Friday, 16 May 2014

Stop, Collaborate and Listen, #15 - 11

by PJ Harvey and Josh Homme

When rock is dark, powerful and thick like molasses, yet composed, taught and direct like a cross bow I’m drawn in. I’m gripped by fear and that messy emotional ball of spiteful anguish that I’ve been pushing deep down inside for endless years is pierced. A forceful stream of aggressive motion is forced through my blood, injected into my muscles and releases as a furious flailing of limbs, pointing, clenching and thrusting the air with vigorous bile. This is the effect that the mastery of the entire Desert Sessions Vol 9/10 has on me, and one of my fave tracks is one of the several duets by a couple of insanely talented musicians.

‘Crawl Home’ is quite simply an amazing piece of rock gold that has been birthed from the brains, fingers and mouths of two of the most respected denizens of the rockosphere, PJ Harvey and Josh Homme. That bass line is a long rough road and the rhythm guitar is driving with purpose over the top through the gravel while PJ lays a sharp, howling tongue lashing on JH and JH whimpers like a cowering child. It’s epic. It’s amazing. I must be excused as I can feel a bout of flailing about to bubble out. (Nayt Housman)

by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie

And your eyes (your eyes, your eyes), they tell me how much you caaaaare. You think you're totally cool for not liking this duet, don't cha? Well, buddy... old pal... I'm here to tell you that you ain't cool unless you like 'Endless Love'. And if liking 'Endless Love' makes you cool, consider me Miles Davis! Alright, so my (endless) love for one of the most successful duets of all time comes back to the movie Happy Gilmore. If you've seen it, you probably mouth along to both Lionel Richie and Diana Ross' vocals, just like the poor old zamboni driver standing in the darkness. In all seriousness though, there's a reason why 'Endless Love' came in at #1 on US Billboard's list of greatest duets. Actually, there's plenty of reasons why. Two superstars combining their talents and silky smooth voices to create one super fine love ballad that still gets busted out at weddings and karoke (there's a rumour that our own Lou partakes in this) to this day. Yes, it comes served with extra cheese, but Ross and Richie sell that cheese like there's no tomorrow. It speaks to the romantic side in all of us, no matter how cool we think we might be.

Considering her past as the front for The Supremes, it comes as a surprise that 'Endless Love' was the most successful song of her illustrious career... and her 18th #1 single to boot! Richie wrote the song. Which means he's responsible for lyrics like, "two hearts, two hearts that beat as one, our lives have just begun," that can both warm your heart and leave a little scunched up look on your face. At the same time. The track would spend nine weeks at #1 in the USA, kicking off a decade of hits for a man that would go on to be known as Nicole's dad or that dude that sings inside your fridge. Despite my digs, you can't take away from Richie's voice, which harmonises so well with Ross that your heart could actually start melting from the heat their chemistry generates. Something that I didn't know, was that 'Endless Love' was the theme to the film of the same name, which starred Brooke Shields. If you ever get a chance, I strongly encourage you to read the Wikipedia plot section and attempt to explain how 'Endless Love' the song could possibly work with Endless Love the movie. (Matt Bond)

by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans

Look, I need to be honest here - I’ve never really been a big fan of Puff Daddy, P Diddy, or whatever it is he’s calling himself these days, but this song is the exception to the rule. The sampling used from The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ may have something to do with it. Faith Evans super smooth vocals may have something to do with it. Watching ole mate Diddy/Daddy/whatever writhe around on the floor during the film clip in one of the worst attempts at acting ever may have something to do with it. All of these things and more make it a song I love and would happily belt out at karaoke. And as a fan of all things daggy, it just so appeals to me. This song makes me want to teleport back to 1997 wearing a furry white hat. Or puffy pants. Or both. This song is a totally worthy contender on our duets countdown. Don’t just take my word for it though (like you ever would). Worldwide sales show that many peeps have a soft spot in their hearts for it. The fact that it was a tribute for Notorious B.I.G. may have been an influencing factor (if you need the 411, here it is – Notorious B.I.G. was an American rapper shot dead in a drive-by). But hey, it even won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. (Katie Langley)

by Stevie Nicks and Don Henley

Let's start with my most recent reason for loving 'Leather and Lace'. I was talking to my sister Sam about this little duets countdown we've got going and how Stevie Nicks and Don Henley would be making an appearance. In turn, Sam told me that if she ever renews her vows, has a second wedding to her husband or whatever you'd call it... anyway, she would wear lace, her husband would wear leather and this song would get played on repeat. I practically begged her to make this happen as soon as possible. It's like some sort of magical Stevie Nicks themed wedding. It's just too much. Sam, if you're reading, you really need to do this!

Moving right along, let's talk about 'Leather and Lace'. The breakout star of Fleetwood Mac teaming with her counterpart from The Eagles. Sparks flew when two of rock music's most celebrated performers joined up for Nicks' second solo single. Its released followed another of Nicks' duets, 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around', which featured Tom Petty. While the latter climbed higher on the charts, it's the more complex 'Leather and Lace' I'd give the nod to as the favoured Nicks collaboration. Which is why you're reading about it here. Duh. Nicks has always been a fantastic storyteller, one of the greatest the music industry has ever seen, and 'Leather and Lace' treads in the bittersweet territory that so many of her other great works have. Presented as an honest conversation between two lovers (urgh, just pretend that word was preceded by meat and followed by pizza), we witness the ups and downs of a relationship expected to stand the test of time.

"Lovers forever, face to face, my city or mountain, stay with me stay, I need you to love me, I need you to today, give to me your leather, take from me my lace."

I think the lines, "I need you to love me, I need you today," hold a reserved desperation from Nicks that can make you rethink the entire relationship between her and Henley's 'characters'. But given Nicks' relationship to Henley (read, more than friends), it could be more than just playing roles, particularly given that Henley offered a lot of input into the writing. And since Nicks likes to throw much of her own private life into her music, it's believed that the song is about two rock stars. So it could be her and Henley. Or it could be about former Fleetwood Mac flame, Lindsey Buckingham. Whoever it's about, it makes for good drama and even better music. Nicks' voice is perfect, as always, and Henley matches her every step of the way. This is a duet packed full of real tension, a healthy dose of rock and roll charm and, at the end of the day, it's got Stevie Nicks in it. That's more than enough for it to get some love from me. (Matt Bond)

by Bjork and Thom Yorke

Bjork has for a very long time been a mainstay in my musiverse and when it was announced she was to star in a movie called Dancer In The Dark, a great amount of excitement filled my teenage brain that was overcome with a bilious wave of joy and anticipation. The movie and soundtrack were given to me on my 18th birthday from my mumma and the love affair with its lead single ‘I've Seen It All’ was quite instant.

"I've seen it all, I've seen the trees, I've seen the willow leaves dancing in the breeze." Such simple sentiments fill this song with a rebellious longing against an inevitable tragedy of the films main character dealing with losing her sight. It's the too and fro of her convincing her loved one that everything is going to be okay while also giving herself the kind of pep talk we as humans give when coming to terms with the heavy weight of our own fragility and mortality. Adding to the gravity of the track is the call and response between Bjork's projected innocence and Thom Yorke's effortless ethereal sensitivity, both dripping with heart, mourning and deviance.

It remains a song that is simultaneously uplifting and completely devastating. I ache completely at the force created by the combination of Bjork and Thom Yorke and fall helplessly at the feet of ‘I've Seen It All’. Helpless in its divine power and humanity. (Nayt Housman)

And that's it for part two... we'll be back with five more fantastic duets each Friday in May. Whoever could be next....?

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