Monday, 13 December 2010

Mark Lanegan Mixtape - Side B

In Issue 1.4, Andy Whittaker talked us through his personal journey of discovering the work of Mark Lanegan, via the medium of the mixtape. In the issue he covered Side A, now the journey is brought to close:


We start Side B as we ended Side A, with a cut from 1993’s “Whiskey For The Holy Ghost”, namely “Kingdoms Of Rain”. On the original Lanegan is backed on the chorus by the female vocals of Sloan Johnson. At this point in the article I’m sure many of you are thinking that Lanegan is a man with a woman in every port. So it may come as some surprise to hear the version of “Kingdoms Of Rain” that appears on Soul Savers 2007’s “It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land”, where the backing vocals are male and the acoustic guitar parts are played on a piano. More on the Soul Savers later though, I’m getting ahead of myself here.


2001’s “Field Songs” opens with “One Way Street”, and as with many of Lanegan’s songs, the lyrics find him confessional mood as he sings “I drink so much sour whiskey I can hardly see.” Vocally there are once again nods to Chris Rea, as the bluesy qualities in Lanegan’s voice become more prevalent.


I find that “Don’t Forget Me” is one of the few tracks on from Lanegan’s solo career that could easily have come from the Grunge-era which he is often associated with. Admittedly I’m thinking more of the Unplugged concerts of Alice In Chains or Nirvana, but the roots are definitely there for me


Having tried to keep tabs on any releases bearing Lanegan’s name on the credits since “Ballad Of The Broken Seas” I snapped up Soul Savers third album, “Broken”, as soon as I practically could, following its release in 2009. With a list of guest vocalists including Mike Patton and Richard Hawley “Broken” could easily have found its way into my record collection sometime in the future had it not featured Lanegan. As it is he appears on ten of the album’s fourteen compositions, from which I have selected “Death Bells” and “Rolling Sky”.

“Death Bells” is an upbeat rocker, with an underbelly of electronica, despite its downbeat title. The menacing mimicry of Lanegan’s delivery of the chorus is provided by Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes, a man whose guest appearance on Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod” is surely one of the highlights of 90’s rock nights.


After that, a change of pace and a lengthy running time is what the doctor ordered. “Rolling Sky” is one of four tracks on the album to feature the sublime vocals of Rosa Agostino. Here she duets with Lanegan over layers of screaming, brass infused, jazz, which conjures up a nightmarish feeling of being trapped in a claustrophobic, smoky room. Or is that just me?
In August of 2009 I found myself once again watching Lanegan in Bramham Park on a Sunday night at Leeds Festival, where he took to the Festival Republic Stage (Essentially The Carling Stage rebadged) with Soul Savers. Sadly, despite Faith No More playing straight after them less than 100m away, Mike Patton didn’t take to the stage to recreate his vocals on “Unbalanced Pieces”. Nonetheless their set was one of my personal highlights of the festival.


At the same time as I purchased Broken I managed to get Lanegan’s 1999 covers album “I’ll Take Care Of You” for next to nothing from the now defunct Head. The title track and “Creeping Coastline Of Lights” both appear here. I like to think that Isobel Campbell heard said title track prior to deciding to collaborate with Lanegan, echoes of his version of Brook Benton’s song can certainly be heard in my earlier selection, “Come On Over Turn Me On”.


“Creeping Coastline Of Lights”, meanwhile, with its ‘vibes’ (I’m guessing that it’s a glockenspiel or xylophone) courtesy of former Screaming Tree Barrett Martin, harks back to a different age. The lyrics tell of ‘Leaving Hollywood, sunset to the sea, where the waves ride in horses’ and seem highly appropriate given Lanegan’s frequent references to the sea. As he sings the words ‘Creeping coastline of lights’, his voice transports you to such a place in a time of glamour, the 1950’s perhaps. But it’s glamour that he seeks solace from.

Many covers albums have the feel of being a mere punctuation in an artists career, “I’ll Take Care Of You”, for me, sees Lanegan performing at his peak and, as with much of his work, introduces you to new names and sounds. Would I have had the joy of discovering The Afghan Whigs if I had not first heard The Gutter Twins for example? The next album that would find its way into my collection featuring his vocals would see one of Lanegan’s own songs being covered.


In a roundabout way my passion for cycling saw me making my first trip to Wakefield’s Drury Lane Library for several years. In there to borrow a book on bicycle maintenance I decided to browse the audio and visual section as well. It was all a long way from the last time I’d been in there, with the music section scaled down to make way for DVDs and PCs, but there were still some excellent albums to select from, Soul Savers 2007 release “It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land” being one of them.

The album saw Lanegan collaborating with Soul Savers for the first time and included the version of “Kingdoms Of Rain” I mentioned earlier. However, as that song appears on the mix tape in its original format I don’t wish to take up space with two versions. Besides there are even greater pleasures to be found on this album.

“Revival” is a glorious piece, with Lanegan being joined by a gospel choir. Musically it never strays too far from its core, why would you though with something so effective?


“Spiritual” also finds Soul Savers exploring religious territory. In sharp contrast to “Revival” this is a million miles away from the huge sounds of celebratory choirs. Instead Lanegan sings alone, appealing directly to Jesus when he expresses ‘I don’t wanna die alone’. It’s achingly beautiful, and despite me not being a religious man, I can’t fail to be moved by Josh Haden’s composition and Lanegan’s delivery.


My next choice is purely based upon the fact that it is a Christmas song, as I write the recent snowfall shows no sign of retreating, so there really is no better time to listen to “Time Of The Season”. Taken from this year’s “Hawk”, it sees Isobel Campbell and Lanegan renewing their vows as it were.

When I first started listening to Lanegan I never thought for one minute I’d be able to associate him with Boney M, but one listen to him and Campbell singing ‘That Christmas song by Boney M, The deejay at the local station played it’ plants a mental image that’s impossible to erase. It certainly raised a smile on my face.


So, the year is nearly over and so is this mix tape. As is so often the case with these exercises you try and plan your choices wisely, but there is almost inevitably an awkward gap at the end of the tape that usually requires an extremely short song or nothing at all. Well, here at the Bomb we aim to please. I wasn’t going to include a song by either Screaming Trees or Queens Of The Stone Age, simply because they are the bands that Lanegan is associated with that enjoy the highest profiles and this mix tape was designed to draw attention to his solo career and subsequent collaborations. Still, at one minute and twenty-three seconds “Lullaby”, the opening track from QOTSA’s “Lullabies To Paralyze”, was almost custom built for such a space. Besides, with only an acoustic guitar and some whispers from Josh Homme as backing, this is a track that frames Lanegan’s voice perfectly, enjoy.

My final selection also brings things full circle; it was through Queens Of The Stone Age that I discovered Mark Lanegan. However, my journey continues. I’m still to purchase “Scraps At Midnight” and to this day I kick myself for failing to get a ticket for his solo show at Brudenell Social Club this year (That’s what happens when you leave it to the week of the gig!). But the show was recorded and subsequently sold later on in the tour, if anybody reading this has a copy I’d love to hear it.

I sincerely hope this mix tape goes on a journey of its own; I’m simply going to pass it on to a friend and hope that they do the same. Who knows - it could find its way into your hands one day…


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