Been a while since I’ve done a Five For Friday so I’m going old-school – old, old school – in the sense that everything here is something I’ve loved for a long time – these artists are in my special list of all-time favourites; in a lot of cases I come and go, give them (and myself) breathing space, then return. This is about revisiting these legends, as I’ve done, in different ways, across the last few weeks. As I’ve been doing, in different ways, across over half of my lifetime…as I know will continue to be the case for the rest of it…
1. Bob Dylan, Stardust
I’ve yet to review Triplicate but I loved both volumes ahead of this – and Triplicate is jam-packed with goodness. Bob long ago earned the right to do whatever he wants and it’s clear that’s what he’s up to. Is he masking Writer’s Block? Who cares? I’ve long believed there are enough good songs in the world. Dylan seems to be proving that through this excursion. My mum’s never been much of a fan of Dylan – and that’s fine, we just never talk about it – but she was hooked on these versions and had to ask me who it was. When I did the big reveal she was both impressed and surprised. She’s a fan now. But only of Dylan Doing Standards. She might be in the minority there as most other Dylan fans are merely tolerating him in this mode I think…but it works. I’m convinced of that. Of course I’m about to take the plunge into the giant 1966 live box-set but I’m still digging Triplicate too.
I’ve written about how, push comes to shove this might be my all-time favourite album by anyone ever – or at least one of the ones that had the most impact; I still love it of course. And pretty much have a new favourite song every time I listen to the album. This time around – most recently – it was the title track. Glorious, wonderful Joni. Sad thinking of her slipping away to not much more than a footnote. In my world she’s one of the all-time greatest; very nearly the very best.
3. Frank Sinatra, I’ve Got You Under My Skin
I’m on a real Sinatra kick currently. I go through phases I guess – my mum introduced me to his music and for years it was just the big, brassy, sassy “Greatest Hits” stuff. In more recent years I’ve mostly just loved Ol’ Blue Eyes in Ol’ Sad Sack Sinatra mode; the heartbreak clinging to strings…but I’ve found my way back out to enjoy some of the sass too – some of the ‘jazz’ and a favourite has always been this album. And this track in particular, through many versions. That voice. The Voice.
4. Prince, Erotic City (Make Love Not War Erotic City Come Alive – Extended Version)
It was rather more emotional than I expected checking out the new reissue of Purple Rain – well, as I said in that review/essay it’s so hard to think of Prince as finite – he seemed to embody and redefine the very concept of ‘infinite’. Not now. We know that now. We face that now. But the Purple Rain album remains a towering achievement and for just a hint of how infinite his talent seemed at that time there’s the fact that Erotic City – in more than one version – was left off the album. It would have been anyone else’s pop gem; in Prince’s world it was a b-side (still is, always one of his best). He knew the b-side game well too of course. But yeah, this extended version of the song is reminding me, in a little snapshot, of almost all that I loved – and love – about Prince and his music. Harder to listen to now in some ways but still so joyous, so brilliant.
5. Rickie Lee Jones, Horses
I wrote a poem, recently, about Rickie Lee Jones. Well, I had bits and pieces of it floating about for a while, I stole part of another poem (of mine) and moved it to live with the other bits – it was an attempt to encapsulate how remarkable that voice is, how believable she is – you’re swept up in the song because of the voice, so, in that sense she’s one of the truly great singer/songwriters. A great interpreter too – her covers album is one of my favourites in/of ‘that genre’. There’s at least a dozen great songs by her, probably a few more on the side. And that’s any amount to announce someone as a truly great songwriter. About 20 years ago Rickie Lee Jones was probably my favourite musician; an odd context – but that was where I was at then. And in some senses I’ve never forgotten that. The siren of her voice calls me back now and then.