Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Irish Frenzy

This is likely to be my last post for a week or so. If all goes according to plan I will be seeing Tom Russell at the Luminaire tomorrow night and will then head off to Ireland for two day's work followed by three day's leisure.

To get me in the mood, and to tide you over until I return, here are seven Irish recordings (one for each of the drunken nights the Dubliners sang about). They come in all shapes and sizes, from the literate indie pop of Microdisney and A House to the beautiful traditional singing of Cara Dillon, and culminate in Dickie Rock draining the life blood from the Pogues' "Rainy Night in Soho".

Here they are in chronological order:

"For Josephine" - David McWilliams (from "David McWilliams Volume 2", 1967)

"The Westmeath Bachelor" - Joe Dolan (single, 1968)

"Buffalo Gal" - Thin Lizzy (from "Shades of a Blue Orphanage", 1972)

"This Liberal Love" - Microdisney (from "Everybody Is Fantastic", 1984)

"Endless Art" - A House (from "I Am The Greatest", 1991)

"Brockagh Braes" - Cara Dillon (from "After The Morning", 2006)

"Rainy Night In Soho" - Dickie Rock (from "Sings Contemporary Irish Hits", 2007)

As a bonus, here is an excellent clip of the late lamented Joe performing "Westmeath Bachelor". I defy you not to jig along with this. I am trying to persuade Mister F that we should visit Mullingar this weekend to see the statue they have erected to their home town hero - which even has its own blog - but I am not sure I am going to succeed.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Soul On Sunday: JT

I haven't posted any soul music for a while, and there is no better way of putting that right than with a bit of Johnnie Taylor. Looking at the quality of his output over nearly 40 years there is definitely a case for saying he may be the greatest soul singer of all. Best known for his time with Stax from 1966 to 1974, he continued to make great records long after that, particularly with Malaco for whom he recorded from the mid 1980s up to his death in 2000.

Here are four cracking tracks, one from each decade of his recording career and two each from Stax and Malaco:

"Love Bones" (from "The Johnnie Taylor Philosophy Continues", 1969)

"Party Life" (from "One Step Beyond", 1971)

"Happy" (from "Lover Boy", 1987)

"Walk Away With Me" (from "Good Love!", 1996)

And here is the great man in action in 1976. Look at those threads!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Nick Drake Tribute

Along wih students of many generations I was at the Barbican last night for "Way To Blue", a concert dedicated to the songs of Nick Drake.

An extra dedication was to Nick's arranger, Robert Kirby, who sadly died late last year after being involved in the first of these concerts in Birmingham last May. It is dedication and tribute he thoroughly deserved. For me it is the combination of his arrangements and Nick's voice that makes "Bryter Layter" one of my favourite albums of all time.

The concert was very enjoyable. The low key nature of most of Nick's songs means it was never going to be an occasion for high emotion and adrenalin rushes, but the ensemble did a good job in capturing the spirit of them. The band and string section were excellent, with stand-out performances by Danny Thompson on bass and Zoe Rahman on piano.

There was a cast of thousands handling the vocals including such relatively well-known names as Robyn Hitchcock, Vashti Bunyan and (for the younger generation) Scott Matthews. Individual highlights included Green Gartside's "Clothes Of Sand", Krystle Warren's "Time Has Told Me" and - best of all - Lisa Hannigan's mildly demented take on "Black Eyed Dog". But if I had to give a Man of the Match award for overall contribution it would probably go to Teddy Thompson, who in his own understated way brought everything he was involved in to life.

Here are a couple of covers of songs from Nick's 1972 album, "Pink Moon". You are probably familiar with the first one, which comes from Big Lucy's "Sweet Old World" album, but hopefully the second may be new to you. Tir Na Nog were an Irish group signed to Island Records at the same time as Nick, and this is taken from their 1973 album "Strong As The Sun", which may make it the first ever cover version of a Nick Drake song. Sacrilege I know, but I think I prefer this to the original.

"Which Will" - Lucinda Williams (1992)

"Free Ride" - Tir Na Nog (1973)

The concert last night was being recorded so will no doubt appear on DVD in due course. In the meantime, here is Nick's Uncle Charlie:

Thursday, 21 January 2010


"The Drum" by The Impossibles is a minor gem. It came out in 1991 and I think I must have picked it up in a charity shop shortly afterwards. I can't imagine I bought it new as I don't remember having heard it before then, or ever having heard any more by The Impossibles before or since. I know nothing at all about them.

"The Drum" - The Impossibles

For years I believed it was a cover of a Bongwater song, because of the line "we're nothing yet but Bongwater". And, indeed, Bongwater did a version in 1989 which is obviously where The Impossibles heard it. But I have recently found out that it is actually a Slapp Happy song, first released in 1974 with the inimitable Dagmar Krause on vocals. Here is the original.

"The Drum" - Slapp Happy

I don't have the Bongwater version, but here is a freaky video of it:

And just to prove you can find absolutely anything on YouTube, here are The Impossibles:

On the whole I think I'll stick with The Impossibles.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Afro Reggae

I featured in yesterday's post one of the Congolese rumba CDs I acquired in Musicanova in Brussels last week. One legacy of Belgium's colonial history - which was pretty appalling even by the standards of the competition - is that there is a large Congolese population in Brussels, so that is Musicanova's speciality. But they also have a pretty decent selection of music from other Francophone countries.

As well as the rumba CDs I picked up an excellent compilation of West African reggae on the Sono Africa label called "Reggae Times In Africa". Most of the artists are from Cote d'Iviore or Mali, with one each from Senegal and Guinea, and all but one of them are completely new to me. I will definitely be investigating further.

Here are a couple of selections:

"Deni" - Ahmed Faras (Cote d'Iviore)

"Banani" - Nahawa Doumbia (Mali)

Of course you don't need to go all the way to Africa for decent reggae when there is a lot of home-grown talent here in the UK. Take Paul Nicholas (please!) -

In the unlikely event you sat through all of that you would have spotted the clever reference to "Roll Over Beethoven". The same trick is played in this next song. All together now, wama lama bama lama...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Brussels 2: Papa Boni

Picking up where we left off yesterday, the Heavy Trash gig at Ancienne Belgique finished about 10.30 p.m. This seemed a little early to go back to my hotel, which was only ten minutes walk away, so I decided to stop off for a quiet beer somewhere before heading off to bed.

I had only gone about 100 yards when I came across the functionally titled Live Music Cafe which was advertising a gig by Papa Boni & Kundi Bora, a Congolese rumba ensemble. Looking in the window it looked half full and quiet - everyone was seated and a band were on the small stage at the other end but showed no sign of playing - so assumed they must have finished their set. I went in anyway.

No sooner had I settled myself at a spare table and bought a very nice pint of Blanche de Bruges than the band started warming up and the bar staff started moving the tables and chairs out of the central section of the bar to make space for standing and dancing.

I found myself chatting to four charming locals and a Dutchman who lives near Philadelphia, and when the band started we were the first of the floor. Not that we were there alone for long as Papa and the boys really know how to work a crowd, as you can see from this slightly shaky clip of them performing in Maastricht last December (it has been embedded so you will need another click, but it is worth the effort).

The bar got more and more crowded as the evening progressed, and by the time I finally headed off at about 1 a.m. there must have been about 100 to 150 people in the place and they were still going strong. Unlike the Heavy Trash gig earlier in the evening, this was perfect combination of band and venue. Toss in a friendly crowd and it was pretty fantastic.

Suitably inspired I went down to Musicanova near the Port Namur metro the next morning and picked up a few Congolese CDs for €5 a go. The pick of the bunch is probably King Kester Emeneya's 1997 album "Succes Fous".

Here are a couple of tracks from that album. These are dedicated to my new friends Marius, Maud, Alexandra, Sam and the anonymous Dutchman.

"Milonga Kwango" - King Kester Emeneya

"Kapudi" - King Kester Emeneya

As a bonus, here is Kester in action in 1991:

Monday, 18 January 2010

Brussels 1: Heavy Trash

I spent three days in Brussels at the end of last week. The first half of the visit was business, the second half pleasure. The pleasure was very pleasurable, particularly last Friday night when I managed to take it two good gigs. Just call me Two Gigs Goggins from now on. Or even Two Good Gigs Goggins if you prefer.

We will deal with the second gig tomorrow. Tonight let us concentrate on the first one - Heavy Trash at the Ancienne Belgique, with support from Bloodshot Bill. Heavy Trash, for those of you not familiar with them, are basically Jon Spencer's Rock 'n Roll Explosion. The Ancienne Belgique is Brussels' premier rock venue. And Bloodshot Bill is hard to describe - a one man band who combines the guitar sound of Link Wray, the hair of Elvis and a range of peculiar voices including Elmer Fudd and Vic Reeves' pub singer. He was quite fun but I'm not sure I would want to stand through a full set.

The Ancienne Belgique is a very civilised venue - a separate bar where you buy your drinks with "AB" tokens, lockers for your coats, a performing space that can be set up for different capacities depending on who is playing (850 capacity on the night I was there), that sort of thing.

Heavy Trash on the other hand are not a very civilised band (or, rather, they make a very uncivilised sound). And therein lay a nagging sense of dissatisfaction. It was a good band, a good venue, but the wrong combination. Heavy Trash were pretty impressive, but I imagine that if I had seen them in a venue a third of the size with a low ceiling, sweat dripping off us all and beers being passed over the heads of the crowd from the bar at the back I would have been completely blown away. Hopefully that opportunity will arise in the future.

Here are a couple of numbers. "In My Heart" closed the main set - they only did a miserly eight songs in the encore - went on from the best part of ten minutes, and was the stand-out moment of the set.

"They Were Kings"

"In My Heart"

And here is a rather peculiar video of theirs:

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Tsonga Disco One Year On

27 Leggies is one year old today, so please forgive a little self-indulgence.

I started this blog for two reasons: a general one, shared with all music bloggers, of inflicting my dubious taste on anyone who was willing to listen; and a specific one, set out at the top of the page, of bringing Tsonga Disco to the masses.

Tsonga Disco is a modernised version of the traditional music of the Tsonga people, who live mainly in the north eastern part of South Africa and southern Mozambique. I first discovered it at the end of 2008 while on a visit to family in South Africa and was instantly captivated.

At the time I started 27 Leggies I only had two CDs of Tsonga Disco and even now I only have ten - it is not all that easy to find even in South Africa, or at least not in Cape Town - so I have had to dole it out fairly sparingly. We are going to have a bit of a splurge today but there won't be much more until I go out to Cape Town again at Easter, when I will try to stock up.

To see how things were going I conducted a primitive survey by going back through the files to identify the songs that have been most frequently downloaded. I am going to list the top ten - this is where the self-indulgence comes in - but was very pleased to see three Tsonga Disco numbers in there. There are plenty more "bubbling under" as they used to say on chart shows. There clearly is an audience for Tsonga Disco out there so in my own limited way I will keep on doing my bit to meet the demand (for as long as the supply holds up). If you like it, there are a few CDs available at the One World Cyber Music Store, along with many other South African delights.

Here are the top ten downloads. Apart from the Tsonga Disco and the inexplicable appearance of Merle Travis at number two it is all vintage soul. If you sit through this self-indulgence there is a reward at the other end.

1. Count The Days - Inez and Charlie Foxx
2. Fat Gal - Merle Travis
3. Matswele -Peta Teanet
4. Xitulu Xale Mahlwani - General Muzka
5. Do What You Gotta Do - The Four Tops
6. Nwayingane - Peta Teanet
7. Into The Mystic - Ben E King
8. Complication #4 - Arthur Conley
9. Please Don't Bring Him Back To Me - Sandra Phillips
10. It Hurts So Good - Katie Love

Your reward is eight previously unposted Tsonga Disco tracks, one from each of the artists in my collection. I hope you enjoy them.

"Mamana Wanga" - General Muzka

"Soft Drink" - Loaf Boy

"Taleta" - Madlaks

"Tsakane" - Paul Ndlovu

"Milandu Bhe" - Penny Penny

"King And General" - Penny Penny & General Muzka

"Biya" - Joe Shirimani

"Mi Rong" - Peta Teanet

The pickings on YouTube are slim for Tsonga Disco fans, but pickings there are. Here is a Penny Penny video, from a fair way back judging by how youthful he looks.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Les Femmes Chante En Anglais

Today we bring you some French folk music from an outfit called Folkdove. Well, to be more accurate, we bring you some English folk music performed by some French people. The album these tracks comes from is apparently very rare in its original vinyl form, but copies to download can be found on a number of sites. I can't now remember which one of them I found it on, but none of them have any more information about the record than is provided by the Radioshow Psyche Van Het Folk site.

The two tracks I have selected are both fairly straight covers of songs previously performed by some of the big beasts of English folk-rock - Steeleye Span in the first instance, Pentangle in the second. I would not claim either of them were better than the "originals", but what makes them stand out from the crowd of copyists for me is the way the words get ever so slightly mangled by the female vocalist. I don't mean that to sound patronising, it is more that there is something about a woman with a French accent singing in English that I find utterly enchanting. I know I am not alone in this. One gentleman of a certain age I know goes dewy-eyed and weak at the knees at the merest hint of Francoise Hardy.

Anyway, here are Folkdove:

"Dark Eyed Sailor"

"Lord Franklin"

And, for gentlemen of a certain age everywhere, here is Francoise. Try not to get too distracted by the appearance at around 1:15 of what appears to be a man fly-posting on the gates of Buckingham Palace. Admire instead the length of the pan shot, which must be pretty advanced for 1965.

I wasn't going to put this second clip up as I thought the sight of Francoise in what appears at first to be checked pajamas might be too much for some of you, but then I decided to risk it. Just make sure you have had a Horlicks first.

The same fly-poster turns up at the beginning of this clip as well. It must have been a recurring motif for the producers of the Piccadilly Show:

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Face Fungus Funk

Daughters, if your father has facial hair, this is the song for you:

"La Moustache A Papa" - Anna Bell

Fathers, if your daughter has facial hair, this is the song for you:

"Eleven Moustachioed Daughters" - The Bonzo Dog Band

As so often with the French language, the gender of the definite or indefinite article appears to defy logic. Why is the word moustache feminine not masculine? Were Frenchwomen in olden days notable for having hirsute upper lips? Perhaps so. And perhaps we should praise the French for being so understanding of a feature that, in other less tolerant cultures, might have resulted in the unfortunate women in question being paraded as freaks.

In a sideshow, perhaps.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Relief Of Ben E King

Some mellow soul for your Sunday evening. Today's selection are both taken from "The Beginning Of It All" by Ben E. King, released in 1972 on the Mandala label. Sadly it proved to be the end of it all, at least for a while, as the record label collapsed a few months after the album was released and Mr King was reduced to playing the oldies circuit for a few years until he was "rediscovered" by Ahmet Ertegun and Atlantic Records in the mid-70s.

Overall "The Beginning Of It All" is a pretty decent album, with some good originals and some well chosen covers including Elton's "Take Me To The Pilot" and Dave Mason's "Only You Know And I Know". The pick of the covers is probably his very pleasant take on Van's "Into The Mystic" and, together with one of the originals, that is what you are getting.

"Into The Mystic"

"All Of Your Tomorrows"

Here he is enjoying greater success a few years later:

And here's how they do the same thing in Italy. The leading lady goes by the name of Miriana Trevisan. Personally I would like to have seen more of the all-female horn section - and any innuendo you read into that is entirely of your own making - as I suspect their instuments are purely for display purposes. I wouldn't be surprised if three or four of them are MEPs by now.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Wakey! Wakey!

Yesterday I posted some early 80s punk/ new wave from South Africa. If you liked that and wanted to explore further you could do a lot worse than visit Rhythm Online, an online store that specialises in South African pop and rock. In among a lot of rubbish they have a fair few gems from my youth, such as Radio Rats and Kalahari Surfers.

While browsing on there the other day I came across a band of a similar vintage that passed me by completely at the time: National Wake. They were a mixed race punk/ reggae band, which should have made them stand out in apartheid-era South Africa, but somehow I missed them. Matsuli Music did a feature on them a couple of years ago that tells you more than I can, and more coherently too. The members included Steve Moni who had been in the Safari Suits and went on to be in the Popguns, both of whom I mentioned yesterday.

Rhythm Online has available for download an album called "Prague Set" which, from what I can gather, is their original album released in 1981 with a couple of extra tracks. There is some great stuff on there. Here are a couple of examples.

"Wake Of The Nation"

"Walk In Africa"

I haven't found any clips that go with that, so here is something completely different.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

My Wild Youth

It occurred to me the other day that 2009 marked thirty years of Goggins gig going, so I thought I should belatedly mark the occasion.

My first proper gig - I am not including here such delights as the New Seekers, Rolf Harris and Leapy Lee that I was dragged to on family outings - was in mid 1979 at the age of 16. That might seem a bit late for you cosmopolitan types, but opportunities in 1970s South Africa were strictly limited.

The gig was (I think) at The Space, in those days Cape Town's premier alternative arts venue, and the band were the Safari Suits. They were one of the relatively few South African punk/new wave bands, so it felt very daring and cutting edge to go and see them live. I thought they were pretty good at the time, although apart from Rolf and Leapy I had nothing to compare them to, but I now struggle to remember what they sounded like. My recollection was something vaguely Talking Heads-ish. According to the SA Rock Files website they played "an interesting mix of rock, reggae and kwela rhythms" so I may not be too far out. I think they did a cover of the Marvelettes' "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game", and this would have been before the Grace Jones version.

My main recollection of the gig is the way they closed the first set. Being a bit arty they decided to get one of their mates to dress up as a policeman, jump on stage and loudly demand that they stop playing, before denouncing the audience as a bunch of Communist subversives and telling us to disperse. This "statement" rather backfired when a large percentage of the audience took him at his word and went home.

The Safari Suits only ever released two tracks on a compilation mini-LP called "Six Of The Best", which I don't have. The best I can offer is this track by the Popguns, a sort of South African new wave mildly-supergroup comprising members of the Safari Suits and Joburg's Radio Rats, who we have featured here previously.

"Home Address The Burning Road" - The Popguns

One of the other acts featured on "Six Of The Best" was Durban's Wild Youth. You can find out all you could ever want to know about Wild Youth, and a good deal more, in this article by Johnny Teen, their guitarist and occasional vocalist. Or you could just listen to their one and only single.

"Wot About Me" - Wild Youth

For today's YouTube clip, we move forward a few years to 1984 and a big South African hit in a vaguely new wave style - "Taximan" by eVoid. I used to go to school with the lead singer, Erik Windrich. The Christian Brothers have a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Reggae International

Picking up where we left off yesterday here is some more reggae, but not from Jamaica. It's a global music these days, folks.

First up is our old friend from South Africa, Rastaman Nkhushu, with a track from his 2004 album "Ba Ntimile Zolo".

"O No Ba Nnoto" - Rastaman Nkhushu

Next, a mere ten months after I first threatened you with it, we have some Welsh reggae. This track was the somewhat implausible winner in 1990 of "Can I Gymru", a Welsh language song contest held every year on St. David's Day. The lead singer, one Bryn Fon, went on to win it on his own in 1997 with the immortal "Un Funud Fach" - no, me neither - making him a sort of Welsh Johnny Logan I suppose.

"Gwlad Y Rasta Gwyn" - Sobin A'r Smaeliaid

I don't speak Welsh so apart from it obviously being about a rastafarian called Gwyn (or "Ethiopia Gwyn" as Bryn calls him at various points) that's all I can tell you. If there are any Welsh speakers out there who can enlighten us further please do.

Here are Bryn and the gang with their award-winning performance.

Looking at the backing singers I'm guessing they modelled their hairstyles on Bonnie Tyler. So here is the woman herself, teaming up with Shaky for an overdose of Welshness.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Soul Sister-In-Law

Today we are going to reverse the normal order of things and start with a clip from YouTube (don't panic - this is a one-off). Here is B.B. Seaton performing at the Hootananny Club in Brixton a week or so back.

It is not B.B. I want you to admire but the backing singers, and in particular the young lady on the far left. She is my beautiful and gifted sister-in-law, Pam. They are talented family - her cousins include Pato Banton and Sabrina Washington from Mis-Teeq.

Despite much pleading I don't have any recordings of Pam and the girls to share with you - for a woman with such a lovely voice she is very reluctant to let it be heard - so we are going to have to settle for some vintage B.B. numbers instead. Which is hardly a hardship. Here are a couple of hits from the 1970s, one solo and one with the Gaylads.

These are dedicated to Pam, Stephanie, Chicken Boy, Cousin Patrick and all the gang.

"Soul Sister" - The Gaylads (1970)

"Thin Line Between Love And Hate" - B.B. Seaton (1973)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Ghana Part 2: Onipa Nua

More Goggins, More Ghana. Today we bring you a couple of tracks from "I Feel Alright" by Onipa Nua, which I picked up for £1 at Spitalfields market a little while back.

From what I can gather from various sketchy sources, Onipa Nua was a blind street musician until he was discovered in 1980 by Faisal Helwani, of whom more here and here. He made a couple of albums and apparently died in 1990. So "I Feel Alright" was presumably recorded at some point in the 1980s. The sleeve notes list the musicians - of whom more below - and the fact that it was recorded in London, but not the date.

Most tracks are just Onipa accompanying himself on his kalimba, which to be honest I find rather dull. But for the first two tracks on the album he is backed by a full band, and they are decidedly groovy. That is not surprising as the band included four of the founding members of Osibisa - Teddy Osei, Mac Tonto, Sol Amarfio (all Ghananians themselves) and Robert Bailey.

Here are those two tracks:

"I Feel Alright"

"Auntie Rosina"

And here are Osibisa performing "Sunshine Day" in what appears to be an attempt at a fake snowstorm. I wonder what creative genius thought of that?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Ghana Part 1

Welcome to the Goggins Ghana Weekend. To kick things off we bring you a couple of tracks from a compilation released last year which goes under the catchy title of "Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds And Ghanaian Blues 1968-81". It was released by Soundway Records, the same people responsible for some excellent compilations of Nigerian and Panamanian music of the same sort of vintage, some of which have been featured here previously.

"Akoko Ba" - Gyedu-Blay Ambolley & His Creations

"Noble Kings (Yako Aba)" - Dr. K. Gyasi & His Noble Kings

I have been able to find out very little about Dr K, other than that his first name was Kwame and the Noble Kings featured Eric Agyeman and Thomas Frimpong who went on to be major names in their own right. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, on the other hand, is much more forthcoming over on his website.

And now, an extra special treat for you. The next song was apparently commissioned by Kwame Nkrumah himself to be played at Ghana's independence celebrations in 1957, to celebrate the end of British colonial rule and promote the positive message that Ghana could stand on its own two feet. Unfortunately I don't have the original recording, but here's a clip of a cover version from the 1970s: Miss Viola Wills with "Ghana Get Along Without You Now".

Boom! Boom!