Hard News by Russell Brown

52

Friday: A happier place

It has been a rotten week in the news, has it not? I know a lot of us have been sad, angry and horrified at what has played out. Maybe you'd like a place away from it all; a happier place. That's what I'm going for with this week's Music Post -- songs that make us smile or laugh or dance or just feel better, or maybe even sad in a good way. But not angry. I'm over angry for the week.

We humans are lucky to have music to reflect our feelings, deepen them, dispel them, lift them, or simply run our feelings a hot bath and turn down the bedsheets. There's one particular set of songs I think of as easily, defiantly happy, and it's the second side of Bob Marley and the Wailers' 1977 album Exodus

I really must assure you I have nothing against side one of Exodus, but side two is singular. It is five sweet songs of love, joy and happiness emerging from fear and alienation.

In December 1976, Jamaica's violent, factional political environment caved in on Bob and his family. Unknown gunmen entered his home and shot and injured, him, his manager and, most seriously, his wife Rita. He'd been virtually confined to home by the risk of violence, now even that wasn't safe. He and his entourage fled to London, where Exodus was recorded.

I'd long thought Exodus was wholly created out of that chaos and dislocation, but Vivien Goldman's absorbing personal account is that "in reality, Bob already sensed that he was living in a time where imminent horror coloured everyday beauty," and that some of the songs were conceived before, and anticipated, the trauma to come.

However it happened, Exodus plays out like this: side one -- 'Natural Mystic', 'So Much Things to Say', 'Guiltiness', 'The Heathen', 'Exodus' -- is politics and religion. And then Bob flips the disc and lets all that go. In 'Three Little Birds', he sings "Don't worry about a thing /'Cause every little thing gonna be all right." 'Turn Your Lights Down Low' is love and snuggling. And 'One Love' is, well, 'One Love'.

I'm normally more of a fan of the rootsier Bob -- Catch A Fire did sound better before Chris Blackwell put all that rock keyboard on it -- and these songs are almost cheesy at times. But they're really, really hard to be angry to.

I asked my friend Megan to pick an uplifting song or two, and she came up with Loretta Lynn's wonderful ode to freedom and contraception:

This would be a compulsory inclusion on the theoretical compilation album Songs to Make Feminists Say Fuck Yeah!

On another note, I actually did send the following link to a friend of mine this week, in lieu of being able to say anything more meaningful with actual words. She's had a hard time with this week's headlines, and they've brought back some pretty bad stuff, which she has shared with her friends. And there's not much you can say in response that Jeff Tweedy's incredible song for Mavis Staples doesn't say better:

If that hasn't done you in, there's this acoustic version, recorded this year for an American radio station:

At one point, Mavis wipes away her own tear. It undoes me, it really does.

But there's also a time to dance, and there's Inner City's 'Good Life'. I hear those opening chords and I lift my head. It's a tune whose opening offer is to transport you somewhere else, to "a place I know you want to go," and then your bum starts wiggling. Well, mine does, anyway.

The video is some nonsense they knocked out in an afternoon in London, but ... Paris Grey!

And while your bum's wiggling, I absoutely double dare you to watch this and not feel better. Aretha performing 'Rock Steady' on Soul Train in 1973:

See also this brand new edit of Aretha's 1993 hit, 'A Deeper Love'. I love me a bit of gay disco, and this is gayer than a great big gay thing and ideal for downloading and dancing to in your kitchen (NB: will not actually make you gay, unless that's what you want):

Did I mention that you can still go to TheAudience and -- for free! -- download She's So Rad's shimmering, sparkling 'Confetti' as either an MP3 or a big-ass WAV file? Well you can! Just click through here ...

Just quietly, there's another new remix from the Phoenix Foundation's Fandango album. Wellington's Jet Jaguar has done a lovely, trippy little mix of 'Black Mould':

For bawling-the-chorus-at-the-top--of-your-lungs purposes, there's not a lot of going past 'Waiting for Your Love':

And for pure niceness after the storm, I always turn to the work of reggae's great woman producer, Mrs Sonia Pottinger, and this album in particular. I have soothed myself with this more times than I could count. I've been trying out Spotify embedding in this post, and I really wanted to embed the Pottinger compilation album Put On Your Best Dress here, but Spotify doesn't have it and I'm damned if I can find anywhere it can be digitally purchased. It's fallen down a hole. So, just for the day, I've put the album up as a downloadable zip file here (some people in indows are having trouble qwith the zip file -- there's a .rar version that might work better). If you're not cool with that, just enjoy this track ...

Right, that's it. Feel free to join in. Note that if you just paste a YouTube (or Vimeo) link in a comment window, it will automagically embed. The internet is awesome. Look after yourselves and dance.

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