Friday, 18 August 2017

This Could Be the Last Time

Walthamstow was like the Wild West in those days. My cousin and I, Christmas 1965

In the second half of the 1980's, my cousin's company temporarily relocated her to their New York office, where, in the fullness of time she met and married a very fine American man. The temporary relocation became permanent and every year thereafter, she and her husband travelled back to the UK for a couple of weeks each Summer to stay with her mother (one of the two elderly aunts, who are often mentioned on these pages). 20 years ago they began to bring their first child, a boy, with them. 17 years ago he was joined by a sister and 12 years ago by a second sister. All five of them crossed the Atlantic annually, bringing a few days of joy into all of our lives - until 2015. By the summer of 2016 I feared we might have seen the last of them as a full family unit. The boy (or, more accurately, young man) was off travelling with friends prior to starting college in Rhode Island and the oldest girl had signed up for a Summer-long photography course in New York, while her dad stayed home to look after her. My cousin and her youngest daughter came over to England alone. It was of course lovely to see them, but felt like the end of an era. So imagine our surprise and delight when, a couple of months ago, my cousin unexpectedly announced that all five of them would be flying over en masse once again this Summer. I'm keenly aware that this really could be the last time we see them all over here together, as I'm sure is my aunt. The eldest is already looking at work placements for next Summer and by then his oldest sister will be preparing for college too.

This is all a very long-winded way of explaining why things have been a little quiet around here this week. I don't have any kids, siblings, or indeed much family left at all, so every moment shared with my cousin, her husband and their wonderful kids is precious indeed. The full New York contingent, plus my aunt, have just returned to London after spending a few glorious days up here with us. Mrs S & I be heading down to the smoke to enjoy a little more time with them next week, before they begin their journey home to New York. I'm missing them already.

Callers - O Family

Monday, 14 August 2017

Work in Progress #3: Big Audio Dynamite - The Bottom Line


Following his dismissal from The Clash in 1983, Mick Jones helped out on the first General Public LP, then in early 1984, put together a band he christened Top Risk Action Company. T.R.A.C. comprised Mick, John Lennard from Theatre of Hate on sax, bassist Leo Williams from The Basement 5 and a certain Mr Topper Headon on the drums. It was a short-lived configuration. Before the year was out, Mick and Leo had moved on to form Big Audio Dynamite. The only evidence that TRAC existed at all is a single band photo and a handful of demos. One of those demos, 'Du Cane Road', was later re-recorded by Topper in 1985 for the b-side of his first solo single 'Drumming Man', while another, 'The Bottom Line', was radically re-worked by Mick in the same year to become Big Audio Dynamite's debut single.

Top Risk Action Company - The Bottom Line 

Big Audio Dynamite - The Bottom Line

Friday, 11 August 2017

Version City #66 - Glen Campbell sings Nico


Though we all knew the day was coming, the death of Glen Campbell on Tuesday was still a painful blow. In the days since the announcement, the tributes have been warm and plentiful and much of the great man's music has received a deserved airing.

On his 2008 'Meet Glen Campbell' LP, Glen, backed by musicians such as Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson and the great Jason Falkner, covered songs by Tom Petty, Travis, Foo Fighters, The Replacements, U2, Lou Reed, Green Day and John Lennon. Also on that record was Glen's reading of 'These Days', a much covered song written by Jackson Browne, one that I initially became familiar with on Nico's first post-Velvet Underground LP 'Chelsea Girl'.

Glen Campbell - These Days 

Nico - These Days 

As a bonus, to round things off, here's the aforementioned Jason Falkner, performing an acoustic version of 'Wichita Lineman'. Farewell Glen.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Where Joy Kills Sorrow



A quick heads up for fellow fans of The Triffids, Go-Betweens, Moodists, Blackeyed Susans, Bad Seeds and alternative Australian music in general. In 2000, producer and steel guitarist extraordinaire 'Evil' Graham Lee put out a country infused compilation entitled 'Where Joy Kills Sorrow', which featured otherwise unavailable performances from a whole host of his showbiz chums. The album has been a little elusive in recent years, but word has reached me that some sort of limited reissue is in the offing. There's no confirmed information yet, but keep 'em peeled! 

STOP PRESS! Order it HERE

Robert Forster - The Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness

Monday, 7 August 2017

Easy, As You're Waiting

As the winds increased still further and the rain began to fall in sheets, Mrs S & I retired with haste to the nearest cover. It was one of those ancient, wooden, open-sided huts that were once omnipresent on the promenades of our coastal resorts, but are now only found in the most gentile of seaside towns, relics of a bygone age. This one must have stood unchanged for a hundred years or more. As we sat sheltering from the deluge, something blurred past us and up into the rafters causing a flurry of excited screams, before blurring back past us out into the rain. It was a swallow's nest, just a few feet above our heads. We watched the parent (or parents) come and go a half a dozen times within the space of a few minutes. I was thrilled and mesmerised. If Mrs S hadn't pointed out that the rain had eased up, I'd be sitting there still.

In between parental visits, three little heads peered silently and expectantly from the gloom. I optimistically fired off at least 20 shots into the semi-darkness - just one came out with any clarity.


............................................................

I was inordinately fond of Los Halos for a few years in the early noughties and, if your tastes run in something of a Sparklehorse direction, I can thoroughly recommend any one of their first three LP's. 'Easy, As You're Waiting' is taken from my favourite of those three, 2002's 'For Ramona'. If you like this tune, check out (and/or pay what you like for) the whole album here.

Los Halos - Easy, As You're Waiting

Friday, 4 August 2017

Coast Ghosts

 
From the end of the pier

You heard it here first. As exclusively predicted earlier this week on these very pages, Mrs S & I headed the few miles over to the coast on Wednesday, in order to celebrate her birthday. It was an exhaustingly windy day, one of those days where your face becomes stuck in a weird contorted grimace as you walk into the howling gale, but we were determined to enjoy the break from our normal routine and joined a few other hardy souls for a walk on the beach and along the pier. I don't know where all the holidaymakers were, tucked up snugly indoors probably, but it felt like we almost had the place to ourselves. It was tough just holding the camera steady in the wild weather, but I managed fire off a couple of shots to mark the occasion. Click on any of 'em to blow them up to a reasonable size.

Yes, we got wet

 Only the gulls remained unfazed by the wind

It's her birthday and she'll paddle if she wants to

From The Kramford Look's debut LP '1970', confusingly released in 2011, this is 'Coast Ghost'.

The Kramford Look - Coast Ghost

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Red Gold & Green #22 - Ken Boothe


It's Mrs S's birthday. I'm writing this a few days ahead of time and we've not yet decided exactly what we're doing by way of celebration, but if I were a betting man I'd stick a fiver on it involving a coastal walk, a pub and a big plate of chips. We're easily pleased.

Here for Mrs S, on her special day, is her favourite song by her favourite reggae artist, Ken Boothe's 1973 cover of Syl Johnson's 'Is it Because I'm Black?'

Ken Boothe - Is It Because I'm Black?

Monday, 31 July 2017

Version City #65 - Nancy Wallace sings Doris Day


'Secret Love' was composed by Sammy Fain & Paul Webster for the 1953 film 'Calamity Jane', Doris Day's performance becoming a No.1 single and winning the Oscar for Best Original Song the following year. A few other artists also took 'Secret Love' into the charts during the 1950's and 1960's, including Slim Whitman, Kathy Kirby and Billy Stewart, while the song has continued to prove popular with contemporary performers such as George Michael, Sinead O'Connor, Ry Cooder and k.d.lang.

My own favourite version of 'Secret Love' is by Nancy Wallace and was only released in minuscule quantities on a limited edition Rif Mountain CDr compilation in 2010. Her interpretation really is a thing of beauty. I've waxed lyrical about Nancy's music on these pages several times over the years and if you like what you hear, I would heartily encourage checking out her Bandcamp page.

Nancy Wallace - Secret Love

Friday, 28 July 2017

Bright Phoebus

Unless something really extraordinary occurs between now and December, 'Bright Phoebus' by Lal & Mike Waterson will be my reissue of 2017. On its original release in September 1972, the LP was met by a wall of anger and bafflement from a devout folk establishment that believed exclusively in the passing down of traditional songs from generation to generation and held no truck at all with singers who wrote their own material. That Lal & Mike's remarkable set of  self-written songs were frequently, if indirectly, informed by that very tradition was a fact apparently overlooked by all but a very few, less blinkered souls.

During the course of its 40+ years of unavailability, 'Bright Phoebus' has steadily gained a reputation for being the lost masterpiece that it truly is. I've had an iffy quality bootleg CDr of the album for around 25 years and had long since given up any hope of ever holding a bona-fide copy in my hands, but thanks to the good folk at Domino Records, here it is. The full story of how the songs came to be written and how the recordings came to be made is brilliantly told by Pete Paphides in the accompanying booklet (read an excerpt here), plus there is also a deluxe edition of the reissue which includes a further 12 previously unreleased performances from the period.

If you have any interest at all in the English folk and folk-rock scenes of the late 1960's and early 1970's, you really do need to hear this album. Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy, Ashley Hutchings, Tim Hart, Maddy Prior, Dave Mattacks, Bob Davenport and Norma Waterson all lend their considerable respective talents to the recordings, which gives you some idea of the quality threshold we're talking about. And then there's the songs. It's all about those songs. By turns they're dark, desolate, mysterious, beautiful and even, as in the case of the title track, positively jaunty. I honestly can't recommend 'Bright Phoebus' highly enough.

Lal & Mike Waterson - Bright Phoebus

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Red Gold & Green #21 - The Dubwood Allstars


The mysterious Dubwood Allstars originally released 'Under Dubwood' in 2012 and I featured it on these very pages at the time. When a mash-up works it can be an utterly inspired thing and here is one such example - Richard Burton's narration of 'Under Milk Wood' is laid over King Tubby's 'Ali Baba' riddim with spine-tingling results. Now news reaches me that a third repress of this unique single will be made available on August 4th. Read all about it and / or order a copy here.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Hotter Colder


New LPs these days, eh? Often released on limited edition coloured vinyl, usually with gratis downloads and sometimes even enhanced with enticing free bits and bobs - but how many arrive with a tea towel designed by a member of the band? Not many I'll be bound. My copy of 'Moonshine Freeze' did though. It's the 4th album by the consistently terrific This is the Kit, a band I've championed long and loud plenty of times in the past, so I won't bang on too much, other than to note that this time around they appear on the Rough Trade record label and are produced by long time PJ Harvey cohort John Parish. Buy it, is my frankly straight forward advice.

Here are Kate Stables and Rozi Plain risking pneumonia for our entertainment.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Slider at 45


There had been singles, lots of them, but until then, any LPs that came my way were borrowed ones, hastily taped on my portable cassette player via a handheld mic, before being returned to their rightful owner at school the following day. On July 21st 1972, 45 years ago today, 'The Slider' by T.Rex was released. Three weeks later I bought a copy of the LP while on holiday in Dorset - I was 12 years old. Many hundreds of LP's have passed into and out of my hands since then, but that very first one is still with me - and shall forever be. It all started here.

In the Summer of 2015, I had the great good fortune to meet Tony Visconti, the producer of 'The Slider' (not to mention several other cornerstones of my record collection). I stuck out my hand, gripped his, shook it warmly and said 'Thank you',  twice. 'What for?' he asked, smiling broadly. 'Everything', I said.

T.Rex - Rock On

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Jain


Jain's debut LP, 'Zanaka' was released in November 2015 and by February 2016 had already been certified Gold in her native France. This year she's been taking her record to the world with prestigious appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Later with Jools Holland and the BBC's Glastonbury coverage. 'Makeba', the second single from the album, is a sheer pop joy and the song's accompanying video is funny and clever, throwing visual tricks and puns into the mix here, there and everywhere. One particularly interesting twist worth keeping an eye on, is that the opening balloon popping sequence visually picks up from where the video for her previous single ('Come') left off, while the surreal 'painting a zebra' bit at the end is where the clip for her next single ('Dynabeat') begins.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Remember Terry


The prolific Melbourne quartet Terry return with their second LP in the space of a year and a half, entitled 'Remember Terry'. We're hardly likely to forget them, given that in the same 18 month period they managed to put out a couple of fine EPs as well. The first taster from 'Remember Terry' is the irresistible 'Take Me to the City'. Is it just me who thinks that the opening riff is a nod to Prince? (Check out more music on Terry's Bandcamp page).

Friday, 14 July 2017

Version City #64 - Michael Kiwanuka sings Led Zeppelin


I received a letter from the DVLA recently, informing me that my driving license was about to expire, so I diligently filled in the renewal form and got a new ID photo taken. The difference between what I saw in the new photo and the one on my ten year old license was even more striking than I was prepared for. The face in the recent photo looks a bit like my Mum, a bit like my Dad - hell, I even see a bit of my paternal Grandmother, a woman who died in 1966 and I barely remember. When comparing the two photos, I was confronted with the stark reality of how obviously I've aged. Ten years gone, in the blink of an eye. Next stop 2027.

Michael Kiwanuka's recording career began in 2011, though I really got to grips with his music in 2016 with the release of his second LP 'Love & Hate'. This is Kiwanuka's contribution to Mojo magazine's 2015 various artist re-imagining of the 1975 Led Zeppelin LP, 'Physical Graffiti'.

Michael Kiwanuka - Ten Years Gone

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Divebomb

In the middle of last week I had to walk into town to pick up my car from the garage. Along the way, I marvelled at the swallows swooping under the bridge and swifts screeching around the narrow streets at little more than head height. In amongst all this small bird action were the ever present gulls - looming from the rooftops, scavenging around waste bins and screaming from the skies. They are ridiculously fearless, intimidatingly huge, but largely harmless. In fact, until last week I would've said that they are totally harmless.

Heading down the narrow lane leading to the garage, I became aware of a large gull swooping back and forth a few feet above my head, all the while making that unsettling squealing noise. There were other gulls around and I assumed the noises were aimed at them. This one gull didn't seem to fly far from my vicinity though. Was I imagining that its angry screams were directed at me? I was pleased to arrive at the garage where I stepped inside and quickly forgot the whole brief episode.

After chatting for a while with the mechanics at the garage, they returned my key and told where they'd left my car. It's a small family run concern with very little space, so cars are routinely left in nearby streets and cul-de-sacs until collection. I'd been in the garage for around ten minutes and left distractedly fiddling with my key-ring. Instantly the gull swooped low over my head, screaming as it went. I was freaked out - it'd been waiting for me. I had a few hundred yards to cover before reaching my car and walked quickly, trying to stay close to an overhanging wall, but the screeching gull was never more than a few feet away from my head, ignoring all other pedestrians. I saw my car up ahead and broke into a slightly panicky jog to reach it, but the Hitchcockian swooping and screeching continued right up until the very moment I went to open the door, when the gull made its closest pass, directly over my right shoulder, unleashing a hefty dropping that missed me by about two inches, splatting down the side of the car and onto the pavement.


I was genuinely shaken up by the whole episode. Perhaps while walking down the lane, I'd unknowingly passed close to some fledglings and the gull was merely fulfilling its parental duties in protecting its offspring. I don't understand why it followed me for so long though - the car was a quarter of a mile from our first encounter. Plus it appeared to wait for me while I was in the garage - what's all that about? And then there was the parting gift that so narrowly missed me.

Unsurprisingly, Number One Cup's 'Divebomb' became an earworm for the next few days.

Number One Cup - Divebomb

Monday, 10 July 2017

Red Gold & Green #20 - King Stitt


Winston Sparkes acquired the nickname 'King Stitt' in his youth, as a result of a pronounced stutter and later decided to adopt it as his stage name. In addition to the stutter, Stitt was born with a facial malformation, which led him to christen himself 'The Ugly One'. In spite of these setbacks, he became one of the most popular sound system deejays in Jamaica during the 1960s. After 10 years of live work, Stitt was offered the chance to make his own records by producer Clancy Eccles and a run of classic DJ cuts followed. If you know one King Stitt side it's probably the classic 'Fire Corner' released in 1969, but later that same year he teamed up with Lynford Anderson (a.k.a. Andy Capp) to record 'Herbsman Shuffle', a tune I've long been rather partial to.

King Stitt & Andy Capp - Herbsman Shuffle

Friday, 7 July 2017

Afterthoughts and Reviews


Not long after uploading Tuesday's Halftime Report post, I was reminded of one glaring omission from the list of my most-loved LP's of the first six months of 2017 - Alasdair Roberts! He's a longtime favourite of this parish and his 'Pangs' album was rarely far from my ears in late February and indeed for much of March. I also saw him play a marvellous concert in support of the album around the same time. How could I forget Alasdair? My memory was jogged after stumbling upon an Uncut online review of 2017 thus far, entitled, ahem, Halftime Report. I'd like to say that I got to the title first, but it seems that theirs has been up on the Uncut website for a couple of weeks. Great minds think alike, apparently. The piece (here), written by John Mulvey, contains his 66 (66!) favourite LPs of the year so far. A couple of those titles can be found on my own list and more are somewhere on my radar, but several of Mulvey's selections are completely new to me. There's more research to be done, clearly.

Coincidentally, this isn't the only time I've crossed paths with John Mulvey's writing this week. On Monday evening I undertook a solo jaunt to the back room of a Cambridge pub, where Brooklyn duo 75 Dollar Bill blew the collective socks off of the 100 strong audience. Sue Garner provided excellent support, while the cherry on top for me personally was a short opening set from Cambridge's own primitive guitar maestro, C. Joynes. The 150 mile round trip completely knocked me for six, so the following day I failed dismally in my efforts to pull a few words together in praise of the previous evening's concert, but fortunately the aforementioned Mr Mulvey was also in attendance and had already posted a glowing review of proceedings on the Uncut site - read all about it here.

I've shared music by Alasdair Roberts, 75 Dollar Bill and C.Joynes in the past - and no doubt will again. So where to go for a tune today? Apropos of nothing at all, I'm going back to 1966 and a song that sounded utterly wonderful banging out of the radio at 7 o'clock yesterday morning. Crank it up.

The Velvelettes - These Things Will Keep Me Loving You

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Halftime Report


Six months down - six to go. Over the past few days I've been taking stock of the newly released albums that I've dug the most during the first half of 2017. I came up with a list of 20 off the top of my head and narrowed those down to 10 after further consideration. So, in no particular order;

Flotation Toy Warning - The Machine That Made Us (Here)
Long awaited 2nd LP (13 years!) of wonky far-out chamber pop.

Richard Dawson - Peasant (Here)
'Medieval concept album' and 'most accessible work to date' aren't phrases often seen in the same sentence. It's a bloody masterpiece folks.

Peter Perrett - How the West Was Won (Here) 21 years after Perrett's last LP of new music, this sits comfortably with his very best work. Heartwarmingly terrific.

Sacred Paws - Strike a Match (Here)
Recent (and deserved) winners of the Scottish album of the year award, even though we're only at the half-way point. A poly-rhythmic post-punk joy.

Yazz Ahmed - La Saboteuse (Here)
Psychedelic Middle Eastern jazz. That'll do nicely.

Big Blood - The Daughters Union
The most recent missive from the prolific cottage industry, psych-folk outsiders is a 'pay what you like' download (Here), which is frankly ridiculous. Go grab it.

The Myrrors - Hasta La Victoria (Here)
Spiritual sonic explorations. '...unrefined, unrestrained and unforgettable'.

Joshua Abrams - Simultonality (Here) Malian infused kosmische trance. I think I invented a new genre there.

Jake Xerxes Fussell - What In The Natural World (Here)
This passed me by on first listen, but I'm forever grateful to Ramone666 over at For The Sake Of The Song, who persuaded me to give it another spin. 'Transmogrified folk/blues koans' is the much quoted descriptor - and who am I to argue?

The Prophet Hens - The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys (Here)
'Melancholic songs about hope & despair, joy & regret, ambition & reality, coming together & drifting apart.' The Dunedin Sound is alive and well.

There are of course other albums I need to investigate further and many that I haven't checked out at all yet, but hopefully I'll get to 'em all eventually. Some of my favourite stand alone tunes so far in 2017 have yet to appear on album and I'm particularly looking forward to new full length releases from Low Chimes, Bas Jan, Pins, Nadine Shah, Girl Ray and Meatraffle. Let the second half commence!

Meanwhile, here's one from This is the Kit, whose new LP is due out on Friday.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Featuring Iggy Pop


Iggy Pop surprised us all in 2016, with his from-out-of-nowhere belter of an LP, 'Post Pop Depression'. This year, the focus of Iggy's attention has been on a series of guest slots on other artists records. Not all of them have hit the spot - I'm yet to be won over by the charms of his vocal on the Songhoy Blues track 'Sahara' for example, but elsewhere he's put in impressively intense performances on 'Aggrophobe' by Manchester's Pins and Oneohtrix Point Never's 'The Pure and the Damned'.


Thursday, 29 June 2017

Let Me Come Over


A little bird tells me that 'Let Me Come Over', the third LP by Buffalo Tom, was released 25 years ago. Ouch. The anniversaries keep on coming don't they? Back in 1992, you'd find me haring up and down the A12, A14 and A140 two or three times a week, catching live music in concert venues all over London and the South East. I'd drive home through the night, snatch a couple of hours shut-eye, work all day, then quite possibly do it all over again that evening. Life was good. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

I've mentioned in previous posts the series of car-tapes I made during those years to keep me entertained and awake on many a long lonely drive home. Buffalo Tom were big favourites of mine in the early to mid-1990s and the thundering 'Velvet Roof' from 'Let Me Come Over' was one of the tunes that appeared on car-tape after car-tape. 'Taillights Fade' is probably the better known song from the album, but this is the one that does it for me.

A 25th anniversary edition of 'Let Me Come Over' was issued recently via Beggars Arkive (here). It's on my shopping list.

Buffalo Tom - Velvet Roof

Monday, 26 June 2017

Work in Progress #2: Bob Marley & the Wailers - Could You Be Loved


'Could You Be Loved' was written by Bob Marley in 1979 and originally saw the light of day as the first UK single to be taken from the 'Uprising' LP in 1980. A number of alternative versions of the song have surfaced in recent years, the most interesting of which is this one, subtitled the 'Drumbox Demo'.

Could You Be Loved (Drumbox Demo)

Could You Be Loved (12")

Friday, 23 June 2017

Red Gold & Green #19 - Gregory Isaacs

Your humble author with his copy of 'Soon Forward', purchased 38 years ago

A couple of weeks ago, in the 17th instalment of this occasional dip into my reggae archive, I shone a light on The Voice of Thunder, Prince Far-I. Today we travel to the opposite end of the vocal spectrum to sample a tune from that sweetest of voices, The Cool Ruler himself, Gregory Isaacs.

In a career spanning over 40 years, Gregory Isaacs was a prolific recording artist and you're on pretty safe ground picking up absolutely anything you find by the great man from the 1970's up to and including 'Night Nurse' in 1982. Thereafter, his prodigious output continued, but, with the exception of one or two stand-out moments, the quality was never quite the same. It was a long and painful decline, exacerbated by health and drug dependency issues until lung cancer claimed his life in 2010. He was just 59.

Here's 'Soon Forward', the title track from Gregory's 1979 LP on Front Line Records. A sublime performance from an artist at the very top of his game.

Gregory Isaacs - Soon Forward

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Organ Mantra


I've been AWOL for the best part of a week, busy ticking off a backlog of errands far and near. Several days were spent in London's East End, checking in with my elderly Aunts, both of whom were on pretty good form I'm pleased to say. As is my wont, I made a couple of compilations for the drive down to the smoke and track one on the first disc was 'Organ Mantra', the opening salvo from 'Hasta La Victoria', the latest LP by The Myrrors. I featured this Arizona band only a few months ago on these pages (here) and have to say that the noise they make is particularly well suited to a long drive in heavy traffic. Mrs S was unexpectedly impressed by this tune too, which is always a bonus. (It starts quietly, as Peel used to say).

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Brother (From Another Mother)

Zsa Zsa Sapien at the national Portrait Gallery 19th August 2016, by your humble author

As recording sessions continue for the follow up to 2015's 'HiFi Classics', Meatraffle return with the excellent 'Brother', a limited edition 7" via the Moshi Moshi Singles Club and a song I saw them perform 10 months ago as part of their set at the National Portrait Gallery. Whenever I post about Meatraffle, I include a link to that tremendous debut LP and do so again today, without apology. Please check it out, if you haven't done so already. It's good for what ails you.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Hollow Everdaze


Every now and then, I like to take a look around at what's going down, musically speaking, down under. Last year I was rewarded for my efforts with terrific albums by The Goon Sax, Community Radio & Chook Race and already this year I've found a new favourite in the shape of New Zealand combo The Prophet Hens, with their recent LP 'The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys'. Melbourne’s splendidly monikered Hollow Everdaze joined the list a couple of weeks ago. The band have apparently been producing their own brand of psych-infused pop for nigh on 10 years and their second LP, 'Cartoons' is due for release on Deaf Ambitions next week. From it, here's the title track. Plus, as a bonus, the first thing I heard by Hollow Everdaze, the epic 'Last Laugh' from 2015 - it's the one that drew me in. If you like these (and what's not to like?), check out more here.


Monday, 12 June 2017

Farewell Caped Crusader

Just as Roger Moore would later be my 007 and Tom Baker my Dr Who, so, a few years earlier, Adam West was my Batman. It's interesting to reflect that all three actors approached their respective roles with a knowing nod and wink, something utterly compelling to this young viewer. I was so obsessed with the Batman TV show from 1966-68 that, thanks to my parents, for my 7th birthday, I actually became the Caped Crusader! If you know me at all, you won't be surprised to learn that I still own components of the Bat-uniform in the photo (the hood, mask and shirt), rediscovered in the loft when I was clearing Mum's house several years ago - although, unfortunately, I appear to have outgrown them in the intervening 50 years.

Rest easy Adam.

Neu! - Hero

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Battle


A recent Whiskeytown post over at Charity Chic Music got me reminiscing about the time I saw the band in 1998, at The Borderline just off the Charing Cross Road in London's glitzy West End. The subterranean Borderline was something of a regular haunt for me during that period, I could almost do the 210 mile round trip with my eyes closed and often drove home alone through the night with the windows wound down, to avoid doing just that. I had a mate along for the ride for the Whiskeytown gig though, who happened to be the guy who had originally introduced me to the band. Whiskeytown were joined onstage for a couple of numbers that night by James Iha, then of the Smashing Pumpkins. Iha had recently issued his first solo LP, the alt-country tinged 'Let it Come Down' and Whiskeytown covered 'Be Strong Now' from it in his honour. Iha would go on to contribute to Whiskeytown's third and final album 'Pneumonia' the following year. The show finished with Ryan Adams performing a seemingly impromptu solo interpretation of Johnny Cash's 'I Still Miss Someone'.

But one particular performance from the evening had me and my pal still gobsmacked an hour later as we sped back home along the A12 - the song in question was 'The Battle', a starkly beautiful Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary duet. Let's just say that we summoned the names of Gram and Emmylou by way of comparison - yes, it was that good. A recorded version of 'The Battle' wouldn't appear until 2002, and then only as part of a limited bonus disc issued with Caitlin's debut solo album 'While You Weren't Looking'. Fortunately her old mucker Ryan was on hand to recreate the magic.

When I am buried don’t visit my grave 
God cannot save me from the sins I’ve embraced 
Pay your respects at the old liquor store 
Where I won the battle, but I lost the war

Caitlin Cary & Ryan Adams - The Battle

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Work in Progress #1 - Lou Reed 'Perfect Day'


The artist's sketchbook. The author's first draft. The filmmaker's rough cut. Very few artistic creations arrive fully formed, they need to be worked at - it is a work of art after all. It's no different with music. Acoustic home recordings, studio demos and alternative versions are all stepping stones towards the finished product that will eventually sit on our shelves at home.

In this occasional series, I'll be comparing and contrasting a musical work in progress, with the more familiar completed recording that we've come to know and love. I'll start with the song that gave me the idea in the first place, Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day'. The acoustic demo finds the song practically complete (give or take a lyrical re-jig) and beautifully rendered by Lou, at a slightly jauntier clip than on the finished 'Transformer' version. Lou really was singing so well during this period, as opposed to the almost wilful disregard for melody that increasingly became the norm in his later life.

As for the song itself, is it really about a 'perfect day' spent with his fiance in Central Park, or is the object of Lou's affection something altogether darker? We'll never know for sure, but in the wake of several notable covers, 'Perfect Day' has become something of a go-to rock standard.

Lou Reed - Perfect Day (Acoustic Demo)

Lou Reed - Perfect Day

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

They'll Always Be Singles To Me


A free-streaming tune? A pre-release download? A lead track? Or perhaps, an instant gratification song? What does one properly call a radio-playlisted individual piece of music these days? I've seen all of the above used at one time or another. Of course oldsters like me still call them singles, even in the absence of a physical product, and I guess we always will. Here are three singles that I've been particularly digging in recent weeks.

'All Hail' by Pins is the brilliantly insistent follow up to the also brilliant 'Aggrophobe', a song famously graced by the vocal stylings of the mighty Iggy Pop.

 

Mac DeMarco's 'On the Level' boasts a beautifully woozy, retro vibe, not a million miles from Thundercat's recent, and equally gorgeous, 'Show You the Way'.

   

Nadine Shah's 'Out the Way' really has crept up on me. It's not necessarily what you'd immediately think of as being single material, but once this splendidly dramatic tune lodges itself in your brain, it's a mighty tough one to shift. Pete Wareham of Polar Bear and Melt Yourself Down provides the muscular brass riff.

 

Monday, 29 May 2017

Mind Train


I'm off to see Stewart Lee again next week, for the 6th time in a little over two years and the 3rd time on the current 'Content Provider' tour. In addition to being by far the best stand-up comedian currently working in the UK, Stewart is a massive music fan - in fact on both of the occasions that I've managed to snatch a few words with him, it was music we discussed, not comedy. So you know damn well that when he selects his pre-show and interval playlist, he does so very carefully indeed. On the last tour he had John Coltrane's terrific version of 'My Favourite Things' playing on a perpetual loop, but this time round he's introduced a little Turkish funk to the intermission proceedings....plus one other 17 minute tune that for all the world could be an extended out-take from Neu! or Can. But I cannot tell a lie, it's not a great lost Krautrock track. The chugging riff is in fact the work of ex-fab John Lennon, ably assisted by Klaus Voorman on bass and Jim Keltner on drums - and up front, yes, that's Yoko Ono. The tune is taken from Yoko's 1971 double LP 'Fly' and it's quite an exceptional thing. I'm looking forward to hearing it at full volume again next week.

Yoko Ono - Mind Train

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Red Gold & Green #18 - Pat Kelly

Your humble author with his battered copy of today's featured tune

While sitting in the pub one evening in early 1980, my best pal and I decided to form a band. We were young, idealistic and probably quite drunk. Quick as a flash, one of us produced a piece of paper upon which we jotted down the titles of a handful of songs that, in our highfalutin opinion, we deemed worthy for us to cover. 'Striving For the Right' by Pat Kelly was high on that list. Unfortunately the world was destined never to hear our version of this or any other song, as the band got no further than a few drunken boasts to friends about how truly great we were going to be. We had, of course, conveniently skirted round the crucial fact that neither of us owned, or could play, any instruments.

All these years later, 'Striving For the Right' is still a favourite of mine. A deceptively jaunty tune carrying a strikingly simple and timeless message.

Let us live in unity 
Don't go astray 
We all are striving for the right 
Not for wrong 
For the right 

Pat Kelly - Striving For the Right

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Red Gold & Green #17 - Prince Far I


Thanks to a generous uploader, I managed to catch up up with the Don Letts autobiographical documentary, 'Dread Meets Punk Rockers' over the weekend. The film was originally broadcast in April on Sky Arts, but made a fleeting appearance on YouTube, before, unsurprisingly, being removed. Many of 'The Don's' stories of the Punk period may be familiar, though embellished by the copious Letts-shot film clips, took on much greater significance. Don and John Lydon smoking themselves into a stupor in Jamaica, an off duty Mick Jones looking a bit miserable at a party, Ari Up's unique and joyful dancing - and then there's the live footage. The Heartbreakers, The Damned, The Clash and, best of all in my opinion, a pair of sensational performances by Big Youth and Prince Far I. Is there more of this stuff Don? I'll get to Big Youth in due course, but for now, here's '354 Skank', a 1975 single from the mighty voice of thunder himself.

Prince Far I - 354 Skank

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Can Anyone Lend Me a Time Machine and a Couple of Hundred Bucks?

It's 1971, the year that I began taking tentative steps into my local record shops for the first time, though none of the many outlets in downtown Walthamstow were on quite the scale of the huge Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. Only last year Mrs S & I caught the excellent Colin Hanks documentary 'The Rise and Fall of Tower Records', which featured many vintage film clips from Tower stores of yesteryear and now yet more fascinating archive footage has surfaced. So journey back with me to a time when the big albums of the day were stacked floor to ceiling - literally pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap - George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass', Janis Joplin's 'Pearl' and Curtis Mayfield's self-titled debut among them. See how many LP sleeves you can recognise.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

AMOR

I couldn't make it to the bloggers summit in Glasgow a couple of weeks back, but I've enjoyed reading every subsequent account of the bash from those that did. One of the sweetest stories to emerge from the weekend has to be that of Brian's meeting with Stephen Pastel in Monorail Music - I'm sure that everyone is familiar with the glorious tale by now, but just in case, read all about it here. I've never been into Monorail's store (hell, I've never been to Glasgow), but I have made several purchases from that esteemed establishment, the latest of which arrived through the post on Tuesday morning.

Your humble author with his latest slab'o'wax 

As is so often the case these days, Swiss Adam over at Bagging Area was the cause of my financial downfall, albeit via the good offices of Andrew Weatherall's Music's Not For Everyone NTS radio show. As usual, I listened to the show in fits and starts, pausing to further investigate any tunes that caught my ear along the way, one in particular stopped me in my tracks though. The voice was very familiar, even if the musical setting wasn't. The song in question was entitled 'Paradise' and credited to a new combo, AMOR, although I immediately recognised the vocalist as being the uber-prolific Richard Youngs. The AMOR project finds Youngs' dry, somewhat disconnected vocal laid over an mutant-disco backdrop, a combination that hooked me instantly. I'd located and purchased a copy of the 12" single from Monorail before Weatherall's show had finished and this was the record that the postman handed over to me on Tuesday. Get your dancing shoes on.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Jake Xerxes Fussell


I'm indebted to Ramone666, over at For the Sake of the Song, for persuading me to have another crack at 'What in the Natural World', the 2nd LP by the spectacularly named Jake Xerxes Fussell. William Tyler, a favourite of this parish, was involved in the making of Jake's 2015 self-titled debut and I'd already given both records the once over, but for some reason neither had stuck. Cue Ramone666's memory jogging post a little over a month ago and suddenly bells were ringing and light-bulbs were flashing. I'm not sure how I didn't fall hook, line and sinker for Jake Xerxes Fussell first time round, but I'm more than making up for it now.

'Furniture Man' is a rewritten take on a traditional song - the sad story of a man who's lost everything, even his frying pan. Has such a tragic tale ever been told so gorgeously? Check out more of Jake's music here.

Jake Xerxes Fussell - Furniture Man


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Gonna Scrape the Trouble Off My Boots....

The brief story of how even Joe Strummer's discarded footwear is now worth a small fortune, from the American version of The Antiques Roadshow.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Flotation Toy Warning


There are few bands as memorably monikered as Flotation Toy Warning. And there are few LP titles to match 'Bluffer's Guide to the Flight Deck'. But in the 13 years since I first clapped ears on this great album, I've yet to hear a better song title than 'Popstar Researching Oblivion'. Very few better songs either.

Flotation Toy Warning - Popstar Researching Oblivion

A ripple of joy passed through Swede Towers last week with the news that the band's (l-o-n-g awaited) second LP, 'The Machine That Made Us' is mere weeks away from release. Encouragingly the new record contains a track entitled 'Due to Adverse Weather Conditions All of My Heroes Have Surrendered', which can only be a good thing. Sadly that tune hasn't leaked yet, but here's one that has.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Version City #63 - Lou Reed sings John Lennon


Come Together, A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music, took place at Radio City Hall in New York on October 2nd 2001. The concert was initially intended as a straight forward celebration of Lennon's life and songs, seven days before what would have been his 61st birthday, though coming just three weeks after 9/11 the event was re-dedicated to the city of New York and its people, raising funds for the Robin Hood Foundation along the way. The line-up was, to put it politely, a mixed bag. Kevin Spacey singing 'Mind Games' anyone? The highlight of the evening, by a country mile in all honesty, was Lou Reed's searing interpretation of 'Jealous Guy'.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Return of Richard Dawson


Lord knows I've raved on enough about the astonishing Richard Dawson in the past (here and here), but I'm quite aware that, for the casual listener, his stuff can sometimes be a little difficult to get a firm handle on. The first taster from Richard's forthcoming new LP 'Peasant' is, in contrast to some of his previous work, positively catchy. 'Ogre' reaches back to the dark ages for its subject matter, while managing to capture a little of the spirit of both Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, yet remains resolutely Dawsonesque. It's fantastic. Have a care, lest you find yourself singing along by the end.

Friday, 5 May 2017

All That Jazz #3 - Sound Etiquette


The most contemporary contribution to this series thus far comes from Sound Etiquette, a trio out of Oakland California who came together in 2014. Nick Obando (sax), Eli Wallace (keys) and Aaron Levin (drums) are veteran players on the Bay Area circuit and recorded all eight tunes on their self-titled debut LP in one day. The early 1970's electric work of Miles Davis is a recognisable touchstone on 'A Clearing' and 'The Tides', though things do get a tad more free-form elsewhere. 'Entrance' is, fittingly, the first track on the album - a quirky, dubby opening salvo. Find out more about Sound Etiquette here.

Sound Etiquette - Entrance

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

It's Time For Fun

A sneak preview of the shenanigans to come

In a couple of days, a bunch of longstanding online friends who hang out in this little corner of the internet, will be meeting up in the real world, many for the first time. Blogging chums are literally flying in from around the globe to enjoy a weekend that promises to be high on music, conversation, alcohol and laughter - and quite low on sleep. A tip of the hat is due to all who've helped to pull this seemingly impossible thing together, the Scottish contingent in particular, but none more so than Dirk, who took an improbable dream shared by many of us and pushed and prodded it into becoming a serious proposition. I'm completely gutted that I won't be joining the gathering, but look forward to reading all about it as soon as the hangovers clear.

Have a fantastic time guys, this one's for you.

Goat - It's Time For Fun

Monday, 1 May 2017

Version City #62 - Ella Fitzgerald sings The Beatles


It was good to see so many acknowledgements of Ella Fitzgerald's centenary on April 25th, online and elsewhere. I had intended to post my own humble tribute to the first lady of song last week too, but, as ever, life got in the way. Here it is though, better late than never. In 1969 Ella issued a self-titled, Richard Perry produced  LP on the Reprise label, consisting of her interpretations of contemporary pop songs. Lennon and McCartney were represented by 'Got to Get You Into My Life' alongside the music of Smokey Robinson, Bacharach & David, Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson. George Harrison's odd ode to Eric Clapton's chocolate addiction, 'Savoy Truffle', also got the nod. It's amazing to think that the original was less than a year old when Ella took a run at it.

Ella Fitzgerald - Savoy Truffle

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Low Chimes


On January 1st 2013, in my first post of that year, I raved about Hot Feet, a band I'd then only recently discovered and featured the wonderful title track from their debut EP, 'Wood House' (it still sounds as sublime as ever, check it out here). The EP was released in November 2012 and was eventually followed by a further EP, 'Mist is Dust', in October 2014. After that, it all went a bit quiet. The Hot Feet moniker was quietly dropped and a new one, Low Chimes, was adopted. Then, last year, crowdfunding feelers were put out among the faithful on the band's mailing list, to gather resources for a debut full length LP. I'd been so impressed with the EP's and the concert I'd seen Hot Feet perform in 2013 that I gladly shelled out a few quid to help them along the way. The LP, 'Illumine', finally sees the light of day in the Autumn, but the first single, 'Sleepwalking' arrived a couple of weeks ago and this, along with their recent superb 6Music session (here) has already convinced me that it was money well spent.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Foreign Fields


I've never been one to lie in bed for long. When I wake up I tend to get up and at this time of the year, as the sun rises ever earlier, I usually do too. So it was, that while taking a shower shortly after dawn one morning last week, I heard Foreign Fields being played on the radio by Chris 'The Hawk' Hawkins. Foreign Fields are not a band I've knowingly bumped into before, or if I have it's slipped my mind, but 'Grounded' really caught my ear - an engaging tune with a pleasing hint of digital jiggery-pokery, but not too much. The song is taken from the band's second LP, 'Take Cover', which is available now via their own website. I'll be giving it a listen.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

My Life Is On the Line


How often, dear reader, have you opened a post of your own with the phrase 'I don't know very much about this lot, but....', or words to that effect? I know that I have, more than once. Today though, I give you My Life Is On the Line, a band that I genuinely know nothing about. Their music came to my attention back in the early noughties, during a period when I would get my kicks hanging out on various disreputable file sharing sites. In addition to having a virtually un-Googleable moniker, the band achieved an enhanced level of anonymity by neglecting to title their songs, merely numbering them...non-sequentially. The noise they make is vaguely post-rock in nature, bolstered by a Mark Eitzel soundalike up front. I have 10 songs by My Life Is On the Line nestling in a dark corner of my hard-drive and one more is available on YouTube (here), where, as of this writing, it has accrued a total of 23 views since it was posted....four years ago! At least ten of those are me, so we're obviously talking a band that's well under the radar here. If anyone out there knows of more recordings by My Life Is On the Line, or can furnish me with any information at all about them, I'd be very grateful.

My Life Is On the Line - Untitled 02 

My Life Is On the Line - Untitled Unnumbered

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