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Monday 30 April 2012

Troops Out

If our readers in the UK have been following the news recently, they may have heard the story that the Government may move troops and anti-aircraft guns into a block of flats in Bow during the Olympics to thwart potential airborne terrorist attacks on the nearby Olympic stadium.

It just so happens that my old friend Mister F lives in that very block of flats. Being as he is both a wuss and a traitor - and I mean that kindly - he is getting his knickers in a twist about it all.  For no good reason. As I have pointed out to him, unless one of the squaddies accidentally blows the place up while trying to impress the glamour model who lives across the way from Mister F, being where the anti-aircraft missiles are launched from is probably the safest place to be after they start blasting them all over East London. It is the rest of us who ought to be worried.

Anyway, here are some songs for him:

"I Live On A Battlefield" - Nick Lowe

"Long Range Guns" - Boca Chica

"Baby Missiles" - The War On Drugs

"You Don't Have To Be In The Army (To Fight In The War)" - Mungo Jerry

"President Mash Up The Resident" - Shorty The President

"Backyard Movements/ Fussing And Fighting" -  Jacob Miller & Killer Brown

It is at times like this that Mister F and the rest of us should invoke both the Blitz spirit and the healthy attitude of Wernher Von Braun: "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down".

Sunday 29 April 2012

Great Global Grooves

Before we get to the business of the day, I should note that yesterday we reached 60,000 visitors. If I have worked it out right the 60,000th came from St. Louis. I thought about playing something special for them but then remembered I already had - Rough Shop, who were featured yesterday are from St. Louis. I wonder if it was them?

Anyway, I recently acquired this thingy that you plug into the PC and it transfers cassettes directly on to iTunes. It's modern-day magic. I don't have many cassettes any more apart from those that I have not been able to replace, like the early Cleaners From Venus albums available only by wandering round to Martin Newell's house in Wivenhoe.

Among those I have held onto is a compilation tape I put together twenty plus years ago which I rather grandly called "Great Global Grooves". I have been able to hunt down better quality versions of many of them in the interim, but there are half a dozen or so tracks on there that I have never found again. So it is good to be able to preserve them.

With apologies for the slightly ropey quality at points, here are some grooves from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Cameroon, Nigeria and (I think) Malawi to get your toes tapping on a damp Sunday morning.

"Watusi '65" - Ray Barretto

"La Hora Marina" - Los Karachi

"Farida's Assiko" - Princess Asta Djimbe

"Yere Africa" - Peter King

"Pennywhistler" - Sydney Banda

May I advise our readers in St. Louis against listening to these tracks while riding on the trolley, or you may find yourself seized with an irresistable urge to dance the hoochie koochie with your tootsie wootsie.

Saturday 28 April 2012

ReviewShine Round-Up

Morning all. It's that time of month again, so here we are with the edited highlights of what I have been sent via ReviewShine this month. And what a bumper month it has been. There are some goodies I have not even had time to listen to yet, like the new Jon Dee Graham album. Expect to see that some time in the future.

The first choice is a bit of a cheat as I had already bought "Poor Moon" by Hiss Golden Messenger before I got sent a free copy, but it is far too good to ignore. Their previous records had been good but this is a step up in class. It is classic country-soul of the sort that Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham would be proud to put their names to. If you are looking for more contemporary comparisons then think Lambchop or Jeb Loy Nichols although, as good as they are, this is better.

"Drummer Down" - Hiss Golden Messenger

I am going to see Hiss Golden Messenger on Tuesday supporting the legendary Michael Chapman, which is one helluva double bill. As a bonus for you, and for me, here is Michael with a track from his 1969 debut album "Rainmaker".

"Goodbye To Monday Night" - Michael Chapman

The next two records have some similarities to Hiss Golden Messenger at certain points, but also have very much their own sound. Both are well worth a listen.

First up is Screen Door Porch, a duo hailing from Jackson Hole, Wyoming (I am not sure that is relevant but to someone in London it sounds really exotic). Their self-released album "The Fate and the Fruit" is available via their website and has a nice bluesy feel running through it. Seadar Rose and Aaron Davis - presumably not the former Yeovil Town midfielder - both sing and play. I particularly like Seadar's slightly world-weary vocals, as featured on today's selecton.

Next is Rough Shop, from the slightly less exotic St. Louis. Based on a core of songwriters Andy Ploof and John Wendland, their fourth album "Beneath the South Side Bridge" is out now on Perditon Records. The cover a number of different styles during the course of the album but their sound always has a real soulfulness about it - perhaps most explicitly on this track.

"Lovin' Strange" - Screen Door Porch

"Convenience Store" - Rough Shop

We have saved the biggest and most pleasant surprise until the end. The dB's are back with their first album in over 25 years! I was going to add that it is like they have never been away, but of course they haven't - you would need an encyclopedia to list everything Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple and the others have done since.

The new album is called "Falling Off The Sky" and it comes out on 12 June on Bar None records. It is jam-packed with what they have always done best - classic pop songs like "Write Back". For those of you too young to remember them from first time round, we have added "Amplifier" from 1982's "Repercusson", which in my humble opinion is one of the greatest pop songs ever written.

"Write Back" - The dB's

"Amplifier" - The dB's

 To my surprise and delight, some kind soul has posted the video for "Amplifier" on YouTube. Here it is.

British readers of my generation may have had a Proustian moment at 0:36 (when she takes the soda-pop) because of this:

Thursday 26 April 2012

Aster And Alexander

The first part of this post is long overdue. I have been meaning to feature "Checheho", the 2010 album by Aster Aweke, pretty much since it first came out. It is good to finally tick something off my "to do" list, even if it is a couple of years late.

Aster is one of Ethiopia's biggest stars of the last twenty years. Sometimes known as "Africa's Aretha Franklin" - at least according to her press blurb - she manages to update the great Ethiopian soul sound of the 1970s without losing any of its magic. Here are a couple of prime examples. There are plenty more where these came from.

"Kulun" - Aster Aweke

"Siniwaded" - Aster Aweke

Having the opportunity to introduce some of you to someone like to Aster, and sometimes getting nice comments back, can make one a little delusional. Every now and then I forget I am a fat middle-aged office worker and start imagining I am hip and happening like yer man over at 'Raven Sings The Blues'.

Which I think is why I took myself off to Cafe Oto in Dalston last night to see a triple bill of Sir Richard Bishop (not, I suspect, a real "Sir"), Duke Garwood (pretty definitely not a real Duke), and the untitled, common or garden, Alexander Tucker. Here is an arty photo of Sir Richard wot I done.

I have never heard anything by any of them before and, while I enjoyed the gig a great deal, mostly it was not the sort of stuff I am likely to listen to a lot at home. However I was sufficiently intrigued by Alexander Tucker to buy his new album, "Third Mouth", which came out on Thrill Jockey earlier this month. I have not had a chance to listen to it yet, and chose this track for you because of its title. Apparently it is about his Dad. Let me know what you think.

"A Dried Seahorse" - Alexander Tucker

As I said, I have nothing by Sir Richard or the Duke. But here is Stevie Wonder with a sort of tribute to the two of them.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Go, Gozalo, Go!

Last year we featured a couple of tracks from the first volume of "Gozalo!", Vampi Soul's four volume series of Peruvian boogaloo from the 1960s and 1970s. They aren't there any more, but if you heard them you have probably been waiting for something from the later volumes. So here are a couple of gems apiece from Volumes Two and Three, including a cracking version of "Louie, Louie". Get up and shake your llama, Mama!

"El Diri Bop" - Tito Chicoma Y Su Orquesta

"Tutú Tatá" - Alfredo Linares Y Su Sonora

"Me Quedo Con El Shing-a-Ling" - Bossa 70

"Louie, Louie" - Mario Allison Y Su Combo

Here are a couple more celebrity covers of "Louie, Louie" to round things off nicely.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Polly Plus

Yesterday was Record Store Day. To mark the occasion, here are some records.

The main feature today is Polly Paulusma's new self-released album, "Leaves From The Family Tree", available direct from Polly via her website. She is also about to begin a series of gigs, one of which is in London on 15 May, and I would encourage you to go along if you can.

As regular readers will know, I am not very articulate when it comes to explaining what I like about a record. What follows fails dismally to do justice to the album; the track I have chosen on the other hand ("Blood-Red Coat") sells itself.

The obvious attractions are her voice and her lyrics, which seem to lend themselves to many different interpretatons. For example, I have decided that "Blood-Red Coat" is written from the perspective of a child about to be born. That probably isn't the case at all, and there are many other ways of reading them (one reviewer says the song about the arrival of Spring), which is part of what makes them so good.

The music sounds fairly straightforward at first, but when you listen for a second or third time you pick up things that make it more interesting. On the opening track, "Last Week Me", it is the contrast between the spritely tune and arrangement and the subject matter (bereavement). On "Blood-Red Coat" it is the way the backing vocals get gradually more dischordant - even slightly bonkers - as the song progresses. See for yourselves.

"Blood-Red Coat" - Polly Paulusma

I missed Polly's previous albums, "Scissors in my Pocket" (2004) and "Fingers and Thumbs" (2007), when they first came out, although I am putting that right courtesy of Amazon. But yesterday when I was in a record store - you see, there is a link - I came across a second-hand copy of "Spine Cosmic Rosy Kites". It is described as being "the live/acoustic sibling album to 'Scissors in my Pocket'" (and, as you clever folks will have worked out, an anagram of it as well). I have not heard the "proper" version yet, but this sounds pretty good to me.

"Carry Me Home" - Polly Paulusma

Reinterpreting your own material needs to be done with care, something Phil Everly would have done well to bear in mind when making his 1975 solo album, "Mystic Line". Why on earth did he think remaking one of his old standards in a light reggae style was a good idea? It is nothing like as bad as that disco version of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by that well-known female vocalist which got me in so much trouble last year, but it isn't good.

"When Will I Be Loved" - Phil Everly

We finish up with a couple of dedications to people celebrating their birthday today or tomorrow. One is Frankie, by some distance the finest publican around these parts. If you find yourself near Victoria Park, pop into The Eleanor Arms and enjoy his Shepherd Neame beers and his eclectic record collection. The other is my dear friend Tracy who is, as the song says, very special.

"You Gotta Have Something In The Bank, Frank" - Frankie Vaughan & The Kaye Sisters

"Very Special" - Debra Laws

Thursday 19 April 2012

Big In Beira

This week's Tsonga tselection comes from Mozambique, courtesy of our good friend Mano.

The sounds are from Armandinho, about whom I know nothing. I don't know the name of the album these tracks come from. I don't know when they were released, though from the feel of them I would guess some time between the mid 1990s and the early years of this century. But what I do know is that it is very good indeed. I particularly like the reggae tinge to "Vakhala Bya".

"N'wano Loyi" - Armandinho

"Vakhala Bya" - Armandinho

And now, apropos of nothing at all...

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Big In Bangor

Dave Edmunds had his 68th birthday on Sunday. Let's celebrate with a bit of what he does best.

"Crawling From The Wreckage" - Dave Edmunds

"I Knew The Bride" - Dave Edmunds

Some folks may consider this blasphemous but, even though Nick Lowe wrote it and Rockpile probably played on both records, I have always preferred Dave's version of "I Knew The Bride". It's better for dancing. But for those of you who feel otherwise, or just want a chance to compare, here's Nick.

I am off to see Dave Alvin on Friday and there is a link between the two Daves (apart from them both being called Dave). In 1970 the Edmunds produced the first album by a little known rock 'n roll singer. Ten years later that singer had his first top twenty hit with an Alvin song. The song was "Marie, Marie". The singer was, of course, Dave Edmunds' rival for the title Greatest Living Welshman, Lord Shakin' of Stevens. Here he is.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Marxism Today

After yesterday's Shangaan special we'll head north and hop over the border to Zimbabwe.

The Marxist Brothers were one of the leaders of Zimbabwe's rhumba scene in the 1980s. Comprised of brothers Simon, Naison, Allan, and Brian Chimbetu, the band scored a string of hits characterized by the harmonies of Simon and Naison. The band split up in the mid 1990s, with both Simon and Naison pursuing solo careers. Sadly both of them died within a year of each other in 2005/06.

However the Chimbetu name lives on through Simon's son Sulu and Naison's son Tryson (that is an awful lot of "son"s in such quick succession). Tryson has revived the old Marxist Brothers name for has backing band, and his debut album "Marxist Revival" came out in 2008. He is very much a chip off the old block.

Here are a couple of mid 1980s tracks from the original line-up, followed by a couple from the Tryson generation. Who do you prefer?

"Sekuyo Ndipeiwo Zano" - Marxist Brothers

"Mari" - Marxist Brothers

"Nokutenda Nei?" - Tryson Chimbetu & Marxist Brothers

"Shirikadzi Blend" - Tryson Chimbetu & Marxist Brothers

And here are the brothers back in their prime.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Return of Madlaks

Today we feature the man who is indirectly responsible for this blog. You may wish to thank him or you may wish to curse him - I leave that to you.

Regular readers and those of you who have spotted the sub-title at the top of the page will know that I originally started this blog in order to share my new found love of Tsonga disco music with the world.
While I don't feature it as often as I should these days, it is still the main reason for the blog and it has helped me make new friends and acquaintances as far afield as Brooklyn, Belgium and Mozambique.

As explained in my first post on the subject three years or so ago, the first time I heard Tsonga disco (also known as Shangaan disco) was when I came across a CD by a gent calling himself Madlaks in Cape Town. I fell for it instantly and since then have managed to build up a collection of 40 to 50 Tsonga CDs. However I had never been able to track down anything else by Madlaks, the man who kicked it all off.

That was until a couple of weeks ago when I was back in the African Record Store in Long Street in Cape Town where I first came across him, and I was delighted to find him smiling back at me from the racks.

Zindamuti came out in 2009. It is not quite as frantic as "Ndhlo Ndhlo Volume 1", but is none the worse for that. Here are a couple of prime cuts.

"Khomisani Sweswo" - Madlaks

"Nokupenda" - Madlaks

From the return of Madlaks to the return of the mack, a song about a man who mislaid his anorak then got it back.

Friday 13 April 2012

Prophesyin' - It's Like Testifyin' But Better

Normally I avoid the dreadful tourist trap that is Camden like the plague, but me and my old pal Mister F are going to be regulars up there over the next few weeks. Next week we are off to see Dave Alvin at the Jazz Cafe, and the week after it is the Monochrome Set at Dingwalls.

I am looking forward to both of those gigs but they are going to have to go some to beat last night's effort at Dingwalls: Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express. Over the best part of two hours they gave us what I can only inadequately describe as a bloody fantastic rock 'n roll show. Support was from Danny and the E Street Band Champions of the World. They weren't bad at all, but Chuck and the gang blew them - and us - away.

Chuck's new album, 'Temple Beautiful', is pretty awesome as well. Being people of discernment and taste I assume you have it already - if not you need to put that right - so rather than featuring any tracks from that album, here are some personal favourites from his back catalogue. None of them got played last night, but you can't have everything.

"What It Takes" - Chuck Prophet (from "Feast of Hearts", 1995)

"Age Of Miracles" - Chuck Prophet (from "Age of Miracles", 2004)

"110° in the Shade" - Chuck Prophet (from "Balinese Dancer", 1992)

"Age of Miracles" is quite an appropriate title for a man called Prophet. Here is another man known for his miracles.


Tuesday 10 April 2012


Afternoon All. I am back from Cape Town, and as promised have come back laden down with Tsonga Disco CDs. We have new material from familiar favourites like Joe Shirimani, Madlaks and George Maluleke; we have filled some gaps in the back catalogues of old friends like Penny Penny, General Muzka and Paul Ndlovu; and we have quite a few brand new names for you as well.

All of that will be coming over the next few weeks and months. But to get this show back on the road, here is one we prepared earlier - five very nice cover versions of Percy Sledge originals.

"True Love Travels On A Gravel Road" - Nick Lowe

"Sudden Stop" - Kelly Hogan & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts

"Take Time To Know Him" - Tommie Young

"Warm And Tender Love" - Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell

"I'll Be Your Everything" - George Soule

That last one is a bit of a cheat as George Soule wrote the song. However, he did not get around to recording it until 2006 for his "Take A Ride" album. George does a nifty version but Percy's original is one of the most magnificent records I have ever heard, and well worth adding as a bonus for you.

"I'll Be Your Everything" - Percy Sledge

Sticking with soul standards, here is one of the more bizarre duets you are ever likely to see. Lou was apparently about 43rd choice for the job, just behind Tiny Tim and Bobby 'Boris' Pickett, neither of whom were available on the day.