Archives for June 2012

Playlists, June, 11, 18, 25

Stuart Bailie | 12:07 UK time, Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Listening to the new Bobby Womack album gets me thinking of a WB Yeats poem. The one that goes:
"An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress."
There's an elemental power in the sound of musical legends, far into their story, singing fervently. The albums that Rick Rubin made with Johnny Cash established the benchmark. Curtis Mayfield was heroic and defiant on 'New World Order'. Also, there was a fierce crackle on Gil Scott Heron's 'I'm New Here', released a year before we lost the guy last May.
We're hoping that Bobby Womack won't be leaving us for a long while yet, but his album, 'The Bravest Man In The Universe' has a level of gravitas, determination and joy that isn't won easily. He's been doing this for more than 50 years now, getting sanctified with Sam Cooke, hearing his music performed by the Rolling Stones, singing up the soul lexicon, dealing with scandal, bleak histories and grievous health.
Sometimes there's a romantic response to this kind of a comeback. The old guy, coming back home after he's been tilting at monsters, telling you how it was. But 'The Bravest Man In The Universe' isn't mere voyeurism. Best thing I've heard this year.

Playlist 25.06.12
The Jam - When You're Young (Polydor)
Junior Wells - Lovey Dovey Love One (Proper)
James Levy And The Blood Red Rose - Hung To Dry (Heavenly)
Paul Simon - I Know What I Know (Legacy)
Eatenbybears - Vanderhoof (white)
Duke Special - Nothing Shall Come Between Us (Reel To Reel)
Bobby Womack - Stupid (XL)
Michael Kiwanuka - I'll Get Along (Polydor)
Stone Roses - Shoot You Down (Silvertone)
Lightships - Fear And Doubt (Geographic)
Stealing Sheep - Shut Eye (Heavenly)
Spiritualized - Little Girl (Double Six)
The Beat - Tears Of A Clown (Edsel)
General Fiasco - Bad Habits - (Dirty Hit)
King Charles - The Bightest Lights (Island)
Conway Twitty - Make Me Know You're Mine (Righteous)
Glen Hansard - High Hope (Anti)
Zeus - Are You Gonna Waste My Time (Arts and Crafts)
Paul Simon - Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (Legacy)
Cheek Mountain Thief - Cheek Mountain (Full Time Hobby)
Betty LaVette - Back To Zero (Anti)
Duke Special - Stargazers Of The World (Reel To Reel)
Hawaiian Beach Combers - My Girl From the South Sea Isles (Proper)
Bobby Womack - Nothin Can Save Us (XL)
Glen Hansard - Bird of Sorrow (Anti)
Opossum - Blue Meanies (Fire)

Playlist 18.06.12
Paul Weller - Birthday (War Child)
The Golden Nugget - Gospel Train (Oxford American)
Tom Waits - Going Out West (Island)
So So Sailors - So Broken Hearted (No Dancing)
Bobby Womack - Dayglo Reflection (XL)
The Tennors - Ride the Donkey (Trojan)
Marc O'Reilly - Lord Of War (Salt & Shake)
Chic - Dance Dance Dance (WEA)
Kill Van Kulls - Shame And Pride (white)
Bobby Womack - If There Wasn't Something There (XL)
School of Seven Bells - Scavenger (Full Time Hobby)
The Smiths - Sheila Take A Bow (Rough Trade)
Syl Johnson - I've Got The Real Thing (Oxford American)
Dog Is Dead - Glockenspeil Song (Atlantic)
Soak - Numb (white)
Bobby Womack - Deep River (XL)
Simian Ghost - Automation (Heist Or Hit)
Conor McAteer - Things You Do for Love (white)
Foreign Slippers - The Winner Takes It All (white)
Patrick Watson - Into Giants (Domino)
Waterboys - This Is The Sea (live) (BBC)
Marc O'Reilly - Hail (Salt & Shake)
Bobby Womack - Please Forgive My Heart (XL)
Francois And the Atlas Mountains - Edge of Town (Domino)

Playlist 11.06.12
Muddy Waters - I Want To Be Loved (Chess)
Ash - Angel Interceptor (Infectious)
Randon Canyon Growlers - Born To Be With You (Henhouse)
Rufus Wainwright - Rachida (Polydor)
Patti Smith - Amerigo (Sony)
Friends - I'm His Girl (Lucky Numbers)
Peggy Lee - Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (Blue Note)
Summer Camp - Always (Moshi Moshi)
Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons - I've Got You Under My Skin (Rhino)
The Pure Conjecture - 1st Time I Saw U (Armellodie)
Charles Wright - What Can You Bring Me (Oxford American)
Sebastian Tellier - Cochon Ville (Record Makers)
Harold Dorman - Uncle Jonah's Place (Oxford American)
Gemma Ray - Rescue Me (Bronze Rat)
Kelly Hogan - Dusty Groove (Anti)
The Pogues - Honky Tonk Women (Warner)
Leela James - Miss You (Shanachie)
Wendell Holmes - Beast Of Burden (Ruf)
The Pure Conjecture - Throat (Armellodie)
Patti Smith - This Is The Girl (Sony)
Paul Buchanan - Fin de Siecle (Newsroom)
Kelly Hogan - Golden (Anti)
Tanlines -Laughing (Matador)
Cameo - She's Strange (Polygram)
M83 - OK Paul (Naïve)
Amy Speace - It's Too Late To Call It A Night (Thirty Tigers)
Dawes - Peace In The Valley (Loose)

The Great Northern Songbook - 10. Shining Light

Stuart Bailie | 10:10 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2012

According to you, kind voters, 'Shining Light' by Ash is the greatest song in the Northern Songbook. Now I might take issue with some of the other top ten selections, but I'm happy to see Tim Wheeler getting his plaudits. This tune in particular might never grace an average songwriter. Small wonder that the guy was reading 'The White Goddess' at the time - Robert Graves' meditation on poets and deep mythology. Good work, Wheeler. His song was performed at the Ulster Hall gig by The Answer, another loud product of County Down. Cormac started in an unfeasibly high pitch and you worried how he might negotiate the key change later in the song. But he did, and it sounded fine.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 9. Freewheel

Stuart Bailie | 10:47 UK time, Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Bronagh Gallagher walked onto the Ulster Hall stage in a vintage lace dress from the Portobello Road. She reckoned it was over 100 years old and it was a perfect fit. Just about right then for 'Freewheel' and those magic notions. Bronagh gave the song her individual poise and sense of drama. She may regard herself as a soul sister, but for the purposes of the Great Northern Songbook, she was our Edith Piaf, pure diva.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 8. Big Time

Stuart Bailie | 15:32 UK time, Tuesday, 19 June 2012

This was the song that caused the most consternation at the May 22 event. Brian Kennedy may have had sworn on air, but what upset more listeners were the musical liberties that 'Big Time' experienced. I have blogged about this already, and I still feel that the old punks are missing the bravura that And So I Watch You From Afar gave to the event. And as a postscript, it's interesting to note that Brian Young from Rudi also approves. Punk was never about the reverence, surely.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 7. Hill of Thieves

Stuart Bailie | 15:11 UK time, Monday, 18 June 2012

Barry Lynn, aka Boxcutter was a bold boy to take on 'Hill Of Thieves' by Cara Dillon. In it's original form, the song relies on the place names, the stories and the localities. Barry, however, had another mission. His references were the textures and melodies in the recording and this he pursued this with the orchestra and guitar. The latter sounded a little abstract and it was played with artful intent. A bit loose, not intimidated by the Ulster Hall or the significance of the Great Northern Songbook. You had to smile.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 6. Tonight We Fly

Stuart Bailie | 12:40 UK time, Sunday, 17 June 2012

So what's the best Neil Hannon song? That's the kind of poser that friends could fall out over during a pub discussion. I have a special fondness for 'Songs Of Love' and how it wrestles with the issue of art versus experience. 'Sunrise' touches me and 'Absent Friends' is a wow. And there's something especially intense about 'Our Mutual Friend'. 'But Tonight We Fly' demands to be chosen. It's part of the ceremony of every Divine Comedy gig. It involves you. It always sounds great. Even Neil isn't quite sure how it happened and why it has become a mandatory part of the live experience. By now, he's just happy that the song has an extraordinary life. For the Ulster Hall version, the orchestra was fiercely on it, the audience took the purchase and General Fiasco borrowed those wings for a youthful test flight.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 5. Teenage Kicks

Stuart Bailie | 10:00 UK time, Saturday, 16 June 2012

If you've just joined us in the middle of this blogging series, let me recap. The Ulster Hall is 150 years old this year. Part of the celebrations involved a BBC production called The Great Northern Songbook on May 22. Various artists were invited to cover great songs that had been written by their peers and voted for by music lovers. The Ulster Orchestra was on board, and Cara Dillon was entrusted with 'Teenage Kicks'. We know how Feargal Sharkey came at the song. He made it sound smitten and hopeless. It was all about the girl, his hormones and the inexpressible upset of a gawky boy. Remember that Feargal had gotten a lot of his vocal experience at the Feis Ceoil competitions, so he subconsciously put the folk into his punk rock. And I think that's what Cara Dillon gravitated towards on the night - that far-away, winsome sound.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 4. The Island

Stuart Bailie | 11:40 UK time, Friday, 15 June 2012

Like many listeners from these parts, I had filtered out a lot of music from the Troubles. Too many bad songs and an excess of glib lyrics. Could we not just pretend that 'Zombie', 'Belfast Child' and 'Through The Barricades' had never happened? Or at least we might decommission the records, sealing them in a soundproof bunker. So I was a little nervous about coming back to Paul Brady and 'The Island'.

Thankfully, it holds out well. Some of Paul's records sound distinctly Eighties. The heavily processed drums and the digital synths have something to do with it. But 'The Island' is just voice, acoustic guitar and piano. It's pure. Meantime the lyric is an evident battle for the author - he's so concerned with getting it wrong. For the Ulster Hall rendition, the gig went to Ciaran Gribbin, on parole from INXS, clearly learning from his new job on the stadium circuit. He found the kind sentiment in the song, but also recognized the instinct to escape and the yearning for a new deal, however remote. Ciaran sang it like a gospel tune. It broke your heart.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 3. The Days of Pearly Spencer

Stuart Bailie | 10:33 UK time, Thursday, 14 June 2012


It was Katharine Philippa's job to perform Days Of Pearly Spencer live in Belfast, celebrating 150 years of the Ulster Hall. Here she was, a relative unknown from Portadown, only few months on the fringes of the public consciousness. But she carried the moment and helped us to reappraise the art. Katharine, like the song's author David McWilliams, is not an attention seeker. But that's perfectly ok with a song that looks on quietly, never screaming about the poverty and the human waste. The arranger, Graeme Stewart decided not to compete with the original score of Mike Leander. Wise move. This Pearly Spencer takes a different walk to the end of lonely street.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 2. Alternative Ulster

Stuart Bailie | 16:20 UK time, Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The second performance of the Great Northern Songbook event in Belfast was delivered by Rams Pocket Radio. Contentiously, they handled a big punk tune from Stiff Little Fingers and there wasn't a power chord to be heard. Alternative Ulster has been given the string treatment before - I can just about recommend the London Punkharmonic Orchestra and the 'Classical Punk' album. But the Rams version avoided the pastiche and instead Peter focussed on the yearning feeling in the lyric. The SLF version makes me agitated, angry at the impasse of the Seventies. But Rams Pocket Radio made it sound like a sad meditation, a peculiar update. While the Belfast landscape is less explosive these days, many of the problems are lurking, insidious. Arguably, the song remains the same.

1978 was the year that music got angry in Northern Ireland. It officially began on St Patrick's Day, when a seven inch single called 'Suspect Device' made its appearance. The sleeve of the record pictured some bomb-making equipment and the contents of the record were no less incendiary. Punk rock was about to make an important statement.

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The Great Northern Songbook - 1. Madame George

Stuart Bailie | 09:17 UK time, Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Thanks to Paul McClean at Radio Ulster, I was given the chance to write ten scripts to accompany the Great Northern Songbook event at the Ulster Hall, Belfast, May 22. It was a remarkable night. The chosen acts performed with intent and the Ulster Orchestra swung with evident approval. Also, I've not seen an audience listen so graciously to a popular music gig here. Sure enough, there was plenty of online and Twitter activity, reflecting many shades of opinion. Old punks were vaporously offended while other minds were taken to sublime heights. Listeners became aware of half-forgotten classics. Creative leaps were made in some cases, urging us to hear familiar songs in fresh settings. And that was also part of the drama - the alternation between respectful and audacious. Brian Kennedy opened the night with Madame George by Van Morrison. Quite the throwdown to any singer. Like an invitation to scale the north face of the Eiger, with a few ropes, an ice pick and a wooly hat. Bless him. Anyway, over the next two weeks, we will run with the individual scripts. I hope you like them.

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Skiffle While You Work

Stuart Bailie | 16:51 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2012

I'll be at the Strand Cinema on the Holywood Road tomorrow at 2pm. It's a Belfast Film Festival event and there will be an old-fashioned matinee, possibly involving a cowboy movie. My job is to introduce some skiffle music, just like this very cinema featured back in 1956. I believe Van Morrison gigged at the Strand, back in the day. So I will be talking about Lonnie Donegan, Leadbelly, Van and the allure of the cowboy film. This will doubtless lead me into Van Morrison's 'Sense Of Wonder', to the Castle Picture House on the Castlereagh Road and the endless re-runs of Johnny Mack Brown adventures. I'm looking forward to it.

Playlist 04.06.12

Stuart Bailie | 14:15 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2012

I playlisted the Shangri Las and The Outcasts for Terri Hooley, as they appeared on the wonderful Good Vibrations soundtrack. Co-ordinated by David Holmes, the music for the film was quality work, involving 'Dream Baby Dream' by Suicide, 'Tin Soldiers' by the Small Faces and incredibly, David Bowie's 'Star'. No song was mere dressing: each had a particular energy to give to the script and the greatest tease of all was holding back 'Teenage Kicks' until you had almost supposed that it was a no show.
There was a special poignancy in the Bowie tune at the end. Not least for the line, "Rudi stayed at home to starve", but also because the Ziggy Stardust album was one of the secret escape routes of the mid Seventies. It may have been oppressive outside, but David encouraged you to be heroic in your head, to be transformed and alive with art. As the credits rolled, we saw vintage images of the teenagers in Belfast who had taken that brave steer in an awful decade. Some were in the audience for the premiere and remain active forces in the city. But a good few of those souls have already passed away.
The pretty things: I felt sentimental and proud.

Huey Piano Smith - rocking Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu (Ace)
Alabama Shakes - Hang Loose (Roigh Trade)
JD McPherson - Scandalous (Rounder)
Howard Devoto - profile
Kowalski - While We Drive (white)
The Beat - Can't Get Used To Losing You (Edsel)
Foreign Slippers - It All Starts Now (white)
The Outcasts - Self Conscious Over You (Good Vibrations)
Eaten By Bears - Malcovich (white)
Jonathan Richman - That Summer Feeling (Rough Trade)
Django Django - Default (Because)
Three Blind Wolves - In Here Somewhere (white)
The Beat - Too Nice To Talk To (Edsel)
Random City Growlers - With You Beside Me (Henhouse)
JD McPherson - Country Boy (Rounder)
Ben Glover - Whatever Happens Will (white)
Lambchop - Never My Love (City Slang)
Gregory Isaacs - Love Me With Feeling (Island)
Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man In The Universe (XL)
Paul Buchanan - Summer's On Its Way (Newsroom)
Cian Ciaran - Martina Franca (Dell'Orso)
Paul Buchanan - Mid Air (Newsroom)
Seventeen Evergreen - President Clavioline (Lucky Number)
Nick Cave - Everything Must Converge (Mute)
Bronagh Gallagher - Fool (Salty Dog)
Shangri Las - Past Present And Future (Mercury)
Friends - Mind Control (Lucky Number)

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