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These are some songs popular at our place at the moment. They seem to be folk and folk rock songs, ending up in dance tempo tunes with a dash of soul, but that’s just accidentally, it’s a random list. In this place you can hear anything from gazal to electronica. If this list catches your eye you might find a song or two you like. I can’t afford to host them myself so I’m sending you to You Tube. Many thanks to the dedicated posters there who have kept many great songs alive, and introduced them to new listeners. The record companies should pay them a fee for this service.
The Weavers, Wimoweh
Carnegie Hall reunion 1982: Pete Seegar was 63 years old. This 50s band started the ‘protest song’ movement which later so inspired Bob Dylan; they were a top act until stopped by McCarthyism, which terminated their record contract and denied them airtime on radio. They had bought hope to many, and when they reformed in ’82 were more popular than ever. What an ovation! Four great voices, this song features the incredible Pete Seegar.
Muzsicas, Fly, Bird, Fly
Marta Sebestyen, one of the world’s great voices (you heard her voice on The English Patient soundtrack). This 1988 album, called The Prisoner’s Song after one of its tracks, contains this track, ‘Repülj Madár, Repülj’ (Fly Bird, Fly). Hungarian folk music. like the music of Bela Bartok, might seem recondite to people not bought up on traditional music from that part of the world. All it takes is innovative phrasing and ‘folk rock’ arrangements by musicians of genius, and interpretation by one of the world’s most expressive vocalists, and you’re right there. A bound and shackled prisoner calls to the bird he sees through the bars of his cell and celebrates the bird’s freedom. He tells the bird how precious that freedom is.
Fairport Convention, Farewell, Farewell
An eerie song written by band member of note, Richard Thompson, who also contributes his distinctive guitar sound. The voice is that of the great Sandy Denny, who died too young but was one of the most influential figures in the formation of so-called folk rock. The album is 1969’s Liege and Lief. Despite their later achievements, this could be Fairport’s greatest moment.
Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travellers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call
And will you never return to see
Your bruised and beaten sons?
“Oh, I would, I would, if welcome I were
For they love me, every one”
And will you never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be?
And can you never swear a year
To any one of we?
“No, I will never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be
But I’ll swear a year to one who lies
Asleep along side of me”
Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travellers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call
Steeleye Span, Dark-Eyed Sailor
Right from the start they were unstable in terms of who was in the band. Here, in almost their first album, 1970’s Hark! The Village Wait, the featured performers were Gay and Terry Woods, who departed soon after the album was recorded. Gay’s beautiful voice brings out the eeriness of the lyrics, about a betrothed couple who break a golden ring and each keep half as a sign of their pledge when they have to part. A sailor’s life was a risky and dangerous one, once upon a time. That’s Maddy Prior singing harmony.
Axelle Red, Tourjours Moi
The Memphis soul sound comes to the albums of this Belgian superstar whose records keep getting better and better. This has been my favourite Axelle Red track for so long, from the 1999 album of the same name. At those times when life has been hard, and you ask yourself, “why me, why does it happen to me?”, take a dose of this song and you’ll start to feel better. Fabienne is also a campaigner for human rights for women and children and has been commended for her work in this area by UNESCO and the French government.
Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now
(something’s lost, something’s gained)
Is this woman a great American poet or is she! And she composes and sings and plays the guitar, how gifted is that. There are those who complain that when she recorded orchestral versions of some of her songs she was too old, and had lost her voice. For me it’s as if the voice has caught up with the words at last. This is the 2000 release of the song.
Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, i’ve looked at cloud that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions i recall.
I really don’t know clouds at all.
Moons and junes and ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real; i’ve looked at love that way.
But now it’s just another show, you leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know, don’t give yourself away.
I’ve looked at love from both sides now,
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions i recall.
I really don’t know love at all.
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say “i love you” right out loud,
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, i’ve looked at life that way.
But now old friends are acting strange, they shake their heads, they say
Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions i recall.
I really don’t know life at all.
Tanita Tikaram, I Might Be Crying
One of the greatest unsung songwriters, Tanita Tikaram made a splash with her first album Ancient Heart in 1988, but has recorded far superior work to that. ‘I Might Be Crying’ comes from I think her finest album, Lovers in the City (1995), with backing vocals from Jennifer Warnes. All Tanita’s albums have meticulous, innovative arrangements and orchestration, but it’s her voice you remember, surely unique in pop music. Tanita is a lyricist like late 60s Dylan, with a vocal timbre reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, but you don’t think of that when you listen to her. The 2005 album Sentimental takes her in a totally new direction, and is mesmerising.
Uxia, Alala das Marinas
Celtic soul from Galicia Spain (home of bagpipe virtuoso Carlos Nuñez). This song comes from Estou vivindo no ceo, 1995, and sounds like a Celtic lament sung with the passion of flamenco, a statement that’s probably offensive to Galicians as well as fans of Flamenco and Celtic music, but I’m limited in what I can say. Uxía Domínguez Senlle, a passionate, thrilling voice that just carries me away.
Dulce Pontes, Mae Preta, Meu Alentejo
The only solution would be to include the whole of Caminhos (1996), my favourite Dulce Pontes album. There’s so many good songs by this magnificent singer from Portugal. No need to evoke the name of Amalia, Dulce has a voice of her own, distinctive, powerful, and usually fully extended to the limit of her range. From lilting folk dances to fado, Dulce is the best.
Glykeria, O Glyki Mou Ear
Revered over the Middle East, Greece and Turkey as one of the greatest voices in the world, Glykeria Kotsoula has been one of Greece’s best selling artists for more years than she’d care to admit. Her husky, smokey voice can plumb depths of emotion other singers can only dream of. O Glyki Mou Ear (2006) is an album of Greek Orthodox hymns which showcases that emotional depth. Her 1998 album Maska is more pop oriented, and is one of those CDs where every track is a great one.
Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Dinata, Min Orkizesai
One of the greatest live performers in the world, Eleftheria has a strong bond with her audiences wherever she performs. Blessed with a wonderful bell like voice that is very moving to listen to, she has taken great care with her backing bands, and performs with many artists who are soloists in their own right. Her 2010 live concert Face to Face is the most recent example of her great artistry, but almost any of her 24 albums is worth a listen. One of my favourite singers, Eleftheria is rated among the top 5 Greek performers of all time. And even though I don’t understand the language I’d say Greece has the greatest popular music composers in the world.
Toni Childs, Zimbabwe
A great singer got meaningful and lost her audience, at least in the USA, but was acclaimed in Australia and New Zealand. Adding the recording studio wizardry of Dave Ricketts to the extraordinary voice of Childs, ‘Zimbabwe’ was a polyphonic, multi-track masterpiece that tried to be a protest song but the words got lost in the wall of sound. Wonderful. Her Ultimate Collection (2000) is the place to start.
Ana Carolina and Seu Jorge, E Isso Ai
What can you say! Two of Brazil’s top performers, Ana Carolina Sousa and Jorge Mário da Silva, got together on stage and their performance went to number one on the Brazil charts overnight. When you can see a performance as good as this live, no overdub or multi tracking, you know you’re in Brazil, home of the greatest popular music culture in the world. The song is from 2004’s Ana & Jorge.
Alcione, Alem Da Cama
Alcione Dias Nazareth has been recording and performing since the mid 1970s and has released almost 40 albums, most of which have gone gold. That’s quite an achievement. She’s also a trumpet and clarinet player, which has added something to her voice maybe. This track is from A Paixao Tem Memoria (1997) and shows off the warm, soulful sound she can so effortlessly create.
I Muvrini, Aspettami
Jean-François and Alain Bernardini are brothers from Corsica playing both traditional music from the island and their own compositions. They’ve made 30 albums over the past 30 years, and are an exceptionally good concert act, with almost a full orchestra and chorus behind them. The 2002 album Umani shows influences from other cultures such as those of Spain and Algeria, and it’s an exhilarating listening experience.
Bia, Eu Vi
There’s a revolution going on. From now on, voices have to be warm as honey, interpretations as close as a hug after lovemaking. Bia Krieger is one of my favourite singers and she hasn’t put down a bad track since she began to record. This is from Carmin of 2003, a Henri Salvador song Bia has made her own.
Jean Duino, La complainte africaine
Jean Duino is a singer/songwriter from Port de Bouc on the Mediterranean coast of France, and one of Bia’s inspirations. I have to thank her for introducing me to this singer. I’d like to find more of his work.
Candan Erçetin, Meger
No other singer in the world can do this on video. From Melek (2004). This Turkish superstar is singer, composer, actress and TV presenter, and most of her eight CDs have topped the album charts in Turkey. Almost any album makes for absorbing listening, my favourites are Çapkin (1997), Elbette (2000), Neden (2002) and Melek (2004). The good news is that she has released a new CD, Kırık Kalpler Durağında in 2009, which I didn’t know about.
Jenifer, J’attends l’amour
Jenifer Dadouche-Bartoli, from Nice, has had problems topping her first big hit ‘J’attends l’amour’, though each of her later CDs contain good material. The first album, Jenifer (2002) is one of those CDs you can play right through and enjoy every track.
Kiran Ahluwalia, Jhanjra!
An unlikely combination of an Indian woman performing gazal from 10th century Persia in Toronto, Canada, accompanied by traditional Indian instruments, and Celtic fiddle. And it works. The accompaniment is important here, and tracks can feature tabla, slide guitar as well as fiddle. Kiran’s voice takes on the intricate intonations and rhythms of the gazal form with great skill. The melodies are superb. The track is a Punjabi folk song from Kiran’s self titled 2005 album.
Rosana Arbelo Gopar comes from the Canary Islands. The track is from her 2005 album Magia. Rosana stepped into the limelight with her first album, Lunas Rotas (1996), platinum sales and still selling strongly, most recently in a remastered edition with deleted tracks and alternate versions. All of her albums feature her marvellous contralto voice, warm and expressive. Just about every track she’s recorded sounds familiar, as though I’d heard it before. It took a while, then I realised I was listening to classic music, songs that will still be heard for years to come.
Clara Nunes, O Mar Serenou
One of the two tragic deaths that devastated Brazilian music in the 80s (the other being Elis Regina), all the more tragic by being so totally unnecessary. Clara was the queen of samba, and had 16 million selling albums to her credit at the time of her death. A voice you recognise immediately, a joyous and exultant sound, and song after great song. She is still, 25 years after her death, one of the most popular of Brazilian singers, and in 1995 was the subject of an extraordinary tribute, when some of the greatest names in Brazilian music performed duos with her on her most famous songs, with the aid of some recording studio wizardry (Com Vida). This song is originally from Claridade (1975).
Nina Simone, How It Feels To Be Free
Nina Live at Montreaux in 1976, a short set but in my opinion one of the greatest recorded performances ever, any artist, any time. For those who love her voice, here she shows off her virtuosity on the piano. For those who regard her as a jazz icon, here she shows herself the strong, fragile, deeply emotional, strongly disciplined artist she was, and her rendition of ‘Feelings’ has to be seen to be believed. If you’re not moved to tears you’re made of stone. This track has it all: rhythm, passion and grace.
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains holding me
I wish I could say all the things that I should say
say ’em loud, say ’em clear
for the whole round world to hear.
I wish I could share all the love that’s in my heart
remove all the bars that keep us apart
I wish you could know what it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree
that every man should be free.
I wish I could give all I’m longing to give
I wish I could live like I’m longing to live
I wish that I could do all the things that I can do
though I’m way overdue I’d be starting anew.
Well I wish I could be like a bird in the sky
how sweet it would be if I found I could fly
Oh I’d soar to the sun and look down at the sea
and I’d sing cos I’d know that
I’d know how it feels to be free
Syran M’Benza, Biloula
Symbiose 1990. A who’s who of soukous stars jam in a Paris studio, and the result is exhilarating. Not recommended for those who think they can play the guitar: these guys start where others are resting on their laurels, and have fun taking virtuosity to new levels! Bound to brighten your day.
Hijas del Sol, Kokodico
Piruchi Apo Botupá and Paloma Loribo Apo are from Equatorial Guinea, an aunt and niece duo. Their music is about Bantu, but also about dance, it’s fast, happy, energetic music. The track is from Pasaporte Mundial of 2001.
Rolling Stones, Down the Road Apiece, Tumbling Dice
What a genius Keith was. Piano player’s pretty good too. Looking back, you can see how insecure Mick was, and Brian is starting the slow slide.
Rod Stewart, Downtown Train
Often just silly on stage, and prone to monotonous rock crowd pleaser anthems, Rod is one of the greatest lyricists of rock (“I was only joking”). Here he interprets another great lyricist, Tom Waits. Dynamite.
Outside another yellow moon
punched a hole in the nighttime sky
climbs through the window and down the street
shining like a new dime
the downtown trains are full with all those Brooklyn girls
they try so hard to break out of their little worlds
You wave your hand and they scatter like crows
they have nothing that will ever capture your heart
theyr’e just thorns without the rose
be careful of them in the dark
oh if I was the one
you chose to be your only one
oh baby can’t you hear me now
Will I see you tonight
on a downtown train
every night is just the same
you leave me lonely now
I know your window and I know it’s late
I know your stairs and your doorway
I walk down your street and past your gate
I stand by the light at the four way
you watch them as they fall
they all have heart attacks
they stay at the carnival
but they’ll never win you back
Will I see you tonight, on a downtown train
where every night is just the same you leave me lonely
will I see you tonight, on a downtown train
all of my dreams just fall like rain
upon a downtown train
Neville Brothers, With God On Our Side
Just a reminder that of the five activities we practice in this life, two of them, the music makers and the war makers, are still neck to neck and it’s anybody’s game. Aaron breathes new life into the Bob Dylan song.
Most of the artists on this list have a substantial body of work to their credit. I could make a similar list devoted to any one of them. And there are hundreds of other performers out there, many of whom get played at our place from time to time. And many interesting performers are emerging every day. There’s a great wealth of music out there in the world, and while there is there’s hope for us all.
©2011 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.