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Wednesday 30 December 2020

So What Happened There Then?

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.

Monday 28 December 2020

Blooming Marvellous

 A selection of unseasonal blossoms for you today.

"Good Good Lovin'" - The Blossoms

"I Will Bring You This And That" - Blossom Toes

"I Wish You Love" - Blossom Dearie

"I Will Bring You This And That" might have made a suitable theme tune for this blog if it wasn't already named after another bit of psychedelic nonsense.

Friday 25 December 2020

Ho Bloody Ho Ho

2020 has been a pretty crap year all round, and now many of us are unable to have the Christmas we would have wanted. 

But there is an upside. This may be the only Christmas when it is socially acceptable to be grumpy all the time. So make the most of it.

Feliz Navidad, you miserable sods. 

"An Awful Christmas And A Lousy New Year" - Swamp Dogg

"Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas" - The Staple Singers

"Christmas In Prison" - John Prine

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Trust The Scientist

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.

"Goodtime" - Scientist

"Rush Dem Dub" - Scientist

And if you want someone to croon delightfully over that rhythm, try this fellow.

"Sweetie Come Brush Me" - John Holt

Monday 21 December 2020

His Name Is Luka

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.

"Kini i Djibuibo Alla La Kan" - Luka Productions

"Furu Boyan" - Luka Productions

"Sitanba" - Luka Productions

Friday 18 December 2020

Bringing Tsonga Disco To The Masses

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)

"Na Twanana" - Thomas Chauke & Shinyori Sisters

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Pining For Piney

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.

"Oh Lies" - Piney Gir

"I'm Better Off Without A Piece Of A Shell Of A Man" - Piney Gir

Monday 14 December 2020

Mellow Monday

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.

"The Magic" - Nico Yaryan

"Just Tell Me" - Nico Yaryan 

Saturday 12 December 2020

Surprisingly Light On Their Feet

The music industry has always had its fair share of Big Men. Here are just a few of them.

"Pack Fair And Square" - Big Walter

"Down On The Farm" - Big Al Downing

"Rocking Round Town" - Big Joe

"I'm Getting It From Her" - Big John Hamilton

"There's A Tear In My Beer" - Big Bill Lister

But who's the biggest of them all, you ask. Why, Big Tom of course.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

A Pogo in the Polders

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.   

"Van Agt Casanova" - Paul Tornado

"Zwart Leer" - Tedje & De Flikkers

"Requiem for Martin Heidegger" - Panic

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".

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Time For The Techniques

Here are some groovy tunes by Jay & The Techniques. That's really all I have to say on the matter.

"Dancin' Mood" - Jay & The Techniques

"Strawberry Shortcake" - Jay & The Techniques

Sunday 6 December 2020

Single Song Sunday

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.  

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - Junior Walker & The All Stars

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - The Electrifying Cashmeres

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - The 5th Dimension

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - Motherlode 

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - Garland Jeffreys 

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - Tony Joe White

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - Alton Ellis 

"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - Betania Lopez

We've saved the best till last.

Friday 4 December 2020

More Bastards

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.

"Into The Blue" - Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

"Well Worn Heart" - Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash may or may not have had bastard sons. He certainly had a bastard of a father though.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

A Blast of Bessie

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.

"Try To Leave Me If You Can (I Bet You Can't Do It)" - Bessie Banks

"(Don't You Worry Baby) The Best Is Yet To Come" - Bessie Banks

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.