Tuesday 27 March 2018

Monk Chant

Time is a bit tight at the moment and will probably remain this way for a couple more weeks at least, so apologies for my lower than usual presence around the regular haunts, I'll try to drop in as and when I can though. Meanwhile, take a gander at this remarkable German TV performance by Monks (no definite article apparently). A few more tracks from the same session are up on YouTube and they're all worth checking out, but 'Monk Chant' is absolutely extraordinary. This gobsmacking racket aired on prime time telly in July 1966.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Red Gold & Green #26 - The Jolly Brothers

In the early 1980s, purely because I worked in a local record shop, I was offered the opportunity to host my own Hospital Radio show. Visions of being hailed as the new John Peel flowed through my mind and I readily accepted. When the day of my first show arrived, I headed off to the hospital with little preparation and no records. No need, I was told - the station had a bountiful supply of donated records, enough for a hundred shows. On arrival at the studio I was indeed greeted by a huge quantity of records...Manuel and the Music of the Mountains, Boxcar Willie, Val Doonican, Mantovani, James Last, Johnny Mathis, The Black & White Minstrels, Klaus Wunderlich you name them, they were all there on the shelves of a musical wall of horror. My heart sank.

Needless to say, from my second show onwards, I made greater preparations and took my own tunes. That first week, however, I went through every last record in the studio in an effort to find an hour's worth of broadcastable music - the pickings were very slim indeed. On-air, I mumbled and waffled from nerves and also to cover the fact that I had scarcely anything decent to play. Bizarrely and inexplicably however, I found a 7" single of The Jolly Brothers 'Conscious Man' in amongst all the dross. I played it instantly. Then I played the dub version on the b-side. Then I rambled on a bit about reggae in general, Lee Perry in particular and the Black Ark studio where the track was recorded in 1977...I might have even played the a-side again!

What the patients on the wards upstairs made of my efforts that day, or in the slightly more organised weeks and months that followed, is thankfully lost in the mists of time, but whenever I hear the distinctive, squelchy, #couldonlyhavecomefromtheblackark intro to 'Conscious Man' I'm transported back to that studio and the musical wall of horror.

Jolly Brothers - Conscious Man (12" Mix) 

The postscript to the story is that when I mentioned the Jolly Brothers 7" to the station controller, his reaction to it was much as mine was to the whole wall of horror! He told me to take the single home and keep it, on the grounds that it wasn't suitable for hospital radio and he had no idea where it came from. I couldn't do it though, even though I didn't then own a copy. I tucked it back into the middle of a pile of utterly naff singles in the hope that it would one day be re-discovered by a desperate DJ with similar tastes to my own. I wonder if it ever got another airing?

Monday 19 March 2018

Version City #69 - Happy Birthday Terry Hall

To celebrate Terry Hall's 59th birthday, here's a great clip of him covering 'Sorrow' in 2014, with the assistance of friends including Ian Broudie and the late John Bradbury.

Friday 16 March 2018

Jason Molina - Five Years Gone

Jason Molina passed away five years ago today, at the tragically early age of 39. Mrs S & I were lucky enough to see him in concert twice, once in 2005 fronting the full Magnolia Electric Co. band in a bustling, chattering Knitting Factory in New York and then again three years later, completely alone on the stage of the Norwich Arts Centre, where his naked, haunting songs held the whole audience in a state of silent reverence, barely able to breath lest we missed a syllable.

Molina left a substantial catalogue of music, from the intense burn of the Songs: Ohia LP's (amazingly all completed whilst in his 20's) to the more 'conventional' rock configuration of his final band Magnolia Electric Co, not to mention the many collaborations, one-offs and split 7" singles that litter his discography. It is, to quote from one obituary at the time, 'a startling body of work for a musician who crossed the road far too soon'. Here are just a couple of examples.

Songs: Ohia - Coxcomb Red 

Songs: Ohia - I've Been Riding With the Ghost

Monday 12 March 2018

I've Got You And You've Got Me

Yesterday we made the 75 mile round trip to vist Mrs S's Mum on Mother's Day, stopping off en route to drop in on her paternal Grandmother. It's an anxious time for Mrs S. Her Nan is in her mid-90s and in failing health, while this morning her Mum begins a course of treatment for a recently diagnosed cancer. I pulled a couple of CDs from the shelf to soundtrack our drive, one of which was 'The Last Beautiful Day', the 2004 debut album from Sally Seltmann's New Buffalo. 'I've Got You And You've Got Me' felt particularly appropriate in the circumstances. For Mrs S. Always.

New Buffalo - I've Got You And You've Got Me

Friday 9 March 2018


'Imagine Richard Youngs as the junior member of a cabal of prolific and puritanical English musician-mystics, including The Fall’s Mark E Smith, Van der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammill, Martin Carthy and The Clangers’ composer Vernon Elliot, and still his nature will elude you.' - Stewart Lee.

Over the course of 150+ releases since 1990, Richard Youngs has shown a consistent disregard for predictability or genre specification, his music stretching from spoken word and acoustic avant-folk on the one hand, through to musique concrète and all out sonic dissonance on the other. Last year, fronting Glasgow supergroup AMOR, Youngs ventured into mutant disco, via a pair of outstanding 12" singles, 'Paradise' and 'Higher Moment', released on Night School Records

Youngs recorded his new LP, 'Belief', alone at home. It's the sort of idiosyncratic pop record Robert Wyatt might have made in the early 1970s, if he'd had access to contemporary technology. Tim Burgess describes 'Belief' as being 'sublime gnostic pop' and has issued the LP on his O' Genesis label.

It'll be among my albums of the year come December, without question.

Monday 5 March 2018

The Last Wine of Winter

Sometimes, the first tune you hear by an artist sets you up for an ongoing voyage of discovery through their work. At other times, nothing quite matches up to that very first tune. For me, with Chris Bathgate, it's a bit of both.

I picked up Chris Bathgate's 'A Cork Tale Wake' LP in 2007 after hearing the gorgeous 'The Last Wine of Winter'. The rest of the album contains some very fine music, as do the three others I've also since acquired, but such is the quality of this one song, I find myself, rightly or wrongly, comparing everything else he does to it.

Chris Bathgate - The Last Wine of Winter

(Check out more of Chris Bathgate's music on his Bandcamp page.)

Friday 2 March 2018

Telluride Speed

After a break of over 20 years I thought I'd have another bash at growing a goatee. In the late 90s the hair may have started to grey, but my facial whiskers remained resolutely full and dark. In 2018, however, I look into the bathroom mirror and see, with horror, Kenny Rogers looking back at me. Where did it all go wrong?

A couple of days ago Ryley Walker announced that his new LP, 'Deafman Glance', will be released on May 18th. This is of course splendid news for yours truly and somewhat alleviated my bristle related gloom. The first taster from from the record is the rather lovely 'Telluride Speed'.

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