Tag Archive | "John Martyn"

Röyksopp – Late Night Tales

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Röyksopp – Late Night Tales

Posted on 12 June 2013 by Joe

At last, XTC’s track The Somnambulist has finally been picked by a Late Night Tales compilation curator.

This perfect late night song is one of a number of reasons to be delighted with Norwegian duo Röyksopp’s turn to select 20 or so tracks to listen to in the wee small hours.


Another is they’ve really got a handle on what makes these compilations great. There’s some fine atmospheric music for late night listening such as Vangelis’s Blade Runner Blues and also some surprising blasts from the past such as Acker Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore, which really works here.

They also have a good sense of fun as well, with Richard Schneider Jr’s ridiculously Austen Powers-esque Hello Beach Girls providing giggles and innuendo aplenty.

Johann Johannsson’s Odi Et Amo is another brooding, wonderful addition to a compilation series that excels in introducing the listener to a band’s record collection and obscurities. Where else would I be able to hear Thomas Dolby’s Budapest By Blimp alongside John Martyn’s Small Hours for the first time?

Even This Mortal Coil’s ‘Til I Gain Control sounds good under Röyksopp’s curation before it’s time to end the compilation as all those in the series do, with a little short story, this time part two of Flat of Angles, read by Sherlock Holmes himself Benedict Cumberbatch.

A funny, interesting and wonderfully electic addition to one of our favourite compilation series.


by Joe Lepper




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Top Ten Albums From The Golden Age of UK Folk Music

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Top Ten Albums From The Golden Age of UK Folk Music

Posted on 07 March 2011 by Joe

From the mid 1960s through to the early 1970s the UK folk music scene was transformed with a legacy that continues to influence indie and alternative artists to this day.

From America’s Midlake and Sweden’s Tallest Man on Earth to the UK’s current diverse folk scene of the likes of Tuung and The Unthanks the influences of this golden age of folk music were immense.

We thought it was about time that we paid tribute to this time and showcase some of the best albums produced by some familiar and less familiar names. We’ve drafted in folk music expert Garry Todd to compile this list for us as we present Neon Filler’s Top Ten Albums From The Golden Age of UK Folk Music.

1. Fairport Convention – Liege &Lief

Moving away from being the English Jefferson Airplane, and throwing off their predominantly American folk-psych influences, the band concocted this strange brew of ancient folk songs retooled for the psychedelic mindset. Born out of the tragic road accident which killed the original drummer, Martin Lamble, and seriously injured the rest of the band, Fairport’s fourth album is the philosopher’s stone of British folk rock. The first to fully realise an electrified British folk music.

The band’s alchemical manifesto is set out on opening song Come all ye in which Sandy Denny sets out to ‘Rouse the spirit of the Earth and move the rolling sky’. When Richard Thompson’s guitar takes flight duelling with Dave Swarbrick’s electric violin on Reynardine, it’s no mystery why this album was so influential.

2. Incredible String Band – The 5000 spirits or the layers of an onion

Out of the fertile folk scene of Scotland’s central belt, ISB were tremendously gifted musicians with a beatnik/proto hippie sensibility, who drew from a deep well of ethnic music, little heard at the time. Strong melodies augmented with keen harmonies and exotic arrangements, complement lyrics that range from whimsical conversations with clouds, to meetings with death and all points in between. They sound simultaneously ancient and modern all within the same song.

3. Roy Harper – Stormcock

Harper developed his idiosyncratic guitar style through years of itinerant wandering through Europe. On Stormcock he floats free from conventional songwriting, in a good way. His eddying fingerpicked guitar swells and rises over four long songs, bolstered with an orchestral arrangement and even Jimmy Page on one track. Often multitracking his voice into a epic chorus, Harper shifts register throughout in service of his songs. Throughout the album, Harper’s rails against religion, hypocrisy, power and it’s abuses with a sharp tongue and wit, with an occasional slide into low humour. The beautiful closing track, Me and My Woman, is where he finds some respite.

4. Bert Jansch – Rosemary Lane

Of all Jansch’s superb early albums, Rosemary Lane is the finest product of this purple patch. During a break from working with Pentangle, Jansch recorded the album at home with producer Bill Leader, as he had with his first few albums. Jansch makes these traditional songs truly his own, and the resulting ambience is intimate and immediate, as though the gentle melancholic lilt of Jansch’s hushed delivery were solely for you.

5. Shirley & Dolly Collins – Love, Death & The Lady

Dark, austere and forbidding, this beautiful, spare setting of traditional songs, is probably the peak of Shirley & Dolly Collins work. The arrangements of pipe organ and medieval instrumentation untether the mainly 19th century songs from their origins, setting them adrift in a melancholy world of their own. Shirley Collins has described herself being a conduit for the music. Her voice has an immediacy and purity, such clarity lost now, in an age of auto-tune and endless vibrato. The effect can beheartbreaking, as on Are you going to leave me?

6. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left

It is hard to appreciate now that Nick Drake’s songs were once a precious secret. His albums reportedly sold less than 5000 copies each on original release, and were not widely available until released on CD in 1989. A fine guitarist with a strong lyrical style, his quiet, breathy delivery is supported on a bed of strings, adding drama and pathos to songs like River Man. Long overshadowed by the knowledge of his suicide, his music was sweetly introspective with a gentle melancholy often undercut by sly deprecative humour, as in Man in a Shed, or Poor Boy on his next album BryterLayter.

7. John Martyn – Bless The Weather

Bless the Weather was Martyn’s fifth album and his first solo album in what would  become his classic style, playing his guitar through an echoplex. Martyn develops his blend of Jazz, Folk and Rock into a spaced out hall of mirrors on Glistening Glyndebourne. His semi-slurred delivery only thickens from this point on, giving his songs a narcotic edge, even at their most romantic.

8. Comus – First Utterance

Murder ballads are a strong component of the folk repertoire. Comus took the murder ballad into the pagan wild woods and sacrificed it.  Although mostly acoustic the arrangements have a manic energy and intensity, which leaves most extreme rock looking puny and underfed. Roger Wooten, the lead singer and main songwriter sounds demonically possessed, throwing himself into the roles of rapist, murderer and asylum inmate with glee. The cover image of a twisted pain wracked man is fully representative of the lyrics. There are lighter moments but these are brief interludes before plunging back into the darkness. Step carefully into the forest.

9. Steeleye Span – Please to see the King

Ashley Hutchings left Fairport Convention after Liege and Leif, and founded Steeleye Span as a vehicle to delve deeper into traditional song. On their second album, Martin Carthy came on board and they went electric. With Carthy and Tim Hart the band had two strong male singers, but on the majority of songs Maddy Prior took the lead. All three harmonised terrifically throughout. Without drums the rhythm is carried through the interplay of guitar and bass, with violin often taking lead instrumental voice.

10. Lal & Mike Waterson – Bright Phoebus

Half of The Watersons make an original record with almost every significant musician in the British Folk Rock scene, it just has to be good, doesn’t it? Luckily, Bright Phoebus is a fantastic record with superb guitar work from Richard Thompson and Martin Carthy. Brilliant vocal harmonies from Lal and Mike are the centrepiece of glistening arrangements. There’s an eerie quality to most of the songs, listening to The Scarecrow will genuinely give you the shivers.

Compiled and written by Garry Todd


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Top Ten Songs About Parenthood

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Top Ten Songs About Parenthood

Posted on 14 December 2010 by Joe

As rock stars get older the angst fades and they often look towards home  and their  kids for inspiration. While for some it is the sheer joy of parenthood that is  inspiring, for others being a parent carries some serious emotional baggage that needs airing. We’ve got some tracks by some great folk artists, angry punks, the chameleon in chief of modern music and XTC – practically our house band at Neon Filler. Sit back, pull up a fairy cake and enjoy Neon Filler’s Top Ten Songs About Being A Parent.

1. Animal Collective – My Girls

We’ve gone for one of the most recent songs about parenting for our number one slot. Here Animal Collective’s Panda Bear sings about the most basic of parenting emotions of  providing a safe and loving home for his family.

The My Girls in question are wife Fernanda Pereira and daughter Nadja. “I just want four walls and adobe slats (red roofing tiles in Portugal where he lives) for my girls,” he sings. Panda Bear’s girls have since been joined by a son, who was born in June 2010, who now also enjoys the family’s four walls and tiles.

My Girls features on Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) read our review here.

2. XTC – Holly Up on Poppy

As our Top Ten Bands that Changed our Lives feature explains XTC are the kind of band you can grow up with. From their teenage roots as new wavers in Swindon to becoming family men XTC’s chief song writers Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding always come up trumps when singing about the every day important issues of life. Parenting is a theme that crops up in many of their songs but Partridge’s song about his daughter Holly riding on her rocking horse perfectly sums up the joy a parent has watching their child play.

Quoted on the excellent Chalkhills XTC web site Partridge explains that the song’s beauty is its simplicity. “Originally the song was titled ‘Holly High on Poppy’ but people thought it was about drugs. Even now someone’s said it’s about dying of cancer and taking drugs to ease the pain. But it’s really about my daughter and her rocking horse.”

Holly Up On Poppy features on Nonsuch (1990)

3. Squeeze – Up the Junction

Up the Junction is a classic for so many reasons. It’s a weepie about a foolish alcoholic man looking back at his regrets. It’s a rare hit that has no chorus. But for me it is the few lines about the protagonist’s joy of becoming a parent that make this a classic about parenthood. “This morning at 4:50 I took her rather nifty, Down to an incubator, Where thirty minutes later, She gave birth to a daughter, Within a year a walker. She looked just like her mother, if there could be another.” Wonderful stuff.

Up The Junction features on Cool For Cats (1979)

4. Ben Folds – Gracie

Ben Folds has written for both his son and daughter but it is this tribute to his daughter Gracie that really caught our attention. Folds perfectly captures the special bond between parent and child, as he sings that “you will always have a part of me nobody else is ever going to see.”

The innocence of being a kid is also wonderfully summed up, with Folds showing genuine emotion describing the everyday events of a child’s life as he sings to Gracie, “with your cards to your chest walking on your toes, What you got in the box only Gracie knows.” Ahhh.

Gracie features on Songs For Silverman (2005)

5. David Bowie – Kooks

Kooks is a great tribute to a newborn. Written just after his son Zowie Bowie was born it shows Bowie imagining life as a parent, hoping he does a good job. Among the many splendid lines is this beauty about his son’s school life to come. “Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads, Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s Dads. And if the homework brings you down, Then we’ll throw it on the fire,And take the car downtown.”

This shows a wonderful warmth that was sadly not replicated in Bowie’s odd choice of name for his son. With a name like that there’s no need to pick a fight with a cad, they’ll come flocking. Thankfully Zowie is now Duncan Jones and a fine director to boot.

Kooks features on Hunky Dory (1971)

6. Guided By Voices – My Son Cool.

Having a cool dad is par for the course being a rock star’s son or daughter and they don’t come much cooler than Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard. An indie music stalwart, prolific song writer, influencer of many and a former college sports star as well. Pollard is cool as you get. It is with a certain knowing air that he shuns his own coolness and says to his son Bryan, no, it is you that is cool. Now off you go son and do you own thing.

As Pollard said in 2005 about parenthood. “I’ve at least allowed my children to pursue their own interests without too much interference, and I think they both turned out pretty good.” A proud dad indeed.

My Son Cool features on Alien Lanes (1995)

7. John Martyn – My Baby Girl

Sometimes songs need little explanation; the lyrics and title say it all. That’s the case here with My Baby Girl, written by the late John Martyn in the mid 1970s. Its sugary, its syrupy and there’s nothing wrong with that. This line in particular shows how much Martyn and his daughter need and inspire each other. “Daddy will you sing for me, Daddy try to swing for me, Daddy play your strings for me, Daddy don’t you cry for me, Daddy will you fly for me, Daddy will you try for me.”

My Baby Girl features on  Sunday’s Child (1975)

8. Joni Mitchell – Little Green.

Mitchell gave her daughter up for adoption in 1965, explaining some years later that , “I was dirt poor. An unhappy mother does not raise a happy child. It was difficult parting with the child, but I had to let her go.” Writing about this tragic part of her life is no mean feat, but in 1967 after a number of rejigs she finally managed to deliver Little Green, about the toddler she never knew. While Little Green is one of the saddest tracks on our list, the real life story has a happy ending of sorts, with Mitchell being reunited with her daughter Kilauren Gibb in 1997.

Little Green features on Blue (1971)

9. Wilco and Billy Bragg – Hoodoo Voodoo

Being a kid is silly, being a parent can be silly. Sometimes there are big issues to sing about, but sometimes as on this Woody Guthrie track re-imagined by Wilco and Billy Bragg, there is a lot of fun to be had. Here Guthrie’s odd nonsense rhyme for his kids is given the music it deserves. How can you not like a song with the lyrics “Hoodoo voodoo, Chooka chooky choochoo; True blue, how true; Kissle me now.”

Hoodoo Voodoo features on Mermaid Avenue Vol 1. (1998)

10. Hamell on Trial – Inquiring Minds

I’d never heard of Ed Hamell until I put out a request on Facebook for ideas for songs about parenting. Turns out I’ve been missing out on not only one of the best songwriters around but one of the best songwriters about being parent. Hamell sings whole albums about being a parent. It is this excellent track Inquiring Minds that was recommended to us, where Hamell expertly bluffs his way through some of the embarrassing questions more investigative kids might pose.

Inquiring Minds features on Parents Who Enjoy Drugs (2006)

compiled by Joe Lepper (with help from Neon Filler’s  friends on Facebook and inspired by his sons Dylan and Charlie)


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