Sunday, June 29, 2008

Agincourt Carol

I'm going to cheat here. This is a version of the "Agincourt Carol" sung by June Tabor and Maddy Prior. Maddy Prior sang with Steeleye Span and has had an extensive solo career. She teamed with June Tabor for two albums under the name Silly Sisters, the first being one of the best folk albums of the 70s. This from their second album, No More to the Dance, which was made a decade later.

The Agincourt Carol is a 15th century hymn celebrating the English victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt, during the Hundred Year's War. Agincourt was one of the the most lopsided battles of all time. The heavily outnumbered English slaughtered the flower of the French nobility. Because of woods flanking the field of battle the French cavalry was unable to flank the English archers. So they charged headlong across a muddy field at them. They were unable to get through the palings, pointed sticks implanted in the ground facing forward, to get at the archers, who, however, could shoot the French. The muddy field was churned by the cavalry into an impassable morass, so that the French infantry could not cross the field. Thousands of French were killed, including the Constable of France and three dukes and over 100 other members of the French nobility. Hundreds of prisoners were taken including the Marshall of France and the Duke of Orleans. Estimates of English casualties range from about a hundred to about five hundred. The Battle of Agincourt is the centerpiece of Shakespeare's Henry V

Tabor and Prior sing here a truncated version of the Carol, singing only the first and last verses.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Willy O'Winsbury

Sandy Denny, June Tabor, Maddy Prior. When I think of the women of the British folk scene, these are the names that come to mind. I always seem to forget Jacquie McShee of Pentangle. Pentangle often went off in weird directions with their music, but as this song shows, they could do traditional quite well.

I first heard this song from Ed Miller, of Austin. It is one of my favorites and this is a great rendition

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tam Lin

So last week was country music. This week is British Folk Rock, especially as sung by women

This is one of my all time favorite songs, and my absolute favorite version of it. This is the song that hooked me on Sandy Denny.

The song itself is a major example of the dark, wild side of Faerie that Tolkien wrote about. Aside from "Thomas the Rhymer" and Keats' "La Belle Dame sans Merci", there is scarcely a better work on the dangers mortals find in meddling in Faerie.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Great Gate of Kiev

Again, classical music should make your ears bleed.

Seriously, listen to these nice fat chords. It's all brass. How could a trombone player not love that?

This performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Reiner.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

El Paso

I'm in a country mood this week I guess.

We play both kinds, Country and Western.

This is the best Western ballad ever written, not a lot more can be said.

Not many songs generate sequels, and most sequels aren't very good. This generated two. The first "Feleena" tells the story from Feleena's point of view.

The second "El Paso City" is different. It is set in the present. The narrator, while flying over El Paso, tells of hearing the song and the deep connection he feels to it, suggesting that he was the cowboy in the song in a past life.

The only copy I found is a live version with some serious audio problems, sadly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Take This Job and Shove It.

Note, nothing has happened at work recently that makes my attitude towards my job more negative.

Everyone knows this song, or at least the title line. "Take this job and shove it, I ain't working here no more." Everyone had wanted to say this. Few of us ever do, including the narrator of this song. That's what makes this song so brilliant and tragic. The chorus sounds like a glorious barbaric yawlp, but the verses destroy that illusion. Like many of us, the narrator is leading his life of quiet desperation. You can't do this sort of stuff with Rock or Pop.

This song was originally by David Allen Coe, but was most famously covered by Johnny Paycheck. The Dead Kennedys did a version as well.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On the Road Again

For my Simon and Garfunkel post I almost used "Homeward Bound", a song I really like. But at the last moment I realized that it was a whiny "life's rough on the road" song, and I wasn't in the mood. It seems that every band and singer sooner or later writes a song about how tough life on the road is. I don't doubt them, I wouldn't won't to do it, but it doesn't really connect with the rest of us who live lives tethered to one location. And then there is Willie Nelson. He looks at the life of the traveling musician and says "Oh Boy!"

I am also reminded by a story I heard recently. One of my co-workers is a rather interesting 19 year old girl who is big into the "underground" music scene. She promotes a lot of concerts and bands, and has been for several years, despite her youth. Let's call her Music Girl. Well music girl has some friends in a band that were given the opportunity to do a mini-tour opening for Willie. They, of course, jumped at the opportunity. Willie even invite them to ditch the van and ride his tour bus. How cool is that? Well... It turns out that Willie has two states of being; sleeping and playing his guitar. He doesn't sleep much. After ten hours on the bus listening to Willie doodle in the corner, they were ready to scream. And they only had ten days left.

When Willie sings this song, he evidently means it, and really doesn't undersand how anyone could feel any other way.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For Emily Whenever I Find Her

What did Art bring to Simona and Garfunkel? The obvious answer is that voice. Paul was the songwriter, and in the long run that was the more marketable talent. But despite his genius, Paul's voice is pedestrian. Art's voice can soar in way that is seldom heard in pop music.

This is a song that sneaks up on you, it is almost background music at the beginning, but by the end you are can't help but pay attention. It's not one of the most widely known songs by S & G, but it is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sweet Child O Mine

I once had an argument with my younger brother about this song. He maintained that, because the guitar work in the song was not technically difficult, that it meant that the guitarist was really not that good. That may be so, but the opening guitar, despite its simplicity is quite simply one of the most effective opening riffs ever. Great song.

Wild Mountain Thyme

If there ever was a "standard" folk song, this is it. Also known as "Will Ye Go Lassie, Go", it is widely sung by Scottish, English, Irish and American singers. My favorite version is by the Battlefield Band, which, sadly, I could not find. Despite that I found an embarrassment of riches, having found versions by the The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem , Sandy Denny, Dick Gaughan, Kate Rusby, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Long John Baldry, Don Williams, The Silencers, and the High Kings, amongst others.

I have gone with The Corries here, in art because when all is said and done, this is a Scottish song. The Corries were one of the prominent acts in the Scottish Folk Revival.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Radar Love

What the hell exactly is Radar Love? Whatever it is, this is the song most likely to get me a speeding ticket.

There is another interpretation of Radar Love that my brother, who used to be Air Defense Artillery, might like. Explosions are fun.

Friday, June 6, 2008

G.I. Jive, D-Day Dodgers

Today is the anniversary of the Normandy invasions. Rather than put up something predictably patriotic, I thought I would put up a piece that the boys listened to in '44. Sorry Mike, it's more swing. One of the popular tunes of the day was the G.I. Jive in a version performed by Louis Jordan. I couldn't find that version, so here's one by Johnny Mercer.

Lest we forget, there was another European front in WW II, in Italy which had been active since 1943. Many of those troops, especially the British, felt that the Italian front was ignored by the public after the Normandy landings. "The D-Day Dodgers", set to the tune of Lili Marlene was their theme song. The Italian campaign was fiercely fought, and this song is bitterly ironic in a way that Gen-X, the ironic generation, can never hope to approach.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sing, Sing, Sing

This song defines Swing Music. All else is commentary. Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Harry James. Does it get any better?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Witnesses' Waltz

OK, this is not a great song, nor is the singer particularly good. I like the song anyway. It makes a bit of a subversive point, though. How, popular is the space program? One way of judging it by counting the number of people who come "to watch the spaceships take off and land"

This reminds of an incident from high school. Early in the space shuttle's history they always landed in California and took off in Florida. That meant that is had to be transported across country every time it flew. Not surprisingly, the modified jumbo jet that was used to transport it couldn't make it all the across the country without landing to refuel. Something about having a another vehicle strapped to its back decreased the fuel efficiency. NASA found an impressive variety of excuses to land the shuttle in a wide variety of mid-country airports. My senior year they landed at the Tulsa airport. Several of my space-minded friends and I made a mad dash across town after the school let out to see the thing come in and that taxi over to the spot where it was going to spend the night. We weren't the only ones. Hundreds of people showed up for the privilege of staring through a chain-link fence at the spacecraft strapped to the back of plane a hundred yards away. One of the coolest things I did when I was in school.

The song is by Leslie Fish, who is one of the greatest Filk song writers around. He is also responsible for many of the "Kiples" popular in the SCA, particularly "The Song of the Picts".

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bo Diddley

I had something else in mind for today, but when one of the founders of Rock and Roll passes, I have to take note.

Bo Diddley (1928 - 2008), RIP

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Battle of Evermore

UPDATE: I've changed the video

"The Battle of Evermore" has always been my favorite Led Zeppelin tune, has been since high school. In a nice bit of synchronicity a decade later I became interested in Celtic music and discovered the Fairport Convention/Steeleye Span school of folk rock. I became a big fan of Sandy Denny. A bit later I realized that the female voice on "The Battle of Evermore" was Sandy Denny. Sandy, is sadly no longer with us, but I was thinking about the current Robert Plant/Alison Krauss tour, and realized that Alison's voice would be quite good in "The Battle". It turns out that I am not the only that thinks so.

A lot has been made about the Tolkien references in Led Zeppelin. There are many videos combining footage from the LotR movies with this song. The Battle of Pellanor Fields is quite popular. There are websites that try to interpret Zeppelin songs as restatements of the story line of Lord of the Rings. These interpretations all seem forced to me. I think that Page and Plant used Tolkien as one of many sources for imagery, but that they were not explicitly writing songs about any particular mythos. The ring wraiths in black in the song are balanced by the non-Tolkienian Angels of Avalon. Everyone in the song is waiting for the Eastern Glow, that is the Dawn. In Tolkien the Eastern Glow was the fire of Mordor and something to feared or endured, not awaited. In the books when the glow of the sun did arrive it came from the West as the sun set below the darkness, or from the South, when the wind from the sea blew away the mirk of Mordor. (One of the few times in the LotR when you could claim that the Valar took an active role). These are brilliant songs, and they use the imagery created by Tolkien very well, much in the same way that earlier poets used the imagery of Classical mythology to paint images. An English band using the imagery from the Lord of the Rings to weave together songs comes close to to what Tolkien was aiming at when he wrote the Lord of the Rings, which was to create a English mythology.