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

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Return of Peter Perrett

During the course of 2016, photos began to emerge of Peter Perrett at work in a recording studio for the first time in 20 years - a heartwarming sight for this old Only Ones fan. The first fruits of those Chris Kimsey produced sessions finally appeared last week in the form of the title track of a new LP, 'How the West Was Won'. The album itself isn't due until the end of June, but until then enjoy the video for a song that lashes out at vapid celebrity culture and American imperialism in gloriously dark and sleazy fashion. 'How the West Was Won' is sonically part 'Sweet Jane' / part 'If Not For You' and effortlessly picks up where Perrett left off two decades ago.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Take Care To Comb Your Long Hair

While under the clippers for a pre-birthday trim last week, I heard my hairdresser, who knows my bonce like the back of her hand, muttering something to herself. 'What is it?' I asked. 'Nothing really,' she said, 'I just noticed that your hairline is.....changing', she added delicately. 'Changing?'. I was confused. ', yes, changing', she confirmed sheepishly. I caught her reflection in the mirror - she was looking down at my widow's peak. The penny dropped. 'Are you telling me it's receding?', I blurted in exaggerated mock-horror. She briefly looked a little crestfallen at having even mentioned the subject, until I laughed, diffusing the moment. My once dark locks have long since turned silver, but still seem to grow quickly and relatively densely. The barnet may be thinning slightly on top, but my hairdresser is assured of my continuing custom for a good while yet.

I walked the short distance home whistling 'Take Care (To Comb Your Long Hair)' from Ty Segall's latest, self-titled LP (available here). Ty's catalogue is sprawling and increases in size on an almost monthly basis, but this one is right out of his top drawer.

Ty Segall - Take Care (To Comb Your Long Hair)

Sunday, 16 April 2017

57 Not Out

Somehow, don't ask me exactly how it happened, I seem to have reached the grand old age of 57. Last time I checked, I could've sworn I was hovering somewhere around my late thirties. In spite of previously doubting and poo-pooing the notion, it appears that the passage of time really does speed up as you get older. These days time doesn't so much pass, as hurtle by.

Whenever either of our respective birthdays roll around, Mrs S & I generally take ourselves off to the coast for the day to eat some chips, drink a beer, mooch about for a bit, then come home - the simple pleasures. This year, following several months of niggling health issues, we've decided to push the boat out a bit more than usual. As you read these words, we're on the last full day of a short break in deepest North Norfolk. We found a little bolthole a couple of years ago and remarkably it wasn't booked out for the Easter weekend. It's a self contained cabin in the middle of nowhere - a perfect base for exploring the coast, taking quiet country walks or simply staying put and chilling on the porch with a celebratory birthday beverage.

The Birthday Party - Happy Birthday

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Version City #61 - Golden Smog sing The Faces

For their first full length LP, 1995's 'Down by the Old Mainstream', Golden Smog's fluid all-star line-up consisted of Kraig Johnson fom Run Westy Run, Soul Asylum's Dan Murphy, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman from The Jayhawks, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Noah Levy of Honeydogs. By the time the band rolled into New York on April 13th 1996, 21 years ago today, the membership was bolstered further by Tweedy's bandmate, the late Jay Bennett, on guitar and keyboards. Also in attendance were Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner and an unbelievably wasted Evan Dando. I know all this because I was there too - and I still have the t-shirt and flyer to prove it. Ronnie Lane's 'Glad and Sorry' was one of several well chosen covers played by Golden Smog that night and proved to be an outstanding highlight of their set.

(This one goes out to our pal Singing Bear, who's back in action with a brand new blog, The Road of Golden Dust. Check it out here.)

Golden Smog - Glad and Sorry (1995)

The Faces - Glad and Sorry (1973)

Monday, 10 April 2017

I'm Tired of You Satan

While idly browsing the old interweb the other day, I happened to notice that the splendidly named record label, Iron Mountain Analogue Research Facility, recently issued Volume 3 of their 'Hillbillies in Hell' compilation series. This was a surprise to me, as until that very moment I was unaware that there'd even been a Volume 2. I shall be chasing down these omissions from my collection forthwith, but in the meantime can heartily recommend Volume 1's tales of drug abuse, suicide and all manner of additional dark subject matters, performed by largely under-the-radar artists in a loosely Country / Rockabilly style. The fuzzy Gospel of 'I'm Tired of You, Satan', by the otherwise anonymous Wayne, Pat & Keith, is one of the album's jauntier moments.

Wayne, Pat & Keith - I'm Tired of You, Satan

Friday, 7 April 2017

Red Gold & Green #16 / Version City #60 - Horace Andy sings The Clash

A newsflash guaranteed to make a few of us shuffle a little uncomfortably in our seats.........the debut LP by The Clash is 40 years old this weekend. So by way of a tribute to the only band that mattered, here's Horace Andy's 2016 cover of 'Straight to Hell', the centrepiece of 1982's 'Combat Rock'. If you'd like to compare and contrast, Swiss Adam recently shared the original longer unedited version of The Clash's last masterpiece here.

Horace Andy - Straight to Hell

Monday, 3 April 2017

Rozi & Serafina

Last year I was privileged to witness Rozi Plain perform an intimate show at the visitor's centre of a nature reserve on the North Norfolk Coast (here). Yesterday I saw her play in another unconventional location - a small building situated next to the main runway of the former RAF Bentwaters base in deepest Suffolk. Rozi and her band, supported by Serafina Steer (of Bas Jan, another firm favourite of this parish) each played fabulous sets in aid of the Kids Kino Project charity.

The view round the back of the venue

It was a family (and pet) friendly mid-afternoon event, starting at 3pm and all over by 6pm. As someone who is depressingly familiar with the chatter and disruption that seems to have become the norm at gigs these days, it was refreshing to be part of an audience that included many very young children and several dogs, all having a great time and behaving impeccably. Watch out for new music from both Bas Jan and Rozi Plain later this year. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society

Real life is currently ensuring that I have very little time to keep abreast of what's movin' and shakin' round this neck of the woods I'm afraid. I have a bunch of tunes that I want to share and a long list of posts I want to read though and I'll get to them all in due course, hopefully. Meanwhile, my thanks go to the good folk at Monolith Cocktail for introducing me to Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society, whose music has been soundtracking my world almost exclusively these past few days. The band make a multi-layered rhythmic noise that I'm finding hard to live without just at the moment. Their last album, 2015's 'Magnetoception', can be sampled in full here and a brand new LP, 'Simultonality', arrives in a couple of weeks via Glitterbeat Records. From it, this is 'Sideways Fall'.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Version City #59 - Velvet Crush sing Dillard & Clark

Gene Clark released a steady stream of great music throughout his post-Byrds career, sometimes in cahoots with one of a succession of collaborators. At the tail-end of the 1960's, Clark teamed up with Doug Dillard to produce two albums, 'The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark' in 1968 and 'Through the Morning, Through the Night' the following year. Sandwiched between these long players was the non-album single 'Why Not Your Baby', a beautiful song written by Clark, with as an emotionally devastating a lyric as you'll ever hear.

Gene Clark died in 1991 at the tragically young age of 46. Three years later, Velvet Crush, produced by Mitch Easter, paid a fine tribute to the man with a cover of 'Why Not Your Baby' on their 'Teenage Symphonies To God' LP, released through Creation Records.

She wore a blue dress when she walked in the room
And in her eyes the look I saw was filled with gloom
Is this the question I would answer all too soon
Come tell your friend what's wrong with you

Why don't you call me your baby anymore
Am I so changed from some strange love that went before
Is this the change of mind that I've been designed for
Why not your baby anymore

Those words we spoke they only seemed to block our way
The truth rang out when you called me and called my name
I don't know what I can do or I can say
Your good friends also find a way

Why don't you call me your baby anymore
Am I so changed from some strange love that went before
Is this the change of mind that I've been designed for
Why not your baby anymore

Dillard & Clark - Why Not Your Baby

Velvet Crush - Why Not Your Baby

Monday, 20 March 2017

Spake He With His Dying Breath, 'Life Is Done, So What Is Death?'

With the passing of Chuck Berry over the weekend, Jerry Lee Lewis (81) and Little Richard (84) are now the last surviving original rock 'n' roll pioneers. Chuck of course was unique among his contemporaries, by virtue of the outstanding poetry of his lyrics. Newly recorded material is due for release later this year, but the last album Berry issued in his lifetime was 'Rockit', way back in 1979, a record that concluded with the extraordinary spoken word 'Pass Away'. In 1986 Chuck and Robbie Robertson sat down in front of a film crew to document an even more extraordinary performance of the piece.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Intro to Nowhere

The success of the Britpop movement in the 1990's persuaded the major record companies of the day to throw money at many bands who fit the required profile, in an effort to keep a good thing rolling along. A lot of bands were signed - some good, some merely derivative, but few of them were given any time in which to properly develop. In previous decades, artists might have been allowed two, three or even four albums to learn their craft and find an audience, but by the mid-90's if success wasn't immediate, bands would invariably find themselves out on their ear pretty sharpish. I was taken to see many 'next big things' by effusive record company reps who sang their praises long and loud, at least until the first couple of singles flopped, at which point they were quietly forgotten about - and it was on to the next 'next big thing'. It was a particularly nerve-wracking time to be in a newly signed band, for whom Britpop must have been both a blessing and a curse.

Jaguar were one such band. Led by singer and guitarist Malcolm Carson, they were signed to Warner Brothers in 1997, with a clutch of promising singles following in quick succession. These, I remember, were promoted vigorously by Warners, though to little avail. After an enforced name change (to Carson) and in spite of some success in Japan, by the time their album 'A Vision' appeared, the writing was already on the wall - band and label parted company, then the band imploded altogether. (If you'd like to journey back to 1998 to check out the album, a YouTuber has uploaded the whole darned thing here). For me, the most impressive Jaguar tune is quite unlike anything on 'A Vision', it's a dubby instrumental entitled 'Intro to Nowhere', tucked away as the 4th track of a CD single. If the band had been given the freedom and opportunity to develop, perhaps we would've eventually heard more music of this quality from them.

Jaguar - Intro to Nowhere

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Howlin' Wolf

Thanks to his imposing physique, as a young man Chester Burnett acquired the nickname Big Foot Chester, before ultimately earning immortality as Howlin' Wolf. In the 1930's, Wolf gained musical inspiration from contemporary performers such as Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Sonny Boy Williamson II and even played with the legendary Robert Johnson, while his trademark howl emerged as a result of failed attempts to approximate Jimmie Rodgers' signature 'blue yodel'. Many of his classic recordings throughout the 1950's and early 1960's were written by the great Willie Dixon, though my own favourite Howlin' Wolf track is 'Tired of Crying', an obscure self-written oddity, which for 15 years I only owned on 'From Early 'Til Late', a poor quality 1979 bootleg LP of unissued and alternate recordings. The song eventually became more widely available when it was included on a couple of official career retrospectives in the mid-1990's.

'Tired of Crying' was recorded in the Summer of 1969, a one-off studio run through, before being abandoned and, for all intents and purposes, forgotten. Cues are missed, instruments are out of tune, the speed varies dramatically and the melody bears a more than passing resembalence to the masterful 'Smokestack Lightning', which was written and recorded by Wolf 13 years earlier. But it swings so effortlessly. And those horns are so deliciously woozy and off kilter. It sweeps me up every time I hear it. Sometimes I ponder that if Wolf had perservered with the song for a little longer, perhaps we'd have a better, more solid performance to enjoy. Those thoughts pass quickly though. In spite of all its imperfections, because of all its imperfections, 'Tired of Crying' sounds just about perfect to me.

Howlin' Wolf - Tired of Crying

Monday, 13 March 2017

Version City #58 - Bob Dylan sings The Mississippi Sheiks

My first guitar, April 1963.

Regrets, I've had a few...and aside from all the many thoughtless things I've said and done throughout my life, one of the very biggest regrets is never having learned to play the guitar. I've always had tunes spinning around my noggin with no means of letting them out and when I was younger, would scribble reams of (admittedly rubbish) lyrics, for songs that I knew could never be completed. I had chances to learn the instrument, but just didn't apply myself - something I now bitterly regret. My last real opportunity was in the 1990's, when my girlfriend at the time bought me a guitar and paid for a couple of lessons. My tutor was brilliant. He cut to the chase, asking me what exactly I'd like to be able to play. 'This', I said, putting on Bob Dylan's cover of the 1931 Mississippi Sheiks song, 'Blood in My Eyes'. After two lessons, a little progress, followed by frustration, distractions and despair, I put down the guitar and stupidly never picked it up again.

Mississippi Sheiks - 'Blood in My Eyes'

Friday, 10 March 2017


On Wednesday afternoon, just half an hour after I'd read through C's brilliantly vivid post concerning her recent grisly encounter with a sparrowhawk (here), I went downstairs to make a coffee. On my way back up, I paused at the back window overlooking the garden and the marsh beyond, to take my first slurp. It was at this point I noticed the silence. The garden and sky above are usually busy with birdlife coming and going in a constant whirl of activity, but at that moment there was not one sparrow, tit, pigeon, starling, dove, dunnock or finch to be seen - or heard. I ran my eyes around the neighbouring rooftops and along our fence. Then I saw it. The very slightest movement. A well camouflaged sparrowhawk biding its time, on the lookout for a late lunch. For once my camera was nearby and I fired off a single, hopeful, shot in the general direction of the mass of greenery that blankets the fence towards the end of the garden. Can you see her?

No? I couldn't at first either. Hang on a moment, let me zoom in.

There she is. She may have been very still and very quiet (and very hidden!), but news of her presence had clearly spread through the local population - she was out of luck. It's been well over a year since we had an actual sparrowhawk kill in the garden, though sparrowhawks themselves are rarely far away. I heard a commotion in the sky not that long ago and looked up to see a large group of crows bullying and hectoring a lone sparrowhawk who appeared stubbonly reluctant to leave the area. Endlessly hassled and hugely outnumbered, it finally swooped off and away to find some peace and quiet.

Like C, we recognise some of our more frequent garden bird visitors and bestow (usually unflattering) names upon them - Stumpy, Lumpy, Dangle, Peg-Leg, Patch etc. Unlike poor old Limpy over at C's place however, for now at least, all the regulars remain present and accounted for.

The Soundcarriers - Hideaway

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Red Gold & Green #15 - Rico

Rico Rodriguez was famously adopted by the ska revival movement in the late 1970's, playing with The Specials and eventually releasing two albums under his own name on the 2-Tone label. Prior to that, by the time he recorded the excellent 'Man from Wareika' for Chris Blackwell's Island Records in 1976, Rico was already a 15 year veteran of the the UK ska and reggae circuit. The US release of the album made history by becoming the only reggae LP to be issued on Blue Note Records. A dub version of 'Man from Wareika' was released in 1977, though this has been tough to track down in recent years. In 2016 Island did the right thing and reissued both albums as a double CD with 14 bonus tunes from the period - it's a highly recommended set.

Rico - 'Man from Wareika'

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Revolution Starts at Closing Time

After visiting both of my Aunts in London for a couple of days, I spent Saturday evening in deepest Essex with two of my oldest friends. There was a time when we would spend two or three nights a week putting the world to rights and arguing about music over a succession of warm beers in the corner of a smoky pub, steadily growing less coherent as the hours wore on. But that was 35 years ago. These days, it's a logistical nightmare to get the three of us together, in spite of the fact that we live less than 70 miles apart. In fact Saturday was the first time we've all been in the same room for over 18 months. Though the alcohol didn't flow in quite the way it used to - one of my pals was driving and I had a bit of a dicky tummy - it was a joy to catch-up. We put the world to rights and argued about music just like the old days, but most of all we laughed - a lot.

In the halcyon days of the early 1980's, this was our anthem.

Serious Drinking - The Revolution Starts at Closing Time

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


There has been a slew of bands in recent years, who seem to consider the use of vowels in their moniker an unnecessary luxury. Take BNQT (pronounced Banquet) for example. BNQT are something of an indie supergroup, whose line-up draws from Midlake, Band of Horses, Grandaddy, Travis and Franz Ferdinand. Their debut LP, 'Volume 1', is due at the end of April and is introduced by the Midlake-heavy 'Restart'. (More info here)

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Return of Girl Ray

You remember how much I love Girl Ray don't you? Yes, of course you do. Lord knows I banged on about them enough last year, a minor obsession that culminated with the band gaining what must surely be the highest accolade of their career thus far - my favourite tune of 2016. By all accounts Girl Ray are busy finishing up the recording and post-production of their debut LP, though have found a little time to play a few shows on the current Teleman tour - what a great night that sounds. Meanwhile, their next single, 'Stupid Things', arrives on April 14th, but they're letting us have a listen to it well in advance of that date.

Friday, 24 February 2017

On the Road Again

As you read these words I'm many miles from my desk and faithful laptop, on day one of a whistle-stop tour of London and the South East. My Aunt in Bethnal Green took a nasty tumble last week, breaking her right shoulder and fracturing her left hand. Understandably, she's feeling a little sorry for herself, so I'm going to pay her a surprise visit to see how her recuperation is coming along. She turns 90 this year, so these things take time - try telling her that though. While I'm down in the smoke I'll be staying with my other Aunt in East Ham, who's of a similar vintage. These two old ladies are the last remaining family members who have known me since birth.

From London, it's on to another, long pre-arranged, appointment with the great Alasdair Roberts, who is appearing at the Colchester Arts Centre on Sunday evening. Alasdair's new LP, 'Pangs', is released today, so with any luck I'll be able purchase my copy directly from the artist himself. Here's the video for the title track, which features an unexpected acting cameo by another firm favourite of this parish, Cambridge's own primitive guitar maestro, C. Joynes.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Kane Strang

Out of Dunedin, New Zealand comes the rather splendidly named Kane Strang. His debut LP, 'Blue Cheese', was released exactly 12 months ago, but he's already back with 'Oh So You're Off I See', the first taster from album number two, due later in the year. Stick with this one, it's a grower.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

François & the Atlas Mountains

Though I may understand very few of their lyrics, I'm secure in the knowledge that François & the Atlas Mountains know their way around a good pop song. My introduction to the band was via the song 'Je Suis De L'Eau (Be Water)' in 2009 and it remains a firm favourite to this day. Before we revisit that one though, check out ' Grand Dérèglement', the latest single from their forthcoming new LP 'Solide Mirage', due for release on March 3rd. The folky little guitar riff is absolutely irresistible.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Farewell Robert Fisher

I was saddened read that Robert Fisher, founder of The Willard Grant Conspiracy, passed away over the weekend, following a year long battle with cancer. The band debuted in 1996 with '3am Sunday @ Fortune Otto's' and released a further nine studio albums up to and including 2013's 'Ghost Republic'. In spite of his increasing illness, Fisher apparently spent much of 2016 holding down a day job while simultaneously recording tracks for a new, as yet unreleased LP. 

Mrs S & I saw Willard Grant Conspiracy back in 2004 and were greeted by Robert himself, sitting behind a desk just inside the door of the venue, selling his own merch. 'The Work Song' was one of the many highlights of the show that evening.

Willard Grant Conspiracy - The Work Song

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Canvey Island Baby

The Wave Pictures pause promotional duties for their latest LP 'Bamboo Diner In The Rain' to pay homage to the great Wilko Johnson, by way of a six track 10" EP, 'Canvey Island Baby', scheduled for release this week on the Acuarela label. The EP contains interpretations of five of Wilko's own songs (including the classic 'Back in the Night') plus a title track freshly written by David Tattersall of the band, which gives a hefty, lovingly observed nod in the direction of the seminal Dr Feelgood sound.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Bas Jan

Right at the moment, it takes something pretty special to prise my ears away from the fantastic Sacred Paws LP, which has been on constant rotation around these parts just lately. Serafina Steer, Sarah Anderson and Jenny Moore got my attention though. Together they are Bas Jan (named after the Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader) and their terrific new tune is 'No Sign'. Seriously - how great is this? (Buy it for a quid here)

Monday, 6 February 2017

All That Jazz #2 - Calvin Keys

In his long career, guitarist Calvin Keys has played with many of the greats - Bobby Hutcherson, Ray Charles, Ahmad Jamal and Pharoah Sanders among them. Released in 1974, 'Proceed with Caution!' is his second LP as leader of his own band - and it's a spiritually funky affair. Check out the groovy 'Aunt Lovey', which particularly showcases the talents of Henry 'Skipper' Franklin on bass, Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler on drums and the electric keys of Kirk Lightsey.

Today is Calvin Keys' 74th birthday - many happy returns of the day sir.

Calvin Keys - Aunt Lovey

Friday, 3 February 2017

Red Gold & Green #14 - Ronnie Davis

In addition to recording as a solo artist for such legendary producers as Bunny 'Striker' Lee and Phil Pratt, Ronnie Davis also worked as part of both The Itals and The Tennors vocal groups for over 40 years. My own favourite Ronnie Davis tune, 'Laugh It Off', was recorded at The Black Ark in 1977, with the mighty Lee 'Scratch' Perry behind the desk.

Ronnie Davis - Laugh It Off 

Sadly Ronnie suffered a massive stroke on January 23rd and died in hospital two days later, he was 66. He continued to tour and record up to the very end, with his final LP, 'Iyahcoustic', being released just six months ago. Here's the video for the beautiful 'I Won't Cry'. Check out the whole LP here.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Serve & Obey

The mighty Zsa Zsa Sapien of Meatraffle. A photo taken by your humble author.

Firm favourites of this manor, Meatraffle are currently on the hunt for a label to distribute their new LP 'The 1917', pencilled in for a Summer release. Meantime, they've let slip 'Serve & Obey', which features a sublimely chosen 'Silly Games' sample, narration from Fat White Family's Patrick Lyons and the mournful horn of Zsa Zsa Sapien.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Wedding Song

While one of my other blogs, Dear Diary 1952, drew to a natural conclusion at the end of December, over at Before the Streets Were Aired, my repository for old anonymous photos, things continue much the same as ever. 'Why do you get so obsessed with old photos?' I hear you ask. Here's a good example of why - an ancient photo album I picked up at a car boot sale, forgotten and unwanted. The first few pages are concerned with the marriage of a young couple. Here are two of my favourite shots from their wedding. I'd guess that we're talking the 1920's or early 1930's judging by the spats.

A splendid couple aren't they? The album continues with several photos of the bride and groom relaxing on a beach - their honeymoon perhaps? - before settling down to images from their day to day life as a young husband and wife. Inevitably, when looking through a collection of old photos, I wonder about what might have become of the people pictured. While looking through this particular album, a loose photo dropped out onto my lap and my question was instantly answered. It might be the loveliest one of the lot.

Whyte Horses - Wedding Song

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry

(Photo taken by Andi of Outline magazine)

The doors had only been open for 30 minutes on Tuesday evening and many people were still filing into the venue when Billy Bragg and Joe Henry walked unannounced onto the stage at bang-on 8pm. The pair launched into a strong six song selection from their recent collaborative LP of great American railway songs, 'Shine a Light', each one being individually set into context by either Billy or Joe. After concluding their opening segment with a version of Gordon Lightfoot's 'Early Morning Rain', Billy took his leave and left Joe alone in the spotlight, to perform a five song solo set. Some of the audience around me became a little restless during Bragg's absence and following Joe's first song, 'Trampoline', the chap next to me lent over and idly asked what I'd thought of the show so far. I told him that though I'd been lucky enough to see Billy Bragg many times in my life, I'd waited 21 years to see Joe Henry sing 'Trampoline' and it had absolutely made my night. He admitted that he'd never heard of Joe Henry before the present collaboration and looked at me gobsmacked. To my surprise this memorable performance wasn't even the highlight of Joe's set. That came with a cover, 'Freedom For the Stallion', proceeded by a moving tribute to his great friend Allen Toussaint who died in 2015. Here's an audience recording of the same song from last year.

After a short intermission, it was Billy Bragg's turn to sing a few of his own songs, including two brand new compositions. One, 'The Times They Are A-Changin'...Back', is unlikely to be formally recorded, but I can see it becoming a constantly re-written and updated staple of Billy's set for the foreseeable futre. The other, which may or may not be called 'The Dreams of Reason', is an equally powerful work in progress - just five days old on Tuesday. Following Billy's well received solo set, he was rejoined by Joe for more from 'Shine a Light' plus a fine cover of Dylan's 'Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You' during the encore. An excellent night.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Sacred Paws

I feel sure that it was one (or more) of my blogging chums who initially introduced me to Glasgow/London duo Sacred Paws and just lately, everytime I hear that brassy intro to 'Rest', I realise I'm well and truly hooked too - it's a poly-rhythmic post-punk joy . Their debut long player, 'Strike a Match', arrives on January 27th on Rock Action Records.

Friday, 20 January 2017

KC Rules OK

In all the times I've seen King Creosote perform since 2005, no two shows have been remotely similar in repertoire or musical accompaniment. Over the years I've witnessed him play variously as part of a duo, a trio, a four piece, in a Fence Collective supergroup, with Jon Hopkins performing the whole of 'Diamond Mines' and, memorably, there was the occasion when he limped onto the stage on crutches and in a full leg plaster, accompanied only by a djembe player. This past Tuesday evening in Norwich saw KC, bizarrely, in glam-rock mode (glitter, make-up, the works), fronting a seven piece band and showcasing, almost exclusively, songs from his most recent LP proper, 'Astronaut Meets Appleman'. I emphasise proper because in addition to this official release, KC has also been responsible for a flurry of low key, limited edition LP's and CD's over the past 18 months, many of which were available on the merch stand and, frustratingly, none of which I could afford.

Musically, the gig was nigh-on impeccable. 'You Just Want', 7½ minutes on record, was extended to a dramatic 12 minutes, creating an atmospheric opening to the show, while the insistent 'Surface' brought the main set to a similarly intense conclusion. The highlight of the night for me though was a stunning performance of 'Betelgeuse', which knocked the original studio recording into a cocked hat - it really was spellbinding stuff. In fact my only minor quibble with the whole shebang would be the amount of time KC spent chatting to the audience in between each song. Don't get me wrong, his humourous banter has always been an integral and enjoyable part of every KC show I've seen, but on Tuesday it was off the scale. Had he curtailed his waffle just a little, he could have easily played an additional two or three songs.

Only during the encore did King Creosote venture away from 'Astronaut Meets Appleman' material, first delving back to 2014 for an airing of his own 'I'm A Great Believer In Threes', before concluding the evening with a terrific reading of 'Star of Hope', a reprisal of his cameo on Mairearad Green's recent LP, 'Summer Isles'.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Farewell Bill Price

The dismal year of 2016 landed one final blow on Monday, with the belated announcement of the death of noted producer and engineer Bill Price on December 22nd, at the age of 72. In a career which started in 1965, Price twiddled the knobs for a rich and varied cast of characters over the years, including Tom Jones, Pete Townshend, Davey Graham, Englebert Humperdink, Peter Cook, The Pretenders, Bill Fay, Free, Paul McCartney, British Sea Power, Mott the Hoople, Human League, Camel, Sparks, Roxy Music, The Saints, TRB, Elton John, XTC, Guns N' Roses and many more - plus of course he worked with both The Clash and The Sex Pistols, virtually simultaneously.

Bill Price was a quiet giant of the recording industry for over 40 years and his passing will be mourned by artists and audiences alike. Here are just three examples of his production talent.

Racing Cars - They Shoot Horses Don't They (1976) 

Jesus & Mary Chain - Happy When It Rains (1987) 

The Waterboys - The Return of Pan (1993)

Monday, 16 January 2017

All That Jazz #1 - Herbie Hancock

For a long time, a very long time, I've wanted to introduce a Jazz series to these pages. I'm keenly aware that this might prove less than popular in some quarters and I can respect that, but it's a musical genre that takes up a great deal of my listening hours, so please forgive an old man's indulgence. Fear not though, the series, much like its Reggae counterpart Red Gold & Green, will be an occasional one. The title, All That Jazz, is a nod to my Dad (himself a Jazz fan in the 1950's) who would often, apropos of nothing, conclude a sentence with the phrase '...and all that jazz'.

I'll kick things off with the nearest thing to a safe bet that I have at my disposal, 'Cantaloupe Island' by Herbie Hancock. The tune was recorded in 1964 for Hancock's fourth Blue Note LP 'Empyrean Isles', on which he is joined by three musicians who will definitely reappear in this series down the line somewhere - Freddie Hubbard on cornet, Ron Carter on bass and the great Tony Williams on drums. The tune achieved renewed recognition when it was heavily sampled to form the basis of 'Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)', a hit single for Us3 in 1993.

Herbie Hancock - Cantaloupe Island

(Buy 'Empyrean Isles' by Herbie Hancock here)

Thursday, 12 January 2017


Considering that we spend 24 hours a day in the same building, the Swede Towers Venn diagram of musical obsessions doesn't overlap as much as you might think. The tuneful taste-buds of Mrs S & I are often complementary, but rarely absolutely identical. Currently, however, we are in complete agreement, sharing an ear-worm that gets us both throwing ill-advised shapes around the kitchen when we reconvene for lunch. Congolese singer, songwriter and rapper Baloji has a substantial catalogue of fine music under his belt and is currently signed to Bella Union, who released the '64 bits & Malachite' EP in November. From it, the tune that Mrs S & I can't get enough of is 'Spoiler'. Be prepared to be hooked.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

One Year


The homeward road is long 
You've left your prayers and song

Monday, 9 January 2017

Feeling Gravity's Pull

In her final years, as her frailty and ill heath became gradually more pronounced, my Nan would quite often grab my arm for support, pull me close and whisper in despair - 'Don't ever get old'. I remember it distinctly. I also remember shaking my head at the absurdity of the very notion. I was young - I wasn't ever going to get old. Nan was living with us by then, as was her Sister-in-law, always known to me as Aunt Maud. Aunt Maud bore her own old age in a more stoic fashion than Nan. She laughed a lot, she enjoyed a drink and a cigarette and was generally the more sociable of the two, in spite of her increasing deafness and having been registered as blind for most of the second half of her life. As I went through a growth spurt in my mid-teens and shot up past them both, Aunt Maud, a Cockney through and through, would peer up at me as best she could and exclaim, 'Blimey, I reckon I'm growing downwards!'

Your humble author in 1975, aged 15, with Nan and Aunt Maud.

It would appear however, regardless of my very best efforts over the intervening 40 odd years, that I am in fact getting old. Or at least old enough to qualify for a recent invitation to our local medical centre, to have a general health and well-being check. Questions were asked, blood was drawn and readings measured. I'm doing ok apparently - BMI, weight, heart, pulse, cholesterol and blood sugar all tickety-boo. 'One last thing...' said the nurse as I was about to leave, '...step over here and we'll check your height.' 'Six foot six, I chimed confidently - I'd already told her as much, earlier in the examination. The nurse stood on tiptoe for a moment to adjust the measure so that it rested lightly on top of my head. 'Six foot four actually' she countered with a smile. 'Blimey,' I said. 'I reckon I'm growing downwards'.

REM - Feeling Gravity's Pull

Saturday, 7 January 2017


All my own work!

Among the ever increasing list of accidental omissions from in my recent end of year posts is 'Ceremonial' by Anchorsong, which was issued so early in 2016 that I became convinced it had actually been released in 2015. Schoolboy error. The LP, on the Tru Thoughts label, is oozing with beautifully realised cross-cultural pop tunes. Look out - here comes one now. (If you like it, there's more here)

Anchorsong - Butterflies

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Version City #57 - Pete Townshend sings The Beat

Talking as we were about The Beat, I'm reminded of Pete Townshend's admirable cover of 'Save It For Later', which was originally released on the band's final LP, 'Special Beat Service' in 1982. Townshend recorded the song in the studio during the sessions for his 1985 album 'White City', a version that eventually appeared over 20 years later on a deluxe CD reissue. Here though is a live performance of 'Save It For Later' from 1985, which wound up seeing the light of day on 'Deep End Live!' the following year. In the clip, Pete references the song's unusual tuning and the direct phone call to composer Dave Wakeling that cleared up his confusion. In 2006 Dave Wakeling recalled the same phone call, and subsequent meeting with Townshend, from his own perspective.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Side to Side

The news that Ranking Roger's Beat (as opposed to Dave Wakeling's English Beat) were to release 'Bounce', their first album for 30 years, didn't exactly fill me with anticipation. Don't get me wrong, I loved the original incarnation of the band and one of Roger's showcases, 'Pato and Roger a-Go Talk', was a big favourite round at my house in 1982. Dave & Roger's post-Beat outfit General Public released a few storming tunes too. But that was all a long time ago and Roger's new line-up of The Beat (featuring his son Ranking Junior as co-vocalist) contains no other original members of the band. The latest single from the album, 'Side to Side', proves that this old cynic was a tad hasty to pass judgement though. It's ancient, modern and very catchy.

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