I like to think my taste in music is far reaching and not confined to one genre or time period (for many, eclectic is the fashionable word). What follows is a selection of the sounds that have been rattling around my head this past week or so. I hope (and it is a modest one) is that you in enjoy at least a portion of what follows.
1: Nat King Cole – Nature Boy (1948)
Nat King Cole is a family favourite. I’d learned the words to Mona Lisa (1950) before I could walk. However, I fell in love with this earlier having watched a documentary of Cole’s life, Nat King Cole: Afraid of the Dark. The sub-title, I should explain, is a quote from the man himself. He was the first African-American to host his own TV show. However, his victory proved pyrrhic as he could not get sponsors necessary to sustain it. Eventually he walked remarking the sponsors were ‘afraid of the dark’. Nature Boy is a remarkable song whose chorus is lifted as the musical refrain in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge (2001). The song has a haunting, plangent quality as a result of the lyric’s apparent simplicity and accompaniment. As a rule, live recordings are less reliable when looking for music online, however this recording demonstrates clearly how the guitar, played by John Collins, compliments the great man.
2: The Offspring – Can’t Repeat (2005)
I have loved this band for a long time. First time I heard Pretty Fly For a White Guy (1998) I danced around the room, delighted that these men had written a song that was cleaver and silly at the same time. While Can’t Repeat is clearly not up beat, it hasn’t got the forlorn quality of Cole’s. Instead, the song details the specific trails of modern life that are so readily identifiable to young people and those of us who were young until oh-so-recently. The song is remarkable as a form of catharsis for the problems it outlines; you can’t repeat the past but you can channel you frustration into a song and, again dancing, exorcise the demons in the sweat off your back.
3: Chopin – Impromptu no. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. posth. 66 (1834)
Frédéric François Chopin, while coming to prominence as a composer integral to the French branch of the European Romantic Movement, was in fact Polish. His Romanticism was embodied in his music, which contains all the emotionally volatility so synonymous with the mode. However, it extended into his working life. Composing at the piano he was said to cough up blood onto the keys, a symptom of his tuberculosis. Widely regarded as the artists disease (it killed John Keats 18 years earlier, in 1821), Chopin’s visible dedication to his work has ensured his joining not merely the pantheon of past musicians, but an elite regiment of those that suffered for their art.
4: GRANRODEO – Can Do (2012)
All these are personal choices, obviously. This number, however, is important for those that are attached to it. I lived with a group of people for a year (two technically). One roommate loved this band and played this song often. I am not the biggest J-Rock fan truth be told. That said, I can’t hear GRANRODEO without recalling our time as a household. Jokes that ranged from witty to stupid to just plain gross. The video is loud in every sense, so brace yourself dear reader.
5: Red Hot Chilli Peppers – By the Way (2002)
An experimental group in every sense, these fellas never fail to deliver serious sounds. It’s really the rhythm section that does it here. Anthony Kiedis does great as a front man with his broken dancing and vocals. Still, it is bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith that hold it all together. One of the diverse influences running through the Chilli’s discography is Geroge Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, to whom the band played an homage in their Dani California (2006) music video. The funk these two men bring remains crucial.
6: Little Walter – You Better Watch Yourself (1954)
Along with Muddy Waters, BB King and Howling Wolf, Little Walter was instrumental (pun wholly intended) in turning the blues electric. Harmonica (or harp as you may prefer) playing has been the same since as current giants like Mark Feltham and Kim Wilson will attest. The threat in You Better Watch Yourself is clear. It is a nasty tune, crackling in the mire. So much so it doesn’t sound like it was recorded but dug up. If this is treasure you are yet to sample I would say now is a good time.
7: Johnny Doran – Colonel Fraser, My Love Is In America, Rakish Paddy (1947 )
One of Little Walter’s influences was the traveling guitarist Robert Johnson. Everyone knows the story. People in Johnson’s time thought he’d sold his soul to the devil: he got that good that quick! The comparisons to Walter’s musical forefather and Johnny Doran are remarkable. Peerless in their own time, both men traveled around the country, playing for the next meal. Like Johnson, Doran was only made one recording of his playing in his life on wax cylinders. And like Johnson, Johnny died young (47). The rambling Piper from Rathnew (county Wicklow) has attracted a reputation that has all but past into legend. Here’s why: