Monday, February 19, 2007

A HERRING and A DOMINO (Anne and Anna)

It's Anna Domino and Annie Herring.
And rather than do a Lawrence Welk impression by introducing "Anna one, Annie two," let's get the facts out of the way, fast. YOU may not have heard of either, but they have been in the music biz for 20 (Domino) and 30 (Herring) years now.

Herring is a Christian singer-songwriter, so chances are you'd know her if you feel more positive about Oral Roberts than oral sex. All her recordings are on Christian record labels, but don't label her a Jesus freak. Take the perky, pretty "Wild Child," from her very first album. It's faster than a pirouetting rodent and filled with the kind of free-wheeling glee that most will only get after an uplifting morning in church or an upshot of Summers' Eve.

Is it a sin to download this out of print bit of Herring? What would Jesus do?

Like many contemporary Christian singers Annie's lyrics are not always overt in referencing that Son of you-know-who. (Parenthetical note: the grand Rebecca St. James scored a massive contemporary Christian hit via "Me Without You," which SHE thought was about God. The songwriter, Martin Briley, was just writing a love song to a very real You. But the Lord moves in mysterious ways).

As sung very fast by A. Herring:

WILD CHILD I always wanted my life to look like the right side of a tapestry, a tapestry, But darkness was weaved in when I was conceived in iniquity. And now I wanna be cut free... You took me out of hell when you tore through my veil And now all I can do is just look at you And be me for the first time. I feel like a child that's never gone wild. And I feel pretty in my soul The darkness is gone And what keeps me hangin' on is you. And that's all I want..."

As for Anna Domino, she's had a cult following for twenty years, which means she can pretty much walk around unnoticed. Her real name is the less ecclesiastical Anna Taylor. Her style of indie-pop, at least on the cut you're about to hear, puts her somewhere into the Joni Mitchell category of someone cool, literate and aloof.
Born in Tokyo, raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she gravitated to Manhattan and worked with various indie rock bands, releasing her first full length album in 1986. "Own Kind" is from that vinyl.

She has since gone on to record some interesting stuff with her husband Michel Delory (check out Favourite Songs from the Twilight Years 1984-90). In 1999 the duo re-named themselves Snakefarm and released "Songs from My Funeral," filled with traditional folk songs and murder ballads.

OWN KIND Here we are polite well informed and mannerly All our boys and girls have money and enough to eat And weave a thread through the whole community Showing how we value heredity And what it means to belong to a fatherland Know the aborigine, colourfull but out of hand And now and then others come and threaten us And we fall back on forces we can trust And we shake our fists at the posters on the barroom wall We display our public grievance In the editorial page or else we paint it on a subway hall. We look upon the world but we're not quite part of it All the trouble there surely isn't our fault All the pain and hate and the needless punishment We've grown out of that and we're quite proud of it And something else that should well bear mentioning Once we were on top fashionable and interesting And we held sway over half this ship of fools Subject to our values myths and rules We know we can't afford to lose the past So full of moral lessons we thought would always last But now so many years without a war We have a generation A generation rotten to the core.

Instant song download ANNA DOMINO

Instant song download ANNIE HERRING

JIMMY CAMPBELL - Completely Baked

Liverpool's Jimmy Campbell has died (January 4-1944-February 12, 2007). He once said, "A lot of my songs are cries for help, and I suppose that's why they didn't make the grade." Unlike his contemporaries Don McLean and Gilbert O'Sullivan, Campbell wasn't commercial with his romantic tunes, solemn rock numbers or bleakly timid brand of self-pitying ballads.

On the cover of "Half Baked," he's the tragic clown, but whether he was trying to be a shoegazer version of Anthony Newley or just a rival to other grim singer songwriters of the day (Andy Bown, Matthew Fisher, etc.) he never even got a U.S. record deal.
Campbell's frustrations began when he was part of The Panthers, a group that played on the same bill in 1962 as another Liverpool group, The Beatles. Two years later the struggling Panthers appeared on the radio, but the announcer introduced them as The Kirkbys, because that's the district where the band was from. The band changed their name to The Kirkbys, and recorded "It's a Crime" on RCA. They even toured with Herman's Hermits. Some of Campbell's songs were recorded by The Merseys ("Dreamin'" and "Penny in my Pocket").
When the times turned psychedelic, the band became 23rd Turnoff and Deram released "Michaelangelo." Next, Campbell was in Rockin' Horse and ultimately solo'd with less than successful albums from 1969-1972. His later years seem to be a cloud of too much smoking and drinking.
His death was a surprise for those who didn't know he was even ill, but I always thought he was pretty ill, and your download of two pity-me tracks from "Half Baked" should prove it. This is not a mock; we all want some sympathy now and then, and many a favorite song of ours is a woe-is-me lament, from "Alone Again Naturally" to The Beatles' "Girl" or REM's "Everybody Hurts."
On "Dulcie, It's December" he says: "I've just crawled out the bath, I'm shining and clean like a summer raindrop." At least, I hope this is a phone call and he's not in her bedroom. He says he's not as neurotic as he used to be: "What used to bother me then doesn't bother me now."
Next, "Forever Grateful," once again has him begging for "a helping hand" because "Hope no longer spreads its wings to help me through the day."
Jimmy Campbell is feeling very sorry for himself on "Dulcie" and "Forever Grateful," but now that he's dead, you can feel sorry for him, too.
I went to my shelf to get some vintage whine for you. From the original vinyl, no Rabidshare, an instant download,
Two Half Baked Songs by Jimmy Campbell.

MURDER BALLAD - Judy Henske Peggy Seeger

It's a killer: Rhino Handmade has just released "Big Judy," a 2 CD overview of Judy Henske's legendary career. I will buy it even though it's expensive. $40 for a lifetime of Judy is money well spent, compared to a half hour massage, a few games of bowling or one bad meal and a few drinks one night.
Henske, her mighty oak height and powerful voice making Janis Joplin seem like a willow in comparison, belted folk, sang jazz (on "The Judy Garland Show") and made a legendary psych-rock-folk album called "Farewell Aldebaran." Her offbeat humor earned her the title "Queen of the Beatniks." She was also the inspiration for "Annie Hall" (Judy and Woody Allen made an unlikely pair, but they were a combo for a while. They appeared together in an obscure issue of the magazine HELP; the photo of Judy on this page is from that issue.)
"Little Romy" isn't on the 2 CD set. It's a nice example of her ill folkie twisted humor. Most artists adapted old songs and modernized them. Here, Judy updated "Omawise."
Since I know you're the scholarly type, I've included Peggy Seeger's traditional version so you can compare the two. Seeger (half-sister to Pete, wife to the late Ewan MacColl) went on to write one of the best modern folk songs of all time, "Ballad of Spring Hill" which has been covered by everyone from Peter Paul and Mary to U2.
Two murder ballads!
OMAWISE Peggy Seeger
These are non-Rabidshare files, instant downloads. For more information (and product) on these two living legends, visit the dot coms for Judy Henske and Peggy Seeger.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The South African Dead Baby Song

It's the first anniversary of the ILLFOLKS blog.

What better way to celebrate than with an ill folk song?

"Siembamba" is sort of the South African version of "Rockabye Baby." We don't mind crooning to our kids about a baby hauled into a tree, and then falling to the ground when a limb breaks. Guaranteed, baby breaks a few limbs, too.

And so in South Africa, there's an equally charming old folk song called "Siembamba."
The genteel, nearly forgotten husband and wife team of Marais and Miranda recorded it, both studio and live versions.
Goodwill ambassadors for South Africa, and fluent in songs involving Dutch and African languages, Marais and Miranda popularized "We Are Marching To Pretoria," "The Zulu Warrior," and many other songs nobody knows anymore. You can find most in the dollar bin of any record store that is still in business, and in thrift shops all over the world.
South African Josef Marais (Nov 17 1905 - Apr 27 1978) and Amsterdam native Miranda (Rosa Lily Odette Baruch de la Pardo, Jan 9 1912 - Apr 20 1986) were kindly people. They used to sing a folk song about "Johnny with the Wooden Leg," but after the war, and mindful of injuries suffered by soldiers, they updated the lyric to "Johnny with the bandy leg." They dressed like classical concert artists, and almost never performed anything that could be considered tasteless.
Almost never.
For any of you who are Dutch/South African, you'll recognize these lines:
Siembamba - mamma se kindjie
Siembamba - mamma se kindjie
Draai sy nek om gooi hom in die sloot
Trap op sy kop dan is hy dood
The rest of you will just have to download this ditty to hear the English translation.
And so, with over-population a threat to kill us if global warming doesn't, the ILLFOLKS blog happily presents....
The delightful dead baby lullaby SIEMBAMBA.

18 Versions of STAGGER LEE

They all did it: Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Wilson Pickett, Pa Boone, Theodis Ealey, Sleepy LaBeef, Nick Cave, Downchild Blues Band, Grateful Dead, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Wyman, Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan, Mississippi John Hurt, Ma Rainey, Elvis Presley, PJ Proby, and John Fogerty. They weren't the only ones, either.
Like Mack the Knife, Stagger Lee was not someone to be admired, yet the song about him is so cool people can't help boppin' and smilin' when they hear it.
Yes, there was a Stagger Lee.
Was there a shooting in a bar? And did it involve a Stetson hat?
Well...the famous song is rooted in truth.

The story was reported in an 1895 issue of the St. Louis Globe Democrat (what, you were expecting me to quote some crap from Not on THIS blog). Here's how they reported it:
"William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o'clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Sheldon, a carriage driver. Lyons and Sheldon were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. The discussion drifted to politics, and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Sheldon's hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Sheldon withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. Lee Sheldon is also known as 'Stag' Lee"
Yes, it's all right there. Even the nickname, "Stag" Lee.
Billy Lyons died from the gunshot wound. Stag's first trial was rousing and raucous, and featured the antics of Mr. Dryden, Stag's opium-addicted lawyer. The trial ended with a hung jury, but the second time, sans the colorful Mr. Dryden, turned out badly for 'Stag" Lee, and his sentence was 25 years. He got out early, went back to crime, pistol-whipped a thug, and was returned to state prison where he died in 1912, aged 46.
Scholars have since discovered that Stagger Lee Sheldon was actually Lee SHELTON, probably a pimp more than a gambler, who was born in Texas, on March 16, 1865. His posse was called The Stags. An early folk song about him started like this:
"Staggerlee was a good man
Everybody he did love
The pimps and whores all swore by Stag -
By the everlasting stars above..."
In 1911 Guy B Johnson published a version of the song in the Journal of American Folklore. Frank Hutchison recorded a version in 1927 and Mississippi John Hurt did one in 1928. Along the way, others made free and easy adaptations, some with fresh lyrics or a different melody.
The song kicked around until Archibald (stage name for Leon T. Gross) recorded a version in 1950. The record impressed a Korean soldier by the name of Lloyd Price. He decided to use the song in his act: "While entertaining the troops, I had put together a little play based on it. I'd have soldiers acting out the story while I sang it.".
Price recorded his version of "Stagger Lee" on the B-side of a single called "You Need Love," and disk jockeys literally flipped for it...turning the B side into a hit. It was Price who came up with the enthusiastic "Go Stagger Lee" chorus chant, and that cute doo-wop intro, setting the scene with a yellow moon and leaves tumbling down. He placed the gambling outside "in the dark," then brought the argument indoors to the bar.
When suits felt the song was too violent for "American Bandstand," Price recorded a sanitized new version with a happy ending. That version is, fortunately, pretty obscure now. Not so obscure is the home of Stag Lee Shelton (911 North 12th Street in St. Louis) or the grave of Billy Lyons at St. Peter's Cemetery. They are tourist attractions.
Lloyd Price's version presents Stagger Lee as a gambler who is pissed off at losing all his money to his cheating friend Billy ("Stagger Lee threw seven, Billy swore that he threw eight"). Other versions have made him more heroic. During the Black Panther era of the late 60's, Bobby Seale declared, "Stagolee was a bad nigger off the block and didn't take shit from nobody. Malcolm X at one time was an illegitimate hustler...So symbolically, at one time he was Stagolee...To me, Stagolee was the true grassroots."
Nick Cave's recent recording of the tale is ultra-violent and homo-erotic. He says: "The final act of brutality, where the great Stagger Lee blows the head off Billy . . . while he is committing fellatio [was] especially attractive...There's a verse to our version that goes, 'I'm the kind of cocksucker that would crawl over 50 good pussies to get to one fat boy's asshole,' which I heard on an amazing talking blues song by a guy who, in the song, introduces himself as Two-time Slim. I've always thought that was a groovy line so I just threw it in for good measure...I like the way the simple, almost naive traditional murder ballad has gradually become a vehicle that can happily accommodate the most twisted acts of deranged machismo. Just like Stag Lee himself, there seems to be no limits to how evil this song can become."
Nice guys don't get 18 versions of a song about 'em, because nice guys generally aren't prone to killing people over a hat. That's the stuff of legend, and a touch of wistful admiration. There's allure to being a "bad man," and Stag was one bad, bad cat. Hell, he not only put a hole in Billy, it went through and broke the bartender's glass! Hmm. Single bullet theory...was Stagger Lee really the lone gunman? How old IS Phil Spector??
The night was clear, and the moon was yellow. And the leaves came tumblin' down!


The motto at Frankie Laine's website: "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over."
And it isn't, even though Frankie died on February 6th, at the age of 93. His unique stylings will continue to amaze and amuse. Time may dim his luster a bit, just as Al Jolson and "Swanee" play to a smaller crowd, but for those of us with a taste for bombast, heroics and yes, a bit of corn, we'll still be playing "Call of the Wild Goose," "Mule Train," and "Jezebel," and feel at least agnostic rather than atheist in hearing "I Believe."
Francesco LoVecchio was born on March 30, 1913, and in his lifetime 21 of his records went gold and he sold over 250 million discs. If he had remained Frank LoVecchio, none of it might have happened, or at best he would be remembered as another Italian pop singer.
But as Frankie Laine, he emerged via Mercury Records as a soulful balladeer, and some figured from his style and his name that he might be black. He sang "Shine," after all, along with "Georgia On My Mind" and "God Bless the Child." He also sang numbers that now seem like soundtracks to noir movies, notably "Satan Wears a Satin Gown."
He really defined himself by three immensely insane singles at Mercury: "Cry of the Wild Goose," "Mule Train" and "Swamp Girl," each of them as lurid and evocative as the cover of a bad paperback novel. These songs gave "Frankie Laine" an identity. He was America, the guts of the country from the bayous of Louisiana up through the parched dirt of Texas. While he would have a hit here and there with "That's My Desire" or "I Believe," and issued many romantic albums for Columbia, he was better known for belting out "Rawhide" and the story-songs for "High Noon" and "Gunfight at the OK Corral."
As ludicrous as it might be, he melded his operatic and Italian tendencies to these gritty ballads, and like Roy Orbison, was somehow able to make a theatrical run up and down the scales into something both pretty and masculine. No ordinary country singer could've or would've flourished the ending of "Gunfight at the OK Corral" the way Frankie did. He got away with it like a bandit. Even the album covers where this guy was dressing up in cowboy outfits and brandishing a gun seemed authentic rather than ridiculous.
To cap off his career, he gave an exciting, serious rendition of "Blazing Saddles," knowing full well that the lyrics made no sense and Mel Brooks was filming a comedy.
I wrote to Mr. Laine some time ago, expressing my admiration for his work, and I'm glad I did. I'm glad he responded, too. The man was still active at 90, and he had loyal fans and a loving family and a long life. It takes a very special performer to make a hit out of some of the tracks that Laine became famous for.
If you want to see him put his heart and soul into a song, watch him deliver "Lord, You Gave Me a Mountain" on David Steinberg's "Music Scene" TV show (on DVD). If you've admired Frankie Laine you probably have a lot of his CDs, and thank you for buying them. It let him know in his 70's and 80's and even 90's, that he was not forgotten, and that the bottom line was the royalty check that proved it.
He never got the respect he deserved. He covered a lot of territory, from jazz to pop to C&W and inspirational songs, and he was as effective with intimate songs as with the bombastic ones. Tony Bennett's practically The Pope these days; I wish sometime in the past decade, somebody brought Frankie Laine center stage for a worthy tribute.
I've chosen "Swamp Girl" for you, because she straddles the fragrant bog between Laine's romantic and jazz side, and his often blinding flare for the dramatic.
He was a great American artist.