Yes, its that time of year when we bloggers get to be self-indulgent and our readers pretend to be interested (or don't even bother to pretend in some cases).
Let's get this over with as quickly as we can. The usual caveats apply - the lists will be different tomorrow, and even more different in a couple of year's time after I discover all sorts of fantastic records released this year that I have missed completely.
And the usual thanks as well. About half of the records listed below were sent to me by PR folk, and in most cases I would not have come across them otherwise. So many thanks to everyone in Promoland for opening my eyes to so many great artists.
Right, here goes with my top 10 albums:
10. "Off Off On" - This Is The Kit
9. "Together We Stand" - Richie Spice
8. "What A Life" - Sho Madjozi
7. "I Can Go Without You" - Sam Burton
6. "The True Story of Bananagun" - Bananagun
5. "Holiday" - Jennah Barry
4. "Sorry You Couldn't Make It" - Swamp Dogg
3. "The Dancing Devils of Djibouti" - Groupe RTD
2. "Bonny Light Horseman" - Bonny Light Horseman
My number one album of 2020 is "Big Time Baby" by Lesley Barth. As regular readers know I'm not very good at explaining why I like things, but suffice to say it is a collection of wonderful songs that are sung and arranged perfectly.
This year we are introducing an EP of the year category just so we can give some much deserved acclaim to friend of the blog Asthmatic Harp for "Things We Learned To Live With" - a thing I would find hard to live without. Its an object of beauty.
Finally, we have joint winners in the pop single of the year category: Dadi Freyr with his Eurovision sensation "Think About Things", and "Hump The Beach" by Kalbells - the sensation that should have been.
I have lost count of the number of times this year we have been told to "follow the science", a message that would have greater credibility if it was actual scientists rather than politicians telling us to do so.
If you want a real scientist you can trust, try this fellow.
More from the excellent Sahel Sounds label. This time it is Mali's Luka Productions, real name Luka Guindo, described in the Bandcamp blurb as "one of Bamako's hardest working producers".
That certainly seems to be the case, as Luka and his chums have put out three quality albums in the last four years: "Mali Kady" (2016), "Fasokan" (2017) and "Fataw" (2019). Here is one track from each in chronological order.
You lot being a bunch of inveterate hipsters you will probably claim to prefer his early stuff just on a point of principle. But for me "Fataw" is probably the pick of the bunch, although they are all worth a listen.
Longstanding readers may remember that when I started this blog I had a mission, which was to promote the popular music of the Tsonga people of South Africa and Mozambique.
We have had some small-scale impact over the years with a handful of European DJs and American hipsters picking up on tracks and artists we featured here, and I still get regular requests from fans trying to track down their favourites. When Damon from Blur championed the uptempo version of Tsonga Disco known as Shangaan Electro there was a bigger flurry of interest, but it never conquered the world.
That may be about to change as the first crossover Tsonga pop star has arrived - Sho Madjozi, a rapper and singer who had a big viral hit last year with her tribute to wrestler John Cena, as a result of which she has recently been signed by Epic Records.
Sho has already been very proud of her Tsonga heritage. Her first album was called "Limpopo Champions League" - Limpopo being the province in South Africa where she is from and where most Tsonga people live - and for her latest, "What A Life", she has incorporated its music much more explicitly than before. She has roped in local artists to help, including a couple we have featured here.
Undoubtedly the biggest coup for Tsonga fans is the involvement of Dr. Thomas Chauke, generally acknowledged to be the founding father of Tsonga pop music. Here is their duet, followed by one of the Great Man's own hits.
"Shahumba" - Sho Madjozi (featuring Thomas Chauke)
Tonight I was meant to be going to my first live gig for 10 months at the spooky church down the end of my road. Then on Monday night came the announcement that London was locking down again and the show - or at least the audience - got cancelled.
The artiste I was hoping to see was the mighty Piney Gir. While I can't be there in person she will be streaming her performance live on YouTube at 8.15pm GMT tonight, which is some consolation for me and a treat for the rest of you.
Today's selections come from "Geronimo" (2011) - my favourite of Piney's albums that I've heard -and "Jesus Wept" (2010). I would like to dedicate them both to our Prime Minister, who is doing a brilliant job in difficult circumstances.
Those of us lucky enough to crest the wildest waves of the zeitgeist get sent many good things, some of which get lost along the way and only rediscovered by chance. Today's album is one example.
I was listening to a new album that will be featuring later in the week and got distracted by a phone call halfway through. I turned the volume off and by the time I turned it back on again iTunes had rolled on to the album that came next alphabetically.
The album is "What A Tease" by Nico Yaryan, about whom I have been able to find out next to nothing apart from what is in the PR blurb that came with it. The album was released in 2016, although you could be forgiven for thinking its from 1976, and is very nice indeed.
I know you have all been crying out for some top notch Dutch punk from the 1970s. So here is a small selection from a compilation called "I Don't Care (Dutch Punk 1977-83)".
"Van Agt Casanova" is thought to be the first punk record in the Dutch language, while Tedje & De Flikkers were apparently a notorious live act, renowned for appearing in S&M gear or nothing at all.
But my favourite is Panic's paean to then recently deceased philosopher and probable Nazi Martin Heidegger, in which they pose the question "Is he in Heaven or is he in Hell?". Having been forced to wade through his "Being And Time" at university, my personal view is that Hell is too good for him.
Back in my student days me and my mate Dave used to pass the time in boring philosophy lectures by coming up with Philosopher Top Tens. The song that inevitably topped the charts was The Tams with this brusque rejection of Hegel's concept of the "thing in itself".
Welcome to the latest edition of our long-running but infrequent series. It is also, to be honest, one of the more pointless editions.
It was only when I listened to the various versions of "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" in my collection back to back that I realised that most of them are replicas of Junior Walker & The All Stars magnificent 1969 original. Junior's sax part is so perfect nearly everyone copies it note for note, and some minor variations apart the same goes for the intro and the vocal arrangements.
We kick things off with Junior and the boys, who are followed by four versions that are pretty much the same - all very nice but none quite as good. Tony Joe White brings a bit of variation by dropping the backing vocals and swapping the sax for a harmonica.
We then finish with two Mandatory Reggae Versions, one from the great Alton Ellis for the purists, the other from Chilean pop-reggae sensation Betania Lopez. Large chucks of her arrangement have been lifted from Alton rather than Junior, but at least that is a variation of sorts.
Last weekend Charity Chic featured an album by the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash in his universally acclaimed "50 Americana Albums To Hear Before You Die" series. At the time, I was under the impression that I never had previously heard of them.
So imagine my surprise a few days later when I found a copy of their 2013 album "New Old Story" tucked away in my hard drive. I assume that I was sent a promo copy when it was released, downloaded it and then promptly forgot it was there.
Some entries in CC's series have provoked heated debate among some commentators (well, one commentator) about whether they were Americana or country. Personally I don't really care but I will say that, whatever they were when they started out, by 2013 the Bastard Sons were definitely country.
Bessie Banks is probably best known for having success snatched from her when those thieving bastards the Moody Blues recorded "Go Now" and their version soared up the charts instead of hers.
But Bessie wasn't just some no hit wonder. Her recording career lasted on and off until the mid 1970s and he had stints with some reputable labels as Verve and Volt. Here are a couple of her 70s sides. Perhaps scarred by the experience of not charting with a very short song title, by then she was taking things to the other extreme.
I couldn't find any clips of Bessie in action but while I was searching I came across this reworking of "Go Now" by her son Kevin made in 2011. The great lady herself appears briefly at the beginning and end of the clip. If Wikipedia can be believed, and I sincerely hope it can, she is still with us at the tender age of 82.
This compilation is called "Atenshion! Refleshion!" and it claims - with a high degree of accuracy - to contain "Spanish Psychedelic Grooves 1967-76". Here are a just a couple of them - there are many more corkers where these two came from.
A brief tribute to Dave Prowse, who died yesterday. While his most acclaimed role was as the original Darth Vader, for many of us of a certain generation he will always be the Green Cross Code Man.
I met him once in that capacity. Back in the mid-1980s I was a security guard at an exhibition hall in London and Mr Prowse was booked to make a personal appearance as the Green Cross Code Man. He parked his van on a blind corner and I was dispatched to ask him to move it.
In those days I was a young smartarse and made some remark about how he of all people ought to know it wasn't safe to park there. This rightly earned me a stern dressing down, during which he confirmed that I was indeed a young smartarse. Looking back, I got off more lightly than most people who cheek Darth Vader.
RIP Mr Prowse. I hope your crossing was a smooth one.
I regularly rave about the magnificent Sahel Sounds label, and I'm about to do it again. They do a brilliant job of bringing artists from the Sahel region to the attention of the wider world.
One particularly fine example is Mamman Sani from Niger, who has been making eerie electronic and organ music for well over 40 years. Before Sahel Sounds got involved he had only ever released one album, but they have now released three compilations of recordings he made in the 1980s. All are worth a listen but my favourite is probably "Taaritt", from which today's selections come.
Martial arts are popular the world over as today's selection shows, with artists from Turkey, Trinidad and South Africa. But in truth they are only really here to give me an excuse to play the video. Its a classic.
Last week, Spanish soul. This week, Japanese reggae, courtesy of Home Grown, the self-styled "No. 1 Reggae Band in Japan". As I am not in a position to disprove that statement I will take their word for it.
Both of today's tracks come from their eponymous 2002 album which features a plethora of guest artists including the great Jamaican sax player Dean Fraser. On today's first track, which Google translates as "Ask The Stars", we hear from H-Man and Neo."Oasis" features seven guests in total, including one called Moomin. I don't know which one he or she is.
We had a request last week for some Spanish soul. I am happy to oblige. Here are a few choice cuts from the excellent compilation "Sensacional Soul Vol. 2", which is appropriately subtitled "32 Groovy Spanish Soul & Funk Stompers 1965-72".
We kick things off with Barcelona's own Los Gatos Negros reworking a John Fred & The Playboys number. Next up is Ritmo Pilé, about whom even the compilérs of the CD seem to know nothing at all. Then we ride off into the sunset with Henry C Martin (known to his Mum and Dad as Enrique Carlos Martinez Ibanez), the latter day Sancho Panza.
Admittedly the bar has been set pretty low, but I don't think anything has amused me as much this year as the Four Seasons Total Landscaping fiasco. The sight of a deranged Rudy Giuliani holding a press conference in a parking lot between a crematorium and an adult book store called Fantasy Island has perked me up considerably. Here is a small tribute to all involved.
On Wednesday I headed down to my local second-hand record shop to feed my addiction before they and other so-called "non-essential" shops shut for a month. It was worth the trip. As well as snapping up a double CD compilation of Spanish soul from the 60s and 70s - coming this way soon no doubt - there were rich pickings in the "10 CDs for £5" box.
One of them was a Will Oldham collaboration of which I was previously unaware, perhaps unsurprisingly seeing as he seems to do about one a week. It is an EP called "All Most Heaven" released in 2000 and credited to Rian Murphy & Will Oldham. Rian Murphy is apparently a drummer and was a medium-sized cheese at Drag City records at the time. He must have had a bit of clout because he also managed to rope in the likes of Jim O'Rourke and Steve Albini as well.
Here in England we go back into lockdown tomorrow. Many of you are already there. At times like these we need someone to lift the spirits, someone who can sound chirpy when they are far from home or want to be left alone. I know just the woman - the great Calypso Rose.
Both today's tracks are from Rose's "Far From Home" album, which came out in 2016 when she was a mere stripling of 76. She's released a couple more records since and seems to be going from strength to strength. I was lucky enough to see her about 15 years ago on a double bill with the legendary Mighty Sparrow. She was, and still is, quite phenomenal.
New month, new music. It is time for one of our occasional forays into the inbox to see what the nice people of the Internet have been sending me. This latest batch confirms that, while in most respects 2020 has been utterly crap, there is still a lot of good music being made.
First up for you is Sam Burton, whose debut album "I Can Go With You" came out last week on the reliably excellent Tompkins Square label. The blurb hails him as the New Tim (Hardin or Buckley, take your pick) which is fairly accurate, although he's a little bit twangier than either of them. Maybe Roy Orbison's (probably non-existent) folk-rock period would be a closer comparison.
From stagnation, to going to seed (who says I don't know how to keep a theme going?). "Love Gone To Seed" is the lead single from J.E. Sunde's "9 Songs About Love". The album itself isn't out until 20 November but you can preorder it now on Bandcamp. It is good stuff with a slight hint of Hiss Golden Messenger at times.
Rounding things off, here is top pop tune from Kalbells, also available on Bandcamp. Apparently the song "celebrates the Earth and how she catches us in our most challenging moments... and tells us what she needs, often through the channels of our own insight and ingenuity". To be honest I'm not sure that comes through in the video, but there is a pirate in a canoe.
As we all know, there are times when nothing suits the mood except vintage Somali disco music. If this is one of those times for you, you're in luck. Here are a couple of hip-wiggling hits from the magnificently titled "Mogadisco: Dancing Mogadishu (1972-91)".
"Mogadisco" was released last year on the always excellent Analog Africa label. Among many other triumphs, Analog Africa were responsible for drawing the world's attention to the band with the greatest name ever in the history of great band names. Click on the link and see if you can work out who I mean. Then buy their album. And "Mogadisco".
And then, when you've finished checking up your head, don't forget to check up on your baby.
The guitarist in that clip is one Jesse Ed Davis, whose version of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" was featured in our recent "Single Song Sunday". By happy coincidence, Van is equally diligent when it comes to checking on things.
Very sad to learn over the weekend of the death of the great Jerry Jeff Walker, one of the founding fathers of the Texan outlaw country scene.
I saw him live while on a work trip to the States in the mid 2000s. When I found out he was playing in the area I extended my trip by a couple of days so I could go along. I was richly rewarded - not only was it a great show but I got a chance to chat to Jerry Jeff and Bob Livingston of the Lost Gonzo Band afterwards. A memorable night. RIP Mr Walker.
It has been a while since we had a Single Song Sunday. Let's rectify that with Van Morrison's "Crazy Love".
I've taken an executive decision not to include Van's original. He and his people get agitated about that sort of thing, and he is already highly agitated about Covid-19, lockdown and the like. I would not want to be responsible for tipping him over the edge.
So instead we'll kick things off with Jesse Ed Davis, a Native American session man who hung about Leon Russell, as you may be able to tell - his version has a certain Leon feel to it. It came out in 1970 and, as far as I can tell, may have been the first cover version to be released.
Also released in 1970 was Esther Phillips' version. Esther did Van's "Brand New Day" around the same time, and that is well worth checking out. I suspect whoever arranged Rita Coolidge's rendition in 1971 may have been listening to Esther judging by the guitar work on the two versions.
We follow Rita with two soul dudes, Nolan Porter and Eddie Floyd, and then we're off on a mini-tour of Europe - I'm clearly struggling to let go - which takes in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland and Italy. All four artists have appeared here previously, Helena Vondráčková as a member of The Golden Kids, the others in their own right.
We end as always with the Mandatory Reggae Version, but with a twist - it's Japanese reggae! You can find it along with many other gems on the evocatively titled compilation, Jap Jam International Volume 3.
Last time out we featured a single called "U". How better to follow that than with an album called "U", especially when its by one of my all time favourites, the Incredible String Band.
"U" is a double album that was first released in 1970. It is the studio version of a stage show they put on with dance troupe Stone Monkey. Apparently there was a plot although you can't tell that from the album - or from the show itself, according to the few who saw it. Possibly one for the fans only, but I'm a fan so I can't judge.
We finally finished our musical tour of the EU last week, which featured 133 songs from 27 countries. For a brief period we are making them all available at the link below. There truly is something for everyone, and very possibly a few things for nobody (Yes, I'm looking at you, Absymal Torment from Malta).
There is a big gaping hole in the middle of Continental Europe that we skirted round on our tour without going in - Switzerland. To plug the gap, here are two tracks from my favourite Swiss band, one under each of their names. Dig the groovy whistling on "Die Matrosen", its like The Raincoats teamed up with Roger Whittaker.
We're in Sweden. It's Part 27 of our 27 part series. You know what that means, don't you?
I am contractually obliged to include that video in the post. There is one more contractual obligation to come right at the end.
It is not an obligation but a great pleasure to thank two individuals who contributed greatly to the series. The first is the excellent Asthmatic Harp, who guest hosted the Danish leg of the tour way back in April. The other is the equally excellent George, who gave us his unique take on the Portuguese music scene and contributed a few tracks to other posts along the way. Thank you both.
Sweden is a great place to end the tour, having been responsible for so much magnificent music over the years. And Rednex. So let's go out on a high. Take it away, Little Gerhard!
We'll bring things to an close with our other contractual obligation. From everyone here in Leggiesland, thanks for sticking with us. And to all of you out there in Europeland, thank you for the music.
Yet another winner from the magnificent folks at Sahel Sounds for you today. This time it is "This Is Kologo Power!", a compilation from Ghana featuring the kologo, a local two-stringed lute. First released in 2016, it is still available on their Bandcamp page along with many other fine albums.
If you are one of those people who take a logical approach to cataloging your record collection, it is highly unlikely you would put Eric B & Rakim next to Charley Pride. Fortunately the good folks who run the pet rescue shop in Ramsgate take a more laissez faire approach. I was down there earlier in the week and found Eric and Charley's respective greatest hits collections nestling next to each other. At just 25p each I didn't need to decide between them, I snapped them both up.
Very sad to learn that the great Bunny 'Striker' Lee has died at the age of 79, without doubt one of the greatest and most influential producers there has ever been Here is a tiny selection from his phenomenal back catalogue. RIP Mr Lee.
It's the penultimate leg of our EU tour and we're off to sunny Spain. Y Viva Espana! We're taking the Costa Brava plane to El Quarantina etc.
I always enjoy visiting Spain and I have had many memorable nights there over the years, including one that indirectly led to me becoming buddies with Mama Coconut through these very pages. I would link you back to the story that prompted her to get in touch but after searching for it for nearly five whole minutes I gave up.
Instead, on with the show. There are many mountain loads of marvellous music from Spain. Here is a very tiny fraction of it.
One of the memorable nights I alluded to occurred about four years ago. My mate Rich and I were visiting bars in the Lavapies district of Madrid when we met the legendary El Rumbero de Vallecas. That's him on the left and Rich on the right.
Former professional singer and multiple winner of Spain's annual John Cooper Clarke lookalike competition, El Rumbero now performs in the bars of Lavapies accompanied by his son on guitar. And very entertaining they are to, as the first of today's videos demonstrates.
A couple of weeks back I rashly promised to bring you some Venezuelan freakbeat. The time has come to confess: I don't have any. There may not even be such a thing.
I am however able to treat you to some Venezuelan Afrobeat, courtesy of the Tragavenao Orquesta Afrobeat (the clue is in the name). Both tracks come from their self-titled 2014 album, currently available on Bandcamp on a very generous "pay what you want" basis.
The mighty Wailing Souls are back with an excellent new album. It's called "Back A Yard" and it is out now on VP Records. They first formed as The Renegades in 1966, and a mere 54 years later they still sound great, with two of the three original members (Winston Matthews and Lloyd McDonald) still in the line-up.
The first video features a track from "Back A Yard", as does the second - this is the original but they have remade it for the new album. Before we get there here are a couple of old favourites, including one of the finest Woody Woodpecker impressions you will ever hear.
Part 25 of 27. We are very nearly at the end of our grand tour of the EU, and the closing stretch is a corker. We finish with Spain and Sweden, but first we are off to visit Slovenia, an excellent country - as all the others have been.
I can heartily recommend Ljubljana, Lake Bled and Piran, jewel of the tiny Slovenian coast. On a practical level, Nova Gorica is not very scenic but you can walk from the station to Gorizia in Italy in half an hour. This is very handy if, like me, you get on the train from Ljubljana to Trieste only to discover it isn't going to Trieste after all.
Enough rambling. Time to Laibach and think of Slovenia.
News of Dave Kusworth's death broke on Saturday. Once described as "more Keef than Keef", he was proof that being a proper rock star was about attitude, not tawdry things like commercial success. He wasn't playing the part, he was the real thing.
We saw him once at Dingwalls about eight or nine years ago. He wasn't playing, but he turned up in full regalia - hat, scarf, velvet suit etc - and upstaged Chuck Prophet from the audience. It turned out the two were old buddies so Dave got invited up for the encores. He was looking well lubricated by that point and it was magnificent chaos. From memory he was still roaring away when the mikes got turned off.
If you are not familiar with his work I would recommend "The World of Dave Kusworth Volumes 1 and 2". It came out a couple of years ago and has highlights from his days in The Jacobites with Nikki Sudden and his various solo endeavors.
Every now and then even we surfers of the zeitgeist get a bit weary of relentlessly searching out the exotic and obscure. When that happens there is nothing better than relaxing with old friends to restore your spirits and make you feel ready to get back in the saddle (or whatever the surfing equivalent of a saddle is - I must remember to repair that analogy before posting).
That's what I've been doing this week. Monday it was Gordon Lightfoot, today its the late great Laura Nyro. We'll have maybe one more old pal on Friday before getting back to the usual mix of Venezuelan freakbeat and Kazakh country and western next week.
Part 24 of our tour of the EU, and the start of a run of 'S' countries that will take us all the way to the end. It's Slovakia. I have only ever been to Bratislava but I can assure you that it is a top town. You should go.
For those of you that are keen to explore further after listening to today's selection, the old Internet has a list of the 100 greatest Slovak albums of all time. It was compiled in 2007 so may be a little bit out of date by now, but it is a good place to start your browsing. The top three acts all feature today (although not with those albums).
Inexplicably missing from the Hot 100 is this masterpiece from 1979 which I picked up on my travels about ten years ago.
Officially described as a Slovak own brand version of Silver Convention, it somehow manages to transcend that unpromising proposition and become a work of pure artistry. I am pleased to restore it to its rightful place at the head of our cavalcade of Slovak sounds.
We bloggers are a needy bunch, forever checking for new comments or new viewers. I tend to check my view counter every hour on the hour day or two, and every time I do I find that I have had one visitor from Singapore that day.
I don't know whether it is the same person every time or whether the good citizens of Singapore are queuing up at an Internet cafe and taking it in turns to have a look. Whichever it is, I would like to thank them for their loyal support in the only way I know how.
We kick things off with two powerhouse Singaporean singers from the sixties, both backed by The Quests, the 'go to' band of the time. Then we have a hard-hitting piece from a band with a girl's name, and finish off with a man struggling with his cultural identity.
If you viewed this post in the first 30 minutes it was up you would have seen me enthusing about a video by The Quests, only to get a message that the owner had disabled it for use in other media when you tried to play it. Sorry about that. To make up for it, here is some more Sakura Teng - with lyrics so you can sing along.
There are a couple of new records that you should check out.
The first is "UPRIZE!" by South African jazz collective SPAZA (the capital letters are theirs not mine, but they are deserved). It is the soundtrack album to a documentary film of the same name about the 1976 Soweto uprising, sampling extracts from interviews and news coverage that are used in the film.
The film and album are of particularly interest to me because in 1976 I was a 13 year old living in the (white) suburbs of Johannesburg, and I remember the events very well. The uprising started when children of my age and above in Soweto protested against being taught in Afrikaans and it escalated from there.
My family had moved to South Africa a few years before and - while I had always thought that some of the day to day aspects of apartheid like having to sit on different benches in the park were a bit weird and petty - this was probably the first time that I started to understand the bigger picture.
The album isn't available until 18 October but the single, "Sizwile", came out last week. You can buy the single on all the usual platforms and pre-order the album on Bandcamp.
If "Sizwile" is hot off the press, our second record is really rather dated by comparison. When I got sent it back in July I was told it would be released on 11 September so I've been respectfully waiting until now to mention it. But when I looked on one of the online stores yesterday to check it was available for pre-order I discovered it was been all over the Internet since June. Which is good news because it means you can buy it immediately and not have to wait.
The album in question is "Big Heart Manners", the first album in eight years by LA Americana ensemble Atta Boy - and its a goodie. Here is the video for one of my favourite tracks, and the one with lyrics that give the album its title.
Earlier this week The Swede featured King Tubby's great "Straight To The Copycat Head". Back in the mid 1970s there was a bit of craze for songs called "Straight To [Insert Name Here] Head" in reggae circles. It started off as a simple beef between Prince Jazzbo and I Roy, then I Roy took a pop at Derrick Morgan and after that all hell broke loose.
Here are the ones I've got. I expect there are more.
In an attempt to persuade the summer to linger longer, for the last few days I have had my speakers pointed to the sky and blasting out "A Long Vacation" by Eiichi Ohtaki.
Eiichi himself started out in Happy End, who you might know, and most of his former bandmates got roped in to help out on the album, which came out in 1981.
"A Long Vacation" was one of the biggest selling albums in Japan in the 1980s. It regularly features near the top of lists of greatest Japanese albums of all time and audiophiles swoon over the production values. There is quite a strong Brian Wilson influence - maybe not so much on the tracks I've selected - and overall it has a nice summery feel.
Part 23 of our tour of Europe brings us to Romania. I had a few days in Bucharest once - part work, part sightseeing - and liked it very much. At one point I had plans to visit Timisoara with a side trip over the border to Belgrade but it never came off. I may try again next year when it is the official European City of Culture.
The bizarre highlight of the Bucharest trip was a breakfast meeting at my hotel with a local MEP who bore a striking resemblance to Pitbull (the rapper not the dog). He turned up on a pair of crutches, and most of the meeting was spent with me getting him refills from the breakfast buffet or him explaining in great detail the plot of a film that was the Romanian equivalent of "Green Card".
Enough of my rambling. Let's get on with the show.
I have been stocking up on random purchases in charity shops since the Great Reopening. The sheer relief at being able to do so has resulted in me showing even less taste and discrimination than usual. If there is a 'Three for £1' offer on, I'm having three whether I like them or not.
One CD acquired in such circumstances that has definitely exceeded my expectations is "Outer Bongolia" (2007) by a gentleman known as The Bongolian (possibly not his real name). Lots of bongos, as you would have guessed, and lots of Hammond organ too. It is really rather good.
It has been a fair while since we had any country music on here. We are putting that right today and doing it in style.
Nobody has caused more tears to be shed into beers than these three gents - listening to any one of them will dilute even the strongest ale until it is weaker than the weediest lager shandy - and they have shed a fair few themselves.
The lead singer Jose Cid went on to have successful solo career, the highlight of which was perhaps his 1978 rock opera "10,000 Anos Depois Entre Venus e Marte" (10,000 Years Later Between Venus and Mars).
Well it was either that or his appearance at Eurovision two years later.
Part 22 of the Grand Tour brings us to Portugal, and for the second time in the series we have recruited a local guide to show us the sights (and sounds).
Way back in Denmark our guide was Asthmatic Harp, who incidentally has a excellent new single called "Limbo" that you should be buying a.s.a.p. On this occasion it is a mysterious gentleman known only as Jorge. As far as I am aware no Jorge recordings are currently available for purchase.
Over to Jorge...
Ernie suggested I write a piece for his epic “The Long
Goodbye” series for the Portugal edition. Which was very nice of him. This is
written with absolutely no knowledge of his own article about Portugal. [Spoiler alert: There will be no article from me on Portugal. How on earth could I top this? There will be a short feature on a particular Portuguese act, but that's all. Ernie]
The very first Portuguese album I bought was from a small
cafe in Baixo Alentejo, it had a
small display of CDs behind the counter,
I had drunk a few beers, I had money to burn, so I pointed to the
one I wanted. It’s an example of pimba music, which is I think Portuguese
home-grown pop. It’s an acquired taste.
One of the most famous bands in Portugal are Xutos e Pontapés. They’ve been making
records since the late 1970s. Such is their fame here that when original band
member Zé Pedro died (in 2017), Prime Minister António Costa wrote a tribute;
and Metallica played a song in his honour when they played a concert in Lisbon
in 2018. This is one of their best known songs:
Even more famous here is Quim Barreiros, who has been releasing “pimba” albums of double
entendres/hidden meanings since the time of the Carnation Revolution.
EVERYONE has heard of him: my friend Miguel met him once,
and said that he’s a really nice bloke, he came over to Miguel’s table, had a
beer and a chat. Quim’s latest album is
“Será porca ou parafuso”, which translates as “Will it be nut or bolt”. I
suspect Sr. Barreiros is not really talking about items you can buy at B&Q
(unless they have radically amended their range since we left the UK). There’s
also an album that translates as “My bread fell out of the pot”, and I really
have no idea what that alludes to. And here’s Quim not singing about little goats.
This video has the lyrics, so you’ve got hours of fun working out what he’s
I’m a big fan of his cheery music.
The music of Portugal is not all fado or pimba (or that young man who won Eurovison a couple
of years ago), there really are some excellent bands here.
Muito obrigado, Ernie. [Tem sido um prazer, Jorge]
If any of you thought the title of the post implied we were starting a musical tour of the Caribbean - apologies, we are not. We haven't even finished the trip round the EU yet and I'm going to need to rest after that (but while on the subject, make sure you tune in on Friday for a very special treat).
The more musically astute among you will have worked out that where we actually wanna take yer is Kokomo. Oh Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty Mama (and other readers).
We are now three-quarters of the way through our Grand Tour of all EU countries and we find ourselves in Poland, the country responsible for over 80% of the world's usage of the letter Z.
I've been lucky enough to visit a number of times, taking in the delights of Sopot on the Baltic coast, Przemysl near the border with Ukraine and various places in between. All of them were thoroughly groovy, as are today's tunes.
Brian Hyland did some terrible things in his youth - "Itsy Witsy Tennie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" to name but one - and then spent the rest of his career trying to atone for them.
In 1970 he took Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman" to Number 3 in the US charts with a bit of help from Del Shannon, and then in 1977 he teamed up with Allen Toussaint for an album called "In A State Of Bayou". Very nice it is too, with a sort of Johnny Rivers feel (which is always a good thing as far as I am concerned).
Our Grand Tour brings us to The Netherlands, land of tulips, cheese, total football and flood controls, and many other delights too numerous to mention. I first visited more than 35 years ago and it is always a treat to go back. This post is dedicated to my friends Charlotte and Eveline and to the great Dennis Bergkamp.
I have a fair amount of Dutch music in my collection, including this little gem which I picked up on my first visit to Amsterdam.
In his day Rudi was the cocktail cabaret king of Old Amsterdam. The cover is better than the contents - the other side has a photo of the Great Man and a pencil drawing of the exceptionally ugly Apollo Hotel - but I've included a short extract as a treat for our Caledonian readers.
As for the rest of the selection, I could have spent days agonising over which artists to choose. But I'm off on holiday for a week tomorrow so instead I have picked five tracks more or less off the top of my head, all of them pretty groovy in their own way.
Longstanding readers may recall that I always feature the same video when I go off on my summer holidays, and as it happens its by a Dutch duo (it is almost as if this planned). We'll follow the ring-rang-a-dong with some ding-a-dong and then slowly descend into gibberish.