WARMER MIXTAPES #1033 | by Will Green of Feldspar
1. Bob Dylan | Visions Of Johanna
I vividly remember hearing this song for the First Time. I was 14, sat in the back of my parents’ car and listening on a portable CD Player. It was a Life-Changing moment realising that Songwriting could be this good. The line the Ghost of Electricity howls in the bones of her face sent shivers down my spine and every time I listen to it I find new things to admire. I think it’s the Greatest Evocation of the Memory of Lost Love in Any Artform and is the Reason I started Writing Songs. Sheer Brilliance.
2. Paul Simon | Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
It’s hard to take individual tracks out of Graceland as it’s such a Brilliantly Structured album, but if one song showcases the Superb Way Paul Simon manages to combine Folk Songwriting with African Musicality it’s probably Diamonds.... There’s so much to like in this tune: the A Capella Opening where Simon’s Tender Vocal emerges beautifully from the Zulu Choir, the Angular Guitar Line leading into the Main Tune, the Iconic Opaque Lyrics. It puts a smile on my face every time I imagine making the sign of teaspoon.
3. Villagers | Becoming A Jackal
Conor O’Brien is probably my Favourite Songwriter Working Today and this is the track that first led me to listen to Villagers. There’s a Gothic Element to the Ambience and Lyrics of Villagers tracks that I really like and this song shows it off especially well with a failing relationship being played out on dark streets where Jackals eat raw flesh and eerily Dance. From a Professional perspective, I also really like the Knowingness of the Outro: How I benefit from you being here... Lending me your ears... While I’m selling you my fears.
4. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds | God Is In The House
There’s a Live Version of this track on YouTube from a Later... With Jools Holland programme which is my favourite version. Nick sits at a black grand Piano whilst the rest of the band gathers round him with drinks in hand and cigarette smoke drifting gently from the ashtrays. It’s the Epitome of Cool. And such a great track, a liltingly gorgeous Melody and Arrangement juxtaposed with a snarling attack on the Horror of Small Town Conservativism. Contains one of the Best Lyrics of All Time: goose-stepping twelve-stepping tee-totalitarianists. Cracking stuff.
5. Roberta Flack | The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Peggy Seeger Cover)
This was Originally Written by the English Folk Songwriter Ewan MacColl and performed by Peggy Seeger, but the Roberta Flack version is the most famous. It’s one of my favourite Love songs, partly because of its more Unusal perspective. Most Love songs are about the first wild flush of Romance, but this is more Reflective, looking back at that time with Warmth and also a hint of Sadness heightened by Flack’s incredible Vocal Performance.
6. The Velvet Underground | Venus In Furs
Probably my favourite song about Sadomasochism and Bondage, this is the Flip Side of Songwriting. Sometimes songs work best if the Arrangements are Precise and perfectly Balanced, but here the Electric Drone, the cacophonous feedback of the Viola, and Lou Reed’s sneering Drawl are Perfect is their Disorder. This is Decadent Nihilism that also manages to be Playful and Literary.
7. Joni Mitchell | The Gallery
A slightly less well-known Joni Mitchell song, this is my favourite track from the Clouds album. The extended Metaphor of the song is of an Artist Painting Portraits of Ladies that the Protagonist Admires. When she herself becomes the subject of the Artist’s Attention, however, she realises that she is just another one of the portraits on the wall. It’s got a terrific Chorus with Joni singing Harmonies right at the Top of her Register, and another of my favourite All-Time Lines: I can be cruel, but let me be gentle with you.
8. John Martyn | Small Hours
This track makes the Best Use of Looping Pedals I’ve Ever Heard and demonstrates what an Extraordinary Guitarist and Songwriter John Martyn was. He was a hugely contradictory person – hard Drinking and Fighting in the street, but then sitting down to Write Lines that Auden would be proud of such as wrap yourself around me like a fern in the Spring. This track is best listened to very loud, late at night in almost total Darkness with a belly full of Beer and Whisky. Epically Glorious.
9. Tom Waits | 9th & Hennepin
Rain Dogs is undoubtedly one of the Greatest Albums of All Time. In the mid-80s, the era where Plastic Synth Pop blossomed, Waits gathered a gang of Bourbon Street Blues men in a clanking decrepit Studio to make a record about one-eyed midgets, cackling drunks, and gold-hearted prostitutes. Like Graceland, it’s best listened to in its entirety as all the songs give each other context, but this is a great Solo track. More Beat-Poem than Song, Waits’ gravel Voice depicts a lurid Dreamscape from a Train window. Every Line is Brilliant, but I think my favourite is all the rooms they smell like Diesel, and you take on the dreams of the ones who slept there. Genius.
10. Leonard Cohen | The Future
Of all the Songwriters in this list, I think Leonard Cohen is actually the one I Admire Most and Most Want to Emulate. I could have picked pretty much any Cohen song and put it on this list (except Jazz Police), but I chose this one because it’s from later in his career and shows that rather than Mellowing with Age he’s become more Vitriolic and Biting in his Writing. The Future describes a Mystical Apocalypse where blizzards sweep in and overturn the Order of the Soul whilst Cohen stands amongst the Ruin listing the Destruction. I hope I’m Writing Songs with Lines like Give me Crack and Anal Sex when I’m in my 60s.