Monday, 10 December 2018

Monday Long Song

Following the success of their second LP 'Next...' in 1973, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band entered the studio to record their third album with the legendary Shel Talmy sitting in the producer's chair. In spite of Talmy's spectacular track record in the 1960s with the likes of The Who and The Kinks, SAHB weren't happy with the results, scrapping the recordings and sacking Talmy from the project. After reuniting with their longtime producer David Batchelor, SAHB re-recorded most of the material, issuing it as 'The Impossible Dream' in 1974. The Shel Talmy sessions remained buried in the archives until the release of 'Hot City (The 1974 Unreleased Album)' in 2009. I'd owned 'The Impossible Dream' for 35 years by the time 'Hot City' appeared on the scene, so I'm obviously biased, but for me the majority of the Talmy recordings pale beside their officially issued counterparts, though there are a number of interesting compare and contrast moments. 'Last Train', for example, features a somewhat more aggressive vocal from Alex, a slightly different musical arrangement and is two minutes longer than what would ultimately become 'Anthem', the closing track on 'The Impossible Dream'.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Last Train 

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Anthem

Thursday, 6 December 2018

No-one Gets a Retraction

2018 has been a pitiful year for me in terms of live gigs - I barely scraped into double figures. A pathetic effort, easily my worst annual total since the mid-1970s. Fortunately I already have tickets for five 2019 concerts in my back pocket (two of which I'm ridiculously excited about) - a good start, let's hope it will continue.

My last gig of 2018 was the final stop on Brix Smith and the Extricated's 'Breaking State' tour. With two strong albums of original material under their collective belts, these days the band concentrate on their own songs, featuring just four from The Fall's back catalogue in their set - 'Totally Wired', Dead Beat Descendant', 'Feeling Numb' and a superb 'Glam Racket'. If I had one quibble, it would've been nice to have heard Brix's voice a smidge higher in the mix, but that really is me being very picky. They were absolutely terrific - seeing Brix and the Hanley brothers in full flight once again was a joy to behold.

Brix and the Extricated - Dog Face (Lost in Gdansk)

Monday, 3 December 2018

Monday Long Song

My penultimate concert of 2018 was a date on the 50th Anniversary tour of the legendary Soft Machine - this in spite of the band having actually formed 52 years ago. Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen and Kevin Ayers passed from the ranks fairly early on and the last original member (Mike Ratledge) left as long ago as 1976. The current line-up consists of bassist Roy Babbington who played with the band from 1971-76 before returning in 2008, guitarist John Etheridge who has been there since 1975, the frail but phenomenal John Marshall, currently in his 46th year behind the drum kit and 'new' boy Theo Travis who has been contributing a bewildering variety of instrumentation since 2006.

'Out-Bloody-Rageous' is a Mike Ratledge composition from the band's 'Third' LP, issued in 1970. The current line-up revisited the tune on-stage the other night and in truncated form on their latest album 'Hidden Details', but here, featuring a line-up of Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Robert Wyatt and Ratledge, is the 48 year old 19 minute original in all its glory.

Soft Machine - Out-Bloody-Rageous

Monday, 26 November 2018

Monday Long Song

Robert Calvert died in 1998 following a heart attack, at a mere 43 years of age. While he was with us however, he was prolific, producing a novel, several plays, two collections of poetry, a bunch of solo records and of course contributing to a series of great albums with Hawkwind. 'Spirit of the Age' opened the band's 1977 LP 'Quark, Strangeness and Charm' and back then the song clocked in at nearly 7½ minutes, but in 2009 a deluxe double CD version of the album was issued on the Atomhenge label, with the inclusion of an additional 13 alternative and unreleased tracks. One of those extras is the full unedited version of 'Spirit of the Age'.

Hawkwind - Spirit of the Age (Unedited Version)

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Changing Costumes in Your Room

Island Records tried hard, so very hard, to get Warm Jets away. Throughout 1997/98 each successive single came in a multitude of 'collectable' formats and the band seemed to be constantly on the road - a never-ending promotional tour that took them everywhere from headline slots in small clubs to supporting major acts in vast arenas. I caught Warm Jets several times in that 24 month period and the highlight of the show was always 'Never Never'. Issued, re-issued, re-promoted, pointlessly re-recorded and re-issued again, the single finally scraped into the Top 40, but ultimately, following the release of their sole album 'Future Signs', the band were dropped by Island and broke up soon after.

Warm Jets - Never Never

Monday, 19 November 2018

Monday Long Song / Red Gold & Green #29

The first Factory Records 12" single to find its way into my collection was Fac 11, the powerful 'English Black Boys' by Manchester reggae band X-O-Dus. It took the legendary Dennis 'Blackbeard' Bovell (who wrote and produced 'Silly Games' for Janet Kay, a hit at the time) a full six months to complete a satisfactory mix of the track, but the result was worth every second of his efforts.

X-O-Dus split in 1981 and 'English Black Boys' was not only their sole release on Factory, it was actually the band's only release of any kind until a compilation of unissued recordings appeared on the LTM label in 2012.

X-O-Dus - English Black Boys

Monday, 12 November 2018

Monday Long Song

'Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance', a 1982 American experimental film directed by Godfrey Reggio, examines mankind's relationship with technology. The film contains no dialogue, characters or narrative structure, relying instead on stunning time-lapse imagery and the equally stunning music of Philip Glass to set the scenes. 'The Grid' is a real highlight of the piece, visually and musically. The world wakes, gradually picks up speed and ultimately hurtles into overdrive.

Philip Glass Ensemble - The Grid

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