02 November 2009

Before the Mortal Coil 3

Part three in the Heavenly Trinity is 1991's Blood. A full five years after the release of Filigree & Shadow, Blood was a bit of a surprise. Other than a few stragglers--the final Cocteau Twins album, the final Pixies album, a couple more Dead Can Dance albums, a album or two from The Wolfgang Press--the classic 4AD sound was quickly disappearing and the roster turning decidedly more poppier. Belly, Lush, Spirea X, The Pale Saints, the Red House Painters, among others introduced styles of music less directly associated with the vision of a particular record label than with the prevailing sound of college radio. Let's not forget, 1991 was also the year of Nirvana's Nevermind, and depending on who you ask, either the quick birth or slow death of independent rock.

I find Blood the least engaging of the three albums mostly for the same reasons as above. To me it sounds like a great compilation rather than a singular inspiration. It works as a whole but by the end, especially after the gorgeous "'Til I Gain Control Again," the album splits into about six unresolved pieces. That said, the covers are fantastic and a few of them ("Help Me Lift You Up," "You and Your Sister," "'Til I Gain Control Again") rank with some of the best interpretations in the series. I knew, too, that by the time Blood came around I had already attained college rock coolness and no longer needed This Mortal Coil to introduce me to obscure cult bands. I owned the Rain Parade's Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, from which "Carolyn's Song" is taken, for several years before it appeared on Blood. So there.

Note: As a bonus offering to Ullr, I have graciously included two versions each of "I Come and Stand At Every Door," and "'Til I Gain Control Again." Both The Byrds and Emmylou Harris versions are featured on the box set's fourth disc of originals. However, as a true music fool I wasn't satisfied with that. Rodney Crowell wrote "'Til I Gain Control Again" and though everyone from Emmylou Harris to Willie Nelson to Crystal Gayle to Jerry Jeff Walker to Blue Rodeo has recorded it I thought I would put his definitive version--recorded after many of the artists covered it. Emmylou Harris recorded the first version of the song for her 1975 album Elite Hotel.

Even more complicated is "I Come and Stand At Every Door." The Byrds recorded it for their 1966 album Fifth Dimension. I would bet dollars to donuts that the Byrds lifted it from some of Pete Seeger's Folkways Records recordings of the early '60s, so both versions are included here. More interestingly is that the song is really a poem written by the Turkish Marxist poet Nâzım Hikmet Ran. The poem was translated into English and a first version set to music showed up as a broadside in New York City in the early 1950s, just about the time when Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Odetta, Joan Baez, and all the other NYC folkies were rallying the troops.

1. The Lacemaker

2. The Apartments: Mr. Somewhere
from: The Evening Visits...And Stays For Years, 1985

3. Andialu

4. Gene Clark: With Tomorrow
from: White Light, 1971

5. Loose Joints

6. Chris Bell: You And Your Sister
from: B-side of "I Am the Cosmos" single, 1978
released posthumously as I Am the Cosmos, 1992

7. Spirit: Nature's Way
from: Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, 1970

8. Pete Seeger: I Come and Stand at Every Door
from: Headlines & Footnotes: A Collection of Topical Songs, 1999

The Byrds: I Come and Stand at Every Door
from: Fifth Dimension, 1966

9. Bitter

10. Baby Ray Baby

11. Pieter Nooten & Michael Brook: Several Times
from: Sleeps With the Fishes, 1987

12. The Lacemaker II

13. Syd Barrett: Late Night
from: The Madcap Laughs, 1970

14. Ruddy and Wretched

15. Mary Margaret O'Hara: Help Me Lift You Up
from: Miss America, 1988

16. The Rain Parade: Carolyn's Song
from: Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, 1983

17. D.D. and E.

18. Rodney Crowell: 'Til I Gain Control Again
from: Rodney Crowell, 1981

Emmylou Harris: 'Til I Gain Control Again
from: Elite Hotel, 1975

19. Dreams are Like Water

20. Chris Bell: I Am the Cosmos
from: A-side of "I Am the Cosmos" single, 1978
released posthumously as I Am the Cosmos, 1992

21. (Nothing but) Blood

The snow line is dropping to 1000 meters tonight.

No comments: