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“Divine music shall always be the sound of love, the sound of peace, the sound of life, the sound of bliss”

Alice Coltrane (1937 – 2007) is known for being married to John Coltrane. That he isn’t known for being married to her is a shame. They met on July 18 1963 and married in 1965. John became stepfather to her daughter Michelle, and they had three children of their own. She joined his band, playing piano with the group until his death in 1967.

After his death, she became deeply immersed in spiritual music and continued to explore the harp, which John had introduced her to. This led to some beautiful work, most famously Journey in Satchidananda (1970). Becoming increasingly devoted to eastern religion, she adopted the name Turiya. In 1974, she recorded Illuminations with Carlos Santana, who was also big into vedic religion.

She enjoyed a return to the spotlight thanks in part to a new generation of musicians inspired by the freedom and spirit of the music she wrote. Kieran Hebden’s 2003 album Rounds drew heavily on samples of her work. She returned to the stage in 2006 with her son Ravi Coltrane on sax, veteran Roy Haynes on drums, and Charlie Haden on bass. She died on 12th January in LA.

Alice Coltrane – A Love Supreme

Journey In Satchidananda

Journey In Satchidananda

Isis and Osiris

Illuminations

Bliss: the Eternal Now

Illuminations

Four Tet – My Angel Rocks Back and Forth

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Shangri-Las

They just don’t make ’em like this anymore. Pistol-packin, teen, terrific, pedantic – the Shangri-Las are the coolest girl group ever. When he met them, James Brown couldn’t believe they were white. For a while, the Sonics were their backing band. When it wasn’t the Sonics, it was the Iguanas (the band Iggy Pop played in, where he got the nick-name).

They came from Queens, two sets of sisters, although most people thought they were a trio, because Betty rarely bothered showing up for photoshoots (or tours). Here’s a rare performance by all four…

What realy makes these tracks special is the production work by George “Shadow” Morton. He was twenty years old when he wrote and recorded Remember (Walking in the Sand) with the group. Check out the echo on that track… I think all these tracks are pretty much essential. Read all about them.

Give Him a Great Big Kiss

Remember (Walking in the Sand)

Bulldog

I Can Never Go Home Anymore

Out in the Street

A few years ago I was wasting vast amounts of cash in a record store in Washington, DC, when I came across a stark white album with two words impacted on the front:

I flipped the record over, but all it said was:

So, still completely ignorant, I bought it. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that I took it round to my girlfriend’s house and properly listened to it. I thought it was nice folky guitar picking, good for background music. But by the second track we were silent, listening to the sounds pouring from the speakers. Completely hooked.

There’s not much point in me going on about John Fahey, although I could. I could talk about how he started his own label in 1959 as a teenager (to release the ‘split’ with his alter-ego, Blind Joe Death, which I would later find in DC), how he rediscovered Mississippi bluesman Bukka White, how he fused his blues/folk with the dissonance of Bartok, his surreal, hilarious liner notes, how he explored eastern styles, his incredible Christmas albums (yes, really), or how he redefined the steel string guitar as an instrument:

And go on to wax poetic on his prolific recording career in the 1960s and 70s, the experimenting with soundscapes and tape loops, when he was always different, always the same – music which he would later dismiss as ‘cosmic sentimentality’:

Or his battles with illness and alcohol, his own slide into obscurity and poverty, and eventual ‘rediscovery’ and late return to music before his death in 2001. But you can read all that elsewhere.

On The Sunny Side of the Ocean (1965)

Impressions of Susan (1967)

The Yellow Princess (1968)

Lion (1968)

The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee (1968)

A Raga Called Pat (Part III) (1968)

America (1971)

The Waltz That Carried Us Away and then A Mosquito Came And Ate Up My Sweetheart (1971)

Beverly (1973)

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (1973)

Thus Krishna On The Battlefield (1973)

Dry Bones In The Valley (1974)

Stomping Tonight on the Pennsylvania/Alabama Border (live 1978)

Summertime (2003)

Red Cross, Disciple of Christ Today (2003)