Search This Blog

Saturday 30 April 2011

Gig Frenzy

It has been a bumper week for gigs this week. Tuesday was Doug Paisley supported by Serafina Steer at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell, Thursday was Ducks Deluxe supported by Graham Larkeby & the Escape Committee at the North Star in Leytonstone, and tonight we top it off with Ron Sexsmith supported by Jim White at the Barbican.

Doug Paisley is a Canadian singer-songwriter. You can tell he is a Canadian because he sports a Patent 1970s Gordon Lightfoot Moustache (as shown to good effect in the picture below). Like Gordon, he is a proponent of the traditional virtues of writing good songs and singing them well. And he did so very well, supplementing his excellent original material with a nice cover of the old standard "Dark as a Dungeon" (which as any of you who have been to the Slaughtered Lamb will know is a very appropriate choice). One of the highlights was a new song called "Bat Song", which he has recorded as part of a Daytrotter Session earlier in the year, and which we provide below.

Serafina Steer is an English harpist and a bit more of an acquired taste. I am not sure I have acquired it yet, but I can see I might. Lyrically very interesting, the songs where she managed to combine it with a proper tune worked very well (like 'Peach Heart' and one about captains and cabin boys) - certainly well enough to investigate further. This selection is the title track of her first album, which came out a few years ago.

"Bat Song" - Doug Paisley

"Cheap Demo Bad Science" - Serafina Steet

Ducks Deluxe were one of the original pub-rock bands from the early 1970s, whose members went on to greater fame in The Motors, The Rumour and others. Two of the original members - Martin Belmont and Sean Tyla - reformed the band a few years back and it was good to get a chance to hear them. The fact it was an acoustic set and you couldn't really see them as they sat down was slightly disappointing but did not spoil the evening. Today's choice is taken from my battered vinyl copy of their first album, with apologies for the sound quality.

I first came across Graham Larkbey in the early 1980s when he had a song on some dodgy compilation cassette (neither he nor I can now remember what the song was called). He is still going strong and with his band, The Escape Committee, still putting on very enjoyable shows in a broadly pub rock style. They have a new CD EP out, from which this track in taken. As you may be able to make out from the photo of the great man and some saddo fan below, the EP is called 'Opening Time'. A snip at £3.50, it can be ordered directly from Graham on

"Fireball" - Ducks Deluxe

"Deja Vu" - Graham Larkbey & The Escape Committee

I obviously can't review Ron Sexsmith and Jim White yet, so let's move straight to the downloads. I keeping with the theme started when discussing Doug Paisley earlier, we celebrate Ron's fervent Canadianishness with his cover of a Gordon Lightfoot song, taken from a tribute album called "Beautiful" released five years or so back. Jim's song comes from his 2001 album, "No Such Place".

"Drifters" - Ron Sexsmith

"The Wound That Never Heals" - Jim White

To finish off, I have tracked down a Gordon Lightfoot performance from 1974, for comparison's sake. I believe it may even be the same moustache, handed down from generation to generation.

Friday 29 April 2011

Shake to Araby

I have finally got around to listening to the assorted Arabic CDs I picked up in Saudi Arabia a little while ago. To be honest most of them are not really my cup of tea, but here are a few of the more entertaining moments.

Pick of the bunch is possibly this track from Syrian singer Majd El Kasem. I can't tell you the name of the album, as apart from his name everything else is written only in Arabic, but the cover features him modelling a rather smart black jersey.

"Ya Janat Syria" - Majh El Kasem

Next we have some Saudi hip hop for you. The title apparently means "Arabic Dude", and it can be found on Nabeel Rojeh's self-titled album, released last year.

"Shab Araby" - Nabeel Rojeh

Mishal Al Arouj is, I think, from Kuwait. This comes from his 2010 album "M Style".

"Al Hareem" - Mishal Al Arouj

Next up is Mansour Al Mohanadi from Qatar. This track is from his 2006 album "Fi Zemmetak".

"Al Khaizran" - Mansour Al Mohanadi

Rounding things off we have Iraqi guitar god Saif Shaheen. His 2006 album "Yaretak" is the only one I am likely to listen to all the way through again. It is mostly pretty mellow - think Arabic-tinged Gary Moore. This track is completely atypical but very, very groovy.

"As'al Alihaa" - Saif Shaheen

Here is the video for that last one.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Poly Styrene R.I.P.

When I was a lad of 15 and 16 in South Africa I would listen religiously to John Peel's weekly show on the BBC World Service, diligently recording tracks that were often barely audible beneath all the hiss and crackle. I first heard many great songs that way, and some that weren't quite so great when you took the hiss and crackle away, but none of them had as great an impact on me as the first time I heard "Identity" and "Art I Ficial" by X Ray Spex.

When I moved back to England the following year, 1979, almost the first thing I did after my Dad and I arrived at Victoria from Heathrow was go to a long departed record shop across the road from the station and buy a copy of "Germ Free Adolescents", which had been unobtainable in South Africa. It was a constant companion for a long time after that. At the age of 16 it really spoke to me in a way that very few records have since.

So you can imagine how I felt when I heard the sad news of Poly Styrene's death at the ridiculously young age of 53. And listening to the album again this morning, for the first time in too long a time, I realised that it was not just for nostalgic reasons that we must mourn her. Her assault on consumerism and superficiality is, if anything, even more relevant now than it was back then. And her voice, with Rudi Thompson's saxaphone blurting away in the background, still sounds absolutely magnificent. R.I.P. Poly.

"Art I Ficial" - X Ray Spex

"Warrior In Woolworths" - X Ray Spex

And R.I.P. also Phoebe Snow, who passed away yesterday. Here is a track from her 1978 album "Against the Grain" - same year, very different sound, but an equally distinctive voice in her own way.

"Keep a Watch on the Shoreline" - Phoebe Snow

Monday 25 April 2011

Unexpected Reggae

I hadn't intended to post anything today, but yesterday I picked up a stash of reggae records (it seems an appropriate collective noun) in Brick Lane which I have decided to share with you. You lucky, lucky people.

First up is the dub poet, Mutabaruka. Apparently his name means "One who is always victorious" in one of the languages of Rwanda, and presumably he found his original name of Allen Hope insufficiently inspiring. Anyway I picked up a signed copy of his 1989 album "Any Which Way... Freedom" for a couple of quid, and it is not bad at all. Many of the tracks are dedicated to specific causes, some less well remembered than others. "Big Mountain", for example, is dedicated to "the Indians of Turtle Island". Now I did my fair share of marching for good causes back in the 1980s, but that one passed me by.

"Respect" - Mutabaruka

We complement that with a smattering of UK lovers rock, again mostly from the 1980s (I suspect the Peter Hunnigale track may be a bit later). I particularly like Winston Reedy's Elvis Costello cover.

"Shake You Down" - Trevor Walters

"Everyday I Write The Book" - Winston Reedy

"Piece Of A Rock" - Peter Hunnigale

As a special treat, here is Winston's all-time classic from 1983. We have posted it here before but it is such a sublime groove you can't play it often enough.

"Dim The Light" - Winston Reedy

And as a special, special treat, here is some Brendan Shine. Purists would say it is not technically reggae, and I would have to concede the point, but I acquired it yesterday at the same stall as the Peter Hunnigale single. It is on a compilation called "The Very Best of Brendan Shine" that, like the Mutabaruka album, had been signed (by Brendan Shine, not by Mutabaruka - that would be weird). Some would say it is an acquired taste, but then some fools would say that about bacon and cabbage. Not Brendan and me, we love it.

"I'm A Savage For Bacon And Cabbage" - Brendan Shine

I couldn't find any decent clips of Winston, so here's Smoothie Trev instead.

And to finish us off, here is the equally smooth Brendan. All together now, "Well if I don't make it home, I'll be there in the morning..."

Sunday 24 April 2011

Easter Special

While you are all stuffing yourselves with chocolate today, take time out to think about the real meaning of Easter.

"Roll Away The Stone" - Mott The Hoople

"Resurrection Shuffle" - Ashton, Gardner & Dyke

"Welcome Back" - John Sebastian

"Jesus Christ S.R.O." - Tom Paxton

And apropos of nothing at all, here are Splinter.

Friday 22 April 2011

Tales of Mozambique

One of the many goodies I picked up while in Cape Town recently was an excellent compilation album called "Tales of Mozambique (Marrabenta and More)". Released in 2006 on the South African label Sheer Sound, which normally specialises in local jazz, it features a fine selection of tunes from the last 25 years or so. Here are three of the many highlights.

According to the sleevenotes, Djaaka hail from Beira and were the hot band in Mozambique in 2004/05, with this song being a major hit. Walter Dzongololo arrived on the scene around the same time under the tutelage of local star producer Carlos de Lina. Finishing off, we have Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mozambique, formed in 1979 from many local stars to become effectively the house band for the national radio station. They were the first band from Mozambique to win an international record deal, and broke up in the 1990s. The vocals from Mingas on this track are exceptional.

"Mbhole Mbhole Na Yona" - Djaaka

"Teresa" - Walter [Dzongololo]

"A Vassati Va Lomu" - Orchestra Marrabenta Star De Mozambique

I was intending to feature Bob Dylan performing his own tribute to Mozambique, but I couldn't find a live clip, so instead here is a man in the woods playing it on a ukelele.

And here is Wazimbo, formerly of the Orchestra Marabenta Star de Mozambique.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

ReviewShine Time

I mentioned last month the excellent ReviewShine service, which connects (mainly Americana) artists looking for a bit of well deserved coverage with parasites like me after free music. As a music fan and blogger there is no downside, except for the frustration of knowing that there is more good stuff out there than you can ever hope to take in properly.

I have been delighted to hear a lot of fine music this month but, as good as the overall standard has been, there are two albums that have really stood out for me. They are very different in style but equally excellent. You should check them both out.

First up is "The Parade" by The David Mayfield Parade, which came out in February on 9th Grade Records.

Nelson over at Fifty Cent Lighter has done a much better review of it that I could ever manage. I thought it was interesting that he mentions "a non-existent feud with Jim Lauderdale" in his review because when I was thinking of possible comparisons it was Mr Lauderdale that I thought of. The album covers a range of styles but the songs and performances are consistently strong. Particular favourites are the epic closing track, which has the catchy title "I Have Been Known To Be Wrong From Time To Time But I'm Afraid I'm Right", and this opening track which is made even better by the arrangements.

"Blue Skies Again" - The David Mayfield Parade

Next we have Huke Green with his aptly named "Rustic Poet" LP, available now on Bandcamp and released more widely next Tuesday. Huke is a big hairy feller from Channelview in Texas. You might not think looking at his photo that he is a sensitive type, but you would be wrong.

Huke's voice is not, in all honesty, conventionally attractive but it has a sort of grizzled sentimentality about it which works very effectively with his rootsy songs to create something tough but tender. For comparison, think of the music of  James McMurtry or the books of James Lee Burke. The whole album is good but the real highlights are the story songs and low-life character sketches, in particular "Letter to a Son" and this one, which has quickly become one of my songs of the year so far.

"Peggy" - Huke Green

Here's Huke with the mean and moody video for "Devil's Shout", which is also on the album.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Turks A Go Go

We are sticking with the psychedelic sounds today, but going for something slightly more frazzled. Here are a couple of selections from "Turkish Freakout", an excellent compilation of Turkish psych (there is a clue in the title) released last year on the wittily named Bouzouki Joe label.

"Seni Dilenyorum" - Alpay

"Cakmagicak" - Ersen

In the interests of balance, here is some top notch Greek psych.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Beware of Whimsy

The more whimsical strand of British psychedelia is not for everyone. My old friend Mr Jackson, for example, is decidedly sniffy about it (which is a bit rich considering some of the rubbish he listens to). However I have a soft spot for it, and it seems very well suited to the sunny Sunday we are enjoying in London today.

So here are some choice selections from a couple of particularly fine examples of the style: the self-titled album by The World of Oz and "Faintly Blowing" by Kaleidoscope (that is the English Kaleidoscope, not the American Kaleidoscope, who I have never quite got I'm afraid). "The World of Oz" was issued in 1968 and the band disbanded shortly afterwards. Despite having a minor hit with "The Muffin Man" they remain very obscure - almost all I know about them comes from an article on Marmalade Skies, so you may as well go there if you are interested. Kaleidoscope lasted longer, releasing two albums under that name ("Faintly Blowing" was the second, released in 1969) and one as Fairfield Parlour. All of them are worth a listen. Their leading light was Peter Daltrey, who continues to make music today.

"King Croesus" - The World of Oz

"Bring the Ring" - The World of Oz

"Black Fjord" - Kaleidoscope

"The Feathered Tiger" - Kaleidoscope

Here are the Oz boys with the hit. Great hair.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Raghu - He Brings Out The Indian In You

I went to a most enjoyable gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last night - the Raghu Dixit Project, supplemented by a fiddler, a dancer and the brass section from Bellowhead. It was also great value for money, with the gang playing for the best part of two and a half hours.

The show was the first night of a week of events celebrating the music and dance of the Indian sub-continent. Raghu himself is from the state of Karnataka in southern India, and is a very charismatic performer (although even he was almost upstaged by the big, hairy, smiley bass player). They look like a bunch of hippies and sound a bit like them too, with a beguiling mixture of traditional and Western sounds. It was what I imagine Quintessence might sound like if they were still going today and were slightly less serious-minded.

They played a mixture of original material and settings of songs by Shishunala Sharif, a 19th century saint and poet from Karnataka. It was the latter that provided two of my personal highlights of the show - a beautiful opening number that featured Raghu backed only by Andy of Bellowhead on trumpet, and one that apparently translates as "Don't Worry, Be Happy", which was set to a vaguely Latin meets surf beat which occasionally veered perilously close to "The Best Years Of Our Life" by Modern Romance. It featured some marvellous twangy guitar by Vijay Joseph, who was excellent throughout.

The eponymous album does not quite capture the exuberance of the live show, but it still well worth checking out. And if you get the chance to go and see them in concert, I would thoroughly recommend it.

"Mysore Se Aayi" - Raghu Dixit

"Khidki" - Raghu Dixit

If you don't understand the cultural reference in the heading, this might help.

And if you are equally puzzled by the reference to Modern Romance, here you are. Even more puzzling is how they managed seven top 20 hits in the 1980s. Oh yes - it was the 1980s.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Tsonga Disco: Teanet Time

I know from the comments received on previous posts that, fifteen years after his tragically premature death, Peta Teanet still enjoys fanatical support. So here is a treat for his folowers. While in Cape Town last week I managed to pick up a copy of his second album, "Divorce Case". Released in 1989, it contained his big breakthrough hit "Matswele", which we have featured here previously. Here are a couple of the other highlights.

The title track is a rare example of Peta singing in English. In it, he claims to be a battered husband who needs to be granted a divorce as otherwise he will be left with no option but to kill his wife (and presumably go back to living peacefully with his other seven wives). Surprisingly the gruff-voiced judge falls for this, although to be fair Mrs T does not help her case by shouting at him and disrespecting him in hs own court. Let that be a lesson to her.

"Divorce Case" - Peta Teanet

"Teka Aachar" - Peta Teanet

And now, for no particular reason, some old clips from "Stars In Their Eyes". Not Smokie, obviously. That would be a travesty.

And most bizarrely of all...

Tuesday 12 April 2011

We're Back - With Julian

Evening all. I got back from Cape Town this morning laden down with new music for you all. It includes some new Tsonga Disco, from Peta Teanet, Esta M and a few less well-known names. At the airport last night I was amazed to find a DVD of Tsonga/ Shangaan hits in the souvenir shop. In the extremely unlikely event that I manage to work out how to upload clips from it I will share them with you.

Other CDs include the first five albums by Freddie Gwala - let's hope I like him - and some interesting looking stuff from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. There are also a few pieces of vinyl, including bagpipe jazz (really) and Jim Reeves singing in Afrikaans.

It is going to take me a while to sort through all of that. In the meantime, let's pay tribute to a man who was involved in most of the more interesting rock music to come out of South Africa in the late 1960s to mid 1970s - guitarist and producer Julian Laxton. He was a member of South Africa's leading psychedelic outfit Freedom's Children and was involved as a session man or producer with other local acts such as Suck, Otis Waygood and John & Philipa Cooper (whose "Cooperville Times" LP is considered a bit of a lost psych classic).

In the early 1970s he joined Hawk (known as Jo'burg Hawk in the UK), one of the inventors of Afro-rock and highly controversial in Apartheid era South Africa because of the mix of black and white members. By the mid 1970s he was leading his eponymous band, who stormed the local charts with their hippy/disco hybrid sound and producing local pop acts like Rabbitt and Margaret Singana. He later went onto produce many leading local acts such as Mango Groove and Lucky Dube, and write countless film and TV scores. All in all, he is a bit of a dude.

"Kafkaesque" - Freedom's Children

"Orang Outang" - Hawk

"Blue Water" - The Julian Laxton Band

I haven't been able to find any clips of Julian himself in action, but here is an example of his work - Margaret Singana with the theme to the 1980s TV series "Shaka Zulu", scored and produced by Big Jules.