DON’T MESS WITH ME……..

One of my favourite albums of last year was bought on a whim.

The cancellation of the next train home meant I could spend some bonus time in a record store close to Glasgow Central station. I always like to buy something when I’m in the shop, even if it is just a cheap paperback book or DVD. I noticed a display near the shop entrance promoting a new album by Tracey Thorn, something I wasn’t, until this point previously aware.

Regular readers will know that I’ve long been fond of Everything But The Girl but that I’ve also used the blog to offer the opinion that Tracey’s greatest vocal performance came when she guested for Massive Attack. I’ve a couple of her recent solo albums in the collection, neither of which I’ve regarded as essential listening, albeit they both contain a number of very fine moments. I have, however, enjoyed Tracey’s forays into the world of books, particularly her autobiographical work Bedsit Disco Queen, one of the most engaging and honest tomes about life in the music business. It was my thoughts about the book rather than the more recent albums which made me take a CD copy of Record to the counter.

It turns out that Record (ree-cord) is quite an extraordinary record (rek-ord), in which Tracey offers reflections from the perspective of who and what she is – a 50-something mother of three whose life-partner has been to hell and back in terms of his health, and who herself now has a breadth of knowledge and experience that can only come with age. Tracey has experienced things that just weren’t on her radar when she was young, fearless and feeling more or less unstoppable (not in any bravado way….just simply that fact that the vast majority of young folk are hardwired to feel like that).

It’s also a work in which the music is as clear and uncluttered as anything she’s done before, benefiting immensely from the fact that all the tunes are her own as well as her being able to utilise the talents of a number of high quality collaborators from the worlds of indie and pop. It’s a work which obviously means a lot to Tracey – she certainly went out on a limb by describing it as ‘nine feminist bangers’. The danger with such language is to over-promise and under-deliver, but in this instance, from the very off, this was never going to be the case.

Like many of my favourite releases of recent times, Record has changes of mood and tempo throughout, never threatening at any point to be monotonous or mundane. Synthpop, ballads, disco and indie are all on display with that distinctive and soothing voice to the fore. It’s an entertaining, charming and enjoyable album, very moving in places and continually thought-provoking. It doesn’t sound like an album by a 55-year old and it’s probably fair to say that Tracey has been influenced by the music that her grown-up kids listen to.

One of the best songs, Sister, was released also as a single, complete with radio edit and some remixes. It’s an absolute triumph on all fronts:-

mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Sister
mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Sister (radio edit)
mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Sister (Andrew Weatherall remix)
mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Sister (Andrew Weatherall dub)

The co-vocal is from Corrine Bailey Rae, whose soulful pop/jazz debut was a huge hit in 2006 on both sides of the Atlantic, but who just two years later had to cope with the tragic death, by misadventure, of her husband. She has since released two more successful Top 20 albums as well as rebuilding her life….

The energetic and driving bass and drums come courtesy of Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa from indie band Warpaint.

Essential listening if you don’t mind me saying.

JC

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (12)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THURSDAY 8 MAY 2008

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Another entry where few words are really needed.

I’ve loads of Tracey Thorn records, dating back to her time with The Marine Girls, as a solo artist and of course with Everything But The Girl.

But she has never sounded better than on this:-

mp3 : Massive Attack – Protection (LP version)

No point in me repeating what I’ve said previously about dance acts/dance music and how I’m not well-enough qualified to comment with much conviction.

But somehow I’ve never really regarded Massive Attack as a dance-band – particularly when thinking about their best singles. If the one song per artist rule in this chart didn’t exist, then Teardrop would be in here. Both songs are equally gorgeous, haunting, unique and unforgettable. But in my mind, Tracey shades it over Elizabeth Fraser.

Why?

I think its because Protection is one of the best lyrics ever recorded by a female artist – its full of conviction, passion, love and strength without ever falling into the trap of being soppy or maudlin.

There was also a brilliant and imaginative video made for Protection.

Incidentally, strictly rockers would have had no idea that this was due up next in this rundown; it is one of life’s great coincidences that it follows on so soon after his ICA double-header.

FOOLS IN LOVE (APRIL AND OTHERWISE)

MSTT

This is loosely adapted and then expanded from a post over at the old place back in February 2010.

One of the minor reasons I ever started a blog was to bring attention to otherwise unavailable or difficult to find very fine records that had only ever been placed on the b-sides of long-deleted singles and while there is a growing tendency for album re-issues to bring together such tracks and label them ‘bonus’, nothing beat finding bits of vinyl with the crackly old originals.

One of the songs I really loved from my old vinyl days but had missed for many a year was Goodbye Joe, originally recorded as a b-side to a 1979 single :-

mp3 : The Monochrome Set – Goodbye Joe

It begins as if it is a live track, and one that is of poor sound quality at that. You can hear some crowd sing-a-long at the outset in what is clearly a small venue, then some cheering as a guitar as struck. After just under 50 seconds, lead singer Bid utters the words ‘Let’s Have Some Decorum’ and suddenly we switch to a quite gorgeous and moving studio track.

It’s about watching a film performance of this bloke here in case you were wondering.

Oh and for the record, the song was later recorded by Tracey Thorn, and again was consigned to obscurity on a 1982 b-side :-

mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Goodbye Joe

The original posting also featured the A-sides of the singles which, in Tracey’s case was also a beautiful piece of music:-

mp3 : Tracey Thorn – Plain Sailing

In the Feb 2010 posting I mentioned in passing how both of Tracey’s songs had featured heavily on compilation tapes in the era of 82/83/84 as a way to demonstrate to would-be girlfriends that I really did have a sensitive side but it never ever worked all that well. Seems I wasn’t alone in that failing as my good mate Dirk from Sexy Loser left behind the comment:-

“Yeah, mate: those tapes, ey?! I only wish I still would own a few of the dozens of them I made up back then with all my passion, heart and soul … instead I gave them away to girls who didn’t give a fuck. Literally.”

I remember that as being a genuine ‘splutter the tea all over the monitor’ moment when I read it. Still makes me smile………

And while I’m here, I just can’t resist:-

mp3 : The Style Council – The Paris Match (LP version)

Days of skinny-ribbed hooped t-shirts, a headful of perfectly coiffured hair and a devil-may-care attitude to life that I thought would last forever. How the fuck has Johnny Marr changed so little since those days???????

mp3 : The Smiths – Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

Sigh.