It has been a fair while since we have had some soul music on here, so we are putting that right by featuring one Bette Williams. There seems to be virtually no information about Bette on the internet apart from the claim that she hailed from Baltimore - even the all-knowing soul guru Sir Shambling seems stumped.
She was a protege of Swamp Dogg who in 1971 wrote and produced her only album - "He Took My Hand" - and a few singles, after which Bette seems to have pretty much disappeared. The album has been reissued but you might find it easier to track down the Ace label compilation "Swamp Dogg's Southern Soul Girls" which includes most of the tracks and some fine stuff by Sandra Phillips.
I rounded off a month of quality gigs last night with a show I have been eagerly looking forward since January.
January 2020 that is. That was when I booked our tickets to see The Abyssinians at the Jazz Cafe in London's swinging Camden. Three years and five postponements later - three lockdowns, one visa problems and one COVID outbreak in the tour party - they finally made it.
Unfortunately one of the founding members, Bernard Collins, is not well at the moment and is not able to travel. It did not detract from a great performance though. Main man Donald Manning - writer of many of their best known songs including "Satta Massa Gana" - was very ably supported by George Henry and Everton Pessoa.
We had a great night, I am sure you would have too. The video has an hour of the same line-up recorded live last year, so sit back and pretend you were there.
Some vintage garage sounds from Brazil to kick off the week. Both can be found on the four volume "Brazilian Nuggets: Back From The Jungle" series (Volumes 1 and 3 respectively) compiled by the excellent Groovie Records of Lisbon. You can find all four volumes on their Bandcamp page along with a lot of other interesting looking things.
I could not find any videos of Brazilian garage bands on YouTube, but Eartha Kitt introducing Sergio Mendes more than makes up for that. Look out for the giant earrings and the cool dude with the shaker.
I've been to three gigs over the last couple of weeks, one of them good, the other two excellent. There's one more still to come before the end of the month but we'll deal with that one separately.
The run started at the church down the end of my road where we were treated to a set by self-styled 'guitar convincer' Gwenifer Raymond.
Gwenifer convinced her guitar to make some great noises and I would happily see her again, but to be honest the support act will probably live longer in the memory - a stylishly dressed trans accordionist who used the instrument to make a slow droning sound while intoning the lyrics to "Boys Boys Boys" by Sabrina over the top of it.
Next up was the great Lonnie Holley at Cafe Oto in Dalston. I've seen him before - coincidentally at the church down the end of my road - when it was just him on his own. This time round he was backed by drums and trombone duo Nelson Patton and they helped lift it up to a whole new level.
Lonnie has a new album out, "Oh Me Oh My", but he didn't play anything from that. Instead we got a semi-improvised set, which is how he tends to do things - evidently he decides on the broad themes he wants to sing about, agrees with Nelson Patton which rhythm or tune they will use as a starting point and then off they go.
The result was really rather magical. He is a very compelling performer and the experience was like listening to a gospel preacher (but one that sings about spaceships).
Last, but definitely not least, was the magnificent Gina Birch at Oslo in Hackney. She is touring her new album - the first under her own name - "I Play My Bass Loud", with the admirable assistance of Jenny Green and Marie Marlei (aka The Unreasonables).
The album is fantastic and will definitely be somewhere in my 'best of' list come the end of the year, but many of the songs sounded even better live. The energy and conviction with which Gina and the band played them was transforming. Particular highlights included the title track, "Digging Down" and instant garage band standard "Wish I Was You".
You should go and see all of these folks if they come your way and you should buy the new albums too. We'll round things off with something from their respective back catalogues - in Gina's case from her old band - and the original of the distinctive cover version I mentioned earlier.
I recently picked up a compilation of the Nationalteatern, leading lights of the Swedish progg music scene in the 1970s.
That's not a typo, the extra G is there for a reason. Progg was short for 'progressiv musik', an anti-commercial musical movement promoting alternative lifestyles and what might be broadly described as left-wing views. Some progg bands were also prog bands, but not all of them.
The progg scene was closely associated with similar movements in art and theatre, which is where Nationalteatern fit in. They started off as a travelling theatre company that incorporated music into their shows but gradually mutated into a band.
Nationalteatern haven't made any new records since the early 1980s but apparently still get together to tour every now and then. The live clip is from 1991.
I know a number of our regular readers are big fans of North African guitar sounds. So this is to alert them to the impending release of an excellent compilation of the one of the pioneers of the scene, Les Abranis.
Les Abranis were formed in Paris in 1967 by two exiled Algerian Berbers who hatched a plan to fuse their traditional rhythms and melodies with garage rock and psychedelia - a plan that worked out brilliantly.
The compilation is called "Amazigh Freedom Rock 1973-1983", it comes out on the Bongo Joe label at the end of April and is available for pre-order on Bandcamp now. I suggest you get over there pronto.
We are heading back to Cambodia today, more specifically to Mondulkiri Province, home of the indigenous Bunong people.
In 2017 Les Cartes Postales Sonores, a label that specialises in field recordings of indigenous music, issued a compilation titled "Bunong Pop Songs". It is available on Bandcamp on a "name your price" basis.
Like many field recordings, none of the performers are identified. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is great that their music is being brought to a wider audience. On the other, not crediting any of the artists by name has a whiff of exploitation about it. Let's hope they were at least paid.
The album is dedicated to Lok Ta, evidently one of the leading lights of the Bunong music scene who died in 2016. It is not mentioned whether Lok Ta features on the album but the musicians provide a fine tribute, as these snappily titled tracks show:
Today we feature a magnificent seven reggae artists who chose to name themselves after screen cowboys. "Why?", I hear you ask. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
You have to concede that their respective nom de plumes sound much more impressive than Norval Headley, Anthony Waldron, Devon Perkins, Gregory Williams, Joseph Sterling and the brothers Robert and Wade Brammer, to give them their real names.
While I was in Cape Town recently I picked up a CD reissue of the first two albums by local lads Falling Mirror - "Zen Boulders" (1979) and "The Storming Of The Loft" (1980).
Falling Mirror were two cousins, Allan Faull and Neilen Marais (a.k.a. Neilen Mirror), aided and abetted by South African Svengali producer Tully McCully and the occasional hired hand. Their series of albums in the first half of the 1980s stood out as being more interesting than most of the local scene at the time.
We have a track apiece from both albums for you together with their biggest (and I think only) hit - the title track from their 1986 concept album about a man hooked on prescription drugs who has an unhealthy obsession with the counter assistant at his local pharmacy. Based on a true story apparently (and alarmingly).
Regular readers may recall that last year we ran a short series of posts featuring the stars of the golden age of Cambodian pop, an age brought to a shuddering and tragic halt by the Khmer Rouge.
Inspired by listening to the likes of Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea, one of my late Christmas presents to myself was a copy of "Away From Beloved Lover" by Dee Peyok.
In the book she tracks down some of the survivors of the golden age and tells their stories. In the course of doing so she also provides a history of Cambodian music and insights into what life was like under the Khmer Rouge regime. It was a fascinating read and I would heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in Cambodian music or the country's recent history.
Having bought the book because I enjoyed vintage Cambodian music, after reading it I thought the next obvious step should be to listen to some newer stuff. A bit of searching on Bandcamp uncovered some very good records. Top of the pile was "Cambodian Women Of Song - The Demos".
The album is credited to Julien Poulson and Professor Kinski. The Prof is a German producer based in Phnom Penh while Julien P was a founder member of the late lamented Cambodian Space Project, who knocked the likes of Dengue Fever into a cocked hat.
While they may be the brains behind the project, the real stars of the show are the three featured vocalists - Nang Yeye, Tep Modyka and Sochi (the last of whom co-wrote all the songs with Julien P). Here are two tunes that feature all three of them, but I could have chosen almost any track on the album. Every one's a winner.
I was sad to hear that we lost David Lindley last Friday at the tender age of 78.
Having started out in Kaleidoscope (the American one) in the 1960s he quickly established a reputation as a sideman and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire, working with the likes of Bob, Bruce, Dolly, Rod the Mod and many people who need surnames, most frequently Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Warren Zevon.
He also made a series of tasty little albums in his own right in the 1980s fronting his band El Rayo-X. Here are a couple of album tracks followed by a 90 minute live concert from 1982. Sit back and enjoy.
Four songs linked in three pairs today - two Molinas, two hippies and two poppies (Les Fleurs De Pavot means "the poppy flowers" in French as I am sure you know).
CCR will need no introduction, the others may. Les Fleurs were a short-lived French garage band from the late 1960s. Nicolás Molina hails from Castillos in Uruguay. This track is from his 2019 album "Querencia" and clocks in at over nine minutes for you long song fans.
"Querencia" is available on a 'name your own price' deal from Bandcamp. Also available on Bandcamp is Kalbells' 2021 album "Max Heart", one of my favourite albums of that year and much plugged here at the time.
I returned from my fortnight's holiday in South Africa a couple of days ago clutching a small number of local CDs which I will share with you over the days and weeks to come.
We will start with a couple of tracks from "Bubblegum Celebration", a compilation released 20 years ago celebrating the local pop music of 30-40 years ago. It includes tracks by Tsonga stalwarts Peta Teanet and Paul Ndlovu and big stars of the time like Yvonne Chaka Chaka, as well as a few lesser known gems like today's selections.
If you like the Kamazu track you might want to check out a compilation of his work that bears its name, released by the Afrosynth label a few years ago and available on their Bandcamp site.