Friday, 12 August 2022

Cliff On Edge

A bit of modern honky-tonk for you today. Some nice person out there in Promoland sent me a copy of Cliff Westfall's "Baby You Win" album when it came out back in 2018. I remember listening to and liking it at the time but for some reason I never gave it a plug. Having rediscovered it at the weekend I am putting that right now.

Cliff is Kentucky born but New York based and as far as I can establish "Baby You Win" is his only release. You can pick up a copy on Bandcamp for $10 and I think you should. Unlike the protagonists of many of his songs, you won't have anything to feel sorry about if you do.

"Till The Right One Comes Along" - Cliff Westfall

"The Man I Used To Be" - Cliff Westfall

In the interests of balance other Cliffs are also available.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Lamont Dozier RIP

The writer and producer of some of the greatest pop records the world has ever known left us yesterday. I could drone on about how great the songs that Lamont Dozier wrote by himself or with the Holland brothers were, but far better to let them speak for themselves.

RIP Mr Dozier. Thank you for the dreams.

"Thank You For The Dream" - Lamont Dozier

"Can't Get Off Till The Feeling Stops" - Lamont Dozier

Monday, 8 August 2022

Rise And Shine With Roscoe

We'll start the week with some snap, crackle and soul courtesy of the late Roscoe Shelton, who left us twenty years ago last month.

Roscoe started his career with the Fairfield Four in the mid to late 1950s before releasing his first solo record in 1960. He packed it in at the end of that decade before making a bit of a comeback in the mid 1990s, one that was sadly cut short by his death from cancer at the age of 70.  

"Mastermind" - Roscoe Shelton

"I Want To Keep You (If You Want To Stay)" - Roscoe Shelton

Here is Roscoe in a 1966 edition of The !!!! Beat singing "Money" and his minor hit "Easy Going Fellow". He arrives 13 minutes in but if you show a bit of patience you can enjoy the likes of Esther Phillips, Etta James and Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown while you wait.  

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Some Vulgar Bulgars

I'm back from my hols in Bulgaria. Originally we were going to spend a few days in Plovdiv then head to the Black Sea coast, but then WizzAir cancelled the flights from Burgas back to London so we went on to Sofia instead.

I had a good time and can recommend the Old Town in Plovdiv, the Rila Monastery and the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia as worth a visit if you are in the area. In the highly unlikely event that you are interested in my holiday snaps you can find them here.

It was a less successful trip when it came to finding local music. There are a few record shops but they don't seem to stock much local stuff, and those CDs that they do have are fairly pricy for what is basically a complete stab in the dark. I picked up three though.

The pick of the bunch by some distance is a compilation of previously unavailable recordings made between 1979 and 1995 by Novi Tsvetya (New Flowers), one of the first Bulgarian punk bands. The sound quality is pretty ropey at times but there is plenty to enjoy.

To quote the sleeve notes "The band was made of a bunch of kids that heard some punk stuff on the Yugoslavian radio and decided to become punks... back in 1979. They made their own instruments and recorded demos in their summer kitchen using a simple reel to reel recorder". And it shows on the earlier recordings on the album.

Next up is Monolith. Formed in 1991 they have been described as "one of the few Bulgarian bands that successfully combine blues music, rock and roll, and art-rock". In their pomp that may have been true, but by the time they released the self-titled 2019 album that I acquired they were a bog-standard blues rock band. Not unpleasant but nothing special.

Finally there is Nina Nikolina & Kalin Velov, whose 2018 album "Absinthe" was misleadingly described to me as "ethno" by the woman in the record shop. It is actually dreadful Latin lounge and this is the only half-decent track.

I will try to do better on my work trips to Bucharest and Macedonia next month.

"Патриот (Patriot)" - Novi Tsvetya

"Ostni Spira" - Monolith

"Всичко е игра (It's All A Game)" - Nina Nikolina & Kalin Velov

Now this is more like it...

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Holiday Time

Rail strikes and airport chaos permitting I'll be off on holiday tomorrow, getting back at the tail end of next week.

Well I say holiday, but actually I am leaving to escape the abuse I have been receiving from misguided individuals who think I am in some way affiliated with Liz Truss, ever since The Observer revealed on Sunday that she believes she surfs the zeitgeist. An implausible claim, as her failure to choose any Uzbek dub for Desert Island Discs shows.

Even before this happened I had learnt to keep my holiday plans under wraps to avoid being pestered by fans. Fans of other people mostly. At various points on my travels I have been wrongly accused of being Mr Bean, Christopher Biggins - its hard to imagine how anyone could look like both of them but there you go - the former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and a German celebrity who was unknown to me.

So rather than sharing some songs that might give you a clue as to my destination here is an entirely random (insert wink emoji) list of tunes about places I am not going to. 

If you are wondering about where some of these places are: I assume Unq Village is in Mongolia because that's where The Colors come from, but I can't be sure; Gauteng is a province in South Africa; and while you will know where Angola is you may not know that its praises are being sung by a band from Niger. 

"Baltimore" - The Tamlins

"Unq Village" - The Colors

"Loch Lomond" - The Rockets

"Gauteng" - Mpharanyana

"Angola" - Azna De L'Ader

"Rockaway Beach" - General Johnson & Joey Ramone

"Indian Ocean" - Frazey Ford

"Adelaide" - John Cale

Stay well, see you soon. Take it away lads...


Sunday, 24 July 2022

Single Song Sunday

As so often seems to be the case these days, today's post was prompted by that Charity Chic. A while back he posted a couple of live tracks by Fairport Convention recorded at their annual Cropredy Fesrival, which got me reminiscing about the times I attended back in the 1990s. 

One moment that I will always treasure was at the 1995 festival when Fairport were joined on stage by Richard Thompson, Roy Wood and the brass section and backing vocalists from Roy's all-female Big Band to belt out "I Heard It Through The Grapevine".

I set off to find evidence of its existence and to my surprise discovered it was officially released on their 1997 album "Who Knows Where The Time Goes", which comprised new studio material plus this and a live version of the title track. I eventually managed to track down a copy of the album via eBay and, having done so, decided to celebrate with a Single Song Sunday.

All of which explains why we are kicking off with the Fairport version rather than Gladys Knight's original. Gladys took the song to No 2 in the Billboard Charts in 1967 and it became Motown's highest-selling single up to that point, a position it held for 12 months until knocked off its perch by Marvin Gaye's version during the course of its seven weeks at No 1.

You might want to take a deep breath before tackling the next two as they clock in at a combined total of over 23 minutes, Creedence's 11 minute extended choogle being outdone in length by The Bar-Kays who had evidently seen Isaac Hayes' success with "Walk On By" and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and thought "we'll have a bit of that".

The long songs are followed by Andre Williams' brief palate cleanser, notable for having no obvious signs of Andre on it, before we round things off with the magnificently ramshackle Slits and the Mandatory Reggae Version courtesy of Toots and the lads.

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Fairport Convention (featuring Richard Thompson and Roy Wood's Big Band)

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Gladys Knight & The Pips

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Marvin Gaye

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Creedence Clearwater Revival

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - The Bar-Kays

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Andre Williams

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - The Slits

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Toots & The Maytals

Today's videos go in the following order: sublime, sublimer, sublimest, ridiculous.

Friday, 22 July 2022

Cheri On The Top

A bit of 90s Americana for you today courtesy of Cheri Knight and her album "The Northeast Kingdom". Released in 1998 it was her second and to date last album. Apparently she is a full-time flower farmer now (no, that isn't a euphemism).

The album was produced by The Twangtrust a.k.a. Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy. Steve was also in the band (that is him playing the harmonium on "Dar Glasgow") and they roped in a few of their mates like Emmylou Harris and Tammy Rogers to help out as well. 

All in all it is an excellent album and worth getting hold of if you can find a reasonably priced copy (which is not as easy as you might hope).

"Dar Glasgow" - Cheri Knight

"Sweetheart" - Cheri Knight

There is a track on the album called "Dead Man's Curve" - disappointingly not a twangy version of the Jan & Dean classic. I tried to find a decent quality video of Jan & Dean for you but there are only grainy muffled ones from 1980s reunion tours available on YouTube, so you are getting Nash The Slash instead.