Monday, March 19, 2012

finds: evie sands- 'anyway that you want me'

Purchased on: eBay
Price (including shipping): $12

Aha! A new section. I'm going to start writing about those sought-after and finally acquired slabs of vinyl that I get my slimy, disgusting mitts on. I got into Evie Sands the way that most people with similar tastes to mine did- through hearing 'I Can't Let Go' in the Spacemen 3 110 set. This set is a massive compilation of 110 songs that are directly referenced in the music of Spacemen 3, Spectrum or Spiritualized. Spacemen 3 were one of the few bands to adopt the Cramps methodology of spreading the love by inserting direct references to specific songs into their music. For the Spectrum debut full-length 'Soul Kiss (Glide Divine)' Pete Kember lifted the nifty little hook from 'I Can't Let Go' and used it in 'How You Satisfy Me.' Further listening reveals that the chorus adopts a similar structure adapted to Mr. Kember's favored one-chord aesthetic to very nice effect. When I saw Spectrum a few years ago at the Darkroom the chorus for 'How You Satisfy Me' was one of the few moments during the show that I felt actually acquired lift-off (I considered the show to be one of the biggest let-downs I'd ever witnessed- a story for another time).

'I Can't Let Go' was one of Evie Sands' first collaborations with songwriter Chip Taylor which she recorded for Chicago label Blue Cat. The legend goes that an acetate of the song made the rounds at Chess Records, who rushed Jackie Ross into the studio to record a version of the song and rush it into stores and onto radio faster than Sands' version leading it to yield a hit for Ross as well as a later version by the Hollies. As it turns out this happened several times with Sands- 'Angel of the Morning' was originally done by her, but her label went bankrupt despite the single selling out its initial pressing and a version of the song done by Merilee Rush a few months later would land in the top ten. It's another one of those heartbreaking industry casualty stories. The title track, 'Anyway That You Want me' is another example- more widely known as a Troggs song or even as a Spiritualized song. The Spiritualized cover is obviously more closely modeled off of Sands' version (although in a lot of ways it's a nice conflation and extrapolation) proved to be the final nail in the coffin of Pete Kember and Jason Pierce's collaboration and, ultimately, it's release finalized the death of Spacemen 3. Nestled onto the second disc of the 'Playing With Fire' reissue is a 4-track version of the song with similar instrumentation to the final Spiritualized version, but with Kember giving his all vocally (and, might I say, quite admirably). Having always wanted to do a cover of it and having Pierce steal the idea and a great deal of the foundation under the guise of a new band made Kember a bit understandably upset. Time has made this whole fiasco a bit of a footnote as both have gone on to do very distinctive work on their own since, but still. It's a mysterious amount of malice to be spread by such a beautiful song.

'Anyway That You Want Me' is a promo-only affair that was sent out to DJs. It's a compilation of six 45 singles. I'm always fascinated by compilations like this because they can sometimes achieve their own strange, even-handed, deliberate-sounding flow. It's kind of like listening to the Cure's 'Standing on a Beach'- all of the songs were from their own time, but lined up they reveal themselves as the parts to a longer narrative that they are. 'Anyway That You Want Me' starts with 'Crazy Annie' which references 'Midnight Cowboy.' It has some production flourishes that usually fall under the 'heavy-handed late 60s psychedelic' heading but work here to nice effect. There's a lot of backwards horns floating underneath the acoustic guitars that work more as texture than focal point. Taylor and his production partner Al Gorgoni wisely always make Sands' voice the main feature and she doesn't need much more to push the song along. It even has a fake ending that's quite nice. Most of the slower ballads make up the first side. The title track is about as rowdy as it gets. Sands' take is my favourite of the three that I've heard. The Troggs just sounds lazy and half-assed compared to the verve that Sands put into belting the chorus. Pierce has to resort to harmonies and reverb to match what she does during the verses. My favourite song is 'It's This I am' which closes the first side and also the only Sands original on the record. It has a trippy, sultry soul ballad kind of sound. There's even a little bit of delay on the acoustic guitars (or at least that's what I think those are). It's a beautiful song and the lyrics are quite strong. It's enough to motivate me to troll her other releases for more of her originals as this is clear evidence that she was also more than competent as a songwriter. In some ways I prefer her straight emotional punch to Taylor's more deliberate attempts at cleverness.

The second side is a pretty even listen- very few of the tracks stand out. 'Shadow of the Evening' is the crown jewel on this side- it's a nice synthesis of the more hard-edged belting that dominates the second side and the mellower parts of the first side. The production is also a great deal more centered. There's a lot less exploration than on the first side. Perhaps this is because they were trying so hard to rope a hit already. Who could blame them considering three of her songs went on to greater success in the hands of others? What is admirable is how dedicated the production and the performance is- it's a palpable mutual respect that you just don't hear in pop music much any more. At least not in anything that stands half a chance of charting.

As an album this has proven to be one of my favourites to listen to on my way home from work- I have an hour-long trip from downtown to my front door. This record does a great job of making my commute inspiring and cinematic. It seems to make the wind lift. Highly recommend this one. I also lucked out and was the only person that bid on this on ebay as people routinely try to sell copies on discogs for $25-40. It's inspiring that this is still possible on ebay, no matter how remote.

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