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Monday 31 May 2010

A Word From Our Sponsors

We have reached the end of our scheduled programming for May so, while we are waiting for June to start, let's have a short commercial break.

"Pepsi's Got A Lot To Give" - Johnny Cash (1972)

"Pepsi's Got A Lot To Give" - Delaney & Bonnie (1972)

"Things Go Better With Coke" - Ray Charles (1966)

"Things Go Better With Coke" - The Supremes (1966)

All these - and 61 more - come from "Great Cola Commercials Volume 2". That's right, Volume 2.

And in the interests of balance:

Sunday 30 May 2010

Mellow Mali Magic

After spending too long in the musical fleshpots of Europe, it is back to Africa today. This is the first selection from the bumper haul of West African CDs I picked up in Paris last weekend. And what better way to get the ball rolling with a couple of tracks from "Kabako", the 2009 album from our old friend Nahawa Doumbia, the Queen of the Wassoulou sound from Southern Mali. Perfect for a Sunday.

"N'Teri" - Nahawa Doumbia (2009)

"Lelalo" - Nahawa Doumbia (2009)

From the same part of the world, here is a bit of jolliness from Aminata Kamissoko:

Saturday 29 May 2010

Eurovision Special

I wanted to feature some of my favourite Eurovision performances to mark this year's competition which is taking place in Oslo tonight. The problem is that 99% of them are dreadful, so it doesn't leave you many to choose from.

So - with apologies to those of you who sat through this last time - here are the same three as I featured last year. Once you have seen them I'm sure you will agree they are all well worth repeating, which is which I am providing downloads of each of them as well.

We start with one of the countries that are among the favourites to win tonight: Iceland. I think some will vote for them in the belief that the expense of having to host Eurovision next year would completely finish off its weakened economy, and that this would be suitable payback for the bloody volcano.

Back in 2006 the Icelandic entry was a "statement" by a character called Silvia Night. For the full story, and some extravagant swearing, see last year's post. Despite all the kerfuffle, the song itself is really rather catchy

"Congratulations" - Silvia Night (Iceland 2006)

Next we go to 2008. The song itself is quite interesting, in a post-rock sort of way (did I get that right Mr F?) but it is the choreography that makes this memorable. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, completely bonkers.

"Pokusaj" - Laka (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2008)

But as good as those two are, for me there can only really be one winner.

"Boonika Bate Doba" - Zdob Si Zdub (Moldova 2005)

I haven't seen most of this year's entries so I am not going to make any predictions but, in an attempt to persuade you that Eurovision can be a hotbed of musical innovation, here is the Slovenian effort. In its own way it is as ground-breaking as when Aerosmith and Run DMC teamed up on "Walk This Way". Scandalously, it went out at the semi-final stage.

"Narodnozabavni Rock" - Ansambel Zlindra & Kalamari (Slovenia 2010)

Thursday 27 May 2010

Pardubice Pop

It is Eurovision on Saturday so to get us all in the mood here is some Euro pop and psych from a bygone era - 1960s Czechoslovakia.

A few years ago I was in Pardubice in what is now the eastern end of the Czech Republic. While there I picked up "Vychodocesky Big Beat 1963 - 1971", a compilation featuring bands from Pardubice and Hradec Kralove. Of today's selections, Fantom were from Pardubice and the other two from Hradec Kralove. Traffic fans - the band, not the congestion - may well recognise one of the tunes.

"Krizova Cesta" - Fantom (1967)

"Polepsi Se" - Veterani (1969)

"Kouzelny Ton" - The Sonors (1969)

Here is last year's Czech Eurovision entry. It's competitive failure is inexplicable.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Hail Hall!

A quick one tonight. A couple of numbers from Michael Hall, of whom I know no more than Trouser Press can tell me.

"Let's Take Some Drugs And Drive Around" - Michael Hall (from "Love Is Murder", 1993)

"I Can't Believe You Touched Him" - Michael Hall & The Woodpeckers (from "Dead By Dinner", 2000)

Speaking of trouser presses, here are Blondie with their tribute to the king of them all, the Corby.

Monday 24 May 2010

El Rego Like He Used To Be

You lot are in for a treat. While in Paris at the weekend I strolled from Marcadet Poissoniers Metro to Boulevard Saint Martin, visiting about ten shops selling CDs from Francophone Africa along the way. I have come back with a bumper bag of goodies.

I try to stock up on Congolese music when I go to Brussels, so this trip I mainly concentrated on West Africa. I have picked up stuff from Senegal, Guinea, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Guinea Bissau, along with a few random selections. Artists include some old friends like Nahawa Doumbia and Fode Baro, but most of the names are new to me.

It is going to take me a while to sort through everything but I am sure we have some lovely surprises in store. To tide you over, here is something else from the same neck of the woods - a couple of tracks from an excellent compilation called "Legends of Benin", released last year on Analog Africa.

"Vimado Wingnan" - El Rego et Ses Commandos

"Feeling You Got" - El Rego et Ses Commandos

In the absence of any El Rego clips on YouTube, let's go for something about as different as it is possible to get - a German Schlager version of Sir Douglas Quintet's "Mendocino" performed by a man in a dreadful checked jacket:

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Singles Club

I am a bit of old codger and have been collecting music for 35 years. For the first fifteen years or so it was almostly exclusively vinyl with the odd cassette thrown in for luck, and I had a pretty sizeable collection - then, as now, I lacked any self-control when it came to buying music.

Then along came CDs and I got lured away. It was the shininess, I think, that and the fact that it became increasingly difficult to buy affordable turntables, styli and so on. If I had known vinyl would make a comeback in the digital age I would have held on to my collection, but I didn't. Those albums that could be replaced by CDs were, with the result that you can now fit all my LPs into a decent sized cardboard box, even allowing for the fact that I have started restocking since buying a USB turntable.

My singles collection, on the other hand, was a lot smaller but is more intact. And because many of them are obscurities that were not easy to find on CD, it is probably one of the more eclectic parts of my collection (or at least it was before I discovered downloading).

Here is a small selection of my 150 or so singles. Apologies for the quality of some of them. Hopefully there is something for everyone, although in the case of Gerty Molzen it is probably something for nobody. If you like them I'll do it again some time.

"Junior's Groove" - Junior Wells (1966)

"Wallpaper" - Pregnant Insomnia (1967)

"Sticky Jack" - Warm Jets (1978)

"Walk On The Wild Side" - Gerty Molzen (1985)

"These Hands" - Everton Blender (1999)

This is the last post of the week. I am off to Paris tomorrow for a couple of days work followed by a couple of days sightseeing. I had hoped to get myself in the mood with a clip of the Tygers of Pan Tang performing their NWBHM classic "Paris By Air" ("Paris by air/ such a beautiful sight/ nothing can compare/ to Paris by night"). But I can't find one so we will have to settle for this instead:

Monday 17 May 2010

Tsonga: Mr. Jambatani

Today we feature a relatively new arrival on the Tsonga scene, Mr Jambatani. We have a couple of tracks from his 2008 album "Mina Na Mugawula", which was his fourth. You may think that after four albums he should be classified as "established" but compared to the likes of Thomas Chauke and George Maluleke who have released getting on for 30 albums each he is a bit of a new boy - even Thomas's daughter Conny is nearly in double figures by now.

Mr. Jambatani is not his real name. According to this informative article in The Sowetan, he was born Hanyani Solomon Maluleke - I suppose it was almost inevitable he would be a Maluleke or a Chauke, the two first families of Tsonga music. It also appears that he moonlights as a "senior government official", which is something we have in common. In my spare time I am also a dedicated public servant although, unlike Mr. J, I cannot boast a degree in public administration.

Here are the selections:

"Mina Na Mugawula" - Mr. Jambatani

"Xina'ngana" - Mr. Jambatani

As mentioned in the article, Mr Jambatini's father sadly passed away during the making of the album (in the sleeve notes he refers to him having "passed away miraculously", although I suspect that is not quite the word he was looking for).

Someone else who sadly passed away more recently is Ronnie James Dio, and I have had a request to mark his passing. I am happy to do so. As long and as distinguished as his career was, I don't think he ever sounded better than on this:

Sunday 16 May 2010

Molo Africa

Fraternal greetings to two people today.

The first is the mystery person from Ouagadougou who yesterday became our first ever visitor from Burkina Faso. Welcome! To mark the occasion I thought I should post something from my extensive collection of Burkinabe music, which amounts to two albums by Georges Ouedraogo.

Georges has been featured here before, and the previous post gives some biographical detail as well as a couple of top tunes. I am off to Paris for a few days at the end of the week and hope to pick up some more music from Burkina Faso and elsewhere in Francophone Africa while I am there, but in the meantime here's Georges:

"Bembao" - Georges Ouedraogo (from "Gnou Zemes", 2000)

"Mounafrica" - Georges Ouedraogo (from "Tingre", 2007)

The second greeting goes to Joseph, a Kenyan geologist Mr F and I met in the Little Driver in Bow last night. As well as being an expert on gemstones - he disdains rose quartz and other "cheap" stones, presumably on the grounds they are unworthy of his professional expertise - he takes a keen interest in physics and has heartfelt if largely incomprehensible views on Ohm's Law.

I'm not sure I have any Kenyan records but here is the A-side of a single I picked up during a brief stop-over in Nairobi airport some time in the 1980s. It is by an outfit called Fred Tetteh and His Continentals. For many years I assumed Fred was Kenyan but then Google was invented and I discovered that he was (and hopefully still is) Ghanaian.

The record was released on the Dix label, and the sleeve tells us that "Highlife means good life" and exhorts us to "Enjoy Highlife with Dix". The record itself tells us that it is in the Calypso-Samba style and sung in Pidgin English by Andrews Bampoe and Boniface. The composer was one Joe Eyeson. The B-side is a highlife tune called "Nyifra Nyi", sung in Akan. There is no date on the label but I would guess late 60s or early 70s - if anyone knows better let me know.

After all that, here it is:

"Lie Lie Fight" - Fred Tetteh and His Continentals

Video-wise we have nothing remotely relevant to offer you. Instead, as the weekend draws to a close, here is a chance to relive it with Wet Willie. The highlight is the bass guitarist's reaction shot at 0:58.

Friday 14 May 2010

F**k, No Chuck

I was meant to be going down to the Borderline tonight to see the marvellous Chuck Prophet. Unfortunately I have been laid low with an ailment too revolting to describe so am having to miss out. To console myself, and as a treat for you, here are three of the best from Chuck:

"Heart Breaks Like The Dawn" - Chuck Prophet (from "Balinese Dancer", 1992)

"Age Of Miracles" - Chuck Prophet (from "Age Of Miracles", 2004)

"American Man" - Chuck Prophet (from "Let Freedom Ring", 2009)

And here he is live in person:

Thursday 13 May 2010

Big Boys

A while back I did a post featuring songs about larger ladies - such delights as "Fat Gal" by Merle Travis - and it proved remarkably popular. It probably had more hits than anything I have posted before or since.

So in a transparent attempt to repeat the trick - and needing a bit of a morale boost after your almost complete disinterest in the works of Pat Shange and Mr. Chacklas - I thought I would pull together a selection of songs about fat men.

I'm not sure it is going to work though. For whereas songwriters seem to think of greater-girthed girls as bubbly and beautiful beings whose praises should be sung - a sentiment with which I entirely agree - big blokes are generally characterised as either pathetic or evil. Being prone to portliness myself I think this is grossly unfair. But I can't decide whether to sulk or come down on them like a ton of bricks.

Anyway, here they are for what they are worth:

"Fat Man" - Jethro Tull (1969)

"Fat Man" - La Revolucion de Emiliano Zapata (1970)

"Big Fat White Man" - Gospel Oak (1970) (a little more specific in their disdain)

"They Saw The Fat One Coming" - Strawberry Alarm Clock (1968)

Enough of that, there is something much more important to tell you. Yesterday the mighty Frank Sidebottom announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer. I am sure you will all want to join with me in wishing him all the best. Frank is nothing if not a trouper and he is going to beat it. You know he is. He really is.

Here is the great man in action:

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Afropop 2: Mr Chacklas

While in Cape Town I picked up a compilation of the best of a character called Mr Chacklas. Like yesterday's Pat Shange selections, it is 1980s Afropop.

What little I know about Mr Chacklas has been gleaned from our old friend Max Mojapelo's seminal work, "Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music ". It appears that Mr Chacklas was not all he appeared, but just part of the production line of the South African Stock, Aitken and Waterman: Brettell, Millar and Nzuza.

Bones Brettell had been a session keyboard player for Clout ("Substitute") and others before co-founding Hotline in 1981. This was the band that started the career of P.J. Powers, one of the mopst successful female singers South Africa has known. Although Hotline was an all white band they managed to attract a black audience, and Bones developed a sideline as a producer. He roped in Bernie Millar (himself a respected local band leader, most notably "Circus") and one Godfrey Nzuza and found a frontman to perform a string of Afropop tunes they churned out. The first single was "Hoi Chacklas", so the singer found himself saddled with the name of Mr Chacklas.

Mr Chacklas's main distinguishing feature was that he dressed as a traffic cop. As Max notes, this only added to the jollity of his live performances because "festival revellers loved to dance in front of the traffic cop, without any fear of speed trap tickets. Even those who had one too many knew he would not ask them to stand on one leg or "blow in here"".

I'm sure that has whetted your appetite, so here he is, the poor patsy:

"Hoi Chacklas" - Mr Chacklas

"Tana Ka Mina" - Mr Chacklas

Here is some more police officer fun.

Monday 10 May 2010

Afropop 1: Pat Shange

A pleasure deferred, but not for long. Today is the first of two posts bringing you some 1980s Afropop from South Africa.

Pat Shange started off as a relatively traditional mbaqanga singer. In the mid 1980s, perhaps inspired by the success of the Soul Brothers, he moved into mbaqanga-soul territory. He kept moving until he went right out the other side, arriving at pure pop. He had many hits in this style in the late 1980s and 1990s, including major smashes with the likes of "Casanova" and "Undecided Divorce Case". Here are a couple of selections from the 1998 compilation, "The Best of Pat Shange". Very good, but very much of their time.

"Sweet Mama" - Pat Shange

"Coming Home From The Mines" - Pat Shange

If I ever had reason to draw up a list of my favourite Disco Pats, Mr Shange would be in the top three along with these two fellows:

Saturday 8 May 2010

Sertanejo Saturday

Can I extend a special welcome to our first ever visitor from French Guiana. I spent ten days there in 2002 and very enjoyable it was too.

Cayenne was expensive but fun, and I got to hang out with the Haitian ambassador (or at least she claimed she was the Haitian ambassador - who knows). But the two stand-outs were my visits to Devil's Island and Saint-Georges.

Devil's Island is actually three islands - the one with the main prison, which still has many of the original buildings and now has a restaurant and campsites; the one where Dreyfuss was held - his bench is still there - which is inaccessible by boat; and the one where the hard case prisoners were held in solitary confinement. This island has been allowed to go back to nature, apart from a path round the island and the small graveyard where the prison wardens and their families are buried, and it was incredibly atmospheric to find a ruined prison in the middle of the rampant vegetation.

Saint-Georges (or Saint Georges-de-l'Oyapock to give its full name) is a small town on the banks of the Oiapoque River, which forms the eastern border with Brazil. You have the river on one side and the jungle on the other and you really feel you are cut off from the world.

Of course you are not that remote really. If you hanker after excitement you can take a piroque taxi downriver to Oiapoque on the Brazilan side. That is a real cowboy town, and fittingly it was where I discovered Sertanejo - Brazilian country music. I picked up several bootleg Sertanejo CDs while I was there, together with a lacquered piranha.

In place of our scheduled post - sorry, Pat Shange fans - here are a couple of the highlights from those CDs:

"Sapatio, Sapatio" - Rio Negro & Solimoes

"Rodeio E Vaquejada" - Rick & Renner

I have a 2007 Rick & Renner album which an exasperating mixture of decent sertanejo and mushy pap (which is still closer to country than most recent Nashville albums I suppose). Rio Negro & Solimoes still seem to be sticking to their roots and, judging by the size of the crowd in this clip, are doing OK out of it.

Friday 7 May 2010

The Bells! The Bells!

Long-standing readers (you know who you both are) may recall me enthusing about "Carbeth", last year's debut album by the Scottish band Trembling Bells. I picked it up after seeing them play a storming rendition of "Cold February" at an Incredible String Band tribute concert at the Barbican last June or July.

"Carbeth" was a weird and wonderful mix of psychedelia and traditional British folk, and my only criticism of it was that at times they tried a bit too hard to be weird and it did not always come off. Of course it was exactly that forced weirdness that appealed to some of the freakier than thou critics. It is largely absent from the new album "Abandoned Love", which is why some of them appear disappointed - my dear, it has tunes and everything, how terribly terribly mainstream!

Basically I am a boring old tunes man at heart so personally, as much as I enjoyed "Carbeth", I can see I am going to listen to "Abandoned Love" much more. There is nothing wrong with a bit of folk-rock, country-rock or normal, no prefix rock, and while this is mellower than "Carbeth" it is not exactly mellow. There are even some nifty horns on tracks like "Ravenna", presumably courtesy of Belle & Sebastian's Stevie Jackson, who produced the album. The singer Lavinia Blackwall still sounds like a slightly demented mix of Maddy Prior and Shirley Collins and if anything the slighter tamer background noises force more attention onto her voice rather that subdue it.

Anyway, here are a couple of favourites from "Abandoned Love":

"Ravenna" - Trembling Bells (2010)

"All Good Men Come Last" - Trembling Bells (2010)

And as a special bonus, here is the "title track" from "Carbeth":

"Willows of Carbeth" - Trembling Bells (2009)

Both albums are available for purchase or download in all the usual places, and are well worth the money.

Conventionally I add a dodgy clip from the 1970s or 1980s with only a tangential connection, if any, to the subject of the post. And who am I to defy convention? So here are the Belle Stars (Trembling Bells, Belle & Sebastian, geddit?)

To tell the truth I was always more of an Amazulu man myself. They really were too good to be forgotten.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Election Fever

Here in the UK we are gripped by election fever, if the symptoms of fever are listlessness and mild depression. At least it will all be over by tomorrow night, although I suppose the real pain only begins then.

We really have a most unappealing selection to choose from - a worn out Government, a bunch of shiny-faced posh boys who once met a black man actually, and a third party whose only real attraction is that it isn't one of the other two. If I may lapse into vulgarity for a moment, it is like being presented with three turds and asked to decide which has been polished the best.

For a more considered view, let me hand over to two veteran commentators. They are talking about politics in Trinidad and Africa respectively, but the general points still apply.

"Election Time" - Lord Kitchener

"Politician" - Hugh Masekela

What Britain needs at this time is a true inspirational statesman. Someone like the late leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party:

Monday 3 May 2010

General Muzka Part 3

The final part of the Muzka Trilogy for you today. This album is called "Masosayithi". It is not up to the standard of the other two, and feels a bit like it might have been put out to mark time before his next magnum opus. There are only eight tracks and two of those are remixes.

That is not to say it is without merit, it just isn't quite up to his normal standards. Here are a couple of the highlights.

"Masosayithi" - General Muzka

"Muhandzu (Bibele)" -General Muzka

As before we are unable to show you any General Muzka clips because there don't appear to be any. So instead here is some other ground-breaking South African music, this time from 1978.

Sunday 2 May 2010

General Muzka Part 2

Part Two of our three-part General Muzka special features a couple of tracks from his album "Machangana Na Mavenda". My copy - which is one one of those "two albums in one" CDs - does not say when it came out, but my guess is the early to mid 2000s.

"Machangana Na Mavenda" is another strong album from the General. Most of it is very much in his normal style, including today's first selection, "Squeza" - according to the sleeve notes this track was arranged by Magolide Nyathi, but I am not sufficiently familiar with his work to spot a distinctive Nyathi sound. Today's second selection, "Julieta", is something a little different. It sees the General veering almost into soukous territory. Very nice it is too, and suitably mellow for a Sunday.

"Squeza" - General Muzka

"Julieta" - General Muzka

Here are some more generals:

Saturday 1 May 2010

General Muzka Part 1

In recent weeks I have been inundated with increasingly strident comments from assorted residents of Giyani, demanding more tunes from General Muzka. For those of you who are new here and don't know him, the General (real name Chris Mkhonto) is the leading light of the current wave of Tsonga (or Shangaan) Disco artists.

Giyani is pretty much Tsonga Central, being as it is the home district of the likes of Penny Penny and an increasingly bustling place with - judging by the photo on Wikipedia - very scenic traffic lights. So if that's what Giyani wants, that is what Giyani is going to get.

Fortunately I managed to pick up three General Muzka albums while in Cape Town at Easter, and am going to feature them over the next three posts. We will start with the most recent of them, "Malanga-Langa", which came out in late 2008/ early 2009.

I think this is probably my favourite of the three albums. What I particularly like about it is the slightly broader musical palette. Synths dominate as with all Tsonga Disco, but they are nicely supplemented by some very nifty guitar work by one Bernardo Domingos. Going by the name I would guess he is from Mozambique, where there is a sizeable Tsonga population in the South. See what you think of it:

"N'Wana Mamana" - General Muzka

"Hi Wena Ungati Lovola" - General Muzka

Speaking of nifty guitar work, here's Hank at his best: