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February 9, 2021

The Wire 445 is out now!

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Watch: Holland Andrews “Gloss”

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Tom Pinnock Mary Wilson: “We were just in it to make music”

Originally published in Uncut in 2015

Marvin Gaye
What’s Going On
TAMLA, 1971

Mary Wilson: The LP cover captures him in all his beauty as a man and as a thinker, and the songs take us into the new generation that was at hand. They touch me in my very core. I could feel the pain in the words and realised I was not the only one who felt the heaviness of what was going on in the world. Marvin’s was not a common trait found in the industry – he was a philosopher trapped in his own beliefs about the world and life. It should be rated as the greatest album of the 20th Century.

Booker T & The MG’s
Green Onions
STAX, 1962

After graduating high school in Detroit, I got a job at a record shop on the east side, not far from Motown. When “Green Onions” came out, it was the only record selling. People were lining up around the block. I’d never thought about our group making money. We were just in it to make music. This opened my eyes to what was to come if we got a hit, if it was possible the ‘no hit Supremes’ could make money just doing what we did naturally.

Doris Day
Qué Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)
COLUMBIA, 1959

I loved her movies, but fell more in love with her when she came out with this. That was the year that The Primettes [early Supremes] started singing. This has been my favourite song whenever I burst out singing, even today. I would put my younger cousins to sleep with this song. For me, it was a lullaby. I was one of the first black women to start wearing a blonde wig, before Tina Turner even, and that was because of Ms Day.

LaVern Baker
Jim Dandy
ATLANTIC, 1957

I grew up loving this lady. This was one of the first rock’n’ roll records I ever heard, I sang it every day. It was my first introduction to rock’n’roll. I got the chance to meet her when we were on tour, around ’65. We were doing a lot of shows in army bases in Asia, and someone said, “LaVern Baker is in the audience and she wants to see you.” And I’m like, “The LaVern Baker?!” She came backstage and she and I became friends.

John Coltrane
A Love Supreme
IMPULSE, 1965

The liner notes written by Mr Coltrane are a testament to God. He wrote that he had experienced a spiritual awakening, which led him to a richer, fuller, more productive life. This album is a humble offering to God. For all of us listeners, it is a beautiful musical experience of a man touched by God. When I first heard it, I fell in love with its melody and the truth of his motives to give to the world this music.

Stevie Wonder
Innervisions
TAMLA, 1973

I remember when Stevie came for his audition at Motown when he was nine, something like that. Mr Berry Gordy said, “I have some young genius coming to audition today.” We were just 16 or 17. But anyway, we never met a genius that we knew of, so we stayed and we waited. Stevie arrived, went in Studio 8, jumped on every instrument and started playing it! He taught me what a genius really was. Years later, when this LP came out, it was phenomenal. I listen to it a lot now.

Nancy Wilson
Guess Who I Saw Today
CAPITOL, 1960

This was one of the first jazz songs that I really got into. I heard it once and I memorised every single line from just hearing it that one time. And I would sing this song all the time. She and I met later and became like sisters because of the Wilson thing, and I still call her, even now she’s retired. I loved her interpretation of it. A lot of people have sung this, but no-one does it like Nancy Wilson. Her version was perfect.

The Four Tops
Four Tops Live!
TAMLA MOTOWN, 1966

People don’t think of singers as groupies of other singers, but I’m a groupie of The Four Tops. If you look at the photo on the flipside to this album, The Four Tops are onstage and you see me jumping up to join them! It shows that I am a groupie of theirs. I just love their harmonies – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”, “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and “7 Rooms Of Gloom” are my favourites of their songs.

The post Mary Wilson: “We were just in it to make music” appeared first on UNCUT.

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New video by Gramophone on YouTube

Beethoven’s Fifth: interpreting genius (with James Jolly and Rob Cowan)
In the first episode of a brand new series for Gramophone, Editor-in-Chief James Jolly and critic and broadcaster Rob Cowan discuss Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and compare the various approaches that conductors have to taken to this most famous of masterpieces.

They talk about how a professional critic should approach a new recording, how performance practices have changed over the decades, and how no matter how many times you’ve heard this symphony, Beethoven’s genius always shines through.

0:00 – Introduction
26:35 – Hermann Scherchen
28:40 – Carlos Kleiber
33:22 – Mariss Jansons
34:49 – Iván Fischer
38:10 – Antal Dorati
45:44 – John Eliot Gardiner
47:15 – Charles Munch
50:05 – Herbert von Karajan
53:25 – Manfred Honeck

Read the reviews of these albums on the Gramophone website:
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Listen to the playlist on Apple Music:
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View on YouTube

Alex Ross Tarkovsky footnotes

Screen Shot 2020-12-07 at 10.30.59 AM

Screen Shot 2020-12-07 at 10.30.59 AM

Pendulum

Screen Shot 2020-12-07 at 10.30.59 AM

The Icon-Maker. The New Yorker, Feb. 15 and 22, 2021.

This is a piece I first started writing in 1993, on the occasion of the American publication of Andrei Tarkovsky’s diaries, and then set aside. The year 2020 felt like the right time to resume. I first saw the director’s films at the Harvard Film Archive in the late 1980s, when the indomitable Vlada Petric was in charge of the programming. I revisited them mainly by way of the Criterion Collection, which has crisp and richly supplemented editions of Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, and Stalker. The Ivan issue throws in Tarkovsky’s elegant VGIK graduation film, The Steamroller and the Violin. (Two earlier student films, The Killers and There Will Be No Leave Today, circulate on YouTube, although only the true obsessive will glean much from them.) A new restoration of Mirror is now streaming from Film at Lincoln Center. Kino Lorber has reissued Nostalghia and Sacrifice. If you have a subscription to Criterion Channel, you can not only see Ivan, Rublev, Solaris, and Stalker but also explore the work of Tarkovsky’s Soviet-era colleagues: some highlights are Mikhail Kalatozov’s pathbreaking The Cranes Are Flying; Larissa Shepitko’s spellbinding WWII film The Ascent; Sergei Parajanov’s wildly imaginative The Color of Pomegranates; and Elem Klimov’s Come and See, a war film of shocking and crushing power.

The Tarkovsky literature is considerable. The essential book is Vida T. Johnson and Graham Petrie’s The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue (Indiana UP, 1994). It is valuable both for its keen, clear-eyed analysis and for its fastidious summaries of the films, which shed much light on their more oblique passages. Another excellent starting point is Geoff Dyer’s Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room (Vintage, 2012), which bores deep into the riddles of Stalker. Tarkovsky’s two published books, Sculpting in Time and Time after Time: The Diaries, are mesmerizing on every page, even if certain of the director’s grandiose musings on time and fate grow stale on re-reading. Both are translated by Kitty-Hunter-Blair. (Incidentally, this blog’s inaugural entry, posted back in 2004, came from the diaries: “I have four razors and a dictaphone.”) In 2004, Thames & Hudson published Instant Light, a collection of Tarkovsky’s Polaroids, which are, inevitably, more mysterious and stupendous than anyone else’s Polaroids. John Gianvito has edited a compendium of Tarkovsky interviews (University Press of Mississippi, 2006).

I also consulted Mark Le Fanu’s The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky (BFI, 1987); Marina Tarkovskaya’s About Andrei Tarkovsky (Progress Publishers, 1990); Peter Green’s Andrei Tarkovsky: The Winding Quest (Macmillan, 1993); Natasha Synessios’s Mirror (Tauris, 2001); Robert Bird’s Andrei Rublev (BFI, 2004); Gunnlaugur A. Jónsson and Thorkell Á. Óttarsson’s essay collection Through the Mirror Reflections on the Films of Andrei Tarkovsky (Cambridge Scholar Press, 2006); Nathan Dunne’s lavishly illustrated anthology Tarkovsky (Black Dog, 2008); Robert Bird’s Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema (Reaktion, 2008); Nariman Skakov’s The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky: Labyrinths of Space and Time (Tauris, 2012); Phoebe Pua’s Compositions of Crisis: Sound and Silence in the Films of Bergman and Tarkovsky (Ph.D. diss., Australian National University, 2013); Tobias Pontara’s Andrei Tarkovsky’s Sounding Cinema: Music and Meaning from “Solaris” to “The Sacrifice” (Routledge, 2019); and, just out from Edinburgh University Press, Sergey Toymentsev’s anthology ReFocus: The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky.

Other useful sources were Gilles Deleuze’s commentaries in Cinema 2: The Time Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Caleta (University of Minnesota Press, 1989); P. Adams Sitney’s The Cinema of Poetry (Oxford, 2014); Steven Dillon’s The Solaris Effect: Art and Artifice in Contemporary American Film (University of Texas Press, 2006); Peter Green’s “Apocalypse and Sacrifice,” Sight and Sound 56:2 (1987), pp. 111–18; Roger Hilman’s “Tarkovsky’s Odes to . . . Joy?,” Slavic and East European Performance 17:3 (1997), pp. 30–36; Boris Natanovich Strugatsky and Erik Simon’s “Working for Tarkovsky,” Science Fiction Studies 31:3 (2004), pp. 418–20; Robert Bryan’s “Lighting Boris Godunov with Andrei Tarkovsky,” Opera Quarterly 26:1 (2010), pp. 122–28; and John A. Riley’s “Hauntology, Ruins, and the Failure of the Future in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker,” Journal of Film and Video 69:1 (2017), pp. 18–26. An especially fascinating document is Stan Brakhage’s “Brakhage Meets Tarkovsky,” Chicago Review 47/48 (2001–2002), pp. 42–46, which describes Tarkovsky’s almost comically rude response to the great experimental filmmaker. One of the most haunting pieces ever written about the director is Robert Bird’s “The Omens: Tarkovsky, Sacrifice, Cancer,” which Apparatus published last year. I knew Robert over e-mail and was planning to reach out to him as I set to work on this article. I was saddened to discover that he had died in September, at the age of fifty.

I frequently visited the Nostalghia website, whose trove of Tarkovskiana includes passages from the diaries that are not available in the standard English edition. I also browsed a cache of YouTube videos uploaded by Charles M. Here you can see various interviews with the director, behind-the-scenes footage, documentaries in several languages, a glimpse of Tarkovsky’s funeral, his occasional acting appearances, and interviews with his associates. Among the oddities on offer is a snippet of film showing Tarkovsky touring Monument Valley in 1983. This was his only American visit, the result of an invitation from the Telluride Film Festival. That appearance went poorly, with Tarkovsky’s haughty strictures against Hollywood alienating American filmmakers and inspiring a protest from none other than Richard Widmark. In 2008, Jim Emerson wrote an amusing account of the brouhaha for Roger Ebert’s blog.

Tarkovsky has a potent appeal among musicians and composers. When I interviewed Alfred Schnittke in 1994, I couldn’t resist asking about his great contemporary. Schnittke said: “Unfortunately I never worked with him. I would be happy if that were true, if that had actually happened. It had been a dream of ours, but it never actually happened.” Toru Takemitsu, Luigi Nono, Gyorgy Kurtág, Wolfgang Rihm, and Beat Furrer all wrote works in Tarkovsky’s memory; Claudio Abbado presented four of those pieces at a Wien Modern concert in 1991 and recorded them for DG. Paul Griffiths reviewed the disc insightfully for the New York Times. It was Abbado who enticed Tarkovsky into the opera house, for a production of Boris Godunov at Covent Garden in 1983. The staging was later re-created at the Mariinsky and released on video, though its impact was diminished in the process. The most potent image is a pendulum that swings at the back of the stage in several scenes; when I saw it, I thought of the swinging censer in Andrei Rublev (see the third freeze frame above). At the time of his death, Tarkovsky was preparing to return to opera, again at Covent Garden. The piece? Wagner’s Flying Dutchman.

Much thanks to Anya Kordunsky, Daniel Zalewski, David Remnick, Nico Chapin, Vida Johnson, and Mikhail Ratgauz.

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Sam Richards Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy announce new Superwolves album

Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy have announced a follow-up to their 2005 collaborative album, Superwolf.

Superwolves is out digitally via Domino on April 30, with a vinyl release to follow on June 18. Watch a video for new single “Hall Of Death” below.

Will Oldham (aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) wrote “Hall Of Death” with Tuareg guitarist and producer Ahmoudou Madassane. The song features Madassane on rhythm electric guitar, Mdou Moctar on lead guitar, Mike Coltun on electric bass and Souleyman Ibrahim on drums. The video was directed by Sai Selvarajan and Jeff Bednarz.

“I love the challenge to write melodies for Will to sing,” says Matt Sweeney. “Struggle with that challenge too. Knowing that Will’s voice will elevate the melody makes me reach higher and dig deeper for the tune. Makes me want to match it with a guitar part that holds his voice like a chalice holds wine (or blood, or whatever is needed to live the best life). I also love singing harmonies and responses to this voice of his.”

Adds Will Oldham: “The chemistry comes from lives, lived separately, in which music is crucial sustenance. We listen with gratitude and awe, knowing that we belong in there. We construct our dream selves with the faith that these selves will have their chance at life. We know what we are capable of doing and just need each other’s support to bring the imagined languages to life.”

Check out the tracklisting for Superwolves below and pre-order here.

1. Make Worry For Me
2. Good To My Girls
3. God Is Waiting
4. Hall of Death
5. Shorty’s Ark
6. I Am A Youth Inclined to Ramble
7. My Popsicle
8. Watch What Happens
9. Resist the Urge
10. There Must Be a Someone
11. My Blue Suit
12. My Body is My Own
13. You Can Regret What You Have Done
14. Not Fooling

The post Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy announce new Superwolves album appeared first on UNCUT.

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Uncut Bob Marley – Deluxe Ultimate Music Guide

Continuing his 75th birthday celebrations, we present the deluxe expanded Ultimate Music Guide to Bob Marley. Following the artist from his early collaborations with Lee Perry, to his breakthrough and global stardom, it’s the definitive guide to the legend and his music. Get up, stand up!

Buy a copy here, with free P&P to the UK

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Unlimited Editions: Jazz In Britain

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Fact CTM 2021: Apotome Artist Takeover – Deena Abdelwahed

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