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Friday 29 December 2023

They Also Served

Once again this year we have lost many fine musicians. For every Burt, Tina, Sinead or Shane whose deaths rightly hit the headlines there are many more who did not attract the same attention. This is my annual (woefully inadequate) tribute to some of those whose passing may have passed you by.

The obvious starting point is with the late, great Toussaint McCall's 1967 masterpiece, "Nothing Takes The Place Of You", the sentiments of which apply to everyone who is featured in today's post.

The obvious final selection, for the audio clips at least, is this seasonal track from the equally late and equally great Huey 'Piano' Smith. This will be my last post of the year, and I can think of nobody better than Mr. Smith and his Clowns to wave you into 2024. 

The tributes continue in the videos finishing, as is only right, with one of the finest records ever made. RIP Robert Haimer (aka Artie Barnes), all the others included here, and all those I missed.

 "Nothing Takes The Place Of You" - Toussaint McCall

"I Can't Be Satisfied" - Spencer Wiggins

"This Property Is Condemned" - Mike Henderson

"Golden Country Kingdom" - Pete Brown (with Piblokto!)

"Take Me To Aruanda" - Astrud Gilberto

"Malia" - Rigo Star (with Josky Kiambukuta)

"Yere Africa" - Peter King

"Independent Jamaica" - Lord Creator

"Bangarang" - Lester Sterling (with Stranger Cole)

"Happy New Year" - Huey 'Piano' Smith & His Clowns

Wednesday 27 December 2023

The Mandatory Year End Review

It is that time of year when all music bloggers are contractually obliged to tell you about the music they have enjoyed in the last 12 months. So let's get it over and done with.

Favourite albums of the year

Ten albums in alphabetical order by artist, with Bandcamp links so you can consider them when deciding how to spend your Xmas vouchers. The usual caveat applies, i.e. half the list might be different if I did it again in a few days' time. I'm already thinking about the ones I left off.

"Back To The Swamp" - Bas Jan

"I Play My Bass Loud" - Gina Birch

"The Berlin Sessions" - Dur Dur Band International

"A River Running To Your Heart" - Fruit Bats

"Prestige" - Girl Ray

"Beautiful Dreams" - Acantha Lang

"False Lankum" - Lankum

"AGO" - Nana Benz Du Togo

"Joan Of All" - SBT (Sarabeth Tucek)

"Leisureland" - Wreckless Eric

I should also give a special mention to the Hominis Canidae series of monthly samplers of new independent Brazilian music. They are always interesting and are available on a 'name your own price' basis, so there is really no excuse for not trying a few of them. 

Gigs of the year

It has been a bit of a vintage year for gigs this year, so rather than the usual handful here are ten. Even with the expanded list there are plenty of others that missed out but which I enjoyed very much.. 

The Abyssinians @ Jazz Cafe

Gina Birch @ Oslo Hackney

Bonny Light Horseman @ Union Chapel

Bush Tetras @ New Cross Inn

Lonnie Holley @ Cafe Oto

Jeanines @ Shacklewell Arms

Lola Kirke @ Bowery Ballroom

Lankum @ Barbican

Spare Snare @ The Waiting Room

SBT @ Ramsgate Music Hall

Assorted sounds and visions

As is becoming traditional here, we finish off with some of my favourite tracks from 2023 that aren't on any of the albums mentioned above and have not previously been featured here during the year - if only to show that the zeitgeist is infinite.

"Nshingilile" - Witch

"Times Square" - Adele Bertei

"100 Weight Of Collie Weed" - Prince Fatty (featuring Earl 16)

"Pale Rider" - Cactus Lee

"Will You Follow Me Home?" - Meg Baird

"Iyeke Lent'oyenzayo" - Mthandeninonke

"Wi-Fi" - Spare Snare

"Feej" - Jantra

As well as being mostly mellow, I noticed after selecting the videos that two of them are animated and the other two feature fairgrounds. Make of that what you will. 

Sunday 24 December 2023

Kris Kringle Song Sunday

It has been a while since we have done a Single Song Sunday - one of the consequences of the tech problems I had a few months ago was losing all my playlists and having to rebuild them from scratch - but we're back in time for Christmas with a seasonal special. 

The good folks at Second Hand Songs have compiled a list of over 1600 versions of "Winter Wonderland". Obviously the only version you really need is Darlene Love's but that would not be in the spirit of Single Song Sunday.

I have waded through what seems like several hundred versions so you don't have to. The vast majority of them are rather dull, including some that appear promising on paper like Aretha, Goldfrapp and the Cocteau Twins. Many are dreadful, even if you discount versions by novelty acts like Pinky & Perky, William Shatner and Bob Dylan.  

The original hit version of the song was by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians way back in 1934. I couldn't find a download of that recording so instead we have a 1946 remake from Guy and the guys featuring The Andrews Sisters on vocals.

Obviously all the crooners have had a go at the song over the years. The arrangements are all much of a muchness but as it is Christmas I feel we really have to go with old Bing. His rendition is followed by the only one that matters.

Next we have what were unquestionably the two coolest instrumental groups of the 1960s, Booker T & The MGs and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. Linda Lewis's 1976 rendition fits in nicely after Herb.

After that it all goes slightly wonky. Unfortunately I could not lay my hands on Stryper's seminal 1984 version, but this later live recording captures its spirit. Grandaddy for some reason decided to cast Parsons (Alan) in the Parson Brown role in their take on the tune from 2000.

At least we can rely on Rosie Thomas to play things straight on this track from her 2008 album "A Very Rosie Christmas", before handing over to the mighty Beres Hammond to see us out with the traditional Mandatory Reggae Version.

"Winter Wonderland" - Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians (with The Andrews Sisters)

"Winter Wonderland" - Bing Crosby

"Winter Wonderland" - Darlene Love

"Winter Wonderland" - Booker T & The MGs

"Winter Wonderland" - Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

"Winter Wonderland" - Linda Lewis

"Winter Wonderland" - Stryper

"Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland" - Grandaddy

"Winter Wonderland" - Rosie Thomas

"Winter Wonderland" - Beres Hammond

From Johnny Mathis and all of us at 27 Leggies Enterprises:



Friday 22 December 2023

Seasonal Shoehorning

As you may or may not have noticed, Christmas is approaching. Santa Claus will soon be coming to town.

The story has it that the figure of Santa Claus is based on the real life St Nicholas of Myra, known for his supposed habit of secret gift-giving (and for being the patron saint of - deep breath - Russia, Greece, charitable fraternities and guilds, children, sailors, unmarried girls, pawnbrokers, merchants and the city of Fribourg in Switzerland). He's a busy fellow.

St Nicholas is believed to have been born in what is now the Antalya Province in Turkey, and of course many of you may be tucking into the bird that shares its name with that country for Christmas lunch.

So clearly we need to share some music from Turkey to suit the season. Specifically we need some sounds from hairy Anatolian rockers Bunalim, whose name ('frustration' in Turkish) perfectly fits the mood of those of you hosting the family Christmas when the most irritating relatives just won't take a hint and leave.

Bunalim's only recordings were six singles released between 1970 and 1972. Those twelve tracks have been compiled in album form at least twice but as far as I can find out none of the compilations are currently in stock (although there are a few second-hand copies knocking about). 

"Ask Senin Bildigin Gibi Degil" - Bunalim

"Bir Yar Icin" - Bunalim

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Where Eagles Dare

Last night I was listening to Bill Callahan's "Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle" album for the first time in ages, and I thought to myself "This is very good, I should post a couple of tracks".

There you have it folks - a unique insight into the blogging process.

"Jim Cain" - Bill Callahan

"Faith/Void" - Bill Callahan

Other eagles are also available, but not those ones because they are really boring.   

Monday 18 December 2023

Come And See Siam

There will be a brief break in our African tour until after Xmas, but only because Ghana is next and its a biggie. I have roughly 50,000 square feet of funkiness to work my way through before settling on the final selections, which will take more time than I have available just now.

That doesn't mean we are staying at home though. Perish the thought. No, we are going on an exciting trip through space and time to Thailand in the 1970s.

Our travel agents for the trip are Soundway Records, and the itinerary is set out on their compilation album "The Sound of Siam Volume 2: Molam and Luk Thung from North-East Thailand 1970-1982". Here are just a few of the highlights from the tour. If this entices you to sign up for the full package it can be booked via Bandcamp.

"Bump Lam Plearn" - The Petch Phin Thong Band

"Teoy Salap Pamaa" - Ankanang Kunchai

"Fang Jai Viangjan" - Thepporn Petchubon

And now a word from our local guides...

Friday 15 December 2023

The Last Bus Home

Two bus-themed posts in two days. I thought about asking this post to park up somewhere for a bit to regulate the service, but really we all just want to get home don't we?

Be warned, there are some abrupt mood changes en route, especially between the last two stops. If standing make sure you are holding on to a stanchion for your own safety. 

There is no Mandatory Reggae today, but Poser has stepped in to provide a Replacement Soca Service for that part of the route.

"A Transport Of Delight" - Flanders & Swann

"Bus No. 243" - Bobby Conn & The Glass Gypsies

"Mink Coat At The Bus Stop" - Rickie Lee Jones

"No School Bus In Heaven" - The Stanley Brothers

"Bus Conductor" - Poser

"On A Bus To St. Cloud" was always going to feature somewhere in this series, the only question being whether it would be the Jimmy LaFave or Gretchen Peters version. Then I thought "why choose when you can have them both?" - hence the first video (which also features Mr Tom Russell as the gooseberry).

As for the second video, I disagree strongly with the sentiments but the song is too good to leave out. And the third one is especially for George. We know he's a fan.

This series has now reached its last stop. Please remember to take all your belongings with you and enjoy a safe onwards journey.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Back To The Bus Stop

Last week's post about the humble omnibus attracted a fair amount of interest, so here is another one. I have just about enough material left to squeeze out a third post, which would be appropriate as the common wisdom has it that you don't get any posts about buses for ages and then three come along at once. So watch this space.

Last time out I was critical of those who look down on buses as a means of transport (I am legally required to state at this juncture that Charity Chic is not one of  them). But it is also possible to be too enthusiastic about buses.

Way back in the early 1990s I worked with a bus spotter. He had never mentioned his secret shame at work, but one Saturday morning I was on my normal bus route and he boarded along with a group of his fellow bus fanciers. Apparently this was the first day on which this particular route was using buses made by the Alexander Works of Falkirk and they had come over to join the party. 

Having been outed like that it was as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he never stopped banging on about buses after that.  He even persuaded me to take some photos of local buses for him when I went on holiday to Norway a few months later. 

This was before we had phones with cameras in so there was no way to disguise what you were doing. The knowledge that everyone else in the Trondheim bus station was staring at me thinking "Hvorfor fotograferer den idioten busser?" induced an embarrassment I will never forget.

After that rambling introduction, here are today's selection of tunes praising not just buses of different types but depots and drivers as well. 

"Americana Royal Bus Tribute Pt 1" - Royal Boys of Rumuodomaya

"Star Spangled Bus" - Hamilton Camp

"Bus Station" - Tom Russell & Nanci Griffith

"Horace The Swinging School Bus Driver" - Jan & Dean

"Natty Dread Travel On Mini Bus" - Jah Youth

The song in the video was mentioned by Charity Chic in the comments on the previous post. Once again I am legally obliged to point out that no inference should be made that the title of the song reflects his own views. 

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 22 - Gambia

We have arrived in The Gambia - possibly prematurely for those of you who think it should be listed under T rather than G. We are also now exactly 40% of the way through our African tour. We kicked the series off back in May, so at this rate our bandwagon is unlikely to be rolling into Harare until November next year.

The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa and, except for the 30 miles of coastline, is completely surrounded by Senegal. This is unusual but not unique. There is one African country that is completely contained within the borders of another country. There may be a prize for the first person to name it.

I've never visited The Gambia myself but my dear old Dad worked there for about a year in the mid-1960s, helping to build parts of the Trans-Gambia Highway. He had some great stories about his time there, like how he and his crew spent two days pretending to be hotel staff for the benefit of a French honeymooning couple who had been taken in by the hand-drawn 'Club Med' sign someone had put up outside their remote camp.   

A group called Super Eagles were just getting started around about the time my Dad was working there. If you happen to own Volume 3 of the Luaka Bop "World Psychedelic Classics" series you will be familiar with them. They were a very good soul band, and nearly featured here in that incarnation, but in the mid 1970s they mutated into Ifang Bondi. With the name change came a change of style, with much greater use of indigenous rhythms and instruments. Today's choice is taken from their excellent 1978 album "Saraba".

Ifang Bondi's new style (known as 'afro-manding') inspired a wave of other bands. Foremost among them were Guelewar, or The Guelewar Band of Banjul to give them their full name, who set the local scene alight in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were also very popular over the border in Senegal, and the great Youssou N'Dour has evidently cited them as an early influence. I've opted for the title track of their 1979 album "Sama Yaye Demna Ndar".

Ifang Bondi's influence continues to be felt in many ways and in many places. Take the example of their former percussionist Musa Mboob who dedicates his life to promoting Gambian culture from his home in the remote village of (checks notes) Brighton. He also continues to make some cracking music in his own right, as demonstrated by this track from his 2010 album "Haral". 

Our fourth act have also been around since the early 1980s, ploughing a similar furrow to the others, and are also still very much active today. They are the Juffureh Band, named after the town that was a major slaving post (and the fictional birthplace of Kunte Kinte in the novel "Roots"). Today's track comes from their 2018 EP, "Abarake Bake". Very good it is indeed.

We round off the audio with some Mandatory African Reggae courtesy of Masta Lion. Hailing from Birikama in The Gambia but now based in Finland, this track comes from his 2021 album "Tribute To Mama". Masta Lion managed to enlist the help of well-known Jamaican singers like Sizzla and Anthony B on the album, so he is clearly a well-connected man.

"Atis-A-Tis" - Ifang Bondi

"Sama Yaye Demna Ndar" - Guelewar

"Dunia" - Musa Mboob

"Kunung Wularo" - Juffureh Band

"Tribute To Tata Dinding" - Masta Lion

Sunday 10 December 2023

Culture Corner

In the world of the creative arts, there is a case for declaring 2023 to be the Year of Gina Birch. Releasing her first solo album, the excellent "I Play My Bass Loud", playing a series of barnstorming gigs, and being the face of the 'Women In Revolt!' exhibition at the Tate Britain - she truly has bestrode the scene like a colossus. 

Now she is rounding off the year with a new art exhibition. Titled 'No One's Little Girl' after the song by her old band The Raincoats, it is being held at Gallery 46 in London's swinging Whitechapel (as was her previous exhibition last year). This one closes on Friday (16 December) so you'll need to get a move on if you want to go along.

I popped in yesterday afternoon to view the art and to listen to Gina in conversation with the art critic Louisa Buck. It was a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion which covered Gina's artistic influences and origins, her Catholic education, shoplifting with Palmolive (The Slits's drummer, not the soap) and much more besides.

As you can see in the background, one part of the exhibition consists of portraits of musicians and artists who have inspired Gina; from left to right Ari Up, Kim Gordon and Ana Mendieta (there is also a very good one of Yoko Ono). The other main themes are sexual abuse - including some pretty graphic paintings - and a set of smaller icon-style portraits of female saints. I'll leave you to pick the pieces out of that lot. 

If you are interested in seeing Gina's paintings I have put a selection on Flickr for those of you unable to make it to the exhibition in person - a poor substitute admittedly. As for the music, the first track comes from Gina's album (click on the album title above to find it on Bandcamp). If you have been following the clues, the second will come as no surprise.

"Digging Down" - Gina Birch

"Shoplifting" - The Slits

Friday 8 December 2023

A Good Sense Of Yuma

Last Thursday I posted some Japanese music, which prompted me to search for more of the same when Bandcamp Friday rollewd round the next day. After a fair bit of exploring I alighted upon the work of one Yuma Abe, and that's where the money went.

Mr Abe is the main singer and songwriter for a shiny pop band called never young beach (all lower case, no doubt in order to make a point of some sort), who have recently released their fifth album called which is called "Arigato". In 2021 he released his first solo album as a sideline. It is called "Fantasia" and it is very good in a mellow sort of way. 

"Fantasia" contains heavy hints of the 'tropical' style developed by the great Haruoki Hosono (co-founder of Happy End and the Yellow Magic Orchestra) on his mid- to late 1970s records. Which is maybe not that surprising when you learn that Mr Hosono mixed some of the tracks. It seems that the two of them have a bit of a mutual fan club going.

"Fantasia" is available from Mr Abe's Bandcamp page, as is his recent EP "Surprisingly Alright" which was released in August. Also on Bandcamp you can find a couple of never young beach albums. They are all worth checking out. 

Today we are treating you all to one track from "Fantasia" and one from never young beach's debut album,  "Yoshinoko House" (2015). As an extra treat I have added a track from Mr Hosono's own debut solo album from 1973, "Hosono House", made after Happy End split but before the Yellow Magic Orchestra emerged. So many houses.

"Beautiful Culture" - Yuma Abe

"どうでもいいけど (I Don't Care)" - never young beach

"Fuyu Goe" - Haruomi Hosono

Wednesday 6 December 2023

In Praise Of The Humble Bus

Bus travel is the most commonly used form of public transport globally. According to the latest ONS data, 3.1bn bus journeys were taken in the UK last year compared to 1.7bn train journeys. In India and Brazil there are respectively an estimated 70m and 60m bus journeys taken every day. These are just a few examples. 

Despite the essential support that buses provide to so many people all over the world there are people who look down their noses at them. I won't point fingers or name names but there is one particular blogger who takes a very uncharitable view of bus travel, apparently considering it not to be as chic as using trains, boats or planes.

As a regular bus user I feel the humble bus should be given the credit it deserves - a view shared by many musicians, of which the ones below are just a small selection. Please note the inclusion of some Mandatory Reggae Bus Travel.

If you missed this post about buses don't worry, there will be another one along shortlly.

"Number One Bus" - Nuru Kane

"Fourpenny Bus Ride" - Dantalion's Chariot

"Midnight Bus"  - Betty McQuade

"Bus Route" - Tyler Childers

"Ina De Bus" - Professor Nuts


Monday 4 December 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 21 - Gabon

We're back on the bus again, and in the absence of any African countries beginning with F we are skipping straight from the Es to the Gs, starting in Gabon.

Gabon is one of those African countries that I suspect many of us would struggle to locate on a map. It is on the west coast between Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo if that helps. 

Gabon is possibly best known internationally for the Bongo political dynasty. Omar Bongo and his son Ali between them ruled the country from 1967 to August just gone when Ali was deposed in a military coup. Fun names but not particularly fun guys by all accounts (and certainly not as fun as the other Ali Bongo).

According to the not particularly informative Wikipedia entry on the music of Gabon, "the history of modern Gabonese music did not begin until 1974, when the blind guitarist and singer Pierre Akendengué released his first album". I have no idea whether that is true, but in the absence of firm evidence to the contrary let's say it is, making Pierre the perfect place to start. The selection below comes from his 1990 album "Silence".

Next up we have the snappily titled Orchestre International Akweza de Libreville with the lead track from their self-titled 1979 album. I am very grateful to the mighty Moos at the Global Groove blog for sharing this album and many more delights,

I have not been able to find out anything about the Orchestre but they were clearly heavily influenced by the Congolese rumba style wafting westwards from Brazzaville to Libreville. Not all Gabonese musicians fell under its spell though. Some stuck with more traditional sounds, like the harpist Papé Nziengui.

Papé has been recording since the late 1980s. His excellent 1989 album "Kadi Yombo" was reissued last year and you can get hold of a copy on Bandcamp. While there, why not read the informative and pretentious blurb that accompanies the album. Evidently he is a "man of rupture" whose "harp penetrates the initiates”, who are presumably ruptured in turn.

As well as his solo career, Papé is the go to guy for other Gabonese musicians when they need a harp. Among others he has accompanied Pierre Akendengué and our next artist Annie-Flore Batchiellilys. She combines traditional Gabonese sounds with a touch of jazz and blues, as you can hear on this track from her 2013 album "Mon Point Zérooo".

The Mandatory African Reggae comes courtesy of one Didier Dekokaye, described in an article from 2012 as "the last Gabonese dinosaur of the reggae wave of the late 80s and early 90s". Perhaps stung by this taunt, later that year he released "Nzila", his first album in five years and the one from which today's selection comes.

"Epuguzu" - Pierre Akendengué

"Oyem 78" - Orchestre International Akweza de Libreville

"Kadi Yombo" - Papé Nziengui

"Bisse Ngabu" - Annie-Flore Batchiellilys

"Pingiti Nya Rugi" - Didier Dekokaye

Friday 1 December 2023

Shane MacGowan RIP

This one is personal. I was a massive fan of the Pogues in the early days, hitching down to London from Colchester in May 1984 to get a copy of "Dark Streets of London" from Rough Trade. This was before they were picked up by Stiff and dropped the Mahone from their name.

A few months later I moved down to London to start work and saw them many times over the next couple of years. I had bought my first suit, a brown number from a charity shop that my boss said made me look like a navvy up in front of the magistrates on a drunk and disorderly charge. So I fitted in perfectly.

The last time I saw The Pogues live was in March 1988 when they had a run of shows at the Town And Country Club around St. Patrick's Day. As well as the lads themselves there were guest spots from Joe Strummer and the like. It was a great night.

After that we sort of drifted apart a bit, but Shane's songs have never lost their power to move me (and many others). The first side of "Rum, Sodomy and Lash", in particular, is one of the finest set of songs ever assembled in one place.

There are any number of songs that I could have chosen to illustrate his genius, but I have gone for the one that started it all plus what might at a push be my personal favourite (a song so strong that even Dickie Rock couldn't mess it up).

Rest in Peace Mr MacGowan, and thanks for everything.

"Dark Streets Of London" - The Pogues

"A Rainy Night In Soho" - The Pogues