Wednesday 31 May 2017

They'll Always Be Singles To Me

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

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


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


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


Monday 29 May 2017

Mind Train

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

Yoko Ono - Mind Train

Thursday 25 May 2017

Red Gold & Green #18 - Pat Kelly

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

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

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

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

Pat Kelly - Striving For the Right

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Red Gold & Green #17 - Prince Far I

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

Prince Far I - 354 Skank

Sunday 21 May 2017

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

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

Thursday 18 May 2017


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

Your humble author with his latest slab'o'wax 

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

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Jake Xerxes Fussell

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

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

Jake Xerxes Fussell - Furniture Man

Sunday 14 May 2017

Gonna Scrape the Trouble Off My Boots....

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

Friday 12 May 2017

Flotation Toy Warning

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

Flotation Toy Warning - Popstar Researching Oblivion

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

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Version City #63 - Lou Reed sings John Lennon

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

Monday 8 May 2017

The Return of Richard Dawson

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

Friday 5 May 2017

All That Jazz #3 - Sound Etiquette

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

Sound Etiquette - Entrance

Wednesday 3 May 2017

It's Time For Fun

A sneak preview of the shenanigans to come

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

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

Goat - It's Time For Fun

Monday 1 May 2017

Version City #62 - Ella Fitzgerald sings The Beatles

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

Ella Fitzgerald - Savoy Truffle

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