Alexander Bisley is a freelance journalist and an editor-at-large of The Lumière Reader. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
Bill Withers made my very favourite music; Still Bill records the similarly inspirational man. Lovely Day and Just the Two Of Us stir and soothe superbly. Then there’s Grandma’s Hands, Lean On Me, Use Me, and Who Is He (And What Is He to You)? Visiting Harlem during August, it was as dynamic as Withers evokes it in Harlem. Seeing Aloe ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ Blaac play (BAM and Lincoln Centre’s Gil Scott Heron Tribute), humble Withers’ presence was overwhelming, and he still is.
Kanye West is an asshole. An African-American model I hung out with in Harlem and Brooklyn ain’t the only one to say so. I generally loathe Auto Tunes. But, Emilie Simon’s Franky Knight style, autobiographical Heartbreak perceptively captures loss, through very moving songs like Bad News and Say You Will: “Misses so fly crash lands in my room/ Can’t waste no time she might leave soon.” Among all the visceral gloom, Amazing has a winning note of health and humour, with Young Jeezy rapping: “Standing at my podium/I’m trying watch my sodium/Die high blood pressure/You even let the feds get cha!”
It was thrilling to see live acts like The Roots, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and, in mighty Chicago, Howlin’ Wolf/Muddy Waters sidekick Eddie Shaw and his Wolf Gang (and to stand on the (empty) Blueberry Hill, St Louis stage where 86 year-old Chuck Berry performs monthly). I’m finding these groups’ recordings a touch disappointing after their live magic. America can be awesome, but remains stained by significant racism and stupidity, suggested by the bewildering situation where brazen lying parasite Mitt Romney is competitive against the vastly superior Barack Obama. Before the election, Mavis’ civil rights anthems are really speaking to me. Eyes On The Prize, Down in Mississippi, My Own Eyes and We Shall Not Be Moved are weighty and graceful. As Mavis testifies: “We’ll Never Turn Back.”
The “Wellington sound” on my high rotate recently is diverse, from Midnight Marauders and Marriage to I Wish I Was in Wellington and Home Again. Why Happy Ending over Pegasus? Academic, really. Just before the former came out, Sam Scott told me: “If being as successful as The Feelers means making music like them, I’d rather be dead. As a musician that is the fucking arsehole of the world.” Happy Ending is authentic, lively and addictive. The inimitable Luke Buda’s Slumber Party is a gem. Co-written with his partner Sarah-Jane Parton, it floats dreamily through time and space, engaging romantic complexity luminously. “If we had waited for the morning/babe we’d be both fine/But it seems the morning never comes/In this world,” swoons the vocal harmony.
The dearly departed German’s beautiful baritone is a panacea to Andre Rieu’s crass juggernaut.