From the Vaults

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Jack Scott: The Way I Walk (1959)

23 Feb 2012

With his sullen and sneering good looks -- he might have been a truck driver in Memphis like the pre-fame Elvis or a member of the Clash -- Jack Scott was briefly a big star, and at the time in the late Fifties one of the biggest to come out of Detroit where he grew up (after being born in Canada). Scott clocked up hit after hit in the late Fifties (half of the 12 songs on his debut album... > Read more

Jacqueline Taieb: 7 heures du matin (1967)

22 Feb 2012

The attractive young Taieb (who had been born in Tunis) was one of the generation of "ye-ye" girl singers which emerged in France in the Sixties after the Beatles swept through. The French took to the hip fashions and Carnaby Street style with a passion and Talieb was an overnight sensation at 19 with this cool, slightly detached song which was her first, biggest and last hit under... > Read more

Allen Ginsberg: Green Automobile (1953)

21 Feb 2012

Although there is a decent reading of this poem on the Ginsberg box set Holy Soul Jelly Roll; Poems and Songs 1949 - 1993, this rather poorly captured version is much more affecting and, in its closing passages, considerably more sad. Addressed to his friend Neal Cassady and mythologising him in much the same way as Jack Kerouac had (as Dean Moriarty in On the Road), it is Ginsberg... > Read more

Tom Russell: Chocolate Cigarettes (1991)

20 Feb 2012

Whether his stories are literally true or not (and some, like the Leadbelly song about boxer Jack Johnson being denied passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, aren't), the American singer-songwriter Tom Russell always tells a great story. He also has a fine sensibility for history, the heartland of America, how the rest of the world sees his country and . . . . Actually he just... > Read more

April Stevens: Love Kitten (1961)

17 Feb 2012

Singer April Stevens found great fame when she teamed up with her brother, the producer/writer/singer Nino Tempo for their early Sixties hit Deep Purple. But before that she had briefly enjoyed a solo career in the early Fifties until her married lover decided he didn't like to see her in the spotlight. When the relationship foundered in the late Fifties however she began something of a... > Read more

Cowboy Junkies: State Trooper (1986)

16 Feb 2012

When the world started becoming very noisy around the time of grunge, the Cowboy Junkies out of Canada had the oldest trick in any public speaker's book. When everyone else is shouting, you speak quietly and people will stop to try and hear what you are saying. The Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions album -- recorded cheaply in a church -- was a whispery and atmospherically airy collection... > Read more

Waves: Arrow (1975)

15 Feb 2012    24

Of the many New Zealand albums long overdue for a reissue, the sole album by the acoustic quartet Waves is among the most worthy. The band of Michael Matthew, Kevin Wildman, Graeme Gash and David Marshall were straight out of the post-Crosby Stills and Nash school of close harmony singing, acoustic guitars and some pointed electric playing when the moment demanded it. Their debut album... > Read more

Joel Grey: White Room (1969)

14 Feb 2012

Actor Joel Grey won a best supporting actor Academy Award in '72 for his role as the MC in the Liza Minnelli vehicle Cabaret, following his hugely successful portrayal of the character in the Broadway musical which had won him a Tony award. After that however his successes and appearances were fewer and of lesser consequence (he appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a season) and often... > Read more

Townes Van Zandt: Rake (1969)

13 Feb 2012    1

Few of Townes van Zandt's dedicated followers would know that he once played Carnegie Hall in New York, an unlikely venue for a man who later had a reputation as a difficult, morose and poetically gifted singer-songwriter with multiple dependencies. But at 25 in late '69 he was on a bill at Carnegie Hall with a rock band called Mandrake Memorial and comedian Dick Gregory. Van Zandt had... > Read more

Chad Morgan: The Psychiatrist's Joy from Kingaroy (1960?)

10 Feb 2012

As I write this, it is highly likely that the great Australian singer-songwriter Chad Morgan -- aka the Sheik of Scrubby Creek, named after one of his most popular songs -- is probably out on the road somewhere. As Tex Perkins said last year of Morgan, a doco about whom he narrated, “Chad's never really been embraced by the country scene but it doesn't do him justice to call him a... > Read more

Moana and the Tribe: Moko (1998)

8 Feb 2012

In the late Nineties, this song by Moana Maniapoto with her band the Moahunters was the Grand Jury Prize Winner in the International Songwriting Competition. It beat out over 11,000 other entries -- and, without hearing any of the others, we might say "rightly so". It is a remarkable piece, not just in its low and powerful delivery by Moana and the haunting production by Simon... > Read more

Fats Waller: My Very Good Friend the Milkman Said (1935)

8 Feb 2012

Paul McCartney covers this old Waller song on his album Kisses on the Bottom where he goes back to songs he knew fondly in his childhood (and isn't the first Beatle to do so, Ringo did a collection "for his mum" with his album Sentimental Journey in 1970). But here is Waller, a man whose career was cut tragically short when he died in '43 at 39. But then he did rather push... > Read more

Straitjacket Fits: So Long Marianne (1990)

8 Feb 2012    3

With Leonard Cohen much on our mind again with his new album Old Ideas, it was time to go to the vaults to find this version of his classic, as done by New Zealand's Straijacket Fits. This treatment appeared on their Hail album (and was on the flipside of the Hail 12"), and was the line-up which many considered the most musically interesting, with guitarist-singer-writer Andrew Brough... > Read more

Flow: Call (Neda) (2010)

7 Feb 2012

So, what are the first words which come to mind when you hear the word "Iran"? Probably not hip-hop, heavy metal, folk-rock or blues. Or Pink Floyd, as in this piece by the Iranian band Flow. This tribute is to the 26-year old music student Neda Agha-Soltan who was killed in student demonstrations in Tehran during June 2009 and became a symbol of resistance for young,... > Read more

Moana and the Moahunters: Treaty (1995)

6 Feb 2012

February 6 has always been an important date in New Zealand's short history. On that day in 1840 a treaty was signed at Waitangi between the indigenous Maori people and the British crown. Over the many decades since, the Treaty of Waitangi has been a discussion point and Waitangi Day -- a national holiday -- was, especially in the fractious Nineties and beyond, a flashpoint for Maori... > Read more

George Strait and Alan Jackson: Murder on Music Row (2000)

5 Feb 2012

There has been quite a tradition in country music of complaining about how it has lost its roots, lost its way, been taken over by big business and stars selling out for the almighty dollar. Way back Waylon asked Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way? and ol' Hank Williams (something of a rebel himself, remember) seems to be the touchstone for authenticity and the pure strain of country --... > Read more

Mandingo; Jungle Wedding (1973)

2 Feb 2012

The original cover of Mandingo's album The Primeval Rhythm of Life was singularly unhelpful. It just had titles on the front, some brief liner notes which started "Thousand upon thousands of years ago Man discovered that hitting two sticks together again and again . . ." and a list of instruments played. And you knew from the first track that this wasn't an African band. The... > Read more

Barry Ryan: Eloise (1968)

1 Feb 2012    1

In the late Sixties when this song appeared the rumour mill hit a peak. In the previous few years the twins Paul and Barry Ryan (who performed under that name) had clocked a steady string of decent, modest hits in Britain and - because they were only in their teens -- had graced the pages of many pop magazines at a time when the Beatles and the Stones were behaving in a far too adult a manner... > Read more

Oasis: The Shock of the Lightning (2003)

30 Jan 2012    1

With the Gallagher brothers Liam and Noel going their own ways, at least for the time being (and some might wonder why they hadn't split up previously), you could almost get nostalgic for the glory that was Oasis. Definitely maybe the Morning Glory years, and then by judiciously sampling from those albums in the Nineties which came with braggadocio but dimishing musical returns. However... > Read more

Pere Ubu: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1975)

27 Jan 2012

Truly terrifying music is rare: there aren't that many pieces which make the hair on the back of your neck prickle, fill you with a sense of impending doom, make you feel uneasy somewhere deep within a part of your brain where rational thought no longer works for you. Pere Ubu -- whose debut album The Modern Dance appears at Essential Elsewhere incidentally -- manage that kind of music with... > Read more