rock, soul, punk, dance, indie, and blues. Im sure to cover jazz and country at some point, but one genre conspicuous by its absence is disco. As we all know, disco is perhaps the most ridiculed music form of all time. Its most commonly used by movie directors trying to date a particular scene as late 70’s and as such is invariably accompanied by interior shots of brown carpetry and orange curtains.

As such, disco has widely been ignored by music revisionists and few bands have quoted the Bee Gees or Donna Summer as inspirations. Until now.

Andrew Butler, is a twentysomething DJ who makes his home in New York. His debut album under the moniker of Hercules And Love Affair seems to encapsulate an unannounced mission to rewrite musical history and give due credit to the impact of disco. As a DJ he understands the mood and tempo is everything and disco had both these elements in abundance. Disco was unashamedly gay (in both senses of the word) and people danced to it with little self-consciousness. Ultimately dancing is first and foremost a personal thing, you dance to become free, absolved of mundane daily rituals, not to impress. The self-conscious too-cool-for-school adherents of some musical genres miss the important ingredient of firstly having fun.

After a mellow yet intricate dance track intro featuring the vocals of Antony Hegarty's, of Antony and the Johnsons we arrive at Hercules Theme. The adulation starts here. Its a predominately instrumental disco track featuring bouncing dance music and with a groovy beat and laid back vocals overdubbed as an afterthought. It captures the mood and magic of a Boogie Wonderland complete with platform shoes, flares and massive big afros. Yet it is no direct disco rip-off as it adds notable lyrical passages and combines them with modern dance beats.

Further along we are treated to a number of tracks which would easily have the dance hall pumping. The single Blind contains an uptempo discoish beat accompanied by bongo drums before horns make an entrance as the song builds, peaks and then slows. Similarly Raise Me Up is true to title and would be a floor filler. The slightly sad tone of the vocals is often at odds with the gaiety of the music which makes for an interesting journey.

Hercules and Love Affair is a rare album that is not only enjoyable on first listen, but also inspires you to re-examine other parts of your record collection. It provides a wlecome way point from the glam packed mirror balls of 1970’s disco as played in Club 54 to the modern dance music as played globally from Ibiza to Invercargill.

Listen to tracks or purchase here :

Best Track :

Listen To If You Like :
70s Disco
90s Dance music

If You Like This Try :
Hot Chip : The Warning

Essential Classic Album

The Who : Who’s Next

What if the answer to the meaning of life was a musical chord ? This was the starting point for Pete Townshend’s second rock opera, a follow-up to Tommy tentatively titled Lifehouse. It was a congolmeration of a film, album, rock opera, and interactive concert experience. The audience members helped make music they loved and this sound was then played back to them seeking further input. This continual repeated evolution of the sound set in motion a positive feedback loop to eventually uncover the singular moment of enlightened omniscient consciousness for all !

Don’t worry, no one else understood it either.

And so, after two frustrating years with Pete on the edge of a nervous breakdown, the project was abandoned. Yet, while the ambition foundered on the rocks of reality, the songs remained and became the foundation of Who’s Next released in 1971. And what fantastic songs they are. Who’s Next is the Who’s finest hour capturing all that was great about the band.

The Who were a destructive band in every sense. They demolished stage sets and hotel rooms alike. Their music had a raw power emanating from the four quite distinct individuals. The drummer Keith Moon is the inspiration for Animal from the Muppets. Say no more. Roger Daltrey was the alpha male lead singer with the golden voice, John Entwistle somehow kept the whole band together, playing bass and keeping beat while Moon pounded out his frustrations. And Pete Townshend was the musical genuis operating (just) on the right side of insanity. Their infectious on-stage chemistry coupled with Pete’s extraordinary musical gifts ensured they distinguished themselves from other Mod Rockers. Who’s Next ensured they would not ever be forgotten.

The album is bookended by two quite extraordinary songs. Baba O’Riley and Wont Get Fooled Again which make extensive use of Townshends own $14,000 synthethizers. Baba O’Riley begins with a Bach-like prelude shimmering and shivering before the rock band enters with some plucked power chords before an explosion of drums and power guitar chords followed by Roger’s dynamic vocals. The song contains one of the early ideas from Lifehouse where the vital statistics of an audience member is fed in as random input for the synthesizer. It is notably famous for the great lyric of “its only teenage wasteland” where Pete decries youngsters lack of ambition and motivation.

Then the album is brought to a stunning close with my personal favourite Who track, Wont Get Fooled Again. This 8 minute track is nothing short of epic featuring crashing drums courtesy of Keith Moon, a mesmerising bass run by John Entwistle and fantastic vocals by Roger Daltrey and yet more synthesizer runs courtesy of Pete. Following the long bridge, it closes with a powerful yet widely misunderstood lyric. Lamenting the idolisation of rock bands as messiahs by starry eyed fans, the song is closed by the single line:

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

The idolation is continuous, only those that are idolised change; but we are not Gods suggests Pete.

The album contains yet more delights. The hard driving Bargain follows Baba O’Riley and towards the end there is the beautiful and tender ballard, Behind Blue Eyes. Another personal favourite is the ode to John’s wife in My Wife which features great vocals from Daltry. From start to finish, the full repertoire of a rock band on top of its game is displayed for all to see.

The album cover is art in its own right, albeit tawdry art. The band members are photographed turning away from a concrete piling having (apparently) just urinated on it. It seems to fit with the persona of the band. While the Beatles just wanted to ‘hold your hand’ and the Stones wanted to ‘be your man’, The Who seemed intent on breaking into your house, drinking all your beer, and pissing in your fireplace.

Listen to tracks or purchase here

Best Track :
Wont Get Fooled Again

If You Like This Try :
The Who : The Who Sell Out
Led Zeppelin : Led Zeppelin II

Nevstar Top Ten

Music has been part of the art of seduction since the cave man first learned to beat a stick against a rock as an attractive cave woman walked past. Any half decent collection of music is bound to include some albums which are designed to be played with the lights down low to assist in enhancing the romantic mood. But which are the best albums to accompany the process of wooing your beloved. Fear not, the Nevstar has produced for you the :

Top 10 Seduction Albums

10. Back to Black : Amy Winehouse - Listen
While she has recently descended into tabloid fodder, on her second album, Amy Winehouse was almost perfect. Her amazing voice is given full range in this collection of sultry soulful songs. A fitting complement to a late night in front of roaring fire, with glass of red in one hand and someone sexy in the other.

Best Track : Rehab

9. Otis Blue : Otis Redding - Listen
Otis Redding is probably best known for his posthumous smash hit "Sitting By The Dock Of The Bay". Great as the song is, it unfortunately overshadows some of his other immaculate work such as this terrific album. Otis Blue is a great place to start your appreciation of an artist tragically taken from us far too soon.

Best Track : A Change Is Gonna Come

8. In The Wee Small Hours : Frank Sinatra - Listen
The king of crooning, Frank Sinatra was a legendary lounge act with a style and sound all of his own. This is a much more laid back collection than a lot of his earlier swing material. At its core are a series of melancholy love songs which stand up admirably with anything else he produced.

Best Track : Last Night When We Were Young

7. Moon Safari : Air - Listen

Our only electronica entry but the best of the chill-out genre can be very romantic. French duo Air's best work is this magical album which can be listened to in any number of moods. However cuddled up on the couch with your beloved or soon to be loved is a great utilisation of this epitome of cool.

Best Track : Sexy Boy

6. Lady Soul : Aretha Franklin - Listen
The leading soul singer of her or indeed any generation, Aretha has a number of notable albums but perhaps none better than this one. Blending covers and originals, it showcases her extraordinary talents and is sure to set afire hidden flames of passion.

Best Track : (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

5. A Kind of Blue : Miles Davis - Listen
Listening to jazz is often a frustrating experience as it can be meandering for the uninitiated. But in the right mood and the right moment, it is unsurpassed. Anyone wanted to start an appreciation of this complex genre should start right here. Miles Davis' all star band produced a monumental piece of artwork that can accompany a number of different nocturnal activities.

Best track : So What

4. Barry White Sings for Someone You Love : Barry White - Listen
What Top Ten seduction list could leave off Barry White? White's voice alone can generate animal lust in the most mild-mannered of the female species. This is one of his better albums although you may not get past the third song before your date attacks you.

Best track : Its Ectasy When You Lay Down Next To Me

3. Lets Stay Together : Al Green - Listen

Just about any Al Green album could find a place on this list but Lets Stay Together is my personal favourite. The familiar title track is complemented by eight other timeless tracks of sexy Motown soul.

Best track : What Is This Feeling

2. Lets Get It On : Marvin Gaye - Listen
Perhaps not the most subtle title if you are trying to ingratiate yourself into someone’s good books but certainly Lets Get It On makes no apologies for its sexiness. With one of the great soul voices backed by the sexy sax led sound of Motown, Lets Get It On is an automatic entry into this top ten list.

Best track : Lets Get It On

And the number one seduction album of all time is................

1. Dusty in Memphis : Dusty Springfield - Listen

Dusty has a unique voice which is guaranteed to inflame deep desires. Dusty in Memphis, released in 1969, saw the English queen of crooning head to Memphis to record a stunning selection of love songs. If you've every loved her version of Son of A Preacher Man (and who doesnt), then take the time to seek out this extraordinary album. It is romantic and melancholy in equal doses opening your heart and mind. As such it is the perfect album to complement the art of seduction.

Best Track : Son Of A Preacher Man

Reader Feedback

Last months Top Ten list featuring the Top Ten Band names received a lot of feedback. Wont comment on the various names suggested but here is the list of some other great band names as suggested by you, the readers of the Nevstar Music Guide.

Black Eyed Peas
Captain Beefheart
Fat Freddys Drop
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Portishead
Pet Shop Boys
Pseudo Echo
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Smashing Pumpkins
Spandau Ballet
Spinal Tap
Violent Femmes
The Who

And the prize for the best suggestion goes to a Northern Hemisphere reader who suggested that it was no contest and the best band name ever was the acerbic post-punk outfit called:

Half Man Half Biscuit

Now you have to admit. That is brilliant.

That’s all for another month. Hope you enjoyed reading the latest edition of the Nevstar Music Guide. Please forward on to anyone with a love of music.


1 comment:

Amanda K said...

Seduction album............... Your list, whilst comprehensive, omitted to include the amazing Jill Scott, Who is Jill Scott? . Soulful sound, indescribable phrasing and lyrics themselves that conjure up roaring open fires, fluffy rugs and red wine.