[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Eric Andersen, The Smiths and Bob Marley & The Wailers.

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Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Close The Door Lightly When You Go’ – Eric Andersen
If the mark of an artist is the company they keep then Eric Andersen can be ranked up there with the best of them, having rubbed shoulders with Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Joan Baez, The Band, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Andy Warhol and William Burroughs to name but a few. While Andersen has not shared as much of the limelight as his Greenwich Village folk scene contemporaries, his vivid songwriting about love in all its expressions has influenced and been covered by countless artists in the singer-songwriter tradition and in 2003 he was awarded the Premio Tenco for outstanding songwriting, an award previously won by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave (again, the company you keep). While later versions of ‘Close The Door Lightly When You Go’ have gathered a more upbeat pace, none of them have the same raw sense of self-loathing and loneliness as the original found on Andersen’s second album ‘Bout Changes ‘n’ Things. A documentary taking in Andersen’s ongoing fifty-plus year journey as an artist entitled The Songpoet is slated for release later this year.

‘Back To The Old House’ – The Smiths
Morrissey is set to release his tenth solo album World Peace Is None Of Your Business in July (announced by way of a tongue-in-cheek music video), and while he tends to divide opinion like Moses parts large bodies of water you’d be hard-pressed to deny the emotional weight he lends to this stripped down version of ‘Back To The Old House’ lifted from a John Peel session in 1983. Nostalgia drips from Johnny Marr’s honeyed arpeggios, complementing the forlorn quality in Morrissey’s tenor and the palpable ambivalence conveyed through understated images in lines such as “When you cycled by, here began all my dreams, the saddest thing I’ve ever seen”.

‘High Tide Or Low Tide’ – Bob Marley And The Wailers
Replete with sultry rhythms from the Barrett brothers and beautiful harmonies from Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, ‘High Tide Or Low Tide’ makes perfect listening for the nights drawing longer. It was recorded during the sessions for The Wailers’ Island debut, Catch A Fire, which would begin Bob Marley’s meteoric rise to become the Third World’s first superstar, but didn’t make the final tracklist. However, positioned alongside the social commentary of ‘Concrete Jungle’ and ‘Stop That Train’, this soulful ditty of solidarity and friendship shows the scope of Marley’s songwriting even at this early stage and it is this sense of peace and love he would infuse much of his music with throughout his career.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

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[Cover Me]: Gil Scott-Heron, Nils Lofgren & The White Stripes

There are good covers, and there are bad covers. These are some I think belong in the former category.

Gil Scott-Heron – ‘Me and the Devil’ (Originally by Robert Johnson)
Appearing on his final album, I’m New Here, Gil-Scott Heron transposes Robert Johnson’s stark ‘Me and the Devil Blues’ from the haunting Mississippi delta of the 1930s to the ghostly concrete structures of 21st century New York, trading six strings for brooding synths. As an artist who had only just returned to recording following sixteen years of multiple incarcerations and crippling addiction, the malevolent atmosphere and strained vocals on the track reflect that Scott-Heron knew his devils all too well.

Nils Lofgren – ‘Like a Hurricane’ (Originally by Neil Young)
As Neil Young readies to release A Letter Home, a covers album including songs by Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson and Bert Jansch which chimed personally with Young, it seems appropriate to post a cover by sometime Crazy Horse member and current E Streeter, Nils Lofgren. Over nearly fifty years in music working with some of the 20th century’s defining musicians, Lofgren has proved himself to be rock’s most gymnastic guitarist, both in technique and on-stage antics. In this extended take from his own cover album of Neil Young songs, The Loner: Nils Sings Neil, Lofgren strips down the howling pain of Young’s electric original into a plaintive acoustic tearjerker with him soloing at his spellbinding best.

The White Stripes – ‘Baby Blue’ (Originally by Gene Vincent)
The White Stripes were never averse to taking old blues and injecting them with some garage-punk adrenaline, and here they crank up Gene Vincent’s slice of rock n’ roll gold to deliver a spine-tingling rendition in one of John Peel’s legendary sessions.