|Harvey Gould with dog, Berwick Street Market|
Sunday, 21 January 2018
Monday, 8 January 2018
If, like me, you still get a frisson of excitement seeing the new year on a single for the first time, then the Senior Service’s groovelaiden new 45 should fulfil that for 2018.
Available to pre-order now, and out on Damaged Goods Records on 26 January, ‘Slingshot’ is backed with a version of the old Prisoners number ‘Hide and Seek’. New album, King Cobra, is released in the spring.
Sunday, 31 December 2017
1. Hank Williams – ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’ (1951)
Although written by Fred Rose and originally recorded by Roy Acuff this - simplicity of lyric, the aching delivery - still sounds like pure Hank.
2. Rolling Stones – ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ (1964)
New collection The Rolling Stones On Air brings together the band’s early BBC recordings and for the most part they are curiously polite performances, as if on their best behaviour, but here, in front of a live audience rather than studio surroundings, they tear it up.
3. Toni Daly – ‘Like The Big Man Said’ (1966)
Sassy Southend chanteuse warns against dubious men promising the world.
4. Sun Ra & His Arkestra – ‘Ankhnation (aka Intergalactic Motion)’ (1966)
From Pictures of Infinity, this is nine minutes of nutty arkestral elation.
5. David Newman – ‘We’re A Winner’ (1968)
Tenor man Newman takes on The Impressions.
6. Bobby Womack – ‘It’s Gonna Rain’ (1969)
One of Bobby’s best.
7. Ghetto Brothers – ‘Girl From The Mountain’ (1972)
Puerto Rican New York street gang turn to jangly guitars and irresistible rhythms. Sweet as.
8. Whiteout – ‘Detroit’ (1994)
Scottish moptops really shoulda cleaned up with their string of splendid singles: ‘No Time’, ‘Starrclub’, ‘Detroit’ and ‘Jackie’s Racing’. No justice.
9. Kasabian – LSF (2004)
I was taken as a surprise “treat” to see Kasabian this month. I bought, and enjoyed, their first album back in 2004 but after the disappointing second one haven’t paid them any attention other than to roll my eyes at their unconvincing attempt to be rock and roll stars. But, credit where it’s due, the gig was an enjoyable affair – even in the humongous O2 Arena – and this oldie about burnt chips from that debut, complete with huge gospel choir, was joyous. Really.
10. Margo Price – ‘Pay Gap’ (2017)
From one of the albums of the year, All American Made, comes this country protest song urging for gender equality. “In the eyes of rich white men, I’m no more than a maid to be owned like a dog, And a second-class citizen”.
Friday, 22 December 2017
These are my favourite records of 2017, which of course makes them the best too. In no order other than the way they fell in the frames above:
Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
The Primitives – New Thrills EP
Margo Price – All American Made
The Len Price 3 – Kentish Longtails
Daniel Romano – Modern Pressure
Paul Weller – A Kind Revolution
Jim Jones & the Righteous Mind – Super Natural
Hurrah For The Riff Raff – The Navigator
Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black
The Primitives – I’ll Trust The Wind
Daniel Romano – Roya
The Len Price 3 – Telegraph Hill
Saturday, 16 December 2017
Christmas! What is it good for? Now, now, don't say it. There are a few positives: like marvelling at Bob Dylan's treatment of ''Hark The Herald Angels Sing' on his Christmas In The Heart LP; Ma Monkey's Christmas dinner; and the chance to blow the baubles offa this beauty from the Primitives again. Stand by for the bells...
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
1. The Lon-Genes – ‘Dream Girl’ (1964)
Featured on Kent’s new Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 6 which is an utterly essential purchase – best soul comp I’ve heard in a long time. This bunch of army lads cut this lovely ballad for Romark in Los Angeles.
2. Alton Ellis – ‘Black Man’s Pride’ (1971)
Title track from a new Soul Jazz Records compilation “from the transitory phase in reggae at the start of the 1970s, after the exhilaration of Ska and following the cooling down of Rocksteady.”
3. John Gary Williams – ‘The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy’ (1973)
Williams recorded for Stax with the Mad Lads, served in Vietnam, then returned to Memphis. This is what he found.
4. Bottom and Company – ‘Gonna Find A True Love’ (1974)
Bottom and Company? Really? Bottom and Company Gonna Find A True Love? Was that the best name they could find? Fab stab of crossover Motown regardless.
5. Bob Dylan – ‘Saved’ (1980)
Just don’t go near that Born Again Christian stuff was the refrain when I first found Bob Dylan. Was reasonable advice to a young novice but Trouble No More, the latest instalment of The Bootleg Series, shows what a rousing period that was. This live version of ‘Saved’ would’ve had them rejoicing in the aisles.
6. Daniel Romano – ‘There’s The Door’ (2013)
Just watch Romano sing this George Jones hit. Go on.
7. The Pretty Things – ‘The Same Sun’ (2015)
Released a couple of years ago on their clunkily titled but impressive The Sweet Pretty Things (Are In Bed Now, Of Course…), this gets a 7 inch EP release in January on Fruit de Mer Records along with their version of ‘Renaissance Fair’ plus two late-60’s live cuts: ‘She Said Good Morning’ and ‘Alexander’.
8. The Galileo 7 – ‘Live For Yesterday’ (2017)
“Today is just tomorrow’s nostalgia,” sings Allan Crockford. As someone who’s played to packed venues by dusting off memories in reformed Prisoners, Prime Movers, Solar Flares and cranks out oldies in Graham Day and the Forefathers you know where Allan’s coming from and wonder if in years to come his current band will achieve similar better-in-retrospect acclaim. Based on the Galileo 7’s new pop-psych offering Tear Your Minds Wide Open it’s a distinct possibility. Crockford has now cracked this song writing lark and with the Mighty Atom, Mole, moved to his rightful place behind the drumkit, the whole thing swings with justified confidence. Don’t wait until 2040, check them out now.
9. The Lovely Eggs – ‘Dickhead’ (2017)
Donning their new magical cloaks, The Lovely Eggs were on tour this month. Two things became apparent: they have so many great singles they can afford to drop ‘Don’t Look At Me’ without it being unduly missed and new songs featured from forthcoming album This Is Eggland, including the supersonic, drive-by abusing, ‘Dickhead’ will only add to that impressive score.
10. Mavis Staples – ‘If All I Was Was Black’ (2017)
Mavis tells us she’s got love to give. She sure has. Oh God, this is wonderful.
Saturday, 25 November 2017
When Daniel Romano released Modern Pressure earlier this year I phoned my local record emporium to ask if they had it in stock. Sister Ray has been in Soho for decades and have furnished me with countless new independent releases. “Never heard of him,” was the snotty reply. “What is he?” Well, in fairness, this was a reasonable question as record shops like to file goods in easy-to-manage categories but not an easy one to answer. I muttered something about he used to be country (which I knew was gonna conjure hideous visions in the already dismissive mind of said employee. I know it’s offensive to use the C-word in polite company but stay with me, think of Hank, Merle, Gram) but is now more, er, rocky. Tap-tap-tap into his little computer and “Did he have an album called Mosey?” Yeah, that’s him. “Right. I can see why we’re not stocking him, we didn’t sell a single copy of that.” Oh.
I share this story, dear reader, so you don’t feel bad if Daniel Romano isn’t as familiar a name around your family dinner table as it is mine. If “hip” London record shops are largely ignorant to his oeuvre, and if on a Saturday night in the West End one can rock up to pay a mere ten quid on the door to witness his act in the intimate surroundings of the Borderline, then a six-page feature in Mojo magazine and an appearance on Later With Jools Holland are still , unjustly, some way off.
A brief history: From Welland, Ontario, Romano was in Canadian punk band Attack In Black (I still haven’t listened to them), and has released eight albums since 2009. He began on a folky-country path, went full-on pedal steel and fiddle country, then swerved into a sprawling hotchpotch of styles he calls “Mosey”, incorporating elements of Stonesy rock, Americana, new wave, psychedelia, piano ballads, a mariachi namecheck to Valerie Leon, strings, horns and, if that wasn’t enough, Romano also trades under Ancient Shapes, his punk offshoot. Oh, and he plays almost everything on his records, he’s a talented artist, a leather tooler and can no doubt replace the steering column in a ’57 Chevy while reciting Les Fleurs du mal by Baudelaire.
Last year I saw him play two gigs in one night. Joined by a second guitarist, they sat on stools and played a breath-taking acoustic set where you could’ve heard a pin drop, then a couple of hours later across town a rock and roll set with almost every song from an album nobody had heard. For punters (like me) expecting pedal-steel weepers it was audacious and brass-necked. Brilliantly so. Newport ’65 had nothing on this.
Which moves us along the dictionary to the D-word. As well as the obvious musical influences, from Freewheelin’ to Highway 61 Revisited to Street Legal, Romano’s willingness to change horses midstream, to defy expectation, to change image (he’s had more looks than Carlos The Jackal, and currently appears to be wearing a pair of his old sunglasses), and for his songs to remain living entities in that can be played in a variety of ways, makes him comparable to Bob Dylan. As a Dylan completist that’s not something I’d say lightly. A squiz at YouTube will throw up loads of different versions of songs and, such is Romano’s prolific nature, loads of unreleased songs as his two labels can’t kept pace. For example, ‘Fearless Death Tomorrow’, released on the Ancient Shapes album as a dirty punk thrash is, months later, played acoustically with tinkling piano and double bass.
The Borderline gig last weekend was his last show of the year and executed with the passion of the last show of his life. Opening with “Modern Pressure”, in which Romano unleashed a blood curdling primal scream, he was in scarily blistering form. Not one for looking back, the set was mostly tracks released in little more than a year, yet the manner they were performed was astounding. The album Modern Pressure has a springy, elasticated feel, yet here they were played as heavy, tight rockers with a furious intensity peak Clash or White Stripes might’ve managed. It felt like a skin-shedding, cathartic exercise with songs from the latest album (‘Sucking The Old World Dry’, ‘Impossible Dream’, ‘When I Learned Your Name’ etc), and a few from Mosey including a spirit-raising ‘Dead Medium’, all given a similar treatment. ‘(Gone Is) A Quarry of Stone’ was transformed from a mournful ballad into a terrifying exorcism complete with a guitar solo, effortlessly tossed in, that made my eyes widen and brow arch in admiration. The foot was taken off the gas fleetingly. ‘Roya’, is the most beautiful song of 2017, and in a rare delve into the past (2013 is several Romano lifetimes ago) the tear jerking ‘A New Love (Can Be Found)’ sent shivers down the spine.
Billed as Daniel Romano and Jazz Police (his band featured bass, drums and Farfisa organ), there was zero jazz in a pulverising set (no chat, nary a pause), but should Romano one day pull a trumpet out of his backside to play a few Chet Baker numbers no one will die of shock. Where he’s heading next is a fun game to play and one new song had a 60s garage vibe which then segued into the final verse of The Who’s ‘My Generation’. Perhaps a cheesy choice but the power was up there with anything those Shepherd’s Bush geezers ever did and was about as far from a Porter Wagoner cover Romano could’ve found.
It’s difficult to gage how successful he is back home in Canada, and I’d love to know the reaction of purist country fans to recent developments, but the UK needs to wake up to the mastery of Daniel Romano. As the master of all trades and jack of none, the man is a damn genius.
Thanks to Michelle Raison for the photos and thanks to Daniel for allowing us to gate crash his dressing room. A few faces of Daniel Romano below. Enjoy.