I love a good artist-created compilation
I'm a sucker for a great compilation that's been put together by someone in the know, someone with knowledge that's of interest, someone connected to the music - and showing that connection through the tunes chosen. We call them mixtapes most often, we make our own now. We can use Spotify or YouTube or MixCloud or one of several other outlets, approaches; we used to make "dubbed" tapes. We'd line the cassette up and record direct from radio - pause the ads if you were a pro - or take from other tapes, records, CDs...sometimes you'd hear a little crackle as the needle buried itself into the groove, or the abrupt clack of the tape-recorders playback button as you struggled to smoothly sync Tape A and Tape B. We were in fact always making mixtapes, our own compilations.
People might believe that we can make our own mixtapes and playlists so easily now that we don't need to worry about what anyone else is doing. I make up playlists to share out all the time. Some are based on questions I post on Facebook, others are from DJ sets I've delivered or just dreamed up.
But I'm still interested in hearing playlists and mixtapes made by other people. I don't share mine because I think they're any better than yours. I share my ones out to the world as the start of an exchange, I go and find other ones in return, am often pointed to them - people send me their albums, their mixes, or share links of things they've loved.
We're swamped - if we want to be. And that's both not a good thing - and a very wonderful thing.
I want to trust someone else's taste. That's the buy-in, the trade-off. That's the purchase you're making.
So, I still love hearing a great artist-driven compilation. Those Back To Mine and Late Night Tales series'...and there are others too. There was a series called Under The Influence - and even if you didn't care for the music of Morrissey at all you could find yourself easily digging his selections (New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Ramones...) on Bob Geldof's entry into that series David Bowie's Drive In Saturday was followed directly by The Four Tops' Reach Out I'll Be There and it never seemed more perfect.
Paul Weller - who I think is vastly overrated and a bit of a smug jerk if anything - put together a fascinating mix. You would expect him to include The Kinks - and he did. But his mix album concluded with all eighteen minutes of John Coltrane's Ole - and well, why not? Weller's a musician, a music-listener and a music-fan. And he showed great taste there. Hat's off.
I think that's what I dig most about these artist-driven compilations, the reminder that musicians (hopefully) love music. That they listen. And that they can conceptualise.
Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream recently released a compilation, Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down. You don't have to be hungover to slip this one on and kick back but I think it probably would form a perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday, the kind I can't really imagine anymore...
So I've enjoyed this Gillespie mix that features The Beach Boys and The Monkees, Tim Buckley and Gram Parsons, Gene Clark and Skip Spence, Willie Nelson and Little Feat at almost all hours of the day, any day of the week.
I knew most of the songs already - and most of the versions of these songs - but this really is an exquisite mix. Put together in this way, these songs tell new stories, tell one big, long story - and Gillespie justifies his selections and ordering with thoughtful liner notes. There are some nice surprises, songs by Link Wray and Ronnie Wood that you'd probably never hear on anyone else's mix.
Yes, yes, CDs are dead, albums are dead, blah blah blah - you find something like this and it's not even about it giving you hope for any future of the industry...it is, instead, about the very best thing the music industry could ever give us (and does on occasion): good music, music to think about, new ways to connect with music, new respect for artists we hadn't thought about in a while, or felt we never got to truly know. (And that works for both the artist making the mix and the artists included on the compilation).
I'd thoroughly recommend checking out Bobby Gillespie's new compilation, Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down. And yes, right there in the middle - is Kris Kristofferson's song that gave the album its title. There's nothing clever or tricky or flash about this mix - just very good songs, expertly chosen, correctly arranged. I don't know about you but that's clever enough for me.
Postscript: Completely irrelevant to any of that but his is pretty cool, a New Zealand-based artist drew some pictures of Ziggy-era Bowie in settings from the Little Prince. Well, I liked it...
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