ERRORS-LEASE OF LIFE.

ERRORS-LEASE OF LIFE.

Errors have come a long way since they were formed in Glasgow, in 2004, by Simon Ward, Greg Paterson and Stephen Livingstone. Back then, Errors’ makeshift studio was a bedroom. That was the Glasgow based musical alchemists laboratory. Through experimentation and innovation, Errors sound began to evolve. A years later, in 2005, Errors were signed to Mogwai’s Rock Action Records. 

That’s been their home for the past ten years. Indeed, it was on Rock Action Records that Errors recently released their fifth album Lease Of Life. It shows a band that have come a long way since their debut single Hans Herman in 2005.

Having signed to Rock Action Records in 2005, Errors released their debut single Hans Herman. It was released as a limited edition single. Soon, the single sold out. Copies are now a prized item among record collectors. The future looked good for Errors.

The following years, Errors returned with their  first E.P. How Clean Is Your Acid House? E.P. Released in 2006, How Clean Is Your Acid House? E.P. was well received. It proved the springboard for Errors’ career. 

Not long after the release of How Clean Is Your Acid House? three became four, when drummer James Hamilton was recruited. He was part of Errors’ lineup when they headed out on tour with Underworld. For a group formed just three years earlier, Errors had come a long way.

Its Not Something But It Is Like Whatever.

Touring with  Errors’ meant their music was heard by a much wider audience. The audiences were receptive to Errors music. So, it made sense for Errors to begin work on their debut album, It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever.

Recording of It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever took place at Mogwai’s Castle Of Doom studios, in Glasgow. That’s where Errors recorded the ten tracks that became their debut album, It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever.

When It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever was released in June 2008, it was well received by critics. Great things were forecast for Errors, who some critics  compared to American experimental rock group, Battles. Errors knew they were doing something right, so set out on the road with a spring in their step.

Just like any band who had just released their debut album, Errors set off on a gruelling touring schedule. Through the rest of 2008, Errors toured with Mogwai

Forward Russia and 65daysofstatic. Although it was a gruelling schedule, Errors, mentored by Mogwai, learnt a lot from their 2008 tour. When they returned, they were a stronger and better band. This became apparent when Errors set off on tour again in 2009.

For part of 2009, Errors spent months touring Europe. Again they toured with Mogwai, and Danish electro-rock band Whomadewho. Errors also made an appearance at the Eurosonic Festival. All this constant touring paid off. Errors music was being heard by a much wider audience, and they were maturing as a band. Now was the time to release their sophomore album.

Come Down With Me.

For their sophomore album, Come Down With Me which is a play on the title of a British television program, Errors took control. They wrote, recorded and produced the ten tracks that became Come Down With Me. Errors were even responsible for the artwork. So when Come Down With Me was released, it was very much Errors’ musical baby.

Come Down With Me was released on 29th March 2010. When critics heard Come Down With Me, they were won over by the music on Errors’ sophomore album. Plaudits and praise accompanied the release of Come Down With Me. However, Errors didn’t have time to enjoy the plaudits.

No. Errors had to tour Come Down With Me. Through the spring and summer of 2010, Errors toured Come Down With Me. Just like with It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever it was a gruelling schedule. However, it was worth it. Errors’ star was in the ascendancy, as they played bigger venues. Then in October 2010, Errors and Twilight Sad headed out on tour, where they shared top billing. By then, Errors had another album to promote.

Celebrity Come Down With Me’.

To coincide with the tour, Errors released a remix album entitled Celebrity Come Down With Me. It saw everyone from Mogwai, Wax Stag and Gold Panda remix tracks from Come Down With Me. So, as Errors toured, Celebrity Come Down With Me provided an alternative soundtrack to their latest tour which took them through until the end of 2010.

As 2011 dawned, Errors found themselves invited to the prestigious South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas. For Errors, all their hard work was paying off. Then in April and May of 2011, Errors toured North America. Sadly, as 2011 drew to a close, it was the end of era for Errors. Founding member Greg Paterson left Errors. Some critics wondered what the future held for Errors?

Have Some Faith in Magic.

The loss of Greg Paterson could’ve proved fatal to some bands. Not Errors. Now reduced to a trio, they seemed to come back stronger. It was as if they were desperate to prove their doubters wrong. 

Errors headed into the studio to record their third studio album, Have Some Faith in Magic. It featured nine tracks penned and produced by Errors. Once Have Some Faith in Magic was completed, it became the first of two albums Errors released during 2012.

Have Some Faith in Magic was the album everyone knew Errors was capable of. It was the highlight of their eight year career. When the critics heard Have Some Faith in Magic, they agreed. Despite the loss of Greg Paterson, Have Some Faith in Magic, they agreed. Despite the loss of Greg Paterson was released to widespread critical acclaim. Errors had just released the album that would transform their career. However, Errors would release another album during 2012.

Relics.

Later in 2012, Errors decided to release a mini-album, Relics. It was an eight-track mini album with a twist. Rather than release Relics on CD or vinyl, Errors released Relics on two Relics’ of music’s past, cassette and VHS cassette. Despite this unusual choice of medium, Relics was well received, and ensured that Errors remained hot property. So, they headed out on tour.

During the remainder of 2012, Errors were on tour. They piled up the Airmiles touring Britain, Europe and America. By the end of this exhaustive tour, Errors were ready for a break.

After releasing two albums and touring three continents, Errors took a sabbatical for much of 2013. Then at Glasgow’s legendary Barrowlands Ballroom, Errors became the comeback kings. The three members of Errors were joined by former bandmate Greg Paterson. At this secret show, Errors rolled back the years during their only concert of 2013. However, they more than made up for it during 2014.

After a year of taking things easy, Errors got back to work. They embarked upon their first tour of Japan. However, Errors weren’t the headliners. No. Chvrches were the headline act. This didn’t matter, as the two Glaswegian bands took Japan by storm. Once the tour was over, Errors returned home to begin work on their fifth album Lease Of Life.

Lease Of Life.

Lease Of Life was written and recorded by Errors after they returned from their Japanese tour. Rather than record Lease Of Life in Glasgow, Errors headed to the beautiful island of Jura. Other parts of Lease Of Life were recorded in Errors’ home studio. Joining them, were a few familiar faces.

Having written the nine tracks that would become Lease Of Life, Errors got to work. Simon Ward and Stephen Livingston played guitars, keys and took care of programming. Drummer James Hamilton provided Lease Of Life’s heartbeat. Joining Errors were a number of guest artist. This included Bek Olivia. She wrote lyrics to Putman Caraibe and added the vocal. Cecila Stamp added vocals on Slow Rotor and Dull Care. The Glad Community Choir added vocals on the thirteen minute epic, Through The Knowledge Of Those Who Observe Us. Hannah Dent played saxophone on Genuflection and Through The Knowledge Of Those Who Observe Us. Once all these parts were completed, Lease Of Life was ready for release.

Nearly three years after the release of Have Some Faith in Magic, Errors released Lease Of Life on 23rd March 2015. Just like their previous album, Lease Of Life was released to critical acclaim. They might have been away from the studio for nearly three years, but Errors were back with another critically acclaimed album, Lease Of Life which I’ll tell you about.

Opening Lease Of Life is Colossal Estates. Washes of ethereal synths cascade. They’re joined by a probing bass synth. It provides the heartbeat to this cinematic soundscape. That’s until thunderous drums take centre-stage. This combination works. Seamlessly, everything falls into place, and an ethereal, cinematic anthem unfolds.

Lease Of Life is an enigmatic track. At the start, it doesn’t sound like a song recorded in 2014. Instead, the synths sound as if they belong on an eighties album. Think Yazoo, and you’re not away. Then a pulsating drumbeat thunders in. They’re accompanied by roller coaster synths. What follows is a track the veers between dance-floor friendly, moody, hypnotic and thanks to the vocal, haunting. Errors, forever the musical chameleons, continue to reinvent themselves, complete with a healthy supply of space-age sounds.

Straight away, Slow Rotor reminds me of Chvrches. Maybe Errors touring with Chvrches has rubbed off. The deliberate synths have a Chvrches influence. Atop the arrangement sits a dreamy vocal from Cecila Stamp. It literally floats lazily away, its lysergic, quixotic sound proving captivating and compelling. 

As New Winged Fire unfolds, it’s as if the filters have been deployed. The synth sound is distant. Not for long. It’s as if a new day has dawned. Crispy drums accompany the swirling synths. So does the urgent, panicky vocal, as it sings: “I want out.” Later, synths bubble and there’s a sense of urgency in the keyboards and drums. Again, there’s a cinematic influence to a track full of drama and mystery.

There’s a dark, ominous sound as Early Nights begins. Slowly the broody, moody synths creep across the arrangement. They’re accompanied by cinematic synths. Together, they provide a hair raising backdrop, that would be the perfect soundtrack to a short film. 

Dull Care is another track with a Chvrches influence. It’s the chirpy synths and Cecila Stamp’s vocal that lead to this comparison. Filling out the arrangement are dark, moody synths and drums. They’re part of an arrangement that’s slow, moody, dramatic and again, cinematic. So much so, that the music paints pictures in your minds eye. Just like their label mates Mogwai have been doing, Errors have a future providing soundtracks to films and documentaries.

Plink plonk synths open Genuflection. This is very different from previous tracks. Errors seem to be heading for the dance floor. Drums pound, providing the 4/4 beat and a soaring vocal. Add to this banks of synths and the second vocal. It’s very different, but they work well together, and play their place in a joyous hands in the air anthem.

from the opening bars of Putman Caraibe, it’s obvious that something special is unfolding. Synths and drums combine, creating the backdrop for Bek Olivia’s ethereal vocal. It has a dreamy quality. Adding to this are equally ethereal synths. They’re very different to the dark, bassy synths and crispy drums. However, they sit well together and play their part in a dreamy, sometimes dark and dramatic, floaty track.

Through The Knowledge Of Those Who Observe Us closes Lease Of Life, Errors’ long awaited comeback album. Eighties synths are scene setters. They meander along, while hi-hats hiss and effects swell. Soon, a dark synth enters. These layers of instruments are joined by the massed voices of The Glad Community Choir. As the synths bubble, The Glad Community Choir combine soulfulness, emotion and beauty. Later, during a breakdown some of the synths take on an ethereal sound. Then Hannah Dent unleashes the sultriest of saxophones. It’s the perfect addition. This however, is no ordinary saxophone. Hannah Dent delivers a saxophone masterclass. Searing, blistering guitars are unleashed as the saxophone soars, and zips across the arrangement. By then, the saxophone and guitars are like yin and yang, on this thirteen minute epic which features Errors’ at their best.

After three long years away, Errors return like conquering heroes. Lease Of Life picks up where they left off on Have Some Faith In Magic. By that, I mean making innovative, groundbreaking music. 

To do this, Errors headed off to the beautiful island of Jura. That must have inspired Errors. Revitalised, they created music that’s variously beautiful, cinematic, dance-floor friendly, dark, dramatic, ethereal, hook laden and tinged with an air of mystery. Lease Of Life is a musical roller coaster journey. It’s a case of sit back, hold on and enjoy the ride. 

Over nine songs, lasting fifty-three minutes Errors paint pictures with your music. Sometimes, they toy with your emotions on tracks like New Winged Fire and Early Nights. For much of the time, it’s as if Errors are providing the soundtrack to a series of short films. You can’t help let your imagination run riot. Before your eyes, plots and scenarios unfold. It’s an intriguing and captivating listen. Maybe Errors will follow in Mogwai’s footsteps and start making soundtracks? They certainly have the ability to do so.

Then other times, Errors head for the dance-floor. Errors aren’t afraid to drop in the occasional dance-floor anthem. They don’t make any apologies for doing so. Neither should they. Not when Errors can make joyous, hands in the air anthems like Genuflection. Other tracks including Slow Rotor, have that irresistible summery vibe. It’s the type of track that’ll go down a storm at festivals this summer, when Errors take the stage. When they do, they’ll win friends and influence people.

No wonder. Somehow, Errors have managed to make an album that will appeal to everyone. Whether it’s the slower cinematic tracks, or the hands in the air anthems, there’s something for everyone on Lease Of Life, which was recently released by Mogwai’s Rock Action Records. Lease Of Life, Errors first album since 2012, sees the comeback kings, return to form with what’s undoubtably a career defining album.

ERRORS-LEASE OF LIFE.

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SIMPLE MINDS-SPARKLE IN THE RAIN-DELUXE EDITION.

SIMPLE MINDS-SPARKLE IN THE RAIN-DELUXE EDITION.

Success didn’t come easy for Simple Minds. It took five years and five albums before they found commercial success and critical acclaim across Europe with New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). This was the start of the rise and rise of Simple Minds. It was also the start of Simple Minds stadium rock era. The story began in April 1982.

That’s when Simple Minds released the anthemic Promised You A Miracle as the lead single from New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It reached number eleven in the British charts. This was Simple Minds first British hit single. Soon, Promised You A Miracle took Europe by storm. This was the start of Simple Minds transformation from new wave pioneers, to stadium rock superstars.

Four months after the release of Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize was released as the followup. It reached number sixteen in Britain, and reached the top twenty in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden. Word was spreading about Simple Minds’ new sound. This was just in time for the release of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84).

Released on 13th September 1982, life was never going to be the same for Simple Minds after the release of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It reached number three in Britain, and was certified platinum. From Australia and New Zealand, to France, Holland and Sweden, right through to America and Canada, New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) sold well. In Canada, it was certified gold. For Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Michael MacNeil and Derek Forbes, it was a New Gold Dream come true. The only disappointment was when one of Simple Minds’ most anthemic tracks, Someone Somewhere in Summertime, stalled at number thirty-six in Britain. Apart from that, things had never been better for Simple Minds.

Or so it seemed. Simple Minds had been having problems with drummers on New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). The problem was, they didn’t have one. So, they’d used two drummers for the recording of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mike Ogletree played on four tracks, while Mel Gaynor played on the other six tracks. However, it was Mike Ogletree that headed out on tour with Simple Minds, to tour New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mike played on the first leg of the tour, and left in November 1982 to form Fiction Factory. That presented a problem for Simple Minds. 

The answer to their problem was Mel Gaynor. He’d played on New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). So, he knew many of the songs. Mel Gaynor was brought onboard, and became Simple Minds’ first non-Scottish member. However, Mel Gaynor’s drumming would prove a crucial part of Simple Minds future sound and success.

During the summer of 1983, Simple Minds played a series of high profile concerts. Many were in large stadiums, in front of fifty thousand people. This was no place for shrinking violets. So, Simple Minds cranked up the volume and went for it. Little did anyone realise, that Simple Minds were now bona fide stadium rockers.

One new song epitomised Simple Minds’ new sound… Waterfront. With its pulsating bass line, thunderous drums, and Jim’s strutting, preening vocal, Simple Minds literally swaggered their way through what was their latest anthem. This raised a few eyebrows. Were Simple Minds in the process of reinventing themselves?

That proved to be the case. The story began in September 1983 at Monnow Valley Studio in Rockfield, and At The Town House in London. That’s where work began on Simple Minds’ sixth album Sparkle In The Rain, which was recently reissued by Universal as a double album. 

This Deluxe Edition of Sparkle In The Rain features the original version of the album on disc one. Then disc two is entitled B-Sides and Rarities. There’s edits, live tracks, extended versions and B-Sides. They let you hear a different side to some the songs from Sparkle In The Rain, which was recorded over two months in 1983.

When Simple Minds arrived at Monnow Valley Studio, in Rockfield they had already recorded demos for six tracks at The Chapel studio in Lincolnshire. Other musical ideas had been recorded at Nomis Studios, London. So, when producer Steve Lillywhite arrived at Monnow Valley Studio, some of the hard work had already began. That, however, was only the starting point.

For the next three weeks, Steve Lillywhite and Simple Minds took their original recordings, and reshaped them. The early recordings were the genesis of the finished songs. Some recordings featured just Simple Minds’ new rhythm section. However, quickly, Mel Gaynor was proving to be an invaluable member of Simple Minds. He slotted seamlessly into Simple Minds’ rhythm section alongside bassist Derek Forbes and guitarist Charlie Burchill. Mick MacNeil played keyboards, and Simple Minds’ charismatic frontman, Jim Kerr took charge of lead vocals. This was the lineup of Simple Minds that transformed the demos into songs. Together, Simple Minds’ new lineup began transforming Simple Minds’ demos into fully fledged songs. It took just three weeks. After that, Simple Minds were on the move again. 

Their new home was Nomis Studios, London. That’s where producer Steve Lillywhite encouraged Simple Minds to complete the tracks. This meant vocalist Jim Kerr had to write the lyrics to their nine new tracks. To do this, Jim Kerr sought inspiration. Sometimes it came when he heard Charlie Burchill play guitar, other times when Mick MacNeil was playing keyboards. Soon, the lyrics for the nine tracks were completed, and ready to be recorded. The other track Simple Minds recorded, was a cover of Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. After two months, the reinvention of Simple Minds was almost complete. All that was left was for producer Steve Lillywhite to add his Midas touch to a couple of tracks. Only then, would  Sparkle In The Rain be ready for release.

Before the release of Sparkle In The Rain, Waterfront was released as the lead single on 4th November 1983. It reached number thirteen in Britain, and was a hit across the world. So was Speed Your Love To Me, which was released on 9th January 1984. Strangely, this stadium rocker only reached number twenty in Britain. However, at least it gave Simple Minds a taste of the direction their music was heading.

Nearly four months after Sparkle In The Rain was completed, it was ready for release on 6th February 1984. However, before the release of Sparkle In The Rain, critics had their say. Collectively, Simple Minds held their breath. How would critics respond to Simple Minds turning their back on the new wave sound of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mostly, Sparkle In The Rain was well received. The forever contrarian Rolling Stone and N.M.E. weren’t so sure of Sparkle In The Rain. They gave Sparkle In The Rain mixed reviews. This didn’t matter though.

When Sparkle In The Rain was released, on 6th February 1984, it soared up the British charts to number one, resulting in another platinum disc for Simple Minds. Across the Atlantic, Sparkle In The Rain was became Simple Minds most successful album, reaching number sixty-four in the US Billboard 200. That however, wasn’t the end of the commercial success.

Just like New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84), Sparkle In The Rain was a hit across the world. In Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland, Sparkle In The Rain reached the top twenty. Sparkle In The Rain was was certified gold in Canada and Germany. The reinvention of Simple Minds transformed their fortunes. They were now superstar stadium rockers, who were rubbing shoulders with the great and good of music. The album that transformed their career was Sparkle In The Rain, which I’ll tell you about.

Up On The Catwalk opens Sparkle In The Rain. It’s the first of the stadium rock anthems on Sparkle In The Rain. From the moment Mel Gaynor counts the band in, Simple Minds burst into life. Thunderous, jubilant drums and a pounding,sometimes ethereal and elegiac piano are at the heart of the arrangement. Other parts including Charlie’s guitar and Derek’s bass can be heard, but they’re neither as prominent nor important. The track could be stripped down to just the drums, piano and Jim’s swaggering vocal and still work. It would still be an hands in the air eighties anthem, that’s guaranteed to bring memories flooding back.

As soon as Book Of Brilliant Things unfolds, Mick’s keyboards and Mel’s drums go toe-to-toe. They’re joined by Charlie’s machine gun guitar. Jim vamps, clicking his fingers, as if encouraging Simple Minds to greater heights. What follows is the first of the songs with religious references. Jim Kerr is transformed into a street preacher, giving thanks for The Bible, his “Book Of Brilliant.” Joyously, he gives thanks for what it’s given. Despite that, he’s still the gallus, strutting stadium rocker. The rest of Simple Minds are at their tightest, hard rocking best. They never miss a beat, as their leader encourages them to even greater heights.

There’s no end of anthems on Sparkle In The Rain. Speed Your Love To Me is just the latest. It evolved out of hours of jamming, and eventually, fell into place. It’s one of Simple Minds’ finest hours. Again, Simple Minds burst into life, carrying the listener in their wake. Simple Minds’ rhythm section power the arrangement along, while Charlie unleashes blistering, searing guitars. They’ve got the same sound as Big Country. Charlie stabs at his keyboards. Later, his crystalline keyboards help carry Jim’s needy, hopeful vocal along on this irresistible anthem. 

The pulsating, hypnotic bass line as Waterfront unfolds is unmistakable. Then Simple Minds literally come crashing in. Their rhythm section, blistering guitars and keyboards unite, providing the backdrop for Jim’s vocal. When it enters, he paints pictures, pictures of Glasgow, late at night, after its heart was ripped out. Soon, memories of the once thriving industrial city come flooding back. Jim sounds angry and frustrated. So he should be. It’s his city, our city. With the rest of Simple Minds he vents his anger and frustration at those who tore the heart and soul out of a great city.

Simple Minds drop the tempo on East At Easter. Jim wrote some of the lyrics as the task force was setting sail for the Falklands. ironically, just Sparkle In The Rain was reissued, the task force sets sail for the Falklands again. Other lyrics Jim wrote after watching a documentary about Lebanon. They inspire Jim to deliver an impassioned vocal. Meanwhile, Mick’s soaring, crystalline synths and Derek’s pulsating bass play an important part in the arrangement. So do Mel’s drums, which help power the arrangement along to its wistful crescendo.

Lou Reed’s Street Hassle was originally, the opening track on side two of the vinyl edition of Sparkle In The Rain. With side one chock full of anthems, many people ignored side two. Those that got that far, often found side two something of comedown. There’s a sense of drama as the arrangement unfolds. It comes courtesy of Mick’s string synths. Soon, Street Hassle skips along to the sound of Mel’s drums. Jim’s vocal is understated, but sometimes dramatic. Washes of guitar and string synths provide a backdrop. Then just after two minutes, Simple Minds kick loose. Feeding off  Mick’s synth riff, searing, blistering guitars soar above the arrangement and strings dance, as Lou Reed’s Street Hassle is given a makeover by Simple Minds.

As Simple Mind’s rhythm section and keyboards combine White Hot Day bursts into life. Jim delivers a vocal powerhouse. Not to be undone, Charlie unleashes some of his best guitar riffs. Soon, the glisten and combine perfectly with the melodic nature of Mick’s synths. By then, things look like falling into place. However, before long Steve Lillywhite’s arrangement seems to struggle. As a result, the song fails to flow. It’s a fragmented, stop start performance, where Simple Minds try their best, but can’t quite rescue the situation. Even Jim Kerr agrees that the arrangement wasn’t the best, and that’s why he’s been reluctant to play the song live.

Some of the lyrics to ”C” Moon Cry Like A Baby came to Jim when he was on tour. He was standing on the balcony of a hotel, staring in bewilderment at the beauty in front of him. It was then he wondered how he got from the South Side of Glasgow to where he was?Chiming, chirping guitars, eighties drums and crystalline keyboards are joined by retro synths. It’s a song whose roots sonically, are in the early eighties. As Mel’s mesmeric drums provide the heartbeat, Jim delivers a a punchy, impassioned vocal. He voices his deepest fears. After this cathartic outpouring, Jim still believes that: “love can conquer all,” on this captivating track where we hear two sides to Simple Minds. The hard edgy sound of the arrangement, is very different from Jim’s soul-baring vocal.

After a hesitant start, Simple Minds combine elements of punk, new wave and rock ’n’ roll on The Kick Inside Of Me. The punk influence comes courtesy of Jim’s vocal. It soon, changes and references Lou Reed. Meanwhile, the rest of Simple Minds become an old fashioned rock ’n’ roll band. Strip away the new wave, dancing string synths and Simple Minds are at their hard rocking best. At times, the track has a “live” sound. That comes during Jim’s machismo fuelled vocal, accompanied by a hard rocking Simple Minds.

Shake Off The Ghosts closes Sparkle In The Rain. It’s another track with a hesitant start. Eventually, when it finds it direction, there’s a nod to U2. Glacial synths join the rhythm section as the arrangement glides along. Charlie adds some chiming guitars to this captivating instrumental.

Ever since Simple Minds released Sparkle In The Rain in 1984, for many people, it’s been the ultimate album of two sides. Side one was full of fist pumping anthems. Then side two was something of a slow burner. There weren’t as many hook heavy songs. That however, is somewhat simplistic.

The problem with Sparkle In The Rain, is that all the anthems come early in the album. Nobody thought to breakup the flow of the album. Maybe, if some of the songs from side two had been interspersed with the anthems, then it would’ve been perceived as a more balanced album? 

While the five songs on side one surpass the quality of songs on side two, side two wasn’t without its moments. Simple Minds’ reinvented Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. Then on ”C” Moon Cry Like A Baby Jim Kerr delivers a soul-baring vocal. The Kick Inside Of Me is best described as machismo fuelled, and Shake Off The Ghosts is a captivating instrumental. The only letdown is White Hot Day, which promises much, but fails to deliver. Even Jim Kerr will admit that.  That’s why Jim has been reluctant to play White Hot Day live. However, it’s the only time Simple Minds go wrong on Sparkle In The Rain. 

That’s pretty good going, considering Sparkle In The Rain marked the reinvention of Simple Minds. They left their electronic and new wave roots behind. Now, Simple Minds were well on their way to superstardom. There was no stopping them after Sparkle In The Rain, which was recently reissued by Universal as a double album. 

Following Sparkle In The Rain, Simple Minds were bona fide stadium rock royalty. For their next four albums, Simple Minds could do wrong. From 1985s Once Upon A Time, 1989s Street Fighting Years, 1991s Real Life and 1992s Good News From The Next World, commercial success and critical acclaim were omnipresent. With every album, Simple Mind’s popularity grew. Then by 1996s Néapolis, gone were the gold discs and hit singles. The writing had been on the wall since Good News From The Next World, which was only certified gold in Britain and Germany. Simple Minds had been at the top since 1982s New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). However, that wasn’t the end of story.

In 2015, thirty-eight years after they first formed, Simple Minds are still together. They’ve released seventeen studio albums and are still touring. However, one of the finest albums of Simple Minds’ thirty-eight year and seventeen album career, is Sparkle In The Rain, where Simple Minds reinvented themselves as a strutting, swaggering stadium rock band.

SIMPLE MINDS-SPARKLE IN THE RAIN-DELUXE EDITION.

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BILL WELLS AND AIDAN MOFFAT-THE MOST IMPORTANT PLACE IN THE WORLD.

BILL WELLS AND AIDAN MOFFAT-THE MOST IMPORTANT PLACE IN THE WORLD.

Four years after the last musical sojourn, Scotland’s musical odd couple of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat return with their long awaited sophomore album The Most Important Place In The World. It’s the followup to Bill and Aidan’s 2011 debut album, Everything’s Getting Older. It was received to widespread critical acclaim back in 2011. Since then, music lovers have been awaiting the return of the unlikeliest musical yin and yang, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat.

The Most Important Place In The World. is an album  befitting two of Scotland’s musical mavericks. That’s the perfect way to describe Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, who between them, have been making music for over fifty years. Musically, that means they’re approaching veteran status. However, Bill and Aidan are also two of Scotland’s national treasures. Especially when they can make an album as unique as The Most Important Place In The World, which was recently released on Glasgow’s premier label, Chemikal Underground.

That’s no exaggeration. After all, only Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat could create an album that features tales of devilment, domestic bliss and femme fatales. Then there’s songs about seduction West of Scotland style. Then on Any Other Mirror they become Scotland’s answer to Bacharach and David. Especially on Any Other Mirror. The pair it seems, have hidden depths. That becomes apparent throughout The Most Important Place In The World.

Throughout The Most Important Place In The World’s twelve tracks, Bill and Aidan flit between musical genres. As Aidan ruminates, and delivers a series of soliloquies, the music veers between Caledonian gospel, to soulful and thanks to Bill’s jazz-tinged piano playing. There’s also the occasional surprise on The Most Important Place In The World when whisper it, Bill and Aidan enjoy an adventure in electro pop on The Eleven Year Glitch. Aidan’s reaction to this adventure in electro pop wasn’t recorded. However, for a couple of minutes you hear the former Arab Strap front man in a new light. That’s the case throughout The Most Important Place In The World, when Bill and Aidan constantly reinvent themselves. To do this, they’re joined by a few musical friends.

As “well kent faces” within Scotland’s vibrant musical scene, Bill and Aidan know everyone that matters. So, they were able to call in a few favours. Joining them on The Most Important Place In The World were string ensemble The Cairn Quartet, saxophonist John Burgess and trumpeter Robert Henderson. Danielle Price played  tuba and Aby Vulliamy, a member of Bill’s National Jazz Trio played viola. Adding to the Caledonian soul sound were the Glad Café Community Choir. Producing The Most Important Place was former Delgado Paul Savage, who previously, has produced Aidan’s former band Arab Strab. With Paul producing The Most Important Place In The World, the musical trio headed off an a journey to an exotic part of the world…Blantyre.

Their reason for doing so, is that Blantyre houses one of Scotland’s top recording studios, Chem 19. It’s where some of the best Scottish albums of the last fifteen years have been recorded. Producing many of them, has been Paul Savage. His credits range from Mogwai, Malcolm Middleton and Miaoux Miaoux, right through to Human Don’t Be Angry, King Creosote and Emma Pollock. Unlike many producers, Paul works with a wide range of artists. His ability to work with an eclectic selection of artists, made him perfect to produce The Most Important Place In The World.

At Chem 19, the twelve songs penned by Bill and Aidan were recorded. Most of the parts were laid down at Chem 19. The exception were the piano parts. They were recorded at Mogwai’s Castle Of Doom Studios by Tony Doogan. However, everything else was recorded and mixed by producer Paul Savage at Chem 19. All that was required was an album cover and a title.

That’s where Aidan Moffat’s six year old son Samuel came in. Samuel Moffat drew the album cover for The Most Important Place In The World, and hopefully, he was well rewarded for doing so. With the album cover in place, a title was needed. So, Bill and Aidan decided to borrow the advertising slogan of a Swedish retailer. Now four years after their debut album Everything’s Getting Older, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat were almost ready to release their sophomore album The Most Important Place In The World.

Before the release of The Most Important Place In The World, critics had their say on the album. Just like Everything’s Getting Older, The Most Important Place In The World was released to critical acclaim. The curmudgeonly sage Aidan Moffat, and jazz pianist Bill Wells may have seemed like an unlikely pairing. However, they’re able to create music that’s truly captivating. You’ll realise that when I tell you about The Most Important Place In The World.

Opening The Most Important Place In The World is On The Motorway. As a journey down the motorway is replicated, Bill adds his wistful jazz flecked piano. Aidan’s soliloquouy is tinged with cynicism, frustration and bitterness. Strings sweep in, and a sultry saxophone sounds. By then Aidan closes his eyes, and lets his mind wander. Thoughts of love and lust come to mind, as “we overtake a truck,” heading home to “The Most Important Place In The World.” The result is a caustic, melodic, tragicomedy from Bill and Aidan. 

As Bill plays his piano on VHS-C, memories come flooding back. Aidan remembers the couple he and his partner were, and wistfully wonders, what they might have become?

Lock Up Your Lambs has a dark, ominous cinematic sound. Screechy strings, a dark, dramatic piano and scrabbling, screeching saxophone combine. When Aidan’s vocal enters, it’s a mixture of power and frustration and anger. Aidan sings about the problem of alcohol addiction, and the thirst that can’t be quenched. It’s definitely a case of “the spirits will prevail, throw booze on the fire and raise them up, the spirits will prevail.” For three minutes, Aidan becomes Scotland’s 21st Century bard.

Bill’s piano paints a sense of melancholia on This Dark Desire. Adding to the late night sound is the braying saxophone. They’re the perfect accompaniment for the all-seeing Aidan. He watches the city at night, even when she sleeps. Aidan sees her secrets, sees its citizens “re-zip and re-button.” He’s one of the “night’s thousand eyes,” in the “city has a thousand secrets.” The voyeur like Aidan, has witnessed one of the “thousand secrets,” during this jazz-tinged, cinematic track.

From the opening bars of The Tangle Of Us, Bill’s piano has you captivated. It’s obvious that another tale of the city at night is about to unfold. It comes courtesy of Aidan’s worldweary vocal. He sings of a fleeting relationship under “a Hammer horror moon.” Soon, a tragicomedy unfolds: “they cheered us on and whistled as they fell home.” Later, Aidan riddled with guilt sings: “so walk away and let this die tonight.”

Any Other Mirror has a shuffling, sixties arrangement, as Bill and Aidan become Scotland’s alternative to Bacharach and David. Percussion and Bill’s piano combine to create a cocktail jazz backdrop. In an instant, Bill and Aidan could be transported to L.A. in 1966.  Mind you, I don’t know whether the beautiful people who populate Tinseltown’s could relate to lyrics like: “and I might be a useless prick, but I feel ugly, old and thick, in any other mirror but you.” However, doubtless, a generation of less fortunate people will raise a smile and a glass to Bill and Aidan.

Thunderous drums open The Unseen Man. They’re joined by washes of synths and cascading chords from Bill’s piano. Meanwhile, Aidan tells the story of one of the macho hard men who populate the streets of certain parts of Scotland. They live to drink, snort and scuffle. Their habitat aren’t the smart clubs. No. It’s “chip shop scuffles,” where they’ll either live or die.  If they return home: “the cupboard is bare.” Never mind, he’ll do it all again next week. 

The introduction to Vanilla is reminiscent of a sixties art house film. That’s until Aidan’s vocal enters. That signals that it’s time for him to delivers his soul seduction supreme. Aidan isn’t exactly transformed into Barry White or Bobby Womack.” No. He’s more in touch with reality on this tale of ships that pass in the night, complete with  “the usual conclusions.”

Drums pound, a hi-hat hisses and stabs of piano play their part in Street Pastor Colloquy, 3AM’s jaunty arrangement. We hear a quite different side of Aidan. He’s transformed into a Caledonian soul singer. However, his caustic wit is omnipresent. After a night carousing, he meets a street pastor. Accompanied  by a sultry saxophone, Aidan’s response is “I don’t need any creed, so keep your Lord, your Bible and your flip flop.” Then when he sings “oh devil, all I  need is you,” that’s the signal for the Glad Café Community Choir to enter. They unleash a glorious fusion of gospel and soul, resulting in the best track on The Most Important Place In The World.

The Eleven Year Glitch sees Bill and Paul head off for an adventure in electro pop. Accompanied by retro synths and Bill’s crystalline piano, Aidan tells the story of a couple whose marriage is over after eleven years. He’s been leading a double life, making out he’s fine, but deep down, he wants out. With a mixture of hope, hurt and Calvinist guilt, he sings: “oh just say you’ll never want me back, walk away and don’t dare come back, but be sure before you pull the trigger.” 

Slowly, and thoughtfully, Bill plays the piano on Far From You. He provides a wistful backdrop for Aidan’s worldweary vocal. He’s far from the one he loves, and misses her badly. However, this being Aidan Moffat, it’s no ordinary love song. Not with lyrics like: “no snakes or snails or puppy tails, I know what you’re made of, if love’s defiled you’re it’s child, when I’m Far From You.” Having said that, it’s a quite beautiful paean from the former Arab Strab frontman.

Closing The Most Important Place In The World is We’re Still Here. It’s a story about the destruction of town centres across Scotland. As Bill deliberately plays the piano, Aidan sings: “we watched the florist wilt…the street ran out of charity…the letting agent’s lost its lease…the jewellers lost its sparkle.” While Aidan laments of how a town’s lost its heart and soul, his refrain is “We’re Still Here.” It’s as if against all odds, “We’re Still Here.”

 The Most Important Place In The World has been worth the four year wait. Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat have returned with a dozen songs about Scotland’s dark underbelly. They’re songs that deserved to be turned into a short film. No wonder. The characters and scenarios are very realistic Macho men, drinkers rub shoulders with dancers, chancers and romancers. They’re responsible for fleeting fumblings, illicit romances and tales of love gone wrong. Even the loves songs have a twist in the tale.

There’s a reason for this. Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat keep it real. They write about what they know, what they’ve seen and experienced. That makes a difference. Far too many songwriters try and write about things they’ve neither experienced nor witnessed. Not Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat. Drawing upon their experiences, they combine caustic wit, cynicism and social comment with tragicomedy. Other times their lyrics are tinged with sadness, hurt and heartbreak as The Most Important Place In The World takes on a late-night sound. Other times, the music is joyous and uplifting, as seamlessly, the flit between musical genres. This they do throughout The Most Important Place In The World, which is without doubt, a fitting followup to Everything’s Getting Older.

I’ll go much further than that. The Most Important Place In The World, which was recently released by Chemikal Underground, surpasses the quality of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat’s debut album. What’s more, The Most Important Place In The World must be a contender for the Scottish Album Of The Year Award.  

The Most Important Place In The World was released just in time to be nominated for the Scottish Album Of The Year Award. Let’s hope, when the winner of the Scottish Album Of The Year Award is announced, Scottish music’s most unlikely yin and yang, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat will be thanking all and sundry for their help in making The Most Important Place In The World.

BILL WELLS AND AIDAN MOFFAT-THE MOST IMPORTANT PLACE IN THE WORLD.

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MICHAEL CHAMPMAN-SAVAGE AMUSEMENT.

MICHAEL CHAMPMAN-SAVAGE AMUSEMENT.

Nowadays, artists can spent years recording an album.  They announce that they’re about to start work on their next album. That’s the last anyone hears of the artist for years. They’re locked away in their home studio, with only a DAW and a handful of plug-ins for company. What follows is a never-ending quest for perfection. Songs are recorded and rerecorded. Every minor imperfection is removed. Autotune in used on the vocal, drums are programmed and every minor imperfection is removed. Years later, when the artist has completed their “masterpiece,” they’re in for a shock.

Often, music has moved on since they began recording their album. Their music is no longer is fashionable. If their music is still perceived as fashionable by critics, cultural commentators and tastemakers, then often the album is deemed soulless and over polished. Any soul the music ever had, has long been removed. As a result, the album sinks without trace. Not long after this, the artist  is quietly dropped by their record company. When the artist is left to work out what went wrong, the root cause is the way music is recorded.

Forty years ago, the only way to record an album, was in a recording studio. This cost money. So, artists were prepared. Songs were written and arranged. Artists and backing bands had practised the songs. They were organised, so when the tapes started rolling, they were ready to role. Often, classic albums were recorded in a matter of a few weeks, or a couple of months at most. Artists and their managers remembered the maxim “time is money.” That was the case in 1976, when Michael Chapman was about to release the eighth album of his career, Savage Amusement, which was recently reissued by Secret Records. 

That was quite a feat. Michael Chapman’s career began in 1969, when he released Rainmaker on the Harvest label. Since then, Michael had averaged an album a year.

In 1970, Michael released the most successful album of his career, Fully Qualified Survivor. It reached number forty-five in Britain. The following year, 1971, Michael Michael released two albums.

After the success of Fully Qualified Survivor, Michael was keen to build on the album’s success. So, he went into the studio, and recorded his third album, Window. It was the most controversial album of Michael’s career. After its release, Michael disowned Window, claiming it was an album of demos. However, the second album Michael released in 1971, Wrecked Again, was one of Michael’s finest albums. This proved to be a fitting way for Michael Chapman to leave Harvest.

Next stop for Michael Chapman was Decca Records. After a gap of two years, Michael returned with the fifth album of his career, Millstone Grit. Released in 1973, this was Michael’s Decca debut. It was a return to form from Michael, who was maturing as a singer and songwriter. Maybe, Michael had found his home at Decca Records?

Despite a busy touring schedule, Michael returned to the studio to record Deal Gone Down. It was released in 1974, and is one of the most underrated albums of Michael Chapman’s back-catalogue. Deal Gone Down is a showcase for Michael Chapman’s talent as a singer-songwriter, and his versatility. The thirty-three year old seemed to be maturing with every album.

That was the case with Pleasures Of The Street. Released in 1975, Pleasures of the Street was Michael’s seventh album since 1969. Sadly, despite the quality of music on Pleasures of the Street, Michael was no nearer making a return to the chart. However, Michael Chapman was still a successful artist.

While Michael was averaging an album a year, it was touring where Michael was making his money. This meant Michael had a tempestuous relationship with the recording studio. He realised the longer he spent recording an album, the more money he lost through not touring. Unlike many artists, Michael realised this early in his career. It was no epiphany. Instead, it was a realisation that “time was money.” So  Michael worked quickly in the studio. He was always keen to get back on the road. So were his band. The road was their natural habitat. So, when Michael arrived at the studio he was always ready to role.

This was the case when Michael began recording Savage Amusement. Michael had penned seven songs, Shuffleboat River Farewell, Secret Of The Locks, Crocky Hill Disaster, Lovin’ Dove, Stranger, It Didn’t Work Out and Devastation Hotel, Michael had chosen to cover Jimmie Rodgers’ Hobo’s Lament and Jimmy Reed’s How Can A Poor Man? These nine tracks were recorded at various studios, where Don Nix, formerly a member of the Stax Records’ house band, was tasked with reinventing Michael Chapman.

The sessions didn’t get off to the best start. Don Nix, who was on medication, went to a party. Having enjoyed the party just a bit too much, Don fell of a roof. This didn’t please Michael. While Michael’s manager Max, tried to sort out this little local difficulty, there was already an atmosphere. Then Michael took a dislike to the Dolby noise reduction filters. Eventually, though, Michael and Don Nix, got to work on Savage Amusement.

Recording of Savage Amusement took place at Sawmills Studios, Cornwall, Tapestry Studios, London and Ardent Studios, Memphis. Michael was a accompanied by members of his regular band, and a few guest artists. The rhythm section included drummer Keef Hartley, bassist Rick Kemp and guitarists Andrew Latimer and Tim Renwick. They were joined by keyboardist Peter Wood and Leo LeBlanc on pedal steel. Backing vocals came courtesy of Fuzzy, Mutt and Stevie. Michael Chapman played guitar and added vocals. Once Savage Amusement was completed, Michael and his band returned to the road. His eighth album, Savage Amusement was released in 1976.

When critics heard Savage Amusement, they realised it was very different from Michael’s previous albums There was a reason for this. Many of Michael’s favourite guitarists came from Memphis. So, Michael wanted to make music where he could connect musically with them. This was Savage Amusement. However, that was all very well. What of Michael’s loyal fans? They were expecting something quite different? Maybe they, like the critics, would bewon over by the Michael Chapman heard on Savage Amusement?

Opening Savage Amusement is Shuffleboat At River Farewell. Straight away, it’s obvious that Michael’s music is heading in a different direction. Slowly, the warmth of searing electric guitars and an elegiac piano combine. Then a roll of drums signals Michael and his band to combine blues and rock. Blistering guitars soar above the arrangement as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat, driving the arrangement urgently along. Flourishes and stabs of piano accompany Michael’s worldweary vocal. So, do gospel tinged harmonies. By then, everything is seamlessly falling into place as we hear a new side to Michael Chapman. There’s even a nod to Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s 1975 hit Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile). Sadly, Michael never enjoyed the same success after his reinvention by producer Don Nix. He’s responsible to a new and captivating side of Michael Chapman that  means you hungrily await the rest of Savage Amusement.

Urgently, a slide guitar opens Secret of the Locks. Soon, guitars joins a moody bass and Michael’s vocal. It’s a mixture of anger, bitterness, frustration and sadness. Slowly, and deliberately he delivers the lyrics. Later, a blistering guitar and drums enter, helping frame Michael’s vocal. It’s now tinged with anger and cynicism. Especially when he delivers the lyrics: “you’ve made one mistake my love, that could have kept you free, you forgot to take your money, you’ll soon be back with me.” This clearly is one relationship that’s gone badly wrong.

The tempo drops on Crocky Hill Disaster. It has a slow, spacious arrangement. A loping bass, hypnotic drums and chiming guitars set the scene for Michael’s vocal. He sounds not unlike Bob Dylan on Blood On The Tracks. His vocal is tinged with hope as he sings “but only the birds were singing, never heard them sing so sweet, I wanted them to sing for evermore” Then hope becomes joy as Michael sings: “and the sweetest, sweetest sight In ever saw, was my lady standing there.” These lyrics are among the finest on Savage Amusement, and are delivered with hope and joy by Micheal.

Again, there’s a nod to Bob Dylan and Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel on Lovin’ Dove. This is another of the songs Michael penned. The rhythm section urgently drive the arrangement along. A piano adds drama and blistering guitar licks are unleashed. Then when Michael’s vocal enters, he sounds not unlike Bob Dylan. He’s accompanied by soaring gospel harmonies. They’re the perfect addition to this joyous, hook laden fusion of rock, gospel and soul.

Hobo’s Meditation was penned by country legend Jimmie Rodgers. Accompanied by washes of pedal steel, Michael delivers drawling, half-spoken vocal, as he tells of living the life of a hobo. This means riding trains and roaming. After a minute, Michael delivers a thoughtful country-tinged vocal. Accompanied by an understated rhythm section and pedal steel, Michael’s vocal is thoughtful and pensive, as he wonders what the future holds for the hobo?

Crystalline guitars chime as Stranger unfolds. A droning wash adds an element of drama. So do synths. They help build the drama. Before long, the stage is set for Michael. His vocal is equally urgent and emotive as he dawns the role of storyteller. He tells the story of this mysterious “Stranger” they hear “walking round the house and yard.” Hopefully, Michael sings “I thought that he might go…but he never made a move down the road.” Worst of all, he stole Michael’s partner and “sometimes I hear them talking in the yard.”

How Can a Poor Man is another cover version. It was penned by Jimmy Reed. While its still retains its bluesy hue, Michael reworks the track. Searing, blistering licks are unleashes while a hypnotic rhythm accompanies Michael’s lived-in vocal. Subtle, cooing, sweeping harmonies are added. They’re the finishing touch to Michael’s reworking of an old blues.

Ethereal harmonics, chiming guitars and a pounding bass open It Didn’t Work Out. Soon, drums and machine gun guitars are joined by keyboards. They provide the backdrop for Michael’s vocal. Again it’s reminiscent of Bob Dylan. Similarly, the arrangement is similar to those on Blood On The Tracks. Especially the way the soaring, cooing harmonies are deployed. Producer Don Nix seems to have the uncanny ability to drop instruments in where they belong. This result is one of the highlights of Savage Amusement, one where blues, folk, gospel and rock combine seamlessly. 

Closing Savage Amusement is Devastation Hotel. A guitar weaves its way across the arrangement, before washes of Hammond organ usher in Michael’s despairing vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section concentrate on providing the heartbeat. Gospel tinged harmonies are added. They’re yin to Michael’s yang on this tale of despair that closes Savage Amusement, a true hidden gem in Michael Chapman’s back-catalogue.

Seven years after Michael Chapman released his debut album Rainmaker in 1969, he decided to reinvent himself. So, he enlisted the help of producer Don Nix, who formerly, had been a member of Stax Records’ house band. Don Nix was tasked with giving Michael’s music a Memphis makeover.

So, recording of Savage Amusement took place in Cornwall, London and Memphis. Michael and his band recorded what was one of the best albums of Michael Chapman’s career. Savage Amusement was a fusion of blues, country, folk, folk rock, gospel, rock and soul. Almost seamlessly, musical genres and influences are fused over nine tracks. Among the influences are Bob Dylan’s 1975 classic album Blood On The Tracks and Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s 1975 album The Best Years of Our Lives. These two albums appear to have influenced Michael when writing and recording Savage Amusement. Sadly, Savage Amusement never enjoyed the same success as Blood On The Tracks nor The Best Years of Our Lives.

Just like his previous album, Savage Amusement failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic. That was an opportunity lost. Stylistically, Savage Amusement could’ve broken Michael Chapman in the lucrative American market. However, that wasn’t to be. 

Maybe if Michael had been signed to another label then they would’ve gotten behind Savage Amusement?However, in 1976 Michael Chapman was signed to Decca. They seemed reluctant to go all out to back Savage Amusement. So, after being well received by critics, Savage Amusement sunk without trace. By then, Michael and his band were back on the road.

For Michael, his fans had been divided by Savage Amusement. Some of his fans welcomed the change of sound, and realised that Savage Amusement was a lost classic. Others were shocked at Savage Amusement’s stylistic departure. They took some appeasing when touring Savage Amusement. Since then, Savage Amusement has continued to divide Michael Chapman’s loyal fans. 

For newcomers to Michael Chapman, Savage Amusement is a very accessible album. Although quite different from some of Michael’s previous albums, Savage Amusement oozes quality. From the opening bars of Shuffleboat River Farewell, right through to the closing notes of Devastation Hotel, Savage Amusement is a captivating album from one of British music’s best kept secrets, Michael Chapman. Not any more.

Recently, Michael Chapman’s albums have been reissued by various labels. One album had lain unreleased, Savage Amusement. It was one of Michael Chapman’s finest albums. Sadly, Savage Amusement is also one of Michael Chapman’s hidden gems. Not any more. Secret Records recently reissued  Savage Amusement, complete with four bonus tracks. This reissue will allow a new generations of music lovers to discover Michael Chapman’s lost classic Savage Amusement.

MICHAEL CHAMPMAN-SAVAGE AMUSEMENT.

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ANNIE PHILIPPE-SENSATIONNEL! YE YE BONBONS 1965-1968.

ANNIE PHILIPPE-SENSATIONNEL! YE YE BONBONS 1965-1968.

Growing up in Brittany, Annie Philippe always loved to sing and dance. Sometimes, she dreamt of making a living as a singer. That looked unlikely to happen. Annie’s parents were what she described as “simple people.” They didn’t have a musical background. Nor did didn’t realise their daughter was talented. 

Then one day, one of their neighbours told Annie’s parents that their daughter was talented. So, they sent Annie to the Chatelet dancing school, where she was meant to train as ballerina. Then Annie’s parents had to move to Creteil. This resulted in Annie having to leave the Chatelet dancing school. Her dreams of becoming a ballerina were in tatters. To rub salt into Annie’s wounds, eventually the Philippe’s family returned to Menilmonant.

Now living in Menilmonant, the Philippe family settled in to life in Buttes-Chaumont. Their home was near the Alouettes television studios. Some days, Annie would walk past the studios. Then one Annie was asked if she would like a tour of the studios. This lead to small parts in television programs. It was during this time that Annie met choreographer Nicholas Petrov.

She told Nicholas of her dreams of becoming a singer. Nicholas told Annie that the Twenty-One Club at Champ Des Elysees was looking for a DJ. Annie told Nicholas she was under twenty-one, and would need her parents permission to work at the Twenty-One Club. However, they were unlikely to grant their permission. Somehow, Nicholas Petrov managed to persuade them, and Annie’s career as a DJ began.

Annie’s career as a DJ opened doors for her. Soon, she was auditioning for record companies. Sadly, nothing came of the auditions. Then one day, Annie met Paul Mauriat, who at the time, was Charles Aznavour’s arranger. Annie told Paul of her love of music, and how she longed to be a singer. When Paul heard this, he told Annie to rehearse a few songs.

That’s what Annie did. Knowing this was the opportunity of a lifetime, Annie rehearsed the three songs. Quickly, Annie’s audition arrived. A nervous Annie headed to Paul’s flat. She was greeted by Paul’s wife. She ushered Annie into the flat, and straight away, the audition began. Paul recorded the three songs onto his tape recorder. When Annie heard the recordings, she was embarrassed by what she heard. Annie realised she had a long way to go before she became a singer.

Down, but not out, Annie decided to take singing lessons. She found Tosca Marmor, an elderly Russian woman who coached all the famous French singers. This proved to be an investment. Before long, Annie had improved, and matured as a singer. Now she was ready to return to Paul Mauriat’s flat, where she auditioned again.

Paul took some persisting. However, eventually, he relented. Four tracks were chosen for No. 1, Annie’s debut E.P.  This included Vous Pouvez Me Dire and Qu’il Le Dise, which feature on Ace Records recent Annie Philippe’s compilation Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968.

Annie Philippe’s compilation Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968. It features twenty-four tracks recorded by Annie Philippe between 1965 and 1968. During this period, Annie was one of the most successful Ye Ye singers in France. Annies’ story began in 1965 with her debut E.P. No. 1.

Having chosen the four tracks for No. 1, Annie entered the studio for the first time with producers Paul Mauriat and Yvi Spieghel. They began work on the work tracks.  This included Vous Pouvez Me Dire, a cover of Lulu’s He Don’t Want Your Love Any More. The other three tracks included Une Rose, Qu’il Le Dise and Je Chante Je Danse. These four tracks were released on Riviera Records, as Annie’s debut E.P. No. 1. At last, Annie’s dream of becoming a singer was a reality.

Later in 1965, Annie released her next E.P.  It included a cover of The Supremes’ Baby Love and J’ai Tant De Peine. These tracks feature on Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968. It was Annie’s cover of Baby Love that caught the attention of DJs across Europe. It was played on RMC Europe. Soon, Annie’s cover of Baby Love was being heard across Europe. This really lifted Annie’s profile. She was well on her way to becoming a star.

J’ai Tant De Peine was chosen as the title-track for Annie’s next E.P. Annie had her doubts about the song. She felt it was too old fashioned. However, she was proved wrong when J’ai Tant De Peine gave Annie another hit single. Annie was well on her way to becoming a Ye Ye idol.

1966 saw Annie Philippe’s life transformed. Although she had enjoyed two hits singles, this was nothing compared to what Annie was about to experience. This success however, very nearly never happened. 

Andre Pascal was reluctant to allow Annie to cover Ticket De Quai. Eventually, he relented and allow Annie to cover Ticket De Quai. She didn’t let Andre down. Her melancholy reading of the track transforms the song. Riviera Records realising just how good a track it was, made Ticket De Quai the title-track of Annie’s next E.P. The other highlight of the E.P. with On M’A Toujours Dit. Just like Ticket De Quai, which features on Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968, it helped transform Annie’s career. Constantly, Annie’s music was played on radio. To a generation of French teenagers, Annie was a Ye Ye idol. 

Before long, Annie was mixing with some of the biggest names in French music, films and television. Her music was played in clubs and radio. She was making personal appearances and touring France with Claude Francois. For Annie, her personal and private life had been transformed in less than two years.

Whilst touring with Claude Francois, the pair began a relationship. This complicated matters. Annie was already in a relationship with Yvi Speighel. Right through until Claude met and married Isabelle Foret, the pair had a turbulent, on-off relationship. Despite this, Annie continued to enjoy a successful career.

In 1966, Annie released her next E.P. It featured four tracks. Two tracks from the E.P. showed Annie’s versatility. Whether she was singing uptempo tracks like C’est La Mod, or ballads like Le Temps De Poupées Annie was equally at home. Annie could bring tracks to life. No longer were France’s top composers reluctant to give Annie their songs to sing. Now, they actively sought her out. Having Annie Philippe cover one of their songs could break the song.

Andre Pascal, who had been reluctant to let Annie Philippe cover Ticket De Quai, had cowritten a new track, Pour Qui, Pour Quoi with Tony Cucchiari. It would be the title-track to Annie’s next E.P.  Another track chosen was On M’A Toujours Dit. These two tracks were recorded by Annie accompanied by Paul Mauriat and his orchestra. Annie’s at her very best on Pour Qui, Pour Qui. Against a string drenched backdrop for Annie delivers a soul searching vocal. Given its quality, it’s no surprise that Pour Qui, Pour Qui was released as a single later in 1966, the year that transformed Annie Philippe’s career.

If 1966 had been a big year for Annie Philippe, so would 1967. She would release singles, E.P.s and her first album. 

Annie’s first E.P. of 1967 was Le Mannequin. It featured Tu Peux Partir Ou Tu Voudras (Go Where You Wanna Go), Pas De Taxi, Le Mannequin and Sensationnel Jeffry. They all feature on Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968, showcasing Annie’s talents and versatility. This is the case on Annie’s second E.P of 1967.

Lettre Pour Annie was the second E.P. Annie released during 1967. Three of the tracks feature on Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968. This includes the melancholy sounding Lettre Pour. Annie, accompanied by an orchestral arrangement makes the lyrics come to life. De Ce Côté De La Rivière (She’s Coming To Me) is a cover of a song originally cowritten and recorded by Dusty Springfield. However, Annie takes the song in a new, and different direction. Pour La Gloire literally oozes drama and emotion, as Annie Philippe grows and matures as a singer.

Les Enfants De Finlande was the third and best E.P. Annie released during 1967. So it’s that three of the four tracks from Les Enfants De Finlande feature on Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968. This includes the tender, beautiful, title-track Les Enfants De Finlande, and Plus Rien with its drama and cinematic strings. The other track is Mon Ange Blond, a wistful sounding track that’s perfect for Annie’s vocal. It’s part melancholia, longing and despair. For Annie, her Les Enfants De Finlande E.P. was a coming of age musically.

For Annie, she hardly seemed to stop working during 1967. She released three E.P.s and two singles. This included Pas De Taxi, which featured Le Mannequin on the flip side. Annie’s other single was Tu Peux Partir Où Tu Voudras (“Go Where You Wanna Go”), with Sensationnel Jeffry on the B-Side. These singles ensured that Annie was heard in juke boxes throughout France. After that, Annie was one of Ye Ye’s superstars. So, it was time for Annie to release her debut album.

C’Est La Mode was released in 1967. It featured twelve of Annie’s best, and best known songs. For anyone who hadn’t heard Annie Philippe, this was the perfect starting point. It was essentially a best of Annie Philippe. This includes Pas De Taxi. The LP version of Pas De Taxi  features on Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968, allowing listeners to compare it to the E.P. version. However, what the both have in common, is quality. That was the case throughout Annie Philippe’s career.

As 1968 dawned, Annie Philippe’s time at Philips was coming to an end. Her final release for Philips, was an E.P., Une Petite Croix. Mick Patrick who compiled Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968, has chosen the title-track, Une Petite Croix and Bonjour, Bonsoir Et Au Revoir. These two tracks represent the end of Annie Philippe’s time at Philips. She had come a long way in just three years.

When Annie Philippe’s arrived at Philips, she was an aspiring, unknown singer. By the time she left, Annie Philippe was one of the most successful French Ye Ye singers. Between 1965 and 1965, Annie had released a string of successful E.P.s, and singles on Philips. Then in 1967, Annie Philippe released her debut album C’Est La Mode. This helped Annie Philippe’s music reach a wider audience. Despite enjoying commercial success Annie could only have dreamt about a few years earlier, still Annie left Philips.

Following her departure from Philips, Annie signed to Claude Francois’ label. This seemed a strange move. The pair hadn’t exactly parted on good terms. Then there was the fact that Philips was a huge label, part of a multinational company. Its marketing power far surpassed Claude Francois’ label. So did its budget. Annie’s decision seemed a strange one.

Annie left Philips while she was at the top. She was enjoying the most successful period of her career. By then, the Brittany born singer was rubbing shoulders with stars of music, cinema and television. What’s more, Annie was a cultural icon. However, it couldn’t and wouldn’t last.

Just like many musical genres, Ye Ye’s popularity lasted only a decade. By the late sixties, Ye Ye’s popularity was falling. Other musical genres took its place. For the Ye Ye boys and girls, they’d been on a musical roller coaster. However, the journey was nearly at its end.

Some of the Ye Ye boys and girls went on to enjoy, and experience further commercial success. This included Annie Philippe, one of Ye Ye music’s biggest stars. For three years, she epitomised the Ye Ye sound. A reminder of this is the music on Ace Records recent Annie Philippe’s compilation Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968. This twenty-four track compilation is a reminder of an underrated and important musical genre, Ye Ye.

Ye Ye music is also a reminder of one of the most important, innovative and influential decades in history…the sixties. During this period, although there was a political, social, cultural and musical revolution throughout Europe. Especially in France. Between 1965 and 1968, Annie Philippe was part of the musical backdrop to the major upheaval that was taking place in France. Annie Philippe’s music, which is documented on  Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968, epitomises the sights and sounds of the musical and cultural revolutions that swept through France in the late-sixties.

ANNIE PHILIPPE-SENSATIONNEL! YE YE BONBONS 1965-1968.

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CHOCOLATE MILK-ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS.

CHOCOLATE MILK-ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS.

During their career, Chocolate Milk recorded with both Allen Toussaint and Paul McCartney and released eight albums. Of these eight albums, their debut album Action Speaks Louder Than Words is probably the best known. Released in 1975, Action Speaks Louder Than Words is a mixture of funk and soul. Since then, it’s become a favorite of hip hop artists, sampled by Eric B. Rankin, Move the Crowd and Stetsasonic. However, there was much more to Chocolate Milk than just soul and funk.

During their career, Chocolate Milk also recorded a number of disco hits. including their 1981 hit Blue Jeans. Sadly, disco was one of the reasons the group split up in 1983. Along with the decline in popularity of disco, as well as changes in producers and personnel, Chocolate Milk split-up in 1983. Although they’d only been formed in 1974, Chocolate Milk had packed a lot into just nine years.

Formed in 1974 by saxophonist Amadee Castenell Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, the band headed to New Orleans, where they became the house band for legendary songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint. In doing so, they replaced The Meters, so had a hard act to follow. Signing with RCA Records, the band started recording what would become their debut album Action Speaks Louder Than Words which will be rereleased by Nature Sounds on 13th April 2015 on CD or limited edition LP.

Recording of Action Speaks Louder Than Words took place at the Sea-Saint Recording Studio in New Orleans. With Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn producing the album, a total of ten tracks were written by Chocolate Milk were recorded. To do this, they used a mixture of traditional and the nascent technology that was available, the group recorded a combination of soul and funk tracks.

On Action Speaks Louder Than Words, Chocolate Milk’s tight rhythm section of drummer Dwight Richard, bassist Ernest Dabon and guitarist Mario Tio combined with a brass section of saxophonist Amadee Castenell and Joseph Smith III on trumpet and flugelhorn. The rhythm and brass section were joined by Kenneth Williams on percussion and congas, while Robery Dabon played Fender Rhodes, clarinet, Minimoog and ARP. Chocolate Milk were one of the pioneers of new technology like the Moog Bass and Minimoog. The Moog bass can be best heard on the opening track, Actions Speak Louder Than Words. On that track, Chocolate Milk revealed an important side to their music, politics. Like many groups, some members of Chocolate Milk were schooled in jazz, and with this jazz background went a political angle. Chocolate Milk, like many artists before them, released music with a message. Around this time, Gil Scott Heron, was making music with a political message, and like his music, their debut single seemed to strike a chord with  people, and proved to be popular when released as a single.

Released in June 1975, Action Speaks Louder Than Words reached number thirty-eight in US R&B Charts. This was pretty good for a group that had only been formed a year ago. Adding to this success, was their debut single, Action Speaks Louder Than Words. When it was released as a single, it reached number fifteen in the US R&B Charts and number sixty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Sadly, the follow-up single My Mind Is didn’t fare so well, failing to chart. However, overall, Action Speaks Louder Than Words had been a success for the newly formed group, who’d go on to release a further seven albums.

Chocolate Milk’s next album was their eponymous album Chocolate Milk, released in 1976. 1977 was a busy year for Chocolate Milk, releasing two albums We’re All In This Together and Comin.’ On We’re All In This Together, was one of their best known singles Girl Callin’. 

After a gap of two years Milky Way was released in 1979. It featured another classic Chocolate milk single, Say Won’t Cha. This was the last Chocolate Milk album to feature Allen Toussaint as producer. He and Chocolate Milk went their separate ways in 1980.

With a new producer George Tobin in tow, Chocolate Milk recorded their sixth album  Hipnotism. It was released in 1980 and featured another of the group’s best known singles I’m Your Radio. 

Blue Jeans was Chocolate Milk’s penultimate album and was released in 1981. It saw another new producer working with the group, Allen A. Jones. The album saw a change in style from Chocolate Milk, demonstrated in and one the group’s singles, disco. For some time Chocolate Milk had been releasing disco tracks, and Blue Jeans was their biggest disco hit. However, with disco starting to become less popular, changes in the group’s personnel and losing Allen Toussaint as producer, the group would only record one further album.

Friction was released in 1982, and was maybe an apt title, given the band would split up a year later. Again the album was produced by Allen A. Jones, his second album as producer. However, after the release of Friction, the band decided to call it a day in 1983. Like I said earlier, they’d packed a lot into just nine years. After all, how many modern bands record nine albums in seven years, never mind nine albums in their career? Chocolate Milk managed to do so, and of these eight albums, one of the best is  Action Speaks Louder Than Words, which I’ll now tell you about.

Action Speaks Louder Than Words opens with the title track, Action Speaks Louder Than Words. It’s funk, but funk with a political message. The track has a slow moody sound, built around a Moog bass line, with percussion, funky rhythm section and searing guitars accompanying the punchy vocal. With Frank Richard’s vocal almost a call for action not dialogue, the track starts to build. While keyboards, Moog bass and the rhythm section envelop his vocal, the rest of the group contribute backing vocals. Both the lead and backing vocals float in and out of the track, a mixture of frustration and anger, while the funkiest of backdrops brilliantly reveals itself. Like the music of Gil Scott Heron this is music with a message, a message that’s still relevant over thirty-six years later.

Time Machine has a very different slightly spacey sound. It’s a much more soulful sounding track, one about escapism, with a haunting, emotive vocal from Frank. The rhythm section combine with horns while percussion and guitars combine. Stabs of keyboard punctuate the track, while the track reminds me slightly of Andy Bey’s Experience and Judgement album. Later, blazing horns combine with the rhythm section, guitars and keyboards, revealing the jazzy side to Chocolate Milk. This demonstrates the versatility of the group, that they can flit from funk to soul and jazz seamlessly. Add Frank Richard’s vocal to the equation, and this spacey sounding track that merges soul, funk and jazz is truly something to behold.

The second single released from Action Speaks Louder Than Words was My Mind Is  Hazy, which amazingly failed to chart. This seems strange, given just how great a track it is. It demonstrates the funky side of Chocolate Music, and is some of the best mid-seventies funk you’ll hear. What makes this such a great track, is how tight and talented a group they were. It’s got a real searing funky groove, that brings to mind vintage Sly and The Family Stone. The dirtiest of funky grooves is exploited by the rhythm section, while rasping horns drench the arrangement, and Frank sings about the intoxicating charms of a woman he knows. Augmenting his vocal are breathy backing vocals, while wah-wah guitars, punchy horns and a plentiful supply of percussion combine with a driving Sly Stone influenced rhythm section. As the track progresses, Frank’s vocal is transformed into a howl, so intoxicated is he. It’s a mesmerising and indeed intoxicating track, that’ll have you totally transfixed.

On Confusion the group’s jazz schooling is very noticeable. During this breakneck funk drenched jam, Chocolate Milk use their jazz background to good use. The track has a complicated structure, with the track having more twists and turns than the average maze. Up and down the keyboards and fretboards the band go, funk and jazz combining, in what almost resembles a high speed car chase, with Frank’s vocal sitting atop. Driving the track along are the rhythm section, while keyboards and blazing horns combine with searing guitars. You can’t help but admire Chocolate Milk’s talent and versatility, in being able to cope with such a complicated track, and managing to play it with such ease. 

Pretty Pimpin’ Willie sounds like something you’d expect in a vintage Blaxploitation movie when the track opens. With the sound of traffic and horns a hooting, Pretty Pimpin’ Willie makes his strutting appearance, to a funk laden backdrop of braying horns, rhythm section and wah-wah guitars. Frank’s vocal is full of charisma and bravado, all roars, hollers and bluster. While other members of the group contribute backing vocals, a meandering and moody slice of funk reveals gradually itself. It’s a track that’s one part funk track, one part Blaxploitation movie waiting to be made.

Tin Man is a track originally recorded by America. The track’s inclusion was an attempt to give the album crossover appeal. Although the track has a lovely sound, opening with keyboards, percussion and rhythm section, giving way to a flute and then Frank’s emotive vocal, it’s quite different in style from the other tracks. However, the track has a floaty, laid-back sound, with the lyrics having a somewhat quaint folky sound, with its mention of Sir Galahad. Having said all that, Frank’s vocal really suits the track, and with a more understated arrangement, we see a different side of Chocolate Milk.

It’s a case of from the sublime to the ridiculous, with Chocolate Pleasure being as far removed from Tin Man as you could get. From folksy lyrics, to lyrics about a lover’s sexual ability, how different can you get? This track might have sat better next to Pretty Pimpin’ Willie, given the two track’s similarities. Here, a searing bass line, punchy drums, keyboards, flute and guitars combine, to create a repetitive groove that they seek to exploit fully. Having discovered a driving catchy groove, they build upon it, adding Frank’s preening vocal to it, while the group contribute tight harmonies. Above the arrangement floats a flute, which adds another dimension and sound to the track. Although it’s the complete opposite of its predecessor, it’s a catchy, albeit repetitive slice of strutting, preening funk.

People sees Chocolate Milk combine elements of funk and soul with a gospel tinge. Imagine a driving funk track with a New Orleans influence and gospel influenced lyrics that open the track. A chant of “ask God forgiveness,” opens the track. Later Chocolate Milk sing “if you want saved,” demonstrating the track’s gospel influence. Meanwhile,  rasping horns, funky wah-wah guitars and rhythm section, combine with squelchy keyboards as the track meanders along. Above the New Orleans influenced arrangement is Frank’s impassioned vocal, as he pleads forgiveness. Together the arrangement and Frank’s vocal combine to make a track that got made in New Orleans written all over it. Not only is it a track that’s made in New Orleans, but it’s one of the album’s highlights.

A really squelchy keyboard opens Ain’t Nothin’ But A Thing, opens another track with a message. It’s about poverty, unemployment and trying to survive in the face of it all. Complete with New Orleans’ Dixieland marching band backdrop, this laid-back, loping slice of funk meanders jauntily along. With the rhythm and brass sections combining with keyboards and guitars, it’s another track with a real New Orleans sound and feel. It demonstrates the funky side of Chocolate Milk, but rather than the breakneck style of Confusion, or the steroid pumped Pretty Pimpin’ Willie or preening Chocolate Pleasure, this is a quite different, laid back and jaunty funk track.

Sometimes, groups keep one of the album’s highlights to the closing track of an album. This is the case with Chocolate Milk and Action Speaks Louder Than Words, with Out Among the Stars. To call this laid-back would be an exaggeration, it’s totally chilled out, with a lovely understated and beautiful arrangement. Add to this, an irresistible, thoughtful vocal from Frank and you realize that this is something pretty special. With cymbals gently hissing, keyboards enter, playing slowly, giving way to a thoughtful rhythm section. Frank’s dreamy, floaty vocal enters, as the track very gradually, reveals its hidden charms and subtleties. From there, a quite stunning ballad unfolds, percussion and Fender Rhodes combining, while a meandering bass line creeps along. Way above, a flute snakes along, making a brief and welcome contribution. For five and a half minutes, you’re held spellbound by Chocolate Milk during this beautiful, totally chilled out and mesmerising track, that’s my favourite track from Action Speaks Louder Than Words. What a fantastic way to end the album.

Although Chocolate Milk had only formed in 1974, releasing Action Speaks Louder Than Words the following year in 1975, this is a really mature album. The reason for this is that Chocolate Milk were made up of a really tight and talented group of musicians. With many members of the band having a jazz background, this contributed towards the group’s versatility. This meant they were able to switch between soul, funk and even jazz during Action Speaks Louder Than Words. Some of the tracks on the album are songs with a message. Nothing demonstrates this better than the title track Action Speaks Louder Than Words, which is like a call for action when dialogue has failed. While this is maybe the best known track on the album, there’s much more to Action Speaks Louder Than Words that this one track.

Tracks like Time Machine, My Mind Is Hazy, Confusion and Out Among the Stars. These are just some of this album’s highlights. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with any of the other tracks. It’s just the quality of these tracks stand out. My favorite track is the one that closes Action Speaks Louder Than Words Out Among the Stars. Of all the tracks on the album, this lovely, laid-back and chilled out track truly is a hidden gem. It demonstrates Chocolate Milk’s talent and versatility, which saw them produce some memorable and majestic music, which spanned funk, soul, jazz and latterly disco over eight albums. However, the album that started it all off, Action Speaks Louder Than Words which will be rereleased by Nature Sounds on 13th April 2015 on CD or limited edition LP. This allows you to either reacquaint yourself with or rediscover Chocolate Milk’s what I believe was their best album, Action Speaks Louder Than Words.

CHOCOLATE MILK-ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS.

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ROY BROWN-PAY DAY JUMP-THE LATER SESSIONS.

ROY BROWN-PAY DAY JUMP-THE LATER SESSIONS.

Roy Brown is remembered as one of the most influential R&B singers of the post war years. He made a commercial breakthrough in the summer of 1948, with Good Rockin’ Tonight. Released on DeLuxe, Good Rockin’ Tonight it reached number five in the US R&B charts, and was a game-changer for Roy Brown.

From 1948, right through to 1953, Roy Brown was one of the most successful R&B singers. His singles were never far from the top of the US R&B charts. So, it’s no surprise that Roy Brown went on to influence a generation of artists.

Everyone from Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson right through to the King, Elvis Presley were influenced by Roy Brown. During this period, he was, without doubt, one of the most important figures in R&B. So it’s fitting that Ace Records celebrate the most successful period in Roy Brown’s career, which is documented on the recently released Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions.

Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions features the music Roy Brown released on DeLuxe between 1949 and 1950. This was the peak of Roy Brown’s career. Incredibly, he was only twenty-four at the start of this period.

Roy Brown had been born in New Orleans, on 10th September 1925. His mother was the director of a local church choir. She helped shape her son’s future career. However, when he left home music was the last thing on Roy’s mind.

Freed from the education system, Roy headed out on his own road trip. This was way before Jack Kerouc penned his classic novel, On The Road. Roy became a hobo, and headed to the West coast. That’s where Roy took up boxing.

That was a something of a volte face from Roy. Previously, he was somewhat queasy at the sight of blood. However, like many aspiring boxers, Roy overcame his phobia. Soon, he was shaping up to become a prizefighter. His win to loss ratio was enviable. It seemed that Roy had a future as a pugilist. Then his friend, and fellow boxer, Rudy Cruz heard Roy sing.

At Rudy’s insistence, Roy entered a talent contest in 1942. Roy won, singing Tex Ritter’s Jingle, Jangle, Jingle. It looked like Roy was going to change career. Then the war intervened.

Although Roy was called up, he was rejected for national service. So, he headed home to the Big Easy. 

Back in New Orleans, Roy found work in a dry cleaners. In the evenings, Roy entered talent contests. Before long, he decided to form his own band. By then, Roy was already writing songs. Roy’s career was up-and-running. However, it took off when he moved to Galveston, Texas. 

It was 1947, that Roy moved to Galveston. That’s where he recorded his debut single, Deep Sea Diver, with Bye Bye Baby on the flip side. It was released on Gold Star Records. This was the start of Roy’s career.

Around this time, Roy wrote the song he would become synonymous with, Good Rockin’ Tonight. He introduced this into his band’s set. However, Roy felt he couldn’t do the song justice. So, he asked trumpeter Wilbert Brown to sing the vocal. The song proved popular when Roy’s band played live. However, that was as good as it got. Roy decided he needed someone to cover Good Rockin’ Tonight.

When Wynonie Harris arrived in town, Roy went to see him. Roy auditioned the song for Wynonie Harris. This didn’t work. Wynonie Harris was more interested in sweet talking a local woman. So, rather than be humiliated, Roy decided to keep Good Rockin’ Tonight until Cecil Gant passed through Galveston.

The day Cecil Gant arrived in town, Roy went to see him at the Dew Drop Inn. Cecil agreed that the song had potential. However, rather than sing the song himself, Cecil got Roy to sing Good Rockin’ Tonight down the phone to Jules Braun. Little did Roy know he had just been auditioned, and passed with flying colours.

Two days later, Jules Braun arrived in town. Straight away, Jules agreed to sign Roy to DeLuxe Records. However, there was a but. The but was that Roy wrote songs of a similar standard to Good Rockin’ Tonight. This was no problem to Roy, a talented, up-and-coming songwriter. 

Very soon, Roy had written Lollypop Mama, Bar Room Blues and Long About Midnight. Roy Brown, R&B star and songwriter, had just been born. 

Now signed to DeLuxe, Roy set about recording his debut single. Good Rockin’ Tonight was chosen. It reached number five on the US R&B charts. This took time. Roy was still an unknown singer. So, it took several month for Good Rockin’ Tonight to climb the US R&B charts. However, it was worth the wait. Good Rockin’ Tonight gave Roy the breakthrough he craved. Ironically, his version of Good Rockin’ Tonight wasn’t the only version to chart. 

Ironically, the man who refused to even listen to Good Rockin’ Tonight decided to cover it. Belatedly, Wynonie Harris covered Good Rockin’ Tonight. Released at the same time as Roy’s, Wynonie’s cover was a bigger success than Roy’s original. Wynonie Harris’ version went all the way to number one on the US R&B charts in June 1948. Despite the success Roy and Wynonie enjoyed with Good Rockin’ Tonight, the music industry was at a standstill.

The story began six years ago, when many musicians found themselves unemployed. The best they could hope for was occasional session work. Part of the problem was the juke box. They replaced live bands. For musicians this was a disaster. Sadly, it was a taste of the way the entertainment industry was heading. After the juke box, came the DJ. Then it was downhill from there. Luckily, for American musicians in 1942, James Caesar Petrillo saw the what was about to happen and ensured that American musicians received a fair deal.

James Caesar Petrillo was in charge of the American Federation of Musicians. By 1942, he realised that in the past fifteen years, jukeboxes were replacing live music. This meant his members were either unemployed, or earning considerably less than before. He’d watched as jukeboxes replaced some live musicians. This could snowball. He didn’t want that. Nor did he want, the session musicians who played on transcription recording losing what was a regular and reliable source of income. The way to do that, was through a strike. So, James announced that a strike would take place from mid-July 1942.

Under the terms of the strike, no artists or group contracted to a record label, could record whilst the strike was on. Neither could session musicians play on recordings. This brought the music industry to its knees. Very few record companies had the foresight to have a back-catalogue consisting of unreleased music. So no music was released. The exception were crooners who sung unaccompanied. This didn’t prove particularly successful, unlike the strike. It lasted right through until November 1944. James Caesar Petrillo and the American Federation of Musicians were victors. Unfortunately, this victory proved short-lived and lead to another strike.

Under the terms of an agreement, American Federation of Musicians negotiated a fund for musicians whose livelihood had been affected by the arrival of the jukebox. A royalty was paid into the union fund. The more records sold, the more money was paid into the fund, which the union managed. Congress didn’t approve of this. They passed legislation banning unions managing their own funds, citing possible mismanagement of funds. When James Caesar Petrillo heard the news, he was livid and announced another strike, which would start on 1st January 1948. 

Nine months later, and the ban was over. Luckily, Roy Brown had recorded enough material to see him through the recording ban. Right through to Christmas 1948, Roy Brown was releasing material he had recorded in 1947, before the strike. This included Long About Midnight, which topped the US R&B charts on Christmas week 1948. For Roy Brown, this was the biggest single of his career. Things were looking good for Roy Brown.

In January 1949, Roy Brown returned to the recording studio. With his regular band in tow, Roy entered the studio. They cut seven of the songs on Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions. This includes four unreleased tracks, China Blues, Fanny Brown’s Wedding Day, Special Lesson #1 and a remake of Mighty Mighty Man. Judgement Day Blues, Rockin’ At Midnight and a remake of Miss Fanny Brown were all released in 1949. They’re just a few of the tracks on Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions.

There’s a total of twenty-four tracks on Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions. These tracks were recorded at sessions between September 1949 and June 1951. Many of the songs have never been released before. They make their debut on Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions, which features Roy Brown at the peak of his powers,.

The first of Roy Brown’s recording sessions took place on 20th September 1949. That day, Roy and his band recorded four tracks, Boogie At Midnight, The Blues Got Me Again, I Feel That Young Man’s Rhythm and End Of My Journey. They would become Roy’s next two singles. 

Boogie At Midnight, The Blues Got Me Again, I Feel That Young Man’s Rhythm and End Of My Journey. Boogie At Midnight was released as single in 1949, with The Blues Got Me Again on the flip side. As 1950 dawned,  I Feel That Young Man’s Rhythm was released as a single. End Of My Journey was chosen as the B-Side. However, by then Roy had been back in the studio.

Just like the last time, Roy and his band cut another four tracks. Butcher Pete Part 1, with Butcher Pete Part 2 was released as Roy’s next single. The other two tracks,  Special Kind Of Treatment and Pay Day Jump (Take 1) have never been released before. They make their debut on Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions, and like the two other tracks, feature Roy at the top of his game. This would be the case with Roy’s first recording session of 1950.

On April 19th 1950, Roy and his band cut five new tracks. Roy had written four tracks and cowrote Sweet Peach with Edward and James Griffin. Without doubt, the highlight of the session was a blistering version of Cadillac Baby. It features Roy and his band at their very best. On the flip side was Hard Luck Blues. These two tracks became Roy’s next single. The other three tracks recorded at that session were New Rebecca, Sweet Peach and Take Two of Pay Day Jump. New Rebecca features a vocal powerhouse, while Sweet Peach was a slow, soul-baring track. Listening to Sweet Peach, it’s hard to believe Roy was only twenty-five. His worldweary vocal sounds as if he’s lived several lives. That’s testament to Roy’s ability to make lyrics come to life. He continued to do this, through the rest of 1950.

Two months after his last recording session, Roy returned to the studio to cut another quartet of tracks. This included Love Don’t Love Nobody and Dreaming Blues. Love Don’t Love Nobody was a hook heavy track where elements of R&B rock ’n’ roll combine. On the B-Side of Love Don’t Love Nobody, was  Good Man Blues. It was released as a single in 1950. The other tracks recorded at the session were Good Man Blues, where Roy testifies and vamps his way through the track. Too Much Lovin’ Ain’t No Good was never released until 1985. For thirty-five years, it lay in DeLuxe’s vaults. Belatedly, it was heard by a wider audience. That’s the case with other tracks on Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions.

There’s a total of eight tracks on Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions that have never been released before. They make a welcome debut on Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions. Listening to these tracks, it’s hard to believe they weren’t released. They’re certainly not lacking in quality. After all, between 1949 and 1951, which Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions covers Roy Brown was at the peak of his powers.

Roy had come a long way since signing for DeLuxe. He became one of their prized assets. That’s partly, why King Records were so keen to buy a share of DeLuxe. That happened in 1949. Unbeknown to Roy, the Braun brothers solo a large percentage of DeLuxe to King Records. this just happened to include Roy’s contract. From the session on the 20th September 1949, King Records owned Roy’s contract. The Braun brothers were gambling that they’d enjoyed the most successful period of Roy Brown’s career.

That proved not to be the case. Right through until 1953, Roy Brown was one R&Bs hottest properties. His singles were constantly at the top of the charts. That’s not surprising. Roy Brown could breath meaning and emotion into track. Whether it was hope, hurt or heartbreak, Roy Brown made songs come to life. That’s apparent on Ace Records’ recent compilation Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions. It features twenty-four tracks the most successful period of Roy Brown’s career. Between 1949 and 1951, the period Pay Day Jump-The Later Sessions covers, Roy Brown was one of the most talented and influential R&B singers of his generation.

ROY BROWN-PAY DAY JUMP-THE LATER SESSIONS.

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WILLIE NILE-IF I WAS A RIVER.

WILLIE NILE-IF I WAS A RIVER.

Having graduated from the University of Buffalo with a degree in philosophy in 1971, twenty-three year old Willie Nile dreamt of making a living as a troubadour. He was a classically trained pianist, who had been writing songs throughout his college years. Then during the summer, Willie Nile headed to New York, and spent time in clubs like Folk City and the Gaslight. That gave Willie a taste of life as a singer-songwriter. So, in 1971, Willie Nile headed to New York, where he rented an apartment in Greenwich Village. This was meant to be the start of Willie Nile’s career as a troubadour. 

Sadly, during Willie Nile’s first winter in New York, he contracted pneumonia. This resulted in Willie being unable to sing for a year. However, Willie continued to write songs. Before long, Willie Nile was a regular in the Greenwich Village folk and rock scenes. His reputation grew, and some critics forecasted a great future for Willie Nile.

This proved to be the case. A turning point for Willie Nile was when he established a residency at the Greenwich Village club, Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street. For Willie, this was the breakthrough he had been waiting for. Not long after this, Willie, who was regarded as the best singer-songwriter within the New York scene, began to attract the attention of various record companies.

With various record companies interested in signing Willie Nile, he sat down with representatives with each company. Eventually, Willie decided to sign to Arista Records, which had been founded by Clive Davis in 1974. Arista Records sent Willie into the studio with producer Roy Halee.

Willie Nile.

Previously, Roy Halee had produced Simon and Garfunkel and worked with The Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Laura Nyro. So, Roy had an impeccable musical pedigree. This made him the perfect producer to guide Willie Nile’s nascent career.

For what became Willie Nile, Willie had penned eleven tracks. They were recorded at the Record Plant, New York. Willie’s backing back included Jay Dee Daugherty, the drummer in the Patti Smith Group. Other musicians included bassist Tom Ethridge, guitarists Peter Hoffman and Clay Barnes. Mark Johnson added backing vocals. Once Willie Nile was recorded, it was released in February 1980.

When Willie Nile was released in February 1980, it was to critical acclaim. Critic David Okamoto wrote that Willie Nile is “one of the most thrilling post-Byrds folk-rock albums of all time.” It looked like Willie Nile was destined for greatness.

That looked like being the case when Willie Nile was asked to support The Who on their Summer of 1980 US Tour. This was a huge boost to Willie’s career, and raised his profile no end. Having toured with The Who during the summer, Willie Nile headed back into the studio towards the end of 1980 where he recorded his sophomore album Golden Down.  

Golden Down.

For his sophomore album Golden Down, Willie recorded nine new songs. Eight were penned by Willie, while he cowrote Les Champs Élysées with Amanda Owen. These songs were recorded at the Record Plant, New York.

During November and December 1980, Willie and his band returned to the Record Plant, New York. This time, Willie was working with producer Thom Panunzio. He had previously worked with some of the biggest names in music. This included everyone from John Lennon and The Rolling Stones, to Black Sabbath, Bruce Springstein and The Who. With Thom Panunzio producing Golden Down, Willie and an extended band recorded the nine tracks.

Just like Willie’s eponymous debut album, Willie’s backing back included drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, guitarists Peter Hoffman and Clay Barnes. Again, Mark Johnson added backing vocals. Among the other musicians accompanying Willie were augmented bassist Fred Smith, Greg Husted on Hammond organ and saxophonist Arno Hecht. By December 1980, Golden Down was completed. It was released in 1981.

On the release of Golden Down, it was well received by critics. Some critics felt Golden Down wasn’t as good an album as Willie Nile. It was the album that all Willie’s future albums would be compared against. However, it would be another ten years before Willie released another studio album.

Following the release of Golden Down, Willie Nile was involved in a protracted legal dispute. For six long years, Willie neither played live, nor entered a recording studio. Willie continued to write songs. Then in 1987, Willie played alongside Eric Andersen. Somehow, one of Columbia’s A&R department saw a video of Willie’s performance. This lead to Willie signing to Columbia in 1988. It looked as if Willie’s career was getting back on track. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Places I Have Never Been.

Despite having signed to Columbia in 1988, there was a delay until Willie entered the studio. Two years passed and still, work didn’t begin on Willie’s third album, the ironically titled Places I Have Never Been.

The one place Willie hadn’t been for a while, was a recording studio. Willie had written seven new songs and cowrote five others. He wanted to get his career back on track. Eventually, Willie and producers Tom “T-Bone” Wolk and Grammy Award winning producer Stewart Lerman, began work on  Places I Have Never Been. 

At studios in Philly and New York, Willie was accompanied by an all-star band. This included Roger McGuinn, Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III. They recorded twelve new tracks. Eventually, Places I Have Never Been was completed. Ten years after the release of Golden Down, Willie Nile was back with his long awaited third album, Places I Have Never Been.

When Places I Have Never Been was released in 1991, critics hailed the album a return to form from Willie Nile. It was as if Willie had never been away. For Willie, it looked as if this was start of the next chapter in his career. However, fate intervened.

Places I Have Never Been wasn’t a commercial success. So, after the release of Places I Have Never Been in 1991, Willie  Nile was dropped by Columbia. A year later, Willie released his E.P. Hard Times In America. That was the last record Willie released for seven years. 

Beautiful Wreck of the World.

By 1999, Willie Nile was ready for another comeback. However, Willie wasn’t going to sign to a record company. He had been burnt before. Not again. So, he founded his own record company River House Records. It released Willie’s fourth album Beautiful Wreck of the World in 1999.

River House Records saw Willie collaborate with Frankie Lee. The pair penned seven of the thirteen tracks on Beautiful Wreck of the World. Willie wrote four other tracks, and cowrote the two other tracks. He also co-produced Beautiful Wreck of the World, which introduced Willie’s music to a new generation of music lovers.

Incredibly, nineteen years had passed before Willie released his eponymous debut album in 1980. Music, and the music industry had changed. However, despite all the changes, Willie Nile’s music was still well received by critics. Beautiful Wreck of the World was chosen as one of the Top Ten Albums of 1999 by Billboard Magazine, The Village Voice and Stereo Review. Willie Nile, the comeback King was back. However, was he back to stay?

Streets Of New York.

The answer to that was no. Another seven years passed before Willie Nile released another album. It was well worth the wait though. Streets Of New York, a fourteen track homage to his adopted home, New York.

Streets Of New York saw Wille and Frankie Lee renew their songwriting partnership. They penned six tracks, and Willie wrote seven other tracks. The other track on Streets Of New York was Eddy Grant’s Police On My Back. These songs became Streets Of New York, which was recorded by a tight, talented band. It was released in February 2006.

When Streets Of New York was released, critics agreed that Willie Nile had just released the best album of career. One review called Streets Of New York the “post-9/11 album no-one else dared write – epic and prophetic.” Critics and cultural commentators were won over by Streets Of New York. Released to critical acclaim, surely Willie Nile was back to stay?

House Of A Thousand Guitars.

That proved to be the case. Willie was just about to enter the most productive period of his career. The first album of this period was House Of A Thousand Guitars. 

Released in April 2009, House Of A Thousand Guitars was another collaboration between Frankie Lee and Willie Nile. They penned eight of the twelve tracks. Wille contributed the other four tracks. These twelve tracks were recorded in New York.

House Of A Thousand Guitars was an album of piano ballads and classic guitar rock. It was well received by critics upon its release in April 2009. Dedicated to Willie’s brother John, House Of A Thousand Guitars saw Willie Nile’s comeback continue. 

The Innocent Ones.

For the first time in nearly thirty years, Willie Nile released two albums in two years. This had happened since 1980s Willie Nile and 1981s Golden Down. It seemed Willie Nile’s appetite for making music was back.

For The Innocent Ones, the Willie Nile and Frankie Lee songwriting partnership wrote ten tracks. Willie wrote the other track Sideways Beautiful. These eleven tracks were recorded in New York, and became Willie’s eighth album The Innocent Ones.

The Innocent Ones was released to critical acclaim in 2010. Released on Willie’s label River House Records, The Innocent Ones was flavour of the month among critics and cultural commentators. That would continue to be the case over the next few years. 

Three years later, in 2013, the Willie Nile and Frankie Lee songwriting partnership became an award winning partnership. Their composition, One Guitar, the second song on The Innocent Ones won the 2013 Social Action Song at the Independent Music Awards. By then, Willie had released his ninth album, American Ride.

American Ride.

After a gap of three years, Willie Nile returned with American Ride in 2013. It featured twelve tracks. Only four of these tracks came from the pen of Willie Nile and Frankie Lee. Willie, however, wrote five tracks and cowrote two others. These tracks became one of Willie Nile’s best albums, American Ride.

June 2013 saw the release of American Ride. It was released to widespread critical acclaim. One critic Hal Horowitz was hugely impressed with American Ride. He described American Ride as “one of his finest and most passionate projects.” This was high praise for sixty-five year old Willie Nile. Belatedly, Willie Nile’s music was being heard by a much wider audience.

If I Was a River.

It seemed with every album Willie Nile released, his music was being heard by a much wider audience. If I Was A River, Willie’s tenth album was something of a game-changer. Released in America on November 11th 2014, and in Britain on January 19th 2015, If I Was A River introduced a new generation of music lover’s to Willie Nile’s music. No wonder. If I Was A River, which was released on River House Records, was a very different album from Willie Nile.

If I Was A River was a much more understated album from Willie Nile. The piano was at the centre of If I Was A River’s sound. So were ten captivating songs and a tight, talented band.

For If I Was A River, Willie and Frankie Lee cowrote If I Was A River, Son Of A Soldier, Once In A Lullaby, Gloryland and Let Me Be The River.  Willie penned Lost, Lullaby Moon, Goin’ To St. Louis and The One You Used To Love. The other track was I Can’t Do Crazy (Anymore) which Willie and Danny Kortchmar penned. These tracks were recorded by a much smaller band at  Hobo Sound, Weehawken, New Jersey. 

When recording of If I Was A River began at Hobo Sound, Weehawken, New Jersey, Willie was accompanied by a tight, talented band, Willie played piano and sang vocals. Stuart Smith played acoustic, baritone and electric guitars, bass, pump organ, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes and backing vocals. David Mansfield played mandolin, acoustic guitar, violin and viola. Frankie Lee added backing vocals. Once If I Was A River was completed, it was released in America on November 11th 2014, and in Britain on January 19th 2015.

Featuring ten tracks, lasting just thirty-three minutes, If I Was A River was released to critical acclaim. Critics in America, Britain and Europe almost ran out of superlatives. Words like spellbinding, beautiful, understated, poetic, mysterious and timeless were used to describe If I Was A River, Willie Nile’s tenth album. Thirty-five years after releasing his eponymous debut album, Willie Nile’s music was being heard by a new generation of music lovers. If I Was A River, which I’ll tell you about, was their introduction to Willie Nile’s music.

Opening If I Was a River is the title-track. Here, Willie is accompanied by an understated, piano lead arrangement. The piano is the perfect foil for Willie’s impassioned vocal. He delivers the lyrics with power and feeling. This describes how he plays this very special piano. It was played by John Lennon on the night he died. Others who played the Steinway grand piano include Elton John and Bruce Springsteen. It’s as if this inspires Willie, as he delivers an impassioned vocal. With feeling he sings: “if I was a river I’d carry you home, I would roll you in my arms so you wouldn’t be alone,” on this beautiful paean.

Lost is the tale of the break up of a relationship. It’s one of the best breakup songs you’ll hear. As a heartbroken Willie plays the piano, his hurt and loneliness shines through. He delivers a despairing vocal. The way he delivers the lyrics it’s as if he’s  loved and lived to tell the tale.

Song Of A Soldier is the second song penned by Willie and Frankie Lee. Willie dawns the roll of soldier, as he delivers a hopeful, searching vocal. What he’s hoping and searching for is love. As Willie plays the piano, flourishes of mandolin and violin add a melancholy backdrop. Together, with Willie’s vocal they play their part in a beautiful song tinged with hope and melancholia.

Once In A Lullaby deals with the fleeting nature of love. It comes when you least expect it, and before long is gone.As Willie plays the piano, he delivers a tender, sometimes wistful vocal. This brings meaning to the lyrics, including: “whenever love comes knocking I let her in for the night, she is gone by the morning light as Once In A Lullaby.” Just like Song Of A Soldier, it’s a song where hope and melancholia seem omnipresent. It’s as if Willie’s been hurt before, and can’t quite believe in true love.

Obviously Willie Nile has never heard of the saying don’t bite the hand that’s feeds you. Lullaby Moon are proof of this. Among the lyrics are: “rock ’n’ roll is a crock of shit…cozy ballads make me puke…folk music is a complete bore.” While this is obviously Willie’s attempt at humour, sung in a singalong fashion, it fails miserably. It’s been done before, and by better singers than Willie Nile.

Deliberate, thoughtful stabs of piano open Gloryland. Just the piano, acoustic guitar and washes of guitar accompany Willie’s heartfelt, impassioned vocal. It’s a spellbinding performance, where Willie thankfully, gets If I Was A River back on track.

Just Wille and the his tender, wistful vocal combine on I Can’t Do Crazy (Anymore). Soon, memories come flooding back as he meets his younger self. He’s transported back to another time, and another place, where he allowed himself to fall in love. Not any more. Ruefully, Willie sings: “yeah that was then, this is now, that boat has left the shore.”

Goin to St. Louis is quite different from much of If I Was A River. The tempo rises on this ballad. Its arrangement is driven along by guitars and the piano. Willie’s vocal is heartfelt. There’s a sense of urgency, as Willie become a knight in shining armour. He’s Goin to St. Louis “just to take her from this state of misery.” As Willie delivers the lyrics, there hope and optimism in his voice. Later, his vocal becomes joyous and needy, as he dreams of: “when I get to her place put my fingers on her face, we’ll go walking through the country for a while.”

The One You Used to Love is another piano lead ballad. Straight away, it’s apparent that something special is unfolding. It’s a tale of love lost, but love not forgotten. Still, Willie yearns for the one he loved and lost. So much so, that he delivers lyrics like: “when you’re feeling low and nowhere else to go, give a call to the one you used to love.” For four minutes, Willie sings about the woman who broke his heart, but can’t and won’t ever forget. This results in what’s the best track on If I Was a River.

Closing If I Was a River is Let Me Be the River. It’s another song from the Willie Nile and Frankie Lee songwriting partnership. Accompanied by just the piano, acoustic guitar and violin, Willie delivers a heartfelt, impassioned vocal. He delivers the lyrics with emotion and sincerity, resulting in a beautiful, heart wrenching way to close If I Was a River.

Thirty-five years have passed since Willie Nile realised his eponymous debut album in 1980. Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Back then, great things were forecasted for Willie Nile. However, twice his career was interrupted by protracted negotiations with record companies. This cost Willie Nile dearly. He lost twelve years of his career. After that, Willie turned his back on  record companies.

Since his fourth album Beautiful Wreck Of The World, which was released in 1999, Willie has released his albums through his own label, River House Records. This includes If I Was a River, which was released earlier in 2015. However, by turning his back on the mainstream music industry this has cost Willie Nile.

While it’s allowed him to do things his way, Willie Nile has never reached the heights that many forecast he would. Wille Nile seemed destined to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim. Although many of Willie Nile’s ten albums, including If I Was a River were released to critical acclaim, mainstream commercial success has eluded him. Outside of his small, coterie of loyal fans, Willie Nile remains almost unknown. He’s another of American music’s best kept secrets. If I Was a River which was released by River House Records, is proof of this.

If I Was a River was something of a game-changer for Willie Nile. Released to critical acclaim, a new generation of music lovers discovered If I Was a River, Willie Nile’s tenth album. It’s one of the best albums of his career. There’s only disappointing songs on If I Was A River is Lullaby Moon. It’s an ill-fated attempt at humour, that frankly, would be better left off If I Was a River. However, that’s If I Was A River’s only low point.

Mostly though, If I Was a River  is an album of songs that are variously beautiful, heartfelt, introspective, poetic, soul-baring and soul-searching. They’re also tinged with melancholy, sadness and joy. Tales of love and love lost, sit side-by-side with tales heartbreak and hurt. If I Was A River is a very personal album from Willie Nile, one that’s best described as an emotional roller coaster.

WILLIE NILE-IF I WAS A RIVER.

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AXEL KRYGIER-HOMBRE DE PIEDRA.

AXEL KRYGIER-HOMBRE DE PIEDRA.

Axel Krygier’s career began thirty years ago, back in 1985. Since then, the Buenos Aries’ born multi-instrumentalist has established a reputation as a musical maverick, who continually, has pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond. That’s apparent on Axel Krygier’s genre-melting fifth album, Hombre De Piedra, (Man Of Stone), which was recently released by Crammed Discs.

Unlike Axel Krygier’s previous albums, Hombre De Piedra is a concept album. This however, is no ordinary concept album. No. Hombre De Piedra is is a musical collage, inspired by the French documentary Lascaux: Le Ciel des Premiers Hommes, which was a study of the the famous paleolithic cave paintings. Lascaux: Le Ciel des Premiers Hommes caught Axel Krygier’s imagination. So, he set out to what many people thought was impossible, and tell the story of mankind on Hombre De Piedra.

Over Hombre De Piedra’s eleven tracks, musical genres and influences are combined by Axel Krygier. He fuses everything from lounge and dubstep to funky disco, Balkan rapture and rockabilly. There’s even a nod to the Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks. Helping Axel Krygier do what his doubters thought was impossible, were a few of his musical friends.

When recording of Hombre De Piedra began in Buenos Aires, Axel was joined by a few familiar faces. This includes members of Axel’s band, including drummer Diego Arcaute, basssist Seca Cutaia, guitarist Juan Ravioli and Manuel Schaller on synths and theremin. They’re joined by Axel’s fellow countryman Daniel Malingo, and French artist Judy Warsky. She was a member of Axel’s band a few years ago, and makes a welcome return on Hombre De Piedra. It was written, composed, arranged and produced by Axel, who plays various instruments and sings on Hombre De Piedra. There are, it seems, no end to Axel Krygier’s talents.

That’s why, nowadays, Axel Krygier is one of the most respected artists in Argentina’s thriving musical scene. However, there’s more to Axel Krygier than meets the eye. Apart from his five solo albums, Axel writes film soundtracks and has written music for plays, musical and dance performances. As if that’s not enough, Axel even designs his own record sleeves and directs his own music videos. Axel Krygier you’ll realise, is one of the most talented Argentinian musicians. That’ll become apparent when I tell you about Hombre De Piedra.

Opening Hombre de Piedra is Hombre de Piedra (La Caverna de Lascaux). From the opening bars, it’s a captivating track where influences melt into one. This includes lounge music, hip hop, exotica, Latin and rock. Swathes of dancing synths are joined by pounding drums as the arrangement takes on a cinematic sound. Drums, shimmering guitars and Axel’s vocal combine with backing vocals. Later, Axel’s vocal takes on sci-fi sound. This is just the latest in a series of curveballs. By then, the music is jazz-tinged, cinematic, soulful dramatic and dance-floor friendly.

Lo Tendré Que Adivinar sees another change in style. Elements of disco, funk  and Latin combine to create an anthem in-waiting. That’s the case from the funky, chiming guitars and piano that set the scene for Axel’s tender vocal. Harmonies coo, before keyboards, guitars and the rhythm section. Synths and handclaps augment Axel’s vocal and harmonies. Seamlessly, Axel drops instruments in at just the right moment. That’s the case with the blazing horns. They’re the finishing touch to a truly irresistible, hook-laden dance track.

Axel has time to pour himself a drink before Alcohol decides to show its delights. Blazing horns, slow, thunderous drums and flourishes of piano combine to create a slow, sultry backdrop. This is perfect for Axel’s vocal. It’s heartfelt, and impassioned. Sweeping, ethereal harmonies are added. So, are a jazz-tinged guitar and the unmistakable sound of a Hammond organ. Just like previous tracks, Axel, forever the musical alchemist, combines musical genres to create something new and innovative.

From the get-go, the arrangement to Mosquito gallops along. The track sounds as if it belongs on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. Timpani sound, as surf guitars are added. They play an important part in the track’s sound and success. Meanwhile, the arrangement gallops relentlessly along. Percussion accompanies another heartfelt vocal  from Axel. So, do harmonies and shimmering guitars, on what’s another captivating cinematic track from Axel Krygier.

Esa Paz shows yet another side to the musical chameleon that is Axel Krygier. Ethereal, cooing harmonies are panned. Meanwhile, drums crack and a bass bounds. It’s akin to a 21st Century symphony. Then it’s all change. Axel’s wistful vocal enters. He sings a duet with Judy. They’re voices compliment each other on what’s a beautiful ballad.

As the bass drives the arrangement to Tiempo y Tierra along a husky horn plays. They’re briefly responsible for a jazz-tinged arrangement. Soon, the arrangement heads in the direction of rockabilly. However, as we’ve come to expect from Axel, this is rockabilly with a twist. As guitars, a Hammond organ and the rhythm section combine, there’s even a reggae influence that shines through. As for Axel’s vocal, it’s transformed by effects. It’s just the latest curve ball. The next are the ethereal, angelic harmonies. They come right out of left-field. Having stopped you in your tracks, you wonder where the track is heading. From there everything from jazz, funk, rockabilly, reggae and surf guitars combine. It’s a glorious, multilayered musical fusion that’s sure to captivate.

Straight away, Mi Piel Animal (El Último de los Selknam) takes on a cinematic sound. That’s down to the piano, eerie strings, hypnotic drums and washes of quivering guitars. Then there’s the way the tempo varies. This adds to the haunting and dramatic cinematic sound. So does Axel’s vocal and the eerie harmonies. Along with the shimmering guitars, Axel and friends create the soundtrack to a film that must be made.

Horror Vacui is a short track, lasting a minute. It’s a musical dichotomy. It veers between ethereal and understated to eerie and haunting. Flourishes of piano and haunting harmonies create a track that sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to a long lost horror movie.

Briefly, the introduction to Marinerito sounds not unlike the introduction to Horror Vacui. That’s until washes of slide guitar, Fender Rhodes and pounding drums join a bounding bass. Soon, Axel’s vocal, and soaring, Helter Skelter harmonies enter. Later, the arrangement becomes choppy. So are Axel’s vocal and the harmonies. Sound effects, sci-fi sounds and muted horns are added, as Axel the musical alchemist pushes musical boundaries. There’s even a nod towards The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, towards the end of this innovative musical collage.

Changarín sees Axel change direction again. This time, Hombre De Piedra heads in the direction of Balkan rapture. Washes of guitar shimmer, before the Hammond organ, occasional braying horns and rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Bursts of laughter, hollers and sound effects are added. Together, they ensure Changarín gallops along, winning friends and influencing people.

Invitame, a fusion of blues and dubstep closes Hombre De Piedra. Blues and dubstep may seem like strange bedfellows. They’re not. They work well together. A myriad of space age, sci-fi sound effects are unleashed. They’re combine to create another genre-melting track from musical pioneer, Axel Krygier.

For anyone still to discover Axel Krygier’s music, then Hombre De Piedra is the perfect opportunity to do so. It’s a truly ambitious concept album. Hombre De Piedra is is a musical collage, inspired bythe French documentary Lascaux: Le Ciel des Premiers Hommes. This study of the famous paleolithic cave paintings inspired Axel set out to tell the story of mankind over the course of Hombre De Piedra’s eleven tracks. Many people thought that this was impossible. Not Axel. He believed in himself and his music.

With a few of his musical friends, Axel recorded not just an ambitious musical collage, but a groundbreaking one. On Hombre De Piedra Axel pushes musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. To do this, Axel, a musical alchemist, combines musical genres and influences. This includes Balkan rapture, blues, disco, dubstep, exotica, funk, hip hop, Latin, lounge and rock. There’s even a nod to Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Then there’s Dick Dale inspired surf guitars. Soundtracks have also obviously influenced Axel Krygier.

That’s not surprising. As well as enjoying a career as a solo artist, Axel Krygier writes film soundtracks. He’s also written music for plays, musical and dance performances. Axel’s talents even extend to designing his own record sleeves and directing his own music videos. There’s no doubt that Axel Krygier is one of the most talented Argentinian musicians of his generation.

Aged forty-six, Axel Krygier celebrates thirty years in music this year. During that period, Axel has released five albums. His latest album, Hombre De Piedra was recently released by Crammed Discs. Hombre De Piedra is without doubt Axel Krygier’s most ambitious and innovative albums, and is the perfect introduction to a true musical pioneer.

AXEL KRYGIER-HOMBRE DE PIEDRA.

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NEXT STOP SOWETO-ZULU ROCK, AFRO DISCO AND MBQANGA 1975-1985.

NEXT STOP SOWETO-ZULU ROCK, AFRO DISCO AND MBQANGA 1975-1985.

Back in October 2014, Strut Records released the latest volume in their critically acclaimed Next Stop Soweto series, Next Stop Soweto Presents Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jabula, Jazz Afrika 1966-1984. It was released to widespread critical acclaim, and lauded as the finest instalment in the Next Stop Soweto series. So much so, that Next Stop Soweto Presents Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jabula, Jazz Afrika 1966-1984 was hailed as one of the best compilations of 2014. Many thought that following up Next Stop Soweto Presents Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jabula, Jazz Afrika 1966-1984, wasn’t going to be easy. 

Given there had been a gap of four years between volumes two and three, music lovers resigned themselves for a wait. However, it was always worthwhile. Compiler Duncan Brooker, who has masterminded the previous volumes of the Next Stop Soweto series, had never let them down. He’s a student of South African music and knows where the musical gold is buried. Duncan has been busy, unearthing more musical gold, that’ll feature on the soon to be released, fourth instalment of the Next Stop Soweto series. 

Just five months after the release of the critically acclaimed Next Stop Soweto Presents Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jabula, Jazz Afrika 1966-1984, Strut Records will release Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 on 23rd March 2015.  Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 features fifteen tracks from what was a hugely important period in South African musical and political history.

The ten year period that Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 covers, was a hugely  important one for South Africa. At the start of this period, 1975, South Africa was tightly controlled by Apartheid. This had been the case since 1970, when non-white political representation was abolished. As a result of this legislation, a generation of black South Africans were denied education and health care. If these services were available, often they were third rate. That wasn’t the end of the segregation. Even neighbourhoods, transport and even beaches were segregated. It was a shameful period in South African history, one that prove costly for South Africa and South Africans of all race.

Given what was going on in South Africa, the international community had to bring in sanctions against South Africa. Soon, trade embargoes were brought against South Africa. Sanctions meant countries couldn’t trade with South African. However, with South Africa rich in gold and diamonds, some companies defied the sanctions. Mostly, though sanctions resulted in Western companies not trading with South Africa. Similarly, many sportspeople and musicians refused to tour South Africa.

Throughout the Apartheid era, many nations refused to send teams to South Africa. Individual sportspeople also refused to tour South Africa. It was the same with musicians. Many musicians refused point blank to tour South Africa. That was despite being offered huge sums of money. Those that toured South Africa, were blacklisted. However, despite the lack of musicians touring South Africa, Western music influence the evolution of South African music.

Everything from disco, rock, funk, punk, prog rock and soul were influencing the latest generation of South African musicians and producers like Hamilton Nzimande. They were absorbing what can only be described as eclectic selection of music. This includes everything from War and Edwin Star and prog rock pioneers Yes and producer Norman Whitfield. They influenced South African collectives like Xoliso, Marumo and Kabasa who feature on Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985. These collectives fuse rock and soul with Zulu lyrics and township harmonies. It’s a potent and pioneering fusion of influences. Sadly, it struggled to be heard by a wider audience.

Again, this was down to South Africa’s oppressive and regressive apartheid laws. Things got worse after the Soweto Uprising in 1976. After that, bands struggled to find venues where they could play live. Often, restrictions were imposed upon their movements. Then when they found a venue, they would come under the ever watchful eye of the secret police. However, at least a few radio stations, including Radio Bandu would play their music.

For South African musicians, especially black musicians, it wasn’t easy to have their music heard by a wider audience. Eventually, a few radio stations decided to make a stand. This included Radio Bandu. They were one of a group of radio stations who would play music by collectives like Xoliso, Marumo and Kabasa. Despite their music being played on some radio stations, still these musicians couldn’t make a living out of music. So, they had to hold down a day job. Music became more like a hobby, than a way of making a living. Eventually, that would change.

By the early eighties, apartheid was on its last legs. Many South Africans realised things had to change. By 1983, a new constitution was passed, implementing what was called the Tricameral Parliament. This was another step towards ridding South Africa of apartheid. A few years later, black homelands were declared nation states. South Africa was well on its way to becoming a modern country, fit for purpose and the 21st Century. One of its up-and-coming exports was its music.

As the eighties dawned, what was initially called world music exploded in popularity. One of the many nations at the vanguard of the world music explosion was South Africa. Hugh Masakella, Mahotella Queens and Ladysmith Black Mambazo were among the first wave of South African artists to take the West by storm. Since then, South African music has become hugely popular, and compilations like Strut Records Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 are eagerly awaited. 

No wonder. Compilations like Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 are a musical treasure trove offering musical riches aplenty. Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 features fifteen tracks that show how South African music was evolving during this period. This includes contributions from Saitana, Movers, Abafana Bama Soul, Damara, Harari and The Drive. They’re just a few of the artists on Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985. With quality like this, choosing the highlights of Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 isn’t going to be easy.

Opening Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 is Unga Pfula A Chi Pfalo, a track from Kabasa. Their music was a fusion of funk, jazz, rock and soul. That’s apparent from Unga Pfula A Chi Pfalo a track from their sophomore album Searching. It was released on Atlantic in 1981. Unga Pfula A Chi Pfalo is without doubt, one of Searching’s highlight. It’s a fusion of Western and South African music. With its combination of jazz, funk, rock and Zulu lyrics, there’s no better way to open Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985. You’re left wanting more, much more.

From the opening bars of The Actions’ Kokro-Ko (Hide and Seek) you’re hooked. It’s an irresistible and joyous fusion of Afro-beat, funk and soul. The Actions get into the groove, combining equal measures Afro-beat and funk. As for the vocal, it’s sung in a call and response style. Forever the showman, The Actions lead singer drives the rest of the group to even greater heights, on what’s essentially a joyous and irresistible call to dance. 

Almon Memela released his one and only album Funky Africa in 1975. It was released on Atlantic, and showcases one of South Africa’s best kept secrets. Recorded at Superdisc Studio’s Johannesburg, and produced by Almon Memela, Funky Africa features ten tracks. The final track on Funky Africa, which was was The Things We Do In Soweto. It’s uber funky, jazz-tinged and soulful. Quite simply, The Things We Do In Soweto is a truly timeless track from Almon Memela. 

Marumo are another band who only released one album. It was Modiehi, which was released on the Spade label in 1982. Produced by West Nkosi, it’s another fusion of Western and South African music. The Marumo collective combine elements of funk, gospel, soul and African rhythms with Zulu lyrics. The result is funky, soulful, spiritual and truly uplifting.

For anyone who likes their music soulful, funky and dance-floor friendly, then they’ll love Saitana’s 1,2,3. Slow and funky, the rhythm section and keyboards provide a mesmeric and funky backdrop for the vocal. It’s truly soulful, and is the finishing touch to this  dance-floor friendly hidden gem.

The Movers were one of the most prolific South African bands. Their recording career began in 1969, and lasted right through until the early eighties. They recorded everything for a variety of  labels, including South African budget labels. This included funk, soul and disco. One of The Movers’ best disco cuts was Soweto Disco. However, there’s more to Soweto Disco than disco. Everything from Afro-beat, funk, jazz and disco can be heard on Soweto Disco, a floor-filler from The Movers.

Xoliso are another of the collectives from the South African townships. Their music was played on Radio Bandu, following the Soweto Uprising in 1976. Straight away, it’s apparent that Xoliso are a talented group of musicians. There’s a rocky influence before Xoliso combine Zulu lyrics with soul, funk,  jazz and Afro-beat. It’s a tantalising fusion of influences and musical genres

Damara are another of South African music’s best kept secrets. They never enjoyed the same success as their contemporaries. However, they made some melodic and soulful music. This includes Mmamakhabtha. It’s a fusion of musical genres. Elements of Afro-beat, funk, jazz, rock and soul shine through on what’s a glittering hidden musical  gem.

When Harari were founded in the late sixties, they were known as The Beaters. However during a tour through Rhodesia in the seventies, The Beaters decided to change their name to Harari. This marked a change in fortune for Harari. Their fusion of Afro-beat, rock, funk and fusion  proved popular. They released their debut album Genesis in 1977. Their sophomore album Mañana followed in 1978. Kala-Harari-Rock was released on the Gallo label in 1979. It features Give, a truly innovative sounding track. Harari make good use of synths, adding a proto boogie sound. The rhythm section add a disco influence, while Masike Mohapi delivers a vocal masterclass. He’s aided and abetted by gospel tinged harmonies. When they combine with the organ, the gospel influence intensifies, and you find yourself worshipping at Harari’s altar.

Isaac and The Sakie Special Band are another band who’ve been influenced by the disco sound. That’s apparent from the get-go. Get Down is a soulful, funky slice of disco with a spiritual twist. It’s guaranteed to fill any dance-floor, and just like many of the tracks on Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985  is timeless.

Closing Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 is The Drive’s Ain’t Sittin’ Down Doin’ Nothing. It’s another funky track, with a jazzy twist. There’s also an Afro-beat influence in this mesmeric and sultry funky track where The Drive, another of South Africa’s long forgotten groups showcase their considerable skills.

Many thought that following up Next Stop Soweto Presents Spirit of Malombo: Malombo, Jabula, Jazz Afrika 1966-1984, wasn’t going to be easy. However, they hadn’t reckoned on Duncan Brooker’s in-depth knowledge of South African music. He knows where musical gold is buried in South Africa. There’s certainly plenty on musical gold and hidden gems on Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985.

So good is the music on Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985, that choosing just a few of the compilation’s highlights was impossible. In the end, I picked ten of the fifteen tracks. I could just as easily have picked any of the tracks on Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985. It’s not often you can say that about a compilation. However, Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 is crammed full of quality music. As music goes, Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985, which will be released by Strut Records on 23rd March 2015 is an eclectic compilation that oozes quality.

With contributions from Kabasa, The Actions, Almon Memela, Saitana, Movers,, Damara, Harari and The Drive, Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 is case of all killer, and no filler. That’s what we’ve come to expect from the Next Stop Soweto series. It’s now one of the most eagerly awaited compilation series. That will continue to be the case, as long as Strut Records release compilations as good as Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985. It’s a worthy addition to the Next Stop Soweto series. I’ll go even further than that, Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985 is the best instalment in the Next Stop Soweto series. One listen to Next Stop Soweto-Zulu Rock, Afro Disco and Mbqanga 1975-1985, and you’re sure to agree.

NEXT STOP SOWETO-ZULU ROCK, AFRO DISCO AND MBQANGA 1975-1985.

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DEKE LEONARD-KAMIKAZE.

DEKE  LEONARD-KAMIKAZE.

By the time Deke Leonard came to releasing his sophomore album Kamikaze, in April 1974, the last few years had been turbulent, to say the least. Deke had been fired from Man in May 1972. Looking back, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. 

Man had released their fourth studio album, Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In? in November 1971.  Before long, Man headed out on tour again. It seemed if Man weren’t touring, they were recording. This were taking its toll for Man. However, the show had to go on. So, after appearing on German television, Man embarked upon their latest tour.

This time, Man were heading off on a tour of Iceland, with Badfinger. However, it seemed Man were never off the road. Life for some members of Man, was becoming like one never-ending tour. Unsurprisingly, this lead to tensions within the band. Arguments became commonplace. Eventually, the tensions took their toll. 

First to leave was Clive John in January 1971. He left to form Lowerth Pritchard and The Neutrons. Now a quartet, Man made their debut at a charity concert at the Roundhouse, in London.

Man’s reduced lineup made their debut at the Roundhouse, where they supported Hawkwind and Brinsley Schwarz. Not long after the concert, a double album was released, entitled Greasy Truckers Party.  Then on 8th April 1972, Man recorded another live album.

This was Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth. Man decided that Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth should be a limited edition, low budget album. So, only eight thousand copies were pressed. They sold within a week, resulting in Man reaching number one on the low budget album chart. However, Man it seemed, were riding a roller coaster, where commercial success, controversy and disaster were commonplace.

Following the success of  Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth, Man decided to start work on their next album. When they sat down to write the album, Man it seemed, had collective writer’s block. Making matters worse, Martin Ace left Man, form  a new band The Flying Aces. This however, wasn’t the end of the departures.

Around this time, Man should’ve had a revolving door, fitted to recording studios. Members came and went. Next to go was Deke Leonard. Micky Jones and Terry Williams sacked Deke Leonard. Replacing Deke was Clive John, who brought Phil Ryan and and Will Youatt, who previously, had been Lowerth Pritchard and The Neutrons. With this latest lineup of Man, Deke Leonard found himself out in the cold. So, it seemed the perfect time to embark upon a solo career.

With a few of his musical friends, Deke Leonard headed into the recording studio. They helped Deke record his debut album Iceberg. It was released in 1973.

Described as roots rock, critics were won over by most of Iceberg. Deke couldn’t please all the people all the time. Some of the instrumentals and more experimental tracks veered towards filler. Despite this Iceberg sold reasonably well. So with a spring in his step, Deke headed out on tour.

Deke headed out on tour with Status Quo and Thin Lizzy. Opening for such big names, gave Deke’s nascent solo career a boost. However, before long, Deke decided to form a band, Iceberg.

Having been a member of a band for so long, it took Deke a bit of getting used to being a solo artist. Like many artists before him, he must have missed the solidarity and gang mentality. So, he formed Iceberg. They were a short-lived band, who split-up by the time Deke Leonard released his sophomore album Kamikaze, which was recently rereleased by Esoteric Recordings. 

For Kamikaze, Deke had penned eight of the eleven tracks. Deke cowrote Cool Summer Rain and Broken Glass and Lime Juice with Francis Leonard. Tom Riley wrote Louisiana Hoedown. These eleven tracks were recorded between June 1973 and January 1974.

Recording of what became Kamikaze, took place at three studios, Rockfield Studios, Chipping Norton Studios and Olympic Studios. Accompanying Deke, were some of his musical friends. This included another former member of Man, bassist Martin Ace. They were joined in the rhythm section by drummers Dave Charles, Keith Hodge and Tommy Riley; bassists Martin Ace, Lincoln Carr and Ken Whalley; and guitarists Brian Breeze, Lincoln Carr and Mickey Jones. Other musicians included Byron Berlin on fiddle and mandolin. Deke played guitar, piano and added vocals. Producing Kamikaze was Dave Charles. After seven months, Kamikaze was completed, and was released in April 1974.

When Kamikaze was released, it wasn’t as well received as Iceberg, which had received mostly positive reviews. Iceberg’s problem critics felt, was a couple of tracks were filler. Hopefully, that won’t be the case on Kamikaze.

Opening Kamikaze is Cool Summer Rain. Pounding mesmeric drums, searing guitars and keyboards combine to create thirty seconds of drama. Is this a taste of things to come?

It is. Blistering guitars are unleaded on Jay Hawk Special. Mesmeric drums provide the perfect accompaniment to Deke’s guitar. Soon, he’s unleashing a gnarled, despairing vocal. Then when Deke’s vocal drops out, he and his band jam. What follows is rocky, bluesy masterclass, from a band of top class musicians. When Deke’s vocal returns, his earlier despair and frustration shines through. From there, Deke and his musical friends combine to create blistering, good time rock ’n’ roll.

Sharpened Claws sees the tempo drop. Stabs of a thoughtful piano are joined by, rolls of drums and a weeping guitar. A fiddle and mandolin add to the country sound. When Deke’s vocal enters, it’s worldweary. He reminisces about nights spent carousing, and his on-off affair with the woman with Sharpened Claws. 

Crystalline guitars join with a slow, rhythm section and piano on Taking The Easy Way Out. Straight away, you’re transported back to the seventies. That’s no bad thing. The first half of the decade was a golden age for music. Deke was part of this with Man. Now taking centre-stage as a solo artist, he draws inspiration from the West Coast sound, country and the Laurel Valley sound. What follows is a beautiful soul-baring ballad from Deke. it’s one of Kamikaze’s highlights, and features one of the albums best productions.

As The Black Gates Of Death open, briefly, the track takes on an experimental sound. Urgent drums and scorching guitars combine. Deke’s fingers fly up and down the fretboard. Then just like Sharpened Claws, the vocal belatedly enters. By the time it does, you’re wondering if it’s an instrumental. It would’ve worked as an instrumental. Especially given the lyrics aren’t the best on the album. They lack depth, and are almost throwaway pop, despite the bleak backstory. However, just like previous tracks, the standard of musicianship can’t be faulted.

Stacia is another short track,just a minute long and features Deke and Brian Breeze playing guitar. Although the guitar playing can’t be faulted, the track sounds like work in progress. It’s more like a demo than a finished track. Maybe it would’ve been best left-off Kamikaze?

A pounding, marching rhythm section and blistering, scorching guitars combine on Broken Glass and Lime Juice. Then the arrangement is stripped bare. Just guitars accompany Deke’s pained, pensive vocal. As memories come flooding back, the arrangement rebuilds. The pounding rhythm section and searing guitars combine, as Deke delivers a tormented vocal about forbidden fruit. 

April The Third sees the tempo slow, and a fusion of blues and rock unfold. Somewhat hesitantly, blistering guitars join the rhythm section, piano and a bluesy harmonica. By the time the harmonica enters, the band have found their feet. Deke’s vocal seems to lack power, compared to the rest of the arrangement, which almost dwarfs it. Sadly, it’s as case of could do better for Deke, despite the band’s performance.

Louisiana Hoedown was chosen as one of the singles from Kamikaze. Penned by Tommy Riley of Memphis Blend. Washes of guitar play an important part. So, do some blistering licks. They provide the backdrop for Deke’s vocal. They combine well, and result in a catchy enough track that’s good, but not great. 

The introduction to In Search Of Sarah and Twenty-Six Horses gallops along. That’s down to the the rhythm section, chugging guitars and piano. Deke finds his voice, delivering a vocal powerhouse. This suits the arrangement, and results in a return to form from Deke.

The Devil’s Gloves closes Kamikaze. Searing, blistering guitar licks join the rhythm section and galloping congas. They inject a sense of urgency. This is reflected in Deke’s vocal. Combining power and emotion, he delivers a probing, questioning vocal. Then when his vocal drops out, his band stretch their legs. There’s no stopping them. For the rest of the track, the band are on easy street showboating their considerable skills.

When I reviewed Deke Leonard’s debut solo album Iceberg, recently, I stated that Iceberge, despite a few disappointing tracks, was his best album. I stand by that statement. Iceberg was a couple of tracks short of a good album. Kamikaze has three poor tracks and one that’s merely average. 

The Black Gates Of Death has some of the weakest lyrics on Kamikaze. That’s a great shame, as Deke’s band play really well. Stacia never rises above being filler. It sounds like a demo, and should never have made Kamikaze. April The Third features a poor vocal from Deke. It’s weak and lacks power and emotion. Louisiana Hoedown is good, but no better. Despite that, Kamikaze has its highlights.

From the opening track Cool Summer Rain through Jay Hawk Special, Sharpened Claws and Taking The Easy Way Out, things look more than promising. Then comes Stacia and The Black Gates Of Death. By then, Deke seems to have lost his way. Then on Broken Glass and Lime Juice a tormented Deke starts to try and turn things around. Sadly, it’s a false dawn. Things go wrong On April The Third and Louisiana Hoedown. However, In Search Of Sarah and Twenty-Six Horse and The Devil’s Gloves mark a return to form from Deke Leonard. By then it’s too late.

While the good tracks outweigh the bad on Kamikaze, it certainly isn’t a great album. It has its moments, but that’s it. Kamikaze certainly isn’t as good as Iceberg, which was a couple of tracks short of being a great album. That’s not the case with Kamikaze. 

Just like Iceberg, there were too many tracks on Kamikaze. Eleven tracks were too many. Even the best artists in 1973 and 1974 would struggle to come up with eleven great tracks. So, there was a quality control issue with Kamikaze. Some of the tracks shouldn’t have made it onto the album. If they did, it should’ve been in a different form. The Black Gates Of Death would’ve made a good instrumental. What lets the song down are the lyrics. Sadly, that’s just one example. There’s four poor tracks on Kamikaze. That’s why Kamikaze isn’t the best introduction to Deke Leonard. If you really want to buy a Deke Leonard solo album, I’d recommend Iceberg. However, the best way to discover Deke Leonard is on the early Man albums. 

The best, and cheapest way to do this, is by buying the Original Album Series five disc box set. It covers the period from 1971 to 1974. The five albums include 1971s Man, 1971s Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In?, 1972s Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day, 1974s Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics and 1974s Slow Motion. Three of these albums, Be Good To Yourself, Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics and Slow Motion find Man at their very best. These Man classics are the perfect introduction to Deke Leonard.

DEKE  LEONARD-KAMIKAZE.

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BAMALOVESOUL PRESENTS ON DECK 3.

BAMALOVESOUL PRESENTS ON DECK 3. 

Roderick Moody’s On Deck compilation series looks like it’s about to become BBE Music’s latest success story. The latest instalment in the series, BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 will be released on 23rd March 2015. That’s just over a year after the much lauded BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 2. After its success, it looked like the On Deck series compilation series was about to become a fixture of BBE Music’s release schedule. That proved to be the case. The story behind the On Deck series, began three years ago.

For any aspiring entrepreneur, spotting a gap in a market can be a short cut to success. For Roderick Moody, that proved to be the case. He, like a lot of people he knew, liked their music soulful. However, local radio in Alabama was churning out a diet of mainstream R&B. There was no alternative. It was a case of Hobson’s choice. That’s until Roderick Moody decided to shake thing up. 

Roderick, whose better known as DJ Rahdu is known as a musical tastemaker. He’s a man with his finger on America’s musical pulse.  Not only that, but Roderick is also the host of the Diamond Soul Xxxperience Show. Alabama was the next state to hear the Diamond Soul Xxxperience Show. 

Once a week, for two hours, citizens of Alabama could listen to the Diamond Soul Xxxperience Show. This meant all things soulful. It didn’t matter whether it was Caribbean, funk, hip hop, house or jazz as long as it was soulful DJ Rahdu would give it a spin. There was only one musical no-go area….R&B. DJ Rahdu figured that other stations were catering for the needs of fans of R&B. This has proved a successful formula. What started in a  small way, is a worldwide phenomenon.

Having established a reputation as a purveyor of all things soulful, DJ Rahdu decided to hot the streets. He began holding open mic events. Then in 2012, DJ Rahdu launched his BamaLoveSoul.com website. It’s been discovered by over one-million music fans worldwide. Then in 2012, DJ Rahdu released  BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck. 

Released to critical acclaim, the compilation proved a commercial success. So much so, that on  two years later, BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 2 was released by BBE Music on 10th February 2014. BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 2 caught people’s attention.

When compiling BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 2, DJ Rahdu asked artists to submit a new track. The response was overwhelming. So, he spent time working his way through this mountain of soulful music. Eventually, he managed to settle on a dozen “future soul classic for the new b-boy generation.” These tracks became BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 2, which showcased a new generation of artists whose raison d’être was creating soulful music. That’s the case with BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3.

For BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3, DJ Rahdu has picked tracks from fifteen up-and-coming purveyors of soulful music. This includes contributions from Salah Ananse, Columbia Nights, Idesia, Renee Dion, Dos Angeles, Sean Haefeli, Doc Mastermind, Henry Wu and Saturn’s Children. They’re just some of the fifteen tracks that feature on BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 is Alive, a track from Waju and Garimastah featuring Muc J. This is a collaboration between Southern Californian MC Waju and Moscow-based producer Garimastah. It featured on their Live and Direct E.P. It’s a mellow, understated slice of old school hip hop, with a dreamy, jazz-tinged sound. 

After sixteen years working as a producer and DJ in Alabama, Salah Ananse knows what makes a dance-floor tick. Salah also has an impressive C.V., including remixing tracks for India Arie and collaborating with Anthony David, DJ Kemit and Gaelle. All this helped Salah’s soulful music gradually find a wider audience. Hopefully, the inclusion of the uber soulful When I Call on BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3, will see Salah Ananse’s music reach an even wider audience.

Columbia Nights are based in Washington D.C. That’s where Hayling Price, John E Daise and Jason Edwards and combine the music of the past and present. Their influences include soul, fusion, hip hop and electronic music. These influences can be heard in Wait A While. It’s a slow, wistful and beautiful ballad with a needy, soulful vocal.

It was on September 2014, that Idesia released Nu as a single on Bandcamp. It’s a track that at first glance, epitomises the Nu Soul sound. Listen closely, however, and sometimes, the drums have a hip hop sound. However, what makes the track are Idesia’s vocal and her lyrics. With the right record company behind her, the future could be bright for Idesia.

Renee Dion is a stalwart of the music scene in Columbus, Ohio. She’s best known for her fusion of jazz, R&B, hip hop and soul. It’s a potent and heady brew. That’s apparent from the opening bars of Not Enough, which is slow, soulful and sultry.

Describing Sean Haefeli isn’t easy. He’s a singer, songwriter and pianist. Sean is also versatile, and is just as comfortable crooning, playing jazz, singing soul or MC-ing. That’s apparent on Essential, where genres seamlessly melt into one. The result is a track with a jazz-tinged sound that’s Essential listening.

Rob Milton must be unique. After all, no other songwriter can have written a song about love, computers and binary code? However, Rob did. Her is a collaboration between Rob Milton and MC Ill Camille. Together, they’re responsible for a captivating and soulful tale of applied mathematics and love. 

J. Mitchell Melodiousfly is another talented singer-songwriter. Her contribution is Holy Breath. It’s a tantalising taste of what the Los Angeles based rising star is capable of. Having taken Tinseltown by storm, playing at The Roxy, The Temple Bar and The Hollywood House of Blues, a great future is forecast for J. Mitchell Melodiousfly. She’s been inspired by  everyone from John Coltrane and Miles Davis, through Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone, to Jimi Hendrix, Shuggie Otis, Erykah Badu and J Dilla. They’ve inspired J. Mitchell Melodiousfly is able to produce music that’s beautiful, melodic and sensual.

London based, Henry Wu, released his Negotiate E.P. on Ho Tep Records on 2nd March 2015. Without doubt, the highlight of the Negotiate E.P. is Joint Seventeen. Slow, mellow, laid-back and jazz-tinged, this is one of the highlights of BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3.

Closing BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 is Suede Jury featuring Chris Faust and Chris Turner. Suede Jury is a Brooklyn based  producer, whose music ranges from hip hop and rap to experimental music. On Soul Child, Suede Jury joins forces with Chris Faust and Chris Turner to create a track that’s variously moody, melodic and soulful. It’s the perfect way to close the latest instalment in the On Deck series.

Just like Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 2, Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 will allow a new generation of artists to have their music heard by a wider audience. Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 is, in effect, a showcase for their music. Hopefully, the release of Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3, on BBE Music on 23rd March 2015, will give each of these artists the break they’re looking for. 

After all, none of the artists on Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 are lacking in talent. Far from it. They’re all talented artists. All they need is a breakthrough. Then, their music can be heard by a much wider audience. Whether it’s hip hop, fusion, jazz or Nu Soul, each of the artists have plenty to offer. That’s apparent throughout Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3. 

The music on Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 is funky, jazz tinged and soulful. It’s also dreamy, ethereal, heartfelt, hypnotic, laid-back, lysergic and sometimes, futuristic. Importantly, the music on Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 is also groundbreaking.

Many of the artists on Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 are determined to innovate. That’s no bad thing. Nowadays, too much music that’s being released is anodyne and derivative. Thankfully, that’s not the case on Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3 of that. The music on Bama LoveSoul Presents On Deck 3, is music for the 21st Century, from fifteen artists who hopefully, have a big future ahead of them.

BAMALOVESOUL PRESENTS ON DECK 3. 

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PRIMAL SCREAM-GIVE OUT BUT DON’T GIVE UP.

PRIMAL SCREAM-GIVE OUT BUT DON’T GIVE UP.

It’s never easy to followup a classic album. Countless bands have discovered that. In 1994, the latest band to realise that were Primal Scream. Three years earlier, at the height of the Acid House era, Primal Scream had released Screamadelica, a fusion of rock and dance music. Released on  23rd September 1991,  Screamadelica reached number eight in Britain, and was certified double platinum. After three albums, Primal Scream had finally made a commercial breakthrough. However, as time passed by Primal Scream realised that  it wasn’t going to be easy to followup Screamadelica.

Following the success of  Screamadelica, Primal Scream headed out on tour, winning over rock and dance music fans simultaneously. However, not everyone was happy. Previously, Primal Scream were a rock ‘n’ roll band. Bobby Gillespie, Primal Scream’s lead singer didn’t even like dance music. He was a died in the wool rock ‘n’ roller. Then he was introduced to the Acid House scene.

Bobby, who revelled in the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, dived in head first. He, like the rest of Primal Scream were embracing Acid House culture. Even after Screamadelica, the party continued. Tales of hedonism were commonplace. So were stories that certain members had flown to close to the sun. Before long, the party had lasted over a  year. Now it was time to record their fourth album, which became Give Out But Don’t Give Up which will be reissued on vinyl by Music On Vinyl as a double album on 23rd March 2015.

For Give Out But Don’t Give Up, Primal Scream’s songwriting team of Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Innes and Robert “Throb” Young penned eleven tracks. The title-track, the trio penned with George Clinton of Funkadelic and Parliament. Recording of the ten tracks began at the Roundhouse Studios, in London in September 1992.

When the Primal Scream arrived at the Roundhouse Studios, their lineup now included vocalist Bobby Gillespie, guitarists Andrew Young and Robert “Throb” Young and keyboardist Martin Duffy. They were augmented by various session musicians and backing vocalists. The sessions were stop start affairs, not helped by the band’s lifestyle. Some of Primal Scream had climbed onboard the horse, and embraced it. This wasn’t ideal for recording an album. It made the recording of Give Out But Don’t Give Up fraught with difficulties. 

Over the next two years, Primal Scream worked at various studios in Britain and America. Different producers came, and went. Among them were Tom Dowd,  George Drakoulias, David Bianco and George Clinton. They played their part in Give Out But Don’t Give Up’s sound. So did Jim Dickinson, The Muscle Shoal Rhythm Section, The Memphis Horns, Amp Fiddler and Toby Toman, Nico’s drummer. George Clinton and Denise Johnson were among the backing vocalists. Over the next eighteen months, at various studios, Primal Screamh and friends recorded  Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Eventually, it was completed and ready for release in March 1994.

When critics heard Give Out But Don’t Give Up it wasn’t well received. Far from it. It received a lukewarm reception at best. Many of the critics didn’t like it. They weren’t willing to give the album a chance. Mostly, that’s because it was so different from Screamadelica. There other reason was because it  was a return to the pre-Screamadelica sound.

Before Screamadelica, Primal Scream were good time rock ‘n’ roll band. They didn’t apologise for this. This was their sound. However,  that was before Screamadelica. Good time rock ‘n’ roll bands, according to critics, cultural commentators and tastemakers, were “so not of the time.” On trend was the synthetic sound of house music. Sadly, old style rock ‘n’ roll bands were out of fashion. So Primal Scream found themselves with an unfashionable album out, one that the critics almost sneered at. Despite this, Primal Scream had the last laugh.

Upon its release, Give Out But Don’t Give Up reached number two in Britain, and was certified gold. The lead single Rocks, reached number seven in Britain. Then Jailbird reached number twenty-nine in Britain. The only disappointment was that the ballad (I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind, didn’t fare better than number forty-nine. However, Primal Scream had proved their critics wrong. The only problem with  Give Out But Don’t Give Up was it was the wrong album, at the wrong time. If rock had been undergoing a resurgence in popularity, Give Out But Don’t Give Up would’ve been an even bigger success. With tracks like Jailbird, Rocks, and Everybody Needs Somebody, Give Out But Don’t Give Up is a hugely underrated album, from Primal Scream. 

Jailbird is the perfect way to open Give Out But Don’t Give Up. The track almost has a false start. Quickly, you wonder where the track is heading. Then blistering guitars and the rhythm section combine with percussion. They provide the backdrop for Bobby’s swaggering, sassy vocal. Accompanied by soaring backing vocals, Bobby struts his way through the track. It’s a return to form from Primal Scream, who are back doing what they do so well, producing good time, rock ‘n’ roll music.

Straight away, Rocks brings to mind The Rolling Stones, circa Exile On Main Street. Thundering, pounding drums join bursts of searing guitars. They set the scene for Bobby, who picks up where he left on Jailbird. His vocal is a feisty, aggressive and powerful. Later, soaring, quivering  harmonies sweep in. By then, Primal Scream are in full flight. It’s a joy to behold, as the comeback Kings pay homage to The Rolling Stones on a Primal Scream classic.

Just a lone guitar opens (I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind, the third single released from Give Out But Don’t Give Up. It’s a beautiful ballad, where a worldweary Bobby Gillespie shows his versatility as a vocalist. His vocal is needy, and hopeful as he sings: “baby I want you, baby I need you you.” Just then, gospel tinged harmonies are added. They’re a masterstroke. So, are washes of Hammond organ and stabs of piano. During the bridge, Primal Scream jam, and a guitar takes centre-stage. Aided and abetted by the Hammond organ, they set the scene for a soul baring vocal from Bobby on another of Give Out But Don’t Give Up’s highlights.

As Funky Jam unfolds, a cry of “get a little funky now,” sees Primal Scream head for the dance-floor. Soon, funk, acid house and rock are being fused by Primal Scream. However, it just doesn’t work. It sounds like a jam where the vocals were an afterthought. George Clinton, who remixed the track, didn’t cover himself in glory. It’s without doubt the weakest track on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. It’s as if Primal Scream, or their record company were determined to have a dance track on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. 

Big Jet Plane is a return to form for Primal Scream after the disappointment of Funky Jam. They drop the tempo, and guitars and Primal Scream’s rhythm section combine to create a wistful backdrop. Before long, Bobby delivers a vocal that’s worldweary. Tired of life touring the world, wearily, he sings: “fly me home on a Big Jet Plane.”

Free is another track remixed by George Clinton. The sultriest of saxophones and a slow, deliberate guitar is joined by a melancholy piano. Then Primal Scream leave space for Denise Johnson’s vocal. It’s tinged with hurt at the betrayal she’s experienced. Still she manages to sing: “free again.” Later, as anger and frustration boils over, she sings don’t want to touch me, everything is broken, I don’t love you no more.” Meanwhile, the understated arrangement allows Denise to centre-stage on what’s a heart wrenching ballad.

Call On Me is another good time rock ‘n’ roll song. From the get-go, Primal Scream are at their very best. That’s the case from the band are counted in. Blistering guitars, boogie boogie piano and the rhythm section kick loose. Bobby delivers another strutting, needy vocal. Accompanying him are stabs of blazing horns, and some good time piano. When all this is combined, it’s good time rock ‘n’ roll Primal Scream style.

Struttin’ is another track like Funky Jam. It’s a fusion of funk, rock and acid. Primal Scream’s rhythm section provide 4/4 beats. They’re joined by machine gun guitars, washes of Hammond organ and a myriad of sci-fi sounds. While there’s a rocky undertow to the track, it veers off in the direction of funk and Acid House. Mostly, it’s an instrumental, with the occasional burst of “Funky Jam” added. The result is a track that almost seems out of place with most of  Give Out But Don’t Give Up.

Washes of a bluesy slide guitar and an a firmly strummed acoustic  guitar combine on Sad and Blue. Soon, Bobby’s delivering a heart wrenching vocal. He’s then joined by sweeping, soaring gospel tinged harmonies and a Hammond organ. Meanwhile, the rest of Primal Scream provide an understated backdrop. Soulful, bluesy and beautiful, you think things can’t get any better. They do. Bobby sings call and response, before a blistering, bluesy harmonica is added. This spurs Primal Scream to even greater heights, as they fuse blues, gospel and soul, to create a quite beautiful, soul baring paean. It’s another of the highlights of Give Out But Don’t Give Up

Give Out But Don’t Give Up is the third track to be remixed by George Clinton. Although it’s funky track, there’s a somewhat experimental sound. Horns sound, before the rhythm section lock into a slow, funky groove. They’re joined by a sultry vocal from Denise. Rocky guitars, percussion and braying horns are then joined by Bobby. From there the vocals drop out, a funky jam unfolds. Primal Scream and friends show their versatility, fusing elements of funk, rock and even Acid House. Slow, moody, funky and sometimes, lysergic it’s very different from much of Give Out But Don’t Give Up. That’s why many people described Give Out But Don’t Give Up is an album with an identity crisis. That’s unfair. Primal Scream, like they would continue to do for several albums, were constantly reinventing themselves.

A wistful piano opens I’ll Be There For You. Soon, horns that sound as if they’re from a classic soul album sound and a Hammond organ plays. They’re the signal for Bobby to deliver a heartfelt, tender vocal. As he delivers his vocal, harmonies accompany him and an acoustic guitar is strummed. Then during the bridge, the rest of Primal Scream take centre-stage. Stretching their legs they jam, before Bobby, accompanied by quivering harmonies soulfully and sincerely sings: “ I’ll Be There For You.”  The way he delivers the beautiful lyrics, it’s as if he means every word.

Everybody Needs Somebody, which closes Give Out But Don’t Give Up, picks up where I’ll be There For You. It’s another slow ballad, where Primal Scream show a very different side to their music. Gone is the good time rock ‘n’ roll band. Replacing it, a band that’s responsible for an understated arrangement. Guitars and a piano play before Bobby delivers a melancholy, pensive vocal. His vocal takes centre-stage, as the arrangement unfolds. The guitar and piano become more prominent. Later, sweeping harmonies accompany Bobby. They’ve a slight gospel arrangement. Rocky guitars then replace Bobby’s vocal, as the rest of the band threaten to cut loose. That never happens, and Primal Scream ensure that Give Out But Don’t Give Up closes on on a soulful high.

Following up Screamadelica was never going to be easy for Primal Scream. They were caught between a rock and a hard place. Their traditional fan base were used to Primal Scream’s good time brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Many weren’t won over by Screamadelica. Rock ‘n’ roll and Acid House were strange bedfellows. For many, it was a case of never the two shall meet. By 1994, the Acid House era was all but over. Acid House, with its synthetic sounding music, was just the latest in a long line of musical trends. However, through Aciud House, Primal Scream now had a fan base within the dance community.

While the Acid House was all but over, house music, techno and hip hop were all increasing in popularity. Dance music was here to stay. Many within the dance music community were still fans of Primal Scream. So, if Primal Scream released an album good time rock ‘n’ roll, this would alienate their new fans. Maybe, Primal Scream decided to release an album which would appeal to their old, and new fans. The result was Give Out But Don’t Give Up.

That might have seemed a good idea at the time. Here, were Primal Scream carrying on their fusion of rock and dance music. However, when the critics heard Give Out But Don’t Give Up they weren’t impressed. They didn’t hold back. Critics didn’t like Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Many accused Primal Scream of regressing, into an old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll band. That’s too simplistic though.

There’s much more than rock on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. There’s everything from Acid House to blues and funk, right through to rock  soul and Southern Soul. However, Primal Scream were at their best combining blues, rock, soul and Southern Soul. Whether it’s kick ass, swaggering rock ‘n’ roll or heartfelt, soulful ballads with a bluesy hue, Primal Scream are at their very best. They never miss a beat, bringing back memories of The Rolling Stones and The Faces in their prime. That’s not all. Sometimes, Primal Scream with their soulful, bluesy sound, sound as if they’re from Memphis, not Glasgow. For ten tracks Primal Scream can do no wrong. Where things go awry, are on tracks like Funky Jam and Struttin.’

Both Funky Jam and Struttin’ were remixed by George Clinton. However, it had been a long time since George Clinton was making either hits or dance-floor friendly records. Funky Jam and Struttin’ were the wrong songs on the wrong album. Give Out But Don’t Give Up would’ve been a better album without these tracks. By doing this, Give Out But Don’t Give Up would have been much stronger album. Maybe then, critics might not have argued that Give Out But Don’t Give Up lacked direction?

Twenty-one years have passed since Since Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Primal Scream went on to release another six albums. On each of these albums, Primal Scream have constantly sought to reinvent themselves. However, Primal Scream are at their best when they’re playing their own brand good time brand of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s music that’s truly timeless. That’s the case for much of  Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Whether they’re delivering their own brand of good time brand of rock ‘n’ roll, or heartfelt ballads, Primal Scream are doing what they do best on what’s the most underrated album in their back-catalogue.

Sadly, for too long, Give Out But Don’t Give Up, which will be reissued on vinyl by Music On Vinyl as a double album on 23rd March 2015, has been overlooked. That’s a great shame. It sees Primal Scream return from to what they do best playing rock ‘n’ roll. With Bobby Gillespie at the helm, Primal Scream the  last real rock ‘n’ roll band, fly the flag for rock, and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. They pick up where The Rolling Stones and The Faces left off with their own brand of good time brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Swaggering and strutting their way through  Give Out But Don’t Give Up, Primal Scream, the last gang in town, were back with a bang, after their adventures in Acid House.

PRIMAL SCREAM-GIVE OUT BUT DON’T GIVE UP.

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JOHNNY ADAMS-I WON’T CRY-THE COMPLETE RIC AND RON SINGLES 1959-1964.

JOHNNY ADAMS-I WON’T CRY-THE COMPLETE RIC AND RON SINGLES 1959-1964.

Johnny Adams’ recording career lasted exactly forty years. His career began in early 1958, when Johnny released his first single I Won’t Cry on Ric. It was a hit single in New Orleans, and the Southern states. For twenty-six year old Johnny Adams, this was the beginning of a forty year recording career. 

After the success of I Won’t Cry, Johnny enjoyed five further hit singles on Ric. Right through to 1964, Johnny Adams was one of Ric’s success stories. However, after the death of Ric’s owner, and guiding light Joe Ruffino in 1962, Ric became a rudderless ship. That was the end of Johnny’s time at Ric. However, it wasn’t the end of his career.

Right through to Johnny Adams’ death, on 14th September, 1998, he was still working. He had just completed his ninth album for Rounder Records, Man Of My Word. Johnny Adams was a much loved artist, whose career had lasted five decades. However, it was at Ric and Ron where Johnny’s career began. His time at Ric and Ron is documented on I Won’t Cry-The Complete Ric and Ron Singles 1959-1964, which was recently was released by Ace Records. This was where Johnny Adams’ five decade career began.

By the time Johnny Adams signed to Ric, he was nearly twenty-six. Johnny was born New Orleans, on 5th January 1932. He was the eldest of ten children. Just like many future R&B and soul singers, Johnny’s introduction to music was through the church. That’s where he discovered his powerful baritone voice, that had a wide vocal range. However, music was nothing more than a hobby to Johnny. He certainly didn’t want to sing what he thought of as the devil’s music.

That’s how R&B and rock ’n’ roll music was viewed, when Johnny was growing up. R&B and rock ’n’ roll singers were doing satan’s work. So, Johnny, a deeply religious young man, stuck to singing gospel music. 

Initially, Johnny was a member of The Soul Consolators. They were mentored by Bessie Griffin, who would later, become one of the biggest names in gospel music. After leaving The Soul Consolators, Johnny joined The Soul Revivers, who featured the Reverend Clay Evans, another future gospel star. However, Johnny had no ambition to take music any further. It was just a hobby. That was until one night, someone knocked on his door.

As was Johnny’s habit, he often sung when he was at home. He loved music, so it seemed natural. What he never imagined was that one of New Orleans’ songwriter, Dorothy La Bostrie would be passing his door. She had often heard Johnny singing. However, the pair had never met. That day however, Dorothy decided to speak to Johnny, as she had just written some new songs. So, she knocked on Johnny’s door and asked if he would like to sing her songs.

Previously, Johnny had only sung gospel music. Johnny hadn’t  sung secular music before. This was going against everything he believed in. However, after a while, Johnny had a change of heart. Johnny Adams was about to crossover.

Dorothy decided that she would record Johnny singing her two new songs, I Won’t Cry and Who You Are. Johnny was accompanied by just a lone acoustic guitar. Once Dorothy had coaxed an emotive performance out of Johnny, she took the tape to Joe Ruffino, who owned the Ric label.

When Joe Ruffino heard the two songs, he was won over. However, it wasn’t just the songs that impressed him. No. It was the singer. Joe wanted Johnny to sign to Ric. His first single would be I Won’t Cry.

Given the version of I Won’t Cry Dorothy had recorded was just a demo, Joe decided that a new recording be made. Joe brought onboard his A&R man and guitarist Edgar Blanchard. He took a band to Cosimo Matassa’s studio, where new versions of I Won’t Cry and Who You Are were recorded. They were released in early 1958.

With the two songs recorded, Joe decided that I Won’t Cry would be Johnny Adams’ debut single. The flip side was Who You Are. Both sides had been penned by Dorthothy La Bostrie. However, by the time of the release, Joe Ruffino had gained a co-writers credit. Whether he played any part in rewriting the song is unknown? What is know, is that when I Won’t Cry was released in early 1958,  Johnny Adams’ career got of to a dream start.

Before long, New Orleans’ premier R&B radio station picked up on the Dorothy La Bostrie’s tale of hurt and betrayal, I Won’t Cry. It seemed to strike a chord with people. Soon, I Won’t Cry was a hit in New Orleans. Then the song became popular across the Southern states. Despite not becoming a hit nationally, Joe Ruffino realised that Johnny Adams had potential, potential as a hit maker. So, he signed him to Ric, and a few months later, would release his sophomore single.

For Johnny’s sophomore single, Dorothy La Bostrie was nowhere to be seen. The woman who brought Johnny Adams to Joe Ruffino had been replaced by  Seth David and Mac Rebennack, who later, reinvented himself as Dr. John. Along with Joe Ruffino, they penned Come On. On the flip side was Nowhere To Go, which was penned by the New York songwriting team of Fred Wise, Ben Weisman and Brad Fredericks. These two tracks were recorded by Joe Ruffino’s musical lieutenant Edgar Blanchard. Once the songs were recorded, they became Johnny’s sophomore single.

Come On, an uptempo dance track, with a poppy sheen, was chosen as Johnny Adams’ sophomore single. It was quite different from I Won’t Cry. With its poppy sound, it seems Joe Ruffino was trying to sell Johnny Adams to the youth market. This worked. Johnny enjoyed another local hit. Things got even better, when in September 1959, British label Top Rank licensed Come On. However, Come On failed to chart in Britain. Never again would any of Johnny’s songs be released in Britain. Instead, he was left to try and break the lucrative American market.

At the end of 1959,  Joe Ruffino’s trusted lieutenant Edgar Blanchard left Ric.  Joe had a ready made replacement in Mac Rebennack He became Joe’s new A&R man. Mac also cowrote Johnny’s third single The Bells Are Ringing with William Allen and Joe Ruffino. The B-Side was Teach Me To Forget, penned by Seth David, Larry McKinley and Mac Rebennack, who produced the two tracks with a new studio band. 

The A.F.O. Combo, short for All For One, had been put together by Harold Battiste, the head of A&R for both the Ric and Ron labels. His new band, which epitomised the then New Orleans sound,  had been honing their sound. On The Bells Are Ringing, everything seemed to come together for The A.F.O. Combo. Would The Bells Are Ringing see them play on Johnny’s first nationwide hit single?

It was a case of the same old same old. Just like Johnny’s first two singles, The Bells Are Ringing, which was released in 1960, sold well locally. However, still Johnny couldn’t make a breakthrough nationwide. This would be the case with Johnny’s next four singles.

Between 1960 and 1961, Johnny released a quartet of singles that failed to chart. The first of this quartet was Someone For Me, which was written by William Allen, John Marris and Mac Rebennack. The B-Side was the Delores Johnson penned Let The Wind Blow. Although it was a success in the New Orleans’ area, that was as good as it got. That was also the case with Ted Jarrett’s You Can Make It If You Try. 

It had previously given Gene Allison a hit single in the mid-fifties. With The A.F.O. Combo accompanying him, Johnny reinvented You Can Make It If You Try. His tender, heartfelt reading brings new meaning to the song. Despite this when You Can Make It If You Try was released as a single in 1960, with Closer To You on the flip side history repeated itself. You Can Make It If You Try was successful in New Orleans, but still that nationwide hit eluded Johnny Adams.

Things didn’t improve for Johnny when Johnny released Wedding Day as a single in 1961. This string drenched ballad had been penned by Joe Ruffino and Morris Sweetwyne.  On the B-Side was Ooh So Nice, a Frank Katz and Carl Morgan composition. Just like its predecessors, Wedding Day was popular in the South, but failed to make an impact nationally. For Johnny Adams in 1961, Life Was A Struggle.

Ironically, that was the title of Johnny’s seven single. Written by Frank Douglas and Chris Kenner, that must have been like rubbing salt into the wound. Despite this, Johnny recorded  Life Was A Struggle and the B-Side I Solemnly Promise, a Mae Vince penned track. Released in 1961, Life Was A Struggle continued the familiar pattern, of selling well in the South, but nowhere else. Just like Johnny, Mac Rebennack was left shaking his head.

Mac knew that Johnny Adams had what many referred to as “star quality.” His singles sold well locally, and he was a popular and charismatic live performer. All Johnny needed was a record company willing to back him. That meant money to promote his singles. So far, Joe Ruffino had been reluctant to do so. Maybe, Joe was in his comfort zone?

While Johnny’s singles were only selling well in the South, maybe, Joe Ruffino was making money? To break Johnny nationally would take a lot of money. For Joe, this would be risky. It would be like betting the bank. However, when he found the right song, he was willing to do this.

A Losing Battle was an unlikely song for Johnny. The former gospel singer was being asked to sing a song that more than hints at adultery. Surely, Johnny would baulk at recording this track?

That proved not to be the case. Johnny went ahead and recorded the John Dauenhauer and Mac Rebennack composition. Johnny sounding as if he’s been inspired by Ray Charles, brings the lyrics to life. It’s as if he’s lived them. On the flip side was Johnny’s accusing take on John Dauenhauer and Mac Rebennack’s Who’s Gonna Love You. When Joe Ruffino heard A Losing Battle, he decided this was the track that would break Johnny Adams nationally.

That proved to be the case.  A Losing Battle entered the US R&B charts on 30th June 1962, and reached number twenty-seven. Somewhat belatedly, Johnny Adams was heard nationwide. For Ric, Johnny gave the label its first hit  since October 1960. This must have been a satisfying day for Joe Ruffino. Having backed Johnny Adams, Ric been rewarded by a hit. However, for everyone at Ric, the happiness turned to sadness in August 1962.

Ever since Joe founded Ric, he had worked tirelessly. Eventually, all the years of long days and hard work caught up with Joe Ruffino in August 1962. He died suddenly of a heart attack. His family and the wider New Orleans’ music community were shocked.

With Joe gone, his two sons were left to run the Ric and Ron labels. They tried to follow in their father’s footsteps. That, however, proved impossible. Eventually, Joe’s brother-in-law Joe Assunto took over the running of Ric and Ron. By then, the Ron label was on its last legs. It released its final single in August 1962. Ric however, continued, for the time being.

Showdown was the last single Johnny released on the Ric label. Written by Mac Rebennack, Johnny gave the song a bluesy hue. The flip side was Tra-La-La, a Dolores Johnson and Joe Ruffino song. It was well received by Cashbox magazine. Billboard however, never bothered to review Showdown, despite Johnny’s recent chart success. So, it’s no surprise that Showdown failed to chart. Apart from in Louisiana and Texas, Showdown passed record buyers by. For Johnny it was a disappointing Ric swan-song. He would rather have ended his time on Ric with a hit.

After leaving Ric, Johnny signed to Joe Assunto’s new label, Watch Records. That was home for Johnny for the next couple of years. During that period, Johnny released three singles, I Believe I’ll Find Happiness, Some Day and Got To Get Back To You. These singles didn’t result in an upturn in Johnny’s fortunes. So, in 1964, Johnny returned to Ron, which had reopened its doors.

Lonely Drifter was Johnny’s first single for the newly resurrected Ron label. It was a Joe Ruffino song. So was the B-Side I Want To Do Everything For You, which was penned by Joe and Eddie Bo, using his Dolores Johnson alias. Both songs were credited as Joe Ruffino productions. However, Joe Ruffino’s part in these tracks has been disputed. Since then, mystery has surrounded who penned and produced these tracks? 

Despite the mystery surrounding Lonely Drifter and I Want To Do Everything For You, both tracks find Johnny Adams in fine voice. He had matured as a singer since he left Ric, two years previously. Sadly, when Lonely Drifter was released as a single, it failed to chart. Johnny’s next single for Ron was his swan-song. There would be no comeback this time.

Coming Around The Mountain was a surprising choice for Johnny Adams’ next single. The arrangement to this traditional song was again credited to Joe Ruffino. Producing Coming Around The Mountain was Wardell Quezergue. On the B-side was a cover of Hank Williams’ Cold Cold Heart. It was arranged by Wardell Quezergue and produced by Joe Ruffino. However, the jazz-tinged take of Coming Around The Mountain wasn’t a commercial success. That marked the end of Johnny Adams’ time at Ron. 

Over two spells, lasting five years, Johnny Adams had enjoyed highs and lows at Joe Ruffino’s Ric and Ron labels. The former gospel singer had released eleven singles. While most of them had proved popular in New Orleans and the South, Johnny only enjoyed one hit single nationwide.

Somewhat ironically, given Johnny was a Christian, his only single was  A Losing Battle, a tale of adultery. It reached just number twenty-seven in the US R&B charts. That was as good as it got for Johnny Adams at Ric and Ron. However, it wasn’t the end of Johnny Adams’ career.

It was just beginning. After leaving Ron in 1964, Johnny’s career lasted another thirty-four years. Right through until his death in 1998, Johnny Adams was still making music. He  spent the final fifteen years of his career at Rounder Records, where he released nine albums. This was somewhat fitting, given for a while, they owned the rights to the Ric and Ron back-catalogues. Now, however, Ace Records are reissuing the Ric and Ron back-catalogues.

Ace Records latest reissue from the Ric and Ron back-catalogues is I Won’t Cry-The Complete Ric and Ron Singles 1959-1964, which features the eleven singles Johnny Adams released on Ric and Ron. That’s not all. There’s the B-Sides, plus two previously unreleased demos, No Way Out For Me and Walking The Floor Over You. These twenty-four tracks showcase the early years of Johnny Adams’ career. Even then, it was obvious that the former gospel turned R&B singer was destined for greater things. 

Sadly, Johnny Adams never reached the heights of his contemporaries, like Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack. However, Johnny Adams enjoyed a career that spanned forty years and five decades. During that period, Johnny Adams proved a versatile and talent performer, who was loved and respected in equal measures. While Johnny Adams never enjoyed fame and fortune, he enjoyed an enviable longevity, where he continued to reinvent himself. However, during the period that I Won’t Cry-The Complete Ric and Ron Singles 1959-1964 covers, Johnny Adams was one of the rising stars of the New Orleans R&B and soul scene. No wonder, given the quality of music on I Won’t Cry-The Complete Ric and Ron Singles 1959-1964.

JOHNNY ADAMS-I WON’T CRY-THE COMPLETE RIC AND RON SINGLES 1959-1964.

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ARTHUR-DREAMS AND IMAGES.

ARTHUR-DREAMS AND IMAGES.

The story of Arthur Lee Harper is a familiar one. He was a talented singer-songwriter who looked as if he was destined for great things. Sadly, that proved not to be the case. Arthur only ever released one album, Dreams and Images which was released on Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records 1968. 

Dreams and Images which was recently rereleased by Light In The Attic Records, could’ve and should’ve been the first of many successful albums from Arthur. That wasn’t case. Arthur’s recording career was over before it could start. Things could’ve been very different though.

When Arthur was about to sign to LHI Records, Arthur got the opportunity to sign to the  same company as The Beach Boys. This was a very tempting offer. However, that deal was only for a single. LHI Records were offering an album deal. That seemed a better offer to Arthur. Sadly, Arthur had backed the wrong horse. His recording career was over. For the rest of Arthur’s life, it was a case of what might have been? 

Arthur Lee Harper was born in Melbourne, Florida. That’s where he spent his early years. Then just before his teenage years, Arthur’s parent’s marriage broke down. It was a tough time for Arthur. So, Arthur went to live with his grandmother. She decided to move to California. 

The move to California was a fresh start for Arthur. He and his grandmother’s two sons settled into life in California. One of the main attractions for Arthur was Hollywood’s music scene. It was like a beacon, constantly trying to catch Arthur’s attention. Eventually, it succeeded. 

When he was old enough, Arthur made the move to Los Angeles. Once there, Arthur witnessed the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Quickly, though, Arthur decided it wasn’t for him. He shied away from the drugs that fuelled Tinseltown. However, what interested and inspired Arthur was the music.

Arthur decided to make a living in L.A. as a singer-songwriter. That, he soon realised, wasn’t going to be easy. He was living in the Y.M.C.A. That’s where he met poets Mark Lindsey Buckingham and Stephen John Kalininch. They all had one thing in common, they dreamed of making it big in Tinseltown.

Before long, things were looking good for the three friends. Mark and Stephen were offered a deal with The Beach Boys’ Brother Records as songwriters. Not long after this, Arthur signed to Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records.

Back then, it didn’t take much to get an audition at LHI Records. It was a case of ring the bell, and then audition. For the lucky few, including Arthur, it was a case of signing on the dotted line. Now, he was on his way to releasing his debut album.

During his time in L.A., Arthur had been writing songs. This included the ten tracks that would become Dreams and Images. Arthur laid down his vocal and played acoustic guitar at the sessions on the 21st and 22nd November 1967. After that, Arthur described how he envisaged, and “heard,” the arrangements. Only then, did producer Lee Hazelwood bring onboard his tried and trusted musical lieutenants. 

This included arranger Don Randi and some of Lee’s favourite session musicians. He used them on many of his recordings, and knew what to expect from them. They added colour to Dreams and Images. Only then, was Dreams and Images ready to be released.

Dreams and Images was released on Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records in 1968. Dreams and Images epitomised the the psychedelic folk sound that  by 1967, was proving popular. Arthur seemed to be in the right place, with the right album. Surely, things couldn’t go wrong?

Especially with Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records just having received several hundred thousand dollars from ABC Records. This was part of a distribution deal between the two labels. It gave ABC Records the right to distribute LHI Records’ releases. With LHI Records apparently cash rich, they’d go all out to promote Dreams and Images?

For some reason, that proved not to be the case. As is often the case when working with small, independent labels Dreams and Images wasn’t heavily promoted. Instead, it was a low key release. In one fell swoop, Arthur’s hope of a successful album were crushed.

Dreams and Images didn’t sell well. It had nothing to do with the music. Instead, it was down to the lack of promotion. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar story. Especially where independent labels are concerned. Sadly, forty-seven years after the release of Dreams and Images, that’s the case to this day. 

Apart from selling a few thousand copies in Denver, Colorado, Dreams and Images passed most people by. It was a case of what might have been? How successful would’ve Dreams and Images been in it had been released on Elektra Records? Sadly, Arthur and ABC Records had backed the wrong horse.

Later in 1968, ABC Records dissolved their partnership with LHI Records. It had been an expensive lesson, one that cost ABC Records several hundred thousand dollars. The upside was it yielded three albums, including Arthur’s Dreams and Images, which I’ll tell you about.

Blue Museum opens Dreams and Images. Just a lone acoustic guitar is panned left. It sets the scene, adding a wistful backdrop. That suits Arthur’s slow, deliberate and reflective vocal. Quite rightly, it takes centre-stage. Soon, it becomes apparent that Arthur’s lyrics are beautiful, haunting and otherworldly. Especially with subtle strings adding to what’s already a wistful, haunting song tinged with beauty.

As Children Once Were You unfolds, it looks like the song is heading in the same direction. Arthur, accompanied by his acoustic guitar, delivers a vocal that’s tinged with sadness. Especially, when he sings: “but children once were you, once were you, the years slip quickly past.” With stabs of hurting horns, it’s as if Arthur is mourning his childhood.

The lyrics to Sunshine Soldier epitomise the mid-to-late sixties. Flower power was at its height. Lyrics like: “walking down the street is a sunshine soldier,” epitomise this era. So, do a child walks by and hands him a flower…brothers and sisters embrace each other.” In the lyrics, there’s a sense of hope, hope for the future, and that anything is possible. As tenderly, and hopefully, Arthur delivers the lyrics, a psychedelic arrangement unfolds. A Leslie organ unleashes its lysergic sound, medieval horns sound and Arthur plays his trusty acoustic guitar. For little over two minutes, you’re transported back to L.A. in ’67, courtesy of Sunshine Soldier, Arthur.

Just like the previous songs, Arthur’s guitar sets the scene on A Friend of Mine. It’s setting the scene for a vocal that’s tinged with emotion. Everything from anger, bitterness, frustration and hurt shines through. All the time lush strings sweep, adding a baroque backdrop. Occasional pizzicato strings and acoustic guitar are added. So, are occasional effects. Together, they play their part in a soul-baring slice of baroque folk, where Arthur has the last word, “girl you’ll never be a friend of mine.”

At first glance, Open Up the Door could be construed as song about opening the doors to perception. That’s not the case. Arthur wasn’t into drugs. Instead, he’s asking his girlfriend to open up her emotions, and let him into her life. Sonically, there’s a stylistic departure. Washes of a Leslie organ are deployed. So, are Arthur’s acoustic guitar and a harpsichord. They accompany Arthur’s deliberate, needy, and hopeful vocal.

On Dreams and Images, Arthur asks: “Blind man, blind man, blind as can be, ask me why my eyes can see, he touches his cape and puts a spell on me.”  From there, Arthur sings of a parallel universe, where one side offers plenty and perfection. The other is reality. A woman is caught in between, and becomes: “a free spirit.” Dream like, full of imagery and more than a little lysergic, it’s an enchanting and captivating tale. Especially, with an arrangement that’s understated. Ethereal, fragile flutes, wistful strings and Arthur’s plucked guitar provide an accompaniment to Arthur’s thoughtful, deliberate vocal.

Slowly, Pandora opens her musical box. Within, are a bewitching combination of instruments. A plucked bass and a slow, deliberate, droning string are joined by sci-fi sounds and subdued horns. They’re the perfect backdrop for Arthur’s whispery vocal as Pandora: “gently dies, gently dies.”

Memories come flooding back to Arthur as Wintertime unfolds. Strings are plucked, quiver and sweep. Arthur, meanwhile, strums his guitar and lays bare his hurt on this tale of love lost. As the song unfolds, it’s more a tale of unrequited love. Once time has passed Arthur realises this; “I was wasting my time, love was making me blind.” 

Not for the first time, Arthur on Living Circa 1920 reminds me of Al Stewart. Both were young, aspiring and promising folk singers in the late-sixties. While Al enjoyed a long and successful career, Arthur’s career was over before it began. That’s a great shame, given the quality of songs like Living Circa 1920. Arthur literally paints pictures with his lyrics, in what’s the poppiest of songs. Just an acoustic guitar and subtle, braying horn accompany Arthur on what’s a quite joyous track. Especially, with lyrics like: “the best things in life are free, living kind of casually.”

Valentine Gray closes Dreams and Images. It’s a homecoming song, where Arthur delivers a vocal that’s needy and hopeful. Accompanying him are his guitar and swathes of strings. Just like Artthur’s vocal, the strings sure to tug at your heartstrings on this beautiful ballad.

Dreams and Images, which was released in 1968, by Lee Hazelwood’s LKI Records, is yet another hidden gem that, could’ve and should’ve transformed Arthur’s career. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Arthur backed the wrong horse.

Two record companies wanted to sign Arthur. The first was LHI Records and releasing an album. They offered Arthur the chance to release Dreams and Images. At the same time, Arthur had the opportunity to sign to the same label as The Beach Boys. However, they were offering a one-off single deal. Once they saw how the single went, the label would take it from there. To Arthur, who was still a young man, the prospect of an album seemed too good an offer to refuse. Especially, when LHI Records were cash rich.

Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records had just received several hundred thousand dollars from ABC Records. This was part of a distribution deal between the two labels. It gave ABC Records the right to distribute LHI Records’ releases. Arthur must have though that the cash rich LHI Records would go all out to promote Dreams and Images. That wasn’t the case.

LHI Records were reticent to spent large sums of money on any of the three albums they released during 1967 and 1968. As is often the case when working with small, independent labels Dreams and Images wasn’t heavily promoted. Instead, it was a low key release. In one fell swoop, Arthur’s hope of a successful album were crushed.

Dreams and Images didn’t sell well. It had nothing to do with the music. Instead, it was down to the lack of promotion. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar story. Especially where independent labels are concerned. All too often they’re desperate to sign an artist, but unwilling to promote them properly. That appears to be the case with Arthur’s debut album Dreams and Images. Without the necessary promotion, Dreams and Images passed most record buyers by.

That’s apart from  in Denver, Colorado, where Dreams and Images sold a few thousand copies. They were the lucky ones, and heard what’s without doubt a lost psychedelic folk album. Sadly, most people never heard Dreams and Images. The failure of Dreams and Images impacted upon Arthur’s recording career.

Later in 1968, ABC Records decided to dissolve their partnership with LHI Records. It had been an expensive lesson, one that cost ABC Records several hundred thousand dollars. The upside was it yielded three albums, including Arthur’s Dreams and Images, which was recently reissued by Light In The Attic. However, with the partnership dissolved, Arthur’s time at LHI Records was over. He never released another album for LHI Records.

Sadly, Dreams and Images was the only album Arthur recorded. Not long after leaving LHI Records Arthur turned his back on the music industry.

Arthur became a Christian, and took to writing religious songs. He worked as an engineer, and then as a special education teacher. However, Arthur still played and wrote music as a hobby. His shot at fame and fortune was long gone. Sadly, tragedy struck for Arthur in 2002.

On the 10th of January 2002, Arthur’s wife Lori tragically, died in a car crash. That night, Arthur died of a heart attack. Arthur Harper Lee, the man who could’ve and should’ve been a star was forever lost to music. However, Arthur left behind a quite beautiful, captivating, haunting and mesmeric musical legacy, Dreams and Images, a lost psychedelic folk classic.

ARTHUR-DREAMS AND IMAGES.

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THE WOODBINE AND IVY BAND-SLEEP ON SLEEPING ON.

THE WOODBINE AND IVY BAND-SLEEP ON SLEEPING ON.

Four years after releasing their eponymous debut album in 2011. The Woodbine and Ivy Band return with their new album Sleep On Sleeping On. It was released on March 9th 2015, on Static Caravan Recordings, and sees The Woodbine and Ivy Band head in a different direction from their eponymous debut album.

Sleep On Sleeping On, which partly, was inspired by G.I. Gurdjieff’s theories on what he termed “waking sleep,” and sees The Woodbine and Ivy Band combine folk, psychedelia , prog rock, jazz and country rock. This is quite a departure from their eponymous debut album.

Released in 2011, The Woodbine and Ivy Band was essentially, an album of folk music from what was a Manchester supergroup. It featured some of the city’s finest musicians, including Jenny McCormick, James Raynard, Mike Doward, John Ellis, Gus Fairbairn, Rachael Gladwin, Chris Hillman, Peter Philipson  and Sam Lench. Together, they played their part in the success of The Woodbine and Ivy Band. 

It was released to critical acclaim in 2011. Critics were won over  by The Woodbine and Ivy Band folk-tinged sound. The album was compared to Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention and Crazy Horse. Things were looking good for The Woodbine and Ivy Band. Surely it wouldn’t be long until they released their sophomore album?

With so many musicians involved in The Woodbine and Ivy Band, it’s not surprising that four long years passed before they released another album. Getting everyone together must have proved problematic. However, at last, the wait is over and Sleep On Sleeping On was released on 9th March 2015. 

During the last four years, The Woodbine and Ivy Band seem to have reinvented themselves. While folk music still plays a part in Sleep On Sleeping On, it’s a much more eclectic album. Everything  from psychedelia , prog rock, jazz and country rock can be heard on Sleep On Sleeping On’s ten tracks.

The ten tracks on Sleep On Sleeping On are best described as eclectic. There’s traditional folk songs like White Hare and Rebel Soldier, a song about the American Civil War. Cover versions include The Albion Band’s Rise Up Like the Sun and Lal and Mike Waterson’s ‘Bright Phoebu. Lal Waterson also cowrote Flight Of The Pelican with her son Oliver Knight. Minstrel and The King was penned by Gerald T. Moore and featured on Heron’s sophomore album. Pretty Fly Lullaby will be familiar to movie buffs, as it featured in the 1955 thriller Night Of The Hunter. Then on on the instrumental One Summer Day, The Woodbine and Ivy Band enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs at the 80 Hertz Studios, in Manchester.

That’s where much of Sleep On Sleeping On was recorded by The Woodbine and Ivy Band’s extensive lineup. This includes the rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Karl Penney, Michael Doward on bass and double bass,  Peter Philipson on acoustic and electric guitar and Chris Hillman on pedal steel and Rickenbacker 12 String guitar. They were joined by John Ellis on piano and Hammond organ, Raz Ullah on synths and Rachael Gladwin on harp. Horns come courtesy of saxophonist Gus Fairbairn and trumpeter Luke Das-Gupta. Adding vocals were Jenny McCormick and James Raynard who also played acoustic guitar. Additional musicians included David A. Jaycock on acoustic guitar and percussionist Ian Budgie Jones. Backing vocals came courtesy of Anna Zweck, Mike Doward and Sam Lench. Producing Sleep On Sleeping On was Peter Philipson. Once the ten tracks were recorded, Sleep On Sleeping On was released in March 2015. At last, The Woodbine and Ivy Band were back, with their long awaited sophomore album Sleep On Sleeping On.

Opening Sleep On Sleeping On is the title-track. It was partly inspired by G.I. Gurdjieff’s theories on what he referred to as “waking sleep.” Washes of shimmering synths give way to a wistful acoustic guitar and a broody bass. Soon, a pedal steel weeps, adding an atmospheric, ethereal hue. Fuzzy and lysergic it cocoons you. Even more so, when a melancholy trumpet plays. Dreamy backing vocals make a fleeting appearance on what’s a beautiful, melancholy and atmospheric track.

Arm A Nation is a song about the international arms trade. A weeping pedal steel is joined by washes of Hammond organ and an acoustic guitar. They set the scene for Jenny McCormick’s tender, thoughtful vocal.  It’s yin to the arrangement’s yang. It now includes bursts of jagged, rocky guitars. They don’t overpower the arrangement, nor Jenny’s vocal. She delivers the lyrics with feeling and frustration. One of the most telling lines is: “you sure this has to be the way to arm a nation?” Later, the jam, when stabs of horns, the Hammond organ and bursts of machine gun guitars unite on this.  They play their part in genre-melting track, where country, folk, rock and social comment are combined by The Woodbine and Ivy Band.

White Hare is a traditional 19th Century folk song, given a dramatic, rocky, makeover by  The Woodbine and Ivy Band. Straight away, crunchy, grizzled rocky guitars grab your attention. Soon, they’re joined by the rhythm section. It’s almost grungey. Then it’s all change. When James’ vocal enters he’s joined by a piano, as the track takes on  more of a folk rock sound. From there, the arrangement veers between the two grungey, to the folk rock sound. Later, stabs of horns and sci-fi sounds are added. So, are prog-rock keyboards. By then,  The Woodbine and Ivy Band are picking and mixing musical genres and influences to reinvent this traditional 19th Century folk song. The result is folk, but not as we know it.

As Jackdaws unfolds, the unmistakable sound of Jackdaws can be heard. They were recorded early one morning, in a wood near Manchester. Again, they’re scene setters, giving way to a meandering, dreamy acoustic guitar and washes of ethereal synths. Together, they create a dreamy, ambient sound that washes over you, soothing even the weariest of souls.

Pretty Fly Lullaby featured in the 1955 thriller Night Of The Hunter. That’s not surprising. Straight away, the track takes on an atmospheric, cinematic sound. Synths are soon joined by a wistful piano. They’re then joined by Jenny’s wistful vocal and a harpsichord. She gets across the sadness in and sense of loss in the lyrics. Then when here vocal drops out, a piano, braying saxophone and harmonies combine to reinforce the tragedy of the situation. Just like Jenny’s vocal they play their part in a track that’s variously beautiful, and tinged with tragedy, loss and heartache.

Bells ring out as The Woodbine and Ivy Band set about reinventing Minstrel and a King, which was originally recorded by Heron. Horns sound, a piano plays and before long, they’re replaced by a dramatic swell. It quickly dissipates, leaving just James’ vocal. He’s accompanied by just a  lone acoustic guitar. This works, allowing James’ vocal to take centre-stage. Later, and just at the right time, a Hammond organ, piano and bass join. By then, memories of Al Stewart in his prime come flooding back. There’s even a nod to Andrew Gold, as this folk rock track begins to show its delights. What follows is a nine minute epic, where The Woodbine and Ivy Band reinvent Minstrel and a King.

Flight of the Pelican has a much more understated, folk sound. Just a lone plucked guitar plays. It’s joined by washes of a weeping pedal steel. It adds to the sense of melancholy. That’s even before Jenny’s pensive, thoughtful vocal takes centre-stage. Later, thing get even better when a piano is added. It’s panned left, alongside the pedal steel.  Later, it’s replaced by a fuzzy guitar, as briefly, Jenny’s vocal reverberates. Mostly though, it’s emotive, needy and melancholy as she brings new meaning into this Lal Waterson and Oliver Knight penned track.

From the opening bars, One Summer Day is a genre-melting instrumental. There’s elements of electronica, experimental, psychedelia and prog rock as The Woodbine and Ivy Band stretch their legs. With their rhythm section driving the arrangement along, psychedelic guitars and prog rock keyboards combine. The various sci-fi sound effects add an experimental hue. Bursts of joyous horns prove to the finishing touch as seamlessly, The Woodbine and Ivy Band combine rock, psychedelia and prog rock.

Old Man is a song about the ageing process, and a man trying hold off what he eventually realises is inevitable. It’s a thoughtful, understated ballad. Just acoustic guitars accompany James’ reflective vocal as he deals with, and eventually, comes to terms with growing old.

Rebel Soldier closes Sleep On Sleeping On. It’s a piano lead ballad, about the American Civil War. James takes charge of the lead vocal. As he brings the lyrics to life, washes of a pedal steel weep. It almost replicates the sense of loneliness, hopelessness and fear in James’ vocal. Later, braying horns add to the sense of melancholia, in this thoughtful, historical ballad.

After a gap of four long years, Manchester supergroup The Woodbine and Ivy Band returned with their new album, Sleep On Sleeping On. It was released on March 9th 2015, on Static Caravan Recordings, and saw The Woodbine and Ivy Band head in a very different direction from their eponymous debut album.

Sleep On Sleeping On, which partly, was inspired by G.I. Gurdjieff’s theories on what he termed “waking sleep,” is best described as an album of genre-melting music.  The Woodbine and Ivy Band combine country, electronica, excperimental, folk, jazz psychedelia, prog rock and rock. While this is quite a departure from their eponymous debut album, Sleep On Sleep On will appeal to a much wider audience.

During the ten tracks on Sleep On Sleeping On, The Woodbine and Ivy Band show their versatility. Seamlessly, they switch between musical genres. Sometimes, they fuse several genres within the same song. Whether its traditional ballads, cover versions or new songs, The Woodbine and Ivy Band are at the top of their game. No wonder. The Woodbine and Ivy Band feature some of Manchester’s top musicians. 

With more years than they care to remember behind them, The Woodbine and Ivy Band make music this good sound easy. Especially, their twin vocalists Jenny McCormick and James Raynard. Both have the ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into songs. Especially Jenny McCormick. She sounds as if she’s lived some of the lyrics. Jenny’s vocal is variously ethereal, tender, hopeful, needy and heartfelt. Jenny McCormick is one of The Woodbine and Ivy Band’s secret weapons on Sleep On Sleeping On. However, it’s almost unfair to refer to someone as the star of The Woodbine and Ivy Band. After all, everyone played their part.

Each of The Woodbine and Ivy Band’s extensive lineup played its part in the sound and success of Sleep On Sleeping On. They’re responsible for an album that’s well worth the four year wait. Having said that, let’s hope that The Woodbine and Ivy Band don’t take another four years to record the followup to Sleep On Sleeping On.  After all, a band as good as The Woodbine and Ivy Band deserve to be heard by a much wider audience. Hopefully, the eclectic delights of Sleep On Sleeping On will be the album that introduces  The Woodbine and Ivy Band ’s music to a much wider audience.

THE WOODBINE AND IVY BAND-SLEEP ON SLEEPING ON.

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BEAM UP-INNERSTAND.

BEAM UP-INNERSTAND.

Dub was born in the sixties, and before long, its stripped down sound became one of reggae’s most popular sub-genres. Its founding fathers included King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Then as the seventies dawned, a new generation of dub producers began to make a name for themselves. 

This included Bunny Lee, Niney The Observer, Augustus Pablo and Sly and Robbie. Along with King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry, they produced some of the most successful dub reggae. It went on to influence several generations of musicians. 

From the seventies onwards, everyone from The Clash through to P.I.L., Primal Scream, Leftfield and Massive Attack have been influenced by dub. However, dub still continues to influence another generation of musicians, including Brian May.

Not that Brian May though. Apart from the legendary Queen guitarist, there’s another musician called Brian May. He’s the many of many musical outlets, including Beam Up, who recently released their debut album on BBE Music. Beam Up are determined to keep the spirit of dub alive. 

To do this, Brian May has brought onboard a multinational group of vocalists. This includes Terrence Alfonso Bowry, a British-born, Canadian national, who previously, was a stalwart of Shanghai’s jazz and blues scene. That’s where Terrence gained a wealth of experience, including working alongside Wynton Marsalis. Famed for his ability to harmonise and improvise, Terrence was a welcome addition to Beam Up. So is Jornick Joelick.

For those unfamiliar with Jornick Joelick, he’s a French-Guyanan rastaman. He’s been blessed with a big, powerhouse of a vocal. It also has a an earthy, rootsy quality. This was just what Brian May was looking for on Innerstand. However, the final piece of the musical jigsaw was Katya Tasheva.

Berlin based Katya Tasheva, is a polyglot singer, who previously, has sung everything from drum and bass and pop, right through to world music. This includes working alongside RotFront, the Berlin based world music band. Katya Tasheva’s previous experience will stand her in good stead for what Brian May describes as a musical journey.

However, Innerstand is no ordinary musical journey. Brian May describes Beam Up as taking the listener on a musical journey, one that references his musical This includes includes the music of Jamaica. King Tubby is top of Brian May’s list of musical inspirations. He’s joined by The Skatalites and Glen Brown. Other inspirations are places that Brian has lived and worked.

This includes Australia, where Brian May spent twelve years working as a drive time DJ. Having emigrated from Britain in 1989, Brian settled in Melbourne. That’s where he spent the next twelve years DJ-ing on radio and clubs. Right through to 2001, Brian toured Australia and New Zealand DJ-ing. So, Australasia is a special place to him, one that has influenced his music. However, so have Japan and Berlin.

After leaving Australia, Brian headed to Osaka, Japan. Before long, he had immersed himself in the city’s reggae scene, and became a member of the band Bush Of Ghosts. As if that wasn’t enough, Brian was DJ-ing at underground parties across Japan. However, eventually, Brian decided it was time to move on.

From Osaka, Brian May headed to Berlin, where he spent a year. Then he decided to move on. He returned to Melbourne in 2006, and founded the city’s first Balkan music scene. However, Brian hadn’t turned his back on dubwise. He had a foot in two musical camps. That was the case right through until 2008, when Brian returned to Berlin.

Back in Berlin, Brian picked up where he left off in Melbourne. he was spinning the Balkan sound and dubwise in Berlin. Before long, he was DJ-ing across Europe. Soon, opportunities were began to unfold for Brian May.

Soon, Brian had released two remix albums. They saw Brian transform traditional Eastern European music, giving it a dance-floor friendly sound. After this, Brian began to establish a reputation as a producer. This includes producing generative sound installations for Australian painter John Aslanidis. 

Brian and John  met in 2011. Since then, their fusion of sound and art have been exhibited around the world. From New York and Berlin to Brian’s former home from home, Australia, the pair have exhibited their work. Still, somehow, Brian has found time to DJ and produce music, including Beam Up’s debut album Innerstand.

Aided and abetted by Terrence Alfonso Bowry, Jornick Joelick and Katya Tasheva, Brian May recorded the thirteen tracks that became Beam Up’s debut album Innerstand. It’s an album Brian describes that:  “takes those dubwise qualities of rhythm, space and bass, to shape a series of tracks that could be tagged as a variety of genres.” The result is a multinational dub experience, with a contemporary 21st Century sound. Fittingly, Brian dedicates Beam Up’s dub experience, Innerstand, to one of dub’s founding fathers, the inimitable King Tubby. 

Opening Beam Up is I Must Be Dreaming, a one of five tracks featuring Terrence Alfonso Bowry. It’s guaranteed to grab your attention. Pounding, dubby riddims and stabs of organ provide the backdrop to Terence’s joyous, sometimes hopeful vocal. Together, they create delicious track with a feel-good, summery vibe. Terence returns on Hanabi Dub, which  sees a change in direction. The arrangement crackles, as firecrackers soar high into the night sky. A bounding bass, hissing hi-hats, thunderous drums and a myriad of sound effects combine. They’re later joined by hypnotic keyboards. However, at the heart of the arrangement is  Terence’s needy, emotive vocal. Tinged with hurt and heartbreak, Terence lives the lyrics, bringing meaning and emotion to them.

Dive marks the debut of Katya Tasheva on Innerstand. From the get-go, Beam Up’s riddims threaten to damage your bass bins. They’re soon joined by percussion, stabs of a dusty Hammond organ and Katya Tasheva’s tender, heartfelt vocal. It’s quite understated compared to the arrangement. Stabs of horns are added. So are sci-fi sound effects and harmonies, Occasionally, Katya’s vocal becomes dubby. This isn’t overdone though. Instead, it’s used sparingly, resulting in Dive being one of Innerstand’s highlights.

Brian May set out to pay homage to King Tubby. Divers sees Beam Up keep the spirit of dub alive. With Beam Up’s rhythm section, percussion and bursts of keyboards, the dubbiest of all the tracks on Innerstand unfolds. It sounds as if it was made in Kingston, Jamaica during the seventies, not Berlin forty years later. Its hypnotic sound mesmerises and tantalises. Especially, when braying horns are added to the mix. Quite simply, it’s a dub-licious track.

Kick Off is neither as loud nor intense. It’s a much more understated, spacious track. There’s also more headroom. From the opening bars, you’re captivated as genres melt into one. Obviously, dub and reggae are omnipresent as the rhythm section, percussion and keyboards combine. However, there’s also an electronic influence. Later, things even get funky and soulful, as Beam Up don’t spare the hooks.

No Chains is the first of two tracks to feature Jornick Joelick. He delivers a soul-baring vocal, full of frustration, anger and emotion. Meanwhile, Beam Up combine their trademark riddims with stabs of blazing horns, percussion and a myriad of sci-fi sounds. It’s a potent and heady brew, one that sounds as if it was made in Jamaica in the mid to late seventies. 

Mi Amor marks the return of Terrence Alfonso Bowry. Urgent riddims, are joined by stabs of keyboard. They add to the sense of urgency. Then when Terrence’s vocal enters, it’s heartfelt and hopeful. By then, the arrangement is best described as funky, 21st Century dub with an electronic twist. There’s a nod to drum and bass. This is dub, but not dub as we know it. Instead, it’s an innovative track where dub is reinvented for another generation of music lovers.

Fisherman is best described as a musical pot pourri. Straight away, the track takes on a cinematic sound. As fisherman paddle their boat, a storm brews. This is the signal for keyboards and percussion to combine. As a haunting, moody sound floats above the arrangement, dubby riddims and stabs of horns sound. Later, strings sweep in, as Beam Up showcase their unique, cinematic dub sound. 

The cinematic sound continues on Travelling. A train sound, as Jornick Joelick heads off on a musical journey. He delivers an impassioned vocal. Accompanying his is a vintage sounding arrangement where elements of dub, soul and reggae combine. Washes of an uber soulful Hammond organ combine with the rhythm section, percussion and pizzicato strings. They provide a quite beautiful, laid back sounding arrangement for Jornick as he heads of Travelling.

Ghost Fight is the first of two tracks to feature Terrence Alfonso Bowry. From the get-go, it’s obvious Beam Up’s destination is planet dub. Meanwhile, Terrence’s vocal is a soulful plea. Then on Innocence, Beam Up drop the tempo. Terrence’s vocal is heartfelt and sometimes, wistful. Washes of keyboards and thunderous drums combine, creating a spacious arrangement. By then, Terrence’s vocal is similarly spacious. Lyrics hang in the air, as memories come flooding back to a melancholy Terrence on this soulful slide of dub.

Astronomy Dub closes Beam Up’s debut album Innerstand. Slowly, and gradually, the arrangement unfolds. It’s as if it’s reticent about sharing its secrets. While what follows is dub, it’s dub with a difference. Sometimes, it’s moody, other times it takes on an almost ambient sound. Brian May it seems is determined to reinvent dub, to ensure it stays relevant.

That’s been the case throughout Innerstand. Beam Up, lead by Brian May, isn’t content to make an album that replicates the traditional dub sound. No. He realises that to stay relevant, dub like any musical genre, has to constantly try and reinvent itself. So, on Innerstand Beam Up take a series of twists and turns on what’s essentially, a musical journey.

During this journey, Beam Up add everything from ambient and drum and bass, through electronica, funk, rock and soul. Some of these genres make only fleeting appearances. However, listen carefully, and they’ll shine through during Innerstand’s thirteen tracks. 

Brian May, like many dub practitioners of yore, is a musical alchemist. The recording studio is where he makes magic happen. Staring with the stripped back dub sound, Brian dips into his musical palette. He borrows from various musical genres. What follows is a musical pick and mix, Innerstand which was recently released by BBE Music. 

On some tracks, he’ll combine a soulful vocal to some dubby riddims. Other times, the result of his musical alchemy is what’s best described as cinematic dub. Then on other tracks, it looks like Brian is about to stay true to the original spirit of dub. It’s as if it’s something sacred, and he doesn’t dare change the recipe. However, it’s as if he can’t help himself. He can’t resist adding an ingredient from his musical palette. What follows is dub reinvented, dub for the 21st Century.

That’s why, for anyone who has even a passing interest in reggae or dub, then Beam Up’s debut album Innerstand should find its way into their record collection. However, Innerstand will also appeal anyone who enjoys good music. With its summer, feel-good vibe, Innerland will be the perfect soundtrack to the summer. No wonder. Innerstand is a truly dub delicious album from Beam Up.

BEAM UP-INNERSTAND.

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LOS ANGELES SOUL-KENT-MODERN’S BLACK MUSIC LEGACY.

LOS ANGELES SOUL-KENT-MODERN’S BLACK MUSIC LEGACY. 

During the fifties, the Los Angeles’ based, Modern and Kent labels were two of the most successful independent record labels. Their star was definitely in the ascendancy. Modern and Kent signed some of the most successful soul, blues and R&B artists of the fifties, including John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Etta James, The Cadets and Richard Houston. A few years later, and the Modern and Kent labels were more than labels.

With the profits of their hit singles, the Bihari brothers, owners of the Modern and Kent labels, built a recording studio, pressing plant, distribution centre and offices. The Bihari brothers had come a long way in a relatively short space of time. 

As the sixties dawned, music was changing. That would be the case throughout the sixties, and into the seventies. While some labels stood still, the Biharis were determined to released music that was relevant. So, between 1962 and 1972, the period Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy covers, the Modern and Kent labels released an eclectic selection of music. This includes country soul, funk, gospel, psychedelia, R&B, soul, Southern Soul and sweet soul. It seemed the Bihari brothers were covering all bases in their constant search for hits. That’s reflected in Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy’s track listing.

Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records, features twenty-four tracks. They’re an eclectic selection, including contributions from Johnny Adams, Johnny Copeland, The Intentions, Jimmy Bee, Earl Wright, Pat Hunt, The Windjammers, Tommy Youngblood, Jackie Shane, Millie Foster, Ruth Davis and Wally Cox. These tracks were recorded between 1962 and 1972. However, not all of the tracks were released during thus period. Indeed, twenty of the tracks were released between 1962 and 2000. The other four tracks from Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy have never been released before.

This includes Jeanette Jones’ I Want Action, which opens Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy. Recorded in October 1968, I Want Action was penned by Andy Badale and Albert Elias, and gave Ruby Winters a hit single. Sadly, Jeanette’s gospel tinged cover was never released, until now. It’s mixed by Alex Palao and is the perfect way to open Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy. Having whetted your appetite, it leaves you wanting more, much more.

Don’t let the name DiFosco fool you. They’re not a disco group. Far from it. Their contribution, You Saved Me From Destruction is a fusion of soul and psychedelia was released in 1971. It was penned by Frank Clark. He also arranged and co-produced this single with Ervin Clark. The lead singer is none other than Dee Erwin, who previously, had a hit single with Little Eva with Swinging On A Star. Billed as Di Fosco Erwin Jr, he plays his part in an innovative and impassioned slice of 21st Century, psychedelic soul.

Johnny Copeland was a veteran of the Houston blues and soul scene, releasing over forty singles during the period between 1958 and 1980. Sadly, I Was Born To Love You, which was recorded in 1970, never made it only any of Johnny’s singles. Instead, it lain unloved unloved in the Modern’s vaults until it featured on Kent’s 1995 compilation Serious Shades Of Soul. At last this uptempo dancer was heard by a wider audience. Ten years later, and another generation of music lovers can hear a vocal powerhouse from Johnny that oozes emotion and hope.

I Only Have Eyes For You is an oft-covered track. In 1970, Jimmy Bee covered this Al Dublin and Harry Warren penned track. It was produced by Clarence Brown, and arranged and conducted by Rene Hall. It’s another track mixed by Alec Palao. Originally made famous by The Flamingoes in 1959, Jimmy stays true to the original. Elements of blues, jazz, doo wop, R&B and soul combine, as Jimmy delivers a heartfelt, seductive vocal.

Originally, Earl Wright’s I Don’t Know was released on the Hue label. It was a small independent label. Later, I Don’t Know was picked up by the Virgo label, who had a pressing and distribution deal with Kent. Virgo hoped to bring this beautiful, but wistful fusion of blues and soul to a wider audience. Sadly, I Don’t Know was just a regional his. That’s despite Earl’s despairing vocal, tinged with hurt and heartbreak.

Before embarking upon a solo career, Felice Taylor and her sisters Norma and Darlene, recorded as The Sweets. They released Satisfy Me Baby on the Soultown label. By 1966, Felice had embarked upon a solo career. She released her only single, It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It’s Spring) on Mustang Records. It reached number forty-two on the US Billboard 100. While Felice’s next two singles failed to chart, her third single, I Feel A Love Coming On reached number eleven in Britain. Sing Me A Love Song however, is one that got away. Penned by Richie Adams and Irwin Levine, it was recorded but never released. That’s until now. Sing Me A Love Song, where Felice sounds remarkably like Diana Ross, is bound to find favour within the Northern Soul scene.

In 1971, The Windjammers  covered All That Shines Is Not Gold. It was penned by Wally Cox, and produced by Leo Kulka, under his George Benz alias. Originally, All That Shines Is Not Gold was meant to be released on Golden State Records. The record was pressed, but when the bill wasn’t paid by label owner Willie Hoskins. So, the record was pulled. Leo Kulka then signed The Windjammers and took them back into the studio. One of the songs they recorded was Poor Sad Child Pt. 1, which was released as a single. All That Shines Is Not Gold was relegated to the flip side. This was an opportunity lost, as All That Shines Is Not Gold features The Windjammers at their soulful best.

Many blues aficionados will know the name Tommy Youngblood. He forged a reputation as a blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. In 1969, Tommy released an album The Soul Of Tommy Youngblood. It was released on Kent, and featured one of Tommy’s compositions, Gone On Home.. Accompanied by stabs of horns and driving, stomping rhythm section, Tommy delivers a joyous and soulful vocal.

Jackie Shane was originally born in Nashville, the capital of country music. He then moved to Toronto, before releasing singles on labels in Washington, New York and Boston. By 1967, Jackie released a cover of the standard You Are My Sunshine on Modern. This familiar track is transformed. Elements of blues, gospel, R&B and soul unite, as Jackie releases a vocal powerhouse.

Millie Foster signed to Modern Records in 1967. Before this, she’d only released a trio of singles between 1962 and 1964. At Modern, Millie recorded a quartet of cuts. They’ve never been released before. That’s until now. Compiler Ady Croasdell struck gold when he discovered Millie’s version of Maxwell Davis’ Move A Little Closer. It’s sassy, sultry and seductive. Quite simply, it’s musical gold from one of soul’s best kept secrets, Millie Foster.

Robert Ramsey and James Day cowrote Take A Look In Your Mind. It was then recorded by Robert and was originally meant to be released as a single on Kent, in 1971. However, when the release date came nearer, Kent decided to flip the single over. Like It Stands became the single and the country soul of Take A Look In Your Mind become the B-Side. This was another case of opportunity lost. On its release, Like It Stands failed commercially, and Robert never released another single. However, Take A Look In Your Mind is a reminder of what Robert Ramsay is capable of.

Closing Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy is Maurine Williams and The Mount Olive 2nd B.C. Choir’s version of the Betty Gouche ballad Your Gonna Miss Your Chance. This was a gospel track was pressed by Modern for a Los Angeles church. Accompanied by just a lone piano, Maurine Williams, accompanied by the choir delivers a heartfelt, impassioned vocal that’s both beautiful and oozes emotion.

Choosing just twelve of the tracks on Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy, to tell you about, wasn’t easy. Quite simply, Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy is crammed full of quality music. Whether it’s blues, country soul, funk, gospel, psychedelia, R&B, soul, Southern Soul or sweet soul, each and every track has quality written all over it. That’s no exaggeration.

You can cast aside the remote control when listening to Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. As compilations go, Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy is all killer and no filler. From the opening bars of Jeanette Jones’ I Want Action, which opens Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy, right through to the closing notes of Maurine Williams and The Mount Olive 2nd B.C. Choir’s version of the Betty Gouche ballad Your Gonna Miss Your Chance, not once are you tempted to reach for the remote control. That’s testimony to Ady Croasdell’s crate-digging skills.

Ady Croasdell must be one of the hardest working men in music. Hardly a month goes by, without Ady having compiled a compilation. If Ady’s not compiling compilations, he’s writing sleeve-notes. It seems Ady Croasdell lives and breathes music. That’s apparent on his latest compilation, Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy, which oozes quality. Los Angeles Soul-Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy is a welcome addition to the Kent Soul discography.

LOS ANGELES SOUL-KENT-MODERN’S BLACK MUSIC LEGACY.

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ATA KAK-OBAA SIMA.

ATA KAK-OBAA SIMA.

Twenty-one years ago, back in 1994, Ata Kak originally released his debut album Obaa Sima. It was no ordinary album. Obaa Sima was released with the help of his college professor and Ata’s twin brother. His brother designed the artwork for the cassette, and Professor O.A. DeGraft Johnson, helped release Obaa Sima through the university’s publishing department. Eventually, the release date arrived, and fifty cassette copies of Obaa Sima were made and released. 

Ata and his brother decided fifty copies of Obaa Sima was enough to be going on with. They were essentially testing the market in in Ghana and Canada, to see how DJs and record buyers would react to Ata’s lo-fi fusion of highlife, Twi-language rap, funk and disco. Delivered with the energy and enthusiasm heard on early Prince albums, surely Obaa Sima would capture the imagination and hearts of critics, DJs and music lovers? 

Sadly, that wasn’t to be the case. DJs wanted paid to play Obaa Sima. With Ata unable to afford to promote Obaa Sima, he was between a rock and a hard place. So, Obaa Sima passed Canadian and Ghanian music lovers by. Only three of the fifty copies of Obaa Sima were sold. So, with a heavy heart, and his dreams in tatters Ata’s nascent music career was all but over.

Later, with Ata living in Toronto, he played some friends Obaa Sima. They loved his music. That must have proved ironic for Ata. After all, he’d poured his heart, hopes and dreams into Obaa Sima. It could’ve been the start of a career in music. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Then in 2002, a copy of Obaa Sima fell into the hands of the owner and founder of a record company.

This was Brian Shimkovitz, founder Awesome Tapes From Africa. In 2002, he was travelling through Ghana, when he came across someone selling cassettes at the roadside. As a lover of African music, Brian bought a copy. However, he never got round to playing what just so happened to be, Obaa Sima. A few years passed, and eventually, Brian decided to listen to Obaa Sima. Straight away, Brian was blown away with Obaa Sima. So, much so, that Brian founded the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog.

Having founded the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog, Brian posted the songs from Obaa Sima on the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog. Soon, the floodgates opened. There were literally hundreds of thousands of downloads, YouTube views, music video homages and remixes. There was a problem though. Nobody knew where Ata Kak was.

For years, nobody knew of Ata Kak’s whereabouts. Brian asked his contacts within the music industry if they knew anything about Ata Kak. The answer was always the same, no. Ata Kak, even in the internet age, was a mysterious and enigmatic musician. Eventually, the search was over and Brian made contact with Ata Kak. This resulted in the recent reissue of Obaa Sima by Awesome Tapes From Africa on 2nd March 2015. At last, the story behind the much traveled Ata Kak can be told.

Ata Kak was born Yaw Atta-Owusu, on 29th September 1960, in Kumsai, Ghana. He attended Mfantisipim Senior High School. When Ata left school, his first job was managing the bar at the Kumsai Golf Club. Living at home with his father, and working at the golf club, this was Ata’s life for several years. However, in 1985, when Ata was twenty-five, he moved to Germany, to join his wife.

For the first nine months Ata spent in Germany, he took German lessons. Ata planned to go to university. However, his plans changed when Mary became pregnant. This resulted in a change in plan for Ata.

By the time Kevin, Ata and Mary’s first son was born, Ata was worked as a labourer and farmhand during the day. At night, Ata taught English. In his spare time, Ata listened to music.

His favourite genres were disco, soul, funk and R&B. Ata was soon immersing himself in the music of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, The Staple Singer and K.C. and The Sunshine Band. Soon, Ata went from listening to music, to making music.

Moving to Germany had opened doors for Ata and his wife. He worked in Dortmund and Dusseldorf, made friends, and through these friends, got the opportunity to join a band. 

The opportunity arose when Ata was standing in line in the Post Office. An acquaintance approached Ata, and asked if he could play the drums? Ata for some reason, decided to say yes. That’s despite having never played the drums before. Despite this, Ata joined the band, and within five weeks, he was playing proficiently. Not long after this, Ata was singing lead vocals, in the reggae cover’s band. This was the start of Ata’s musical career.

Throughout the rest of Ata’s stay in Germany, he played in bands. Then in 1989, Ata moved to Canada, and Ata settled in Toronto, and was asked if he’d like to join a highlife band? 

Again, Ata agreed. However, there was a problem. Ata had never played highlife. He preferred reggae. Despite this, Ata became a member of Marijata, who played all over Canada and recorded three albums. By then, Ata had immersed himself in highlife, pop, soul, R&B and funk. This would stand Ata in good stead when in 1991, he embarked upon a solo career.

Having decided to embark upon a solo career, Ata realised his bandmates, couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be able to play the music he wanted to make. So, he had to play all the parts himself. To do this, Ata whose budget was restricted, set about buying some musical equipment. He bought a second hand computer and Atari Notator music software. He bought a new synth with built in drum sounds, a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a twelve channel mixing desk. Now Ata was ready to record his own music.

Writing songs, Ata found, came naturally. Recording them, however, took time. Without money to hire a recording studio, Ata’s Toronto apartment became a makeshift studio. Helping Ata to record his own music was his friend, Yanson Nyantakyi, who took on the role of assistant enegineer. Slowly, Ata laid down the various parts. He added raps and vocals. Ata even added backing vocals. Then he realised his friend Lucy Quansah was better suited. She complimented Ata perfectly. As the tracks that would become Obba Sima came together, Ata’s baby son Jeffrey watched on. Little did Jeffrey realise that by the time he’d grown up, Obba Sima would’ve become an internet sensation.

Once Obba Sima was completed, Ata wanted to release his lo-fi fusion of highlife, Twi-language rap, funk and disco. So, Ata sent Obba Sima to Ghana to be mastered. It was much cheaper to send his tapes from Canada to Ghana, than have the mastering done locally. This was also the case with having the tapes duplicated. Fifty tapes were duplicated in Ghana, and sent to Ata in Toronto. With Ata’s brother providing the artwork for the cassette, Obba Sima was ready for release in 1994.

Unfortunately, when Obba Sima was released in Canada and Ghana in 1994. Ata approached DJs, asking them if they would play Obba Sima. The DJs wanted paid to play Obaa Sima. Ata couldn’t afford to do so. Nor could he afford to promote Obaa Sima, he was between a rock and a hard place. So, Obaa Sima passed Canadian and Ghanian music lovers by. Only three of the fifty copies of Obaa Sima were sold. So, with a heavy heart, and his dreams in tatters Ata’s nascent music career was all but over. That’s until a copy fell into the hands of Brian Shimkovitz, founder Awesome Tapes From Africa. 

In 2002, Brian Shimkovitz was travelling through Ghana, when he came across someone selling cassettes at the roadside. As a lover of African music, Brian bought a copy. A few years passed, and eventually, Brian decided to listen to Obaa Sima. However, a few years passed before Brian played Obaa Sima. When he did, Brian was blown away with the music on Obaa Sima. So, much so, that Brian founded the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog.

After founding the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog, Brian posted the songs from Obaa Sima on the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog. Soon, the floodgates opened, and Obaa Sima became an internet sensation. So, Brian set about tracing Ata. 

This proved problematic. Nobody knew of Ata Kak’s whereabouts. Brian asked his contacts within the music industry if they knew anything about Ata Kak. The answer was always the same, no. Ata Kak, even in the internet age, was a mysterious and enigmatic musician. Eventually, though, the search was over and Brian made contact with Ata Kak. This resulted in the recent reissue of Obaa Sima which I’ll tell you about.

Opening Obaa Sima is the title-track. Thunderous, pounding, drums and washes of synths bathed in filters add hypnotic, dance-floor friendly backdrop. Then a roll of drums sets the scene for the vocal. It sits in the midst of an arrangement where elements of disco, funk, highlife, hip hop and soul combine. The occasional holler or whoop is added. Mostly, though it’s just a soulful, heartfelt vocal. Later, the vocal’s augmented by backing vocal. They’re the perfect addition to this irresistible, lo-fi, dance-floor friendly track. 

The tempo drops on Moma Yendodo. Occasional bursts of pitched up backing vocals, thunderous drums and a bounding bass join Ata’s Twi-language rap. Just like the previous tracks, genres melt into one. Elements of hip hop, soul, funk and  Twi-language rap become one. At breakneck speed, Ata delivers a strutting, swaggering rap. All the time, backing vocals accompany him, as he shows another side Ata Kak, musical chameleon and showman.

Straight away, Ata’s love of soul can be heard on Adagya. Stabs of warm synths and a scrabbled bass pay homage to eighties soul. Then it’s all change. The track takes on a lo-fi, electronic sound as Ata urgently, delivers a Twi-language rap. He certainly doesn’t lack confidence. Literally, he swaggers through the track, with the soulful stylings of backing vocalists for company.

Medofo is a track whose roots are in Afro-beat and funk. It’s the dusty sounding Hammond organ and funky rhythm section that leads to this comparison. Then it’s all change. Ata delivers another of trademark raps. However, stealing the show is the sweet, soulful sound of Lucy Quansah. She adds backing vocals, that sometimes, head in the direction of a rap. Later, when the vocals drop out, elements of eighties funk, soul and R&B combine. The arrangement is panned right to left. It’s irresistible sound is the perfect replacement for the vocals, on what’s one of Obaa Sima’s highlights.

Drums pound as Daa Nyinaa gets underway. Soon, a sprinkling of percussion, washes of synths and the bass combine. Again, a drum roll announces the arrival of Ata. It’s as if its saying: “here’s Ata.” He veers between a rap and a vocal. Behind him, the arrangement has a real lo-fi sound. What sounds like an accordion briefly, weeps. later, Lucy Quansah makes a welcome entrance. She’s the perfect foil for Ata. Together, they drive each other to greater heights. Ata becomes a man inspired, his vocal soulful and funky, complete with hollers, whoops and one of his trademark raps.

Yemmpa Aba has a lo-fi, sci-fi and electronic sounding arrangement. Synths, eighties electronic drums combine with an organ that sounds as if it’s come straight of a highlife album. Then there’s the bounding bass. They provide the backdrop for  Ata’s as he delivers another vocal cum rap at breakneck speed. Lucy adds backing vocals, as Ata hits his stride. It’s as if he’s been inspired by James Brown and Melle Mel, on this blistering track.

Closing Obaa Sima Bome Nnwom, which straight away, has you hooked. Exploding into life, Ata gets into the groove on this instrumental. Pounding drums drive the arrangement along. They’re joined by a scrabbled bass, washes of relentless synths and the occasional sci-fi sound. Sometimes, the track takes on industrial sound. However, mostly, it’s mesmeric, hypnotic and akin to a call to dance. What a way to close Obaa Sima.

Twelve years after recording and releasing Obaa Sima, Ata Kak became an internet sensation. While the album he recorded in 1994, in his Toronto apartment went viral, Ata Kak never knew. Ata was also unaware that across the world, hundreds of thousands of people were downloading the songs on Obaa Sima. The floodgates had opened. Obaa Sima was an internet sensation.

Soon, Ata Kak’s album Obaa Sima was one of the most viewed items on You Tube. Before long, remixes and edits were being posted. Still, Ata was unaware of this. Nor was he going to become rich. 

As is often the case, songs were downloaded illegally. People were making money out of remixing and editing the songs on Obaa Sima. They posted them on their You Tube channels, and  soon, these remixes and edits went viral. Still, Ata Kak never knew about this.

Ata Kak was, by now, back in Ghana. He’d returned home in 2006, where he invested in a business that dug wells. Sadly, equipment failure lead to the company’s failure. This meant that Ata could no longer make music. The situation was akin to a Greek tragedy. While Ata struggled to make ends meet financially, reputations were built, and money made thanks to his album Obaa Sima. 

Eventually, Brian Shimkovitz, founder of Awesome Tapes From Africa tracked Ata Kak down. The two men agreed to reissue Obaa Sima on 2nd March 2015. Somewhat belatedly, Ata Kak should make some money out of Obaa Sima. That should be the case.

Hopefully, everyone who downloaded either songs from Obaa Sima, or the entire album, will buy a copy. So, should anyone who made money out of remixes and edits. That’s only fair and just. In return, everyone who buys Obaa Sima will discover a true hidden gem of an album, that’s bound to appeal to many people. 

There’s elements of everything from Afro-beat, disco, electronica, funk, highlife, hip hop, R&B, soul and Twi-language rap on Obaa Sima’s seven songs. During Obaa Sima, Ata Kak, aided and abetted by backing vocalist Lucy Quansah, created an album of dance-floor friendly, genre-melting music that quite simply, oozes quality, and is guaranteed to get any party started. 

ATA KAK-OBAA SIMA.

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DOM LA NENA-ELA.

DOM LA NENA-ELA.

Not many people are willing to devote their life to music. No. It takes a very special person to make the sacrifices that are needed to master an instrument. Most people are unwilling to make the commitment that’s required. This wasn’t the case for Dom La Nena. From the moment the Brazilian born chanteuse first discovered the cello, it was literally love at first sight. Since then, the Brazilian born cellist and vocalist’s life has revolved around music. That was the first step in a musical journey that lead to the release Dom La Nena’s debut album Ela. It’s just been rereleased in Japan on 25th February 2015, on the Six Degrees Records. This is perfect timing, because very soon, Dom La Nena will release her sophomore album Soyo, However, that’s till to come. Before that, I tell you about Ela, I’ll tell you about Dom La Nena’s life and career.

Dom La Nena was born in 1989, inPorto Alegre, Southern Brazil. Aged five, curiosity got the better of Dom. She discovered something she’d seen every day of her young life, the family piano. Curiosity became a voyage of discover. Her discovery of the piano lead to the cello. Straight away, Dom La Nena realized that the cello was her way of expressing herself. So, she decided to devote her life to music and specifically, the cello. 

By the time Dom was eight, her family moved to France. Her father was studying for a doctorate. During this period, Dom musical education began. She received a classical training during the five years her family lived in France. Once her father’s doctorate was completed, the family returned to Brazil. In Dom’s case, this wasn’t for long.

Already, Dom was an admired of American cellist Christine Walevska, who in 1997, was living in Buenos Aries, Argentina. Dom wrote to Christine and not long after this, she moved to Buenos Aries. Her parents realized this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Never again, would Dom get the chance to be a student of a legendary musician. So, Dom’s parents allowed her to move to Argentina.

Aged just thirteen, Dom moved to Buenos Aries. Dom spent five years studying with Christine Walevska and some of the country’s most influential classical musicians.  It was during her time in Argentina that Dom adopted the name La Nena. This was affectionate name which means “the girl,” was bestowed on her by Christine and her grandparents, who Dom would visit in Uruguay. Little did they realize that it would stick. After five years, Dom, aged eighteen, had finished what was the another stage in her musical eduction. Next stop for her, was Paris, where her musical career would begin.

It was 2007 when Dom moved to Paris. Soon, she was working with some of the biggest names in French music. Dom accompanied Jeanne Moreau, Etienne Daho and Camille. Then in 2009, Dom worked with Anglo-French singer and actress Jane Birkin on her worldwide tour. It was during Jane Birkin’s tour that Dom decided she’d begin work on her debut album.

On her return from touring with Jane Birkin, Piers Faccini offered Dom the chance to use his home studio. The rural location was perfect. It was high in Cevennes Mountains in France. Isolated, and miles away from anywhere, it gave Dom the chance to concentrate purely on her music. Within a week, Dom had recorded all the cello, piano and vocal parts. Dom decided to send the songs to Piers. He’d not planned to work on the album. Then he heard the songs.

After one listen, Piers wanted to work with Dom. He threw himself into the project. They proved a potent partnership. Dom and Piers were like ying and yang. Soon, an understanding arose. Quickly, Piers knew what was needed to improve a song. They fed off each other, inspired each other. Eventually, thirteen songs were finished. These thirteen songs became Ela, Dom La Nena’s debut album, which I’ll tell you about.

Anjo Gabriel is the perfect track to open Ela. This is case from the opening bar to the closing notes. Atmospheric describes the introduction. When a creaky door gives way to an accordion you’re interest in piqued. They provides a wistful and understated backdrop to the pizzicato strings and piano. They accompany Dom’s fragile, ethereal vocal. Accompanied by a subtle sprinkling of percussion and harmonies, the song heads towards its beautiful, crescendo.

No Meu Pais has a minimalist, understated arrangement. Just piano and cello set the scene for Dom’s vocal. There’s a sadness in her vocal. She’s grownup without roots, traveling between Brazil, France, Argentina and Brazil, never putting roots down. She’s missed out on so much. It’s as if she’s realizing what she’s sacrificed for her first love, music. A poignant coming of age song, is it a case of no regrets?”

From the opening bars of O Vento, the tension builds. Quivering strings and meandering guitars accompany Dom’s vocal. It’s sung in Portuguese. There’s a sense of melancholia in her vocal. Tinged with sadness and regret, Dom’s vocal is a window into the soul of the weary adventurer. 

There’s a vibrancy to Dom’s vocal on Batuque. Multi-tracked backing vocals accompany her. Just like her vocal, they’re ethereal and crystalline. The drums are the polar opposite. They’e bold and dramatic, while the percussion is subtle. Later, when they join with Eastern percussion and Dom’s scatted vocal, they prove a mesmeric combination.

Dom’s cello provides a wistful, heartbreaking backdrop to Dessa Vez, which sees Piers Faccini join Dom. When her vocal enters, it veers between hurt-filled and hopeful. Longing and loneliness are omnipresent. She wonders and hopes, but dare not think that this time she might find love. She’s been hurt before is scared of being hurt again. Piers assures her this time it’s different, this time, it could be for real. 

Conto de Fadas, which translates as Fairytale, is one of the highlights of Ela. Just a piano, then cello accompany Dom’s vocal. It’s tender, emotive and soothing. Despite being sung in Portuguese, its inherent beauty will transcends any barrier,

Ela the title-track has a sense of suspense. That’s thanks to the cello. It provides a dramatic backdrop for Dom’s despondent vocal. Soon, it quicken, becoming breathy. It’s as if she’s overcome with sadness and sorrow at the situation she finds herself in.

Buenos Aries features another guest artist, Argentinian singer Thiago Pethit. The song is a celebration of the time Dom spent in Buenos Aries. There’s a classical influence to this piano lead song. Dom delivers a a tender, wistful and ethereal vocal. Then an accordion tugs at her heartstrings. It provides a reminder of her old life in Argentina. When it drops out, Thiago delivers an impassioned, pleading vocal. Later, as Thiago and Dom’s vocals are swept along by the accordion and harmonies, memories come flooding back. For Dom, they’re good and bad. Instead of a celebration, it proves to be a bittersweet journey.

Breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking describes Menina Dos Olhos Azuis. With just harmonies and later, a piano for company, Dom lays bare her feelings. What follows is an outpouring of emotion, with a cello solo proving the final straw.

Sambinha is a very different track. It’s a much more upbeat song, that’s like a call to dance. You can’t help but submit to this songs irresistible charms. An acoustic guitar and percussion join Dom’s lilting, sensual vocal. Cooing harmonies, handclaps and accordion combine to create a backdrop to Dom’s sultry vocal.

When I first heard Canção Boba it reminded me of another song. Having racked my brains and played the songs numerous times, I realized what it was, U2’s One Love. Although there’s similarities, it’s also very different. Just a pensive piano provides an understated backdrop for Dom’s vocal. Her vocal oozes emotion, sincerity and joy. Gradually, the arrangement builds and reveals its beauty and secrets. As bass and cello combine with harmonies, the song takes on an anthemic quality. Thankfully, Dom doesn’t resort to posturing, relying on the ethereal, crystalline beauty of her vocal to shine through.

Vocé sees Dom joined by Camille, a French singer who she’s previously worked with. Inspiration for this song came from a childhood game she played. Memories come flooding back. That was when she was carefree, and started her globetrotting life as a musician. As the song ends, Dom’s vocal has become melancholy, at what she lost and the sacrifices she made. Was it worth it?

Saudade closes Ela. That’s the perfect way to describe not just Dom’s vocal on this track, but much of the album. Melancholia or wistfulness is a way of describing it. It’s more than that. There’s a sense of longing, as if desperate to recapture something that’s long-gone. That’s apparent from her vocal, which is accompanied by the cello. It reflects the regret in Dom’s vocal. What caused the regret? Maybe it’s the childhood and youth Dom never got the chance to enjoy. After all, she was living away from home and devoting her life to music?

Thirteen songs and just thirty-six minutes long, Dom La Nena’s debut album Ela, is a beautiful, but melancholy album. It’s a poignant and powerful window into the world of Dom La Nena. The thirteen songs feature mostly understated, acoustic arrangements. This allows Dom’s vocal to take centre-stage. You’re spellbound by each of her vocals. She’s a natural storyteller, whose worldweary, wistful voice brings the lyrics to life. Despite being sung in Portuguese and Spanish, you can feel, share and empathize with her pain and anguish. Dom sounds a complex character, whose music is a reflection of her childhood.

First of all, Dom and her family moved from Brazil to Paris. Aged just eight, she left behind her friends and had to travel across the world. She had meet new friends and make a new life. Then there was the language barrier. This couldn’t have been easy. Then five years later, she moved from France back to Brazil. Then came the biggest decision of her life. Aged just thirteen, Dom left home and headed to Buenos Aries. Leaving behind friends and family, she followed her dream of becoming a professional musician. In doing this, she sacrificed so much, maybe too much? Some would say she sacrificed her childhood? Traveling to Argentina she spent five years there. From her songs, they weren’t always happy times. Bittersweet times they were. From Argentina, Dom headed back to France. Living a nomadic existence, she never puts roots down. That’s what makes No Meu Pais autobiographical. 

Indeed, many of the songs on Ela which was rereleased in Japan on 25th February 2015, on the Six Degrees Records, are autobiographical. Featuring articulate, intelligent lyrics, Ela is an emotional roller coaster journey that many people can relate to. After all, many people have made sacrifices that later, they wonder whether were worthwhile? In Dom’s case, it’s a journey full of highs and lows. Sadly, it seems the emotional lows outnumber the highs. That’s why one song epitomizes Dom La Nena’s music. That song is Saudade. It’s a Brazilian word that describes a deep-rooted sense of loss or longing. To me, that describes much of Dom’s music. That’s also why Dom’s music is so moving, poignant and powerful. 

As an outsider looking in, Ela was an opportunity for Dom La Nena to reflect on her unorthodox life so far. I wonder whether she thinks that the sacrifices she made were worthwhile? Listening to the songs on Ela, melancholia is almost a constant companion for Dom. So often, her voice sounds melancholy, wistful and distant. It’s as if the songs bring back memories, some she’d rather forget. Maybe, Ela will prove cathartic for Dom La Nena, and this outpouring of emotion and memories will help her to move on and enjoy the next chapters in what I’m sure will be a long and successful musical journey? 

DOM LA NENA-ELA.

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