Sunday, 31 May 2015

Version City #42 - A South Korean Kindergarten Class sings The Ramones

If your day needs a bit of a lift, here's something that will surely help.....

.......and if your faith in the future of the human race is running on empty, this'll work wonders.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Give the Drummer Some - Happy Birthday Topper Headon

He was the engine room of the only band that mattered and his beats have been sampled almost as much as those of James Browns' funky drummer, Clyde Stubblefield. Happy 60th birthday to the great Topper Headon.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Hermits on Hiatus

Were I not a little long in the tooth to use such an expression, I might well have described 'Hermits on Holiday' by Drinks as being my latest jam. Drinks is a collaboration between Tim Presley of White Fence and the great Cate Le Bon, both of whom have featured on these pages in the past. 'Hermits on Holiday' is the title track of their debut LP, due for release at the end of August. This is the stuff.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan put in a mighty fine performance of 'The Night We Called It a Day' on the penultimate David Letterman show last week, despite looking profoundly uncomfortable for every single second that he wasn't singing. When Bob's on the telly you never quite know what you're going to get. I wouldn't have him any other way.

Here are a couple of Bob's previous appearances on the box from a few years back, each of them a triumph. Many happy returns of the day Mr Dylan. See you in October.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Abdullah Ibrahim

The great Abdullah Ibrahim walked unannounced onto the stage, made himself comfortable at the piano and plunged straight into a totally engrossing 25 minute, semi-improvised piece, which touched on several familiar phrases and motifs from his huge canon. He was then joined by two excellent musicians who between them played double bass & cello and  a selection of wind instruments, for a series of more structured tunes, all conducted by Mr Ibrahim's nods, yelps and smiles. The music, ostensibly jazz though veering on occasion towards classical, was often contemplative, sometimes playful and always utterly spellbinding. When the trio took their final bows at the end of the show, I'm sure I wasn't alone at being astonished to find that 90 minutes had passed in the blink of an eye. My seat was literally front and centre. I was so close, that the music I heard was acoustic and came straight from the instruments, not through the theatre's sound system. It's unlikely that Mr Ibrahim will pass this way again and it was a distinct privilege to be in the audience for what was an unforgettable evening.

I bought my first Abdullah Ibrahim albums in the mid-1980's and probably have about a dozen now, though these few barely scratch the surface of this giant of music's vast catalogue. Here are a couple of my early favourites.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Newtown Neurotics

Steve Lamacq concluded his show on 6Music this evening with the sad news that Colin Dredd (aka Colin Masters), bassist with The Newtown Neurotics from 1978 to 1988, passed away earlier today. There are those who know the band's catalogue, and indeed the people involved, far better than I, though I was lucky enough to see the Neurotics a couple of times in the mid-80's and still own one or two of their records.

'Airstrip One' was a personal favourite at the time and is invariably the first tune that comes to mind when I think of the band, and the aptly titled 'This Fragile Life' was added to singer Steve Drewett's moving Facebook tribute to Colin.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Bob and Tom say Goodbye to Dave

Us Dylan types are getting more than a little excited about His Nibs' upcoming performance on Tuesday's penultimate David Letterman show. Will he give us a moving 'Stay With Me' or a perhaps inappropriate 'Long and Wasted Years'? A sublime 'Autumn Leaves' or a predictable 'Forever Young'? All these titles and more have been mentioned in dispatches since Bob's appearance was announced 24 hours ago. Whatever he chooses to play, it will have to go some to top 'Take One Last Look', a stunning new song premiered by Tom Waits on Friday's show.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Version City #41 - Johnny & the Attractions sing Ruby & the Romantics

Life is getting loud in our neck of the woods. Standing in the garden for 10 minutes earlier today I heard a recently returned Cuckoo sounding off a couple of fields away, admired the shrieking aerobatics of a dozen swooping, rolling Swifts overhead and watched an equal number of screaming Starlings dripping off of the coconut shell fat feeders as they squabbled to gather food for their young. A couple of the youngsters were clearly hungry and impatient though, and camped out close to the noisy throng in the garden to ensure they had first dibs at whatever treats Ma & Pa were able to grab.

Produced by the first lady of Jamaican reggae Sonia Pottinger, this is Johnny & the Attractions in 1968 with their Rocksteady reading of the 1963 Ruby & the Romantics tune, 'Young Wings Can Fly'.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Ex Libris

Imagine you kept all your toys and comics from when you were a kid and never threw away any of your books or magazines when you were a teenager. Then you formed one of the most influential bands of the late 20th Century and kept souvenirs of that and all your subsequent adventures too. That's exactly what Mick Jones did and from time to time he displays his vast personal collection under the banner, The Rock'n'Roll Public Library.

I've been fortunate enough to browse through Mick's fascinating collection twice, both several years ago, firstly in Ladbroke Grove and later in Norwich. Now the Rock'n'Roll Public Library is opening its doors once again, this time in Venice! To coincide with the event, Mick Jones is releasing a six track mini-album of atmospheric instrumentals entitled 'Ex Libris'. Excellent it is too. Read more about the whole darned thing here.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Saturday Scratch #46 - David Isaacs

It's been one of those weeks. A ton of great looking posts have turned up on my sidebar in the past seven days and i've barely had a spare moment to glance at any of them. I'll try to rectify that to some extent after the weekend, though by then of course, the backlog will have become even greater. One post I did find time to enjoy was over at 27 Leggies (here) and featured several fascinating covers of the old Jim Reeves hit, 'He'll Have to Go'. My own favourite version of the song wasn't among them though. David Isaacs' 1969 single, produced by Lee Perry, can be found on the splendid 1998 compilation 'The Complete UK Upsetter Singles Collection Volume 1'. Check out those otherworldly backing vocals.

Hear another unlikely country cover by David Isaacs in an earlier edition of Saturday Scratch (here).

Thursday, 7 May 2015

So Many Things to Decide

One Sunday morning in 1965, in the days when you could still do that kind of thing, Dad and I wandered along Downing Street and he took a couple of photos of me outside Number 10. Despite voting in every General Election, Dad never once discussed party politics with me when I was growing up. His main concern was to teach me the distinctions between right and wrong, thus enabling me to decide for myself between left and right when the time came.

If you'd have told me six months ago that one of my favourite albums of the year would be by Idlewild, I would probably have shot you my best withering stare. I own nothing but a couple of early singles by the band and the bulk of their career has passed me by completely. 'Everything Ever Written', though, is an excellent, mature piece of work that I would wholeheartedly recommend to everyone. Here, on decision day for us in the UK, is 'So Many Things to Decide'.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Version City #40 - Walt Mink sing Nick Drake

Nick Drake covers tend to fall into one of two categories - brave stabs or ill-advised, best forgotten travesties. Walt Mink's pumped-up bash through 'Pink Moon', however, is an interesting interpretation and was a bit of a personal favourite when it appeared on their debut LP, 'Miss Happiness', back in 1992.

Walt Mink came together in Minnesota, straight out of collage, in 1989, splitting 8 years and 4 studio albums later. Original drummer Joey Waronker went on to work with a veritable who's who of big music names, such as Paul McCartney, REM, Johnny Cash, Thom Yorke, Beck and Richard Thompson.

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