Saturday 29 August 2015

Bob Bob Robyn Along

Following Charity Chic's recent post devoted to firm favourite of this parish Robyn Hitchcock (here), things have been even more Robyn-centric than usual here at Swede Towers. I had a little wobble a couple of days ago though, when Hitchcock announced a short UK tour in late October. My instant fear was that any local date might coincide with one of the pair of Bob Dylan Royal Albert Hall shows that I already have tickets for during the same period. To my huge relief, Robyn's gig in Norwich comes the night after my two consecutive Royal Albert Hall extravaganzas. Perfect.

In May 1996, I was fortunate to be in the audience at the Borderline in London when Hitchcock and a fine group of musical accomplaces lovingly recreated Bob Dylan's legendary Manchester Free Trade Hall concert that had taken place exactly 30 years earlier. A wag at the back of the room even shouted 'Judas', right on cue, just as the band were easing into 'Like a Rolling Stone'. Much of this gig was later included on the double album of Dylan covers, 'Robyn Sings', issued in 2002. Who knows, maybe Hitchcock will drop a Dylan nugget or two into his sets this Autumn, as a nod to Bob's concurrent UK visit.

I've featured two of my personal favourite Robyn Hitchcock songs in previous posts (here and here) and if he were to play either of those tunes in Norwich in October, I'd be happy as Larry. However his repertoire is vast and his set lists ever changing, so here are a couple more that are on my wish list. The latter, 'One Long Pair of Eyes' contains the quitessential Hitchcock couplet, "Doctor doctor, I'm on fire!', 'Oh I'm sad to hear that squire - we're closing". Genius.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Stephanie Hladowski and C Joynes

In 2012, Cambridge based guitar maverick C Joynes collaborated with vocalist Stephanie Hladowski to create 'The Wild Wild Berry', an album of traditional songs selected from archive recordings at Cecil Sharp House. It's an extraordinary record, nowhere more so than on the stark and beautiful closing track 'Died For Love', based on a 1975 performance by Jasper Smith. I'll return to the remarkable C Joynes in the future, but in the meantime, if you enjoyed this taster, you can hear the whole of 'The Wild Wild Berry' here.

As a bonus, this is the live debut of the song, if anything even more moving than than its studio counterpart.

Monday 24 August 2015

Version City #45 - Hyde & Beast sing Zoo

Dave Hyde (from Futureheads) and Neil Bassett (formally of Golden Virgins) return with the 'Hard Times Good Times EP', which follows 2014's 'Keep Moving', the second long player released in their guise as Hyde & Beast. The EP leads off with a throbbing, groove-tastic cover of the title track from (French Jazz Rock band) Zoo's third and final LP, issued in 1972. Zoo also released an earlier, less polished take as a single in 1971, which is the version I've included here, to compare and contrast.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Down in Front!

Anyone who's been to a gig in the last 15 years will be familiar with the irritation/anger/fury caused by fellow audience members who attempt to record all or part of the event on their mobile phones. Over time, I've grown reluctantly accustomed to bobbing and weaving my way through an evening, in an effort to catch a clear view of the stage through the sea of up-stretched arms. In one tiny venue a couple of years ago, I actually watched a long stretch of Courtney Barnett's set through an iPad (an iPad!) that was being held aloft by someone standing directly in front of me!

In another lifetime, I'm afraid I too was briefly guilty of straying into other people's sightlines, as I did my best to capture live snapshots for a fanzine my pal and I were busy dreaming up. All this was back at the dawn of the 1980's. Nothing ever came of the fanzine, or the photos. Until now.

Gang of Four in 1981, photographed by Yours Truly

Thursday 20 August 2015

Version City #44 - Choir! Choir! Choir! sing The Clash

Based in Toronto, Choir! Choir! Choir! is a twice weekly gathering of musically open-minded people who just love to sing. In their 4 year history they've tackled songs by a wide variety of artists, such as Big Star, Haddaway, Fleetwood Mac, Sex Pistols, The Muppets, Wilco, Pink Floyd and dozens of others (see here for a full list) in addition to performing in concert with Patti Smith and Tegan & Sara.

There's a whole host of Choir! Choir! Choir! performances available to check out on their YouTube channel (here). Their stirring interpretation of 'London Calling' had the hairs on the back of this old Clash fan's neck standing to attention.

Tuesday 18 August 2015


We've returned from a lovely few days of grazing our way around London with the US branch of the family - and a fine old time was had by all. Back at HQ there is much catching up to be done - posts to be read, music to be heard and, yes, a new laptop to be unwrapped and understood. This could take a while. 

Nestling in my in-box upon my return was 'Drumside Part 1' by Rodinia, an extract from a new LP, 'Drumside/Dreamside', due for release on Now-Again Records in late September. Rodinia is a collaboration between multi-instumentalists, Jay Whitefield (who I know best from his work with Karl Hector & The Malcouns) and Johannes Schleiermacher from the Woima Collective. They're tagging the music they make 'Ambient Krautrock' - and why not? I like this preview a lot and I'm looking forward to hearing the whole thing.

Read all about it here.

Friday 14 August 2015

It's Cool to Love Your Family

Throughout the 1960's and into the mid-1970's we lived in a terraced house in Walthamstow. Mum, Dad and me downstairs. My Aunt, Uncle (Dad's Brother) and Cousin upstairs. My Cousin and I grew up more like Brother and Sister, plus we each had what felt like a back-up set of parents on call at all times. My Uncle died suddenly in 1978 and my Cousin relocated to New York in 1988 with her job and has lived there ever since. My Dad passed away in 2007 followed by Mum in 2010. My Aunt, who has just turned 86 and is still very active, lives alone in East Ham, less than a mile from where she herself was raised. Her dozen years in Walthamstow was as far as she ever moved. My Cousin, who's now been married for 25 years, has three fantastic kids of her own (18, 15 & 12) and around this time every Summer, she brings the full New York contingent over to visit her Mum... and of course, her older Cousin.

As you'd expect, there are hundreds of photos of my Cousin and I growing up. This funny little shot is my favourite.

So by the time you read these words, I'll be down in London catching up with 12 months worth of family shenanigans, wondering just how much taller the kids can possibly get, introducing my Cousin's American husband to more fine British ales, confusing all and sundry with my English colloquialisms and doubtless eating my own body weight in unhealthy snack foods. I'm not sure what the plan is or where we're headed yet, but there's been talk of a trip out to Kew Gardens. Her mob have definitely never been there and the last time my Cousin and I visited the place was nearly 50 years ago, when we were dragged along, under protest no doubt, by our own parents. Something tells me that we'll appreciate the experience a lot more this time around.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Shuggie Otis

I'm not good with heat, or humidity. The combination of the two turns my brain to mush and I grind to an undignified halt. Of course, by the time you read this it could be snowing. I'm still stepping very lightly around my old laptop while I await the arrival of its replacement, scheduling posts several days in advance to ensure some form of continuity. I do have plans for when I'm up and running with the new technology though, including using a Box account to feature tunes from my collection that I can't find elsewhere online. More of that as and when Dell see fit to make a delivery. I really just dropped by to whinge about the heat.....

Shuggie Otis works particularly well in this weather, nowhere better than on the 1971 title track of his second LP, 'Freedom Flight'.

Monday 10 August 2015

Laure Briard

My working knowledge of the yé-yé revival is pretty much non-existent if I'm honest - does such a scene even exist? Rightly or wrongly, Laure Briard has been lumped into it by some commentators. Her music sounds like quality indie-pop to me. Regardless of categories, her recent LP, 'Révélation', is a total delight from start to finish. Check out the whole thing here.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Saturday Scratch #49 - Junior Dan

Saturday Scratch, an occasional series that shines a light on a selection with a Lee 'Scratch' Perry connection.

The new laptop still hasn't materialised. 48 hour delivery? Pah! So, to prevent another potential hard-drive crash on the old one, I'm keeping things brief. My house isn't much of a home without a reliable computer and all the music it contains - there's certainly an air of tension around the place anyway. So here's Junior Dan's self-produced debut single, a dense, atmospheric cover of the Bacharach & David classic, recorded at The Black Ark in 1973 and released the following year.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Ryley Walker

A dollop of Tim Buckley and a generous pinch of Bert Jansch will set you in the general direction of Ryley Walker's music. You can discover the rest of the ingredients for yourself. His recent LP, 'Primrose Green', is one of 2015's finest and I'm very pleased to have bagged a ticket for a show on his forthcoming UK tour.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Version City #43 - Tortoise & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy sing Elton John

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Tortoise have each made individual appearances on these pages in the past, though the 2006 LP, 'The Brave and the Bold', finds their talents combined. The 10 tracks on the album are all cover versions of artists who range from the familiar (Bruce Springsteen, Richard Thompson), to the obscure (Lungfish, Quix*o*tic), to the unexpected (Don Williams, Melanie Safka). Here's the highlight of the whole shebang for me though, a spooky reading of Elton John's 'Daniel'.

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