Saturday 30 December 2017

A Brief Look Back - Albums of the Year

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged my tired old bones off to catch the great Richard Dawson in concert. Long suffering readers of this blog will know just how many years I've waited to witness Dawson treading the boards and I'm delighted to report that he not only lived up to, but exceeded all expectations. 'Peasant' is far and away my favourite new LP of 2017 and this was easily the best gig I've seen all year. Claustrophobic medieval avant-garde folk-noir never sounded so good.

As I've mentioned previously, heavy work commitments have left me with no time to knock out any kind of in depth year-end review - indeed, I'm actually typing this on Xmas Day, my first full day off for two weeks and my last until January 7th 2018! So here, off the top of my head and in no particular order, are a few of the other albums that have rocked my world in 2017.

Flotation Toy Warning - The Machine That Made Us
Sleaford Mods - English Tapas
Davy Kehoe - Short Passing Game
Alasdair Roberts - Pangs
Peter Perrett - How the West Was Won
Low Chimes - Illumine
Michael Head - Adiós Señor Pussycat
Mark Lanegan - Gargoyle
Bonnie Prince Billy - Best Troubadour
Cz101 - 100 Bar Blues
Causa Sui - Vibraciones Doradas
Joshua Abrams - Simultonality
The Prophet Hens - The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys (a 2016 LP, released in Europe this year)
The Myrrors - Hasta La Victoria
Hollow Everdaze - Cartoons
Brix & the Extricated - Part 2
The Granite Shore - Suspended Second
Sparks - Hippopotamus
Kamasi Washington - Harmony of Difference
Robert Plant - Carry Fire
Colter Wall - s/t
Girl Ray - Earl Grey
Pugwash - Silverlake
Four Tet - New Energy
Idles - Brutalism
Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
Jake Xerxes Fussell - What In The Natural World
Heron Oblivion - The Chapel
Moon Duo - Occult Architecture 1 & 2
Holly Macve - Golden Eagle
Sacred Paws - Strike a Match
Terry - Remember Terry
Big Blood - The Daughters Union (this would've been my favourite were it not for Richard Dawson)
Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
Micah P Hinson - Presents the Holy Strangers
Omni - Multi-Task
This is the Kit - Moonshine Freeze

Several of these records (and no doubt some of the others I've forgotten to include) were introduced to me by one or more of my esteemed blogging chums, for which I can never thank you enough. Over the past couple of years I've noticed that I'm falling ever further behind when it comes to contemporary releases, as reissues and new-old discoveries take up more and more of my attention. In 2017, for instance, three of my most played albums have been 'Bright Phoebus' by Lal & Mike Waterson, the Bob Dylan 'Trouble No More' box set and the marvellous Tony Williams Lifetime 'Live in New York', recorded in 1969, but issued for the first time this year on Hi Hat Records. There just aren't enough hours in the day. 'Time....' to quote the great John Cooper Clarke, '....the old enemy on the wrist'.

I'm off to enjoy another festive glass of wine, so I'll stop waffling and take this opportunity to wish one and all a happy, safe and peaceful 2018.

Sunday 24 December 2017

(Merry Xmas) Face The Future

As I suspected might be the case, my recent return to the world of retail has eaten into all of my time over the past couple of weeks. I'm taking every shift that I'm offered, based on the assumption that available hours may be hard to come by in January. I am, however, really looking forward to catching up with the year end reviews and favourite albums lists of my fellow bloggers when things settle down a bit. I've missed out on a lot in 2017, so I welcome the opportunity to fill in some gaps.

In the meantime I'll leave you with what I consider to be the best 'seasonal' single of the last 35 years, from Geoff Barrow's BEAK>. A download of this fabulous tune will set you back a mere quid, all of which will go to The National Elf Service, a mental health charity. Do the right thing here.

To you and yours, from all the gang at Swede Towers, Happy Christmas, however you choose to spend it.

Friday 22 December 2017

Joe Strummer - 15 Years Gone

Fifteen years ago today, the world lost Joe Strummer. Husband, father, guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor, 101er, Latino Rockabilly Warrior, Mescalero and Punk Rock Warlord of The Clash.

Joe Strummer - Nitcomb (Live)

Monday 18 December 2017

Red Gold & Green #25 - RIP Micheal Prophet

I just heard the sad news that the London based, Jamaican vocalist Michael Prophet passed away on Saturday, at the age of 60. Prophet's earliest sides were cut for producer Yabby You in 1977 and in a long career he also worked with the likes of Al Campbell, Sugar Minott, Winston 'Niney' Holness, and Winston Riley. Perhaps his most enduring recordings were those made for Henry 'Junjo' Lawes and released on Greensleeves at the very beginning of the 1980s.  Here's the full 12" version of Michael Prophet's best known song, 'Gunman', from 1981.

Michael Prophet - Gunman

Saturday 16 December 2017

A Word in Your Ear

Since last Sunday, I've been mostly laying in a pool of sweat, in bed or on the sofa, as I struggle with a heavy feverish cold. I managed to drag myself into work for a couple of 4 hour shifts, though I'm not too sure how much actual help I've been. I'm one of the lucky ones, however. A number of poor souls at the store have gone down with the Winter vomiting virus, something that sounds the very antithesis of fun. I've got an 8 hour shift to get through today, days off Sunday & Monday to shake this thing once and for all, then it's non-stop work until Christmas Day.

When I'm feeling this rough, all the things I really enjoy doing go out the window - reading, writing, listening to music and drinking coffee. I have no concentration or appetite for any of 'em. I did manage to make a little mental space for the latest A Word in Your Ear podcast the other day though. Last month's AWIYE featured an excellent interview with the stately Robert Forster. This month couldn't have been more different, as the guest was the Zelig-like raconteur Danny Baker. It's a 90 minute listen that I'd recommend to anyone - you don't need to get all of the cultural references. Several times, I laughed until I very nearly choked. Then, in the very last few minutes, I cried like a baby. It's wonderful stuff and it's free.

Have a listen.

Thursday 14 December 2017

Farewell Pat DiNizio

Following less than a month after the death of Tommy Keene, the world lost another power pop legend on Tuesday, in the shape of Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens, who passed away at the age of 62. The Smithereens formed in 1980 and, at their very best, made a series of carefully crafted pop nuggets sound utterly effortless - a neat trick if you can pull it off. In their long career, the band opened for a veritable who's who of the great and good, including The Ramones, Pretenders, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Lou Reed and Bruce Springsteen. They were also big favourites of a certain Kurt Cobain.

I saw The Smithereens just once, at The London Astoria in 1988. As I recall it, the crowd was thin and strangely unresponsive. The band, however, were on fire, playing as if their lives depended on it.

Rest easy Pat.

The Smithereens - Behind the Wall of Sleep 

The Smithereens - Strangers When We Meet

Friday 8 December 2017

Olden Yolk

I should emphasise that while my recent return to retail may have been unplanned and initiated by financial concerns, I am absolutely loving it. Having spent the past 7 years sat on my arse behind a computer, I'm woefully out of shape, but interacting with people is what I do best, in fact it's arguably the only true skill I have in my armoury. The reason I'm particularly enjoying retail this time round? Simple, I'm not in charge. Since the age of 21, the buck has always seemed to stop with me, or pretty close by me, sometimes in spite of my best efforts to the contrary. Now though, I'm just a hired hand, clocking in, working hard, clocking out and going home. Someone else is paid a lot more than I am to manage labour costs, stock control and all the many other key performance indicators that I stressed about for so many years - I get to concentrate on the really enjoyable bit. Most of the customers are nice, my co-workers are a great bunch and now that the company have invested in a second Christmas CD, things can only get better. A 9 hour shift with just one 45 minute festive compilation on constant repeat is enough to test the resolve of the most benign of temperaments.

Here's another one to watch out for in 2018 - on February 23rd to be precise. That's the release date for Olden Yolk's self titled debut LP on Trouble in Mind Records. The band was put together by Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer as an outlet for songs not used during Butler's day job with Quilt, whose 'Held in Splender' was runner up in my favourite albums of 2014. If the rest of the 'Olden Yolk' is as interesting as 'Takes One to Know One', we'll be in for a treat.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Nervous Conditions

(Photo by Citizen Meh)

As I hinted a couple of weeks back, a recent unexpected return to the world of retail has severely curtailed my online activities, as I am, to coin a phrase, making hay while the sun shines. Or, if you'd prefer it in plain speak, I'm grabbing every bit of overtime available. This might well mean that there'll be no traditional comprehensive end of year round up from Swede Towers this time around, or at least not this side of Christmas, though I'll do my best to pop up with at least a couple of short posts per week until the end of 2017. I'm also keenly aware that I'm unavoidably neglecting far too many of the fine blogs that are listed on the right hand side of this page, but I'll attempt to play catch-up as and when I'm able. 

Meanwhile, here's a promising bunch of herberts to watch out for in 2018. There are 8 of 'em, they're from Cambridge, they're irritatingly young and they go by the name of Nervous Conditions. They've apparently garnered comparisons with The Fall and Captain Beefheart, but what do I know, I've only heard a couple of their tunes thus far. This particular performance of 'Village Mentality' stopped me dead in my tracks and prompted me to utter that most highly prized of all Swede-isms - it's a thoroughly splendid racket.

Friday 1 December 2017

Version City #67 - Mark Lanegan sings Joy Division

The last time I saw Mark Lanegan treading the boards was 21 years ago, as front man of The Screaming Trees. His output over the intervening years has been prodigious and of a consistently high quality, whether recording under his own name or as a guest vocalist on someone else's project. On Tuesday evening he treated the Norwich Waterfront to a powerful 19 song set, which stuck principally to the more recent entries in that vast back catalogue. Half an hour in we got a fantastic double whammy of 'Nocturne' and 'Beehive', both from this year's 'Gargoyle', quickly followed by a simply staggering rendition of 'Bleeding Muddy Water' from 2012's 'Blues Funeral'. Lanegan's voice seemed in ragged tatters after this epic and for a moment I honestly wondered how he could continue, yet within moments he was crooning effortlessly through a sublime 'Harborview Hospital'.

I was delighted to hear 'One Way Street' delivered as the first encore, 2001's 'Field Songs' is probably my favourite of all his albums. At most other shows on this tour, the encore has concluded with one, sometimes two, Joy Division covers. Not tonight though. The curfew had been reached and there was just time for a brief 'thank you' before he was gone. Here's a version of one of those Joy Division covers, recorded live in 2015.

Mark Lanegan - Atmosphere 

(Previous Mark Lanegan entries in this series here and here)

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Looking For a New Technique

Saturday morning saw the first hoar frost of the season round these parts. There was no snow involved, though the phenomenon was the very definition of deep and crisp and even. It was also strikingly beautiful. Mrs S and I were on the road early, as she had an artistic engagement a few miles South and we enjoyed the Wintry drive through the countryside tremendously.

I'm steadily (read, slowly) working my way through my recently unboxed CD collection, grabbing a few discs for the journey each time we take the car out for a spin. On Saturday morning I pulled a couple of Apostle of Hustle albums off the shelf. The band, formed by Broken Social Scene bassist Andrew Whiteman, has been on hiatus since 2009, but had already released three long players up to that point, the pick of which is 'National Anthem of Nowhere' from 2007.

Apostle of Hustle - My Sword Hand's Anger 

Apostle of Hustle - National Anthem of Nowhere

Saturday 25 November 2017

Ten Years Gone

Dad & I, 1961

When I was very young, Dad seemed to be constantly decorating in some part of the house and whenever he decorated, out came his reel to reel tape player. He would hang wallpaper, hammer nails and slap on paint whilst singing along to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and even early Bob Dylan - all artists who I came to appreciate in later life. Dad had been into music from an early age, visiting Ronnie Scott's and the coffee bars of Soho in the 1950s to hear his first love - jazz. In later years he listened more to classical music, but in the early 1960s he enjoyed many pop hits of the day - I still have tapes of him singing Freddie & the Dreamers and Gerry & the Pacemakers songs with me. Dad's love of music was a constant throughout his life and the care with which he organised and notated his LPs, Cassettes and CDs as he got older made me smile - I could see where I'd got it from.

In his later years, in addition to failing hearing, Dad struggled terribly with his legs. He could barely walk more than a few steps and was in constant pain. His bolthole was the back room, where, with headphones on, he would listen to an album or two every evening, while Mum watched the soaps on TV in the front room. Unfortunately, because of his deafness, such was the volume coming from the the headphones, the music was still quite audible all over the house! The tinny, distorted sound of a symphony orchestra in full flight would often be the first thing I heard on stepping through their front door when I visited.

During a period of personal domestic upheaval in the 2002, I found myself hurriedly and unexpectedly moving from a large shared house into much smaller accommodation and I had no option but to stash my own, by now very large, record collection back at my parents house. Rather than leave piles of heavy boxes stacked up all over the place, I simply reconstructed the free-standing metal shelving units that I'd bought with me, spaced them around the walls in my old bedroom and filed the records away again. This left little usable space for my parents in what was now essentially their spare room, but the arrangement was only meant to be temporary.

Ever the opportunist, Mum hung a makeshift washing line from shelf to shelf across the room - handy for when the weather was too wet for drying clothes on the line in the garden. One day Dad was hanging some washing on Mum's indoor line and, because of his unsteadiness, lost his balance, snagging the line as he fell, bringing three floor-to-ceiling shelves full of LPs crashing down, trapping the lower half of his body beneath them. He wasn't hurt at all, but didn't have the movement in his legs to free himself and Mum couldn't get to him for the piles of records and twisted metal shelving. It was the middle of the day and the neighbours weren't at home, so, in a panic, she called the fire brigade. It must've been a unique call-out for them. They diligently made a pathway across the room to Dad, helped him to his feet and, bless them, apparently did their best not to damage any of my records in the process.

The condition of the records was the furthest thing from my mind when Mum told me about the accident on the phone that evening. I was utterly mortified by the news. At the soonest possible opportunity I went home, dismantled all of the shelves and boxed up my records again. Thankfully he was none the worse for his ordeal and we were all able to laugh about it later when I suggested that, as he had instilled such a love of music into me at a very young age, Dad had literally brought the accident on himself!

Dad passed away 10 years ago today. Here's one that he and I sang together back in 1963.

Monday 20 November 2017

Scott McCaughey

Sending out good vibes to Young Fresh Fellow Scott McCaughey, who suffered a stroke just before the weekend. Over the years Scott has also played with The Minus 5, REM and, here, as part of Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus Three.

Friday 17 November 2017

Premier Pop From Pugwash

'Silverlake', the seventh LP by Thomas Walsh's Pugwash is released next week (more details here) and (here's the particularly exciting bit) the great Jason Falkner is in the producer's chair. Two tracks from the record are already doing the rounds and, as you might expect, they're both very classy indeed.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Go About Your Earthly Mission

Summoning the spirit of Waylon Jennings, the voice of Johnny Cash and citing the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams as inspiration, at just 22 years of age, Canadian singer-songwriter Colter Wall is already the complete package. Following the 2015 maxi-EP ' Imaginary Appalachia', this year's self-titled LP really is one to track down - it's a stunningly accomplished debut.

Monday 13 November 2017


Apologies for my low profile round these parts of late. Life is getting in the way a bit just at the moment, sucking up all my spare time and mental energy - it's looking as though things might remain this way at least until Christmas. I'll do my best to keep things ticking along though.

Here's Daniel Bridgwood-Hill, who trades as dbh, with the delightful video for 'Funny', the first taste from 'Mass', his third LP proper, which is due for release on November 24th via Thread Records.

Monday 6 November 2017

Red Gold & Green #24 - Bunny Wailer

Following the 1973 release of their sixth LP, 'Burnin'', founding members Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh left The Wailers, allowing Bob Marley to assume full control of the band and the rest, as they say, is history. Both Tosh and Livingston (trading as Bunny Wailer) issued debut solo albums in 1976 and Bunny continues to enjoy a successful career to this day. Tragically, Peter Tosh was brutally tortured and murdered in 1987. In a career as long as Bunny's, it's no surprise that the quality of his output has ebbed and flowed somewhat over the years, but you're on very safe ground with any one of his first half dozen LPs. 'Struggle' is the title track from his third, released in Jamaica in 1978 and to a wider world the following year.

We've got to stand as one 
 For together we are strong 
 Divided we're defeated 
 That's why we can't be separated 
 You've got to get involved 
 'Cause there's a problem to solve 
 Don't be no opportunist 
 Don't find yourself a racist 

Bunny Wailer - Struggle

Friday 3 November 2017

Broken Head

In a hurry a little under a month ago, I mistimed a swoop beneath one of our low door-frames and smashed the top of my skull into it. It wasn't the first time it's happened and it won't be the last. The frame in question is over 200 years old and made of solid oak. It's also a good foot shorter than I am. I've had a headache ever since the incident, intense at first, but now more akin to an uncomfortable lingering hangover. I've been somewhat prone to headaches for as long as I can remember, usually caused by the most innocent of circumstances, so initially I wasn't overly bothered by this one. Last week, beginning to feel a little concerned, I finally decided to take myself off to see a doctor at the local medical centre. He didn't go near my head, instead he waggled his fingers about in front of my eyes and checked my blood pressure before pronouncing that, in his opinion, my headaches are unconnected with the recent violent encounter with the door-frame - although he couldn't actually say for sure what is causing them. 'Take more painkillers' was his advice. I told him that, on the contrary, I've actively been trying to reduce the 4 times a day I've been taking them, but he was insistent. 'No, no. You need to take more'. Should I come back if the symptoms persist? 'Yes,' he said, '...give it 9 or 10 weeks'.

Thanks Doc, that helps a lot.

Eno / Moebius / Roedelius - Broken Head

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Perrett at the Beeb

Not so much a post as a public service announcement. If you, like me, had your tired old heart warmed by the return of Peter Perrett a few months ago, please check out his recent Marc Riley 6Music session here. Over the course of 27 minutes, Peter speaks frankly about his life, health and music, as well as playing killer versions of 'Hard to Say No', 'Something In My Brain' and 'Living in My Head' from 'How the West Was Won', his first new LP in 20 years. I bring this to your attention because, as of this writing, the session will only be available on the BBC iPlayer for another 22 days before it presumably disappears into the ether forever. If anyone out there has the technical ability to download it, please let me know, I'd be eternally in your debt. It's a glorious listen.

As a bonus, here's a video for 'Sweet Endeavour', the latest single from 'How the West Was Won'.

Monday 30 October 2017

My Hat's Off to You

I caught Richard Thompson's solo acoustic tour on Saturday evening and watching him perform from just a few feet away was, as always, a jaw-dropping treat. We didn't get 'I Misunderstood' or 'The Ghost of You Walks', both of which he's played recently and are personal favourites of mine, but in all honesty it would be churlish to complain given the wonderful selection we did get. The opening salvo of 'Gethsemane', 'Down Where the Drunkards Roll' and 'Valerie' was simply breathtaking, 'Crocodile Tears' laugh out loud funny and 'Beeswing' had many a grown man in the audience reaching for a hankie to wipe something from their eye. And so it continued, classics rubbed shoulders with forgotten gems, overlooked favourites and even an excellent new song, 'Trying', that's destined for Thompson's next LP in 2018.

In a night of many highlights it was, as ever, the phenomenal '1952 Vincent Black Lightning' that will linger longest in the memory. The older I get, the more I appreciate what an utterly perfect marriage of art, artist and performance this song really is.

Down Where the Drunkards Roll
Crocodile Tears
Beatnik Walking
Uninhabited Man
Push and Shove
They Tore the Hippodrome Down
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
A Love You Can't Survive
Wall of Death
King Of Bohemia
One Door Opens

Tear Stained Letter

Encore 2:
Waltzing's For Dreamers
Hots For The Smarts
Meet on the Ledge

Wednesday 25 October 2017


Five months on from their first release, 'Paradise' (here), AMOR return with single number two, 'Higher Moment'. Driven by discordant piano and looping bass, Richard Young's distinct vocals exhibit a hypnotic, 'almost Utopian positivity' throughout the 11 minutes of the tune. Once again the 12" is issued in a limited run of 500. AMOR is a very special collaboration, don't miss out. Order it here.

Monday 23 October 2017

No Dress Rehearsal, This Is Our Life - Farewell Gord Downie

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wept openly last Tuesday, while commenting the death of Gord Downie at the age of 53. With the possible exception of Barack Obama, can you imagine any other political leader, past or present, for whom the passing of a rock singer would invoke such a vivid, naked show genuine grief? 'Our buddy Gord' he said, '.....loved this country with everything he had and not just loved it in a nebulous, 'Oh, I love Canada' way. He loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.'

In addition to fronting The Tragically Hip for over 30 years, Gord released 5 solo albums and had long been heavily involved in environmental movements and indigenous affairs. He was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive brain tumour at the end of 2015, made his diagnoses public in in May 2016 and performed an emotional farewell tour of Canada with The Hip through the Summer of that year. In spite of his poor health Downie stayed busy, making a film, co-authoring a graphic novel and recording a final solo LP, 'Introduce Yerself', produced by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, which is scheduled for release next week.

I was very fortunate to see The Tragically Hip several times during the 1990s, in a series of much smaller venues than they would have been used to playing back at home. If you weren't paying attention, you might be forgiven for thinking that they were just another, very good, rock band, but take a closer listen to Downie's lyrics, which often tackle subjects not typically associated with rock music. 'Courage', for example, draws inspiration from Hugh MacLennan's 1959 novel 'The Watch That Ends the Night', 'Three Pistols' looks at the life and mysterious death of the early 20th century artist Tom Thompson and 'Fifty Mission Cap' concerns the 1951 disappearance of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player Bill Barilko, whose mortal remains lay undiscovered in dense woods for 11 years.

'Ahead by a Century', on the other hand, is a somewhat more straightforward tale of youthful romance and innocence lost.

R.I.P. Gord.

Wednesday 18 October 2017


Back in April, I shared 'Sleepwalking', an early first taster from the debut Low Chimes LP (here). The tune seemed to go down rather well, so I thought I'd give all and sundry a heads up that the album has at last hit the streets and is available to order here. I'm chuffed to report that 'Illumine' is well worth the long wait, strong in composition, performance and production.

Judging by some of the band's recent social media postings, new material is apparently already in the works. Low Chimes (then still trading as Hot Feet) were outstanding when I saw them perform in a tiny Norwich basement back in 2013 and I really do hope they head out to my neck of the woods again before they retreat into the studio to prepare LP number two.

Here's 'Sulphur Silk', my current favourite cut on 'Illumine', plus, as a bonus, a very nice live performance of 'Electric Bloom'.

Monday 16 October 2017

Anne Briggs

Our mutual chum Charity Chic is without equal when it comes to sniffing out quality CDs from the piles of dross usually found in the darkest corners of the nation's charity shops. We've got no fewer than 9 such establishments in the nearby small market town and I can't remember finding a decent CD in any of them in the 6 years since we moved here. Car-boot sales though...they're quite a different matter. In the wee small hours of every Sunday morning, Mrs S and I step out into the pre-dawn twilight and drive off to the two largest car-boot sales in the local area, just over 20 miles away. Once there, we poke about in, pore over and rummage through all manner of old tosh and usually come home with a heap of dusty bits and bobs that, in all truth, we probably don't need. Over the past couple of Sunday's I've had an particularly high strike rate on the quality CD front. Take the 2007 remastered reissue of Anne Briggs' 1971 LP 'The Time Has Come' for example, picked up for a quid the week before last - a real gem. Here are two cuts from the album. Note how similar Anne's phrasing is at times, to that of her one time partner in music and life Bert Jansch - it's quite uncanny.

Anne Briggs - Sandman's Song 

Anne Briggs - Tangled Man

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Be-Bop Deluxe

Across their five studio albums, Be-Bop Deluxe existed at the meeting point of a veritable Venn Diagram of musical styles and influences. From the glam infused art-rock of 1974's 'Axe Victim' and the following year's 'Futurama', through the prog-lite of their two 1976 LP's 'Sunburst Finish' and 'Modern Music' to the final, new wave inspired swansong that was 'Drastic Plastic' in 1978. For all this apparent stylistic chopping and changing, Bill Nelson's songs were consistently accessible and often downright catchy. Take 'Maid in Heaven' from 'Futurama' for instance - 2½ minutes of pop perfection.

Be-Bop Deluxe - Maid in Heaven

Monday 9 October 2017

Brigid Mae Power

Thanks to a recent post from Brian, I spent the best part of the back end of last week immersed in re-purchased fIREHOSE albums - and how marvellous they sound. A new tune from Brigid Mae Power managed to grab my attention though. Brigid has released a steady stream of fine music over the past 5 or 6 years via Bandcamp and latterly through the venerable Tompkins Square imprint, often sparse and eerily atmospheric in nature. 'Don't Shut Me Up (Politely)' is an unsettling piece, though with more musical flesh on the bones than we've heard previously. The folk-noir setting of the song brings to mind the work of Big Blood, a band I truly love and one I've championed on these pages many times. I can honestly pay Brigid no higher compliment than that.

'Don't Shut Me Up (Politely)' is the first taste of a new LP, 'The Two Worlds', due for release in early 2018. Count me in.

(To check out some of Brigid's earlier recordings, go here).

Thursday 5 October 2017


'Drift', the second LP by The Apartments, originally released in 1992, has recently been re-issued on vinyl by the French label Talitres. As always on occasions such as this, I do a double-take at the date - 1992? Have I really had 'Drift' in my collection for 25 years? Following a flurry of activity in the mid-90s, The Apartments all but disappeared following 1997's 'Apart', fully re-emerging in 2015 with their frankly magnificent 7th LP, 'No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal'.

The band's one constant member, Peter Milton Walsh, has previously served time in both The Laughing Clowns and The Go-Betweens and if you have even a passing interest in either of those fine combos, I would heartily commend 'Drift' (and indeed all of the other six Apartments albums) to your ears.

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Tom Petty

'Some things are over
 Some things go on
 Part of me you carry
 And part of me is gone'

Friday 29 September 2017

Joyeux Anniversaire Brigitte

I dug out a few of Brigitte Bardot's Serge Gainsbourg collaborations yesterday, by way of marking BB's 83rd birthday. Then I headed over to YouTube to check out some footage from the period, kicking off with familiar clips for 'Comic Strip', 'Harley Davidson' and the fantastic 'Bonnie and Clyde', all from 1968, before heading back to 1963 for a groovy 'L'appareil à Sous' - at face value an innocent enough little ditty, although it's worth remembering that things are rarely the way they seem when it comes to Gainbourg's lyrics. My big discovery was a video for 1968's 'Contact', possibly my favourite of the Gainsbourg penned Bardot songs, which for some reason I'd never bumped into before. Far out!

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Walking Boss

My new boss had a torrid time of it last week, as one after another of his full time staff members called in sick. As a consequence, he had to work several consecutive 12+ hour shifts to cover all the no-shows. His facial expressions as he worked were all painfully familiar to me - anger, frustration, exhaustion and despair - I'd been there and done that during my own time in management. As it happens, I had an absolute stinker of a cold last week myself (which only eventually lifted yesterday), but managed to drag myself into work, medicated to the hilt and sweating profusely, for all five of my allotted part-time shifts. I couldn't bear the thought of letting the poor guy down.

Here's the remarkable Clarence Ashley, born 122 years ago this week, with 'Walking Boss', a song he learned directly from African American railroad workers in the early years of the 20th century and finally recorded in 1962. Ashley is a captivating and hugely important figure in American music, who I fully intend to return to on these pages before too long.

Clarence Ashley - Walking Boss

Friday 22 September 2017

Red Gold & Green #23 - Dadawah

Leading purveyors of the Nyabinghi sound, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus have released at least 25 albums over the last 43 years, though early on in his career, Ras Michael (Michael Henry to his Mum) produced music under the Dadawah moniker. 1974's 'Peace & Love' consists of four extended trippy excursions, all of which were allegedly recorded and mixed by Henry and producer Lloyd Charmers during the course of a single long night. It's been claimed that this album is the closest reggae comes to psychedelia and that's a valid point of view - but it's a pretty darned funky LP too. Just listen to Lloyd Parks' bass as it anchors 'Seventy Two Nations'. Absolute bliss.

Dadawah - Seventy Two Nations

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Finally, 43 Years Later - Sparks in Concert

I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard 'This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us'  in 1974. I can also vividly remember arguing with another kid in a school playground about the merits of the song - I said that it was amazing and unlike any pop record I'd ever heard, but he didn't like it at all. Funnily enough, this strange Sparks-related Marmite effect continues in my life to this day, as Mrs S reacts to their music in much the same way as most people would do to nails scraping down a blackboard.

43 years on from being blown away by 'This Town...', 'Kimono My House', 'Propaganda' and all the many great records that followed, I finally saw Sparks in concert in Norwich on Monday evening. Ron and Russell's total confidence in their new album is evident and justified. The band liberally scattered a full seven songs from 'Hippopotamus' throughout the set, where they blended in seamlessly with the older, more familiar material. Those of us of a certain age felt ourselves welling up throughout 'Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth', then threw ourselves around like we were 14 again during 'This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us' and 'Amateur Hour'. Crucially though, the new stuff was every bit as good. 'What the Hell Is It This Time?', 'I Wish You Were Fun' and the title track itself are all up there with their very best work.

I can thoroughly recommend 'Hippopotamus' and if the current Sparks tour wends its way to your town, do not hesitate - buy a ticket. I can't remember the last time I smiled so much during a gig.

Monday 18 September 2017

Big Thief

'Capacity', Big Thief's second LP in the space of 12 months, has been getting a lot of love in this house just lately, 'Haley' is particularity bewitching. I'm short on time this morning, so I'll leave you with that tune plus the video for 'Mythological Beauty'. You can check out two further tracks and/or order the album here.

Big Thief - Haley

Friday 15 September 2017

Work in Progress #4: T.Rex - Metal Guru

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of Marc Bolan's tragically early death. I've written frequently about Bolan's massive influence on several aspects of my life and will no doubt do so again, but for now it's all about the music. Today I'm extremely honoured to have had an Imaginary T.Rex Compilation Album published over at The (New) Vinyl Villain and would like to offer my huge thanks to JC for shuffling his posts around to fit mine in, particularly as I was so very late in getting it across to him! For the purposes of the ICA I deliberately avoided the hits, but for the latest instalment of my Work in Progress series I've gone for T.Rex's 4th and final No.1 smash, 'Metal Guru'. It's interesting to note that the acoustic studio demo of 'Metal Guru' bears an uncanny resemblance to 'Lady', which originally appeared on it's b-side, though all similarities fades when the full might of Bolan & Tony Visconti's 'T.Rex Treatment' is layered across the track, which includes backing vocals courtesy of Mark Volman & Howard Kaylan of The Turtles.

T.Rex - Metal Guru (Demo)

T.Rex - Metal Guru

Wednesday 13 September 2017

The Psychedelic Furs

The last time I saw The Psychedelic Furs perform in concert, they were touring in support of their seventh LP 'World Outside'. That was in 1991 and, criminally, they haven't released another full album of new songs since, although front man Richard Butler has put out material under both his own name and Love Spit Love in the intervening years. The band reconvened in 2001 following a prolonged hiatus and continue to tour regularly in the USA. A couple of evenings ago, I caught up with the UK leg of their 'Singles' tour. What I half-envisaged was a perfunctory run through of the hits, but what I got was a band at the top of its game, playing each song as if it was their latest and having a whole heap of fun doing so.

The setlist was confidently laid out in broadly chronological order, so we got big hitters 'We Love You', 'Mr Jones' and 'Pretty in Pink' very early on, while 'Don't Be a Girl' from 'World Outside' and 'House' from 'Book of Days' appeared towards the very end. The band held back a gorgeous 'Heaven' to round off the main set though and encored with an atmospheric 'Sister Europe' and a positively bruising 'India'. My personal highlights of an excellent night out came with the contemporary interpretations of 'Midnight to Midnight' period material. Richard Butler himself has described that particular LP as being 'hollow, vapid and weak' and it certainly hasn't aged too well, but on Monday evening 'Heartbreak Beat' and 'Angel's Don't Cry' were unexpectedly powerful.

They didn't play my all-time favouite Psychedelic Furs song this time around, but then I didn't expect them to - it's a singles tour and the tune in question was never a single. You can find 'Torch' tucked away on their final CBS LP, 1989's Book of Days', a terrific and unjustly overlooked record. 

Psychedelic Furs - Torch

Monday 11 September 2017

From A to Z

You may remember that a couple of years ago I decided to undertake this endeavour. Now, finally, at long long last, I have acquired some shelving for my CDs and for the first time in 7 years can access them all with ease. Expect to hear periodic selections pulled from the shelves over the coming months as I reacquaint myself with a few old favourites, but for now here's a tune each from the top and the tail of the alphabetised collection.

The Accidental was a one-off side project featuring members of The Bicycle Thieves, Tunng and The Memory Band, who put out an album, 'There Were Wolves', on Thrill Jockey in 2008. If you're partial to the gentler side of Tunng, it'll be right up your street.

'Odessey and Oracle', the classic 1968 album by The Zombies will be familiar to most. My copy is the 1998 30th Anniversary Edition containing both Mono and Stereo versions. It's essential stuff, whatever version you can lay your hands on.

The Accidental - Knock Knock 

The Zombies - This Will Be Our Year (Mono Version)

Friday 8 September 2017


Between entertaining the visiting American contingent of the family, darting off down to London for two consecutive long weekends and throwing myself headlong into a new job, I haven't had much time to devote to the blogosphere just lately. My 88 year-old aunt's cataract operation was a resounding success, my thanks to everyone who wished her well. By the morning after the procedure she was already reporting a significant improvement in her eyesight, something I had assumed would take some time, and by that afternoon I was having to shout at her to get her to sit down and rest! All very positive.

I made a few CD compilations to soundtrack this recent stint of driving and one of the highlight tunes was 'Motorbike' by Flat Worms, a band assembled from the alumni of Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Kevin Morby and Wet Illustrated. What a fuzztastic racket it is.

Monday 4 September 2017

Where Am I Now?

A little competition to keep you amused while I'm away on family duty in London. Last week an Ipswich newspaper ran a feature on the insurance company where I spent the first 2½ years of my working life. More accurately, the aim of the feature was to celebrate the company's head office, a building that has won a stack of design awards over the past 40 years. A number of old photos appeared in the article, including this one taken inside the building, circa 1978/79. It was something of a shock to spot a substantially younger version of myself hidden amongst the massed ranks of staff posing for the camera. Can you spot me, or at least guess which person I might be? You should be able to click on the image to enlarge it. I've shared several photos from my misspent youth over the years, so you could use those to narrow down the search.

Here's an appropriate tune from Girl Ray's terrific debut LP to soundtrack your musings. Happy hunting!

Friday 1 September 2017

Home Again

On the hottest Bank Holiday Monday in living memory, my cousin and I spent a couple of hours walking along the towpath of the River Lea from Stratford to Walthamstow, a stretch that we both regularly walked with our Dads when we were young children in the early 1960s. It was the first time my cousin's husband and kids had visited our old stomping grounds, while for us it was a period of reflection and not a little nostalgia - over 40 years had elapsed since we last walked alongside that river together.

Here's Doug Tuttle from his recent LP, 'Peace Potato'.

Doug Tuttle - Home Again

(This is just a flying visit i'm afraid. I'm off back down to London for a few days, to look after my aunt as she undergoes a cataract operation.)

Monday 28 August 2017

Me, a Meme?

Loathed though I am to blow my own virtual trumpet, but I appear to have inadvertently kick-started an meme. It just goes to show that you're never too old. My first ever meme - at 57! Who'd have thunk it. Thanks to Brian, Alyson and John for picking up the ball and running with it and also to Charity Chic for suggesting it be christened Swedey McSwedeface! It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it did make me laugh out loud.

I'd already posted a few shots of me with various records covering my ugly mug, before the T.Rex one that instigated this little kerfuffle. 'The Slider' was my first LP, 'The Sweet's Biggest Hits' John's and 'Flaming Star' was Alyson's. Now John is in the market for further entries into the 'Doing a Swede' canon. Check out his post here.

I actually started the whole 'hiding my face behind a record' thing to silently celebrate the fact that after many years of being inaccessibly packed away in boxes, my LP collection is now stored on a recently purchased set of vintage shelving and, as you can imagine, I'm having a whale of a time rediscovering old favourites, while simultaneously bemoaning some of the things I stupidly chose to part with when times were hard.

Here's an LP I've been grooving to that you might not have immediately associated with my particular taste buds. 'Intuition' by Linx is a brilliantly crafted Eighties pop LP, stuffed to the gills with catchy, danceable tunes. Hearing it again now takes me back to my very earliest days of working in record shops, when the queue at the counter started when we opened the doors at 9am and ended when we shut them at 5.30pm. You try telling the kids of today that - and they won't believe you.

Linx - Intuition

Friday 25 August 2017

Mum's Last Gift

The first gift my Mum ever gave me was in April 1960 - it was of course the gift of life. Exactly 50 years later, her last gift to me was this pair of trainers. By April 2010, by then too ill to go out to the shops herself, Mum asked me what I'd like for my upcoming birthday. I mentioned that I'd been thinking about getting some new trainers, so she gave me the money and told me to buy myself a pair. I wore them out and about for over four years, before demoting them to indoor wear only. Now, a further three years down the line, the soles are so completely non-existent that I can't put it off any longer - the time has come for them to be dispatched. I know it sounds a bit daft, but I felt that I needed to take a photo of the trainers before they went. It's like a last direct connection with Mum is disappearing with them.

No songs about trainers spring to mind by way of a tribute to my loyal old pair, but I can offer 'Shoes' by Brook Benton. Written by Don Covay & George Soule, 'Shoes' was released as a single in 1970 and came into my possession by way of a second hand Atlantic Records soul compilation three or four years later. It's the only song I've ever owned by Brook Benton, but I surely do love it.

Brook Benton - Shoes

Wednesday 23 August 2017

BC Camplight

BC Camplight is the artistic nom de plume of American singer-songwriter Brian Christinzio, who now resides in Manchester. The woozy, Beach Boys-ish 'Thieves in Antigua' is taken from his most recent LP 'How to Die in the North', which was released on Bella Union in 2015. New music is expected in January next year.

BC Camplight - Thieves in Antigua

Monday 21 August 2017

All That Jazz #4 - Mor Thiam

During a long career, Senegalese drummer Mor Thiam has played for Freddie Hubbard, Don Pullen and The World Saxophone Quartet amongst others, as well as occasionally recording under his own name. Thiam's first LP as a leader, 'Dini Safarrar (Drums Of Fire)', released in 1973, was a self-finaced effort with all proceeds donated to famine relief in Africa. The record features the talents of Oliver Lake on sax and Lester Bowie of The Art Ensemble of Chicago on trumpet. During its many years of unavailability, the reputation of 'Dini Safarrar' steadily grew amongst enthusiasts of jazz, funk, hip hop & African music, with an original copy of the LP changing hands for over £1750 in 2008. Thankfully, Jazzman records reissued the album on vinyl and CD in late in 2016, though stocks of the LP are apparently already exhausted.

A word of warning, 'Ayo Ayo Nene', which translates as 'Blessing For The New Born Baby', is total earworm material.

Mor Thiam - Ayo Ayo Nene

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! 


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

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