Monday, November 24, 2008

2008 matters because... Part 1

I've not posted much recently but that is not because music has been far from my mind. Rather the opposite in fact; it is just that I have been listening to it and thinking about it rather than writing about it. Several people have asked about lyrics to some albums I have mentioned recently, particularly 'Jill Jackson' - Jill Jackson and 'Love Tattoo' - Imelda May and I hope to have these on-line this coming weekend at the latest.

Some say, and it has been the case for decades, that the latest year is just more proof of the end of the world as we know it. I am quite willing to believe that the global economy in 2008 has suffered vicissitudes unknown in the lifetimes of most of us but does that therefore mean the end of music as we know it? I'd wager that the answer is no for that never really happens, new layers are simply added and, while some genres fade in popularity and prominence (not always the same thing) they rarely disappear completely and have a tendency to return, revisited and reinvented, when least suspected. I have only one reservation and that is: Do you get the feeling that things are undergoing a subtle, but perhaps profound, change?

Think back over the last year and there are some surprises, the most surprising often not being the most immediately obvious. A good and fairly easy place to start is the continuing ascent of apparently unlikely, but often very successful, cover versions.

Who, say three years ago, would have predicted the likes of Adele covering Bob Dylan's Make You Feel My Love?
It's the only cover on her 2008 début album '19' but what a dangerous choice - he has rarely played it live, hinting that it it is too difficult to perform under pressure - but when she performed it live on 'Later... with Jules Holland' as a piano ballad it went stellar and is now to be a single.
Leona Lewis has just released an updated version of her #1 2007 album 'Spirit', which went straight to the top spot again this week; of the two new tracks on it one is actually a cover version of Run from the 2003 Snow Patrol album 'Final Straw' which she first revealed, by performing it live, on BBC Radio 1's 'Live Lounge' in 2007 and again on X-Factor a couple of weeks ago.

I've heard this cover of Willie Nelson's Angel Too Close To The Ground (from the soundtrack to the 1980 drama Honeysuckle Rose), performed live by Beth Rowley twice now and it is amazing:

If you had not have fallen then I would not have found you
Angel flying too close to the ground.

I patched up your broken wings and hung around a while
Kept your spirits up and your fever down.
I knew some day that you would fly away
For love's the greatest healer to be found

So leave me, if you need to, but I will still remember
Angel flying too close to the ground.

It is included, as a duet, on her 2008 début album 'Little Dreamer', which also includes a fine cover of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released and also some very good new songs. In my opinion So Sublime is the best of them, and amongst the best on the album, but it is all a close call.

I'll expand on what I mean by this generalisation in the coming weeks, but this is my premise:
Could the diversity that we have seen this year be the start of a new era of popular music we can hardly yet even imagine?

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