If you’re a regular Theme Park listener you’ll know that I have what they call an ‘eclectic’ taste in music. And it comes in handy when you’re putting together a show each week on random themes, I tell you! This week, just to prove that I do listen to new music, I decided that I would bring you songs from my favourite albums of 2010. So no nostalgia this week, all new music and a look-see at what arrived in my Xmas stocking, all 23 albums! Thank you Santa!
Here’s my rationale for how I devised my list: It’s the age of the singles download, but there are just some albums that you can’t cherry pick from. My list represents those albums: the ones that work best when listened to as a whole experience. Having said that, it is only a two hour program, so a choice had to be made about what singles to play from those albums. So, here goes:
Caribou, otherwise known to his Mama as Daniel Victor Snaith, is a mathematician by trade who, in his spare time, delivers beautiful and captivating electronic music. His 2010 album Swim is the first of my favourites and we opened the show with the track ODESSA. Even if you’re not an electronica fan, (and I’m not particularly), this album successfully crosses over and appeals to almost everyone who listens to it.
Next on my list the album Plastic Beach by the Gorillaz. Hard to pick one track from this incredibly diverse album. It was a toss-up between MELANCHOLY HILL and SUPERFAST JELLYFISH, featuring Gruff Rhys and De La Soul. The chance to also play some De La Soul put the latter track on the list in the end. And, I’ve got to say, I’m very jealous of anyone who saw Gorillaz on their recent Plastic Beach tour!
One of the most beautiful songs of the year is PIECES by the Irish band Villagers. Singer Conor O’Brien totally rocks. The song is from their debut album Becoming a Jackal. Check out this live performance from their very first headline show in 2009. Amazing.
My favourite video clip of the year goes to Janelle Monae for TIGHTROPE. It’s from the album The ArchAndroid which is nothing if not ambitious. The album was a very nice surprise indeed. Featuring everything from power ballads right through to the ferocious energy of her signature dance tracks, this is one hot album. Here’s the clip that has garnered so much YouTube attention:
Another surprise favourite for me was Kanye West’s album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It finally convinced me of this guy’s talent. I’ll try and overlook his arrogance for the sake of the music and some of his fine collaborators. One of the best tracks features Ben Iver and its called LOST IN THE WORLD.
Down the Way by Angus & Julia Stone was the biggest-selling Australian album of 2010, and it certainly shows the growing maturity of this brother and sister duo. BIG JET PLANE is the standout track from this album.
Another great Aussie group is You Am I. Their best record in more than a decade is self titled. My favourite track is the second single of that album, TRIGGER FINGER. The clip features Lanie Lane who also supplied backing vocals.
I’m a big fan of the soulful voice of Ray LaMontagne. His 2010 album with the Prairie Dogs, God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise has a number of great tracks on it. Here he performs BEG STEAL OR BORROW in the studios of Oui FM in France.
Another exquisite song is RUBY from the album Ali and Toumani, released in February 2010. It’s a series of duets from two of Africa’s most distinguished musicians, the late guitarist Ali Farka Toure and kora player Toumani Diabate.
The same kind of purity can be found in a completely different genre by a group called Mountain Man. They’re actually an all girl trio from Vermont who recorded their album Made the Harbor in a disused ice-cream parlour. The whole album is mostly a capella, which just goes to show that the voice really is the ultimate instrument. We played their sublime version of HOW’M I DOIN’.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one who thinks that Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy is completely underrated as a singer and a songwriter. This band has been around for about 20 years and yet we’re almost a secret society of fans. Hopefully their latest album Bang Goes the Knighthood will get them the recognition they deserve.
The Roots have also been around a while, 1987 to be exact, and HOW I GOT OVER is their 11th album. They’re all great albums, but this one is possibly their best:
Despite already declaring that I’m not a big electronica fan, here’s another electronica album in my 2010 faves: LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening album can’t be overlooked. I CAN CHANGE is one of the best tracks from the album. Thank God for Jools Holland (what a great show btw). Here’s a great clip from that show:
The Vampire Weekend’s album Contra came out just in time for my birthday in January 2010. Here’s the very energetic track COUSINS from that album:
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers released a very Bluesy album called Mojo this year which I really love. I particularly like their version of the old standard CANDY.
At the other end of the spectrum, Danger Mouse got together with James Mercer to invent a new group called Broken Bells. They released their first album together in 2010. Here they are performing THE HIGH ROAD, from that self-titled album, at Lowlands 2010.
Two more albums that I’ve been listening to non-stop this year are Arcade Fire’s THE SUBURBS and The Black Keys album BROTHERS. Here are the Black Keys performing I’M HOWLIN FOR YOU from that album, on Jools Holland:
A new discovery for me late in the year was Diane Birch. She released her first album, Bible Belt, in 2009 and the EP Velveteen Age just before Xmas this year. She’s only in her mid twenties but wow, what a voice.
And talking of great voices, soul/gospel legend Mavis Staples released a wonderful album this year called YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy who also wrote two of the songs on the album. Two of my all time favourite artists on one album. Heaven. Here’s a sample of what we’ll be seeing at the upcoming Byron Blues Fest in April. I, for one, cannot wait!
Ex Czars frontman, John Grant, gives a substantial nod to Supertramp and Bread on his debut album, Queen of Denmark. But hey, who else is doing that kind of material these days? The track I WANNA GO TO MARZ features the band Midlake and its a beautiful song based on Grant’s own childhood experience of escaping to the local sweet shop. In his own words, the song “is a gateway back to childhood and innocence before things have become complicated.”
A band that also sounds a lot like a few bands of the 70’s is The Russians. But gee, what a great job they do of it. Their album Crashing The Party is full of retro power pop/rock melodies. Sort of like Big Star, but , (dare I say it?) better.
We finished up with the song that’s been on everyone’s lips this year, Cee-Lo Green’s F**CK YOU. I had to play the clean version for radio, of course, which he conveniently included on his Lady Killer album as FORGET YOU. This album is more than the sum of its parts, that’s for sure. With its deliberate nods to Motown, 80’s soul and classic pop, its right up my alley. Hey, you’ve seen the official F**CK YOU clip a million times, (well, actually 33 million hits on YouTube!). So here he is, with his rockin’ all girl band on Later with Jools Holland (have I said already that I absolutely love this show?).
Next week will be the first show of the new year! I’ll be welcoming band Orkestra del Sol into the studio. They’re from the UK and are touring Australia. Think big band with lotsa high energy swinging sounds with flavours from the Balkans, Oompah, Gypsy and New Orleans. Should be fun. AND the theme will be the show will be MULTILINGUAL SONGS, by which I mean songs that have at least two languages in the lyrics. Any suggestions? Then leave me a message here!
Here’s the playlist, and accordingly, my favourite albums of 2010 (in no particular order):
Odessa – Swim, Caribou
Superfast Jellyﬁsh Ft. Gruff Rhys & De La Soul – Plastic Beach, Gorillaz
Pieces – Becoming A Jackal, Villagers
Tightrope (feat. Big Boi) – The ArchAndroid (Deluxe), Janelle Monáe
Lost In The World (feat. Bon Iver) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
Big Jet Plane – Down The Way, Angus & Julia Stone
Trigger Finger – You Am I, You Am I
Beg Steal or Borrow – God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise, Ray LaMontagne/Pariah Dogs
Ruby – Ali & Toumani, Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté
How’m I Doin – Made the Harbor, Mountain Man
The Lost Art Of Conversation – Bang Goes The Knighthood, The Divine Comedy
How I Got Over – How I Got Over, The Roots Feat. Dice Raw
I Can Change – This Is Happening, LCD Soundsystem
Cousins – Contra [Bonus Tracks], Vampire Weekend
Candy – Mojo, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
The High Road – Broken Bells, Broken Bells
The Suburbs – The Suburbs, Arcade Fire
Howlin’ for You – Brothers, The Black Keys
This Corrosion – The Velveteen Age, Diane Birch
You Are Not Alone – You Are Not Alone, Mavis Staples
I Wanna Go to Marz – Queen of Denmark, John Grant
Sober and Un-upsetting – Crashing the Party, The Russians
Forget You – The Lady Killer, Cee Lo Green
Next week: MULTILINGUAL SONGS
The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s major thoroughbred horse race. Held since 1861, on the first Tuesday in November, it’s billed as The race that stops a nation. It’s the richest and most prestigious “two-mile” handicap, and one of the richest turf races, in the world. So, it was inevitable that this week’s theme would tie in with this iconic Australian event. GAMBLING, therefore, it was. We contemplated the repercussions of hedging your bets, whether it was on the ponies, at the poker table or simply as a result of playing that universal game of chance, love.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullets opened the show with their highly energetic live rendition of RAMBLIN’ GAMBLIN’ MAN. We followed with a request from regular listener, Andy, who wanted to hear Ry Cooder’s I GOT MINE. It’s from the Chicken Skin Music album and, apparently it’s an old pop song from the minstrel and medicine show tradition. Cooder says that he learned this version from renowned Blues artist Pink Anderson, who followed tent shows in his early years.
Another regular contributor to the show, Robyn, asked for jazz-rock group Steely Dan’s DO IT AGAIN. The track features on their debut 1972 album Can’t Buy A Thrill and is the first in popular music to include an organ solo. Here they are live on the Midnight Special 1973:
Now if you want to hear a song or two about gambling guilt then you can’t go past the Blues. Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ONCE WAS A GAMBLER featured on the Crazy Heart soundtrack and it was a terrific suggestion from Des. And just to prove that gambling is not just a man’s preoccupation, pioneering singer and guitarist Memphis Minnie bemoaned the life of a GAMBLING WOMAN.
Could Lady GaGa be today’s version of Memphis Minnie? For all of you out there who may doubt this performer’s artistry, check out her acoustic and live version of POKER FACE on BBC Radio. Any doubts about her talent should now be dismissed, surely.
Ska revival band, The Specials, have to be one of the coolest bands on earth. Formed in 1977 and still going strong after a lengthy break between 1981 and 2008, we played their cover of the Pioneers race-track tune, LONGSHOT KICK DE BUCKET. Here they are in 1979:
Another of my fave bands is Wilco and they gave us their gambling track, CASINO QUEEN. Wendy contacted us and requested THE JOKER from The Steve Miller Band. Great choice. Here they are live on the Jools Holland show. Even Cee Lo Green was loving this peformance. Cool pink suit too, Cee Lo!
Big Audio Dynamite was formed in 1984 by the ex-guitarist and singer of The Clash, Mick Jones. The band was notable for their effective mixture of varied musical styles incorporating elements of punk rock, dance, hip-hop, reggae and funk. Here they are with THE BOTTOM LINE.
Melissa contacted me to say that she loves Ray Charles. Who doesn’t? He is a music legend. Frank Sinatra called Ray “the only real genius in show-business”. His song BLACKJACK was a perfect song for this week’s theme. A little less known is blues and sould singer Little Johnny Taylor. He recorded throughout the 60’s and 70’s and performed live throughout the 80’s and 90’s. His song YOU WIN, I LOSE is another of those tunes about hedging your bets on love and it’s a beauty.
Closer to home, The Little River Band have a number of tracks that suit this week’s topic but none better than LONESOME LOSER. And if you’re looking for some bellylaughs, then Melbourne group, Mic Conway and the National Junk Band’s RACE CALL OF LIFE TO DEATH should do the trick. It’s on their Corporate Chook album. As they so cleverly point out, our whole life is a gamble so we may as well just go for it!
The Animals’ HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN was a shoo-in, of course. As was The Rolling Stones with TUMBLING DICE, from their Exile on Main Street album.
I bet by now you were wondering whether I would play the absolutely predictable THE GAMBLER by Kenny Rogers?” Well, of course, yes. I have no shame. This is an absolute classic and couldn’t possibly be omitted: “You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”
And talking of classics…..
Big Joe Turner was an American Blues “shouter” who came to fame in the 1950’s with his pioneering rock and roll recordings, particularly Shake Rattle & Roll. His unique voice was well served on our featured song this week, LIFE IS LIKE A CARD GAME.
The Band’s song about the dangers of drinking and gambling, UP ON CRIPPLE CREEK, features on their second self-titled album and was released as a single in 1969. They also perform the song on the live concert film The Last Waltz:
The hero of UP ON CRIPPLE CREEK gets into all kinds of trouble essentially because he’s looking for love. The great T-Bone Walker, the first Blues artist to use an electric guitar, also knows all about love gone wrong on LOVE IS JUST A GAMBLE. We followed with the legendary Stanley Brothers who contributed their thoughts on the matter with a great piece of bluegrass called IF I LOSE.
The Jerry Garcia Band performed DEAL live at Shoreline Ampitheatre California on September 1, 1990. A Grateful Dead concert was to have occurred at the venue on this date but was cancelled due to the untimely death of Dead keyboard player Brent Mydland. That one was for Hudson who follows The Theme Park with an excellent BayFM program, Post Modern Backlash.
I’m sure that there would be no argument if I asserted that Jimmie Rodgers is the godfather of Country music. His deceptively simple delivery of a song like GAMBLING ROOM BLUES, with his distinctive yodelling added for good measure, is just so evocative. He performed in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Big jump to 1979, (a very good year btw), with The Clash and THE CARD CHEAT from their 3rd album, London Calling.
Tim Freedman of Australian group The Whitlams knows a thing or two about telling a story in song. And, as we headed for Theme Park’s finishing post, what better way to comment on this country’s obsession with gambling than to play The Whitlams’ BLOW UP THE POKIES? Here’s Tim on the SBS program Insight explaining the meaning of the song and doing a beautiful solo performance.
Just to lift the mood, our closing double appealed to the rock chick in me: Everclear with BLACKJACK and the one and only AC/DC with a song that has a couple of versions, and is rife with double meaning. Of course I choose to interpret THE JACK as being about gambling. What they’re gambling on, of course, is up for discussion.
Thanks too to Melissa, Robyn, Des, Andy & Wendy for your suggestions for this week’s show. Much appreciated.
Next week’s theme, is on NIGHT which has been inspired by last week’s RECLAIM THE NIGHT women’s march. I’d like to thank all the women, young and old, who marched together in Byron Bay, and the men who supported us. It was inspirational, empowering and a heap of fun. If you weren’t there, make sure that you get involved next year. Violence against women is prevalent and shoudn’t be accepted. (End of community service announcement!)
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – Live Bullet, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
I Got Mine – Chicken Skin Music, Ry Cooder
Do It Again – Can’t Buy A Thrill, Steely Dan
Once Was A Gambler – The Best Of Lightning Hopkins, Lightnin’ Hopkins
Gambling Woman – High Rollers – Vintage Gambling, Memphis Minnie
Poker Face – The Fame, Lady Gaga
Longshot Kick De Bucket – 1992 – Live: Too Much Too Young, The Specials
Casino Queen – A.M., Wilco
The Joker – Groovin’ 70’s [Disc 10], The Steve Miller Band
The Bottom Line – Planet BAD: Greatest Hits, Big Audio Dynamite
Blackjack – Pure Genius, Ray Charles
You Win, I Lose – Mo’ Mod Jazz, Little Johnny Taylor
Lonesome Loser – Greatest Hits, Little River Band
Race Call Of Life To Death – Corporate Chook, Mic Conway’s National Junk Band
House Of The Rising Sun – Time Life: Sound Of The Sixties, The Animals
Tumbling Dice – Exile On Main Street, The Rolling Stones
The Gambler – Greatest Hits, Kenny Rogers
Viva Las Vegas – Command Performances: The Essential Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
Life Is Like A Card Game – High Rollers – Vintage Gambling, Big Joe Turner
Up On Cripple Creek – Anthology, Vol. 1, The Band
Love Is Just A Gamble – 50s R&B Classics, T-Bone Walker
If I Lose – Theme Time Radio Hour, The Stanley Brothers
Deal – Garcia, Jerry Garcia
Gambling Bar Room Blues – High Rollers – Vintage Gambling, Jimmie Rodgers
The Card Cheat – London Calling, The Clash
Blow Up The Pokies – Take 40 Australia, The Whitlams
Blackjack – Slow Motion Daydream, Everclear
The Jack – High Voltage, AC/DC