HENRY STONE’S-MIAMI SOUND.

HENRY STONE’S-MIAMI SOUND.

Henry Stone was a record man. That was the case since he founded his first record labels in 1952. Rockin’ and Glory were the first over over 100 record labels Henry Stone founded. These labels sold over 100 million copies. The most famous, and successful of these labels was T.K. Records, which is celebrated on Henry Stone’s Miami-Sound which was released on 29th June 2015, on the Edinburgh based label, Athens Of The North.

Henry Stone’s Miami-Sound is described as “The Record Man’s Funkiest 45s” on the cover. That is no word of a lie.  Not with contributions from Little Beaver, Milton Wright, Lynn Collins, Wildflowers, Funky Nassau, Oceanliners and T-Connection. In an instant, these dance floor fillers take the listener back to Miami in the seventies when T.K. Records had been transformed from one of the city’s up-and-coming labels, to one of its leading lights. 

For any aspiring musician or band in Miami, T.K. Records was the label they wanted to sign to. That was where hit records were made, and dreams came true. T.K. Records was the latest label founded my serial musical entrepreneur, Henry Stone. The boy from the Bronx had come a long way. Now, Henry Stones was an embodiment of the American dream. 

Henry Stone was born on June 3rd 1921, in the Bronx, New York. By the time he was a teenager, Henry Stone was living in an orphanage in Pleasantville, New York. That’s where Henry learnt to play the trumpet. This was his introduction to music.

In 1943,  Henry Stone joined the U.S. Army.  He was soon playing in the racially integrated band. That was where Henry first heard R&B music. He was hooked. So much so, that when he was discharged from the army in 1947, he headed to Los Angeles, looking for a job in the music industry.

Having made the journey to L.A., Henry Stone  soon found a job within the music industry. His first job was in sales and promotion with Jewel Records. This was the opening Henry Stone had been looking for.  From there, Henry moved to Modern Records, where he first encountered the Bihari brothers. They too, would play an important part in the development of the modern record industry. Especially with Henry Stone taking care of sales and promotion. This only lasted for a year, before Henry was on the move again.

This time, Henry Stone made his way to Miami, Florida, the city that would become his home. Quickly, Henry had realised that he wasn’t going to get rich working for someone else. So, having learnt how the music industry worked, decided to setup his own distribution company Seminole in Miami. Seminole was just the first part of Henry’s burgeoning musical empire. 

Soon, he opened the Crystal recording studio. Crystal wasn’t just used by local musicians. In 1951, Ray Charles was in Miami. This was before he found fame and fortune. Ray Charles was looking for a studio to cut St. Pete Florida Blues. Someone suggested the Crystal recording studio. So Henry found himself recording the man who many would later call The Genius. The pair would later renew their acquaintance. By then, Ray Charles would’ve become one of the biggest names in R&B; while Henry Stone’s musical empire would’ve grown.

The expansion of Henry Stone’s musical empire began in 1952. That’s when he founded his first two labels. Rockin’ was a blues label; while Glory was a gospel label. Quickly, both labels were enjoying a degree of success. One of Henry’s biggest success was The Charms’ single Hearts Of Stone. Henry released the single on King’s DeLuxe label. It gave Henry Stone his first U.S. R&B single. However, the next time Henry Stone had a number one single, he would own the label. Before that, Henry’s musical empire was about to expand.

The one thing that Henry Stone’s musical empire didn’t have, was a publishing company. So in 1955, Henry rectified this. He founded  his first publishing companies. At the same time, Henry founded a number of record labels. This included the Chart and Dade labels. They signed a number of local blues musicians. The next company Henry next founded Tru-Tone, would become one of the most successful of his career.

Tru-Tone started life as a small record distributor. However, it quickly grew and eventually, was distributing for many of the independent labels. By then, Tru-Tone was called Tone Distribution, and was distributing Atlantic, Stax and Motown, three of soul’s most successful labels. Their records were distributed to the four corners of the globe by Tone Distribution. Essentially, this made Henry Stone one of the most powerful men in R&B. However, despite the success of Tone Distribution, Henry Stone was still record man at heart.

For most of the sixties, Henry Stone had concentrated his efforts on building up Tone Distribution. Deep down, Henry wanted to make records. So throughout the sixties, Henry still recorded R&B artists. He never enjoyed much success. This changed in 1971.

During 1971, Henry Stone recorded his first million selling hits This was Betty Wright’s Clean Up Woman. It was released on Steve Alaimo’s Alston label, and reached number six on the U.S. Billboard 100 and number two on the U.S. R&B charts. By the 30th December 1971, Clean Up Woman had sold a million copies, and was certified gold. Soon, one gold disc would become two. By then, Henry Stone had gone from distributor to label owner.

By 1972, Henry Stone had built Tone Distribution into one of America’s biggest distribution companies. One of his biggest clients was Atlantic Records. Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records was the bearer of bad news.

Atlantic Records was about to merge with Warner Bros. The newly merged company would distribute their own records. Tone Distribution had just lost one of its biggest clients. Rather than brood, Henry began thinking about the future.  

It didn’t take Henry Stone long to decide what the future held for him. His plans included two ventures. The first was manufacturing records. This would tie in with the second part of Henry’s plan, which saw him form a new record company T.K. Records.

Henry’s partner in T.K. Records was former teen idol Steve Alaimo who owned the Alston label. The pair named their new label after the initials of the studio’s recording console designer, Terry Kane. T.K. Records. Little did the pair realise, that one of the most successful record labels of seventies had been born. Success wasn’t far away.

Later in 1972, Timmy Thomas arrived at the newly founded T.K. Records with a demo a song he had written and recorded. Timmy took a song to T.K. Records. It was passed to T.K. Records  producer and partner Steve Alamos a copy of Why Can’t We Live Together?  As Steve listened to the song, Timmy explained it was only a demo. Steve’s first thought was to rerecord the song. Then he decided that he liked the understated, pared back sound. He explained to Timmy that he liked the single as it was. Now he and Henry Stone had to work on the release of Why Can’t We Live Together?

That didn’t take long. Henry saw the potential in Why Can’t We Live Together? They began working towards a release date  in late 1972. Why Can’t We Live Together was released on Glades, a label Henry Stone had founded when he setup Tru-Tone. Straight away, Why Can’t We Live Together began to climb the charts. Eventually, in early 1973 reached number three in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. By then, Why Can’t We Live Together had sold over two million copies and was certified platinum.  For Henry Stone, his decision to move from distribution to record company owner had been vindicated. This was just the start of the success that Henry Stone and T.K. Records would enjoy.

After the success of Why Can’t We Live Together, the final pieces in the T.K. Records’ jigsaw fell into place. They were both working in the background at T.K. Records. Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, both aspiring and talented musicians. When they arrived at T.K. Records, Harry and Richard were willing working unpaid. At first, they helped out behind the scenes. They were willing to do this in the hope that maybe, just maybe, they would be allowed to make music. 

What really interest Wayne and Harry was making music. They were talented musicians and songwriters, who played in local bands. Gradually, their persistence paid off. They worked as engineers and session musicians on many of T.K. Records’ sessions. Most of these sessions, which featured T.K. Records’ most successful artists, took place during the day. This meant that Wayne and Harry could make music “after hours.”

With the studio quiet in the evenings, Harry and Wayne set about making music. Eventually, they came up trumps with a song that caught the attention of Henry Stone. This was Blow Your Whistle, which in August 1973, was released by Harry and Wayne’s new group,  K.C. and The Sunshine Band. It had reached number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts. Sound Your Funky Horn was K.C. and The Sunshine Band’s sophomore single, released in January 1974. This gave them their second hit single, reaching number twenty-one in the US R&B Charts and number seventeen in the UK. T.K. Records had another successful act on their hands? However, when Harry and Richard penned Rock Your Baby, K.C. and The Sunshine Band was put on hold. 

Gwen McCrae was scheduled to cut Rock Your Baby for T.K. Records. Richard Finch and Harry Wayne Casey of KC and The Sunshine Band arrived had written Rock Your Baby. They had even laid down a backing track in just forty-five minutes. All that Gwen had to do was lay down a vocal. Her husband George, who had been trying to make a living as a singer, was going along to watch. However, for George the dream was over. He was fed up struggling to make ends meet, so had decided to head to college to study law enforcement. George was just whittling away the days until he headed to college. That’s why he planned to accompany his wife to the recording session. Everything was going to plan until Gwen phoned to say she was late and wasn’t going to make the session. George however, said he was happy to step in and replace his wife. It would be his swan-song before college.

When George arrived at the studio, she sung the song in two takes. After the session, Jerome Smith was paid $15 to add guitar. With a McCrae having recorded Rock Your Baby, pretty soon, George’s plans for a career in law enforcement would be a thing of the past.

Rock Your Baby was released by T.K. Records in April 1974, with the single entering at number ninety-three in the US R&B Charts. Even then George mustn’t have thought the song would change his life. Over the next seven weeks, Rock Your Baby rose up the chart, reaching number one in the US Billboard 100 in July 1974, spending three weeks there. The single also reached number one in the US R&B Charts, while reaching number one in over eighty countries worldwide. It became the song of the summer of 1974. For George this was the highlight of his career. However, for Harry and Wayne, this was just the start of the success they enjoyed at T.K. Records.   

Between 1974 and 1979, K.C. and The Sunshine Band released six albums, two of which were certified platinum and two which were certified triple-platinum. That’s not forgetting four number one singles in the US Billboard 100 with Get Down Tonight, That’s the Way (I Like It), (Shake, Shake, Shake), Shake Your Booty and I’m Your Boogie Man, plus four US R&B number one singles. Richard Finch and Harry Wayne Casey had the midas touch and would play their part in the rise and rise of T.K. Records, whose music is celebrated on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound.

While K.C. and The Sunshine Band were T.K. Records’ most successful act, Henry Stone’s label were releasing music that was funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly. Especially during the disco era. Indeed, some music historians believe George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby was the first disco record. Other music historians believe that the disco ball was rolling well before 1974. However, there’s much more to T.K. Records than disco. This includes the funky music on Athens Of The North’s new compilation, Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. The Edinburgh based label have released a fitting celebration of the funky music that T.K. Records released during their heyday.

Henry Stone’s Miami-Sound features a total of twenty tracks. This includes contributions from Little Beaver, Milton Wright, Lynn Collins, Wildflowers, Funky Nassau, Oceanliners and T-Connection. That’s just a tantalising taste of the music on Henry Stone’s Miami-Sound. There’s much more awaiting discovery. How about Jimmy “Bo” Horne, Leno Phillips, Robert Moore and Friday, Saturday and Sunday? These tracks are  described as “The Record Man’s Funkiest 45s” on the cover. That you’ll soon discover, as I pick some of the highlights, is no word of a lie. 

Opening Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound is Little Beaver’s Concrete Jungle. Surprisingly, it was just the B-Side of Little Beaver’s 1977 single One Of These Fools Have To Go. Concrete Jungle is funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly. It’s also timeless and would fill a dance-floor today. Originally, Concrete Jungle featured on Little Beaver’s 1976 album When Was The Last Time. This was the fourth and final album that he released on Cat, an imprint of T.K. Records. 

Before embarking upon a solo career, Ray Munnings was a member of The Beginning Of The End. His debut single was Opportunity Knockin,’ which was released on Alston Records in 1972. On the flip side was Sleep On, Dream On which was produced by Steve Alamo. It features an uber funky arrangement and a soulful, vocal powerhouse from Ray. It’s a real find and a welcome addition to Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound.

The same can be said of Wildflower’s You Knock Me Out. Wildflower were a female vocal group  who released four singles on Dash between 1975 and 1977.  Sunshine was their sophomore single, and was released in 1975. On the flip side, was the sultry, soulful sound of You Knock Me Out. It has everything you could want in a great song. Horns, harmonies, lush strings and a killer vocal, it’s all there. Why You Knock Me Out wasn’t chosen as a single seems a strange decision. At least it makes a welcome return on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound.

Leno Philips’ recording career amounts to just a trio of singles released between 1972 and 2006. The first of these was Confusion, which was released on Dash, an imprint of T.K. Records in 1972. It was written by Leno under his real name Phillip Leno Wright Sr. He arranged the track with William Hale, a.k.a. Little Beaver. William and percussionist Willie Clark produced this beautiful, slow, summery sounding ballad. 

Johnny K only released one single for  Drive, a subsidiary of T.K. Records. That was I Got Bills To Pay. It was arranged by Clarence Reid and produced by Willie Clarke. When it was released in 1972, I Got Bills To Pay passed record buyers by. Now it’s something of a rarity, an expensive rarity at that. Copies change hands for over £100. However, you can save yourself a lot of money by buying Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound where you can hear this funky, soulful, hidden gem, plus nineteen more.

Funky Nassau only ever released one single, but what a single it was, Bahama Soul Stew. It’s one of the best instrumentals of the early seventies. No wonder. It was produced by Arnold Albury, Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke and released on Drive in 1972. Forty-three years later, and this joyous and driving slab of gloriously funky music has stood the test of time.

Oceanliners were Betty Wright’s show band and featured Anthony Turner, Jerome Smith, Robert Johnson and Ronald Smith. Their sophomore single was the instrumental  Cutting Room (Hot Pants). It was released in 1972 on the Blue Candle label.  Cutting Room (Hot Pants) is one of the funkiest tracks on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. No wonder. It’s punctuated by stabs of dramatic, screaming horns, as Oceanliners enjoy the opportunity to kick loose, and make some funky music.

Brand New are another group who only released the one single. This was Thousand Years, which was released in 1976, by Du-Vern and distributed by T.K. Productions Inc. It’s a beautiful, laid-back and soulful ballad that’s another of the hidden gems on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound.

T-Connection were one of T.K. Records’ success stories. They released a quartet of albums between 1977 and 1979 on the Dash imprint. Do What Ya Wanna Do was the opening track from T-Connection’s 1977 album Magic. It was also released as a single on T.K. Disco, reaching number forty-six in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number fifteen in the U.S. R&B charts. Funky, soulful and dance-floor  friendly, it was what DJs, dancers and music lovers wanted in 1977.

My final choice from Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound is Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s There Must Be Something. This is another B-Side.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s There Must Be Something was tucked away on the B-Side of Potato Salad. Why? That’s the question I want the answer to. There Must Be Something surpasses the quality of Potato Salad by a long way. With a soul-baring, soulful vocal it’s guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings and is the perfect, and a beautiful way to close Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. It’s definitely a case of keeping the best until last.

So that’s the story of Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound, which was released by Edinburgh based label, Athens Of The North on 29th June 2015. It’s one of the best compilations of 2015 so far. That’s no exaggeration. There’s a reason for this. Compilers Ian Wright and Euan Fryer have dug deeper into the T.K. Records’ vaults than previous compilers. 

In doing so, they’ve eschewed the obvious and familiar. That’s no bad thing. Many of T.K. Records’ best known songs have been done to death. Now was the time to scratch below the surface. This meant forgotten releases and B-Sides. They’ve thrown up some glittering, hidden gems. This includes my favourite, Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s There Must Be Something. It’s a track I could never tire of its soulful delights. However, there’s much more to Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound than one track.

Each and every one of the twenty tracks on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound deserves its place on the compilation. It’s definitely a case of all killer, with no filler. Compilers Ian Wright and Euan Fryer are to be congratulated for the quality of music on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. They ensure that there’s something for everyone.

Whether you like your music funky, soulful or dance-floor friendly, then there’s something for you on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. Familiar tracks and rarities rub shoulders on  Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. They all have one thing in common…their quality. Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound oozes quality and soulfulness, and as the cover states, features “The Record Man’s Funkiest 45s.”

HENRY STONE’S-MIAMI SOUND.

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BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS-CATCH A FIRE.

BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS-CATCH A FIRE.

Forty years ago, Bob Marley and The Wailers released the album that launched their career, Catch A Fire which will be rereleased by Commercial Marketing on vinyl on 25th September 2015. Catch A Fire was certified in the UK and was the start of a career where critical acclaim and commercial success were ever-present. It also introduced the world to Bob Marley, a man who was much more than a singer. Much more.

Poet, philosopher and political activist describes Bob Marley. He was someone who spoke up for the Jamaican people, someone who was a force for good and peace. Religion played  an important in his life. A devout Rastafarian, Bob Marley was a deeply religious and spiritual man.  Religion played an important part in his life. Bob Marley also played an important role in raising reggae music’s popularity.

Back in the 1970s’, Bob Marley was hugely influential in increasing the popularity of reggae music. Before that, although reggae music was something enjoyed by some people, it hadn’t crossed-over and gained mainstream appeal. Bob Marley were instrumental in raising reggae music’s profile. Catch A Fire was the album that launched Bob Marley and The Wailers’ career and was their debut album for a major record label. 

Catch A Fire was Bob’s first album for his new record label Island Records, owned by Chris Blackwell. Bob Marley and Chris Blackwell had first met in London in 1972, when Bob Marley and The Wailers were stranded in London. They’d entered in a deal with CBS Records, and gone on tour with Johnny Nash, the American soul singer. However, things went badly wrong, and Bob, stranded in London, thought he’d approach Chris Blackwell about recording a new single. Instead, Chris Blackwell said he wanted the group to record a whole album. This, at the time, was unheard of, but Chris Blackwell was adamant. He asked Bob how much an album would cost, and Bob said between £3,000 and £4,000. Blackwell gave Marley £4,000 and headed back to Kingston, Jamaica to record Catch A Fire.

Now that Bob Marley and The Wailers had the funds to record a new album, they headed for Harry J’s recording studio in Kingston. It had an eight track recording studio, the type that rock bands were using then. Again, this was a first, as previously, no reggae band had used such a facility. Blackwell wanted more than a reggae album, he said he wanted “more of a drifting, hypnotic-type feel than a reggae rhythm.” To achieve this, Bob travelled to London to oversee Chris Blackwell’s overdubbing of the tracks. Chris Blackwell had enlisted the help of Wayne Perkins and John “Rabbit” Bundrick, two American musicians. Wayne Perkins was responsible for re-recording some of the lead and rhythm guitar parts. John Bundrick meanwhile, added organ, synths, clavinet and electric piano to the UK mix of the album. Another of Blackwell’s decisions, was to lessen the heavy bass sound. Two songs were then left off the album. This “new mix” didn’t go down well back in Jamaica. However, music critics love the album. Their reception was positive, now the only people to convince were the record buying public. 

On Catch A Fire’s release in April 1973 it initially sold 14,400 copies. Although this wasn’t going to make Bob Marley a star, it had increased his profile and gained a good reception from music fans. Catch A Fire was hugely instrumental in launching Bob Marley and The Wailers. After Catch A Fire, the band embarked on a period where they released several classic albums one after another. Suddenly, after many years of trying, Bob Marley and The Wailers, were household names. One thing that saddens many people, is how the original Wailers weren’t part of this success story. They’d split up in 1973, tired of struggling for success. Little did they know in 1973, that success was just a year away.

One of the attractions of Catch A Fire for critics and music fans alike, were Bob Marley and Peter Tosh’ lyrics. Peter Tosh penned 400 Years and Stop The Train, while Bob Marley wrote the other seven tracks. Both Peter and Bob were socially aware and militant. Neither Bob Marley, nor Peter Tosh, were afraid of raising subjects and issues that would be deemed confrontational and controversial. Both wished for a future where people in Jamaica, and elsewhere, would be free from oppression. Their view of the world was an optimistic one, and this is apparent in the music on  Catch A Fire, which would eventually be successful.

The nine tracks on Catch A Fire showcase the talents of Bob Marley and The Wailers. On its release, it may not have been their most successful album. Eventually though, it was certified silver and launched the career of Bob Marley and The Wailers. Not only that, but Catch A Fire has stood the test of time well, and the messages within it, are as relevant today, as they were in 1973. You’ll realise that when I tell you about Catch A Fire.

Catch A Fire opens with Concrete Jungle. It begins somewhat hesitantly, with a guitar, rhythm section and organ combining. Quickly, the arrangement opens out. Tough, edgy and pulsating rhythms emerge as Bob delivers a heartfelt, frustrated vocal. Behind him, the arrangement has an understated quality, with a bass reverberating, an organ gently playing, drums steadily keep the beat. The track gently pulsates, as instruments emerge, joining and leaving the mix. A guitar soars, but is played subtly. One constant is the buzzing bass. It’s a feature of the track. Like all the tracks on Catch A Fire, the lyrics deal with important social issues. Here, the issue is the poverty and conditions faced by people in the poorer areas of Jamaica. Bob Marley highlights their plight in this poignant, moving song.

Slave Driver deals with the effrontery that was slavery, one of the most abhorrent shameful things in history. Bob Marley’s lyrics tackle the subject head on.  His vocal takes centre-stage, while the arrangement frames it. Drums and organ, accompanied by backing vocals, open the track. When Bob sings, he surrounded by reverberating rhythms, that sound melodic, yet the bass sounds slightly brittle. The arrangement has a similar understated quality to Concrete Jungle, it meanders along, never threatening to overpower Bob’s vocal. This suits the song, allowing the you to focus on Bob Marley’s vocal and his righteous anger  as he tackles one of of the most shameful and despicable things in history, slavery.

The militant Bob Marley can be heard on 400 Years. With its dark, heavy, sound, it’s very different from the two previous tracks. Even Bob’s voice sounds different, it’s deeper, there also is an edge to it. Maybe it’s because he’s airing his frustration and anger. Likewise, the arrangement is fuller. Back is that brilliant buzzing bass, accompanied by drums and guitar. Backing vocals provided by The Wailers are the perfect accompaniment to Bob’s vocal. They drench his vocal beautifully, bringing a real spiritual feel to the track. All of this, contributes towards a powerful track, which demonstrates both Peter Tosh’s talents as a songwriter and Bob Marley and The Wailers talents as singers and musicians.

One of the best known songs on the album is Stop the Train I’m Leaving, another song written by Peter Tosh. It begins with drums, guitar and organ combining, with the drums almost cracking, whilst in contrast, the organ is melodic as it meanders in and out of the track. When Bob sings, his vocal sounds strong, yet relaxed. His vocal sits right at the top of the arrangement. Behind him, one of the best arrangements on the album is emerging. A chiming guitar, throbbing bass, subtle drums, a dreamy melodic organ make a potent, musical combination. When you add Bob’s powerful, charismatic voice, you’ve the recipe for one of the highlights of Catch A Fire.

On Baby We’ve Got A Date (Rock It Baby), we see another side to Bob Marley. Here we see his romantic side, on what is a much lighter, brighter track. This is apparent when the organ plays, gently and melodically. Drums play, they’re subtle, similarly, the bass is way back in the mix. Neither overpower the organ which is a constant presence, nor do they overpower Bob’s vocal. It’s very different, it’s gentler, the edge that was present on earlier tracks is gone. Instead this is Bob Marley the romantic, the lover. Quickly, Bob’s vocal is surrounded by the most beautiful arrangement on the album. It reverberates and chugs along, a magical musical combination, supplemented by some stunning female backing vocalists. 

Another track that may be familiar to many people is Stir It Up. This is one of the tracks Chris Blackwell changed, bringing in Wayne Perkins to redo the lead guitar on the track. As the rhythm section opens this track, a bass reverberates and drums play. They’re joined by Wayne’s guitar while the bass then throbs way down in the bottom of the mix. Bob’s voice sounds lighter and happier. By now, music is emerging in waves, beautifully washing over you. Although the guitar playing is of the highest standard, it sometimes overshadow other instruments. You’re drawn to solos, and miss other things that emerge during the track. Another guest artist is Tyrone Downie, who plays organ. His playing is understated and is much more suited to the track. Although Stir It Up is one of the album’s highlights, it would’ve been interesting to hear what the track sounded like before it was overdubbed by Chris Blackwell. Maybe, it would’ve been even better without the addition of the overdubbing lead guitar parts?

Kinky Reggae has a a lovely laid back feel to it when it begins. It just gently pulsates, as it emerges out of your speakers. Straight away, it’s beauty just washes over you, and envelops you. A glorious sounding track emerges, straight from the opening bars. The rhythm section play and as the track unfolds, Bob sings. His voice is much more relaxed, happier as he sings lyrics loaded with not so subtle innuendo. Backing vocals join in, they suddenly emerge, to accompany and compliment Bob’s vocal. With its laid back feel, a myriad of beautiful rhythms and melodies unveil themselves. That combination and Bob’s vocal make this a track to treasure.

It’s a combination of spacious sounding bass, drums and backing vocalists that open No More Trouble. Here the tempo, is slow, pedestrian even, laden with drama as the song opens out. There is spiritual sound to the backing vocalists, and eventually, when Bob sings, his vocal is equally spacious and dramatic. This track sees Bob sing about peace, and a cessation to trouble and war, which back then, was tearing his country apart. Behind him, the arrangement is understated and dignified. As drums and percussion punctuate the arrangement, they reinforce the lyrics, which succinctly, poetically and powerfully see Bob Marley get his message across.

Midnight Ravers closes Catch A Fire. It’s another of Bob Marley’s protest songs. Here, he was ahead of his time, when he wrote about the problem of pollution. A drum roll opens the track, a guitar plays, as the song meanders along. Backing singers join in. Then, when Bob sings he and his backing singers combine masterfully and melodically. Gone is the happiness and joy that was previously present in Bob’s voice. Instead, he sounds almost sad, as if saddened by the destruction he’s singing about, and it’s effect on everyone. Behind him, glorious rhythms can be heard, they play brightly. This is a complete contrast to Bob’s vocal. There is almost a darkness present in both his vocal, and that of The Wailers. No wonder, given what he foresaw. Here, Bob Marley is akin to a seer with a social conscience.

Catch A Fire was the album that announced Bob Marley and The Wailers arrival to the wider world. Before that, they were a huge success in Jamaica. Following Catch A Fire, their popularity spread far and wide. Although Catch A Fire didn’t match the success of later albums, including  Natty Dread, Exodus and Kaya, it’s an important album in Bob Marley and The Wailers’ back-catalogue, which was recently rereleased by Island Records on vinyl. 

Full of lyrics that are socially aware and militant, neither Bob Marley, nor Peter Tosh, were afraid of raising subjects and issues that would be deemed confrontational. Both wished for a future where people in Jamaica, and elsewhere, would be free from oppression. Their view of the world was an optimistic one. This is apparent in Catch A Fire’s lyrics. Although the subject matters are controversial, the music on Catch A Fire that’s no bad thing. Subjects like poverty, slavery and pollution all deserved to be tackled. The man to do that was Bob Marley. On Catch A Fire, Bob Marley and The Wailers tackled these subjects head on. Despite releasing an album of music with a social conscience, Catch A Fire wasn’t initially a commercial success.

On its release, Catch A Fire wasn’t a commercial success, selling only 14,400 albums. Eventually though, Catch A Fire was certified silver and launched the career of Bob Marley and The Wailers. Not only that, but Catch A Fire has stood the test of time. Catch A Fire is a timeless album. After that, Bob Marley and The Wailers released a string of classic albums, including Natty Dread, Exodus and Kaya. These album may have been more successful, but since the release of Catch A Fire, it has been recognised as a classic album. 

Featuring Nine tracks,  with lyrics that are both militant and socially aware, Bob Marley deals with some of the problems affecting the people of Jamaica. Many of these problems affected people worldwide, and sadly, these problems persist today. In some ways, it was brave of Bob Marley to include such songs on Catch A Fire, as many people would be put of by his militancy. However, it was these subjects that made Catch A Fire what it is. That’s an important and potent classic album. To me, it’s one of Bob Marley’s greatest albums. Along with Natty Dread, Exodus and Kaya, Catch A Fire contains some of the best music Bob Marley and The Wailers records, is worthy of being called a timeless classic, with a social conscience. 

BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS-CATCH A FIRE.

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LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS COLLECTED RECORDINGS 1983-1989.

LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS COLLECTED RECORDINGS 1983-1989.

The Lloyd Cole and The Commotions story began in 1982, when Derby born Lloyd Cole was studying at the University of Glasgow. Twenty-one year old Lloyd Cole had moved to Glasgow to study philosophy and English. Previously, Lloyd had studied a year of law at University College London. Law wasn’t for Lloyd Cole, so he decided to head to Glasgow to restart his educational career. That’s where Lloyd Cole met The Commotions.

By 1982, Glasgow was like a second home to Lloyd Cole. He had embraced the city’s vibrant musical scene. However, in 1982, he decided to make the move from onlooker to participant. So, Lloyd decided to form his own band. That band became Lloyd Cole and The Commotions.

Having made the decision to form his own band, gradually, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ lineup took shape. Lloyd who would sing lead vocals and play guitar, brought onboard four musicians. They became his Commotions. This included the rhythm section of drummer Stephen Irvine, bassist Lawrence Donegan and guitarist Neil Clark. They were joined by keyboardist Blair Cowan. At last the lineup of Lloyd Cole and The Commotions was compete. 

With the lineup complete, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions embarked upon their musical journey. This began when Lloyd Cole and The Commotions signed to Polydor Records, and released their debut single Perfect Skin in the spring of 1984. Perfect Skin sold well, reaching number twenty-six in the UK charts. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions were on their way to becoming one of the most successful Scottish bands of the eighties, releasing a trio of critically acclaimed albums.

The three albums that Lloyd Cole and The Commotions released between 1984 and 1989 feature in the forthcoming box set Collected Recordings 1983-1989. It will be released by Universal Music on 29th June 2015 and features five CDs and a DVD. Quite simply, Collected Recordings 1983-1989 is the most comprehensive overview of Lloyd Cole and The Commotions career.

Collected Recordings 1983-1989 features remastered versions of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ three albums, 1984s Rattlesnakes, 1985s Easy Pieces and 1987s Mainstream. That’s just the start. There’s also b-sides and eighteen previously unreleased tracks, including six tracks that have been heard before. All this music is housed within what can only be described as a deluxe box. As an added bonus, there’s a forty-eight page hardback book, poster and three postcards. For anyone wanting to relive six years of Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ perfect pop, this is the place to start.

The Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ story started in earnest when the band released their debut single Perfect Skin in the spring of 1984. The single sold well, reaching number twenty-six in the UK charts. The follow up, Forest Fire, did not fare so well, only reaching a disappointing forty-one in the UK charts. That was only a minor blip. When Lloyd Cole and The Commotions released their debut album Rattlesnakes later in 1984, it was a huge success.

Rattlesnakes.

When Rattlesnakes was released later on 12th October 1984, it was to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. Rattlesnakes reached number thirteen in the UK album charts, selling in over one-hundred thousand copies. For Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, this meant the first gold disc of their career. No wonder. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions were unique and caught the attention of critics and cerebral record buyers.

Critics and discerning music lovers were quick to release that Lloyd Cole and The Commotions were very different from most bands. Similarly, the songs on Rattlesnakes were unlike much of the music released in 1984. Lloyd Cole’s lyrics were influenced by Bob Dylan and his studies of English and philosophy. So it was no surprise that Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ songs referenced 

Renata Adler, Simone de Beauvoir and Norman Mailer in their lyrics. This was articulate, catchy and cerebral pop. Not only did it win over critics and cultural commentators, but provided the soundtrack to thousands of student bedsits. 

A generation of students eavesdropped on Lloyd’s anguished, quirky and cinematic lyrics. He brought songs like Perfect Skin, Rattlesnakes, Forest Fire, 2cv, Patience and Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken to life. With vocals that were a mixture of anguish, emotion and passion, Lloyd Cole lived the songs on Rattlesnakes. Behind him, The Commotions’ trademark jangling, perfect pop caught the imagination of generation of music lovers. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ star was in the ascendancy.

After the commercial success and critical acclaim of Rattlesnakes, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions headed out on tour. Basking in the success of Rattlesnakes, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions played to sold out audiences. They were flavour of the month with critics and cultural commentators. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions had a reputation for producing music for the “thinking” music lover. It was the polar opposite of vacuous new romantic movement. At least, here was a group of substance, capable of making compelling cinematic songs. This would be the case with their sophomore album Easy Pieces.

Easy Pieces.

When Lloyd Cole and The Commotions began work on Easy Pieces, they wanted the album to be much more “accessible.” Rattlesnakes had passed many people by. It was, onlookers, remarked too cerebral. Lloyd also wanted Easy Pieces’ “sound to be warmer, more luscious.” With this in mind, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions began work on Easy Pieces.

Just like Rattlesnakes, Lloyd penned five of Easy Pieces ten tracks. He cowrote the other tracks with other members of The Commotions. The title had been inspired by the film Five Easy Pieces. Lloyd later said that five of the tracks were inspired by Five Easy Pieces. When the songs were completed, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions eschewed Glasgow for London.

Westside Studios, Shepherds Bush, London were where Easy Pieces was recorded. This wasn’t exactly the most glamorous setting to record an album. However, that was the studio that was chosen. When the sessions began, gone was the laid-back sessions of Rattlesnakes. The pressure was on Lloyd Cole and The Commotions to replicate the success of Rattlesnakes. Polydor didn’t exactly help things when they dismissed producer Paul Hardiman. He hadn’t been given a chance. Maybe Polydor were just waiting to parachute their producer of choice in?

Replacing Paul Hardiman was the production team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. Considering the sound and success of Rattlesnakes this was a risky move. If Polydor had just been patient, Paul Hardiman would’ve got the sessions back on track. However, that wasn’t to be. Now Lloyd Cole and The Commotions were working with a producer they hadn’t chosen. Especially as the new production team had their own sound; and weren’t shy about voicing their opinions and suggestions. The new production team even tried to tell Lloyd how to sing. This had the effect of making Lloyd self-conscious when he sang. So much for producers putting bands at ease. However, stuck with a production team they hadn’t chosen, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions had to make the best of what was a bad situation. Eventually, Easy Pieces was completed and ready for release. However, the band weren’t happy.

For Lloyd Cole and The Commotions the Easy Pieces wasn’t a satisfactory experience. They felt they were forced to record Easy Pieces too soon. Lloyd also felt two songs on Easy Pieces shouldn’t have made the cut. He felt neither Grace nor Minor Character were good enough to make the album. The production team should’ve spotted this. However, they had been hired by the record company, with the job of getting the album finished and ready for release. Time was of the essence. Maybe this meant that there wasn’t time to write and record two more tracks? However, if this was the case, it could come back to bite them. The critics would spot two weak tracks.

Whilst Rattlesnakes was released to critical acclaim, Easy Pieces wasn’t as well received. The reviews were mixed. Critics felt some of the lyrics fell short of the quality of those on Rattlesnakes. The production didn’t impress some critics. They felt Easy Pieces was over produced. Another criticism was that there was no space for the music to breath. The major criticism was that the new production team took Lloyd Cole and The Commotions in the wrong direction. Easy Pieces was, some critics felt, a lengthy detour into country pop. That wasn’t what made Lloyd Cole and The Commotions such a special and unique band. With this criticism ringing in their ears, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions awaited the release of Easy Pieces with baited breath.

On 22nd November 1985, Easy Pieces was released, and reached number five in Britain. While Easy Pieces had a better chart position that Rattlesnakes, it sold less copies. There was no gold disc this time around. At least the singles faired reasonably well.

Three singles were released from Easy Pieces. Brand New Friend reached number nineteen in Britain. Then Lost Weekend surpassed Brand New Friend, reaching number seventeen in Britain. The only disappointment was Cut Me Down, which stalled at number thirty-eight in Britain. For Lloyd Cole and The Commotions this was a disappointment. That was the case with Easy Pieces. 

Easy Pieces wasn’t the album they wanted to make. If they hadn’t been rushed into the studio to record Easy Pieces maybe, just maybe, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions would’ve been able to record an album that they would’ve been proud of. Lloyd Cole certainly wasn’t. He disowned some of the songs on Easy Pieces. That was the fault of Lloyd Cole and The Commotions. The blame lay at the door of Polydor, who had sacked Paul Hardiman and parachuted a production team who tried to transform Lloyd Cole and The Commotions into something they weren’t. Next time round would get it right…eventually. And there would be no sign of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley.

Mainstream.

Work began on Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ third album not long after the release of Easy Pieces. This time, Lloyd wrote eight of the ten tracks, and cowrote the other two. That was the easy bit. The hard bit was recording Mainstream.

Recording of Mainstream took the best part of two years. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ first choice for producer was Chris Thomas. The sessions began, but after a while the band realised that things weren’t working out. Remembering what happened with Easy Pieces, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions decided to bring onboard a new producer.

The replacement for Chris Thomas, was Stewart Copeland, the former Police drummer. Things started out well, when Hey Rusty was recorded. That however, was as good as it got. It was downhill after that. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions knew that they needed to replace Stewart Copeland.

Lloyd Cole and The Commotions wanted to make amends for Easy Pieces. They felt they had failed to make the pop album they set out to make. That wasn’t the case. Easy Pieces to the band sounded rushed and not the album they wanted to make. There was no way they were going to let history repeat itself. So out went Stewart Copeland and in came Ian Stanley. Maybe, it was a case of third time lucky?

With Ian Stanley onboard, Mainstream began to take shape. Eventually, nearly two years since recording of Mainstream began, the album was completed. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions spent five months in the studio with Ian Stanley. This came at a cost. Not only did Mainstream cost £300,000, ten times that Rattlesnakes cost, but cost the band their keyboard player.

By the time Mainstream was released on 26th October 1987, keyboardist Blair Cowan had left Lloyd Cole and The Commotions. The cracks were beginning to show. That’s not surprising given the difficulties surrounding the recording of Easy Pieces and Mainstream. However, hopefully, the time and money spent on Mainstream would be worthwhile.

Critics felt that wasn’t the case. Reviews of Mainstream were mixed. Some critics loved Mainstream, calling it intelligent pop music and the band’s most accomplished album. This wasn’t surprising, given the quality of songs like From The Hip, My Bag, Jennifer She Said and Mr. Malcontent. Other critics however, felt that Lloyd Cole and The Commotions hadn’t fulfilled their potential on Mainstream. The casting vote went to the record buying public.

On the release of Mainstream, it reached number nine in Britain. In America, Mainstream didn’t sell as well as Rattlesnakes and Easy Pieces. Both albums had sold over 100,000 copies. Not Mainstream. American critics weren’t as impressed with Mainstream. For Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, this was disappointing. However, some solace was the success of the singles.

Again, three singles were released from Mainstream. My Bag reached a lowly forty-six in Britain. In America, My Bag reached number thirteen in the Billboard Modern Rock chart and number forty-eight in the Billboard Dance chart. Jennifer She Said the reached number thirty-one in Britain. The final single from Mainstrea, was From The Hip. It reached a disappointing number fifty-nine in Britain. Little did anyone realise that From The Hip would be Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ final single, from their final album.

Already the cracks were showing when keyboardist Blair Cowan left. Nearly two years later, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions and were no more. They split-up in 1989. The last album Lloyd Cole and The Commotions released was a greatest hits album, entitled 1948-1989. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions had been together for seven years and enjoyed a recording career that lasted six years. It’s documented on the Lloyd Cole and The Commotions Collected Recordings 1983-1989 box set, which features just about everything the band recorded. It will be released by Universal, on 29th June 2015. It’s the most exhaustive overview by one of Scotland’s finest pop bands, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions.

It’s twenty-six years since the four remaining members of Lloyd Cole and The Commotions went their separate ways. Looking back, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ debut album, Rattlesnakes, was the finest album of their career. They set the bar high, and never came close to surpassing the quality of Rattlesnakes. 

Good as Easy Pieces and Mainstream are, neither are regarded as one of classic Scottish albums. Rattlesnakes was recorded when Lloyd Cole and The Commotions were unknown, and only cost £30,000. It’s not known how much Easy Pieces cost. However, Mainstream cost £300,000 and doesn’t come close to Rattlesnakes. Much of the resin for this, is the various problems with producers.

This problem began when Polydor sent Lloyd Cole and The Commotions into the studio too quickly. They then compounded this by sacking Paul Hardiman. If Paul had been given more time, he could’ve turned the situation around. Instead, Polydor brought in their own producers, Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. For Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, working with a producer they hadn’t chosen wasn’t going to work. They took Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’ music in the wrong direction. As a result, Easy Pieces was nothing like the album Lloyd Cole and The Commotions had wanted to release. With these producer problems in mind, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions had to act decisively when recording Mainstream.

Having initially hired Chris Thomas, when this working relationship didn’t work out, he was replaced by Stewart Copeland. After only one song, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions realised that Stewart Copeland was the wrong producer. It was only when Ian Stanley came onboard that Mainstream was completed. However, by then, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions had lost sight of the album they wanted to make. Just like Easy Pieces, Mainstream wasn’t the album Lloyd Cole and The Commotions set out to make. 

It seemed that after the potential Lloyd Cole and The Commotions showed on Rattlesnakes, they never truly fulfilled it on neither Easy Pieces nor Mainstream. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions had the potential to be one of the biggest and best groups of the eighties and beyond. However, looking back, some critics feel that Lloyd Cole and The Commotions never quite fulfilled their potential. Maybe that’s being hard on Lloyd Cole and The Commotions?

Instead, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions are another group whose debut album was a pop classic. Surpassing it was never going to be easy. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions set the bar high, and were forever chasing pop perfection. They came close on many occasions. That’s apparent on Lloyd Cole and The Commotions Collected Recordings 1983-1989 box set, which is a reminder of one of the greatest Scottish bands of their generation during their all too brief recording career.

LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS COLLECTED RECORDINGS 1983-1989.

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PAUL BRADY-PRIMITIVE DANCE.

PAUL BRADY-PRIMITIVE DANCE.

Paul Brady first came to prominence in 1978, when he released his debut album Welcome Here Kind Stranger. Later in 1978, Welcome Here Kind Stranger was voted Folk Album of the Year by Melody Maker magazine. However, the thirty-one year old Irishman wasn’t a newcomer to music.

Far from it. Music was in Paul Brady’s blood. He was born on 9th May 1947, in Strabane, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. By the time Paul was six, he began learning piano and started playing the guitar aged eleven. This wasn’t surprising. Paul’s father was a music teacher. His talent had rubbed off on Paul, who was determined to make a career out of music.

Paul’s first gig, came in 1963, when he played piano in a hotel bar. By the following year, Paul, who was at University College Dublin, was a member of one of the many R&B bands that were popular. This included The Inmates, who Paul was a member between  late 1964 and April 1965. That’s when they became The Kult. From there, Paul joined Rootzgroup in late 1965, and was with them until. May 1966. After Rootzgroup, Paul spent seven months as a member of Rockhouse between 

May and December 1966. For Paul, this was part of his musical education before he joined one of the most popular traditional Irish groups, The Johnstons.

By the time Paul joined The Johnstons in May 1967, there had been an upsurge in interest in traditional Irish music. The Johnstons were one of the most popular traditional Irish bands. For the first two years, they were based in Dublin. Then in 1969, The Johnstons moved to London, which became their as they toured and recorded. However, in 1972, The Johnstons moved to New York in an attempt to widen their audience. With a huge Irish community in America, this made sense. Sadly, just a year later, The Johnstons split-up in 1973. So Paul returned home in 1974, and joined another popular Irish band Planxty.

When Paul joined Planxty in 1974, they had been together since 1972. The original lineup featured Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn, Dónal Lunny and Christy Moore. However, the lineup soon began to evolve, and is best described as fluid. Members came and go. Despite the fluidity of its lineup, Planxty were a hugely popular group. They toured constantly. Sadly, in December 1975, Planxty split-up. This was the end of another chapter in Paul Brady’s career. Another was about to unfold.

This began when Paul Brady and Andy Irvine decided to form a duo. The pair performed traditional Irish folk music. This was still popular. So, in the autumn of 1976, Andy Irvine and Paul Brady recorded their debut album. It was released in December 1976. However, it was their one and only album.

Andy Irvine and Paul Brady continued as a duo right through to 1978. By then, Paul was considering embarking upon a solo career. Eventually, Paul decided the time was right and went his own way.

Now a solo artist, Paul  released his debut album Welcome Here Kind Stranger in 1978. Later in 1978, Welcome Here Kind Stranger was voted Folk Album of the Year by Melody Maker magazine. Having won such a prestigious award, it seemed unlikely that Paul Brady would change direction musically. However, that’s when he did.

For some time, Paul wanted to move more towards pop and rock music. So when Paul released Hard Station in on Polygram in 1981, his fans were in for a surprise.

Hard Station was very different from his debut album. Rock and pop were the two most prominent genres. There was still a folk influence, but it wasn’t as prominent. When critics heard Hard Station the jury was out. Reviews were mixed. The quality shawn through on tracks like Crazy Dreams, Busted Loose, Hard Station and Nothing But the Same Old Story. They would become some of Paul’s best known songs. However, critics weren’t convinced that Hard Station was a cohesive album. For Paul Brady, it was a case of back to the drawing board.

Two years passed before Paul returned with True for You, which was produced by Neil Dorfsman and Paul Brady. True For You was a fusion of AOR, folk and rock. Still, critics weren’t convinced. 

Although the reviews were better than hard Station, still, Paul was winning over some of the critics. However, his popularity was on the rise. That’s not surprising, given the quality of the songs on True For You.  The Great Pretender, Take Me Away and Steel Claw, which was covered on Tina Turner’s 1985 album Private Dancer were just a few of  True For You’s highlights. It seemed Paul Brady’s star was in the ascendancy.

Another two years passed before Paul released his fourth solo album, Back to the Centre. It was released in 1985 and was the start of the most productive period of Paul’s career.

For Back to the Centre, Paul was joined by two of the biggest names in music. Legendary guitarist Eric Clapton was joined by U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr and Loudon Wainwright on backing vocals. They played their part in what some critics called Paul Brady’s finest album.

When critics heard Back to the Centre, they hailed it the finest album of his career.  Tracks of the quality of  Walk The White Line, Deep In Your Heart, To Be The One and Soulbeat pointed at the strongest and most cohesive album of Paul Brady’s career. He seemed to be growing and maturing as a singer with every studio album. Critics and record buyers awaited his next album.

They didn’t have long to wait. Paul Brady released his first live album, Full Moon in 1986. By then, more people had heard of Paul Brady. Tina Turner had covered Steel Claw on her 1985 album Private Dancer. This helped lift Paul Brady’s profile. This meant that it was the perfect time for Paul to release a new album.

On Full Moon, it’s just Paul, accompanied by a tight, talented band as he works his way through eight tracks. Full Moon was a reminder of how good Paul was live. No wonder. He had spent twenty-two years playing live with various bands and as a solo artist. So, it’s no surprise that Full Moon featured a practiced and polished performance from Paul Brady.  That would be the case with his fifth solo album Primitive Dance.

For Primitive Dance, Paul penned nine new tracks. Steal Your Heart Away, The Soul Commotion, Paradise Is Here, It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, The Awakening, Eat The Peach, Don’t Start Knocking, Just In Case Of Accidents and The Game Of Love. These nine tracks were recorded by Paul’s extended band.

When recording of Primitive Dance began, Paul’s wasn’t just accompanied by his usual band. Instead, a number of musicians would make guest appearances. This included a horn and string section plus backing vocalists. However, at the heart of the band were Paul and co-producer Ian Maidman, who were both talented multi-instrumentalists. Ian played bass, guitar, drums, percussion and keyboards. Paul added vocals and played acoustic guitar, keyboards, electric guitar, piano, keyboards, tin whistle, mandolin and percussion. They were joined by drummer Tim Goldsmith, keyboardist Steve Fletcher and Mick Bolton on Hammond organ. Guest artists included Davey Spillane, who played Uileann Pipes on Eat The Peach; while Mark Knopfler played guitar on The Game Of Love. This extended cast of musicians recorded Primitive Dance at Westland Studios, Dublin and Jam Studios, London. Once Primitive Dance was completed, it was ready for release in 1987.

Before the release of Primitive Dance, critics had their say on Paul Brady’s fifth album. Primitive Dance critics believed, was  Paul’s best and most assured album. It was as if everything had been leading to Primitive Dance. After nine years, and four solo albums since Paul Brady changed direction musically, he had released the best album of his career, Primitive Dance, which I’ll tell you about.

Steal Your Heart Away opens Primitive Dance. Washes of keyboards set the scene, before woodblocks are joined by the rhythm section and guitar. They usher in Paul’s heartfelt, needy vocal. Behind him, an eighties sounding arrangement unfolds. That’s down to the drums and keyboards. Having said that, the arrangement doesn’t sound dated. Not with the sprinkling of percussion, hypnotic drums and bubbling bass. At the heart of the arrangement is Paul’s vocal, as he pleas for his partner not to leave. As he does, he combines power, passion and emotion. His vocal powerhouse breathes life and meaning into the lyrics, and whets one’s appetite for the rest of Primitive Dance.

There’s a sense of urgency as strummed guitar and stabs of horns combine on The Soul Commotion. Paul’s vocal has a similar urgency, as he and his band combine elements of country, folk and rock. Meanwhile, the rhythm section, guitar  and keyboards drive the arrangement along, while a myriad of whoops and hollers augment Paul’s vocal. He vamps and whop, before a harmonica is unleashed, as this catchy track reaches a crescendo.

Paradise Is Here has a much slower, understated sound. Just a subtle rhythm section and chirping guitar accompany Paul’s vocal. It has a weary, wistful sound. He can’t give his partner the lifestyle she wants and he’s scared she’ll leave him. As he lays bare his fears and soul, the arrangement builds and quickens. By then, Paul sings: “but I don’t need no high life, to make me feel a man…just put your arms around me, devour me.”

As Paul counts the band in and guitars ring out, it’s obvious that something special is unfolding. That’s the case. It’s Gonna Work Out Fine is one of Primitive Dance’s highlights. Elements of blues,  Celtic Soul, country and rock melt into one. As the rhythm section provide the backdrop for Paul’s joyous,  washes of Hammond organ and cooing, sweeping harmonies are added. Paul seems to grow in stature, as joyously, he sings: “believe me baby, it’s gonna work out fine.”

Straight away, The Awakening has an understated, wistful Celtic influence. That’s still the case when the pounding drums usher in Paul’s vocal. He’s joined by Maire Brennan. She’s the perfect foil for Paul. She’s a restless free spirit, looking for answers. Her tender, ethereal and questioning vocal compliments Paul’s vocal. Together, they make the lyrics come to life. Then at the breakdown keyboards and percussion combine as elements of Paul’s past and present seamlessly combine. In doing so, they create an enchanting and quite beautiful track.

The sound of a radio changing station opens Eat the Peach. It’s like what Paul would’ve listened to growing up. Then it’s all change. The rhythm section, guitars and keyboards bound across the arrangement. Paul unleashes a vocal powerhouse. He doesn’t hold back. No wonder. Life’s for living and enjoy it while you can. He’s not the type of person that’s going to: “that spends a lifetime  wondering if you’re the kind, to break the  mould and see what’s on the other side.” Singer, songwriter, poet and philosopher, Paul Brady is all that and more on Primitive Dance.

Don’t Start Knocking has a much more subdued sound. It’s as Paul’s drawing breath. He delivers a thoughtful, probing vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section, piano,  and harmonies accompany Paul. Soon, his vocal grows in power as he pleads: “Don’t Start Knocking…you’re so beautiful.” His vocal is heartfelt, needy and a mixture of hope and insecurity. As it soars above the arrangement, harmonies accompany him. Then at the bridge, Paul returns to his Celtic roots as he combines drama and passion.

Just in Case of Accidents is a piano lead ballad. Paul’s vocal is tender and needy as he delivers the cinematic lyrics. Meanwhile, a viola is plucked as percussion and keyboards augment the beautiful, understated arrangement. It allows Paul’s soulful vocal to take centre-stage, as he delivers the thought provoking lyrics: “terrified of loneliness, terrified of trusting. 

The Game of Love closes Primitive Dance, and again, has another understated arrangement. Just a piano is joined by the rhythm section and guitar. Soon, a plucked viola, harmonies and tin whistle are added. Later the lushest of strings are the perfect accompaniment to Paul’s pensive vocal. It’s the finishing touch to this beautiful, dreamy song about love.

Nine years and four albums after changing direction musically, Paul Brady released Primitive Dance, the best and most cohesive album of his “second” solo career. It featured nine tracks which showcased Paul’s skills as a singer, songwriter and musician. From the soul searching ballads to the joyous, uptempo tracks, Paul Brady could do no wrong. He had come a long way since Hard Station.

Since then, Paul Brady’s star was in the ascendancy. Especially since Tina Turner covered Steel Claw. All of a sudden, people were wondering who Paul Brady was. They were in for a pleasant surprise as they investigated his back-catalogue. It was full of hidden musical gems. That’s the case with Primitive Dance.

Although Primitive Dance found a wider audience than previous albums, Paul Brady was still something of a hidden secret amongst record buyers. Ironically, Paul was better known for writing Steel Claw than for his work as a solo artist. For Paul, that must have been frustrating. However, Paul’s next album was a game-changer.

That was Trick Or Treat. It was released to widespread critical acclaim in 1991, and sold well. What helped was that Trick Or Treat was widely promoted. Previously, Paul’s solo albums hadn’t been particularly well promoted. As a result, they never found the audience they so richly deserved. This includes Primitive Dance, Paul Brady’s fifth studio albums. 

Since the release of Primitive Dance, Paul Brady’s star has been in the ascendancy. Everyone from Bob Dylan and John Prime and Bonnie Raitt have championed Paul Brady’s music. Bob Dylan went as far as to say that Paul Brady was “one of the five artists worth getting out of bed for.”  Once you’ve heard Primitive Dance, you’ll realise why.

PAUL BRADY-PRIMITIVE DANCE.

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THE BATHERS-SWEET DECEIT.

THE BATHERS-SWEET DECEIT.

Usually, the music business is quick to celebrate anniversary. Especially, a thirtieth anniversary. That usually, is a cause for celebration, and would result in a reissue of all the band’s albums. 

Each album would be remastered and released in various formats. Usually, there’s lavish double albums, featuring outtakes, unreleased tracks and live tracks. Then there’s box sets and vinyl versions released on heavyweight vinyl. I say usually. However, in the case of The Bathers, their thirtieth anniversary is passing almost unnoticed.

That’s a great shame. The Bathers are, without doubt, a Scottish musical institution, They were formed in Glasgow, in 1985, by singer, songwriter and troubled troubadour Chris Thompson and released six albums between 1987 and 1999, including Sweet Deceit which was released twenty-five years ago in 1990. Sadly, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Sweet Deceit is passing unnoticed. 

Twenty-five years after the release of Sweet Deceit, and sixteen years since The Bathers released their swan song Pandemonia, occasionally there are rumours of a comeback. They never come to anything. It seems unlikely that we’ll ever hear from The Bathers again. That’s a great shame, as undoubtably, The Bathers were one the most talented bands of their generation. 

With Chris Thompson at the helm, the Glasgow based quintet could’ve, and should’ve, been one the biggest Scottish bands ever. The Bathers music was articulate, beautiful, dramatic, ethereal, elegiac, emotive, languid, literate and melancholy. This is music for those that have loved, lost and survived to tell the tale. Sadly, however, The Bathers never scaled the headiest of heights. Instead, The Bathers’ story is a case of what might have been. It begins in 1985.

The Bathers were formed in Glasgow in 1985. They formed after Chris Thomson’s previous group Friends Again split up. Initially, The Bathers were a vehicle for singer-songwriter Chris Thomson. However, in 1987, The Bathers secured their first record deal with Go! Discs Records, and released their debut album Unusual Places To Die.

Unusual Places To Die.

For their debut album Unusual Places To Die, Chris Thompson penned ten tracks. These tracks were recorded by The Bathers’ original lineup. This included bassist Sam Loup, drummer James Locke and Chris on guitar and keyboards. Joining The Bathers, were Michael Peden of The Chimes, Douglas Macintyre and James Grant of Love and Money. They played walk on parts on Unusual Places To Die, which was released later in 1987.

When Unusual Places To Die was released in 1987, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Chris Thompson’s songs seemed to strike a nerve with critics. They described the music as variously engaging, emotive and dramatic. One critic went as far to wonder whether Unusual Places To Die was the work of a genius? Despite this critical acclaim Unusual Places To Die wasn’t a commercial success. This was nothing to do with the music though.

Instead, Unusual Places To Die fell victim to the internal politics within the record company. As a result, sales of Unusual Places To Die were poor. Given the critical response to Unusual Places To Die, this was disappointing. So, it wasn’t a surprise when The Bathers switched labels for their sophomore album, Sweet Deceit.

Sweet Deceit.

After the Go Discs! internal problems sabotaged the release of Unusual Places To Die, The Bathers moved to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. It had a much higher profile that Go Discs! Island Records also had an illustrious roster. Previously, Island Records had been home to everyone from Nick Drake and John Martyn to Bob Marley and The Wailers to U2. The Bathers were following in the footsteps of some of the biggest names when they began work on Sweet Deceit.

Despite the critical acclaim that accompanied their debut album Unusual Places To Die, the album wasn’t a commercial success. So, Chris Thompson decided to rethink how The Bathers approach their sophomore album, Sweet Deceit. Now signed to a major label, he didn’t want to repeat past mistakes.

Chris was determined that The Bathers brought their A-Game to the studio. He and Keith Mitchell had penned fifteen tracks. This would include some of The Bathers’ best known tracks, including Perpetual Adoration, Two Cats On A Piano and Desire Regained. It seemed Chris and Keith Mitchell had hit a rich vein of form. Hopefully, this would continue when The Bathers entered the studio.

Just like Unusual Places To Die, Sweet Deceit was recorded mostly in Glasgow. There were occasional excursions to the “other side,” with some sessions taking place in Edinburgh. Chris played guitar and keyboards and added lead vocals. He was joined by bassist Sam Loup and drummer James Locke. Other musicians made a guest appearances as Sweet Deceit took shape. Producing Sweet Deceit were Chris and Keith Mitchell. They honed what they hoped would be their epic, breakthrough album. It was ready for release in 1990. 

Three years had passed since Unusual Places To Die was released. The Bathers were back, and according to critics, better than ever. Sweet Deceit was described as impressionistic, beautiful and spellbinding. One critic, quite rightly referred to the album as a mini masterpiece. However, The Bathers had been here before with Unusual Places To Die.

On Sweet Deceit’s release in 1990, lightning struck twice for The Bathers. Sales of Sweet Deceit were disappointing. Despite the critically acclaimed reviews, Sweet Deceit seemed to pass record buyers by. For The Bathers, this was a huge disappointment. 

Especially for Chris Thompson. He cowrote and co-produced Sweet Deceit. He also poured his heart out on Sweet Deceit, delivering a series of  soul-baring performances. That had been the case from the opening bars of The Pursuit Of An Orchid. Literally, Chris threw himself into the song, and gave something of himself. This continued on Two Cats On The Piano and Memory Fever. They were captivating short vignettes from the Glasgow born troubadour. This continued on the stark but compelling For The Delicious C and Desire Regained, which became a Bathers classic. The Bathers it seemed, could do no wrong.

Certainly not on Get Out Of Life. It was quite different from the understated sound of the previous tracks. The arrangement had a fuller sound, and more than hinted at the direction that The Bathers would take. Against this arrangement, Chris delivered what was his most heartfelt vocal. It was as if he had lived and survived the lyrics. Pistol Crazed with its jaunty arrangement, sees the return of Chris Thompson, troubled troubadour. He breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Then the ethereal beauty of  The Wreck In The Day sets the scene for the balladic beauty that’s Reason To Feel. It’s one of the most underrated tracks in The Bathers’ back-catalogue. After this, Chris returns to the past.

Memory Fever 2 picks up where Memory Fever left off. Chris delivers a vampish, soul-baring vocal. So is The Idyll Off Crown Circus, where Chris delivers a despairing vocal against a piano lead arrangement. From there, Chris moves onto one of The Bathers’ finest songs, Perpetual Adoration. It features a needy, hopeful vocal, while harmonies and acoustic guitar  accompany and comfort Chris. He then combines drama and emotion on Sweet Deceit. Although it’s only thirty-nine seconds long, it leaves a lasting impression. That’s the case with uptempo, poppy sounding The Honeysuckle Rose. Then The Bathers close Sweet Deceit with the wistful and elegiac  beauty of On The Steps At Park Circus. Its beauty is breathtaking and leaves you wondering why Sweet Deceit wasn’t a commercial success? 

Following the commercial failure of Sweet Deceit, Island Records didn’t renew The Bathers’ contract. For Chris Thompson and Co. this was a huge blow. Lightning had struck twice. It would be another three years before we heard from The Bathers again.

Following Sweet Deceit, Chris Thompson joined with two former members of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Stephen Irvine and Neil Clark, to create a Scottish supergroup, Bloomsday. They released just one album, Fortuny, which is now regarded as a classic Scottish album. Just like The Bathers two previous albums, Bloomsday’s debut album Fortuny was released to critical acclaim. Unfortunately, commercial success eluded Fortuny. However, a more fruitful period was round the corner for The Bathers. 

Lagoon Blues.

After signing a record contract with a German record label Marina, the group released three albums in a four year period. In 1993, they released Lagoon Blues, their Marina debut.

Just like Sweet Deceit, Lagoon Blues was another epic album penned by Chris Thompson. It featured sixteen songs, which were the perfect showcase for Chris’ octave defying vocal. Accompanied by what was essentially The Bathers and friends, sixteen tracks were recorded at Palladium Studios, Edinburgh and mixed at Palladium Studios and Cava Studios, Glasgow. Once Lagoon Blues was completed, it was released in 1993.

On its release in 1993, critics remarked that Lagoon Blues was a more eclectic album. There were diversions into jazz-skiffle on Pissor, while the album opener Lagoon Blues showcased a string quartet. The strings would play an important part on Lagoon Blues, which was hailed as poetic, elegant, sumptuous and intense. The same critical acclaim accompanied Lagoon Blues, however, this time The Bathers’ music found a wider audience. It seemed after three albums, The Bathers’ star was in the ascendancy.

Sunpowder.

For The Bathers’ fourth album, and followup to Lagoon Blues, they returned with Sunpowder. It marked the debut of a new lineup of The Bathers. 

Sunpowder marked The Bathers’ debut of drummer and percussionist Hazel Morrison, keyboardist Carlo Scattini and string players Ian White and Mark Wilson. These new additions would change The Bathers’ sound greatly. Many people refer to this as the classic lineup of The Bathers. This classic lineup, plus guest artist ex-Cocteau Twin, Liz Fraser, who features on four tracks, made its debut on Sunpowder.

For Sunpowder, Chris Thompson had written eleven new songs. They were recorded a at Palladium Studios, Edinburgh. Chris and Keith Mitchell produced Sunpowder, which was released in 1995.

When Sunpowder was released, it received the same critical acclaim as The Bathers’ three previous albums. Sunpowder was called sumptuous, sensual, dramatic and ethereal. Liz Fraser, an honorary Bather was the perfect foil to Chris, forever the troubled, tortured troubadour. The result was, what was The Bathers most successful album, Sunpowder. That however, would change with Kelvingrove Baby.

Kelvingrove Baby.

Kelvingrove Baby would be The Bathers’ Marina swan-song. They were certainly leaving the German label on a high. 

Chris Thompson had written thirteen new songs for Kelvingrove Baby, which was recorded in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was at these locations that The Bathers’ expanded lineup reconvened. The Bathers and friends got to work, and eventually, had their Marina swan-song completed. It was released in 1997.

Just like each of The Bathers’ four previous albums, Kelvingrove Baby was released to overwhelming critical acclaim. Kelvingrove Baby was hailed The Bathers’ finest hour. It seemed everything had been leading up to Kelvingrove Baby.   

For The Bathers, Kelvingrove Baby was a musical coming of age. It’s as if everything they’d been working towards was leading to Kelvingrove Baby. The music was variously atmospheric, cerebral, dramatic, ethereal, heartfelt, hopeful, literate, needy and sensual. It’s also tinged with pathos, regret and sadness. No wonder, given the tales of love found and lost. They’re brought to life by The Bathers’ very own troubled troubadour Chris Thompson. Along with the rest of The Bathers, they’re responsible for Kelvingrove Baby, a truly enthralling album.   

On Kelvingrove Baby, the music is captivating. So much so, that you’re drawn into Kelvingrove Baby’s lush, atmospheric sound. Having captured your attention, The Bathers don’t let go. Before long, the listener has fallen in love. They fall in love with music that’s hauntingly beautiful, emotive, dramatic and pensive. Much of this is thanks to Chris Thompson’s peerless vocal performances. He plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee. His worldweary, emotive, heartfelt and impassioned vocal sounds as if it’s lived the lyrics he’s singing about. That was the case on The Bathers’ swan-song Pandemonia. 

Pandemonia.

Just two years after the release of Kelvingrove Baby, The Bathers released their sixth album Pandemonia. It featured fourteen new songs from the pen of Chris Thompson. They had been recorded at Cava Studios, in Glasgow. That was where The Bathers’ final hour take place.

When critics heard Pandemonia, they realised that this was a career defining album. Just like previous albums, critical acclaim accompanied the release of Pandemonia. Critics exhausted superlatives describing Pandemonia. They were almost lost for words, describing what would become a lost classic.

Pandemonia, which was released in 1999, was The Bathers’ swan-song. Just like Kelvingrove Baby,  the critically acclaimed Pandemonia, should’ve transformed The Bathers’ career. Sadly, despite oozing quality from the opening bars of Twenty-Two, right through to the closing notes of Pandemonia, Pandemonia failed to find the audience it deserves. Here was an album that was cerebral, 

ethereal, literate, melancholy and melodic. Pandemonia was also enchanting and captivating. It was impossible not to be swept away by its charms. Sadly, The Bathers’ brand of chamber pop passed most people by. They failed to understand its subtly and beauty. For The Bathers, this was the end of the road.

After releasing six albums in ten years, The Bathers career was at a crossroad. The problem was, nobody new this. Everyone expected The Bathers to return after a couple of years with their seventh album. That wasn’t to be. Two years became three, became five, ten and fifteen. Now, sixteen years have passed since the release of Pandemonia, and twenty-five since Sweet Deceit.

It’s only now that people are fully appreciating The Bathers’ music. Now, more and more people want to discover or rediscover The Bathers’ music, especially their early albums like Sweet Deceit. This beautiful, captivating, enchanting and impressionistic album is a forgotten classic. That shouldn’t be the case. Sadly, it is. There’s a reason for this.

Most of The Bathers’ albums are extremely difficult to find. Only their Kelvingrove Baby and Pandemonia are available for affordable prices. The Bathers’ other four albums are rarities, which are now collectors items. When they do become available, the prices are beyond most people. What is needed, is a comprehensive reissue program of The Bathers’ six albums. That would’ve been the perfect way to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of The Bathers, and the twenty-fifth anniversary of Sweet Deceit’s release. Sadly, a reissue program might be easier said than done.

The Bathers’ six albums were released on four different labels, that could prove problematic. However, it would be well worth the time and effort, because a new generation of music fans are waiting to discover The Bathers’ music. Then they would no longer be one of Scottish music’s best kept secrets. However, The Bathers being The Bathers, that seems unlikely.  

Just like The Blue Nile, The Bathers were always determined to do things their way. They were different from most bands. They’re enigmatic, almost reclusive and publicity shy. The Bathers aren’t like most bands. 

Throughout a career that’s lasted thirty years, The Bathers’ have ploughed their own furrow. They didn’t head for London, seeking fame and fortune. Nor did The Bathers revel in the rock “n” roll lifestyle. Instead, they did things their way, and adopted a contrarian approach to music. Whether that worked depends on how you measure success.

Record companies measure success by records sold. That’s why Island Records dropped The Bathers after Sweet Deceit sold badly. However, Sweet Deceit was a minor classic, and is one The Bathers’ finest albums. That’s because they did things their way. This was the case throughout their career. Albums were recorded slowly and methodically, as The Bathers were sought musical perfection. Time and time, they came so close. That was the case  on Sweet Deceit, Sunpowder, Kelvingrove Baby and Pandemonia. Somehow, The Bathers almost achieved the impossible, and what’s more they did it their way. For The Bathers, and their many fans, that equates to success. While The Bathers’ neither enjoyed number one singles nor million selling albums, they created six critically acclaimed albums, including Sweet Deceit, a forgotten classic, which they released twenty-five years ago in 1990. 

THE BATHERS-SWEET DECEIT.

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DIRE STRAITS- COMMUNIQUE.

DIRE STRAITS- COMMUNIQUE.

7th July 1978 is the day that changed the lives of the four members of Dire Straits forevermore. That day, Dire Straits released their eponymous debut album. This was the beginning of a glittering seventeen year career. However, it wasn’t until Sultans Of Swing was released as a single in the spring of 1979, that Dire Straits made a commercial breakthrough in America. That was a game-changer. Dire Straits become one of the biggest bands of the next three decades. 

When Sultans Of Swing was released in the Spring of 1979, it quickly became a staple of American radio. This helped propel Dire Straits debut single to number four in the US Billboard 100. By then, Dire Straits was a hugely popular album. 

Back home in Britain, Dire Straits reached number five. In America, Dire Straits surpassed this, reaching number two in the US Billboard 200. Across the world, Dire Straits was a huge success. From Australia to France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, reached the top ten in the album charts. Dire Straits was a glittering success.

By February 1979, Dire Straits was certified silver in Britain. Eventually, it was certified gold in November 1979 and double platinum in February 1986. Over the Atlantic, Dire Straits was certified gold in America in February 1979 and double platinum in January 1987. Elsewhere, Dire Straits was certified platinum in Australia, France Germany and New Zealand. By 1979, Dire Straits had sold over six million copies worldwide. Quietly, this unfashionable quartet had taken the world by storm. However, by then, Dire Straits were getting ready to release their sophomore album Communiqué.

Given the initial success of Dire Straits, Vertigo, Dire Straits record company were pushing for a followup album. This was even before Dire Straits took America by storm. However, the last year had taken its toll on the band. Dire Straits had toured Britain and  Europe promoting their debut album. This had been a shock to their system. Each night they played a new city. It was a far cry from the London pub circuit. Not that Dire Straits were complaining. 

All they needed was some time to relax, and get their head round their new found success. Then they would be ready to begin work on their sophomore album. That wasn’t going to happen. Vertigo in Britain and Warner Bros. in America wanted Dire Straits to head into the studio.

Dire Straits were new to the workings of the music industry. They felt they were in no position to argue. So, Mark Knopfler got to work, penning nine new songs. These songs would be recorded at Compass Point Studios, in the Bahamas.

Recording of what became Communiqué began at Compass Point Studios on 28th November 1978 with a new production team. Whereas Muff Winwood had produced Dire Straits, Barry Beckett and Jerry Wexler were chosen to produce Communiqué. Everything was in place for the followup to Communiqué.

With the tapes ready to roll, Mark Knofler played lead guitar and sang lead vocals. David Knofler played rhythm guitar, while drummer Pick Withers and John Ilsley provided Dire Straits’ rhythm section. Things went smoothly and the session finished on 12th December 1978. This allowed the four members to head home for Christmas for some well earned rest and recuperation. 

That was just as well. From the Spring of 1979 onwards it was unlike anything Dire Straits had ever experienced. First they took America by storm. Then they won over the rest of the Western world. Suddenly, Bob Dylan wanted Mark to play on his Slow Train Coming album. For the four members of Dire Straits, they were living the dream. It was just as well they had already recorded Communiqué, which was mixed in Muscle Shoals. 

With Communiqué ready for release on 15th June 1979, Dire Straits were able to build on the commercial success of their eponymous debut album. However, would lightning strike twice for Dire Straits?

Privately, Mark Knopler was worried. He was worried that having written and recorded Communiqué in such balmy, luxurious surroundings, it had made his songwriting lazy? Had he been stuck in his comfort zone. Was Communiqué too similar to Dire Straits? Surely though, the Barry Beckett and Jerry Wexler production partnership would’ve pointed this out? With all these unanswered questions flying around his head, Mark approached the release of Communiqué with a degree of trepidation. 

As a former music journalist, Mark Knopfler knew how savage critics can be. If they don’t like an album, they don’t hold back. Mark’s fears were partly justified. Reviews of Communiqué were mixed. Most critics enjoyed Communiqué. They remarked upon the sometimes laid-back, spacious and cinematic sound. However, Communiqué was different from Dire Straits in one regard. The rest of Dire Straits are given the chance to shine.  They grasp the nettle, and showcase their considerable musical talents. However, not everyone enjoyed Communiqué. Other critics remarked that Communiqué sounded similar to Dire Straits. They accused Dire Straits of remaking their debut album. This included the “usual suspects,” including the self appointed “dean Of American critics.” He didn’t like Communiqué. Not that that mattered a jot. Communiqué would build on the commercial success of Dire Straits.  

On Communiqué’s release on 15th June 1979, the Dire Straits success story continued apace. It reached number five in Britain and number one in Germany, Sweden and New Zealand. Elsewhere, Communiqué reached the top ten in Australia, Austria and Norway. Then when Communiqué was released in America, it reached number eleven in the US Billboard 200. All this success resulted in gold and platinum discs aplenty.

In America and Finland, Communiqué was certified gold. Elsewhere, Communiqué was certified platinum in Denmark, Germany, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Britain. While Communiqué was certified double-platinum in Canada and France, it was certified triple-platinum in Switzerland. In the Vertigo and Warner Bros.’ headquarters, the sales of Communiqué were being added up. Once the final totals were added up, it came to nearly 2.5 million copies. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success.

A month after the release of Communiqué, Dire Straits released Lady Writer as a single. It reached number forty-five in the US Billboard 100 and number fifty-one in Britain. While this proved slightly disappointing, Dire Straits had come a long way in two years. They were now one of the biggest, and most successful bands in the world. Communiqué, which I’ll tell you about.

Once Upon A Time In The West opens Communiqué. Mark’s trademark crystalline guitar lingers, as the rest of Dire Straits ready themselves to join the fray. John’s bubbling bass and Pick Withers’ hypnotic drums are joined by David’s rhythm guitar. Carefully, he picks out notes. Meanwhile, Mark, forever the observer and people watcher, comments on the state of the world. His vocal is worldweary. He’s at his wariest, seeing danger everywhere. His advice is “some of you mothers ought to lock up your daughters.” Looking further afield, he sees trouble in America: “heap big trouble in the land of the plenty, tell me how we’re gonna do what’s best?” As Mark delivers the lyrics, his guitar chimes and quivers. Later, harmonies are added. By then, Dire Straits are in a groove, creating a slow, moody backdrop to Mark’s worldweary, wary vocal.

Before forming Dire Straits, Mark was a journalist. His journalistic background never left him, provided inspiration for many songs, including News. Just Mark’s guitar chimes, shivers  and quivers before the rhythm section enter. John’s bass is prominent in the mix, slowly meandering across the arrangement. Meanwhile, Pick’s drums provide the heartbeat. Mark is painting pictures with his lyrics. They’ve a cinematic quality. So much so, it’s possible to imagine as: “he climbs on his horse” and goes “gambling with his life.” Scenes unfold before the listener’s eyes. The character isstubborn and nonchalant in equal measures. His attitude to danger and death is summed up in the closing line: “he makes a line in the news.” It’s a truly poignant  ending to a cinematic epic.

Just an acoustic guitar is strummed before a cymbal crashes on Where Do You Think You’re Going? Mark’s vocal a mixture of frustration and disappointment as he asks “where Do You Think You’re Going? Don’t you know it’s dark outside…don’t you care about my pride? As the story unfolds, the drama and emotion builds. Rolls of drums, washes of Barry Beckett’s keyboards are added. By then, the Knopfler brothers in musical harmony. As Mark plays lead, David plays rhythm. There’s more than a hint of the direction Dire Straits would take on Love Over Gold. Then when the vocal drops out, seamlessly Dire Straits become one. They increase the tempo and enjoy the opportunity to showcase their considerable skills on another cinematic tale of love gone wrong.

Lady Writer was the only single released from Communiqué. It was perfect for a single, bursting into life. Inspiration for the song came when Mark turned on the television, and saw a Lady Writer, who was discussing the Virgin Mary. Speculation surrounds the Lady Writer’s identity, but some believe it was Marina Warner. Regardless of her identity, it was a future Dire Straits’ classic. That was apparent from the opening bars.

Chiming, crystalline guitars join the rhythm section who power the arrangement along. Above the arrangement Mark delivers a lived-in, weary vocal. It’s a mixture of cynicism and frustration, especially as he sings: “yes you and your rich old man;” and “then I recall my fall from grace.” As if inspired by one of Mark’s finest vocals, the rest of Dire Straits create the perfect backdrop. They create a flowing, mid tempo arrangement. To that they add harmonies and handclaps. Later Mark delivers a breathtaking guitar solo. This is the finishing touch,  as Dire Straits bring to life the story of the Lady Writer, a Dire Straits classic.

Angel Of Mercy has an understated, spacious arrangement. Dire Straits play loosely and with a subtlety. John’s bass sits in background. So does Pick’s drums. Blistering guitars are unleashed, while a rhythm guitar is panned left. This sets the scene for Mark’s vocal. Again, his lyrics paint pictures. He tells the story of this Angel Of Mercy whose been mistreated by an abusive man. That’s apparent in the lyrics: “I got the dragon at noon, yes and I won the fight, now I want my reward in heaven tonight, just like you promised.” As Mark delivers the lyrics anger, frustration and sadness shine through.  Especially as he sings: “Angel Of Mercy, angel delight, give me my reward in heaven tonight.” The rest of Dire Straits add singalong harmonies, before briefly, the arrangement returns to an understated, meandering sound. From there, Dire Straits return to their pub rock roots, despite Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett’s influence.

Portobello Belle is another song with a cinematic quality. Against a backdrop of a strummed guitar, rhythm section and occasional stabs of piano Mark introduces Bella Donna. She’s a good time girl whose lost her looks. “She ain’t no English rose.” Her only admirer is the “blind singer, he’s seen enough and he knows.” He serenades her with a song for his “Portobello Belle,” in this tale filled with  pathos and  cinematic lyrics. 

Crystalline guitars weave above the rhythm section on Single Handed Sailor. They set the scene for Mark’s vocal on a poignant song full of social comment. There’s a sense of sadness in his vocal. He’s in a reflective mood, as he remembers the river late at night. No longer is it thriving, no longer is it the heart of the community. Instead, it’s reduced to a tourist attraction, where a lone ship is moored in a dry dock. At night, it’s quiet, except for the “Single Handed Sailor” who goes“sailing away in the dark,” with his memories of Britain before its industrial heart was torn out.

Follow Me Home closes Communiqué, Dire Straits sophomore album. Waves wash against the shore as a Caribbean influence makes its presence felt. Slowly drums play and a guitar chimes in the background. Gradually, it grows in power and volume. It ushers in a menacing bass, as a lazy, laid-back groove unfolds. Mark’s vocal has an equally laid-back sound. He sings of celebration taking shape, and introduces the characters. This includes the woman who captures his heart. Hopefully he sings: “now come on woman, follow me home.” Behind him a mesmeric arrangement unfolds. At its heart are the rhythm section and washes of chiming guitars. They mesmerise and tantalise, leaving you wanting more.

Since its release in June 1978, Communiqué has been a much maligned album. It attracted criticism upon its release. Critics accused Dire Straits of remaking their debut album. That wasn’t the case. 

Granted Dire Straits’ record company wanted Communiqué in a hurry. Their eponymous debut album was a huge success. So Vertigo and Warner Bros. were desperate for a new album. They hired Barry Beckett and Jerry Wexler to produce  Communiqué, and flew Dire Straits to Compass Point Studios. Once there, they spent the next three weeks recording Communiqué. It marked the next chapter in the Dire Straits’ story.

Just like Dire Straits, the music on Communiqué is best described as cinematic. Mark combines social comment, cynicism, humour and pathos. As he introduces a cast of characters, he tells you their story. The story of thrill seekers, the lost, lonely and those that have fallen from grace can be heard on Communiqué. It’s as if Mark’s returned to Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds, the cities that shaped him and his music. Once there, it’s as if he’s eavesdropped on the stories of ordinary people. 

Seamlessly, Mark translates their lives into song. Their lives come to life thanks to Mark and the rest of Dire Straits. They provide the backdrop for Mark’s lived-in, worldweary and sometimes cynical vocal. He augments this was his trademark guitar playing. However, Communiqué isn’t just one man’s work.

Far from it. The rest of Dire Straits get more opportunity to showcase their talents on Communiqué. This allows David Knopfler, Pick Withers and John Illsley to shine, and shine they do. This talented trio were the perfect foil for Mark’s vocal. However, this was the end of the road for one member of Dire Straits.

David Knopfler quit the band after the release of Communiqué. For some time, the relationship between the Knopfler brothers had been tense. Something had to give. In the end, David decided to leave and pursue a solo career. Sadly, he never enjoyed the same commercial success and critical acclaim as a solo artist.

Whether David would’ve left Dire Straits if he had realised the commercial success and critical acclaim that was about to come their way. Maybe when Communiqué didn’t sell as well, he figured that Dire Straits success would be short-lived? That wasn’t the case. 

Right through until 1995, Dire Straits were one of the biggest bands in the world. Their next four studio albums and two live album were certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum worldwide. The most success of these albums was 

1985s Brothers In Arms. It was certified platinum nine time over in America alone. That marked the beginning of the third chapter in Dire Straits’ career. In 1978, the first chapter was drawing to a close.

The second chapter in the Dire Straits’ story featured 1980s Makin’ Movies and 1982s Love Over Gold. On these two albums, Dire Straits music changed. Their songs became longer. Epics like Tunnel Of Love and Telegraph Road were the perfect showcase for Dire Straits. That was still to come. 

The album that closed the first chapter in the Dire Straits story, is their most underrated album Communiqué.  For too long Communiqué has been overlooked. Its laid-back, spacious and cinematic sound is sometimes overlooked in favour of Dire Straits, Makin’ Movies, Love Over Gold and Brothers In Arms. That’s a shame, as Communiqué has hidden depths that await discovery. It was also the swansong of the original, and some would say classic, lineup of Dire Straits. 

Never again would the original lineup of Dire Straits record together again. if they had, would Dire Straits gone on to surpass their later achievements? That we will never know. What we do know, is that Communiqué is the most underrated album in Dire Straits back-catalogue. Communiqué features that master songsmith Mark Knopfler, and his band of musical brothers making timeless music that thirty-seven years later sounds as good as it did in 1978.

DIRE STRAITS- COMMUNIQUE.

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STOMU YAMASHTA-RED BUDDHA.

 STOMU YAMASHTA-RED BUDDHA.

Too often, Stomu Yamashta’s role in the popularisation of world music is overlooked by critics and cultural commentators. They forget that Stomu Yamashta helped popularise world music back in the sixties. Right through to the seventies, Stomu Yamashta was one of the leading lights in the burgeoning world music scene. That was way before world music was supposedly born in the late seventies and early eighties. By then, Stomu had been fusing traditional and popular music for two decades. He had also released a string of cutting edge albums. That’s not to mention his work with supergroup Go. Stomu Yamashta was one of the biggest names in Japanese music. This didn’t surprise people who had been following his career. 

Stomu Yamashta was born Tsutomu Yamashita, in Kyoto, Japan, on 15th March 1947. Growing up, he played drums and percussion. Very quickly, Stomu Yamashta found his own unique style. He perfected this during his studies at Kyoto University, Julliard School Of Music and Berkeley School Of Music. Before long, he was being recognised as an pioneering musician.

This lead to Stomu Yamashta playing alongside Thor Johnson, Toru Takemitsu and Hans Werner Henze. By then Tsutomu Yamashita had become Stomu Yamashta. He felt it had sounded better. Now sporting a new name, Stomu was playing alongside like minded musicians. Just like Stomu, they were determined to push musical boundaries to their limits. Soon, Stomu Yamashta was known worldwide.

In 1969, Seiji Ozawa was conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Stomu Yamashta was asked to make a guest appearance. This was a huge honour for twenty-two years old Stomu Yamashta. Most musicians would’ve been intimidated at the thought of rubbing shoulders with such talented musicians. Not Stomu. He stole the show, delivering what Time Magazine called a “virtuoso performance.” Coming from such an esteemed publication, that was high praise indeed. What a way to close the first decade of Stomu Yamashta’s career.

As the seventies began to take shape, Stomu Yamashta’s star was very definitely in the ascendancy. Stomu was in demand as a collaborator. 

Stomu and Japanese jazz pianist Masahiko Sato collaborated on Metempsychosis, which was released on Columbia. This album of groundbreaking jazz music was released in 1971. It was a fusion of avant garde, free jazz and modern classical. Critics were won over by this cutting edge collaboration. Later in 1971, Stomu released his debut studio album as a solo artist.

Percussion Recital was released on Columbia, in June 1971. Critics hailed Percussion Recital an inventive, genre melting album. Elements of abstract, experimental and free jazz melt into one. That’s the case from Variations From Odoru Katachi which opens side one, right through to Uzu, which closes side two. It’s a groundbreaking album, one that’s assured and innovative album, one that forty-four years later, has stood the test of time. So has his first live album,

The World Of Stomu Yamashta was released in April 1971, on Columbia. It had been recorded in the small hall of the Tokyo Metropolitan Cultural Hall on January 11th 1971. When The World Of Stomu Yamashta was released three months later, this groundbreaking release showcased one of Japanese music’s rising stars. For many record buyers, this was their introduction to the Kyoto born composer, songwriter and musician. Before long, a followup was released.

Uzu: The World Of Stomu Yamash’ta 2 was released in August 1971. Exaedros I opened the album, before Stomu improvised on Nenbutsu and UZu. It was a spellbinding and imaginative performance. Especially given Stomu’s unique and innovative style of drumming. Critics eagerly awaited the release of Stomu’s next studio album.

Luckily, they didn’t have long to wait for the release of Red Buddha. It was released later in 1971, Red Buddha was named after Stomu Yamashta’s Red Buddha Theatre Company, which was formed in 1971. The Red Buddha Theatre Company would later tour Europe, and work with director Peter Maxwell Davis. That was in the future. Before that, Stomu Yamashta released his most ambitious album Red Buddha.

Work began on Red Buddha in 1970. For Red Buddha, Stomu had composed two new tracks, Red Buddha and As Expanding As. Both tracks were lengthy, filling a side of the album. Red Buddha saw Stomu deploy a myriad of disparate instruments. Metal strings, were joined by tambura, cymbal, musical saw and mandolin harp. Then on As Expanding As, Stomu combined a steel drum and skin drum with a marimba, cow bell and wood block. The result was music that was bold, ambitious and innovative. Red Buddha was released later in 1971, and further enhanced Stomu’s reputation.

When critics heard Red Buddha, they were won over by Stomu Yamashta’s ability to create music that was not just groundbreaking, but captivating and ambitious. It seemed with each album, Stomu was trying to reinvent himself as a musician. That becomes apparent as the musical adventure that is Red Buddha begins.

Just understated drums pitter patter as the meditative Red Buddha begins. The drums are panned hard left, while instruments flit in and out. A musical saw, metal strings, tambura and cymbal can be heard. Some make a brief appearance, others are here to stay. However, it’s the mesmeric drums that take centre stage. Mostly, the tempo stays the same. Sometimes, it rises, as if in response to the otherworldly, futuristic and sometimes industrial sounding arrangement. Other times the arrangement veers between melodic to challenging. Always, Stomu ensures that the music captivates. Not once does one’s attention wander. There’s almost a hypnotic and cinematic quality. Then later, the arrangement reaches an urgent and dramatic crescendo, before returning to its understated sound.

As Expanding As has a similarly understated arrangement. It’s just the drums that play slowly and hypnotically. They too are panned hard right. This leaves the rest of the arrangement free for Stomu to deploy his eclectic and disparate selection of instruments. They play their part in what’s a melodic but almost industrial sounding arrangement. Instruments are dropped in and out. Some are instantly recognisable, including a wood block, skin drum and steel drum. Other times, Stomu disguises their sound, transforming it totally. By then, elements of avant garde, experimental, improvisation and industrial music are being combined. Later, as a marimba interjects, an alternative, industrial orchestra provide a backdrop. They boing, drone, beep, buzz and jingle. The marimba rings out, providing a contrast as what sounds like a siren sounds. An element of urgency and drama is added as As Expanding As reaches a dramatic climax, before returning to the earlier understated and spacious sound. This is similar to Red Buddha, another track where Stomu Yamashta pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond.

By the time Stomu Yamashta released Red Buddha in late 1971, his star was very much in the ascendancy. He had already released a studio album, Percussion Recital and two live albums. He had also collaborated with Masahiko Sato on the album Metempsychosis. His most recent venture was founding the Red Buddha Theatre Company. It took its name from Stomu Yamashta’s sophomore album Red Buddha. 

Stomu Yamashta recorded Red Buddha in 1970. A year later, this groundbreaking and ambitious album was released. The music is variously captivating, challenging, cinematic, hypnotic, dramatic and urgent. Other times Red Buddha is melodic and meditative. It’s a timeless album, one that was way ahead of its time.

So much so, that it’s hard to believe that Red Buddha is forty-four years old. Stomu Yamashta was a musical pioneer. He was way ahead of the industrial music pioneers of the mid-seventies. Red Buddha incorporates a proto industrial sound. However, it’s much more melodic than the industrial music that came a few years later. There’s also elements of ambient, avant garde, drone, experimental and free jazz on Red Buddha. That’s not forgetting world music, which Stomu Yamashta Stomu had pioneered since the sixties. It shines through on Red Buddha, which was the most innovative album of Stomu Yamashta’s nascent career. 

Following Red Buddha, Stomu Yamashta would release a string of innovative and groundbreaking albums. Constantly, Stomu Yamashta sought to reinvent himself musically. He also enjoyed success with his Red Buddha Theatre Company, lead the supergroup Go, composed film scores and worked with the British Royal Ballet. However, looking back and Stomu Yamashta’s long, varied and illustrious career, one of his finest moments has to be his groundbreaking opus, Red Buddha.

 STOMU YAMASHTA-RED BUDDHA.

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THE ROLLING STONES-STICKY FINGERS-DELUXE EDITION.

THE ROLLING STONES-STICKY FINGERS-DELUXE EDITION.

By 1970, The Rolling Stones were in the middle of what is now perceived as their “golden age.” It began in 1968, when The Rolling Stones released Beggars Banquet in December 1968. 

Beggars Banquet was released to widespread critical acclaim. It featured an outpouring of creativity from The Rolling Stones. The Jagger and Richards’ songwriting partnership were at the peak of their powers, penning tracks of the calibre of Sympathy For The Devil and Street Fighting Man. Sadly, Brian Jones influence on The Rolling Stones was waning. His appearances in the studio were sporadic.

Despite Brian Jones playing a lesser role in Beggars Banquet, the album was a resounding success. It reached number three in Britain, and number five in the US Billboard. This resulted in Beggars Banquet being certified gold in Britain, and platinum in America. For Rolling Stones, this was their most successful album since Aftermath in 1966. However, a year later, they would surpass the success of Aftermath with Let It Bleed. 

Sadly, by the time that Let It Bleed was released on 5th December 1969, tragedy had struck The Rolling Stones. Founding member Brian Jones had drowned in mysterious circumstances on 3rd July 1969. For the rest of The Rolling Stones, this was a huge body blow. Brian Jones had been the one-time leader of The Rolling Stones. 

Two days after Brian Jones death, shell-shocked Rolling Stones played  a free concert in London’s Hyde Park on 5th July 1969. An estimated 250,000 saw The Rolling Stones pay tribute to Brian Jones. The group’s one-time leader’s influence may have lessened over the past couple of albums, but Brian Jones had played an important part in the rise of The Rolling Stones. Sadly, he only featured twice on Let It Bleed, on You Got The Silver and Midnight Rambler. His musical farewell was brief one. So was the debut of a new addition to The Rolling Stones, Mick Taylor.

When Let It Bleed was released, eager eyed listeners spotted a new addition, Mick Taylor. He was Brian Jones replacement. Mick played featured on just two tracks, Country Honk and Live With Me. Just like Brian Jones’ contribution, Mick’s success was an important one in the sound and success of Let It Bleed.

On its release, Let It Bleed surpassed the success of previous Rolling Stones’ albums. It reached number one in Britain, and number three on the US Billboard 200 charts. This saw Let It Bleed certified gold in Britain, and double-platinum in America. Meanwhile, critics exhausted their supply of superlatives on songs like Gimme Shelter, Love In Vain, Midnight Rambler and You Can’t Always Get What You Want. The hard rocking Let It Bleed was considered one of The Rolling Stones’ finest moments. 

The Rolling Stones had picked up where they left off on Beggars Banquet, and taken it further. In doing so, they had created the most successful album of their career. This should’ve been a time for celebration. However, as 1969 and the sixties drew to a close, The Rolling Stones didn’t feel much like celebrating. 

A day after the release of Let It Bleed, The Rolling Stones had agreed to put on a free concert at Altamont Speedway, in Northern California on 6th December 1969. What was meant to be a concert featuring the great and good of psychedelia went badly wrong. Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead were all booked to play. It was meant to be a major event in psychedelic’s musics history. After the carnage in Los Angeles, everyone hoped this would be a good news story. It wasn’t. 

As the Rolling Stones took to the stage, the concert descended into chaos. The Hell’s Angels fought with the audience, and Meredith Hunter, a black teenager, was allegedly stabbed by a member of the Hells’s Angels who were meant to be providing security at Altamont. After this, the event was cancelled. The Grateful Dead never even took to the stage. Altamont had been a disaster. There were three accidental deaths, many were injured, property was destroyed and cars stolen. As the sixties drew to a close, the events at Altamont played its part in the decline of psychedelia and a backlash against the hippie movement. 

Between the death of Brian Jones, and the chaos and carnage at the Alatmont Free Festival, The Rolling Stones didn’t feel like celebrating the success of Let It Bleed. They were castigated in the American press. Their decision to use the Hell’s Angels as security drew a huge amount of criticism. Especially when the details of Altamont became clear. Whilst firefighting criticism from politicians and America’s self appointed moral guardians, the press, it was soon business as usual for The Rolling Stones. 

Following the success of Let It Bleed, The Rolling Stones began work on the followup, Sticky Fingers, which was recently reissued by Polydor. This Deluxe Edition is a double album features a second disc of live material recorded at The Roundhouse, in 1971. However, the “main event” is Sticky Fingers, the third album The Rolling Stones’ during their “golden age.”

Just like previous albums, Sticky Fingers was mostly the work of the Jagger and Richards songwriting partnership. They cowrote Brown Sugar, Sway, Wild Horses, Can’t You Hear Me Moving, Bitch, I Got The Blues, Dead Flowers and Moonlight Mile. Jagger and Richards also cowrote Sister Morphine with Marianne Faithful. The other track chosen for Sticky Fingers, was a cover of Fred McDowell and Gary Davis’ You Gotta Move. These ten tracks were recorded by The Rolling Stones and “friends” at various studios between March 1969 and January 1971.

Most of Sticky Fingers was recorded during 1970 and 1971. However, the story starts in 1969. The Rolling Stones began recording Sister Morphine between 22nd and 31st March 1969. Further sessions took place between May and June 1969. By then, Sister Morphine was completed. Then just before Let It Bleed was released, three day session took place between 2nd and 4th December 1969, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Sheffield, Alabama. That was last session of 1969.

The first recording session of 1970 took place Olympic Studios on 17th February. Then the sessions began in earnest in March 1970, at Olympic Studios, and continued right through to May 1970. Further sessions at Olympic Studios took place between 16th and 27th July. After a three month break, The Rolling Stones returned tp Olympic Studios on 17th October 1970. Right through to 31st October, they worked on Sticky Fingers. It was nearly completed. 

Eventually, recording of Sticky Fingers was completed in January 1971. The Rolling Stones recorded in both Olympic and Trident Studios with producer Jimmy Miller.

The Sticky Fingers’ sessions had been a poignant time. It was the first recording session without Brian Jones. His replacement, Mick Taylor, played a bigger part in the recording of Sticky Fingers, playing lead, rhythm and acoustic guitar. Meanwhile, Mick Jagger sang vocals and played acoustic guitar. The Rolling Stones’ rhythm section featured drummer Charlie Watts, guitarist Keith Richards and Billy Wyman on bass and electric piano. Joining The Rolling Stones were a few of their musical friends.

Among their musical friends The Rolling Stones brought onboard were Ry Cooder on slide guitar, saxophonist Bobby Keys, percussionist Jimmy Miller, organist Billy Preston and pianists Jim Dickinson, Nicky Hopkins, Ian Stewart and Jack Nitzsche. Rocky Dzidzornu added congas and Jim Price trumpet and piano. Most of these artists only featured on one track. Often their contribution was invaluable. That was also the case with producer Jimmy Miller and engineers included Glyn Johns, Andy Johns, Chris Kimsey and Jimmy Johnson. They all played their part in sound and success of Sticky Fingers.

So did artist Andy Warhol. He was responsible for “designing” Sticky Fingers’ album sleeve. Andy Warhol was inspired by the innuendo laden title. However, the design was by Craig Braun. He shot a close up of a jeans clad male crotch. By the time it made its way onto the album sleeve, it featured a working zip and mock belt buckle. When the zip was undone, a pair of cotton briefs could be seen. They had Andy Warhol’s name stamped in gold on them. This design, like Sticky Fingers, would become a classic, and was a fitting debut for their new label.

The release of Sticky Fingers, marked a new era in The Rolling Stones’ career. It was the first album they had released on their newly founded Rolling Stones’ label. This brought to an end The Rolling Stones’ seven year association with Decca Record in Britain, and London Records in America. Despite the lengthy association between the two parties, it ended on a sour note.

After the end of relationship between The Rolling Stones and Decca and London Records, an expensive error discovered. It came to light that inadvertently, The Rolling Stones had signed over the copyright to their sixties recordings to their former manager Alan Klein, and his company ABKCO. Having lost the copyright to their Decca and London Records’ recordings, The Rolling Stones decided to form their own label. Their first studio album of seventies, Sticky Fingers launched Rolling Stones Records.

Before Sticky Fingers was released, The Rolling Stones held their breath as the critics had their say. Most critics heaped praise on Sticky Fingers, calling it The Rolling Stones’ finest album of their career. Tracks like Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Bitch and Moonlight Mile showed that The Rolling Stones had just created a career defining album. Not everyone agreed.

Unsurprisingly, the self appointed “Dean Of American Rock Critics” Robert Christgau didn’t agree. While others were heaping praise on Sticky Fingers, he disagreed. As 1971 drew to a close, the contrarian Christgau called Sticky Fingers the seventeenth best album of 1971. Robert Hilburn gave Sticky Fingers a backhanded compliment. While he conceded that Sticky Fingers was one of the best albums of 1971, it was “only modest by The Rolling Stones’ standards.” Lynn Van Matre also proved a past master of the backhanded compliment. She said that The Rolling Stones were “at their raunchy best” but that the music is “hardly innovative.” She did agree that Sticky Fingers was one of the albums of 1971. Record buyers agreed.

When Sticky Fingers hit the shops on 23rd April 1971, it reached number one in Britain and in the US Billboard 200 charts. Across the world, Sticky Fingers was a huge seller, reaching the top ten in ten countries. Apart from America and Britain, Sticky Fingers reached number one in Australia, Canada, Holland, Norway, Spain, Sweden and West Germany. Sticky Fingers was certified gold in Britain and France. In America, Sticky Fingers sold three million copies and was certified triple-platinum. Forrty-four years after its release, and Sticky Fingers is perceived as a Rolling Stones’ classic.

No wonder. Sticky Fingers features The Rolling Stones at their very best. It was as if everything had been leading up to Sticky Fingers and then, a year later, Exile On Main Street. That is the case from the opening bars of Brown Sugar, which opens Sticky Fingers.

Instantly, The Rolling Stones are turned in to a good time, rock ’n’ roll band on Brown Sugar. With Mick at the helm, they strut their way through this homage to the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. It was recorded in Muscle Shoals, where its its  tough, blues rock sound took shape. Everything falls into place. Jimmy Miller’s decision to pair Bobby Keys’ saxophone and Keith’s guitar in the breakdown is a masterstroke. He plays his part in a future Rolling Stones’ classic.

From good time, rock ’n’ roll, The Rolling Stones drop the tempo on Sway, the first of the ballads. Who wrote the song is disputed. Officially, it’s credited to Jagger and Richards. However, Mick Taylor has subsequently claimed to have written the track. He certainly plays an important part in this slow, bluesy ballad. Mick adds a bottleneck slide guitar solo, while Mick Jagger exercises demons via his vocal. Then on Wild Horses, Mick delivers one of his finest vocals. It’s best described as soul-baring, on what is easily, a Rolling Stones’ classic. 

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking sees The Rolling Stones transformed into a good time rock ’n’ roll band. In 1971, their only opposition was The Faces. Mick’s accompanied by harmonies from the rest of Stones, vamps and struts his way through the lyrics. Then at 2.43, the instrumental break begins, and The Rolling Stones stretch their legs. Rocky Dijon’s congas propels the arrangement along, before Bobby Keys unleashes a saxophone solo whilst Keith and Mick trade guitar licks. Augmenting the arrangement is Billy Preston’s organ. However, later, Mick Taylor unleashes a blistering guitar solo, as he makes his mark on The Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones first played You Gotta Move on their 1969 American tour. This inspired them to cover the song on Sticky Fingers. It’s reinvented, and transformed into a rousing, bluesy jam. Partly this reinvention is down to waves of bluesy guitar, and Mick’s drawling, mid-Atlantic vocal.

Originally, Bitch was the B-Side to Brown Sugar. However, it soon found its way on radio playlists. No wonder. It benefits from an impressive, almost overblown arrangement. Mick whose been unlucky in love, doesn’t hold back; “love is a bitch.” Behind him, big bold horns and duelling guitars fill out the arrangement. Soon, The Rolling Stones in full flow. It’s an impressive sound, and one of Sticky Fingers’ highlights.

Bluesy and soulful describes I Got the Blues. Again, The Rolling Stones drop the tempo. Mick, accompanied by growling horns, delivers a needy, soulful vocal.

The first time anyone heard Sister Morphine, was when Marianne Faithful released it as the B-Side to her 1969 single Something Better. Two years later, it’s given a makeover by The Rolling Stones and friends. Ry Cooder plays slide guitar and Jack Nitzsche piano and organ. Against this understated arrangement Mick’s vocal is like a confessional. It’s as if he can relate to, and understand the poignant lyrics. There is also a darkness to the country-tinged Dead Flowers. Especially the line: “I’ll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon.” During the period Sticky Fingers was recorded, Keith Richards and Gram Parsons had become friends. Some people believe he inspired the song, which is one of the most underrated in The Rolling Stones’ back-catalogue.

Closing Sticky Fingers is Moonlight Mile. It’s another ballad with country influence. Jimmy Miller is responsible for a big, bold arrangement. Strings sweep in the background, while Mick sings about how difficult it is being a rock ’n’ roll star, whose constantly in the spotlight. The way he delivers the lyrics, it’s as if he is tiring of life as a Rolling Stone.

That would never happen. Forty-four years later, and Mick Jagger is still a Rolling Stone. They went on to release a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. However, Sticky Fingers is one of The Rolling Stones’ finest moments. 

Throughout Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones are at their best. They are at their most versatile. Seamlessly, they switch between blues, rock and country. Similarly, one minute The Rolling Stones are a good time rock ’n’ roll band, the next they’re delivering soul baring ballads. That is why Sticky Fingers is a captivating, timeless album and career defining album from The Rolling Stones. Sticky Fingers was the best album of their career. 

Forty-four years on, and Sticky Fingers is a stonewall classic. So popular was Polydor’s recent Deluxe Edition reissue, that it charted around the world in 2015. Sticky Fingers reached number seven in Britain and five in the US Billboard 200. It seemed that music fans old and new, were keen discover or rediscover the delights of Sticky Fingers. This was the third studio album of The Rolling Stones “golden era.” The final album of this period was Exile On Main Street. Somehow, it managed to surpass the quality of Sticky Fingers. That was still to come.

In 1971, The Rolling Stones were back where they belonged, at the top of the charts. They were now the biggest rock ’n’ roll band in the world. That took some doing. The last few years had taken their toll on The Rolling Stones. They had been arrested, lost Brian Jones and replaced him with Mick Taylor. Then there was the controversy surrounding Altamont. Somehow, The Rolling Stones had survived all this, and were still going strong, having just released a career defining classic album Sticky Fingers.

THE ROLLING STONES-STICKY FINGERS-DELUXE EDITION.

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GEORGE DUKE-A BRAZILIAN LOVE AFFAIR-VINYL EDITION.

GEORGE DUKE-A BRAZILIAN LOVE AFFAIR-VINYL EDITION.

By 1979, when George Duke released A Brazilian Love Affair, he was one of the hardest working men in music. Not only had he released fifteen solo albums, but had moved into production. Then there was George’s work as a sideman. The list of musicians George has played with reads like a who’s who of music. What’s even more remarkable is their diversity. Their music crosses the musical genres. This includes everyone from Frank Zappa, through Jean Luc-Ponty, Cannonball Adderley, Billy Cobham to Anita Baker,  George Clinton and Flora Purim. Having worked with such a diverse selection of musicians, this must have influenced George’s music. Certainly working with Flora Purim, the Brazilian-born singer must have influence George, when he headed into the studio to record what would become one of his most commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums, A Brazilian Love Affair which was recently rereleased on vinyl by Music On Vinyl. 

When George Duke came to record A Brazilian Love Affair, Brazilian music had  become much more popular, and moved into the mainstream. Artists like Flora Purim, who George had worked with, plus Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins and of course Sergio Mendes had been trailblazers. These artists had influenced European and American artists, including George Duke. On A Brazilian Love Affair, George showcased the talents of Flora Purim, Airto, Raul De Souza, Simone and Milton Mascimento. This resulted in one of George’s most successful albums.

For A Brazilian Love Affair, George wrote eight of the ten tracks. Of the other two tracks, the Brazilian influence shawn through, Ronaldo Bastos and Milton Mascimento wrote Cravo E Canela. Milton Mascimento also cowrote Ao Que Vai Nascer with Fernando Brant. These ten tracks saw George Duke fuse Brazilian music with jazz, funk and soul. Helping him to do this, was a band that included a tight and talented back of top musicians.

Recording of A Brazilian Love Affair took place in Rio De Janeiro and Los Angeles. Part of the album was recorded at Level e Hawai Recording Studio, Rio De Janeiro, and Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles. Additional sessions took place at Le Gonks West Studio in Los Angeles. Accompanying George Duke were musicians from America and Brazil. This included a rhythm section that variously included bassists Byron Miller and Jamii Joanes, drummers Ricky Lawson and Roberta Silva and guitarists Roland Bautista and Toninho Horto. Jerry Hey and Raul De Souza played trombone, Larry Williams’ saxophone and percussionists Airto and Chico Batera. George a true multi-instrumentalist played guitar, keyboards, synths, piano and sang vocals.  With a combination of Brazilian and American musicians collaborating on A Brazilian Love Affair, the completed album was a meeting of cultures and musical genres. Would this prove successful?

A Brazilian Love Affair was released in 1979 to critical acclaim. Critics decided that this fusion of cultures and musical genres was one of George Duke’s finest albums. It was also one of George’s most successful albums, reaching number 119 in the US Billboard 200, number forty in the US R&B Charts and number four in the US Jazz Charts. The only disappointment was when the single Brazilian Love Affair failed to chart. Apart from that, A Brazilian Love Affair fusion of Brasilia, jazz, funk and soul proved popular. I’ll now tell you why.

Opening A Brazilian Love Affair is the only single released from the album, Brazilian Love Affair. Percussion, synths, keyboards and the funkiest of bass lines from Byron Miller combine before George’s light, joyous vocal soars above the arrangement. It’s like a slice of sunshine, unfolding in waves. Dramatic pauses give way to waves of uplifting music. Roland Bautista’s chiming guitar helps drive the arrangement along, while Byron’s bass provides the funk. A healthy sprinkling of percussion is added, before a flourish of electric piano sees the track head in the direction of freeform jazz. From there, jazz, funk and Brazilian music are combined by George and his multitalented band over seven scintillating minutes of dramatic and bold music.

Summer Breezin’ has a real authentic Brazilian sound from its opening bars. It has a lovely understated sound. Just acoustic guitars, percussion, bells and piano combine, before a burst of drums signals the entrance of George’s scatted vocal. Rasping horns join a funky rhythm section as drums punctuate the arrangement confidently. From there George’s band fuse jazz, funk and Brasilia. Later, the arrangement grows in power and drama. George scats while adding the unmistakable sound of the Rhodes. Horns and harmonies accompany him, as the arrangement meanders along. It combines beauty, drama and subtlety in equal measures.

Cravo E Canela sees George accompanied by a cast of Brazilian musicians. They’re key to the track’s joyful, sunshine sound that unravels at breakneck speed. You’re swept along in its wake, almost unable to keep still. Like so much Latin music, it has a feel-good sound, albeit with a twist from George. Massed vocals are joined a myriad of percussion, congas, agogos and caixas. They’re joined by the rhythm section, guitar, synths and keyboards as Latin and jazz music unite. By now the track has taken on a bold, dramatic sound, one that’s almost impossible to resist. Indeed, resistance is impossible, best to succumb to the song’s charms and delight.

Alone 6AM is just a one-minute interlude where George plays electric piano and Roland Bautista guitar. They create that veers between wistful and melancholy to a much bolder, jazzy sound. Too soon, it’s over, leaving but a memory.

Brazilian Sugar features Flora Purim’s vocal on a track where to cultures unite. Here, Brazil and America seamlessly unite through music, Flora’s joyous scatted vocal is accompanied by a jaunty arrangement where the rhythm section join vibes, percussion and keyboards. When Flora’s vocal drops out, a blazing trombone solo from Raul De Souza takes centre-stage. It’s a show-stopper, and one of the best solos on A Brazilian Love Affair. Not to be outdone, guitar and keyboards join the mix. They’re equally impressive. Then when Flora’s vocal returns, she seemingly spurs the band on to even greater heights. Her vocal is impassioned, soulful and even sultry. It proves to be just the finishing touch to George Duke and his band in full flight, on what’s one of the album’s highlights.

Chiming, jazzy guitars join a driving rhythm section and blazing horns as Sugar Loaf Mountain unfolds. It’s a sumptuous slice of driving jazz-funk. Horns growl and rasp while the rhythm section and keyboards create dramatic waves of music. George unleashes an unrivaled piano solo, playing quickly, accurately and with passion. So do the rest of the band. They take their lead from George. Bassist Byron Miller slaps his bass, producing some funky licks, while horns rasp and the rhythm section fuse jazz with funk. By now you realize this is a crack band of musicians at the height of their game. It doesn’t get much better than this, as bold, dramatic waves of music unfold. So good is this track, that you wonder whether it’s possible to better it?

Just chimes and bells open Love Reborn, one of the slowest and most beautiful tracks on A Brazilian Love Affair. From there, just keyboards accompany one of Roland Bautista’s best guitar solos. His playing is slow, spacious and very beautiful. Deservedly, he takes centre-stage. The rest of the band seem to defer to him. Keyboards, rhythm section and heartfelt harmonies accompany Roland, but it’s his searing, riffing guitar that makes this one of the best tracks on A Brazilian Love Affair.

Up from the Sea it Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite opens with a frantic, frenzied combination of percussion, bongos, congas and punchy, lilting harmonies. There’s a real authentic Brazilian sound. It’s like carnival time. Soon, keyboards and the rhythm section join the fun. Byron Miller’s bass helps drive the track along, as the track heads in a jazzy direction. George’s piano give the arrangement a sense of urgency. Later, rocky guitars add another dimension to the track. With keyboards for company, they drive the track along to its dramatic crescendo, where jazz, funk, rock and Brazilian music merge.

After the drama of the previous track, I Need You Now gives the listener a  welcome respite. It has a much more understated and elegant sound. Just guitars and a subtle rhythm section combine with the heartfelt vocal. Harmonies accompany it as the arrangement meanders along, gradually revealing its secrets, subtleties and not inconsiderable beauty.

Closing A Brazilian Love Affair is Ao Que Vai Nascer. Just an acoustic guitar accompanies Milton Mascimento’s melancholy vocal. His vocal is full of feeling and emotion, as it takes centre-stage. Distant harmonies accompany him, before the arrangement builds. Guitars, rhythm section, keyboards and synths create a backdrop that’s melodramatic and sometimes broody. It’s also effective, bringing out the emotion and passion in Milton’s vocal. Later, the band kick loose. Castanets join the piano, synths and rhythm section and with a dramatic flourish and sense of urgency, the track comes to an impassioned and emotive conclusion.

Although George Duke was something of a musical veteran by the time he released A Brazilian Love Affair, it became one of his most successful and critically acclaimed albums. It’s no wonder. Quite simply, A Brazilian Love Affair is a delicious fusion of jazz, funk, soul and Brazilian music. Two countries’ music unites seamlessly. George and his band of American and Brazilian musicians fuse genres, which sometimes, melts into one. Over ten tracks, drama, emotion and beauty are combined. Much of this music has an irresistibly catchy, joyous sound. Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to keep still, given the combination of irresistible rhythms and percussive delights. However, this isn’t an album of straight ahead Brazilian music. Instead, it’s Brazilian music with a twist. Funk, jazz, soul and even rocky guitars are added to the equation. The result is one of George Duke’s classic albums, where George and his band showcase their not inconsiderable skills. While A Brazilian Love Affair found commercial success and critical acclaim, it also found favor with a new generation of producers and musicians. 

Sample hungry producers and musicians have looked to A Brazilian Love Affair for inspiration. Louie Vega, Jump Cutz and DJ Jorj have all sampled tracks from the album. Indirectly, this has introduced a new generations to George Duke’s music. So too will Music On Vinyl’s recent vinyl rerelease of A Brazilian Love Affair. This will allow another generation of music lovers discover its delights and enjoy A Brazilian Love Affair of their own. Standout Tracks: Brazilian Affair, Summer Breezin,’ Love Reborn and I Need You Now.

GEORGE DUKE-A BRAZILIAN LOVE AFFAIR-VINYL EDITION.

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SHE…WANTS A PIECE OF YOU.

SHE…WANTS A PIECE OF YOU.

In 1963, sisters Nancy and Sally Ross were attending a Beach Boys concert in Sacramento. That concert would change their lives. Buoyed by having witnessed the Beach Boys at the peak of their powers, Nancy hit on the idea of forming a band.

Sally Ross who was only thirteen, volunteered to play the bass, while her elder sister Nancy became the lead vocalist. They were joined by three school friends. Kathy Pennison played drums, Piper Minas lead guitar and Karen Kochie on rhythm guitar. With the lineup in place, all the nascent band needed was a name.

The Sacramento quintet were looking for a name that reflected their rebellious, bad girl image, so they hit upon The Hairem, which would eventually become She. Both of these bands music is celebrated on a recently released fourteen track compilation She…Wants A Piece Of You. It was released on 180g cerise vinyl, by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records. She…Wants A Piece Of You is a reminder of one of the most popular Californian female garage bands of the sixties.

With their lineup in place, The Hairem set about honing their sound. This would take time and patience. However, The Hairem had an advantage over other similar bands. They were able to play their instruments. What’s more, unlike many new groups, The Hairem were able to write their own songs. This made The Hairem stand out from the crowd. Many garage bands played just cover versions. Not The Hairem.

From the The Hairem’s early days, they were writing their own songs. These songs packed a punch, oozing attitude and a rebelliousness that belied their years. The Hairem’s music was loud and occasionally crude stylistically. However, their music was always original and able to captivate an audience. It was essentially proto-punk before the word had been thought of. So it’s no surprise that The Hairem were a popular draw.

As The Hairem played the local circuit, their reputation began to grow. Soon, the young band were establishing a reputation further afield. The Hairem were winning friends and influencing people with their unique brand of garage rock. By 1966, having honed their sound, The Hairem were ready to make the next step, by entering the recording studio for the first time.

In 1966, The Hairem headed to Brandt Studios, where Bill Rase would produce their first recording sessions. Among the songs they cut, were the defiant Not For Me and Like A Snake. Come On Along and Hey You have an dreamy, distant, ethereal sound. These four tracks show different sides to The Hairem and feature on She…Wants A Piece Of You. So does Bus Stop, which later would become one of She’s best known tracks Outta Reach. However, that was still to come. Before that, a change was gonna come.  

The Brandt Studios’ sessions in 1966, was the one and only time this lineup of The Hairem entered the studio. They continued together right up until 1967, when five became four.

As 1967 drew to a close, The Hairem’s lineup changed. The Ross sisters were joined by drummer Ginny Revis and guitarist Kathy Rice. Now reduced to a quartet, The Hairem were playing open air concerts in parks and at love-ins. They also were a regular fixture on the club and college circuit. 

While they played occasional gigs at parks and love-ins, the band found more work on the club and college circuit. It was around this time that a new member joined The Hairem, and again, four  became five.

The latest addition to The Hairem’s ranks was Joann Claudianos. Nancy and Joann duetted on a number of tracks. Unsurprisingly, this lead to comparisons with Jefferson Airplane. This new sound was aired on a demo cut in early 1969. By then, a lot had changed.

The first change was that in early 1969, two new members had joined the band. Reesha Scarborough was now the drummer, while  Karen Luther played organ. However, the biggest change was the name. Now The The Hairem were now known as She. 

Inspiration for the band’s new name came from a Henry Rider Haggar’s classic novel She. With a new name, She recorded two new tracks, Giving Up and Bad Girl, one of their most notorious tracks. Its sound went hand in hand with She’s infamous Bad Girl image. This image had been cultivated over a five year period. Over that period, She had honed their music, growing and improving as a band. They were more than ready to release their debut single.

Six years after first forming as The Hairem, She at last, got the opportunity to record a single for Los Angeles’ based Kent Records. The track chosen was Boy Little Boy. It features on She…Wants A Piece Of You. So does the flip side, Outta Reach. It’s one of She’s finest musical moments. It started life as Bus Stop, but by 1970, had been transformed into Outta Reach, a defiant slice of psychedelia. Why it wasn’t chosen as a single seems strange. Outta Reach features She at their very best. Everyone, including the new recruits play their part in the song’s sound and success. However, Outta Reach was destined to the B-Side.

Ironically, when Boy Little Boy was released by Kent Records in 1970, it failed commercially. By then, psychedelia was well on its way to becoming yesterday’s sound. She had released the wrong song  at the wrong time. 

How different things could’ve been if She had released their debut single a year or two earlier? They were certainly ready, and had been for several years. That’s apparent when one listens to She…Wants A Piece Of You. Tracks like Roll, Piece Of You and Don’t Go Home Tonight are proof of that. However, for whatever reason, She never released their debut single earlier. This may have hastened the demise of She.

Just a year later, and She were no more. There was no bad feeling or breakup, the group just seemed to have run its course. Members left the band to pursue other interests. For some, college and university beckoned. Relationships were also blossoming. She was part of their past. 

The Ross sisters had spent seven years years chasing the dream, firstly as The Hareim, and then as She. Sadly, they never quite fulfilled their potential. She had the talent to make a breakthrough. They were a talented group, one who unlike many other garage bands, were able to play their own instruments and write their own material. On top of that, She had carefully crafted an image. Everything was in place for success to come She’s way. However, it never happened.

Despite cutting a demo, and then releasing Boy Oh Boy as a single in 1970, She never enjoyed commercial success outside the Sacramento area. That came later.

Just like so many other groups, The Hareim and She’s music was only appreciated well after they had split-up. Connoisseurs of both garage bands and girl groups have since discovered She’s music. This began when copies of Boy Oh Boy were discovered. The curious flipped over to the B-Side, and gave Outta Reach a spin. They discovered hidden psychedelic, garage gold. However, there wasn’t any more of She’s music to discover. Then in 1989, Big Beat Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records released She…Wants A Piece Of You on compact disc. This nineteen track compilation was a comprehensive overview of The Hareim and She’s music. It helped spread word of the Wilson sister’s two groups. Since then, The Hareim and She’s star has been in the ascendancy.

Now, twenty-six years after the release of the She…Wants A Piece Of You on compact disc, Big Beat Records, have recently released another compilation of The Hareim and She’s music. This fourteen track compilation, She…Wants A Piece Of You was released by Big Beat Records on 180g cerise vinyl. She…Wants A Piece Of You is the perfect celebration of the onetime queens of Californian garage rock, She.

SHE…WANTS A PIECE OF YOU.

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DISCO 2: A FURTHER FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1976-80.

DISCO 2: A FURTHER FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1976-80.

Just seven months after Soul Jazz Records released Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie in November 2014, the London based label return with the sequel, Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80 on 29th June 2015. Just like its predecessor, Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80 is a double album, featuring nineteen tracks. These tracks range from tracks from the vaults of disco’s biggest labels, including Salsoul Records and T.K Records, right throughout to private pressings. This mixture of the well known and unknown records were released during an important part in disco, and dance music’s history.

From 1976 through to July 1979, disco’s star was very much in the ascendancy. Then on 12th July 1979, the disco era ended. However, what is unclear, is when the disco era began. Was it in 1971, 1972, 1973 or 1974? 

Thirty-six years after disco died in Chi-Town, its birth is still disputed. The dispute surrounds what was the first disco record? Even today, this provokes fierce debates among music critics and cultural commentators.

So much so, that if one was to ask a hundred music critics, there would be no consensus. Even trying to narrow down the year disco was born isn’t easy. That too, is disputed.

Some critics believe disco was born in 1971, with Barry White and Isaac Hayes pioneering the disco sound. Other critics think 1972 was the year disco was born. They point towards singles like  The O’Jays’  Love Train, Jerry Butler’s One Night Affair or Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa. Even 1972 might be too early for disco’s birth?

It could be that disco wasn’t born until 1973, when the Hues Corporation released Rock The Boat. That argument would find favour with many critics. However, some critics dispute Hues Corporation being one of the earliest disco records. They think disco was born in 1974.

Nowadays, a number of critics think George McCrae’s 1974 number one single got the disco ball rolling. It was released on Henry Stone’s T.K. Records in April 1974 and reached number one in America. Some critics will try to convince you that George McCrae and Henry Stone’s T.K. Records were responsible for getting the disco ball rolling. Others beg to differ.

It’s thought that disco was already celebrating its first birthday by then. The first article in the music press about disco was penned by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine in September 1973. Little did Vince know, he’d just written the first article about a true musical phenomenon.

Disco was born in America. Music historians have traced disco’s roots to clubs in Philly and New York. These two cities would play an important part in a disco. Philly and New York were where many of the most successful disco records were recorded. They were also home to some of disco’s top labels, Salsoul Records, SAM Records, West End Records and Casablanca. This quartet of labels are perceived as disco’s premier labels. They provided the soundtrack to America’s clubs for the next few years.

Many clubs became synonymous with disco. Especially New York. It was also home to some of the top clubs, including David Mancuso’s Loft, Paradise Garage and Studio 54. While these trio of clubs were soon perceived as some of the most influential clubs of the disco era, disco was making its presence felt worldwide.

Although born in America, soon disco’s influence was being felt worldwide. Around the world, dancers danced to the pulsating disco beat. Disco crossed the continents and provided the musical soundtrack to dance-floors worldwide. 

Among the most successful purveyors were Salsoul Records, SAM Records, West End Records and Casablanca. They were creating what is remembered as some of disco’s finest moments. Other labels and artists looked on enviously. Soon, they decided to jump on the disco bandwagon. 

Before long, artists whose career had been on the slide for years, were reinventing themselves as disco stars. Johnny Mathis, Cissy Houston, Herbie Mann, Tony Orlando, Aretha Franklin and Donald Byrd were all willing to undergo a disco makeover to revive flagging and failing careers. A few onlookers realised that the disco era wasn’t going to end well. After such crimes against music, it didn’t deserve to.

Especially with so much bandwagon jumping going on, and a mountain of third rate disco being released It was as if disco was the only musical genre left standing. That was ironic. The seventies were one of the greatest musical decades ever. Some of the greatest rock music ever was being released. Yet all radio program directors wanted their listeners to hear was disco. Someone had to make a stand. Enter Steve Dahl.

Right up until Christmas Eve 1978, Steve Dahl was a DJ on WDAI, a Chicago radio station. WDAI had been a rock station for a long time. Then on Christmas Eve 1978, it was announced WDAI was going to become a disco station. Given the change in music policy, Steve Dahl was fired. Little did anyone know, that Steve Dahl’s firing would result in disco’s death.

Steve wasn’t out of work long. He was soon hired by WLUP, a rival station. WLUP played rock, which suited Steve Dahl. He had a feeling that disco wasn’t long for this world. The disco bubble was about to burst; and it wouldn’t take long.

Steve wasn’t a fan of disco, and took to mocking disco on-air. Openly, he mocked WDAI’s “disco DAI.” It became “disco die” to to Steve. Soon, Steve had created the Insane Coho Lips, his very own anti-disco army. Along with cohost Gary Meier, they coined the now infamous slogan “Disco Sucks.” The backlash had begun.

From there, the Disco Sucks movement gathered momentum. Events were held all over America. This came to a head at Disco Demolition Derby, which was Steve Dahl’s latest anti-disco event. Each one was becoming bigger, rowdier and attracting even more publicity. Disco Demolition Derby, which was held at Comiskey Park, Chicago on 12th July 1979 surpassed everything that went before. WFUL were sponsoring a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park. if fans brought with them a disco record, they’d get in for ninety-eight cents. These records would be blown up by Steve Dahl. An estimated crowd between 20-50,000 people attended. Quickly the event descended into chaos. Vinyl was thrown from the stands like frisbees. Then when Steve blew up the vinyl, fans stormed the pitch and rioted. Things got so bad, that the riot police were called. After the Disco Demolition Derby, disco nearly died.

Following Disco Derby Night, disco’s popularity plunged. Disco artists were dropped by major labels, disco labels folded and very few disco albums were released. Disco was on the critical list, and suffered a near death experience. It took a long time to recover. After disco’s demise, dance music changed. 

No longer were record labels willing to throw money at dance music. Budgets were suddenly much smaller. Gone were the lavish productions of the disco orchestras of the seventies. This was epitomised by The Salsoul Orchestra and John Davis and The Monster Orchestra. Strings and horns were now a luxury. Music would have to go back to basics. 

Replacing strings and horns would be sequencers, synths and drum machines, which during the last couple of years, had become much cheaper. Previously, they were only found in studios or were used by wealthy and famous musicians. Now they were within the budget of many musicians. This would prove crucial in the rise and rise of boogie, and later, modern soul, as the musical genres that replaced disco. They became the favoured choice of music for discerning dancers and DJs.

For DJs all over America, boogie and modern soul were the answer to their prayers. Disco’s demise had proved problematic. What were they going to play? If they even dared to drop a disco track, they risked clearing the dance-floor. As DJs wrestled with this problem, boogie was born.

Boogie was born out of necessity. It was very different from disco. Gone were sophisticated arrangement. There were no strings or horns. The music was made with drum machines and synths. Its critics called the music sterile, mechanical and soulless. Despite this, it found an audience.

Soon, boogie was providing the audience to clubs across America, and much further afield. Producers including Patrick Adams, Peter Brown and Leroy Burgess were producing some of the most successful boogie. They released music on Salsoul Record, SAM Records, West End Records and P.P.P. These labels were looking for music to release in the post-disco era. So, it suited all parties. 

The genre that was almost born out of necessity, had become the choice of discerning DJs. So did modern soul. Boogie and modern soul became part of the soundtrack in the most fashionable clubs. They replaced disco, which by 1980, was already perceived as yesterday’s sound. It was a remnant of music’s past. Little did anyone who so readily discarded disco to readily, realise that thirty-five years later, it would still be as popular?

Very few of these people thought that in 2015, the latest wave of disco compilations were about to be released. Among them, is Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80, a double album which I’ll pick highlights of.

Opening Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80 is Stevo’s Pay The Price. It was released in 1979, on T.K. Disco. By then, the disco era was drawing to a close. As a result, a number of tracks were overlooked, including Stevo’s Pay The Price. It’s funky, sassy, soulful and epitomises the Miami Sound. There’s also a brief nod to boogie, which was just about to replace disco in popularity. However, Pay The Price is a real find and the perfect way to get the disco ball rolling. 

Dunn Pearson Jr.’s Groove On Down is a real find. It was released in 1978, on Shyrlden Records, a subsidiary of Greg Carmichael’s Red Greg Records. Groove On Down was written and produced by Dunn Pearson Jr. This was was Dunn’s debut single. He was already an experienced musician, songwriter, arranger, and producer. However, the only thing Dunn hadn’t done, was release a single. So, in 1978, Dunn released Groove On Down, which has everything a good disco single needed. There’s a soulful vocal, swathes of lush strings, horns and harmonies. They play their part in the single that launched Dunn Pearson Jr.’s solo career.

Choosing a name for a band isn’t easy. However, whoever thought up Mad Dog Fire Department deserves a medal. They sound like a sixties psychedelic band. That’s not the case though. Mad Dog Fire Department were a funk band, who released their only single Cosmic Funk on T.K. Disco in 1979. It’s a fusion of funk, disco and proto-boogie, that would still fill a dance-floor thirty-six years on.

In 1979, Needa made their way to The Platinum Factory, in Brooklyn, New York. There they recorded a truly innovative track, Come On And Rock. It was written by Bill Moore, James Johnson and Juanita Holloway. Bill Moore produced this groundbreaking fusion of boogie, disco, funk, hip hop and soul. There’s even a blistering rocky guitar added. It’s the finishing touch to this genre melting hidden gem. Sadly, when Come On And Rock was released on the Leomini label, it never made the journey from the dance-floor to the charts. Only now, will a new generation of music lovers discover what the previous generation missed out on.

By April 1979, disco was still in good health. To most people, it looked like the disco boom was going to last forever. Plenty of disco singles were being released, including Anita Maldonado’s What Can I Do To Make You Dance. It was released on Queen Constance Records in April 1979. What Can I Do To Make You Dance was penned by Barbara Youngblood and Rowland Johnson, and produced by Patricia and Peter Brown. They’re responsible for what’s an slice of uber funky, soulful disco. 

The Shades Of Love climbed onboard the disco bandwagon in 1979. Their first single was Come Inside. It was arranged and produced by Lonnie Johnson, and released on his Scorpgemi Records. Against Lonnie’s arrangement, Lisa Fischer adds a sassy, sultry vampish vocal. 

Jahneen Otis’ Everybody’s Dancin’ opens disc two of Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. It was the B-Side to Changes, a single released on the Flashha label. Everybody’s Dancin’ was produced by Bill Moore and Kenny Williams. They combine elements of disco, boogie, funk and soul to create another dance-floor friendly hidden gem. 

Paper Doll’s Get Down Boy is one of the earliest tracks on Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. It was released in 1976, on Heavenly Star Records. Patrick Adams arranged Get Down By, while it was produced by Harvey Miller. They give the song a classic disco arrangement. Everything is dropped into place at the right time. As a result, nearly forty years later, the song has a timeless sound, unlike many later disco singles.

By 1980, boogie was flavour of the month for DJs and dancers. For labels who thrived in the disco era, it was a case of change or die. Henry Stone’s T.K. Disco realised this, and incorporated boogie, disco, funk and soul on Paco and Flaco’s He’s Here. It was released in 1980, on T.K. Disco and has a foot in the disco and boogie camps.

Five years after releasing their debut eponymous album, Ripple released their sophomore album Sons Of The Gods in 1978. It was produced by Floyd Smith, Loleatta Holloway’s husband, and released on Salsoul Records. When Son Of The Gods hit the shops, it sold badly, and failed to chart. Ripple it seemed, were destined to be a singles band. However, one of the highlights of Sons Of The Gods was Victorious. It’s the perfect showcase for the multitalented Ripple, who a year earlier, had enjoyed a hit with The Beat Goes On And On.

Closing disc two of Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80, is Otis Brown’s Grade A’s Strut On (Strut Your Stuff). It was released on OTB Records, in 1980. Just like other tracks from 1980 on the compilation, it has a foot in both the boogie and disco camps. However, there’s also a healthy dose of funk, plus elements of soul, Latin and even hip hip. Together, they create a dance track for a new decade.

Just like its predecessor, there can be no complaints about the quality of music on Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. The compilers have dug deep, comping up with selection of familiar tracks and hidden gems. 

Among the familiar faces, are tracks from the vaults of T.K. Disco and Salsoul Records. These tracks will be familiar to many disco veterans. After all, T.K. Disco, like Salsoul Records was part of the disco soundtrack. However, it’s on the lesser known tracks where the disco gold is to be found. 

Tracks that were privately pressed nearly forty years ago, are being rediscovered. Many of these tracks will have been long forgotten about. However, they receive a welcome airing on Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. Some of these tracks were written, arranged and produced by some well known names. This includes Patrick Adams and Peter Brown. They were part of the disco and boogie booms and released singles on some of the biggest labels in disco history including Salsoul Record, SAM Records, West End Records and P.&.P. However, for Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80 many of these releases have been eschewed.

That’s no bad thing. Anyone can throw together a compilation of the usual disco and boogie suspects. It’s been done before, and will be done again. All a record company needs to do, is strike a licensing deal with the owners of the rights to Salsoul Record or SAM Records. Then pick some of the label’s biggest “hits” voila, you have a disco compilation the easy way. The alternative is do compile a compilation like Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. 

Soul Jazz Records have taken time to compile Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. It’s a lovingly combined compilation, where the nineteen familiar tracks and hidden gems sit side-by-side. These tracks document a in important four year period in the history of dance music. This period is covered on what is without doubt, one of the finest disco compilations the first six months of 2015, Disco 2: A Further Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1976-80. Its success is down to eschewing the familiar, and digging deeper than other compilers dare to dig.

DISCO 2: A FURTHER FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1976-80.

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YOUNG JESSIE-HIT, GIT AND SPLIT.

YOUNG JESSIE-HIT, GIT AND SPLIT. 

Texas has a rich musical history. That’s been the case for over a hundred years. Country legends Gene Aubry,  Boxcar Willie and George Jones were from Texas. So were blues men Albert Collins, Freddie King and T-Bone Walker. Then there’s Buddy Holly, jazz drummer Buddy Miles, Janis Joplin, Sly Stone, former Eagle Don Henley, Boz Scaggs, Christopher Cross, Steve Earl, Stephen Stills and Z.Z. Top. These are just a few of the artists that called, or call, Texas home. Another artist that calls Texas home is Young Jessie. He is the nephew of another Texan musical legend, Blind Lemon Jefferson.

The name Young Jessie came later. He was born Obediah Donnell “Obie” Jessie, in  Lincoln Manor, Texas on December 28th 1936. His father was a cook, while his mother enjoyed a brief musical career as Plunky Harris. She made a name playing piano, but was something of a a multi-instrumentalist. Her cousin was singer Blind Lemon Jefferson. With such a musical background, it’s no surprise that Obediah would eventually embark upon a musical career. Before that, Obie and his family left Texas behind.

From Texas, Obie and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1946. This was where Obie began studying music. Not long after this, Obie decided to form his first vocal group, The Debonaires. 

Joining Obie in The Debonaires, was Richard Berry, who later, would write and record Louie Louie in 1957. Before that, Richard sung on The Debonaires’ debut single, I Had A Love. It was penned by Obie, and released in 1953. When I Had A Love was released, The Debonaires’ name was missing. Instead, the single was credited to The Hollywood Blue Jays. Despite the change of name, I Had A Love wasn’t a commercial success. So, The Hollywood Blue Jays changed their name.

Having just changed their name, The Hollywood Blue Jays became The Flairs. This change of name just happened to coincide with a change in fortune for The Flairs. They won a recording contract with Modern Records. However, The Flairs never got the chance to fulfil their potential. In 1954, Obie decided to embark upon a solo career.

Obie had been spotted by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. They thought that Obie had potential, so offered him a recording contract…as a solo artist. There was a problem though…his name.

By 1954, Obie was just eighteen. However, his name Obediah Donnell Jessie made him sound much older. So it was suggested that he adopt a stage name. This was when Young Jessie was born. 

Young Jessie’s music is remembered on the recent Ace Records compilation It takes its title from Young Jessie’s 1955 single. It’s one Young Jessie’s finest and hippest cuts. There’s fourteen in total on Hit, Git and Split, including I Smell A Rat, Mary Lou, Nothing Seems Right, Oochie Coochie, Hot Dog and Rabbit On A Log. Most are penned by Young Jessie. The others were written by the legendary songwriting team. Hit, Git and Split which is available on 180 gram heavyweight vinyl or digital download, is a reminder of Young Jessie at the peak of his powers. This period began in 1954.

Just like his friend and former member of The Flairs, Richard Berry, Young Jessie was about to embark upon a solo career. He was signed a recording contract with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

With Leiber and Stoller guiding his career, Young Jessie’s solo career began in earnest. They were already well versed in the ways of the music industry. They knew what was needed to make a hit record. So they began their mission to transforming the eighteen year old  Young Jessie into a star. This meant finding the write song for him.

Already, Young Jessie had written a number of songs. He had penned The Hollywood Blue Jays I Had A Love. Good as Young Jessie’s songs were, Leiber and Stoller wanted their latest signing to have every chance of a hit single. So, they chose a song they had written, I Smell A Rat.

The Leiber and Stoller I Smell A Rat was destined to become Young Jessie’s debut single. On the flip side, was a Young Jessie composition Lonesome Desert. These two songs were recorded in late 1953, and were ready for release as a new year dawned.

With I Smell A Rat recorded, it was released on Modern Records. Young Jessie had previously won a recording contract with the Bihari brothers’ Modern Records. They too, were well versed in the vagaries of the music industry. Jules especially, knew how things worked. So, Young Jessie couldn’t have hoped for a better addition to his “team,” as his career began in earnest

Young Jessie’s recording career began in January 1954. That was when the Leiber and Stoller penned I Smell A Rat Was released on the Bihari brothers’ Modern Records. The Biharis thought that Young Jessie had the potential to break into the nascent rock ’n’ roll market. With his deep, baritone voice there was every possibility. Not this time though. Despite its undeniable quality, I Smell A Rat passed most people by. For Young Jessie, his management team and record company, it was a disappointing start to his career. 

It wasn’t a case of getting back on the horse for Young Jessie. Far from it. There was a lengthy gap between his debut and sophomore single Mary Lou. 

Seventeen months later, and Young Jessie was back with Mary Lou, a song he had written himself. However, Mary Lou wasn’t billed as a Young Jessie solo single. Instead, it was credited to Young Jessie and The Cadets. The B-Side, Don’t Think I Will, was credited to Young Jessie. He cowrote the single with Maxwell Davis, Joe Josea, Sam Ling and Johnny Watson. These two tracks became Young Jessie’s sophomore single.

Mary Lou was released on Modern Records in June 1955. Young Jessie had come a long way as a singer and songwriter. With his street smart lyrics, including:  “clipped the judge just to pay her bail,” this captivated a generation. It still does. From the driving piano, hypnotic drums and waves of harmonies, it’s glorious fusion of rock ’n’ roll and R&B. Even sixty years after its release, it’s a timeless track from Young Jessie. He had plenty more in the tank.

Five months after the release of Modern 961, came the release of Young Jessie’s third single Nothing Seems Right. This was another Young Jessie composition. Modern Records were keen to build on Mary Lou. There was no way the Biharis were going to let the grass grow under their feet. So they sent Young Jessie into the studio. Along with Nothing Seems Right, Young Jessie cut Do You Love Me? These two tracks became Modern 963, Young Jessie’s third single. 

Nothing Seems Right was released in November 1955. This ballad was very different to Young Jessie’s two previous singles. It features a soul-baring vocal full of heartbreak, and allows record buyer to hear another side to the twenty-seven year old Texan. He was maturing as a singer and songwriter. However, later in 1955 he missed out on an opportunity that could’ve transformed his career and fortune.

Following the release of Nothing Seems Right, Young Jessie recorded a cover of Leiber and Stoller’s Hot Dog in 1955. For some reason, a decision was made not to release Hot Dog as a single. It was later recorded by Elvis Presley, whose version many believe is the definitive version. However, would they still say that if Young Jessie’s version had been released? It had the potential to give Young Jessie a mainstream hit. For Young Jessie, a hit wasn’t far away. 

1956 was a quiet year for Young Jessie. It wasn’t until September 1956, that he released his first single November 1955. Hit Git and Split, another Young Jessie composition was chosen. On the flip side was another Young Jessie composition, It Don’t Happen No More. These two tracks became Young Jessie’s comeback single.

After ten months away, Young Jessie made a welcome return with Hit Git and Split. It was released on Modern Records in September 1956. To say it was well worth the wait is almost an underestimate. Hit Git and Split was a career defining track. It’s an irresistible hip swaying fusion of rock ’n’ roll and R&B. Some might say it’s Elvis for grownups. Just like Mary Lou, Hit Git and Split is a timeless track from Young Jessie. His stock was rising after Hit Git and Split.

Just three months after the release of Hit Git and Split, Young Jessie released his final single on Modern Records, Oochie Coochie. It was a Tony Williams composition. For the flip side, Leiber and Stoller’s Here Comes Henry was chosen. It was released in December 1956.

When Oochie Coochie was released in December 1956, it seemed to reference Little Richards and Jerry Lee Lewis. Especially with the piano driving the arrangement along, and the braying saxophone interjecting. Young Jessie’s vocal was a mixture of exuberance, enthusiasm and sass. It seemed a fitting finale to his two years at Modern Records.

As a new year dawned, so did a new chapter in Young Jessie’s career. During 1957, he added harmonies on The Searchers’ singles Searchin’ and Young Blood. Young Jessie also made guest appearances on singles by The Crescendos and Johnny Morisette. He even penned tracks for various tracks. However, what mattered was his solo career, and Young Jessie was about to make his major debut.

This came courtesy of a single produced by Leiber and Stoller, Shuffle In the Gravel. It’s another track from the pen of Young Jessie. Shuffle In the Gravel was released on Atco Records in 1957. At last, Young Jessie had made his major label debut. Sadly, it doesn’t feature on Hit, Git and Split. Neither does the followup, That’s Enough For Me, which was released in 1958. These two tracks comprise Young Jessie’s Atco Records’ years. After this, Young Jessie signed to another major, Capitol Records.

Young Jessie’s time at Capitol Records was even shorter than the Atco years. He released just one single Lulu Belle. That was the last single Young Jessie released for two years.

When Young Jessie returned, he was signed to Mercury Records. He released a quartet of singles. This started with 1961s Teacher, Gimme Back. A year later, Young Jessie released Be Bop Country Boy. Then in 1963, he released I’m A Lovin’ Man and a recut of Mary Lou. That wasn’t all.

Later in 1963, Young Jessie released Make Me Feel A Little Good on the Vanessa label. He also recorded an album with Chuck Jackson. Chuck Jackson and Young Jessie was released on Crown Records, in 1963. One of the tracks from Chuck Jackson and Young Jessie, the swinging, bluesy, Well Baby, features on Hit, Git and Split. It shows how Young Jessie’s music had evolved since he left Modern Records. That was only five years earlier, and ten years since his career began.

Indeed, the two other tracks from Hit, Git and Split are from early in Young Jessie’s career. They were cut in 1953, and billed as The Hunters featuring Young Jessie. Down At Hayden’s was a Young Jessie composition. Richard Berry wrote, which closes Hit, Git and Split. They showcase Young Jessie as his career was about to unfold. 

That’s quite fitting. Hit, Git and Split documents a ten year period in the career of Young Jessie. It just so happens to be the most successful period of Young Jessie’s career. During this period, he cut some of his most memorable music, Mary Lou, Hit, Git and Split, Nothing Seems Right and Oochie Coochie. Then there’s the unreleased hidden gem Hot Dog. Way before that, The Hunters featuring Young Jessie had released Down At Hayden’s and Rabbit On A Log. They’re welcome additions, and are part of this important musical document, Hit, Git and Split.

Originally, Hit, Git and Split was released by Ace Records back in 1982. Since then, interest in Young Jessie’s career has continued to grow. No wonder. For over fifty years, Young Jessie was a prolific live performer. He has won over many music lovers in Britain. Even in his seventies, Young Jessie was capable of putting on a show that put artists half his age to shame. Now aged seventy-nine, Young Jessie still been performing live for eight decades. Ace Records reissue of Hit, Git and Split on  180 gram heavyweight vinyl, is a fitting tribute to veteran rock ’n’ roller Young Jessie.

YOUNG JESSIE-HIT, GIT AND SPLIT.

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MIKI CURTIS-THE FIRST EAR.

MIKI CURTIS-THE FIRST EAR. 

Miki Curtis made his musical debut in 1958. Back then, the twenty year old was a rockabilly singer. This was just the beginning of Miki Curtis’ musical journey.

By 1970, Miki was a member of Samurai. They released their debut eponymous album in 1970. It was well received upon its release. Nowadays, Samurai is considered a minor classic. However, there was no followup to Samurai released. Instead,  Samurai split-up. For Miki Curtis, another chapter in his career was about to unfold.

This was life as a solo artist. Miki Curtis signed to the Vertigo label, and began work on his debut solo album The First Ear. 

For his debut album, Miki Curtis collaborated with lyricist Michio Yamagami on nine tracks. The were a potent partnership, who together, penned the majority of  The First Ear. Miki wrote the music and Michio the lyrics. Their collaborations were Duel Under The Setting Sun, The Sun Goes Down Again, The Love of Duke R’s Wife, Ruined Kingdom, World Of Mojo, Golgita The Pirate, Children On A Hilltop and The Wounded Swan and This Measure of Happiness. The lyrics to other track on The First Ear, Forty Days On A Stoned Out Camel came courtesy of John Redfearn and Mike Davis of Samurai. Again, Miki provided the music.  With ten tracks written, now it was a case of recording them. So, Miki and his band made the journey to Victor Studio.

Recording of The First Ear began in October 1971. Miki had put together some top musicians for what was a hugely ambitious album. Joining the rhythm section were a horn and string section. Then there joined by banks of keyboards and synths, plus a myriad of exotic instruments. Some of the musicians played on most of the tracks. This included Yujin Harada, the drummer from Samurai, Miki’s previous band. Other musicians featured on just a few tracks. All of them however, were playing their part in what was a hugely ambitious and groundbreaking album, The First Ear. It was produced by Muki and Masaharu Honjo, and completed in January 1972. 

After recording of The First Ear was complete, the album was mixed by Norio Yoshiawa. He had been part of the project since day one, and was responsible for recording The First Ear. Once Norio had mixed The First Ear, the release date was scheduled for April 1972.

That wasn’t far away. Before that, critics and cultural commentators had their say on The First Ear. They hailed the album one of the most ambitious and innovative Japanese albums of the early seventies. This genre hopping album was the latest chapter in the Miki Curtis story. The former rockabilly singer had created a career defining album, one that was variously progressive, psychedelic and sometimes, otherworldly. That was all very well, but would the record buying public get The First Ear?

When The First Ear was released in April 1972, it didn’t sell in vast quantities. Fans of Samurai were keen to hear what Miki was doing now. Other record buyers were curious when they saw The First Ear’s distinctive ear. Its psychedelic cover offered a myriad of musical mysteries. So, they too tried The First Ear. Since then, The First Ear has become something of a cult album, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening The First Ear is Duel Under The Setting Sun. A frenzied strummed guitar is joined by stabs of piano. They’re panned left. Meanwhile, strings are panned right, bells ring out and a trumpet sounds. It’s as if a psychedelic Spaghetti Western is unfolding, and Miki is about to ride out into the desert for a Duel Under The Setting Sun. As the strings dance and rhythm section provide the heartbeat Miki delivers a dramatic vocal. Later, a quivering guitar cuts through the arrangement. Just like the other instruments, it’s dropped in at the right time. This results in a genre melting, cinematic track where Miki draws inspiration from psychedelia, soundtrack rock and pop.

A crystalline guitar creates a mellow introduction to The Sun Goes Down Again. Meanwhile a bass plays subtle and a piano adds a wistful sound. Miki’s vocal is tender and heartfelt. Nothing is allowed to overpower his vocal. It takes centre-stage as he offers hope, hope for the future. Miki optimistically sings; “if things are tough today, tomorrow will soon be here,”  on this beautiful track.

The arrangement to The Love of Duke R’s Wife quivers, before a horn sounds. This is the signal for Miki’s vocal to enter. He’s accompanied by the rhythm section and piano. Occasionally, a horn interjects as Miki tells the story of a short-lived relationship between Duke Renard’s wife and a young aristocrat. As the arrangement almost waltzes along, the story unfolds. Wistfully, Miki sings of that the young aristocrat: “fell in a battle, dying on a distant field.” He brings the lyrics to life, while an organ and melancholy drive the arrangement to its dramatic and heart wrenching crescendo.

Ruined Kingdom is very different from the previous track. It has a mellow, feel good sound. That’s down to the choice of instruments. A piano, ARP synths and steel guitar join the rhythm section and acoustic guitar. This seems to inspire Miki, as he delivers one of his most effective and emotive vocals. Against an atmospheric, dreamy and almost otherworldly arrangement he tells the story of the “Ruined Kingdom.”

Just like the previous track, World of Mojo has a spacious track. However, the arrangement is much more understated. Mostly, it’s just  an acoustic guitar that accompanies Miki’s wistful vocal. Later, a flute and then dulcimer interject. Adding a psychedelic twist, is Mojo The Cat, who snores gently. However, mostly, it’s just Miki and the acoustic guitar that play starring roles on this quite beautiful track.

The sound of waves breaking opens Golgita The Pirate. Soon, the rhythm section, piano, organ and bursts of horns combine. They set the scene for Miki, who sings of the hunt for “Golgita The Pirate.” As the ARP synth buzzes, the piano is panned left and the rhythm section right. Later, an organ is panned hard left as the jaunty arrangement takes shape. By then, the hunt for Golgita is in full flight. A battle takes place, and  Golgita is shot. There’s a twist in  the tale. When Golgita’s hat is taken off, they discover “a beautiful woman…they all prayed and tenderly laid her to rest.” So vivid is the imagery, that Golgita The Pirate is like a short story put to music.

Children On A Hilltop sees another change of style. Much of that is down to the choice of instruments. An ARP synth is deployed while the drums, bass and piano play more prominent roles. Similarly, Miki’s impassioned vocal is louder and joyous. It’s as if he’s based the “Children On A Hilltop” on his own childhood, and is happily reminiscing.

Wistful and beautiful. That’s the word that springs to mind when one first hears The Wounded Swan. It’s a slow, string drenched ballad. Just the rhythm section, piano and acoustic guitar accompany Miki. Gradually, the story takes shape of the The Wounded Swan that’s shot and left behind. It’s unable to make the journey back to its birthplace. So effective is Miki’s delivery of the lyrics, that The Wounded Swan takes on a cinematic quality. One can imagine The Wounded Swan “watching as its friends vanish into the distance.”

From the opening bars of This Measure of Happiness, it’s apparent that something special is unfolding. With just a piano and the rhythm section for company Miki delivers a truly heartfelt vocal. He seems to have reserved his best vocal for this beautiful paean.

The cosmic sounding Forty Days On A Stoned-Out Camel closes The First Ear. For many people this experimental fusion of psychedelia, avant-garde, experimental and free jazz is the high point of The First Ear. It’s certainly unlike the rest of the album. A droning, spacey sound sits above the arrangement. Meanwhile, the rhythm section play slowly. Miki’s vocal is deliberate and dramatic. So are the harmonies. When they drop out a blistering guitar solo replaces it. Along with the droning, otherworldly sound, they take centre-stage. Then the rest of the band set the scene for Miki and the harmonies. When they drop out the final forty seconds feature a myriad of bubbling, gurgling sounds. This ensures that The First Ear ends on a surreal, psychedelic and progressive high.

Forty-three years after the the original release of The Third Ear, Miki Curtis’ debut album is now a cult classic. It’s much more appreciated than it was in April 1972. Back then, this genre-defying album passed most people by. Many of the people that heard The Third Ear, didn’t know what to make of it. 

Partly, that was because its such a varied, and eclectic album. Miki Curtis flits between genres on The Third Ear. There’s everything from sixties pop, psychedelia, progressive rock,  jazz and rock, to elements of avant garde, experimental, free jazz. The use of synths, especially the ARP show that Miki Curtis was an innovator. He brought musicians onboard who were pioneers, and knew what instruments like the ARP were capable of. They created a myriad of disparate sound, including some that can only be described as otherworldly. It seemed that Miki Curtis was determined to challenge musical norms. Other times, he seemed quite conservative.

That’s the case on The Third Ear’s ballads. Mostly, Miki is accompanied by an understated and traditional arrangements. This allows him to breath life, meaning and emotion into Michio Yamagami’s lyrics. Ballads like The Sun Goes Down Again, Wounded Swan and This Measure Of Happiness are among The Third Ear’s highlights. Then on other tracks, Miki lets his imagination run riot.

None more so than Forty Days On A Stoned-Out Camel. It must have sounded truly innovative when The Third Ear was released in 1972. With its myriad of otherworldly sounds, it’s still a captivating track. So, is Ruined Kingdom, with its lysergic sheen. Then there’s the cinematic sounding Duel Under The Sun and Golgita The Pirate. Both are rich in imagery, and transport the listener to another time and place. This is just another reason why The Third Ear is a cult classic.  That’s despite the unorthodox use of panning.

Listen carefully to The Third Ear, and the listener will hear that instruments are arranged very differently to most albums. On one track the drums were panned to the right. Usually, the drums take centre-stage. Then on other tracks, the use of panning results in what’s almost an unbalanced sounding arrangement. It takes a bit of getting used to, but adds to The First Ear’s inherent charm. 

The occasional unbalance mix can be forgiven. Especially, since in 1972, the technology available wasn’t as advanced as it is today.  This meant that recording an album as ambitious and innovative as The Third Ear was quite an undertaking. Somehow,  recordist and mixer Norio Yoshiawa, plus producers  Miki and Masaharu Honjo managed to do so.

They, and everyone involved with Miki Curtis’ genre-hopping debut album The Third Ear should be proud of an album that’s variously ambitious, innovative, progressive, psychedelic and often, beautiful. That’s why, forty-three years after The Third Ear’s release, this cult classic is finally being appreciated.

MIKI CURTIS-THE FIRST EAR.

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DAVID KAUFFMAN AND ERIC CABOOR-GREETINGS FROM SUICIDE BRIDGE.

DAVID KAUFFMAN AND ERIC CABOOR-GREETINGS FROM SUICIDE BRIDGE.

Often when recording an album, an artist thinks about an album cover only once they’ve finished recording. Not David Kauffman and Eric Caboor. They put the cart before the horse, in the spring of 1983, and came up with an album cover before they had even recorded their debut album.  

The photo shoot for the album cover took place in  the spring of 1982. David Kauffman remembered the perfect place for the photo shoot, Colorado Street Bridge, which connects Pasadena to the northeast tip of Los Angeles. It wasn’t the spectacular architecture that made David remember Colorado Street Bridge. No. Far from it.

Instead, it was that every time he crossed the Colorado Street Bridge as an eight year old, it sent shivers down his spine. That’s not surprising, given its history.

Fast forward to the spring of 1983, and the Colorado Street Bridge still had a bad reputation. That had been the case since it opened in 1913. For the last seventy years, over one hundred people had killed themselves by jumping off Colorado Street Bridge. Unsurprisingly, locals took to referring to Colorado Street Bridge as Suicide Bridge. That’s where David and Eric decided to shoot the photo for their debut album.

Early one spring morning in 1983, David and Eric made their way to Suicide Bridge. Accompanying them was a photographer. They found Suicide Bridge eerily deserted. There was not a car in sight.  At first, they thought the bridge was abandoned. This set their imagination running. So, they decided not to hang about. They would have their photos taken, and beat a hasty retreat. Various photos of David and Eric walking across Suicide Bridge clutching their guitar cases were taken. After that, they headed home. Only at a later date did they discover Suicide Bridge was closed for repairs.

By then, Eric had hit on a title for the album they still to record. He phoned David with the suggestion that their debut album be called Greetings From Suicide Bridge. Nervously, they laughed at the irony of the title. However, a year later, when David Kauffman and Eric Caboor released their debut album on their own label, Donkey Soul Music, the title of the album was indeed, Greetings From Suicide Bridge. However, it was as if the curse of Suicide Bridge had struck again, when the album sunk without trace.

Nothing was heard of Greetings From Suicide Bridge for some years. It was just another lost album. That was until recently, when Light In The Attic Records decided to reissue David Kauffman and Eric Caboor’s debut album, Greetings From Suicide Bridge. 

At last, David and Eric’s long lost album had the opportunity to be heard by a wider audience. Maybe thirty-four years after David Kauffman and Eric Caboor first met in 1981, Greetings From Suicide Bridge would find the audience it deserved? 

It was the autumn of 1981, that David and Eric first met. David arrived at The Basement club, which was situated in the basement of the Echo Park United Methodist  Church. It was one of the last folk venues in Los Angeles. Singers on their way up, those on the way down and those hoping for a break made their way to The Basement. They played in front of folk fans and those sheltering from the realities of life. While it wasn’t a glamorous venue, it was full of likeminded music lovers. This included Eric Caboor.

Occasionally Eric accompanied his friend on guitar. That suited Eric fine. Eric didn’t have the confidence to take centre-stage. He was happy to stay in the background. That wasn’t the case with another singer he met one night, David Kauffman.

Just like Eric, David was also an aspiring singer-songwriter. Aspiring was the word. Try as he may, he couldn’t get a break. So, David was waiting tables. He didn’t enjoy this, but the money was good and he only had to work twenty-five hours. The rest of the time, he could spend writing songs and chasing the dream. This included turning up at The Basement one night.

With so many people wanting to play at The Basement, time was limited. Singers were only allowed three songs. Then their time was up. So when David’s time came, he didn’t bother with the banter other singers indulged in. Instead, he launched into his three songs. Literally, David poured out his soul during the three songs. The audience were captivated. Especially, Eric Caboor.

When David had packed up his guitar, he was all set to head home. Eric however, decided to introduce himself. Having complimented David on his performance, Eric said he would like to hear more of David’s music. This was the start of a firm friendship.

Straight away, David and Eric began to spend a lot of time together. The two aspiring singer-songwriters had a lot in common. They both wanted to make a career out of music. 

That was why David moved to L.A. David’s dream hadn’t turned out the way he had hoped, and he was waiting tables. Eric’s luck was out too. He was still living in his parent’s home. Deep down, he wanted to make a living out of music. Eric however, was reluctant to follow his dreams. As they sympathised and empathised with each other’s plight David and Eric hatched a plan to record an album together.

That’s how, in the spring of 1983, David and Eric found themselves on Suicide Bridge. With their album cover shot, all they needed was to write and record their debut album. It didn’t even have a title. That was until David suggested the title Greetings From Suicide Bridge. Not only did they have a title, but inspiration as to what the music

After their visit Suicide Bridge the photographs that had been shot were received by David and Eric. As they looked at the shots, they gave them an idea as to how Greetings From Suicide Bridge should sound.

For Greetings From Suicide Bridge, David and Eric originally had written and recorded thirteen songs. What they had forgotten, was the time restrictions of an LP. So, Greetings From Suicide Bridge went from a thirteen song album, to one featuring just ten. They were penned by David and Eric.

Of the ten songs that made it only Greetings From Suicide Bridge, David contributed Kiss Another Day Goodbye, Life Without Love, Life and Times On The Beach, Where’s The Misunderstanding? and Tinsel Town. David also penned the lyrics to Midnight Willie, while Eric wrote the music. Eric’s other contributions were Neighbourhood Blues, Angel Of Mercy, Backwoods and One More Day (You’ll Fly Again). These ten tracks, which became Greetings From Suicide Bridge, were recorded between June and October of 1983.

As recording of Greetings From Suicide Bridge began, it wasn’t in one of L.A.’s recording studios. Instead, David and Eric recorded their debut album after they had finished work. Eric played acoustic, electric, slide and steel guitars, plus dulcimer, mandolin and vocals. David played bass, piano, acoustic  and electric guitar. This complicated matters.

For their recording sessions, David and Eric only had a four-track portastudio. Eric had bought it in a music store in Van Nuys. It used just blank cassettes. However, given the wide variety of instruments the pair were using, they didn’t have enough channels.

This wasn’t going to stop David and Eric. Necessity was indeed, the mother of invention. The pair were forced to improvise, so that they could layer instruments. It was a complicated and time consuming process, but one that seemed to have worked. However, there was a problem.

When David and Eric took their cassettes to be professionally transferred onto reel-to-reel tapes, Norm Stepanski of Hillside Recordings, Encino thought that the tapes were so badly damaged that Greetings From Suicide Bridge would have to be rerecorded. David and Eric’s hearts sank. However, Norm promised to work out a way to save the project. 

As David and Eric left Hillside Recordings, it was with a heavy heart. Four months’ work was at stake. It could all be for nothing. If they had to start again, they might never replicate the same sound. Especially, the way they layer had been done. They needed Norm to save the day.

And save the day he did. Somehow, Norm worked out a way to save the tapes. The thirteen tracks were transferred across. Norm had saved the day. David and Eric enjoyed the journey to Hillside Recordings, where Norm told them that if they “doing this again, ring me first.” That was the future, now David and Eric had a record to release.

It was then that they realised that the thirteen songs they had originally recorded wouldn’t fit on Greetings From Suicide Bridge. So, thirteen songs became ten. Even then, David and Eric were pushing their luck. They managed to utilise ninety-nine percent of the vinyl. With the ten songs chosen, now came the process of sequencing Greetings From Suicide Bridge. With that done, David and Eric played their forthcoming album for the first time.

The person chosen to appraise Greetings From Suicide Bridge was David’s girlfriend. Her reaction was that the album was that they had taken “their most depressing songs, and put them on one record…isn’t that a bit much?” This made David and Eric think. So, they switched the closing track. One More Day (You’ll Fly Again) closes Greetings From Suicide Bridge which was recorded in January 1984, and is the perfect counterpoint to the album opener Kiss Another Day Goodbye. With this new track listing, the record was ready to be pressed.

To press Greetings From Suicide Bridge Quiex, a company who specialised in short runs of vinyl were chosen. Partly, this was because of the sound quality they promised. There would be no erroneous clicks or crackles during Greetings From Suicide Bridge’s quiet parts. This was perfect for an album like Greetings From Suicide Bridge, which has a number of quiet parts. If the sound quality complimented the music, so did Greetings From Suicide Bridge’s album cover.

On the front cover of Greetings From Suicide Bridge, David and Eric decided that the picture should be underexposed. The back cover however, was overexposed. This results in an atmospheric, poignant, and in the case of back cover, eerie scene. It was bound to catch the eye of record buyers.

David and Eric only had enough money to print 500 copies of Greetings From Suicide Bridge. This they hoped would be the first of many pressings. With the 500 copies, David and Eric took turns at writing the album  title. This took time, but the end was in sight. All that was left was to send out promos and sell the rest of the copies of Greetings From Suicide Bridge.

A total of 150 promo copies of Greetings From Suicide Bridge were sent out to college and independent radio stations. David and Eric were hoping this would garner some radio play. This wasn’t the case. The 150 promo copies of Greetings From Suicide Bridge failed to illicit any interest. Record sales were doing any better.

A few copies were sold at local record shops. Then when David and Eric played at The Basement, they managed to sell some copies of Greetings From Suicide Bridge. There were even a few copies sold via mail order. Apart from these few sales, Greetings From Suicide Bridge passed most people buy. That was apart from a couple of DJs in the unlikeliest of locations.

Neither David nor Eric thought to send  copies of Greetings From Suicide Bridge to DJs in Halifax, Novia Scotia, or Sitka, Alaska. However, somehow, these two DJs heard about Greetings From Suicide Bridge and requested promo copies. It seemed that an album written and recorded in L.A. had struck a nerve much further afield. That’s still the case today.

Recently, there has been a resurgence in interest in David Kauffman and Eric Caboor’s debut album Greetings From Suicide Bridge, which I’ll tell you about. Greetings From Suicide Bridge has recently been reissued by Light In The Attic Records.

Kiss Another Day Goodbye opens Greetings From Suicide Bridge. Just an understated acoustic guitar plays in the distance. Gradually, it moves to the front of the mix, and in the process, usher’s the vocal in. It’s despairing, and full of sadness at the breakup of his relationship. This heartache is apparent when he sings: “and I don’t know, how much longer I can feel the way I feel, and never cry.” Washes of guitar shimmer, complimenting the soul-baring vocal, on what’s a heartachingly beautiful song.

Neighbourhood Blues is quite different from the opening track. Elements of blues and folk combine during the track. That’s the case lyrically. Eric  seems to draw inspiration from both vintage blues and the Laurel Canyon sound. As he picks his guitar, he delivers a reflective vocal. He can’t relate to his family, and his friend has  moved to the suburbs. However, he needs to tell someone how he feels. His only option is to write to a stranger: “some lonesome loser, who’ll hear what I’ve got to say.”

Straight away, Life Without Love sounds as of it belongs on a Sting solo album. Again, an underrated arrangement accompanies a reflective vocal. Guitars combine with a subtle bass. They frame the vocal. Again, it’s full of despair. Then midway, through the track, a curveball is thrown. A dramatic flourish sees the guitar played with a degree of urgency, while the vocal grows in power. It veers between a scat to a despairing vocal. The cause of this despair, is the thought of Life Without Love.

Just acoustic guitars open Angel of Mercy. They set the scene for the vocal. From the opening line, “oh I should have seen it coming,” the vocal is rueful and reflective. Folk rock and country are combined on this cinematic track. It’s a song about someone whose lost their way; and spends their time drinking and making the same mistakes. Then when the vocal drops out, some of the best guitar playing can be heard. It’s neither flashy, nor overcomplicated. It is the perfect replacement for the rueful vocal. Once the vocal returns, the scene is set for the finale, and the poignant closing lines: “and I’ve never learned to pray, until today.”

Stabs of piano open Life and Times on the Beach. It sounds as if it’s a homage to Neil Young, who in 1975, recorded his On The Beach album. However, again, the vocal sounds like Sting. It’s delivered against the piano and occasional, but subtle bursts of guitar. They provide the backdrop to a vocal that’s remembering a life that’s drawing to a close. The sands of time are slowly slipping away. Then after 2.22 a mandolin proves a game changer. It injects a sense of urgency.  It’s as if the realisation that time is quickly  running out. As the vocal drops out, there’s a brief Celtic influence. With just over a minute to go, the arrangement becomes slow, understated and thoughtful. There’s also a beauty to this soul searching song.

Backwoods is an eight minute epic where David and Eric combine folk and country. Just like previous tracks, the folk-tinged arrangement has an understated sound. Just a guitar accompanies the vocal, before David and Eric harmonise. Then when the vocal drops out, the guitars add an element of drama. This isn’t new. It’s been used before on Greetings From Suicide Bridge, and has proved effective. That’s the case here, on this tale of a guy who came from the country seeking riches. These riches have eluded him, but still the city: “won’t let me go.” It’s a poignant and cinematic song, that many people will be able to relate to.

From the opening bars, Midnight Willie has a wistful sound. David’s lived-in vocal is perfect for the lyrics, and brings them to life. With guitars for company, the pictures of a drifter and musician,  jumping trains and moving from  town to town. One wonders if it was based on Mark Phillips, who organised The Basement club, where David and Eric met? He too, was a one time drifter who had dreams of making it as a musician. Who knows, maybe this is David and Eric’s homage to him? If it is, they’ve done him proud, given Midnight Willie is one of Greetings From Suicide Bridge’s best tracks.

Folk, blues and country combine on Where’s the Understanding? It’s a two minute track with a slightly experimental sounding arrangement. A blistering guitar cuts through the arrangement. Meanwhile, an urgent acoustic guitar and vocal combine. It’s as if David is tormented by the “pain that has filled me…and has drilled me.” This makes Where’s the Understanding? a powerful track.

Tinsel Town is a song about L.A. at Christmas. It’s not a song with a happy ending. Instead, it’s about broken promises and broken dreams. 3,000 miles from whatever went before and going down. Christmas in the Southland, lonely to the bone.” Desperation is omnipresent. “I’ve tried to do my best, and tried to live with nothing less, all it’s getting me is deeper in this mess.” With just washes of quivering guitar, a soul-baring Neil Young inspired vocal oozes despair.

One More Day (You’ll Fly Again) was recorded in January 1984, and replaced one of the original tracks on Greetings From Suicide Bridge. A twenty-seven second meandering acoustic guitar sets the scene for the vocal. It’s reminiscent of James Taylor, as David sings of a musician going from town to town, always hoping that the good times will return. This ensures that  Greetings From Suicide Bridge ends on a positive sounding high.

Thirty-one years ago, David Kauffman and Eric Caboor released Greetings From Suicide Bridge. Only a few of the 500 copies sold. They sent more promo copies out than they sold. Some of the promos found their way into record shop bargain bins. That’s where the lucky ones found this hidden gem of an album.

Greetings From Suicide Bridge was neither a success nor appreciated upon its release. That isn’t unusual. All too often, good music fails to find an audience first time around. It’s only at  later date that their music finds the audience it deserves. Hopefully, that will be the case with Greetings From Suicide Bridge, David Kauffman and Eric Caboor’s debut album, which was recently reissued by Light In The Attic Records.

The ten tracks on Greetings From Suicide Bridge find David and Eric creating music that is understated, rueful, wistful, melancholy, despairing, poignant, hopeful and beautiful. Other times, the music on Greetings From Suicide Bridge is also stark and personal. Sometimes, the music is cathartic, when David or Eric unleash their hurt and heartbreak. When this is the case, Greetings From Suicide Bridge becomes like a confessional. Always though, the music on Greetings From Suicide Bridge is captivating. Not once does the listener one think about missing a track. Far from it. On every track the listener is drawn in, just in case David and Eric throw one of their curveballs.

They do that several times on Greetings From Suicide Bridge. When this happens, the song changes totally. Often it’s totally unexpected. This is another reason why Greetings From Suicide Bridge is such a compelling album. It’s also an album where David and Eric flit between and fuse musical genres.

During Greetings From Suicide Bridge’s ten tracks, David and Eric combine elements of blues, folk rock, country and rock. Their playing is mostly subtle, and proves the perfect foil for the vocals. Each of the ten tracks features a captivating performance. The vocals breath life and meaning into the lyrics. That’s why by the end of Greetings From Suicide Bridge, one can’t help but wonder why someone, somewhere didn’t spot the potential in David Kauffman and Eric Caboor’s debut album.

Maybe if instead of mailing 150 copies to radio stations, David and Eric had sent a copy of Greetings From Suicide Bridge to a handful of record companies, maybe they would have enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. However, maybe thirty-one years after David Kauffman and Eric Caboor released Greetings From Suicide Bridge, their long lost hidden gem of an album, will find the audience it so richly deserves?

DAVID KAUFFMAN AND ERIC CABOOR-GREETINGS FROM SUICIDE BRIDGE.

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DJ VADIM AND SENA-GROW SLOW.

DJ VADIM AND SENA-GROW SLOW.

Ten years ago, Sena and her band made long the journey from Accra in Ghana, to Budapest, Hungary to play at a festival. Sena never thought anything of it at the time when she agreed to the booking. Granted she was excited to be playing at such a prestigious festival. However, she never thought that that festival in Budapest would change her life.

When Sena arrived in Budapest in 2005, the festival was taking place in the centre of the city. This was fitting. Budapest has a rich and illustrious musical past. It gave the world composers Alexander Laszlo, Ignác Mihályi, Miklós Rózsa, Franz von Vecsey and Thomas Rajna. In this city steeped in musical history,  a chance meeting with a modern day “composer” DJ Vadim.

By then, DJ Vadim was one of the biggest names in hip hop. He was an experienced DJ and producer. Already DJ Vadim had released five albums. However, his last album was 2002s U.S.S.R. The Art of Listening. This was the last instalment in the groundbreaking U.S.S.R. quartet. Since then, constantly crisscrossing the globe DJ-ing. It seemed DJ Vadim was concentrating on DJ-ing. He was determined to spread the hip hop gospel far and wide. Budapest was the latest date in his schedule. 

Backstake, musicians and DJs mingle and network. That’s when DJ Vadim met Sena. It was the start of a ten year friendship, where the pair collaborated on various projects. The latest is DJ Vadim and Sena’s new album Grow Slow, which is out on BBE Music, on 15th June 2015. It’s the result of a ten year journey that began in 2005.

Back in 2005, Sena Dagadu called Accra, Ghana’s capital city home. That was where her career as a singer and songwriter began.

Sena had released her debut album First One in 2003. Gradually, she began spreading her wings, as she tried to make a musical breakthrough with her first collaboration. 

This was in 2004, when Sena added the vocal to Endlessly’s  single Anorganic. Soon, one collaboration became two.

Then a year later, Sena collaborated with Marcell Dudás on the single Change Colours Again. Sena wrote the lyrics and added the vocal. It was released on the Cookin’ Vinyl label in 2005. For many people, this was the first they had heard of Sena Dagadu. However, her future collaborator DJ Vadim was already an experienced DJ and producer.

After founding his own record company Jazz Fudge in 1994, DJ Vadim released his debut album Headz Ain’t Ready in 1995. That was the year DJ Vadim signed to Ninja Tunes, who he released four albums for, between 1996 and 2002. 

Having signed to Ninja Tunes in 1995, DJ Vadim released four albums between 1996 and 2002. These albums are referred to as the U.S.S.R. quartet. The U.S.S.R. quartet established DJ Vadim’s reputation as a innovative DJ, who was constantly pushing the musical boundaries and determined to reinvent his music. His Ninja Tunes’ debut was 1996s U.S.S.R. Repertoire (The Theory of Verticality). Two years later, U.S.S.R. Reconstruction (Theories Explained) followed in 1998. Then in 1999s DJ Vadim released U.S.S.R. Life From the Other Side. After U.S.S.R. Life From the Other Side, another three years passed before DJ Vadim released another album.

During this three year period, DJ Vadim didn’t turn his back on production. He released several singles. This included 2000s Your Revolution, and then Bang Y2 and Up To Ja in 2002. Later in 2002, DJ Vadim released the final instalment in the U.S.S.R. quartet, U.S.S.R. The Art of Listening. This brought to an end what’s perceived as a groundbreaking quartet of albums. However, having released four albums in six years for Ninja Tunes, it would be another five years before DJ Vadim released another album. When he did, a new voice could be heard, Sena Dagadu.

Five years after releasing the last in the U.S.S.R. quartet, DJ Vadim returned with the Soundcatcher album Talk To Me. It was the first of DJ Vadim’s projects to feature Sena Dagadu. She played her part in album which caught the attention of critics, and Giles Peterson. For DJ Vadim and Sena, this looked like the start of a successful musical partnership. The Soundcatcher Extras following later in 2007. Then tragedy struck for DJ Vadim in 2007. 

He was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, Ocular Melanoma. Thankfully, DJ Vadim recovered from Ocular Melanoma. Two years later, in 2009, DJ Vadim made his comeback. 

By then, Sena had released an album with her band Hungarian band Irie Maffia. Fel A Kezekkel! was released in 2007 and proved to be a genre defying album. Reggae and dancehall is combined with hip hop, funk and rock. Unfortunately, Irie Maffia didn’t have a record company behind them, so had to self-release Fel A Kezekkel!. By the time Irie Maffia released their sophomore album, they would have a record company behind them. Before that, Sena had a lot of music to make.

For the next couple of years, everyone wanted to work with Sena. She collaborated with everyone from Refractory, DJ Cadik, Realistic Crew, Lotek,  Zagar, Pannonia Allstars Ska Orchestra and Nightmares On Wax. It seemed word was spreading about Sena’s vocal prowess. Meanwhile, DJ Vadim was now fully recovered.

After two years away, DJ Vadim was ready to make his a comeback with a new album, U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun. It was released on BBE Music, and was a glimpse of what hip hop had been missing for the past two years.Then two years later, after further collaborations, plenty of globe-trotting DJ-ing trips, came DJ Vadim’s ninth album. Before that, Sena had another album to release.

This was Irie Maffia’s sophomore album What’s My Name? It was released on Shiftin’ Gears Records, in 2010.  Irie Maffia’s music was just as eclectic as their debut album. However, What’s My Name? surpassed the quality Fel A Kezekkel! Sena’s band were going places. So was DJ Vadim.

This was 2011s DJ Vadim Presents The Electric’s Life Is Moving. Just like U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun. It was the third album DJ Vadim released on BBE Music. DJ Vadim Presents The Electric’s Life Is Moving was a fitting followup to U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun. Critics loved the album. It was vintage hip hop from a hip hop veteran. A year later, DJ Vadim made a welcome return.

When DJ Vadim returned in 2012, he came bearing gifts. This was his tenth studio album Don’t Be Scared. It was released to widespread critical acclaim. Without doubt, Don’t Be Scared was one of the best hip hop albums of 2012. DJ Vadim had set the bar high for his eleventh album. It would be released in 2014. Before that, Sena released her sophomore album.

In 2013, Sena Dagadu released her sophomore solo album, Lots Of Trees. It was released on French Soulbeats Records. When Lots Of Trees was released, critics were impressed by Sena’s long-awaited sophomore album. Critical acclaim accompanied its release. Record buyers agreed. Soon, when Sena headed out on tour, she found herself playing sold out stadium shows. Sena has even played a Grammy Award show. Her star is very much in the ascendancy. Still though, Sena plays a part in some of DJ Vadim’s projects. 

Previously, Sena was worked on some of DJ Vadim’s project. She has also toured the world with his bands One Self and The Electric. With DJ Vadim’s various bands, Sena manages to juggle touring the world and  bringing up her daughter Cecile. The musical journey that began when she met DJ Vadim in Budapest was continuing apace.

In 2014, DJ Vadim re;eased the followup to Don’t Be Scared. It wasn’t a hip hop album. No. Dubcatcher ws an album of dancehall reggae. This being DJ Vadim though, means Dubcatcher isn’t just an album of dancehall reggae. There was everything from bass culture, boogie, boom bap rap, roots music, soul and UK 2 step soul. Essentially, Dubcatcher is a genre-hopping album where DJ Vadim embarks upon another musical experiment. Helping him along the way, are an extensive cast guest artists. This cast didn’t include Sena. However, Sena would play a starring role in the next album DJ Vadim released.

Just a year after the release Dubcatcher, DJ Vadim returns with another album Grow Slow. It’s not a DJ Vadim solo album. Far from it. Instead it’s a collaboration with Sena.

Both DJ Vadim and Sena receive equal billing on Grow Slow, which will be released by BBE Music on 15th June 2015. That’s only fair. Sena wrote the ten tracks and adds vocals on Grow Slow. Meanwhile, DJ Vadim adds some of his trademark raps, and produced Grow Slow, which is a genre defying musical journey.

Given their previous track records, Grow Slow is a suitably eclectic album from DJ Vadim and Sena. They bob and weave their way through musical genres and influences. All the time, they draw inspiration from their respective musical backgrounds. 

That’s the case from Go Slow’s opening track, There Is A Moment. DJ Vadim combines elements of hip hop, funk, folk and reggae. Meanwhile Sena delivers a soulful vocal powerhouse. It’s a mixture of power and emotion and whets one’s appetite for the rest of Grow On.

Day By Day sees the tempo drop, and Sena find her inner diva. Behind her, synths and crispy beats create a funky, electronic backdrop. Although it’s the polar opposite of Sena’s vocal, they’re like a musical yin and yang.

DJ Vadim drops the tempo on Work Hard. He combines crunchy beats, a bounding bass and synths. They’re scene setters for Sena’s strutting vocal. Sena fuses  hip hop and soul, and in doing so, creates an irresistible track. 

There’s a nod to Chic as Living In The New unfolds. This funky, minimalist introduction allows Sena’s vocal to take centre-stage. As the drums provide the heartbeat, a bass meanders along. Meanwhile, Sena delivers one of her most soulful and assured vocals. 

Stems ’N’ Seeds has a slow, smokey and soulful, hip hop sound. DJ Vadim provides the backdrop for Sena’s vocal. She delivers a feisty fusion of hip hop and soul. Meanwhile, electronica, funk, hip hop and soul melt into one, creating a smokey sounding anthem.

Against just a backdrop of keyboards, Sena scats on Grow Slow. Soon, she’s delivering a slow, needy and hopeful Nu Soul vocal. Accompanied by DJ Vadim’s slow, electronic arrangement Sema plays a starring role in one of Grow Slow’s highlights.

Straight away, Boneshaker has a choppy, dubby sounding arrangement. A braying horn interjects as Sena toasts her way through the arrangement. Meanwhile, elements of Afrobeat, dub, electronica, funk and hip hop are combined by DJ Vadim. Almost seamlessly, the veteran producer combines the music of four continents on this genre melting musical journey.

Gradually, Run Along’s understated arrangement unfolds. Again, the music of several continents unite. Elements of Afrobeat and Carribean music combine with hip hop. Sena’s vocal is defiant and emotive. Especially when she sings: “I’ve got no time for you, I got no time for fools, Run Along to school.”

Big bold drums beats and synths combine as Sena delivers a joyous vocal on Morning Light. Behind her, DJ Vadim creates a mellow, laid back and slightly funky backdrop. Elements of electronica, hip hop, funk, jazz and Nu Soul combine, as Sena’s vocal plays an important part in feel good, summery sounding vibe.

Give Me More Part 2 closes Grow Slow, and features guest artist Syross the Virus. He interjects as Sena delivers another of her swaggering, vocals. DJ Vadim creates another genre melting arrangement. He combines elements of funk, hip hop and reggae. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Sena’s swaggering, strutting vocal. This ensures that Grow Slow closes on a musical high, leaving the listener wanting more from DJ Vadim and Sena.

Ten years after they first met, DJ Vadim and Sena have finally found time to collaborate on an album. And what an album it is. Over Grow Slow’s ten tracks, DJ Vadim and Sena take the listener on a journey through disparate musical genres. Eerything from Afrobeat, Caribbean, dub, electronica, funk, hip hop, jazz, Nu Soul and soul have influenced Grow Slow. As a result, the music is catchy, funky, irresistible, mellow, soulful, sassy, sultry and summery sounding. Grow Slow is an eclectic sounding and captivating musical journey.

After ten tracks, DJ Vadim and Sena’s musical journey is complete. The veteran producer and Ghana’s musical First Lady have leave you wanting more. One wishes there was a couple of more tracks. It’s a like the party one doesn’t want to end. End it does though. However, hopefully, DJ Vadim and Sena will soon, begin work on the followup to Grow Slow, which was released on BBE Music on 15th June 2015. Let’s hope so.

DJ VADIM AND SENA-GROW SLOW.

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

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

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 on vinyl by Chemikal Underground, surpasses the quality of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat’s debut album. Scottish music’s most unlikely yin and yang, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat with a little help from their friends, make whats without doubt, one  of the best Scottish albums of 2015, The Most Important Place In The World.

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

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MIAOUX MIAOUX-SCHOOL OF VELOCITY.

MIAOUX MIAOUX-SCHOOL OF VELOCITY.

Following up a critically acclaimed debut album is never easy. It never has been, and never will be. That’s why many artists labour long and hard over their sophomore album. In some cases, three years pass by. During this creative struggle, an artist is said to be suffering from second album syndrome. It’s like a musical equivalent of writer’s block. Eventually though, it passes, and the long awaited sophomore album is ready for release. 

Often though, by the time the album is completed, music has moved on. That genre of music is yesterday’s sound. In the pursuit of perfection, the artist has become irrelevant. They failed to notice that music was changing, while they were standing still. As a result, their career is over before it’s started; and they became a footnote in musical history, remembered for one critically acclaimed album. While that’s happened numerous times, it certainly hasn’t happened to Glasgow based Miaoux Miaoux. 

Although it’s been three years since Miaoux Miaoux released their debut album Light Of The North in June 2012, it’s just that the man behind Miaoux Miaoux, Julian Corrie has been one of the hardest working men in Scottish music. He’s been playing live and much in demand as a remixer. So, it’s taken three years for Miaoux Miaoux to release their much anticipated sophomore album School Of Velocity. Just like Light Of The North, it was released on Glasgow’s premier label Chemikal Underground. School Of Velocity is the latest chapter in Miaoux Miaoux story, which began in 2012.

That’s when Miaoux Miaoux released their much anticipated, debut album Light Of The North. It was released in June 2012, to widespread critical acclaim. Miaoux Miaoux seemed to have found the missing link between Mogwai and New Order. So it’s no surprise, that critics hailed Light Of The North as one of the finest debut albums of 2012. Critics also forecast a great future for Light Of The North. They were seen as one of Scotland’s rising stars. 

Record buyers agreed. They too, were also won over by Miaoux Miaoux’s debut album. Light Of The North was a spellbinding, genre hopping musical journey. Seamlessly, Miaoux Miaoux married dance music and indie pop. The finishing touch to this captivating and glossy musical concoction, was a healthy supply of hooks. This ensured that Light Of The North was an irresistible soundtrack to the summer of 2012. Soon, word was spreading about Miaoux Miaoux.

Miaoux Miaoux head out on tour to promote Light Of The North. With his myriad of instruments and effects, Miaoux Miaoux hit the road. Before long, Miaoux Miaoux’s reputation was on the rise. This was helped by some high profile appearances, plus the fact that some high profile DJs were championing Miaoux Miaoux’s music. Meanwhile, other artists were aware of Miaoux Miaoux’s music and Julian Corrie’s skills as a remixer.

Light Of The North opened doors for the man behind Miaoux Miaoux, Julian Corrie. It was like his calling card, and showed just what he was capable of musically.Suddenly, the Glasgow based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and remixer was being asked to remix other artists.

The first was one of Scottish music’s rising stars, Chvrches. They were just about to release their debut single The Mother We Share in 2012. It was given a Miaoux Miaoux makeover in 2012. Then in 2013, Miaoux Miaoux was asked to remix another Glasgow band. 

This time, it was one of Scotland’s biggest bands, Belle and Sebastian. They asked Miaoux Miaoux to remix Your Cover’s Blown. It too, was given a dance-floor friendly sheen. After that, Miaoux Miaoux proved that he was an equal opportunities remixer.

Miaoux Miaoux headed off on a road trip down the M8. His destination was Edinburgh, where Miaoux Miaoux was going to remix a track by the acousto-electronic quartet,Discopolis. The track in question, was their single Zenithobia. It too, was remixed by Miaoux Miaoux. Having worked his magic, yet again, Miaoux Miaoux’s thoughts eventually turned to his sophomore album.

School Of Velocity, Miaoux Miaoux’s sophomore album was, as the man said, a long time coming. Almost three years after the release of Light Of The North, School Of Velocity was released on Glasgow’s premier label, Chemikal Underground. That’s not surprising. 

Recording an album like School Of Velocity is, without doubt, a complex affair. Especially considering Miaoux Miaoux a “one man band.” This means Julian Corrie, the man behind Miaoux Miaoux, had to juggle numerous roles. He’s a songwriter, singer, musician, mixer and producer.

Having written the ten tracks, Julian add vocals, played a variety of instruments on School Of Velocity. Luckily, Julian plays a variety of instruments. He’s a talented multi-instrumentalist whose equally at home playing guitar or keyboards. Then there’s the vintage analogue equipment Julian deployed on School Of Velocity. Vintage keyboards, synths, drum machines and effects have been used effectively. They’ve played their part in an album where genres melt into one. The music is melodic, poppy and hook-laden. School Of Velocity is, as you’ll see, is the perfect soundtrack to the summer of 2015.

Launch Loop opens School Of Velocity. Sci-fi sounds provide an understated backdrop before the song explodes into life. There’s a brief nod to Simple Minds’ Up On The Catwalk. It’s a big, bold, gallus Glasgow sound. That’s until the tempo drops and the vocal enters. It’s tender and accompanied by crispy drums and synths that beep and squeak. By then, comparison can be drawn to Scritti Politti. From there, the arrangement veers between a floaty, dreamy and anthemic. It’s a vintage slice of pop perfection from Miaoux Miaoux.

Choppy synths open A Flutter Echo. Soon, thunderous 4/4 beats are added. They’re joined by a vocal that sounds as of it’s been inspired by Paddy McAloon. It’s like Prefab Sprout transported to 2015. As synths bubble and squeak, drums pound and Julian delivers a heartfelt, needy vocal. Later, steel drums and sci-fi synths are added. They’re a welcome addition to this irresistible hands in the air anthem, where indie pop and dance music become one.

Synths set the scene for Julian’s wistful vocal on Star Sickness. As a bass synth and drums interject, a bank of synths add an element of drama. They reflect the pain and hurt in Julian’s vocal. It’s rueful, as he thinks about what he’s lost. Meanwhile, this tale of love lost heads to the dance-floor. Guitars chime, while a bass adds some funky licks. Filters are added, while the arrangement is driven along by the synths and drums. They’re responsible for a trance influence. However, Julian’s vocal is indie pop all the way. Together, they prove a delicious and joyous combination.

Washes of shimmering synths are scene setters as Luxury Discovery unfolds. Soon, drums are added. When Julian’s vocal enters, again, it’s too a roll of drums. Again, there’s a Paddy McAloon influence as Julain delivers a slow, heartfelt, joyful and dramatic vocal. Harmonies augment his vocal, while glistening, elegiac synths and crispy drums frame the vocal. At the breakdown, one wonders if Julian’s taken a wrong turning? He hasn’t. After this clever twist, he continues to combine a combination of drama and joyousness, as arrangement builds to a beautiful, breathtaking crescendo.

School of Velocity sounds like a lost Prefab Sprout track given a makeover by Miaoux Miaoux. Washes of almost hypnotic, glimmering synths are joined by Julian’s tender, hopeful vocal. A rolling bass line sits atop the synths. Its ominous sound provides a contrast to the of the arrangement. Then a journeys round the drum kit adds an element of drama. Ethereal harmonies provide another contrast, before the arrangement explodes into life. Everything has been building up this, and what’s sure to be  a crowd pleaser and festival favourite reaches a dramatic ending.

A wash of synths and slow, plodding drums are joined by Julian’s Prince like vocal on Giga Shrug. It’s obvious that Julian is a fan of the Minneapolis born singer. As the arrangement grinds along, banks of synths and drum machines provide an electronic backdrop, as Julian delivers a slow, sultry, vampish vocal.

It’s The Quick sees Julian deploy a vocoder. As he delivers the vocal, a moody, broody, vocoded vocal responds. Meanwhile, 4/4 pounding dance-floor beats and a bass synth combine with futuristic sounding synths. They beep and squeak as they deliver a futuristic language. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Julian’s vocal, on this 21st Century dance track.

Peaks Beyond Peaks sees a complete change of style. There’s almost a Bacharach and David influence. Nearer to home, it’s as if David Scott of The Pearlfishers has influenced Julian’s vocal. As he delivers the tenderest of heartfelt vocals, the arrangement is akin to musical merry-go-round. Indie pop and dance combine before Julian toys with the arrangement. A brief reggae influence can be heard, while sci-fi synths, bounding bass and filtered drums combine. It’s akin to a magical, musical merry-go-round.

There’s a Kraftwerk influence on Unbeatable Slow Machine. Think Man Machine. Industrial and futuristic synths accompany Julian’s defiant monotone vocal. Effects are deployed as the arrangement whirrs and grinds along. Ominously, Julian warns: “you will never win, you will never win, but you keep fighting against the machine.”  

Mostly Love, Now closes School of Velocity. Banks of understated synths meander along, setting the scene for Julian’s vocal. Its entrance is accompanied by slow drums and ethereal harmonies. They sit well together, and prove a perfect combination. Later, Julian unleashes his inner rock star, and adds an element of drama to this quite beautiful ballad.  

It might have taken Miaoux Miaoux three years to release School of Velocity, the followup to Light Of The North. However, Miaoux Miaoux pickup where they left off on Light Of The North, seamlessly combining indie pop and dance music. To that, elements of eighties pop, electronica, funk, rock and trance are added. There’s also a nod to Kraftwerk, Prefab Sprout and Prince. Nearer, to home, Glasgow’s very own Chvrches, Simple Minds and The Pearlfishers have all influenced Miaoux Miaoux on School of Velocity. Their influence can be heard on this genre hopping musical adventure.

I say adventure, because no two tracks are the same. Granted several tracks cane be described as ballads or dance tracks. However, not all ballads and dance tracks are created equally. Far from it. Each arrangement is different. The building blocks vary from track to track. As a result, when a track unfolds, you never know where it’s heading. Sometimes, School of Velocity is like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get.” Especially when Miaoux Miaoux throws a curve-ball, and the arrangement heads off in a totally unexpected direction. Very occasionally, one thinks that Miaoux Miaoux has blown it. That’s not the case though. It’s a case of “take a good thing and make it better.” That’s the case on Flutter Echo and School of Velocity. A brief musical detour transforms the tracks and result in  two of of Miaoux Miaoux’s finest moments on School of Velocity. They’re not alone though.

School of Velocity oozes quality. Miaoux Miaoux’s long awaited sophomore album, which was recently issued by Chemikal Records, is bound to be part of the soundtrack to the sumner of 2015. Especially the hook-laden anthems. They’re plentiful, and are sure to go down a storm with DJs. Similarly, these anthems will be festival favourites when Miaoux Miaoux plays live. The ballads show another side to Miaoux Miaoux. A reflective, rueful and sometimes hopeful and needy Julian Corrie lays bare his soul. This means there’s something for everything on School of Velocity. Whether it’s indie pop or dance music that’s your bag, then there’s something for everyone on School of Velocity, Miaoux Miaoux’s magical, musical merry-go-round that you won’t want to get off.

MIAOUX MIAOUX-SCHOOL OF VELOCITY.

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DAVID KNOWLES-CHILD SOLDIER.

DAVID KNOWLES-CHILD SOLDIER.

After the fall of Troy, Odysseus’ journey back from the Trojan War took ten years. The Trojan War had lasted ten years. In total, Odysseus had been away from home twenty years. That just happens to be same time that David Knowles’ musical odyssey lasted. It began nearly twenty years ago, when David Knowles first picked up a guitar.

Twenty years later, and David Knowles released his debut album Footsteps earlier this year. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Footsteps. A great future was forecast for the Edinburgh based singer-songwriter. 

Since then, David embarked upon his Spring tour. It criss-crossed Britain. In towns and cities, David played songs from Footsteps, including his new single Child Soldier. It’s a single with a social conscience from David Knowles, whose musical odyssey began twenty years ago.

Back in the mid-nineties, grunge was King. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Soundgarden were at the peak of their popularity. Straight away, David Knowles was hooked. Inspired by the musical vortex that was grunge, David began to explore other musical genres.

It made sense to start at what is the genesis of modern music, the blues. One of David’s earliest discoveries was Leadbelly, a giant of the blues who cheated the hangman and survived the notorious Angola prison. While other bluesmen caught David’s attention, so did some of the greatest American lyricists.

This included the “Dust Bowl Troubadour,” Woody Guthrie. He came to prominence in the thirties. This was just after the Depression, and the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Woody Guthrie started of as a folk singer. Soon, he became America’s social conscience. David appreciated, and could relate to the music of Woody Guthrie. It spoke to him. So did the music of Bob Dylan, who two generations later, followed in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie.

Just like so many aspiring singer-songwriters, Bob Dylan would go on to influence David Knowles as a singer and songwriter. Just like Woody Guthrie before him, Bob Dylan was the spokesman for a generation. He spoke to, and for them. When David discovered Bob Dylan, his music was just as relevant. Like all good music, it has a timeless quality.

The same can be said of another of David Knowles’ inspirations, Jimi Hendrix. As an aspiring guitarist, David could appreciate Jimi’s effortless talent and stagecraft. A flamboyant, virtuoso performer, Jimi, who had been inspired by T-Bone Walker, seemed to revel in the limelight. As he took to the stage, Jimi came alive. He was totally transformed, and in a tragically short career, released albums that would influence two generations. This included David Knowles. He watched and learnt. Little did he realise that when he released his debut solo album Footsteps on 9th March 2015 it would feature a Jimi Hendrix song. 

Footsteps was released hot on the heels of David Knowles’ debut E.P. The Alchemist. It was released on 19th January 2015. Hailed as “mesmeric,” The Alchemist found its way onto radio playlists, where it became a firm favourite of DJs and listeners. This bodes well for Footsteps, the album David Knowles has dreamt about making for nearly twenty years.

Growing up, with hopes and dreams of making a career out music, David’s musical tastes became eclectic. As well as blues, folk and rock, David discovered proto punk pioneers The Velvet Underground. This was the latest discovery in David’s musical journey. It seemed each discovery lead to another. David was in the midst of a musical and literary awakening.

It wasn’t just music David was soaking up like a sponge. No. Before long, David was discovering literature. This included the poetry of William Blake, the doyen of the Romantic Age. From William Blake, David discovered Oscar Wilde, playwright, poet and cultural commentator. For a future  songwriter, this would stand him in good stead. So would David’s love of Hunter S. Thompson, who in his own inimitable way, said: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Despite this, David wasn’t put off following his dream of making a career out of music. In sporting terms, David’s musical career was a career of two halves.

David’s dreams of becoming a musician became reality when he was a teenager. In the time honoured fashion, David played in a series of bands. Just like generations before him, David was serving his musical apprenticeship. That stood David  in good stead. He then joined Manchester indie band Solarslide as their guitarist. This was a step up the musical ladder. By then, however, David had caught the travel bug.

This isn’t unusual. Many people enjoy a gap year. Some manage to stretch it to two or three years. After all, travel broadens the mind. So inspired by Jack Kerouac’s seminal road trip novel, On The Road, David Knowles hit the road. This was no gap year though. Far from it. David road trip took him slightly longer. Two years became three, and eventually, David returned home after twelve long years. 

During this twelve year Odyssey, David’s travels took him to three continents, Latin America, Asia and Europe. This somewhat leisurely stroll round the world, certainly  broadened David’s mind and provided him with a wealth of material for his new career. 

On his return home to Britain, David who for twelve years, had lived a nomadic lifestyle, settled in Edinburgh, the self-style Athens of the North. There the second part of David’s career took shape. He decided to embark upon a solo career. His travels would inspire his music, including that on his debut solo album Footsteps.

Wanderlust never quite leaves someone. Once they’ve had a tantalising  taste of the nomadic lifestyle it never quite leaves them. David has been there. He’s slept on beaches, with the stars as a blanket. So, settling back into to “normal” life wasn’t going to be easy. However, life as a musician is very different from that of a pen pusher or desk jockey. A musician spends much of his time on the road, travelling between concerts and festivals. The rest of the time is spent writing songs and recording them. For David Knowles, this was the perfect career.

Now living in Edinburgh, David started playing live. Soon, he was establishing a reputation as one of the rising stars of Edinburgh’s music scene. Then David discovered musical soul mates in the form of cellist Claire Schiavone and percussionist, keyboardist and producer Matt Varty. They would feature on Footsteps, David’s debut solo album.

For Footsteps, David’s debut solo album, he penned seven of the nine tracks. The other two tracks were covers of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine and Jimi Hendrix’s classic Hey Joe. These tracks are given a makeover by David, who dawns the role of musical Alchemist. To do this, he relies upon a selection of instruments he discovered on his road trip. This includes a didjeridoo, African djembe drum and far eastern dulcimer. These instruments play a part in David Knowles Footsteps’ sound and success.

Before Footsteps was released, it was much anticipated debut album. The cat was out of the bag, David Knowles was an artist with a great future in front of him. Critics and cultural commentators agreed. This was reflected in the reviews. Plaudits and superlatives were exhausted by critics. They were impressed by David’s skills as a singer, songwriter and musician. David brought lyrics to life, breathing meaning and emotion into them. In other songs, David Knowles was following in the footsteps of Woodie Guthrie, and became music’s social conscience. This was the case on Child Soldier, which David Knowles recently released as his second single.

Child Soldier shows another side of David Knowles. Ominous drums play in the distance. In front of the drums, sits David’s guitar and vocal. A roll of drums, hissing hi-hats and grungey guitars is the signal for David to kick loose. What follows is wall of sound and social comment. Blistering, driving guitar licks and David’s staccato vocal combine. Desperately, David sings: “I want to leave this behind,” as if the horrors of the Child Soldier are burnt on his retinas.

Just three months after the release of his debut album Footsteps, David Knowles returns with his sophomore single Child Soldier. This is a truly captivating track, where David Knowles becomes music’s social conscience. It’s as if he’s witnessed the horrors and results of the Child Soldiers during his twelve year Odyssey.  That becomes apparent when one listens to the lyrics.

The way David delivers the lyrics, it’s as if these images have been burnt on David’s retinas. They certainly leave a lasting impression. Especially with lyrics like: “my name is Khouy but you can call me cadre. I’m only thirteen but you listen to everything I say.” No wonder. The Child Soldier wields a gun, as they fight for something they don’t understand. Instead, it’s self preservation, and survival of the theory. This wasn’t what Charles Darwin had in mind. However, he never foresaw the gun wielding, Child Soldier. David Knowles must have; and has decided to highlight the problem on his debut album Footsteps.

Unlike many modern albums, Footsteps was a refreshingly old school album. It lasted just twenty nine minutes. That’s all many classic albums used to last. Nick Drake’s never released an album that lasted thirty minutes. By then, the reclusive genius had said all he had to say. Sadly, that’s not the case any more. 

Most albums are sprawling affairs where artists are determined to fill the CD. Personally, I wish more artists would follow in David Knowles’ Footsteps. His debut album was a captivating musical journey lasting nine songs and twenty-nine minutes. The music was variously understated, beautiful, melancholy, poignant, soul-baring and cinematic. Other times, hurt and heartache is omnipresent, as David draws inspiration from everyone from Damien Rice, Nick Drake, Jimmy Hendrix, Leadbelly, Jose Gonzales and the “Dust Bowl Troubadour,” Woody Guthrie. Then there’s the literary works of William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac. That’s not forgetting the twelve years David spent travelling. They’ve without doubt influenced David Knowles music. Footsteps featured tales of love, love lost, road trips and of course the story of the Child Soldier; which is David Knowles new single and one of the most moving and captivating tracks you’ll hear this year.

DAVID KNOWLES-CHILD SOLDIER.

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WARREN STORM-THE BAD TIMES MAKE THE GOOD TUNES-CLASSIC TEXAS RECORDINGS 1964-1986.

WARREN STORM-THE BAD TIMES MAKE THE GOOD TUNES-CLASSIC TEXAS RECORDINGS 1964-1986.

Often, an artist spends a large part of their career with the same producer. The producer just seems able to get the best out of the artist. Musical history is littered with examples. However, despite this success, there’s often the temptation to change producer. It’s as if the artist is keen to see whether the grass is greener. That can prove fatal. A previously successful artist’s career can head south, and often never recovers. That’s always the risk. It was a risk that Warren Storm wasn’t willing to take.

Warren Storm first worked with Huey Meaux in 1964. They worked together right through until 1982. However, Warren Storm had recorded so much music with Huey Meaux, that there was plenty of music left in the vaults. Right through to 1986, singles Huey Meaux produced for Warren Storm were being released. Many of these singles Huey Meaux produced for Warren Storm feature on a recent compilation released by Ace Records, The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986. It documents the most successful and productive period of Warren Storm’s career. His story began in 1937.

The future Warren Storm, was born Warren Schexnider on February 18th 1937, in Abbeville, Louisiana. Warren grew up in a  musical house. His father Simon, was a talented musician and a member of the Rayne-Bo Rambler. He taught Warren to play drums and guitar. By the age of ten, Warren was already a talented musician, and as good, if not better than many older musicians.

So when Simon couldn’t make shows, he had a ready made replacement in Warren. He made his debut for The Rayne-Bo Ramblers aged ten or eleven. The audience didn’t notice. Seamlessly, Warren fitted into The Rayne-Bo Ramblers’ line-up. Soon, other bands looking for a drummer, were giving Warren a call. It seemed almost seemed inevitable that Warren was going to embark upon a career as a musician.

By the time he was sixteen, Warren was the drummer in two local bands, the Herb Landry Band and Larry Brasson’s Rhythmaires. People were soon taking notice. Warren had an impressive voice, and with rock ’n’ roll making its presence felt, he was in the right place at the right time.  

So was his friend Bobby Guidry. He ahad adopted the name Bobby Charles, and was making a name for himself as a budding teen idol at Chess Records. This inspired Warren to form his own group, The Wow-Wows.

It was around the time Warren formed The Wow-Wows, that he began using the name Warren Storm. With a new name, the next step for Warren was for The Wow-Wows to release a record. 

In 1957, The Wow-Wows recorded a couple of songs at the local radio station. Next step was to send out tapes to various record companies. Nothing became of these tapes. So in late 1957, Warren’s friend Cliff Le Maire drove him to audition for producer J.D. Miller, who was already an experienced and successful songwriter and producer.

Warren’s audition for J.D. Miller went well. So much so, that he was soon cutting his debut single. It was a cover of Prisoner’s Song, which gave Vernon Denhart a hit in 1928. Thirty years later, and Prisoner’s Song was given a makeover. Warren Storm’s version took on a  Fats Domino influence. When J.D. Miller heard the completed song, he decided to send the song to Ernie Young at Nashboro Records, in Nashville. 

Ernie Young liked what he heard, and released Prisoner’s Song on his Nasco pop imprint. This Ernie thought was the perfect label for Warren’s debut single. He proved correct. Soon, Prisoner’s Song went from a local to a national hit. It started climbing the charts, but peaked at just number eighty-one in the US Billboard charts on the spring of 1958. To promote the single, Warren played at local dances. He couldn’t travel further afield, as he was in the National Guard. 

This hampered Warren’s career. His sophomore single, Troubles, Troubles, Troubles reached the Cash Box charts. However, it didn’t reach the US Billboard 100. This Warren put down to being unable to tour extensively. Personal appearances and radio play were the way singles were promoted in 1958. With Warren’s personal appearances limited, his singles weren’t able to reach a wider audience. History repeated itself when neither So Long, So Long, nor I’m A Little Boy (Looking For Love) charted. Just like Troubles, Troubles, Troubles, neither single found the audience they deserved. For Warren this was a disappointment. However, when his Nasco contract ended, J.D. Miller kept faith with Warren.

Not only did J.D. Miller continue to release Warren’s singles on his Zynn and Rocko labels, but employed him as a session player. He accompanied blues greats like Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, Slim Harpo, Lonesome Sundown and Katie Webster. At one point, Warren was so busy with session work, that his solo career was put on hold. Then in 1960, Warren decided it was time to concentrate on his solo career. 

There was a potential problem. Warren was still contracted to J.D. Miller. However, J.D. Miller was content to lease Warren out.So Warren headed to Nashville, to work with producer Paul Cohen. He had put together a band featuring some of the city’s top session players. They would accompany Warren on four tracks. This included Warren’s next single Bohawk Georgia Grind. It was released on Top Rank, but didn’t sell well. Paul Cohen cut his losses, and don’t release the other two tracks. For Warren, it was another disappointment.Although Warren was down, he wasn’t out.

In 1962, Warren signed to Dot Records. J.D. Miller had cut a deal with Randy Wood at Dot Records. Under the terms of the deal, Warren would cut to singles. Sadly, neither Gotta Go Back To School, nor Warren’s cover of Take The Chains From My Heart were commercially successful. To rub salt into the wound, a few months after Warren’s cover of Take The Chains From My Heart flopped, it gave Ray Charles a huge hit. It seemed the only luck Warren had, was bad luck.

Later in 1962, things took a turn for the worse, when Warren stopped working for J.D. Miller. This meant there was no more session work. For Warren, session work provided him with an income, valuable experience and the chance to make new contacts. With his career seemingly at the crossroads, Warren had no option but to become a Shondell.

With nothing on the horizon, when Warren was asked to join The Shondells, he jumped at the opportunity. Warren became The Shondells lead single. With Warren at the helm, The Shondells recorded one album, At The Saturday Hop. The Shondells also played live, and this kept Warren busy until he met Huey Meaux.

Warren Storm and Huey Meaux first met in 1964. By then, the self-styled Crazy Cajun was the top producer in South Texas. Previously, he had transformed the career of many artists. Producer Huey Meaux was just what Warren Storm needed. It had been six years since Warren Storm had enjoyed a hit single.

At the time Warren met Huey, Warren Storm hadn’t a recoding contract. That had been the case since Warren left J.D. Miller’s employ. Luckily, Huey owned several record labels. He also owned parts of other labels. There would be no problem getting Warren’s singles released. First, though, Huey Meaux had to find the right song for Warren. 

Huey Meaux managed that time and time again between 1964 and 1982. For eighteen years, Huey found the right song for Warren Storm. Many of these songs are documented on The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986. This two disc compilation was released by Ace Records, and features forty-four tracks. It includes an unreleased track, My Sinkin’ Ship and eight tracks that were released after Huey and Warren parted company in 1982. However, in 1964, Huey and Warren were just about to embark upon a musical adventure, one that lasted eighteen years.

For his first session with Warren Storm, Huey Meaux took his latest signing to Cosimo Matassa’s New Orleans’ studio. No expense was spared. The band featured some of the city’s top musicians. Mac Rebennack, the future Dr. John was bandleader and pianist. With this all-star band behind him, The Gypsy takes on a Swamp Pop makeover. It became Warren’s debut for Huey.

The Gypsy was released as a single, on Sincere, with I Walk Alone on the flip side. Both tracks feature on The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986. When The Gypsy was released, it sold well locally, but never translated into a nationwide hit. Since then, Warren’s version of The Gypsy is perceived as a Swamp Pop classic.

Following the release of The Gypsy, Warren released Love Me Cherry, with Jack and Jill on the B-Side. It was recorded in a simular Southern style, but again didn’t fare well outside the South. Neither did Warren’s next two singles. Four Dried Beans, which featured Don’t Fall In Love was Warren’s third Sincere single. Commercial success eluded Warren during the rest of 1964.

When Warren released his first single of 1965, it was a case of deja vu. Your Kind Of Love which was cut with a 2/4 time signature. On the flip side was the Warren Robb penned ballad, Memory Tree. Despite the quality of both sides, commercial success passed Warren by. Was he going to ever be more than a local success?

Slow Down was chosen for Warren’s next Sincere single. It passed record buyers by. Still, the search for a hit went on. So, Huey switched Warren to his Kingfish label.

Later in 1965, Warren released They Won’t Let Me In on Kingfish. On the flip side was probably the most left field cut of Warren’s career, Sitting Here On The Ceiling. It’s slightly psychedelic in sound. The new label didn’t result in a change of fortune for Warren.

Two years after signing with Huey Meaux, Warren cut one of his most soulful songs, The Bad Times Make The Good Times. Penned by Robert Stone, Warren delivers a tender vocal against a backing track Huey sourced from New York. At that time, Huey was determined to get Warren on a major label. Warren had the talent, but the majors didn’t bite. Then when The Bad Times Make The Good Times was released on the Pic label, in 1966. Sadly, this soulful opus didn’t find an audience. Where did Warren go now?

The answer was back to another label, Tear Drop. On Tear Drop, Warren delivered an Otis Redding inspired cover of Tennessee Waltz. On the flip side was Don’t Let It End This Way, which featured a heartfelt, needy vocal. It’s a vastly underrated song, which shows the soulful side of Warren Storm. Tennessee Waltz was distributed nationwide in 1967. Huey must have thought that Tennessee Waltz was going to give Warren his breakthrough single. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and Warren’s search for a hit continued.

By then, Huey must have been struggling to come up with a new idea. So, he suggested remaking Prisoner’s Song, which was Warren’s debut single. It gave him a minor hit in 1967. Nearly a decade later, and Prisoner’s Song was recut and issued on a  newly revived Sincere label. The B-Side was a cover of Honky Tonk Song. However, despite the undeniable quality of both songs, the passed record buyers by. Psychedelia was the new kid in town. Warren’s sound was perceived as yesterday’s sound. For Warren and Huey, it was a case of stick or twist.

They decided to twist. So, Huey took Warren into the studio one more time. At the Grits ’n’ Gravy Studio, Jackson, Mississippi, Warren cut his next single Down In My Shoe. Huey sold the single to Atlantic. However, when the time came to release Down In My Shoe, Atlantic were too busy with their major artists to concentrate on Warren’s Atlantic debut. For Warren, it was a case of so near, yet so far. After this, Warren and Huey went their separate ways.

When Warren and Huey parted company for the first time, there were still plenty unreleased tracks in the vaults. They feature on disc one of The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986. Among the highlights are the ballads Don’t Let It End This Way and Mister Cupid. Then on Rip It Up, Dr Feelgood and Make It Right, Warren cuts loose, whooping, hollering and vamping his way through the lyrics. For whatever reason, Huey chose not to release them. They’re a very welcome addition to disc one of The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986. They’rea reminder of Warren’s hit making potential. It hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Following his departure from Huey’s employ, Warren returned to J.D. Miller. He cut some classy singles for J.D. The rest of the time, Warren played live and worked as a session player. Meanwhile, Huey had gone up in the world.

By 1974, Huey was a successful producer. He recorded Freddy Fender’s cover of the country standard Before The Next Teardrop Falls. It reached number one on the US Billboard 100 and US Country charts. All of a sudden, Huey Meaux’s services were highly sought after. 

For the next four years, Huey was hot property. Columbia agreed to distribute Huey’s new label, Starlight. With the ink hardly dry on the contract, Huey had signed three artists to the Starlight roster, Freddy Fender, Tommy McLain and Warren Storm.

It wasn’t unexpected that Huey and Warren would renew their partnership. Warren had played on some Freddy Fender sessions. Huey wanted to record Warren again. The Starlight deal made this possible.

The first single Warren cut for Starlight, was a cover of the Gulf Coast classic, Please Mr Sandman. On the flip side was Things Have Gone To Pieces. It was released in 1979, but never found an audience. So, two months later, Huey suggested Warren cut But I Do in a honky tonk style. The B-Side was a Huey Mueax song, Think It Over. History repeated itself when But I Do failed commercially. Maybe it would be a case of third time lucky?

He’s Got Nothing On Me But You was chosen as Warren’s third single for Starlight. On the flip side was King Of The Dance Halls. When He’s Got Nothing On Me But You was released, it advertised a new album from Warren Country By Storm. This album never materialised. That’s not surprising. Warren’s third single for Starlight flopped. This proved to be the last single that Warren Storm released for Starlight. This looked like the end of Warren and Huey’s partnership?

As has been proved many times in the music industry, never rule anything out. Three years later, Warren and Huey renewed their partnership. My Heart Is Bleeding was released as a single in 1982. On the B-Side was Blue Monday. Sadly, despite its quality, it failed commercially. That proved to be the case with the followup We’ll Sing In The Sunshine, with I’ve Shed So Many Tears on the flip side. It was released later in 1982, but never realised its potential. That was the end of the road for Warren and Huey.

Never again would Warren Storm record for Huey Meaux. That didn’t mean that Huey didn’t release the odd Warren Storm single. This included (If I Ever Needed You) I Need You Now and Jealous Woman in 1983 on his Crazy Cajun label. Three years later, in 1986, The Rains Came and Sometimes A Picker Just Can’t Win were released as singles on Crazy Cajun. Huey had plenty material in the vaults. Then in 1988, Huey released (I Can’t Treat You Like A Lady)You Need Someone Who’ll Be Mean To You as a single. It failed to make any impression on the charts. By then, Warren’s recording career was continuing.

Having split with Huey, Warren signed to Jay Jackson’s South Star Records. He released two soulful singles Seven Letters and Valley Of Tears. Then when South Star Records closed its doors, Warren came full circle, when he signed to Master Trak Records, which was run by J.D. Miller’s son Mark. Warren released singles like Day Dreaming, My Girl Josephine and This Could Go On Forever. It was vintage Warren Storm, just like the music on The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986.

That’s no exaggeration. The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986, which was recently released by Ace Records features some of the best music Warren Storm released, during his long and illustrious career. 

Now aged seventy-eight, Warren Storm hasn’t retired. Music is in his blood. Warren has been making music since before he went to school. It’s been a constant throughout his life. Sadly, Warren Storm didn’t enjoy the commercial success many forecast early in his career. 

After the success of his debut single Prisoner’s Song in 1958, Troubles, Troubles, Troubles gave Warren Storm a minor hit. It looked like Warren Storm was about to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, it never worked out that way. Despite releasing a string of singles that oozed quality, Warren Storm never replicated the success of his first two single. He spent the rest of his career chasing that elusive hit single. This included three separate spells with producer Huey Meaux. Even with Huey producing Warren Storm, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded him. There was a reason for this.

Music was changing, and Warren Storm’s music was perceived as yesterday’s sound. In the sixties, the British Invasion and then psychedelia derailed Warren Storm’s career. By the time they renewed their acquaintance in 1978, disco was providing the soundtrack to America. Despite releasing a trio of quality cuts in 1979, they passed most people by. Warren Storm was out luck. It wasn’t a case of third time lucky. When Warren Storm and Huey Meaux teamed up for one last shot at the title in 1982, it was too late. 

Warren Storm’s time had come and gone. A new musical era was unfolding. Boogie, hip hop, house and electronica were all part of what the hipsters considered a rich musical tapestry. Others begged to differ.

They knew that not all good music finds the audience it deserves. Instead, of becoming a national hit, singles are just local hits. That was the case with Warren Storm. He was well known in Texas and Louisiana. There he was a local hero. His music was appreciated. Now thirty-three years after Warren Storm and Huey Meaux cut their last songs together, belatedly, Warren’s music is finding a much wider audience. 

No wonder. Warren Storm’s musical legacy is a rich one. Some of the best music of Warren Storm’s career was recorded with producer Huey Meaux. It’s featured on  The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986, which was recently released by Ace Records. The Good Times Make The Good Tunes-Classic Texas Recordings 1964-1986 features the best music of Warren Storm’s long and illustrious career.

WARREN STORM-THE BAD TIMES MAKE THE GOOD TUNES-CLASSIC TEXAS RECORDINGS 1964-1986.

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SOAPKILLS-THE BEST OF SOAPKILLS.

SOAPKILLS-THE BEST OF SOAPKILLS.

Ten years ago, that Soapkills, one of the most influential and innovative bands in Lebanese musical history split-up. Soapkills were a trailblazing band, and one of the first indie bands to emerge from the Middle East’s nascent music scene. Since then, Soapkills’ music has continued to influence a new generation of music lovers. The Soapkills story began in Beirut, in the late-nineties, and is documented on The Best Of Soapkills, which was recently released by Crammed Discs.

That’s where Yasmine Hamdan and Zeid Hamdan first met at the end of the nineties. Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city, was recovering from the Lebanese Civil War. The city was being rebuilt, and was an unlikely setting for a new band.

With Beirut being rebuilt, a new chapter in Lebanese history was about to unfold. This just happened to coincide with the rise and rise of Soapkills, one of the first indie bands in the Lebanon.

While there was a rich history of traditional folk and classical music, Lebanon didn’t have a reputation for producing indie bands. That was until Yasmine and Zeid formed Soapkills. They were at the vanguard of Lebanon’s nascent indie scene. This was the late nineties.

Yasmine Hamdan and Zeid Hamdan, who aren’t related, decided to form a band. Originally, the band was named after a song by  Zeid Hamdan, which, apparently, dealt with the rebuilding of Beirut following the Lebanese Civil War. Yasmine explains: “We thought that at the time, in the context of Beirut being … you know, reborn, and all the war being wiped clean, we thought, wow, it’s shiny and it’s awful and it’s soap kills. We thought it would be a nice name for a band.” So, Soapkills was born.

By 2001, Soapkills had recorded their debut album, Bater.  By then, Lebanon’s music industry was in its infancy. There were no record labels for aspiring indie band. This meant that Soapkills had no option but to self-release Bater.

Bater.

When Bater was released, Lebanese music fans discovered a captivating, genre-melting album. It struck a nerve not just in Lebanon, but further afield. Tracks like Lé Zaalen? and Yahoo!, which feature on The Best Of Soapkills, are a fusion of Western and Middle Eastern influences. They’re best described as understated, cinematic, mesmeric, haunting and enchanting. Elements of downtempo, electronica, Lebanese folk and trip hop were combined by Soapkills. It’s no surprise that music lovers were captivated by Soapskills music. Elements of downtempo, electronica, Lebanese folk and trip hop were combined by Soapkills. They were quickly winning friends and influencing people with their sound.

At the heart of Soapkills’ sound was Zeid’s Roland MC-303 Groovebox. Zeid had used this in his previous band Lombrix. He brought the  Roland MC-303 Groovebox onboard, to replace musicians who had left Lombrix. This worked well, so Zeid incorporated it into Soapkills’ sound. Soon, other instruments were playing their part in Soapkills music.

Over the next four years, Soapkills’ sound expanded. Joining Soapkills’ rhythm section of bass and drums, were  a flute, trumpet and saxophone. The result was music that was bold, ambitious. This became apparent on Soapkills’ sophomore album.

Cheftak.

Just like Bater, Cheftak was self-released by Soapkills in 2002. When Cheftak was released, it surpassed the quality of Bater. Cheftak was an ambitious, assured and eclectic album. Elements of electronica, trip hop and world music are combined with traditional Lebanese classical and folk music on Cheftak. Among its highlights were Aranis and Koullou Ndif, Tango, Kasdoura, Marco Slow which feature on The Best Of Soapkills. It’s a bewitching fusion of musical genres and influences. These disparate musical genres and influences are combined seamlessly, by Soapkills, who were maturing and evolving as a band.

So much so, that already, comparisons were drawn with Leftfield, Portishead and Massive Attack. Soapkills’ music was finding an audience further afield. Somehow, Beirut’s top indie band were making their presence felt in Britain and Europe. 

Following the release of Cheftak, great things were being forecast for Soapkills. Their music provided the backdrop to the Lebanon’s evolving and vibrant arts scene. It had sprung up in the post war years. At the heart of the new art scene, were Soapkills. They were trailblazers, who flew the flag for the new Lebanon. Soapkills were an example to new bands, and inspired others to follow in their footsteps.

Three years after the release of Cheftak, Soapkills released their third album Enta Fen. Still, Soapkills weren’t signed to a record company. So they self-released Enta Fen. 

Enta Fen.

Soapkills decision to Enta Fen independently wasn’t unusual. Many artists and bands were dispensing with record labels, and adopting a D.I.Y. attitude. This was helped no end, by the internet. It had made the world a much smaller place. The internet also increased Soapkills’ audience. While this was the case with their first two albums, Enta Fen benefited from the explosion in popularity and access to the internet. 

When Soapkills released Enta Fen in 2005, it was the finest album of their career. It seemed with each album, Soapkills grew and matured as a band. Their music was haunting, beautiful, cinematic and mesmeric. Proof of this are four tracks from Enta Fen; Herzan, Galbi, Manni Zelak and the title-track. They feature on The Best Of Soapkills and feature Soapkills at their bewitching best. Playing a leading role in the sound and success is Yasmine’s vocal. Its ethereal beauty is omnipresent, while the arrangement are variously  understated, sparse, smokey and cinematic. It’s a glorious fusion of ambient, electronica, trip hop and Lebanese folk and classical. Surely, Soapkills were about to become the first band from the Middle East to enjoy widespread critical acclaim and commercial success?

Between the late-nineties and early noughties, Soapkills had toured extensively. They played in Algeria, Australia, Berlin, Congo, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Paris. Wherever they went, critical acclaim accompanied Soapkills. They enjoyed a degree of success. However, not as much as they might have.

The Soapkills story came to a sudden end when Yasmine moved to Paris. It was the end of an era. Soapkills could easily have replicated the success of Portishead, Leftfield or Massive Attack. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

Now living in Paris, Yasmine began working with Mirwais to on the Y.A.S. project. They then collaborated on Yasmine’s debut solo album, Ya Nass, which was released on Crammed Discs in 2013. As for Zeid, he Zeid remained in Lebanon.

In his home country, Zeid  created the Lebanese Underground collective. He also produces  a number of artists based around the Middle East. His latest project is a solo album, Zeid And The Wings, which showcases one half of Soapkills, whose music is documented on The Best Of Soapkills, which Crammed Discs recently released. 

The Best Of Soapkills is the perfect introduction to Soapkills. This fourteen track compilation features tracks from their three albums plus two previously unreleased tracks, the Paris Version of Cheftak and Wadih. They’re welcome additions to The Best Of Soapkills, which is a musical reminder of Lebanese indie pioneers, Soapkills. They were trailblazers, who inspired a new generation of musicians to embark upon a musical career. That’s not all. Soapkills are a hugely talented band, one who deserved to enjoy widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. 

While Soapkills enjoyed a degree of  critical acclaim and commercial success, their music never found the wider audience it deserved. Soapkills could’ve and should’ve been a much bigger success. Maybe, ten years after  Soapkills split-up their music is about to reach a much wider audience. The Best Of Soapkills, which was recently released by Crammed Discs, is just the start of a comprehensive reissue program. After this, Crammed Discs will reissue of Soapkills three albums, Bater, Cheftak and Enta Fen. At last, Soapkills music will be heard by a much wider audience, and no longer will they be one of music’s best kept secrets.

SOAPKILLS-THE BEST OF SOAPKILLS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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