Saturday 28 April 2018

No Easy Way Down

This past Wednesday, Paisley Underground veterans Rain Parade were both mentioned in dispatches over at Across the Kitchen Table and had a couple of their tunes featured at For the Sake of the Song. I was fortunate enough to see the band a handful of times during their mid-80s heyday, including their first ever UK show at Dingwalls in London. The highlight that night, as most nights, was this woozy epic.

Rain Parade - No Easy Way Down

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Watch Out All You Space Cats

Funny felines, misbehaving moggies and cute quirky kittens, your social media platform of choice is probably crammed with images of 'em. Now I like cats, but it does get a little bit over the top at times. I'll never tire of these two Instagram pages though. Allow me to introduce you to Ringo (here) and his brother, the one-eyed Little Tubs (here), a pair of beautiful Scottish Folds owned by Robyn Hitchcock and his partner Emma Swift. A long-time cat lover, Robyn's fans shared his sorrow at the loss of previous little pal Tiny Montgomery, who is immortalised on the cover of his self-titled 2017 LP. Ringo and Little Tubs are clearly much loved, not to mention very photogenic, members of the family and the comments from Robyn & Emma are often an absolute hoot.

Robyn Hitchcock - Clean Steve (1990)

Monday 23 April 2018

Seven is a Jolly Good Time

Whenever a birthday rolls around, Mrs S & I tend to put all usual noshing constraints on hold for a few days. We temporarily set aside any dietary and financial considerations in favour of hoovering up any treats that might happen to pass our way. And that is how, just last week, I came to eat this.

Some will already be very familiar with the concept of the deep fried Mars bar, this however was a new one on me. The deep fried Cadbury's Creme Egg. Despite not having a particularly sweet tooth, I felt I had to give it a go - purely for research purposes, obviously. Very good it was too, though I'm kinda glad that the fish & chip shop responsible for its creation is many miles away, lest I be tempted again.


Egg were a part of the prodigious Canterbury scene, releasing a clutch of LPs between 1970–1974. The band, led by future Hatfield & the North, National Health and Bruford mainstay Dave Stewart (who would go on to have hit records with Barbara Gaskin in the 1980s) grew out of another outfit, Uriel, whose line-up boasted the early talents of one Steve Hillage. This is Egg's first release, a single from 1969, 'Seven is a Jolly Good Time'.

Egg - Seven is a Jolly Good Time

Friday 20 April 2018

Sky Blue Sky

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to leave birthday greetings for me on Monday. Mrs S & I have just returned from a splendid few days traversing the highways and byways of North Norfolk, conscientiously ensuring that each of the three predictions in my last post came to fruition - we walked lots, we ate lots and we drank quite a bit too.

The trouble with walking in North Norfolk, particularly out towards the coast, is that it's very tempting to take hundreds of photos of, essentially, absolutely nothing. The landscape is wide and open, the skies are vast and there's nary a soul around. It's an awe inspiring neck of the woods to be let loose in, but attempting to capture the sheer scale of it all with my humble point and press is, frankly, a waste of time. That didn't stop me having a go of course.

Jeff Tweedy - Sky Blue Sky

Monday 16 April 2018

We Could Leave Right Now

I'm writing a little ahead of time, but, all being well, by the time you read this Mrs S & I will be enjoying a short break in deepest North Norfolk. Today I turn 58 and the remote self-catering cabin we discovered a few years back has become something of an annual birthday retreat for us. I'm no psychic, but while we're away I can foresee lots of walking, lots of eating and, who knows, perhaps even a little drinking. We're looking forward to the break. The pace of our lives has increased considerably in recent weeks, so it'll be good to recharge for a few days before we pile back into it again.

Here's a band that I'm surprised to find hasn't put in an appearance on this blog before today. After Bob Dylan, I've probably seen Oysterband in concert more times than anyone else. In fact I'm long enough in the tooth to have attended both their 20th & 25th anniversary shows and just before Christmas I caught a date on their 40th anniversary tour - ouch! That means that when these guys started playing together, I was but a mere 18 year-old whippersnapper.

Oysterband - We Could Leave Right Now

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Three New Tunes

We had to buy a car at very short notice last week, following unexpected (and terminal) problems with the previous one. There is a lot going on round these parts at the moment and a whole lot more things coming up in the near future, so we couldn't really afford to be without wheels for any length of time. We picked up a nice little run around, only one owner since 2005 and only 60,000 on the clock, but (and it's a big but for yours truly) the CD player is kaput. We'd been spoiled by our previous vehicle, which had the best in-car music system I've ever owned, so this was a bitter blow. We'll sort it out in due course, but for our flying visit to the smoke at the weekend we alleviated the tedium of the drive by grabbing the DAB radio from the kitchen and chucking it onto the back set. Presto! Music on the move.

Here are three new tunes that have caught my ear in recent weeks on 6Music, all of which we heard a couple more times in the car over the weekend. They're new names to me at right now, but when I get a spare mo' you can be sure that I'll be digging a little deeper into each of 'em.

Monday 9 April 2018

That's Not a Virus

Mrs S & I are still in London, drinking gallons of tea, consuming our own body weight in Hobnobs and driving old ladies around in our new (old) car. Newsflash - it doesn't have a CD player. Insert screaming meme here. If the hastily purchased new wheels had come with a reasonable sound system (like John Medd's all singing, all dancing set-up f'rinstance) I would surely have taken '27 Passports', the new album from Dutch band The Ex, along for the trip. It's their first regular LP in 8 years, being otherwise occupied by singles and collaborations in the intervening period. The Ex make a pretty darned great post-punk noise and have been in existence since 1979, when post-punk was actually still a new thing. Check out the album here, but meanwhile enjoy a live performance of 'That's Not a Virus' from 2015, a tune that originally appeared as a 7" b-side the previous year.

Friday 6 April 2018

Washed by the Moon

This weekend I'm briefly breaking out of my current somewhat hectic routine, to check in with my elderly Aunts in London, stopping off on the way to attend the 60th birthday party of an old friend, where there'll be a few faces dotted around that I haven't clapped eyes on for nigh-on 35 years. Should be a giggle.

Unlikely as it may seem, this performance by Golik Jaupi and friends has become a complete earworm for me over the past week. The song forms the trailer for 'Washed by the Moon', a 2018 film about Këngë Labe, the ancient tradition of Albanian iso-polyphonic singing. Give it at least a minute of your time and marvel at those voices.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I don't love about this clip.

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Katie’s Been Gone

In Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Levon Helm, The Band boasted an enviably strong vocal front-line. Helm's honest and unpolished country twang, Manuel's rich soulful baritone and Danko's nasal tenor were distinct and individual elements, which blended together seamlessly as and when required. As the years passed, the creation of The Band's music became more or less Robbie Robertson's vision alone, though it wasn't always that way. In the early days both Danko and Manuel made significant songwriting contributions. 'Katie’s Been Gone' was co-written by Robertson and Manuel in 1967, initially appearing on 'The Basement Tapes' in 1975, before being remixed for inclusion as a bonus track on the 'Music From Big Pink' reissue in 2000. Richard's vocal here is heartbreaking and the key change / denouement in the final seconds is utterly devastating.

Not for nothing did Robbie Robertson write 'The Shape I'm In' for Manuel to sing. Had his long-standing personal demons not finally got the better of him in 1986, today would've been Richard Manuel's 75th birthday.

The Band - Katie's Been Gone

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