Cool sounds from years long past

Why has ‘cool’ become such a cool word to use as if it has only just been invented? Way back in the sixties it was used. For instance in the film West Side Story – “keep cool boy, ice cool boy”. Okay, maybe the sense has changed a bit :-)

But whatever that is not the reason for this blurbification from the flickering fingers of yours truly over the silver keyboard. Here’s a list of excellent songs let down only by the lower lever of recording technology of the time they were recorded. Track them down (no pun intended) and give them a spin (still no pun intended!) :-

The Green Manalishi by Fleetwood Mac – strange that this unusual and classic multi-guitar heavy has rarely been covered. It is begging for a modern reworking.

Play The Game by Atomic Rooster (also covered by Atomic Bitchwax) – this only occured as the ‘b’ side of their hit single ‘Tomorrow Night’ when it really should have made it onto the album (John Du Cann, the Atomic Rooster guitarist told me once he felt that it should have been on there but there were reasons …)
July Morning by Uriah Heep – This really is a classic love song although it is an unrequited love song, more of a yearning song….

Indian Reservation by Don Fardon – the abuse of the natives of America was laid bare in this song. Don Fardon didn’t write it but he made it famous as a hit single and informed a whole generation misled by the “cowboys are the good guys” brainwashing that the poor native americans were only trying to defend their way of life and their families from the foreign invaders. This song is still as important today as it was back then as the old traditions amnd natural cultures of the world get buried under a mountain of technology, hamburgers and fries …

Dark Eyed Woman by Spirit – fabulous brooding dark love song of passionate summers …

He’s Gonna Step On You Again by John Kongos (and covered by Black Grape as ‘Step On’) – ripe jungle beat and mesmerising chant.

Space Station No5 by Montrose – classic heavy rocker.

House of the Rising Sun by Frigid Pink – blistering raw Marshall Amp overloading! This guitar sound is incredible! Forget the clinical clean distorted guitar sound produced by today’s digital pedals, this is the original valve amplifier blast and if you turn it up full you’ll get to watch the wallpaper peel and spontaneosly combust! The original recording of this song sounds like a squeeking mouse compared to this roaring monster!

If you enjoyed these recommendations let me know and maybe there will be some more … or maybe we will look at album covers … after all it is meant to be an art site :-)

Art and Music

The link between art and music is very strong, probably more like a marriage really, especially where the production of an album is concerned. In the field of popular music and particularly with those bands who employed top artists to design their covers the end of the vinyl era meant the end of large packaging for albums and much of the artwork that looked so impressive on a gatefold vinyl album measuring some 12″ x 24″ didn’t look quite so impressive on the cassette or CD format. The tiny cassette format especially did no favours to sweeping majestic artwork.

When you think that artists like the legendary Roger Dean paint on huge canvases it really doesn’t seem as if art came off very well in the marriage does it? If you get to see a poster of his work (like one of those here for instance) then you’ll see what I mean. It is good to see that bands still use great artists for their album covers though. The work done by Dave McKean for instance is remarkable. Check out the Paradise Lost album covers he did – ‘Shades of God’ and ‘Draconian Times’ are particularly good examples of his work in this genre.

The problem of course is that for many bands the budget for the album cover is no longer as high as it used to be but given the talent out there it should still be possible to get a stunning cover even within a reasonable budget. The great thing about using the big names is, of course, the fact that people will recognise the work because they have seen it around so much. This can be very useful for tapping into a particular target market. No doubt Paradise Lost were well aware of Dave McKean’s work for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and well aware that the readers of that series would be in their target market. If they weren’t, it was indeed a lucky accident … :-)

Maybe we will have a trawl back over the years before long and recommend some awesome album art … and maybe some awesome songs too!