Thursday, 30 June 2016

JUNE PLAYLIST


Daniel Romano - Mosey
These have provided some shelter from the storm that has been June.

1.  Robert Johnson – ‘Hellhound On My Trail’ (1937)
“Blues fallin' down like hail, blues fallin' down like hail,
And the day keeps on worrin’ me,
There's a hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail…”

2.  Miles Davis – ‘Dig?’ (1951)
From Davis’s first complete LP as bandleader, The New Sounds. Now available as part of Miles Davis: The Complete Prestige 10-Inch LP Collection.

3.  The Kinks – ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone’ (1965)
Mark Hamill attempted to prod Ray Davies for his thoughts on the referendum vote during their conversation on Sunday at Hornsey Town Hall but Ray made a point of saying he’s always avoided talking politics. He then played this.

4.  Nita Rossi – ‘Something To Give’ (1966)
An exuberant Rossi more than holds her own on top of this thunderous chuck-in-the-kitchen-sink Brit-Soul production.

5.  Gene Harris & The Three Sounds – ‘Black Gold’ (1973)
Gene tinkles the ivories in an almost Mick Talbotesque manner on this stylish splash of summer produced by Monk Higgins. Now there’s a name.

6.  Hollywood Brats – ‘Sick On You’ (1973)
One of the greatest recordings in the whole history of rock ‘n’ roll – singer Andrew Matheson may quibble with “one of” – rings with ever louder resonance. “I’m sick to death of everything you do, yeah, and if I run to up to you, I bet I’m gonna puke on you”. Look out for new deluxe Cherry Red reissue on 6 July of Sick On You with a second disc of previously unheard outtakes, rarities, live tracks and curios.

7.  McCarthy – ‘Governing Takes Brains’ (1989)
“So let me assure you it's no picnic to be in charge of this land
You scruffy people, the lower orders, just know your place
Don't ever you try at governing you might find out how difficult it is
Stupid fools say it's not hard to do what I do
But let me tell you, it's hard, you couldn't do what I do
Don't even dream of it, you would never succeed
People as clever as me are very few and far between...”

8.  Teenage Fanclub – ‘I’m In Love’ (2016)
Rejoice, the Fanclub (I can’t bring myself to call them Fannies) are back. A very welcome shot of loveliness.

9.  Daniel Romano – ‘I’m Alone Now’ (2016)
Highlight of recent weeks was catching Daniel Romano twice in one evening: an acoustic in-store set at Rough Trade and a plugged rocking show at the Lexington. New album, Mosey, on first couple of plays appears startlingly different from previous straight(ish) country releases but once the ears adjust Romano has taken his core sound and cleverly stretches it into new directions.

10.  Ancient Shapes – ‘Navigator’ (2016)
As if to underscore how Daniel Romano isn’t for pigeonholing, he quietly released an album as Ancient Shapes on the same day as Mosey. A speeding pop-punk romp as if Bob Dylan had teamed up with Buzzcocks in 1978.

Monday, 27 June 2016

EVERYBODY’S IN SHOW-BIZ: RAY DAVIES and MARK HAMILL IN CONVERSATION at HORNSEY TOWN HALL ARTS CENTRE


A long time ago, in a small terraced house not very far away, Ray Davies and his brother Dave began their journey in to the galaxy of rock and roll. Hornsey Town Hall is situated a mile and a half from the then Davies family home in Muswell Hill and played host to one of their earliest performances, pre-Kinks, when the group would be named after whoever secured the gig. In this instance, in 1963, either the Ray Davies Quartet or the Pete Quaife Quartet despite the line-up consisting of three schoolboys with a loose grip of mathematics.

The venue - that regularly held dances with big bands, or "Palais" bands, before the Davies generation ousted them with beat groups - has held sway over Ray ever since, illustrated in a 2010 interview when Ray met Alan Yentob in the derelict building to introduce Julian Temple’s Imaginary Man for the BBC. “There’s something in the walls”, he explained, “I’d love to play here. You have a vision of where you want to be and where you want your work to be presented and this place, probably subconsciously, has been my ideal since I first came here”.

With that in mind, and to raise funds for the preservation of the space and for the homeless charity Crisis, last night witnessed a very special, unique evening billed as Ray Davies and Mark Hamill in conversation with musical accompaniment.

The actor famous for playing Luke Skywalker might seem an unlikely host but he recently evidenced his deep knowledge of the Kinks in a couple of interviews for The Big Issue, one with Ray and one with Dave. As he explained, when offered the chance to interview anyone he liked for the magazine, “I said the Kinks, obviously”. Mark read passages from Ray's Americana book, led the conversation, and generally acted like the super-excited “fanboy” he happily confessed to being.

When Ray entered the stage Mark bowed at his feet, wanted the chewing gum Ray disposed of, and called him a “genial genius”. Ray being Ray, looked slightly awkward and uncomfortable at such adulation but Mark proved the perfect choice (personally asked by Ray) with his effervescent personality offsetting Ray’s taciturn nature as they chewed the fat about America, cowboys, movies and music. The event also served to promote two new “Legacy editions” – with loads of extras - of Kinks albums Muswell Hillbillies (1971) and Everybody’s In Show-Biz (1972) and the conversation was geared around that era which made a welcome change from the usual 60s focus us Brits can’t shake of the Kinks, whereas Mark brought, naturally, a different, more encompassing overview of a band which, in his experience, didn’t really begin in earnest until their US ban was lifted at the end of the decade.

After discussion about Muswell Hillbillies came the first musical interlude when Ray was joined by his regular tour guitarist Bill Shanley to play ‘20th Century Man’ and ‘Oklahoma USA’ from that album. ‘Oklahoma USA’, written with his sister Rosie in mind, was beautifully played and sung. Hornsey Town Hall may have seen better days but the acoustics have remained and this sounded especially moving. After more chat came a brooding ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ and a bouncing ‘Muswell Hilbilly’ before a break.


The second half followed the same format but with more emphasis on Everybody’s In Show-Biz. Mark revealed he drove Harrison Ford mad during the making of the original Star Wars when they, Sir Alex Guinness and a six-foot man in a dog outfit, spent hours confined to the controls of the Millennium Falcon with young Luke singing ‘Supersonic Rocket Ship’ lyrics “too many people, side by side, got no place to hide” over and over. Discussion around ‘Celluloid Heroes’ had Mark gushing over how Ray stirred so many different emotions during the course of just one song. “Well,” said Ray, “it is quite a long song”. Ray explained how often, as in the case of ‘Celluloid Heroes’, the music was recorded before the rest of group heard any lyrics. This was partly “because they’re blokes” and also Mick Avory poured scorn on anything he considered too “airy-fairy”.

Songs in this half were, appropriately enough, at the beginning ‘This Is Where I Belong’, ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ and ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone?’ and to conclude a wonderful ‘Celluloid Heroes’ and a jaunty ‘Sunny Afternoon’. Mark again proved an entertaining counterfoil to Ray. When Ray admitted he could sometimes appear a curmudgeon, Mark lost no time in responding with “Nooooo, you?” and a cheeky look to imaginary camera.

A few audience questions ended the evening with Ray being non-specific about the meaning of ‘Days’ but claiming he wrote it in a telephone box.

The whole evening was a joy. Mark Hamill was a warm, inspired host but the night belonged to Ray Davies, noticeably more relaxed singing and "doing a turn” than talking, and his timeless songs played in such an effective manner and heard in the most perfect environment.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

THE JUNIPERS - RED BOUQUET FAIR (2016)



In an English country pub, overlooking a Sunday afternoon cricket match on the green, the Junipers are enjoying a pint and a chat. They’re debating the mono versus stereo version of the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle; the recent Brian Wilson tour; if it’s possible to buy a replica of Paul McCartney’s Fairisle tank top from the Magical Mystery Tour; whether Gideon Gaye by the High Llamas was the best album of the 90s; an approval of 10CC on the cover of Shindig magazine; but most of all they’re analysing the new instrumental stereo mix of ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’ from the new 5-disc Beach Boys boxset and how to achieve the clippity-clopping sound that comes after 21 seconds.

Such studiousness serves Leicester’s Junipers well as their new album is every bit as a sumptuous as the pop music they so preciously covert. The opening paragraph may or may not be true but listen to Red Bouquet Fair and then call me a liar. It gently pirouettes, it floats, it glides, it dances. It’s graceful and elegant. It’s meticulously sung, played and arranged without one second feeling forced or overly fussy. In a word, it’s beautiful.

It plays like a true album too, to always be listened in one complete sitting. It’s not a record to pick a couple of catchy hit singles (if there still was such a thing) but to absorb the whole thing; for that reason this review contains no individual track titles. Buy it, start at the beginning, and enjoy the sheer loving craftsmanship and intricate detail on display. It’s spring, it’s summer, it’s bees, it’s honey, it’s a lazy afternoon, it’s proud of its heritage, it’s the days disappearing over the hills, it’s Red Bouquet Fair. Roll up.

Red Bouquet Fair by the Junipers is out now. Available here.  

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

THE HIGHER STATE - VOLUME 27 (2016)


The Higher State return for album number five with a reshuffled line-up (most notably the departure of Mole from the drum stool) and the bit held firmly between their teeth. After the chime and jangle which characterized 2013’s The Higher State, this is a tougher, more abrasive effort and recalls the work mainman Marty Ratcliffe did back in the era of The Mystreated, particularly their Ever Questioning Why period, when Farfisa, folk, fuzz and fuckedoffness was the order of the day.

All of that is here again plus, as always, resolutely authentic garage recording techniques, equipment and (lack of) production creating a thick, claustrophobic air – far more Austin, Texas (home of their record label, the 13th Floor Elevators and the Golden Dawn - how they must love that association) than Sandgate, Kent (where they rest their heads).

Ratcliffe is in snarling and scathing mood - always his most effective setting - taking pot shots at former relationships in ‘Long Someways To Go’ and the scornful ‘I Suppose You Like That Now?’ while artist-in-his-own-right Paul Messis pens four of the twelve tracks, including the two wildest rockers, ‘Forest Through The Trees’ and the scorching ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.

Best of all for bitterness – and no coincidence the album’s highlight - is the acoustic ‘When We Say’ which launches these lyrical rockets: “I’d rather be weak and have feelings than be just like you, strung up and cold” before concluding with “There’s no accounting for taste, but at least I have some”. Ouch.

A couple of tracks on side two don’t cut such a deep impression but overall Volume 27 is filled with spite, rage and good old garage grumpiness.

Volume 27 by The Higher State is out now on 13 O’Clock Records. Available here.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

JOAN COLLINS GOES SNORKELLING

Apologies for lack of posts recently but busy with other stuff and the football's on. Got a few new albums, either out now or coming out soon, which I'll try and do some short reviews for in the week  but in the meantime here's Joan Collins in her snorkelling gear.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

DISGUISES - ISSUE 4


Fans of The Jam and all things loosely related may be interested in the latest issue of Disguises.

This is the first issue I’ve seen but enjoyed both its positive spirit and range of short articles covering a broader scope than expected. Among the features are a round-up of recent and forthcoming activity connected with Weller and his cohorts (news of Paul’s mooted television series is a tantalising prospect); a look at the enduring appeal of Mod; an interview with current artist Persi Darukhanawala who paints "responses" to songs; a tribute to Jam security guard Joe Awome; and a first-hand account of The Jam’s appearance on The Tube (as in Channel 4, not station at midnight).

There are also other bits and bobs across 32 colour A5 pages.

For ordering details see Disguises fanzine.  

Thursday, 9 June 2016

RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK: THE CASE OF THE THREE SIDED DREAM (2014)


Rahsaan Roland Kirk played multiple instruments simultaneously. Such was his phenomenal musical brain, imagination and showmanship he could blow on three horns – fingering different melodies on each - and still have time for a quick blow on a whistle and a blast of nose flute.

Adam Kahan’s 2014 documentary The Case Of The Three Sided Dream tells Kirk’s story through interviews, the use of animation and, best of all, via footage of Kirk in action during the late 60s until his death in 1977. It’s the music that drives the film and the music is bold, funky and soulful. I always appreciate jazz much more when I can see, as well as hear, it played so the footage here adds real value.  

The clips are generally longer than the usual snippets afforded in most documentaries and although there are biographical brushstrokes – how Kirk went blind as a baby, his civil rights activism, his efforts to force jazz (or, as he called it, “Black Classical Music”) onto American television, and the defence against gimmickry – it doesn’t get bogged down in detail. There’s next to nothing about significant releases or recording sessions, record labels, fellow musicians or his private life; it’s more concerned with painting the soul of the man.

Well worth checking out, it’s available now to rent (£3.99 for 48 hours) or buy from Vimeo.