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Tuesday 30 November 2010

Twinkle Time

I was in Copenhagen yesterday and managed to find time in between appointments to visit a couple of record shops and invest in a bundle of Danish delights. So look out for future posts featuring such luminaries as Kliche, Kashmir, Pocket-Size, Den Lille Prins and Starfuckers.

Adverse Easyjet conditions meant that my return journey was rather prolonged. Now, there are worse places to be stuck for seven hours than Copenhagen Airport. And a snow-coated Stansted Airport has a certain charm at 3am - it is also remarkably efficient when it only has to deal with one plane at a time. Nonetheless, I was feeling a little jaded by the time I got home at 5am, with four hours to go until my next meeting.

You know me as a man of impeccable taste, as indeed I am. Tsonga Disco, Thai funk and Swedish folky trip hoppy sort of stuff are the bread and butter of my musical collection. But sometimes there is just no substitute for the restorative powers of Essex.

"Hold Me Close" - David Essex

"Cool Out Tonight" - David Essex

Even when he is dressed up as a bad Bryan Ferry impersonator he can't help but twinkle.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Swedes On Sunday

We finish off this week's whistle-stop world tour in Sweden, with something ancient and modern. DJ Embee of the Loop Troop Rockers - not an ensemble whose work I am familiar with, I'm afraid - has teamed up with folk singer Esmeralda Moberg to perform poems written by his Dad, Roger Bergkvist, in a folk-tinged trip hop style. The resulting album is called Skuggpoeten, and it is out now.

The combination is occasionally a little soporific, but when it works it works extremely well. As these two examples demonstrate.

"Stad Vriden At Soder" - Skuggpoeten

"Kvarnforsen" - Skuggpoeten

Can anyone think of other Swedish groups that have successfully combined beats with more ethnic sounds? Oh yes...

Friday 26 November 2010


Here at 27 Leggies we started the week in India before moving on to South Africa. So let's keep heading west, to the Caribbean. Specifically, the Dominican Republic, home of that master of the merengue, Wilfrido Vargas. Here are a few of his choice selections to get you in the mood for the weekend.

"Me Duele El Corazon" - Wilfrido Vargas

"Chevere-Anti-Chevere" - Wilfrido Vargas

"El Extraterrestre" - Wilfrido Vargas

I assume that last one is about aliens. So's this.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Freddie Gwala

Here are some South African sounds from the 1990s for you. Not Tsonga Disco, for a change, but not too far off in style.

Freddie Gwala served eight years for car theft way back when. On his release he begun to make his name in the music business, initially as a writer/producer for gospel group Pure Gold and then Platform 1, specialists in wedding songs. He kick-started his solo career with a massive hit in the form of "Amadamara". Here it is, together with a track from his later "Amadamara 4" album, which according to the ever-reliable Max Mojapelo went gold in either 1996 or 1997. "Amadamara 4" is available for download on Amazon, and probably elsewhere.

"Amadamara" - Freddie Gwala

"Guma Faya" - Freddie Gwala

Here is old Freddie in action:

And as a special bonus, here is an even older Freddie in action:

Monday 22 November 2010

Punjabi Pop

Here are a couple of tracks I first featured way back in the early days of this blog, when visitors were few and far between and passers-by generally just kept passing. I have dusted them off because I think they deserve a larger audience.

Jasbir Jassi is a leading purveyor of Punjabi pop. You can find out more about him in the Profile section of his website where, if you are so inclined, you can also take innocent pleasure in the slightly wonky English. I particularly like the reference to him being the most "dotted-on" member of his family, which makes it sound like someone got carried away when applying the tilaka.

These two songs are from the late 1990s, but he is still going strong.

"Kudi Kudi" - Jasbir Jassi

"Dil Le Gayee" - Jasbir Jassi

And here he is in action.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Singles Club

This is the latest in our irregular series of highlights from my singles collection. These selections come from the period 1975 to 1983, which gives you a pretty good idea of when I stopped buying singles on a regular basis.

There is something for everyone here. As long as everyone likes either post-punk, post-punk-funk, pop-jazz, overhyped but underrated glam rock, disco versions of songs by the Animals or reggae versions of songs by Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme.

"I Just Want To Stay Here (And Love You)" - Derrick & Paulette (1975)

"House Of The Rising Sun/ Quasimodo Suite" - Santa Esmeralda (1977)

"Danger Signs" - Penetration (1979)

"The Devil Lives In My Husband's Body" - Pulsallama (1982)

"Passion Killer" - One The Juggler (1983)

"Native Boy" - Animal Nightlife (1983)

Santa Esmeralda were attempting to repeat a trick, having previously scored a major hit with another Animals cover version. This one.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Lots Of Bots

A few months ago Mr F and I went on a very pleasant jaunt from Antwerp to Cologne, picking up assorted bits of vinyl along the way. I finally got round to converting them to mp3 format over the weekend. To be honest, none of them are what I would call long-lost classics, but some of them are quite entertaining.

One such is "Aufstehn", the 1980 album by bots - they insisted on using lower case, no doubt for deeply symbolic reasons. That one cost me €1 in an Oxfam shop in Cologne, and was worth every cent.

What little I know about bots has been gleaned from a German language Wikipedia page, as massacred by Google Translate. They were a Dutch band who released their first album in 1975. At some point towards the end of that decade they became popular in Germany and began to release albums in German. It is not clear from the translation whether the albums were released simultaneously in both Dutch and German or exclusively in German.

The main man in bots was Hans Sanders, the singer and guitarist who also wrote the tunes and the original Dutch lyrics (the German lyrics were provided by assorted songwriters, authors and journalists and are apparently very socially aware). He died in Eindhoven in 2007. Special mention must also go to the wonderfully named Bonkie Bongaerts on piano. His current whereabouts are unknown. Are you out there, Bonkie?

Anyway, here is the title track (which translates as "Get Up") and the opener (which I guess translates as "The Man"). Apologies for the slightly ropey quality.

"Der Mann" - bots

"Aufstehn" - bots

One of those responsible for the German lyrics was Wolf Biermann, an East German singer-songwriter who had defected to the West in the mid 1970s bringing with him his step-daughter, one Nina Hagen.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Rose/Thorn Interface

Here are a few songs on the tricky subject of roses and thorns and whether they go together. The first two take a conventional view, before our old friends Jesus Couldn't Drum provide a twist in the tail.

These songs are dedicated to all the English roses of my acquaintance (apart from Jesus Couldn't Drum - none of them are nutters in the garden who sing to the concrete gnomes, at least not as far as I am aware).

"Cactus And A Rose" - Gary Stewart

"The Bramble And The Rose" - Mary McCaslin & Jim Ringer

"Even Roses Have Thorns" - Jesus Couldn't Drum

Here is some more rose-related fun.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Hugh Jazz

The last of couple of nights have been spent at two very enjoyable gigs on the South Bank: John Grant at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Thursday, followed on Friday by Hugh Masekela (or Philip McCartney Jr. III to give him his real name) at the Royal Festival Hall.

If you haven't already got John Grant's "Queen of Denmark" you can certainly find many of the tracks on other blogs - I know I did - so we'll go straight to Hugh. I was lucky enough to see him play the Festival Hall once before, back in the 1990s, and age has not withered his charm. If anything he is even more of a showman than he used to be.

Hugh was backed by a very tidy five piece band, with a stand-out performer in John Cameron Ward on guitar. It took them all a couple of numbers to get warmed up but once they had done so they were excellent. My only minor moan was that on a couple of occasions when they had a real groove going and had got the audience on their feet, they slightly spoiled the mood with an extended bass solo (or, worse still, a bongo solo). That's jazz, I suppose.

Hugh played some old standards like "Stimela", "Lady" and, of course, "Grazing In The Grass". They finished on real high with a rendition of "Thanayi" that was decidedly cooking, as I believe the jazz buffs say, then encored with an exceptionally funky "Ashiko". Here are the recorded versions of both songs, which seem a little sedate by comparison.

"Thanayi" - Hugh Masekela

"Ashiko" - Hugh Masekela

We were also treated to a short but sweet support set from the Mahotella Queens, who having only been together since 1964 are novices compared to Hugh. The youngest member, aged 65, got a bit over-excited towards the end and started showing off. Kids, eh?

Here are the girls in action in 1991 with Mahlatini.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Tsonga Disco: Malulektro

As explained in my previous post, there are three distinct camps among current Tsonga Disco artistes: the traditionalists, the groovy disco dudes, and the more experimental electro types. George Maluleke is normally considered to be firmly in the first camp - for an example listen to the two tracks included in my post about him in April.

But these are interesting times. George did not get to be at the top of the Tsonga disco heap for so many years without knowing a thing or two about pleasing a crowd, and so in recent times has started including a few electro remixes with his albums and/or adding those remixes to reissues of some of his earlier albums. I am not entirely sure which is which as I have not been able to establish the original release dates.

Fans of the Shangaan Disco compilation album might particularly want to check out "Xirhandza Thyaka Remix" which is available to download from Amazon and elsewhere, together with a number of his other albums. As the title rather gives away, it is a remix of George's "Xirhandza Thyaka" album. That was his 17th album, and he is know on his 25th or 26th, so the original presumably came out in the early years of the millenium. My guess is that the remix is much more recent.

You certainly wouldn't recognise these tracks as being by George Maluleke, not least because his vocals have been completely removed.

"Swa Humelela Remix" - George Maluleke (from "Uhundukile Mavala")

"Basimbilu Remix" - George Maluleke (from "Xirhandza Thyaka Remix")

Speaking of the Shangaan Electro compilation as we were, here is a video featuring the Tshetsha Boys. And a whole lotta shakin' going on.

Monday 8 November 2010

Tsonga Disco: Madlaks

For someone whose self-proclaimed mission is to bring Tsonga Disco to the masses, I have been doing a pretty awful job recently. It is time to start putting that right, beginning today. Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you Madlaks.

If you are new to this site, a brief recap. The Tsonga people (also known as the Shangaan) live mainly in the north-eastern parts of the Limpopo Province in South Africa and in southern Mozambique. Tsonga Disco is a mixture of their traditional music and, well, disco I suppose.

Depending on who you are listening to the balance between traditional and disco elements will vary. There are those who come from the more traditional wing (the likes of Thomas Chauke and George Maluleke) and those who mix in more of a dance element (these include most of my personal favourites such as General Muzka, Joe Shirimani and Penny Penny - I have three new Penny Penny albums on order which I will hopefully be able to share with you soon).

More recently, a third camp has emerged who have turned the dial right up to bonkers, like those artists featured on the excellent "Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa" compilation. Madlaks is in that camp. Here are a couple of selections from his album "Ndlho Ndlho".

"Ndlho Ndlho (Remix)" - Madlaks

"Nwamakapani" - Madlaks

Moving on to other news, bargain of the week (at least for our UK readers) has to be on Amazon, where you can currently download Cee Lo Green's "The Lady Killer" for just £3.99. It is already a serious contender for my album of the year. I strongly recommend you go and buy it now. And if you don't want to take my advice, well you know what you can do...

Sunday 7 November 2010


Today we bring you a couple of selections from a CD I picked up in Paris earlier in the year in one of the countless tiny African music shops near Marcadet-Poissoniers metro - "Panache" by the exotically named Yulianna Wom.

I have not been able to find out a great deal about Yulianna. I assume she is from Cameroon as the contact address on the CD is in Douala, although the album was recorded in the unlikely setting of the Euro Gospel studio in La Louviere, Belgium. Yulianna wrote and produced the album herself, with the help of musical maestro Didier Likeng. According to Sterns website it was released in 2001.

Most of the album canters along at a perky mid-tempo but, as it is Sunday, we will give you one of the slow tracks as well.

"Me M'Ading Wo" - Yulianna Wom

"Za'a Bike" - Yulianna Wom

One thing I haven't established yet is whether Yulianna is a distant relative of Barry Wom, drummer with the legendary Rutles. I assume not but you never know. Here they are in concert in the Shea Stadium in 1965.

Friday 5 November 2010

Soul D'Ivoire

To help get you fired up for the weekend, here are a couple of selections from an excellent compilation album called "Ivory Coast Soul". As the name suggests, it is a collection of soulful tunes from Cote d'Ivoire, mostly from the 1970s. Great stuff it is too.

"Zadie Bobo" - Ernesto Djedje

"Adoue Pla Moussoue" - K. Assale

And here's something else for the weekend.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Spirits Beautiful

Last night I was at the Cafe OTO in Dalston to see Mike Heron and his band.

To provide a bit of context, Mike has been one of my musical heroes for roughly thirty years, since I discovered a copy of the Incredible String Band's "5000 Spirits, or the Layers of an Onion" album in a second-hand record shop and fell instantly in love with his music. While I have seen him live a number of times, it has always been in combination with others (the String Band reunions and various cameo roles at other concerts). This was the first opportunity I have ever had to see him perform a full set. And it happened in a nice, intimate venue - the audience of me, Green from Scritti Politti, and all the other old farts probably didn't quite reach 100 - with a few decent, locally brewed pints of porter.

So there is absolutely no prospect of getting an objective review from me. It was utterly fantastic and I was grinning from ear to ear from start to finish. Here are the original versions of just two of the many highlights.

"Douglas Traherne Harding" - The Incredible String Band (from "The Big Huge")

"Spirit Beautiful" - Mike Heron (from "Smiling Men With Bad Reputations")

The band comprised Mike's daughter, Georgia Seddon, on keyboards, Mike Hastings (whose day job is guitarist with the Trembling Bells), and Solveig Aakvik on fiddle. It was entertaining watching Georgia, who spent the whole set looking warily at over at Mike. That must be one of the problems of working with your Dad - no matter who they are or how good they are at what they do, they are only ever a matter of seconds away from doing something really embarrassing (Old Pa Goggins excepted of course).

Georgia did a short support set, as did Mike (Hastings) and Solveig. As well as being an excellent electric guitarist, as he showed during the Trembling Bells set on Saturday, he is pretty nifty on the acoustic as well. I think there is definitely a bit of a Bert Jansch feel to his sound. Judge for yourselves.

"Inchconnachan" - Mike & Solveig

And from way back when, here are old gang. Mike still closes his shows with this.

Monday 1 November 2010


Those of you who were around back in September may recall me mentioning that I had been lucky enough to the see Eureka Birds in concert while in New York. Well now Justin Levy from the band has kindly sent me an advance copy of their new six track EP, called simply "Eureka!". Copies should be available soon from their website and elsewhere. The website also has details of Justin's short solo tour of the East Coast (of the US not the UK - he won't be playing Lowestoft), which kicks off tomorrow night with a hometown gig in Baltimore.

I really like the EP, and to me there is a warmth to it that wasn't there on their (still pretty good) self-titled debut album. Whether that comes from the additional band members, or the production, or just a bit more maturity in the writing and performing I don't know. But it works for me.

Being an old fart I don't know much about modern music, so I can't sensibly attempt to define or describe their sound. But to use a frame of reference I can understand, it seems like Eureka Birds are reinterpreting the best aspects of 1970s AOR and MOR, in the same sort of way as John Grant does on "Queen of Denmark" and Josh Rouse has done more than once. Fair to play to them, because when it was good it was very good. And for these younger folks who can filter out the worst excesses it doesn't lead to the same unpleasant flashbacks as for those of us who were just too young to be conscripted in the punk wars.

To illustrate what I mean, compare and contrast.

"We'll Get By" - Eureka Birds (from "Eureka!" EP, 2010)

"Downtown Tonight" - Racing Cars (from "Downtown Tonight", 1976)

Here is another mellow marvel from 1976. You didn't have to be attractive to have hit singles in those days. It was a simpler time.