Music-Folk Scene this week, listening to Planxty, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and Cat Power

7
1174

Planxty – ‘Planxty’  (1973)
The Irish band Planxty – four of the finest Irish musicians ever – recorded ‘Planxty’, their début album in 1976 (sometimes referred to as “the Black Album” because of its dark cover). 

This iconic group of Irishman profoundly captures the Emerald Isle – you can touch, smell, see and hear Ireland and the Irish in this album.  Planxty’s musicianship is stunningly tight – they didn’t have computers to correct mistakes, they didn’t need them.   The quintessential sound of traditional Irish music.

Planxty – ‘Planxty’  (1973)
The Irish band Planxty – four of the finest Irish musicians ever – recorded ‘Planxty’, their début album in 1976 (sometimes referred to as “the Black Album” because of its dark cover). 

This iconic group of Irishman profoundly captures the Emerald Isle – you can touch, smell, see and hear Ireland and the Irish in this album.  Planxty’s musicianship is stunningly tight – they didn’t have computers to correct mistakes, they didn’t need them.   The quintessential sound of traditional Irish music.

Christy Moore and Andy Irvine are perhaps the two finest Irish traditional male folk singers across the entirety of Irish traditional song – political ballads and revolutionary songs, love songs, songs of life – taking it to a level most others can only dream of.  This album is the first of a triumvirate of Planxty albums – 2 others (‘The Well Below the Valley’ and ‘After the Break’) will be reviewed in the not too distant future.

Planxty tap into a t’ousand years of history, making the relatively modern song ‘Only Our rivers’, sound centuries old – authenticity breathes life into their sound as is true with the best folk music always.  The comic farce of the anti-recruiting song ‘Arthur McBride’ and the rousing call to battle of ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’ voice the historical Irish struggle – singers, Christy Moore and Andy Irvine live the moment and we live it with them.

Tracks: 1) Raggle Taggle Gypsy/Tabhair Dom Do Lámh 2) Arthur McBride 3) Planxty Irwin’ (Turlough O’Carolan) 4) Sweet Thames Flow Softly 5) Junior Crehan’s Favourite/Corney is Coming 6) The West Coast of Clare 7) The Jolly Beggar/The Wise Maid 8) Only Our Rivers
9) Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór 10) Follow Me Up to Carlow 12) Merrily Kissed the Quaker 13) The Blacksmith

Bonus: Arthur McBride reunion concert Live (2004):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-zPpLTtfQY

 

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes [20th Anniv. Deluxe Edition – 2004]
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions recorded one of the great songs in popular music history with ‘Perfect Skin’ from the 1984 album Rattlesnakes.  At a time when popular music was too often electronic drum beat driven samey commerial faux wild child rock, this album shone like a diamond in the mud.  The guitar riff driven hit ‘Perfect Skin’ reached number #26 in the UK charts in Spring 1984, and the second single ‘Forest Fire’ reached #41.  Scottish pop bands and U2 were really the best on offer during the 1980s and this Glasgow based band helped that vibe.

Principally a Scottish band in make up, Lloyd Cole (the major singer/songwriter) was born in Derbyshire, England.  The talented Cole met the commotions while he was studying English at the University of Glasgow – it is completely true to say that without the commotions however, there would be no Lloyd Cole.  The album peaked at #13 in the UK charts and was certified Gold for sales over 100,000 copies. NME included in its Top 100 Albums of All-Time list.

These 10 brilliant pop songs were remastered for the ‘Deluxe Edition’ in 2004 to mark the 2Oth anniversary of the album’s release.  The end product is sparkling clean – if  perhaps a tad thin – the LP disc was better but that’s the way of the 21st century world.  From guitar driven gems such as Perfect Skin and Rattlesnakes to the pretty ballad 2cv and ending with the adorably self-conscious Are You ready to be Heartbroken? – this record is a work of enormous talent from young men at the beginning and height of their powers.  At least something good did came out of 1984.

Tracks: 1) Perfect Skin 2) Speedboat 3) Rattlesnakes 4) Down on Mission Street 5) Forest Fire 6) Charlotte Street 7) 2cv 8) Four Flights Up  9) Patience 10) Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?

[when unavailable, studio songs have been replaced by live recordings]

Bonus: Perfect Skin Live – TOTP (1984)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0yHnjQfHp0

 

CAT POWER (a.k.a. Chan Marshall) – ‘THE GREATEST’ (2006)
Cat Power’s gorgeous smoky voice and the soulful groove gives the majestic opening song, The Greatest… greatness.  The strength of her records is in the arrangements, vocals and lyrics.  Marshall’s voice has never sounded better than it does here; coarsened by whisky and time, her vocals take on a torchy, sultry tone married perfectly to the groove of the music.

Some might ponderously wonder if she can actually sing – well the vocals are engaging and Charlyn Marie Marshall doesn’t have to try hard to hit the spot.  The songs are infectious, not really pop and the musical instrumentation is unusually effective – helping convey Chan Marshall’s intent and story for each song.

The classic ‘The Greatest’ opens the album; Song 4 ‘Could We’ playfully looks at the dating process; Song 7 we come across the touching change of pace with ‘Where is My Love?’.  There is only one Cat Power and more power to her.

Tracks: 1) The Greatest 2) Living Proof 3) Lived in Bars 4) Could We 5) Empty Shell 6) Willie 7) Where Is My Love 8) The Moon 9) Islands 10) After It All 11) Hate 12) Love & Communication

Bonus: New York, New York cover Live Canal + (2008)