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Top Ten Tunes

Tony Backhouse

musician and choirmaster

Ladies and Gentlemen! And Simon Morris! Tonight, live in the Dayglo Disco one of New Zealand's (and indeed the World's) finest and most accomplished musicians and singers, a very old chum of The Prop's, and a very fine fellow indeed. A veteran of some of our country's best bands the legendary Mammal, the extraordinary if short lived Crocodiles, as well as the unforgettable and beautifully named The Vulgar Beatmen ... and then, in a kind of self-reinvention, became a progenitor of gospel choirs and a giver of harmonizing workshops that are truly inspirational (having been to one for a weekend we know of what we speak even Grahame Sydney found he had a voice, a miracle in itself). Among his many achievements perhaps his greatest is the founding, and running for 20 or so years, of the amazing Sydney a cappella choir, Caf

  1. Sister from Texas - Aretha Franklin

    Some of Aretha's most soaring and rhythmic vocal lines over the unstoppable rhythm section of Chuck Rainey and Bernard Purdie. Love the chirping and mumbling wah wah clavinet. Up there with 'Rock Steady' as Aretha's funkiest.

  2. Golden Years - David Bowie

    Great groove with a wicked riff, and charmingly cynical backing vocals.

  3. Prisoner of Love - James Brown

    An alarming collision of the kitsch (neurotic and syrupy strings and a schmaltzy tune that had been a hit for Perry Como) and the funky - James' phrasing, dynamics and changes of register are fearless and scary. As a classically-oriented radio host asked me once, 'What sort of voice IS that?' It doesn't fit any known category, for sure. The radio host declined to play this on air as he opined it was 'too wide' for his audience.

  4. Lonely Women - Laura Nyro

    I saw her once in New York. Gorgeous, dramatic, moving, fearless.

  5. The Way - Meshell Ndeogocello

    Funky as, critical as, beautiful as... A spiritual anti-religion song.

  6. Le Myst - Pilentze Pee

    Jonathan Zwartz gave me a cassette of random recordings in the '80s, no indication of who the artists were. In between the funk and the jazz, WOH! in come these incandescent female voices in ever widening harmonies from outer space. I'd never heard anything like it. I tracked down every recording I could find of what turned out to be the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir singing contemporary arrangements of folk songs. Awe-inspiring.

  7. Gloria from Missa Prolationum - Johannes Ockeghem

    Surging oceanic angelic bewildering ecstatic - a mathematical feat (two simultaneous canons: ie soprano and tenor singing the same thing in different times and in different keys, while alto and bass sing another line in different times and keys) which is impressive enough, but the music soars, unfurls, dips and swoops like a flock of seraphim. Ockeghem, what a god.

  8. My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord - O'Landa Draper and Associates Choir

    Contemporary gospel choirs always have a unbearably funky rhythm sections, banks of keyboards and guitars, but occasionally do an a cappella number because they can.

  9. We're All Light - XTC

    This pretty much speaks for itself.

If you have never experienced the joyous delight of singing four-part harmony in a big Gospel choir, do yourself a favour and give it a go. Belief is not necessarily a requisite. And better still, look out for Tony's movements (which can be tracked on his website). If he's coming to town, do not miss the chance of a weekend's singing workshop with the man himself.

Tony is the only person we know who has actually sung in the Rev. Al Green's church. But the Prop first got to know Tony when he was studying at Victoria university, and the Prop was ... doing anything but. One of those people that's always popping up in your life, and we are always delighted to see him. He nailed Heard it Through the Grapevine at the Prop and B. Brown's last big birthday bash.

We'd like to see a big medal on that man's chest he has brought music into more people's lives, good music, music you make, than anyone we can think of in the Antipodes. Respect and thanks. And what a cool and different Top 10.

A major Dayglo roar for the one and only ... Mr ... Tony Backhouse!!

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Alexandra 9340
Central Otago
New Zealand


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