What to listen to

Mar 2020 What to listen to

Two to enjoy

STEVE HARLEY UNCOVERED

By Jane Quinn

Sometimes a song comes along that is just too good to be sung only once.
The new Steve Harley album contains many such tunes by composers as eclectic as Lennon/McCartney, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Keith Richards/Mick Jagger, and others. All of this, plus two Harley originals; each performed by Mr Harley and his exquisite team of acoustic musicians.
As always, Steve Harley delivers vocals with a passion and promise that speak directly to the heart. Who else would add a Robert Burns composition to a modern covers album where it would sit forever next to a David Bowie composition? But, far more than that, Steve approaches this song with a commitment to the integrity of the original words while wrapping them within the rasp of a broken heart.
“Had we never loved sae kindly. Had we never loved sae blindly. Never met – or never parted, We had ne’er been broken-hearted..”
Steve Harley says he was walking on air during the production of this work of art. I was certainly walking on air upon first hearing it. Have a listen yourself, and join me on cloud nine.
www.steveharley.com

THE LEFT BANKE
Walk Away Renee/Pretty
Ballerina

These tracks were originally recorded in 1966/67. Now they have returned in a new century on a cd format so that we can all travel through time and space to enjoy them again (and again). The cd opens with one of my favourite songs ever – Pretty Ballerina. It is the quirkiest, most enigmatic, ethereal, and whimsical that I have known in my lifetime. “Was I surprised? Yeah. Was I surprised? No, not at all…”
It is hard to move past track one, but we must. This album is eclectic like few others. The band was obviously influenced by many genres of music and borrowed from the best of the best. It is a trait that the Beatles used to great effect. They loved classics as well as classical, country as well as country/western, pop as well as rock, experimental as well as musical theatre. The Left Banke had a similar approach.
Want something with a hint of the Baroque? Try I’ve Got Something on My Mind or Barterers and Their Wives. Feel like a rave dance tune? Go to I Haven’t Got the Nerve. Hungry for some country sounds? Fast forward to What Do You Know? Feel like rocking? Listen to Evening Gown and then ask yourself this question: ‘When did bands quit screaming and why did they quit screaming?
Of course, the big hit from this album is Walk Away Renee. It is one of three tunes written for the same girl. It is a classic that has never gone away. Listen to the lush tune but listen, too, to the lyrics. Lyrics written by a 16-year-old boy. It is total heartbreaking bliss.
Put the CDon “repeat” and, as the song says: “Just close your eyes, yeah…”
Available at Amazon etc.
Relentless riffing
and narrations

By Alan Clayson

THE CRAVATS
Hoorahland (Overground)
www.overgroundrecords.co.uk

Formed the best part of half-a-century ago, a reconstituted Cravats, punkish pride of the West Midlands, have followed up 2017’s Dustbin Of Sound with an offering riven with frequently relentless riffing under-
pinning narrations from now white-bearded mainstay (and lyricist) Theo Shend.
It rangesfrom the almost conversational monotone of ‘Trees & Birds & Flowers & Sky’ to, more often, an angered shout of verse – printed in the accompanying booklet – of such literary resonance that it works as poetry when divorced from music that sticks mostly to common time.
‘Now The Magic Has Gone’, however, is a waltz hinged on Shend duetting with Jello Biafra from The Dead Kennedys, a combo of similar stylistic bent – at the beginning anyway.
Nevertheless, The Cravats were distinguished from other such acts via recruitment of a saxophonist – Svor Naan, still in the ranks of an ensemble that, overall, is more PiL than Pistols these days, though the title track is reminiscent of Trout Mask Replica-period Captain Beefheart – and cheerless ‘Oh How We Laughed’ instrumental might be as far from 1978’s ranted ‘Gordon’, their maiden 45, as any fan then could ever have imagined.