Share THE JEFFREY LEE PIERCE PROJECT: THE JOURNEY IS LONG - Various Artists (Fuse)
That hat. The black navaho-type hat sitting on a green pillow and the arm of a cream sofa.
Elegant, simple, sublime.
It's as potent a symbol as any I've seen. T-shirts, please!
Uh-oh. Is this microphone on?
First, allow me to say how glad I am that at least one Australian has decided to put this disc out. Jeffrey Lee Pierce's influence on modern Australian music is so inbuilt we probably don't really recognise it for what it is. And this disc, like its companion, We Are Only Riders, is awash with Australians who remember Jeffrey and his band. Warren Ellis, 4 songs; Mick Harvey and JP Shilo, 3 songs ... Hugo Race, Brian Henry Hooper, Tex Perkins, Spencer P. Jones are all there and quite right, too.
No, Jason Donovan didn't make the final cut.
The Gun Club, or rather, half of the Gun Club minus those with visa problems, played an Australian tour in 1983. Jeffrey looked utterly bizarre to my eyes; haughty, lost, determined, vulnerable. Kid Congo, then a scrawny streak of piss, arrived at Adelaide's Norwood Town Hall (now the site of Treloar's tremendous book sales), stepping around the passed-out drunk, wearing a huge motorbike chain which probably weighed as much as he did. And his guitar sounded so ... filthy. Unearthly. The live tape doesn't capture half of it.
Other significant events that year had included the break-up of the Birthday Party, Iggy Pop's first tour of Australia (with Ig being blown off stage each night by the first version of New Christs, essentially the Hitmen plus Rob Younger) and the formation of the Beasts of Bourbon. Never has the link between old-meets-new blues been so critical. The future, as they say, is now.
Speaking of now, The Journey is Long really needs extensive play on the radio. Mainstream radio, folks, not the community radios which get excited over a cd for two weeks and then forget about it. TV execs, put these songs on your shows and into your programs.
Because it's bloody good, that's why, and what's more it's commercial enough to sell well and won't alienate your sponsors. Play it. And wonder what things might have been like if Jeffrey had lived to work with all these people who loved him, admired him and wished they could've written songs like him.
Quite consciously, I think, Jeffrey set out to break the mould, make himself in a new form, finding freedom when he was either someone else or so out of it he couldn't control himself.
However, I think Jeffrey became trapped in the weight of expectation; the Gun Club's first LP "Fire of Love" (1982) had people salivating for more punk-oriented blues, when all Jeffrey could really do is ... create a kind of intense emotional flytrap. His extraordinary voice was something you could easily become addicted to, and it lead from the front.
People die all the time, of course, and it's always too soon, and we always miss them. If Jeffrey's watching Cypress Grove manage the fragments of his fragmented genius, he must be having a fine old laugh. If, in his pad in Heaven, he was initially surprised and possibly grumpy (in the 'that's not how I meant it to go ya stupid bastard!' sense) by the "We Are Only Riders'"collection, I imagine him looking down now in wonder at "The Journey is Long."
"Another one?", he might say to his mates Jimbo Morrison and Jimi. 'Fuck, how much did I leave down there?'. Jimbo would probably weigh in with something callous like, 'Serves you right for dyin' before your time!', which would probably get Jimi all riled up. And then they'd argue some more before getting stuck into the reefers and gin and heading to the studio again, probably meeting up with Cozy Powell and Charlie Mingus and Art Pepper and look, here's Albert Ayler just droppin in...
Well, that's my fantasy, anyway. Don't get me started on their arguments about who handles the vocals, alright?
Some of the songs are by established bands like Tav Falco's Panther Burns and the Jim Jones Revue, but most are by bunches of people who've never worked together before. And, although the driving force behind the JLPS Project, Cypress Grove, is on eight of these tracks, you'd think he'd stand out more. No, Mr Grove is more of a team player, sliding into the right slots, but also knowing when to stand back.
So it's been another three years in the making, this second collection of Jeffrey Lee Pierce songs, and it was with a reassuring thuff that the express post envelope was stuffed into my mailbox. I was expecting a burn and a track listing, so imagine my surprise and delight. I mean the package is better than last time, the booklet is fatter and there's a lot more in it (we get to see the original typescript of where the titles "The Journey Is Long" and "We Are Only Riders" come from) and, incidentally, music producer Kris Needs' memoir is all too brief and terribly sad and even if you don't like Jeffrey's music you should buy the cd for the memoir. Puts a lot of things in perspective, as well. It also explains how a synth-pop magazine put out a flexidisc of Soft Cell doing a superbly seductive version of Throbbing Gristle's 'Discipline', which is one of the prides of my collection. I need to thank Kris for a lot, it seems.
Now look. I'm not reviewing this cos I get a free CD. I'm gonna buy the double LP. Because this is a wonderful, wonderful thing. The number of potential hit singles alone on this cd is quite large. And when you hear these songs you're gonna wanna get it. No shit. Downloading - yeah, I understand the whole 'I got everything for free off the internet' thing, but ... without the package, it's just data, bits n bytes and just may as well be slipper fuzz. I mean, if I spill my gin and tonic all over your terrabyte box, it's such a fuckin headache to go and get all that shit again.
Getting the CD, the LP - that's the thing. That's a way of saying that not only do you like something, you support it, actively. And you'd buy the man a meal if you could only the poor bastard's dead.
Like many old farts, I still believe that owning a creative person's product is a form of respect. Downloading the free shit - that's an insult to the creative person. Hell, why don't you just go to the man's grave and take a dump?
Where was I? I left my keys around here somewhere...
First, (again) The Journey is Long has an utterly different feel from the last CD, "We Are Only Riders", resembling a compilation from a fantastic festival ... except it's better than that. On festival CDs there's always gonna be stuff you don't want.
I'm only going to briefly introduce the tracks, in order; the content of Jeffrey's lyrics I won't go into - discover it for yourself. I will mention that this time there's one song which has previously been released, and there's a smattering of some of Jeffrey's earlier, punkier songs which survive the modernisation process remarkably well. I won't mention which songs should be made into film clips and singles because ... yeah, alright, anyway.
Nick Cave - City in Pain
If you don't like Nick Cave (for whatever reason) you're not gonna change your mind.
Brian Henry Hooper's understanding bass cruises around Nick's voice. Nick's in fine form, by the way, pulling out all the stops; it's a strong, powerful performance from a seasoned vocalist at the top of his game. Actually, I've always wanted to see Nick do a set of his own songs, just him and the piano; given that Nick's piano here is particularly affecting, maybe someone could persuade him.
Jeffrey Lee Pierce's guitar really soars here and "City in Pai"n is a modern blues that the likes of Robert Cray or Carlos Santana would be proud to cover. City In Pain is a song to open a movie if I ever heard one.
Hugo Race - I'm Going Upstairs
Groovy, complex, unpretentious blues which will stand many repeat plays. A lovely, crisp, clean, fruity vintage recording with plenty of tannin and tar notes; Hugo's hypnotic, dusty voice is perfectly suited. If you're the kind of person with a lot of Nick Cave lps, I suggest you also invest in a swag of Hugo's; they pay repeat listening; if you missed Hugo's tour of Australia last year, suffer.
This is the sort of song Robert Johnson might cover.
Steve Wynn - From Death To Texas
I would've loved to have seen Jeffrey and Spencer P Jones trade guitar licks - those of us who saw Kid Congo and Spencer do this on the 1983 Australian Gun Club tour aren't going to forget it in a hurry. Spencer obviously hasn't.
Steve Wynn's voice has been mixed as if it's coming from somewhere distant, like he's calling from a long way off. This is a superb decision.
The wall of suitably streaked guitars (Jeffrey, Spencer, Cypress) work against and with each other rather wonderfully; ducking and weaving like snot-nosed beggar kids baiting an old boxer. Jeffrey structured up a real pit bull of a song here, reminds me of a great lost Sacred Cowboys or Beasts of Bourbon epic.
Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell - The Breaking Hands
Lanegan and Campbell have set the bar very high, and it must be hard to maintain. Astonishing how fresh all this sounds. All these musicians on such a sparse, soaring, emotional song. You'd think ego would get in the way. Nah, it's wonderful. Takes you where you don't expect.
Lanegan's touring Australia soon. If you haven't heard of these two, I suggest you rectify this by pestering your local cd shop.
The Amber Lights - The Jungle Book
Who are the Amber Lights? Mick Harvey and JP Shilo, together with two folk I've never heard of with names right from Kipling ... I think I'll go out on a limb here and say it's just Mick Harvey and JP Shilo. Why the Amber Lights? Well, it's an old Red Lights song, isn't it? A very early Jeffrey song which sounds kind of like an old Stones out-take, or a drunk and rowdy Tom Petty (hell, I want to see the Stones cover this one) but .. . this is one of the few songs here to actually sound like the original Gun Club. I don't know who's singing - although my money's on JP, I could be wrong - but who-ever's doing it really nails Jeffrey's style of vocal, especially the climax. I mean, that glorious blues slide up the range, like steel and silk... only Jeffrey did it quite like that.
Mick Harvey seems to be going from strength to strength these days, and don't get me started on JP Shilo. Mick's last cd was damn good, by the way.
Bertrand Cantat, Pascal Humbert, Warren Ellis, Cypress Grove - Rose's Blues
This is essentially another made for the studio band - a vehicle for Cantat's remarkable voice. The French have form when it comes to the blues, figuring it out long before us poor white trash did. Humbert's bass is a driving thing, and the whole is a moody conversation with a drunk man who never quite rescued himself. Warren and Cypress - you can depend on them. Terrific stuff, this; broke confessional blues.
Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw - Zonar Roze
One thing about compilations like this is you get to hear people who've got the bug, and are thrilled to put their stamp on a legend. I confess I've never heard of Zedek and Brokaw before (and I'll bet you haven't either) but once you've heard this you're going to want more. An insistent, squealy thing with plenty of Seattle guitar (TM). God knows what the original sounded like; sloppy as all get out, I suspect. This is as tightly wound as wire round a cat.
Cypress Grove - LA County Jail Blues
Incredibly sweet, elegaic and simply transporting. Cypress's guitar is a psalm to humility. This is another song which seems to have escaped from a film - I really, really want to see this as a single. And the man's vocals, so tender, affecting...
I'm told that the original for this song was quite, quite skeletal, and that Warren Ellis was able to add a life and heartbeat to this in a manner which rather took Cypress' breath away.
Check out Cypress' version of Cave's 'Bring It On' on the Silkwormsinc sampler 'Read Write (Hand)' - the original's really file-and-forget, but Cypress digs some strong rippling meaning out of it) (sorry, where was I? Oh, yes, Cypress Grove) is where the hell is his own album?
I mean, c'mon, Cypress old bean, you can do it, you've got the talent, man, and I'm damn sure you've got the songs. The world awaits you.
Barry Adamson - I Wanna Be You
Barry really gets Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Like Nick Cave, there's a visual aspect to Barry's music; and Jeffrey's cinematic, large than life, improbable endless road movie plays perfectly into Barry's film-stained hands.
Anyone who persists in buying new CD from the likes of Van sodding Morrison or Lou farting Reed should be frog-marched into a hop and forced - at gunpoint - to buy "We Are Only Riders" and "The Journey Is Long", and then listen to them on their expensive sound systems (yes, I would like one of those, please).
All too easily I can imagine "I Wanna Be You" as being the start of a movie. The prologue, perhaps. And although you can imagine Nick Cave or Jimbo Morrison doing this, Barry is nothing short of fabulous.
Barry Adamson tours Australia in May. And this is bloody superb. Now go get the man's catalogue. You'll be blown away.
Which brings me again to:
Mick Harvey - Sonny Boy
So so beautiful. I wonder who he's thinking of when he's singing this?
Mick's seems to be shaping up as one of the most interesting vocalists in recent times. He really gets the meaning of Sonny Boy, and his production is really powerful. Also, all too easily I can imagine this as a critical part of a film.
If you've never thought of Mick Harvey as a vocalist, hear this and you will.
I mean, c'mon, Mick Harvey, you knew it would be good - but this is extremely so.
Vertical Smile - Book of Love
Well, back we go now to the 8ts punkers via 1990 etc ... Youth, Killing Joke's killer bassist and now sometime music producer, sings for the first time here, and he's not bad. That's quite a feat in a way - Youth's been asked to sing many times before.
You'll recognise all sorts of elements in here, and Youth certainly has remained on top of modern trends in music. Reminds me of Helios Creed - which is no bad thing since hardly anyone knows what Helios Creed sounds like anyway. I confess Book of Love is not my favourite track on the cd, but I know I'll be in a minority so I'll shut up now before someone breaks my windows. Put another way - if you heard Book of Love on the radio you'd not only like it, you'd want to know who and wtf?
Astro-Unicorn - Body and Soul
Oh, this is lovely. Michelle Needs has an eloquent, gorgeous voice, and given the popularity of female vocalists on the dancefloor these days, Michelle seems almost like a star in waiting. Significantly, however, the song has gravitas, dignity, sensibility. That Kris Needs gets to do backing vocals is a bit like closing a circle, a doffing of the hat in the best way. Another escapee from a film. My fiance said it reminded her a little of Enya - but I have to say there's more substance here than in Enya's entire wafty catalogue.
Lydia Lunch - The Brink
Another laid-back, groovy, James Bondy little item, the music soaring and crying around her drained, drifting voice; Lydia's scraping drawl is very effective in this context. Like a song from "Bad Lieutenant".
Nick Cave and Debbie Harry - The Breaking Hands
Two of Jeffrey's most publicly known admirers come full circle again on this understated and explanatory story - again, the beginning of a film.
One of the most astonishing things about We Are Only Riders was the way so many songs were repeated, yet always sounded exciting, fresh, interesting. You found different things in each song the more often you spun the disc. Comparing this version to Lanegan and Campbell's is no less revelatory, particularly when you realise the slide guitar on both versions is by Jeff Zentner, and they're both very different. Nick's piano I find very moving as well.
Tex Perkins and Lydia Lunch - In My Room
The first surprise is Tex's voice. His vocal is (intentionally) almost unrecognisable; the man's got one helluva talent. How the hell do you change your vocal style when you're pushing 50? Another hit, surely. Imagine Tex and Lydia doing The World's Got Everything In It on the flipside. Hell, imagine a 7" jukebox single laying down on the turntable in a pizza bar at three in the morning, on it's eighth rotation, the greasers jiving until another crowd of bored Elvis clones turn up and start a brawl.
As I say, straight from a soundtrack. Wonderful stuff.
Tav Falco's The Panther Burns - The Jungle Book
What a revelation this outfit were for me. Stinking hot and muggy rock 'n' roll. Glorious. I used to love Tav's rich, extraordinary voice.
And this ... criminal underworld ... compare this version of The Jungle Book with Mick Harvey and JP Shilo's version, it's terrific - but with a different sort of intelligence. Which is interesting because it's very evident that Mick Harvey has put a lot of smarts and feel into his tracks ... again, it's that flipside thing you can't get with a dl these days ... imagine these versions of The Jungle Book on either side of a 7". When the song finishes, you get up, go to the stereo, shift the needle-arm, flip the disc, and place the needle lovingly back down, into the spinning black.
See? A new world, every time.
Thank you Mick and JP, thank you Tav.
Mick Harvey - St Mark's Place
This is the one which Lydia did on "We Are Only Riders". Again, just for a giggle, imagine Lydia's version on one side of the 7", Mick's on the other.
They're worlds apart. I must confess that, although I do enjoy Lydia's version, I think this version is by far superior. It's utterly extraordinary, straight out of some lost European masterpiece. Christ, Mick Harvey's on a huge roll right now. So much feel and sensitivity, such measured, powerful expression. I'm sure there's Morricone in there, and it's so lush, romantic, it just melts you... Mick Harvey deserves to play at Cannes - as if he were performing a film. You don't need a film, just Mick and JP.
Jim Jones Revue - Ain't My Problem
What amazes me about the JJR is their utter pig-fucking lunacy; they keep raising the bar, maintaining and then ... fuck, how long can they keep this madness up?
Jerry Lee Lewis (hopefully without the 13-year old brides) on tequila and lavender crystal meth. Jim Jones Revue just do it, keying themselves together like vandals round a Rolls-Royce, whip it out and fuck you. You could try and criticize them for placing their own brand on a JLP song, but, since you can't hear yourself yell above the bedlam, there's no point. Jeffrey did this to other people's songs anyway.
So Jim Jones takes us out in a very Jeffrey Lee Pierce way - a gloriously raucous celebration of life.
Whew. Need to get my breath back.
It's remarkable, really, that this second cd has arrived. If Jeffrey had ever realised the snippets of songs he laid down oh, so long ago now, I'm sure the songs would be very different.
The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project CDs, (with possibly a third to come) is unique: this series shows how a dead bluesman can ride again, supported by the people he influenced rather than his coked-out rock buddies. Rock star tributes always sound kinda accomplished but tame, kinda stifled.
"The Journey is Long" commands your attention, it strides into the room, self-assured and potent, yet approachable and very much ... of us all.
Each artist on these collections are as individual and unique as chalk and cheese. Yet one of the threads which runs through them all is a love of a damn good song. One day I'd like each of them to cover any four of their fellow artist's songs - the results would, I'm sure, be as revelatory as here.
"The Journey Is Long" is also worth purchasing just to own the first CD with the mysterious instrument credit: 'Piano Interior'.
No, I'm not telling. Buy it. And no cheating by squinting online!
Like the first collection, "The Journey Is Long" is a cracker and not only needs to be in your collection, it needs to be spinning on your engine, baby.
It's an inspiration.- Robert Brokenmouth
(and six for the Mick Harvey and JP Shilo tracks)
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JEFFREY LEE PIERCE SESSIONS PROJECT: WE ARE ONLY RIDERS - Various Artists (Shock)
With some things, perspective is part of the experience. Jeffrey Lee Pierce, the original Ghost on the Highway, took his unique and modern blues into the public arena 30 years ago, influencing a rash of musicians from Kim Salmon, Tex Perkins and Nick Cave to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Queens of the Stone Age and, hell, for all I know, Kylie Minogue and Beyonce. We Are Only Riders is a tribute with a difference. It's a collaboration, a communion with the dead. We are emphatically reminded throughout how closely aligned Jeffrey was to the core, the viscera of folk and blues (if not soul), and how his modern approach toward music so often genericised brought it fresh and bloody, squalling into the light. I can't promise you genius, but I can promise you its touch.
I saw Jeffrey's band, the Gun Club, or rather, a scratch version of it, in 1983. Spencer P. Jones was in the band (The Johnnys, The Beasts of Bourbon, etc etc) and they were astonishingly good. Kid Congo Powers had the filthiest guitar sound I'd ever heard this side of Rowland S. Howard (although they're not strictly comparable), and Jeffrey's clear, cool vocal belied the scruffy-looking little bloke up on the stage. Jeffrey's band provided Australian music with a much-needed rad road-map in re-examining the blues, where and why it got here, and why it's such a vivid part of country and our own styles of dirty rock'n'roll. It's hardly surprising that Tex Perkins and Kid ended up drunk at Circular Quay at three in the morning after the Sydney gig.
Jeffrey's impact on overseas music is under-rated, if it's rated at all these days. His albums did middling well, but he was never the pop star he deserved to be: think a hybrid Robert Cray, Ziggy Stardust via Kim Salmon and you're kinda somewhere in the territory.
Before Jeffrey died more than 13 years ago, he'd been working on new songs. Cypress Grove, his sidekick guitarist, uncovered some recordings in the proverbial shoebox in the attic (wish I had an attic like that) and, after listening and wiping a manly tear or four away, decided to put together a ... kind of tribute album.
It's 'kind of' a tribute because Jeffrey is very much still the guiding force; it's either his guitar or his lyrics and the vocals are handled by such luminaries as Debbie Harry and the afore-mentioned Spencer P. Jones and Nick Cave. Incidentally, the cross-generation of influences on display here reflect such a Colosseum of rock'n'roll that one can only stagger at the range and depth of Pierce's vision. If he's looking down, he's laughing in delight. "We Are Only Riders" is a classic album which we'll be listening to, if sobbing into our fermented vegetable drinks, when we're 125, remembering those dreadful snapshots from our past.
Just to make things more interesting, the format deserves a word. Arguably, PIL's best album was delivered in a can containing 3 12" discs. The Birthday Party's best work was done on EP's (and the Boys Next Door before them)... hell, the best Clash disc was a 10" EP. It's a forgotten format. The vinyl version of We Are Only Riders takes the risk and gets it right: each of the four sides is a unique document, an EP in its own right, an experience with definable boundaries.
There is a little repetition of the songs, but given that the versions are so distinctive and, like I say, it's a collection of EP's, this merely enhances the structure.
Track by track, then:
Nick Cave: Ramblin' Mind
The opener's a stunner: Ramblin' Mind could've been written for Nick, allowing him to use his highly effective stylisation so that Jeffrey Lee Pierce's eloquent, carefully-measured guitar glides around his vocals. That lovely mix of 12-string and bottleneck... sparse yet full.I love the way it lopes up, slowly gathers pace, then heads for the treeline. Nick was clearly impressed when he first encountered the Gun Club, lending further credence (of a sort) to Nick's slow plunge into the guts of the blues. Small wonder Nick sounds like he means it here. Makes you wonder if Rowland S. Howard left any tapes like Jeffrey's lying about...
Mark Lanegan: Constant Walking
Lovely and dark, this song would also sound good coming from Cave, although the flipside to that is wanting to hear Lonegan croak and cough his way through Murder Ballads. The lyrics are straight outta 'Shane'. I think if there's anything which defines this album it's that the old world of our half-figured past rubs shoulders with our grievous present. The wild west is still the wild west, just with different clothes, language and towns. Marvellous, timeless stuff.
Raveonettes: Free to Walk
This huge, trembling all over, yearning song is glorious. Drenched in a Spector-esque wall-of-sound opening, if singles existed anymore, this song should be the first out. This constantly building, always tense and rotating hypnotic bloody gift of a song.
Debbie Harry: Lucky Jim
Astonishing how Harry's voice has become more powerful as she grows older; there's a tender reflectiveness in her warm vocal here. Shot through with a silver thread of vulnerability; strange how I always thought Jeffrey's work was like that but it never seemed to properly express itself - it does here. This version is a wallow, this lush, fleshy yearning of the spirit. If ghosts ride on the highway, Jeffrey is with them, casting a regretful eye at our towns as he passes by.
Lydia Lunch and Kid Congo: When I Get my Cadillac
Lydia's take of When I Get My Cadillac is quite extraordinary - a helpless tart in little white sox with big dreams - while Congo's skittering guitar chunters on in the background; just perfect, hovering like a grinning salesman with a sleazy mustache. In typical Lydia style, the lyrics are emoted rather than sung; if it weren't for the control in her voice, you'd swear she was drunk. Despite the sadness, there's a sense of strength and future darkness or light... which side is the coin going to come down on? And what will she do?
David Eugene Edwards: Ramblin Mind
Edwards' version is more dangerous, relentless gouge into a criminal mind; his style is closer to that storytelling stride the blues sometimes produced. You can imagine a shitty bar in your neighbourhood and a haggard misfit surrounded by a growling, drunken crowd. His phrasing is less mannered than Cave's, and a lot more immediate. Again, the modern world is inhabited by the wild west, and vice versa. You could play it in The Gauntlet or Merlin and it wouldn't be out of place.
The Sadies: Constant Waiting
The Sadies decide to misread Constant Walking - unless the Raveonettes misread the fax first. Either way, it's a drawling, hypnotic drive over the cliff. There's not a wasted note so far on this album, have you noticed? No filler.
Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell: Free to Walk
Duets like this are Top 40 material, the constant pushmepullyou of love and despair whickering at the nerves (like a drunken biker in a bar who wants to suck your whatsit?). Such a beautiful song, deceptively jolly banjos. So beautiful, love leaves ... or will it?
Lydia Lunch: St Mark's Place
Sinister romance accompanied by at least two Lydia Lunches. It's a lovely song, Lydia soaks this with a longing which cannot be expressed, the destruction of 'I wasn't always this way' is real Emily Dickinson terrain. Reminds me of Interview with the Vampire for some reason. Another song you can imagine Nick Cave singing, but it's probably better for Lydia's poisoned seductive voices to actuate our fantastical mind.
Crippled Black Phoenix: Bells on the River
... is a road trip like Huckleberry Finn is a road trip, a ringing of the bell of america's mythological cathedral of notre dame. Hunched, knowing, squint-eyed, somewhere between charles laughton and jack kerouac. Music you either put out for or get out and walk home to (mind you, the whole album's like this). Utterly extraordinary. This huge sound, racked down, then this wall of sound, so sweet, so sweeping... reminds me a little of Crime and the City Solution...
Cypress Grove: Ramblin' Mind
The man who took this album from some stuff in an old shoebox to the classic you have in your hands reveals himself to be an old, dry hand; his vocal tones are darker, more intense than Cave's, for example, almost Cohenesque in their deep red velvet clamshell box. There's a quiet, tear-stained intensity here. Keep the tissues handy. This is, quite simply, superb, the lyrics delivered in such a quiet, forceful way, the style of measured, considered guitar is so lovely, almost Rowland S Howardish... ruminant, relfective.
Johnny Dowd: Constant Waiting
This goes completely against the grain of the lp so far, and that's not a bad thing. Sounding a bit like hazel adkins done got hisself a synthesiser or such, then maybe got into bed with Jad Fair. Dowd captures the lurking madness chittering in the background like a weasel on lsd, the music is such a strong soundtrack you almost don't need the lyrics.
Nick Cave and Debbie Harry duet: Free to Walk
For once Nick is the straight man, certainly he can't match the sweet delicacy of Harry's expression here. Gloriously melodramatic, it's a real job of heart-string-tugging, it's lovely to hear how Harry comes in and completely buries Nick's vocal by pure tone and timbre. Her voice is almost religious, Debbie just lifts the song and takes it to another place.
Mick Harvey: The Snow Country
Mick's a thirsty, consummate musician, and his guitar slips around his vocal like a salmon, setting the urgent, relentless nervousness of his storytelling against a gritty guitar. Mick's vocal is compelling; I like his tones, he certainly sings like no-one else.
David Eugene Edwards & Crippled Black Phoenix: Just like a Mexican Love
'Just like a mexican love/ I can't compete with you'... brilliant. A torn-open song, raw and beautiful, tragic and terrible, compelling. The confessional quality of the lyrics and the starkness of Jeffrey's guitar... what a great voice... yet this huge, operatic deluge... This is a real Romantic drama, well and truly Byronesque. Positively quivers with emotion, scarily real, an utterly Outback quality. I'm lost in this one; utterly unforgettable.
Lydia Lunch, Dave Alvin & The JLP sessions project : Walking Down The Streets
For the moment, words fail me. So much to take in.
It would have been all too easy for everyone to have lapsed into some sort of 'rock royalty' mode with this project, but for some reason that's not happened. This, folks, is what important music is about. It might just turn out to be as influential as Jeffrey's vision was. - Robert Brokenmouth
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