Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Ya Rayah" (1998) - Rachid Taha

Although the breakthrough success of the Algerian Taha's Diwan album had plenty to do with his built-in pop star charisma, it also benefited from the magnetic pull of "Ya Rayah," its leadoff song. This was a 1973 single by Dahmane El-harrachi, whose entire catalog of festive acoustic chaâbi music, with its musical phrases swooping in like frolicsome kites, brim with eternal gladness. "Ya Rayah" taps into another powerful emotion, though: the allure and parodoxical sadness of emigration.  

Rachid Taha - "Ya Rayah"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Lambaya Puf De" (1973) - Barış Manço

A celebrated rock 'n' roll pioneer in the Anatolian realm, Barış Manço essentially took his culture's wandering minstrel tradition, grew its hair out, put rings on its fingers, and plugged it in. His "Lambaya Puf De" is a sexy hypnosis single from 1973 that translates to something like "blow the lamp out by going 'poof'." That's an acoustic Turkish saz you hear sizzling from start to finish.

Barış Manço - "Lambaya Puf De"

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ellen McIlwaine - "Farther Along" (1973)

The widely-covered "Farther Along" has the sturdy simplicity of a traditional spiritual, but its roots go back no earlier than 1911, apparently. Wikipedia tells a tidy, unsourced story about its origins and copyrighted status, but a post at David's Hymn Blog gives a more thorough overview.

Although Ellen McIlwaine's albums all showcase her formidable slide guitar chops, this version of "Farther Along," from her early seventies We the People album, relies on her a cappella lead vocal bolstered up by the mighty Persuasions. On this day, 11/9, which feels like a version of 9/11, this recording with (weirdly numerological) roots in 1911 sounds especially heavenly to me.

Ellen McIlwaine - "Farther Along"

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Victor Jara - "Manifiesto" (1973)

Victor Jara's "Manifiesto" became the title track to an album assembled after thugs from the Pinochet dictatorship arrested, tortured and murdered him in September 1973. Jara had intended the song to appear, along with six other tracks he'd already recorded and others yet recorded, on an album called Tiempos que cambian (times that change)

Listening to this with the knowledge that we'd lose him so soon after its creation still makes one's skin tingle. It would have the same effect without that knowledge, though. "I don't sing just to sing," go the lyrics. "I sing because the guitar makes sense and has a reason... The song that is brave will always remain a new song."

Only last summer did Pedro Barrientos, the army officer who murdered Jara and who had escaped to Florida in the late 1980s, face a trial. The jury found him guilty, moving his eventual extradition to Chile a few steps closer.  

Victor Jara - "Manifiesto"

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The John Berberian Ensemble - "Oud Solo" (1966)

Born in New York City to Armenian immigrant parents, oud master John Berberian introduced the fascinating sounds of his heritage to many an American ear during the 1960s. Although his music's immediate danceability was special, it didn't compromise any of its authority. What ever happened to the once-prolific Berberian, whose prodigious output appeared on labels like MGM, Roulette, and Verve? Nothing dramatic. He still makes music, but he simply allowed his life to diversify in other directions.

The John Berberian Ensemble - "Oud Solo" (1966)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Marsyas - "Studená Koupel" (1982)

Named after the Greek mythological figure who challenged Apollo to a flute contest, the Czech folk-rock group Marsyas's debut LP appeared in 1978 and they've recorded a few live reunion albums in recent years. Their second album (Kousek Přízně from 1982), contains a soothing, organic cover version of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "From the Beginning" that sounds as though Crosby, Stills, and Nash could have consulted on the vocal arrangement. From what I gather, the words' meanings are quite different from the original, with the title translating to "cold bath."

Marsyas - "Studená Koupel"

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Antonio Giron - "Corrido a Honduras" (1955)

Tucked away on this 1955 Folkways release, which otherwise has a field recording sound, is a quite polished "ballad for Honduras." The song's main thrust is loyalty to the beautiful Central American country, but it also name-checks both the national hero Morazán (a freedom fighter and eventual president of the Federation of Central American States who fell to an assassin in 1842) and the Virgin of Suyapa, patroness of Honduras.

Why do the liner notes, written by Doris Stone, go out of their way to keep the suave-sounding performer of "Corrido a Honduras" a mystery? This is a mystery in itself. Is it to preserve an aura of authenticity for Peter K. Smith's field recordings? Performing credits go to "Instrument: Guitar," and a footnote cranes its head in to point out that the contracted usage of "que ellos" is typical of songs "not sung by a professional singer." Writing credit, though, is given to a man named Antonio Giron, so I'll assume that the performance, worthy of much better recognition and respect, is also by him.

Antonio Giron - "Corrido a Honduras" (1955)