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Sunday 28 February 2010


First, a plug for a good cause. As you know, the Haitian earthquake last month has resulted in one of the most dreadful humanitarian disasters in recent years. While the magnitude of what has happened may seem completely overwhelming, if we all make a small contribution then cumulatively it begins to have a positive effect.

One way to help would be by buying "Make The Load Lighter", a compilation issued by the good folks at Dromedary Records on which all money raised goes directly to Vwa Ayiti (Voice of Haiti) for earthquake relief. The album featuring sixteen indie bands, including The Mommyheads whose track is featured below. If you like it - or even if you don't - why not buy the album?

"Spiders" - The Mommyheads

You would have thought the Haitian earthquake would be bad enough to be getting on with, but then yesterday Chile took a bad hit as well. Let's hope the aftermath of that one isn't anything like as bad.

At the risk of trivialising things, here are a couple of gems from the small but vibrant Chilean psychedelic scene of the late 1960s. Both are from 1967 and the first is available on the Latin American volume of the excellent "Love, Peace and Poetry" series which, like all the other volumes, is pretty much indispensable for fans of global psych.

"Oscar Wilde" - Los Vidrios Quebrados

"F.M. Y Cia" - Los Mac's

Moving on a little, one of the biggest Chilean bands of the 1970s was Los Jaivas, who mixed prog and traditional sounds (I can hear you groaning already). Here they are wigging out at Machu Picchu in 1981.

Friday 26 February 2010

Why Kansas City?

Good news on the new music front. The beard-loving, black pudding-hating troubadour Otis Gibbs has a new album out. Called "Joe Hill's Ashes", it won't be available in shops until May but you can download it now from his website. I strongly recommend that you do.

On the basis of a quick first listen this morning I reckon it will prove to be a worthy successor to past triumphs such as "One Day Our Whispers" and "Grandpa Walked A Picketline". I will try to do a proper review after a couple more listens - you lucky things! - but for now I'm going to veer off at a tangent.

One of the tracks on Otis's new album is called "Kansas City". This got me thinking about how many songs I know with Kansas City in the title, starting with "Oklahoma!" and endless versions of the Leiber & Stoller song, then picking up "Kansas City Southern" by Dillard & Clark and so on and so on. What is it about this city of less than 500,000 people that has inspired such a disproportionate number of songs?

Here is Otis's contribution to the canon, along with a couple of old favourites:

"Kansas City" - Otis Gibbs (from "Joe Hill's Ashes", 2010)

"The Eternal Kansas City" - Van Morrison (from "A Period Of Transition", 1977)

"Kansas City Morning" - Katy Moffatt (from "Kissin' In The California Sun", 1978)

And then of course there is the band Kansas. Normally I treat all that prog and AOR naffness with the disdain it deserves, but I do have a soft spot for "Leftoverture" and "Point Of Know Return". I used to listen to them a lot when I was about 14, and at that age it is easy to mistake the incomprehensible for the intellectual. Here are the lads in their pomp:

Thursday 25 February 2010

The Mama Of Didadi

Nahawa Doumbia is a female singer from Mali. I had never heard of her until recently when I got hold of a CD called "Reggae Times in Africa" which featured one of her tracks, "Banani" - which I posted last month. This whetted my appetite, and I managed to track down a few of her albums on eMusic.

Her musical style is apparently primarily built around Didadi, a rhythm from the Wassoulou region in Mali. According to the write up about her on the Harmony Ridge Music website, her family tried unsuccessfully to prevent her performing on stage by "resorting to the magical powers of blacksmiths". Clearly the magical blacksmiths of Mali are a waning force - either that or they know a good thing when they hear it and so didn't try very hard to stop her.

Here are a couple of tracks from her 1990 album "Nyama Toutou":

"Sinzin" - Nahawa Doumbia

"Sigi Sele" - Nahawa Doumbia

And here she is with an "unplugged" version of "Banani", which is where I came in:

Wednesday 24 February 2010

It's Thommo Time!!

The Southbank Centre announced yesterday that Richard Thompson is going to curate this year's Meltdown in June. If you don't know it, Meltdown is a two week festival of music and other arts selected by a guest curator, usually a musician. Previous curators include the likes of Robert Wyatt, Scott Walker and Lee "Scratch" Perry. Mostly it is a series of stand-alone concerts but usually the curator makes a guest appearance at a few of them. Richard Thompson is a particular favourite of mine, so I am really looking forward to seeing who will be in the line-up and who he will be playing with.

I first saw Richard in concert (with Linda) at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1980, so this Summer I will clock up thirty years of Thompson watching. There have been many memorable moments during that time - a storming rendition of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" backed by Fairport Convention and the Roy Wood Big Band at Cropredy in 1995 springs immediately to mind - and a fair amount of guitar heroics. But many of the best gigs were those that featured just him and his acoustic guitar.

He is a great songwriter and a great guitarist, so obviously you are getting three cover versions, two of them "live and unplugged". All three are Scottish traditional songs, and he does a great job on them.

"Bogie's Bonnie Belle (live)" - Richard Thompson

"Bonnie St. Johnstone (live)" - Richard Thompson

"Mingulay Boat Song" - Richard Thompson

And especially for my mate Buxton, here he is doing "1952 Vincent Black Lightning":

Monday 22 February 2010

Huge In Hunstanton

Like a lot of you, I imagine, I have a list of songs that I am trying to track down. Some of them have been on there for years, mostly things that I heard on the radio in my youth, or that I used to have on vinyl before I scaled back my collection (and immediately regretted doing so).

Every now and then I am able to scratch one off the list - rarely have I been as happy as I was a few years ago when I finally tracked down a copy of "Halfway Hotel" by Voyager in a junk shop in Kalk Bay in South Africa - but there is a hard core that remain elusive.

None more so than "Baby I'm A U-Boat" by The Fire Hydrant Men Featuring The Fabulous Fezettes. Released in 1984 on a 12" EP called "Music From The East Zone", featuring assorted Norwich bands, I used to have it on a cassette of random tracks recorded off John Peel shows which went the way of all flesh very quickly (but that's what happened when you used Winfield cassettes - Woolworth's Own Brand).

If by any miracle there is anyone out there who has a copy of "Baby I'm A U-Boat" they could send me I would be eternally in their debt*. But until that happens we will have to make do a couple of songs with FHMFTFF**'s 1985 album "Missed It By That Much!".

* The same goes for "Locked Out" by The Chefs, "In France" by Lord Melody and "Daytime Nighttime" by Joy Unlimited. Greedy I know, but you get nothing if you don't ask

** I doubt they were ever referred to by this acronym but I couldn't summon the enthusiasm to type the name out in full again when I am going to have to do it twice more anyway.

"Mayday In Moscow" - The Fire Hydrant Men Featuring The Fabulous Fezettes

"99 Years In Sing-Sing" - The Fire Hydrant Men Featuring The Fabulous Fezettes

Somewhat to my amazement I have managed to find a video of the gang in action. As they explain, this is "Chopper Squad"


Sunday 21 February 2010


The other day I posted a number of different versions of "Love Is Strange", which has resulted in an almost unprecedented number of visits to my humble site. Now obviously my integrity is everything to me and I would never consider "selling out", but at the same time it is always nice to be wanted. So today comes a craven and probably doomed attempt to repeat the trick, but with something marginally less mainstream.

Here are three versions of Fela Kuti's "Lady" for you too enjoy - Fela's 13 minute original and a couple of Afro-Jazz renditions from South Africa and Ghana. I knew Hugh Masekela's version before ever hearing the original and for that reason it is probably still my favourite, but I would not turn my nose up at any of them.

"Lady" - Fela Kuti (from "Shakara", 1972)

"Lady" - Hugh Masekela (from "Waiting For The Rain", 1985)

"African Woman" - Blay Ambolley (from "African Jazz, 2001)

And on a similar theme:

To be honest the highlight of that clip is the woman in the background cadging a fag towards the end (for the benefit of our American readers, "cadging a fag" simply means borrowing a cigarette - fear not)

Friday 19 February 2010

Zengue Fever

"Is Zengue the new Tsonga Disco?" - that is the question on the lips of all of us here at Leggies HQ. As for the answer, only time will tell.

I was in Musicanova in Brussels the other week when my eye was caught by this CD:

It took me a while to work out that the Jack Palance referred to was not the notorious Hollywood tough guy but, presumably, the rather dapper dude with the stick. But by then I was sufficiently intrigued by the promise of "Zengue full option" to buy the CD anyway.

The CD is from Cameroon and, from what little information I have been able to find on the Web, zengue is a variant on makossa which first started in the mid 1990s. I assume from the reference to "The Best Soukouss" that it is a mix of traditional Cameroonian makossa and Congolese soukous, but if anyone knows more please share.

The CD features six tracks each from Jack Palance (probably not the name his parents gave him) and D.J. Ballas (likewise). Here is one apiece:

"Kibinda - Dance" - Jack Palance

"Tomba" - D.J. Ballas

As a bonus, here is a nifty little ditty from Mighty Sparrow inspired by the original Jack Palance:

"Jack Palance" - Mighty Sparrow

Back to the zengue to finish. Here is Mpande Star with his very own "Zengue Militaire". It is really rather jolly.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Love Is Strange

The other week I picked up a two CD, 50 track compilation of Sonny & Cher for a couple of quid. With 50 tracks there is obviously a lot of padding but there is enough good stuff on there to make it worth the price I paid.

One track I was particularly taken with was a version of "Love Is Strange" released under their early pseudoynms of Caesar & Cleo in 1964. It has a real bluebeat feel to it and sounds like it is trying to copy the style of "My Boy Lollipop", which had been a big hit in the US - and everywhere else - earlier that year. They didn't enjoy the same success, peaking at number 131 in Billboard charts.

This is now the fourth version of "Love Is Strange" I have on my iPod and I am sharing all of them with you today. If I could only choose one version it would definitely be the one by the Everly Brothers - those harmonies! - but they are all pretty good. It is such a good song it is hard to go far wrong, unless you are Everything But The Girl who managed to drain all the life out of it. Even the reggae version by Wings is much better than that.

"Love Is Strange" - Mickey & Sylvia (the original, 1957)

"Love Is Strange" - Lonnie Donegan (1957)

"Love Is Strange" - Caesar & Cleo (1964)

"Love Is Strange" - The Everly Brothers (1965)

And here is a country version from 1970 by Buck Owens and Susan Raye:

Interesting fact (1): "Love Is Strange" was co-written by Bo Diddley.

Interesting fact (2): In the 1970s Sylvia (of Mickey and Sylvia) set up Sugar Hill Records. Which makes her responsible for this (although I am not sure whether she can be held personally responsible for the appearance of the female body-builder):

Tuesday 16 February 2010

The Other Otis

If you are at a loose end in London this Wednesday and like a bit of blues and soul - and who doesn't? - then you could do worse than pop in to the 333 Mother Bar in Old Street to see Beth & The Black Cat Bones. And if you happen to find yourself in Plymouth on Friday, you could pop into Annabel's Cabaret and do the same. Here's a little taster of what you would see:

And if you live anywhere and like a bit of blues and soul, then you are bound to love Otis Clay. Here is a small selection:

"If I Could Open Up My Heart" - Otis Clay (from "The Only Way Is Up", 1982)

"Gonna Take My Heart's Advice" - Otis Clay (from "I'll Treat You Right", 1992)

He's pretty nifty at the old gospel as well:

Monday 15 February 2010

Big Up The Pygmies

Sting would call this synchronicity. I will settle for coincidence. You might conclude it is contrivance.

Yesterday I posted some Americana from Belgium - a country that in the colonial era ruled over the Congo, where the pygmies come from. In the same post I mentioned the late lamented king of the washboard, Derek Guyler. Immediately after sending that out to you on waves of love I checked my Hotmail account, and there was an e-mail alerting me to the washboard-enhanced Americana of 17 Pygmies.

17 Pygmies are new to me but have apparently been around on and off since 1982. According to the blurb their first effort was "a surf-a-delic, Emerson Lake & Palmer inspired cover version of the theme music to David Lean's 'Lawrence of Arabia'", which can probably only be amazing or appalling - I doubt there is anywhere in between.

Their current album is called "The Outlaw J.D. Ray". It is supposedly a concept album which uses "post-Civil War folk music and pre-WWII blues as a backdrop to a story of ambition, deceit, love lost and found and redemption. With a washboard." It was the washboard that sold it to me.

I have only had a quick first listen to the album but it sounds pretty good to me, albeit not particularly post-Civil War or pre-WWII (but then being English these nuances might be lost on me). I was most immediately taken by the songs featuring the vocals of Meg Maryatt, whose voice I found vaguely reminiscent of Sally Ellyson of Hem. I don't know whether she is the same person as the Meg at Trakwerx Records who kindly sent me the album, but thanks to her (or both of them as the case may be).

Here are a couple of the tracks that struck me the first time around. But it is definitely worth another listen and definitely worth you checking them out. You can get the album from Trakwerx directly, or from eMusic and iTunes. It is also on Amazon in the UK along with several of their earlier albums.

"Atlas Shrugged Blues" - 17 Pygmies

"I Know My Train's A-Comin'" - 17 Pygmies

And here is something for all you shortarses out there:

Sunday 14 February 2010

Belgian Weekend 2

Some Belgian Americana for you today. I am not sure whether there is enough of it to qualify as its own genre, but if there is then the man known simply as Derek must be one of its leading exponents. I make this deduction on the grounds that he had two different albums in the sale racks in the music shop in Brussels Midi station.

After much umming and ahhing I opted for his 2003 album, "Night Nurse", on which he is backed by such luminaries as Bruno Deneckere (guitar and mandolin) and Marcus Weymaere (drums). A backing band made up solely of other musical Dereks would have been even more enticing. Imagine the likes of Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap on bass, Derek Bell of The Chieftains (and his legendary solo album "Derek Bell Plays With Himself") on harp, and Derek Guyler on washboard all playing together. But the fact that two of them are dead and the other a fictional character probably rules this out.

Anyway, back to Belgian Derek. The album is a lot better than I had realistically expected. Here are a couple of fairly representative selections:

"I Drown In Our Bed" - Derek

"Silence Tells It All" - Derek

I haven't been able to find a clip of Derek Guyler on his washboard, but as a compensation here is another famous Derek from the 1970s exploring his cultural boundaries:

Saturday 13 February 2010

Belgian Weekend 1

While in Brussels a few weeks back I picked up a couple of cut price CDs by Belgian acts that I had never heard of before. We will be featuring them both this weekend.

First up is "L'Homme Libellule", the 2007 album by Miam Monster Miam. My attention was caught by the cover:

Miam Monster Miam is the pseudonym of one Benjamin Schoos. That's him at the keyboards, immediately in front of John Lennon. The one on the right looks to me to be Johnny Ramone. I'm not at all sure about the other two. I would hazard a guess at Ian Curtis on the left and Serge Gainsbourg at the back, but any suggestions welcome.

"L'Homme Libellule" is a French language concept album about a dragonfly-man who comes down to Earth to save mankind. "Not that old chestnut", I hear you sigh. I'm afraid so. But Schoos finds something new to say on this traditional theme and does so in a rather entertaining way.

Musically the album is a mix of electro pop, prog, Serge Gainsbourg and all sorts of other things. The first of today's selections, for example, reminds me very much of Kevin Ayers. Anyway, without further ado, here they are:

"Saligotte Sally " - Miam Monster Miam

"Plutonium Baby" - Miam Monster Miam

And as a special treat, here is Kevin Ayers from 1973 with a promotional video of "Caribbean Moon". Things get seriously disturbing at around 1:28. Homo-eroticism and ukeleles - it really does have something for everyone.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Return Of The Macka

On Tuesday I posted a couple of tracks from Penny Penny's "Macka 50/50" album. Last night I was out with Lord Roper who, being hip and trendy, was extolling the virtues of some musical ensemble called The Maccabees. So it was probably inevitable that today's post would feature probably the best reggae DJ ever to come out of Wolverhampton, Macka B.

Both of today's selections are collaborations, so I suppose you could call them Macka B 50/50s (I know you enjoy a little Tsonga Disco wordplay). The one with Baaba Maal is something a bit special.

"Dread A Who She Love" - Macka B & Kofi (1989)

"Hamady Boiro" - Baaba Maal & Macka B (1992)

Here he is in action a couple of years ago, toasting up a storm in front of a handful of Poles in the notorious reggae hotbed of Wroclaw:

Tuesday 9 February 2010

More New Tsonga Disco!!!

Well I say new Tsonga Disco but it actually dates from 2005. It is new to me though, as I only received it last week, and I would guess new to most of you as well. It is our old friend Penny Penny with a couple of tracks from his excellent album "Macka 50/50":

"Telehumba" - Penny Penny

"Callback" - Penny Penny

Here is Papa Penny explaining a bit about himself, his hair and his popularity in West Africa, in what appears to be an attempt on his part to get the MTN mobile phone company to use him in its advertising:

Here's some more great hair:

Monday 8 February 2010

New Tsonga Disco!!!

I mentioned in our first anniversary post a few weeks ago how pleased I was with the popularity of the Tsonga Disco tracks I have posted here. It suggests that we are slowly achieving our stated aim of bringing Tsonga Disco to the masses.

However, urgent action was needed to replenish my diminishing stocks. So, rather than wait until I go out to Cape Town at Easter, I have acquired a couple more CDs through the excellent One World Cyber Music Store. One is by an old friend, and we will feature that tomorrow. The other is by the younger brother of an old friend.

As regular readers will know, Peta Teanet reigned as the king of Tsonga Disco until his untimely death in 1996. But his spirit lives on through the recordings of his younger brother, Forsta Teanet, also known as The Black Force. He released his first album in 1990 at the age of 16, and is still recording today.

He is also conducting an ongoing campaign to protect his brother's legacy. According to the "Mopani News" (for all the news that is news in Tzaneen), Forsta has registered the title "King of Shangaan Disco Music" ("Shangaan Disco" being the name Tsonga Disco was previously known by) as a trademark. He is quoted as saying that "this will serve as a token that the title will also belong within the Teanet family", before going on to express the view that he would like others to establish themselves without trying to imperonate his brother. Hear! Hear! Let a thousand Tsongan flowers bloom!

His first album was called "Peta Teanet Presents The Black Force". Peta wrote and produced all the tracks on the album. Here are a couple of my favourites.

"Ba E Cheika" - The Black Force

"The Youth Days" - The Black Force

As with so many of the Tsonga musicians we have featured here, Forsta gets a mention in Max Thamagana Mojapelo's seminal book, "Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music". As well as describing his recording career, Max tells us that "By 2007 when I paid the family a visit he was still an amateur polygamist with only two wives". So I suppose that, in a very real sense, Forsta is torn between two lovers.

I'm afraid so...

Sunday 7 February 2010

Sami On Sunday

I was taken ill while in Brussels and ended up spending an extra day there as a result. Most of it was spent in bed, but yesterday lunchtime I was able to nip in to Musicanova to pick up a few CDs before getting the Eurostar home.

Among the future treats for you are some vintage Congolese sounds from Zaiko Langa Langa and Dr Nico and Orchestre L'African Fiesta, and a couple of CDs from Cameroon on the M.C. Pop Music label (including one by Jack Palance - but not that Jack Palance, judging by the photo).

Before we get to those, here is some home-grown talent for you. As regular readers will know there is a stall on Whitechapel Road that I visit occasionally that sells Indian and Bengali bootleg CDs for two pounds a go. The last time I was passing by I splashed out on the greatest hits of Adnan Sami, born in London of Pakistani origin and a big name in Indian film music.

Adnan is a larger than life character in every sense of the word. At the peak of his powers he weighed over 200 kilograms before losing half that weight in a year. That feat, combined with his mellow musical style with its echoes of the 1980s, makes him a sort of Bollywood Luther Vandross.

However judging by his Wikipedia entry it is also one of the least interesting things about his personal life, which features child abduction, alcoholism and suing the Canadian Government. And apparently he is keeping it up, with the mysterious postponement of his scheduled wedding to a German last weekend.

Musically I find a lot of the songs on the compilation rather bland, with no sign of the skills that apparently led him to being dubbed "the fastest man on keyboards in Asia". But some of them cross over into being the right sort of mellow, including the two I have chosen today, which make excellent Sunday morning music. I particularly like the duet with the great Asha Bhosle.

"Roothay Huay Ho Kyun" - Adnan Sami (from "Tera Chehra", 2002)

"Pyar Bina" - Adnan Sami & Asha Bhosle (from "Sargam", 1995)

Here is Adnan in a very moody video. No sniggering when he opens with what sounds like "biggie, biggie", please.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Bimi's The Ting That The Doctor Order Me

I'm off to Brussels again in a couple of hours. This is just a quick in and out visit, and I am not sure whether I will have the time to nip into Musicanova to pick up some Congolese CDs. Just in case I do not, here is one I got earlier.

The CD is by Bimi Ombale, who spent the best part of twenty years singing with Zaiko Langa Langa before heading off. The CD was released on Musicanova's own label, is titled simply "Bimi Ombale", and does not have a release date on it. Bimi is backed by Groupe Basilique, and special mention must go to Benico Zangilu for some excellent guitar work on these tracks:

"Papy Masampu"


And here is Bimi and his mates in action:

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Mr Tom And Mr Johnny

Last week I went to see Tom Russell at the Luminaire in Kilburn. I have seen him many times before and, as usual, he was utterly brilliant. Great songs, great stories and - on this occasion - some great pre-emptive heckling by Tom of the unruly elements of the audience. It is a long time since I have heard the word "skags" (and he wasn't talking about Rickie).

Tom was accompanied by Thad Beckman (whenever I have seen him previously it was with Andrew Hardin, but he appears to have been traded in for a younger model). They did two sets, both of an hour or more. The first was dominated by songs from "Blood And Candle Smoke", while the second was a mix of works in progress, old favourites and - unusually for Tom - a cover version: Peter LaFarge's "Ballad Of Ira Hayes". Tom did a good job of it but, with respect, he is never going to match this one:

"Ballad Of Ira Hayes" - Johnny Cash

And now, a bonus for Johnny fans. Recently I have discovered a marvellous piece of technology that enables you to convert YouTube videos to audio mp3s. Just about the first video I nabbed was a magnificent version of Dylan's "Girl Of The North Country" by Johnny and Joni Mitchell from his TV show back in about 1971. Here is the mp3:

"Girl Of The North Country" - Johnny Cash & Joni Mitchell

And here is the video clip:

Tuesday 2 February 2010


I got back yesterday from four days in Ireland - a bit of work in Dublin on Friday, after which Mr F joined me and we spent a very pleasant weekend in Bray in County Wicklow. It is a typical out of season seaside resort, but I like that sort of thing.

The cultural highlight of the weekend was a visit to the Hardy Har Comedy Club in the Harbour Bar in Bray. Topping the bill on Saturday was Keith Anderson, not a name that I was previously familiar with although he has apparently been around for a while. And very good he was too, especially in contrast to the three warm-up acts who were all pretty dire. Despite the venue being a tiny room in the back of a pub and there being no more than twenty of us there he really threw himself into it with tremendous energy.

Here is Keith in action (note: he is not a midget, that is a giant cardboard cut-out bottle of Bavaria beer - or "Bav" as they call it in Bray):

And it appears that one of the twenty of us was recording the gig because it is on YouTube. Here is Part One. If you like this then Google "Keith Anderson Bray" and you'll find Parts Two and Three. Warning: Keith's comedy is what you might call "challenging". If you are easily offended or of a delicate constitution you may want to skip this.

I didn't get any CDs in Ireland as they are prohibitively expensive. Books, if anything, are even worse - odd for a country with such a fantastic musical and literary heritage but there you go. So I don't have any new purchases to share with you. Instead, here are some musical Keiths:

"I Specialise In Good Girls" - Keith Alexander

"I'm Easy" - Keith Carradine (from "Nashville")

"On A Saturday" - Keith West