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Saturday 31 October 2009

Pretending To Be Bob

I went to see Andy White the other week and was inspired to dig out his debut album, 1986's "Rave On Andy White". It is still an enjoyable listen but not having heard it for ages I had forgotten quite how blatant the Dylan influences were. Take this one, for example:

"Rembrandt Hat" - Andy White

What is a Delacroix cat? I suspect not even Andy knows.

That particular track shows its influences but stands up in its own right. Others topple over into parody. And there probably isn't an artist who has been more parodied over the years than Bob Dylan.

Here is an early "tribute" from 1965, available on the classic "Pebbles Volume 3" compilation and, bizarrely, a top 40 hit in Canada:

"Like A Dribbling Fram" - Race Marbles

I think the most successful parody came out a couple of years ago - the "Dylan Hears A Who" album, which took Dr Seuss poems and arranged them in the style of "Highway 61 Revisited" period Dylan. The music is spot on, the vocals are close enough to have you briefly thinking it might be Bob himself, and the lyrical content is no more nonsensical than some of Bob's own efforts of that period ("The sun ain't yellow it's a chicken" anyone?).

"Dylan Hears A Who" was briefly a roaring success until it was closed down by the Grinches who represent Dr Seuss's estate. At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Man in the Hat, here is the hit single:

"Green Eggs And Ham" - Dylan Hears A Who

Listening to "Dylan Hears A Who" it is clear that it is meant an affectionate tribute. This one on the other hand is a cruel assault on Bob's reputation and whoever is responsible for it ought to be shot:

"Monstrous Parody"

Of course the most parodied Bob-bit of all is the video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues". Here is Weird Al Yankovic with one of the many examples. It's all palindromes, folks:

Thursday 29 October 2009

Return Of The Thad

No, this isn't an attempt to lure someone from Chad in through the power of rhyme. It is a long overdue "welcome back" to one of my favourite singers of recent years, Thad Cockrell. He has a lovely pure voice, reminiscent at times of Roy Orbison (which is about as good as it gets), and - judging by a brief conversation with him after he played at The Borderline a few years back - he is an absolutely charming chap as well.

Thad's new album "To Be Loved" came out earlier this month. It is his first solo album for six years and his first album of any sort for four years - the last being "Begonias", his album of duets with Caitlin Cary. Some of the tracks on the new album were originally issued as an EP last year and two of them in particular - "Great Rejoicing" and "Pride (Won't Get Us Where We're Going)" - are as good as anything he has done. I have only listened to the completely new tracks once but most of them sound pretty good too.

Here is one from the new album and one old favourite:

"Beauty Has A Name" - from "To Be Loved" (2009)

"Why?" - from "Stack Of Dreams" (2001)

I mentioned the Big O in the opening paragraph. Here he is showing that even with some dodgy pick-up band he could blow you away.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Fighting The Punk Poet Wars

I have been listening to that Frank Turner a bit recently. He is not bad at all but for me there can only ever be one King of the Punk Troubadours: Patrik Fitzgerald.

There are three main reasons for favouring Patrik: he did it first (and best); he didn't go to Eton, unlike Frank - which, whatever you think of him, has to undermine his credibility a bit; and perhaps most importantly, Patrik is the only one whose name is half of a punchline to a slightly off-colour joke about alternative lifestyles in Ireland.

Here are two of his finest moments:

"Optimism/ Reject" (1977)

"Improve Myself" (1979)

There was another feller in between who was pretty good as well:

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Tsonga Disco: Penny Penny

Those of you who have been following the recent posts on the Kings of Tsonga Disco may have noticed a bit of a theme developing. First we had Paul Ndlovu who reigned until he was cut down in his prime. He was succeeded by Peta Teanet who reigned until he was cut down in his prime - dead at the age of 30. Fortunately that is where the theme ends. His successor, Penny Penny - so good he named himself twice - continues to thrive.

I refer once more to the indispensable Max Thamagana Mojapelo, from whom we learn that Mr Penny (or Penny to his friends) was born into a family of 68 children and 17 wives in the village of Hanani. At that point he was known by the rather more prosaic name of Eric Kobane.

The next bit of his story, as told by Max, reminds me of "Patches" by Clarence Carter: "Upon the death of his father his mother who was a farm worker could not afford to send him and six other siblings to school... [actually I stand corrected - Patches never quit school because that was Daddy's strictest rule]... At the age of nine he had to work in the tomato plantations of Mooketsi".

By 19 he was working at the West Driefontein gold mine where "he won many trophies for break-dancing before the harsh working conditions drove him back home". Thereafter he moved to Johannesburg where he supported himself through such jobs as fast food chef and street hawker until the fateful day when he was working as a cleaner in a music studio and he met Joe Shirimani - regular readers will know of my admiration for Joe and his genius as both producer and performer. Joe took him under his wing and the rest is history.

After all that, you will be impatient for some music. Here are a couple of tracks from Mr Penny's album "Juri Juri" (I don't know the date but it is early-mid 1990s I think):

"Ndziri Ndziri" - Penny Penny

"Mabiribiri" - Penny Penny

And here is Papa Penny in action with Shaka Bundu:

Sunday 25 October 2009

Turkish Time

Something suitably mellow for a Sunday afternoon from Turkish singer-songwriter, Bülent Ortaçgil. You may be familiar with his early 1970s work through the Turkish edition of the excellent "Love, Peace and Poetry" global psychedelia series. Today's selections are more recent.

"Olmali Mi Olmamali Mi" - from "Eski Defterler" (1999)

"Rastlanti Yalani" - from "Gece Yalanlan" (2003)

Here he is - relatively recently I would guess by the look of him - performing the song featured on "Love, Peace and Poetry": "Sen Varsin"

Saturday 24 October 2009

Swamp Dogg Productions

We have featured the legendary Swamp Dogg here previously in his performing capacity, but if anything the contribution he has made over the years as a writer and producer has been even more significant. Here is a small selection of his work.

"(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count The Days" - Inez & Charlie Foxx

"Complication #4" - Arthur Conley

"Raining On A Sunny Day" - Freddie North

"Please Don't Send Him Back To Me" - Sandra Phillips

Here is the great man himself in action a couple of years ago.

P.S. I will be taking the links for August down next weekend, so if you fancy hearing a little Albanian and Macedonian music and a lot of African and soul, not to mention Larry Jon Wilson, now is your last chance.

Friday 23 October 2009

Tsonga Disco: Peta Teanet

Peta Teanet's reign as the King of Tsonga Disco came after that of Paul Ndlovu, who we featured a couple of weeks ago, and before that of Penny Penny (a treat yet to come). Between 1988 and 1996 he bestrode the world of Tsonga Disco like a mighty colossus.

For further information I am indebted once again to Max Thamagana Mojapelo’s book “Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music”. I don't know whether Max's image of himself as the Zelig of the music scene in the Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces is entirely accurate, but his book is certainly an invaluable source of information about South African music over the last thirty years or so.

Peta Teanet's story is classic soul singer territory. Born in a small village near the one-horse town of Tzaneen, his performing career started in church. The he formed a band called Relela who got a bit of airplay on Radio Tsonga, but were too far from the action to get much further locally. So he went off to Johannesburg where the streets are paved with gold in search of fame and fortune. After knocking on a lot of doors he eventually got a record deal. His first album, 1988's "Maxaka", represented what Max calls "the birth of an unchallengable hit machine". And so it was until he was tragically shot dead in 1996 at the age of only 30, leaving behind him eight wives (one of them apparently rejoicing in the name of Do It) and thirteen children. OK, that last bit is maybe a little less typical.

Today's selections come from a greatest hits compilation I picked up in Cape Town. According to Max, "Matswele" was "inspired by a young lady who was warning an unruly guy not to touch her breasts without permission", a cause we can all rally round I am sure. I have no idea what the other one is about.

"Matswele" - Peta Teanet

"Nwayingwane" - Peta Teanet

And to think that around the time Peta was getting started in 1988, back in the UK we were being subjected to this:

Wednesday 21 October 2009

A Load of Kakaki

Yesterday I mentioned that swathes of Swedes had visited this site shortly after I insulted one of their eminent musicians. This has given me a cunning plan.

My friend Mr Jackson has set me a challenge, which is to get a visitor from Chad. He seems to consider this to be the Holy Grail of blogging, and won't concede that 27 Leggies has any merit at all until someone from N'Djamena, Moundou or Mongo comes calling.

He is fairly confident this will never happen. But having worked out how to lure people in, I reckon all I have to do is set the trap then sit back and wait. So - with thanks to Wikipedia - here goes:

"The music of Chad is uniformly awful. I can hardly bear to listen to them plucking tunelessly on the hu hu, blowing tonelessly on the kakaki and banging away on the balafon. Ahmad Pecos and Clement Masdongar are a disgrace to music, while International Challal are an international travesty. And don't get me started on the drum and zither music of the Baguirmians...

If the Chadians want to learn how to make music I suggest they nip over the south-western border into Nigeria and keep going for 500 miles or so until they reach the town of Jos. There are a lot of funky people there, as this little gem from 1976 demonstrates".

"Take Your Soul" - The Sahara All Stars Of Jos

That should do it!

P.S. I found on YouTube this video by Chadian musician Ingamadji Mujos. Don't tell them I said this but it is a good tune.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Swedish Special

I have been swamped by Swedes today. Having barely registered on the consciousness of that fair land previously, I have had over twenty visits from Sweden in a matter of a few hours.

I don't know why but I suspect word has got out that I made some rather disobliging remarks about Thomas Denver Jonsson recently and they are rushing to defend one of their own. Let me just say for the record that, regardless of what I may have said about his singing, Mr Jonsson is a model of moral rectitude and a credit to his country.

In an attempt to demonstrate that it isn't an anti-Swedish thing, here is some cultural heritage for you:

"Chris Craft No. 9" - The Shanes

"To Be Free" - The Tages

"Pa Tredje Dagen Uppstandna" - Turid

And in a further pathetic attempt to ingratiate myself with you, may I say that the sons (and daughters) of the spelmän have been responsible for some of my favourite pop moments of the last few years: "Punkrocker" by Teddybears, "We're From Barcelona" by I'm From Barcelona and, most of all, this one:

Monday 19 October 2009

Tsonga (No Disco)

I've got more of the Tsonga stuff than I realised. I went onto Google to try to find out more about today's featured act, Gezane Thomas Mzamani, and discovered that he (or they) had been nominated in the Best Tsonga album category of the South African Music Awards for his (or their) latest album.

The CD I picked up in Cape Town recently came out in 2007 and goes by the catchy title "Tribute to Freddy Matshwa Bemuda: Rifu Avaleli". Here is the cover:

All the songs were composed by Gezane Thomas Shuma, who is presumably either the big lad bottom right or the moody feller top left. I'm not sure whether the Mzamani refers just to him or to the whole ensemble, including the two lovely ladies.

They seem to be from the more traditional wing of the Tsonga scene. Generally I prefer the Tsonga Disco, but I like this next track. It goes along on its merry traditional way until about 1:15 in, when suddenly someone doing a slightly dodgy Nelson Mandela impersonation appears to tell Zuma and Mbeki to get their act together. As a rallying cry it obviously wasn't a great success, but it is jolly enough.

"Tatana Mandela" - Gezane Thomas Mzamani

Here is some more Mandela-based South African music for your entertainment. Mr Hugh Masekela and friends.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Minty Fresh

I have received an e-mail from a nice man called Mark Sturdy alerting me to the fact that Spearmint's 1999 album "A Week Away" is being re-released tomorrow in a special deluxe edition with 12 bonus tracks and a 24-page booklet. It will be available via iTunes and the band's online shop.

Mr Sturdy seems to have mistaken me for someone who is up with things - or was at least up with things ten years ago - but I have to confess I have never heard of Spearmint before. Fortunately he sent me an mp3 of one of the bonus tracks to enlighten me. He encouraged me to share it with you which I am going to do because it is really rather good, a sort of mix of the poppier aspects of 1980s indie and 1970s soul - imagine Van McCoy as house producer at Postcard Records. It is called "A Trip Into Space" and apparently made it all the way to number 82 in the UK charts back in 1998.

"A Trip Into Space" - Spearmint

As a bonus for you, and a sort of "thank you" to Mr Sturdy, here is Dr. John:

"Jump Sturdy" - Dr. John

And returning to the minty theme, here are the Strawberry Alarm Clock in 2007, 40 years on:

Saturday 17 October 2009

More Generals

Yesterday I posted a clip of General Johnson (of Chairmen of the Board fame) and Joey Ramone (of ... err... no, it's gone) doing a beach music remake of "Rockaway Beach". I have been asked to put the mp3 up, so here it is.

As a bonus I have added the General and the lads performing a sweet, innocent song about the joys of dancing with the one you love which will unfortunately raise a snigger or two in the UK.

"Rockaway Beach" - General Johnson & Joey Ramone

"Shaggin' The Night Away" - General Johnson & Chairmen Of The Board

Friday 16 October 2009

Tsonga Disco: General Muzka

Let us return to the Tsonga Disco. Today we bring you a couple of tracks from General Muzka's 2007 album "Means Business: Kufa Ka Yin'wana". I would speculate that "Kufa Ka Yin'wana" means "Means Business" in Tsonga. And as you can see from the cover, he really does:

I know nothing about the General apart from his real name, which is Chris Mkhonto, but he is obviously well-connected. "Means Business" was mixed by our old friend Joe Shirimani, and this year he has made an album with the mighty Penny Penny which Joe produced - that is a treat that is still to come. In the meantime, wrap your lugholes around these two:

"Xitulu Xale Mahlweni" - General Muzka

"Dudula" - General Muzka

I can only think of two other musical Generals and, like Muzka, they are both pretty cool dudes - General Saint (of "Clint Eastwood and" fame) and General Johnson of the Chairmen Of The Board - and there are clips of both below. Perhaps calling yourself is sufficient to bestow coolness, in which case please call me General Goggins from now on.

The second clip is about as cool as it is possible to get - General J and Joey Ramone with a Carolina beach music version of "Rockaway Beach". If you ask nicely I might put the mp3 up as well.

Thursday 15 October 2009

The Generation Gap

Mr F and I took some young people to the Sheep Walk in Leytonstone last night for a double bill of Andy White and Thomas Denver Jonsson. There was a definite division of opinion along age lines about their respective merits.

The young folks were very keen on Thomas Denver Jonsson. I thought he handicapped himself with too many alt-country cliches to stand out from the crowd - such as the strained voice pitched a bit too high for comfort which is as common in this particular field as bad Mariah Carey impersonators are on X Factor. It is presumably meant to convey intensity but too often just sounds like they can't sing. Which in this case was a bit of a shame because he actually had a few decent songs.

Thomas spent most of his set staring down at his shoes and mumbling incoherently in between the songs, which the young folks found immensely endearing. When Andy White came on he made the mistake of looking at and talking to the audience and was immediately condemned for being "too cocky". He never won them back after that, whereas I increasingly warmed to him for his old-fashioned virtues like being able to write a proper tune.

The last record of his I bought was "Rave On Andy White" way back in 1986, but I enjoyed the show sufficiently to buy his current album "Songwriter". Here are a couple of tracks from that album that he played last night, the second of which has a fantastic title that was given to him by a friend's small daughter, who in turn had been given it by her imaginary friend - although only one of them gets a credit on the album.

"First And Discovery" - Andy White (with Allison Russell)

"Turn Up The Temperature On The Machine Of Love" - Andy White

I can't find any clips of Andy, so instead here is another Irish act that was around in the 1980s and had a way with a tune.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Won't You Come Out Tonight?

Today we have a couple of - rather different but equally jolly - covers of the traditional American tune, "Buffalo Gals".

The first by Eliza Gilkyson updates the lyrics a bit but retains the name and is generally fairly true to the original. It is available on her compilation CD "Retro Specto". The second is a doo-wop remake by the Olympics from the 1960 album "The Olympics Meet The Marathons".

"Buffalo Gals" - Eliza Gilkyson

"Dance By The Light Of The Moon" - The Olympics

To complete the set I should really have added the clip for Malcolm McLaren's "Buffalo Gals" but I have never much cared for it - as my late grandmother might have said it is all just bang bang bang. So instead here is something of a similar style and vintage that at least has a bit of a tune.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Tsonga Disco: Loaf Boy

Today's featured Tsonga Disco CD is "Maganda" by Loaf Boy (1996).

When I bought this CD in Cape Town ten days ago I didn't have any great expectations. I really only got it because it was produced by one of the stalwarts of the Tsonga Disco scene, Penny Penny - of whom you will be hearing more - and because of the cover:

Having listened to it a couple of times now I am pleased to be able to report that it is actually a bit of a cracker. The overall standard is consistently good but for me the three stand-out tracks are "Soft Drink", which is essentially an extended advert for Coca Cola, and these two:

"Magayisa" - Loaf Boy

"Finder Finder" - Loaf Boy

From loaves to buns. Some people say this next video is pure smut but, to quote Tom Lehrer, "as the judge remarked the day he acquitted my Aunt Hortense, to be smut it must be utterly without redeeming social importance" - something that surely can't be said of Sir Mix-A-Lot:

And especially for Mr F, here is a rather sweet ukelele version of the same song which I think brings out more clearly the underlying message that you should stand up against body fascism:

Saturday 10 October 2009

Rusty Wier R.I.P.

Austin legend Rusty Wier died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. Rather than have me inadequately attempt to sum up his career, you can read a proper tribute here.

Here are a couple of old favourites from 1976's "Black Hat Saloon":

"High Road, Low Road" - Rusty Wier

"Coast Of Colorado" - Rusty Wier

And here is the great man in action:

Friday 9 October 2009

McCully Workshop

Some South African psychedelia for you today, with a couple of tracks from McCully Workshop's 1971 album "Genesis". The album has been re-released in South Africa by Fresh Records and is available to download at Rhythm Music Store, as is their first album "McCully Workshop Inc" which is also well worth a listen.

"Genesis" is supposedly a concept album although apart from quoting extracts from the Book of Genesis after each song title on the sleeve notes it is not at all obvious what the concept is. Here are the hit single "Sweet Fields Of Green" - number two in the South African charts - and my personal favourite "Red Light City" which has a nice soul/jazz touch to it that really reminds me of the British band If (who I must get round to posting one day).

No video clips for you today as I have to head off to work now and don't have time to track something down. But I'll try to compensate with something suitable bizarre at the weekend.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Tsonga Disco: Paul Ndlovu

Today we bring you the first fruits of my shopping spree in Cape Town that has trebled the size of my Tsonga Disco collection from 4 CDs to 12 CDs. A brief recap for newer readers – the Tsonga people are from NE South Africa and southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe and are sometimes also known as Shangaan. Tsonga Disco is disco music by Tsongas (you could probably work that bit out for yourself).

First up are a couple of tracks from Paul Ndlovu. What little I know about him is derived entirely from Max Thamagana Mojapelo’s book “Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music”, extracts of which can be found on Google Books.

According to Max, Paul started out in the group called The Big Cats in the late 1970s and moved onto a duo called The Street Kids in the early 1980s before going solo in 1985. Says Max: “It was clear that the Shangaan disco music king had arrived. Paul’s trademark was his sailor’s cap. The crowds loved this humble star from the North”. His solo career was brought to an abrupt end in September 1986 when he died in circumstances on which Max does not elaborate other than to say that “the disappointment and disbelief, as in Tupac Amaru Shakur and Elvis Presley’s cases, created so many myths around his death”.

The album I bought - “The Unforgettable Paul Ndlovu” - has only six tracks. Half of them are sung in English and sound like bog-standard 1980s disco to me with no discernible Tsonga influence. The other three are much better, and here are two of them:

"Mina Ndzi Rhandza Wena"

"Hita Famba Moyeni"

And here is another one that was a big favourite in the discos back in 1985:

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Back To The Borderline

Mr F and I went to the Borderline for the first time in ages last night for an excellent double bill: James McMurtry & the Heartless Bastards headlining with Otis Gibbs in support.

We saw both of them separately earlier in the year - James at the Luminaire and Otis at "What's Cookin'" at the Sheepwalk in Leytonstone. If I had to choose I would say I marginally preferred those gigs but that is only because I like both venues and hearing them separately means you get a full set from each of them, Otis being far too good to be reduced to 40 minutes. But both were on good form again last night.

The test of how well an act is going down at the Borderline is whether they manage to reduce the volume from the idiots who pay £10-15 to get in then spend the entire evening ignoring the bands and holding a conversation at top volume. For some reason this always seems to be much worse at the Borderline than anywhere else, and it started that way last night. But armed only with an acoustic guitar and a beard Otis reduced it to little more than a murmur, while James just drowned it out with sheer volume.

James is touring to promote a new live album plus DVD, "Live In Europe 2009", which as the name suggests was recorded on the tour we saw earlier in the year. It goes on general release in the UK next week but has been on sale at the gigs. Here is a track from it.

"Fraulein O" - James McMurtry & The Heartless Bastards

Here is a track from Otis's 2004 album "One Day Our Whispers"

"Small Town Saturday Night" - Otis Gibbs

And here is James with an acoustic version of my personal favourite, "Choktaw Bingo":

Sunday 4 October 2009

J'Aime Des Chevaux

My nieces Jessica and Emily are infatuated with horses. So especially for them here are a couple of uptempo horse-based tunes that are guaranteed to make your hips want to shaky shaky all night long.

"Giddy-Up-A-Ding-Dong" - Freddie Bell & The Bell Boys

"Is Horse" - Explainer

Of course the greatest horse song ever is undoubtedly "My Lovely Horse". Click here to see Father Ted and Dougal performing it in their dreams.

And if that is one click too many, how about this instead:

Friday 2 October 2009

Greetings From Cape Town

Ernie Goggins here in sunny Cape Town. No music for you today - that will resume after I get back to London on Sunday - but a bit of advance notice of some treats to come over the next few weeks for fans of South African music. This has been a very productive trip. As well as the ever reliable African Music Store in Long Street the chain stores such as Musica are finally beginning to stock a good selection of local traditional and traditionally influenced music, much of it at bargain prices.

On the Tsonga side we have more from old favourites Joe Shirimani and Thomas Chauke plus CDs from Penny Penny and General Muzka (together and separately), Peta Teanet and the marvellously named Loaf Boy.

Among the rest of the stuff are other old favourites such as the Soul Brothers and Stompie Mavi plus the likes of Zozo & Super Sangere Beat, Johnny Mokhale and "The Unforgettable Paul Ndlovu" (who I must admit I had forgotten). Also one of the greatest South African psychedelic concept albums ever made, and a double CD of Afrikaans pop hits acquired it a hardware store in Bredasdorp.

Stay tuned.