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Wednesday 31 August 2011

Of Admirals and Duchesses

On the way to the Vortex Jazz Bar in Dalston on Monday night, Mister F and I popped into a Nigerian grocers round the corner in Bradbury St. On the back wall were hundreds of bootleg Nigerian CDs going for £2 each. Inevitably I snapped a few up in a half-crazed frenzy.

When I got them home I found that the number of tracks on the CD often bore little resemblance to the track listing on the sleeve. And in some cases the sound quality is pretty rough where it has obviously been ripped from a battered vinyl copy. But at £2 each you can't really complain, and the music is pretty good.

As a sample, here is some juju music from Admiral Dele Abiodun and His Top Hitters Band. This is from their album "Abanije" and it may be the title track. Then again it may not. The album cover lists ten tracks, but their are only two on the CD. Any help identifying it will be gratefully received.

"Track 1 on Abanije" - Admiral Dele Abiodun and His Top Hitters Band

Dele is in the news in Nigeria at the moment, but sadly not for his music. He is currently standing trial on charges of fraud relating to his Presidency of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria.

We had gone to the Vortex to see Mike Heron and the Trembing Bells (yet again), and a very enjoyable evening it was too. The Bells in particular were in fine form, although I do wish they would drop the overly wordy acapella number about the inebriated children of the Mediterranean. They performed some songs I had not heard them do before, including a track from a forthcoming album with Bonnie Prince Billy which sounds highly promising. Another "new" song was a cover of Scott Walker's "Duchess". It occurred to me about half way through that I could video it to share with you all, and here are the results - sorry it is not complete.

As a bonus, here is the original and a very nice rendition by Neko Case.

"Duchess" - Scott Walker

"Duchess" - Neko Case

We wrap things up with a seamless move from Duchesses to Dukes.

Monday 29 August 2011

Pity The Fools

How many fools are there at loose in the world? Kevin and Yossy - or Mr. Coyne and Ms. Noise Weaver as we should call them if we are being formal - represent the two extreme views, but most people come down somewhere in between.

"Fool" - Yossy Little Noise Weaver

"Fool, Fool" - Buck & The Sixteenth Movement

"Fool, Fool, Fool" - The Clovers

"Ship of Fools" - Grateful Dead

"The World Is Full Of Fools" - Kevin Coyne

On the subject of fools, here's a treat for all you Elkie fans.

And here is Hank Snow in an unusually self-deprecatory mood.

Saturday 27 August 2011

ReviewShine Round-Up

It's time for our monthly round-up of some of the goodies I've received courtesy of ReviewShine. The standard has been particularly high over the last weeks, and I should apologise to all those who I haven't got space to feature today. As well as the four acts below, I would recommend checking out the likes of Bare Bones, Grainne and Jessi Robertson.

The four we are featuring could be described as a bunch of blokes doing proper rootsy songs - you know, the old-fashioned virtues like good words and good tunes, not all that bang bang bang and knob-twiddling stuff. Two of them are familar names, two of them new (or at least they were new to me). We'll start with the new boys.

First up is Stephen Simmons, whose album "The Big Show" is out now on Lower 40 in the US and Blue Rose here in the UK and in Europe. There are twenty songs on the album with a much higher hit rate than you would think spread over so many tracks - there is a consistently high quality throughout. This is probably just about my favourite.

"Parchcorn Falls" - Stephen Simmons

I know we have some readers in Knoxville. According to his website Stephen is playing over your way in a couple of weeks, so you might want to pop down and see him. I was in Knoxville once about twelve years ago and had the great pleasure of seeing Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown play. What a show that was.

Enough of that rambling, back to business. Next we have Donal Hinely with his new album "The Famous Rocket Cage", out now on ATOM Records. As I said, what you get is proper songs of a very high order, with a level of insight that might be explained by the life he has led. I would like to dedicate this one to my friend Jeni, who occasionally calls herself Pauline for some perverse reason that only she knows. 

"Saint Pauline" - Donal Hinely

On to the artists I was familiar with with now. Slaid Cleaves had his big breakthrough in 2000 with "Broke Down". That album featured a tribute to Auston's Horseshoe Lounge, and he has gone back to the Horseshoe Lounge to record his first live album (or double album to be precise). Called "Sorrow and Smoke", it comes out on 6 September on Music Road. To be honest, for some reason I have never really got into his studio albums, but this is excellent from start to finish. It is mostly original material, but there are a few choice covers as well, including this Karen Poston tune.

"Lydia" - Slaid Cleaves

We finish off with Australian legend Paul Kelly. I have in my collection "Songs From The South", a greatest hits compilation released in 1997. Volume 2 came out in 2008. The two have now been brought together as a 40 track double album and are being released on 25 October. I believe this is the first time the two albums have been available in the US, and apparently the list price for you lot over there is going to be $13.98, and only $9.99 for the digital version. That has to be one of the bargains of the year, and you would be mad not to snap it up. And for readers in London, you might want to try to get to one of the gigs he is playing at Bush Hall next week.

Today's selection was originally released on "Ways And Means" in 2004.

"The Oldest Story In The Book" - Paul Kelly

 As for the clip, there was a clue in my earlier rambling (or, as I prefer to call it, my seamless linking). Here is the mighty Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, accompanied by a hot band featuring a fat saxophonist with a most unfortunate mullet.

And if you think he is good on the guitar, wait until you hear him on the fiddle. If there had ben a roof when I saw him in Knoxville, he would have taken it off when he did this little number. And his rendition of "Never on a Sunday", on which he gradually increased the tempo each time round until we were collapsing with exhaustion, had to be heard to be believed.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Addis Pop

Here is the Ethiopian pop I promised you the other day, courtesy of a young lady called Hibist Tiruneh. It has all the modern production techniques but retains enough of the old Addis funk sound of the 1970s to satisfy an old fart like me as well.

Judging by the cover of her 2008 album "Tetaltenal Wey?", from which today's selections are taken, Hibist is not just a fine singer but a bit of a saucepot as well. Or a Wat Pot as they are probably known in Ethiopia.

"Tagesegne" - Hibist Tiruneh

"Siebastopol" - Hibist Tiruneh

This is just a guess, but I think "Siebastopol" may be about a giant cannon rather than the town in the Crimea. According to Wikipedia, a 6.7 ton mortar of that name was built by Emperor Tewodros II in the 1860s. Or, rather more prosaically, it might be about this cinema in Addis Ababa.

We're going to pretend it is the cannon, so we can link to another mighty Cannon.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Jerry Leiber R.I.P.

We were going to feature some groovy Ethiopian pop today, but we'll put that on hold for a few days in order to pay our respects to the late, great Jerry Leiber, who died yesterday. He was one of the greatest writers of popular songs there has ever been, as this small selection demonstrates.

"Lucky Lips" - Ruth Brown

"Ruby Baby" - Dion

"If You Don't Come Back" - The Drifters

"Don't" - Elvis Presley

"Kansas City" - Wanda Jackson

"Jackson" - Johnny Cash & June Carter

"Girls, Girls, Girls" - The Cornell Hurd Band

"Baby I Don't Care" - Bryan Ferry

"Spanish Harlem" - Laura Nyro & Labelle

"On Broadway" - Jess Roden

I know there are a lot of Elkie Brooks fans out there who hang on my every word, so it would be remiss of me not to mention that Jerry had a hand in this smash hit as well:

Although if you could only choose one Leiber-Stoller cover version, it would probably have to be this one:

Sunday 21 August 2011

Sixty Glorious Years

A few years back Bear Family Records issued two excellent series of albums called "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music" and "Blowing The Fuse", which respectively feature country and rhythm and blues hits from way back when. Each series includes a separate album for each year in the 1950s (and in the case of "Blowing The Fuse", the late 1940s and early 1960s as well). Many of them are available on eMusic and I would recommend checking them out.

Here a couple of selections from each of the albums covering 1951. I am dedicating one of these songs to my dear friend Lord Roper, who celebrated a birthday last week. I'll let him choose which one.

"Little Red Rooster" - Margie Day

"Tend To Your Business" - James Wayne

"Chew Tobacco Rag" - Zeb Turner

"Too Old To Cut The Mustard" - The Carlisles

Friday 19 August 2011

Merle & Millie

It is all fairly straightforward today. We have a couple of tracks from the great Millie Jackson, one of which is a cover of a song by the arguably even greater Merle Haggard. So then we have a couple of tracks from Merle, including the original version of that cover.

"Angel In Your Arms" - Millie Jackson

"If You're Not Back In Love By Monday" - Millie Jackson

"If We're Not Back In Love By Monday" - Merle Haggard

"That's The Way Love Goes" - Merle Haggard

In completely unrelated news, I went to an excellent gig at the Buffalo Bar in Islington last night. It was a Frank Sidebottom fundraiser and a snip at £5 for four bands. With all due respect to Melt The Icecaps and Mr. Solo, the highlights for me were Dream Themes - groovy versions of TV theme tunes - and Proxy Music - you can probably guess what they do.

As well as the Roxy and Eno covers, the Proxies also did an excellent rendition of Lena Lovich's "Lucky Number", which they have just released as a single. Here it is.

But as good as that is, it isn't my favourite clip of the week. This is. Specifically from about 0:39 onwards.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Tsonga Disco: Esta M

Over the last couple of years we have featured a number of gents who at one time or other felt entitled to call themselves the King of Tsonga Disco: Paul Ndlovu, Peta Teanet, Penny Penny, General Muzka, even - a little prematurely - that young whippersnapper Madlaks. But we have never featured a true Queen of Tsonga Disco. Until today.

Esta M is a former teacher who in 1994 teamed up with our old friend, the Shangaan Svengali himself, Mr Joe Shirimani. Over the next few years they released eight albums and Esta had many hits and won many awards. The most recent album of hers that I have seen was "Norho", released in 2005 and produced by Frans Africa and Mzee, but I assume she is still going strong.

Here are a couple of tracks from a compilation catchily titled "The Best of Esta M", released in 2003. Both of them are Joe Shirimani productions.

"Tsasa Jive" - Esta M

"Mabibi" - Esta M

Not speaking the Tsonga language, I am not sure what Esta is singing about on "Mabibi". But if it is a love song, someone ought to make her aware that she is wasting her time as Mabibi just cares for Nina Simone.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Mortal Combat

As regular readers of this drivel will know, I have to go over to Brussels for work a few times a year. While there I always try to find time to pop down to the Matonge district to trawl through the Congolese record shops. Pickings are not as good as they used to be since Musicanova shut down, but there are still gems to be had. Such as "Mortel Combat", the 2005 album by Alain & Bouro Mpela, which I picked up on my last visit. This is them in their everyday wear:

Bouro used to play with Koffi Olomide, but apart from that I don't know much about them. On this album they are backed by Alain's band, Generation A, and a very good job they do too. Mostly rumba, but with the occasional bit of reggae and a 1980s soul vibe thrown in. Here are the first three tracks from the album.

"Mortel Combat" - Alain & Bouro Mpela

"Aicha" - Alain & Bouro Mpela

"Passage Obligé" - Alain & Bouro Mpela

From the same album, here they are all done up in their glad rags. I particularly enjoy the entirely random reference to mozzarella at 3:29.

And as a Sunday bonus, some more musical brothers.

Actually, there are loads of them, aren't there? Watch out for a special brothers themed post here some time soon.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Riots Part 2

I have no wish to keep harping on about the riots, which are hopefully now behind us, but I think it is instructive to look at what the commentators are saying. Specifically calypsonian commentators.

Some have suggested that deploying more female police officers might have a calming effect. But judging by Mighty Terror's reaction, there must be a risk that it would simply exacerbate matters.

"Women Police In England" - Mighty Terror & His Calypsonians

Invader and Gabby, on the other hand, are clearly setting out to appeal to Daily Mail readers.

"Teddy Boy (Bring Back The Old Cat-o-Nine)" - Lord Invader

"Pow Pow (Arm The Police)" - Mighty Gabby

Lord Melody, as always, follows a path of his own. His story of a police officer struggling with a recalcitrant jackass may not appear immediately relevant, but I am sure there is a moral in there somewhere.

"In The Name Of The Law" - Lord Melody

Finally, the greatest calypsonian of them all, the Mighty Sparrow, had a terrifying first-hand experience of gang behaviour. Fortunately he lived to tell the tale.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

London's Burning

This post is fairly self-explanatory. I'm not going to get into the rights and wrongs of it all, but I do have one question for the disaffected youths who were making a political statement round the corner from me in Bethnal Green Road last night - what is the bloody point of looting Specsavers?

"London's Burning" - The Clash

"Babylon's Burning" - The Ruts

"2nd Floor Croydon" - Burnin' Red Ivanhoe

"Teenage Rampage" - Sweet

Sunday 7 August 2011

Keeping In Touch

If it is Sunday, it must be Sweden in 1970. Local band Contact team up with a visiting Kim Fowley to produce an English language album, "Nobody Wants To Be Sixteen", with an eye on the international market. Despite being a very good pop-psych album, in a sort of Swedish Badfinger style, it fails in that objective.

"What's That" - Contact

"How Was Your Summer" - Contact

So for their next album they revert to Swedish and a folkier sound. "Hon Kom Over Mon" comes out in 1971 and wins a Grammy. People, eh? Totally unpredictable.

"Vägen Gick Vindlande Grå" - Contact

"Nobody Wants To Be Sixteen" and "Hon Kom Over Mon" were reissued as a two CD set by MNW in 2009. Whether you can get it outside Sweden I have no idea. I picked up my copy in Stockholm for abour four quid a few months back, and it was well worth it.

Speaking of Badfinger, here they are in 1972 being introduced by a not yet smoothed over Kenny Rogers.

Friday 5 August 2011

Zim Power

To get you in the mood for the weekend, here are three tracks from an excellent compilation called "Zim Singles Collection" that I picked up in Cape Town earlier in the year.

The compilation was released in 2007 although I'm not sure many of the tracks are of the same vintage - of those artists featured here New Black Montana were at their peak in the late 1980s and 1990s, while John Chibadura died in 1999. They all have that highly distinctive Zimbabwean "jit" guitar sound that could have been produced any time in the last 30 years or more.

You can pick up a copy of the album on the One World website if you are so inclined. It is an absolute bargain at R25 (about £2), although the postage will push the price up if you are outside South Africa - it still works out a bargain though.

"Kunditenderera" - Mabhawuwa Express

"Tambira Denga" - New Black Montana

"Unodadira Aniko" - John Chibadura

Here is someone else with a highly distinctive sound.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Jackie's Back

About ten days ago I featured Jackie DeShannon's version of Neil Young's "Only Love Will Break My Heart" in a post featuring seven versions of that song. And a few days after that, in a moment of what Sting would no doubt call synchronicity, her brand new album popped into my in-box, courtesy of our dear friends at ReviewShine. Called "When You Walk In The Room", the album comes out on Rock Beat Records on 27 September.

As you might guess from the title, the album finds Jackie reinterpreting some of her biggest hits and best songs. Sometimes that is a warning sign that you need to brace yourself for disappointment, like with those cheapo albums you used to get in Woolworths which had "re-recorded by the original artist" printed in tiny letters at the bottom of the back cover. But you need have no such fear in this case. Jackie is far too classy for that.

While you wouldn't say these are the definitive versions, they are sufficiently good and different that you can enjoy them in their own right without comparing them unfavourably to the originals. There is a fairly light touch production that really allows the quality of the songs and Jackie's voice to shine through. We all knew about the songs, but the way her voice has held up is a pleasant surprise. She sounds fantastic for a woman who released her first singles over 50 years ago. Actually, that is not correct. She sounds fantastic full stop - there is no need to qualify that comment at all.

"Don't Doubt Yourself Babe" - Jackie DeShannon

"Will You Stay In My Life" - Jackie DeShannon

As a bonus, here are some weird and wonderful cover versions of some of her biggest songs. They include a Swamp Dog soul production from the early 1970s, some Uruguayan 1960s beat music, some contemporary Japanese pop-punk, and an oddly beautiful version of the old Marianne Faithfull hit "Come And Stay With Me". I had never anticipated using the phrase "oddly beautiful" to describe music produced by the former leader of the Sex Gang Children, but there you are.

"Put A Little Love In Your Heart" - Raw Spitt

"Hay Una Extraña Expresión En Tus Ojos (When You Walk In The Room)" - Los Iracundos

"Breakaway" - Psycho Food Eaters

"Come And Stay With Me" - Andi SexGang

While on the subject of vintage Jackies (or Jacquis), I had the great pleasure of seeing the original Pentangle line-up play at the Royal Festival Hall last night. They were utterly wonderful, and Jacqui McShee - like Jackie DeShannon - still sounds great in her mid-60s. If you ask nicely I may post of few of their old tracks up here in the future. But for now you'll have to make do with this 1970 clip of "House Carpenter". With Bert Jansch on banjo and John Renbourn on sitar, this was one of the many highlights last night.