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Recorded live at the November 2003 Green Room concerts at The Actors’ Studio Bangsar, this is a radical re-arrangement of ‘Blue’. Compared to the elegant but somewhat sedate version featured in ‘Rustic Living’, this version is far more aggressive and features a brilliant soprano sax solo by Greg Lyons. I love how the song grows and grows till the frantic ending brings everything to a resolution.
Marianne Called [Greenroom]
During the production of ‘Rustic Living’, I had two arrangements for ‘Marianne Called’, one gave the song a small, poignant feel, and the other gave it a bigger, rock sensibility. Although we eventually opted for the ’small’ version for the album, I’ve always liked the ‘big’ version too, and this was indeed what we played at the Green Room concerts. Although the studio version works better as part of the Marianne trilogy, I think this arrangement makes the song a lot more accessible to the casual listener.
Famous Blue Raincoat [Greenroom]
Written by Leonard Cohen, this is one of my favourite songs. I first heard it when I was a student, but didn’t really understand the song’s power till much later. Anyway, I opened the Green Room concerts with this song, sung solo and unaccompanied by the band. It might seem an odd decision to open the show with a cover, but I wanted to do it by way of a tribute to Cohen. I’m glad I did that because it worked out really well.
Street Where you Live [Greenroom]
I wrote this song for Alice Rae, an aged Scottish woman who treated me with immense kindness when I was at boarding school in York. Before I left for London and university, I promised Alice that I’d go back to visit her in York as often as I could. However, she died the following summer and I never saw her again. I’ve since also dedicated the song to my late friend Baterz. For some reason, I’ve been very reluctant to commit this song to tape, and this is the only recording of Alice’s song in existence.
Jesselton Tonight [Demo]
Rafique Rashid recorded this version of ‘Jesselton Tonight’ at the old No Black Tie in August 2002 - just before I went into the studio to make ‘Rustic Living’. It features a simpler but more effervescent delivery of the song than was captured on the studio album. In fact, it was upon precisely such folk sensibilties that the song became a No Black Tie favourite long before the release of ‘Rustic Living’ introduced it to the Malaysian public.
Recorded in the No Black Tie session abovementioned, this version of ‘Blue’ features the brilliant Sherry on second guitar. Compared to the version on ‘Rustic Living’, this is faster in tempo and less elegant in feel, but it nevertheless boasts an edginess and urgency that’s oddly arresting. For a long time, I had mixed feelings about the version on the record because I missed the rawness of what was captured here. But the studio version has since grown on me, so now I can’t decide which version I like better.
Last Good Man [Demo]
Of all the songs considered for ‘Rustic Living’, this is musically the most aggressive. It is also a tribute to Van Morrison. But sadly, we did not get the sound right in the studio and it was subsequently dropped. The version on offer here is not the studio stillborn, but rather an earlier, stripped down, rendition closer to how it would have sounded if we had got it right. Recorded at the old No Black Tie, this features Sherry and I laying it down like it was supposed to be.
Where’ve The Years Gone? [Demo]
My first gig in Kuala Lumpur was a punk gig at No Black Tie in December 2000. Rafique Rashid was doing sound and liked what I did sufficiently to invite me back for a recording session a week later. That session turned out to be hugely important because the resultant demo tape got me noticed by many people who became pivotal in the making of ‘Rustic Living’. This early version of ‘Where’ve The Years Gone?’ was recorded on that day.
Near Or Far [Demo]
This song won me a lot of fans when I first started but somehow got left out of ‘Rustic Living’. I guess we felt that it didn’t quite fit into the world we were trying to create. Still, it remains one of my favourite songs. No Black Tie used to put this recording on the house speakers in the early hours of the morning when most people had gone home. The shutters would then come down, and Tequila shooters would appear, accompanied by the sound of unrequited love.
Alive N’ Free [No Black Tie]
This is one of the earliest renditions of ‘Alive N’ Free’ on tape. I am astonished by how fast I used to play it. This particular recording was used as end-credit music in Huzir Sulaiman’s short film ‘That History Feeling’. I don’t think it has the same musical depth and spooky interest as the version on ‘Rustic Living’, but the bareness of everything makes it starker and more naked. I used to open all my gigs with this song.
The Red House [No Black Tie]
This was the first public performance of ‘The Red House’, recorded no more than a week after I wrote it. I remember the gig well - one of those legendary standing-room-only nights at No Black Tie where you could hear a pin drop. My friend Paul Lau was in the crowd, and when I sang the line: “Paul and I go back to ‘85″, I looked up and caught his eye. If you listen carefully, you can just hear me smile as I sing that line.
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