Wednesday 30 March 2016

How To Recognise A Work Of Art

On Saturday we had to make an emergency 15 mile round trip to pick up essential art supplies for Mrs S and, as she rummaged around the shop, I thought about the many artists and creative people I've been lucky enough to know over the years. The creative process is a thing of wonder to me and I've always tried to be a sympathetic and supportive encourager of talented people - whilst frustratingly not having a single creative bone in my body. It could all have been so different though, as evidenced by a recently rediscovered early work. I give you, 'Self Portrait 1969', by Your Humble Blogger (Aged 9).

Since fronting Race Horses from 2005 to 2013, Meilyr Jones has played with Gruff Rhys, Euros Childs, Stealing Sheep and Cate Le Bon. Last summer Meilyr released his first solo single 'Refugees', which was followed towards the end of the year by the fantastic 'How To Recognise A Work Of Art'. His debut LP, '2013', finally arrived a couple of weeks ago and is a rumination on the tumultuous year that saw both his band and relationship come to an end  - a very fine piece of work it is too. Autobiographical Chamber-Pop never sounded so good. If you like what you hear, check out the whole album here.

Monday 28 March 2016


You may well be aware of this, but I've only stumbled upon it comparatively recently. It's a short video comprising extracts from David Bowie & Mick Jagger's 'Dancing in the Street' clip.....minus the music. The uploader removed the song, then added various incidental noises for comic effect - and it's a hoot. Apparently Bowie himself even thought so. This is Ben Monder, who played guitar on 'Blackstar', recalling the atmosphere during the recording sessions. 'I remember us watching this thing...somebody did a series of music videos without the music. Somebody did one of those for the video he (Bowie) did with Mick Jagger for "Dancing In The Streets." But there's no music, just footsteps and grunts and burps and stuff like that. He thought that was hilarious and would just have us watch the whole thing.'

Bowie's entrance gets me every time.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Saturday Scratch #54 - Jimmy Riley

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

And so we bid farewell to Jimmy Riley at 61, yet another musical great lost to cancer. His career was a long one, stretching back to the mid-1960s, during which time he worked with many legendary names in Jamaican music, including Bunny Lee, Sly & Robbie, Duke Reid and a brief stint with Lee Perry. Here are a couple of tunes produced by Scratch, who also duets with Jimmy on 'Yagga Yagga'. Rest easy Mr Riley.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Martin Carthy

On Sunday evening, in a basement space little bigger than my living room, Martin Carthy gave a two hour folk tradition masterclass to a riveted 50-strong audience. From 'High Germany', the very first track on his very first album in 1965, to 'Her Servant Man' from 2014's 'The Moral Of The Elephant' (his most recent LP, recorded with daughter Eliza), Carthy cherry-picked tunes from a vast repertoire, offering extensive background information to every song as well as crediting all the relevant sources in each case. 'The Bedmaking' from 1976's 'Crown of Horn', an epic 'Famous Flower Of Serving Men' from 2006's 'Waiting for Angels' and 'Georgie' from 1998's 'Signs of Life' were a few of the many high-points, as was an acapella romp through 'Oor Hamlet', which was a complete hoot that had us all in stitches. Best of the lot though was 'Bill Norrie', a tragic ballad originally recorded for 'Right of Passage' in 1988, but these days delivered at a considerably slower pace, an arrangement that only adds further gravitas to the sombre subject matter. This poor quality audience recording of 'Bill Norrie' from last year merely hints at how jaw-dropping Martin's performance of the song was on Sunday.

Saturday 19 March 2016

Saturday Scratch #53 - 80 Years Young

The mighty Lee Perry turns 80 tomorrow and to celebrate here's one of my favourite Scratch vocals. 'Jah Jah Ah Natty Dread', from 1978's 'Return of the Super Ape' LP isn't his best song, production or performance, but it always makes me smile. Musically it's oddly clunky and primitive. The band sounds as though they might have heard of reggae at some point, but have never actually played it before - this is The Upsetters though, so one assumes that they're deliberately trying to sound that way. Then there's Lee's vocal, barked like an irate market trader and barely pausing for a massive sneeze just short of the two minute mark. It's all reassuringly bonkers - and we wouldn't have him any other way. Happy birthday Scratch!

Friday 18 March 2016


The core members of the fine Danish band Efterklang are currently working as Liima and 'ii', the début LP under this new moniker, is issued today on 4AD. The record, pressed on neon green vinyl, contains 10 songs written in Finland, Berlin, Istanbul and Madeeira. Liima tour Europe in April.

Monday 14 March 2016

Cracker and the Art of the Hidden Track

Oh what fun bands had when the CD format really started to take hold at the beginning of the 1990's. Hidden bonus tracks began to be concealed at the end or, more irritatingly, before the beginning, of increasing numbers of albums. I'm sure there are still CD's in my collection featuring hidden tracks that I've yet to discover. A particularly time-consuming example of the trend was Cracker's second album 'Kerosene Hat', issued in 1993. Tracks 1-12 are quite straight forward, forming a very worthy successor to the band's self-titled début, released the previous year. The end of the album proper is followed by two short tracks of silence before 41 seconds of random noise entitled 'Hi-Desert Biker Meth Lab' appears to bring proceedings to an end. But no, oh no, the fun is only just beginning. Next comes no fewer than 54 tracks, each comprising between 3 and 6 seconds of silence, before the epic 'Euro-Trash Girl' bursts from the speakers. Then another 19 short silent tracks leading into 'I Ride My Bike' and a further 11 (taking the bewildered listener to Track 99!) before the whole shebang really does conclude with a half-hearted demo of the album's title track.

'Euro-Trash Girl' was already a live favourite with Cracker fans before the release of 'Kerosene Hat' and would rise to even greater prominence the following year as the title track of a 5 song EP.

Friday 11 March 2016

Keith Emerson RIP

I'm tremendously saddened to hear of the death of Keith Emerson. Emerson Lake & Palmer were a fundamental cornerstone of my broadening musical world-view throughout the early to mid-1970's and although many records from that period would later disappear from my collection during the great punk cull, ELP's self-titled debut, 'Tarkus', 'Pictures at an Exhibition', 'Trilogy' and 'Brain Salad Surgery' never left the family.

The quality of this clip is quite poor, but just watch those fingers go.

Here's Keith (and Carl Palmer) on the Oscar Peterson show, performing Keith's 1976 solo release, 'Honky Tonk Train Blues'.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Happy Birthday Neneh Cherry

Many happy returns to Neneh Cherry, born on this day in 1964. I've accumulated quite a few of her records over the years, from Rip Rig & Panic and Float Up CP to her successful solo career and beyond. Her 1981 guest appearance with The New Age Steppers, on the infectious 'My Love', was the first though. That's the late great Bim Sherman sharing vocal duties with Neneh.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Farewell George Martin

George Martin's name will forever be associated with The Beatles, and quite rightly so, but I've looked elsewhere in his broad production back-catalogue to select a couple of non-Fab related tunes with which to mark his passing. From the sublime 'Dum Dum' by The Stan Getz Quartet, recorded live at Ronnie Scott's Club in 1971 and featuring a great keyboard solo by Eddy Louise, to Spike Milligan's ridiculous and inspired 'Q5 Piano Tune' from 1969.

George Martin - a long life, well lived. RIP.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Massive Attack and Young Fathers

Mrs S & I are fans of Edinburgh's Young Fathers. We've got both of their fine albums and we caught a memorable and very intense show on their UK tour last year. The band make an equally intense guest appearance on Massive Attack's 'Ritual Spirit EP'. The video for the tune doesn't mess about either.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Plants and Animals

When it comes to dancing in public, I'm the owner two of the leftest feet that you'll ever trip over. However this small matter doesn't prevent me from busting a few sweet, free-form moves in the privacy of my own home. Nothing compared to the dancers in this video though. Francis Ducharme, Louise-Michel Jackson and Andrea Martini each demonstrate intense, radical, interpretive rug-cutting of the highest order.

Mrs S & I have been very partial to the music of Canadian band Plants and Animals since their first recorded work back in 2003. The very fine 'Stay' is taken from the band's 4th LP, 'Waltzed in from the Rumbling', scheduled for release on April 29th. Stand clear. I'm joining in and there may be flailing.

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