Saturday, April 21, 2012

Song of the day

"Master of Two Servants", by Ed Kuepper.

And on the seventh day Ed Kuepper rested.

But it was a strange, restless kind of rest. Five years ago he returned from the wilderness with the angry, energetic "Jean Lee and the Yellow Dog" album, reuniting him with Jeffery Wegener and thus activating the pilot light that eventually ignited into the Laughing Clowns reunion tour.

Since then, Ed has been trawling through his back catalogue, releasing his own Bootleg Series to rival Bob Dylan's, thus adding to the disk space taken up with versions of "Eternally Yours". (I've lost count.) But we have had no new Ed Kuepper music.

So it was with much excitement that the news of a new Ed album was greeted a few weeks ago. What we got, though, was "new" in a very Ed Kuepper sense of "new": eleven old songs given a fresh lick of paint and sent off into the world. The cover, with its nod to his first solo album, back in 1985, "Electrical Storm", should have been a clue. What Ed has done is re-recorded most of "Electrical Storm", added a couple of songs from "Rooms of the Magnificent", and called it "Second Winter".

I should emphasise that (a) this kind of caper from Ed should come as no surprise and (b) nothing I have written here should be taken as criticism. Like Dylan, Ed has spent much of his career looking back over his own songs and reworking, or reinventing, them, treating them, indeed, as "standards" to be interpreted according to the mood of the times, and with all that he has learned since their first creation being at his disposal. It's in many ways an admirable trait, but presumably one that wouldn't lend itself to the all-new-all-the-time rigours of the marketplace.

Ah, yes, the song. I have always loved the original version of this song, propelled to within an inch of its life by what can only be described, using two words that don't often get the opportunity to hang out together, as a mandolin frenzy. (It is also one of the songs that doesn't turn up on any of the demo / alternate take / outtake / live recordings that Ed keeps putting out.) So it is nice to be reminded of the song again, even if its new form eschews the mandolin for some of Ed's typically fine guitar playing. It still moves at a cracking pace. It is a great little song, whichever way you slice it.

This one is the original:

And this is Ed and Mark Dawson doing what is more or less the version from the new album, but in a live setting: