Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #26 The Waterboys “Glastonbury song”

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“Glastonbury song” is the very first song I ever heard by The Waterboys. In fact, I heard it and fell for it well before I ever heard of the band and their driving force and ringleader Mike Scott.

I’ve already told the story of my real introduction to the band when their fourth album, the now iconic “Fisherman’s blues”, appeared at number three on my Best albums of 1988 list. After finally giving in to the haranguing of my work colleague Chris, I downloaded the title track off of Napster, back sometime in 2000, using dial-up internet speeds*. When that marathon finally finished up, I listened to the MP3 a few times before going to see a film called “Waking Ned Devine” at the local repertory theatre and coincidentally, its opening credits featured the very same song. If I wasn’t already in love with “Fisherman’s blues”, that little bit of serendipity really did me in.

I purchased the album on compact disc shortly thereafter and had to admit to Chris that he was absolutely right. The Waterboys were right up my alley. It didn’t take too much convincing from there for me to check out their other work, which in itself was an interesting exercise. Much like how the band’s membership changed with pretty much every album, so too did their sound. And imagine my surprise when, in amongst all of these tracks that I was sampling, I hear this song that I used to note when heard on the radio seven years earlier but one for which I had never seemed to track down its name, or its purveyor.

“Yeah, I just found god
(I just found god)
Yeah, I just found god where he always was”

Mike Scott busted up the band after 1990’s “Room to roam” was recorded by pretty much the same personnel and continued the same themes and sound as “Fisherman’s blues” but wasn’t nearly as successful, critically or commercially, and really, as an album. Scott figured it was time to change things up but the rest of the band, especially fiddler Steve Wickham, weren’t on the same page so he recorded the next album, 1993’s “Dream harder”, pretty much by himself**. It was a more straightforward rock sound as a whole but still had Scott’s literate and storytelling lyrical style, name-checking Keats and Hendrix, paganism and religion.

Nowadays, the name Glastonbury seems to be synonymous with music and hedonism, the town being near the site of one of the longest running and perhaps most famous music festivals in the world. So it would be easy to look at this song as finding religion and having a spiritual experience at such an event. But I’m pretty certain that Scott had more ancient history in mind when he wrote the words, as is evidenced by the cover art for the single when it was released.

“Glastonbury song” is crashing drums and roaring guitars that are reined in and soothed by airy synths and Scott’s bohemian bard vocals. You can almost see him standing by himself in the sunshine, surround by green, hilly fields, dressed all in white, eyes closed, and soaking it all in, accepting the blessing bestowed upon him.

“There is a green hill far away
I’m going back there one fine day”

It sounds to me like a place where we would all like to go, one fine day.

*Some of you may recall the time commitment that this might’ve taken.

**There might have been session musicians involved in the recording as well…

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Camera Obscura “Underachievers please try harder”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Camera Obscura
Album Title: Underachievers please try harder
Year released: 2003
Year reissued: 2008
Details: Black vinyl, remastered, 180 gram

The skinny: Given that it’s June and we are preparing to slip from Spring and into Summer, I thought it was time for a mini Vinyl Love series, one that featured a band that screams equal parts sunshine summer and wistful heartbreak sadness. Scotland’s Camera Obscura is exactly that, sporting a brand of twee indie pop shared by their perhaps more famous compatriots, Belle and Sebastian. In fact, I got into them with their second album, “Underachievers please try harder”, because of their connection to B&S frontman Stuart Murdoch. I did also enjoy the band’s debut, “Biggest bluest hi-fi”, but never did purchase it for my record collection so it is here that where we start our four part journey. This 180 gram reissue was released five years after the album’s initial release and the remastering is quite sweet. It is an album that flashes the potential of a band still finding its feet and yet, nonetheless exhibits some excellent tracks of note.

Standout track: “Suspended from class”

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #12 Frankie Rose “Pair of wings”

<< #13    |    #11 >>

I’m pretty near positive that I first came to listen to Frankie Rose’s second solo album, “Interstellar”, because of her impressive resume that included working with bands like Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. I was likely expecting to hear some 60s girls group wall of sound, given this pedigree*, but this is not what I got. Instead, I voyaged off to space with her, a retro outer space, minimalist and analogue synth heavy, reverb drenched and vacuous. Stanley Kubrick would have been proud.

My favourite song on this record wasn’t either of the two singles that were proudly advertised on the hype label. Don’t get me wrong, “Know me” and “Night swim” are also both excellent. However, there is just something about “Pair of wings” that flirts heavily with near perfection.

The liner notes credit the song to a ‘Wu Li Leung’ who originally wrote the song as “Wings to fly” but initial (and lazy, and perhaps slightly drunken) attempts to track this original down while writing these words came up empty. I will trust our musical artist, though, and appreciate her honesty in giving credit where it is due. “Pair of wings” is a delicate and sweet notion, universal and easily comprehensible, repetition into simplicity.

“All that I want is
A pair of wings to fly
Into the blue of
The wide open sky”

These four minutes of magnificence starts and ends with the ticking of an alien clock. From there, the minimalist synth chords change slowly yet assured, washes upon washes, bells ringing into infinity, rocketing percussion, steam and exhaust, layers of everything and eternity. Rose’s vocals are amplified by the vacuum, her ringing vocals bouncing off planets and moons.

This is space rock that is only such because it is dreamy pop rocked by synths and empty space. It envelops you and assimilates you. If you scream in space, does anybody hear it? And with beauty this palpable, does it matter?

*Apparently, her first solo album, recorded under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs, did follow this line of questioning, but I have yet to listen to this one. So I am unable to confirm or deny.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.