12. Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying
June 14th, 2020
Labi Siffre began his career in the unenviable position of being both Black and gay in 1960s Britain, and over five decades he’s written about race and sexuality across 10 studio albums, 3 books of poetry, and a play. But somehow he’s perhaps still best known to some for supplying the sample that does 90% of the heavy lifting in Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’, or Kanye’s ‘I Wonder’, or for Madness’ cover of ‘It Must Be Love’. Criminal.
I wish people knew instead ‘I Don’t Know What’s Happened to the Kids Today’, with its dizzying 11th hour tower of strings, or the pocket-sized love song ‘Bless the Telephone’. But the place I often tell people to start is Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying, a crisp and idyllic folk record that I’ll forever associate with the time I first listened to it in full, walking alone around an overcast Greenwich Village several years ago.
Throw a dart anywhere at this record and you’ll win. Listen to the original version of ‘It Must Be Love’, stripped of Madness’ horns and showboating, and hear a love song as sweet and uncomplicated as a ripe strawberry, with a bassline that should have received its own knighthood. Listen to the elegant brushed snare shuffle of ‘Cannock Chase’ and its lush string arrangements. Listen to ‘My Song’ and be prepared to make an appointment with your doctor should you not experience full-body shivers at the sound of a flute and French horn dovetailing with violins. Maybe just read the liner notes and appreciate the names of 70s sessions musicians so perfect they couldn’t be written in fiction: Harry Cornet, Les Hurdle, Martyn “Ginge” Ford. Exceptional.
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