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Rhoda Dakar Speaks to Eyeplug

Rhoda Dakar recently took time out from her growingly hectic schedule to speak to The ‘mighty’ Scenester about her current activity including her all new fab EP, ‘The Lotek Four Vol 1’ which is out now.

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S: So, tell us a little about the new EP.

RD: It started out from an idea about when I first took my son to the studio. Cecil and Terry Callier were recording ‘Dolphins’, Doctor Robert was the producer, up at the Church (The Eurythmics’ studio) and my son was six months old at the time, and he was humming along.

They wanted to have a parents’ evening, a concert where the music teachers and the parents actually performed, so I said why don’t we do ‘Dolphins’? One of the music teachers played piano, we didn’t have a bass player. In our first run through, in the rehearsal studio, I recorded it on my phone. It sounded amazing. You really don’t need all the fuss. If the song’s good, and it’s played well, and the arrangement’s right, you don’t need all the extra stuff. It’s a different art form, putting the extra stuff on. So that was the idea for the EP, to get back to the essence of what a song is, so you have a good song, and record it in a good studio, with the minimum of fuss. It was all recorded it in two sessions, in one day. We were lucky enough to have The Black Barn. We recorded two versions of one song (‘Fill the Emptiness’) just to show that it’s not even about style in which you record it.

The EP was recorded with my live band, and that was the real joy because we already had an understanding. I teach vocals and performance, I‘m used to working with different people. It’s about weighing people up, seeing what they’ve got to offer, and seeing how you can get the best out of them. There are some people you can work with a million times and still never get anywhere with them.

S: What first got you into music?

RD: My Dad. He was a singer; he used to sing around the house. There was always something playing. We had a gramophone, and 78’s; they had a big record collection, my parents. I had wanted to be an actress, and my first job was at the Young Vic, at the theatre wardrobe. My grandmother had been a theatrical costumier, she taught me how to sew, so I got a job in theatre wardrobe, and I was there for a couple of years, and in all that time, there was one mixed race actor came in for one play. I had been in the Youth Theatre and we’d done Shakespeare at the Old Vic, and I went to the Young Vic, which is just across the road, working professionally, and I suddenly realised I’d be playing nurses and prostitutes for the rest of my life. I just had to re-evaluate what I wanted to do. I went into the Civil Service but I was only there for about six months, and in that time, I got in a band, and we got a deal. I’d actually been performing for over ten years by the time I got into a band. It takes a long time to be a good singer, and I wasn’t when I started, I’ve had to work at it.

S: How well did you cope with fame at such an early age?

RD: I had been around bands for a long time. I went to see my first gig when I was thirteen, so I’d seen lots and lots of bands and two of my friends were in the Sex Pistols, and I spent a lot of time with them. So I saw how they coped with it, and I saw how some didn’t cope so well, and how one coped brilliantly because he was very grounded and when he wasn’t doing anything, his Dad used to make him work for him. That keeps you on it. I have to say, that Paul Cook was a massive influence on how I behaved in the music industry. His attitude to people, his level-headedness, and I really loved that, so I took after him.

S: Which artists did you like when you first got into music? Are they different to the ones you were into when you first became a musician?

RD: Some of them, I am, I mean, I can’t say I’m a big fan of The Partridge Family anymore, but that was kind of the first thing. Very quickly, I was into David Bowie, and that’s remained a constant, although I have to say he went out of favour with me, and I think it was when I saw him cutting up lyrics, and I thought, I’ve pored for hours over lyrics, and he just cut them up and put them together willy-nilly. I was a bit huffy about that, especially as when I wrote very much from the heart.

S: Which of today’s artists do you admire?

RD: There are loads of young grime artists that I like, when my son was too young to go by himself, I saw Skepta, Wretch 32 years ago, and I think someone who is going to do well is Stormzy. He’s bright enough to know that you can’t take one idea and go with it forever, you have to branch out, and he’s got a little twinkle in his eye. There’s an American band called The Interrupters, I think they’re under thirty, and they’re like a ska-punk band, which wasn’t something I was ever into, but they have this song called ‘Take Back The Power’ which really resonates with me at the moment, you know ‘What’s your plan for tomorrow, are you a leader or will you follow? Are you a fighter, or will you cower? It’s our time to take back the power.’

S: Which person has had the most significant effect on you?

RD: Musically or attitudinally? It’s got to be Bowie, I as a fan when I was 13, even before I went to see him. At the time, to be a Bowie fan was like, we were called Bowie freaks; it was so different to what was going on. Also, I’ve met so many people, with whom I’m still in touch, and they shaped my adolescence. One of them, Jill from Bromley, ended up going out with Paul Weller, she was into Siouxsie Sioux, and so we all ended up knowing Siouxsie, back in the day. Essentially, the reason I’m still hanging around with bands is all about those people connected with Bowie. People I’ve reconnected with over the years, like Hugo Burnham, who was the drummer for the Gang of Four, he was one of our group, all have ended up connected with music in some way. I wasn’t one of those people tearing my clothing when Bowie died. I thought it was a shame, very much so, because I thought he was influential in a good way and the fact that he was starting to make music again. It was just brilliant. As I was coming up the escalator at Piccadilly, somebody was singing, ‘Where are we now?’ If a busker can’t ruin it, it’s a good song.

S: (Mentions ‘Kooks’)

RD: I was there; I did it with Dr. Robert! We did an acoustic version, we were invited onto the Women’s Stage at Pride, and we sang ‘Kooks’, and my son was like 18 months old, in the audience, in his pushchair. It (Kooks) was about his son, wasn’t it? I let my son think it was about him. I remember him (Duncan ‘Zowie’ Bowie) when he was a little tiny boy in his pushchair, ‘cause I used to sit outside Bowie’s house. I was that mad about him.

S: If you could travel back in time, to any place, when and where would it be?

RD: I’ve been asked this before. The answer I should have given is to go back to Swinging 60’s London, however, the real answer is that I would have loved to go to my Dad’s Jazz Club in Piccadilly, in the 40’s, and see what that was like. My parents met there in the Second World War, I’m sure my mother shouldn’t have been there, but in those days, people just thought ‘Well I might be dead tomorrow, let me just go and see what this is about, a Jazz Club in a basement behind the Regent Palace Hotel.’ My Dad hosted the Caribbean Club there, and the house band was the Ray Ellington Quartet. There is some great photos I’ve got from there, amazing. My Dad was so charming. Oddly enough, it would have been his 120th birthday today. He was 62 when I was born. He was from another era; he was the youngest of eleven.

S: Is there anything you would like to have prevented coming into being?

RD: Gosh. Very difficult, because you want to say, ‘prevent Hiroshima, prevent Nagasaki’, but I think I’d like to have prevented HIV. A terrible, terrible thing and I really don’t know how it came about. I don’t know how selfish this would be, but maybe prevent Trump being born.

S: If you could backtrack through your career, what would you edit, if anything?

RD: I don’t think I’d really excise anything. I’d like to add more. I’m putting this thing out now (EP) and I feel like I finally know what I’m doing. If I’d done more, would that have come to me earlier?

S: If you were to meet yourself in your early twenties, what advice would you give yourself?

RD: The advice I would give myself would be either ‘get yourself a decent manager’, or ‘learn about the music business’. I have lost and have been eased out of thousands and thousands of pounds over the years, because I trusted people to do things for me – because we never had a manager for more than about six weeks, I never joined the PRS. So I missed out on money there for example. Another one; just never reading paperwork properly that was given to me. Get acquainted with the business, and be on point, as the young people say.

S: What songs or arrangements are you most proud of, and why?

RD: I would say I’m proudest of this latest EP, particularly because I was in charge of making everything happen, for the first time ever. Nobody found the studio for me; I found it. Nobody decided on the tracks; I decided on them. I made all the big decisions, I designed it, and it’s all down to me. If there’s something wrong, it’s my fault. Even the free download, it was my decision.

S: ‘The Boiler’ is such a powerful piece of work. Did you have any misgivings about it? Has it ever proved a millstone around your neck?

RD: I don’t think of it as a bit of a millstone. For me, it was a transition between me doing acting and singing. It was the only original song we had at our first gig. It was where I started to become a songwriter. I’d think of it as a millstone if people still expected me to do it. That said, I can’t do it because it’s very much a piece about someone like my younger self, I’m not twenty, I don’t think the same thoughts. It would be me faking being twenty.

S: How did the launch for the EP go?

RD: I’m pleased I’ve had a positive response, it’s very rewarding, and we’re already writing the next one!

Rhoda Dakar spoke with Scenester1964 23/2/2017

Rhoda Dakar; The Lotek Four Vol. 1 (LTK4V1CD)

 

Coming from the doyenne of the 80’s Ska revival scene, and dressed in natty hounds-tooth (the EP, not Rhoda) the five tracks on offer here are a personal labour of love.
‘Fill The Emptiness’ opens as a languorous, swaying Lover’s Rock track, with some lovely falls in the voice, and a crisp, raspy sax solo to boot.

‘Tears You Can’t Hide’s high, pumping beat and tension and release dynamic shows Rhoda’s rounder, yet ironically, more stentorian voice tone.

‘You Talking To Me?’ has the kind of late night atmospheric sax and keyboard that welcomes you in, the voice smooth, even drifting into French at opportune moments.
Rhoda lets her voice soar on ‘Dolphins’, the ‘lapping water’ piano complementing the jazzy feel in a relationship tale.

‘Fill The Emptiness (Reefa)’ reprises in a very different style, and fits its piano riff well, the slide guitar setting it off beautifully, Rhoda duetting with herself at one point.

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Scenester1964 7/3/2017

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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March 8, 2017 By : Category : Articles Eyeplugs Front page Interviews Jazz Modernist Pop Soul Tags:, , , ,
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It Suits Me Well – Dave Swarbrick

It Suits Me Well: Dave Swarbrick The Transatlantic Recordings 1976-1983 (Cherry Tree CRTREE017D)

Cherry Red’s value pack of four LPs by the late, great Dave Swarbrick, shoehorned onto two CDs, takes in his masterly recordings from the mid-seventies to the early eighties, and is sure to delight all folkies and fiddlers.

Taken from that ‘difficult’ period when punk ‘n’ funk ‘n’ electronic noodling were cutting a bloody swathe through the music industry, the folkie’s stock was as low as it could possibly get. The music industry’s money men may have underestimated Dave and his folk rebel brothers, however. Dave soldiered on with his fiddle and became a legend in music, a status which seems to have eluded the synth poppers and funkateers of this period.

The simply titled ‘Swarbrick’ opens, with the winding speed ride of ‘The Heilanman/Drowsey Maggie’, suddenly coming to a halt and into ‘Carthy’s March’, and if a violin could smile, it surely did here, in this jolly tune. ‘The White Cockade/Doc Boyd’s Jig/Durham Rangers’ once again shows off that mastery over the bow Dave had in spades, in a seamless medley of tunes that surely threaten to provoke a dance.

‘My Singing Bird’s sweet harp accompaniment beautifully sets off the plaintive fiddle figure, contrasting with the full speed wynd of ‘The Nightingale’. ‘Once I Loved a Maiden Fair’ practically takes the listener back to some Arcadian past, with its gentle picking and interplay with guitar. A trip across the Irish Sea is called for in ‘The Killarney Boys of Pleasure’, a typically winding, interweaving piece of Celtic whimsy.

‘Lady in the Boat/Roisin the Bow/Timor the Tartar’s jolly jig has you reaching for a flagon of ale as your feet start to feel itchy. ‘Byker Hill’, a little more pedestrian, still has life to it, and ‘The Ace and Deuce of Pipering’s apparently simple back-and-forth figure is a delight. ‘Hole in the Wall’s melancholic, even courtly styling provides a contrast to the manic bowing of the LP, neatly turning around with a harsh, contrasting note. ‘Ben Dorian’s sad fiddle bowing, playing over sweet picking, is simply beautiful, but no sooner spun, than the lively ‘Hullichans/Chorus Jig’ bursts in, gleefully disturbing the peace. ‘The 79ths Farewell to Gibraltar’ is appropriately upbeat and hearty, while ‘Arthur McBride/ Snug In The Blanket’ is a simple jig for a cold winter’s night.

‘Swarbrick 2’ opens up with the insistent, jumpy ‘The Athole Highlanders’, and sticking with the Celtic theme, ‘Shannon Bells/Fairy Dance/Miss McLeod’s Reel’, more tunes to test the legs-and stamina- of keen dancers.‘The King of the Fairies’ sawing, wistful fiddle figure leads you to who-knows-where, with ‘Chief O’Neill’s Favourite/Newcastle Hornpipe setting you back on dry land-at least temporarily.

‘Sheebeg and Sheemore’ has an easy, courtly, romantic air, perhaps in preparation for ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin/Sir Philip McHugh’s rougher and readier entertainment, a jig that reaches knuckle-breaking speed toward its end. ‘Planxty Morgan Mawgan’s gossipy, swinging tune with a hint of trickery is welcome here, and is followed by the full-on Gallic dance of ‘The Swallow’s Tail/Rakes of Kildare/Blackthorn Stick’, enlivened by zesty accordion.

‘Sheagh of Rye/The Friar’s Breeches’ is a typically ribald affair, the fiddle winding in and out of the vamping guitar. ‘Derwent Water’s Farewell/The Noble Esquire Dacre’ is the most melancholy offering here, Dave’s fiddle almost weeping its tale of longing out, but our first CD ends happily with the jolly reels of ‘Teribus/Farewell to Aberdeen’.

A packed first disc means the second disc 2 has to finish off the second LP, with the sliding reel, ‘Bonaparte’s Retreat’, followed by the rambunctious march, ‘Shepherd’s Hey’, the sweet, agreeable ‘Lord Inchiquin, and the heartfelt lament of ‘The Coulin’.

We pass on to the third LP, ‘Smiddyburn’, and its opening pair, ‘Wat ye Wha I Met the Streen/The Ribbons of the Redhead’, a slice of folk rock with the first appearance of electric guitar accompaniment on this swinging piece. ‘Sir Charles Coote/Smiths’ nimble picking will have some of us wondering if Dave had six fingers on each hand, such is the intensity of the work on this faintly nautical piece. ‘I Have a Wife of my Own/Lady Mary Haye’s Scotch Measure’s literal take and frantic bowing shows off the sort of skills that surely made Ashley Hutchings say that Dave was ‘the most influential British fiddle player bar none’.

‘Wishing/The Victor’s Return/The Gravel Walk’s reprise of the folk rock sound of Dave’s Alma Mater, Fairport Convention is more than welcome, rounded out by electric guitar and military drum. ‘When The Battle Is Over’s plaintive picked chords evoke, to a world-weary beat, the sadness and hopelessness of war. ‘Sword Dance/The Young Black Cow’ continues the folk-rock theme, Dave’s fiddle screeching out like the clashing blades of the former title, tempered by the sweet melody of the latter. ‘Sean O’Dwyer of the Glen/The Hag with the Money/Sleepy Maggie’s beautiful candlelight piano opening raises goose bumps, then into a characteristic, leaping reel. The collection’s only vocal performance is the final track, ‘It Suits Me Well’, a tale of the resignation many feel in their daily round.

‘Flittin’ opens with ‘The Bride’s March/The Kelman’s Pertition/Shew Me the Way to Wallingford/Sword Dance, the former an ironically funereal affair, contrasting with the lively ‘Pertition. ‘Parthenia/Pittengardener’s Rant’ begins with a light touch of piano and fiddle neatly complementing each other in this chamber piece, followed by the sort of rambunctious march that belongs to another world entirely. ‘Grey Daylight/The Hawk/The Ten Pound Fiddle’ brings together another finger-breaking reel and a slow march. ‘Jamaica/With All of my Heart’s courtly opening with piano accompaniment contrasts well with the rollicking tune it accompanies. ‘Nathaniel Gow’s Lament on the Occasion of the Death of his Brother/Rory of the Hills’ needs little in the way of explanation, and ‘The Rakes of Sollohad’s’ jaunty picking livens up the latter part of this LP. ‘Dr Isaac’s Maggot/Cupid’s Garden’ makes good use of piano, a braced tune with a wandering fiddle figure that resolves itself beautifully. Our closing track, ‘Boadicea’ is, by turns, dignified and comradely, a fitting closer to this masterly LP and this whole collection.

If you’re not so familiar with folk music, you’re missing out on the simple joys of tales well told and music played with a skill that borders on the devilish. Make room in your collection for this man and his many friends.

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Scenester
18/1/17

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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January 19, 2017 By : Category : Eyeplugs Folk Heroes Music Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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Kirk Brandon speaks to Eyeplug

What first got you into music, specifically forming a band?

I imagine it was the turning away from education, as in my school. Classic ‘I don’t fit in with anyones thinking about who or what I should be’. Forming a band meant to me, I’ve got a self-expression machine… trouble is, I was pretty clueless as to what it was I wanted to articulate. Young, slim and dim. A lot of insecure feelings pointed in no particular direction.

Which artists did you like when you first got into music? Are they different to the ones you were into when you first became a musician?

Initially it was Blues, The Free, Sabbath, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Groundhogs… then Punk Rock happened and the world was turned upside down. It meant people could express themselves in an anti establishment way and think for themselves. Amongst all this, I was growing up doing a whole host of doss house crummy jobs going nowhere. Punk spoke to a lot of people. It was a ‘state of mind’. It vanished quick enough but, there was enough residue to father a whole host of bands from the Pistols through to Nirvana or Green Days.

Which of today’s artists do you like? How do you think they compare to your earliest favourite artists?

I heard the XX and enjoyed listening to their album recently. It didn’t smash me in the fave but was cool just have play. I hear things all the time, I think I’ve gone eclectic. Heard Howling Wolf the other day and as good now as then. Many things nowadays seem to be fourth or fifth generation generic in this so-called Babylon… so many voices, all speaking in hidden tongues. Perhaps it’s just I’m waiting for a bit of pure bravery.

If you had to describe your music to someone who had not heard you before, what would you say?

Often called Post Punk, but transcended that while it died off. Angry, end of days music, loves labour lost

What songs or arrangements of your own are you most proud of, and why?

There’s many for all different kinds of reasons. ‘Iceman’… ‘Propaganda’… Judas’…’Sputnik’… Titanium Man’ They all come with very different approaches to them. Their difference I’m proud of. No two the same. Some are sweeping in context, either anti-establishment or almost dream state. ‘Sputnik’ is a requiem, ‘Propaganda’ is anti-establishment, ‘Judas’ was someones betrayal of me, ‘Iceman’ is the 5,000 year old man they found in the ice on the Italian border in the mountains, ‘Titanium Man’ is simply the Russian doomed anti-hero who was an enemy of Ironman, betrayed by his own regime.

How well did you cope with fame at an early age?

Fame at 25 took my head off. I never ever imagined it could have possibly have happened. It was impossible. When the covers of magazines came along and 3 times on TV in two weeks… It would be a complete lie to say, yes I took it all in my stride. There was no one there to help/advise me, the management assumed it would nose dive at any moment. What I/we needed was proper guidance, not smash and grab thinking as the Titanic was going down. It turned out I wasn’t going down. There are lulls to all careers.

Which person has had the most significant effect on you? Why?

My daughter Siff. She has made sense of life in a very fundamental way. This is her world now, not mine. I’ve had my time. She and her generation have the unenviable task of walking forward into a very insecure, unstable future. She has to be brave all the time.

When touring/visiting, which country had the most profound effect on you, and why?

America. I lived there for almost 4 years. There are certain freedoms over there that are unique. It has to be experienced. For all the negative things going on over there, there is an opposite amount of great things. Every state is a country virtually. There are thinkers over there that broaden mankind’s perspective, and I don’t mean the gold diggers of silicon valley.

If you could backtrack through your career, what would you edit, if anything?

I’m afraid I am the product of all my own stupidities and follies. For better, for worse. To erase one might erase the other. Sometimes I’m all the fools I never wanted to ever be, sometimes and just sometimes, I do something right. Don’t wait up…

Which invention or piece of art would you like to have prevented coming into being?

Undoubtably the Bomb and its descendants. It was brought into being by a group of scientists who raided Einsteins mathematics and knowingly did the unspeakable. They gave it life ever after.

If you were to meet yourself in your early twenties, what advice would you give yourself?

Complicated. Find a lawyer that understood what was or was about to have happen to me. Or as the late great Trevor Ravenscroft quoted to me ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’

 

Theatre of Hate

theatreofhate_westworld

Westworld De Luxe Edition

(Cherry Red Records CRCDMBOX31)

Cherry Red’s welcome re-release of Theatre of Hate’s sole studio LP, ‘Westworld’ comes expanded with some bonus alternative tracks, and two juicy extras; a disc of BBC sessions, and a live concert, from Vienna.

At a distance of 34 years, we may at last be able to get some perspective on Theatre of Hate’s individual take on post-punk rock. The band, here consisting of singer and songwriter Kirk Brandon, bassist Stan Stammers, sax/clarinet player John ‘Boy’ Lennard and drummer Luke Rendle, took on the serious issues of war, politics and propaganda, and set it to galloping martial music. The sparse, desert-like landscapes of Spaghetti Western soundtracks are never very far away, the wailing sax often providing a spectral atmosphere, and over it all, the soaring voice of Kirk Brandon. Produced by The Clash’s Mick Jones, the LP arrived like a hot spark out of the fire, amid the low pop and polished adult orientated rock of 1982, doing respectable business into the bargain.

tohinnner2

The thunderous abandon of ‘Do You Believe in the West World?’ opens, with the band galloping over the plains, Kirk in full throat in what surely deserved to do better than the top 40 single place it ended up with. This is tempered by the shimmering cymbals and funeral trumpet of ‘Judgement Hymn’ and the trip beat of ‘G3’. ‘Love Is a Ghost’ has a tension about it that saves it from being merely a mournful lament, and ‘The Wake’s tense, anxious tones take the listener places he may not want to go. ‘Conquistador’s sleek gallop and rising voice reflect the danger and excitement in the lives of these notorious figures from history, and ‘The New Trail Of Tears’ open, plain-like vistas evoke the cinematic West of legend.

‘Freaks’ may not add much to the canon with its standard TOH beat, but is followed by the shiver-inducing lullaby of ‘Anniversary’. ‘The Klan’ is a suitably nightmarish evocation of antagonism and terror, the imploring vocal shredding the air over an unnerving piano roll. The 7’’ and dub versions of ‘West World’ follow the former a triumph, the latter something of a let-down, with its attempt at a ‘club’ sound hampered by its sheer attack. The alternative take of ‘Propaganda’ shows improvement on the original cut, with stronger beat, and closing track ‘Original Sin’s fear-response guitar and oriental feel making a surprising, late addition to the palette.

tohinnner3

The BBC CD offers up much the same basic material, and in almost every case, the studio takes for the John Peel show and ‘Top of the Pops’ are far superior to their original LP versions. The music is tighter, the vocals more assured, and the overall feel is that of a band who were surely going on to bigger and better things. The ‘Live in Vienna’ CD showcases the band’s winning sound for all to hear, and again, it exceeds the studio LP on almost every cut. We now know that Theatre of Hate would split with little to show for their efforts, and so the strident sound of the live CD and the punchy, engaging BBC sessions are ever more valuable artefacts for those who found the general run of 1982’s pop a little tepid for their tastes. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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November 28, 2016 By : Category : Eyeplugs Front page Interviews Music Reviews Tags:, , , , , , ,
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Edwin Astley – Scenester Reviews

edwinastley

International Detective/ Man from Interpol

El Records ACMEM321CD

This neatly packaged CD contains a snappy selection of work from the prolific Edwin Astley,one who needs no introduction to fans of the TV detective and crime-fantasy genre. Articulating all the tension, excitement and intrigue depicted on screen in these two popular shows, these largely instrumental works will enliven many a jaded palate.

The ‘International Detective’ theme’s urgent brass reveille gives way to some mellower notes of success and glory, taking us straight to ‘Murder Strip’, a sinister drum hiss, short, sharp blasts of brass and clarinet meandering its way round a locality filled with danger. ‘Theme for Larceny’s high, harsh fanfare, interrupted with sudden, shock notes conjures up the murky world of crime, if not horror itself, perfectly.

‘Night Patrol’s cha-cha rhythm lulls you into a sense of false security with its suggestion of humour and a nod to children’s rhyme ‘A tisket, A tasket’, with ‘The Badge’s mellow country guitar and flute taking the theme further. We’re then into the cool drum brushwork and accusatory brass of ‘Manhunt’, and the adversarial notes of ‘Shock Tactics’, with its own nod to horror film themes. ‘Murder Chase’s stabbing notes and fugitive brass works well, the latter’s slightly undisciplined feel adding to the tension, leading to a reprise of the title track, this time more strident and with a characteristic wide-awake vocal.

‘The Menace’s vortex of hissing cymbals and swaggering brass is one of the finest selections here, followed by the ‘Concerto In Law’, with its mocking brass, bongos and clarinet. ‘The Net’ delivers a gentle shock with its strip club voodoo drums and powerful brass in an ironically playful tune. ‘After Dark’s breezy tones and easy going melody acts as relief, with ‘Gang Busters’ piano runs echoing up and down the keyboard, working well here. ‘Ten Four’s tense, moody strut soon turns into a meandering, hesitant sort of tune, suggestive of close, impending danger, with a sudden-death crescendo to end on. ‘Opus in Blue’s muted horns, train-like rhythm and hint of seduction in the plucked guitar is an evocative piece, followed by the brassy, high piping swagger of ‘The Avenger’. Reprising the title track twice, the strong twangy guitar flanked by brass is easily the standout track pairing here.

‘Man from Interpol’s timpani rolls and high, shrieking brass describes imminent danger well, with the leaping notes giving a slightly comic edge to ‘Interpol Chase’. ‘Slow Boat’s dolorous, pedestrian beat, supported by tidy xylophone and drums is a little too laid back for these ears. ‘My Fair Laine’ is much a livelier affair, its sax wickedly expressive, with ‘Fordaire’s call and response horns leading into ’Motor Museum’, a bright and breezy tune, reminiscent of a typical TV game show of the period. ‘The Toff’s light piano opening and slow, sultry sax sharply contrasts with the title, but ‘Breezy Capers’ twee xylophone tune delivers little but irritation. It’s up to the splendidly titled ‘Blues Macabre’ to deliver the thrills, with its capable sax and xylophone backing providing the setting for a free expression piece leading to a fine horn outro.

‘Samba De Janeiro’ is a predictably upbeat piece, with bongo intro, high, piping flutes and meandering sax, underpinned by wild xylophone beating. ‘Beaulieu Blues’ urgent horns, clashing, thumping percussion and crazy sax enlivens, with ‘Nightprowl’s ironic light touch making a good, contrasting companion piece. ‘Domus’s low, quiet double bass leads into a freely expressed sax workout, followed by ‘Panic Station’s strong horns and bongos, leading into free form sax and piano breaks. The wryly comical ‘Interpol Cha Cha’ has plenty to distract, and the somewhat literal ‘Escape to Hawaii’s holiday vibe is both welcome and knowing. ‘Perpetual Lover’s swing beat is held together well by piano and horns, if a little too laid back, and ‘Shapes’ suffers from the opposite problem of being too wide awake, with its piano noodling proving ultimately irritating. ‘Beguine Portrait’s gentle horns and slow, late night feel is exactly what we need at this point, before we end on a reprise of the blaring horns and thumping drums of ‘Man From Interpol’. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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January 4, 2017 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Tags:, , ,
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Mohair Sweets – Scenester Reviews

Dream Filled Nights

An EP of four highly varied works from Mohair Sweets, the eponymous title track has a languorous opening, but soon settles into the sort of hard, gutsy driving blues/rock riff and throaty vocal MS fans will be more familiar with. ‘Black Leather Jacket’s traditional rock ‘n’ roll will please the no-nonsense heads down brigade, but where the EP really hits its stride, is in ‘Blues For Bobby’, a churning vortex of sound with bongos and trumpet rounding out this funk/jazz maelstrom, that even takes on techno – and wins – before its crazed keyboard demise. With this hard track to follow, ‘Mr. Sinclair’ manages it pretty well, the muted staccato guitar barking over frantic drumming, evoking the spirit of arch 70’s space-rock.

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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January 4, 2017 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Rock Tags:, ,
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Action Time Vision – Scenester Reviews

A Story of UK Independent Punk 1976-1979 (4 CD Set)

(CRCDBOX27)

Diamond blades and abrasive discs?

Whether taking issue with every conceivable aspect of their upbringing, proposing radical political solutions, or just raising merry hell in their local scout hut, punk cannot be relegated to the side-lines of the musical past. This comprehensive collection over four CDs, taking in famous and not so famous names alike, and with lavish sleeve notes, is a must-have for anyone with a serious interest in early British punk.

Crashing through the door, the first UK punk single, The Damned’s ‘New Rose’, a growling, leader-straining Rottweiler of a tune that set the standard for sheer, unbridled power. Eater’s ‘Outside View’ has all the shouty, snotty vocals, nodding dog basslines and sheet-metal guitars that were the signature style of most punk bands, but with the surprising addition of phasing on the guitars. It is surely Eater’s finest hour. The Radiators from Space’s ‘Television Screen’ weathers well; a great, classic rock and roll riff with cheery, slightly comic lyrics on the inevitabilities of life. The Cortinas’ punk-by-numbers ‘Fascist Dictator’ still has plenty of punch and some nifty guitar work, but it’s The Drones who get the prize for ‘Lookalikes’, a hard, driving rejection of the idiot conformity within-and without-the punk movement. The Lurkers’ ‘Shadow’, a lo-fi chugger with a fear-response guitar shriek is a solid piece of stalking punk, nicely balanced by The Rezillos spinning, riffing ‘I Can’t Stand My Baby’; Fay Fife’s parodic 60’s trash pop vocals shrieking brilliantly over it all.

999’s ‘I’m Alive’ has enough crotch level guitar and snot-nosed vocal to make it a punk classic, and the sheer excitement of the riff makes it one of the finest on offer here. Johnny Moped’s barking cockney voice injects an element of humour into ‘No-One’, it’s hard, churning riff delivered stony-faced by his capable band. Sham 69’s ‘I Don’t Wanna’ has a thundering riff, but only hints at the greatness that would invade the cosy family friendly culture on BBC’s Top of the Pops. Puncture’s ‘Mucky Pup’ will be recalled with affection by those who felt that punk was way too serious in its early days, as will The Snivelling Shits ‘Terminal Stupid’, a slack, neo-psychedelic confection with Teen/B-Movie imagery. Say what you like, punks could write great titles.

The Vacants’ ‘Worthless Trash’ may be identikit punk, but that echoing, barking vocal and buzzsaw guitar perfectly encapsulates the sound of the period. The Zeros ‘Hungry’ shows a Stooges-infused, more positive side to punk. Maniacs’ joyous racket, Chelsea 77, could have been released in the post punk days, and would probably have got more attention, then. The ringing guitars and full throated, gutter vocal, enriched with stuttering, is an absolute classic. The Outsiders ‘One to Infinity’ has more going on than is immediately apparent and repays repeated listening.

The Killjoys’ ‘Johnny Won’t Get To Heaven’ is a slice of pure, angry confrontation, with Kevin Rowland in his first band, delivering a hoarse, aggressive vocal that is perfect for the style. The magnificently named Johnny and the Self Abusers throw a mean left hook in ‘Saints and Sinners’, while The Unwanted’s ‘Withdrawal’ and The Pigs ‘Youthanasia’ feel more like the speedy, stereotypical punk of the time. The Wasps’ ‘Teenage Treats’ leans towards the power pop that would follow punk later in the decade, and Lockjaw’s ‘Radio Call Sign’ hints at jerky post punk a little before the style was ready.

Neon Hearts squall-like ‘Venus Eccentric’ brings in that rarely used instrument in punk bands, the saxophone, but to little memorable effect. Further proof that punks had a sense of humour, is the Jerks’ ‘Get Your Woofing Dog off me’, but The Panik’s shouty, disgruntled vocals of ‘Modern Politics’ takes us back to punk-a-like territory. Some Chicken’s ‘New Religion’ has all the muddy guitar riffing and complaint rock vocals you would expect, but does little to light the fires at this distance in time.

The Carpettes ‘Radio Wunderbar’ is a pleasing, power pop racket; with The Flys’ singalong ‘Love and a Molotov Cocktail’ may be the best chorus, here. Only the meanest, most curmudgeonly critic would grumble about the inclusion of the Albertos Y Los Trios Paranoias’ gloriously funny ‘Gobbing on Life’. Our first CD closes on a high, with The Only Ones off-kilter, yet beautifully melodic ‘Lovers of Today’ and Suspects’ screaming guitar-infused ‘Nothing to Declare’, playing live at The Vortex.

CD2 opens with the fondly remembered, cross-riff laden Swell Maps’ ‘Read about Seymour’, and passes on to original punk poet Patrik Fitzgerald’s whimsical ‘Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart’. A cracking demo of the Boys’ ‘No Leaders’ opens with harmonics you don’t expect and the great fuzzy guitars you do. The Stoats’ irresistibly cute ‘Office Girl’ proved even punks could be sweet, followed closely by Acme Sewage Co’s riffy but stereotypical ‘I Don’t Need You’. V2’s ‘Speed Freak’, opening with the ever popular air raid siren, launches itself headlong into an insistent guitar hook and stentorian vocal, without distinguishing itself much. Bazoomis’ ‘Give It All to Me’ has more going for it than the average effort, and with a chorus they did well not to put into the title. Raped’s ‘Moving Target’ is more of the same grumble-heavy rock, as is Big G’s ‘I Hate The Whole Human Race’, albeit with a killer guitar churn and a great, music hall chorus.

The thundering battery that opens Subs ‘Gimme Your Heart’ promises and delivers much, and Tubeway Army’s ‘That’s Too Bad’ has none of the icy electronica of their more famous incarnation, but nevertheless a nimble bassline and some neat guitar wash to complement Gary Numan’s signature whine. It’s up to Xtraverts’ ‘Blank Generation’ to inject some bile into the proceedings, but is neutralised by the power pop music hall humour of Fruit Eating Bears’ ‘Door in My Face’. Front’s ‘System’ offers up some excellent twangy guitar and vocals more reminiscent of the early 70’s than the year it’s credited to.

The brilliantly named Satan’s Rats’ ‘You Make Me Sick’ is a standard workout peppered with a clanging guitar solo, but it’s the mighty Stiff Little Fingers who shine here, with the barnstorming ‘Suspect Device’. Menace’s ‘GLC’ takes us back to standard punk shout-a-long, enriched with a chorus that would win them no airplay. The Dyaks’ ‘Gutter Kids’ chiming guitars and homeboy charm has a lot going for it, and Skids obviously hit upon their signature sound early with ‘Reasons’. It has another fine guitar solo in a musical style often blamed wrongly for being totally unmusical. Rudi’s hard to resist ‘Big Time’ fires on all four cylinders from the start, a totally satisfying single.

If your bag happens to be crazed, shouty nonsense, then The Art Attacks ‘I Am A Dalek’ will do for you, Bears’ ‘On Me’ offers a winding bass riff and shouted, soaring vocal that lingers in the mind long after even one listen. O Level‘s ‘Pseudo Punk’ is a standard punker-than-thou slanging match, contrasting with The Members’ ode to the loneliness that characterises many big cities, ‘Solitary Confinement’, because hey, punks can be sensitive too. Nipple Erectors ‘King of the Bop’ is a shambling, bragging rock ‘n’ roll affair, and all the better for it. The Angelic Upstarts ‘The Murder of Liddle Towers’ is perhaps the angriest of all punk singles, the incendiary vocal shredding the air over wild backing, with a truly nerve-jangling interlude. Our second CD closes with Mean Streets’ music hall bop, ‘Bunch of Stiffs’, an indication that, for all the supposed antagonism between punk and rock ‘n’ roll, the two cults remained close cousins.

ATV open the third CD with ‘Action Time Vision’, after which this compilation is named, an elevating song with an insistent repeat riff and Mark Perry’s strangely affecting voice making it a stand out track. Social Security’s ‘I Don’t Want My Heart To Rule My Head’ has more a classic 60’s punk feel to it, all descending chords and yelping vocals. The Tights’ ‘Bad Hearts’ has the feel of a well-produced routine workout, as does Riff Raff’s ‘Cosmonaut’. The Dole’s ‘New Wave Love’ is a breath of fresh air, a little bit of jaunty keyboard in with the buzzing guitars, and with a cheeky lyric. The raw, unprocessed Joy Division perform a V-U inspired ‘Failures’, as muddy and lo-fi as they wanted to be, and as if by way of complete contrast, Leyton Buzzards slap down a punk by numbers ’19 and Mad’. These men would, within a couple of years, be singing ‘Ay y Ay Ay Moosey’ in shiny suits. Demon Preacher lay aside the black Eucharist to treat us to an uninspired girl-baiting ‘Little Miss Perfect’, followed by the much more listener friendly ‘Just another Teenage Rebel’, a danceable slice of near-surf by The Outcasts.

In amongst all this dumb furore, there were some well-read souls who would wield a scalpel to the zeitgeist. By the pricking of my thumbs, it’s The Fall, and their full frontal attack on abusive mental hospital staff, ‘Pyscho Mafia’. This song sounds as powerful, as uncompromising and as far-removed from the general run of pop music as it did then. Chelsea’s ‘Urban Kids’ is one of their less distinguished sides, but no matter, Protex’s ‘Don’t Ring Me Up’ has plenty of classic punk riffs and a tune that would cheer up a manic depressive. The Cravats’ shambling ‘Gordon’ has a neo-psychedelic charm not lost on this reviewer, with the punk by numbers football chant ‘England 77’ by Horrorcomic in hot pursuit.

UK Subs do what they do best with ‘C.I.D.’, a hard, driving warning to those in search of vicarious thrills. Spizzoil’s ‘6000 Crazy’ sets the tone for veteran punk Spizz’s many incarnations, an avant-garde guitar-pounder strangely reminiscent of ‘Do The Strand’. Brighton’s The Dodgems ‘I Don’t Care’ (full version, as threatened) has all the humour that some folk felt punk lacked. The Users can’t resist a good driving riff, with ‘Kicks in Style’, with Peter and the Test Tube Babies helpfully keeping us up to date with the news in ‘Elvis Is Dead’. The Ruts’ magnificent ‘In a Rut’ takes pride of place on this third CD, its tough love message particularly poignant considering the tragic fate of singer Malcolm Owen.

The amusingly named Disco Zombies’ ‘Drums over London’ is a good example of why only some bands can get away with titles like this. The quirky Nicky & The Dots ‘Never Been So Stuck’ reminds us why punk was a broader church than it was ever given credit for. The Shapes childish chugger ‘Wot’s For Lunch Mum?’ (Not B***s Again) perhaps beggars the reply ‘Sh*t With Sugar On’. No Way’s hard, shrieking, grinding ‘Breaking Point’ is a standout, followed by a cheeky Joy Division-like secret track. The Wall’s reggae tinged ‘New Way’ has a lot going for it, and our third CD closes with The Hollywood Brats’ guitar-mangling, shouty madness, ‘Sick on You’, taking punk to its inevitable conclusion.

With our hearts in our mouths, we pass on to CD4, opening with the mighty Adam and the Ants, swaggering their way to fame and fortune with ‘Zerox’, albeit in different directions. If anyone out there can tell whether Notsensibles’ ‘Death to Disco’ is for or against that popular style of music, please let me know. The Vice Creems’ rough-as-robbery ‘Danger Love’ is a delight to the ears, and at least primes you for the macabre horror comic strip of Murder the Disturbed’s ‘DNA’. Speaking of comics, The Cockney Rejects’ ‘Flares and Slippers’ would bring a smile to the face of the worst type of misery guts. Psykik Volts’ knew more about music than they’re letting on, in their classically-inspired march, ‘Totally Useless’.

The Molesters get five points for the band name and a three for effort with their ‘The End of Civilization’, a capable dirge that bears up to repeated listening. The Newtown Neurotics take us back to basic, snotty punk with ‘Hypocrite’, and nothing wrong with that. Pure Hell’s unnecessary cover of ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’ adds little more than a speed riff to the old 60’s chestnut. Fire Exit’s ‘Timewall’ shows us a richer colour palette than the standard punk thrash of the period, and a flashy guitar solo to boot. The Pack’s ‘King of Kings’ shows the fury and promise which would later transform into Theatre of Hate. Steroid Kiddies’ ‘Dumb Dumb’ has welcome elements of 60’s punk buoying it up, and English Subtitles ‘Time Tunnel’ takes us in a definite post punk direction with its melancholic guitar and military beat.

The Proles’ ‘Soft Ground’ also leans toward a neo-psychedelia, underpinned by standard punk guitar, and The Adicts urgent, slicing guitar figure and shocked vocal on ‘Easy Way Out’ once again elicits the fear response, to great effect. The Dark’s ‘My Friends’ has no such sepulchral corners, a fun love song to that drug of the nation, television. The magnificently named Woody & The Splinters’ rather ruin it by making a record, in this case, the busy but ultimately uninteresting ‘I Must Be Mad’. A similar fate awaits Victim’s childhood joke, ‘Why Are Fire Engines Red’. The X-Certs’ ‘Anthem’ approaches country picking but loses itself in its desire to go somewhere fast. F-X’s ‘Slag’ is more fun than you might expect, and the sound effects and stage cockney voices propel punk into the music hall it surely had some vestigial roots in.

The Rivals’ ‘Future Rights’ moody Who-like opening pays dividends, a great marching beat that raises itself head and shoulders above the usual output of the times. Silent Noise’s ‘I’ve Been Hurt (So Many Times Before) can’t quite decide whether to sound like the Mancunian love-lorn band of legend, or the West London spikies, but I’ll not hold it against them. Vice Squad’s screaming tirade, ‘Nothing’ is a fair example of the ‘Don’t Mend What Isn’t Broken’ school of thought, and The Prefects ‘Things in General’ takes the prize for the most disinterested title, and song, in the whole collection. The Licks’ ‘1970’s Have Been Made in Hong Kong’ couldn’t possibly live up to its eloquent title, as its staccato punk stodge proves.

It’s left up to Fatal Microbes to deliver the chilling parable ‘Violence Grows’ and Poison Girls’ searing attack on Big Pharma and its handmaiden, psychiatry, in ‘Under The Doctor’, to close this eclectic, varied and above all, honest collection of sounds from the first punk era. From a snotty, teenage craze to viable all-ages lifestyle in just a few years, punk regularly thumps its sweaty fist on the table, to remind us that not only is it still very much alive, but it’s got no time for the likes of you. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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December 3, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Punk Reviews Tags:, ,
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Fool Britannia -Scenester Reviews

Fool Britannia – Scandal – Stop the World I Want to Get Off – TW3

(El Records ACMemo316CD)

‘Fool Britannia’ takes us back to an age when politicians learnt that respect was earned, not given, and a moment’s indiscretion could bring the house down. This collection of ephemera, stretched over two CDs, is essential listening for those interested in Britain in the late 50’s/early 60’s, satire, pop music and the power of the press.

Written by all-winning song writing team Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, and ably assisted by Peter Sellers and Joan Collins, ‘Fool Britannia’ rips the merciless out of the then highly topical Profumo Affair. At a time when politicians were generally respected by the media, even held in awe, the news of the brief love affair between Secretary of State for War John Profumo and Christine Keeler, a would-be model would have repercussions far beyond any personal embarrassment caused. That Keeler was simultaneously having an affair with Soviet Naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov, and the revelations about the somewhat sordid details of the case would contribute to the fall of Harold MacMillan’s Conservative government. It was the gift that kept on giving, especially for newspaper owners and comedy writers involved in the popular satire boom.

Performed before an invited audience at the RCA Victor Studios, New York, on 6/8/1963, it opens with Sellers doing a spot-on impression of Newley writing a song live in the studio. ‘There Goes That Song Again’ works on more than one level, not least of which are the awful rhymes so typical of the ‘bash ‘em out and sell ‘em cheap’ school of Brit song writing at that time. ‘The House That Mac Built’ stages a speech by PM MacMillan in the bear pit that was the House of Commons, tripping himself up with almost every word, every accidental admission. The impression almost out-does Peter Cook’s own, Cook only trumping when he performed it live before MacMillan, one night.

The hypocrisy of sexual manners during this time period is elegantly brought out in ‘Wry On The Rocks’, but for true venom, you need to cock an ear to ‘They Only Fade Away’, which goes from bar room vulgarity to buffoonish Chinese whispers to amuse us. The biting innuendo in ‘Countess Interruptus’ and the sharply drawn Royal-baiting of ‘We Are Not Amused’ would have given the average radio producer a coronary at the time, but this are only paving the way for the newspaper bidding frenzy of ‘Mightier Than The Sword’. Tony, Peter, Lesley and Joan all give their best in this staging of the scramble for
Mandy Rice-Davies’ story.

The international reaction to the scandal is brilliantly satirised by way of parodied news reports in near-enough foreign languages, and followed by what may be the best one-liner of the entire satire boom: (French accent) ‘Eh, want to buy some filthy English postcards?’

For all-out belly laughs, the telephone conversation between two dubious film producers and an agent acting for one of the girls cannot be bettered. Intending to add Mandy’s story to their already impressive roster of forthright, thought provoking films, such as ‘Too Young To Strip’ and ‘I’m Sixteen and not Ashamed of my Body’, they negotiate the rights from a malodorous telephone box in Old Compton Street.

Punctuated with sharp one-liners and taking in public reaction to the whole Profumo debacle, ‘Fool Britannia’ may not crack up a modern audience at fifty years’ distance, but as a document of the style of humour and public attitudes, it can’t be beaten. An interesting side note here: major record companies would not touch this piece with a bargepole at the time. It was Jeffrey S Kruger’s ‘Ember’ label which saw its release, and its subsequent 10 week long residence in the
LP charts.

Highlights of the soundtrack from the film ‘Scandal’ (1989) are well chosen, ranging from Frank Sinatra’s sublime ‘Witchcraft’ to Guy Mitchell’s hilarious ‘She Wears Red Feathers’. The full album is well worth investigating for its highly representative choices of popular (rather than ‘pop’) music of the era, the only original song being Dusty Springfield’s ‘Nothing Has Been Proved’, written by Pet Shop Boys.

Disk 2, although bearing a facsimile of the cover from ‘Stop The World I Want To Get Off’, with Anthony Newley in Pierrot costume, actually opens with Mandy Rice Davies’ efforts to become a pop star; four songs which should have convinced everyone she was not suited to this particular walk of life. The upbeat ‘You’ve Got What It Takes’ makes considerable use of echo on Mandy’s thin voice, recalling the tuneless Yvonne in ‘Smashing Time’, and the smoochy jazz of ‘Close your Eyes’ is no better served. ‘All I Do Is Dream of You’ pitches Mandy as an innocent, and the mercifully final selection, ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’ must have had the listeners in fits at the suggested Spoonerism in its title. Not that Mandy was the only one seeking to make a quick buck out of this incendiary story: Joyce Blair, labouring under the well-chosen moniker, ‘Miss X’, turns in a sexily humorous one-sided conversation in ‘Christine’, and as if to ensure a complete radio ban, the sultry ditty, ‘S.E.X.’

‘Stop The World I Want To Get Off’ occupies much of the second disk, and if you’re not familiar with this funny, satirical piece from the days when going to a musical was not the dull, predictable affair it is today, then you should listen to it without delay. Basically a story of an ordinary Joe’s path through life, taking in early marriage forced on by his girl’s unexpected pregnancy, work and its joys, and finally, his transformation into a populist political hopeful, every song is tuneful, memorable and barbed in a way that would never do in today’s no-risk
light entertainment.

Following this are selections from the ever sharp, slyly digging world of ‘That Was the Week That Was’, the BBC television show (1962-63) which capitalised on the satire boom. Using impressions, song, narrative and the week’s news as its raw material, ‘TW3’ had a huge array of writers, a wealth of talent and presented by the legendary David Frost, it was the BBC’s most strident and most feared show.

TW3 took on the establishment in a weekly sparring contest, and ran it round the ring until it was too exasperated to defend itself further. The previously untouchable subjects of sex, religion and class, Britain’s much diminished place in the world and the private lives of our leaders all came under scrutiny and were mocked mercilessly. The week’s news, sung by the lovely Millicent Martin makes for a good start, and the real life meeting between pop singer Adam Faith and the Archbishop of York is given a cheeky twist with ‘Adam’s Not A Sinner Anymore’, sung in the adenoidal style, then still popular from the time of Buddy Holly. Lance Percival’s impromptu calypsos may sound a little tame today, but were revolutionary then, but perhaps the finest sketch on offer here is the terribly well-spoken man and woman, skirting around the question of whether to have sex on their presumed first date. Our sexual manners may have moved on since the early 60’s, but the humour of embarrassment is still the same.

We can enjoy this world of 60’s satire in sound again, thanks to this excellent double pack. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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October 20, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Pop Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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Silverhead and Michael Des Barres – Scenester Reviews

Silverhead (Purple 001)
16 and Savaged (Purple 002)
Live At The Rainbow (Purple 003)

Three LPs of work by one of the glam rock period’s great forgotten bands, Silverhead, and its singer, later turned actor, Michael Des Barres, is surely one of the year’s most unexpected re-releases. Purple Records have done the honours, and included a wealth of bonus material in amongst the original music and artwork.

‘Silverhead’ appeared in 1972, at the height of the Glam Rock period, its cover styled in Art Deco interlocking frames and featuring singer Michael Des Barres in voluminous baggy trousers, his face a scary clown mask, his hands conjuring 7’’ records out of the air, and arranging them in an elegant arc to complete
the arabesque.

silverhead

Musically, it’s easily the best of these three LPs, opening with ‘Long Legged Lisa’, with its slow, choppy intro lick and salacious lyric. The slide guitar work is classy, but the band knew which way the wind was blowing in rock, and kept to the glam/trash model as far as they could. With its cast of character like ‘Sharp Shootin’ Sheila and the aforementioned Lisa, it’s hard to say whether this was all inspired by Marc Bolan, Muddy Waters or John Gay, but it’s good, trashy fun, so who’s bothered?

‘Underneath The Light’s steady rocker is brought to life with a good, tight lick and Michael’s in fine voice, with some capable screaming guitar riffs thrown in for good measure. ‘Ace Supreme’s exciting riff masks some horribly clichéd lyrics, but that was far from being a crime in the glam 70’s.

‘Johnny’ sees the acoustic guitar getting an airing, in a rather half-hearted lament that was an obvious play for a US FM audience. ‘In Your Eyes’ sticks with the mawkish sentiment, and rather shows up the limitations of Michael’s voice in this piano-led number. Such material would be best left to the expert in this field; your Elton John.

Happily, this introspective section is over with, and it’s back what Silverhead do best; the great, throwaway scuzzy rock of ‘Rolling With My Baby’. It’s a shame to follow this up with ‘Wounded Heart’, the band taking a walk on the Gospel side, and to no great effect. No matter, ‘Sold Me Down The River’ sees them back on the wrong/right side of the road again, with a classic turnaround for the traditionalists out there.

‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’ is surely to be regarded as Silverhead’s fighting song, a plea to be taken seriously, at a time when many lesser bands were achieving greater, often undeserved success. The short, sharp ‘Silver Boogie’ has a charm to it that puts you in mind of ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, and is a fairly unique way to close this debut LP.

Bonus tracks have more going for them than most CD fillers; ‘Ace Supreme’s thunderous echoing sound shows what a great live prospect they were, and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’ in the live arena is a revelation; great, scorching hot guitar licks pepper the lengthy take, and again the powerful sound showing evidence of no mean ability. The clearly audible female laughter suggests a surreptitious recording, somewhere in the audience, and all of Michael’s various attempts to fire up the crowd are there for posterity.

‘Sold Me Down The River’ has more desperate jollying up to its live outing, to little effect, and then we’re into the 7’’ versions of ‘Ace Supreme’ – a potent start-up, the homoerotic tale worked well, ‘Oh No No No’s tepid rocker and ‘Rolling With My Baby’s well produced, tighter sound, surely hinting at great things
to come.

silverhead_16andsavaged

‘16 and Savaged’, their second LP was released in 1973, and sporting the sort of cover image that would be unlikely to go down well in today’s more sensitive times. The LP’s nine tracks have been expanded to include live and unreleased material, more than doubling the musical content.

‘Hello New York’s guitar skids the LP into action, in a sub-Alice Cooper piece of jet-rock, and lets it settle in our brains by following it with a slow roller, ‘More Than Your Mouth Can Hold’ (ermm…) the US style vocal delivery perfect for this type of unashamedly dirty rocker. ‘Only You’ follows hot on its heels, some fine bluesy guitars leading up to a grand swell that reminds this listener of Humble Pie at their raunchiest.

‘Bright Light’ opens well with a swaggering guitar lick and rocks steadily throughout, but the shouted vocal turns out too jokey to carry what’s otherwise a good, steady roller. The generic 70’s stomper ‘Heavy Hammer’ doesn’t do what it says on the tin, but the wild ‘Cartoon Princess’ more than makes up for it. The talking guitar intro, topped off with ‘yacking’ vocal and punctuated with a neat bass turnaround keeps the momentum up, until the long lead out.

Sticking to what they know best, ‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’s title tells you all you need to know about this generic rocker, and it’s a shame that the chorus is as weak, with such a great title as this. The unfortunately named ‘This Ain’t A Parody’ sounds exactly like one, a slow blues with a predictable ‘crone’ voice, typical of many rock songs of the era. Closing track ’16 And Savaged’s powerful drum battery and slick guitar lick perfectly complement Michael’s performance as, at last, he lets his voice rip, in obvious 7’’ single material.

This is where the official LP ends, but the reissue extends to double the tracks, starting with a somewhat homoerotic tribute to the even then, much eulogised James Dean. It possesses some gritty guitar, a throaty vocal but cliché’d lyrics are all too evident. We continue in this vein with ‘Marilyn’, a standard rocker but with little else to recommend it.

Two Michael des Barres’ solo outings, and a change of pace in ‘Leon’, with its starry, Disney-fied opening, a little reminiscent of Elton John’s output of the time, it’s a gloomy tale of receiving news of a friend’s death in Amsterdam. The welcome bluesy rocker, ‘New Moon Tonight’, has the makings of a single in it, with a good, clean vocal sound and tidy backing. A brace of live tracks from the band follow, with an echoey sound that suggest ill-attended gigs in large, impersonal halls; either that, or the Nazareth/Uriah Heep headliner fans shoved off to the bar whilst Silverhead strutted their stuff. No matter; their guitars are strong, Michael’s vocal is helped by the weird acoustics, and the band play like their lives depended on it.

silverhead_live_rianbow

‘Live At The Rainbow London’ credited to ‘Michael Des Barres – Silverhead’ has only one cover version, the pugnacious, fuzzy closer of ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, but there are riffs aplenty before we get there. ‘Hello New York’s hard, rocking guitars complement Michael’s harsh delivery well, into the steady chugger, ‘James Dean’, the voice far better than on record, and buoyed up by good guitar work. ‘Sold Me Down The River’ creeps in, Michael’s Jaggerisms well to the fore, and the song ends with a mild-dare I say it?-mellow ‘Man Of The World’-style riff.

‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’ is prefaced by a long and predictably lecherous explanation of the song’s genesis, doing nothing to help what is basically a reliable rocker of a song, followed by the slow lament ‘Only You’. ‘Ace Supreme’ turns up like the proverbial bad penny, fouling the air with its twin exhausts, and ‘Rolling With My Baby’s piercing guitar uproar rolls along well, but the strain on Michael’s voice is all too evident here. ‘Will You Finance My Rock And Roll Band’ has some excellent staccato guitar, and may well be Silverhead’s finest hour.

The second half, recorded at the Paris Theatre, London, opens with the great, driving ‘Hello New York’, tightly delivered, the announcer leaving us to wonder how Silverhead were ever placed on the same bill as Peel-endorsed, jaws harp enthusiast hippie duo, Medicine Head. ‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’ works tolerably well, but ‘Rolling With My Baby’ has the sort of chops we all came for, a standout live track. ‘Bright Light’ sticks to the template, closing with ’16 And Savaged’, given pepped up guitars and powerful drums to great success with the crowd, and the very old fashioned BBC announcer’s voice kept in, just for the hell of it. It’s not over; an alternative, highly aggressive take of ‘James Dean’ hints ta what might have been and the classic rocker, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ putting the tin hat on it.

Why Silverhead didn’t become stars, is a little beyond me. They had the look, the star quality and the chops, as the live LPs attest. What may have been their Achilles heel, was how they sounded in the studio. Compare and contrast their Live At The Rainbow (where they supported the mighty Nazareth) to the sound of ’16 and Savaged’; the latter is a pale shadow of their live thunder. Perhaps their sound just couldn’t be captured in the antiseptic confines of a studio. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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September 22, 2016 By : Category : Front page Glam Live Music Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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George Jones – Scenester Reviews

A Picture Of Me (Without You) & Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half as Bad as Losing You)

Morello MRLL57

It is surely impossible to overrate the importance of George Jones to modern music, with his long, somewhat chequered career that nevertheless netted him some 150 hit records, his numerous marriages and divorces, and his more enduring relationship with the bottle. Two George Jones LPs from his troubled 1970’s on one CD is still too good an offer to pass up, and those good people at Morello have done the honours.

‘A Picture of Me (Without You)’ begins with the eponymous title track, a piano stroll with simple words, gently crooned. ‘The Man worth Lovin’ You’s lively tune doesn’t turn away totally from the country singer’s standard yearning, but perhaps George’s voice isn’t up to the swell in the tune. ‘She Knows What She’s Crying About’ would win few points for sensitivity from the ladies, but does show a vulnerable side, among the bravado of the lyric.

It’s ‘Second Handed Flowers’ which takes an early prize for a strong, regretful lament, a mawkish tale of a man who goes on a visit to an old girlfriend, only to find he’s not the only one with flowers in his hand. ‘That Singing Friend of Mine’s tall tales, heavenly choir and a clear indication as to the subject of the song, possesses an element of comedy that lightens the collection nicely. ‘She Loves Me (Right out Of My Mind)’s slow, sweet tribute to the distaff side has a few strange key changes to prepare you for the sorrowful ending.

‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ would win few points from the soon to be married, and its basic hopeless message may be a step too far even for aficionados lovelorn country-style, leaving it to the wistful, pleasant, ‘Another Way To Say Goodbye’ to bring us back into something like a comfort zone. ‘On The Back Row’s guitar twanger has more going for it than meets the ear, with its slightly misleading title and its faint hope of reconciliation, is hokey, yet touching.

‘Let there be a Woman’s religious references may put off many of you born outside of the Bible Belt, but ‘We Found a Match’s down home simple metaphor for new-found love would warm the heart of even an old curmudgeon like me.

Segueing straight into LP2, ‘Nothing Ever Hurt Me (As Bad As Losing You)’ sets up a jokey hoe-down, and it’s all the better for it. ‘You’re Looking At A Happy Man’s song of freedom from a bad woman might not sit too neatly in the Gospel style it’s played in, but it’s cheerful and it has a fine guitar part to stretch your legs to. ‘Never having you’ continues the happy tone, a routine strummer but not unpleasant. After all this uncharacteristic country jollity, ’Made For The Blues’ comes as a jarring but welcome change, the sad harmonica and plodding beat underlining the inevitability of feelin’ blue.

‘What’s Your Mama’s Name?’ is played as a heartfelt tale of love and longing, in the way only Country can. ‘Mom And Dad’s Waltz’ tugs at the heartstrings (again) in something that’s more a tale of child estrangement than everlasting love. ‘You’ll Never Grow Old (To Me)’s backhanded compliment works well, although another plodder when it comes to rhythm, and ‘What My Woman Can’t Do’ turns cynicism on its head for a genuine, and long overdue tribute to the womenfolk. ‘My Loving Wife’ follows straight after, and it would take a lady with a tolerant sense of humour to see the funny side of this man’s dissipated ways.

‘Love Lives Again’s expectation of eternally renewing love can’t be faulted for its optimism, the LP ending with ‘Wine (You’ve Used Me Long Enough)’ a bitter lament for an old lover. George ain’t kiddin’ ‘bout it, neither. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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August 26, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Tags:, , ,
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Unit 4+2 – Concrete & Clay – Scenester Reviews

The Complete Recordings (RPM Retro D944)

Active between 1964 and 1969, Unit 4+2’s relatively brief career packed in twelve singles, two LPs and a fair number of line-up changes. Starting out as a very capable vocal harmony group, the band’s sound diversified into a pleasing Latin/Flamenco sound, going completely against the grain of the wildly successful beat sound of the period. The band will always be remembered for their top notch No 1 hit, ‘Concrete and Clay’, with its distinctive Latin sound and urgent lyrical declaration of love. It’s here of course, but so is much more, varied material, much of it written by singer Tommy Moeller and guitarist Brian Parker.

‘The Green Fields’ rolling country banjo number has you on your feet and ready for a hoe-down soon enough, in a song of lost and hopeful new love. ‘Swing Down Chariot’s sweet gospel harmonies works hard to get into the most stony of hearts, with its bright, happy message, and ‘Sorrow and Pain’ borrows the banjos and sings a gentle tear-jerker to one who caused it all. ‘The Lonely Valley’s play on self-pity and solitude may have been a step too far into the saccharine, but with the sublime ‘Concrete and Clay’ following it, it’s almost forgivable.

This harmony band’s strength definitely lay in the standards and their gentle, subtly instrumented take on classic ballad ‘When I Fall In love’ would pass muster in any company. ‘Woman from Liberia’s banjo-ridden jokey gospel will raise a smile, followed by enjoyable-enough jaunty Mex country plicker ‘Wild Is the Wind’. The band’s keen-as-mustard take on ‘Cotton Fields’ stands in the long shadow cast by The Beach Boys, and suffers from the comparison.

‘Cross A Million Mountains’ rhythmic journey song recalls The Hollies’ Latin tinges, and the lively guitar/banjo workout ‘To Be Redeemed’ reminds us of The Weavers’ ever-energetic approach. ‘(You’ve) Never Been in Love like This Before’s gentle stroll, assured lead guitar and numerous changes is kept together well with a great chorus. ‘Tell Somebody You Know’ is a tentative step into a more pop/rock and roll sound, in a song of hope for the loveless.

‘Couldn’t Keep It To Myself’ returns to the gospel sound the band seem most comfortable with, followed by a departure, in the form of ‘You’ll Remember’, with its Beach Boys style start up and slow, steady build. ‘500 Miles’ harmonies carry well, in what is basically another sorrowful departure song, followed by their take on ‘La Bamba’, an excellent version, with a few extra beats to vary the rhythm. I wish I could say the same for their maudlin cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, which suffers on its own choices, and not just by comparison with The Righteous Brothers’ sublime original.

The band’s cover of ‘Girl from New York City’ is a most enjoyable one, and I’d certainly like to see this girl who’s ‘Cute In her Mohair Suit’ for myself. ‘Hark’ takes us to some other place where there’s sun and sand, in a sultry country song that may be the best treatment here since their immortal hit. ‘Stop Wasting Your Time’ utilises the band’s famously good harmonies in an otherwise routine song of jealousy, and ‘You’ve Got To Be Cruel To Be Kind’, introduced by some tense bass and minimal triangle, has a rich stew of guitars, handclaps and thumping rhythm, with a great lead vocal to keep you interested. The CD closes with the poppy ‘I Won’t Let You Down’, whose rock and roll beat and twangy guitar underpins a really great vocal performance.

CD2 opens with ‘Baby Never Say Goodbye’, one that borrows a little of ‘Concrete and Clay’s jaunty rhythm. The clapping intro to ‘Rainy Day’ sets the scene for a fairly routine piece that must have sounded out of date by the early 60’s, never mind the latter part of that decade. ‘For A Moment’s bass pulse and climbing verse and resolution puts you in mind of the glorious pop of Dave Dee & Co, with an added surf sound they would have been wise to pursue further. ‘Fables’ late 60’s trippy hippy sound is pleasing enough, and is followed by what is surely the most elegantly worked song on this compilation, ‘I Was Only Playing Games’. The quiet guitar chords and gentle voice, backed by tense cello sawing and confessional lyrics lead into a mighty, beautifully orchestrated swell.

‘I’ve Seen The Light’ s poignant feel and marching beat is another standout, perhaps suggesting that this band took a while to hit its stride after the huge hit. ’Too Fast Too Slow’s Spanish guitars drive the song well, with ‘Booby Trap’s beaty, twangy psyche-lite dutifully earning its place on the record. ‘Butterfly’s soaring chorus and medieval strings send us into a nostalgic reverie, perfectly suited to the song’s subject, making its chirpy neighbour, ‘A Place to Go’ sound a little trite by comparison.

‘Loving Takes A Little Understanding’s wailing mouth organ and sultry marimba atmosphere suits the arrangement well, even if the ‘Lesson One’ lyrics would have sounded a little old-fashioned by then. ‘Would You Believe What I Say?’ is a beatier, funkier affair, and all the better for it, and the band seem to revel in their new-found Stateside twang, in Bob Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’, which they performs as a West Coast piece with a smooth, swinging sort of beat.

‘So You Want to Be a Blues Player’ has a lively, danceable and most un-bluesy beat, but is nevertheless one of the best selections here. The echoing, haunting ‘3.30’ seems less than the sum of its parts, and ‘I Will’ reprises the faintly medieval sound that so enlivened an earlier song. With all these borrowings from the hippie phase, we are once again puzzled by an unmistakably late 50’s Drifters-style treatment of ‘Face in My Head’, with its ‘fool’ voice and tight orchestration. The simple, joyous ‘Something I Can Believe In’ is a slight, but celebratory track in the final run up of this collection, followed by the maudlin start to ‘(Living In) The World of Broken Hearts’, a song well worth persisting with for its drama and great chorus. We end with the bouncy ‘I Can’t Stop’, and this is where the story of Unit 4+2 draws to a close, also. Packed with extensive liner notes, photos and record covers, this CD is a worthy addition to anyone’s music library. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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August 2, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Tags:, , , , , ,
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