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Friday 28 June 2024

Conventional Thinking

I had not been planning to post again this week but I had such a good time in Newcastle with the proprietors of Charity Chic Music, What's It All About?, Sun Dried Sparrows and Are We There Yet? plus assorted partners that I thought I should thank them all at the first opportunity. Classy and cultured people every one of them.

On the subject of culture we visited the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art while in the area (Newcastle, not the Baltic). It was a bit of a mixed bag but there were some exhibits that caught my eye. Like this one.

The piece is called 'Aspiration 2' and it is by George Ginnis, a new name to me. According to the artist's blurb in the exhibition catalogue: "The dichotomy of the dog and owner being both absent and present prompts reflection on the persistence of the class system that still lurks behind displays of brash materialism".

Now I'm just a simple country lad so I don't know about all of that but I would be interested in the thoughts of our artistic readers (and the rest of you philistines of course).

We'll finish with a few pieces of music that will help me recall the visit when I hear them in the future. For Ms Ross's interpretation of the Nick Lowe classic please replace "when" with "in the hopefully unlikely event that".

"Battlefield" - Diana Ross

"Tube Disaster" - Flux Of Pink Indians

Monday 24 June 2024

Of Power And Pendulums

No sooner had I finished preparing the previous post running down some of my favourite promos that I have received recently than another one arrived in my inbox that I need to tell you about.

This one is by a gent who I have been a fan of for some time, Jeffrey Foucault. His new album is "The Universal Fire" and having listened to it a couple of times now I am pleased to say it is well up to his usual high standard. It doesn't come out until September but you can pre-order it on Bandcamp and check out his back catalogue while you are there.

Having checked my records it seems that inexplicably Mr Foucault has never featured on these pages before. Let's put that right with three oldies and but goodies. They come respectively from "Ghost Repeater" (2006), "Cold Satellite" (2010) and "Blood Brothers" (2018).

"Ghost Repeater" - Jeffrey Foucault

"Geese Fly By" - Jeffrey Foucault

"Dishes" - Jeffrey Foucault

That's it from me this week. Tomorrow morning I'm heading off to spend a few days hanging out with some of the cool kids. I imagine it will go something like this.  

Thursday 20 June 2024

Newness Abounds

After last Sunday's Single Song Sunday another one of our exceedingly intermittent series makes a return today. This is the one were I share some of the best things sent to me by the nice people in Promoland over the last few months and encourage you to buy them. Links to Bandcamp are provided where available.

Two of the best albums I have received since the last time we did this have already been mentioned here after I attended gigs by the acts in question. The albums are "Strange Medicine" by Kaia Kater and "Chicken Dinner" by Luiz Bruno. Both have now been released into the wild and are just waiting for you to snap them up.

Our round-up of the rest starts with a man who deserves praise for a multitude of reasons. Gabriel Birnbaum's day job is in Promoland and he is responsible for alerting me to many things you have heard here over the years. He is also a fine musician in his own right, originally with Wilder Maker but now as a solo artist. His latest album "Patron Saint Of Tireless Losers" is out on 28 June.

You will have to wait until 12 July to get hold of "Time Is A Walnut" by Hannah Mohan, but trust me when I tell you it is well worth the wait. Formerly the front person for indie-pop band And The Kids, this is her first solo album and it has been racking up the plays here at Goggins Towers.

On the subject of indie pop, here are Lightheaded. Hailing from New Jersey and signed to the Slumberland labal whose roster includes The Reds, Pinks, & Purples, The Umbrellas and Jeanines (all of whom have featured here previously). They share some of those bands' influences as you can hear on "Combustible Gems" which came out last month.

Slumberland had a good month in May because they also released "New Town Dreams" by Neutrals. Also based in San Francisco the album's theme - "snapshots of mundane lived realities in the New Towns that proliferated in the UK during the '60s and '70s" - may tip you off to the fact that they are not originally from there. Those of you with a keen ear for accents may pick up a very slight hint of a Scottish one. 

You will search in vain for any hint of a regional accent from Cardiff's No Thee No Ess. On their latest album "Distant Country" they seem to have relocated in spirit to the West Coast (by which I mean Laurel Canyon not Llanbedrog), but they fit in quite nicely there. "Distant Country" came out earlier this month but does not seem to have made it to Bandcamp. You can find some of their earlier records there though.

Last but not least is Sonny Singh, a Brooklyn-based Sikh musician who was formerly the trumpeter with Red Baraat. His latest album "Sage Warrior" fuses devotional music with assorted other styles and has been developed in parallel with a book of the same name by Valerie Kaur. Both the book and the album come out in September, but the single "Pavan Guru" is already available.

"Drinking Year" - Gabriel Birnbaum

"Time Is A Walnut" - Hannah Mohan

"Moments Notice" - Lightheaded

"Stop The Bypass" - Neutrals

"Snow White" - No Thee No Ess

"Pavan Guru" - Sonny Singh

Other albums I've been sent that I have quite enjoyed include "Ego Ride" by Asha Jefferies, "Planet Perfect" by Energy Slime and "For Every Set Of Eyes" by J. Mamana. So here is a video from each of them.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Johnny Canary

Some sweet sounding soul for you today courtesy of the late great Johnny Adams (no relation as far as I know to other famous Adamses such as Bryan, Douglas, Ansel, Tony or Sweet Fanny).

Mr Adams hailed from New Orleans and was known as 'The Tan Canary' because of his vocal range. He  released his first single - produced by the future Dr. John - in 1959. His recording career lasted right up until his death from cancer nearly 40 years later. He left behind a lot of great music. 

The two most successful periods of his career were his time with SSS International (1968-71) - which included his biggest hit "Reconsider Me" - and his stint with Rounder Records from 1984 until his death in 1998. This version of Bobby Charles' "I Don't Want To Know" comes from his final album "Man Of My Word" which was recorded during a brief period of remission. 

He was no slouch before and between those two periods either as the third selection shows. It is the A-side of a 1980 single on the excitingly named Hep' Me label. Take it away, Mr Adams.

"Reconsider Me" - Johnny Adams

"I Don't Want To Know" - Johnny Adams

"Love Me Now" - Johnny Adams

Sunday 16 June 2024

Single Song Sunday

It's back! Our long-running but rarely sighted series once more ambles into view.

I was surprised to discover when preparing this post that it has taken 13 years and 66 episodes to get round to featuring a Bob Dylan song. I can only blame myself.

The song we have chosen to break Bob's duck is "Just Like A Woman". Originally appearing in June 1966 on his "Blonde On Blonde" album, it was released as a single in August the same year and struggled its way up to #33 in the Billboard charts.

Bob's own version of the song was not the first to be released as a single though. Over in the UK Manfred Mann recorded a cover within days of "Blonde On Blonde" coming out. Their version was released as a single in July, reaching the Top 10 in the UK and many parts of Europe.

"Just Like A Woman" was one of three Bob songs that the Manfreds took into the charts, and the next two versions in our list are also by regular Bob botherers. The Byrds recorded it in 1971 but it stayed in the vaults until it appeared on their 1990 self-titled 4 CD box set. Richie Havens recorded the song more than once - I have opted for the version on his 1972 live album "On Stage".

Also bringing it to you live (or at least live in the studio) is Van The Man. This version was recorded at the Pacific High Studios in San Francisco in 1971 and that session has been bootlegged many times over the years. I have it on an Italian bootleg called "Buonasera" - an album I believe may have been a formative influence on our old friend Furgone di Piufiglio.

Next up we have three versions of "Just Like A Woman" sung by actual women (where will this madness end?). It won't surprise you to learn that Nina Simone's take is the pick of the bunch, but I also like Bridget St' John's version. 

Nina's recording first appeared on "Here Comes The Sun" (1971) and can be found on numerous compilations of hers. I found Bridget's cover on a 3 CD collection called "From There / To Here - UK/US Recordings 1974-1982" from 2022. As far as I can tell was previously unreleased.

The final female version is by Charlotte Gainsbourg, ably supported by Calexico. It comes from the soundtrack album from Todd Haynes' 2007 film "I'm Not There". That is the one where he got actors to "dramatize the life and music of Bob Dylan as a series of shifting personae" (quote), including Christian Bale, Cate Blachett, Heath Ledger, Jeanette Krankie and Richard Gere among others.

We round things off with a Swedish interpretation from 1980 by one Ulf Lundell and the Mandatory Reggae Version from Mr Pat Kelly. For some reason when Pat and Duke Reid released this as a single in 1974 they decided to use the title "Nobody". I don't know why, perhaps they were trying to put Bob's royalty collectors off the scent. 

"Just Like A Woman" - Bob Dylan

"Just Like A Woman" - Manfred Mann

"Just Like A Woman" - The Byrds

"ust Like A Woman" - Richie Havens

"Just Like A Woman" - Van Morrison

"Just Like A Woman" - Nina Simone

"Just Like A Woman" - Bridget St. John

"Just Like A Woman" - Charlotte Gainsbourg & Calexico

"Precis Som En Kvinna" - Ulf Lundell

"Nobody" - Pat Kelly

Friday 14 June 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 38 - Niger

The bandwagon rolls on and we reach Niger, a country that has had its ups and downs since gaining its independence from France in 1960. In February 2021 it saw its first peaceful transition of power. Those hoping this would prove a defining moment were quickly disappointed when there was an attempted military coup a month later. That was thwarted but another one in July 2023 was not. The country is currently under its fifth period of military rule. 

There is happier news on the cultural front though, as the wider world has started to wake up to the rich musical scene in Niger. This is partly down to the recent success of Mdou Moctar - who featured in our side trip to Length Land earlier in the week - and to the pioneering efforts of labels such as Sahel Sounds.

If you like Mr Moctar and today's selection then I can recommend many other Nigerien artists you may want to check out - Atri N'Assouf, Etran Finatawa, Bombino, Tal National and Toumast to mention just some.

We are going to kick things off with the man who has been described as the godfather of modern Tuareg music in Niger and been cited by Mdou Moctar as his primary influence, Abdallah Oumbadougou. Hailing from the Tuareg capital of Agadez, he was one of the many musicians in Niger and Mali who went into exile because of their involvement in the fight for self-determination. 

Today's selection comes from his first studio album "Anou Malane", which was recorded in Benin in 1995 and reissued by Sahel Sounds in 2019. It is a great starting point from which to explore Tuareg guitar music. Sadly Mr Oumbadougou passed in 2020 but he has left a huge legacy.

From "Tenere" to Dag Tenere, who are old friends of the blog. Formed by ex Etran Finatawa guitarist Goumar Abdoul Jamil, they released their first record under the name Timasniwen in 2018. When we featured the album here they got in touch, and then did so again in 2021 to let me know that the were releasing a new album under the new name. This track comes from the second album "Iswat" but both albums are great and available at their Bandcamp site.

Another personal favourite of mine are Kel Assouf. Very much from the heavier end of the Tuareg guitar scene, some parts of their 2019 album "Black Tenere" could pass for Black Sabbath. I was lucky enough to see them live in Brussels in 2016 and they blew me and everyone else away. Their front man Anana Ag Haroun - that's him in my photo below -  is a very charismatic dude.

Aroudaini Ismaguil is yet another experienced Tuareg musician who has performed with many artists over the last thirty years or so including Koudade and Etran Finatawa (but hasn't everyone?). He finally released his first solo record in 2020. It is called "Amidinin" and you can find it on Bandcamp. Today's track is "Kayyu Teglegh" which is dedicated to the memory of Ghala Addaba, his best friend and first musical partner.  

We'll take a trip over to the distaff side now, which is where we find the mighty Les Filles de Illighadad, another band for whom we must give thanks to Sahel Sounds. Hailing from the remote village from which they take their name, Les Filles take the Tuareg guitar sound and apply it to their local traditional music known as 'tende'. The result is something rather wonderful.

You can find all their albums on their Bandcamp site. Today's selection comes from their 2021 live album "At Pioneer Works". Listen to them winning over Brooklyn's beard-stroking hard-bitten hipsters and you will be won over too.

And finally, some MAR. In the early 1990s Salim Jah Peter moved from Niger to Cote d'Ivoire where he sang with a group called Mystic Vibration which gave him an opportunity to hang out with MAR giants like Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly. 

A solo artist since 2003, he has not always been appreciated at home by the powers that be. 2008 single "La Paix Au Niger" (see below) and the subsequent album "Hold-Up De Pouvoir" led to him being banned from entering Niger until the fourth period of military rule ended a year later.

"Tenere" - Abdallah Oumbadougou

"Koud Edhaz Emin" - Dag Tenere

"Tikounen" - Kel Assouf

"Kayyu Teglegh" - Aroudaini

"Surbajo" - Les Filles de Illighadad

"La Paix Au Niger" - Salim Jah Peter

Apologies for the pretty ropy quality of most of these vintage videos, but I hope you'll agree that they are worth squinting for.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Sophisticated Ladies

It takes a lot of effort to appear effortlessly hip. Even for we seasoned surfers of the zeitgeist the pressure of trying to find the next obscure thing - be it Paraguayan prog or Bhutanese beat-boxing - can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.

When that happens I like to decompress by listening to something that might not be considered cool by my achingly hip audience but can help me attain inner calm and regain my equilibrium. In which spirit, here are two tracks from Ms Joan Armatrading's self-titled 1976 album.

When I was about 17 and living in Dorset I won a bottle of pomagne at the local church fete. I went home, ran a hot bath and sat there sipping the pomagne and listening to this album on a cheap cassette player. At the time I thought it was the height of sophistication. 

"Somebody Who Loves You" - Joan Armatrading

"Save Me" - Joan Armatrading

Of course the real height of sophistication is the great Françoise Hardy, who I have just heard left us yesterday. I have had a crush on her since I found this EP when I was an impressionable young man and was instantly smitten. RIP Ms Hardy.

"Only Friends" - Françoise Hardy

P.S. After the typing the drivel in the first paragraph I felt obliged to go googling and can confirm that both such styles exist. And here is the evidence (audio only for the Paraguayan prog I'm afraid, George).

Monday 10 June 2024

Long African Monday

Those of you who've been following our African odyssey will know that we we have recently visited Namibia. This means the next two stops will be Niger and Nigeria.

I am lucky enough to have an abundance of fantastic music from both countries and will only be able to feature a small percentage of it in each case. At earlier stops on the tour I have left out some of the big stars to make room for lesser known names, and will be doing the same again. As a result there will be no Mdou Moctar when we get to Niger and no Fela Kuti in Nigeria. 

However it would be wrong not to acknowledge them at all. Mr Moctar is one of the hottest acts out of Africa at the moment while Mr Kuti is arguably the most influential African musician ever. So as it is a Monday we have a very long song from each of them for you (apparently that is a thing in some quarters). 

Both of them have teamed up with Americans on these tracks. In Mdou's case he is joined by Elite Beat from Portland, Oregon. They had a jam session in 2017 during which they reworked this track from his then new album "Sousoume Tamachek" (also the title track of his homemade and heavily auto-tuned 2008 debut). 

Meanwhile, way back in 1980, Fela and Roy Ayers got together in Lagos to produce "Music Of Many Colours". Each contributed one side-long song to the album. This is Fela's, with Roy guesting on vibes.

You'll need 35 minutes to listen to both tracks - going up to a full hour if you also watch the videos - so maybe get a cup of tea before you start.

"Anar" - Mdou Moctar & Elite Beat

"Africa Centre Of The World" - Fela Kuti & Africa '70 (with Roy Ayers)

Friday 7 June 2024

Fly Guy

The great Richard Thompson released his first new album in six years last week. Called "Ship To Shore", it is very good by all accounts. I've not had the chance to listen to it yet but no doubt I will soon.

We're going to mark the occasion with a couple of tracks from his debut solo album "Henry The Human Fly" which came out a mere 52 years ago. It seems like only yesterday. Largely ignored at the time and slightly disparaged by Mr Thompson himself (who apparently felt that his singing didn't do the songs justice), it has always been a favourite of mine.

"The Angels Took My Racehorse Away" - Richard Thompson

"The Old Changing Way" - Richard Thompson

I've been told that "Ship To Shore" was originally going to be Richard's Chris de Burgh covers album but that he abandoned the idea having concluded that he could not improve on the originals, keeping only the title. But I don't know whether that's true.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 37 - Namibia

Once upon a time I lived in Namibia. We moved there when I was seven and stayed for just over a year. My Dad was working for Wimpey at the time (the construction company not the burger chain) and was project managing the building of the first motorway north to Angola from the capital Windhoek where we lived. Many good and bad things have gone up and down that road since.

I have many happy memories of trips to places like Swakopmund and Etosha, and the monitor lizard, scorpions and other wildlife that made going into our garden such an adventure. But the happiest memories are of the gang of lads from Mayo and Achill Island who were working with my Dad who were enormous fun and whose antics were the talk of the town.

Enough mawkish sentimentality, on with the show. To be honest I am a bit disappointed with this episode. I am sure there is plenty of excellent Namibian music but compared to most other countries in the series very little is available from my usual sources, and much of that is rather dull local house and rap.

But while I suspect this is not the optimum Namibian playlist I mean no disrespect to the artists that are featured, all of whom are fine in their own right. And none finer than the mighty Ugly Creatures, who in the 1970s were the local equivalent of all the powerhouse Zamrock bands in their near neighbours Zambia. A couple of tracks from their 1978 album "Creatures Of The Earth" can be found on Bandcamp.

Next we have Gal Level, an R 'n B duo who were very big regionally in the 2000s and according to Wikipedia were compared to Destiny's Child (probably by themselves). They split in the early 2010s and while this 2015 article claimed there were no hard feelings it is clear Daphne was still peeved with Frieda. Let's hope they have patched things up. This track is on their album "Next Level", available via the tax dodgers.  

Bullet Ya Kaoko have been described as "one of Namibia’s leading cultural groups whose sound fuses traditional Oviritje and modern kwaito grooves", and I am in no position to disagree. They apparently performed at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups in South Africa and Brazil respectively but did not make it past the group stages on either occasion. "Ombura" was a hit for them in 2011.

We now have a pair of artists about whom I have been able to discover very little. Sagarias Tsam is a singer-songwriter based in the coastal town of Swakopmund (see above) who has been recording since 2020. This track is on his 2022 album "Nâma He Ta Gehâ". 

The Sebulon Gomachab track can be found on the 2004 compilation "A Hand-Full Of Namibians" which also features Dungeon Family - the band that begat Gal Level - and today's MAR contributor. Also known as Axue, Mr Gomachab sadly left us five years ago and this obituary contains all the information I have been able to find about him.

Which brings us on to the MAR star himself, Ras Sheehama. He has had quite a life. In the days when Namibia was still a South African colony and known as South West Africa his father was a prominent supporter of the liberation movement SWAPO, as a result of which he was killed by state-backed forces in 1980. 

Young Ras and the rest of the family went into exile in Zambia and then Nigeria during which time he started playing reggae and adopted the rastafarian faith. Returning after independence in 1990 he established himself as a major artist locally, playing with the likes of South African reggae giant the late Lucky Dube. This track is from his 2005 album "Travelling".

"Exit For The Artist Exists" - The Ugly Creatures

"Mbeta" - Gal Level

"Ombura" - Bullet Ya Kaoko

"//haixa-Xuê" - Sagarias Tsam

"Gai Igoni Ge" - Sebulon Gomachab

"Nekwa Lyatsima" - Ras Sheehama

The first of today's videos is a Namibian-Nigerian collaboration. We will be reaching Nigeria in a couple of stops so consider this a taster. Here Fishman represents the local scene and M'Jay is the interloper. 

Monday 3 June 2024


After a few weeks with no live music I went to a couple a gigs last week that could be described as 'interesting and varied'.

On Bank Holiday Monday Mister F and I ambled over to the Sebright Arms in Hackney to see three bands for £4.50 (two pounds less than a pint of their distinctly average beer - one of two is a bargain). We were there specifically to see the band that was bottom of the bill, Tamesis. 

Tamesis are an old-fashioned folk-rock band in the style of Trembling Bells and (for older readers) Trees, with a great singer in Maisie Ashford and some fine guitar work from Joseph Jones. Nothing wildly original but if you like that sort of thing you will like them a lot. I know I do.

I'll skip over the second band as my sainted mother taught me that if you can't say anything nice it is better to say nothing at all, so we'll head straight to the top of the bill. This was Last Apollo (a.k.a. Lucy Rice), an Irish indie singer-songwriter. Not my sort of thing really but she is a strong and very personable performer.

After a rest to recover from all the excitement I headed south of the river to Peckham on Thursday for a memorable double bill.

First up were Ichigo Evil. Impossible to describe but if you head over to Charity Chic's place and listen to "A Fish Needs A Bike" by Blurt and then imagine that sung by a Japanese man who seems to have based his vocal style on Eek-A-Mouse you will have the general idea. They were very entertaining live but probably not the sort of thing I'll listen to a lot at home.

Really though we were all there for the headline act, the great Cabo Verde funaná band Grupo Pilon. Originally formed in Luxembourg in the mid-1980s they remain popular with the Cabo-verdiano diaspora across Europe and have started performing regularly again in recent years. This was apparently their first ever gig in the UK which might explain why the large group of ladies of a certain age next to me were getting very overexcited.

They played a great set and were decidedly funky all the way through. The keyboard player was definitely the man of the match. He cajoled the keyboards into making some extraordinary sounds, from cheap horror film soundtrack to muffled farts, but made them all work with the groove.

Here is a track from each of the acts mentioned above. You can find all of them on Bandcamp if you want to hear more (and why wouldn't you?).

"Cosmic Heat" - Tamesis

"Moonlight" - Last Apollo

"Nee Naw" - Ichigo Evil

"Longi Di Bo" - Grupo Pilon

As a bonus on Thursday we were treated to a very good DJ set by Ian Parton of The Go! Team between the bands. So here are some videos from the Team to finish things off, the first featuring Benin's fabulous Star Feminine Band.