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

Motorbike


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! 

STOP PRESS! Order it HERE

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

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Red Gold & Green #22 - Ken Boothe


It's Mrs S's birthday. I'm writing this a few days ahead of time and we've not yet decided exactly what we're doing by way of celebration, but if I were a betting man I'd stick a fiver on it involving a coastal walk, a pub and a big plate of chips. We're easily pleased.

Here for Mrs S, on her special day, is her favourite song by her favourite reggae artist, Ken Boothe's 1973 cover of Syl Johnson's 'Is it Because I'm Black?'

Ken Boothe - Is It Because I'm Black?

Monday, 31 July 2017

Version City #65 - Nancy Wallace sings Doris Day


'Secret Love' was composed by Sammy Fain & Paul Webster for the 1953 film 'Calamity Jane', Doris Day's performance becoming a No.1 single and winning the Oscar for Best Original Song the following year. A few other artists also took 'Secret Love' into the charts during the 1950's and 1960's, including Slim Whitman, Kathy Kirby and Billy Stewart, while the song has continued to prove popular with contemporary performers such as George Michael, Sinead O'Connor, Ry Cooder and k.d.lang.

My own favourite version of 'Secret Love' is by Nancy Wallace and was only released in minuscule quantities on a limited edition Rif Mountain CDr compilation in 2010. Her interpretation really is a thing of beauty. I've waxed lyrical about Nancy's music on these pages several times over the years and if you like what you hear, I would heartily encourage checking out her Bandcamp page.

Nancy Wallace - Secret Love

Friday, 28 July 2017

Bright Phoebus

Unless something really extraordinary occurs between now and December, 'Bright Phoebus' by Lal & Mike Waterson will be my reissue of 2017. On its original release in September 1972, the LP was met by a wall of anger and bafflement from a devout folk establishment that believed exclusively in the passing down of traditional songs from generation to generation and held no truck at all with singers who wrote their own material. That Lal & Mike's remarkable set of  self-written songs were frequently, if indirectly, informed by that very tradition was a fact apparently overlooked by all but a very few, less blinkered souls.

During the course of its 40+ years of unavailability, 'Bright Phoebus' has steadily gained a reputation for being the lost masterpiece that it truly is. I've had an iffy quality bootleg CDr of the album for around 25 years and had long since given up any hope of ever holding a bona-fide copy in my hands, but thanks to the good folk at Domino Records, here it is. The full story of how the songs came to be written and how the recordings came to be made is brilliantly told by Pete Paphides in the accompanying booklet (read an excerpt here), plus there is also a deluxe edition of the reissue which includes a further 12 previously unreleased performances from the period.

If you have any interest at all in the English folk and folk-rock scenes of the late 1960's and early 1970's, you really do need to hear this album. Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy, Ashley Hutchings, Tim Hart, Maddy Prior, Dave Mattacks, Bob Davenport and Norma Waterson all lend their considerable respective talents to the recordings, which gives you some idea of the quality threshold we're talking about. And then there's the songs. It's all about those songs. By turns they're dark, desolate, mysterious, beautiful and even, as in the case of the title track, positively jaunty. I honestly can't recommend 'Bright Phoebus' highly enough.

Lal & Mike Waterson - Bright Phoebus

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Red Gold & Green #21 - The Dubwood Allstars


The mysterious Dubwood Allstars originally released 'Under Dubwood' in 2012 and I featured it on these very pages at the time. When a mash-up works it can be an utterly inspired thing and here is one such example - Richard Burton's narration of 'Under Milk Wood' is laid over King Tubby's 'Ali Baba' riddim with spine-tingling results. Now news reaches me that a third repress of this unique single will be made available on August 4th. Read all about it and / or order a copy here.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Hotter Colder


New LPs these days, eh? Often released on limited edition coloured vinyl, usually with gratis downloads and sometimes even enhanced with enticing free bits and bobs - but how many arrive with a tea towel designed by a member of the band? Not many I'll be bound. My copy of 'Moonshine Freeze' did though. It's the 4th album by the consistently terrific This is the Kit, a band I've championed long and loud plenty of times in the past, so I won't bang on too much, other than to note that this time around they appear on the Rough Trade record label and are produced by long time PJ Harvey cohort John Parish. Buy it, is my frankly straight forward advice.

Here are Kate Stables and Rozi Plain risking pneumonia for our entertainment.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Slider at 45


There had been singles, lots of them, but until then, any LPs that came my way were borrowed ones, hastily taped on my portable cassette player via a handheld mic, before being returned to their rightful owner at school the following day. On July 21st 1972, 45 years ago today, 'The Slider' by T.Rex was released. Three weeks later I bought a copy of the LP while on holiday in Dorset - I was 12 years old. Many hundreds of LP's have passed into and out of my hands since then, but that very first one is still with me - and shall forever be. It all started here.

In the Summer of 2015, I had the great good fortune to meet Tony Visconti, the producer of 'The Slider' (not to mention several other cornerstones of my record collection). I stuck out my hand, gripped his, shook it warmly and said 'Thank you',  twice. 'What for?' he asked, smiling broadly. 'Everything', I said.

T.Rex - Rock On

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Jain


Jain's debut LP, 'Zanaka' was released in November 2015 and by February 2016 had already been certified Gold in her native France. This year she's been taking her record to the world with prestigious appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Later with Jools Holland and the BBC's Glastonbury coverage. 'Makeba', the second single from the album, is a sheer pop joy and the song's accompanying video is funny and clever, throwing visual tricks and puns into the mix here, there and everywhere. One particularly interesting twist worth keeping an eye on, is that the opening balloon popping sequence visually picks up from where the video for her previous single ('Come') left off, while the surreal 'painting a zebra' bit at the end is where the clip for her next single ('Dynabeat') begins.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Remember Terry


The prolific Melbourne quartet Terry return with their second LP in the space of a year and a half, entitled 'Remember Terry'. We're hardly likely to forget them, given that in the same 18 month period they managed to put out a couple of fine EPs as well. The first taster from 'Remember Terry' is the irresistible 'Take Me to the City'. Is it just me who thinks that the opening riff is a nod to Prince? (Check out more music on Terry's Bandcamp page).

Friday, 14 July 2017

Version City #64 - Michael Kiwanuka sings Led Zeppelin


I received a letter from the DVLA recently, informing me that my driving license was about to expire, so I diligently filled in the renewal form and got a new ID photo taken. The difference between what I saw in the new photo and the one on my ten year old license was even more striking than I was prepared for. The face in the recent photo looks a bit like my Mum, a bit like my Dad - hell, I even see a bit of my paternal Grandmother, a woman who died in 1966 and I barely remember. When comparing the two photos, I was confronted with the stark reality of how obviously I've aged. Ten years gone, in the blink of an eye. Next stop 2027.

Michael Kiwanuka's recording career began in 2011, though I really got to grips with his music in 2016 with the release of his second LP 'Love & Hate'. This is Kiwanuka's contribution to Mojo magazine's 2015 various artist re-imagining of the 1975 Led Zeppelin LP, 'Physical Graffiti'.

Michael Kiwanuka - Ten Years Gone

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Divebomb

In the middle of last week I had to walk into town to pick up my car from the garage. Along the way, I marvelled at the swallows swooping under the bridge and swifts screeching around the narrow streets at little more than head height. In amongst all this small bird action were the ever present gulls - looming from the rooftops, scavenging around waste bins and screaming from the skies. They are ridiculously fearless, intimidatingly huge, but largely harmless. In fact, until last week I would've said that they are totally harmless.

Heading down the narrow lane leading to the garage, I became aware of a large gull swooping back and forth a few feet above my head, all the while making that unsettling squealing noise. There were other gulls around and I assumed the noises were aimed at them. This one gull didn't seem to fly far from my vicinity though. Was I imagining that its angry screams were directed at me? I was pleased to arrive at the garage where I stepped inside and quickly forgot the whole brief episode.

After chatting for a while with the mechanics at the garage, they returned my key and told where they'd left my car. It's a small family run concern with very little space, so cars are routinely left in nearby streets and cul-de-sacs until collection. I'd been in the garage for around ten minutes and left distractedly fiddling with my key-ring. Instantly the gull swooped low over my head, screaming as it went. I was freaked out - it'd been waiting for me. I had a few hundred yards to cover before reaching my car and walked quickly, trying to stay close to an overhanging wall, but the screeching gull was never more than a few feet away from my head, ignoring all other pedestrians. I saw my car up ahead and broke into a slightly panicky jog to reach it, but the Hitchcockian swooping and screeching continued right up until the very moment I went to open the door, when the gull made its closest pass, directly over my right shoulder, unleashing a hefty dropping that missed me by about two inches, splatting down the side of the car and onto the pavement.


I was genuinely shaken up by the whole episode. Perhaps while walking down the lane, I'd unknowingly passed close to some fledglings and the gull was merely fulfilling its parental duties in protecting its offspring. I don't understand why it followed me for so long though - the car was a quarter of a mile from our first encounter. Plus it appeared to wait for me while I was in the garage - what's all that about? And then there was the parting gift that so narrowly missed me.

Unsurprisingly, Number One Cup's 'Divebomb' became an earworm for the next few days.

Number One Cup - Divebomb

Monday, 10 July 2017

Red Gold & Green #20 - King Stitt


Winston Sparkes acquired the nickname 'King Stitt' in his youth, as a result of a pronounced stutter and later decided to adopt it as his stage name. In addition to the stutter, Stitt was born with a facial malformation, which led him to christen himself 'The Ugly One'. In spite of these setbacks, he became one of the most popular sound system deejays in Jamaica during the 1960s. After 10 years of live work, Stitt was offered the chance to make his own records by producer Clancy Eccles and a run of classic DJ cuts followed. If you know one King Stitt side it's probably the classic 'Fire Corner' released in 1969, but later that same year he teamed up with Lynford Anderson (a.k.a. Andy Capp) to record 'Herbsman Shuffle', a tune I've long been rather partial to.

King Stitt & Andy Capp - Herbsman Shuffle

Friday, 7 July 2017

Afterthoughts and Reviews


Not long after uploading Tuesday's Halftime Report post, I was reminded of one glaring omission from the list of my most-loved LP's of the first six months of 2017 - Alasdair Roberts! He's a longtime favourite of this parish and his 'Pangs' album was rarely far from my ears in late February and indeed for much of March. I also saw him play a marvellous concert in support of the album around the same time. How could I forget Alasdair? My memory was jogged after stumbling upon an Uncut online review of 2017 thus far, entitled, ahem, Halftime Report. I'd like to say that I got to the title first, but it seems that theirs has been up on the Uncut website for a couple of weeks. Great minds think alike, apparently. The piece (here), written by John Mulvey, contains his 66 (66!) favourite LPs of the year so far. A couple of those titles can be found on my own list and more are somewhere on my radar, but several of Mulvey's selections are completely new to me. There's more research to be done, clearly.

Coincidentally, this isn't the only time I've crossed paths with John Mulvey's writing this week. On Monday evening I undertook a solo jaunt to the back room of a Cambridge pub, where Brooklyn duo 75 Dollar Bill blew the collective socks off of the 100 strong audience. Sue Garner provided excellent support, while the cherry on top for me personally was a short opening set from Cambridge's own primitive guitar maestro, C. Joynes. The 150 mile round trip completely knocked me for six, so the following day I failed dismally in my efforts to pull a few words together in praise of the previous evening's concert, but fortunately the aforementioned Mr Mulvey was also in attendance and had already posted a glowing review of proceedings on the Uncut site - read all about it here.

I've shared music by Alasdair Roberts, 75 Dollar Bill and C.Joynes in the past - and no doubt will again. So where to go for a tune today? Apropos of nothing at all, I'm going back to 1966 and a song that sounded utterly wonderful banging out of the radio at 7 o'clock yesterday morning. Crank it up.

The Velvelettes - These Things Will Keep Me Loving You

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Halftime Report


Six months down - six to go. Over the past few days I've been taking stock of the newly released albums that I've dug the most during the first half of 2017. I came up with a list of 20 off the top of my head and narrowed those down to 10 after further consideration. So, in no particular order;

Flotation Toy Warning - The Machine That Made Us (Here)
Long awaited 2nd LP (13 years!) of wonky far-out chamber pop.

Richard Dawson - Peasant (Here)
'Medieval concept album' and 'most accessible work to date' aren't phrases often seen in the same sentence. It's a bloody masterpiece folks.

Peter Perrett - How the West Was Won (Here) 21 years after Perrett's last LP of new music, this sits comfortably with his very best work. Heartwarmingly terrific.

Sacred Paws - Strike a Match (Here)
Recent (and deserved) winners of the Scottish album of the year award, even though we're only at the half-way point. A poly-rhythmic post-punk joy.

Yazz Ahmed - La Saboteuse (Here)
Psychedelic Middle Eastern jazz. That'll do nicely.

Big Blood - The Daughters Union
The most recent missive from the prolific cottage industry, psych-folk outsiders is a 'pay what you like' download (Here), which is frankly ridiculous. Go grab it.

The Myrrors - Hasta La Victoria (Here)
Spiritual sonic explorations. '...unrefined, unrestrained and unforgettable'.

Joshua Abrams - Simultonality (Here) Malian infused kosmische trance. I think I invented a new genre there.

Jake Xerxes Fussell - What In The Natural World (Here)
This passed me by on first listen, but I'm forever grateful to Ramone666 over at For The Sake Of The Song, who persuaded me to give it another spin. 'Transmogrified folk/blues koans' is the much quoted descriptor - and who am I to argue?

The Prophet Hens - The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys (Here)
'Melancholic songs about hope & despair, joy & regret, ambition & reality, coming together & drifting apart.' The Dunedin Sound is alive and well.

There are of course other albums I need to investigate further and many that I haven't checked out at all yet, but hopefully I'll get to 'em all eventually. Some of my favourite stand alone tunes so far in 2017 have yet to appear on album and I'm particularly looking forward to new full length releases from Low Chimes, Bas Jan, Pins, Nadine Shah, Girl Ray and Meatraffle. Let the second half commence!

Meanwhile, here's one from This is the Kit, whose new LP is due out on Friday.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Featuring Iggy Pop


Iggy Pop surprised us all in 2016, with his from-out-of-nowhere belter of an LP, 'Post Pop Depression'. This year, the focus of Iggy's attention has been on a series of guest slots on other artists records. Not all of them have hit the spot - I'm yet to be won over by the charms of his vocal on the Songhoy Blues track 'Sahara' for example, but elsewhere he's put in impressively intense performances on 'Aggrophobe' by Manchester's Pins and Oneohtrix Point Never's 'The Pure and the Damned'.


Thursday, 29 June 2017

Let Me Come Over


A little bird tells me that 'Let Me Come Over', the third LP by Buffalo Tom, was released 25 years ago. Ouch. The anniversaries keep on coming don't they? Back in 1992, you'd find me haring up and down the A12, A14 and A140 two or three times a week, catching live music in concert venues all over London and the South East. I'd drive home through the night, snatch a couple of hours shut-eye, work all day, then quite possibly do it all over again that evening. Life was good. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

I've mentioned in previous posts the series of car-tapes I made during those years to keep me entertained and awake on many a long lonely drive home. Buffalo Tom were big favourites of mine in the early to mid-1990s and the thundering 'Velvet Roof' from 'Let Me Come Over' was one of the tunes that appeared on car-tape after car-tape. 'Taillights Fade' is probably the better known song from the album, but this is the one that does it for me.

A 25th anniversary edition of 'Let Me Come Over' was issued recently via Beggars Arkive (here). It's on my shopping list.

Buffalo Tom - Velvet Roof

Monday, 26 June 2017

Work in Progress #2: Bob Marley & the Wailers - Could You Be Loved


'Could You Be Loved' was written by Bob Marley in 1979 and originally saw the light of day as the first UK single to be taken from the 'Uprising' LP in 1980. A number of alternative versions of the song have surfaced in recent years, the most interesting of which is this one, subtitled the 'Drumbox Demo'.

Could You Be Loved (Drumbox Demo)

Could You Be Loved (12")

Friday, 23 June 2017

Red Gold & Green #19 - Gregory Isaacs

Your humble author with his copy of 'Soon Forward', purchased 38 years ago

A couple of weeks ago, in the 17th instalment of this occasional dip into my reggae archive, I shone a light on The Voice of Thunder, Prince Far-I. Today we travel to the opposite end of the vocal spectrum to sample a tune from that sweetest of voices, The Cool Ruler himself, Gregory Isaacs.

In a career spanning over 40 years, Gregory Isaacs was a prolific recording artist and you're on pretty safe ground picking up absolutely anything you find by the great man from the 1970's up to and including 'Night Nurse' in 1982. Thereafter, his prodigious output continued, but, with the exception of one or two stand-out moments, the quality was never quite the same. It was a long and painful decline, exacerbated by health and drug dependency issues until lung cancer claimed his life in 2010. He was just 59.

Here's 'Soon Forward', the title track from Gregory's 1979 LP on Front Line Records. A sublime performance from an artist at the very top of his game.

Gregory Isaacs - Soon Forward

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Organ Mantra


I've been AWOL for the best part of a week, busy ticking off a backlog of errands far and near. Several days were spent in London's East End, checking in with my elderly Aunts, both of whom were on pretty good form I'm pleased to say. As is my wont, I made a couple of compilations for the drive down to the smoke and track one on the first disc was 'Organ Mantra', the opening salvo from 'Hasta La Victoria', the latest LP by The Myrrors. I featured this Arizona band only a few months ago on these pages (here) and have to say that the noise they make is particularly well suited to a long drive in heavy traffic. Mrs S was unexpectedly impressed by this tune too, which is always a bonus. (It starts quietly, as Peel used to say).

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Brother (From Another Mother)

Zsa Zsa Sapien at the national Portrait Gallery 19th August 2016, by your humble author

As recording sessions continue for the follow up to 2015's 'HiFi Classics', Meatraffle return with the excellent 'Brother', a limited edition 7" via the Moshi Moshi Singles Club and a song I saw them perform 10 months ago as part of their set at the National Portrait Gallery. Whenever I post about Meatraffle, I include a link to that tremendous debut LP and do so again today, without apology. Please check it out, if you haven't done so already. It's good for what ails you.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Hollow Everdaze


Every now and then, I like to take a look around at what's going down, musically speaking, down under. Last year I was rewarded for my efforts with terrific albums by The Goon Sax, Community Radio & Chook Race and already this year I've found a new favourite in the shape of New Zealand combo The Prophet Hens, with their recent LP 'The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys'. Melbourne’s splendidly monikered Hollow Everdaze joined the list a couple of weeks ago. The band have apparently been producing their own brand of psych-infused pop for nigh on 10 years and their second LP, 'Cartoons' is due for release on Deaf Ambitions next week. From it, here's the title track. Plus, as a bonus, the first thing I heard by Hollow Everdaze, the epic 'Last Laugh' from 2015 - it's the one that drew me in. If you like these (and what's not to like?), check out more here.


Monday, 12 June 2017

Farewell Caped Crusader

Just as Roger Moore would later be my 007 and Tom Baker my Dr Who, so, a few years earlier, Adam West was my Batman. It's interesting to reflect that all three actors approached their respective roles with a knowing nod and wink, something utterly compelling to this young viewer. I was so obsessed with the Batman TV show from 1966-68 that, thanks to my parents, for my 7th birthday, I actually became the Caped Crusader! If you know me at all, you won't be surprised to learn that I still own components of the Bat-uniform in the photo (the hood, mask and shirt), rediscovered in the loft when I was clearing Mum's house several years ago - although, unfortunately, I appear to have outgrown them in the intervening 50 years.

Rest easy Adam.

Neu! - Hero

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Battle


A recent Whiskeytown post over at Charity Chic Music got me reminiscing about the time I saw the band in 1998, at The Borderline just off the Charing Cross Road in London's glitzy West End. The subterranean Borderline was something of a regular haunt for me during that period, I could almost do the 210 mile round trip with my eyes closed and often drove home alone through the night with the windows wound down, to avoid doing just that. I had a mate along for the ride for the Whiskeytown gig though, who happened to be the guy who had originally introduced me to the band. Whiskeytown were joined onstage for a couple of numbers that night by James Iha, then of the Smashing Pumpkins. Iha had recently issued his first solo LP, the alt-country tinged 'Let it Come Down' and Whiskeytown covered 'Be Strong Now' from it in his honour. Iha would go on to contribute to Whiskeytown's third and final album 'Pneumonia' the following year. The show finished with Ryan Adams performing a seemingly impromptu solo interpretation of Johnny Cash's 'I Still Miss Someone'.

But one particular performance from the evening had me and my pal still gobsmacked an hour later as we sped back home along the A12 - the song in question was 'The Battle', a starkly beautiful Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary duet. Let's just say that we summoned the names of Gram and Emmylou by way of comparison - yes, it was that good. A recorded version of 'The Battle' wouldn't appear until 2002, and then only as part of a limited bonus disc issued with Caitlin's debut solo album 'While You Weren't Looking'. Fortunately her old mucker Ryan was on hand to recreate the magic.

When I am buried don’t visit my grave 
God cannot save me from the sins I’ve embraced 
Pay your respects at the old liquor store 
Where I won the battle, but I lost the war

Caitlin Cary & Ryan Adams - The Battle

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Work in Progress #1 - Lou Reed 'Perfect Day'


The artist's sketchbook. The author's first draft. The filmmaker's rough cut. Very few artistic creations arrive fully formed, they need to be worked at - it is a work of art after all. It's no different with music. Acoustic home recordings, studio demos and alternative versions are all stepping stones towards the finished product that will eventually sit on our shelves at home.

In this occasional series, I'll be comparing and contrasting a musical work in progress, with the more familiar completed recording that we've come to know and love. I'll start with the song that gave me the idea in the first place, Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day'. The acoustic demo finds the song practically complete (give or take a lyrical re-jig) and beautifully rendered by Lou, at a slightly jauntier clip than on the finished 'Transformer' version. Lou really was singing so well during this period, as opposed to the almost wilful disregard for melody that increasingly became the norm in his later life.

As for the song itself, is it really about a 'perfect day' spent with his fiance in Central Park, or is the object of Lou's affection something altogether darker? We'll never know for sure, but in the wake of several notable covers, 'Perfect Day' has become something of a go-to rock standard.

Lou Reed - Perfect Day (Acoustic Demo)

Lou Reed - Perfect Day

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 proceedings....plus 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

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