Thursday, 8 April 2021

Seems Like a Long Time

March 25th - the date was naggingly familiar, but for a while I couldn't put my finger on exactly why. And then I remembered. It was on that very day, 21 years earlier, that I closed the doors on my little record shop for the last time. 21 years...blimey. The numbers pile up. By the time I took on my own business, I'd already been working in record shops for 7 years. Then I spent 14 years behind the counter at my place. Now it's been 21 years since it all ended. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday - sometimes it seems like a very long time ago indeed.

I recently came across the photo at the top of this post in the middle of a negative strip. It looks very much like 1989 to me. I've no idea why I took it, unless it was to document my recently purchased CD racking, which cost me an arm and a leg, but, as I tried to explain to my long-suffering bank manager at the time, CDs are the future y'know! 

Name those sleeves.

Rod Stewart - Seems Like a Long Time

Monday, 5 April 2021

Monday Long Song

Now I'm known to have become obsessed with a few prolific artists in my time, but even I struggle to keep up with all of John Dwyer's many musical adventures. Best known as motivator-in-chief of Thee Oh Sees (aka OCS, Osees and sundry other variants) and guv'nor of Castle Face Records, Dwyer is the dictionary definition of restlessly creative. He's also released records under such monikers as Netmen, Dig That Body Up, Zeigenbock Kopf and, most recently, Witch Egg. Dwyer had a hand in a couple of my favourite LPs of 2020, one of which was 'Bent Arcana', recorded in cahoots with a stellar cast including Peter Kerlin from Sunwatchers and TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, a man who, by the by, once made me an espresso in a Williamsburg coffee shop.

I could offer influences and comparisons for Bent Arcana's music, but this comment left by someone who purchased the album from their Bandcamp page captures its essence nicely:

'Cosmic music from another dimension transmitted via your brain-stem to usher in a new era of fraternity and respect for all'

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Chills and Fever

One of the earliest books that I can remember having a lasting effect on me was Rogue Male, a 1939 thriller by Geoffrey Household. I must have been around 10 years of age when I read it, along with the rest of my English class at junior school, but vivid elements of the story have stayed with me over the ensuing half century, in particular a tightly written chase scene around Aldwych tube station and the claustrophobic later chapters where our unnamed perpetrator hides underground in the hollowed out bank of a remote country lane in Dorset.

I had my first AstraZeneca jab one morning last week and for the following 6½ hours thought I'd got away with it, but then, over the course of just 45 minutes that evening, I went from feeling completely tickety-boo to suffering full-on flu symptoms. Shivering violently, sweating profusely and with my head thumping, I took myself to bed, where I stayed for much of the next 48 hours, phoning into work sick for only the second time ever. Firing up the BBC Sounds app on my phone to murmur away in the background for company as I drifted in and out of a fevered state of consciousness, I discovered that a fifteen part, 2004 serialisation of Rogue Male, read by Michael Jayston, had recently been repeated on Radio 4 Extra and was available to listen again, so I let the whole story go round and round on a continuous loop for most of the two days, missing great chunks when I sank into a fitful sleep and picking it up again when I came to. 

Feeling a bit better on the third day, I returned to work, but my head still wasn't quite right. Indiscriminate thoughts kept popping into my muddled brain throughout my nine hour shift, which seemed for all the world like hazy half forgotten memories of real events, but were actually random scenes from Rogue Male, absorbed while in my delirious state and now seeping out into my mind as I worked. For a while it took a real effort to separate fact from fiction - a very odd sensation indeed.

A mate, one month younger than me, had his first jab on the same day as me with absolutely no side effects whatsoever. My Aunt, at 91, thankfully sailed through both her jabs without issue. Conversely, another guy at work, fifteen years my junior, was rendered totally out of commission for five full days following his injection. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason. My second run-in with AstraZeneca is slated for the first week of June - I've already taken the precaution of booking a couple of days off work, just in case.

Teacho & the Students - Chills and Fever

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Two Find Light in the Deep Light Shining


Latin Playboys was a Los Lobos side project, consisting of two fifths of that band, David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez, plus producers Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom. They issued a self-titled album in 1994, followed by another, 'Dose', in 1999. At the time these releases were difficult to track down in the UK - the first available, but unpromoted, the second only obtainable at considerable expense via the import market. The band were awkward to classify - sharing the roots heritage of Los Lobos, but taking the sound to more experimental places. Think 'Mule Variations'-era Tom Waits....without Tom - told you they were difficult to classify! If you like 'Kiko'/'Colossal Head' period Los Lobos and are up for something similar, but a little more off-kilter, then hunt down the first album at the very least. 

To whet your whistle, here's 'Ten Believers' from the debut and a very fine 1999 live clip of 'Mustard' from 'Dose', the latter featuring a guest turn on fiddle from recent Monday Long Song star Lisa Germano.

 

Monday, 15 March 2021

Monday Long Song

I've been living in the new gaff for nearly five months now, yet I've still to meet, or even cast eyes upon, four of my six immediate neighbours - they come and they go, very quietly it has to be said, at all hours. I'm assuming various forms of shift work are involved. Anyhow, while enjoying a few days off work last week, I took the opportunity to make myself known to any of the locals who might also have happened to be at home, via the good offices of On-U Sound collective Singers & Players. Over the course of one afternoon I played through 'War of Words', 'Revenge of the Underdog' and 'Staggering Heights' at, what can probably be best be described as, a potentially neighbour-bothering volume, but I never heard a peep from any of 'em, so I can only assume that either my neighbours weren't at home or weren't bothered.

Here's a heavy heavy tune from the 1981 Adrian Sherwood produced, Singers & Players debut LP, featuring the mighty voice of thunder himself, Prince Far-I.

Singers & Players - Quanté Jubila

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Window

I always got a big kick out of photographing the birds that visited the grounds of the former Swede Towers - I occasionally shared the resulting images on these very pages. When I relocated last October, I assumed those days were well and truly over. My second and third floor apartment sits at the back of a converted late-19th century maltings, with no great views to speak of from the living room windows downstairs, save the back gardens of neighbouring houses. It transpires that my initial negative assumption was a tad hasty, however. 

As I type these words I'm upstairs, sitting beneath a Velux window that affords me a direct eye to the sky - the only other objects in my line of sight are the overhanging branches of a tree (sycamore I think, but I'm no expert). To my delight I've discovered that the tree in question appears to be a pretty convenient stopping off point for all manner of feathered friends. It's a bit like having my own private hide - I can see the birds, but they can't see me. The most exciting thing I've spotted so far was a tree creeper working its way up to the very top branches. I've only ever had a single fleeting glimpse of one before, but this sighting was clear as a bell, uninterrupted and a real delight. I was so transfixed by the tree creeper that I didn't even reach for my camera, but when a small group redwings settled for a while, I hastily fired off a bunch of shots. I still only have a simple point and press camera and I was shooting almost directly into the sun so by and large the results weren't anything special, with the exception of the one at the top of this post, which I'm well pleased with. I'll let you know if anything else interesting drops by. 

Trash Kit - Window

Monday, 8 March 2021

Monday Long Song

In the years leading up to her 1991 debut LP 'On the Way Down From the Moon Palace', Lisa Germano recorded for such diverse acts as Simple Minds, Indigo Girls, The dB's, Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, predominantly as a session violinist. Latterly, she's continued to contribute to albums by the likes of David Bowie, Eels, Howe Gelb, Sheryl Crow, Crowded House and Iggy Pop. Germano's second LP 'Happiness' was released in 1993 on Capitol in the States, later catching the ear of Ivo Watts-Russell, who remixed and reissued the album on 4AD in the UK the following year, the first of four long players she'd put out on the label. The reissued 'Happiness' was proceeded by the 'Inconsiderate Bitch' EP, which, confusingly, includes this haunting and greatly extended version of the LP's title track.

Lisa Germano - Happiness

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

RIP Bunny Wailer

Neville Livingston, better known as Bunny Wailer, the last of the original Wailing Wailers, died yesterday, five weeks short of his 74th birthday. Bunny, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh formed The Wailers in 1963, releasing dozens of singles and six LPs, before splitting in 1974, leaving Marley to carry the band name on into legend.

Bunny continued to record prolifically as a solo artist, broadening and experimenting with his sound by incorporating elements of dancehall, electro and rap into his music. It's that initial clutch of post-Wailers albums between 1976-81 that are absolutely crucial though. Blackheart Man, Protest, Struggle, In I Father's House, Sings the Wailers and Rock 'n' Groove, plus a bunch of terrific non-album singles, are all essential additions to any reggae collection. 

Bunny Wailer - Rise & Shine 

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

TV Orphans

In March 1977, a couple of weeks after the release of their self-titled debut LP, Ultravox! (with the all important !) supported Eddie & the Hot Rods at The Rainbow in London. The gig was filmed and promptly forgotten about, presumed lost forever. But now, nearly 44 years later, the video of that thrilling set has been unearthed and is being drip fed to us via the band's YouTube channel, with an official release in the offing later this year. As I type, we are 4 songs in and it's an almost unbearably exciting ride for this old John Foxx era fan. To my eternal regret, I never did get to see Ultravox! in concert, so this footage is as close as I'm ever going to get - and it's phenomenal. Here's the otherwise unavailable 'TV Orphans'.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Unknown Journey


I think we can all agree that 2020 was a horrible year and that, thus far at least, 2021 isn't turning out to be too clever either. So why not join me on an unknown journey, back to 1984. Swedish combo The Wayward Souls were only around for three years in total, though in that time they delivered three full length albums and three stand alone singles. They came, they recorded a bunch of psych-infused tunes and then they were gone. Here's their cracking debut 45.

The Wayward Souls - Unknown Journey

Monday, 15 February 2021

Monday Long Song



American composer and keyboardist Chick Corea passed away last Tuesday. If he'd done nothing else in his 79 years but be a part of the transitional recordings made by Miles Davis between 1968 and 1972, his jazz immortality would've been assured. As it was, he was also a prolific and in demand sideman (for the likes of Stanley Clarke, Herbie Mann & Wayne Shorter), lead the avant-garde band Circle and fusion outfit Return to Forever and additionally released around 100 albums under his own name for labels such as Blue Note, ECM, Concord, Deutsche Grammophon, Polydor and GRP. A busy musical life, well lived. 

Monday, 8 February 2021

Monday Long Song



One of several already booked 2020 concerts I lost as a result of the pandemic was Laura Cannell's Modern Ritual XIII, which was scheduled to take place last July, just round the corner from King's Cross station in London. I've been lucky enough to see Laura play several times over the years, most recently in 2019, at the 12th of her Modern Ritual series, in a small 16th century chapel, hidden deep in the Suffolk countryside. 

Laura kept herself busy last year, releasing the haunting 'The Earth With Her Crowns' in the summer and 'These Feral Lands Volume 1' in November. The latter features guest performances by cellist Kate Ellis, broadcaster Jennifer Lucy Allan and the terrific local writer/performer Polly Wright. Another name heavily involved on the album is the comedian Stewart Lee, who was also slated to appear at that cancelled Modern Ritual gig in London. Lee's contributions to 'These Feral Lands' are a revelation and even if  this style of music isn't generally your thing, you should make it your business to at least check out 'Black Shuck', where he summons his inner Mark E Smith and Captain Beefheart to startling effect. 

Here though is another tune from 'These Feral Lands', featuring Stewart Lee, Laura Cannell and Kate Ellis. 'Wrekin' delves deep into ancient Shropshire folklore, albeit with unexpected appearances by Kendo Nagasaki and Tony McPhee. 

Monday, 1 February 2021

Monday Long Song

One way and another, the tail end of last year was hectic time for your humble author, so it's no surprise I suppose that I managed to completely miss a couple of otherwise essential additions to The Swede's personal house of wax. One I've managed to pick up, but the other I missed the boat on, so it's over to Discogs and eBay I go to track that particular beauty down. The LP I did acquire, later rather than sooner, was 'Twelve of Hearts' by long time favourite of this parish Richard Youngs, in cahoots with Daniel O'Sullivan, released on the OGenesis label in December. I'll come back to that in due course. Today's tune is another to feature the always prolific Mr Youngs, this time in his guise as one quarter of AMOR. I ordered their new LP (a joint creation with LEMUR) way back in November and I'm reliably informed that it's winging its way towards as I type. Fortunately, the complementary download is already safely ensconced on my hard-drive and, swipe me, it's flippin' magnificent. 

There are only 500 copies out there, so if you're tickled, don't shilly-shally. (Here)

AMOR/LEMUR - For You

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The Tears They Started Falling

Tom Stevens on stage at the Cambridge Junction, October 2019. Photo by your humble author.

I was extremely saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of Tom Stevens on Sunday, at the age of 64. Tom is probably best known for his work as one quarter of The Long Ryders, a band I saw in concert many times during the early-to-mid 1980s and was fortunate enough to catch up with once again at the Cambridge Junction in 2019 (review here) - the intervening years had not diminished their powers one iota. Among his his many extra-curricular activities, Tom released a clutch of well respected solo albums and contributed to the essential 1985 Danny & Dusty LP 'The Lost Weekend'.

Tom's beautiful 'Let it Fly' is one of the highlights from the 2019 Long Ryders LP, 'Psychedelic Country Soul. 

Monday, 25 January 2021

Monday Long Song

Chicago blues giant Howlin' Wolf died 45 years ago this month at the age of 65. In his prime, Wolf stood at 6ft 3 inches, weighed in at nearly 21½ stone and had a voice to match his imposing physical countenance. Would we have had Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits without Howlin' Wolf? Unlikely I think.

The master tapes of many classic Howlin' Wolf recordings were destroyed in a Universal Studio backlot fire in 2008, along with those of hundreds of other artists ranging from Sidney Bechet to Captain Sensible and Al Jolson to Styx.

Here's Wolf recorded live in Germany in 1964, with a stellar backing band comprising Willie Dixon, Sunnyland Slim, Clifton James and Hubert Sumlin.

Howlin' Wolf - Forty Four

Monday, 11 January 2021

Monday Long Song


Top notch prog this week, from 'Spyglass Guest', the third LP by Greenslade, released in 1974. I've bloody loved Greenslade for more years than I care to remember and they're right up there with ELP in my early teen affections. The band put out four albums between 1973 and 1975 before splitting due to management problems in 1976. I'd argue that they improved with every release and that their true masterpiece still lay ahead, though they nevertheless left a slim, but consistently excellent catalogue behind them.

Greenslade - Joie de Vivre

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Version City #74 - Get Well Soon sings Underworld

After notching up 73 entries of the Version City series by early December 2019, I somehow failed to add to that tally at all in 2020 and the idea fell by the wayside. Here though, finally, is entry No.74. 

German singer/songwriter Konstantin Gropper has released half a dozen albums trading as as Get Well Soon, in addition to creating music under his own name for films and TV. Gropper's first album, 'Rest Now, Weary Head! You Will Get Well Soon' was a big favourite in our house in 2008. The inclusion of a cover of Underworld's 'Born Slippy', may have seemed initially unlikely, but it's judged to perfection. 

Get Well Soon - Born Slippy

Monday, 4 January 2021

Monday Long Song

This is the meadow, across the way from my place, underwater on Xmas Day and visible again on Monday 28th.

In the week leading up to Christmas I drove to work in the dark and I drove home in the dark. No biggie, it's what happens at this time of year. On December 22nd it started raining and didn't really stop until the early hours of Christmas morning. The rain coincided with unusually strong tidal surges along the River Waveney. Throughout those commutes I hit standing water several times, which I don't mind admitting is a bloody scary thing to happen in the dark. I'm not talking puddles either. These were fast flowing, deep streams, moving across the carriageway and it got to the point where I just hoped for the best that I'd make it through some of them without flooding and stalling the car. While I made it by the skin of my teeth, others weren't so lucky and several vehicles stood abandoned by the side of the road. All this time, I was obviously aware of the ferocity of the weather conditions, but had no visual confirmation as I journeyed through the darkness. I was just grateful to make it to and from in one piece.

On Christmas morning I woke to a message from a friend checking in to see if I'd been affected by the floods. He'd read online that the emergency services had been on the scene in my town for the whole night. When I looked online myself, the first thing I saw was a photo of a fire engine standing in a very familiar location - directly outside my place. I went out for a wander in the warm sunshine and saw the devastation for myself. The worst flooding in this area for over 50 years by all accounts, for a while only one road remained passable in and out of town. Surreal scenes of streams, paths, fields and roads all gone, replaced by vast lakes. All the properties beyond mine in my street, down towards the river were either still under water or had sustained serious flood damage overnight and, as I walked around the outskirts of the town, the story was repeated again and again. It was terrible to see people having to salvage their saturated belongings on Christmas Day, particularly at the end of such a dreadful year. Just over a week later and the water has gone, but for the unfortunate households affected, the clean-up will take considerably longer.

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Released in 1979 on the legendary Studio One label and produced by the equally legendary Coxsone Dodd, 'Flood Victim' rides the popular Real Rock riddim, well known to many for its use in Willie Williams' original recording of 'Armagideon Time'.  

Windel Haye & Captain Morgan - Flood Victim

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