1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Archive for the tag “Bright Blue”

A Man Like Me – James Stewart

A Man Like Me - James Stewart

A Man Like Me – James Stewart

One time member of The Usual, James Stewart makes beautifully crafted pop songs. And ‘A Man Like You’ is no exception. On this sentimental song, his emotional-without-being-X-Factor-warblingly-irritating voice floats over the gentle instrumentation. The song seems to glide along on a shiny surface of polished production and plush sounds.

The words tell the familiar tale of a man feeling lucky with the woman who has fallen in love with them. Men are often criticised for not showing their true feelings, but when James sings here about ‘feeling like a stranger in this world’ and how he does not really feel deserving of love, then he will ‘thank my lucky stars each night Because they’re the only reason I can see Why a beautiful woman like you could ever love a man like me’.

‘A Man Like Me’ topped the SA Rockdigest charts back in 2002 and spent 2 weeks there and it was no surpise. The album that produced this chart topper along with 2 other songs that topped those charts (‘Shine’ and ‘Gravity’) has a list of personnel involved that is packed with names from the who’s who of SA music. Bright Blue’s ‘Dan Heymann and Tom Fox help out in the instrumentation department along with Paul Tizzard, Yoyo Buys and Voelvry-er Jannie van Tonder. On the production side, it’s only McCully Workshop’s Richard Black behind the desk with James Stewart and Joe Arthur pops in to help master the final affair. With talent like Stewart’s and friends like his, it’s not surprising we got a song as good as this from a man like him.

Where to find it:
A Man Like Me – James Stewart (2004), Street Level, CDSLS(CLF)135

Hear here:
https://jamesstewart.bandcamp.com/album/a-man-like-me

Video:

The Rising Tide – Bright Blue

The Rising Tide - Bright Blue

The Rising Tide – Bright Blue

Some great songs seem destined to live in the shadow of another offering from the same artist where one captures the public imagination to such an extent that it almost precludes listening to the other. For example ‘Taximan’ seems to play second fiddle to éVoid’s ‘Shadows’ and Clout’s ‘Save Me’ gets less attention than ‘Substitute’. To that list add Bright Blue’s ‘The Rising Tide’ which will always be overlooked in favour of ‘Weeping’.

Yes, ‘The Rising Tide’ is not as dramatic as ‘Weeping’ preferring to float on a cushion of laidbackness rather than loom large as its big brother does. However, just because it sounds more ‘on the beach’ than ‘in the city’ does not mean it didn’t have as serious a political message. While ‘Weeping’ took on the whole of apartheid and expounded on the senselessness of it, ‘The Rising Tide’ concentrates on a specifically ‘white’ issue, but which had ramifications for the blacks in the country too as it tackles the subject of conscription. (For any non-South Africans reading this, under aparthead white males were conscripted to serve in the South African Defense Force for a period of up to 2 years).

The song references David Bruce in the line ‘David, now that your eyes don’t shine anymore’. Bruce was one of the first to object to conscription on a purely political basis. Conscientious objection (i.e. that based on religious grounds) had been going on for years, but here was a guy prepared to face 6 years imprisonment (solitary confinement if the rumours were true) for his political beliefs. ‘The Rising Tide’ is an anthem of solidarity with David and the 22 others who took a stand against what the government of the day were doing. It is a beautifully crafted song which oozes a real sense of caring, not only about the issue of conscription, but also for the fate of those who objected.

So while not a big picture song like ‘Weeping’, this is still worthy of a listen every now and then reminding us of some of the specifics, while doing so, dare I say it, with a catchier tune.

Where to find it:
Every Now And Then – The Best So Far… 1984-2001 (2001) Universal

Video:

Weeping – Erik Windrich

Erik

Erik Windrich

Okay, we need to start this one with a statement that this is not a cover of the classic Bright Blue song by the éVoid frontman. No this is a song which Erik wrote around the same time that Bright Blue were writing their song, however, Erik took about 26 years longer to release his song of the same name.

A lot had happened in that time. Erik, had re-located to London with his brother Lucien and the 2 of them were plying their trade as éVoid, performing live at The Springbok Bar in Covent Gardens. After years of that, things went quiet on the Windrich front till Erik decided to record a new album and when he did, he included this track which had been sitting around in his back pocket for a while. He found himself a few musicians to record with, including a guy called Mosi Conde from Guinea who brought a kora to the proceedings.

The result is a gently bittersweet song that has Mosi’s kora cascading around Erik’s guitar picking, the latter still having that South African sound that éVoid had managed to pluck from their instruments. It is a matured éVoid sound, no longer the manic bounce around the stage stuff, but a more refined take on life, but no less catchy. Like the éVoid track, ‘The Race Of Tan’, the lyrics ponder the fate of those whose ancestory was regarded as questionable and borderline acceptable under the apartheid regime. It looks at identity and racism.

This song should not be played next to the Bright Blue one to compare them just because they share a title. Both songs bring out the tears because of the injustices seen in the country back then, but while Bright Blue drag the extra sobs from you due to the dramatic beauty of their composition, Windrich seduces them from you using sheer gentle beauty.

Where to find it:
backyard Discovery – Erik Windrich (2003)

Video:

Hear here:

Weeping – Bright Blue

Weeping – Bright Blue (It wasn’t Rory it was Wi Ping)

Bright Blue - Weeping

Bright Blue – Weeping

From the first dramatic drum beat to the sax laden fade via the neatly woven riff from Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika and poignant lyrics, this is arguably the most important South African song ever recorded. It is certainly one you should hear before you go deaf, and even after you’ve lost your hearing, you still need to listen to it. The sound is huge, the lyrics are angry (in a passive way) and hints at the end of apartheid drawing near.

Bright Blue had relocated to Johannesburg from Cape Town in the mid 80’s and one night in late 1987 at the Orange 338 Studio in Orange Grove, they recorded ‘Weeping’ along with ‘Yesterday Night’, apparently popping out at 2 in the morning to find Basil Coetzee at the Market theatre to lay down the sax solo that is now as iconic in South African music circles as Raphael Ravenscroft’s ‘Baker Street’ contribution is on the global scene.

Only 500 copies were originally pressed and interestingly the double A sided single listed the tracks as ‘Yesterday Night + Weeping’ which seems to indicate that perhaps the band thought the former (a nice jauntly Afropop tune) was going to be the bigger hit. It was released during a time of political turmoil in late 1987 and ‘Weeping’ topped the Radio 5 charts for 2 weeks in January 1988, no mean feat, given its illegal musical reference to the banned Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika.

A number of cover versions have appeared, most notably by Vusi Mahlasela, Qkumba Zoo and the international artist Josh Groban. An interesting acoustic live version by another SA great, Robin Auld, can be found on Youtube (sound quality not the best – see link below).

‘Weeping’ propelled Bright Blue from being the good eighties South African band, a reputation that their debut album ‘Bright Blue’ had suggested at, into one of the most important South African bands of all time.

Where to find it:

Lyrics

I knew a man who lived in fear
It was huge, it was angry, it was drawing near
Behind his house, a secret place
Was the shadow of the demon he could never face.

He built a wall of steel and flame
And men with guns, to keep it tame
Then standing back, he made it plain
That the nightmare would never ever rise again
But the fear and the fire and the guns remain.

It doesn’t matter now
It’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping.

SAX SOLO – Basil Coetzee

And then one day the neighbours came
They were curious to know about the smoke and flame
They stood around outside the wall
But of course there was nothing to be heard at all
“My friends”, he said, “We’ve reached our goal
The threat is under firm control
As long as peace and order reign
I’ll be damned if I can see a reason to explain
Why the fear and the fire and the guns remain.”

It doesn’t matter now
It’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping.

SAX

It doesn’t matter now
It’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping.

Composed by: Heymann/ Fox/ Cohen/ Cohen

Recorded and released by Bright Blue in 1987. One of South Africa’s greatest songs… includes instrumental references to ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica’.

Thanks to Stephen Segerman.
Video:


Robin Auld Cover:


Josh Groban & Vusi Mahlasela Cover:

Website:

http://www.rock.co.za/brightblue

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