Marc Bolan was the founder, guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, and sole constant member of the English band T. Rex, a group renowned for sensuous grooves and cryptic lyrics chock-a-block with innuendo. When Bolan appeared on Top of the Pops with glitter makeup, the glam era was officially underway. The vocalist also had a memorable way with ballads, as the above performances demonstrate. Most of all, of course, he was The Groover.
A few notes from Wikipedia: Norman Greenbaum: If you ask me what I based “Spirit In The Sky” on … what did we grow up watching? Westerns! These mean and nasty varmints get shot and they wanted to die with their boots on. So to me that was spiritual, they wanted to die with their boots on.
“I had to use Christianity because I had to use something. But more important it wasn’t the Jesus part, it was the spirit in the sky. Funny enough … I wanted to die with my boots on.”
Greenbaum daringly defies any and all Anti-Hand-Clapping ordinances in the above performance, and Ms. Hagen takes a commendable swing at the immortal song, as well.
The great South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, a keyboard giant, is here featured. Though his work reflects the gospel and traditional works of his ancestral home, as well as that of jazz legends Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, he is much more than their sum. Ibrahim is a master of improvisational high-wire acts that leave the listener spellbound. His is a unique, powerful, mesmeric musical vision.
Tenor saxophone colossus Theodore Walter “Sonny” Rollins is responsible for a great many of the most monumental jazz tracks ever produced. With John Coltrane, he’s unquestionably at the top of the mountain as far as tenor sax is concerned. As an interpreter of ballads, he remains unsurpassed. Those included here are dramatic, monumental. Given the apparent relaxation with which Sonny plays, the cliff-hanging tension he creates is uncanny. His work with calypso material was groundbreaking. Presented here is but a minute offering from the great man’s catalogue. A premier pantheon inhabitant.
Nick Currie obtained his stage name from the Greek God of satire and mockery. An apt moniker, as the gifted singer/songwriter is supremely adept in both departments. Erudite in the extreme, and equipped with an unfailing wit, the acerbic yet playful Currie has been not only prolific, but highly influential. No less than Jarvis Cocker and Suede’s Brett Anderson list the redoubtable, dependably quirky Momus as an inspiration.
Unquestionably one of the titanic figures of 20th century music, Thelonious Monk composed and performed mountains of material that now has classic status, but during his initial heyday in the 40’s, it was often dismissed as too quirky, too dissonant, too…weird. Well, Monk’s work is indeed all of those things, but in just the right amount. There is an uncanny air of ineffable mystery that permeates his playing that is striking. His style is angular, uses silence beautifully, and is deeply personal and idiosyncratic. Although hugely influential, no one has ever sounded remotely like him.
Robyn Hitchcock is one of the more prolific and gifted figures in a certain (eccentric) quadrant of music history. After leaving The Soft Boys, a Neo-psych outfit he founded, Hitchcock emerged as a most formidable solo figure. Heavily influenced by Dylan, and Syd Barrett, his compositions tend towards the obscure, the ineffable, the humorous, the surreal. He remains a vital figure to this day.
Syd Barrett, co-founder and main braintrust of Pink Floyd until his mental state made his departure inevitable, was without doubt one of the greatest, most original musicians of his time. Until being ousted from the band, he contributed the vast majority of the material.
Embarking on a solo career, Barrett composed and performed a wealth of brilliant, if patchwork, songs. Flashes of his genius abounded, but his increasingly erratic behavior made production quite challenging, indeed. Syd released 2 albums worth of material, then retired to private life for the rest of his days.
Lee Hazlewood came to be known as a songwriter for, and vocalist with, the wonderful Nancy Sinatra. His gravelly baritone was the perfect compliment to Sinatra’s pure-as-gold pipes. But he was far, far more than that. Listening to his solo material, it’s hard not to be won over by the deadpan idiosyncrasies that pervade his songs and delivery. Wry humour, outright quirkiness, and a wistful sense of loss are Lee’s calling cards. A wonderful musician, the leading light of “Cowboy Psychedelia”. But most importantly, he’s utterly, unapologetically himself.
The Australian-born Nick Cave delivers his poetic, visionary compositions with mind-boggling intensity and fervor. Bad Seeds Mick Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, and others support Mr. Cave in his oft-times dark, tormented sojourn through the hinterlands. These performances are fierce, cathartic, electric.