Guest Writer Maia Davies (Ladies of the Canyon, Lee & Billie Strange) goes through her record collection.
1. Days of Future Passed, The Moody Blues 1967 (Decca)
When you spontaneously decide to one day leave the big city and rent a 100-acre farm the very next, this record comes in very handy. On a late summer evening in Northumberland County, all of your life plans and possibilities on hold, your post-sunned body stretched out on your porch, glass of wine in your hand, you sure are glad to stumble upon this vinyl and blast it through your open windows, curtains fluttering and sunset lighting the mood. Recorded as a song cycle concept album,Days offers a folk-psychedelia bountiful musical journey. It begins, naturally, with an overture, and is accompanied throughout by a fictionally named orchestra (The “London Festival Orchestra” was in fact created by Decca records to lend some gravitas to the hodgepodge project). If you’re feeling halfway between Mozart and King Crimson, as one might all alone on an August evening by the shores of Rice Lake, this is the record you need. It cycles through the phases of a day in song, spews out a few recognizable hits along the way, and takes your imagination–no matter where you may be and if you just close your eyes–to that sunset lit field and that glass of wine in your hand. May I recommend Prince Edward County’s “Vintner’s Daughter Unoaked Chardonnay?”
2. King Tuff, King Tuff, 2012 (Sub Pop)
When it’s the year 2014 and while attending the Osheaga music festival in Montreal, you realize in one devastating moment, watching 13 bands in a single day that you have absolutely never heard of and keeping in mind that you are now in your thirties, that in fact, you are tragically not cool anymore. So you go home and do some quick homework. Pitchfork et al are flashing videos and clever headlines at you making you dizzy. You remember that Sub Pop records used to stand for this religion of underground edge. So, desperate, you start sampling their roster of new bands, and, success! King Tuff, pooling a great deal from 60’s garage rock, 70’s guitar flare, 90’s psych and bringing that extra special modern weirdo taste you’ve been craving. Who cares about cool anymore, you’ve stumbled onto greatness! After obsessively listening alone at night on your killer headphones, solo teenage-like dance sessions in your bedroom and head bopping while walking through Mont-Royal park on a sunny afternoon, all feels right again in the world. If you were born in the 80’s and haven’t heard a great record in a long time, then this is the one for you. Pair it up with some uninhibited behaviour such as dancing or kissing strangers.
3. Nigeria 70, Original Afro Classics, Various Artists, 2004 (Strut)
Otherwise known as “the cure for common radio”, this is your antidote to road trip auditory torture. No more flipping through stations for different versions of the same terrible tunes while trying to enjoy a nice drive out to a legendary studio in Kingston, Ontario. 1970’s Nigerian Afro-funk is where it’s at, my friends. Some damn fine song-writing, grooving and jamming on this tasty compilation. Be ready to be moved and overjoyed. If you’re already a Fela Kuti fan, this is where you plunge deeper. If it’s all new to you, just catch the vibe and let it run through you. Great pre-going into the studio listening choice: inspiration will abound. Also available: a box set of this series, highly recommended.
4.461 Ocean Boulevard, Eric Clapton, 1974 (RSO)
Immediately upon exiting the aircraft at LAX, set the volume level at 6 and no louder and start with the 3rd track, “Willie and the Hand Jive”, to build a perfect California memory, one foot in front of you and whatever adventures may come, the other firmly rooted in the 70’s L.A. vibe of this gem of a Clapton record. Before the blasphemy of the acoustic version of “Layla”, this guy had style. Skip back to the beginning now and listen to the whole record: it’s a beautiful lesson in quiet swagger. You should be on “I Shot the Sheriff” at approximately the time you are bumper-to-bumper on the freeway, so now lay your head back and chill, and gaze at the palm fronds ‘cause they’re amazing. Drop off your suitcase at your bud’s place, own a headphone splitter at this point in your life and share the music with him as you walk over to Venice Beach. Buy some freshly hacked coconuts with straws in them, go sit on the boardwalk just far enough from the drug dealers to avoid hassle and watch the joyous circus of Venicelife unfold as you sip fresh coconut water. Don’t forget to listen to the great organ riffs on 461: it should be your perfect companion to waves cresting in the California sun. There’s nothing else like the California experience, even the British can get with it.
5. Osez Joséphine, Alain Bashung, 1991 (Barclay Records)
When throwing a late night party with a room full of English-speaking artists, throw this one on for a twist. Need to know more about French-language music? Start here, if only because it’s an illogical departure point, neither classical “chanson” nor modern French sound. Where you will find yourself, however, is smack in the middle of some epically good song-writing, whether or not you speak the language. Bashung’s tongue is all poetry, folk music and blues. Call it “French Americana” if you will. A glass of pure malt rocks is your best bet at this juncture. As masterful songs like “Volutes” (check out the video) or “Kalabougie” unravel, watch as people dig it. Translate some lyrics for them so they can be deeper into the magic:
"I danced in torrential rains until you came one day, an elusive Arlésienne
I skewed, only skewed, until dawned on me, but diluted ideas, diluted
What have you made of me, lost heart and soul, in the powder room, with the torments of the upper class
I am the one that shines, dazzles and blinds, but by the light of a candle, and of lightning
Twice in a century but by the light of a candle, of a candle". (Kalabougie)
The album will end with a perfect “bow” tied for us here, we who need to trace the thread from one sound to another. Bashung does a version of The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” (Days of Future Passed).This charmer will work for a post-dinner party drinks session–if you can’t manage to stay awake all night.
Cheers and go buy some vinyl.