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Sunday 31 October 2010

Shirley & Co

Young Jackson and I went up to Cecil Sharp House last night for a triple bill of folk-related fun. And very good it was too.

The main item was a 90 minute presentation on the history of the folk song in Sussex. If that sounds a little dry, you need to know that it was delivered by the legendary Shirley Collins, now in her mid-seventies but still on top form. It was a fascinating mix of history, anecdotes, readings (by the estimable Pip Barnes) and field recordings. If the use of a lectern and temporary white screen on which to project the slides made the venue look even more like a school hall, somehow it only enhanced the experience.

The only slight disappointment was that there we did not hear more of Shirley's own recordings. But the one we did hear - "Gilderoy" - was stunningly beautiful. Here it is with her version of "Claudy Banks", which we learnt was the first song ever transcribed by Cecil Sharp as part of his project to preserve the English folk song.

"Gilderoy" - Shirley & Dolly Collins (from "For As Many As Will", 1978)

"Claudy Banks" - Shirley Collins & The Albion Band (from "No Roses", 1971)

Shirley was bookended by fine performances from the Trembling Bells and Alasdair Roberts. I am a big Bells fan as regular readers might know and, while I could have managed without the acapella interlude, they were on excellent form. As a special treat they brought on one of my all time musical heroes, Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band, to perform a great version of his "Feast of Stephen". Apparently they will be releasing it as a single - is it too soon to kick off the campaign to make it the Christmas Number One?

Alasdair Roberts also played a fine, if slightly abbreviated, set. There is definitely a touch of the Richard Thompsons about his guitar playing, singing, subject matter, and indeed his beard. This is him.

Here are one song apiece from Mr Roberts and the Tremblers. I will save Mike Heron for later in the week. Tube strike permitting I am off to see him in Dalston on Tuesday, and I can hardly wait.

"River Rhine" - Alasdair Roberts (from "The Amber Gatherers", 2006)

"When I Was Young" - Trembling Bells (from "Carbeth", 2009)

Those of you who are fans of 1970s disco will have worked out from the title of the post what is coming next. And if you didn't, well, shame on you.

Friday 29 October 2010

Congolese Lady Singing!

Following on the Carlyto Lassa post earlier in the week, here are a couple of tracks from the other CD I picked up in Brussels earlier in the week. This one is by Tshala Muana, known to her many fans as "La Reine de Mutuashi", Mutuashi being the Afro-Cuban influenced music that she is largely responsible for popularising. Further details of her career can be found in a very good, if now slightly out of date, article at Saharan Vibe.

The album in question is "Pika Pende", released in 1999. Here are the title track and "Bantu Tabalayi" which - if I have interpreted the French sleeve notes correctly - features one Lassa Landu on guest vocals. Mind you, the sleeve notes also claim that Bill Clinton was responsible for "animations", so I am not sure they can be relied on.

"Pika Pende" - Tshala Muana

"Bantu Tabalayi" - Tshala Muana

Here she is in action with some enchanting dancing girls and what appears to be random backdrops of Las Vegas.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Carlyto's Way

I was in Brussels working on Monday and Tuesday, but managed to carve out an hour from my busy schedule to head over to Matonge to sample the excellent selection of Congolese CDs at "Musicanova". Unfortunately it was shut. And although the stock was still there and there was a hand-written sign on the door saying they would be opening soon, there was an awful lot of post piling up on the floor. It does not look too promising. Does anyone know what is happening?

Fortunately the trader above the mobile phone shop at the entrance to Galerie d'Ixelles was still going, and I was able to pick up a couple of CDs, one by Tshala Muana and the other by someone I have never previously heard of, Carlyto Lassa. The CD in question is called "Africa Na Moto" and it was released in 1997.

I have not been able to find out much about Carlyto, apart from the fact that he sang with the famous OK Jazz in the late 1980s. Some websites I have looked at describe his solo style as "soukous-gospel", but I am not sure that applies to this CD. My French is poor - and my Lingala is not that hot either - but to me it sounds like he is singing of romantic love not spiritual love. Perhaps he moved on to gospel music later in his career.

Here are a couple of tracks that caught my ear on first listen this morning. I really like the guitar work, particularly the slightly fuzzy guitar that comes in at about 5:30 on "Chatelet". According to the sleeve notes there are six guitarists on the album - Popolipo, Dizzy, Lokassa, Dally, Caen and Carlyto himself. I don't know which one to give the credit to.

"Chatelet" - Carlyto Lassa

"Michokoto Wa Michongo" - Carlyto Lassa

I know it is probably wrong or unnatural, but when I heard the little motif at the beginning of "Michokoto Wa Michongo", I immediately thought of the litle motif at the beginning of this top tune from Icy Spicy Leoncie. I wouldn't be surprised to find that Popolipo is responsible for the guitar break as well.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Gregory Isaacs R.I.P.

Things are getting seriously bad. We lost Solomon Burke a couple of weeks back, and now The Cool Ruler himself has gone at the age of 59. As a small but totally inadequate tribute to one of the finest and most distinctive singers in any genre, here are just a few of my many personal favourites.

"Can't Get Over Losing You" - Gregory Isaacs

"Raving Tonight" - Gregory Isaacs

"Gi Me" - Gregory Isaacs

"Slow Down" - Gregory Isaacs

And here he is in an uncredited supporting role, as Dr Alimantado samples "My Religion" on his magnificently bonkers "Best Dressed Chicken In Town" album.

"Unitone Skank" - Dr Alimantado

Sunday 24 October 2010

Sunday Afternoon In Memphis

I have always fancied visiting Memphis, but having listened to these lads I am not so sure any more. It sounds like wall to wall misery.

"Sunday Afternoon In Memphis" - Steve Dixon

"It's Crying Time In Memphis" - Joe Simon

"When Morning Comes To Memphis" - Jerry Jaye

"Meanwhile Back In Memphis" - Johnny Darrell

After that you need a bit of light relief. Here is the redoubtable Mrs Miller with her unique reinterpretation of the Chuck Berry standard.

"Memphis" - Mrs Miller

And here's Chuck showing her how to do it properly.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Thai Two

Last time out we brought you some Thai disco from the 1970s. Today we are going back a decade to feature a couple of selections from the highly groovy "Thai Beat A Go Go" series of CDs released on Subliminal Sounds five years or so ago. Both are belted out by the ever perky Sodsai Chaengkij.

"Shake Baby Shake" - Sodsai Chaengkij

"The Boat That I Row" - Sodsai Chaengkij

You will have spotted immediately that the second selection was a Lulu cover. Here is the marmalising midget with the original. She is sporting an extraordinary collar and cuffs.

Monday 18 October 2010

Bangkok Boogie

Something a bit special for you today - 1970s disco from Thailand, courtesy of the compilers of "Thai Funk - Zud Rang Ma Volume 1" (there are two other volumes). It is a fantastic listen, and well worth tracking down if you can. I am told there were only 1300 copies made so I am not sure how easy that will be. I picked up my copy in trendy Williamsburg a month or so back and have been enjoying it regularly since.

Of the eighteen tracks on the album about a third are slightly wonky cover versions of Western hits, including one by James Brown, two by Boney M, and these two which you will recognise straight away.

"Kod Hang Kam" - Kana TNT

"Chown Tur Ten Rum" - Pranee Thanasri

To my mind "Kod Hang Kam" is a great improvement on the original as you can enjoy the tune without having to listen to the pompous words. But for me probably the best, and certainly the most distinctive, track on the album is this next one, which has a bit of a Krautrock feel to it. Either that or very early Human League played at slightly the wrong speed.

"Disco Tour" - Nakplang Krumklowna

The Boney M covers were of their disco rendition of Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" and of this all time classic.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Stan The Man

A month or so back I picked up "Tchink Attack", the 1995 CD by one Stan Tohon from Benin. According to the sleeve notes, Stan is "the creator and auto-proclaimed king" of tchink, a style which is "based upon the meeting of traditional rhythms - tchinkoume - played on water percussions (gotta, sihoun etc) and western electric instruments".

It would appear from the photo on the back cover that Stan also has a vibrant stage show, which involves him man-handling midgets.

I rather presumptuously thought that I might be the first to bring Stan's work to the interweb, but reckoned without the redoubtable Oro and his/her blog. Oro is based in Porto Novo in Benin and specialises in music from that country, with regular trips to elsewhere in West Africa. Earlier this week Oro featured Stan's 1984 album, "Le Roi Du Tchink System", which is well worth a listen. As is everything else that Oro posts.

So, coming in a distant second, here are a couple of tracks from "Tchink Attack".

"Devaluation" - Stan Tohon

"Djessoudo" - Stan Tohon

And here is a clip of Stan miming to his hit single "Asheo". It is quite sedate until an enormous arse suddenly appears out of nowhere after 38 seconds.

Friday 15 October 2010

Especially For Dogs

Yesterday I was reading a review of Mavis Staples' new, Jeff Tweedy produced, album "You Are Not Alone" - which sounds worth checking out - and it mentioned that the mighty Kelly Hogan is one of the backing vocalists.

If, like me, you consider Kelly to be one of the finest vocalists of this or any era, any appearance is welcome. It has been slim pickings for far too long. Since her last album, "Because It Feel Good", was released in 2001 we have had to get by on guest appearances and one-off tracks on compilation albums. To me it is inexplicable that someone that good has not had the opportunity to record an album for nearly a decade. Hopefully that will get put right some time soon.

I bought both Kelly's albums on Bloodshot Records - "Because It Feel Good" and its even better predecessor "Beneath The Country Underdog" - when they came out, and for a few years was under the impression that "Underdog" was her solo debut. Then I found out about the hard to find 1996 album "The Whistle Only Dogs Can Hear", released on Long Play Records of Atlanta.

After years of fruitless searching I finally tracked a copy down on Ebay a few months ago and have been meaning to feature it ever since. It is the usual Hogan mix of indie, country, soul and cabaret. Here are a couple of cover versions from the album - the first by Vic Chesnutt, the second a lovely take on Toussaint McCall's deep soul standard.

"Soft Picasso" - Kelly Hogan

"Nothing Takes The Place Of You" - Kelly Hogan

And here's a great clip of Kelly and an outfit called Pardner doing Conway & Loretta's "You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly". Check out the marvellous scripted ad-lib at 2:30.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Heidi Hi!

I have just come back from working in Geneva for a few days - it was nice enough but probably better in the heights of summer or depths of winter. This was my first ever visit to Switzerland so I had wanted to mark the occasion by posting some local music to create a fondue of fabulous sounds. But my Swiss selection is pretty limited. As far as I can tell, this is it:

"Hedi's Head" - Kleenex

"Die Matrosen" - Liliput

That's all there is. Not so much as a sniff of Yello, yodelling or The Young Thingummies (I can't remember their name but Mr F will know who I mean). So instead let's round things out with a couple of cracking tunes from fellow travellers of Kleenex/ Liliput.

"Aerosol Burns" - Essential Logic

"No One's Little Girl" - The Raincoats (the original version from "Moving", not the 1995 remake)

If I was to extend my Swiss selection, I would almost definitely not start with this lot.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Solomon Burke R.I.P.

Sad News - the King of Rock and Soul is dead.

"If You Need Me" - Solomon Burke

"Shame On Me" - Solomon Burke

Friday 8 October 2010

Jolly Good Fellows

I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself for the last few days. I have been ill, the telly blew up, and the bosses at work have been acting like arses. Then this came on and all of a sudden the world was a wonderful place again.

"Great Balls Of Fire" - The Jolly Boys

The Jolly Boys are a veteran mento band, mento being a Jamaican folk music which is a sort of mix of ska and calypso. They have existed in one form or another since 1955, and legend has it that they were given their name by Errol Flynn. More details can be found on their website.

Earlier this year they released "Great Expectation", an album of weird and wonderful cover versions of the likes of Steely Dan, Amy Winehouse, Blondie, The Stranglers, The Doors and others (but not "Great Balls Of Fire"). They don't all work, but when they come off you can't help but grin. Here are a couple of examples.

"I Fought The Law" - The Jolly Boys

"The Passenger" - The Jolly Boys

Enjoy the video of their excellent version of "Rehab", featuring the amazing, MacGowanesque teeth of lead singer Albert Minott.

Wednesday 6 October 2010


I had not intended to post today, but we have had a special request which I am only too pleased to address. One FredrikO - clearly a man of singular taste - has understandably been very taken with the cover of Lord Melody's 1960s album "Mas Is Devil Power", and has asked me to repost the track from that album that was originally featured in August last year.

I'm delighted to do so. To my mind Lord Melody (real name Fitzroy Alexander) was one of the greatest classic calypsonians, second only to his great friend and rival Mighty Sparrow. So, just for old Fred, here are three tracks from "Mas Is Devil Power".

"Bimini Gal" - Lord Melody

"In The Name Of The Law" - Lord Melody

"Tar Baby" - Lord Melody

As a special bonus, here is Sparrow's tribute to the great man, recorded after his untimely death from cancer in 1988. I have to admit I tend to well up a bit when I listen to this, so please excuse any damp patches on the screen.

"Play One For Melo" - Mighty Sparrow

This is the only clip I have been able to find of Melo in action.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Return To Venda

As regular readers will know I have a deep and abiding love of the music of the Tsonga people. The Tsonga - or the Shangaan as they are sometimes called, after the largest sub-group - live primarily in the Limpopo Province in the north-east of South Africa, southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

A little over to the west - pretty much next door in fact - in northern Limpopo and southern Zimbabwe - you will find the Venda. If you believe the guide to the official languages of South Africa, the Venda are people very much after my own heart as "there is always something for the hard-working people to look forward to after working all day in the fields and that is music, a few drinks and dancing".

Until his untimely death in 2007 at the age of only 36, Zimbabwe-born Amon Mvula was one of the leading lights of the Venda music scene. Apparently he was a memorable live performer, the highlight of the set being the "bicycle dance", during which he spun a bicycle wheel on his hands, face and belt buckle. Quite why, who knows.

Here are a couple of tracks from his album "50/50", released the year he died. It was produced by Zozo (of Sangere Beat fame), and you can hear his influence quite clearly in the music.

"Thase" - Amon Mvula

"Mme Anga" - Amon Mvula

From Zozo to Dino. Here he is with a swingin' version of that old traditional song, "Venda Red Red Robin".

Sunday 3 October 2010

Freaky Greeks

Last time out we brought you some Turkish psychedelia from the 1970s. To avoid accusations of bias, here are assorted Greeks from the same era, all of a vaguely folk-rock persuasion. Most if not all of these tracks were originally acquired via the estimable Hippy DJKit, a regular source of great sounds.

"To Taxidi Tis Zois" - Agapanthos

"Psanno Na Vro To Filo Mou" - Poll

"O Pio Kalos Tragoudistis" - Kostas Tournas

Greeks. On a Sunday. You know what's coming next.

Friday 1 October 2010

Freaky Turks

A real treat for you today - two selections from "Turkish Freakout (Psych-Folk Singles 1969-1980)", released earlier this year on the punningly-named Bouzouki Joe label. It is an excellent compilation, and highly recommended. It's available for download on iTunes and in CD and vinyl form via Amazon (at least in the UK).

Many of the big names of the Turkish psych scene are present and correct - Erkin Koray, Cem Karaca, Baris Manco etc - but here are a couple of corkers from some of the lesser lights.

"Esmerim" - Beyaz Kelebekler (1976)

"Bebek" - Sevil & Ayla (1974)

In an only vaguely similar style, here are Kavaret (if you are in Israel) or Poogy (as they were known everywhere else for some reason) in 1973 with the fantastic "Yo Ya".