Monday, 16 April 2018

We Could Leave Right Now

I'm writing a little ahead of time, but, all being well, by the time you read this Mrs S & I will be enjoying a short break in deepest North Norfolk. Today I turn 58 and the remote self-catering cabin we discovered a few years back has become something of an annual birthday retreat for us. I'm no psychic, but while we're away I can foresee lots of walking, lots of eating and, who knows, perhaps even a little drinking. We're looking forward to the break. The pace of our lives has increased considerably in recent weeks, so it'll be good to recharge for a few days before we pile back into it again.

Here's a band that I'm surprised to find hasn't put in an appearance on this blog before today. After Bob Dylan, I've probably seen Oysterband in concert more times than anyone else. In fact I'm long enough in the tooth to have attended both their 20th & 25th anniversary shows and just before Christmas I caught a date on their 40th anniversary tour - ouch! That means that when these guys started playing together, I was but a mere 18 year-old whippersnapper.

Oysterband - We Could Leave Right Now

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Three New Tunes

We had to buy a car at very short notice last week, following unexpected (and terminal) problems with the previous one. There is a lot going on round these parts at the moment and a whole lot more things coming up in the near future, so we couldn't really afford to be without wheels for any length of time. We picked up a nice little run around, only one owner since 2005 and only 60,000 on the clock, but (and it's a big but for yours truly) the CD player is kaput. We'd been spoiled by our previous vehicle, which had the best in-car music system I've ever owned, so this was a bitter blow. We'll sort it out in due course, but for our flying visit to the smoke at the weekend we alleviated the tedium of the drive by grabbing the DAB radio from the kitchen and chucking it onto the back set. Presto! Music on the move.

Here are three new tunes that have caught my ear in recent weeks on 6Music, all of which we heard a couple more times in the car over the weekend. They're new names to me at right now, but when I get a spare mo' you can be sure that I'll be digging a little deeper into each of 'em.

Monday, 9 April 2018

That's Not a Virus

Mrs S & I are still in London, drinking gallons of tea, consuming our own body weight in Hobnobs and driving old ladies around in our new (old) car. Newsflash - it doesn't have a CD player. Insert screaming meme here. If the hastily purchased new wheels had come with a reasonable sound system (like John Medd's all singing, all dancing set-up f'rinstance) I would surely have taken '27 Passports', the new album from Dutch band The Ex, along for the trip. It's their first regular LP in 8 years, being otherwise occupied by singles and collaborations in the intervening period. The Ex make a pretty darned great post-punk noise and have been in existence since 1979, when post-punk was actually still a new thing. Check out the album here, but meanwhile enjoy a live performance of 'That's Not a Virus' from 2015, a tune that originally appeared as a 7" b-side the previous year.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Washed by the Moon

This weekend I'm briefly breaking out of my current somewhat hectic routine, to check in with my elderly Aunts in London, stopping off on the way to attend the 60th birthday party of an old friend, where there'll be a few faces dotted around that I haven't clapped eyes on for nigh-on 35 years. Should be a giggle.

Unlikely as it may seem, this performance by Golik Jaupi and friends has become a complete earworm for me over the past week. The song forms the trailer for 'Washed by the Moon', a 2018 film about Këngë Labe, the ancient tradition of Albanian iso-polyphonic singing. Give it at least a minute of your time and marvel at those voices.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I don't love about this clip.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Katie’s Been Gone

In Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Levon Helm, The Band boasted an enviably strong vocal front-line. Helm's honest and unpolished country twang, Manuel's rich soulful baritone and Danko's nasal tenor were distinct and individual elements, which blended together seamlessly as and when required. As the years passed, the creation of The Band's music became more or less Robbie Robertson's vision alone, though it wasn't always that way. In the early days both Danko and Manuel made significant songwriting contributions. 'Katie’s Been Gone' was co-written by Robertson and Manuel in 1967, initially appearing on 'The Basement Tapes' in 1975, before being remixed for inclusion as a bonus track on the 'Music From Big Pink' reissue in 2000. Richard's vocal here is heartbreaking and the key change / denouement in the final seconds is utterly devastating.

Not for nothing did Robbie Robertson write 'The Shape I'm In' for Manuel to sing. Had his long-standing personal demons not finally got the better of him in 1986, today would've been Richard Manuel's 75th birthday.

The Band - Katie's Been Gone

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Monk Chant

Time is a bit tight at the moment and will probably remain this way for a couple more weeks at least, so apologies for my lower than usual presence around the regular haunts, I'll try to drop in as and when I can though. Meanwhile, take a gander at this remarkable German TV performance by Monks (no definite article apparently). A few more tracks from the same session are up on YouTube and they're all worth checking out, but 'Monk Chant' is absolutely extraordinary. This gobsmacking racket aired on prime time telly in July 1966.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Red Gold & Green #26 - The Jolly Brothers

In the early 1980s, purely because I worked in a local record shop, I was offered the opportunity to host my own Hospital Radio show. Visions of being hailed as the new John Peel flowed through my mind and I readily accepted. When the day of my first show arrived, I headed off to the hospital with little preparation and no records. No need, I was told - the station had a bountiful supply of donated records, enough for a hundred shows. On arrival at the studio I was indeed greeted by a huge quantity of records...Manuel and the Music of the Mountains, Boxcar Willie, Val Doonican, Mantovani, James Last, Johnny Mathis, The Black & White Minstrels, Klaus Wunderlich you name them, they were all there on the shelves of a musical wall of horror. My heart sank.

Needless to say, from my second show onwards, I made greater preparations and took my own tunes. That first week, however, I went through every last record in the studio in an effort to find an hour's worth of broadcastable music - the pickings were very slim indeed. On-air, I mumbled and waffled from nerves and also to cover the fact that I had scarcely anything decent to play. Bizarrely and inexplicably however, I found a 7" single of The Jolly Brothers 'Conscious Man' in amongst all the dross. I played it instantly. Then I played the dub version on the b-side. Then I rambled on a bit about reggae in general, Lee Perry in particular and the Black Ark studio where the track was recorded in 1977...I might have even played the a-side again!

What the patients on the wards upstairs made of my efforts that day, or in the slightly more organised weeks and months that followed, is thankfully lost in the mists of time, but whenever I hear the distinctive, squelchy, #couldonlyhavecomefromtheblackark intro to 'Conscious Man' I'm transported back to that studio and the musical wall of horror.

Jolly Brothers - Conscious Man (12" Mix) 

The postscript to the story is that when I mentioned the Jolly Brothers 7" to the station controller, his reaction to it was much as mine was to the whole wall of horror! He told me to take the single home and keep it, on the grounds that it wasn't suitable for hospital radio and he had no idea where it came from. I couldn't do it though, even though I didn't then own a copy. I tucked it back into the middle of a pile of utterly naff singles in the hope that it would one day be re-discovered by a desperate DJ with similar tastes to my own. I wonder if it ever got another airing?

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