Mary Chapin-Carpenter – is an American singer-songwriter in the new Country/Americana style. She emerged in the late eighties, early nineties and I bought three of her albums. A lovely rich warm expressive voice, especially on the ballads, and she could rock out too. I saw her live once, and she was very very good. Something about American performers – they seem so professional, so natural in being up on stage, whereas often British artists seem nervous – almost undeserving to receive the applause. First album was ‘Stones in the Road’ – best songs; the title song and ‘John Doe No. 24’ and of course the song which made me buy the record ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’ (if only women had said that to me….hahaha). Her best record was the follow up ‘Come On, Come On’. This is a triumph – it just rolls along from song to song. My favourites are ‘He thinks He’ll Keep Her’ (a feminist anthem if ever there was one), ‘The Bug’ a Dire Straits song sung better even than Knopfler, and the classic ‘Passionate Kisses’. It seems rare for any performer – let alone a woman, to really express sexual desire in their songs; Joan Armatrading springs to mind too. There really is nothing wrong with wanting kisses, and the more passionate – the better. The last of hers I bought was ‘Party Doll’, which at the time I didn’t realise was a live album. Now, I used to have an issue with live albums – oh, I still bought them if they were by Dylan or Leonard or a real favourite – but they so often didn’t contain anything new, no new tracks and almost studio perfect renditions, that I shied away from them. Of late I find I can’t get enough of them – so, it goes. This is a brilliant album – and I now ask myself why I haven’t bought more of hers… And there is no answer, I buy albums on a whim, or some sort of desperate need to own everything by certain artists. And with Dylan for instance – no matter how bad they are I still keep coming back, tongue drooling, for more.
Tracy Chapman – We first saw and heard her, I think, during the Nelson Mandela Birthday Concert (he was still jailed at this time, but the concert was huge and BBC showed it. I taped it of course). She was one of those fill-in people while the roadies changed stuff back stage. And she was incredible, a simple acoustic guitar and a voice – oh, that voice. And her songs were of struggles of poor people at the hands of the rich, women at the hands of men, and they blew everyone away. She became a huge star and her debut album was massive – but then her star faded, she soon burnt out. It seemed she really only had a few songs of great quality. But wow, what quality. I did have a couple of her records on vinyl, but now only have a Greatest Hits Collection. And the best are of course from her debut album ‘Fast Car’ and ‘Talkin Bout A Revolution’.
Chemical Brothers – I am reminded of that scene in ‘Death In Venice’ where Dirk Bogarde goes into an Italian barbers and has his hair and moustache painted with black ochre – in order to appear much younger than he really is. I went to a couple of V. festivals with my daughter and watched as the Chemical brothers did an incredible show. Pulsating dance music, lights flashing and the whole crowd jumping around. And in a live setting this stuff works; in the quiet of your front room it is hardly the same. My daughter regularly buys me ‘new’ music (which is actually probably twenty years old) and mostly I like it. Though not my genre at all, I can see why it works – except for Rap, which I still do not really like. Anyway I have one album of these dance artists ‘Surrender’. I think….well, just like Dirk Bogarde with black running down my face like clowns tears I really don’t like it that much, or rather I have no real connection with it. Probably we all love the music of our younger years for just that reason.