Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dancing With Furniture: Musical Raves & Other Contortions

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it's a really stupid thing to want to do." – Elvis Costello
I have to agree with Elvis: music, like sex, is always better done than said. And dancing about architecture is a really stupid thing to want to do - dancing with furniture is way more sensible. In those moments when you’re left alone with nothing but an air-guitar, stupid things can start to look pretty interesting...even fun. Sometimes the only option is to indulge, get down and do the mother popcorn with the livingroom chair.

So, with the intention of having some fun I'm going to write about a few albums that have caused me to get up and dance like a fool with the furniture in my room...albums that have yanked the "gabba, gabba, hey" from my guts and rocked my world.

First up, Astral Weeks by Van Morrison (1968), an album that evokes the joy of a sunny day by the water- intense, breezy and alive with possibilities.

From the far side of the ocean
If I put the wheels in motion
Like a Celtic Sufi in the throes of a whirling trance, Van channels the spirits of Solomon Burke and Chester "Howlin' Wolf' Burnett on this, his first complete studio album. The jazz-inflected percussion of "The Way Young Lovers Do", and the fluttering, hummingbird strum of "Sweet Thing" combine to create the perfect fusion of pop, jazz, folk and soul. Nothing before or since has sounded quite like it and amid all the music something intrinsically Irish emerges:
We strolled through fields all wet with rain
And back along the lane again
A friend and I followed the sound to Ireland, busking from Belfast to Cork. In Sligo we got billed as "The Men Who Drank Canada Dry". Very soon after we became "The Men Who Ireland Sucked Dry".

Next up, Survival by Bob Marley and the Wailers (1979). This is the culmination and most consistent articulation of Natty Dread's career. Marley fuses the smooth soul of Curtis Mayfield to Haile Selassie's vision of racial harmony and delivers a sonic proclamation about liberation and independence.

Tracks like "Africa Unite", "One Drop" and "Zimbabwe" were said to inspire the birth of a nation and Marley did play at the Zimbabwe's Independence Day Celebrations in April of 1980, the last time the British Flag flew over Africa:
Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe
Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny
Holding it all together as always, is bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett's ganja-rasta-riddim making this one of the greatest reggae albums ever produced.

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