Songs from the Vault

When I pull Songs from the Vault together I often have a sense of what I want to do, such as a particular theme or genre that I want to delve into.  Sometimes themes emerge as I put pen to paper as in this instance.  So without further to do welcome to this edition of SFTV and to a female artists special…

First up is a tune I first heard on David Holmes’ Essential Mix album from 1998 (which is a truly great mix album), Marlena Shaw’s California Soul.  Featuring on a 1969 album by Shaw and written by Ashford and Simpson you know within the first few seconds that you’re in for something special.  I’m sure you’ll agree…

Our next track finds us in the same decade but a couple of years earlier, in 1967.  The Fairest of the Seasons is the first track on Nico’s Chelsea Girl album, which followed her collaboration a year earlier with the Velvet Underground (on the famous Andy Warhol ‘banana’ album).  Like California Soul, Fairest was written by a famous tune smith, Jackson Browne (with Gregory Copeland), who plays guitar on the track.  Nico (real name Christa Päffgen) has such an identifiable voice given her provenance (she was born in Cologne) and the decision to have strings on the track was a stroke of genius…

We’re jumping to 1993 now for You’re in a Bad Way by Saint Etienne, featuring the vocals of Sarah Cracknell.  I was never a big fan of the band but you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due.  The song is a tip of the hat to the 1960s, which you can hear from the instrumentation of the tune, or at least see from the video.  It’s a perfect slice of pop music that sounds as good now as it did 25 years ago…

I recently saw Baltimore’s Beach House play at London’s Troxy.  The only thing missing from the gig was perhaps a tune or two without the dense wave of sound that washed over the venue and audience.  One song in particular that I was hoping the band would play (but didn’t) and which ticked this box is On the Sea.  So here it is and if ever a band’s name, song title and sound ever came together it’s this…

Last up is Galang from 2003 by Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, more commonly known as M.I.A.  The Hounslow-born rapper wasn’t on my radar until I heard a cover of Galang on the Vijay Iyer trio’s 2009 album Historicity.  If I had to pick a preferred version it’d be Vijay Iyer’s every time. If you don’t listen to jazz, check it out, it may well change your perception of what jazz is.  So here are both versions…

I hope you enjoyed this edition of SFTV and let me know what you think of this selection of tunes, espeically M.I.A. vs. the Vijay Iyer trio.