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Tuesday 26 July 2022

Holiday Time

Rail strikes and airport chaos permitting I'll be off on holiday tomorrow, getting back at the tail end of next week.

Well I say holiday, but actually I am leaving to escape the abuse I have been receiving from misguided individuals who think I am in some way affiliated with Liz Truss, ever since The Observer revealed on Sunday that she believes she surfs the zeitgeist. An implausible claim, as her failure to choose any Uzbek dub for Desert Island Discs shows.

Even before this happened I had learnt to keep my holiday plans under wraps to avoid being pestered by fans. Fans of other people mostly. At various points on my travels I have been wrongly accused of being Mr Bean, Christopher Biggins - its hard to imagine how anyone could look like both of them but there you go - the former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and a German celebrity who was unknown to me.

So rather than sharing some songs that might give you a clue as to my destination here is an entirely random (insert wink emoji) list of tunes about places I am not going to. 

If you are wondering about where some of these places are: I assume Unq Village is in Mongolia because that's where The Colors come from, but I can't be sure; Gauteng is a province in South Africa; and while you will know where Angola is you may not know that its praises are being sung by a band from Niger. 

"Baltimore" - The Tamlins

"Unq Village" - The Colors

"Loch Lomond" - The Rockets

"Gauteng" - Mpharanyana

"Angola" - Azna De L'Ader

"Rockaway Beach" - General Johnson & Joey Ramone

"Indian Ocean" - Frazey Ford

"Adelaide" - John Cale

Stay well, see you soon. Take it away lads...


Sunday 24 July 2022

Single Song Sunday

As so often seems to be the case these days, today's post was prompted by that Charity Chic. A while back he posted a couple of live tracks by Fairport Convention recorded at their annual Cropredy Fesrival, which got me reminiscing about the times I attended back in the 1990s. 

One moment that I will always treasure was at the 1995 festival when Fairport were joined on stage by Richard Thompson, Roy Wood and the brass section and backing vocalists from Roy's all-female Big Band to belt out "I Heard It Through The Grapevine".

I set off to find evidence of its existence and to my surprise discovered it was officially released on their 1997 album "Who Knows Where The Time Goes", which comprised new studio material plus this and a live version of the title track. I eventually managed to track down a copy of the album via eBay and, having done so, decided to celebrate with a Single Song Sunday.

All of which explains why we are kicking off with the Fairport version rather than Gladys Knight's original. Gladys took the song to No 2 in the Billboard Charts in 1967 and it became Motown's highest-selling single up to that point, a position it held for 12 months until knocked off its perch by Marvin Gaye's version during the course of its seven weeks at No 1.

You might want to take a deep breath before tackling the next two as they clock in at a combined total of over 23 minutes, Creedence's 11 minute extended choogle being outdone in length by The Bar-Kays who had evidently seen Isaac Hayes' success with "Walk On By" and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and thought "we'll have a bit of that".

The long songs are followed by Andre Williams' brief palate cleanser, notable for having no obvious signs of Andre on it, before we round things off with the magnificently ramshackle Slits and the Mandatory Reggae Version courtesy of Toots and the lads.

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Fairport Convention (featuring Richard Thompson and Roy Wood's Big Band)

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Gladys Knight & The Pips

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Marvin Gaye

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Creedence Clearwater Revival

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - The Bar-Kays

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Andre Williams

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - The Slits

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Toots & The Maytals

Today's videos go in the following order: sublime, sublimer, sublimest, ridiculous.

Friday 22 July 2022

Cheri On The Top

A bit of 90s Americana for you today courtesy of Cheri Knight and her album "The Northeast Kingdom". Released in 1998 it was her second and to date last album. Apparently she is a full-time flower farmer now (no, that isn't a euphemism).

The album was produced by The Twangtrust a.k.a. Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy. Steve was also in the band (that is him playing the harmonium on "Dar Glasgow") and they roped in a few of their mates like Emmylou Harris and Tammy Rogers to help out as well. 

All in all it is an excellent album and worth getting hold of if you can find a reasonably priced copy (which is not as easy as you might hope).

"Dar Glasgow" - Cheri Knight

"Sweetheart" - Cheri Knight

There is a track on the album called "Dead Man's Curve" - disappointingly not a twangy version of the Jan & Dean classic. I tried to find a decent quality video of Jan & Dean for you but there are only grainy muffled ones from 1980s reunion tours available on YouTube, so you are getting Nash The Slash instead.

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Mister Joe

For the last few weeks we've been going back to our roots and revisiting the Tsonga Disco scene. Today is the last instalment so it is fitting that it features the man known (although possibly just to me) as the Shangaan Svengali.

Joe's main contribution to the Tsonga scene has been as a producer. He discovered Penny Penny, who in Kris Kristofferson style was working as a janitor in his production studio, and later on Benny Mayengani (before Benny got too big for his boots). He has worked frequently with the likes of General Muzka, the Queen of Tsonga Disco Esta M, and many more. 

As well as being a producer Joe has made some great records in his own right over the last 30 years and is still going strong I'm glad to say. Here are just a couple of the many tracks I could have chosen.

"Se Nivuyile" - Joe Shirimani

"Zulu Nghwane" - Joe Shirimani Na Vana Va Ndoda

Monday 18 July 2022

Jones Alone 2

Welcome to the second and final part of our brief series of songs about people called Jones. Does something that only has two parts qualify as a series at all? I'm not sure.

Anyhoo. Casey has been knighted since last week's instalment. Clarissa and Geraldine are two very different women. Brian you know about. And before you ask about Kelly Willis - yes it is. 

"Sir Casey Jones" - The Eighteenth Day of May

"Clarissa Jones" - Tom Paxton

"Geraldine Jones" - Soul Encyclopedia

"Me And Mr Jones" - Kelly Willis

"Just Like Brian Jones" - 17 Pygmies

Friday 15 July 2022

Bring Back The Birch

Last Friday evening I was crammed into a tiny piano bar near Smithfield market with 50-60 others to witness the return to live action after the lockdowns of Diane Birch. 

Diane's debut album "Bible Belt" was a big favourite here in the Goggins household when it first came out way back in 2009, and I have done my best to follow her career since. This was the first time I have seen her live though. 

The first half of the set was just Diane on the piano playing some of her older material. As good as that was, the show went up a gear when she was joined by her guitarist Paul Stacey to treat us to a selection of songs from her upcoming album (which he also produced). For one reason or another the album has been upcoming for a few years now - most of the tracks were recorded pre-pandemic - but it is allegedly imminent.

I really like the new songs which have what I would describe - badly - as having a sort of Laura Nyro meets Stevie Nicks feel. Some of them like "Boys On Canvas" and "Wind Machine" have already been released in digital only form over the last couple of years and I would encourage you to check them out. 

Before that, though, here is one from "Bible Belt" and the title track of her 2013 album "Speak A Little Louder". And because I'm in a good mood you are also getting a track from 1981 that features on vocals my other favourite musical Birch, Gina (Raincoats et al). You lucky people.

"Fire Escape" - Diane Birch

"Speak A Little Louder" - Diane Birch

"An Old Man's Dream" - The Red Crayola with Art & Language

Here's Diane a few years back covering The Sisters of Mercy - as you do - followed by a video directed by Gina.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

General Knowledge

We've been having a bit of a trip down Tsonga Memory Lane lately. It has been prompted by the fact that the great Penny Penny will be playing a gig in London early next month - tickets still available at time of going to press.  

Today we feature a gentleman who started out in the early 1990s when he was one of many who were inspired by Papa Penny - General Muzka. Eventually he became a Shangaan star in his own right and even made an album with his hero, the excellent "The King And The General". 

The General is still going strong and has now released over 20 albums as well as producing and championing the next generation of Tsonga talent in South Africa and Mozambique. We salute him.  

"Xisiwana" - General Muzka

"Sekeleka Uni Masadya" - General Muzka

And remember, eggs are magic!

Monday 11 July 2022

Jones Alone

That Charity Chic fellow is the king of series. He always has one or two of them on the go. One can only admire the level of organisation and commitment required to do that. I certainly can't manage it.

Anyway last Monday CC called time on a series that has been running since before the dawn of time, or possibly earlier, one which featured musical Joneses. I have found I am suffering from Jones withdrawal symptoms, and I suspect others may be too. So I have decided to step into the breech.

There is a twist though. While CC's series featured songs by people called Jones, I am going to be featuring songs about people called Jones. There are an awful lot of them - I found over 20 in my collection without having to look particularly hard. A fair few have appeared on these pages previously.

The other difference is that, unlike CC, I'm not going to try to keep this up for any length of time. You are getting Part 1 today and Part 2 next Monday, but that's all.

"Casey Jones" - Grateful Dead

"Willie And Laura Mae Jones" - Tony Joe White

"Will Bill Jones" - J.P. Harris

"John Jones" - Rudy Mills

"George Jones, Jack Daniels And Me" - Webb Foley

PS Since posting this I have spotted that the Vinyl Villian has had a very similar thought today, so if you pop over there you can get an mp3 to go with one of these videos. 

Friday 8 July 2022

Two From The Bush

You young people will remember Bush Tetras from the New York funky-post-punk scene of the early 1980s and starring the likes of Cynthia Sley on vocals and Pat Place (widely rumoured to be the love child of Peyton Place and Pat Pending) on guitar. 

They are apparently still going on and off but we are heading back to their heyday with a couple of their best known tunes. Even if you are physically unable to be funky they will make you want to strut your funkless stuff.

"Too Many Creeps" - Bush Tetras

"Can't Be Funky" - Bush Tetras

Wednesday 6 July 2022

King Paul The First

So far in our Tsonga Disco revival run we've taken a fairly laissez faire approach to the royal lineage. We've covered Peta Teanet, Penny Penny and Benny Mayengani but there are a couple of Tsonga Disco kings who are missing. 

One is General Muzka, who slots in between Penny and Benny and who we will feature next week. The other is the man who arguably founded the line, Paul 'Sailor Man' Ndlovu. It is Paul's turn today.

Paul paid his dues in groups like The Street Kids and The Movers in the late 1970s and early 1980s but it was only when he went solo in 1985 and teamed up with producer Peter 'Hitman' Moticoe that he really hit it big. 

His debut single "Khombora Mina" ("My Disappointment") was a massive smash, and is generally regarded as the first time that traditional Tsonga and pop sounds were brought together on record.  

Sadly, like Peta Teanet after him, Paul's reign was glorious but brief. He died in a car crash in late 1986, barely 18 months after "Khombora Mina" was released. His legacy lives on though.

"Hita Famba Moyeni" - Paul Ndlovu

"Mokon'wana" - Paul Ndlovu

Slightly to my surprise I managed to find a video of Paul on YouTube. Apologies for the ropey quality. As a bonus we've bunged in another Paul N who sometimes hung out with sailor men.    

Monday 4 July 2022

From Addis And Akwa Ibom

Some funky African sounds to start the week. The two tracks are not connected other than by the fact I picked both of them up on Bandcamp last week.

We start with Asnake Gebreyes, who was big on the Ethiopian scene back in the 1980s. Hear a blast of "Weyene Ajir" from his 1988 album "Ahadu" and you will immediately understand why. "Ahadu" can be found on the Ethiopiques label Bandcamp page, while elsewhere on the site you can find a recent reissue of his "Ethiopia Wedet Neshe" album. 

Etuk Ubong is a Nigerian trumpeter and bandleader born in Akwa Ibom State but now based in Lagos. I first came across his name when looking at the line-up for the Sines World Music Festival, which is taking place down the road from George at the end of the month. You can check him out here. Some of his stuff is a bit jazzy for my tastes, but this track from 2018 is a corker. 

"Weyene Ajir" - Asnake Gebreyes

"Black Debtors" - Etuk Ubong

Friday 1 July 2022

Reminiscing With Mr Rowan

My first duty today is to tip you off about Peter Rowan's latest album "Calling You From My Mountain" which came out last week. The Great Man is in fine form and you certainly would not think listening to it that he's going to turn 80 next Monday. You can pick it up from his Bandcamp site and all outlets with taste. 

Mr Rowan has had a remarkable career dating back to the 1960s when he was one of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, through his psychedelic and West Coast pothead phases (his "Free Mexican Airforce" was considered a standard in my student days), turning up on an Art of Noise album in the 1980s and then wending his way back to bluegrass. 

I have been lucky enough to see him live a few times over the years, the first and most memorable occasion being at the Cambridge Folk Festival way back in 1983. There was quite a stellar line-up that year (which was also the year that me and Johnny "Conical" Field made the misguided decision to do a turn in the Singers' Tent, about which the less said the better).

Here are just a few of the many artists who were at Cambridge in 1983, plus a video of Mr Rowan performing the title song from the new album. I hope you enjoy the trip down Memory Lane as much as I did.

"Midnite Moonlite" - Peter Rowan

"Midnight Rail" - Steve Young

"Jaya Shiva Shankarah" - John Fahey

"Viva Seguin" - Flaco Jimenez

"Le Bas 2 Step" - Queen Ida & Her Zydeco Band