Posts Tagged ‘Lies’

I’m not sure when I first heard Natalie Duncan, though I know it came about from a review of her 2012 debut album, Devil in Me, that appeared in either Mojo or Uncut that July – which means it was likely sometime in August. For good and ill, those British magazines were the primary vessels of my music discovery at the time, but they always arrived in U.S. bookstores a month late due to the vagaries of the shipping process. Those were the days, I should explain, when Diane and I routinely took up residence in the cafe section of our local Barnes & Noble bookstore for most of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, she reading a book in full over the course of a few weeks and I, when not doing the same, paging through magazines while downing a succession of high-octane coffee drinks.

At any rate, Devil in Me became an instant favorite. At their best, the songs conjure the ghosts of popular music past while remaining firmly rooted in the present; her evocative lyrics and intricate melodies paint scenes that resonate deep within the soul. At worst, some songs – while strong – sound overproduced to my ears; and the album, which clocks in at over an hour, is just too long. (That’s a common complaint I have with most CD-age albums, actually. More is not always better.)

That said, YouTube holds more proof of her prodigious talent, including renditions of some Devil in Me songs that gain strength by stripping off their veneers. “Uncomfortable Silence” is a good example; although it’s powerful on album, this rendition – just Natalie at the piano – is spellbinding.

Speaking of spellbinding, here she is performing three songs in early ’12 at the Real World Studios – Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel,” “Sky Is Falling” and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”; the latter sends shivers up my spine every time I play it.

Unfortunately, despite much positive press, popular success didn’t follow and she eventually parted ways with her record label, Verve. In 2015, however, she released the electronica-tinged Black & White EP, which is well worth many listens. The title track is a hypnotic trance set to song, just about…

…and that same year she released the minimalistic single “Lies,” another sterling track. This video captures her performing it at London’s Wet Fish Cafe:

Flash forward five years and Natalie has a new album in the offing, Free, which is slated for release at the end of July on DJ Goldie’s new label, Fallen Tree 1Hundred. Of the lead single, “Sirens,” she says in the release on Bandcamp, “I initially wrote the piano and I whistled the vocals because I wasn’t able to talk at the time. It was a very frustrating writing process, but it was so euphoric the first time I was able to sing the chorus line ‘Can you make me fly’ — it felt like my voice was finally free and flying again.”

 

In a better world, Natalie Duncan would already be at the top of the charts. When I first heard Devil in Me in 2012, my assumption was that her soulful sound would soon top the charts in both the U.S. and U.K. Although that’s yet to happen, I still believe it. Her talent is too large for it not to be syncopating through the sonic landscape that is popular music.

Anyway, I’ll close with this cool cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.” Although she’s considered a “neo-soul” artist, as the performance demonstrates, hers is an old soul. (When she shared it on her Facebook page a few months back, she wrote, “I can’t get over how Stevie Wonder never stops inspiring me. I heard a quote from Herbie Hancock yesterday – ‘Stevie Wonder is an example of the best a human can be’. Big tings.”)

lindaronstadt_1978Yesterday afternoon, I found myself searching for several hours through boxes upon boxes – no, not at the Archives, but in our attic. When we moved from the apartment to the house in early 2014, I think everyone but us was surprised at just how much stuff we had accumulated through the years, with the vast majority of it being things that most folks would have churned into the second-hand market (or trash) long ago. I’m talking books, books and more books, plus CDs, magazines and assorted odds and ends, knick-knacks of every sort.

I didn’t find what I was looking for – Linda Ronstadt’s excellent memoir, Simple Dreams – but did come away with a few things of interest, including a September 1981 Circus, October 1980 Trouser Press, a November 1978 magazine called New Wave Rock and, as seen to the left, the 1978 Rolling Stone with Linda Ronstadt on the cover. I’d forgotten that we had it. The last led me, a little bit later, to sift through quite a few of the Linda clips on YouTube, including this one distributed by Reelin’ Through the Years Productions:

And this one, which lifts her performances of “Tumblin’ Dice,” “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” and “Love Me Tender” from the FM movie:

So, for today’s Top 5: Linda Ronstadt, Volume II. (Volume I can be found here, though some of the chosen clips have since gone AWOL from YouTube.)

1) “Desperado.” Linda covers the classic Eagles’ song while backed by the Eagles, who came to be after Glenn Frey and Don Henley became friends while serving in Linda’s backup band. This clip hails from 1974; the song is from her 1973 album Don’t Cry Now.

2) “Hey Mister That’s Me Up on the Jukebox.” The James Taylor-written song comes her sixth LP, Prisoner in Disguise, which was released in September 1975. This performance, if the notes are correct, hails from December of that same year. (The video goes wonky at the 1:48 mark, but is cool to watch up until then.)

3) “Blue Bayou.” Linda’s cover of the Roy Orbison classic hails from her 1977 album, Simple Dreams. The concert was shot in Atlanta that year.

4) “I Knew You When.” From her oft-overlooked 1982 album, Get Closer. The Joe South-penned song was a hit for Billy Joe Royal in 1965.

5) “Lies”/“Tell Him.” And a twofer from Get Closer: covers of the Knickerbockers’ “Lies” and the Exciters’ “Tell Him.”

And two bonuses…

This seductive rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “Easy for You to Say,” also from Get Closer

…and Linda’s delightful 1986 Tonight Show appearance promoting For Sentimental Reasons, the final part of her Nelson Riddle trilogy, and the Round Midnight box set, which collected all three of the LPs.