Knocking on Heaven’s Door  – The Marica Frequency (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

maxresdefaultPeople who know me or who are familiar with this site will be more than aware that I’m not the biggest fan of covers. Yes, they serve many purposes but for me it is all about creativity, adding to the musical canon and looking to the next musical adventure and covers, standards, pre-loved songs, call them what you will often seem a bit redundant. At best they feel like treading water when you could be striking out for the azure blues of new musical horizons. Occasionally a song comes along that brings something new to the table, something that redefines the original, explores new territory, gives it new life, provides a second chapter to the story rather than merely plagiarises.

People will point at Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah or The Sunday’s reworking of Wild Horses for their sheer gorgeousness, I for one always hold up Kirsty MacColl’s cover of A New England, and in particular the 12 inch version (remember those kids?) as being, not just a perfect reworking but possibly the perfect pop record. And with the arrival of The Marica Frequency elegant cover of His Bobness’s most famous song, I have another to add to that small but illustrious list.

Unlike many bands who just seek to merely pay homage to the song, The Marica Frequency truly make this their own. They take nothing away from the greatness of the original but by drenching it in their own dream-pop gorgeousness, their eloquent vocal lines and ethereality, the song becomes more than the sum of its already considerable parts. The fact that it takes almost two minutes for the lyrics to kick in (again I refer you to the aforementioned 12” record) shows their desire to take this into new territory and the almost spiritual nature of this rendition is probably the most in keeping with the creation of the original than any of the many covers have got close to. Remember this song was written as the sound track to accompany one of the most memorable and moving death scenes in movie history for the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid and this is one of the few renditions of the song that could have been used in its place.

For someone who doesn’t like covers I can safely say that I love what The Marica Frequency have done here. The drawn out introduction, the gentle dreamscaping, the contrasting vocals, the hints of Mazzy Star (always going to get me) and again as mentioned The Sundays and the fact that considering that this is a cover of one of the most recognisable songs in history it is actually one of the most original songs I have had pass through the review pile for a while. If only all cover versions took the job this seriously.

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London Irish – Linda Em (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

906782It would be very easy to just peg Linda Em as being a female Nick Cave, she has the same blends of musical tradition and outsider thinking, and whilst that makes for an easy musical hook to hang my reviewers hat on, it would only tell part of the story. Taking bluesy ballads and heart aching torch-songs, she draws a line from 50’s jazz divas to punk poetesses (you know the one) to modern blues nostalgists, but the real charm here is that there is so much authenticity on show that this feels less like a backward glance to a certain time and a certain style and more a long lost recording, one that was a bit more experimental, a bit further ahead of its time than its better known contemporaries.

Wild Fire, the first single from the EP, is a brilliant boy-girl vocal two hander, all hushed atmospherics and pent up energy, plaintive piano notes, beautifully restrained yet full of powerful intent when it wants to make a point and hit home. By contrast Two Hands is a thing of understated grace and a song that you could imagine the likes of Patsy Cline or Nina Simone having a hit with back in the day and Little Lightmaker wanders right out of the early Nashville book of standards that never was…but should have been.

White Horse takes us back into her own unique territory, a sound that you can’t quite put your finger on. Is it an old classic reworked? Is it a modern tribute? A collection of sounds which are separately familiar and identifiable but  positioned in new ways to create something wholly original. Not many artists or bands can revisit and reinterpret the past this brilliantly whilst pushing their own musical agenda, Mazzy Star perhaps did it best, and that ability to unpick the strands of familiar musical patterns and weave them into something even more intoxicating is exactly what Linda Em excels at.

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