Couple in Spirit. Keith and Julie Tippett, 1987
How to finish this year-long series? A question that matters to no one else, I daresay, but it pleases me anyhow to circle back to (somewhere near) the beginning. The first of these pieces – back when 2021 felt like it might just see continuing lockdown – harked back to Carla Bley, and an album that showed Julie Tippetts’ voice at its finest.
So does this one, with Keith Tippett, in the improvised duo format that they returned to in performance as long as Keith lived, but was rarely recorded. I have a lasting affection for Julie’s earlier solo album, Sunset Glow, but this entirely improvised effort has a kind of purity that is hard to match.
Even more so, in a way on the vocal only track (Brimstone Spring Lullaby, starting at 5:30). The quality of the voice here now puts me in mind of the great Jeanne Lee, who I’d not encountered in 1988. It’s difficult to think of anyone else comparable, though this squib from Sheila Jordan has some affinities too, perhaps.
There is something elemental about the Tippetts’ vocal, as if giving unmediated access to primal music-making. It’s not unmediated, of course: there’s a recording studio, and overdubbing, not to mention that one now listens on YouTube. Nor is primal apt really. The whole LP is the product of two immensely talented people who have thought deeply about music-making and developed their art together over years of study. That’s what allowed them to make something spontaneously that retains its appeal for so long.
And, although I am tempted to isolate that track, it’s not right to single out one piece either. The original notes stress that they considered this a unified performance, that ought to be heard in one go. I agree – so here’s side one. For the rest you’ll need to track down the old vinyl, I think, but if anyone finds a link do pass it on.
These entries have got shorter, and the music longer. That seems the right balance, really.
And so this self-appointed task is done. I could go on, but will not. I’d rather reflect on these bits and pieces (possibly in a final post), and may also do one final note of things that I’d thought of including here but did not, or could not, for one reason or another.
Apart from that, a Happy New Year in advance to any reader(s) who has been following these in sequence – maybe see you at a gig sometime in 2022?
Why the No 52? This is the last of a series running (in no particular order) through 2021. I explain a bit what it was about here.
There’s a cumulative playlist of all the ones that can be found on Spotify (not this one)