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Tuesday 27 December 2011

Ring Out The Old, Ring In The Old

It is time for the monthly round-up of goodies folks have kindly sent to me via ReviewShine, and this month we will mostly be featuring reissues.

There is a new label, Real Gone Music, which - according to the PR blurb - "aims to establish itself as the most eclectic and prolific catalog and reissue label in the country". Whether they can achieve that remains to be seen, but if they can keep up the standard of their first two releases they will be welcome round my place any time.

Coming out on 24 January is "Seductive Reasoning", the 1975 debut album by Maggie & Terre Roche. First released four years before their self-titled debut as The Roches, after having been joined by sister Suzzy, it lacks the quirky production of that album (and one-third of the harmonies) but is very good in its own right. The songs of identifiably Rochean - to invent a word - and the singing is, of course, sublime. Any fans of their later work should consider this to be a must have.

On the same day, Real Gone will also be issuing a compilation called "Complete Epic Hits" by Jody Miller which, as the title subtly suggests, features her 1970s recording on Epic Records. That inevitably means lots of Billy Sherrill productions, so if you don't like his brand of country pop this isn't for you. Fortunately I do. Judging by the selection on this album, Mr Sherrill was trying the same approach as he pursued with Barbara Mandrell during the same period, with plenty of pop and soul cover versions in amongst the originals. Some of it is a bit twee, but when Jody gets the chance to show her chops she demonstrates a real talent.

"Down The Dream" - Maggie & Terre Roche

"Kiss Away" - Jody Miller

I don't know whether there is some special significance about 24 January - is it perhaps National Reissue Day? - but our third selection is coming out then as well. This is a remastered version of Dolly Varden's 1995 debut album, "Mouthful Of Lies". As cognoscenti like you lot will already know, Dolly Varden are a "they" not a "she" - husband and wife Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen plus pals - and must be one of the few bands named after a species of trout. 

While I have heard and liked a few of their tracks before I have never heard this album, and I have been missing out. I am not sure quite how to describe their sound - something like "fuzzy Americana", perhaps - and one track won't give you a taste of the whole album as the songs have quite a different feel depending on whether Diane or Steve take the lead, or whether they duet. A very loose comparison for the three styles would be Mazzy Star (Diane), Glossary (Steve), Buddy & Julie Miller (the duets).  

"Gone So Far" - Dolly Varden

We finish today, and this year, with the sole new album on the list - "Homefront" by The Great Unknowns. Inspired by the break-up of singer and main songwriter Becky Warren's marriage to an Iraq War veteran who returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder (dealt with most explicitly in "Long Way Home"), this is roots-rock of the highest order. There is nothing particularly original in what they do, but they do it very well indeed. There are some excellent songs, and Becky's voice has similar qualities to Lucinda Williams, which can't be a bad thing. The album comes out on 10 January and, like all the others featured this month, is well worth checking out.

"Birmingham" - The Great Unknowns

I am off to Italy tomorrow for a week's break, so I'll take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best for 2012. I'll leave you with some Italian music: this thoughtful insight into the complex subject of male/female relations from the woman they used to call "the female Umberto Eco".

Saturday 24 December 2011

Bah Humbug

Taking my lead from my postman, I had not intended to deliver a Christmas post. But then yesterday afternoon the acclaimed musician/writer/journalist/twitterati Rhodri Marsden unleashed this litle gem on the world, and I thought you should hear it.

"Heaven Knows I'm Christmassy Now" - The Free French

I particularly like the egg nog line - very clever and very funny. A big hand for Rhodri. Make that a giant hand. Actually, make two giant hands. Hands big enough for the Pointer Sisters to stand on.

Anyway, having broken the seal, so to speak, I thought we may as well pour out a few more seasonal smashes.

"Party For Santa Claus" - Lord Nelson

"Space Christmas" - Shonen Knife

"Kung Fu Christmas" - National Lampoon

"Merry Christmas From The Family" - Robert Earl Keen

And we will end with more traditional fare from Sir Shakin' Stevens (or Stevens the Shake as they call him in his native Wales). Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Thursday 22 December 2011

That Was The Year That Was

It is time to do the top album/gig of the year stuff. Let's all get it over and done with.

My top album without a doubt is Sarabeth Tucek's "Get Well Soon". Inspired (if that is the right word) by the death of her father, it is magnificent from start to finish.

Convention demands that I select a top ten. That is a lot more difficult, as whatever I say today I will have changed my mind about by tomorrow. But here are four more albums that are sure to be somewhere in the top ten:

"Borrow A Horse" - Old Calf
"I Love You, Go Easy" - Devon Sproule
"Long Player, Late Bloomer" - Ron Sexsmith
"Album Vakansi" - White Shoes & The Couples Company

And the rest of the top ten will probably be made up of five of these:

"The Constant Pageant" - Trembling Bells
"Poor Moon" - Hiss Golden Messenger
"Get Out Of Sin City" - Boca Chica
"Nothing Is Wrong" - Dawes
"Helplessness Blues" - Fleet Foxes
"Blessed" - Lucinda Williams
"I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive" - Steve Earle
"The Head And The Heart" - The Head And The Heart
"Last Of The Country Gentlemen" - Josh T. Pearson
"Wona Baba Maraire" - Baba Maraire

Choosing the top gig is just impossible. It has been a bit of a bumper year. In the Festival Hall alone I saw Roy Harper (his 70th birthday bash), Pentangle (Bert Jansch's last gig), Rickie Lee Jones recreating her first two albums and The Sonics, all of whom were excellent. Around the corner in the Purcell Rooms Dobet Gnahore put on a blinding show.

At the smaller end of the scale, at least in terms of venue size, the Scritti Politti birthday bash and the This Is The Kit/ Sarabeth Tucek double bill, both in Dalston, were fantastic nights. And you can never see Mike Heron too often.

Here is a selection of tracks from some of the artists mentioned in those lists.

"The Fireman" - Sarabeth Tucek

"There Are Men In The Village Of Erith" - Old Calf

 "Selangkah Keseberang" - White Shoes & The Couples Company (Featuring Fariz RM)

"Now's The Time" - Devon Sproule

"Luchea" - Baba Maraire

"Cote D'Ivoire" - Dobet Gnahore

"Sometimes The Sea" - This Is The Kit

"Don't Believe In Christmas" - The Sonics

And here are a few more, kicking off with the late, great Bert Jansch and Pentangle.

Monday 19 December 2011

Tea Time

Some songs about tea, just for you.

"Have Some More Tea" - Smoke

"Me And Milk Tea And Others" - Hiro Yanagida

"Please Have Ghee Tea" - Yixizhuoma

"Tea Is Famous" - Tee Set

"Where Would We Be (Without Tea)" - Gilbert O'Sullivan

All of that was just an elaborate ruse to enable me to play a track from Gilbert O'Sullivan's latest album, "Gilbertville", without drawing too much attention to my deep (but deeply unfashionable) love for his work. Especially this song, which I can, and often do, listen to over and over again.

And here is something I hadn't expected to find when trawling YouTube - Dusty sings Gilbert. There is also a Morrissey version of the same song, but the sound quality is terrible.

Sunday 18 December 2011


We continue our little global tour and move on from Brazil and Sweden to Poland. I visited Warsaw back in November, and while there picked up a two CD compilation of Polish folk and folk-influenced music called "Folkowa". There is a Folkowa festival in Ostroda in Poland every year, but whether the CD is connected to the fesival I don't know.

The first CD is billed as electric and the second as acoustic, although it didn't seem noticeably less electric to me. Here are three songs from the first CD.

"Polka Z Trzcianki" - Otako

"Maw Ja Raz Dziywczynońku" - Rusyczi

"W Kadzidlańskim Boru" - The Corps

If that has got you in the mood for more polkas, there is really only one man for the job.

Friday 16 December 2011

Swedes Ahoy!

It has got to that time of the year when you start looking back over the music of the last twelve months and drawing up lists designed to demonstrate that you have left the zeitgeist behind you and moved into realms of hipness previously unexplored. Mine may or may not appear between Christmas and New Year depending on when I get away from the Premier Inn in Watford.

But while doing so I rediscovered loads of stuff issued this year that I had intended to share with you but never got round to and, in most cases, probably never will. Here are three exceptions which have one thing in common - they are all Swedish artists.

Sakert! is Annika Norlin, formerly of Hello Saferide. This track comes from her album "På Engelska", released in October, which contains English language versions of songs previously head on her album "Facit".

Det Vackra Livet  is a side project from Henrik and Philip Ekström of The Mary Onettes, and one in which they appear to have been transported back to the 1980s.

Of Twiggy Frostbite I can tell you nothing, having long since lost the PR blurb I was sent, but this is what they look like.

"The Flu" - Sakert!

"Juni Berättar" - Det Vackra Livet

"By The Ocean" - Twiggy Frostbite

Because I am feeling in a holiday mood, here are another seven Swedish songs of various vintages. They include Träd Gräs Och Stenar's cover of the Teddybears classic "Punkrocker" and what appears to be a sincere tribute to Ace of Base from Jaqee. All that Swedishness is makin' me itch.

"And I Found This Boy" - Maia Hirasawa

"Beatmaker" - Doris

"Chris Craft No. 9" - The Shanes

"Crystal Shade Of Loneliness" - Turid

"Kokoo Girl" - Jaqee

"Mean Street" - Mando Diao

"Punkrocker" - Träd Gräs Och Stenar

Wednesday 14 December 2011


On Saturday I went down to Spitalfields Market for the Independent Record Labels Christmas Fair. There were some top labels there - the likes of Loose, Memphis Industries and the excellent Soundways to name but a few. With a grim inevitability I spent a lot more than I had planned buying a load of goodies, and a few pretty averagies as well.

Among the goodiest of the goodies was "Oi! A Nova Musica Brazileira!", which, for those of you whose Portuguese is less fluent than mine, means "Oi! New Brazilian Music". Released last year on the Mais Um Discos label, it is a two CD, 40 track compilation featuring all sorts of musical styles that is intended to be a beginner's guide to, well, new Brazilian music.

With that sort of breadth not everything is going to grab you, but there were plenty that did, including these two.

"Amarelasse" - Mini Box Lunar

"Carimbó Pra Maria (Luico K Remix)" - Mestre Curica

Here are four bonus Brazilan tracks of a rather less recent vintage:

"Não Quero Dinheiro" - Tim Maia

"Tao Longe De Mim" - Os Brazões

"Xica Da Silva" - Jorge Ben

"Tum Tum Tum" - Jackson Do Pandeiro

And we finish with something else quintessentially Brazilian for my friend Conical, who only really likes these bits. And Chuck Mangione.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Green's Christmas Party

The Victoria public house in Dalston undoubtedly has many charms (although a lack of proper beer is not one of them), and it has a nice big room at the back that can take about 150 people. Even so it is not the sort of place you would expect to see hotshot music types playing on a Thursday night in December.

However the Victoria also happens to be Green Gartside's local, which is presumably why he chose it as the venue for his first gigs as Scritti Politti in about four years. They played there on Thursday and Friday nights just gone, and Mister F and I were lucky enough to be there on Thursday to join in the fun.

And great fun it was too. Scritti played an excellent set which covered the very early days ("Skank Bloc Bologna"), the Eighties hits, the comeback album from a few years ago and a couple of new songs which Green described as "work in progress". The new ones sounded pretty good although some of the harmonies on the song provisionally called "Slow Deceit" were a bit too 10CC for my taste.

Not only that, to get us in the festive spirit there was a raffle, pass the parcel, mince pies and a cocktail of Mr and Mrs Gartside's own devising which included Guinness and Drambuie among other things and tasted like a liquid Christmas pudding.

First up on the night was our old friend Robyn Hitchcock. He is a bit of a poseur but he writes a nifty song and got things off to a fine start. He also reappeared at the end of the evening to duet with Green on a very nice version of Nick Drake's "Free Ride". Here is that performance captured on my trusty camera. Apologies for swearing in the middle when Mister F stuck his mobile phone in the way.

I knew Scritti and Robyn would both be good, but the surprise package for me was Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. I know nothing of their work but Mister F assures me that, like almost all modern music, there are no proper tunes, you can't make out the words and it is all just bang bang bang. So I hadn't been expecting the mellow, soulful set that Alexis gave us in the company of Rob Smoughton on guitar and vocals (Alexis himself providing keyboards and vocals). They bookended the set with covers of "Be Careful" by R. Kelly and "Let Me Roll It" by Wings, and listening to them you could almost imagine they had just stepped off the plane from Muscle Shoals.

You have been very patient so as a reward here is a track apiece from Scritti and Robyn. These weren't played on Thursday but if they had been it would have made an excellent night even more excellent. I don't have any of Alexis Taylor's music so instead here is the Wings original of the song with which he finished his set. And as a further nod to him, here is the old Willie Nelson classic he played when DJing later (in between the Incredible String Band and "Move Closer" by Phyllis Nelson - it was that kind of night).

"Asylums in Jerusalem" - Scritti Politti

"Mr Wife And My Dead Wife" - Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians

"Let Me Roll It" - Wings

"Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer)" - Willie Nelson

And here are a few photos from the night.

That's it now. I promise. 

Wednesday 7 December 2011

The Other Pistols

I said the other day that I would post some Two Dollar Pistols and, as I am a man of my word, that is exactly what I am doing. I really love John Howie Jr's baritone. His uptempo songs are pretty good, but his heartbreakers are even better.

"It's All Fun And Games (Til Someone Breaks A Heart)" - Two Dollar Pistols (from "Hands Up!", 2004)

"You've Grown Tired Of Me" - Two Dollar Pistols (from "You Ruined Everything", 2002)

I find it hard to listen to "You've Grown Tired Of Me" without (a) sinking into a deep gloom, and (b) sinking even further by listening to this companion piece by Mr. Chirpy himself, Richard Thompson.

"Why Must I Plead" - Richard Thompson (from "Rumor And Sigh", 1991)

I don't think I will put those three on my mixtape for Rita the Armenian barmaid in Tbilisi - it might seem a little needy. I think maybe I will go for something a bit more uplifting, yet also deep and thoughtful. Something like this, perhaps.

Monday 5 December 2011

I Blame Özkan

Way back in the early 1970s Mazhar Alanson and Fuat Güner were respectable Turkish psych rockers who hung around with the likes of Barış Manço being generally groovy - as this 1973 track shows.

"Sur Efem Atini" - Mazhar & Fuat

Then a mate of theirs called Özkan Uğur got out of the army and joined up with them. Under the name Mazhar Fuat Özkan (or MFO for short), they proceeded to hit the big time with a series of generally rather uninteresting AOR records - so successfully that they became one of Turkey's most successful ever bands. What was behind this transformation? I don't like to cast aspersions but it must be Özkan.

But even Özkan couldn't sap their spirit entirely. Every now and then they came up with something decent. Take for example, this funky little number from their 1990 album "Geldiler". Admittedly it is more Spandau Ballet than Shriekback, but it isn't bad.

"Ik Ben" - Mazhar Fuat Özkan

 Who were Shriekback, you say? You're having me on, surely?

Saturday 3 December 2011

Tsonga Tsaturday

On 5 November there were fireworks for fans of Tsonga Disco as the Nkowankowa Stadium in Tzaneen hosted the 8th MLFM Xitsonga Music Awards. The winner of the best male vocalist was someone we have not featured here before, Mr Benny Mayengani. It is about time we put that right. Here's Benny.

"Tiba Ben" - Benny Mayengani

"Egiyani" - Benny Mayengani

Other winners included more familiar faces, such as Thomas Chauke and the Shinyori Sisters (for best song) and the Shangaan Svengali himself, Joe Shirimani (for best disco song). I don't yet have the winning songs, so here is a song apiece from their respective back catalogues.

"Wani Kolota" - Thomas Chauke & The Shinyori Sisters

"Nwa Mashalani" - Joe Shirimani

If that doesn't get you in the mood for Saturday night I don't know what will. Maybe this. If the Bay City Rollers and Ann Margret (why???)can whip an audience of pensioners into a frenzy just think they could do for you. Look out for the woman with the massive ear trumpet at 1:07.

Thursday 1 December 2011

They Had It All

Like a lot of what goes on here, today's post is inspired by - or ripped off from, depending on your point of view - Ramone666 over at 'For The Sake Of The Song'. Unlike me, he is a proper music blogger, and the rest of the 666 family must be very proud of him.

Earlier today he posted four versions of Donnie Fritts' classic tune "We Had It All". They were all good but did not include the version by Dobie Gray, which in my humble opinion knocks all others into a cocked hat. It is also the song that my Dad plays when he needs to get back in my Mum's good books or wants to make my sisters cry.

For good measure I have added three more. One comes from what I believe were Tift Merritt's first ever recordings, with the Two Dollar Pistols back in 1999 (I must put some more Two Dollar Pistols up here). One features my close personal friend Alan "Tyler" Tyler back when he was still fronting the Rockingbirds. And inevitably there is a reggae version, from Dobie's cousin Owen.

"We Had It All" - Dobie Gray

"We Had It All" - Two Dollar Pistols (featuring Tift Merritt)

"We Had It All" - The Rockingbirds

"We Had It All" - Owen Gray

Sticking with matters 666, here are Iron Maiden. I would like to dedicate this to my mate Dave. We were at a football match once and at half-time it was announced that the winning raffle ticket was number 668. Quick as a flash, he turned to me and said "668 - The Neighbour of the Beast". He's never been as funny since.