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Friday 30 June 2023

Inna Style N Bristol Fashion

We had reggae last Friday, we've got reggae this Friday. It was done to create the illusion that some basic planning goes on here. It doesn't.

Last week's reggae came all the way from Mandeville, Jamaica, home of Jacob Miller. This week's reggae comes from closer to home, especially for leading Bristolian blogger Khayem of Dubhed fame. So I am going to dedicate today's post to him.

About ten years ago the excellent Bristol Archive Records released three volumes of their 'Bristol Reggae Explosion' compilations, celebrating the vibrant local scene of the late 1970s and 1980s. You can find them all on their Bandcamp site along with many other goodies.

There are lots of cracking tracks to choose from, but the 12" version of Talisman's magnificent 1981 single "Dole Age" really picks itself. Talisman were probably the best known of the Bristol reggae bands of that era and I vaguely recall seeing them back in the early 1980s when they were stalwarts of the college circuit (although my mind may be playing tricks on me).

I have definitely seen Joshua (Jahshwa) Moses perform live, ten years ago at the Bristol Harbour Festival. Much to my surprise I found a clip of that show on YouTube (look down a little and there it is). "Stick It Up" was recorded in 1983 but for whatever reason was not released at the time. Mr Moses sadly left us a few years back.

I had neither seen nor even heard of Restriction prior to buying Volume 1 of the series but their 1984 EP "Action" (from which this track is taken) has become a firm favourite since. One of their members went on to be Smith in Smith & Mighty. So now you know.

"Dole Age (12" Mix)" - Talisman

"Stick It Up" - Joshua Moses

"Four Point Plan" - Restriction

I have already explained the first video. The second one is in many ways inexplicable, but there is a Bristol link.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Mekon Music And Art

Over the last year or so I've been to a few exhibitions featuring art by musicians including the likes of Gina Birch and Luke Haines. To that list I've now added Jon Langford, with the bonus of a live performance by the Great Man himself. 

Last Friday me and my old mate Steve made our way to Artdog, a tiny gallery in South London's very own Forest Hill for what turned out to be a most enjoyable evening. For £15 a head we savoured Mr Langford's art, a couple of excellent sets from him and the Mekons' violin player Susie Honeyman, and several free cans of beer from the ice-bucket out the back.

It was a small but select gathering. I doubt there were more than 30 of us there including the talent and the gallery owners, all very friendly (including Mr L who Steve and I had a good natter with and who regaled us with many an entertaining yarn). Other guests included Tim and Katie Tuten, owners of the famed Hideout Bar in Chicago, who just happened to be town.

Here are a photo apiece of the art and music - there are more of both over at Flickr if you are interested - plus a couple of the songs that we were treated to last Friday.

"Drone Operator" - Jon Langford & Skull Orchard

"Thee Olde Trip To Jerusalem" - Chivalrous Amoekons

Monday 26 June 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 7 - Cabo Verde

We are at Stop 7 on our Grand Tour and we have arrived at the first of the six island nations in Africa, Cabo Verde. 

As I'm sure you know, Cabo Verde is a group of ten islands situated in the Atlantic between 300 and 450 miles due west from Senegal. I was lucky enough to visit five of the islands when I had a holiday there in 1995. Some of them are as flat as the proverbial brinhola with great beaches, while others are volcanic with some pretty wild scenery, as my photos from Santo Antão show.

In those days the only way to get to Santo Antão was by ferry from Mindelo, the main town on the island of São Vicente and birthplace of Cabo Verde's best known musical export, the late Cesária Évora. We can't really do Cabo Verde without Cesária. On today's selection she teams up with Ismaël Lô from over the water in Senegal.

During the course of this series we will be featuring the catalogues of a number of labels that are doing a great job of reissuing African music of varying vintages - the likes of Sahel Sounds and Habibi Funk for North Africa, Analog Africa for West Africa and my old friend Awesome Tapes From Africa for a bit of everything.

To that list you can add the Ostinato label, who have proved invaluable in compiling this post as they have put out three albums of music from Cabo Verde, all of which are worth getting hold of. We have drawn on two today (the Grupo Pilon compilation narrowly missed out). 

First up is Jovino Dos Santos from "Synthesise The Soul", which features local musicians in the 1980s getting to grips with these new-fangled instruments that members of the Cabo-Verdiano diaspora had started bringing to the islands. 

Then we have Etalvino Preta, who you can find on "Pour Me A Grog", a compilation of 1990s funaná - a musical style described in the blurb as "a trans-Atlantic sibling to Colombian cumbia" - and a must have for all you accordion fans. 

Moving us vigorously into the 21st century we have Netos De Cabral. A female trio, their name means "Grandchildren of Cabral". My guess is Cabral refers to Amilcar Cabral, who lead the nationalist movement for independence from Portugal in Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau until his assassination in 1973, and not the Portuguese word for goat. Despite that we will still dedicate the track to our favourite Portuguese goat herder, George.

I have not been able to find out much about Netos De Cabral but I can tell you that today's track comes from a 2008 album called "Midnight" on which they have taken the 1990s funaná sound and turned it up a notch.

We round things off with some Mandatory Africa Reggae courtesy of one Ras Jahknow. Mr Jahknow is originally from Cabo Verde but now appears to be based in Australia, or at least he was in 2014 when he released his album "Jah Sta Li", the title track of which we share with you today.

"Africa Nossa" - Cesária Evora (featuring Ismaël Lô)

"Bo Ta Cool" - Jovino Dos Santos

"Mulato Ferrera" - Etalvino Preta

"Casa Ku Mi" -  Netos De Cabral

"Jah Sta Li" - Ras Jahknow

Friday 23 June 2023

The Mighty Mr Miller

Some old school reggae to see you into the weekend courtesy of the late great Jacob Miller. Back in the 1970s he was one of the biggest stars in Jamaica thanks to his parallel careers as a solo artist and as lead singer with Inner Circle. 

Inner Circle were preparing to support Bob Marley on a US tour in 1980 when Jacob died in a car crash aged only 27. He was already something special - who knows what he could have gone on to achieve.

Here are three stone cold classics he released in his own name. There are many more where they came from.

"Standing Firm" - Jacob Miller

"Tenement Yard" - Jacob Miller

"I've Got The Handle" - Jacob Miller

Jacob's Uncle Alfred emigrated to the UK when Jacob was just a lad. He had a musical son of his own - this fellow.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Far Out Furgone

It has been a fair while since we featured our old favourite Furgone di Piufiglio. For newer readers who may not be familiar with Furgone, he is sometimes called the 'Italian Van Morrison'. Admittedly there are some similarities but also some important differences, not the least of which is that Furgone's people don't pursue you vigorously when you feature his music on your blog. 

With today being the Summer Solstice for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere I thought this would be the perfect time to treat you all to Furgone's magnificent 15 minute mood-piece about the summertime in Italy. You can find it - and the second track - on his unjustly neglected 1980 album "Quello Comune".

"Estate In Italia" - Furgone di Piufiglio

"Miele Selvatico" - Furgone di Piufiglio

As great as the "Quello Comune" album is, it is not really chart fodder. So what was big in Italy in the summer of 1980? Two songs dominated the charts, each of which clocked up six weeks at Number One between mid-June and late September. Here they are. Rol may wish to add the second one to his Luna list.

Monday 19 June 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 6 - Burundi

Welcome to Burundi everyone! This is the sixth stop on our grand tour and the first one where it has been a bit of a struggle to meet my target of featuring five artists per country. I have no doubt that there is a lot more great music from Burundi but it has proved hard to track down. Despite that I think we have put together a decent selection for you.

We start with the Royal Drummers of Burundi, who have been royally ripped off over the years. This article has the full sorry tale but as a result of a musician called Mike Steiphenson copyrighting his mix of an old field recording the Drummers got no financial benefit from that or any subsequent rip-offs such as those perpetuated by Malcolm McLaren. Colonialism in action, folks.

For an ensemble that has been so influential, albeit unwittingly, it is surprisingly hard to find any recordings by the Drummers (who dropped the 'Royal' at some point, possibly when Burundi abolished its monarchy in 1966). The best of those I have found is this live recording from their appearance at WOMAD in 1982. 

The Drummers apart, Burundi's most successful musical export may be Khadja Nin. I'm afraid I find what I have heard of her music to be rather too bland for my tastes - she has performed with Sting for goodness sake! - so I have relegated her to the video section. Fun fact for aging motorsports fans - she is married to Jackie Ickx. 

So if Ms Nin isn't in, who is? Well, various artists whom I've not been able to find out very much about. Judging by the number of YouTube videos alone Emelance Emy and Cedric Bangy appear to be leading lights of the current Burundi music scene - Ms Emy released a greatest hits album earlier this year from which this track comes - but I can't find any bios online. 

The Jean Christophe Matata track comes from a 2007 compilation called "The Great East African Trip" (available on Bandcamp). There are only two tracks from Burundi, of which this is the pick. Mr Matata was born and raised in Burundi but his musical career only really took off after he moved to neighboring Rwanda in his mid 20s. It is claimed that he had recorded over 200 singles before sadly leaving us in 2011. 

I also discovered Moutcho on Bandcamp, in the more unlikely setting of "Global Domination Vol 1", a free compilation of 129 mainly death metal tracks (I hesitate to use the word 'tunes') from around the world. The many highlights include "A Hooker Has Been Slaughtered" by Infection from Peru. 

I have no idea what Moutcho are doing in such company as they don't sound metal at all to me. According to their online blurb "the band is working on the concept of 'Rundi Bop' a mix of Jazz, Hard Rock and Rundi Rhythms". Presumably the largely inaudible hard rock element must be why they are there.

"Kama K'iwacu" - The Drummers of Burundi

"Humura" - Emelance Emy

"Sabasazi" - Cedric Bangy

"Deburuyevu" - Jean Christophe Matata

"Haramahoro" - Moutcho

For those of you wondering about the absence of any Mandatory African Reggae, it is in the video section. Step forward, Lion Story, speaking out in favour of a cause that unites reggae musicians the world over.

Friday 16 June 2023

These Other Ernies

This may come as a surprise to some of you but I am by no means the first or only Ernie to be a ground-breaker and taste-maker in the world of popular music. There are many who have toiled and some who have flourished, and I am going to pay tribute to one of the latter today.

Ernie Shelby released a handful of singles in his own right the 60s and 70s but made his living as a songwriter. Over the years his songs have been covered by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Little Richard, Rod Stewart, Three Dog Night, Bettye Lavette and many many more.  

Creatively one of his best periods was in 1972 when some bright spark had the brilliant idea of bringing him down to Muscle Shoals and teaming him up with the great Prince Phillip Mitchell. One of their co-writes was "Carry Me", originally released as a single by Ernie himself but later a big hit in the R&B charts for Joe Simon. With all due respect to Ernie I've opted for Joe's version.

Another Shelby/ Mitchell co-write was "I May Not Be What You Want". This one was recorded by Prince Phillip but never saw the light of day until 2005 when it appeared on a magnificent compilation of his Muscle Shoals recordings called "Pick Hit Of The Week". It is a must have album for any soul fans in my opinion.

The Three Dog Night cover mentioned above was a song called "Nobody", their debut single in 1968. Their version is fine but not a patch on the one from the decidedly weird combination of Larry Williams (of "Bony Moronie" fame), Johnny 'Guitar' Watson and the psychedelic folk outfit Kaleidoscope (the American one). 

"Carry Me" - Joe Simon

"I May Not Be What You Want" - Prince Phillip Mitchell

"Nobody" - Larry Williams & Johnny 'Guitar' Watson (with Kaleidoscope)

Try as I might I could not find any decent clips of people performing Mr Shelby's songs on YouTube, so so are getting one from another musical titan called Ernie instead. 

Wednesday 14 June 2023

The Coolest Cowpoke In Town

Before getting to the business of the day, a quick question for fellow bloggers. Have any of you started getting 400-500 visits a day from bots in Singapore? They arrived at my place over the weekend and so far show no sign of moving on. They don't seem to be doing any harm apart from messing up my visitor stats, but I would be interested to know if its just me they are bothering.

Anyway, on with the show.

After all these frenetic African sounds I've been treating you to I reckon its time for a change of pace. And if you need someone to inject a bit of smoothness into proceedings, who better than the King of Cool himself, Mr Dean Martin. So here are three of his countrypolitan recordings from the 1960s.

You will probably be familiar with his 1967 hit "Little Ole Wine Drinker Me" which in my humble opinion is one of the greatest records ever made, a view I know is shared by supporters of the Bankies. It may not be shared by my friends who have had to endure me belting it out and banging the table vigorously many times over the years.

Dean's take on Merle's "I Take A Lot Of Pride In What I Am" was released as a single in 1969, and we round things off with a Sheb Woolley tune that can be found on the second of the two country albums that Dean released in 1963, "Dean 'Tex' Martin Rides Again".

"Little Ole Wine Drinker Me" - Dean Martin

"I Take A Lot Of Pride In What I Am" - Dean Martin

"The Middle Of The Night Is My Cryin' Time" - Dean Martin

If any of you are wondering how these tunes fit with the cornucopia of zeitgeist-defining sounds that you normally find here, remember: there is no cornucopia without corn.

Monday 12 June 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 5 - Burkina Faso

Stop 5 of 55 today. But first, a big thank you to David Graham, who got in touch after my appeal for help last week and has tipped me off to a veritable treasure trove of groovy sounds. He's a man with his finger on the pulse.

Now is also a good time to pay tribute to the mighty Moos at Global Groove, the go to place for vintage African albums. A fair few of the records in my collection were first found there.

Thanks yous done, its on with the tour, and we've arrived in Burkina Faso. 

It's hard not to think kindly of a country whose capital city rejoices in the name Ouagadougou. There is no evidence that the residents push pineapples or shake the trees, but some may grind coffee (Burkina Faso is the 55th largest coffee producing country). What you can be sure of is that they jump up and down and bend their knees when grooving to the sounds of the late great Georges Ouédraogo. It is impossible not to. 

Georges is widely considered one of the founding fathers of modern Burkinabe music. From some reason he didn't make the cut for Analog Africa's otherwise excellent compilation "Bambara Mystic Soul - The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso 1974 - 1979", available on Bandcamp for €10 in digital format. The Issouf Compaoré track is just one of the many stand-outs on the album. 

The Bambara are an ethnic group found predominantly in Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea. One of their number, Serge Bambara, is better known as Smockey, a hip hop artist and political activist (he was a co-founder of the grassroots movement called Le Balai Citoyen which helped to bring down President Blaise Compaoré  in  2014). As you can tell by the song title, Smockey does not suffer fools gladly.

By contrast, Amity Meria's very name suggests friendship and harmony (or the house on the hill depending on your disposition). She was big in the 1990s and early 2000s and judging by the scant information I can find about her was still making music at least up to 2016. Let's hope she is still going strong.

I am not sure whether the final track can strictly be classified as MAR (Mandatory African Reggae) but certainly MAR-adjacent. Pierre Sandwidi was known as "the troubadour from the bush", and this track comes from his 1990s album "Vol. 3", reissued by my old pal Awesome Tapes From Africa. You can also find an example of his earlier work on the "Bambara Mystic Soul" compilation.

"Gnou Zemes" - Georges Ouédraogo

"Dambakale" - Issouf Compaoré

"L'imbécilité Humaine" - Smockey

"Biye Biye" - Amity Meria

"Boanga President" - Pierre Sandwidi

All of today's videos (and many more) can be found on the excellent Tackborse YouTube channel, decidated solely to the music of Burkina Faso. The first video has rapidly become a favourite round here. 

Friday 9 June 2023

Post Of The Year

The year is 2023. You probably knew that already. What you couldn't be expected to know is that according to Blogger this is my 2023rd post.

This alignment of year and post will never happen again (at least not unless I reduce my output to one post a year, which some of you may welcome). So I thought I should mark the occasion in some way. 

La Femme released their track in 2013,yet somehow they knew this was going to happen. Even more impressive are I Romans, who as far back as 1970 were able to predict the exact month. Spooky!

"This Year, This Year" - Curtis Mayfield

"This Will Be Our Year" - The Zombies

"6/2023" - I Romans

We have saved the best till last with two superb versions of "Time Has Come Today". I found it hard to choose between them, then realised I didn't need to.

Wednesday 7 June 2023

SBT Beside The Seaside

Way back in 2011 my album of the year was Sarabeth Tucek's "Get Well Soon". Great things were predicted for her at the time, but then she promptly disappeared from view.

Until now. She's back and going by the name SBT. Her new double album "Joan Of All" came out last month. And the predictions have belatedly proved to be accurate - its a cracking good record.

SBT has just finished a UK tour and last Friday played Ramsgate. My friend Mr F and I decided to make a weekend of it, going down for the gig and staying on for a couple of days of seaside fun and frolics. 

An excellent gig it was too. SBT had brought Luther Russell over with her, who produced and played many of the instruments on the album, and they were very ably supported by Rhii Williams (drums), Charlie Fitzgerald (bass) and Ryan Rogers (keys).  

They played the whole album in the same order as on the record which worked well. SBT and Luther have obviously put a lot of thought into the sequencing.

The immediate stand-out track is "13th St. #1" which has very 'Lou Reed in the Velvets' vibes, but having now listened to the record as well I can tell the list of favourites will get a lot longer.

Here are a pair of oldies but goodies for you, one each from Sarabeth's self-titled debut (2007) and "Get Well Soon". As for the videos, the first was recorded at the gig (not by me) and features the aforementioned "13th St #1" and the second is the official video for lead off single "The Gift".

"Something For You" - Sarabeth Tucek

"At The Bar" - Sarabeth Tucek

Monday 5 June 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt. 4 - Botswana

Before we resume our African odyssey, a quick call for help. Looking ahead at the rest of the B and C countries, there are a few for which I don't have much music to feature in the post. So if any of you can suggest some artists from Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad or the Comoros (especially the last two) that would be much appreciated. 

Now back to the tour. Stop 4 is Botswana, home to the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta. So depending on when and where you go you will either be very dry or very damp.

Culture Spears burst onto the scene in 2005 with their debut album "Korone", and the follow up "Kulenyane" broke local sales records and won many awards. Despite suffering many of the travails that afflict successful groups (deaths, departures and divorces) they are still going strong. Today's selection was released in 2019.

The divorce I referred to involved lead singers Kabelo Mogwe (whose rich voice you hear on "Didimala Moratiwa") and Magdeline Lesolobe. Ms Lesolobe now goes by the name Charma Gal and has a very successful solo career. "Mahala" was a big smash in 2021.

Next we travel way back to the 1980s, when Culture Spears were barely even needles. Back then the Kgwanyape Band bestrode the Botswana music scene like a colossus. The band comprised the Senyatso brothers and a passing Scotsman who is credited with "bringing a particularly Celtic resonance" to their sound. Close your eyes and you wouldn't know if you are in Francistown or Falkirk.

"Sheleng" is from their 1993 album "Mephato Ya Maloba", available on Bandcamp for just $5. Its a good album but the sound quality is a bit ropey, as you will notice. 

One of the reasons I am doing this series is because it prompts me to learn more about the indigenous music of different parts of Africa. And what could be more indigenous to Botswana than death metal? Evidently there is a thriving scene there led by Overthrust, recent recipients of the prestigious  Gaborone's Greatest Grunters award. You can find their work on Bandcamp if you really want to.

Last but not least we have some MAR from MAR - that is to say, some Mandatory African Reggae from Maya Asiyah Roze. Her eruditely titled album "M.A.R.S The Warrior" can also be found on Bandcamp for $5. This is much more my sort of thing, although fans of Overthrust may prefer an alternative "Mars The Warrior". 

"Didimala Moratiwa" - Culture Spears

"Mahala" - Charma Gal

"Sheleng" - The Kgwanyape Band

"Victims Of Curse" - Overthrust

"Warrior" - Maya Asiyah Roze

Friday 2 June 2023

German Disco Jesus

That Charity Chic fellow is currently running a series featuring songs about Jesus. I thought I would join him in spreading the Good News!

The particular news that I want to spread concerns a compilation album with the catchy title "Music with a Message: Celestial Explorations into German Church Rock". 

It collects together all sorts of groovy German Christian music from the 1960s and 1970s, and is described as "the first official compilation of its kind". Finally, a chance to upgrade all our poor quality German Christian bootlegs!

I'm not sure I will want to sit through the whole album again any time soon but I do like these two.

"Du Bist Die Stimme" - Oratorium

"Wie Ein Baum" - Heike Tittmann

And now, some music from a German Christian whose having a barrel of fun.