12/31/09

In My Time of Dying

 The last blog post of 2009 is a good one. It's about "In my time of dying", an old american folk/blues song. It's writer is unknown.
What an amazing song. It keeps fascinating me. A cover/interpretation of this song is part of the first track on my 2nd album The Desert Holds A Flower (Tutl, 2009). The track is called "In my time of dying/There is a garden".

The other day I experienced renewed excitement about the song. A friend posted a youtube clip on Facebook that blew me away. The clip is from guitar documentary It Might Get Loud, featuring awesome axe heroes Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin etc.), The Edge (U2) and Jack White (The White Stripes etc.) In the clip the three of them are jamming the Led Zeppelin version of "In my time of dying". It's amazing. But we'll get back to that later. Let's have ourselves a short history lesson, shall we? :) Let's look at some of the versions that exist;

The first recorded trace of the song was performed by black American singer Blind Willie Johnson sometime in the late 30’s. This version is called “Jesus Goin' A-Make Up My Dying Bed” and the melody is in the guitar with a different vocal. Some of the lyrics are similar. Blind Willie Johnsons music is heartfelt and breathtaking;


The next known recorded example that I know of is from Bob Dylans first album back in 1962. It's this version that is the backbone of all later versions. The guitar playing is spot on and the vocal is so full of...I don't know what it is full of. Just listen. An amazing performance from a young man who is already old at this point;

                           
Then we have the full blown band version, courtesy of English rock heroes (some might say dinosaurs) Led Zeppelin. From the double album Physical Graffiti (1975). 10 minutes of pure jammin':


Excellent musicians in Led Zeppelin. But then came punk music which shook things up a bit and in this next version you can definitely hear that punk has come and gone. The band is Spacemen 3 and they are one of the finest psychedelic/noise rock acts from the 80's. Jason Spaceman later formed Spiritualized. Their version of "In my time of dying" (titled "Come down easy") originally appeared on the bands debut album Sound of Confusion (1986) but the version I'm posting here is from a collection of Sound of Confusion demos and outtakes, titled Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To (1990).
This version is darker and more drug oriented than the others. Somehow they manage to combine the gospel element and the drug element and somehow they make it work. Say what you will. There is no denying the pure hypnotic power of the music.


Fast forward some 20 years and up next we have Martin L. Gore. Martin Gore is the primary songwriter of Depeche Mode and there are so many examples of his genius songcraft in the bands discography. Martin has released two solo albums, Counterfeit and Counterfeit2, both featuring covers/interpretations of some of his favourite songs. The opening track on Counterfeit2 is "In my time of dying" and it was actually this version that introduced me to the song (with Dylans version following soon afterwards).
I'm guessing that Martin knows his way around Blind Willie Johnson and American folk music in general, because the Depeche Mode song "John The Revelator" is based on the old spiritual of the same name, which is also found on any Blind Willie Johnson comp you might find. And the general "bluesy" character of much DM material also supports this little theory of mine :) Here's the amazing album version where Martin delivers a fascinating electronic soundscape for this old folk/blues classic:


And a video clip of a live performance which is pretty good:


And then, last but not least; the clip that made me dig the song all over again; The mighty instrumental guitar jam of Page, The Edge and White. Hard to tell who's the greatest axeman here. Funny to see and hear how clearly defined their individual styles are and how they work together in what appears to be an impromptu jam situation. Dig it:


Wow...

And there it is again; "In my time of dying". A song that has lived its own life for many decades now. A song that keeps popping up in different places. What sends shivers down my spine about the song is that the narrator seems to be someone who is truly homeless in some "existential" sense; he's standing outside of civilization looking in. The stars are his blanket and the stones on the ground are his pillow. A bit like Lucky Luke :)

I'm also proud to say that we managed to do a version of the song for my 2nd album that was released earlier this year. Even a version that I think does the song justice, since it's not just a straight forward cover, but also an interpretation or re-imagining of sorts. I decided to place this song first on the album since it marks out a journey. A place where things began. I prefer the stuff that cuts to the bone and says it out loud. There's no time for chewing the fat. And it's also the oldest song on the album. Way older than me.



Thank you for 2009 with wishes for a good 2010. Rock on.


IN MY TIME OF DYING
Well, in my time of dying don't want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Well, well, well
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus gonna make up, Jesus gonna make up
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.

Well, meet me Jesus, meet me, meet me
in the middle of the air
If these wings should fail to me,
Lord, won't you meet me with another pair
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Well, well, well
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus gonna make up, Jesus gonna make up
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.

Lord, in my time of dying don't want nobody to cry
All I want you to do is take me when I die
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Well, well, well
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus gonna make up, Jesus gonna make up
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.

12/23/09

GusGus - 24/7


Been listening quite a lot to GusGus's new album 24/7 lately. It's very different from their earlier releases. Mostly because there's no house this time around, only techno. The album is released on German techno label Kompakt and you can hear why; sparse and minimal arrangements, bare bone beats, Doepfer synth sequences, vocals and what I perceive to be Space Echo treatments which add a kind of dubby quality to the sound.

Apparently the girls left along with the house music, since this (to my knowledge) is the first all male album release from GusGus.
Three guys made this music and you can hear it. Not that we're talking some kind of macho music, no, it's more subdued than that. What I mean is that there is a certain "masculine" mood to the six minimalistic techno tracks that make up the album and this works to great effect. The music is dark, at times very dark, and the lyrics seem indignant and resentful. The chorus of first track "Thin Ice" goes "I feel like dancing on the thinnest ice" and next track "Hateful" says it out loud; "I fight fire with fire when I'm in this state, If I can't find love, I guess I'll hate". Note that he doesn't say that he wants to hate, but that hate is a possible state to end up in when in the absence of love.

Well, all days aren't that great. Some days even suck. Big time. And GusGus seem completely honest about this. Third track "On The Job", which contains the album title ("Twenty four seven!" shouted by excellent singer/crooner Daniel Águst) in its lyrics, circulates around this kind of everyday tiredness. It's easy to read the recession and the complete screw-up of the Icelandic economy into the track and the album as a whole, but let's not get ahead of ourselves... what CAN be said is that we all relate to this mood every now and then; sometimes things aren't that great and sometimes you just do what you do. Sometimes it's a bloody mess and that's all there's to it.

I'm probably sounding as if the album is extremely bleak, and it is kind of bleak in places, but don't worry; there's also light in there. You just have to kick the darkness a bit to find it. The lyrics might not be hopeful but there is aural redemption in the never-ending machine beat (most tracks clock in at the 8 to 11 minute mark) that keeps on going when everything else screeches to a halt. Add to that the transcendence of the artful tweaks and squelches of the Doepfer synth that is the backbone of the album.

Final track "Add this song" adds a brighter tone to the album. "Add this song to your heart, let it beat in your chest, real hard". I love how the synth chords are slightly out of synch with the beat. Kind of human. Flawed. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it. Nevertheless it's a great track.

I've walked the cold and police ridden streets of Copenhagen (police ridden because of the climate summit which most definitely screeched to an indifferent halt) with this in my iPod and it's the perfect soundtrack. Warmth bleeds through the cold surface as the album progresses. That's something to acknowledge. A recommendable album if you're in the mood for it (i.e if you're grumpy and tired of winter ... huh huh :) )
Do yourself a favour and check out this album. Along with GusGus' back catalogue. It's worth it.

A few tracks from the album in chronological order:





First single "Add This Song" with a video to go with it:


"Add This Song" remixed by Gluteus Maximus (Jack Schidt and President Bongo). From the "Add This Song" single:

12/10/09

Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999)

Nakrar kular soul/funk plátur komu út í 70'unum. Millum tær allar kulastu telist Super Fly (1972) hjá Curtis Mayfield. Plátan er soundtrack til blaxploitation filmin av sama navni. Guy Parks Jnr. filmstjórnaði. Ron O'Neil leikar høvuðsleiklutin sum svarti kokain dealarin Youngblood Priest, ið roynir at sleppa sær burturúr drøgg ídnaðinum. Filmurin er so sum so (sá hann á TV1000 einaferð), men soundtrackið er fantastiskt!

Curtis syngur ótrúliga feitt, skrivar feit løg og alt er superbt produserað og arrangerað. Løgini svinga sum ber ólukkan. Filmurin er ambivalentur viðvíkjandi drøgg og ghetto lívsstílinum, men Curtis er púra greiður í sínum kritikki, og tekstirnir snúgva seg um fátækradømi og rúsevnismisnýtslu. Og sum sagt; tað svingar. Sum ber ólukkan.

Ikki so nógv møsn afturat, bara nøkur feit løg av plátuni:

"Pusherman" við útvarps intro frá Curtis:


Fyrst 2 min við pimp dialogi, og síðani "Pusherman". Eitt sindur skjótari útgáva av sanginum:


Eitt hitt av Super Fly plátuni; "Freddie's Dead" - ivist onga løtu í at Lenny Krawitz hevur lurtað heilt fitt eftir Curtis. Tjekka t.d vokalin:


Heitislagið "Superfly":


Friður verið við minninum um Curtis Mayfield. May he funk in piece!

12/1/09

Jóla Bob!

Mynd: Húsin til Christmas In The Heart hjá Bob Dylan

Ok, ok, viðgingið; fyrstu ferð eg frætti at jólapláta frá Bob Dylan var ávegis, dugdi eg ikki ordiliga at ímyndað mær at tvær so ymiskar støddir sum Bob og jólaplátur kundu sameinast. Tað skuldu tó ikki nógvar gjøgnumlurtingar til, áðrenn tað gjørdist sólarklárt; jamen sjálvandi, virðiligar jólaplátur finnast jú eisini. Ein hevur bara lyndið til at gloyma tær í riðilinum av elendigum og klisjé proppaðu jólaútgávum, ið eru útkomnar millum ár og dag.

Tær góðu jólapláturnar hava týdning. Hvat høvdu jólini t.d verið uttan jólapláturnar hjá Jim Reeves? Jim Reeves syngjandi jólasangir og -sálmar er hálvgum mestsum = jól. Ein føroyskur variantur kundi verið jólabandið hjá Alex Bærendsen.

Trickið haldi eg er at raka okkurt slag av "jólahýri" í tónleikinum (ólukksáliga "fluffy" hugtak, eg veit), og so eisini hava onkran egnan "vinkul" uppá tað. Ikki bara jólaklisjéir, men eisini egnar tulkingar. Hetta haldi eg Bob og co. koma væl frá. Ikki tí, tónleikurin er sum so rættiliga siðbundin jólatónleikur, skilt á tann hátt at tað ljóðar "jólasligt" uppá gamlan manér. Eitt sindur sum at vera staddur í eini jólapyntaðari gøtu í New York í 50'unum. Soleiðis hoyri eg tað í øllum førum.

Eisini er tað stuttligt við eyðkent hásu og grælandi røddini hjá Bob í hesum samanhanginum, við peppaðum kórdamum, einum serstakliga væl spælandi backing bólki og jólahýri um alt fimmoyrað. Veit ikki um tað er ov spekulativt at siga soleiðis, men eg kundi ímyndað mær at hetta somuleiðis er ein háttur at pilka eitt sindur við alvorliga og dekan ov stirvna image'ið, ið Bob tykist at hava millum mong. Ein máti at siga; "hey, eg kann eisini fara í jólahúgvu og spæla hugnaligan tónleik. Tað er ikki bara eksistentielt djúphugsni, lívsins stóru spurningar og ramasti álvari non stopp!" Ikki óhugsandi (hetta skal tó heldur ikki skiljast sum um Christmas In The Heart bara er hugni og fjantan við nissuhúgvum, tí álvari og djúphugsni er sanniliga eisini uppi í leikinum).

Óansæð, so er vælgerandi endamálið, ið plátan er partur av, kul í sjálvum sær. Heimasíðan hjá Bob sigur soleiðis: 
MORE THAN 4 MILLION MEALS TO BE PROVIDED DURING HOLIDAYS
Bob Dylan has released a brand new album of holiday songs, Christmas In The Heart. All of the artist's U.S. royalties from sales of these recordings will be donated to Feeding America, guaranteeing that more than four million meals will be provided to more than 1.4 million people in need in this country during this year's holiday season. Bob Dylan is also donating all of his future U.S. royalties from this album to Feeding America in perpetuity.
Additionally, the artist is partnering with two international charities to provide meals during the holidays for millions in need in the United Kingdom and the developing world, and will be donating all of his future international royalties from Christmas In The Heart to those organizations in perpetuity.

Eitt annað sum eisini er kul, er at Bob hevur lati seg interviewað í desembur útgávuni í blaði teirra heimleysu, ið altjóða felagsskapurin INSP samskipar. Blaðið kemur út altjóða, verður selt av heimleysum úti á gøtuni og hevur ymisk heiti í teim ymsu londunum. Eg eri staddur í Danmark og her eitur tað Hus Forbi. So keyp eitt eintak av Hus Forbi (ella tað sum blaðið nú einafer eitur, har sum tú ert stødd/staddur. Haldi ikki tað fæst í Føroyum tó), og les hvat Bobburin hevur uppá hjartað viðvíkjandi teim heimleysu og nýggju jólaplátuni. Ognað tær evt. eisini Christmas In The Heart, ið er ein habil jólapláta og liður í vælgerandi endamáli. Nakrir sangir:

 Video til "Must Be Santa"; nógv mest peppaði sangurin á útgávuni. Hohoho!


Superbur jólahugni og ein stuttlig mynd eisini:


"O'Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)", enntá við intro á latíni! :)


So niðurstøðan er greið; eitt av betru ískoytunum innan jólaplátu sjangruna (um tað er ein sjangra), ið nokk skal vera tikin fram aftur komandi ár. Kanska ikki heilt í Jim Reeves flokki, men á góðari leið.