Arthur Russell – “Terrace of Unintelligibility” [Part 2] (1985)
This is an excerpt from the short film that was included with the first copies of Audika Records’ reissue of ‘World of Echo,’ featuring live performances of tracks from that album (especially “Answers Me”). The meditative fullness that Russell could achieve breaks my heart every single time, hundreds and hundreds of listens on, after so many years. I can’t begin to fathom how he could do so much with so little, but I’ve heard nothing truly like it. This film nicely reflects the intimacy one feels when hearing ‘World of Echo’ in the dark through headphones. [Find previously featured incarnations of Mr. Russell at Musicophilia Daily here, and mixes which incorporate his music at Musicophilia here.]
La Bionda – “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (1980)
I would never, ever have suspected this fantastic fully-animated video existed for one of my favorite Italo Disco/pop tunes. But it does, and like the track, it’s pure joy. Every once in a while, YouTube justifies its existence big-time. Unfortunately, nothing on the album from which “I Wanna Be Your Lover” comes close, as I learned the hard way a while back with a dodgy Russian “import,” but some of their other stuff seems like reasonably good, if rather more standard-issue, disco fun. (For a bonus, check below the ‘more…” link for a “live” performance by the duo of the track, in front of this video on a bluescreen, that adds another unbelievable layer. )
Joni Mitchell – “California” (Live, BBC, 1970)
Singer-songwriter is for me like prog, metal, ska-revival, punk: a whole lot of utter detritus, pierced by moments of absolute brilliance. For me, Joni Mitchell is the absolute pinnacle–‘Blue’ was one of the first albums I ever identified as a “favorite” as a small child (my mother would sing us Joni songs and play her guitar, her hippie youth waning but still vibrant, as lullabies). And it remains a top-10 album, a quarter-century later. Her voice aged well, in my opinion, and at this point I find later albums more “interesting,” and beautiful in their own ways–but ‘Blue’ is a solitary achievement, and it still makes my heart ache in a wonderful way however many hundreds of listens on. Plus, I just love that dulcimer sound.
Billie Holiday with Lester Young, Gerry Mulligan – “Fine & Mellow” (1957)
Despite being visibly emaciated and quite possibly stoned in this very late performance (from CBS’ ambitious ‘The Sound of Jazz‘) all the musical strength and grace is there. The one good thing that came of Ken Burns’ horribly skewed ‘Jazz’ documentary for me was seeing the context to this performance, and realising just how emotional a moment it must have been for Holiday and Young, estranged for so long, performing together one last time. It’s all there in the music, and in her eyes.
With its James Brown-based beat and Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl and post-punk tweesters Marine Girls) vocals, though it’s dated slightly, this track is still a winner. For me, though, its impact is heightened greatly by this technically unbelievable single-shot, single-take Michel Gondry video, one of the first videos I ever remember finding simply enthralling. Typical of Gondry when given emotionally meaningful material, his faux-lo-tech wizardry transcends the technical fascination and comes to reflect its subject matter in a way more honest and accurate than any more straightforward presentation ever could. UPDATE: Argh, embedding disabled for whatever reason, so a link instead–worth your while.
Dif Juz – “No Motion” (1987)
Their early-80’s work is even more to my tastes (find early EPs on the readily-available ‘Soundpool’ compilation), but this is still heady stuff, out of time for the late 80’s and undeniably calling ahead to Disco Inferno and their heirs. [Dif Juz are featured here and here in mixes at Musicophilia.]