It was back in 2012, that Field Report, released their eponymous debut album. Two years later, and singer-songwriter Chris Porterfield and his band return with their sophomore album, Marigolden, which was recently released by Partisan Records. However, much has happened to Field Report in the intervening two years.
Since the release of Field Report’s debut album back in 2012, the Milwaukee-based band have been busy. They’ve been touring relentlessly across America. From tiny venues, right through to amphitheatres, audiences have been won over by Field Report. So have some of the biggest names in music.
This included two of Counting Crows and Aimee Mann. When they heard Field Report, they asked them to support them on their recent tours. For Field Report, this was a dream come true. They were huge fans of Counting Crows and Aimee Mann. However, it wasn’t just Counting Crows and Aimee Mann who were won over by Field Report.
Suddenly artists Field Report had previously looked up to, were championing their music. Artists like Mark Eitzel and Richard Thompson were championing their music. Then all of a sudden, the Blind Boys Of Alabama decided to cover one of Field Report’s songs. Everything in Field Report’s world seemed to be going so well. Then fate intervened.
Having recorded Field Report as a sextet, the group lost three members during 2013. The constant touring, and growing tensions within the band took their toll. This could’ve proved fatal for some groups. However, not Field Report. They regrouped and returned stronger.
So much so, that in December 2013, Field Report were ready to record their sophomore album Marigolden. So, singer-songwriter Chris Porterfield and the rest of Field Report, Chris headed to snowy Ontaria. That’s where Field Report recorded Marigolden, which was produced by Robbie Lackritz.
Recording of Marigolden took place at the Unicorn Ranch, Ontario. That’s where the slimmed down lineup of Field Report recorded the ten songs penned by Chris Porterfield. Chris also played guitar, piano, synths and added lead vocals. Shane Leonard played drums, guitar, banjo, Gourd banjo, violin, percussion, electronics and vocals. Ben Lester played pedal steel, synths, piano, percussion, electronics and guitar. Tamara Lindeman adds vocals and Travis Whitty plays bass, synths and adds vocals. Once Marigolden was recorded, in snowy Ontario, the album was delivered to Partisan Records.
They scheduled the release of Marigolden for November 2014. That’s two years since Field Report first burst onto the scene with their eponymous debut album. Has Marigolden been worth the two year wait? That’s what I’ll tell you.
Decision Day opens Marigolden. It has an understated arrangement. Just a slow, deliberate, acoustic guitar and pulsating percussion accompany Chris’ worldweary vocal. At last, the snow is melting and finally, he can see the world outside. Gradually, he sees the world outside taking shape. Boredom gives way to hope and maybe, happiness on Decision Day.
Home (Leave the Lights On) was the lead single from Marigolden. It’s a homecoming song, where Chris returns from a long, gruelling tour to his family. He sings: “but leave the lights on, cause it might be nighttime when I get there, but I’m on my way.” There’s a nod to The Travelling Wilburys on this track. That’s down to the vocal, rhythm section, acoustic guitar and weeping pedal steel. The only slight disappointment is the sometimes synthetic sounding drums and the use of a synth. Mostly though, this is a really catchy track, with a strong narrative and a feel good sound.
A wash of weeping guitar opens Pale Rider, setting the scene for Chris’ vocal, where he reconsiders sobriety. He delivers a soul searching vocal, where you’re privy to hear his deepest fears. He’s scared that he’s going to climb on the back of the “pale horse outside my door.” He knows where that leads. Birthdays forgotten, weekends lost and broken relationships. As Chris delivers his vocal, a minimalist arrangement envelops it. Just backing vocalists, weeping pedal steel and acoustic guitars accompany Chris, on what’s a heartfelt, soul-baring opus.
Just a muted, meandering and thoughtful guitar opens Cups and Cups. It’s the accompaniment for Chris’ tender, wistful vocal. Still the arrangement is understated. Drums, scrabbling percussion and muted guitars help drive the arrangement along. However, what grabs your attention is Chris’ vocal. It’s whispery and pensive, as memories come flooding back. Meanwhile, synthetic drums crack and stabs of piano, adding an element of drama. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Chris’ vocal on this eighties influenced soundscape.
On Ambrosia, a maudlin Chris, sings about the stark reality of his love-hate relationship with a bottle. His voice sounds as if it has been scarred by one too many drinks. It’s rough, ragged and hued by a lifetime of carousing. His lifelong, love-hate relationship with a bottle has made Chris maudlin. He reflect on his past, the people he knew, and what became of him. Accompanied by a piano on what sounds like a Neil Young inspired ballad, he ponders the future, wondering what it holds for him? Will he always want to drown himself in a bottle, or somehow, will he resist the temptation to do so?
Wings has a much more experimental sound. Slowly, the arrangement reveals its secrets. Just slow, deliberate keyboards and sci-fi sounds accompany Chris’ husky, drawl. He snaps his fingers, as if encouraging the rest of the band. Instruments are dropped in just at the right time. This includes a guitar, piano, percussion and a grandiose swell of synth strings. They set the scene for Chris. He’s desperate, out of luck and money. As the strings reach a crescendo, the arrangement shows not just its secrets, but another side and sound of Field Report.
Marigolden sees a return to a much more traditional sound. It’s best described as alt-country. Just a picked acoustic guitar and percussion accompanies Chris’ vocal. It veers between heartfelt, emotive and melancholy. Later, sweet harmonies accompany Chris’ what’s a tale of love lost and maybe, love found.
Meandering, dramatic, flourishes of piano open Michelle. It’s the only accompaniment to Chris’ vocal. It sometimes, reminds me of Jackson Browne in his seventies heyday. Just like Jackson, Chris is a talented singer-songwriter, who has the ability to paint pictures with his lyrics. The main difference is the arrangements. Chris’ arrangements are much more minimalist. Here, a weeping pedal steel, hypnotic drums, wistful acoustic guitar and piano create an understated backdrop. This however, allows Chris’ vocal to take centre-stage. His lyrics veer between dark and hopeful. It’s as if Chris’ inner pessimist and optimist are in conflict. Hence, lyrics like “I will drive us of the cliff to the ravine” and “now it’s leaking love in my captain’s car.” These lyrics showcase a hugely talented singer-songwriter, with a thousand stories to tell.
Washes of synths and lumbering drums set the scene for Chris’ vocal on Summons. He’s happy, that his tour is nearly over. He’ll be able to see his wife and family. Guitars weep and longing fills Chris’ vocal as he sings: “I’ll be coming home.” As tiredness and desperation threaten to overcome him, he looks forward to “coming home.”
The tracks that bookend an album have to standout. An artist wants to draw the listener in, keep their attention and leave them wanting more. That’s the case with Enchantment, which closes Marigolden. It’s just an acoustic guitar that accompanies Chris’ vocal. Guilt and sadness fill his voice. He cashed in a 30-day chip for a kiss. Now he’s racked with guilt. Guitars weep, synths sweep and harmonies coo. All the time, Chris tries to come to terms with his actions. He can’t though. Deep down, he knows he’s hurt his wife, who he misses, and loves, more than anything. Guilt, hurt, and regret all play their part in a heartbreaking song that leaves you wanting to hear much more from Field Report.
For many groups, their second album is the hardest of their career. There’s been many reasons put forward why that’s the case. Often a group that’s young and hungry, will have already written their debut album before they sign to a label. They’ve spent years writing and honing that album. Sometimes, the album is already recorded. All that’s left is for the record company to release it. They cover themselves by saying that the album is a demo. Then lo and behold, it’s a critical and commercial success. The band are then asked to write another album while touring their debut. This proves problematic. So when the sophomore album disappoints, in years to come, it’s often referred to as the “difficult second album.” Thankfully, that’s not the case with Field Report’s sophomore album Marigolden. It could’ve been though.
Since the release of Field Report’s debut album back in 2012, the Milwaukee-based band have been busy. They’ve been touring relentlessly across America. From tiny venues, right through to amphitheatres, audiences have been won over by Field Report. They’ve also backed the Counting Crows and Aimee Mann. For Field Report, this was a dream come true. They were huge fans of Counting Crows and Aimee Mann. Everything in Field Report’s world seem going so well. Then fate intervened.
Having recorded Field Report as a sextet, the group lost three members during 2013. The constant touring, and growing tensions within the band took their toll. This could’ve proved fatal for some groups. However, not Field Report. They regrouped and returned stronger.
That’s apparent when you listen to Marogolden. It’s a highly personal album that was penned by singer-songwriter Chris Porterfield. He writes about his loneliness on long, gruelling tours and his battle with alcohol. Listening to Marogolden, Chris appears to be a man whose constantly struggling darkness and demons. Out of his darkness comes music that’s poetic and personal.
During Marogolden’s ten track, Chris lays bare his soul. There’s no machismo involved. This isn’t an album that celebrates the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Far from it. Chris seems to shun and fight it. He doesn’t want to embrace the debauchery of a rock ’n’ roll tour. No. He’s a family man, who just so happens to be a musician. This can’t be easy. After all, temptation is around every corner. Chris realises this and instead, Marogolden is a warts and all album.
Chris isn’t afraid to share his problems on Marogolden. This could help others, especially those who face the same love-hate affair with the bottom of a bottle. The same goes for loneliness.
Just like many people, when Chris tours, he’s far from home. Many people will be able to relate to the loneliness of Summons. Hopefully, they’ll be able to resist cashing in their chips like Chris does in Enchantment, which closes Field Report’s sophomore album Marigolden.
Featuring ten tracks, Marigolden sees Field Report combine alt-country, folk, electronica, indie rock and rock over tracks. Field Report sound as if they’ve been influenced and inspired by Neil Young, Jackson Browne, The Jayhawks, Wilco and Gram Parsons. The result is Marigolden, an album of music that’s highly personal. It’s also variously beautiful, dramatic, emotive and full of darkness, hope, hurt and sadness. Marigolden, Field Report’s sophomore album sees them mature as a band.
Over the last two years, Field Report have grown and evolved as a band, since the release of their eponymous debut album. Marigolden, which was recently released by Partisan Records, has been well worth the two year wait. It’s a coming of age from the Milwaukee-based Field Report, who continue to win friends and influence people on their highly personal, soul baring, sophomore album Marigolden.
MEGA JAWNS-LITTLE LADY.
Nowadays, there aren’t many bands that manage to record an album in a week. Instead, some bands take years to record an album. Partly, that’s down to the way albums are recorded.
Forty years ago, the only way to record an album, was in a recording studio. That cost money. So, the only bands able to record an album, were those signed to a record company. Nowadays, that’s not the case.
In the last twenty years, the way in which albums are recorded has changed beyond recognition. No longer, do bands need recording studios. Instead, all that’s needed is laptop containing a Digital Audio Workstation and some VSTs. Add to this, an audio interface and any aspiring band can record their debut album. That’s exactly what the Mega Jawns did early this year.
The Mega Jawns were founded on 10th March 2014. That’s when two veteran producers met in a basement in West Philly. That’s where Philly keyboard player, vocalist and producer Will Brock and UK producer and DJ Will Sumsuch. Having shaken hands on the 10th March 2014, seven days later Mega Jawns’ debut album Ten Letters From Home was completed. Six months later, Ten Letters From Home was released by BBE Records on 22nd September 2014. Now, two months later, Mega Jawns have released Little Lady as a single. It’s the latest chapter in the story of two veteran producers.
Sometimes, artists or producers can struggle for years before they make a breakthrough. Then when they meet a new collaborator, their fortunes change. That wasn’t quite the way it was for the two Wills, Will Brock and Will Sumsuch. They were both enjoying relatively successful careers. However, they were approaching the stage in their musical careers when they were referred to as veterans. This was the case with the two Wills.
Philly keyboardist, vocalist and producer Will Brock has been a stalwart of the international jazz and soul scene for more years than he can care to remember. He’s spent what seems like a lifetime touring and performing. Will hasn’t just criss-crossed America, but the world. In doing so, Will has toured and played with everyone from The Stylistics, Miles Jaye and Marion Meadows. However, it’s not just touring that Will Brock enjoys.
When he’s at home, Will enjoys working in the studio. He’s a pianist and producer. Previously, Will has released singles on King Street Records. He’s also recorded with Stephanie Cooke and King Britt. Will is also one as one half of production duo Soul Dhamma. The other Will, Will number two, has an equally impressive CV.
Will Sumsuch is a UK based producer and DJ. He’s a mainstay of the European deep house scene. That’s been the case for over ten years. With his DJ case packed with the deepest house, Will has played all over Europe. One night it’ll be Barcelona, the next Helsinki. The life of a globe-trotting DJ is best described as have passport, will travel. When he’s not DJ-ing, Will’s a respected producer.
Just like most successful DJs, Will is also a producer. His music is popular among the DJ-ing community. Look into the DJ case of Ben Watt, Osunlade, Justin Martin and Jody Wisternoff, and they’ll have tracks by Will Sumsuch amongst their secret weapons. Will’s cerebral style of electronic music is winning over DJs and dancers. It was whist Will Sumsuchwas making one of his singles Simpatico, that he first met Will Brock.
That was back in 2013. The two Wills first collaborated on Will Sumsuch’s 2013 single Simpatico. Will released Simpatico on his own label Colour and Pitch. Quickly, Simpatico found a following within the DJ-ing fraternity. One of the first people to pick up on Simpatico was house vocalist Robert Owens. That was just the start. Soon, others got behind Simpatico. For the two Wills, this was the start of a fruitful collaboration.
Fast forward to 10th March 2014. That’s when the two Wills first met. Having shook hands, they started work. They joked about making an album within a week. However, they both thought that maybe, they’d manage to record a couple of tracks. After all, recording an album in a week was a step too far? Surely?
It wasn’t. Ten Letters From Home is proof of that. It’s a meeting of two musical minds. On Ten Letters From Home, Will Brock adds a Philly Soul influence. Meanwhile, Will Sumsuch adds an understated European electronica influence to Ten Letters From Home. The Mega Jawns debut album Ten Letters From Home, was an intriguing fusion of ideas, influences and genres. One of Ten Letters From Home’s highlights, was Little Lady, which was recently released on BBE Music as a single.
Unlike the “old days,” when a single had just an A and B side, nowadays, a single can contain anything up to eight tracks. The Mega Jawns’ new single features just three tracks. There’s the original version of Little Lady, which closed their debut album Ten Letters From Home. From the get-go, the arrangement to Little Lady gets funky. Bass, guitar and keyboards join forces with drums as Will delivers another powerhouse of a vocal. He’s augmented by harmonies. They add the finishing touch to this joyous, uplifting slice of Nu Philly Soul. There’s also the Eat More Cake remix which gives the single a delicious dance-floor friendly remix. The other version is the instrumental version. Again, this version will appeal to DJs who’ve discovered the sound and delights of Mega Jawns, who have taken advantage of the new way of recording.
Music has changed almost beyond recognition in the past twenty years. Nowadays, a generation of artists regard recording studios as a relic of the past. DAWs, drum machines and synths the way to make music. It’s a much cheaper and easier way to make music. The advent of technology accessible for a new generation of producers. This includes the Mega Jawns.
Nowadays, producers like Will Brock and Will Sumsuch can meet and collaborate over the internet. Using DAWs packed full of VSTs and samples, the Mega Jawns can collaborate across the Atlantic. All they need is a high speed broadband connection. Many producers collaborate like this. However, that’s not how Mega Jawns recorded Little Lady, their new single from their debut album Ten Letters From Home. Little Lady which was recently released by BBE Music was the result of transatlantic collaboration.
Will Sumsuch jumped on a plane and flew the redeye to Philly. That’s where he met Will Brock. They met on 10th March 2014 and joked about making an album in a week. That might have seemed like a pipe dream. It wasn’t. The Mega Jawns managed to record their debut album Ten Letters From Home in seven days.
The Mega Jawns wrote, recorded and mixed Ten Letters From Home within seven days. That’s good going nowadays. No longer do artists record quickly. Instead, they spend years trying to complete an album. That Ten Letters From Home was recorded within seven days. Many modern producers should learn from the Mega Jawns.
Too many producers don’t attach a monitory value to the time they spent within their home studio. They forget the maxim that time is money. For every hour, day and week they spent auditioning claps and kick drums, it’s costing them money. So if an artist spends a year on an album, there’s no way they’re really making money. Their royalties won’t come close to covering costs. The Mega Jawns didn’t make this mistake.
They worked quickly and they worked well. Pooling their resources, the Mega Jawns wrote, recorded, produced and mixed the ten tracks on Ten Letters From Home. One of its highlights was Little Lady. It was a case of the Mega Jawns keeping the best to last.
Little Lady is soulful, sultry, dance-floor friendly and full of hooks. Musical genres and influences literally melt into one. Nu Soul meets elements of jazz, jazzy house and soulful house. There’s even a nod to Philly’s soulful past. For anyone yet to discover the delights of the Mega Jawns, then Little Lady is the place to start. After that, you’re bound to want to discover the delights of the Mega Jawns’ debut album Ten Letters From Home.
MEGA JAWNS-LITTLE LADY
WINGS-VENUS AND MARS.
Although their first two albums had been a commercial success, Paul McCartney and Wings’ third album, Band On The Run, was a game-changer. It was released on 5th December 1973, and reached number one in America, Australia, Britain, Canada and Norway. This resulted in Band On The Run being certified triple platinum in America, and platinum in Britain and Canada. Band On The Run had surpassed the commercial success of 1971s Wild Life or 1973s Red Rose Speedway. That however, wasn’t the end of the accolades that came Band On The Run’s way.
In 1975, Band On The Run was nominated for three Grammy Awards. At the Grammy Award ceremony, Band On The Run won Grammy Awards, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. For Paul McCartney, Band On The Run was a turning point.
After Band On The Run, Wings as the group became, would enjoy five consecutive platinum albums in America. The first of these albums was Venus and Mars, which was recently released as a double album by Universal Music Group. Venus and Mars was the first Wings album to feature Wings expanded lineup.
When Band On The Run was recorded, Wings were a trio, featuring Paul and Linda McCartney and guitarist Denny Laine. The following year, 1974, Paul McCartney decided that now, was the time to expand Wings lineup. In came lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton. The new lineup of Wings started recording Venus and Mars.
Some of the earliest sessions took place in Nashville. That’s where it became apparent that lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton didn’t get on. There was a personality clash, one that couldn’t be resolved. After six months as a member of Wings, Geoff Britton left Wings. American drummer, Joe English was auditioned and became the new Wings drummer. Geoff Britton’s contribution to Venus and Mars was just three songs. Another three songs were recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London.
By the time Wings arrived at Abbey Road Studios, in November 1974, Paul and Linda McCartney had already written a number of the new songs that featured on Venus and Mars. This included Letting Go, Love In Song and Medicine Jar. These were just there of the Paul and Linda McCartney compositions.
Eventually, Paul and Linda McCartney penned eleven of Venus and Mars’ thirteen tracks. New member, Jimmy McCullough, cowrote Medicine Jar with Colin Allen. The other track was the musical faux pax that was Tony Hatch’s Crossroads Theme. These thirteen tracks would eventually, become Venus and Mars, which was recorded at a variety of studios, including Sea-Saint Recording Studio, New Orleans.
With some of the material for Venus and Mars written, Wings headed to New Orleans. Their destination was Sea-Saint Recording Studio, New Orleans. That’s where overdubbing of the tracks recorded at Abbey Road took place between January and February. Right through to April 1975, Wings recorded songs for Venus and Mars at spent the Sea-Saint Recording Studio. However, that wasn’t the only studio they used in America.
The other studio Wings used, was Wally Heider’s Studio, in Los Angeles. This was a studio used by the great and good of music. It was highly regarded within the music industry, and many a classic album was recorded there. One night, at Wally Heider’s Studio, a familiar face visited Paul and Linda.
This was none other than John Lennon. His relationship with Yoko Ono was on hold. He was now in a relationship with May Pang. John was also in the midst of “lost weekend,” where he ran wild with Harry Nilsson. One night, however, he decided to visit the McCartneys at Wally Heider’s Studio. The two old friends tried to get repair their fractured friendship. This seemed to work. John told May Pang he was thinking about writing with the McCartneys. Sadly, this never happened, as John was reunited with Yoko Ono. Meanwhile, Wings released their fourth album.
By April 1975, Venus and Mars, Wings’ fourth album, was completed. It was scheduled for release on 27th May 1975. Before that, Listen To What The Man Said was chosen as the lead single from Venus and Mars. This was a masterstroke. When Listen to What the Man Said was released, it reached number one in the US Billboard 100 charts. For Wings, they looked like building on the commercial success of Band Of The Run.
When critics heard Venus and Mars, the reviews were mixed. They ranged from favourable to disappointing. Rolling Stone, still perceived as panacea of music criticism, weren’t won over by Venus and Mars. It was, they believed a mixed bag of songs. Classic McCartney songs sat side-by-side with filler. For Wings, the critical reception to Venus and Mars was disappointing. However, the people that mattered, record buyers, thought otherwise.
On Venus and Mars’ release on 27th May 1975, it reached number one in America, Britain, Canada, France and Norway. It also reached the top ten Australia, Japan and the Netherlands. In total, Venus and Mars sold over four million copies. This resulted in Venus and Mars was certified platinum in America, Britain and Canada. Although Venus and Mars wasn’t as popular as Band On The Run, Wings were well on their way to becoming one of the most popular bands in the world.
This wasn’t apparent when Letting Go was released as the second single from Venus and Mars. It was released in October 1975 and stalled at just number thirty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Over the Atlantic, Letting Go reached number four in Britain. The third and final single from Venus and Mars was Venus and Mars/Rock Show. Although it reached number twelve in the US Billboard 100, it failed to chart in Britain. However, overall, Venus and Mars had been a commercial success, and showcased Paul McCartney’s skills as a singer and songwriter.
There’s thirteen tracks on Venus and Mars, which features Paul McCartney is accompanied by the newly expanded lineup of Wings. Although many critics referred to Venus and Mars as a musical mixed bag, that’s somewhat unfair.
Venus and Mars starts with the wistful title-track. Then Rock Show explodes into life. Love In Song is a heartfelt ballad, but is far from a McCartney classic. The jaunty You Gave Me The Answer sees Paul roll back the years mixing hooks and humour. Magneto And Titanium Man sees the hooks keep on coming, as Wings mix perfect pop and rock. Closing side one is Letting Go. It’s moody, rocky and cinematic. Letting Go which is the perfect way to close side one, sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to a James Bond film.
Side two opens with a reprise of Venus and Mars. Its familiar melancholy sound is comforting. Spirits Of Ancient Egypt, which features Denny Laine’s lead vocal proves a disappointment. The live version on Wings Over America is the definitive version. Medicine Jar sees the vocal change hands again. Jimmy McCullough delivers the lead vocal. Sadly, after a driving, dramatic, rocky and funky introduction Jimmy’s vocal proves too weak. It can’t carry the song. If Paul had taken charge of the vocal, Medicine Jar would’ve been transformed. Thankfully, Paul takes charge of the next three vocals.
This starts with Call Me Back Again. He delivers a vocal that’s a mixture of drama and power, on what’s always been an underrated track. It features some blistering guitar licks. They’re the perfect replacement for Paul’s vocal, as the newly expanded Wings kick loose. This continues on Listen To What The Man Said, which is without doubt, Venus and Mars’ best track. From the opening bars, right through to the closing notes, it’s Wings at their very best. The medley of Treat Her Gently and Lonely Old People is a reminder of Paul McCartney’s skills as a singer and songwriter. He breaths, life meaning, emotion and beauty into the lyrics. That would’ve been the perfect way to close Venus and Mars. However, Paul had an idea.
The story started when Dick James sold The Beatles publishing company, Northern Songs to Lew Grade. As a result, they became part of ATV Music. At first, Paul McCartney was angry and frustrated. So Paul and Lew Grade met to discuss the situation. At the meeting, Lew Grade agreed to administer Northern Songs at favourable rate. He also agreed to give Wings a television show that would help promote Wings in America and Britain. As the two men parted, Lew Grade jokingly asked Paul if he’d consider rerecording the theme tune to Crossroads, a low budget British television show. Little did he realise, that a few years later, he’d do just that.
At the Venus and Mars sessions, Wings rerecorded the Crossroads Theme. It was given a modern makeover, and closed Venus and Mars. Since then, the Crossroads Theme has been one of the most controversial songs that Wings ever recorded. However, the truth is, the Crossroads Theme, which closes Venus and Mars, was merely a quid pro quo.
On the second disc of Venus and Mars, there’s another fourteen tracks. This includes rare and unreleased tracks. Some of the tracks were recorded at the sessions in Louisiana and Los Angeles. Apart from the unreleased tracks, there’s the singles Junior’s Farm and Walking In The Park With Elois and B-Sides like Bridge On The River Suite, My Carnival and Lunch Box/Odd Sox. There’s also another version of Rock Show and the single version of Letting Go. These fourteen tracks show the newly expanded lineup of Wings evolving as a band. They’re an interesting and intriguing musical document, as Wings became one of the seventies’ supergroups.
Whilst Venus and Mars never replicated the commercial success of Band On The Run, it cemented Wings reputation as one of the most successful bands of the seventies. Venus and Mars was the start of a run where Wings enjoyed five consecutive platinum albums. They could do wrong. Right up until 1979s Back To The Egg, Wings enjoyed commercial success and sometimes, critical acclaim.
Band On The Run had been the start of this. Venus and Mars saw the commercial success continue. After the release of Venus and Mars, Wings embarked upon the Wings Over the World tour. It started in 1975 and finished in 1976. During that period, Wings criss crossed the world, showcasing their latest album, Venus and Mars.
Although Venus and Mars isn’t as good as Band On The Run, it’s an album that’s matured with age. Critics weren’t impressed with Venus and Mars upon its release. However, of the thirteen songs, nine of them are of the standard you’d expect from Paul McCartney. Ironically, Paul’s decision to make Wings a democracy backfired.
On Venus and Mars, Paul allowed Denny and Jimmy to take charge of the lead vocal on a track. This backfired. Neither Denny nor Jimmy were able to bring out either song’s potential. Spirits Of Ancient Egypt, featured Denny Laine’s lead vocal. It proved a disappointment. So does Medicine Jar, which sees the vocal change hands again. Jimmy McCullough delivered the lead vocal and didn’t have the power to make the song come alive. Two other tracks on Venus and Mars disappoint.
Love In Song may have been a heartfelt ballad, but was far from a McCartney classic. The controversial Crossroads Theme was the wrong song, on the wrong album. Instead, the medley of Treat Her Gently and Lonely Old People would’ve been the perfect way to close Venus and Mars, Wings’ fourth album, which was recently rereleased as a double album by Universal Music.
Venus and Mars may have not found favour with critics upon its release, but it’s a reminder of just how talented a singer, songwriter, musician and bandleader Paul McCartney was by 1975. While Wings were far from The Beatles, they were a talented group, who were one of the most popular groups of the seventies. They took three albums to find their voice. After 1973s Band On The Run, there was no stopping Wings. They spread their Wings, and released five further commercially successful albums, starting with Venus and Mars, which has matured with age since its release, back in 1975.
WINGS-VENUS AND MARS.
JIMI HENDRIX-THE CRY OF LOVE AND RAINBOW BRIDGE.
It was around 11a.m. on the 18th September 1970, that Jimi Hendrix was found unresponsive at an apartment in the Samarkand Hotel, in Notting Hill, London. He was rushed to the St. Mary’s Abbot’s Hospital, but pronounced dead at 12.45p.m. Jimi Hendrix was just twenty-seven. Music had lost one of the most influential and innovative guitarists of his generation.
That’s despite Jimi’s solo career beginning just four years earlier. Since then, Jimi had released a trio of studio album and one live album. However, since Jimi’s death, twelve posthumous albums have been released. The first of these were The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge. Both albums were released back in 1971. Remastered versions of The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge have been recently released by Sony Music. These albums are a remainder of a musical maverick at the peak of his powers.
Jimi Hendrix took music by storm, and vied for the title of rock’s greatest guitarist. Throughout his solo career, Jimi was a flamboyant showman, who growing up, modelled himself on T-Bone Walker.
It was T-Bone who Jimi saw playing his guitar with his teeth. When Jimi saw this, he took it as a challenge. This became part of Jimi’s routine. In years to come, Jimi played his guitar as if his life depended upon it. Jimi, on form, was like a man possessed. Some nights, Jimi played his guitar behind his back, played it with his teeth and as if trying to exercise some inner demons, set his guitar on fire. All this made Jimi one of the most exiting guitarists ever. However, Jimi was also a technically brilliant guitarists of his generation. That was apparent from his debut album with The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Are You Experienced?
That was apparent from The Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 debut album Are You Experienced. It featured the debut of the legendary power trio The Jimi Hendrix Experience. It featured drummer Mitch Mitchell, bassist Noel Redding and guitarist Jimi Hendrix. They fused rock and psychedelia on eleven tracks penned by Jimi Hendrix.
The eleven tracks that became Are You Experienced, were recorded between October and April 1966. Three London studios were used, De Lane Lea Studios, CBS, and Olympic Studios. That’s where The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their debut album Are You Experienced, which was produced by Chas Chandler. Once it was completed, it was released in Britain in May 1967,
When Are You Experienced was released, it was hailed as one of the greatest debut rock albums. It showcased an innovative fusion of rock and psychedelia. At the heart of the Are You Experienced’s sound was the freewheeling sound of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. He could do things other guitarists could only dream of. Add to the equation Jimi’s languid, charismatic vocal and it’s no surprise that Are You Experienced was such a huge commercial success.
When Are You Experienced was released in Britain, in May 1967, it reached number two. This resulted in a gold disc for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. No wonder. Are You Experienced featured future Jimi Hendrix classics like Foxy Lady, Third Stone from the Sun and Are You Experienced? Three months later, in August 1967, Are You Experienced was released in the US. It reached number five, and was certified platinum five times over. For Jimi, this was the start of a three year period where he could do no wrong.
Axis: Bold As Love.
Seven months later, on 1st December 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience returned with their sophomore album Axis: Bold As Love in the UK. It featured thirteen tracks. Twelve were penned by Jimi. These tracks showed Jimi evolving as a songwriter. He may have just been twenty-five, but he was a talented songwriter. Proof of this were tracks like Spanish Castle Magic, Wait Until Tomorrow, Castles Made of Sand and Bold As Love. They featured Jimi coming of age as a songwriter. These songs were recorded at Olympic Studios, London.
Recording of Axis: Bold As Love took place at Olympic Studios, London. The sessions took place during May, June and October 1967. Axis: Bold As Love had to be released during 1967. The contract that the Jimi Hendrix Experience had signed stipulated this. Ironically, the album was nearly lost.
One night, Jimi Hendrix took the master tapes to side one home. Unfortunately, Jimi left them in a taxi. The master tapes were never found. This resulted in side one being mixed again. This didn’t delay the release of Axis: Bold As Love. As planned, Axis: Bold As Love was released in Britain in December 1967.
Axis: Bold As Love, was released in Britain, on 1st December 1967. It was released to the same critical acclaim as Are You Experienced. Critics ran out of superlatives in an attempt to describe Axis: Bold As Love. Jimi was described as some sort of musical messiah, who had music’s future in his hands. Record buyers agreed with the critics description of Axis: Bold As Love.
When Axis: Bold As Love was released in Britain, it reached number five and was certified silver. Then on January 15th 1968, Axis: Bold As Love was released in America. However, Axis: Bold As Love hadn’t been released in America during 1967.
There was a reason for this. The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s record company were scared this would affect sales of Are You Experienced. So Axis: Bold As Love wasn’t released in America until January 1968. When it was released, it reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. Although not as successful as Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix was riding the crest of a musical wave.
By October 1968, when The Jimi Hendrix Experience released Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was one of the most successful musicians in the world. His albums sold by the million, and when The Jimi Hendrix Experience played live, they were one of the hottest live acts. This showed when Electric Ladyland was released.
Unlike The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s two previous albums, Electric Ladyland was an ambitious album. It featured sixteen songs. Thirteen songs were penned by Jimi. Two of the covers were Bob Dylan’s All Around The Watchtower and Earl King’s Come On (Let the Good Times Roll. These tracks, and the rest of Electric Ladyland were recorded at three recording studios.
Recording sessions took place between July and December 1967, then between January and April 1968. Three different studios in London and New York were used. This included Olympic Studios in London and Record Plant Studios and Mayfair Studios, New York. Once the sixteen tracks were recorded, Electric Ladyland was released in October 1968.
As soon as critics heard Electric Ladyland, they realised that this was The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s best album. It oozed quality. Tracks like Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), All Along the Watchtower and Gypsy resulted in what was the greatest album of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s career. Critics hailed Electric Ladyland a career high for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Record buyers agreed.
When Electric Ladyland was released in Britain, on 16th October 1968, it reached number six and was certified gold. Nine days, later, on 25th October 1968 Electric Ladyland was released in America. It reached number one on the US Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum. The rise and rise of The Jimi Hendrix Experience continued.
Just like their previous two albums, their third album Electric Ladyland became a classic. Electric Ladyland was the album that The Jimi Hendrix Experience were always capable of making. It was a coming of age for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They’d released the finest album of their three album career. Sadly, there was a twist in the tale. Electric Ladyland would be The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s final album.
Band of Gypsys.
Eight months after the release of Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their last concert on June 29th 1969. This took place at Barry Fey’s Denver Pop Festival. This was a three day event. Little did anyone know, that never again, would The Jimi Hendrix Experience play live. However, six months later, Jimi’s new trio, Band Of Gypsys, recorded their only album
After The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up, Jimi formed another trio, the Band Of Gypsys. The lineup featured drummer Buddy Miles, bassist Billy Cox and Jimi on guitar. The Band of Gypsys recorded their only live album on 1st January 1970.
When the Band Of Gypsys took to the stage at Filmore East, in New York, on 1st January 1970, they had been busy. They’d written six new songs. Jimi penned four tracks, including Who Knows and the funky, anti Vietnam War song Machine Gun. These two tracks comprise side one of Band Of Gypsys. He also wrote Power To Love and Message Of Love. Jazz drummer Buddy Miles, wrote Changes and We Gotta Live Together. These six tracks found the Band Of Gypsys moving in a different direction from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Elements of funk, R&B and soul shine through on Band Of Gypsys. This isn’t surprising, given Jimi’s bandmates’ past. However, Jimi’s trademark fusion rock and psychedelia is still present. What’s obvious, is that Jimi was keen to explore different musical directions. He wasn’t going to be tied to the one musical genre. Instead, he was willing to experiment musically. Band Of Gypsys was just the start.
When critics heard Band Of Gypsys, they were won over by the genre melting album. They realised that Band Of Gypsys was an ambitious album. Machine Gun, they felt, was the best track on Band Of Gypsys. It was the album’s centrepiece, and showed what Jimi Hendrix, musical maverick was capable of, even without The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Just like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Band Of Gypsys was the perfect vehicle for Jimi.
Band Of Gypsys was released in Britain on 25th March 1970. It reached number six. Nearly three months later, on June 12th 1970, Band Of Gypsys was released in America, reaching number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Band Of Gypsys being certified double platinum. Jimi Hendrix it seemed could do no wrong. Everyone waited with baited breath to see what direction his career headed. Sadly, tragedy struck.
On the 18th September 1970, Jimi Hendrix died. He was the latest addition to the infamous twenty-seven club. Music was in mourning. No one could believe Jimi Hendrix was dead. However, given his appetite for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, Jimi must have cheated death many times. Sadly, his luck ran out. His musical legacy was just three studio albums and one live album. However, Jimi Hendrix had been a prolific recording artist.
There were many tracks in various states of completion. This was more than enough for several album’s worth of material. They would be released over the next forty-four years. The first of these albums was The Cry of Love
The Cry of Love.
The Cry of Love was the album that Jimi Hendrix was working on, at the time of his death. It was meant to be Jimi’s debut solo album. Sadly, fate intervened and The Cry of Love, was never released during his lifetime.
Jimi had been working on The Cry of Love since The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up. He’d been working with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox on The Cry Of Love. It featured ten tracks which were penned by Jimi. These tracks were recorded at Jimi’s new Electric Lady Studios, in New York.
At Electric Lady, Jimi, Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox had recorded the ten songs. Around half the songs were completed. The rest of the songs, were in various states of completion. In some cases, the tracks were work in progress. Other tracks required overdubbing. So, when Jimi died, recording engineer Eddie Kramer and Mitch Mitchell got to work.
They were joined by Jimi’s manager, Michael Jeffrey. Together, they got to work on completing Jimi’s first posthumous album, The Cry of Love. Commercial reality dictated that The Cry of Love had to be finished, and finished quickly. After all, interest in Jimi Hendrix’s music was at an all-time high. However, they had to be careful that The Cry of Love wasn’t perceived as a hastily compiled, cash-in.
That was never going to be the case. Everyone involved saw The Cry of Love as a homage to Jimi Hendrix. Time, care and attention was taken compiling The Cry of Love.
Before The Cry of Love, was completed, some overdubbing had to be carried out. Some new parts had to be added. Recording engineer Eddie Kramer and Mitch Mitchell were asked to coproduce The Cry Of Love. They mixed the tracks, albeit with some guidance from Eddie Kramer, Jimi’s manager. He and Mitch Mitchell were given then given the job of deciding the final track listing. Only then, was The Cry Of Love completed and ready for release.
When The Cry Of Love was released on 5th March 1971, less than six months after Jimi’s death, mostly, the reviews were critically acclaimed. A few contrarian reviews disagreed. This included the Rolling Stone magazine. It’s review was merely favourable. However, most critics realised, that if Jimi Hendrix had lived, The Cry Of Love would’ve been a trailblazing debut.
So did record buyers. On the release of The Cry Of Love, it reached number two in Britain. However, The Cry Of Love fared much better in America. It reached number three and was certified platinum. This equated to over one million sales. Six months after his death, Jimi Hendrix was one of the most successful and innovative musicians of his generation. However, many people thought that The Cry Of Love was the last they’d hear from Jimi Hendrix. That wasn’t the case.
Seven months after the release of The Cry Of Love, the second posthumous Jimi Hendrix album was released. This was Rainbow Bridge. Just like The Cry Of Love, Rainbow Bridge consisted of recordings made after The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up.
The eight tracks on Rainbow Concert were recorded during 1969 and 1970. Seven track were written by Jimi. They recorded with various musicians at various studios, including the Record Plant and Electric Lady Studios in New York. Way Over Yonder was recorded at TTG Studios, in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The other track, Hear My Train A Comin’ was recorded live at Berkeley Community Theatre, Berkeley, California. Just like the rest of the tracks, it featured some of Jimi’s musical friends.
This included Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They’re joined by the Band Of Gypsys. Drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox all feature on Rainbow Concert. So do The Ronettes, who add backing vocals on Rainbow Bridge. It’s one of eight tracks that showcase Jimi Hendrix evolving as a singer, songwriter and guitarist.
That’s also the case with an early version of Star Spangled Banner. It sees Band Of Gypsys’ bassist Billy Cox joins Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. They play their part of a captivating version of what became a Jimi Hendrix classic. Other future Jimi Hendrix classics include Dolly Dagger and what’s regarded as the definitive version of Hear My Train A Comin.’ These are just three reasons why Rainbow Bridge was such a commercial success.
Rainbow Bridge was released in November 1971. It was well received by critics. They remarked upon how Jimi was maturing as a musician, singer and songwriter on Rainbow Bridge. Sadly, Rainbow Bridge wasn’t as successful as previous albums. It stalled at number sixteen in Britain and number fifteen in the US Billboard 200. However, at least Rainbow Bridge was certified gold in America, where Jimi was still regarded as one of the greatest musicians in the history of rock music. That’s still the case.
Forty-three years after the release of The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge, which were recently rereleased by Sony Music, Jimi Hendrix is still regarded as one of the greatest musicians in the history of modern music. He was a freewheeling, flamboyant, musical maverick, who did things his way. This included playing his guitar with his teeth. When Jimi saw T-Bone Walker do this, he took it as a challenge. Soon, it became part of Jimi’s routine.
In years to come, Jimi played his guitar as if his life depended upon it. Jimi, on form, was like a man possessed. Some nights, Jimi played his guitar behind his back, played it with his teeth and as if trying to exercise some inner demons, set his guitar on fire. All this made Jimi one of the most exiting guitarists ever. There’s no denying that Jimi Hendrix was also a technically brilliant guitarists of his generation. Sadly, he was also fundamentally flawed.
Just like so many musicians who came to the fore in the sixties, Jimi Hendrix had a penchant for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Drink and drugs were ever-present as Jimi lived life in the fast lane. Life was for living, and Jimi was determined to try everything once. He took this as a challenge. As a result, Jimi had a few close calls. However, there’s only saw often you can dice with death. On on the 18th September 1970, Jimi Hendrix died from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. That day, music lost one of its most talented sons. His musical legacy included three studio albums and one live album.
Since then, Jimi’s discography has grown. Twelve further albums have been released. The first of these albums were The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge, which were recently reissued remastered by Sony Music. They feature Jimi Hendrix as he matured as a singer, songwriter and musicians. Goodness knows what kind of musical colossus he might have become, had he cheated death? He may have continued to have been one of the most innovative and influential musicians of his generation. Sadly, that’s speculation. What we do know, is that Jimi Hendrix leaves behind a rich musical legacy.
This started with the trio of albums Jimi released with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland are stonewall classics that belong in any self-respecting record collection. Band Of Gypsys, Jimi’s first album after the breakup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, sees him changing direction musically. This continues on The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge, where Jimi Hendrix matures and evolves as a musician. The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge are a tantalising taste of the direction Jimi Hendrix’s music was heading. Who knows what heights Jimi may have scaled, if he’d lived? Sadly, we’ll never know. What we do know, is that Jimi Hendrix left behind one of the richest musical legacies, which showcases a flamboyant, musical maverick at the peak of his powers.
JIMI HENDRIX-THE CRY OF LOVE AND RAINBOW BRIDGE.
LED ZEPPELIN-HOUSES OF THE HOLY.
When Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy on 28th March 1973, they were one of the biggest bands in the world. Houses Of The Holy was their fifth album. Their four previous albums had sold over forty million copies. This made Led Zeppelin one of the biggest selling rock bands in the world. However, their reputation preceded them.
Around the world, Led Zeppelin were referred to as one the “unholy trinity of rock.” Their appetite for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle was legendary. Excess was encouraged within the Led Zeppelin camp. They wore their infamy with pride. Drink, drugs and debauchery was commonplace. So was destruction. The four members of Led Zeppelin weren’t averse to wrecking hotel rooms. Having trashed a room in the Tokyo Hilton, Led Zeppelin were banned from the chain for life. Hotel rooms weren’t just trashed. Television sets out of hotel windows. Another time, John Bonham rode a motorcycle the Continental Hyatt House, which Led Zeppelin nicknamed Riot House. However, when it came time to recording an album, Led Zeppelin put their game head on. That was apparent when recording of Houses Of The Holy began.
Houses Of The Holy was Led Zeppelin’s fifth album. It was also an album that saw Led Zeppelin change direction. Gone was the bluesy sound of earlier albums. Replacing it, were songs that featured synths and orchestral arrangements. Funk, reggae, jazz and even doo wop influenced Houses Of The Holy. That wasn’t the end of the changes.
Producer, Jimmy Page decided to use layering extensively on Houses Of The Holy. This gave the album a much more multi textured sound. These changes in sound were apparent on the eight songs which feature on Houses Of The Holy, which was recently reissued as a remastered double album by Atlantic Records.
On Houses Of The Holy, the Jimmy Page and Robert Plant songwriting partnership cowrote four tracks, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Over the Hills and Far Away and Dancing Days. They also penned No Quarter with John Paul Jones. The other three tracks, The Crunge, D’yer Mak’er and The Ocean were written by Led Zeppelin. These eight tracks were recorded between January and August 1972.
Recording of Houses Of The Holy began as 1972 dawned. A recording session took place at Headley Grange. That’s where the original recording of No Quarter took place. After that, The Rolling Stones mobile recording studio was hired. Led Zeppelin headed to Mick Jagger’s country estate Stargroves, in Berkshire. That’s where recording sessions took place. By May 1972, Led Zeppelin were based in London. The next round of recording sessions took place at Olympic Studios, London. Then as Led Zeppelin embarked upon a tour of America, further sessions took place Electric Lady Studios, New York. Eventually, Led Zeppelin had more than enough songs for Houses Of The Holy.
So productive were the recording sessions, that Led Zeppelin had actually recorded more songs than they needed. This included Black Country Woman, The Rover and Houses of the Holy. Led Zeppelin decided to keep these songs for future albums, even though Houses of the Holy would’ve made the perfect title-track for Led Zeppelin’s fifth album.
Houses of the Holy was released on 28th March 1973. Originally, Houses of the Holy was meant to be released in January 1973. However, the controversy surrounding the album cover, meant that the release date was postponed.
The inspiration for Houses of the Holy’s album cover was Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis shot a collage of photos at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. When the cover was completed, the collage, it featured photos two children shot in black and white, but multi-printed to create the effect of eleven people. Time and effort was taken, in an attempt to get the desired image. However, this didn’t quite work out.
Despite Aubrey Powell’s best efforts, it looked like Houses of the Holy’s album cover was going to fall short of what was envisaged. Then a mistake in the postproduction resulted in what many people perceived as a striking album cover. However, not everyone agreed.
Many people were uncomfortable with the image on Houses of the Holy’s album cover. They went as far as to describe the image as sinister. Even Atlantic Records weren’t entirely comfortable with the cover.
Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s manager, allowed Atlantic Records to add a wrap-around paper title band to British and American copies of Houses of the Holy. It obscured the image that Atlantic Records were uncomfortable with. Only when the piece of paper wrapped around the sleeve was broken or slid off, could the listener access the record. Despite doing this, Houses Of The Holy was banned in several Southern States of America. This ban lasted a number of years. However, despite this ban, Houses Of The Holy was a huge success.
Before the release of Houses Of The Holy, Led Zeppelin embarked upon a promotional tour. It seemed no expense was spared. Everyone new about Houses Of The Holy and Led Zeppelin’s new sound. Critics who previously, hadn’t been fans of Led Zeppelin, were won over by their new sound. However, as usual, the contrarian Rolling Stone magazine turned its ire on Led Zeppelin.
The supposed panacea of music criticism, Rolling Stone, seemed to have a blinkered attitude to Led Zeppelin. From their debut album, Rolling Stone never gave Led Zeppelin a fair chance. By Houses Of The Holy, it was getting to be a standing joke. Members of Led Zeppelin’s entourage awaited Rolling Stone’s tirade against rock ’n’ roll’s biggest group. They weren’t disappointed. Rolling Stone gave Houses Of The Holy a disappointing review. However, Led Zeppelin had the last laugh.
On its release, Houses Of The Holy reached number one in America, Britain, Canada and Australia. Houses Of The Holy also reached the top ten in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway and Spain. Despite the success of Houses Of The Holy, the singles didn’t fare as well.
Over The Hills And Far Away was the lead single. It was released in May 1973, reaching number fifty-one in the US Billboard 100 charts. Then in September 1973, D’yer Mak’er reached number twenty in the US Billboard 100 charts. This was disappointing. However, Led Zeppelin were never really a singles band. That became apparent, as gold and platinum discs for Houses Of The Holy came Led Zeppelin’s way.
Houses Of The Holy was certified eleven times platinum in America and three times platinum in Britain. In Argentina, Germany and Spain, Houses Of The Holy was certified gold, while in France, Houses Of The Holy was certified gold twice over. Overall, Houses Of The Holy sold nearly twelve million copies. That was pretty good for an album that Rolling Stone panned. Ironically, Rolling Stone include Houses Of The Holy, which I’ll tell you about, in their list of the 500 best albums of all time.
Little did Led Zeppelin realise it, but Houses Of The Holy opens with a stonewall classic, The Song Remains The Same. Originally, the song was meant to be an instrumental. That’s apparent as the rhythm section of drummer John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones lock into the tightest of grooves. They’re then joined by Jimmy Page’s frenzied, multi-tracked guitar playing. His fingers flit furiously up and down the fretboard. He unleashes a guitar masterclass, unleashing a series of scorching, searing licks. They’re multi-tracked, ensuring that a wall of sound assails you. Later, Robert Plant’s vocal enters. It’s been slightly speeded up. However, the focus of your attention is Jimmy’s guitar freewheeling masterclass. It encourages the rest of Led Zeppelin to even greater heights, as they embark upon a new era.
The inspiration for The Rain Song was George Harrison. He’d remarked to John Bonham that Led Zeppelin never write ballads. Page and Plant rectify this with a beautiful, wistful, string laden ballad. The arrangement is as far removed from Led Zeppelin as you can get. Their hard rocking rhythm section are restrained. Jimmy Page’s guitar chimes and shimmers. Meanwhile, Robert’s vocal veers between is heartfelt and emotive, to powerful and impassioned. Behind him, swathes of strings provide an orchestral backdrop for what’s an epic ballad from Led Zeppelin.
Over the Hills and Far Away is the third consecutive track from the Page and Plant songwriting partnership. They’d matured into one of the best songwriting partnerships in rock, by 1973. Again, the song has an understated introduction. A six string and twelve string acoustic guitar combine before Robert’s lived-in, needy vocal enters. It takes on an urgency. That’s apparent in the arrangement, which soon, unfolds. When it does, Led Zeppelin are at their hard rocking best. A driving, pounding, thunderous rhythm section and screaming, chugging guitars join Robert. He unleashes a vocal powerhouse, as he struts his way through the track. Later, with forty seconds to go, Led Zeppelin throw a curveball. A distant, eerie harpsichord fills the void left by Led Zeppelin at their hard rocking best.
On The Crunge, Led Zeppelin pay ‘homage’ to the self-styled Godfather of Funk, James Brown. During three minutes, Led Zeppelin combine funk and rock seamlessly. As drummer John Bonham provides the heartbeat, bassist John Paul Jones and guitarist Jimmy Page unleash some funky licks. Jimmy’s guitar chimes as he frantically plucks out some ringing licks. Meanwhile, stabs of synth provide part of the backdrop to Robert Plant’s vocal. He delivers an over the top, vampish vocal, that just like James Brown, sometimes, veers towards parodic.
As Dancing Days unfolds, Led Zeppelin grind their way through the introduction. Before long, Led Zeppelin’s legendary rhythm section cut loose. So does Jimmy’s searing, scorching guitar. Along with the rest of Led Zeppelin, they provide the backdrop for what’s one of Robert’s powerful, swaggering vocals. Again, Led Zeppelin augment their sound with synths. They compliment Led Zeppelin’s traditional, hard rocking sound. However, it’s Robert’s vocal that steals the show. With blistering guitars, synths and the rhythm section for company, Robert Plant delivers his finest vocal on House Of The Holy as he swaggers and struts his way through Dancing Days.
Houses Of The Holy didn’t just feature a detour into funk. On D’yer Mak’er, Led Zeppelin turn their hand to reggae. For Led Zeppelin fans weaned on their traditional fusion of blues and rock, this was a shock to their system. However, by 1973, reggae was growing in popularity, and moving towards the mainstream. D’yer Mak’er is a captivating fusion of reggae and rock. The drums are more rock than reggae, while the bass has a reggae feel. As for the guitars, they veer between rock and reggae, as Jimmy showcases his versatility. The same can be said of Robert. His vocal veers between heartfelt and powerful, on this what’s variously a laid-back, rock-tinged slice of reggae.
No Quarter sees another change of direction from Led Zeppelin. Subtle synths provide a moody backdrop, as the arrangement meanders along. Then a roll of drums and a searing guitar lick rings out. A buzzing bass then gives way to the moody synths and Robert’s heartbroken vocal. As he delivers the lyrics, they take on an air of mystery. They’ve also mystical quality. That’s no surprise. However, they’re more apparent here, than on earlier album. What really captures your attention is the arrangement. It’s loose and veers between understated to mysterious and dramatic. It flows and meanders along, and is always intense and truly captivating. Quite simply, it’s a seven minute musical tour de force from Led Zeppelin.
Closing Houses Of The Holy is The Ocean. It sees Led Zeppelin return to their traditional hard rocking sound. From the moment the band are counted in, they’re at their tightest, ready to explode into action. There’s No Quarter given. The rhythm section drive the arrangement along. John’s mesmeric drums provide the backdrop for Jimmy chugging, screaming licks and Robert’s swaggering vocal. It’s higher than previous tracks, as if it has been pitched up very slightly. Robert unleashes a powerhouse of a vocal. Then later, when his vocal drops out, the track takes a detour via jazz. The bass walks the arrangement along and a crystalline guitar is panned right. Then doo wop harmonies added. Even Robert is impressed. He can’t resist adding: “it’s so good.” He’s so right, as Led Zeppelin close Houses Of The Holy on a genre-melting high.
However, The Ocean is only the end of disc one of Atlantic Records’ recently reissued version of Houses Of The Holy. It’s a double album. Disc two features what’s best described as an alternative version of Houses Of The Holy.
There’s a variety of versions on this alternative version of Houses Of The Holy. This includes rough mixes of The Crunge, Dancing Days and No Quarter. The alternative mix of The Rain Song is one without the piano. This shows another side to the song. A real find for Led Zeppelin fans will be Guitar Mix Backing Track of Over The Hills And Far Away. Along with two other tracks, it’s among the highlights of this alternative version of Houses Of The Holy.
This includes the working mix of The Ocean, which bookends the alternative version of Houses Of The Holy perfectly. Six songs earlier, it opens with the Guitar Overdub Reference Mix of The Song Remains The Same. It’s gets the album of to a blistering start, and is, without doubt, another of the highlights of the alternative version of Houses Of The Holy. For fans of Led Zeppelin, these tracks make Atlantic Records’ recently released remastered version of Houses Of The Holy, a must have, for a variety of reasons.
For their fifth album, Houses Of The Holy, Led Zeppelin decided to change direction. Gone was the bluesy influence of their earlier albums. Replacing it, were songs that featured synths and orchestral arrangements. Funk, reggae, jazz and even doo wop influenced Houses Of The Holy. This made Houses Of The Holy a much more eclectic and album. However, that wasn’t the end of the changes.
Given production techniques had evolved since Led Zeppelin released their debut album in 1969, it’s not surprising Jimmy Page decided to make use of the new techniques. This included layering. It was used extensively on Houses Of The Holy. Overdubbing was also used extensively on Houses Of The Holy. This was very much the order of the day. That’s apparent throughout Houses Of The Holy, but is apparent on the opening track The Song Remains The Same. Jimmy Page overdubbed a twelve-string guitar, ensuring that a glorious wall of sound assails you.
This gave the album a much more multi textured sound. These changes in sound were apparent on the eight songs which feature on Houses Of The Holy, which feature Led Zeppelin evolving as a band. They were gradually moving away from their blues rock roots, becoming a much more eclectic band. Everything from blues, doo-wop, folk, funk, jazz, reggae and rock can be heard on Houses Of The Holy, which saw Led Zeppelin sell another eleven million albums. Despite this, they couldn’t please some critics.
Although Houses Of The Holy saw Led Zeppelin mature and evolved, still some critics weren’t convinced. As usual, Rolling Stone magazine turned its guns on Led Zeppelin. For Led Zeppelin, this had been frustrating. However, by Houses Of The Holy, they realised that regardless of how good an album they released, Rolling Stone would never be won over.
In Houses Of The Holy’s case, it was another classic album from Led Zeppelin. It sold over eleven million copies. That’s not surprising. By the time Led Zeppelin released House Of The Holy, they were one of the biggest bands in the world. They’d fans across the globe, who hungrily awaited each release. This was the case with House Of The Holy, which would later, receive classic status.
In the intervening forty-one years, critics have reappraised Houses Of The Holy. It’s now perceived as a stonewall classic, where Led Zeppelin become musical shape shifters. They were no longer just a hard rocking group. Their music was much more eclectic and all encompassing. Even the non-believers, like Rolling Stone, the so called panacea of music criticism, changed their about House Of The Holy. They included Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy in its list of the 500 best albums of all time. Its inclusion is deserving, as Led Zeplelin mature, evolve and come of age on House Of The Holy, which was a career defining album.
LED ZEPPELIN-HOUSES OF THE HOLY.
BUILDING INSTRUMENT-BUILDING INSTRUMENT.
Although Building Instrument formed in 2008, it’s taken them six years to release their eponymous debut album. Building Instrument, which was recently released on Hubro Music was recorded over a period of several years. During that time, Building Instrument’s trademark sound evolved.
Originally, when Building Instrument formed, they decided to make electronic music. That was their raison d’être…briefly. Before long, Building Instrument, turned their back on electronic music. They settled on a sound that was acoustic, and allowed Building Instrument to improvise and innovate. It’s a sound that’s best described as genre defying and uniquely Building Instrument. No wonder.
Much of Building Instrument’s music is improvised. Building Instrument, you see, aren’t averse to throwing a curveball. One minute the music is understated, then the next it’s playful. The next track can be totally different, with Building Instrument losing their earlier self restraint, becoming bold as they kick out the jams. As a result, Building Instrument’s music is always innovative, inventive and interesting. That’s not all.
Building Instrument take you on a magical, musical mystery tour on their eponymous debut album. During Building Instrument’s seven tracks, glorious rhythms assail you. Other times, the music is melodic, before becoming adventurous and innovative, as Building Instrument improvise. Genres melt into one, on music that emotive, dramatic, ethereal and compelling. That’s not surprising, given the Building Instrument’s lineup.
Adventurous, bold, innovative and talented describes the three members of Building Instrument. Mari Kvien Brunvoll is the vocalist and takes charge of an eclectic and interesting selection of instruments. This includes the zither, percussion, kazoo and sampler. Øyvind Hegg-Lunde plays drums and percussion. He plays in two other bands that has recently released albums with the Big Almost and Crab is Crap, which features Ståle Storløkken. The final member of Building Instrument is Åsmund Weltzien, who takes charge of synths, electronics and melodica. Åsmund Weltzien plays with Thea Næss. The three members of Building Instrument recorded their eponymous debut album over a period of years, whilst juggling their other musical commitments.
In vocalist Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s case, this includes releasing two albums. She released her eponymous debut album in 2012. It was released on the Jazzland label, and was nominated for a Spellemannspris, which is a Norwegian Grammy, in the open category. So was Mari’s collaboration with Stein Urheim.
Mari’s next album, was Daydream Twin, a collaboration with Stein Urheim. It was released on 2013, on Hubro Music. Just like her debut album, Daydream Twin was released to widespread critical acclaim. Daydream Twin was also nominated for a Spellemannspris, in the open category. Meanwhile, Mari was being hailed as one of the rising stars of the Nordic music scene. So were Building Instrument.
Whilst Building Instrument had yet to release an album, they were receiving rave reviews. In the increasingly vibrant Norwegian music scene, Building Instrument were establishing a name for a an adventurous, inventive and innovative group. They’d forged and honed their own style over the last few years. During this period, they’d worked away at their eponymous debut album.
On Building Instrument. Mari Kvien Brunvoll sings the vocals in Norwegian, using the local Molde dialect. She also plays zither, percussion, kazoo and sampler. Øyvind Hegg-Lunde plays drums and percussion and Åsmund Weltzien synths, electronics and melodica. This disparate and eclectic selection of instruments played their part in Building Instrument’s long awaited eponymous debut album.
Eventually, Building Instrument’s eponymous debut album was ready to be released on Hubro Music. It featured seven songs which the band had written. Mari, Øyvind and Åsmun had worked hard on Building Instrument. Over a period of years, Building Instrument had honed what was their own unique sound. It’s best described as genre defying, and is showcased on Building Instrument, their eponymous debut album, which I’ll tell you about.
Historia opens Building Instrument. The arrangement bursts into life, with genres melting into one. Avant-garde, electronica, folk, jazz and rock combine. As a melodica plays, drums provide the heartbeat. Scrabbling percussion gallop along, giving way to the tender, ethereal beauty of Mari’s scatted vocal. When her vocal drops out, a disparate selection of instruments enter. There’s a zither, melodica and percussion. Then when Mari’s vocal returns, the zither and melodica accompany her tender scat. They all play their part in this beautiful, ethereal track.
Washes of synths and bells give Alt E Bra a dreamy, ambient sound. Mari adds cooing, ethereal vocals. Her vocal has a similar dreamy quality. In the distance, a drum beats. It pulsates, while Building Instrument become like a modern day Penguin Cafe Orchestra. An eclectic selection of instruments ensure the arrangement floats along. Sometimes, there’s a nod to sixties French film soundtracks. Later, Mari’s vocal grows in power, cascading above the captivating, dreamy, genre-melting arrangement.
Kanskje has an understated sound. Just a subtle drum and melodica accompany Mari’s tender, whispery vocal. Space is left within the cinematic arrangement, allowing it to breath. It meanders hypnotically along. Gradually however, the drama builds and wistful, thoughtful, cinematic sound unfolds. This takes over seven minutes, where Building Instrument provide the soundtrack to a film that’s yet to be made.
Bli Med is another lengthy track, lasting nearly eight minutes. This is no bad thing. It allows Building Instrument to stretch their legs, and take the music in unexpected directions. Drums drive the arrangement along, before washes of organ add an atmospheric hue. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Mari’s vocal. It’s delivered with a mixture of urgency and emotion. Her vocal rises and fall, reverberating into the distance. As she scats, drums and an organ play. Mari also adds subtle harmonies. They flit in and out, making a brief and welcome appearance. Dramatic, ethereal, haunting and moody, it’s a captivating soundscape which showcases Building Instrument at their inventive best.
Washes of jagged, ethereal synths accompany Mari on Klokka Sju. She delivers a heartfelt, urgent vocal. It soars above the arrangement as Mari improvises. By then, a myriad of percussion and drums provide the backdrop to Mari’s vocal. Her urgent, scatted vocal takes the song on a series of twists and turns. The rest of Building Instrument take their lead from Mari, improvising. A bobbing Hammond organ and rhythm section combine as Mari delivers a vocal that’s reminiscent of a jazz-tinged Kate Bush. She embarks upon a dramatic, scatted vamp accompanied by an orchestral wash of innovative music.
Thoughtfully, and pensively, washes of wistful music play as Mellomtida decides to share its beauty and secrets. Each note is played with the utmost care. However, there’s an inherent sadness and beauty to the music. That’s not all. Pensive, thoughtful and reflective also describes Mellomtida. It’s all these things and more.
Språk closes the long awaited eponymous debut from Building Instrument. Drums pound ominously and mesmerically. Meanwhile, a sprinkling of percussion provides a subtle accompaniment. Soon, a zither plays, providing another contrast. It adds a sense of melancholia. Then out of nowhere, the arrangement changes, becoming upbeat, joyous and melodic. Hooks haven’t been spared, as Building Instrument sweep you along. The finishing touch is Mari’s ethereal, scatted vocal. It sits above the arrangement as the rest of Building Instrument drive the arrangement along, ensuring Building Instrument ends on a glorious high.
Building Instrument, Building Instrument’s eponymous debut album, which was recently released on Hubro Music has been well worth the wait. It’s taken several years to record. No wonder. During that period, Building Instrument have been finding and honing their sound. This takes time, time and patience. However, Building Instrument’s patience has been rewarded.
During the last six years, Building Instrument’s music has evolved and taken shape. They’ve come a long way from their early days, when they decided to make electronic music. That was their raison d’être…briefly. Then, Building Instrument, turned their back on electronic music. They settled on a sound that was acoustic, and allowed Building Instrument to improvise and innovate. It’s a sound that’s best described as genre defying and uniquely Building Instrument. No wonder.
Much of Building Instrument’s music is improvised. Building Instrument, you see, aren’t averse to throwing a curveball. One minute the music is understated, then the next it’s playful. The next track can be totally different, with Building Instrument losing their earlier self restraint, becoming bold as they kick loose. As a result, Building Instrument’s music is always innovative, inventive and interesting.
On Building Instrument, Building Instrument’s sound is best described as genre-melting. It defies description. Everything from ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, folk, free jazz, pop, and rock. There’s even a nod to sixties soundtracks and jazz. At the heart of Building Instrument’s sound, is the ethereal beauty of Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s vocal. However, Building Instrument isn’t a one woman band.
Far from it. Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and Åsmund Weltzien play important parts in Building Instrument’s sound and success. This sound has evolved,and taken shape over the last six years. During that period, Building Instrument’s reputation has been in the ascendancy. Great things have been forecast of Building Instrument. Now Building Instrument’s potential has been fulfilled on their eponymous debut album which has been a long time coming.
At last, the wait is over. Hubro Music recently released Building Instrument’s eponymous debut album. They’ve fulfilled their potential. Their eponymous debut album was released to widespread critical acclaim. That’s not all. Building Instrument is best described as a beautiful, cinematic, ethereal, innovative and inventive album of genre-melting music, where Building Instrument push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond.
BUILDING INSTRUMENT-BUILDING INSTRUMENT.
THE BLUE NILE-PEACE AT LAST.
The Blue Nile were no ordinary band. They did things their way. Enigmatic, reluctant and contrarian are words that best of describe the Blue Nile, whose third album Peace At Last will belatedly be released on vinyl as a double album. The remastered vinyl version of Peace At Last will be released on the 14 December 2014 via their website, nine months after the CD version. This reissue has been a long time coming. However, it’s been well worth the wait.
Originally, Peace At Last was released in June 1996, seven years after the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album, Hats. However, a further eighteen years passed, before The Blue Nile released a remastered CD version of Peace At Last. That’s not surprising.
Quite simply, The Blue Nile are unlike other bands. They do things their way, or not all. There’s no sense of urgency in the world of The Blue Nile. Things move slowly in the world of The Blue Nile. So it’s no surprise that it’s taken eighteen long years for Peace At Last to be rereleased. After all, there was a gap of seven years between The Blue Nile’s sophomore album Hats and 1996s Peace At Last. Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, that’s not surprising.
It’s no exaggeration to say that The Blue Nile were the complete opposite of most bands. Describing the Blue Nile as publicity shy, is an understatement. Indeed, since Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and Paul Joseph Moore formed the Blue Nile, they’ve been one of the most low-profile bands in musical history. It seems that when they formed thirty-one years ago, The Blue Nile ticked the “no publicity” box. This has proved a double-edged sword, and resulted in the Blue Nile becoming one of the most enigmatic groups ever. This would be apparent through The Blue Nile’s career, which began back in 1981, in Glasgow, Scotland’s musical capital.
The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, when two friends Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell, met Paul Joseph Moore. They all had one thing in common, they were graduates of Glasgow University. Paul and Robert had both been in a band before, Night By Night. However, they type of music Night By Night performed was not deemed commercial enough, and they were unable to gain a recording contract. This lead to the formation of The Blue Nile
Once The Blue Nile were formed, they set up their own record label Peppermint Records. It was on Peppermint Records that The Blue Nile released their debut single, I Love This Life. This single was then picked up and re-released on the RSO label. Unfortunately for The Blue Nile RSO became part of the Polygram label and I Love This Life disappeared without trace. Despite this setback, The Blue Nile kept writing and recording music.
Following the merger of RSO with Polygram, The Blue Nile continued to hone their sound. They wrote and recorded songs. Some of that material would later be found on A Walk Across the Rooftops. Then fate intervened and The Blue Nile met the man some people refer to as the fourth member of the band, recording engineer Calum Malcolm.
When Callum heard The Blue Nile’s music, he alerted Linn Electronics. This was to prove a fortuitous break for the band. Linn gave The Blue Nile money to record a song that they could use to demonstrate the quality of Linn’s top-class stereo products. However, when Linn heard the track they were so pleased that decided to set up their own record label to release A Walk Across the Rooftops, The Blue Nile’s debut album.
Although the formation of Linn allowed the band to finally release their debut album A Walk Across the Rooftops, Paul later speculated whether Linn was the right label for The Blue Nile? Paul said that he felt that Linn did not operate like a record label. However, he conceded that, during that period, The Blue Nile were not like a band. So, essentially, this was a match made in heaven for the release of A Walk Across the Rooftops.
On the release of A Walk Across the Rooftops, it was released to critical acclaim. Critics described the album as a minor classic. A Walk Across the Rooftops was described as ethereal, evocative, soulful and soul-baring. It also featured the vocals of troubled troubadour Paul Buchanan. Despite the critical acclaim A Walk Across the Rooftops enjoyed, it wasn’t a commercial success, reaching just number eight in the UK. However, since the A Walk Across the Rooftops has been recognised as a classic album. So has the followup Hats.
Unlike most bands, The Blue Nile weren’t in any rush to release their sophomore album Hats. There was a five year gap between A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. It was worth the wait. The Blue Nile had done it again. Hats was a classic.
Featuring seven tracks, written by Paul Buchanan, Glasgow’s answer to Frank Sinatra He’s a tortured troubadour, whose voice sounds as if he’s lived a thousand lives. Producing Hats was a group effort, with Paul, Robert and P.J. taking charge of production duties. Guiding them, was Callum Malcolm. On the release of Hats, British and American audiences proved more discerning and appreciative of the Blue Nile’s sophomore album Hats.
On the release of Hats in the UK in 1989, it was critically acclaimed and commercial success, reaching number twelve in the UK. Then when it was released in America in 1990, audiences seemed to “get” Hats. Not only did it reach number 108 in the US Billboard 200 Charts, but The Downtown Lights reached number ten in the US Modern Rock Tracks charts. While this was a small crumb of comfort for the Blue Nile, in the UK, they remained a well kept secret.
Since the release of Hats, like their debut album A Walk Across the Rooftops it’s become a minor classic. With The Blue Nile making a breakthrough in America, most bands would’ve been keen to build on this and released another album before long. Not The Blue Nile.
Seven long years passed, where Blue Nile fans wondered what had become of Glasgow’s most enigmatic trio. However, they’d been busy. After Hats found its way onto American radio stations, The Blue Nile, who previously, had been one of music’s best kept secrets, were heard by a number of prestigious musicians. Among them were Robbie Robertson and Annie Lennox, Michael McDonald. After a decade struggling to get their music heard, The Blue Nile were big news. During this period, America would become like a second home to The Blue Nile, especially Paul.
Paul took to life in America, and in 1991, decided to make it his home. This just so happened to coincide with Paul’s relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette between 1991 and 1993. Hollywood starlets and Sunset Boulevard was a long way from Glasgow’s West End. In the midst of Paul’s relationship, disaster struck for The Blue Nile, they were dropped by their label.
Linn Records and Virgin decided to drop The Blue Nile. For some groups this would’ve been a disaster. Not The Blue Nile.
They signed to Warner Bros. While this sounded like the ideal solution for The Blue Nile, Paul made the deal without telling P.J and Robert. He later explained that “none of the others were in town at the time.” With a new contract signed, The Blue Nile began thinking about their third album.
So the band started looking for the perfect location to record their third album. They travelled across Europe looking for the right location. This location had to be private and suit their portable recording studio. Cities were suggested, considered and rejected. Among them, were Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Venice. Being The Blue Nile, things were never simple. Eventually, after much contemplation The Blue Nile ended up recording what became Peace At Last in three locations, Paris, Dublin and Los Angeles. For the first time, The Blue Nile recorded an album outside of their native Scotland.
For what became Peace At Last, Paul wrote nine tracks and cowrote God Bless You Kid with Robert Bell. When recording began, Paul played guitar and synths. Robert played bass and synths, while P.J. played keyboards and synths. Joining The Blue Nile were drummer Nigel Thomas and a gospel choir consisting of Eddie Tate and Friends. They featured on Happiness. Craig Armstrong took charge of the strings on Family Life. Peace At Last was produced by The Blue Nile, with Callum Malcolm engineering the sessions. Once Peace At Last was completed, it was released in June 1996.
On the release of Peace At Last, in June 1996, it reached just number thirteen and sold poorly. For The Blue Nile this was disappointing, given it was their major label debut. Worse was to come when the lead single Happiness failed to chart. Why was this though?
Critics remarked upon the change of sound on Peace At Last. It had a much more understated, restrained sound. Acoustic guitars and piano play important parts. The Blue Nile’s beloved synths sound like synths. Occasionally, The Blue Nile use real strings. There’s even a gospel choir on Happiness. Gone was the sound of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. Peace At Last showed a different side to The Blue Nile and their music, one that divided the opinion of critics and fans. Paul, Robert and P.J. were back, but it was a different sound. One constant was Paul’s worldweary vocal. He was still the tortured soul, who wore his heart on his sleeve on Peace At Last, which I’ll tell you about.
Opening Peace At Last is Happiness, the lead single. Just a sweeping synth and acoustic guitar combine, before Paul counts himself in. After seven years, the troubled troubadour is back, laying bare his soul. As he plays his trusty acoustic guitar, you can hear him change chords. His voice his just the same. It’s world weary, one that has lived a life. However there is one change. He sounds content. That’s apparent from the lyrics. Domestically and personally, Paul has found Peace At Last. Later, the minimalist sound changes. Joining the synths, bass, keyboards and chirping guitar are a gospel choir. They transform the track. Their short performance is joyous and uplifting After that Paul forever the optimist, ponders whether the happiness will last. Quite simply, a beautiful, melancholy song.
Tomorrow Morning starts in a similar vein to Happiness. Just a briskly strummed acoustic guitar and drums accompany Paul’s vocal. Pensive becomes hopeful, as he sings: “ we could be together tomorrow morning.” Synths replicate strings, as thoughtful keyboards and acoustic guitars accompany an insecure Paul. It’s that time of the night we’ve all experienced. Lying there, unable to sleep, we wonder what tomorrow brings. That’s Paul, His emotions go from total insecurity to euphoria and happiness in the space of half a verse. The lyrics are some of the best on the album. They allow the listener to hear the range on emotions Paul experiences. With a brisk, minimalist arrangement, where the acoustic guitar, piano and synths disguised as strings combine, the result is a thoughtful, stunning soul-searching song many people will be able to empathise with.
As Sentimental Man unfolds just an acoustic guitar and drums combine, creating a moody and pensive atmosphere. Unlike the two previous albums, there’s no drum machines. Instead, Nigel’s drums, Robert’s bass and Paul’s guitar power the track along. They also add to the funk factor. Paul is in a thoughtful mood, and sings that it’s “not about money, and all about love.” His contentment shines through on this song. He is truly a man at peace with world. The sound on this track is bigger and fuller, than the previous two tracks. This is helped by the arrangement. The bass is panned hard left and the guitars hard right. Synths and Paul’s vocal fill the rest of the arrangement. As the track progresses, the sound grows, peaking towards the end. Guitars, synths and drums dominate the track, while Paul’s vocal is loud and strong. He shrieks and whoops, something unheard of before. A transformation in sound, but one thing remains the same…the quality.
Drums crack and Paul strums his guitar and delivers a needy, sincere vocal on Love Come Down. It’s as if he’s realised he’s in love and wants his partner to know it. With chirping guitars, synths and drums for company, Paul delivers a vocal tour de force. It’s one of his best vocals, growing in power, passion and joy. Drums are loud and sit at the front of the mix, while the guitars are a constant and welcome accompaniment. However, what makes the song is Paul’s vocal. It’s a dramatic and passionate reading of the intelligent and thoughtful lyrics.
From the opening bars of Body and Soul, it’s obvious that this is one of the best songs on Peace At Last. The track has a familiar theme, acoustic guitar and vocal start the song. After that, the track builds, and opens out into one of the most beautiful and heartfelt songs on the album. Strings are used to augment the sound, they are understated, sit at the back of the mix, sweeping in and out of the track. The acoustic guitar is played loudly, with confidence, accompanying Paul’s soulful rendition of the lyrics. Speaking of the lyrics, they’re an evocative paean. How we feel when in love, and are an example of our feelings and hopes for the future when in love. Without are some of the best lyrics on Peace At Last.
Holy Love has a totally different sound and feel. In many ways, it owes much to the sound on previous Blue Nile albums. Just like the rest of Peace Of Last, the remastering makes the song come alive. New parts of the track shine through. In many ways, it owes much to the sound on previous Blue Nile album. Backing vocalists sing one note, synths and drums sound dark, almost dull. Synths squelch, drums have a retro sound and feel, and even Paul’s vocal style has changed. As the song progresses, you find yourself wondering what direction it’s heading. Lyrics are sparse, the vocal has an experimental sound and feel, with Paul having to almost improvise. Ethereal synths, chiming guitars, bursts of drum machines and Paul’s scatted vocal become one, on a track where Blue Nile’s past and present combine.
The Blue Nile return to a familiar theme on Family Man, contentment, contentment in your personal life. Family Man is a gentle song, one with similarities to Easter Parade on A Walk Across the Rooftops. It’s the sound and feel that make me draw this comparison. The track has a minimal sound, and starts with piano, which features heavily throughout the song. Later in the track, synths are transformed to sound like a string section. They add depth and feeling to the track. Paul’s voice is perfectly suited to deliver the heartfelt lyrics on this beautiful track.
After the minimal sounding last track, the sound changes dramatically on War Is Love. The sound is fuller, with a moody, dramatic sound. War Is Love starts with those magical strings, via the synths, drums are loud, slow and crisp. Quickly, the sounds builds, Buchanan’s voice sounds moody, perfect to deliver the lyrics, which are about the breakdown of a relationship. His voice fluctuates, getting the message over about a turbulent, troubled relationship. In contrast to the darkness, the strings sit behind his vocal, producing light to Paul’s darkness. A heartbreakingly sad song, delivered sincerely by Paul. So realistic is Paul’s cathartic outpouring of hurt and heartbreak, that it sounds as if he’s lived, loved and survived to tell the tale.
Drums and strings open God Bless You Kid, giving it a lush sound. Buchanan’s mood and vocal seem happier. The arrangement sweeps along, gradually developing. Mostly drums, strings and synths accompany Paul as the song takes on a cinematic quality. Later, a guitar can be heard in the background. As for the lyrics , they’re enigmatic, almost surreal. Especially, when Paul sings: “I never grew up, I never grew down” and “it’s like Memphis after Elvis.” Here we hear a very different side of Blue Nile, one that we never saw on A Walk Across the Rooftop or Hats. Like much of this album, it has a gentle, mellow and understated sound, quite different from their previous sound.
Peace At Last closes with Soon, another beautiful, gentle and mellow song. It starts slowly, keyboards playing, Paul sings. This is another love song. One about how can love coming soon, when we least expect it to. It can happen at given time, in even the most mundane situation. As you would expect from Blue Nile’s lyrics their clever, well constructed and the narrative is strong. You can close your eyes and imagine the scene being played out, and the characters involved. The track meanders, develops through time, building up slowly, until a great track evolves. One that Paul sings really well, behind a backdrop of sweeping strings, spacious plodding drums and percussion. It’s a lovely, soothing track, truly a thing of beauty, and the perfect way to end Peace At Last.
Although that’s the end of the remastered version of Peace At Last, there’s still disc two. It features six tracks. This includes the Lauren Canyon Mix of Soon, a New Vocal Mix of War Is Love and the Picture Mix of Holy. Then there’s Turn Yourself Around and an unreleased demo A Certain Kind Of Angel. Both of these tracks were penned by Paul and Robert Bell, who prove a potent songwriting partnership. The final track is the melancholy Paul Buchanan penned There Was A Girl. It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful song, with Paul’s lived-in, weary vocal bringing the lyrics to life. This reminds you of how good a group The Blue Nile are. Sadly, they only released four albums.
Of the quartet of albums The Blue Nile recorded, Peace At Last is their most underrated album. Peace At Last divided critics and fans. This new sound was very different from A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats. That was then, this was now. Seven years had passed since Hats. If The Blue Nile had released an album similar to Hats, they’d have been accused of standing still. That’s one thing The Blue Nile never did.
Far from it. Constantly, The Blue Nile were on a mission to create innovative and influential music. This they succeeded in doing. From the opening bars of Happiness, right through to the closing notes of Soon, The Blue Nile create timeless, ethereal music. Here, was a very different group the one that recorded Hats.
For much of the seven years, The Blue Nile had lived separate lives. P.J. and Robert lived happily in the West End of Glasgow. Paul however, led a very different life. Based in Los Angeles, he dates Hollywood starlets and spent time on Sunset Boulevard. This was a long way from Ashton Lane, in Glasgow’s West End. However, The Blue Nile reconvened for the recording of Peace At Last. Lady Luck had smiled on them.
Having survived being dropped by Linn and Virgin, The Blue Nile signed to Warner Bros. Sadly, it was a one album deal. Following the commercial failure of Peace At Last, The Blue Nile were dropped. This wasn’t their fault. No. They’d recorded a minor classic at the wrong time.
Released in 1996, at the height of the vastly overrated Britpop boom, Peace At Last was the wrong album at the wrong time. Peace At Last took several years to record. By the 10th June 1996, when Peace At Last was released, music had changed. Britpop was King. Kinks and Beatles tribute bands were topping the charts. There was, it seems, no room for The Blue Nile, with Peace At Last only reaching number thirteen in the UK. It should’ve been a bigger commercial success.
During Peace At Last, The Blue Nile capture the listener’s attention with music that’s variously lush, atmospheric, beautiful, captivating, ethereal and lush. The Blue Nile draws the listener in, holding their attention. Before long, the listener has fallen in love. They fall in love with music that’s hauntingly beautiful, emotive, dramatic and pensive. Much of this is thanks to ten peerless vocal performances courtesy of Glasgow’s very own Frank Sinatra, Paul Buchanan. He plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee. His worldweary, emotive, heartfelt and impassioned vocal sounds as if it’s lived the lyrics he’s singing about. Lived them not just once, but several times over. Paul’s vocal adds soulfulness to an album where The Blue Nile reinvent their music. The result is music that’s innovative, influential, ethereal and timeless.
With songs about love, love lost, betrayal, heartbreak, growing up and growling old, Peace At Last was a grown up album. It had a much more understated, restrained sound. Acoustic guitars and piano play important parts. The Blue Nile’s beloved synths sound like synths. Occasionally, The Blue Nile use real strings. There’s even a gospel choir on Happiness. Gone was the sound of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. Peace At Last showed a different side to The Blue Nile and their music, one that divided the opinion of critics and fans. Paul, Robert and P.J. were back, but it was a different sound. One constant was Paul’s worldweary vocal. He was still the tortured troubadour, who wore his heart on his sleeve on A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats. Sadly this new side of The Blue Nile’s music wasn’t as popular as their two previous albums A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. However, Peace At Last has aged well.
Whilst much is made of newly remastered albums, the remastered version of Peace At Last is truly stunning. Previously unheard subtleties, secrets and nuances. Layers, textures and hidden depths can be heard. This was the case with the remeasured versions of A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats. Now it’s possible to hear The Blue Nile’s underrated classic Peace At Last in all its glories. This remastered vinyl version, which will be rereleased via The Blue Nile’s website on 14th December 2014, is worth every penny. It’s not unlike an old picture that after years covered in grime, is cleaned suddenly, a new picture emerges. That’s what remastering process has done to Peace At Last. Never again, will you reach for your original copy of Peace At Last, as the remastered version breathes new life into Peace At Last, which was The Blue Nile’s penultimate album.
Eight years later in 2004, The Blue Nile called time on their recording career, when they released High. That was their swan-song. Never again, would Paul, P.J. and Robert record another album. Their back-catalogue may only contain four albums, but it’s a rich musical legacy. The Blue Nile are one of the most innovative and influential groups in Scottish musical history. Similarly, their first two albums A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats are two of the greatest albums released by a Scottish band. Their underrated third album, Peace At Last, is a minor classic, which shows another side to The Blue Nile and their music.
THE BLUE NILE-PEACE AT LAST.
DISCO: A FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1978-82.
Never has a musical genre caused so much controversy as disco. It divided opinion back in the seventies. Even today, thirty-five years after disco survived a near death experience, disco continues to divide opinion. People seem to either love or loathe disco. There seems to be no in between. Controversy even surrounds disco’s birth, and its near death experience.
What was the first disco record is disputed. Ask a hundred music critics, and they’ll give you a different answer. Some critics believe disco was born in 1971, with Barry White and Isaac Hayes pioneering the disco sound. Other critics think 1972 was the year disco was born. They point towards singles like The O’Jays’ Love Train, Jerry Butler’s One Night Affair or Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa. Even 1972 might be too early for disco’s birth?
It could be that disco wasn’t born until 1973, when the Hues Corporation released Rock The Boat. Some critics think George McCrae’s 1974 number one single got the disco ball rolling. However, it’s thought that disco was already celebrating its first birthday by then. The first article in the music press about disco was penned by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine in September 1973. Little did Vince know, he’d just written the first article about a true musical phenomenon.
Disco was born in America. Music historians have traced disco’s roots to clubs in Philly and New York. These two cities would play an important part in a disco. Philly and New York were where many of the most successful disco records were recorded. They were also home to some of disco’s top labels, Salsoul Records, SAM Records, West End Records and Casablanca. New York was also home to some of the top clubs, including David Mancuso’s Loft and Studio 54. Although born in America, soon disco’s influence was being felt worldwide.
Around the world, dancers danced to the pulsating disco beat. Disco crossed the continents and provided the musical soundtrack to dance-floors worldwide. Then in July 1979, disco nearly died. The story began eight months earlier.
Disco went from hero to zero in less of a year. Suddenly, disco sucked. Disco’s downfall started on Christmas Eve 1978, That’s when Steve Dahl was fired by Chicago radio station WDAI. It had previously been a rock station, but switched to disco. Steve wasn’t out of work long. He was hired by WLUP, a rival station. WLUP played rock, which suited Steve Dahl. He’d an inkling that disco wasn’t long for this world.
Steve wasn’t a fan of disco, and took to mocking disco on-air. Openly, he mocked WDAI’s “disco DAI.” It became “disco die” to to Steve. Soon, Steve had created the Insane Coho Lips, his very own anti-disco army. Along with cohost Gary Meier, they coined the now infamous slogan “Disco Sucks.” The backlash had begun.
From there, the Disco Sucks movement gathered momentum. Events were held all over America. This came to a head at Disco Demolition Derby, which was Steve Dahl’s latest anti-disco event. Each one was becoming bigger, rowdier and attracting even more publicity. Disco Demolition Derby, which was held at Comiskey Park, Chicago on 12th July 1979 surpassed everything that went before. WFUL were sponsoring a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park. if fans brought with them a disco record, they’d get in for ninety-eight cents. These records would be blown up by Steve Dahl. An estimated crowd between 20-50,000 people attended. Quickly the event descended into chaos. Vinyl was thrown from the stands like frisbees. Then when Steve blew up the vinyl, fans stormed the pitch and rioted. Things got so bad, that the riot police were called. After the Disco Demolition Derby, disco nearly died.
Following Disco Derby Night, disco’s popularity plunged. Disco artists were dropped by major labels, disco labels folded and very few disco albums were released. Disco was on the critical list, and suffered a near death experience. It took a long time to recover. After disco’s demise, dance music changed.
No longer were record labels willing to throw money at dance music. Budgets were suddenly much smaller. Gone were the lavish productions of the disco orchestras of the seventies. This was epitomised by The Salsoul Orchestra and John Davis and The Monster Orchestra. Strings and horns were now a luxury. Music would have to go back to basics.
Replacing strings and horns would be sequencers, synths and drum machines, which during the last couple of years, had become much cheaper. Previously, they were only found in studios or were used by wealthy and famous musicians. Now they were within the budget of many musicians. This would prove crucial in the rise and rise of boogie, and later, modern soul, as these musical genres that replaced disco. They became the favoured choice of music for discerning dancers and DJs.
For DJs all over America, boogie and modern soul were the answer to their prayers. Disco’s demise had proved problematic. What were they going to play? If they even dared to drop a disco track, they risked clearing the dance-floor. As DJs wrestled with this problem, boogie was born. It was almost born out of necessity, and became the choice of discerning DJs. So did modern soul. Boogie and modern soul became part of the soundtrack in the most fashionable clubs. These genres also feature in Soul Jazz Records’ latest compilation Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82.
Soul Jazz Records will release Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 on 17th November 2014. It’s the companion to Soul Jazz Records’ new 360-page hardback book Disco-An Encyclopedic Guide To The Cover Art of Disco. featuring over 2,000 album cover designs, as well as over 700 12″ sleeves. For anyone interested in boogie, disco or modern soul, Disco-An Encyclopedic Guide To The Cover Art of Disco will be a must have. So is Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82.
Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 features nineteen tracks. There’s contributions from Superfunk, Jessie G, The Sunburst Band, Sparkle, Sympho State, Fantastic Alleems, Chemistry, Retta Young and Cordial. Many of these tracks are incredibly rare. There’s a reason for this.
The tracks on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 on small, independent labels. Often, only small amounts of these tracks were pressed. Many of the copies have been lost or forgotten about. Except by crate-diggers who swoon at the thought of finding a long lost, copy of Jupiter Beyond’s . The River Drive or Retta Young’s My Man Is On His Way. This however, comes at a price.
Given the rarity, and continued demand for the tracks on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, buying a copy of the nineteen tracks is beyond most people. It would require deep pockets or bank loan. Not any more. Instead, the nineteen tracks can be found on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, which I’ll pick the highlights of.
John Morales’ mix of The Fantastic Aleems’ Hooked On Your Love, which features Calebur, opens Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. The Fantastic Aleems consisted of Identical twin brothers Taharqa Aleem and Tunde Ra Aleem. Their debut single was Hooked On Your Love. It was released in 1979, on NIA Records. Leroy Burgess arranged Hooked On Your Love and The Fantastic Aleems produced their debut single. A year later, John Morales remixed Hooked On Your Love, transforming this slice of boogie into a six minute epic.
In 1981, Jessie G released the Billy Nichols produced That’s Hot. It was released on the New Jersey based label Nugget Records. Written by Jesssie and Billy, swathes of strings, harmonies, handclaps, Chic guitars and harmonies accompany Jessie G. Together, they play their part in a hook laden fusion of boogie and disco.
Back in 1982, The Sunburst Band, who were based in York, Pennsylvania, released their one and only single. This was The Easton Assassin. It was produced by Samuel King and released on King Records. Copies of The Easton Assassin were then given away at Larry Holmes’ prize fights. Larry Holmes was born in Easton and given the nickname “The Easton Assassin.” The Sunburst Homage pay homage to one of the great American boxers of the early eighties on this innovative fusion of boogie, funk and hip hop. After releasing The Easton Assassin, The Sunburst Band continued to make a living on the New York club scene.
1979. That was the year disco went from hero to zero. It’s also the year Sparkle released Disco Madness on Jam Records. It was penned by Keith Cloud and Steve Sargent and produced Harold Sargent. In Sparkle’s hands, Disco Madness is a drive slice of funky, sassy disco.
Wayne Ford’s Dance to the Beat Freakout is my final choice from disc one of Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. This was Wayne’s only single, released in 1979, just as disco cheated death. It was arranged by Peter and Patricia Brown, and produced by Michael Brown. He produced what’s best described as a thirteen minute epic where disco and elements of boogie melt seamlessly into one.
Sympho State’s You Know What I Like opens disc two of Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. It was the B-Side to Sympho State’s 1979 single Fever, which was released on ZE Records. Written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport, You Know What I Like was recorded at Blank Tapes Studios, New York in July 1978. Back then, disco was at the height of its popularity. By the time Fever was released as a single, in 1979, disco’s popularity was on the slide. That’s a great shame, as You Know What I Like is a gloriously, soulful, dance-floor friendly hidden gem from one of disco least known orchestras, Sympho State.
Sexy Lady is another B-Side. It was the B-Side to Something Extra’s eponymous sophomore single. It was released in 1980, a year after Something Extra released their debut single Dancin’ With You Love on Unidisc. Dice, a Canadian label, released Something Extra. Good as the single was, the B-Side Sexy Lady was better. It’s a funky slice of boogie, which showed the direction music was heading, in the post disco era.
Cirt Gill and The Jam-A-Ditty Band released Turn This Disco Out in 1979. It was produced by Earl Gill and released on the Jam-A-Ditty label. On the A-Side was the vocal version, while the instrumental version featured on the B-Side. Boogie and funk collide head on, on a track that looks to the future, rather than the past. Maybe Cirt Gill and The Jam-A-Ditty Band knew that the disco boom was almost over?
Three years after releasing her debut single, You Beat Me To The Punch in 1975, Retta Young released My Man is On His Way. It was released on All Platinum in 1978. This was an Al Goodman, Harry Ray and William Morris composition. They also produced the track with Sammy Lowe. They’re responsible for an old school disco track. This is before boogie. So swathes of quivering strings and stabs of braying horns accompany Retta’s heartfelt, soulful and sometimes, sassy vocal. Together, they play their part in the highlight of Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. Why? Well, My Man is On His Way epitomises everything that’s good about disco.
Cordial’s Wave closes Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. It was originally recorded by Carlos Jobeme. In 1979, Cordial recorded their version of Wave in Bill Withers’ San Jose studio. They then released Wave on Tolimar Records, as part of their 1979 E.P. Their First. Of the three tracks on Their First, Wave is the standout track. This long lost disco track is the perfect way to closeDisco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, and leaves you wanting more.
Indeed, hopefully, Soul Jazz Records, who released Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 on 17th November 2014, are working on the followup. After all, Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 oozes quality. Unlike lesser compilations, the guys at Soul Jazz Records have dug deep, eschewing the familiar and obvious.
Long forgotten slices of boogie, disco and modern soul can be found on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. These tracks were released on small, independent labels, during what was an important period for dance music.
Disco had gone from hero to zero, the space of eight months. From providing the soundtrack to dance-floors worldwide, disco became a musical pariah. DJs didn’t dare drop a disco track. If they did, they risked emptying a dance-floor. They’d also be perceived as behind the curve musically. So, they looked for alternatives. This included boogie, modern soul and the early house records that came out of Chicago. These records, including some of the tracks on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, ensured that dance-floors stayed full. However, in turning their back on disco, many sheep-like DJs turned their back on so much great music.
Unwilling to stand out from the crowd, many DJs turned their back on disco. None of them were willing backbone to keep spinning classic disco. No way. They feared the wrath of their contemporaries or peers. So, second rate music took the place of classic disco. That’s ironic.
After all, many of the people who were disco’s fiercest critics, were critical of what’s best described as manufactured disco. Much of this was released by labels jumping on the disco bandwagon. Disco became the last refuge of the failed pop or rock star. Not at some of the smaller, independent labels.
Among the small, independent labels were Salsoul, SAM and West End Records. They’d released some of the best music of the disco age. There was a reason for this. They were staffed by innovative musicians and producers. These musicians and producers were responsible for some of the most successful disco music. Much of that music has become timeless, and still features on compilations. However, following disco’s near death experience, it was persona non gratis on dance-floors.
So while disco teetered on the brink, boogie and modern soul flourished. Independent labels were founded all over America. They released short runs of singles. Many were popular within a small geographical area. However, since then, and especially in the internet age, word has spread about these hidden gems. They’re now prized amongst record collectors, crate-diggers and compilers. Especially compilers.
Over the last fifteen years, many compilations of rare boogie, disco and modern soul have been released. As regular readers of this blog will realise, these compilations differ in quality. They’re best described as the good bad and ugly. There’s everything from lovingly compiled and critically acclaimed compilations, like Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, which will be released on 17th November 2014. It’s one of the best compilations of boogie, disco and modern soul released during 2014. However, and to misquote George Orwell in Animal Farm, not all compilations are created equally.
For every Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, there’s several hastily compiled, thrown together, cash-in compilations. Ironically, many of the low rent disco compilations have been thrown together by those who turned their back on disco, in its time of need. Nowadays, they’re happy to cash in on the resurgence of interest in disco. This allows them to top up their pension pot, now they’ve hung up their Technics 1210s. These DJs don’t really love music. No. They love money. People who love music, create compilations like Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82.
DISCO: A FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1978-82.
NIPPON GIRLS 2-JAPANESE POP, BEAT AND ROCK ’N’ ROLL 1965-1970.
It was five years ago, that Big Beat International, a subsidiary of Ace Records, released Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970 to critical acclaim. For many people, this was their introduction to the groovy, eclectic sounds of sixties Japanese pop. What an introduction it was.
Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970 was hailed a truly eclectic compilation. Beat, bossa nova, go-go rubbed shoulders with lounge, pop and psychedelia. So did cover versions and new songs. As a result, Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970 whetted the appetite of many Western music lovers. They eagerly awaited the followup to Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970. They’ve had to be patient
Five long years passed before Big Beat International announced the followup to Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970. That was Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970. It features twenty-four tracks from Kayoko Ishuu, Reiko Mari, Katsuko Kanai, Bay Beats, Akiko Nakamura, Ayui Ishida, Kiyoko Ito, Aki Izumi and Yuko Nagisa. These tracks are just a few of the delights on Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970, which I’ll pick the highlights of.
The first track on any album is always important. It has to grab the listener’s attention. That’s the case on Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970. Kayoko Ishuu’s version of Bazazz No. 1 literally, bursts into life, showcasing a quintessential groovy sixties sound. Atop this fusion of jazz, Latin, lounge and pop sits the sweetest of scatted vocals from session singer Kayoko Ishuu. She was a member of backing vocalists The Singers Three. Then in 1966, she covered Bazazz No. 1, which was released on Crown. A truly irresistible track, this is the perfect start to Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970.
In 1969, Japanese singer and actress Mari Henmi released Daniel Mon Amour as a single. It was released on the Columbia label, with Love Passes Like A Stomy Wind on the B-Side. Daniel Mon Amour sounds as if it has been inspired by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s J ‘taime. During two minutes of coquettish music, Mari’s “sexy kayou” sound takes shape, and she becomes Japan’s answer to Jane Birkin.
Just like a lot of Japanese singers, in the early sixtes, Katsuko Kanai started out releasing cover version. Then in 1962, Bobby Vee toured Japan. His support act were The Ventures. They made a bigger impression, spawning a wave of surf rock groups. Five years later, in 1967, Katsuko Kanai released Mini Mini Girl on RCA. It was penned by Japanese lyricist and composer, Kuranosuke Hamaguchi. In Katsuko’s hands, it becomes two minutes of energy and electricity, where surf and go-go combine head on, creating one of Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970’s highlights.
The tempo drops on Bay Beats version of Kizudarake No Taiyou. It’s a real find. This long forgotten track was was released as the B-Side to a Bay Beats single released on Polydor in 1970. Since then, it’s lain in Polydor’s vaults. That’s a great shame, as it’s a quite beautiful song. A slow, heartfelt vocal is accompanied by stabs of braying horns and crystalline guitars. They play their part in three minutes of beauty, drama and emotion.
As Akiko Nakamura’s Taiyou Ni Koi Wo Shite unfolds, it sounds like a homage to Herb Albert’s Tijuana Brass. It’s the percussion, braying horns and vibes. Then when Akiko’s jazzy vocal enters, the song starts to swing. Fool of hooks, it’s a truly irresistible track that was released as a single in 1967 on King.
Emy Jackson was a pioneer of the surf rock sound. A reminder of that is her 1966 single Namida No Go Go. It’s credited to Emy Jackson & Blue Comets. However, Emy Jackson was her stage name. She was born Emy Eaton in Essex, England, but spent her teenage years in Japan. That’s when she signed to Columbia. Her debut single, Crying In A Storm, was released in April 1965, and sold a million copies. Namida No Go Go was Emy’s fourth single and is a reminder of a musical pioneer, at the height of her career.
Chico Okumura was a model, who enjoyed a parallel career as a singer. She released her debut single in 1965. A year later, she released Koi Gurui, which translates as Love Crazy. It was released on Toshiba in 1970. In the intervening years, Chico’s releases had caused controversy. Her singles lyrical content, were sometimes, construed as lewd. Koi Gurui is somewhat tame by Chico’s standards. Featuring dramatic, string drenched backdrop, Chico delivers an impassioned, sassy vocal on what’s one of her best releases.
Back in 1966, Kiyoko Ito was one of 300 Japanese hopefuls to audition for the Christy Minstrels folk group. This didn’t work out. However, when Kiyoko returned home, she signed a recording contract with CBS Records. Two years later, Kiyoko released the wistful and understated single Mishiranu Sekai. It’s another of Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970’s highlights.
Pinky and Killers’ was one of a number of female fronted bands in Japan during the second half of the sixties. Their trademark look was to wear derby hats and suits. Each member of the group dawned an alias. Fronting the group, and delivering the lead vocal on the 1968, King single, Ore To Kanojo, was Pinky. She sings call and response with the Killers on another quintessentially sixties sounding track.
Actress and singer Akiko Nakamura released Namida No Mori No Monogatari in 1969, on King. Her vocal is best described as a mixture of power, passion and drama. It’s delivered against a lush string laden arrangement, and chirping, wah-wahing guitar. This compelling combinations showcases one of Japan’s best known beat singers.
Kazumi Yasui wasn’t just a singer, she was one of Japan’s most talented lyricists. She wrote lyrics for the great and good of Japanese music. Then, in 1975, she penned Nigai Namida for The Three Degrees. In 1970, she wrote the lyrics to Warui Kuse. It has a beautiful, understated, jazz-tinged sound that’s the perfect showcase for Kazumi’s tender, wistful vocal.
Yuko Nagisa’s Kyoto No Koi is my final choice from Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970. It was released as a single in 1970, on Toshiba. Despite being released in 1970, the song has an obvious sixties sound. Indeed, the guitars are still inspired by The Ventures. That’s no bad thing. Along with swathes of lush strings and an urgent rhythm section, they prove the perfect backdrop for Yuko’s impassioned vocal. So much so, that Kyoto No Koi, reached number one in Japan.
Although five years was a long time to wait for the followup to Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970, it’s been well worth the wait. Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970, which was recently released by Big Beat International, a subsidiary of Ace Records, picks up where its predecessor left off. It’s a case of digging deeper, in an attempt to unearth the eclectic and obscure.
This has worked. Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970 is a truly eclectic compilation. Beat, bossa nova, go-go and jazz rub shoulders with Latin, lounge, pop, psychedelia and surf rock. So eclectic is Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970, that you never know what’s about to happen. It’s a veritable musical feast. Indeed, Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970 is a bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Truly, there’s no end of surprises on Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970. No wonder. Look at the track listing.
Everyone from Kayoko Ishuu, Reiko Mari, Katsuko Kanai, Bay Beats, Akiko Nakamura, Ayui Ishida, Kiyoko Ito, Aki Izumi and Yuko Nagisa feature on Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970. They’re just a few of the musical delights on Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970, the long awaited followup to Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970.
Although five years have passed since the release of Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970, it’s been well worth the wait. Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970 is the perfect companion to Nippon Girls- Japanese Pop, Beat and Bossa Nova 1966-1970. One listen to Nippon Girls 2- Japanese Pop, Beat and Rock ’N’ Roll 1965-1970, and you’ll surely agree.
NIPPON GIRLS 2-JAPANESE POP, BEAT AND ROCK ’N’ ROLL 1965-1970.
MORENO VELOSO-COISA BOA.
Thirteen years have passed since Moreno Veloso released his debut album Music Typewriter. Since then, Moreno has put his solo career on hold, concentrating instead, on production. Moreno has spent over a decade years learning, and honing his production skills. This paid off.
In 2006, Moreno was asked to produce his father’s latest album Zii e Zie. This was no case of nepotism. Far from it. Caetano Veloso is a cultural icon in Brazil. He’s one of the most celebrated artists the country has produced. His reputation was at stake. So Caetano wouldn’t risk his reputation by indulging an aspiring producer. No. Moreno won the right to produce Zii e Zie.
Between the release of his debut album in 2001, and the released of Zii e Zie, Moreno had established a reputation as a talented producer. This was apparent when Zii e Zie was released to critical acclaim. It reinforced Moreno’s reputation as a top class producer. As a result, Moreno produced Caetano’s next two albums, 2010s Cê and 2012s Abraçaço. These two albums further reinforced Moreno’s reputation as a producer. However, after Abraçaço, Moreno decided it was time to return to his solo career.
Moreno hadn’t released any solo material since 2001. He had been involved with a couple of collaborations with his friends Domenico Lancelotti and Alexandre Kassin. They collaborated with Moreno on his 2001 debut album Music Typewriter. He returned the favour on Domenico 2004 album +2’s Sincerely Hot and 2007 album Kassin +2’s Futurismo. These three albums became known as the +2 trilogy. After collaborating on Futurismo, Morneo didn’t release any music until 2014.
That’s when three of Moreno’s songs featured on the soundtrack to Richard Linklater’s 2014 film Boyhood. These three songs also feature on Moreno’s sophomore album Coisa Boa, which will be released on November 17th 2014, on the Luaka Bop label.
Coisa Boa marks the welcome return of Moreno Veloso. Great things were forecast of Moreno, when he released his debut solo album back in 2001. However, Moreno put his solo career on hold. This meant that we never got the opportunity to see whether he could fulfil his potential…until now.
For Coisa Boa, Moreno penned several songs with Domenico Lancelotti and Alexandre Kassin. They also play on Coisa Boa. So do a number of Moreno’s friends. A total of thirty musicians featured on Coisa Boa. This includes guitarists Pedro Sá and Arto Lindsay, bassist Melvin Gibbs, pianist Daniel Jobim, keyboardist Rodrigo Bartolo and multi-instrumentalist Takako Minekawa. These musicians recorded the eleven tracks in in nine studios in a variety of locations, including Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Japan and New York. Once the eleven songs were recorded and mixed, they became Coisa Boa, which I’ll tell you about.
The understated and mellow Lá e Cá opens Coisa Boa. A wash of synths, a gently plucked acoustic guitar and a myriad of disparate, subtle sounds seamlessly became one. They provide the backdrop to Moreno’s tender, heartfelt vocal. Not only that, but the arrangement compliments the vocal. The only way to describe the vocal is truly beautiful, just like Moreno’s guitar playing.
There’s an urgency to the guitar that opens Um Passo à Frente. Soon, one becomes two. Washes of sound reverberate, as an impassioned vocal is delivered with a similar urgency. Soon, the arrangement unfolds, building and blossoming. A pulsating bass, percussion and harmonies unite urgently. Then just as quickly, the urgency dissipates leaving a captivating, urgent vocal. After that, the urgency returns, as hooks, harmonies and musical genres unite, creating a delicious Latin backdrop.
Em Todo Lugar sees another change of tack. Moreno is a musical chameleon, who is showcasing his versatility. Elements of Latin, jazz and even funk are combined from the get-go. The rhythm section and a chiming guitar provide the backdrop for Moreno’s vocal. It’s needy, hopeful and heartfelt. This is perfect for captivating ballad.
Verso Simples has a much more traditional sound. Yet again, Moreno is content to keep the listener guessing. Just his acoustic guitar and percussion accompany his vocal. It’s tinged with emotion and sadness, as the arrangement meanders along, all the times, tugging at your heartstrings.
Wistful and spacious describes the title-track, Coisa Boa. It’s just a thoughtful Moreno playing his guitar. His vocal is tinged with melancholia. He leaves space within the arrangement, as if contemplating the lyrics he delivers.
Almost hesitantly, Jacaré Coruja unfolds. The band play their way into the track. Just a chiming, hypnotic guitar plays and a drum thoughtfully beats out a rhythm. Moreno play his guitar and delivers a vocal that veers between heartfelt, hurt-filled and dramatic. In doing so, he brings the lyrics to life.
Slow and melancholy describes the introduction to Num Galho de Acácias. Moreno is accompanied by dark strings and a soft, thoughtful piano. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Moreno’s vocal. However, it’s a tender female vocal that adds the finishing touch to what’s without doubt, the highlight of Coisa Boa. It’s Moreno’s finest hour.
De Tentar Voltar picks ups where Num Galho de Acácias left off. It’s another slow, understated track. Moreno’s vocal is full of hurt and regret. He’s accompanied by guitars, drums played with brushes and a bass. Later, a crystalline guitar and wistful strings enter, playing important roles as Moreno delivers another heartfelt and beautiful song.
Latin percussion and chiming guitars open Não Acorde o Neném. Moreno’s vocal is tender as gradually the arrangement shows its delights. A probing bass, crystalline guitar, percussion, handclaps and harmonies accompany Moreno. They take care not to overpower his vocal. Instead, they compliment his languid vocal on what’s best described as an irresistible slice of Latin music.
The guitar that opens Hoje, reminds me of Nick Drake. So does the bass. That’s not the end of the comparisons. Hoje’s arrangement has a similar stripped back sound. This allows the music to breath. Especially Moreno’s wistful vocal and the shapeshifting bass. A piano adds to the sense of melancholia. Its addition is the finishing touch to what sounds like a homage to the late, great, Nick Drake.
Closing Coisa Boa is Onaji Sora. Again, it has an understated sound. Percussion and an acoustic guitar accompany Moreno, as he delivers a duet. His partner is a female vocalist. They’re like yin and yang. Their voices compliment each other, and result in a tender, heartfelt track that’s the perfect way to close Coisa Boa, Moreno Veloso’s comeback album.
Leaving thirteen years between albums isn’t to be advised for an artist. By the time they make their comeback, their audience may have forgotten about them? That’s not all. Music will have changed. Their sound may not be relevant any more. That doesn’t apply in the case of Moreno Veloso.
He’s an artist with his own, unique sound. That’s apparent on Coisa Boa, Moreno’s long awaited sophomore album. On the first few songs, Moreno switches between musical genres. He’s something of a musical chameleon. Then when he delivers a series of slow, understated, ballads, it’s apparent that this is Moreno Veloso’s “sound.”
He dawns the role of troubadour, delivering songs that are a heartfelt, hopeful, melancholy and wistful. Sometimes, Moreno’s vocals are needy and full heartache and hurt. The way he delivers songs, it’s as if he’s lived the lyrics. However, there’s more to Moreno than the role of troubled troubadour.
Moreno Veloso is also a guitarist and producer. He’s a hugely talented, classically trained guitarist. That shows on Coisa Boa. He knows exactly what notes to play, and when. Often, just one note adds a sense of melancholy or a poignancy to a song. Sometimes, he realises less is more.
This isn’t just when he plays guitar. Often, Moreno leaves space between notes. It’s like a pregnant pause. Similarly, Moreno’s arrangement’s are understated, uncluttered. and spacious. Never, do the band overpower his vocals. Instead, they compliment his vocals. Always, Moreno’s vocals take centre-stage, as he becomes the comeback King.
Thirteen long years after his debut album, Music Typewriter, Moreno Veloso returns with his sophomore album Coisa Boa, which will be released by Luaka Bop on 17th October 2014. Coisa Boa has been worth the thirteen year wait, and sees Moreno Veloso more than fulfil the potential that was apparent on 2001s Music Typewriter.
MORENO VELOSO-COISA BOA.
STEVE GUNN-WAY OUT WEATHER.
Although Philly born guitarist Steve Gunn’s career began fifteen years ago, it wasn’t until 2007 that he released his eponymous debut album. Before that, Steve was the guitarist in Kurt Vile’s band The Violators. Since then, Steve has enjoyed parallel careers.
Apart from his solo career, Steve has been a member of GHQ, Desert Heat, Golden Gunn, Gunn Diehl and the Gunn-Truscinski Duo. That’s not all. Steve has also found time to collaborate with Mike Cooper, Mike Gangloff, Jack Rose, Tom Carter, Meg Baird and Michael Chapman. It seems Steve Gunn is one of the hardest working musicians of recent years. This has paid off.
Nowadays, Steve Gunn has a huge following worldwide. This hasn’t happened overnight. No. Steve has embarked upon gruelling and relentless tours. It’s paid off. Now when he heads off on tour, the sold out signs hang outside his shows. For Steve Gunn, this must be hugely satisfying. He’s come a long way since he released his debut album Steve Gunn in 2007.
Seven years later, and Steve has just released his fifth album Way Out Weather, on the Paradise Of Bachelors label. It’s a coming of age for Steve Gunn. With his band, he creates eight intriguing, genre-melting soundscapes. They’ve been influenced by Steve’s musical influences.
Among the artists to influence Steve Gunn, are Robbie Basho, Michael Chapman, Sandy Bull and John Fahey. Each of these artists have influenced the development of Steve Gunn’s music. So have the artists Steve’s worked with, including everyone from Kurt Vile to Meg Baird and Michael Chapman. As a result, Steve Gunn’s music is a captivating fusion of blues, country, free jazz, and psychedelia. Gnawa and Carnatic music has also influenced Steve Gunn’s music. That’s been the case from his 2007 eponymous debut album, right through to his recent album, Way Out Weather.
Steve Gunn’s solo career began back in 2007. That was when Steve released his eponymous debut album, Steve Gunn, on the Onomato label. The album was described as an ambitious fusion of acoustic, experimental and folk music.
On its released, the album was well received by critics. They realised that Steve Gunn was a pioneering musician. He was much more than Kurt Vile’s guitarist. Much more. So, they decided here was a musician whose career they would follow closely.
A year later, in 2008, Steve returned a year later with his sophomore album Sundowner. It was released on Digitalis Recordings. Essentially, Sundowner was a progression from Steve Gunn.
The same fusion of experimental and folk was used as the building blocks. However, Steve took things further, for what was a series of innovative soundscapes. Critics and cultural commentators saw Sundowner as the next step in the career of a musical pioneer. However, Steve’s music wasn’t just attracting the attention of critics.
By then, Steve was building up a loyal fan-base. He toured relentlessly. This was the only way to spread the word about his music. He didn’t have a big budget and P.R. team behind him. So, he hit the road and did things the old fashioned way, by touring. He also found time to record his third album Boerum Palace.
Boerum Palace, which was released in 2009, was Steve’s third album, but his first for Three Lobed Records. It saw Steve’s music evolve. He seemed to matured as a songwriter and also, found his voice. The combination of his guitar playing and vocals, were a potent one.
The critics agreed. Boerum Palace was hailed as Steve’s finest hour. His music was evolving, as elements of folk, psychedelia and rock melted into one. It was an album influenced by Steve’s record collection. However, it was also an ambitious and progressive album. There may have been more than a nod to the past, but Boerum Palace saw Steve make music that was ambitious and innovative. Just when it looked like Steve was making a breakthrough, he didn’t release another album for four more years.
During the next four years, Steve was still making music. He took time to collaborate with a number of artists including Mike Cooper, Mike Gangloff, Jack Rose, Tom Carter, Meg Baird and Michael Chapman. For Steve, this was all part of his musical education. So was working on his other projects.
Working with different artists allowed Steve to learn from them. This included Steve’s instrumental the Gunn-Truscinski Duo. They released Sand City in 2010 and Ocean Parkway in 2012. In between Sand City and Ocean Parkway, Steve Gunn released his live solo album, Live at the Night Light in 2011. These albums further cemented Steve’s reputation within music. His peers looked on, admiringly. They marvelled at his skills as a composer and his ability to improvise. A year after the release of Ocean Parkway, Steve returned with his fourth solo album, Time Off.
By 2013, Steve had signed to a new record label, Paradise of Bachelors. They released his fourth solo album Time Off. This was Steve’s first album as leader of a trio. It featured two of Steve’s friends drummer John Truscinski and bassist Justin Tripp. Just like Boerum Palace, one of the key features was Steve’s vocals.
Time Off saw Steve come out of his shell. He seemed more confident as a vocalist, as he introduces the listener to a series of stories and characters. His new band complimented him, providing the perfect backdrop for stories about his life and the people he knows. It was a truly captivating album, one that critics hailed as Steve Gunn at his best. He seemed to have matured as a musician, singer and songwriter. This continues on Way Out Weather, which is a coming of age for Steve Gunn.
Way Out Weather.
For Way Out Weather, which was recently released by Paradise Of Bachelors, Steve penned eight new tracks. They were recorded by Steve’s new band at Black Dirt Studio. It’s built around the trio that featured on Time Off.
On Time Off, drummer John Truscinski and bassist Justin Tripp accompanied Steve on guitar. They were joined by James Elkington, Jason Meagher, Jimy Seitang, Mary Lattimore and Nathan Bowles at Black Dirt Studio, where they recorded the eight tracks that became Way Out Weather, which I’ll tell you about.
Opening Way Out Weather, is the title-track. Washes of guitar reverberate into the distance. Hesitantly, guitars chirp and a piano produces an Eno-esque sound. Before long, the rhythm section and guitar unite. They’re accompanied by weeping, country-tinged guitars. Then when Steve’s vocal enters, it has a lived-in, worldweary sound. Other times, it veers towards dreamy and lysergic. As he lazily delivers the lyrics, you’re captivated. His vocal has a hypnotic quality. Especially with layers of sounds enveloping and surrounding him. They play their part in a mellow, dreamy and lysergic sounding soundscape.
Just country-tinged acoustic guitars open Wildwood. Soon, washes of reverberating guitar are panned left. They trail of into the distance. That’s the signal for Steve’s vocal to enter. It’s heartfelt and emotive, while guitars and the rhythm section provide a backdrop for his vocal. They provide a fuzzy, guitar driven soundscape. This is very different to Steve’s vocal. So much so, that they’re yin and yang. It’s a case of musical genres and influences meltong into one. Everything from alternative rock, country, folk, psychedelia and rock have influenced Wildwood.
A distant, dramatic was of sound opens Milly’s Garden. Soon, chiming, crystalline guitars trade licks. They’re joined by the rhythm section and then Steve’s vocal. It veers between languid and laid-back, to urgent and powerful. Meanwhile, his band provide a melodic, hook heavy backdrop as they kick loose. They play with an unbridled freedom, as Steve Gunn and his band explode into life, in the rocky Milly’s Garden. Quite simply, it’s the highlight of Way Out Weather, so far, and shows how far Steve’s come in seven years.
Shadow Bros. has a wistful, thoughtful sound. The tempo is slow and the arrangement lumbers along. Again, there’s a country influence as a myriad of disparate instruments unite. This includes guitars and a banjo. They provide an arrangement that frames Steve’s vocal. It takes centre-stage. It’s worldweary, and full of character as he paints pictures with his lyrics. The result is enigmatic and cinematic track.
Fiction has a much more fulsome arrangement. Again, there’s a country influence. Guitars jangle and chime, while the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Then when Steve’s vocal enters, it’s whispery, and full of mystery. It sits back in the mix. The rest of the arrangement frames the vocal. It can just be heard. You’ve got to focus on it. That’s no bad thing. This means you focus on Steve’s lyrics. As the song ends, you realise that Steve has come of age as a singer, songwriter and musician.
The introduction to Drifter gives no hint at what’s about to happen. A folk influenced acoustic guitar plays. Then the drums pound. Blistering guitars and the bass cut loose. They set the scene for Steve’s vocal. It’s a drawl, sometimes, becoming fiery and powerful. Searing, blistering guitar licks are fired off. A thunderous, pulsating bass also plays a leading role, as Steve Gunn and his band mix rock, folk and country seamlessly.
Atmosphere has an experimental, sci-fi sound. It’s an ethereal soundscape. Steve’s distant vocal is sung through a vocoder. Meanwhile, chiming, chirping guitar are joined washes of synths on what’s best described as a dreamy, ethereal soundscape.
Tommy’s Congo closes Way Out Weather. It’s another experimental, genre-melting track. Afro-beat meets free jazz, experimental, psychedelia and rock. Layers of music unfold, showing their secrets and nuances. Then when Steve’s vocal enters, it veers between dramatic, deliberate and dreamy. All the time, there’s a sixties influence in his vocal. Meanwhile, the mesmeric arrangement worms its way into your consciousness. Although very different to much of Way Out Weather, Tommy’s Congo shows another side to the versatile and multitalented Steve Gunn.
For Steve Gunn, Way Out Weather is a coming of age. It’s the finest album of his five album solo career. No wonder. Way Out Weather has been seven years in the making. Everything Steve has released before, has been leading up to Way Out Weather.
This includes his four previous solo albums, and the various collaborations he’s been involved with. This includes his work with Mike Cooper, Mike Gangloff, Jack Rose, Tom Carter, Meg Baird and Michael Chapman. All these collaborations have influenced Steve, and Way Out Weather. That’s why Steve couldn’t have made Way Out Weather earlier in his career. He had to work with all these artists before he made Way Out Weather. It’s a coming of for Steve.
Innovative, genre-melting and full of subtleties, surprises and nuances, Way Out Weather is a career defining album from Steve Gunn. Way Out Weather features eight innovative, genre-melting soundscapes. Ambient, acoustic, Afro-beat, blues, country, folk, psychedelia and rock feature on Way Out Weather. It includes some of the best music of Steve Gunn’s career. That’s why Way Out Weather is seen as the next step in the career of a musical pioneer.
For Way Out Weather, this was Steve Gunn’s first album as bandleader. It’s a role Steve has settled comfortably into. That’s not a surprise. Steve lead a trio that featured on his previous album Time Off. However, leading a band is a new ball game. However, having lead a trio meant that Steve new what was expected of him.
This experience paid off on On Way Out Weather. His newly expanded band play an important part in Way Out Weather’s sound and success.
On Way Out Wether, Steve Gunn seemed more confident as a vocalist.Over eight tracks, he introduces the listener to a series of stories and characters. His new band complimented him, providing the perfect backdrop for stories about his life and the people he knows. This makes Way Out Weather, a truly captivating album, that features Steve Gunn at his very best. Since 2013s Time Off, Steve Gunn has matured as a musician, singer and songwriter. That’s why Way Out Weather is a coming of age for Steve Gunn.
STEVE GUNN-WAY OUT WEATHER.
T-BONE WALKER-T-BONE BLUES.
When eventually, someone writes the history of blues music, T-Bone Walker’s name will loom large. There’s no doubt about that. T-Bone Walker was, without doubt, one of the most innovative and influential blues guitarists ever. He was a true musical pioneer.
T-Bone Walker was pioneer of firstly, the jump blues, then the electric blues. His music evolved, in an attempt to stay relevant. That’s why T-Bone Walker is remembered as a musical pioneer, who released groundbreaking music. That may seem like a bold statement, but it’s not. It’s the truth.
After all, T-Bone Walker was one of the first artists to wield an electric guitar. He honed and tamed the electric guitar and made that sound his own. That’s why nearly forty years after T-Bone Walker’s death he’s remembered not just as one of the best blues guitarists, but one of the top guitarists in musical history. What some people forget is that T-Bone Walker was also a flamboyant showman.
It was T-Bone Walker that Jimi Hendrix saw playing his guitar with his teeth. This was T-Bone Walker’s party trick. When he decided to showboat, T-Bone Walker played his guitar with his teeth. A young Jimi Hendrix saw this. He was awe struck. Here was a guitarist who could do things other guitarists could only dream of. For the young Jimi Hendrix, it was as if T-Bone had thrown down the gauntlet.
Jimi Hendrix went away and eventually, was able to play the guitar T-Bone Walker. His party trick was playing the guitar with his teeth. As the audiences watched, they thought this was new. It wasn’t. T-Bone Walker had done this before. He played his part in the rise and rise of Jim Hendrix.
After all, if Jim had never seen T-Bone play, would he have ever reached the heights he did? The same can be said of other artists T-Bone influenced.
Apart from Jimi Hendrix, T-Bone Walker influenced several generations of musicians. Among them are B.B. King, The Allman Brothers and Chuck Berry. Then there’s a generation of British musicians who grew up listening to artists like T-Bone Walker. This includes Eric Clapton, John Mayall, The Animals and Rolling Stones. Each and every one of these artists owe a debt of gratitude to the late, great, T-Bone Walker, whose 1959 Atlantic Records debut T-Bone Blues was recently reissued by Rhino. By 1960, T-Bone was forty-nine. His story began fifty years before the release of T-Bone Blues.
It was in May 1910, that T-Bone Walker was born Aaron Thibeaux Walker. Both T-Bone’s parents Movellia Jimmerson and Rance Walker were musicians. So, was T-Bone’s stepfather Marco Washington. Rance, like T-Bone’s mother, was a member of the Dallas String Band. He taught T-Bone to play guitar, banjo, violin, ukelele and piano. T-Bone couldn’t have asked for a better of a musical education. By the time T-Bone was a teenager, his career as a musician began.
Having left school aged ten, T-Bone became a professional musician when he was a teenager. His mentor was Blind Lemon Jefferson, who was a family friend. Blind Lemon helped T-Bone establish himself on the local blues circuit. Then when T-Bone was nineteen, he made his recording debut in 1929. He wasn’t billed as T-Bone Walker. No. Instead, he was billed as Oak Cliff T-Bone, when he released the single Wichita Falls Blues. This was the first recording in a career that lasted six decades.
By the time T-Bone was twenty-five, he was living in Los Angeles. He was married with five children. Sometimes, T-Bone was the guest vocalist for the Les Hite Orchestra. All the time, T-Bone was developing his musical style.
When T-Bone signed to Capitol Records in 1942, this was the start of one of the most important periods in his career. T-Bone’s sound was constantly evolving. So much so, that his single Mean Old World was a game-changer. His sound was totally unique and inimitable. This lead to T-Bone being referred to as a flamboyant, innovative and influential. Sometimes, T-Bone would play his guitar with his teeth, above his head or behind his back. Audiences were shocked and awe struck. Nobody had played a guitar like this. Then in 1947, T-Bone released a track that’s since become synonymous with him.
This was Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad). It was released on the Black and While label, which T-Bone has signed to in 1946. For two years between 1946 and 1948, T-Bone was releasing some of the most successful and pioneering music of his career. This included 1946s Bobby Sox Blues and West Side Baby, which gave T-Bone top ten hits. Having released some of the most important music of his career at Black and White, the fifties saw blues music fall out of favor and T-Bone flit between record companies.
Back then, this wasn’t new. Many artists signed one-off deals with labels. This was the case with T-Bone. He released several singles for Imperial and in 1959, released his debut album Sings The Blues. A year later, in 1960, T-Bone Blues was released on T-Bone Blues on Atlantic. It comprised eleven recordings from the fifties.
Of the eleven tracks on T-Bone Blues, T-Bone wrote eight tracks. This includes Two Bones And A Pick, T-Bone Shuffle, Stormy Monday Blues, Blues For Marili, T-Bone Blues, Shufflin’ The Blues, Play On Little Girl and Blues Rock. T-Bone also cowrote Mean Old World with Michael Goldsen and Papa Ain’t Salty with Grover McDaniels. The only cover version was Evenin,’ which was penned by Harry White and Mitchell Parish. These eleven tracks were recorded by T-Bone during the fifties.
This means that different line-ups play on different tracks on T-Bone Blues. The rhythm section included bassists Billy Hadnott and Joe Comfort, drummers Earl Palmer and Oscar Bradley and guitarists Barney Kessel and R.S. Rankin. They were joined by pianists Lloyd Glenn and Ray Johnson. Tenor saxophonist played on three tracks. T-Bone played guitar and added his inimitable vocal. Nesuhi Ertegun was credited as producer. T-Bone Blues was then released in 1960.
When T-Bone Blues was released in 1960, it was to widespread critical acclaim. T-Bone Blues was the perfect showcase for the master of the electric guitar. That was the case from the opening bars of Two Bones and A Pick, right through to Why Not, Mean Old Little Girl and a remake of the T-Bone Walker classic Stormy Monday and Pappa Ain’t Salty. During the eleven tracks, T-Bone and his small, tight and talented band feed off each other, driving each other to greater heights. That’s apparent on T-Bone Blues, which I’ll tell you about.
Two Bones and a Pick opens T-Bone Blues. It literally bursts into life, with T-Bone and his band combining blues and R&B. T-Bone is joined by guitarists R. S. Rankin and Barney Kessel. Both play important parts. R.S Rankin delivers the first guitar solo and Barney the second. The rhythm section and piano drive the arrangement along. Later, during the third guitar solo, T-Bone delivers some flamboyant, flashy guitar licks. He’s very much star of the show. That’s until a growling saxophone joins T-Bone. It matches him every step of the way. It’s like a musical duel. They drive each other to greater heights, resulting in a blistering fusion of blues and R&B.
Slow, and moody describes the introduction to Mean Old World. As T-Bone unleashes some driving, crystalline licks, the bass propels the arrangement along. Drums played with brushes provide the heartbeat. Meanwhile a melancholy piano meanders along. Taking centre-stage is T-Bone’s guitar. His fingers flit up and down the fretboard. Having set the scene, T-Bone delivers a despairing vocal “Some day, I’ll be six feet in the ground…it’s a Mean Old World.” Not only does this track showcase T-Bone’s guitar skills, but his vocal prowess and songwriting talents.
T-Bone Shuffle sees T-Bone and his band slow things down. The rhythm section and grizzled tenor saxophone unite. They combine blues and jazz. Before long, T-Bone’s vocal enters. He toys with the lyrics, before delivering a sassy vocal. Then when his vocal drops out, he delivers a searing, chiming guitar solo. Behind him, the rest of the band are in the groove, and are yin to T-Bone’s yang.
Stormy Monday Blues is, without doubt, T-Bone Walker’s most famous song. He rerecorded this track in the fifties. A pounding, driving rhythm section and piano set the scene for T-Bone. His vocal is tender and wistful. The way he delivers the lyrics, it’s as if he’s lived them, and survived to tell the tale. When his vocal drops out, he delivers some sparse, searing, crystalline licks. He takes care they don’t interrupt his vocal. Behind him, his band play slowly and thoughtfully. They take care to compliment T-Bone Walker, as he delivers a career defining song.
Just T-Bone’s chiming guitar opens Blues for Marili. Soon, a driving, dramatic piano and the rhythm section join him. Although the piano plays an important role, T-Bone is unleashing a guitar masterclass. The rest of his all-star band are content to let T-Bone play a starring role, as he delivers some of his best licks on T-Bone Blues.
T-Bone Blues has a wonderfully melancholy sound. Partly that’s down to the slow tempo, stabs of piano and the moody bass. Along with the drums, the bass anchors the track. T-Bone jams along with the rest of the band. His bands flit up and down the fretboard. All of a sudden, he delivers a searing lick. Then later, T-Bone delivers a worldweary vocal. He sings “ yes I love my woman, she’s so mean to me…I love my woman, I don’t care what she does to me.” The way T-Bone delivers the lyrics, it’s as if he knows he’s being mistreated, but can’t stand to walk away.
Shufflin’ the Blues is vintage T-Bone Walker. That’s the case from the opening bars. As his band provide a uptempo backdrop, T-Bone dawns the role of guitar hero. His guitar chimes and chirps. Other times, he duckwalks his way across the arrangement. It’s no surprise that T-Bone Walker influenced Chuck Berry. That’s apparent here. Later, T-Bone reaches new heights. He’s encouraged by whoops and hollers, as T-Bone proves that he’s a master of the electric guitar.
Evenin’ has a dark, broody, late-night sound. Blues and jazz collide head on, as a heartbroken T-Bone delivers a vocal full of hurt and regret. Meanwhile, his band provide a late-night, smokey sound. Washes of crystalline, chiming, searing guitars and a braying horn provide the perfect accompaniment to T-Bone, as he unleashes a soul-baring vocal.
Play On Little Girl is another of the slower tracks. A bluesy harmonica joins the rhythm section. They set the scene for T-Bone’s grizzled vocal. It’s needy, insecure and full of emotion, as he sings: “I love my baby, I really do.” When his vocal drops out, a bluesy harmonica takes centre-stage, soaring above the arrangement. Later, it accompanies T-Bone as the song reaches a dramatic crescendo.
Slow, bluesy and sultry. That describes Blues Rock. Partly that’s because of the tenor saxophone. It plays a starring role. It drops out when T-Bone’s guitar enters. He unleashes another of his trademark guitar solos. Slowly, and carefully, his blistering guitar solo unfolds. Later, it plays second fiddle to the growling saxophone. Just like T-Bone’s guitar, it plays a starring role in Blues Rock’s success.
Papa Ain’t Salty closes T-Bone Blues, an uptempo track. Straight away, T-Bone lays down some searing, crystalline licks. Meanwhile, his band play as one, providing a driving, mesmeric backdrop. Stabs of jangling piano and braying horns join the rhythm section. They set the scene for T-Bone, he delivers a rueful, weary vocal. Regret and hurt fill his vocal, as he asks: “why pretty baby did you have to go?” This is one of T-Bone’s best vocal. Heartfelt and tinged with heartbreak, T-Bone and his band ensure T-Bone Blues finishes on a high.
T-Bone Blues is a case of all killer and no filler. That’s what people had come to expect of the blues legend. From the opening bars of Two Bones and A Pick, right through Why Not, Mean Old Little Girl and a remake of the T-Bone Walker classic Stormy Monday, to Pappa Ain’t Salty, T-Bone Walker and his tight, talented band never miss a beat on a career defining album.
Of all the albums T-Bone Walker released, T-Bone Blues was the best album of his long and illustrious career. No wonder. His searing, driving, blistering licks are accompanied that inimitable, world weary voice. It’s a voice that sounds as if its lived a thousand lives. Add to the equation a band that’s features some of the best musicians of the day. That’s why T-Bone Blues was a coming of age for T-Bone Walker.
Sadly, T-Bone Blues which was recently released by Rhino, was T-Bone Walker’s only album for Atlantic Records. Indeed, T-Bone Walker didn’t release another album until 1965.
By then blues music was briefly back in fashion. A new generation of British musicians had been inspired by the blues, and name checked artists like T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Howlin’ Wolf. As a result, these blues players careers enjoyed a renaissance. Sadly, this didn’t last long. Before long, blues had fallen out of fashion. However, some music doesn’t fall out fashion. This includes T-Bone Blues, a truly timeless album.
Released in 1959, fifty-five years ago, T-Bone Blues was a career defining album for T-Bone Walker. It was the greatest album of his long and illustrious career. So the reissue of T-Bone Blues is to be welcomed. My only criticism is that the running order is wrong. There’s the original version of T-Bone Blues, plus four bonus tracks, Why Not, T-Bone Blues Special, You Don’t Know What You’re Doing and How Long Blues. However, they’re in no apparent order. For blues purists, it would’ve been preferable if the original running order had been used, with the four bonus tracks tagged on the end. However, that’s a minor gripe. What’s important is that T-Bone Blues has been reissued.
For a newcomer to T-Bone Walker, then T-Bone Blues is the perfect starting point. To accompany T-Bone Blues I’d recommend the underrated Every Day I Have The Blues, which was recently reissued by Ace Records. However, the album that introduced many people to T-Bone Walker was T-Bone Blues.
It’s a reminder of one of the most innovative and influential blues musicians. That’s not all. T-Bone Walker was a flamboyant showman, who inspired a generation of musicians with his 1959 career defining album, T-Bone Blues.
T-BONE WALKER-T-BONE BLUES.
SPIRIT OF MALOMBO: MALOMBO JAZZ MAKERS, JABULA AND JAZZ AFRIKA 1966-1984.
Four years have passed since the last instalment in Strut Records’ critically acclaimed Next Stop Soweto series. At last, however, the wait is over. Recently, Strut Records have released Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. This is a double album, which celebrates the life and music of influential drummer, and political activist, Julian Bahula, whose career began in the late fifties.
It was around 1959, when Julian Bahula’s family were forced to move from Eesterust, a township a few miles west of Mamelodi. Their new home was Mamelodi, a township, to the north east of Pretoria. For the young Julian Bahula this could’ve been a turbulent time in his life. After all, he was leaving behind his friends and family. However, the move to Mamelodi resulted in Julian’s musical career unfolding.
In Mamelodi, Julian first met flautist Abbey Cindi and guitarist Philip Tabane. Abbey was also a newcomer to Mamelodi, having moved from Witbank. Phillip, however, had lived in Mamelodi all his life. Indeed, it was in Mamelodi Phillip’s career began.
Ever since the early fifties, Phillip had been playing live. He had blossomed into a gifted and talented guitarist. Phillip played in a variety of groups, including jazz groups. Then as the sixties dawned, Phillip was a member of a jazz group, The Crotchets. However, he decided to form a vocal group The Lullaby Landers.
Two of the other members of The Lullaby Landers were Abbey Cindi and drummer Julian Bahula. They were part-time musicians. Unlike Phillip, who was able to practice during the day, Abbey and Julian worked during the day. The only time they had to rehearse, was in the evenings, at the Mamelodi centre. Phillip would join them, and they became a trio.
The trio would meet in the evenings and play the music Phillip had composed. With Phillip’s guitar, Abbey’s flute and Julian’s drums, they were able to create a sound that ws very different to other groups. There was a reason for this. That was the type of drums Julian used.
This became obvious during rehearsals. Phillip had composed the music for the band. The music he composed didn’t require trap drums. Despite this, when Julian played the music with a Western drum kit, it didn’t sound right. This was patently obvious. So, Julian made the decision to buy African drums.
Having bought a new set of drums, Julian returned to the Mamelodi centre to practice. Julian was proudly setting up his new drums, when the caretaker looked in. He was one of the Venda people, a group of Southern African people who live near the South African and Zimbabwean border. Straight away, he recognised Julian’s new drums. They were actually malombo drums, which traditionally, he explained, the Venda people play. However, there was another explanation of the word malombo.
A malombo, the caretaker explained is a word given to to ancestral spirits. Very occasionally, he told Phillip, Abbey and Julian, these spirits can make people unwell. The only way to cure this illness, is through dance and spirit possession. A healer puts the person into a trance, and calls upon the spirits. As the caretaker explained, Julian and Phillip remembered this. They had been told about this as they grew up. Still, the were fascinated by the story. Even more so, when the malombo drum was involved. After hearing this explanation of the drums’ origins and use, Phillip, Abbey and Julian decided that their nascent group be called The Malombo Jazz Men. Little did they know the effect the Malombo drum would have on their music.
The Malombo Jazz Men.
The Malombo drum brought a totally unique and innovative sound to African jazz scene. Rather than drawing inspiration from America, jazz’s homeland, the inclusion of the Malombo drum saw an Africanisation of jazz music. It was as if The Malombo Jazz Men wanted to reconnect with traditional African music, tradition and culture. This was a huge step, one that had never been made before. This made the Malombo Jazz Men Malombo musical pioneers, who were set to make their musical debut.
Originally, The Malombo Jazz Men were set to make their debut at the Soweto Cold Castle Jazz festival. The Malombo Jazz Men practiced, and practised hard. They were determined to tighten and hone their sound. As the festival neared, Phillip realised the band weren’t ready. A decision was made to delay their debut until a competition at Orlando stadium. That’s where The Malombo Jazz Men made their debut. Their unique, innovative sound won over the audience and judges. When The Malombo Jazz Men returned home with the first prize, they were the all conquering heros. This resulted in the Malombo Jazz Men recording their debut album.
As part of their prize for winning the Castle Lager Jazz Festival in 1964, The Malombo Jazz Men got the chance to record their debut album. The Malombo Jazz Men featured on one side and the festival runners-up, the Early Mabuza Quartet, featured on the other side. For The Malombo Jazz Men, this looked like the start of a long and successful career. It wasn’t.
A year later, in 1965 The Malombo Jazz Men split-up. Two separate groups evolved out of The Malombo Jazz Men. Philip Tabane formed a duo with drummer Gabriel Thobejane. Just like Phillip. Julian and Abbey decided to form a new band. They recruited guitarist and fellow Mamelodi resident, Lucas ‘Lucky’ Ranku.
Lucas was a self-taught guitarist. When he met Julian and Abbey, he was The Four Lads guitarist. He was also a member of another popular band, Jimmy’s Band. Julian and Abbey first met Lucas at the Mamelodi Community Centre, where The Malombo Jazz Men won a talent contest. The runners-up were Jimmy’s Band. Julian had complimented Lucas on his guitar playing, and as a parting shot, said “maybe we’ll play with you one day?” Little did anyone realise that, less than a year later, this would come true, when Lucas joined The Malombo Jazz Makers.
From the get-go, The Malombo Jazz Makers were one of the hardest working groups in South Africa. Peter Magubane, who was the photographer for Drum magazine became their manager. He accompanied The Malombo Jazz Makers as they embarked upon relentless touring schedules. At first, The Malombo Jazz Makers ventured into neighbouring states. The constant touring honed The Malombo Jazz Makers’ sound. Soon, they were a tight, talented and innovative group, who were selling out venues big and small. Then gradually, The Malombo Jazz Makers travelled as far afield as Swaziland, for the 1967 Swaziland Jazz Festival. By then, The Malombo Jazz Makers’ recording career had began.
It was in 1966, that The Malombo Jazz Men released their debut album Malompo Jazz, on the Gallo label. It featured a guest vocalist, Hilda Tloubatla of Mahotella Queens. This was a coup for The Malombo Jazz Makers. Hilda was one of South African music’s top vocalists. She played her part in the sound and success of Malompo Jazz.
Four tracks from Malombo Jazz feature on Strut Records’ recent compilation Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. This includes the driving, hypnotic and rock-tinged Abie’s Mood and the understated, wistful and jazzy Bababelo. Equally understated is Abbey’s Body, a quite beautiful track that allows each of The Malombo Jazz Men to shine. Then Hilda Tloubatla’s vocal prowess features on Jikeleza, an upbeat, joyous and dance-floor friendly track. These tracks showcase a tight, talented and pioneering band, who were able to seamlessly combine musical genres. It’s no surprise that The Malombo Jazz Men was such a well received debut album. The future looked bright for The Malombo Jazz Makers.
Malombo Jazz Makers Volume 2.
This proved to be the case. A year later, Malombo Jazz Makers Volume 2 was released by The Malombo Jazz Makers. They had been busy since they recorded their debut album. What with touring and recording radio sessions for SABC, the state broadcaster. However, the most important date in 1967, was the release of their sophomore album Malombo Jazz Makers Volume 2.
Just two tracks from Malombo Jazz Makers Volume 2, feature on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. They’re Hleziphi and Sibathathu, which fittingly, translates as “we are three.” The three members of The Malombo Jazz Makers had a lot more music to release over the next few years.
In 1968, The Malombo Jazz Makers decided to augment their sound. They added extra musicians and released two singles as The Malombo Jazz Makers Plus 2. The singles included Bahula Dithabeng, which is included on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. So is the B-Side, Away From Malombo’s which has a much more pensive sound. This expanded lineup shows another side to The Malombo Jazz Makers’ music. Their music was continuing to evolve. This was the case throughout the rest of the sixties.
Down Lucky’s Way.
As the sixties drew to a close, The Malombo Jazz Makers released another album Down Lucky’s Way. Released in 1969, Down Lucky’s Way is one of The Malombo Jazz Makers’ rarest albums. Little is known about the album. It isn’t even mentioned in the Gallo record label’s discography. Despite its rarity, a track from Down Lucky’s Way, Matshenyogo, features on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. Just like the two singles released as The Malombo Jazz Makers Plus 2, Down Lucky’s Way features an expanded lineup. A bass and Hammond organ augment Julian’s drums and Lucky’s guitar on Down Lucky’s Way. Not on Matshenyogo. It’s just Julian’s drums and Lucky’s guitar that feature on this captivating track, that brought the sixties to a close.
When the sixties became the seventies, The Malombo Jazz Makers were South Africa’s most popular jazz bands. However, they weren’t becoming rich. Far from it. Just like so many musicians before them, they were being exploited. They were paid, but not what they should have received. This must have been hugely frustrating. Especially considering how along with their contemporary Philip Tabane, The Jazz Makers had revolutionised South African jazz. Their influence, in what became known as the Malombo sound, would be heard throughout the next two decades.
For the next two decades, the Malombo drum, guitar and flute were the starting point for a generation of groups. These groups followed in The Jazz Makers’ footsteps in more than one way.
Peter Magubane, The Malombo Jazz Makers’ manager was an active member of the African National Congress. It had been outlawed by the government. For the last few years, The Jazz Makers’ had played a part in the African National Congress’ fight for equality. Their drums had hidden documents being smuggled across the border, to places like Botswana, where members of the African National Congress were in hiding. This was the start of the politicisation of The Malombo Jazz Makers.
By 1971, The Malombo Jazz Makers toured South Africa with African Follies’ stage and variety show. South Africa was a dangerous place. Especially for anyone involved in the Anti Apartheid movement. This included Peter Magubane, The Malombo Jazz Makers’ manager. During the tour, he introduced The Malombo Jazz Makers to Steve Biko, Saths Cooper and Strini Moodley.
They were founder members of the Black Consciousness Movement and played an important part in the South African Student Organisation. Soon, friendships were formed. Steve Biko invited The Malombo Jazz Makers to become part of a musical cultural production, Into the Heart of Negritude. This offer was accepted, and The Malombo Jazz Makers embarked upon the riskiest tour of their career.
Throughout the tour, The Malombo Jazz Makers had to be on their guard. Constantly, the security services were watching The Jazz Makers. They risked arrest each day. Their every move was constantly watched. This continued after the tour.
Following the tour, The Malombo Jazz Makers were under the constant scrutiny of the security services. Things got so bad, that the three members of The Malombo Jazz Makers were followed by the police. Soon, they were having to change address. Things got so bad, that they were constantly moving house to avoid harassment and surveillance. As if this wasn’t bad enough, their families were harassed by the police. Still, The Malombo Jazz Makers continued to make music.
Music Of The Spirit.
In 1971, The Malombo Jazz Makers recorded a new album, Music Of The Spirit. This time, The Malombo Jazz Makers were billed as Malombo. Only 100 copies of Music Of The Spirit were pressed. As a result, it’s a real rarity. Two tracks, Malombo Workshop and Bird Meets Elephant feature on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo,Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. This was the last album from The Malombo Jazz Makers. However, they continued to make music.
Not only were The Malombo Jazz Makers playing live, but they became part of a multi-racial group. Concerts were clandestine affairs. It was a game of cat and mouse with the police. Then when the band came onstage, they wore masks. Other times, they had to play behind the curtain. For everyone involved, they must have been under tremendous pressure. It’s no surprise that when Julian got the chance to leave South Africa, he jumped at the opportunity.
In 1972, Julian got the opportunity to play malombo drums in Hawk, with a white fusion band. They had just been offered a deal on the British based Charisma Records. Hawk were also due to tour Britain. For Julian, this was his chance to escape the constant oppression of South Africa. Having played a few warm up concerts in South Africa, he boarded the plane to Britain, never planning to return until the end of Apartheid.
Julian arrived in London on 19th February 1973. Straight away, he started trying to secure work permits for the other two members of The Malombo Jazz Makers. This couldn’t happen quick enough. They were under constant scrutiny, having to change addresses constantly to stay one step ahead of the police. Eventually, Julian was able to send a work permit and plane ticked to Lucas ‘Lucky’ Ranku. He never told a soul, and escaped from South Africa.
Sadly, one member of The Malombo Jazz Makers was left behind, Abbey Cindi. Two years later, in 1975, Abbey was meant to make the journey to London. Sadly, this never happened. The Malombo Jazz Makers were no more.
London had been home to a number of South African musicians over the year. Julian and Lucas were just the latest to call London home, whilst in exile. Hawk however, offered no future for Julian.
They were a talented band, but they didn’t want to get involved in the anti apartheid movement. Julian wanted to use Hawk as a platform to tell people about what was going on in South Africa. Hawk didn’t want to get involved. So Julian and Hawk went their separate ways.
Julian became involved in the UK and Western Europe branch of the African National Congress. They were aware of what The Malombo Jazz Makers had been doing in South Africa. Julian was keen to do the same in Britain. So, Julian decided he would tour Britain, in an attempt to increase awareness of Apartheid.
The concerts had to be promoted independently, as the African National Congress didn’t have the funds to pay musicians. These concerts, as well as raising awareness of apartheid, would raise much needed funds for the African National Congress. It was a win-win situation.
For his new band, Jabula, Julian recruited British, Caribbean and African musicians. They became the focal point for the African National Congress, as they set about raising awareness of apartheid in South Africa. Before long, Jabula were a popular band, who were attracting a lot of attention. This time, for the right reason.
Ever since he arrived in Britain, Julian had been looking for a record deal. Initially, he was trying to interest labels in The Malombo Jazz Makers. He had no luck. His luck changed when he formed Jabula.
Simon Draper was an A&R man, who just so happened to be a cousin of Richard Branson. He had previously attended Natal University. That was where he first heard The Malombo Jazz Makers. When he met Julian, he offered Jabula a deal with Virgin imprint Caroline Records. Jabula released their debut album Jabula Happiness, in 1975.
Two tracks from Jabula Happiness features on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. That’s the genre-melting Let Us Be Free. Elements of Afrobeat, jazz, funk, rock and soul melt into one. The other track, is the title-track Jabula Happiness, which features a joyous, vocal powerhouse from Vicky Busiswe Mhiongo. These two tracks were a tantalising taste of what Jabula were capable of. For Simon Draper and Virgin Records, they must have thought Jabula had a big future ahead of them. After all, they oozed talent.
Thunder Into Our Hearts.
That was apparent on Jabula’s sophomore album Thunder Into Our Hearts. It was released on Caroline Records in 1976. Thunder Into Our Hearts was dedicated to Julian’s fellow countryman, Mongezi Feza, the former Blue Notes’ drummer. Two tracks, Thunder Into Our Hearts and Ithumeleng Ba Mamelodi, feature on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. Both tracks show Jabula evolving as a group, honing and tightening their sound. Sadly, Thunder In Our Hearts was Jabula’s last album for Caroline Records. The political activists weren’t selling enough records.
By 1977, Jabula were at the forefront of the Antiapartheid movement in Britain. They played up and down Britain. All the time, they publicised the injustices happening in South Africa. They were advocates for justice and change. Another thing changing, was Jabula’s lineup.
What is perceived as the classic lineup of Jabula took shape in 1977. Julian’s drums and Lucas’ guitar were central to Jabula’s sound. They were augmented by flautist Michael Rose and Steve Scipio of Cymande, and Pinese Saul a South African vocalist. Adding the finishing touch was trumpeter Peter Segona. This was the lineup that played on the 1977 live album, Jabula in Amsterdam.
Jabula in Amsterdam.
Among the highlights of Jabula in Amsterdam, were Journey Into Africa and the uber funky All For One. These tracks feature on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984, and are a reminder of just how good, Jabula were live. No wonder. Jabula toured relentlessly. This was Julian’s way of making a difference. He was one of the lucky ones. After all, Julian had escaped the oppression of inequality of Apartheid era South Africa.
Sadly, people in South Africa didn’t get the opportunity to hear Jabula in Amsterdam. On its release, Jabula in Amsterdam was banned in South Africa, because of its lyrical content. This didn’t stop Julian, Lucas and the rest of Jabula trying to bring about change in South Africa.
A year later, Jabula would release their third studio album. However, they were without a record deal. So, Jabula formed Jabula Records. It released Afrika Awake, a ten track album. Just two tracks, Sorrows and the mellow Mathome, feature on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. Afrika Awake would be Jabula’s last studio album until 1982.
Between 1978 and 1982, Julian continued campaigning with the African National Congress. He was determined to bring about change, in his home land. Mostly, he did this through his music. So in 1979, he took Jabula to Sweden.
Stamping Out Apartheid.
In Sweden, Jabula recorded a live album with the South African Freedom Singers. Jabula featured on side two. They contributed four tracks, and joined with the South African Freedom Singers on the Stamping Out Apartheid album. However, Jabula’s finest hour was the impassioned Siakala. It features on Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984 and ia heartachingly beautiful track.
Jabula With Me.
Right through until 1982, when Jabula released final album, Jabula With Me, Julian used music to draw attention to the plight in his homeland. Jabula With Me was a delicious fusion of Afro-beat, disco, funk, jazz and soul. Botlokwa which features on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984, epitomises everything that’s good about Jabula. Dance-floor friendly, funky, soulful, joyous and full of hooks, this is one of Jabula’s finest moments. It meant that Jabula bowed out in style.
Jabula With Me was Jabula’s swan-song. They never released another album. His next album was with his new group, Jazz Afrika.
Son Of The Soil.
After Jabula, Julian formed Jazz Africa. They fused Afrobeat with and funk. Their debut album was Son Of The Soil. It was released on the newly founded Tsafrika Records. Two tracks from Son Of The Soil feature on Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. They’re Woza Cindi and Tlhompho. These tracks are a tantalising reminder of what Jazz Africa could have become. Sadly, Son Of The Soil was their only album. Julian had other things on his mind.
Throughout his career, Julian didn’t stop trying to make a difference. In doing so, his career suffered. Julian sacrificed fame and riches to make a difference. Not many people would be will willing to do this. Julian Bahula was. He was determined that Apartheid would be defeated. By 1983, his and the African National Congress’ efforts were rewarded.
The Release Mandela and All Political Prisoners’ campaign started in 1980. Oliver Tambo and the African National Congress were determined to raise the profile of Nelson Mandela, and the other political prisoners in South Africa. By 1983, the campaigned had grown. It had international backing. Especially in Britain.
1983 was a landmark year for Nelson Mandella. He would celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday on the 18th July 1983. Julian had an idea. He wanted to put on a concert in London that would gain publicity for the anti-apartheid movement. This took a lot of planing and persuasion. Eventually, the African Sounds concert took place on the 17th July 1983, just a day before Nelson Mandela’s sixty-fifth birthday.
The African Sounds concert was a huge success. A mixture of South African and British musicians took to the stage. This included Jazz Afrika, Julian’s new group. They helped raise much needed funds and more importantly, the profile of the Antiapartheid movement. This was the first step in the Free Mandela campaign.
For Julian Bahula, at last, he was making a difference. For three decades, he had strived to bring about change in homeland. He was doing this from a distance. Exiled in London, Julian made a difference through what he did best, making music.
From his days with The Malombo Jazz Makers, through his time with Jabula and latterly, Jazz Africa, Julian Bahula had used music to help spread the Anti-apartheid message. This took time and patience. However, eventually, Apartheid was defeated. Nelson Mandela was freed in 1990. South Africa was no longer a divided country. Only them was Julian Bahula able to return from exile.
His time as a political activist, and then in exile cost Julian Bahula. His family were persecuted. They suffered at the hands of the secret police. Julian was forced to flea South Africa, and until Apartheid was defeated, he was unable to return home. This was a huge sacrifice. Another sacrifice was his career.
Just like Lucas ‘Lucky’ Ranku, Julian’s career suffered. Who knows what height he might have reached if he hadn’t become involved in the antiapartheid movement? He was a truly innovative and pioneering musician, who was capable of creating groundbreaking and genre-melting music. However, for much of his career, Julian sacrificed critical acclaim, fame and riches, in an attempt to change South Africa for the better. This he did. Julian Bahula was part of the Antiapartheid movement, who transformed South Africa, and made it a better place. Only now, is Julian Bahula receiving the recognition he deserved.
Recently, Strut Records released Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. It’s a double album featuring twenty five tracks that cover Julian’s career. The best way to describe Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984 is lavish, and lovingly compiled. Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jazz Makers, Jabula and Jazz Afrika 1966-1984 is also a celebration of the life and music of musician, political activist and humanitarian, Julian Bahula, who played a an important role in transforming and modernising South Africa.
SPIRIT OF MALOMBO: MALOMBO JAZZ MAKERS, JABULA AND JAZZ AFRIKA 1966-1984.
SATISFACTION GUARANTEED-MOTOWN GUYS 1961-1969.
During the sixties, Berry Gordy Jr’s Motown Records, was a musical colossus. Between 1961 and 1969, seventy-nine of the singles released by Motown reached the top ten in the US Billboard 100. It seemed Motown could do no wrong. That’s not surprising. Look at the artists signed to Motown.
This included Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Junior Walker and The All Stars, Johnny Bristol, Edwin Starr, Chuck Jackson and The Fantastic Four. Each of these artists played their part in the rise and rise of Motown. These artists also feature on Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969, which was recently released by Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records.
Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969 is a compilation of twenty-four previously unreleased tracks. Some of these tracks are alternate takes of well known tracks. This includes contributions from some of Motown’s biggest names, including Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. For fans of Motown, Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969 is bound to find its way into their record collection. I’ll tell you why that’s bound to be the case, by picking the highlights of Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969.
Opening Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969 is Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers’ Satisfaction Is Guaranteed. Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers signed to Motown in 1967. Their debut was Does Your Mama Know About Me, which reached the top thirty in the US Billboard 100 chart. The followup was meant to be Satisfaction Is Guaranteed. It was written by Tom Baird. He cowrote Does Your Mama Know About Me with Tommy Chong. However, Satisfaction Is Guaranteed was recorded, but never mixed. Since then, it has lain in the Motown vaults…until now. Belatedly, Satisfaction Is Guaranteed makes a welcome debut on Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969.
Johnny Bristol enjoyed a long and successful career as a singer, songwriter and producer. His career began in 1959. For the next four years, he worked with Harvey Fuqua. When Harvey moved to Motown, so did Johnny. He worked as a staff songwriter, penned a number of hits. However, Johnny wanted to forge a career as a singer. He recorded six tracks for Motown between 1963 and 1964. This included Tell Me How To Forget A True Love. None of the tracks were ever released. Considering the quality of the irresistible Tell Me How To Forget A True Love, that’s a great shame. Who knows what heights Johnny might have reached with the Motown machine behind him?
Before signing to Atlantic Records, and hooking up with Thom Bell, The Spinners were signed to Motown. They’d enjoyed two hits in 1965 and 1966. They only released just one album on Motown, The Original Spinners in 1967. It failed commercially. A year later, in February 1968, The Spinners recorded Hold On To Me (A Little Longer). A beautiful, needy slice of soul, it’s the perfect showcase for The Spinners’ harmonies. Despite oozing quality and soulfulness, Hold On To Me (A Little Longer) was never released. Three years later, in 1971, with Thom Bell’s help, The Spinners’ career was transformed and they would become one of the biggest soul groups.
Smokey Robinson and The Miracles were one of Motown’s most successful groups. In 1966, Smokey Robinson and The Miracle were recording their 1966 album Away We A Go-Go. One of the tracks recorded was Baby You Got The Key, a thoughtful ballad. When Away We A Go-Go was released, Baby You Got The Key had missed the cut. Since then, it’s lain unreleased. That’s a great shame, as it’s a real hidden gem from Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.
Frank Wilson’s best known track is the Northern Soul classic Do I Love You (Indeed I Do). It was released in 1965. That year, Frank recorded the ballad Together ‘Til The End Of Time. Penned by Frank, it was produced by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon. Together ‘Til The End Of Time was never released. There was a reason for this. Brenda Holloway had also recorded the track. Motown weren’t going to release two versions of the same track. So a decision had to be made about which version was to be released. Brenda’s version got the nod. Only now, do we get the opportunity to discover the beauty of Frank’s version of Together ‘Til The End Of Time.
It wasn’t until 1968, that The Fantastic Four signed to Motown. There’s a reason it took this long. 1968 was the year Ed Wingate sold his Ric Tic label to Motown. After signing to Motown, The Fantastic Four were prolific. They recorded fifty tracks between 1968 and 1971. One of these tracks was I Wanna Say I Love You, which was recorded back in 1969. Penned by Lawrence Brown, George Gordy and Allen Story, it’s a bluesy, soulful track from The Fantastic Four.
Motown aficionados will remember Frank Gorman. He was a member of The Fidelitones and cowrote Please Mr. Postman for The Marvelettes. As a result, Frank was given a recording contract. His first single was The Day Will Come. After this, Frank was climbing the Motown ladder. He formed a songwriting partnership with Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland. Later, he lost his place in the partnership to Eddie Holland. They wrote I’m Gonna Make It To The Top. Recorded in 1963, this hopeful version of I’m Gonna Make It To The Top was one of Frank’s final recordings for Motown.
From the opening bars of Mojo Hannah, the inimitable voice of Marvin Gaye pours out of the speakers. This track was recorded in 1963, when Marvin’s career was just beginning. He’d enjoyed hits with Stubborn Kind Of Fellow and Hitch-Hike. Mojo Hannah was recorded with a view to releasing it as a single. This never happened. However, Mojo Hannah featured in Marvin’s 1963 album Recorded Live On Stage. The version of Mojo Hannah on Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969, is a reminder of a young Marvin Gaye, as his career unfolded.
It was in 1963, that The Temptations first recorded He Who Picked A Rose. Eddie Kedricks delivered the lead vocal, that day in 1963. The song was never released. Five years later, The Temptations decided to revisit He Who Picked A Rose. In the intervening five years, Tammi Terrell had recorded the song. New lyrics were added and it became I Gotta Find A Way (To Get You Back). This song featured on The Temptations’ 1968 album Cloud Nine. Since then, He Who Picked A Rose has been overlooked. At last, it makes an appearance on Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969.
By 1968, Jr. Walker and The All-Stars had enjoyed eleven consecutive hit singles, since their Motown debut in 1965. Their sound was unmistakable. It was raw R&B full of energy and electricity. This was very different to Motown’s “house” sound. So Johnny Bristol was brought onboard to change Jr. Walker and The All-Stars sound. This began with What Does It Take To Win Your Love? Jr. Walker and The All-Stars rough edges were smoothed away. This continued on My Girl Annie. It was recorded in 1968, but never released until now. However, it was the latest stage in the remaking of Jr. Walker and The All-Stars’ sound.
Originally, The Contours recorded Claudia on 13th December 1961. It featured on their one and only album Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance, which was released in 1962. Claudia was written by Joe Hunter, Clarence Paul and Andre Williams. It was produced by Clarence Paul, who also sang lead. The version of Claudia on Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969, is an alternate take, which shows the track taking shape.
My final choice from Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969 is The Four Tops’ The Night We Called It A Day. This was a Tom Adair and Matt Dennis composition. It was recorded on 19th April 1963 and produced by William Stevenson and Henry Crosby. Jazz-tinged, soulful and sultry, The Night We Called It A Day is a beautiful way to close Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969.
For either anyone interested in soul music, or Motown, then Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969 will be a must have. It’s chock full of rarities. There’s twenty-four tracks on Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969. Twenty tracks make their debut on Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969. This includes contributions from the great and good of Motown’ men. Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Junior Walker and The All Stars, Johnny Bristol, Edwin Starr, Chuck Jackson and The Fantastic Four. Each of these artists played their part in the rise and rise of Motown.
By 1969, the end of the period that Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969 covers, Motown Records, was a musical colossus. Between 1961 and 1969, seventy-nine of the singles released by Motown reached the top ten in the US Billboard 100. It seemed Motown could do no wrong. They were one of the most successful record labels. However, the party was almost over for Motown.
As the seventies dawned, other labels usurped Motown at soul’s top table. Philadelphia International Records, Atlantic Records and Hi Records were home to some of the biggest names in soul. Motown was left with Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and Diana Ross. While these artists would bring commercial success and critical acclaim Motown’s way, it never reached the same heights during the seventies. As a result, Satisfaction Guaranteed-Motown Guys 1961-1969 is a reminder of Motown Records’ sixties glory days, when seemingly, Motown could do no wrong.
SATISFACTION GUARANTEED-MOTOWN GUYS 1961-1969.
EDDY GILES-SOUTHERN SOUL BROTHER-THE MURCO RECORDINGS 1967-1969.
For the last sixty years, Eddy Giles has been a regular on KOKA, a Shreveport based radio station. Originally, Eddy was a guitarist in various local groups. Then between 1967 and 1969, Eddy Giles was signed to Murco Records. His singles, which feature on Southern Soul Brother-The Murco Recordings 1967-1969, which was released on Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records, were a staple of KOKA’s playlist. Eddy was the local boy made good. KOKA was playing an important part in his career.
Fast forward twenty years, and Eddy was a DJ on KOKA. Eddy was behind the wheels of steel, spinning the latest hits. That was the latest incarnation of Eddy Giles. Another thirty years have passed. Now Eddy Giles is the Reverend Eddy Giles, who preaches on KOKA. An ordained pastor, this is just the latest in a long line of career changes for Eddy Giles. His story began seventy-six years ago.
It was in 1938, that Eddy Giles was born in Frierson, a country town in Minnesota. Frierson was home to Eddy until the fifties. That’s where he first picked up a guitar. Unlike many musicians, the guitar didn’t come easy to Eddy. No wonder. There were only two strings on Eddy’s guitar. However, Eddy persisted. He was determined to play the guitar. Then he caught a break.
Eddy saw an advert in a magazine in a cowboy magazine. If he could sell 300 packets of seed, he could win a prize. One of the prizes was an acoustic guitar. So, having sold 300 packets of seeds, Eddy sent away a money order and waited. Eventually, an acoustic guitar wound its way back to Eddy. This was the start of Eddy’s nascent career.
With nobody to teach him the basics, Eddy had to rely upon an instruction manual that came with the guitar. Tuning the guitar was problematic. It was a case of trial and error. Eventually, Eddy’s patience paid off. He was able to play his new guitar. Soon, the first chapter in Eddy’s musical career began.
Now able to play guitar, Eddy and three friends formed a group. They appeared at talent shows in the local area, where they covered songs by Elvis and Chuck Berry. This was how Eddy spent the new few years. Then in 1958, Eddy headed to Shreveport.
Originally, Eddy headed to Shreveport to attend Booker T. Washington high school. He was determined to graduate high school. Fortunately, Eddy’s aunt and uncle lived in Shreveport, and he was able to stay with them. For Eddy, an eduction was important. Eddy wasn’t interested in returning to the family farm. So, he attended high school, worked as a bell boy in a local hotel and played in talent shows. After a year, Eddy graduated. As a reward, his aunt and uncle bought Eddy his first electric guitar.
Having graduated, Eddy headed home to the family farm. Along came his new electric guitar. This caused problems for Johnny. His mother couldn’t stand the noise. Luckily, he was able to practice at a friend house. Gradually, Eddy mastered the electric guitar. When he did, he was able to join a local gospel group The Humming Bees.
Joining The Humming Bees looked like the break Eddy had been looking for. However, there was a problem. Churches didn’t allow electric guitars. For Eddy, this was frustrating. Then he caught a break.
KOKA, a Shreveport based radio station gave local groups fifteen minute slots to showcase their talent. Eddy was many of these groups go-to guitarist. This lead to Eddy joining the Chicago based group, The Pilgrim Jubilees.
Although Eddy was The Pilgrim Jubilees guitarist, he was to all intents and purposes, their bassist. He had to convert his guitar to a bass. For the next couple of years, Eddy was on the road nonstop with The Pilgrim Jubilees. Then his new wife told Eddy it was either The Pilgrim Jubilees, or her. Eddy chose his wife.
Ironically, his relationship with his wife didn’t last. They eventually split-up. During this period, Eddy was working in a restaurant. At one point, he began taking his guitar to work. On his break, he would go downstairs and play his guitar. It was at this point Eddy met drummer Willie “Caveman” Harris and a bassist. They formed The 3 Corners.
Originally, The 3 Corners were a covers band. They made just seventy-five cents each. Soon, they were getting bookings all over town. They became so popular, that The 3 Corners were being asked to enter the recording studio. There was a problem. The 3 Corners didn’t have any material. They were just a covers band. So, some new members joined The 3 Corners, who became The Jive 5.
The 3 Corners then decided to add a vocalist, Dori Grayson. After that, James R. Steward and Earl Carter joined Dori, Eddy and Willie. They became The Jive 5. This new group quickly gelled. Soon, The Jive 5 became a popular group. Before long, the word was out about and The Jive 5 were attracting the attention of a local record company.
Dick Martin, cofounder of Murco Records got in touch with The Jive 5. He asked them if they’d considered recording some songs? However, The Jive 5 didn’t have any songs. Eddy told them this. Luckily, Dee Marais had got in touch with The Jive 5. He offered a song. Unfortunately, it wasn’t suitable for The Jive 5. So Eddy told Dee he was going to write a hit record.
Eventually, after weeks of trying to write a song, Eddy came up with Losin’ Boy. It was cut by at the Robin Hood Studios in 1967. The Robin Hood Studios were situated just across the state line in Tyler, Texas. This was where Eddy Giles cut his debut single.
Vocalist Dori Grayson wasn’t present when Losin’ Boy and the B-Side I Got The Blues, another Eddy Giles’ track were recorded. So, Eddy took charge of the lead vocal and played guitar. The other three members of The Jive 5, drummer Willie “Caveman” Harris, bassist Charles Lawrence and saxophonist James R. Steward. accompanied Eddy on what became his first hit single.
Murco Records picked up Losin’ Boy. When they released Losin’ Boy 1967, they had no idea how well the single would do. This tale of heartbreak from Eddy Giles sold 2,000 copies in Shreveport alone. For Murco Records, this gave a hint of what was about to happen. Soon, Losin’ Boy was selling well. In the Dallas area, it sold 10,000 copies, and reached number one in the local charts. Losin’ Boy sold so well, that it crept into the US Billboard 100, where it spent five weeks. For Dick Martin, cofounder of Murco Records, Eddy Giles must have looked like the future of his label.
For the follow-up to Losin’ Boy, Eddy wrote Don’t Let Me Suffer. The version of Don’t Let Me Suffer on Southern Soul Brother-The Murco Recordings 1967-1969, is a previously unreleased extended version. It sees a heartbroken Eddy plea for his partner to return. The flip-side is While Im Away (Baby, Keep The Faith), a ballad that Eddy delivers from the perspective of a soldier heading to Vietnam. The song was inspired by saxophonist James R. Steward, who’d just entered the US Army. Despite the quality of Don’t Let Me Suffer, it failed to chart. For Eddy Giles and Dick Martin of Murco Records, this was a disappointment.
Just a few months after the release of Don’t Let Me Suffer, Eddy returned with Eddy’s Go-Go Train. It’s a fusion of funk and soul, where Eddy appears to have been inspired by Otis Redding and James Brown. Sadly, lightning struck twice for Eddy. Eddy’s Go-Go Train failed to chart. Despite failing to chart, Eddy’s Go-Go Train proved a popular track in Eddy’s live sets. That was a small crumb of comfort. Eddy’s recording career had stalled.
So for Eddy’s fourth single, and first of 1968, he chose Happy Man, a beautiful ballad. This was the answer to Losin’ Man. Here, a contented Eddy lays bare his soul. This was Eddy finest hour. The quality continues on Music, B-Side. Just like Happy Man, it was the perfect showcase for Eddy’s talents. Sadly, Happy Man failed to chart. Eddy Giles looked like being a one-hit wonder.
This was despite Baby Be Mine, a heartfelt ballad, being chosen as Eddy’s next single. Released later in 1968, played to Eddy’s strengths. He was at his best delivering ballads. Eddy delivered lyrics like he’d lived them. The B-Side was the blues tinged Love With A Feeling on the B-Side. Despite Eddy’s fifth single oozing quality, his second hit single eluded him. Time was running out for Eddy.
Eddy only released three further singles on Murco Records. His sixth single was Soul Feeling Part 1, coupled with Soul Feeling Part 2. A driving, vampish slice of funky soul. Soul Feeling Part 1 sees Eddy pay homage to James Brown as he hollers, whoops and vamps his way through two minutes of uber funky music. Sadly, despite its undoubtable funkiness, Soul Feeling Part 1 didn’t trouble the charts. Neither did his next single.
Given Eddy had released five singles that failed to chart, there’s a certain irony that he chose Aint Gonna Worry No More as his next single. It was another ballad, where power and heartbreak are omnipresent. Tucked away on the B-Side was Tingling, which Dick Martin cowrote with Eddy. Sadly, Aint Gonna Worry No More failed to chart and proved to be Eddy’s Murco Records. Eddy just couldn’t catch a break. How different things had looked back in 1967. Now Eddy was in the last chance saloon.
Although Eddy was still signed to Murco Records, So Deep In Love was licensed to Nashville based, Silver Fox Records. Shelby Singleton was a friend of Dee Marais, of Murco Records. They agreed that, in an attempt to revitalise Eddy’s career, Silver Fox Records would released So Deep In Love. So in 1969, So Deep In Love with Thats How Strong My Love Is on the B-Side, was released as a single. The change of label didn’t result in Eddy’s luck changing. The end was neigh for Eddy.
After So Deep In Love failed to chart, Eddy Giles met Dick Martin and Dee Marais of Murco Records. This was the end of the road. Eddy had never reached the heights of Losin’ Boy, his debut single. He’d released seven singles that failed to chart. This couldn’t go on. So Eddy and Murco Records went their separate ways.
For Eddy Giles, his time at Murco Records had been a case of what might have been? Eddy was a seriously talented singer. That’s apparent on Southern Soul Brother-The Murco Recordings 1967-1969, which was recently released on Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. On Southern Soul Brother-The Murco Recordings 1967-1969, we hear the different sides to Eddy Giles.
On Southern Soul Brother-The Murco Recordings 1967-1969, Eddy veers between Southern Soul and funk. These tracks are a mixture of singles, B-Sides and previously unreleased tracks. They were recorded between 1967 and 1969, when anything looked possible for Eddy Giles.
His career started so well. That was apparent on Losin’ Boy, his debut single. It showed that Eddy Giles was capable of bringing lyrics to life. The way he delivered lyrics, made you think he’d lived, loved and survived them. He’s at his best delivering Southern Soul ballads. Other times, he becomes a fully fledged funkateer.
When that happens, Eddy vamps his way through tracks, fusing funk and soul. Eddy’s reminiscent of James Brown, as he swaggers and struts his way through the funkier tracks on Southern Soul Brother-The Murco Recordings 1967-1969. This funkier side of Eddy Giles failed to attract the attention of record buyers.
Apart from Losin’ Boy, Eddie Giles’ debut single on Murco Records, commercial success eluded the man from Frierson, Minnesota. That became the story of Eddy Giles’ career in secular music. Belatedly, Eddy released his debut album I’m A Losing Boy in 1979. Still, commercial success eluded Eddy Giles. After that, Eddy returned to where it all began KOKA, a Shreveport based radio station in the eighties.
Rather than making records, Eddy was spinning them. Eddy Giles’ career had come full circle. There were still a few twists and turns still to come.
Fast forward another thirty years, and Eddy Giles is now the Reverend Eddy Giles, who preaches on KOKA. Now aged seventy-six, Eddy Giles has come full circle. KOKA, was where he made his musical debut. Eddy Giles has packed a lot of living into the intervening sixty years, including recording the eighteen tracks on Southern Soul Brother-The Murco Recordings 1967-1969, which feature the best music of his career.
EDDY GILES-SOUTHERN SOUL BROTHER-THE MURCO RECORDINGS 1967-1969.
GOOD ALL OVER-RARE SOUL FROM THE WESTBOUND RECORDS VAULTS 1969-1975.
It was in late 1968, that music veteran Armen Boladian founded Westbound Records, in Detroit. This was a boost for Detroit’s ailing independent music scene. During the previous years, Motown had put most of Detroit’s independent labels to the sword. Gradually, Detroit’s independent labels fell by the wayside. Motown had a monopoly over Detroit soul music. Not any more.
Armen Boladian had been running record labels since the fifties. So he knew his way around the music industry. He’d also established a reputation amongst major and local labels. They respected Armen, and would help him establish Westbound Records and later, its label Eastbound Records.
Ironically, as Westbound Records’ reputation grew, Motown left Detroit, heading for Los Angeles. This left the stage clear for Westbound Records’ to become two of Detroit’s biggest, and most successful labels. No wonder. Westbound Records’ was home to funk royalty, including the Ohio Players, Funkadelic. That’s not all.
The Detroit Emeralds, Denise LaSalle, The Fantastic Four, A.C. Tilmon, The Motiviations, Damon Shawn and Unique Blend all called Westbound Records home. They all feature on Ace Records’ latest compilation music from Westbound Records’ back-catalogue, Good All Over-Rare Soul From The The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975. It’s a twenty-three track compilation, which features two previously unreleased tracks. They’re A.C. Tilmon and Denise LaSalle’s Tender Moments and Bob and Harold’s You Can’t Take This Love From Me. These are just two of the twenty-three tracks on Good All Over-Rare Soul From The The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975, which I’ll tell you about.
The Fantastic Four’s I’m Falling In Love (I Feel Good All Over) opens Good All Over-Rare Soul From The The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975. It’s the first of three contribution from The Fantastic Four. I’m Falling In Love (I Feel Good All Over) was released as a single on Eastbound in 1973. An uptempo, joyous track, it’s The Fantastic Four at their soulful best. The B-Side was a beautiful ballad, I Believe In Miracles (I Believe In You). Both tracks were penned by Albert Hamilton and Norma Toney, and produced by Al Kent. Another single released in 1973, was I Had This Whole World To Choose From (And I Chose You). The B-Side was If You Need Me I’ll Come Running. Written by Wallace Childs and William Garrett, it’s a hidden gem of a ballad that plays to The Fantastic Four’s strengths.
In 1972, Unique Blend signed to Eastbound Records. A year later, in 1973, they released Old Fashioned Woman as a single on Eastbound Records. The flip side, was Mommy and Daddy a delicious fusion of the smoothest soul and jazzy horns. It was written by Charles Holman and Milton Overton. Sadly, Old Fashioned Woman failed to chart and is now, something of a rarity. Unique Blend’s other contributions is the heartfelt ballad, Does He Treat You Better. Penned by Lorenzo Smith, it was released as a single in 1973. Just like Old Fashioned Woman, Does He Treat You Better failed to chart. After this, Unique Blend released just one further single on Eastbound Records. Their finest moments were the balladry of Old Fashioned Woman and Does He Treat You Better.
I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away was The Superlatives only release on Westbound Records. It was released in 1969, and was one of the nascent label’s first releases. Penned by Robert Washington, I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away somehow manages to be dramatic, soulful and wistful all at once.
The Magictones spent three years signed to Westbound Records. Between 1969 and 1971, they released a quartet of singles on Westbound Records. This includes the 1969 single Doc Paul produced Trying Real Hard (To Make The Grade). The same year, The Magictones released the George Clinton penned I’ll Make It Up To You. It’s two minutes of beauty, emotion and regret. Two years later, in 1971, The Magictones fused soul and funk on I’ve Changed. They plead and promise their way convincingly through I’ve Changed. In 1972, My Dreams Have Got The Best Of Me proved to be The Magictones swan-song on Westbound Records.
Back in 1973, The Motivations released their one and only single on Westbound Records. This was I Love You. Just like the B-Side, I’m Loving You You’re Loving Me it was written by Albert Tilmon Jr. I Love You is fusion of soul and funk, where the hooks haven’t been spared. I’m Loving You You’re Loving Me is a tender ballad, which shows another side to The Motivations.
A.C. Tilmon was a singer, songwriter and guitarist. Sadly, his career was cut short, when he died in 1982, aged just thirty-seven. In 1974, he released Girl You Thrill Me as a single on Eastbound Records. The B-Side was I Love To Dream. Both were written by Albert Tilmon Jr. Of the two tracks, I Love To Dream is my favourite. It features a truly tender and heartfelt vocal.
A year later in 1975, A.C. Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds collaborated on two singles. One of these singles was The Rosetta Stone. It was penned by Barry Blue and Dave Jordan. That’s All I Got was the B-Side. Hook-laden and dance-floor friendly, it’s a delicious fusion of soul and funk.
The Houston Outlaws released three singles on Westbound Records. This included What Am I Gonna Do, in 1972. It was written by Junie Morrison and produced by Cholly Atkins and Pearl Jones. Floaty, elegant and seriously smooth, this is The Houston Outlaws finest moment.
Emanuel Laskey released More Love (Where That Came From) in 1969. It was one of Westbound Records’ first released. Written by William Garrett and Michael Hanks, this was one of two singles Emanuel released on Westbound Records. It’s an outpouring of emotion, that’s very different from the social comment of B-Side, A Letter From Vietnam.
The final two tracks on Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975 come courtesy of Damon Shawn. He released a trio of singles on Westbound Records. Admit Your Love Is Gone was released as a single in 1971. Then in 1972, Damon released Feel The Need. Tucked away on the B-Side was I’m Wishing, an understated, melancholy ballad. It’s a tantalising taste of Damon Shawn’s music. He delivers a needy, hopeful ballad on a track that’s quite simply, a glittering hidden gem.
Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975, features twenty-three slices of the rarest soul. That’s no exaggeration. Many of these tracks will be new to many people. They may have heard of The Fantastic Four, The Detroit Emeralds, and Denise LaSalle, but not the tracks on Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975. Similarly, many people won’t have heard the delights of A.C. Tilmon, The Motiviations, Damon Shawn and Unique Blend. That’s until now.
Ace Records recently released Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975. It’s the latest instalment in Ace Records’ journey through the Eastbound and Westbound Records’ back-catalogues. Just like previous releases, Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975, is a lovingly compiled compilation. The man behind Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975, is Tony Rounce.
Tony has compiled a compilation where a sprinkling of old favourites rub shoulders with B-Sides, unreleased tracks and hidden gems. That’s the perfect way to describe Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975. It’s one of the finest soul compilations of recent months. No wonder. Look at the quality of music on Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975. That’s not all. Much of the music on Good All Over-Rare Soul From The Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975, is truly timeless, even forty years after its original release.
GOOD ALL OVER-RARE SOUL FROM THE WESTBOUND RECORDS VAULTS 1969-1975.
THE LONDON AMERICAN LABEL YEAR BY YEAR 1965.
For a generation of music lovers, their introduction to American pop, rock ’n’ roll and soul was the London American label. It released the latest American hit singles. This had been the case since the mid-fifties.
London American had been licensing singles by Atlantic, Chess, Dot, Imperial, Speciality and Sun since the fifties. By the sixties, further labels were licensing their releases to London American. This would include Big Town, Hi Records, Monument and Philles Records. For a generation of music lovers, this made anything featuring the London American label essential listening. It was part of their musical education.
Only by listening to London American’s releases, were music lovers able to keep track of the latest music trends. They usually started in America, then took Britain by storm. Time and time again, this proved to be the case. That’s why, for a generation of music lovers, the London American label has a special place in their heart.
It brings back memories of when their love affair with music began. For some music lovers, that was nearly sixty years ago. This was the start of a life long love affair with music. Now it’s possible to relive these memories once again.
Since 2012, Ace Records have been releasing a series of compilations dedicated to the London American label. The first was The London American Label Year By Year 1956, which was released back in 2012. Recently, the tenth instalment in the series, The London American Label Year By Year 1965 has just been released.
The London American Label Year By Year 1965 is a tantalising taste of the soundtrack to a pivotal year in the Swinging Sixties, 1965. By 1965, music was changing, and changing fast.
One of the most important musical events in 1965, was when The Beatles played Shea Stadium. Little did anyone realise it, but the the stadium tour has just been born. Meanwhile, The Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion were still winning friends and influencing people in America. However, one of the most controversial events of 1965, was when Bob Dylan plugged in.
According to large swathes of his fans, when Bob Dylan plugged in, he sold out. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. It was an overreaction. Bob Dylan had to plug in to progress his career. If he hadn’t, he risked the ignomy of irrelevance. For the people’s poet, that was never going to happen. Another thing that many thought would never happen, was psychedelia.
In 1965, music was on the cusp of a psychedelic revolution. This psychedelic revolution would come to fruition, and blossom, a year later. However, some pioneering groups were at the vanguard of the psychedelic revolution. This included The Byrds and The Beatles, who released Rubber Soul later in 1965. Rubber Soul and The Byrds gave a hint at the direction music was heading. However, that was still to come. The music London American was releasing in 1965, was very different to the psychedelic revolution.
The best way to describe London American Label Year By Year 1965, is eclectic. There’s contributions from James Brown and The Fabulous Flames, Jerry Lee Lewis, Burt Bacharach, Dobie Gray, Barbara Mason, The Righteous Brothers and Carolyn Carter. Easy listening, funk, pop, Northern Soul, rock and soul feature on London American Label Year By Year 1965, which I’ll pick the highlights of.
Opening London American Label Year By Year 1965 is Mercy, Mercy, Mercy the first of two tracks from James Brown and The Fabulous Flames. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy was originally released on King in America, reaching number ninety-two in the US Billboard 100. When Mercy, Mercy, Mercy was released on London American, the single failed to chart. That’s despite the impassioned pleas from Mr. Dynamite. The second track from James Brown and The Fabulous Flames, is Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag Part 1. It reached number eight in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-five in the UK. This is without doubt, one of James Brown’s finest hours. So much so, it’s remembered as a classic funk track.
In 1965, The Righteous Brothers covered Gerry Goffin, Carole King and Phil Spector’s Just Once In My Life. Released on Philles Records, Just Once In My Life reached number nine in the US Billboard 100 charts. The decision was made to release Just Once In My Life in the UK. No wonder. The Righteous Brothers had already enjoyed a trio of hit singles in the UK, during 1965. Promos were pressed, and sent out to DJs. Then for some reason, the single was withdrawn. This was a missed opportunity. Heartachingly beautiful, dramatic and Spectoresque Just Once In My Life could’ve been a huge hit. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Belatedly, Just Once In My Life was released in 1966, giving The Righteous Brothers a hit single. However, later in 1965, Unchained Melody gave The Righteous Brothers a hit single. This pop classic reached number four in the US Billboard 100 and number fourteen in the UK. Since then, Unchained Melody has been a pop classic, which was one of The Righteous Brothers’ most successful singles.
By 1965, Jerry Lee Lewis was on the comeback trail. He was still persona non gratis in America. This had been the case since he married his younger cousin. However, in Europe and Britain, Jerry was still popular. He’d reinvented himself as a country singer, and rolls back the years on James Bland’s Carry Me Back To Old Virginia. In Jerry’s hands, Carry Me Back To Old Virginia becomes a joyous, hook-laden country track.
During the sixties, the Burt Bacharach and Hal David enjoyed a successful songwriting and production partnership. Burt was also a successful artist in his own right. Billed as Burt Bacharach, His Orchestra and Chorus he enjoyed a hit single with an easy listening version of Trains and Boats and Planes. It reached number four in the UK. Later in 1965, Burt Bacharach and His Orchestra Featuring Tony Middleton released My Little Red Book, a track from the What’s New Pussycat soundtrack. On the soundtrack, Manfred Man perform this track. Here, veteran cabaret singer, Tony Middleton, takes charge of the vocal, injecting urgency and drama. Despite this, the single failed to chart.
The Ronettes are synonymous with the girl group sound of the early, to mid sixties. They were guided by Phil Spector, the man behind the legendary Wall of Sound. As 1965 dawned, his roster featured just two groups. One of these groups were The Ronettes. He cowrote You Baby with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was recorded by The Ronettes and released on Philles Records. However, despite its undoubtable quality, You Baby failed to chart. Music had moved on. The problem was, Phil Spector hadn’t kept up with these changes.
For a while, Ruby and The Romantics could do no wrong in America. Each of their singles charted. Then they released You’re Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore, which failed to chart. For Kapp, this was a disaster. Ruby and The Romantics were one of Kapp’s most successful acts. So, a new version of You’re Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore was pressed and released in Britian on London American. However, Ruby and The Romantics weren’t as popular in the UK. Their only single to chart was Our Day Will Come. Sadly, Ruby and The Romantics’ luck didn’t change with the dreamy, yet dramatic You’re Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore.
Mention Dobie Gray’s The In Crowd to anyone with a passing interest in Northern Soul, and they’ll wax lyrical about the track. It’s a Northern Soul classic. Originally released on the Charger label, it reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-five in Britain in 1965. In the intervening forty-nine years, The In Crowd has continued to fill dance floors with “The In Crowd.”
Lenny Welch’s highest profile fan was Paul McCartney. He introduced the rest of The Beatles to the New York based singer. One of Lenny’s finest performances is on Run To My Loving Arms. Penned by George Fischoff and Tony Powers, it stalled at number ninety-two in the US Billboard 100. Later in 1965, Run To My Loving Arms was released Britain. There was a problem though. Billy Fury had covered Run To My Loving Arms. So when Lenny’s version was released, it failed to chart. Since then, Lenny’s version of Run To My Loving Arms has remained a hidden gem, which makes a welcome return on The London American Label Year By Year 1965.
Philly born Barbara Mason released her original version of Yes, I’m Ready in 1965. She was just eighteen. Yes, I’m Ready was her third single, and would become a song that was synonymous with Barbara Mason. She recut the song when she signed to Buddha Records. The version on The London American Label Year By Year 1965 is the original. It reached number five in the US Billboard 100, and was Barbara Mason’s breakthrough single. Yes, I’m Ready also lent its name to Barbara’s debut album, which was released on Arctic Records.
Carolyn Carter’s It Hurts is another of the hidden gems The London American Label Year By Year 1965. Originally released on the Philly based Jamie label, It Hurts failed to chart. It sees Carolyn Carter fuse soul with a Spectoresque girl group sound. Sadly, It Hurts passed British record buyers by and it failed to chart. However, forty-nine years later, and It Hurts is a case of what might have been for Carolyn Carter.
Charles Boyer is best known for his acting career. In 1965, he released Where Does Love Go, which closes The London American Label Year By Year 1965. It’s very different to anything that’s gone before. There’s an air of mystery as Charles’ half-spoken vocal sits above an orchestral arrangement. Harmonies are added. They sweep in, and add to the lush backdrop. Despite Charles Boyer’s popularity in Hollywood, the single failed to chart. It remains an interesting reminder of Charles Boyer’s second career.
Just like The London American Label Year By Year 1964, The London American Label Year By Year 1965 is a fascinating and eclectic musical document. It demonstrates the sheer variety of music being released in 1965. There’s everything from country, easy listening, funk, pop, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and soul. Eclectic is the best way to describe The London American Label Year By Year 1965.
There’s contributions from James Brown and The Fabulous Flames, Jerry Lee Lewis, Burt Bacharach, Dobie Gray, Barbara Mason, The Righteous Brothers and Carolyn Carter. Hits sit side-by-side with misses. Similarly, classics and hidden gems rub shoulders on The London American Label Year By Year 1965, which was compiled by Tony Rounce.
Tony should be congratulated for the way he’s approached The London American Label Year By Year 1965,. Rather than choose the most successful singles released by London American during 1965, Tony has chosen an eclectic and captivating selection of tracks. Forgotten favourites and familiar faces feature, during The London American Label Year By Year 1965, which is eclectic and compelling compilation that’ll bring back memories for anyone introduced to American pop, rock ’n’ roll and soul by the London American label.
THE LONDON AMERICAN LABEL YEAR BY YEAR 1965.
JOZEF VAN WISSEM-IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO RETURN.
It was back in 2000, that avant-garde composer and baroque lutenist Jozef Van Wissem released his debut album, Retrograde Renaissance Lute. Since then, Josef has released a series of groundbreaking solo albums and collaborations. Jozef’s latest album, It Is Time For You To Return, will be released by Crammed Discs on 10th November 2014. It Is Time For You To Return is the latest instalment in Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series. It’s also the perfect introduction to the music of a true musical innovator, Jozef Van Wissem, whose recording career began as a new millennia dawned.
Jozef Van Wissem was born in 1962, in Maastricht, a town in Southeast of the Netherlands. A classically trained musician, Jozef has spent a lifetime honing his sound. He’s now based in New York, and has established a reputation as one of the top avant-garde musicians of his generation. His recording began back in 2000.
That was when Jozef Van Wissem released debut solo album Retrograde Renaissance Lute. It was released on the Persephone label in 2000. Two years later, Jozef returned with Narcissus Drowning. Just like his debut album, Narcissus Drowning was a fusion of classical, contemporary and electronic music. A groundbreaking, genre-melting album, Narcissus Drowning was a foretaste of what Jozef Van Wissem was capable of.
By 2003, Jozef released his third album Simulacrum (Mirror Images For Solo Lute And Electronics). Just like his two previous albums, Jozef innovated. He made a series field recordings, and “manipulated” them in the studio. The result was a captivating and compelling album. Meanwhile, Jozef was establishing a reputation as a musical pioneer.
So much so, that word was spreading about Jozef Van Wissem. Other artists began collaborating with Jozef. The first was guitarist Gary Lucas. He asked Josef to play on his 2003 album Diplopia. Just like Narcissus Drowning, genres melted into one on Diplopia. The pair reconvened on Gary’s next album The Universe Of Absence, which was released on 2004. This was just the start of a string of collaborations Jozef Van Wissem was involved with.
The next collaboration Jozef was involved with, was Tetuzi Akiyama’s 2004 album Proletarian Drift. This was a live album recorded in 2003, at the Gendai Heights Gallery, Setagaya, Tokyo. Proletarian Drift featured two lengthy improvised tracks. Tetuzi and Jozef would collaborate again on the 2007 album, Hymn For A Fallen Angel. By then, Jozef would’ve released two further albums.
Between 2005 and 2009, Jozef Van Wissem released an album each year. This began with 2005s Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. A Rose By Any Other Name (Anonymous Lute Solos Of The Golden Age followed in 2006, and Stations Of The Cross in 2007. With each album, Jozef pushed musical boundaries even further. He released A Priori in 2008 and in 2009, released two albums, It Is All That Is Made and Ex Patris. This is quite incredible, because during this period, Jozef embarked upon a relentless touring schedule.
Throughout his career, Jozef has constantly toured the world. He’s played over 800 solo lute shows at concert venues around the world. This includes rock festivals like ATP and Primavera Sound. At these festivals, Jozef dawns the the stage playing his custom made, black lute. During his set, the audience are captivated as he delivers music that’s mesmeric and hypnotic. That’s also the case with his solo albums.
After a gap of two years, Jozef returned in 2011 with a new album, The Joy That Never Ends. That year, he also collaborated with United Bible Studies on their Downland album. Busy as 2011 had been, 2012 would be the busiest year of Jozef’s career.
During 2012, Jozef collaborated with film director Jim Jarmusch. Jim is also a guitarist, and was looking for someone to collaborate with. Jozef fitted the bill. So much so, that they recorded three albums together, Apokatastasis, Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity and The Mystery Of Heaven. On Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity, Tilda Swinton was the guest vocalists. She also performed with Jozef and Jim at an ATP festival in 2012. This collaboration with Jim lead to more work for Jozef. Before that, Jozef found time for another collaboration.
This time, Jozef collaborated with Gregg Kowalsky. They worked on Gregg’s Movements In Marble And Stone album. It was released later in 2012. Along with playing live, 2012 had been one of the busiest years of Jozef Van Wissem’s career.
2013 saw Jozef Van Wissem release a new solo album, Nihil Obstat. His reputation had grown. Now he was well known beyond avant-garde circles. That’s why so many artists were so keen to work with Jozef. This includes Jim Jarmusch.
After collaborating with Jim Jarmusch on the three albums, he commissioned Jozef Van Wissem to write most of the soundtrack for the 2014 film Only Lovers Left Alive. It featured Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. When Only Lovers Left Alive premiered at Cannes, it was awarded the Cannes Soundtrack Award. For Jozef this was recognition that his work was finding a wider audience. The other advantage was, that the promotional tour for Only Lovers Left Alive allowed Jozef the opportunity to play a tour of twelve cities.
During the promotional tour for Only Lovers Left Alive, Jozef played in twelve cities around the world. Jozef performed solo lute music, and also appeared as part of Jim Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL. Since then, Jozef has been working on his new solo album It Is Time For You To Return,
It Is Time For You To Return features nine tracks written by Jozef Van Wissem. He plays lute and adds a series of mesmeric, haunting vocals. Joining Jozef is Chilean filmmaker, Domingo Garcia-Huidobro, who contributed electronic programming on a couple of tracks. Jim Jarmusch plays guitar and Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan adds a vocal on Invocation Of The Spirit Spell. It’s one of the nine tracks on It Is Time For You To Return, which I’ll tell you about.
It Is Time For You To Return opens If There’s Nothing Left Where Will You Go? Just a lone lute plays hesitantly. Space is left within the arrangement. This adds a sense of melancholy. It’s as if Jozef is contemplating each note before playing it. Notes linger, hanging in the air, as if posing a question, to which Jozef knows there’s no answer.
Love Destroys All Evil has a brighter, more upbeat sound. Jozef’s lute sparkles and chimes. It sounds like what a minstrel would play at a medieval feast. Then, later, it’s all change. Jozef’s hopeful vocal enters. He sings “Love Destroys All Evil and frees us.” His vocal is hope felt and heartfelt. It’s as if Jozef desperately wants to believe what he’s singing.
Just Jozef’s lute plays as Once More With Feeling unfolds. Soon, Jozef’s lute is joined by Jim’s guitar. It adds a Byrdsian sound to the mix. When the guitar drops out, Jozef takes centre-stage. That’s the case throughout the track. However, when when it returns, Jim’s guitar is yin to Jozef’s yang on this beautiful, meandering track.
As Confinement unfolds, it’s apparent that this is very different to anything that’s gone before. What sounds like a radio crackling, or a biplane flying above is accompanied by a dark, broody, booming drum. Then Jozef’s lute enters. He delivers a tender, dramatic and wistful vocal. It’s as if he’s sympathises with those in Confinement. He can imagine the days becoming months and years. The hopelessness of the situation shines through as he delivers the lyrics. All the time, the drum pounds and the arrangement crackles, replicating the horror of Confinement.
Wherever You Will Live I Will Live has a thoughtful, and almost dark introduction. Jozef plucks at his lute. Carefully, and slowly, he plucks and probes the strings. They resonate, resulting in a sound that veers between dark and ominous, to an ethereal and hopeful sound. One word however, describes the track perfectly, cinematic.
Meandering and chiming, Jozef’s lute sets the scene on You Can’t Take It With You. Then he scats, before unleashing a deliberate, urgent vocal. As usual, his lyrics are full of social comment. A case in point is when he sings: “until the next damaged world we go… your worldly possessions what will they do.…You Can’t Take It With You” Part poetry, part philosophy, Jozef Van Wissem ruminates on greed and avarice, cutting to the chase, with the conclusion “You Can’t Take It With You.”
Straight away, Temple Dance Of The Soul has an avant-garde sound. A scratchy sound flits across the arrangement. All the time, the arrangement pulsates. That’s even the case when Jozef’s lute enters. It wanders across the arrangement, with Jim’s guitar for company. Assailing them are a myriad of scratches and glitches. That’s not forgetting that pulsating sounds. It’s the arrangement’s heartbeat, as elements of electronica, avant-garde, classical and folk combine to create a hypnotic soundscape.
Wistful, spacious and full of pregnant pauses describes After We Leave. It’s a create a mesmeric, pensive and captivating cinematic track where ethereal beauty is omnipresent.
Closing It Is Time For You To Return is Invocation Of The Spirit Spell. It features Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan. Her tender, heartfelt vocal provides the perfect foil to the rest of the arrangement. It’s a fusion of lute and washes of buzzing guitar and glitch. The guitar unleashes washes of controlled feedback. Along with a thoughtfully strummed lute, this is the perfect foil for the breathy beauty of Yasmine Hamdan’s vocal. This glorious fusion from music’s past, present and future proves a breathtaking way to close It Is Time For You To Return.
For anyone yet to discover the music of avant-garde composer, and baroque lutenist, Jozef Van Wissem then It Is Time For You To Return is the perfect starting place. It’s a breathtaking aural adventure. Featuring nine understated and hypnotic tracks, It Is Time For You To Return features Jozef at his innovative best. The music is captivating, compelling, ethereal, hopeful, hypnotic, melancholy, mysterious and wistful. That’s not all.
On several of the tracks on It Is Time For You To Return, Jozef’s lyrics are full of social comment. Jozef isn’t averse to commenting on the state of the world. His lyrics are veer between hope to hopelessness. There’s hope on Love Destroys All Evil. Confinement paints a picture of hopelessness, as days become months, months become years. All the time, the clock is ticking. Then on You Can’t Take It With You, Jozef deals with greed and avarice. Wealth and possessions, he points out, You Can’t Take It With You. These tracks showcase Jozef Van Wissem, whose part poet and philosopher. That’s not all.
Jozef Van Wissem creates innovative, groundbreaking and genre-melting music. On It Is Time For You To Return, elements of ambient, avant-garde, baroque, classical, electronica, experimental, folk and folk-rock melt into one. You may wonder at the folk-rock element? It’s there though. The guitar on Once More With Feeling remind me of The Byrds. Just like the rest of It Is Time For You To Return musical influences and genres melt into one, on a truly groundbreaking album. This makes Jozef Van Wissem’s It Is Time For You To Return the perfect candidate for the return of Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series.
For those unfamiliar with the Made To Measure Composers’ Series, it’s best described as the musical equivalent of a collection of art books. These albums are a reminder of some of the most innovative, important and interesting instrumental music of an era. A total of thirty-five albums were released between 1983 and 1995. This included albums by musical luminaries like Harold Budd, Fred Frith, Arto Lindsay, Steven Brown, Brion Gysin, David Cunningham and Daniel Schell. Now, nineteen long years after the last in the Made To Measure series, it makes a very welcome return.
For the return of the Made To Measure series, Crammed Discs were looking for a very special album. That’s what Jozef Van Wissem’s It Is Time For You To Return is. It’ll be released on Crammed Discs on 10th November 2014. It Is Time For You To Return is an ambitious and groundbreaking album from Jozef Van Wissem, true musical innovator.
JOZEF VAN WISSEM-IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO RETURN.