Apologies for the slight lull in proceedings on the blog this week - the TMAP team have been busy indulging in all the usual festive excesses, which may in turn have led to a tiny bit of inertia creeping in; but normal service, such as it is, has now been resumed.
So let's kick off the post-Christmas blogging with an appropriate song to sum up the prevailing mood. (that's assuming I can summon the requisite energy to upload the track, obviously.)
It's largely forgotten eighties classics all the way in today's Three of a kind!
First up, cheeky chirpy Cockernee chappies Chas 'n' Dave with the fantastic Ain't No Pleasing You. When I was about 11 I thought their Stars Over 45 EP (a medley of terrible old East End singalongs such as My Old Man's A Dustman, The Laughing Policeman, Knees Up Mother Brown and Run Rabbit Run) was the best thing since sliced bread, but thankfully I soon grew out of all that. Peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart in 1982, the piano and strings-laden Ain't No Pleasing You is one of the greatest songs of the whole decade, and Chas 'n' Dave's greatest hit by a mile. Yes, even Snooker Loopy pales in comparison to this one!
Next, one of the sweetest songs of the era, 1984 #12 smash Closest Thing To Heaven by north east soul boys The Kane Gang, a gorgeous ballad about a lonely boy and a lonely girl finding love together. Aww. The video's a peach too, although I can't link to that here as no bugger's put it up on You Tube yet.
And finally today, Icelandic instrumental funk fusion ensemble Mezzoforte with the song that launched a thousand Judith Chalmers-style TV travel reports - the none-more-eighties Garden Party. Mezzoforte achieved the notable landmark of becoming the first Icelandic act to achieve chart success in the UK, when this one stormed to #17 in early 1983. Nicely done, chaps!
There's quite a few Christmas songs aren't there? I'd estimate well over 12. In fact I've somehow amassed 1258 (of varying quality) on my computer over a couple of years, largely due to my determination to make a good and unpredictable Christmas CD each year. I'm not one of these nuts who goes bonkers over Christmas music...well, only for two months out of every year...but it's fair to say I could start a blog posting Christmas songs every day of the year. But I'm not going to, because that would be loopy.
Still, if you're not fed up of Christmas songs yet, the following two are super. If you are fed up of them, download these and listen to them this time next year - it'll be worth it, I promise!
From The World In Winter compilation from El Records in association with Cherry Red available to buy here:
Regular Too Much Apple Pie readers (note ambitious use of the plural there!) will know that Spike's the main tweepop advocate of the two of us who regularly contribute. But I'm not averse to a bit of the stuff myself, either, when the mood takes me. Which brings us to today's Three - or, if you will, Twee of a kind: a triple-whammy from Sweden's Handsome Train.
Inspired, as you might expect, by the likes of The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian, Handsome Train were active around four or five years ago, when they released the This Engine Should Do EP through the quintessentially indie Popkonst Recordings.
Sadly, the record has long since sold out, and the band's website has fallen into a state of disrepair over the past year or so - the domain name's been bought out by some travel company - which doesn't exactly bode well for the chances of us hearing any more from them in the future.
But never mind - at least we can still enjoy the music. Speaking of which, here are three superb blasts from the fairly recent past from the very same Handsome Train (that's the band, rather than the travel company).
Another Christmas, another generous and original Filthy Little Angels Christmas compilation featuring the likes of The Vichy Government, The New Royal Family, Captain Polaroid and Scunner. This year it's entitled Tis The Seaon To Be Filthy. There are so many tracks up that I must confess I've only listened to about a quarter of them so far, but it seems to be the usual mix of noisy weirdness I like and noisy weirdness that doesn't quite hit the spot for me.
Right click and save the two tracks below and then head over to the FLA blog to download the many other tracks.
Every year for the past 4 years, I've made a Christmas CD for friends, containing absolutely no Slade, Wizzard or other shopping centre favourites. I can never guarantee a complete lack of Bing Crosby, but he definitely won't be singing White Christmas or Little Drummer Boy. Like most other bloggers, I try to avoid the commonly heard versions of Christmas songs.
This year the CD is entitled "Somebody's Got To Mind The Sleigh" - a lyric from one of the songs - and the front cover looks like this (it's my own work. Can you tell?): In this year's compilation, Rudolph threatens to tell Santa's mama that her boy is a jive turkey, and Marlene Paul calls Elvis Presley a reindeer. You can download it from Rapidshare in two zipped folders because it's quite big. Sorry about that!
Part One: (61MB) 1. Christmas Is A-Coming - The Shitbirds 2. Once In Royal David's City - Sufjan Stevens 3. Winter In Canada - Elisa Gabbai 4. Disco Christmas - Universal Robot Band 5. Christmas Time - The dBs 6. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve - Ella Fitzgerald & Frank DeVol Orchestra 7. All I Want - The Weepies 8. Happy Xmas (War Is Over - Daryll-Ann 9. Love For Christmas - The Gems 10. Hard Candy Christmas - Dolly Parton 11. I'll Be Home For Christmas - Aimee Mann 12. Christmas In Suburbia - Martin Newell 13. I Wanna Spend Christmas With Elvis - Marlene Paul
Part Two: (47MB) 14. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! - Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme 15. In The Bleak Midwinter - The Pipettes 16. Noel - The Diskettes 17. Cozy Evenings - Dan Bryk 18. All The Right Reasons - Dressy Bessy 19. Winter Weather - Squirrel Nut Zippers 20. Soon After Christmas - Stina Nordenstam 21. Oh What A Christmas - El Perro Del Mar 22. Joy To The World - Clem Snide 23. Winter Song - The Fairways 24. Little Donkey - The Boy Least Likely To 25. Christmas Lullabye - Cary Grant
If you like any of these songs, please try to support the artist by looking for their music to purchase. It's not terribly difficult with all the search engines and online shops at our disposal these days!
Released two years ago in a limited edition 7" of 1000 copies, The Joseph and Mary Chain's Twelve Days of Christmas soon became my favourite interpretation of this particular Christmas carol, narrowly edging out Alan Partridge's sadly truncated version from Knowing Me, Knowing Yule!
The Joseph and Mary Chain were basically a north-eastern supergroup featuring Kathryn Williams, The Futureheads, Field Music, Rosita, The Golden Virgins and various other Sunderland-based bands. They got together to record Twelve Days in aid of Shelter, the national charity campaigning on housing and homelessness, and the song ended up on Shelter's 2006 compilation It's Not Like Christmas.
The album also features festive songs from the likes of El Perro Del Mar, Emmy The Great, Electric Soft Parade and Envelopes (lots of acts with names beginning with the letter E, basically!). All profits from sales of the album, which can be bought as a download or CD from here, go directly to support Shelter.
Last week I was waxing enthusiastically about the brilliance of the Sweptaways' Christmas '06 EP. What I didn't realise at the time (but learned about yesterday) was that the group have a brand new Christmas EP out for 2007. Best news I've heard all week! The lead track is the a cappella Christmas Party, which features guest vocals from Too Much Apple Pie favourite Marit Bergman, and it can be streamed on the Sweptaways' MySpace page, if you fancy a listen (which of course you should!). Splendid stuff.
Also featured on the EP are a brand new Sweptaways-only version of The Concretes' Lady December, plus the two Magnus Carlson-featured tracks from last year's EP, Cry Cry Christmas and Silver Bells. All in all an absolutely fantastic listen, and a perfect stocking filler for the Christmas music fan in your life!
Buy The Sweptaways & Friends Christmas Party EP from the Hybris webshop.
More Christmas giving today - this time from Swedish singer Sofia Talvik, who I mentioned a while back. Sofia is generous to her fans all year round, offering plenty of free downloads and updates on what she's doing (she recently performed in the final of a competition called famecast), and not in a pushy way. I like that in an artist!
Anyway, she's made a Christmas single - cunningly entitled 'Christmas' - available for free from her website. This is the link you need: http://www.sofiatalvik.com/christmas There are even three versions of her melancholy yuletide offering in a zip folder. Thank you and merry Christmas, Sofia!
You can buy Sofia Talvik's recent Street Of Dreams CD from CD Baby or in download form from Klicktrack.
Also, Maps Magazine are doing their excellent advent calendar again this year. Each day there will be another musical treat behind a festive door. Add this to your favourites!
Christmas is a time for giving, and Fosca and their Swedish record label But Is It Art? are doing just that. Fosca are currently Rachel Stevenson, Kate Dornan (also a member of Scarlett's Well), Tom Edwards and Dickon Edwards (formerly of Orlando), but the line up has changed a couple of times since the group's formation in 2000 (the picture here lacks Tom and includes former member Sheila B.).
But Is It art? released a limited edition Fosca live album, recorded at the Rip It Up festival earlier this year and, now that they are no longer selling it, you can download the entire thing for free from here. There's generosity for you!
From that, here are a couple of sparky live versions of two cracking Fosca tracks.
I highly recommend you nipping over there and downloading the rest. Particularly Secret Crush On Third Trombone, especially if you haven't heard it before. I guarantee you'll know it after one listen through, it's that catchy!
You can visit Fosca's slightly out of date website or their myspace page. And Fosca albums On Earth To Make the Numbers Up and Diary Of An Antibody can be bought from the Shinkansen website or iTunes. I'm a big fan of Diary Of An Antibody - title as well as album! (Fosca song titles always make me want to listen to the songs.)
After several errors in the past, I've learnt that it's a mistake to buy albums on the strength of just one song you like (damn you, Mary J. Bilge!). But there's always an exception to every rule. Which must mean there's an exception to that rule as well, which means that somewhere there's a rule that there's no exception to (this is like when I try to understand time travel films...). Anyway, the exception to that first rule I mentioned, way back when, is Caroline Martin. Caroline Martin - The Singer mp3 (available for 7 days)
I heard the above track on John Peel's final Festive Fifty and fell in love with a girl and a guitar. Her style has been described as anti-folk (no, I'm never quite sure what that is either) but it's probably easier if I say that her music reminds me quite a lot of Cat Power. If I had to describe her full length debut, I Had A Hundred More Reasons To Stay By The Fire, in just two words, those words would be 'sparse' and 'intimate'. If I was allowed to use a third word, I'd probably choose 'supercallifragilisticexpialidocious'.
Earlier this year, Caroline Martin released an EP of demos entitled Broken. You can stream at least one song from that, plus 3 others, at her myspace page. That's also the place to go if you would like to buy the EP or the wonderful I Had A Hundred More Reasons To Stay By The Fire. You can buy both of them - that's 23 songs - for a trifling £16 including P&P. Hoorah!
About twelve years ago I picked up an old Stiff records compilation, Wonderful Time Out There, from a covered market in Essex. Seemingly some sort of industry promo - many of the songs are preceded by Christmas messages from the artists, and the sub-title A Gift From Stiff is also a bit of a giveaway(!) - the album serves as a snapshot of the label at the end of 1981, and, as you'd expect from Stiff, it's a pretty eclectic mix.
Here's the full track listing:
Alvin Stardust - A Wonderful Time Up There Department S - I Want Madness - It Must Be Love The Belle Stars - Another Latin Love Song Jona Lewie - Stop The Cavalry The Dancing Did - The Lost Platoon Ian Dury - What A Waste
B Side Tenpole Tudor - Throwing My Baby Out With The Bath Water Billy Bremner - Loud Music In Cars Jona Lewie - Re-arranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic The Cory Band And The Gwalia Singers - Stop The Cavalry The Save The Children Fund Choir - Little Star The Snowmen - Hokey-Cokey
Today's featured songs are from three of the more obscure artists on the album: ex-Rockpile member Billy Bremner; The Cory (brass) Band accompanied by Welsh male voice choir The Gwalia Singers; and comedy Snowmen the, erm, Snowmen. Enjoy!
Laura Nyro follows my pattern of discovering bands I like only to find out they've recently split up - only since she's a solo artist, she couldn't split up, so she died a few months before I heard of her. I actually have to credit my brother (and I don't say that often) for the fact I heard her at all. He bought a Fifth Dimension record and as we bopped around the room to that, I noticed that 75% of the songs on the album were written by Laura Nyro.
So many people have had success with Laura Nyro songs that it seems rather unfair that she never did. Especially since other artists' versions of her songs pale in comparison with her own recordings (even though I've never heard a bad cover version of anything of hers). Her sole encounter with the charts was a cover of Up On The Roof which peaked at #92. While I like that, it's nowhere near the best thing she ever recorded. In fact, pretty much every song she ever wrote outstrips that by a country mile. It's incredibly hard to pick just a few of her songs to illustrate her greatness since they're all so fantastic. She's been acknowledged as an influence on the likes of Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones and Suzanne Vega, so there's something else I'm grateful to her for.
Here are three of her best (but let's face it, they're all her best!). The first was written when she was just 17 - can you believe it?
My favourite song from Christmas '06 probably had to be a toss-up between Hello Saferide's iPod X-mas and Cry Cry Christmas by the Sweptaways featuring Magnus Carlson. Now, still being a relatively new kid on the blogging block, I wasn't around to eulogise about either of these songs at the time but I did allude to the greatness of the Sweptaways' seasonal offering in one of my first posts on this blog. It being the middle of June, though, it would've been a bit unseasonal to have been linking to it back then! But I think we're on safe ground now; so, for a limited time only, here's the wonderful Cry Cry Christmas in all its festive glory.
Like what you hear? Then why not nip over to the Klicktrack mp3 shop and buy the Sweptaways' Cry Cry Christmas EP, which also features: Silverbells (again featuring Magnus Carlson), En vintersaga (Icy Version), and a remixed version of Wuthering Heights. Best £2.40 you'll ever spend!
Before I start, let's get one thing straight...I'm pretty good at spelling. I won a certificate for it when I was seven or eight. You won't find any smelling pistakes in my blog entries, oh no! But I have a slight problem. Whenever I try to spell in song - which doesn't happen all that frequently, to be honest - I can't do it. I just get all muddled up under the pressure of rhythm and melody! I first discovered my affliction whilst watching epic musical Oklahoma when I found myself spelling out O-K-L-A-M-A-H-A-M-A. No matter how many times I hear that song I can't spell the flipping state correctly. So today's three of a kind songs all contain spelling.
To begin with we have New York band Morningwood and this irresistably catchy guitar-pop number during which they spell their name out (namechecking your own band is a bit of a nono, but this is good, so I'll let them off!).
And finally a Christmas song. The theme from terrible, terrible film Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, in fact. Only this version is by wacky funsters Señor Tonto. (Yes, the song does fit the description of the band but it's jolly good fun!) So...you spell it S-A-N-T-A-C-L-A-U-S, by you say it Santy Claus, got that?
Christmas 1983, and Euston Films' sublime comedy-drama series Minder has become so popular that its stars, Dennis Waterman and George Cole, have been able to storm the UK top 40 with the daft-but-fun What Are We Gonna Get 'Er Indoors? - a song the pair of them also co-wrote. Here we see them performing it live on Top of the Pops:
Isn't that fantastic? I bloody love Minder - seriously! It's one of those rare shows that I enjoy every bit as much now as I did when I was nine or ten. As if the superb dynamic between Cole & Waterman and the supporting cast, coupled with great scripts and a seemingly endless conveyor belt of the best British actors as guest stars, wasn't enough, it also featured possibly the greatest theme tune - and opening and closing credits - of all time:
Absolute magic. Anyway, if you've read this far you'll probably be interested in these: both sides of Arfur & Terry's Christmas '83 #21 smash hit!
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