Sunday, December 02, 2007

yoyo zebra

I've been listening to a lot of Neil Young recently. But any fool knows that if you don't have Decade (err... why?) and you want some Neil Young action, you should get yourself over to the peerless Aquarium Drunkard which regularly cover all things Young-ian amongst loads of other good stuff.

So I'm going to represent the letter 'y' with a cover of Neil Young's Heart of Gold by a rubbish German disco band from the 1970s.

Boney M - Heart of Gold (Neil Young cover)


Visit - Boney M
Buy - Night Flight to Venus

Richard Cook, co-author of the Penguin Guide to Jazz, sadly passed away earlier this year. That book (along with a stint in the jazz department at a local record shop), really led me to a lot of my favourite music ever. With Brian Morton, Cook wrote eloquently and simply. Best of all, he was nearly always right.

One artist that he led me to explore further was American polymorph John Zorn. My first exposure to his music came from the 1989 South Bank Show special about the New York music scene, featuring Zorn and Sonic Youth - I wish now we'd taped the whole programme, not just the SY section!

Over the course of hundreds of albums Zorn has covered a lot of ground so a guide like the Penguin Guide is pretty indispensable - unless you or a close friend has a completist bent and a lot of money.

The Guide rightly points to his breakthrough album The Big Gundown, featuring radical re-workings of Ennio Morricone's music, as an essential release. I think this is pretty much an extension of Zorn's earlier 'game' approach to music, where rules and signals govern the music, rather than a conventional score - for example, he gets legendary jazz harmonica player in to whistle the harmonica theme to Once Upon a Time in America. Most pieces are musical representations of the films they originally scored; in particular the theme to Once Upon a Time in the West pits two howling guitars against each other to represent the final duel. MP3 representations do these tracks no favours at all, so if you're interested, see the link below and buy it, friend!

Because of his love of hardcore (and in particular the mighty Napalm Death), Zorn formed Naked City in 1988, with Bill Frisell (guitars), Fred Frith (bass), Wayne Horvitz (keyboards), Joey Baron (drums), and occasional vocals from Yamatsuka Eye and Mike Patton.

There really isn't a huge amount you can say about this - it's ferocious and utterly visceral and your response is physical rather than intellectual. It mostly makes me nod my head with wide eyes and an open mouth. It's not all ear-bleeding stuff but mostly it's like cleaning your ears out with a switchblade. Mmm-mmm-good.

John Zorn/Naked City - Hammerhead

John Zorn/Naked City - You Will Be Shot

John Zorn/Naked City - Punk China Doll

John Zorn/Naked City - Reanimator

Another great album is the first Masada album, Alef. Masada was an attempt to create a radical new Jewish music - as Zorn said, the idea was to put "Ornette Coleman and the Jewish scales together".

I bought this after borrowing it from Ilkeston library - anyone who has any knowledge of South East Derbyshire will understand how truly bizarre this is.

John Zorn/Masada - Tzofeh

This song is so funky and really gives the lie to the idea that Zorn is just an avant-garde squawker. There are some beautiful lines and some great interplay with Dave Douglas on trumpet. Plus at 3.47 it has one of the best drum solos ever.

Visit - John Zorn / Tzadik
Buy - The Big Gundown
Buy - Naked City
Buy - Masada Alef (expensive import)