Waiting for the music to return …

By: Winston Watusi

Winston Watusi
Music Plus

 Once again I write this while much of the city and the Bay remains silent, devoid of live music.

It’s been harder this time. The Delta variant has screwed over the few establishments that braved level two last time.

The previous indoor limit was 100; with Delta it’s 50. And the difference between 50 and 100 people is the difference between making money and... not.

I had a chat with Andy Craw, who plans the music down at Jack Dusty’s in Bureta, including weekly acts on Saturdays and Sundays plus special events such as the monthly blues jam.

That should have happened last Wednesday but, as Andy confirms, like the weekend music it just doesn’t work for 50 people. The luxury of hiring a band for that number of punters is sadly just that – a luxury, and an unaffordable one.

But he’s chomping at the bit to get going again: “The minute we hear the words ‘level one’ we’ll be celebrating and bringing back the bands,” Andy says. A lot of people can’t wait.

So with little new live action on the horizon, let’s look back a couple of weeks. I wrote about a fantastic “tribute album”, a collection of especially-assembled artists – I can’t bring myself to fashionably say “curated” – playing the songs of Mark Bolan and T. Rex. It’s called AngelHeaded Hipster and is available on Spotify.

I say that deliberately as many things I wanted to mention this week aren’t, and it exposes a cruel trap New Zealand is caught in, which started when Amazon gave New Zealand the two finger salute after we asked them to collect GST. We can now only order from Amazon in America or Australia.

Leonard Cohen & Joni Mitchell

Going Backwards

That means many CDs made in the UK are now not available here. Amazon will not ship them even via their Australian store. It’s worse for blu-rays. Even The Warehouse doesn't stock them now, and the blu-ray region code from America means their imported ones don’t generally work here. 

So we’ve now reached a point where we are dependent on Spotify to provide music we can no longer buy, and Netflix (or one of the other two-dozen streaming services) to supply unavailable movies. If they happen to have them. Many things once easy to access are now denied us.

I received some great emails after writing about the Mark Bolan tunes - one in particular which suggested I listen to a similar Joni Mitchell set. I did and am very grateful to have had it recommended.

It is simply called A Tribute To Joni Mitchell, and includes contributions from Sufjan Stevens, Bjork, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and more, but the stand-out track for me is Prince’s take on A Case Of You. It is one of the most astounding bits of singing I know, sounding like he pitched it at the absolute top of his range and then shifted it up a few more keys for good luck.

It is so high that small animals might run from the room, but is simultaneously absolutely controlled and deeply emotional. Wow.

Availability

The problem with these tribute albums is that because of the many artists involved there are sometimes rights issues, which keep them off Spotify and other similar platforms. So good luck finding them.

One of my favourites, the Leonard Cohen tribute I’m Your Fan – including everyone from Nick Cave to REM and The Pixies – is not on Spotify. Or easy to buy. But Spotify has another Cohen tribute, one far more obscure, called Acordes Con Leonard Cohen (“According To...”) which is actually a record of a Spanish tribute concert.

Cohen had a long mutual love affair with Spain, caused partly by his championing of Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. He even named his daughter Lorca, and the album not only includes members of Cohen’s band but also his son Adam and partner Anjani Thomas.

There’s also Elliott Murphy, Jackson Browne and many Spanish musicians: about half the songs are in Spanish and it is a thing of beauty. The rush of pleasure at hearing Leonard’s songs slowly unfold in the beautiful Spanish language really is something special.