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Tuesday 31 March 2009

Into The Valleys

Here at 27Leggies we had Irish week a couple of weeks back, and assorted Scots pop up reasonably frequently. So in the interests of Celtic equality today’s post comes from the Land of Song itself – Wales.

We start with possibly my favourite Welsh performer – John Cale. Here he is with “I’m Not The Loving Kind” from his 1975 album “Slow Dazzle”. I’m never quite sure listening to it whether it is a glass half full or glass half empty song.

Next up is a Welsh hero, Meic Stevens. He is often described as “the Welsh Dylan”, presumably for no better reason than that he plays the guitar and writes his own songs. I have never detected much stylistic similarity between the two. But he is bloody good, and when he sings in Welsh he is still more comprehensible than Bob is in English. Here’s his big pop hit, “Y Brawd Houdini”.

From the Welsh Dylan we move to the Welsh Elvis. To finish off this mini Eisteddfod, here is a clip of Meic’s brother Shaky with that woman from Skewen. Possibly the most frightening combination to come out of Wales since the Pontypool Front Row (and no hooker jokes please).

Logically next up should be Cornwall but shamefully, despite being part Cornish myself, I don’t think I have any Cornish music in my collection. I may need to dredge up a clip of “The Floral Dance” or something. Watch this space.

Monday 30 March 2009

Mpharanyana on Monday (9)

This week's selection is "Bakithi". And that is really all I have to say on the subject.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Tribute to Hertfordshire

Apologies for the appalling contrived links today - it reflects either an excess or absence of inspiration, depending on your point of view.

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of watching the Harpenden Light Operatic Society's production of "Oliver!", starring my friend Jonathan as Fagin. Those of you who weren't there - which I am guessing is most of you - missed a treat. Here as a sort of tribute is a track by an Italian outfit called Oliver Onions who were active in the 1970s and whose day job was apparently writing the soundtracks for Terence Hill and Bud Spencer films. This is called "Same Situation".

Less than twenty miles from Harpenden is the scenic town of Watford, home of the "Watford Gap" service station. Here is Roy Harper singing about it.

That was from Roy's 1977 album "Bullinamingvase". From the same album, here is a clip of him performing "One Of These Days In England".

Friday 27 March 2009

The Postman’s Stubbly Chin

We finish our brief hippy trip with one of my all time favourite bands, the Incredible String Band. I was too young to see them in their prime, but was lucky enough to attend a couple of reunion concerts in London in 1997 and 2000. There were a lot of celebrity fans at the first one, including Robert Plant. My friend Conical stood next to him in the urinals and was too intimidated to pee.

I have also been to numerous Robin Williamson solo shows over the years and he never fails to charm, even on the occasion he was double-booked with a bad new wave band in the Sir George Robey (a now defunct grubby pub venue in north London). Today’s selection is one of Robin’s songs from “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter” – “Koeeoaddi There”, about his childhood in Edinburgh.

This song also helped to inspire another great song. Paul Siebel heard “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter”, and was so entranced by it that he wrote a song about a “mystic band” who “swirl me in a magic all their own”. The song was “Then Came The Children”, and here it is. If you listen to this after “Koeeoaddi There” you’ll recognise the reference to the postman’s chin. There is also a reference to "Witches Hat", one of the other songs on the album.

We’ll end with a clip of the String Band from the “Be Glad For The Song Has No Ending” DVD. Here they are doing “All Writ Down”.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

More Hippy Nonsense: Quintessence

I have been a fan of Quintessence ever since I first heard them on a second-hand copy of "Bumpers", an Island Records sampler from about 1970, that I acquired from a junk shop in Dorset. I fell right away for their groovy rock/Indian/flute/jazz combination.

They were one of the hippiest of all the hippy bands. They lived in Notting Hill Gate (where, as they put it in the song of the same name, "Things are great in Notting Hill Gate/ We all sit around and meditate"). They had their own guru. And they veered erratically between the sublime and the ridiculous, often in the same song. As an example here is "Cosmic Surfer":

Ride, Cosmic Surfer, Ride!!!

However my favourite track of theirs is still the one I heard first on "Bumpers", a storming live version of "Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga". Here it is:

And in a similar style here is a clip of them live at Glastonbury in 1971:

Ten years or so after that the drummer, Jake Milton, founded Blurt (of "A Fish Needs A Bike" fame). Very different. I may have to dig that one out for you.

Hippy Nonsense

Today’s contribution comes from Principal Edwards’ Magic Theatre, one of the numerous hippy collectives that occupied farmhouses in rural areas of the UK in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

They formed while students at Exeter University and were signed to John Peel’s Dandelion label. They released two albums on Dandelion, the second of which – “The Asmoto Running Band” – was released in 1971 and produced by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd.

By the time that album was released they had left Exeter and were living in a farmhouse near Kettering, hence “The Kettering Song”. Is it a savage indictment of the stale values of Middle England or just typical middle-class students sneering at the sort of people they would become within ten years – you decide.

Monday 23 March 2009

Mpharanyana on Monday (8)

In this week's episode Mpharanyana serenades a young lady called "Maria".

Maria is also the name of my brother Al's better half, and he regularly serenades her with this song as well. Unfortunately his voice is - to put it politely - not quite up to Mpharanyana's standard. So whatever pleasure she takes from the sentiment is offset by the pain of having to listen to him.

This is dedicated to them and Patsy Jr.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Stompie on Sunday

To provide a bridge between the Tsonga disco yesterday and Mpharanyana tomorrow I thought I would post some South African jazz.

Jazz has been very popular among the black and Cape Coloured population of South Africa since at least the 1950s, with many of its performers gaining an international reputation - Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim being the most prominent.

Normally I have no time for jazz at all, and a lot of the stuff produced by South African musicians is the usual self-indulgent noodling I can't stand. But when they mix it up with traditional tunes and chants it becomes something very appealing on mellow days like Sundays.

Until his death last year Stompie Mavi was one of the big name jazz and traditional Xhosa vocalists domestically. He was first noticed in the early 1970s with his hit songs, Mother Africa and Umbongo. In 1987 he was attacked and stabbed in the back. The incident left him disabled and reliant on crutches, and occasionally confined him to a wheelchair.

Today's selection is "Bayombela", from his 2002 album "Ithongo":

And here is a clip of him performing the slightly more traditional sounding "Ulele" (warning, it stops rather suddenly):

Saturday 21 March 2009

Tsonga Disco Returns

I was looking at the thingy that tells me how many times different files have been downloaded, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the pair of Tsonga disco tracks were two of the three most popular tracks that I have posted. You lot are clearly even more sophisticated than I had assumed.

If you haven't yet heard the previous tracks they are still available - just look under February in the index to the right. As you'll see from those posts my Tsonga disco collection is not exactly extensive, comprising as it does two CDs, one by Madlaks and one by Joe Shirimani. So here is another track from each of those.

First, Madlaks with "Taleta":

Second, Joe Shirimani with "Limpopo":

And here is the same song in another of Joe's low budget, badly copied videos:

Friday 20 March 2009

Paul Brady

Hold on to your hats - tomorrow sees the return of Tsonga Disco!!

But before that, one last bit of Irishness. I have never really warmed to Paul Brady's original stuff, but when he remembers he is Irish it is a different matter. Here is his magnificent version of "The Homes of Donegal":

And here he is in 1977 with his standard, "Arthur McBride":

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Welcome To Wicklow

In the second part of our Irish mini-series we pay tribute to “the Garden of Ireland”, County Wicklow.

We start with Pierce Turner who is wandering among the “Wicklow Hills”. Christy Moore did a very good cover version of this on his “Ride On” album, but I still prefer the original.

Next we have Van Morrison with “The Streets Of Arklow”. I have a bit of a bone to pick with Van about this one. When I first heard this on “Veedon Fleece”, references to “drenching beauty”, “God’s green land” and so on led me to believe that Arklow was an earthly paradise. So when my friend Shelley and I went on a driving holiday down the east coast of Ireland sometime in the early 1990s I insisted we spend at least one night on Arklow. We were severely disappointed. I hesitate to use the word “dump” – and it may have been that the contrast between what Van had promised and reality made things seem worse than they were – but is certainly wasn’t Shangri-la.

Matters were not improved by our accommodation. We spent the night in the home of Mrs Lourdes Crotty (which according to the Wicklow tourist board website is still going strong and masquerading under the name “Vale View”). Mrs C was a landlady of the old school. Our room was full of notices along the lines of “No talking”, “No smiling” and “Close your eyes when bathing because naked flesh is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord”. There was also a large photograph of her mother on the dresser to discourage any thoughts of hanky panky or other such nonsense. To be fair though, her sausages were excellent.

You will have gathered from this that I would not put Arklow high of a list of must-see sights in Ireland. I would however thoroughly recommend a visit to Glendalough. The scenery around the twin lakes is spectacular enough, but when you add the remains of the old monastic settlement it makes it a bit special. The monks under St Kevin arrived in the early 7th Century and remained until the settlement was destroyed by English forces in 1398. It is one of their number that The Dubliners sing about with their customary reverence in “The Glendalough Saint” (apologies for the sound quality on this one – it was burned from an album of my Dad’s that has been played regularly for over 40 years).

We finish with a clip which has nothing to do with Wicklow, but brings back many happy memories for me. On the same live album the Dubliners did a rambunctious tribute to Dublin’s former red light district, “The Mento”. In my student days this song was adopted by me and my friend Dave, and it became traditional for us to sing it in the streets of Colchester while making our way back to our digs after a session. The Dubliners did it better - and with added facial hair. Here they are to prove it.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Tribute to Joe Dolan

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I thought I would mark the occasion by paying a small tribute to one of my favourite Irish entertainers, the late, great Joe Dolan.

Joe’s musical career started in 1964 as lead singer of The Drifters - that’s The Drifters Showband of Mullingar, County Westmeath not The Drifters of “Under The Boardwalk” and “Saturday Night At The Movies” fame (although he might as well have been in the version of those Drifters I saw in Tenerife in the late 1980s as it couldn’t have made it any less authentic - this was the time when there about three different line-ups touring the world).

Joe went solo in the late 1960s and got his international breakthrough with the big ballad “Make Me An Island” in 1969. He followed this up the following year with “You’re Such A Good Looking Woman”, one of my favourite party songs of all time on which he out Jonesed Tom Jones:

There is a fantastic clip of him performing this on YouTube. Unfortunately the person who uploaded it has disabled the embedding facility so you will need to follow this link to see it, but believe me it is worth the extra click:

Joe had many further hits in Ireland and across Europe, and in 1978 became the first Western artist to perform in Russia. He returned the favour by recording a track called “Anushka Balalaika”, about a young girl who dreams of dancing with the Bolshoi Ballet. If you are really unlucky I’ll play it for you one day.

Joe played a couple of seasons in Las Vegas in the early 1980s and continued to have hits in Ireland throughout that decade, after which things went a bit quiet for a while. In a strategy nicked a few years later by Tony Christie, his career was revived in the late 1990s when a charity version (with Dustin the Turkey) of “You’re Such A Good Looking Woman” made number one in Ireland, and he recorded a couple of albums of cover versions of contemporary hits - the fabulously titled “Joe 90s” and the follow-up “21st Century Joe”.

It is from that latter album that today’s second selection comes. Especially for Mr F, here is Joe’s rendition of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”. He doesn’t quite pull it off - I don’t think Joe was genetically capable to creating an air of menace so he sounds more like a psycho cuddler than a psycho killer - but he gives it a good go.

Joe kept touring and recording right up until he died of a brain haemmorhage in December 2007, aged 68.

To finish off here is a clip of the great man in concert doing one of the Drifters’ old hits from the showband era, “The Westmeath Bachelor”:

RIP Joe, and for the rest of you there will be more Irishness to come later in the week.

Monday 16 March 2009

Sunday 15 March 2009

Peruvian Psych

Peru - home of the Incas and, more recently, Peruvians. Also home in the late 1960s and early 1970s to a very vibrant psychedelic rock scene.

The leading lights of the scene were probably Traffic Sound. Here they are with "Suavecito":

And here is a clip of them at a reunion concert in 2005:

I don't think I possess the words to adequately describe today's second selection, so I will simply note that this is The St. Thomas Pepper Smelter with "Betty Boom - Little Monster - Doggie and Peggie at the Witches' Castle":

Friday 13 March 2009

Arthur Alexander

Here are a couple of gems from one of the founding fathers of country soul, Arthur Alexander: "Miles And Miles From Nowhere" and "Come Along With Me".

Arthur wrote and recorded many songs that were subsequently covered by more commercially successful acts, songs like "Anna" (The Beatles), "You better move on" (The Rolling Stones) and "Set me free" (Charlie Rich and many others).

He was also the first person to record "Burning Love". You will all be familiar with the Elvis version, but have you heard Metal Elvis? Prepare to be astonished.

Thursday 12 March 2009

China Time

I have a subscription with EMusic and I usually find at the end of each month that I have two or three downloads to spare. So what I like to do is go to the international section and try out a few albums from countries that are under-represented in my collection. Which is how I came to acquire these two Chinese performances.

The first is from Xiang Xiang, who evidently is/was a bit of an Internet sensation in China. The song's title in English is "Summer Insects", taken from her 2005 CD with the catchy title "Song of Pig".

To be honest if that was sung in English I would probably dismiss it as Katie Melua-type pap, but somehow in Mandarin it works for me. Whereas this next one I suspect would sound delightfully bonkers in any language. Here is Hu Songhua, I guess from some time in the 1980s, with "Song of Harvest".

I am not sure what it is - the voice, the drum machine, the plastic horns - but for some reason that reminds me of this:

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Rastaman Nkhushu

I had intended to post today “Gwyld Y Rasta Gwyn” by Sobin A'r Smaeliad – a Welsh language reggae number which (I assume) tells the tale of a man called Gwyn who has forsaken the chapel for the chalice. I was then going to use that as the starting point for some tightly scripted stream of consciousness about horrifying Welsh/ reggae hybrids – Shakin’ Stevens sings Chaka Demus, Bonnie Tyler* sings Bunny Wailer, the Stereophonics sing anything at all, etc etc. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately from your point of view) it turns out to be in a protected format and I can’t work out how to convert it to mp3, so you will have to manage without. But it is on iTunes if you are really keen.

So instead here is some South African reggae. This is Rastaman Nkhushu – which I’m guessing is not the name his parents gave him – with “Ke LeRasta 4 Life” from 2006.

* Apropos of nothing at all, many years ago I used to work with a Welsh woman who denounced Bonnie Tyler as a slapper simply because she was born and raised in Skewen. Evidently where she came from Skewen had a bit of a reputation for that sort of thing. I am sure that is grossly unfair on Bonnie and the other fine ladies of the district.

Monday 9 March 2009

Mpharanyana on Monday (6)

This week's Mpharanyana track is a personal favourite - "Freak Out With Botsotso".

Who or what is Botsotso, I hear you ask. To be honest I have no idea, but after extensive research on Google I think there are two most likely candidates. Apparently "Botsotso" is or was a slang term for skin-tight jeans; and it is or was a football stadium in Katlehong. Those of you who have been with us since Mpharanyana on Monday (2) will recall that he claims that Kathelong is "where I belong". Neither "Freak out with skin-tight jeans" or "Freak out with a football stadium" sound terribly convincing, but it is the best I can offer.

If you search against "Botsotso" on Google, most hits relate to "a grouping of poets, writers and artists who wish to both create art as well as to generate the means for its public exposure and appreciation". But I am sure the song is not about them, not because Mpharanyana would not have appreciated their work but because they did not get started until 1994, 15 years after his tragically early death.

If any of my many South African readers can shed any more light on the subject, that would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Sunday Afternoons and January Sales

It's Sunday afternoon, so here is "Sunday Afternoon in Memphis" by Steve Dixon.

To find out more about Steve Dixon and many other obscure gems, can I recommend a visit to Sir Shambling's Southern Soul Heaven (see blog list to the right). It is essential reading for any fan of Southern Soul.

Also, advance warning that in order to remain below my "free usage" limit on I will be taking down all the links for January in a week or two, so this is your last chance to pick up some bargains from the likes of Swamp Dogg, Gary Stewart, Soule Ngofo Man and the Incredible String Band. To save you wading through each post individually, here they all are:

Saturday 7 March 2009

Betty Wright

I was surprised to find, flicking back through previous posts, that I had not yet posted anything by any female soul singers. I thought I ought to put that right, and what better way to do that than with a double dose of Ms Betty Wright. Here is "Tonight is the Night" from 1974's "Danger - High Voltage" LP, and "Fakin' Moves" from 1988's "Mother Wit".

And here she is live with a great rendition of "Clean Up Woman":

Thursday 5 March 2009

For Your Information

We continue our 1960s world tour with a trip to the Lebanon. This has been a favourite of mine ever since I found it in a jumble sale in Colchester in the early 1980s: "For Your Information" by The Cedars.

Apparently the song was a major hit in Turkey and, rewritten with Turkish lyrics, became a bit of a standard for local garage bands - a Levantine "Louie, Louie", if you like. Here is the only Turkish version I have been able to track down (I believe it is also the original Turkish version): "Iyi Dusun Tasin" by Mavi Isiklar.

Unfortunately I've not been able to find live clips of either version on YouTube. I did think of posting a clip of "The Lebanon" by The Human League, but you deserve better. It isn't the worst example of 1980s pop stars trying to do politics - that would be Simple Minds' "Belfast Child" or anything by U2 - but it is a load of old rubbish. And it doesn't begin to compare with this bit of in yer face agit-prop:

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Far East - Far Out

After yesterday's German swing extravaganza, we stay in the 1960s with a trio of feisty females from the Far East:

Sodsai Chaengkij (Thailand) with "Shake Baby Shake"
Helen Gamboa (The Philippines) with "Shing A Ling Time"
Rita Chao (Singapore) with "Hanky Panky"

More than a few rugs will have been cut to these three tracks in their time, I'll bet.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Funky Frankfurt

Today we feature a couple of tracks taken from the punningly titled "The In-Kraut Volume 2", the second in an excellent series of three CDs compiling assorted examples of swinging German grooviness from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.

The first example of Teutonic tunefulness comes from an outfit called the Hazy Osterwald Jet Set, and is a tribute to "Swinging London". It starts off reciting the London A-Z, pausing only to announce that "Humperdinck's on BBC", then after a smoking organ solo comes up with some searing social commentary. It is absolutely fantastic.

I had never heard of the Hazies (or is it the Osterwalds?) before getting this CD, but judging by the number of clips on YouTube they must have been big in Germany back in the 1960s. They were clearly crazy guys, as you can see in this clip - just keep your eye on the sax player:

Our second tune is as good as the first one (you can take that however you want). Here is Hugo Strasser with an extraordinary reworking of Deep Purple's "Black Night":

You could not really do a feature on German big band remakes of pop and rock hits without including the Daddy of them all. So to finish off here is Hansi himself, Mr James Last, with his Orchestra. This is a clip of them doing the theme from "Rocky". Unfortunately we only get to see the back of James' head, but there are many other delights to savour such as the bongo solo and the beard of the purple-shirted trumpeter. Enjoy!

Monday 2 March 2009

Mpharanyana on Monday (5)

It's March. It's Monday. So it must be time for Mpharanyana. Part 5 of our ongoing series featuring the late, great South African soul singer. This week it is a groovy little number called "Moketa Wa Thabo".

Birthday Dedication

This one is especially for my friend Mr F, on the occasion of his dotage. Here are George Melly and the Stranglers: