Thursday, 30 December 2010

Party Pack

Ahoy there, whey-faced lovers of lo-fi! Are you hosting a New Year's Eve party and worried that with only your funereal-paced record collection to play your rug will be left uncut? Well, feel free to dip into the 27 Leggies Party Pack:

"Dancin' Mood" - Jay & The Techniques (USA)

"Hippy, Skippy Moon Strut" - The Moon People (USA)

"Gumba Gumba" - Letta Mbula (South Africa)

"Jive Soweto" - Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse (South Africa)

"Maxaka" - Peta Teanet (South Africa)

"Jolies Filles" - Lapiro De Mbanga (Cameroon)

"Princesa Negra De Angola" - Bebeto (Brazil)

"Rus Pu Tin" - Panadda Chayapark (Thailand)

Yes, that last one is what you think it is. I included it as a tribute to Bobby Farrell of Boney M, the original Daddy Cool and one of the finest mimers in the business, who sadly passed away earlier today. Here he is in action.

Bobby was born in Aruba. Unfortunately, I can never hear the word Aruba without singing "Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya" etc. This is possibly my favourite version of "Kokomo".

And a Happy New Year to you all.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Calypso Corner

Here are three variations on yer actual calypso sound. First up we have an early piece of what was to become soca from Lord Shorty, although at that stage it was really still an attempt to add disco to calypso. Then we have a Nigerian calypso from Mr Bola Johnson, celebrating the fact that Nigeria had shaken off the old colonial shackles by changing the law to require driving on the right not the left. And finally we have, er, Bob Mitchum.

"Sweet Music" - Lord Shorty (1976)

"Nigeria Drive On The Right" - Bola Johnson (date unknown - 1960s?)

"Mama Looka Boo Boo" - Robert Mitchum (1957)

It's not just Mr Mitchum. All sorts have had a go, with varying degrees of success.

Monday, 27 December 2010

This Year's Gigs

Following on my attempt at a top ten albums list - which I already disown - I thought I should reflect on live music in 2010. It was a mixture of good and bad, the good being the high number of excellent gigs I was lucky enough to get to, the bad being the loss of one of London's better small venues. The Luminaire in Kilburn will close its doors next week and will be sadly missed. Coming only a few months after What's Cookin' in Leytonstone has cut back to only one gig a month, let's hope this isn't the beginning of a trend.

My gig going in 2010 began in Brussels in January with two gigs in one night. The first was Jon Spencer's rockabilly combo, Heavy Trash, and they were good. But not half as good as Papa Boni & Kundi Bora, whose Congolese soukous sounds I discovered by accident - and you can discover them on YouTube. I popped into the Live Music Cafe on Avenue Anspach for a quick beer on my way back to my hotel. The next thing you know it is 2am and I am dancing round the tables with a friendly bunch of locals. A memorable night.

The last paid gig of the year was also in Brussels just a few weeks ago - Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi and guests performing his tribute to many of the African leaders that led their countries to independence, "Presidents d'Afrique". That was another excellent night, and there were many more in between.

I would find it impossible to choose a single "best gig of the year" as there were just too many highlights - long-time heroes such as Mike Heron at Cafe OTO and Hugh Masekela at the Royal Festival Hall and stalwarts such as Tom Russell and Otis Gibbs at the Luminaire and What's Cookin' respectively, to name but a few. So instead here are five of the songs that would make my fantasy compilation of the best live moments of 2010.

"Riot In Cell Block Number Nine" - Wanda Jackson

72 years young, Wanda fought her way to the Luminaire through the volcanic ash clouds to blow us all away in April. Her yell in the middle of this song was enough to set off another eruption. This is the original recording.

"Bonfires" - Rickie Lee Jones

This song from "Balm In Gilead", accompanied only by her own guitar, was one of the many highlights of a career-spanning set at the Union Chapel in July.

"Another Song In C" - Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon was on a double bill with Richard Thompson in the Festival Hall in June, as part of the latter's Meltdown Festival. Tommo was on sparkling form as always, but Loudon stole the show with this. This recording is from their joint US tour in 2009.

"Hedda Gabler" - John Cale

Also at the Festival Hall, February saw John Cale perform his classic "Paris 1919" in its entirety with band, string section and horn section. That was great. After the interval he came back with just the band and played a short set that was even better. I had never heard "Hedda Gabler" before but was completely stunned by it. This version comes from his 1979 LP "Sabotage Live". The version he played in February was even darker and even more impressive.

"Black Eyed Dog" - Lisa Hannigan

In January there was an all-star tribute concert to Nick Drake and his arranger Robert Kirby, who had recently passed away. The overall quality was a bit patchy, but there were some stand out performers including Krystle Warren, Teddy Thompson and Danny Thompson on bass, as he was on many of the original recordings. But Lisa Hannigan's "Black Eyed Dog" stood head and shoulders above everything else. This is the actual performance. I converted it from this clip from the subsequent "highlights" show on the BBC, most of which can be found on YouTube:

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Seasonal Tsonga

For my last post before Christmas, we return to our neglected mission to spread the good word about Tsonga Disco. Here are two tracks each from three of the titans of the Tsonga disco scene: Penny Penny, Joe Shirimani and the late, great Peta Teanet.

Penny's tracks come from the album "Tamakhwaya No. 6", released in 2006, and Joe's from "Tambilu Yanga", released in 2008. Peta's come from a compilation called "King of Shangaan Disco", which is available for download on Amazon and highly recommended.

"3 In 1" - Penny Penny

"Aka Skikorokoro" - Penny Penny

"Basani" - Joe Shirimani

"Limpopo" - Joe Shirimani

"Andi Vileli" - Peta Teanet

"African Vibe (Part 2)" - Peta Teanet

A skorokoro (or skikorokoro as Penny Penny calls it) is a clapped out old car, hence the noise of a motor revving at the start. I don't know whether Penny was attempting to update this South African Afropop standard from the 1980s - musically they don't have a great deal in common apart from both being extremely infectious, and that revving sound.

"Skorokoro" - Condry Ziqubu

NEWSFLASH: Many thanks to my (now officially a hipster) friend Wills Glasspiegel for drawing my attention to this excellent article in the South African Mail & Guardian on all things Shangaan/Tsonga. Regular readers will spot familiar names like Thomas Chauke, and it is good to see them getting a bit of recognition in their own national media at last.

We'll leave you with more conventional Christmas fare, for which many, many apologies. Have a good one.

And watch out for Jerry Garcia's appearance 50 seconds into this one:

Monday, 20 December 2010


In an attempt to be topical, here are three women singing about snow (although I can't be 100% sure about the first one).

"Pure Lotus In Snow" - Zhang Limin (1970)

"Rain And Snow" - Pentangle (1971)

"Snow" - Georgia Seddon (2009)

Georgia Seddon is the daughter of one of my all time heroes, Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band, and very talented in her own right as you can hear. I had the great pleasure of seeing them perform in Dalston recently. A couple of days before that they had joined the Trembling Bells on stage at Cecil Sharp House for a rendition of Mike's old winter ghost story, "Feast of Stephen". That has now been released as a Christmas single, on the other side of which the Bells team up with Bonnie Prince Billy. You really ought to buy it. To tempt you, here is the original.

"Feast Of Stephen" - Mike Heron (1971)

Here are some men called Snow. The sublime and the ridiculous.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Magyar Magic

First pickings from the haul of vintage Hungarian vinyl picked up in Budapest earlier this week - three singles from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The best known of the three acts, certainly outside Hungary, is Sarolta Zalatnay. "Nem Varok Holnapig" ("I am not waiting till tomorrow") was the song with which she won the Hungarian Television's dance song contest, setting her on a path to fame and fortune. It is a fairly generic piece of 1960s pop, but in the 1970s she became decidely funky and psychadelic. The best of her work was put out on a compilation by Finders Keepers records in 2007. More recently she seems to have been a tabloid staple in Hungary, including spending time in jail for fraud a few years back.

Beata Karda was also a regular hitmaker, and is still going strong it seems. Those of you whose Hungarian is better than mine can find out more at her website. Of Levante Szorenyi I have been able to discover absolutely nothing. But "Rockandroll Rezi" was co-written by Janos Brody, who went on to be one of Hungary's most successful singer-songwriters in a vaguely folk-rock style with the likes of Fonograf, who will no doubt be featured here in due course.

"Nem Varok Holnapig" - Sarolta Zalatnay (1967)

"Rockandroll Rezi" - Levante Szorenyi (year unknown)

"Csilliagiviragok" - Beata Karda (1973)

There are plenty of clips of Beata on YouTube. I can't decide which of these is my favourite, so you are getting them all.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Top 10 albums of 2010

I received an e-mail from the Hype Machine recently making it clear that I am expected to produce a top ten albums list in order to justify my position as Opinion Former to the Glitterati.

This presents me with a bit of a challenge. As any regular readers will know, my main interest is digging out little known but wonderful music from the past and from different parts of the world. I make no real effort to keep up to date with what is going on musically in the UK, US etc. This is partly because I am an old fart, partly because I don't have the time to listen to everything I dig out already without adding to it even further, and partly because I assume if it is really great I will eventually find out about it somehow.

So mine will be one of the least well-informed Top Tens you will read this festive season. I was reading a blog this morning that has started going through its top 50 albums of the year. I doubt I have listened to many more than about half that number of albums of new material all the way through this year.

With that caveat, here goes:

1. Queen Of Denmark - John Grant
2. The Lady Killer - Cee Lo Green
3. Silver And Ash - Clare Burson
4. Abandoned Love - Trembling Bells
5. Great Expectations - The Jolly Boys
6. Likelemba - Reddy Amisi
7. True Love Cast Out All Evil - Roky Erickson & Okkervil River
8. Ways Of Escape - Great Lakes
9. Presidents D'Afrique - Didier Awadi
10. Joe Hill's Tears - Otis Gibbs

Here are a few selections from what are probably some of the less well known names on that list. Reddy Amisi is one of the current generation of fine Congolese performers. Clare Burson's album brings together songs inspired by the life of her grandmother, an East European jew who moved to the States in the early years of the Second World War, leaving most of her family behind - I was lucky enough to get to the launch gig in New York in September. And Great Lakes from Athens, Georgia via Brooklyn are one of a number of fine listens brought to my attention by the estimable Liz Lawson at Deux Et Machina PR, to whom this post is dedicated. Happy Christmas, Liz, and keep up the good work.

"Ma Geko" - Reddy Awisi

"In The Sea" - Clare Burson

"Old Ways" - Great Lakes

To finish off, here are clips from the top two.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Mari & Phoebe

I got back from Budapest last night laden down with vintage Hungarian vinyl acquired from an excellent shop on Paulay Ede Utca, the name of which I have forgotten - if you start from Deak Ferenc Ter metro it is about a block and a half up on the left, and you need to ring the bell to be allowed in.

The Hungarian albums are upstairs and go for 600 to 1800 forint (roughly £2 to £6), and if you ask nicely the owner will open up the storeroom where he has loads of old singles on the Qualiton and Pepita labels going for 250 forint. It will be a while before you (or I) get to hear them - they have been added to the backlog along with the Danish stuff and new Tsonga Disco that regular readers have heard me droning on about previously.

While in Budapest I visited the trendy Godor Klub - which is located underneath an artificial lake, so you make sure not to sit near any cracks in the ceiling - to catch a gig by Mari Nyeso. This is her.

Mari performs a mix of folk, jazz and blues and is pretty nifty on the old guitar, as the YouTube clip below demonstrates. Vocally she reminded me a little of Phoebe Snow. I don't have any of Mari's recordings, so here is a bit of Phoebe as a substitute, including her cover of The Roche's "The Married Men" - which is copied from vinyl, so apologies for the quality.

"Harpo's Blues" - Phoebe Snow (from "Phoebe Snow", 1974)

"The Married Men" - Phoebe Snow (from "Against The Grain", 1978)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Bunny's Boiling

I am off to Budapest tomorrow for a well-earned break, so here is a quick post to tide you over until I return. It's the mighty Bunny Wailer with a couple of tracks from his classic 1977 album, "Protest".

"Who Feels It" - Bunny Wailer

"Johnny Too Bad" - Bunny Wailer

Bunny is a righteous man but he is not averse to a bit of light-hearted fun. In fact, his biggest success in the States came from writing this little ditty.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Presidents D'Afrique

I was at a loose end in Brussels on Sunday night when, flicking through a listings magazine, I discovered that one Didier Amadi was playing Bozar (or the Palais Des Beaux-Arts to give the place its full name) that evening. I had never heard of him but wandered over out of curiousity and, discovering that tickets could be had for as little as €8, decided to give it a go.

Bozar is a combination of an art gallery and a medium-sized concert hall. Ideal for the classical concerts that it is normally used for, but less obviously suited to a radical Senegalese hip hop artist, which is what the programme informed me Didier was. I'm not a great fan of hip hop so I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy the evening. Add to that the fact that the venue was no more than about one third full, and that the evening began with a lengthy speech from a Eurocrat who informed us that the event was sponsored by the Belgian Presidency of the European Union and that Didier would be performing his concept album about African liberation leaders who went on to be presidents of their countries, and I awaited his arrival with some trepidation.

Which made the next two hours somewhat of a revelation. Didier was backed by an excellent band, with a stand out performance from Moustapha Gaye on guitar, and was joined by a steady stream of guest singers, rappers and random audience members (including one splendidly dressed older gent who I believe was the Senegalese ambassador to the EU). While there was a strong hip hop element to the music, it also drew heavily on various African styles linked to the leader the specific song was about - for example, some rumba for the song about Patrice Lumumba of the Congo. All in all it was an excellent show.

Compared to the stage show, the album "Presidents D'Afrique" is relatively mild-mannered, but it is still very enjoyable with a host of guest stars from all over Africa. These three selections are tributes to Mandela, Lumumba and Modibo Keita of Mali respectively.

"Amandla" - Awadi (featuring Skwatta Kamp)

"Ensemble" - Awadi (featuring Babani Kone)

"On A Plus Le Choix" - Awadi (featuring Fredy Massamba)

Some of you hardcore rap and hip hop fans might consider to be a bit too watered down for your tastes. In which case, try this "old school" (as I believe they say) classic instead.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Tidying Up

The end of the year is approaching at alarming speed. This was brought home to me yesterday when I received an e-mail from the Hype Machine informing me that I had only a few weeks to publish my list of my top ten albums of 2010, which is apparently essential if I am to be considered an official Taste Maker. I just hope I can find the time - you may be hoping I don't.

Things are rather busy at the moment as I am not around much - off to Brussels this afternoon for four days work, then next weekend off to Budapest for a short break - and with Christmas planning now kicking in, with the result that I have not got round to listening to the new Danish and Tsonga Disco CDs I have mentioned previously.

So instead here are selections from a couple of CDs from my list of things to post when there is a gap to fill. If that makes it sound like they are second rate it is not intended, it is just there has always been something I have wanted to post just a little bit more. Now is their time to shine.

First up is The Candle Thieves, from their current album "Sunshine and Other Misfortunes". According to the blurb on their website, "they summon up the spirits of Eels, Sufjan Stevens and the Lucksmiths in their sounds". That's as maybe. To an old fart like me they sound like Prefab Sprout. Which is no bad thing.

"Stars" - The Candle Thieves

"Sharks And Bears" - The Candle Thieves

Masta Famedji, on the other hand, is a bit more of a mystery. His 2001 album, "Faso I Love", is dedicated to the people of Burkina Faso. However he sings in English rather than French, which suggests he is not from Burkina himself. All the clues are that he is Nigerian - little subtle clues like the song "Coming From Nigeria" and the other one dedicated to "Father Fela".

To add to the mystery there is a group playing regular gigs in France at the moment going by the name of Sylama and the Masta Famedji Group, led by a very un-Nigerian looking woman called Sylama. My knowledge of French is very shaky, but from reading the notes I fear this means Masta himself has passed on and Sylama is carrying the torch, a bit like Bonnie Tyler fronting the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

If anyone can shed any light on the mystery, please do. In the meantime, here is the Masta in his pomp.

"Coming From Nigeria" - Masta Famedji

"Faso I Love You" - Masta Famedji

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I mentioned both Bonnie Tyler and Sufjan Stevens. Which is the perfect excuse to play you a clip of their marvellous remake of the old Brook Benton and Dinah Washington duet. Although in this clip Bonnie appears be auditioning for "Stars In Their Eyes" as Rod Stewart.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Turner Time

To ease you into the weekend, here are some fine soul sounds courtesy of the Turner Brothers from Indianapolis. They released one ultra rare (and ultra good) album in 1974. It went by the name of "Act 1". Sadly it turned out to be a single act play.

Actually I think "ultra rare" might be underplaying the status of the original release. A copy sold in EBay this year for $2125. Fortunately for the rest of us it was re-released by Luv 'N Haight (an offshoot of Ubiquity Records) in 1999. I picked up a copy of that for about £5 in Cape Town earlier in the year. To be honest I think I got the better deal.

The writing credits are shared between three of the six brothers and band members Jimmy Dixon and Rudy Ross. These two were both penned by Calvin Turner.

"Let's Go Fishing" - The Turner Bros.

"Sweetest Thing In The World" - The Turner Bros.

Here's another Turner, with some Bachmans. And an Overdrive.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Danish Delights 1

Christmas has come early for me. I got home today to find two Penny Penny CDs and a Joe Shirimani CD waiting for me. You lot are going to have to wait a little longer to share them, but fear not, it won't be too long.

In the mean time, here is the first in an occasional series which will last as long as it takes me to work my way through the assorted Danish CDs I acquired in Copenhagen on Monday. First up are Kliche with their debut album, 1980's "Supertanker".

According to such limited information as I can find, Kliche were "a Danish new wave band" - which I suspect you can work out for yourself - who "would semi-ironically quote Mao and Buddha and perform in uniforms - often coloured overalls". So now you know.

The bulk of the album is fairly conventional (I refuse to say kliched) new wave, of which "Hetz" is one of the better examples. But the opening and closing tracks are both synth-led and, to my inexpert eyes, slightly reminiscent of OMD when they still spelt their name out in full. And also rather good. The last track, "Masselinjen", is nearly ten minutes long and that is the one we feature today.

Overall, and bearing in mind I have only played it once, I would say "Supertanker" is hardly essential but worth a listen if you are a fan of the new wave/ post-punk/ synth-pop sort of thing. I mean you, Mister F.

"Hetz" - Kliche

"Masselinjen" - Kliche

If my source is to be believed, Kliche hailed originally from Aarhus. You know what is coming next. You're just not sure if it is the very, very big house or the one in the middle of our street. It's both!