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Saturday 30 June 2012

Reed Music

In a couple of hours' time I am heading off to Norfolk for a week for a gathering of Gogginses. I am packed and ready to go, so you could say that I was eastbound and down, loaded up and soon to be trucking.

"East Bound And Down" - Jerry Reed

To tide you over until I return, here are some other members of the Reed family. It is a pretty soulful selection, even creepy Uncle Lou who shows - despite his notorious massacring of "Soul Man" - that he can be pretty soulful when he puts his mind to it.

"Top Notch Grade A" - Al Reed

"The Time Is Right For Love" - Bobby Reed

"Keep On Loving Me" - Dalton Reed

"Big Boss Man" - Jimmy Reed

"A Gift" - Lou Reed

Now normally when I go on my hols I get us all in the mood with a bit of DJ Sven & MC Miker G. But I'm going to try something different this time in the hope that it will enduce the sun to come out. I'll be singing along but replacing the islands with the towns of the Norfolk Riviera. Goodbye "Aruba, Jamaica", hello "Sheringham, Cromer..."

Thursday 28 June 2012

Tsonga and Tsepo

Today's post is dedicated to Anna and Sebastian, the taste-makers and toe-tappers responsible for the High Life club night in Stockholm. Find out more about what they are up to over at their blog (it will help if you speak Swedish or at least have a phrasebook to hand).

We start with a couple from our old friend George Maluleke, one of the founding fathers of Tsonga Disco. These come from his 27th album, "Magolongwani", which came out last year. His albums can on occasion be a bit patchy, but he is on top form on this one. The whole thing is available to download on Amazon (at least in the UK).

"Kuteka" - George Maluleke & Va'Wana'ti Sisters

"Xiavi" - George Maluleke & Va'Wana'ti Sisters

For an extra treat, here is the Lesotho legend Tsepo Tshola, known to his friends and admirers as The Village Pope. Tsepo made his name as the leader of Sankomota but these are from his 2002 solo album "A New Dawn". Listening to them, you don't have to be a genius to spot that Hugh Masekela was heavily involved.

"Indlala" - Tsepo Tshola

"Nonyana" - Tsepo Tshola

I typed "Anna Sebastian" into YouTube in the hope of finding some samples of our Swedish friends' work and this came up first. I suspect the two are unrelated.

Monday 25 June 2012

ReviewShine Retrospective

There wasn't a lot that grabbed me in ReviewShine this month, and I did think about skipping the usual monthly round-up. But then I had a better idea - why not take the opportunity to showcase a few acts that I did not have room for when I first received their albums? So here are three women whose albums made their way to me around the turn of the year, and are all well worth a listen.

First up are Liz Frame & The Kickers, an alt-country outfit whose album "Sooner" came out on Air Age Sound last November. This is what they look like (that's Liz in the middle).

And this is what they sound like.

"Come Back To Me" - Liz Frame & The Kickers

For a change of scene, let's follow that up with some synth-pop from Caithlin De Marrais. Her album "Red Coats" came out on End Up Records, also last November, and is full of little crackers like this.

"Lovers Light" - Caithlin De Marrais

Last up in our brief "slightly oldies but goodies" section is Simone Stevens' "Right On Time". It is hard to describe her overall style, unless you consider "a bit of everything" to be a style. Highlights include her piano ballad version of Lucinda Williams' "Right On Time" and this next one. I really like the cod 1980s choruses.

"Below Zero" - Simone Stevens

The Replacements weren't averse to a bit of folk-twang themselves, in their day. That now makes sense because the paragraph and download that preceded it have been removed by request. But never mind, it's a good tune anyway so don't let a lack of logic put you off.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Never Mind The Quality...

... Feel the length.

The aim of this post is to fill up an entire page on Hype Machine all by myself. So here in ascending order are the ten longest song titles on my iPod.

In tenth place, with a respectable 72 characters:

"I Have Been Known To Be Wrong From Time To Time But I'm Afraid I'm Right" - David Mayfield Parade

Ninth place (74 characters):

"You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve" - Johnny Boy

Eighth place (75 characters):

"There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated At The Conference Table)" - The Chi-Lites

Seventh place (77 characters):

"Ever See A Diver Kiss His Wife While The Bubbles Bounce About Above The Water" - Shirley Ellis

Sixth place (78 characters):

"Conservative Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males" - Todd Snider

Fifth place (86 characters):

"Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem Of World Contact Day)" - The Carpenters

Fourth place (93 characters):

"Come Sing Me A Happy Song To Prove We All Can Get Along The Lumpy, Bumpy, Long And Dusty Road" - Bert Jansch

Big up - well, very big up actually - to our top three, all of which manage to reach the one hundred character mark.

Third place (100 characters):

"Chop Yourself Into Little Pieces And Mail Yourself To New Brunswick, Canada For Immediate Reassembly" - Penny Blacks

Second place (101 characters):

"All The Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers (Will Realise The Minute They Die That They Were Suckers)" - Julian Cope

Huge - very huge - fanfare for a winner. Weighing in at a massive 105 characters, and without having to resort to brackets and other padding, here is:

"Come Throw Yourself Under The Monstrous Wheels Of The Rock 'n Roll Bandwagon As It Approaches Destruction" - The Juggernauts

Of course, if Rolf had used the full title for this next one it would have knocked the rest of them into a cocked hat.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

(Still) Lost Classics

Back in the early 1980s there was a steady stream of independently released compilation albums featuring bands from the same town or region. There were a couple that I never owned myself but heard through friends, and which included tracks that I have been desperate to track down ever since.

The first was a 1984 EP from Norwich called "Music from the East Zone" which included "Baby I'm A U-Boat" by The Fire Hydrant Men (featuring the Fabulous Fezettes). Copies of it turn up on Ebay evey now and then but they invariably go for upwards of £40, which is rather more than I am willing to pay for a three-track EP. I have, however, managed to track down their 1985 album "Missed It By That Much", from which these gems are taken.

"99 Years in Sing Sing" -The Fire Hydrant Men (featuring the Fabulous Fezettes)

"Mayday in Moscow" - The Fire Hydrant Men (featuring the Fabulous Fezettes)

The other track I have been longing for is "Locked Out" by The Chefs from "WNW6 - Moonlight Radio", a 1981 compilation of mostly Brighton bands (I think, although I may be confusing it with "Vaultage 79" on which they also featured). I have never seen a copy of this for sale and, although The Chefs went on to have a decent career under the astute leadership of Helen McCookerybook (not her real name incidentally, she was born Alice McCookerybook), the song was never released on a record of their own.

So you can imagine my excitement a couple of months ago when I learnt that a compilation called "Records and Tea", billed as being the best of the Chefs, was released. And you can equally imagine my disappointment when, having dashed over to Amazon, I found that it did not include "Locked Out". Aaaarrgghh!!!

To be fair, there was a lot of good stuff on there to console me, like these next two, but it can't really be a "best of" without "Locked Out".

"Sweetie" - The Chefs

"24 Hours" - The Chefs

In the, admittedly perhaps unlikely, event that any readers have "Baby I'm A U-Boat" or "Locked Out", I would love you forever if you were able to share it with me. Until that happens, let us tide ourselves over with a rare clip of the Fire Hydrant Men (and the Fezettes) in action in 1984 - as you can see you had to make your own entertainment in Norwich in those days - and a more recent clip of the former Alice McCookerybook, prefaced by the story of how The Chefs came to be.

Monday 18 June 2012

Gee, Gigi!

We are having a run of people so good they renamed themselves twice. Following Penny Penny (real name Eric Nkovani) we have Gigi (real name Ejigayehu Shibabaw).

Gigi is an Ethiopian chanteuse who got her big break with her eponymous 2001 album which was produced by Bill Laswell, who she later married. Bill got some of his arty jazz mates involved, no doubt to add some "textures" to Gigi's sound. For me this backfired. Ethiopian music is wonderfully wonky by nature; tinkering with it on this occasion made it a bit more bland.

That said, "Gigi" is not a bad album. But I much prefer her 1998 album "One Ethiopia". Here are a couple of tracks from that record.

"Adey Abeba" - Gigi

"Gera Geru" - Gigi

As a bonus, here are some GeeGees of a different order.

"The Horse" - Cliff Nobles & Co

"Is Horse" - Explainer


Saturday 16 June 2012

Papa Penny's New Direction

It's our old friend Eric Nkovani, better known to us all as Penny Penny, one of the greats of Tsonga music with over 30 albums to his credit. Last year he released "Mhani Wa Nkoka" which, in a radical new career direction, moved away from the usual Shangaan Disco to something he calls "Shangani Jazz".  The reason for this change of tack, according to an interview he gave to The Sowetan, is that "I am not getting any younger".

Personally I think that is no excuse for jazz. But fear not, it isn't really jazz at all. Most of it is a more mellow take on his usual style, while "Boer Is A Boer" is a sort of country-soul number in which he warns against every trusting Afrikaners. On the whole I prefer his disco stuff, but this is not at all bad.

"Rose" - Penny Penny

"Boer Is A Boer" - Penny Penny

Speaking of Erics, here is the recently deceased Eric Charden back in 1968 with some funky Frenchness.

Thursday 14 June 2012


Someone I used to know - mentioning no names but you know who you are, Baby Michael - thought it was big and clever to claim that the Beatles were neither good nor influential. Even if you think the first claim is worthy of debate, the second is clearly preposterous. The British music scene after "She Loves You" was unrecognisable from what went before.

If you need some evidence, check out "Brylcreemed Boys and Beehived Birds", a series of four CDs featuring British rock 'n roll from the 1950s. With a few notable exceptions like Wee Willie Harris it is part insipid pap, part novelty songs. Listening to it today the insipid pap is still insipid, but some of the novelty songs have a certain period charm. Like these three.

"Rock Mr. Piper" - Billy Sproud

"Rock 'n Roll Opera" - Lee Lawrence

"You Won't Be Around" - Lorrae Desmond & Her Rebels

I wonder if a young Jeff Lynne ever heard "Rock 'n Roll Opera"?

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Durban Drop-Outs

I know what you're thinking: this self-indulgent rambling about Kelly Hogan and festivals and the like is all very well, but when are we going to get some South African psychedelia? Well, think no more.

The Third Eye were from Durban and the core members were brother and sister Ronnie and Dawn Selby (on guitar and organ respectively) and singer and main songwriter Maurice Saul. They bashed out three albums in eighteen months in 1969-70, which are now available on a double CD on Fresh Music in South Africa, who have a fantastic catalogue of vintage SA rock. Here is one from each album.

"Snow Child" - The Third Eye (from "Awakening", 1969)

"Retain Your Half-Ticket" - The Third Eye (from "Searching", 1969)

"Brother" - The Third Eye (from "Brother", 1970)

Other highlights include a rollicking good version of this old standard.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Handy Andy

To celebrate the unexpected sunshine here in London today, here is some sunshine music from Andy Aby. He's from Cote D'Ivoire. These tracks are from an album called "Mami-Wata". That's about all I can tell you.

"Mamie" - Andy Aby

"Cherie-Bami" - Andy Aby

Here are a few extra Andys (or possibly Andies - I am not sure what the correct plural form of Andy is).

"Pop A Top" - Andy Capp

"All Those Lives" - Andy Goldner

"The One-Armed Boatman And The Giant Squid" - Andy Roberts

Thursday 7 June 2012

The Girl I Love

Kelly Hogan has just released "I Like To Keep Myself In Pain", her first solo album in 11 years. It is utterly fantastic and you should stop reading this and go and buy it NOW!

Now you're back, I should declare an interest. I have been hopelessly in love with Kelly for many, many years and am therefore incapable of being objective. How can you possibly be objective about someone who can make you aroused by singing "Rubber Duckie"?

"Rubber Duckie" - Kelly Hogan

But even allowing for that, it is true. This album is utterly fantastic. It is a rash thing to say after only a few listens, but I think it may even top "Beneath The Country Underdog" as her finest work. Her vocals are wonderful as always - that really goes without saying - and with the likes of Booker T. Jones and James Gadson involved the musicianship is obviously top notch. But what makes it extra special is the quality of the songs from the likes of Robyn Hitchcock, Robbie Fulks and Vic Chesnutt.

Highlights are too many to mention but include "Haunted", "Daddy's Little Girl" and "Pass On By" (the nearly obligatory Charlie Rich cover). And this one which, like "Papa Was A Rodeo" - the song that first made me fall in love with Kelly - was written by Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields.

"Plant White Roses" - Kelly Hogan

Because I am feeling elated, here are a couple of old favourites as a bonus.

"Sugarbowl" - Kelly Hogan

"Dues" - Kelly Hogan

And here she is with some of her many admirers tackling (in turn) the Staple Singers, Conway & Loretta and the Monkees.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Apple Cart

On Sunday I strolled over to Victoria Park for the Apple Cart Festival. The weather was appalling and nine hours of standing round in rain and mud ruined both my trousers and my back. But apart from that a very good time was had by all.

Musical highlights included Billy Bragg, who was in his element as you would imagine, and Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat who ran through last year's album, "Everything's Getting Older", and showed pretenders like Glasvegas exactly how to do the sensitive Scottish hard man thing in a way that comes over as sincere and, at times, really rather moving. And you can add to that list Adam Ant who had a slightly flat start but then strapped on a guitar for an excellent rendition of "Car Trouble" which seemed to energise him, his band and at least the old fart elements in the audience.

"A Lover Sings" - Billy Bragg

"Cages" - Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat

"Car Trouble" - Adam & The Ants

There were a couple of scheduling disappointments - the direct clash between Adam and Scritti Politti on the two main stages, and the slightly bizarre decision to put poor Josh T Pearson on last. Why they thought it made sense to finish the night with his high class acoustic miserablism, when everyone is looking to be lifted up rather that brought down, and then put him 100 yards from the very noisy dance tent I really don't know. I would like to see him again in a more sympathetic environment. If nothing else, he takes a mean photo:

If you are interested there are more photos over on Flickr including all those mentioned above plus Kevin Rowland - whose DJ set was most enjoyable - and Kid Creole & The Coconuts, who did a very good if scandalously short set. My friend Chuck took some solace from the appearance of the current generation of the Coconuts but, with the greatest possible respect, they are no match for the originals.

Friday 1 June 2012

Cockney Translation

I live in the East End of London, which means I am fluent in Cockney rhyming slang. One of the interesting features of Cockney is the number of items named after singers. Probably the best known example is curry, known as a ruby after now obscure Irish chanteuse Ruby Murray. There are plenty of others. For example a park (as in a green public space, not what you do to a car) is called a johnny after Johnny Clarke, while a playground is a curtis after Curtis Mayfield (for "playfield", another word for a playground).

So tonight, metaphorically, we are taking the kids down to the curtis in the johnny for a bit of fun.

"Hey Baby (Give It All To Me)" - Curtis Mayfield

"She Won't Let Nobody But Me" - Curtis Mayfield

"Roots, Natty Roots, Natty Congo" - Johnny Clarke

"Jah Jah See Them Come" - Johnny Clarke

If you need further assistance with Cockney, here's Smiley Culture in his top tifter.