From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Sarah Vaughan: After You've Gone (1963)

9 Mar 2012

Some very serious jazz people don't take British pianist/singer Jamie Cullum very seriously. They point out he also sings pop, his repertoire includes songs by the White Stripes and hip-hop artists and . . . All the usual accusations. Like Herbie Hancock doesn't draw from contemporary music? And what of Coltrane using My Favourite Things as a vehicle? Cullum gets a mention here... > Read more

Death Trash: Death Trash Rock and Roll (1988)

8 Mar 2012    3

For their 1988 album The 10000 RPM Groove Orgy, the band Death Trash didn't hide their ethic. Tracks include Liquor Whore, Sexbeast, Now I Wanna Make Some Noise, Mind Trashed and Loaded, True and Wild, and Death Trash Rock and Roll. We get the picture . . .  .and if somehow you didn't then the album was "dedicated to the disciples of sleaze everywhere". Recorded in... > Read more

Billy Preston: All Things Must Pass (1970)

7 Mar 2012

It says much about George Harrison's generous spirit that he gave Billy Preston the chance to release versions of his songs My Sweet Lord and All Things Must Pass before he did so himself. Those two songs -- along with a Preston-Harrison co-write Sing One for the Lord and Preston's take on Lennon-McCartney's I Got Feeling -- appeared on Preston's second album for the Beatles' Apple label,... > Read more

The Bassline Boys: Warbeat; Germany Calling (1989)

6 Mar 2012

Odd what turns up in a record collection left in my care. While moving a few boxes of old vinyl I found a swag of stuff my oldest son had left behind when he lit out for Over Seas. He has strange and eclectic taste. A Joey Travolta album alongside obscure Elvis, David Hasselhoff recorded in Auckland, classical albums, Thriller, BBC sound effects records . . . And this album which is a... > Read more

Elvis Presley: Do the Vega (1968)

5 Mar 2012

Elvis Presley's catalogue of songs in the Sixties is pretty scattershot. Sessions would often be very productive (the material was hardly demanding) and so the songs would be drip-fed over a period of years with no real sense of chronology. But this was a strange one. Originally recorded for the film Viva Las Vegas, the song wasn't included on the tie-in EP (which incidentally didn't... > Read more

Jesus and Mary Chain: Surfin' USA (1988)

2 Mar 2012

Because it's hard to imagine William and Jim Reid from Glasgow would be enthusiastic surfers, we have to guess they chose to cover Brian Wilson's classic song for other reasons, like irony . . . or perhaps just because it was simple and they could imprint it with their aural fingerprint. This version turned up on their album Barbed Wire Kisses which was a collection of B-sides and other... > Read more

Bob Dylan: TV Talkin' Song (1990)

1 Mar 2012

You can -- and people do -- fill page after page banging on about the genius of Bob Dylan. But the man has also been responsible for some real stinkers, especially in the Eighties. Perhaps his nadir was the album Under The Red Sky which featured Slash, David Lindley, George Harrison and many other luminaries. None of whom could salvage material as weak as Wiggle Wiggle, which Dylan... > Read more

Toni Basil: Nobody (1982)

29 Feb 2012

Is there a more annoying song than Toni Basil's inanely catchy Mickey ("Oh Mickey you're so fine . . . hey Mickey" etc)? It's the kind of song you wake up with banging around inside your head and you spend the rest of the day wondering what you did in a previous lifetime to deserve such hellish punishment. It is in there with Racey's Some Girls ("some girls will, some... > Read more

Kay Starr: The Rock and Roll Waltz (1955)

28 Feb 2012    1

Cheap Trick scored a lot of favourable press for their Surrender (see clip below) in which the kid wakes up to find mum and dad rocking and rolling (rolling numbers) and having his Kiss records out. If that song had a forefather it was perhaps this gimmicky and safer song by Kay Starr whose chart career had taken a bit of fall until she picked up on the rock'n'roll craze and took this... > Read more

Nick Smith: Requiem (1985)

27 Feb 2012    1

Behind all the big names on the Flying Nun label -- the Bats, Chills, Verlaines, Chris Knox et al -- were a large number of artists who made fleeting flights, but don't deserve to be forgotten. Those who were there at the time hold special affection for the likes of Fatal Jelly Space, Marie and the Atom, Lee Harvey, the here'n'gone Stephen and Cake Kitchen, and . . . And lest we forget,... > Read more

Sonny Boy Williamson I: Good Morning Little School Girl (1937)

24 Feb 2012

When the Yardbirds covered yet another variation of this old blues song in 1964, first committed to record by harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson, it almost seemed . . . innocent? After all, at the time, British bands were "pulling the birds" and even in A Hard Days Night of the same year the model Pattie Boyd (soon to become Mrs George Harrison - then Mrs Clapton etc) and her... > Read more

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