Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September 2009

Album of the Month

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears : Tell Em What Your Name Is!

Where is all the retro soul? Does it even exist as a musical category? We are deluged with garage rock bands, retro 80s efforts or has-been crooners evoking the spirit if not the talent of the Ratpack. But where is the reinterpretation of the great brand of soul music practised by Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. The closest anyone came to rediscovering the charms of James Brown and co was probably The Commitments where a bunch of Dubliners did a terrific job of saying (with a straight face), "Im Black and Im Proud". However voluminous radio waves encircling the world have been largely devoid of smart, sexy, sassy soul music from the next generation of musical talent. That is until now.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are an eight piece garage soul band out of Austin, Texas who shouldve all been born in Memphis. Soul music has two distinct branches. There is the slower, more vocally dominant sounds practised by such greats as Aretha Franklin and Etta James. And then there is the Memphis Stax sound where more sassy vocals are combined with sexy horns, dramatic drums and driving rhythm. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are powerful adherents of the latter category. This is an album which bursts from the speakers; overpowering in its energy, verve and vibrancy.

From the first blast of trumpets in the electric opener "Gunpowder", we are hooked. Hooked on the vigour, the vitality, the sheer braziness of a band strutting confidently across a musical landscape that has been barren for so long. Too long. What follows is Soul Music for Dummies containing every single aspect of this great, great form of music. Funky beats, boogie guitars, sexy horns, and directive powerful vocals. Black Joe Lewis is a showman and his live shows are reportedly a treat. Too rarely do we see an artist display such panache and confidence in their debut albums.

My favourite track is probably Get Yo Sh*t which slices slow spoken dialogue recanting lifes troubles and tribulations (reminiscent of John Lee Hooker or Bo Diddley) with periods of passionate musical outbursts. Glorious stuff.

The album, most appropriately, finishes with a slow burning, edgy, yet respectively honorific version of James Brown's own Please Pt 2. Its a revelation; a touching ode to the greatness they seek to emulate bringing the 30 minute playing time to an end all too soon. Thank goodness for the wonders of digital sound where, with remote in hand, I can immediately press Play and experience it all again. New technology helps but you can beat the old sounds.

Listen to or purchase here

Try this if you like : James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett

If you like this try :
Eli "Paperboy" Reed : Roll with You

Essential Classic Album

Oasis - Definitely Maybe

In what could only loosely be described as 'news', it was announced in late August that Noel Gallagher was (once again) quitting Oasis following a fight with his brother Liam. This tired and increasingly tiresome squabble now takes up more column inches than any discussion of their works past or present.

And thats a shame. Because, for a brief moment in time, they were quite simply the most exciting rock and roll band on the planet. What is quickly forgotten amidst all the tabloid fodder is how absolutely thrilling they were. Angular jangly guitar dominated rock complete with sneering vocals, stirring melodies and a genuine "You fucking talkin to me" attitude.

In reality, you only need to own one Oasis album and that's Definitely Maybe. And its beyond essential. No question, no discussion. Whats the Story Morning Glory sold more copies but they had already started exhibiting some incidences of the bloated and aggrandizing attitudes which proved to be their downfall. But the debut album is pure genuis. Plug it in and be dazzled for the first time all over again.

The album starts with perhaps one of the great opening tracks of all time in Rock and Roll Star. A slowly picked jagged guitar line gives way to an explosion of uptempo rock and roll which are followed soon after by the first sneering leering lyrics.

"In my mind my dreams are real....
No one is concerned about the way I feel
Tonight, Im a Rock and Roll Star."

It rivals Holidays In The Sun off the Sex Pistols debut album as the most thrilling statement of intent from a debut artist. It's the sound of an entire disaffected working class collectively grabbing the microphone and daring to dream about a better existence.

The album spawned four monster singles in the headshaking Supersonic, the singalong Shakermaker, the anthemic Live Forever and the terrific Cigarettes and Alcohol. But every song sounds like a single. The album was, for a time, the fastest selling debut album in history (since overtaken by the Arctic Monkeys). Buts its legacy wont be overtaken any time soon. It is one of the greatest albums of all time.

The essence of rock and roll is an overused term. But in the absence of a new cliche (an oxymoron if there ever was one), thats what Oasis were. Attitude, sneer and talent. Such a rare combination. "Is it my imagination; or have I finally found something worth living for?"
Listen to or purchase here

If you like this try :

The Sex Pistols : Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols
Blur : Parklife
The Boo Radleys : Wake Up!

Top Ten List
The Nevstar has been invited to a couple of wedding lately and my thoughts usually turn immediately to the music. Weddings are rather unique environments whereby there is exactly zero chance of all the people in the room being all together again. There are multiple generations and inevitably a huge disparity in musical taste. Faced with this fact, a wedding planner is faced with the unenviable task of somehow getting everyone from this diverse group up on the dance floor so that the party will be a success. Optimally this will occur right after the first song chosen by the happy couple as their first wedding dance.

So the key to a great wedding party is finding the best possible Second Song. This second song must literally make people jump out of their seats to join the happy couple on the dance floor. This second song thus has to be INSTANTLY recognisable by EVERYONE in the room. Both elements are essential but one or both are invariably overlooked. Some songs may be instantly recognisable to some but not others, some may be recognisable by everyone but only after a long intro or once the song gets to the chorus. But we have to have a song that everyone knows intimately from the very first bar as only that will prompt them to rise from their seats and start strutting their stuff.

Now, if thats not tough enough, we also have the added complexity of finding a song with nothing remotely controversial in the title or lyrics. Pop music is replete with tales of lost love, woe and desperation. These songs, while great art, have no place at a wedding celebrating the special love of the happy couple.
A tough task indeed. But who better to answer such a tough question, than the Nevstar himself. So here is the Nevstars effort at determining :

The Top Ten Best "Second" Songs At A Wedding

10. Grease Megamix
This is perhaps a bit of a cop-out but the medley track of all the hits from Grease is a winner and would generally do the trick of getting the congregation out of their seats. Perhaps a touch too slow to start, but its eminently danceable, prone to dance partner interaction, known to everyone plus its loved and adored by generations young and old.
Watch the video here.

9. I Will Survive : Gloria Gaynor
Oh yes. Dont know many who wouldnt dance to this song. You could perhaps argue that its lyrics and title arent appropriate for a wedding but it sure does get people dancing and thats the key consideration. May not be known by some of the older generations present.
Watch the video here.

8. Footloose - Kenny Loggins
A movie based around the theme of dancing concludes with this proven floor-filler by 80s movie specialist Kenny Loggins. An infectious track which would certainly do the trick.
Watch the video here.

Note, if you havent seen the movie recently, make the effort. It has aged extremely well certainly a lot better than similar 80s dance flicks, Fame and Flashdance. Features a very young Sarah Jessica Parker!

7. Love Shack : B52
I dont particularly like this song, but you cannot argue with its track record of getting people up dancing. More pertinently perhaps, it is appropriately titled reminding us that the dancing is the official start of the honeymoon!
Watch the video here.

6. Waterloo : Abba
Next on the list is Abba's monster hit Waterloo. Brilliant track. Noses out its more famous counterpart, Dancing Queen, mainly on its faster tempo and more immediate danceability.
Watch the video here.

5. Great Balls of Fire : Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis may not have sung this song at his own controversial wedding (to the child bride Myra Brown), but it's an oldie and a goodie. Dynamic energy, known by everyone and easy to sing and dance to.
Watch the video here.

4. Cant Buy Me Love : The Beatles
Prior to starting this list, I was pretty sure No. 1 would be a Beatles song. But then I realised that there are a lot fewer absolutely CANT MISS dance songs than I thought. And so really at a wedding, your choice probably should be not which song to start with, but which Beatles song to start with! The Fab Four wrote a number of extremely catchy, singable, danceable tracks which are known and loved by billions across the world. Cant Buy Me Love is but one of these but its sentiments are perfect for a wedding which is very important for this list.
Watch the video here (from the movie Hard Days Night).

3. It Wont Be Long : The Beatles
Again, a near perfect combination of immediacy, appropriate lyrics, toe tapping rhythm and singable chorus. These guys were pure genuis.
Watch the video here.

2. Beatles : She Loves You
For me personally, my first dance song would probably be She Loves You. Firstly, its got the perfect sentiment. Next it has lots of 'Yeah Yeah Yeahs' to sing to. Great singing songs have to have 'sha la's' or 'nah nah's'. Then it also starts immediately without any intro so after two bars you are right into it. It is also only two minutes long which means that you can schedule perhaps a more contemporary track for the younger ones now that you have hooked the oldies.
Watch the video here.

But the Number one second song at a wedding is...........

1. I Saw Her Standing There : The Beatles
Contrary to my thoughts, in the informal polling I conducted in researching this, it seems that this is the most popular Beatles song for weddings. I Saw Her Standing There, like the others, starts immediately, has a toe-tapping rhythm and is universally loved by young and old. A near perfect track to get that party started.
Watch a video here.

There are other Beatles tracks which would also be fine. Songs such as Hard Days Night, Twist and Shout, Eight Days A Week, All My Loving, and I Should Have Known Better would all be appropriate and popular selections.

What do you think? Would these songs work? Any alternative suggestions? Or does anyone have any stories of shockingly inappropriate second track selections at a wedding they have attended. Would love to hear about any such appalling choices.


I had a bit of feedback about last months Top Ten which asked for the best music moments in films. One egregious omission of mine I happily will admit to was Grease which has a number of unforgettable songs at key moments. I personally would have Born To Hand Jive as my favourite. Others suggested included:

Summer Loving in Grease
You're The One That I Want in Grease
My Sharona in Reality Bites
Saturday Night Fever
Car Wash

and then what about......

The Rainbow Connection in The Muppet Movie (brilliant!)

Thats all for this month. See you in October.


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