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It’s with a heavy heart that I write about the loss of a true legend; the great Ian McLagan. Born in 1945, Ian began playing in bands while still a teenager, and joined up with the already wildly popular in Europe Small Faces when he was all of 20 years old.

Ian first appeared on the Small Faces ’66 UK smash hit “Sha-La-La-La-Lee”; a number that directly caused the group to rebel against their teeny bopper image and wholeheartedly embrace heavy soul and nascent psychedelia. Mac’s first songwriting credit appeared as co-writer (along with the rest of the group) on the undoubtedly speed-fuelled, organ driven Booker T inspired raver “Grow Your Own“, which appeared as the B-side of “Sha-La-La-La-Lee”. Mac’s organ is the driving force of the track, and established this man’s reputation as an ‘A’ list keyboard player; a reputation that held on through his entire life and numerous sessions and guest appearances with a jaw dropping number of artists, including The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Paul Westerberg, and Bruce Springsteen (to name a few). Ian also cut several records and toured relentlessly as a bandleader.

Mac’s reputation was built upon his work with The Small Faces (and later, simply, The Faces which replaced Steve Marriott with Rod Stewart), and those recordings are the pieces that will always be the strongest in his legacy. I’m only scratching the surface of the greatness that these musicians achieved in a very short of a period.

In this fan’s opinion, The Small Faces reached their peak with the release of the 1967 single “Tin Soldier“; smoldering with an intense rock-soul groove, the band shows that they were a powerhouse unit that could hold their own with the Stax house band. Mac’s piano-organ doubling is the epitome of what well executed keyboards can add to a rock track, Steve Marriott’s vocal is pure soul, and the harmony vocals from PP Arnold are the stuff that makes life very good indeed. This clip may not be a live performance, but it captures the intensity of the record beautifully. The exemplary musicianship of this band is captured on this 1966 German TV performance of the group’s debut 45, “Whatcha Gonna Do About It”.

This record was cut before Mac joined the group, but this performance drives home the fact that he was the proper man for the job, as he adds some incredibly fluid organ work during Marriott’s freak out guitar solo. Between Kenny Jones’ jackhammer drumming, Ronnie Lane holding it solid on bass, Mac’s mind boggling organ, Steve Marriott’s wild dance moves and from the gut vocals, it’s simply not possible for a live performance to be better than this! Another cool track with a Mac co-writer credit is one that shows the English music hall influence that is so prevalent in much of the Small Faces work – the excellent “Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass“. words / d see

Elsewhere: Our pal Gregg foreman (aka Mr Pharmacist) recently conducted a superb interview with Mac that can be heard, here.

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At this point, it’s hard to imagine a world without Yo La Tengo. The band celebrates their 30th anniversary this week with a series of east coast shows, and yesterday released a deluxe reissue of their 1993 masterpiece Painful packed to the gills with bonus material: demos, live recordings and unreleased nuggets (not to mention a new edition of the beloved Yo La Tengo Gazette). Suffice to say, Extra Painful is extra good.

Calling Painful their “best” album is arguable — there are at least four other contenders — but it is probably their most cohesive, coherent statement. It’s also home to what I think of as the ultimate Yo La Tengo ballad, the gorgeous Georgia Hubley showcase “Nowhere Near.” Check out a live-on-the-radio rendition of the song, broadcast almost exactly 21 years ago over Parisian airwaves. Isn’t it romantic? words / t wilcox

Yo La Tengo :: Nowhere Near (Black Sessions, 1993)

Symarip_pyramid_band_1969Picture a dance club with sweaty, young adults losing their minds in New Orleans. The scene is the Saturn Bar. It’s freezing outside and everyone wants to be inside dancing, if only to survive the winter. The perfect tune pops on the system and everyone starts shaking it like they’ve forgotten everything else. It’s a primitive response. And just when you thought it was just a cover, it became more than a cover.

Symarip hails from the UK and operated during the late 1960s. Most of the members were of West Indian descent. Their name comes from a reversal mix mash of the word “pyramid”. The rockbeat is steady and the upbeat guitar rhythm is classic of the era. You really need to only listen for yourself to realize that the UK punk scene was very influenced by the Jamaican airwaves. If you were hip and underground, you were tuning into the AM frequencies and buying the 45s produced from Studio One.

Once the song was over most people left the dance floor to grab a drink and recover. It’s got a voodoo to it that most people don’t know they need. Yet they do. words / m norton

Symarip :: These Boots Are Made For Stomping

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Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Ultimate Painting is the collaborative pairing of James Hoare (of Veronica Falls) and Jack Cooper (of Mazes). A beautifully languid pairing at that. This week’s installment of the Lagniappe Sessions finds the two taking on four disparate covers – from Fugazi and Times New Viking, to the ubiquitous 90s radio pop of Sheryl Crow and the Beatles. Ultimate Painting, in their own words, below.
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Ultimate Painting :: No Room To Live (Times New Viking)

Huge fan of Times New Viking… for my money, one of the best bands of the last ten years. We stayed with Adam when we were just in Columbus and spent the drive there listening to TNV. We’d spent the previous evening in Cleveland where Jared lives now and it was great catching up with him too. Such a great band and the nicest people. This song is off their last LP… a super melodic chord whirlpool.

Ultimate Painting :: All I Wanna Do (Sheryl Crow)

I can’t remember why we chose this… It’s almost a talking blues. I always found it pretty exotic when I was a kid so when James mentioned it, I jumped in. We recorded all the music and then I realized just how weird her phrasing is. It wasn’t really possible to do justice to but I got myself in a different frame of mind and it went down fine. It’s a weird song and having since gotten into a YouTube wormhole, you realize she had some great songs… I suppose she got too big to do anything actually interesting again, but that’s another story.

Ultimate Painting :: I’m So Tired (Fugazi)

I used to drive around Devon listening to the Fugazi Instrument soundtrack when I was 17 with my friend Robin Christian, smoking in my mums Ford Fiesta. I’ve always had a lot of respect/time for Ian Mackaye and the way he runs his label and his general approach to music. You can learn a lot from him. The Instrument soundtrack features a wonderful collection of songs that I never tire of listening too.

Ultimate Painting :: If I Needed Someone (Beatles)

The Beatles are my favorite band, and George is my second favorite Beatle (after John) We learnt this for our recent US tour so we it made sense to include it here. The song’s were recorded in an afternoon in my bedroom. George’s guitar playing on this track is a nod to the Byrds and the influence clearly shows.

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / original illustration for aquarium drunkard by Ben Towle.

Nina Simone’s work, eclectic and nuanced, continually surprises. Her rendition of Jacques Brel’s “The Desperate Ones” is one of countless such displays. A delicate and poetic gem (which appeared on our November mix), the tune closes out Simone’s 1969 LP Nina Simone and Piano! The title is literal: it features only her voice and piano.

Released between the better known ‘Nuff Said! and To Love Somebody, the album closes with “The Desperate Ones” — quiet, somber, evocative and strange. The gentle ballad, suggestively about suicide, is believed to be about the lost and forgotten souls in the wake of the failed ’60s peace movement.

Nina plays every chord slowly and deliberately, singing almost in spoken word, as though she were reciting a poem. Her performance is eccentric, almost theatrical, but never insincere. Her voice sails across her lively vocal range — sometimes a breathy whisper, other times a deep, dramatic baritone, and sometimes emphasizing certain lines in reedy, gravelly, drawn-out notes. Her most interesting stroke, though, is her dreamy, childlike backing vocal: a kind of peaceful and naïve humming. This fantastical effect is a mesmerizing contradiction to the dark, somber nature of the lyrics: “He knows the verb ‘to love’/but he’ll never, never, never know how/on the bridge of nevermore/they disappear one by one/disappear without a sound.”

Simone’s twinkling piano notes, peculiar vocals, that incredibly distinct and dreamy humming, and even a noticeable vocal mistake, breathe an enigmatic and evocative life into the song. words / c depasquale

Nina Simone :: The Desperate Ones

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Traverse wet and snow-covered ground, escape the cold winds of December and dig in to this all vinyl mix of warm-blooded soul and wintry folk ballads.

Aquarium Drunkard Presents: December – A Medley

blaze_foleyBlaze Foley did not have it easy.

An Arkansas-born, Texas-raised country artist who was revered by the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Merle Haggard, Foley lived and died in obscurity. The man had it all: a penchant for writing simple but achingly poignant songs of heartbreak and struggle and a deep, unadorned and gruff voice – the kind that exudes a reality of hard earned wisdom. Country singer “Lost John” Casner, a friend of Foley’s, said about him, “”There is an uncompromising honesty…There’s just a quality in the way he interacted with people as well as his music; he looked into the very center of your soul and could tell if you were full of shit or not…There ‘s a gritty soul to his songs and the way he performed them. To be honest, Blaze wasn’t always pretty. In a lot of ways he was an outcast.”

It was a series of unfortunate events that kept Foley from the spotlight. The master tapes from his first studio album were confiscated when the executive producer was caught in a drug bust. The masters to a following album were stolen when Foley’s car (which doubled as his home) was broken into. In the late 1980s, at the tender age of 39, Foley was shot dead, after allegedly trying to protect a friend’s pension check from the friend’s son.

Foley left behind his gritty soul in his recordings that, lucky for us, have been made available. The pick of the litter may very well be the devastatingly stark and beautiful “Clay Pigeons,” first made available on the 2010 release Sittin’ by the Road, a compilation of Foley’s mid-70’s home recordings. “Clay Pigeons” finds Foley wandering around in true country troubadour style. Just his forlorn guitar and deep sorrowful voice, he hops on a greyhound bus, destination nowhere, “smokin’ cigarettes in the last seat/tryin’ to hide my sorrow from the people I meet.” It’s a devastatingly beautiful and uncompromising picture of a man who desires redemption, a fresh start, but can’t muster the courage to get going. Instead, he’ll just pass the time, feed the pigeons some clay and build himself a “castle of memories/just to have somewhere to go.”

It’s a masterful, singular piece. And while the stark, bare arrangement is a fitting color to the song’s despondent nature, the song is done no harm by John Prine’s warm, autumn toned rendition, from his 2005 album Fair and Square. Prine’s gorgeously aged and grizzled voice treats the song respectfully and truthfully. The production is positively lived in, a gentle conversation between guitar, harmonica and pedal steel; cozy and auburn tinted, a fresh pot of coffee at sunrise. Sad, sure, but with music this beautiful, how bad can it really be? words / c depasquale

Blaze Foley :: Clay Pigeons
John Prine :: Clay Pigeons

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Each December, Brian Reese at Big Rock Candy Mountain deals out a month’s worth of holiday esoterica from the far corners of vintage twang, fuzz, scuzz, r&b, blues, country, garage, lounge and beyond. Keeping it loose, he trims his tree with Red Simpson and Mae West, then tops it off with The Sonics, Hank Snow and Champion Jack Dupree. It’s a heady brew. Go ahead, deck them halls.

Download and tracklisting after the jump. . .

MARLING

Thursday night, December 4th, Aquarium Drunkard Presents: An Evening With Laura Marling at Community in Los Angeles. DJ sets by Turquoise Wisdom. We will be recording an Aquarium Drunkard session.

Limited space available. RSVP at marlingadq at gmail.com. Confirmation replies with additional information will be sent to selected entrants.