Friday, November 06, 2009

Eliza Carthy, "Red"

Today's listening: Eliza Carthy, "Red". We were on holiday in Britain when this was released in 1998; I must have found out about it via Mojo. I consider this disc to be one of the top folk-rock records of all time, along with "Liege and Lief" and "Rise up like the sun". Traditional songs have never sounded so hip as they do here, accompanied by rhythms foreign to the songs' sources.

That holiday was very Fairport orientated: I saw them at a free concert at Gravesend a few days after arriving in Britain, spending some time with the band before their show, and met up with them a few weeks later at Cropredy. At the traditional cricket match which serves as the festival's closer, I spoke a little with Chris Leslie and recommended that he listen to Eliza's album. I don't know whether he took me up on that recommendation, but if he did, none of Eliza's perkiness made it through to subsequent Fairport records.

One of the songs on "Red" (not be confused with the King Crimson record of the same name) is "Walk away" by Ben Harper. Whilst there are a few vocal stylings which I would have deleted from this track, it's still far better than the composer's version which I heard once. The song contains the lines "If you love somebody, you have to set them free" (or similar); this seemed familiar but I couldn't place from where I knew those words.

Much later it became clear: one of the books which I was reading that holiday was Colin Dexter's "The daughters of Cain", an Inspector Morse novel. Somewhere in the novel (I riffed through the pages just now, but couldn't find the quote) is the same couplet, here expanded to six lines. Something along the lines of "if you love somebody, set them free. If they love you, they'll come back. If not, then there was never love at all". I love the synchronicity of this: hearing the couplet in a song and then reading it in a book.

One of the ladies in the book, Ms Ellie Smith, had the habit of dying her hair. For some reason, she has always been linked in my mind with Eliza Carthy: both of them date (for me) from 1998 and both had dyed hair.

"Red" actually came as part of a double set; its twin is called "Rice" and is composed of traditional tunes, this time with a traditional instrumentation. I think that I've listened to this disc maybe twice, and then not all the way through.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Drove to Carmiel and back today; five hours driving in less than ten hours.

Listening material:
  • Randy Newman, "Live at the LA Largo" - a recording of the show Randy gave to introduce the public last year to his new "Harps and Angels" disc. The show has all of the H&A songs in the correct order, along with four extra songs at the end. I made a picture sleeve for the disc and intended to get Randy to autograph it last year, when he was supposed to come to Israel for a concert.
  • William Orbit, "Pieces in a modern style".
    I found this a few years ago when looking for interpretations of Ravel. His sublime "Pavane pour une infante defunte" is here, although this version doesn't contain the entire piece and so is less heart rending than other versions. The Ravel is one of the few pieces which is actually recognisable, but I find this disc to be relaxing listening.
  • Joni Mitchell, "Hejira". I remember reading a review of this record in "Melody Maker" when it was released in 1976; a friend bought a copy and I promptly taped it. I bought my own cd copy several years ago. It was a distinct pleasure to listen to the disc in the car stereo; the guitars (some of which don't sound like guitars at all) and vibraphone made pointillistic love in the late afternoon sun.