For those of you out there who are still perplexed by the cult of Judy, may I suggest hardily this amazing DVD? Culled from her now legendary CBS TV series in the early 1960’s, this collection features a selection of solo performances, and “Come Rain or Come Shine” sums up things here perfectly. It is a frenzied, riveting, almost frightening reading of the song. Nick Cave or Polly Harvey wish they were this intense – or perhaps (wisely) they don’t. Judy at this point is a woman ravaged by both her life - alcohol, pills, suicide attempts, catastrophic illness and innumerable career failures and comebacks - and to a certain extent her own astonishing, almost vampryric talent. To see this frail little creature – she was in her early 40’s, but looks about 60 – totter onto this empty stage and become possessed by a song - her voice soaring, her talent surging through her like high voltage electricity - is almost too much to watch. But one has to watch her – even if only to see whether see she spontaneously combusts during the performance. (And those old time Judy-queens still amongst us – God bless them – swear this footage only hints at what it was like to see her live.) Must be seen/heard to be believed.
The first track from the first of Joni’s “jazz” LPs of the late 1970’s is all about opposition and equilibrium, (as are all her songs from this period). It is both richly melodic and dense/chant-like in structure, empty and lush in arrangement, its propulsive/hypnotic groove studded with Jaco Pastorius’ weird, atonal bass speed bumps. Joni’s words/voice/performance is likewise wildly romantic and knowingly jaded simultaneously. The song is the sound of best singer/songwriter ever elegantly/effortlessly pushing the envelope.
An outstanding live reading of this song recorded by Talking Heads’ “big band” on the tour to support “Remain in Light” in 1980. Augmenting their original quartet with six extra players, the sound of the group is huge and funky, but appropriately paranoid. Check out the use the of Adrian Belew’s freaky guitar textures – here between stints w/Bowie and Robert Fripp’s soon to be reformed King Crimson, and Dolette McDonald’s cinematic background vocals on the song’s break. (It’s all very Morricone-damaged, I think). And David Bryne is @ the absolute height of his powers, here.
from The Name of the Band is Talking Heads, available on CD ()
Perhaps the least typical track from the 4AD house band – and, ironically, one of the project’s great triumphs. Abandoning for a moment their gorgeous’ prototype - beautifully dreamy soundscapes and/or readings of songs by Tim Buckley, Alex Chilton, etc. – this Talking Heads cover is little more that a series of grinding, funky sample loops w/Alison Limerick’s soulful vocals drifting in and out. A brilliant rethink of the song, that anticipates (perhaps influenced?) the Bristol/trip-hop mob - Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack, et al. (Can still be found as a vinyl 10” single, if you look hard.)
from Filigree & Shadow (4AD) available on CD - Filigree and Shadow (4AD)
09 Nov 04 ·kohl: great band. 13 Nov 04 ·konsu: Sort of ironic too, considering an interview with Ivo I once read with a short list of groups he wished he'd signed to 4AD, which included Portishead. TMC was such an ifluential project that completely escaped the 80's indie mainstream indeed.
This is so wrong; it ends up being right somehow. On paper, this cover is a car wreck. Barbara takes on Bowie’s brilliant, epic ballad of camp surrealism – his homage to big, theatrical female belters like Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey and…Streisand, herself – and the song escapes her utterly. Her delivery sound like she learned the lyrics phonetically. (She might as well be singing in Cantonese.) And Jon Peters’ production/Tom Scott’s arrangements bring to mind the cool, “L.A.-sound” of Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” LP – minus all the clever bits Joni brought to the table. Yet it spite of all of these faults – this version works. The song is just too good, and Babs’ charisma is just too powerful. It’s a [Space] oddity you’ve got to hear to believe.