I’ve been a bit quiet round the blog lately, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve given up.
Rather that life is keeping me busy. But I’m still listening, reading and writing.
At the moment, I’m enjoying the final part of Stuart Cosgrove’s epic soul trilogy, Harlem 69: The Future Of Soul. It follows on from Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul and Memphis 68: The Tragedy Of Southern Soul. The fast-moving tale of soul is intertwined with the politics of the period, and it’s educational not just about music but also about history, politics and sociology. The advantage of the modern age is that you can make a list of the music you are reading about and go and investigate it at the touch of the button…though this probably works more to the benefit of the consumer rather than the artist.
One of the people who appears in the pages of Harlem 69 is a young Chaka Khan. She’s just released her first album in twelve years, Hello Happiness. Somehow I missed last year’s first track from the album ‘Like Sugar’ which is just awesome. Fortunately, when it comes to doing my end of year Festive Fifty lists, one of my rules is that a track can qualify even if it was released as single the previous year…if it is released on the parent album that year. Seriously, check this out…
This is the title track, which is also rather fine.
Hello Happiness is only seven songs long, but it’s a joy to hear. Take the time to do so!
Craig Finn – Edinburgh Usher Hall, February 6, 2019
The last time I saw Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn it was close enough to see the whites of his eyes. Hardly surprising, it was a living room gig in an Edinburgh tenement. At the time he was promoting his latest (third) solo album, We All Want The Same Things. Now two years later, he’s supporting Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon on solo dates, and has a new solo album, I Need A New War, out in April.
There’s no doubt that Craig Finn is a talented songwriter – but watching and listening to him armed with just an acoustic guitar (no mean feat in a venue the size of the Usher Hall, upgraded from the comparatively smaller Queen’s Hall), his skill as a raconteur cannot be underestimated. Sure, it’s irritating when people won’t shut up over the support act, but even more so when it’s someone this witty.
Introducing the Hold Steady’s song ‘Magazines’, he talks about how it was written after a girl dumped him on a date. Then twenty-four hours later – during which time he’d written the song – she realised she’d made a mistake and they’ve been together ever since, even though he wrote the song. There’s a preview of the new record’s ‘Magic Marker’ and more reflections about growing up and missing out on being a proper punk because he didn’t get to see Black Flag on ‘Punk Is Not A Fair Fight.’ There’s the melancholy of 9/11 revisited on ‘Newmyer’s Roof’ and a touching tribute to the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit with a cover of Frabbits’ ‘Heads Roll Off.’
As a reviewer, I was privileged to see this, but if I’d been a punter I would have been amply rewarded, too.