Dion – Born to Be With You
Faris Badwan: After he recovered from heroin addiction at the end of the 1960s and found religion, Dion added a less familiar chapter to his story by having a hit out of nowhere in 1968 with Abraham, Martin and John. It was a false dawn though: by 1975, his career was once again in flux. Born to Be With You was released almost 15 years after Runaround Sue (1961), and the reception was muted. But where his first No 1 toyed with the idea of sadness, Born to Be With You is the sound of a man who knows his prime is behind him and his funeral is ahead. Dion’s voice here is more resonant than ever, and the saxophone evokes the spirit of the down-and-out as much as any music before or since.
Francis Lai – Snow Frolic
FB: The 1970 film Love Story was nominated for seven Academy Awards but would only win one, for Francis Lai’s original score. Snow Frolic is one of the standouts on the soundtrack TP: eerie and evocative female vocals over a baroque pop backing. So good.
Jacks – Stop the Clock
FB: Jacks’ downbeat psych-folk melodrama Vacant World is pretty out there. It is a bleak ode unlike much else going on in Japan in the 60s. Though they never really made it elsewhere, the group achieved some success at home and released a second record, Super Session. The vibraphone-led Stop the Clock could, at a stretch, be seen as Jacks’ response to the Velvet Underground’s Sunday Morning. Elsewhere on Vacant World, they definitely started to touch on some of the “ostrich guitar” elements made familiar by Lou and co. The sleeve takes the “four-face” formation found on many album covers of the era – and adds a ceramic head for good measure. Maybe they had more of a sense of humour than you would expect, given their influences and output.
The Hondells – Sea of Love
FB: There are real gems lurking under the hilariously nonthreatening waves of 60s “surfsploitation” pop from the US. The fact several of these special recordings came from the Hondells is somewhat surprising. The group were named after a song penned by Mike Love and Brian Wilson, and weren’t a real group at all. Several songs namecheck the Honda brand and seemed almost tailor-made to sell Honda motorbikes as a squeaky-clean antidote to Harley-Davidson’s “rebels without a cause”. The Hondells’ version of Sea of Love by Frankie Ford is something of an oddity because it adopts something of a “wall of sound” approach. Worth a listen just for the strings, which sound completely demented.
Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis – Eternal Source of Light Divine
Rachel Zeffira: This is one of my favourite pieces by Handel. I used to sing it quite often when I performed as a classical singer. I love the call-and-response between the voice and trumpet. Wynton Marsalis, the trumpet player, is superhuman. Kathleen Battle, the soprano, has a crystalline voice – and a terrible reputation. There are so many outrageous stories about her; I don’t know if they’re true or not. She was fired from the Metropolitan Opera because she allegedly wanted another singer’s dressing room, despite the fact that hers was the better one. She is rumoured to have barged next door and threw the other singer’s gowns out of the room.
- The new Cat’s Eyes album Treasure House is released on 3 June.