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Nifty Fifty part 2

Good music never grows old - 10 more fogey favourites.

Paul Simon - Graceland

Paul Simon and his black South African-inspired Graceland received great acclaim and great opprobrium including accusations of musical colonialism, plagiarism, pandering to apartheid, breaking UN boycotts and earning him top billing on a black radical group's assassination list.

Working with black South African musicians during the apartheid era and exposing their talents to a world audience I would think would be a good thing. And cultural appropriation is an invention of the addle-brained, condescending cultural crusaders and SJWs* stepping in uninvited, and being offended on behalf of those they see as needing their help. You have Moroccan-themed bathroom tiles? You're an imperialist exploiter of third-world disadvantage.

Musical cultural appropriation is an even more absurd concept. What music stands alone? The Blues influence is evident in many of the greatest music and artists of modern times yet itself sprang from African spirituals, work chants, revivalist hymns, and country dance music.

Put me firmly on the side of those who celebrate Graceland - the song and the album.

*I exclude anti-apartheid activists from that sledge

Rodriguez - I Wonder

Apartheid-era South Africa had a different impact on Sixto Rodriguez's music as is captured in the documentary Searching For Sugarman.

Ignored in the US, his home country, Rodriguez's two albums Cold Fact (1970) and

Coming From Reality (1971) were well received in South Africa, but earlier and enthusiastically in Australia and New Zealand, a cold fact ignored in the otherwise excellent documentary. But that film finally got Rodriguez the wider if belated recognition he deserved.

Richard Clapton - I Am An Island

Richard Clapton changed his birth name using the last names of two of his heroes Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. His real name is, perhaps, Terry Goh.

Clapton is the writer and performer of a string of iconic Aussie hits - Deep Water, Best Years of Our Lives, Goodbye Tiger, Glory Road, Lucky Country, I am An Island, Trust Somebody, Capricorn Dancer and Girls on the Avenue.

Girls On The Avenue, likely his most recognisable song, was initially rejected by his record company, later to receive airplay but it became a commercial success through its inclusion on a bargain Explosive Hits compilation. Deep Water was also a money earner via a similar channel - World's Best Ever Beer Drinking Songs which racked up half a million sales.

Girls On The Avenue is widely assumed to be about working girls, a myth encouraged by his manager because "sex sells". In reality Clapton penned the song about 3 good sorts who lived nearby on The Avenue in Sydney's Rose Bay.

Clapton's got longevity - his most recent release The House Of Orange (2016) is well worth inclusion in your collection. I'll go with I Am An Island as the best of his best.

BB King - The Thrill Is Gone

In looking to identify a Blues number that is representative of that wide-reaching and most influential of genres I re-listened to my BB King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf CDs and surfed the Interwebs for so many others. Not an unpleasant task but futile, so I'll just go with this absolute cracker of a rendition of a Blues classic by BB King and Richie Sambora.

In memory of B.B. King.

Tracey Chapman - Baby Can I Hold You

A sublime song of lyrical substance perfectly executed. No more need be said.

Boz Scaggs - Harbour Lights

Silk Degrees explores the urbane, dapper dimension of coolness. I found a very funny but complimentary review of Silk Degrees here* which serves my purpose of justifying its inclusion.

*An extract: "The big moment was "Lowdown", which had the best opening vamp of any Caucasian disco record that year. Much better bass plucking than the Seinfeld theme. It's a very cool, mentholated song, and Scaggs is cooler than Fonzie singing it." Amusing, but Silk Degrees is disco? WTF?

JJ Cale - They Call Me The Breeze

When J.J. Cale's first album Naturally was released in 1971 it tended to get drowned out on the commercial airwaves by the likes of Rod Stewart, James Taylor, the Stones, Aretha Franklin, Cat Stevens, T.Rex, Daddy Cool and a plethora of new releases filling a void left by The Beatles.

But Naturally did get some airplay and it sure got my attention - I went straight out and bought a copy. Cale was not a self-promoter but he gained Eric Clapton as a fan who gave him welcome exposure with his covers of Cale’s best-known songs After Midnight and Cocaine.

Naturally's laid-back, bluesy rock stands the test of time.

In memory of J.J. Cale

Bryan Ferry - Avalon

From arty and experimental glam rock ("more complex and not so easy on the ear" - Brian Ferry) to the swansong smooth of Avalon; Brian Eno's pre-Avalon departure from Roxy Music did them no harm, just as Syd Barrett's fade out did PinkFloyd no harm.

Eno "a self-described non-musician...advocating a methodology of theory over practice, serendipity over forethought, and texture over craft." Er....riiiight. Eno's and Barrett's genius was their creativity, their benevolence was in buggering off after setting the stage for others' more digestable, polished output.

Pink Floyd - Shine on You Crazy Diamond

Syd Barrett can inspire music like this but I doubt that he would've been capable of contributing to it. That's a mean-spirited comment but really, does stuff like Barrett's masterpiece/ditty See Emily Play come close to this or any of Pink Floyd's post-Barrett output? Nah. But Barrett's deteriorating mental state, sad as it was, got David Gilmour on board.

Cold Chisel - Flame Trees

Khe Sanh (released in 1978) was no doubt Cold Chisel's most anthemic hit - reviving memories of the recent Vietnam war with cutting lyrics delivered by Jimmy Barne's trademark gravelly bawl and the song's pulsing beat (OK chill, I've been reading too much Rolling Stone) but it got flogged to death.

According to the band’s official website, organist Don Walker’s inspiration for Flame Trees' lyrics was his memories of Grafton where he had lived as a youth. Now I don't want to be pedantic but flame trees, with their bright red flowers, are native to the NSW south coast whereas Grafton is on the north coast and is famous for its purple-flowered jacarandas. Pedantry aside, this is one of Cold Chisel's finest numbers amongst a suite of ballsy ballads.


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