Elvis Costello will release a new album, Hey Clockface, on October 30th. It’s been over 40 years since the release of his first, 1977’s My Aim Is True, and two years since his most recent, 2018’s Look Now. Hey Clockface was mostly recorded in the before times at studios in Helsinki, Paris and New York, though some tracks were assembled in pieces post-quarantine. The different recording locations brought different musicians into the project, promising a wide spectrum of sound for the album’s fourteen tracks.
Costello has already released the three tracks recorded in Helsinki, where he worked on his own, playing all the instruments. All dish up social and political commentary against edgy instrumentals. Here are “No Flag” and “We Are All Cowards Now”.
If you want to hear the final track from the Helsinki trilogy, check out “Hetty O’Hara Confidential.”
Thinking back to My Aim Is True, every track was a classic in my book. Here’s a 2011 performance of the romp, “Mystery Dance”, by Elvis and The Imposters.
In an online article in Variety, Costello mentions that while it didn’t work out for Hey Clockface, he’d like to get back together with Nick Lowe at some point. Sounds like more albums to come. “Don’t bury me ’cause I’m not dead yet.”
A couple of weeks ago a friend turned me on to the keyboard wizardry of Lachlan “Lachy” Doley. Thanks, Rainer! Doley is an Australian whose 2019 album Make or Break debuted at the top of the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Jazz and Blues Chart. A solo artist and group leader since 2011, Doley has also been a session player since the 1990’s.
Here’s the 2016 live performance of “Stop Listening to the Blues” that got me going on this post. Doley is known for playing Hammond organs, which are among the most incredible sounding and beautifully complicated electromechanical devices ever created. It’s wonderful to hear artists like Doley keeping that sound alive.
The keyboard parked on top of the Hammond is a Hohner Clavinet (another amazing instrument with strings and pickups under the keyboard) equipped with a monster whammy bar. Here’s Doley doing his best Hendrix imitation.
Digging into Doley’s past took me on a detour to the Australian band, Powderfinger. Doley played on the band’s fifth studio album, Vulture Street, which won the 2003 ARIA award for Best Rock Album. Doley then toured with the band from 2007 to 2010. Here’s “(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind” from Vulture Street. The song doesn’t feature Doley, but there’s a point.
While I haven’t seen Powderfinger compared to the legendary Australian band INXS, seems to me their lead singer Bernard Fanning is trying to channel a bit of Michael Hutchence in this video. And though Fanning is pretty good, Australia may never see another Micheal Hutchence.
Today’s post takes inspiration from one of my go-to sources, Parade magazine. That ubiquitous Sunday newspaper supplement ran a quite interesting article today on the songs of 1970, written by veteran music critic Jim Farber.
The Beatles’ last album, Let It Be, was released 50 years ago, a month after the band officially announced its breakup, and before any of the Fab Four had turned 30. The title track along with “The Long and Winding Road” would become #1 singles in a year extraordinarily rich in #1 singles. Here’s a version of the song about Paul’s mother, Mary, from the 2003 album Let It Be… Naked, a fantastic reworking the original album by Paul McCartney. If you like the sound of this version, check out the remix of “The Long and Winding Road”.
Only a few weeks after the release of Let it Be, McCartney released his eponymous solo album. The album’s best known track is “Maybe I’m Amazed”, written about another woman in Sir Paul’s life, his wife Linda. Here’s Paul and his band Wings performing it live in 1976, with guitarist James McCullough playing the guitar solo that McCartney played himself on the original recording.
A few months before the release of Let It Be, Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band released the single “Instant Karma”. Here’s a live version performed within days of the song’s release. Yoko’s contributions are suitably mysterious.
Among his bandmates, George Harrison scored the biggest hit in 1970 with “My Sweet Lord” from his triple-album All Things Must Pass. It closed out the year as the #1 single in the U.S.
This past week in music covered an awful lot of ground – definitely music now and then.
Taylor Swift dropped a new album, Folklore, recorded in quarantine over the past four months. It seems to have gotten more attention in two days than all other quarantine musical output combined, but hey, she is TSwift. The album features suitably stripped down arrangements, Swift’s young woman, broken heart lyrics, and really nice, soft vocals. The song that jumps out at me is “seven”. Its vocal style and harmonies are different from other tunes on the album, and the first several lines remind me of something that I can’t quite put my finger on! Call to Music Now and Then readers: help me out on this!
While TSwift was releasing 16 new tracks, the Rolling Stones excavated one unreleased track, “Scarlet”, from 1974 featuring Jimmy Page sitting in with the band. I’m not sure Page and Keith Richards are a match made in guitar heaven, but it’s rock history.
While taking in these new releases, we should also take in a bit of the legacy of Peter Green who passed away yesterday. Green was the co-founder of Fleetwood Mac, but left the band a few years before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined. Green was a highly respected guitarist, serving a brief stint replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. He also wrote “Black Magic Woman”, covered by Carlos Santana a year after Fleetwood Mac released it as a single. Here’s a live version of FM’s hit, “Oh Well” from 1969, with Green on guitar and vocals.
The Washington Post Magazine ran a great article today about Midland, a country trio two albums into a what looks like a very promising career. The band has racked up commercial success and critical recognition since the release of its first album, 2017’s On the Rocks. They’re written up as channeling the neo-classic country style of George Strait and Dwight Yoakam (the band took its name from one of Yoakam’s songs), mixed with the polished sounds and high harmonies of the Eagles. I’m not qualified to judge country music lineage, but I really like nicely crafted songs with great vocals and harmonies, and Midland is putting out some beauties.
Their sophomore album, 2019’s Let it Roll, features “Cheatin’ Songs”. No video out yet for this one, but it’s sweet to just listen to.
If you want video entertainment, here’s another song from Let it Roll, “Mr. Lonely” featuring Dennis Quaid getting his comeuppance from every lady in the bar. Midland’s base player, Cameron Duddy, turns out to be a big time music video director as well, whose work includes Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” video.
Here’s where it all started for Midland, their first single,”Drinkin’ Problem”, with an award winning video directed by Duddy. Nuthin’ says “classic country” like cow horns on a Cadillac.