Wednesday, 22 June 2016

THE JUNIPERS - RED BOUQUET FAIR (2016)



In an English country pub, overlooking a Sunday afternoon cricket match on the green, the Junipers are enjoying a pint and a chat. They’re debating the mono versus stereo version of the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle; the recent Brian Wilson tour; if it’s possible to buy a replica of Paul McCartney’s Fairisle tank top from the Magical Mystery Tour; whether Gideon Gaye by the High Llamas was the best album of the 90s; an approval of 10CC on the cover of Shindig magazine; but most of all they’re analysing the new instrumental stereo mix of ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’ from the new 5-disc Beach Boys boxset and how to achieve the clippity-clopping sound that comes after 21 seconds.

Such studiousness serves Leicester’s Junipers well as their new album is every bit as a sumptuous as the pop music they so preciously covert. The opening paragraph may or may not be true but listen to Red Bouquet Fair and then call me a liar. It gently pirouettes, it floats, it glides, it dances. It’s graceful and elegant. It’s meticulously sung, played and arranged without one second feeling forced or overly fussy. In a word, it’s beautiful.

It plays like a true album too, to always be listened in one complete sitting. It’s not a record to pick a couple of catchy hit singles (if there still was such a thing) but to absorb the whole thing; for that reason this review contains no individual track titles. Buy it, start at the beginning, and enjoy the sheer loving craftsmanship and intricate detail on display. It’s spring, it’s summer, it’s bees, it’s honey, it’s a lazy afternoon, it’s proud of its heritage, it’s the days disappearing over the hills, it’s Red Bouquet Fair. Roll up.

Red Bouquet Fair by the Junipers is out now. Available here.  

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

THE HIGHER STATE - VOLUME 27 (2016)


The Higher State return for album number five with a reshuffled line-up (most notably the departure of Mole from the drum stool) and the bit held firmly between their teeth. After the chime and jangle which characterized 2013’s The Higher State, this is a tougher, more abrasive effort and recalls the work mainman Marty Ratcliffe did back in the era of The Mystreated, particularly their Ever Questioning Why period, when Farfisa, folk, fuzz and fuckedoffness was the order of the day.

All of that is here again plus, as always, resolutely authentic garage recording techniques, equipment and (lack of) production creating a thick, claustrophobic air – far more Austin, Texas (home of their record label, the 13th Floor Elevators and the Golden Dawn - how they must love that association) than Sandgate, Kent (where they rest their heads).

Ratcliffe is in snarling and scathing mood - always his most effective setting - taking pot shots at former relationships in ‘Long Someways To Go’ and the scornful ‘I Suppose You Like That Now?’ while artist-in-his-own-right Paul Messis pens four of the twelve tracks, including the two wildest rockers, ‘Forest Through The Trees’ and the scorching ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.

Best of all for bitterness – and no coincidence the album’s highlight - is the acoustic ‘When We Say’ which launches these lyrical rockets: “I’d rather be weak and have feelings than be just like you, strung up and cold” before concluding with “There’s no accounting for taste, but at least I have some”. Ouch.

A couple of tracks on side two don’t cut such a deep impression but overall Volume 27 is filled with spite, rage and good old garage grumpiness.

Volume 27 by The Higher State is out now on 13 O’Clock Records. Available here.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

JOAN COLLINS GOES SNORKELLING

Apologies for lack of posts recently but busy with other stuff and the football's on. Got a few new albums, either out now or coming out soon, which I'll try and do some short reviews for in the week  but in the meantime here's Joan Collins in her snorkelling gear.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

DISGUISES - ISSUE 4


Fans of The Jam and all things loosely related may be interested in the latest issue of Disguises.

This is the first issue I’ve seen but enjoyed both its positive spirit and range of short articles covering a broader scope than expected. Among the features are a round-up of recent and forthcoming activity connected with Weller and his cohorts (news of Paul’s mooted television series is a tantalising prospect); a look at the enduring appeal of Mod; an interview with current artist Persi Darukhanawala who paints "responses" to songs; a tribute to Jam security guard Joe Awome; and a first-hand account of The Jam’s appearance on The Tube (as in Channel 4, not station at midnight).

There are also other bits and bobs across 32 colour A5 pages.

For ordering details see Disguises fanzine.  

Thursday, 9 June 2016

RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK: THE CASE OF THE THREE SIDED DREAM (2014)


Rahsaan Roland Kirk played multiple instruments simultaneously. Such was his phenomenal musical brain, imagination and showmanship he could blow on three horns – fingering different melodies on each - and still have time for a quick blow on a whistle and a blast of nose flute.

Adam Kahan’s 2014 documentary The Case Of The Three Sided Dream tells Kirk’s story through interviews, the use of animation and, best of all, via footage of Kirk in action during the late 60s until his death in 1977. It’s the music that drives the film and the music is bold, funky and soulful. I always appreciate jazz much more when I can see, as well as hear, it played so the footage here adds real value.  

The clips are generally longer than the usual snippets afforded in most documentaries and although there are biographical brushstrokes – how Kirk went blind as a baby, his civil rights activism, his efforts to force jazz (or, as he called it, “Black Classical Music”) onto American television, and the defence against gimmickry – it doesn’t get bogged down in detail. There’s next to nothing about significant releases or recording sessions, record labels, fellow musicians or his private life; it’s more concerned with painting the soul of the man.

Well worth checking out, it’s available now to rent (£3.99 for 48 hours) or buy from Vimeo.



Sunday, 5 June 2016

KEEP LOOSE - JIMMY McGRIFF (1968)


Here's Jimmy McGriff and his trio in Paris in, by my reckoning, 1969. The group consists of McGriff (organ), Leo Johnson (tenor sax), Larry Frazier (guitar), Jesse Likpatrick (drums).

The track 'Keep Loose' is taken from his super-funky '68 LP, Jimmy McGriff Organ and Blues Band Plays The Worm.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

MAY PLAYLIST


1.  Nolan Strong and the Diablos – ‘Daddy Rockin’ Strong’ (1955)
Pre-dating ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’ is this raunchy stroller written and performed by Detroit attraction Nolan Strong and the Diablos. Strong was a big influence on young Smokey Robinson and later doowop loving Lou Reed.

2.  The Beach Boys – ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ (1964)
Brian Wilson, with Al Jardine, played the London Palladium this month and did the whole of Pet Sounds plus a load of other stuff including this, sung on the night by Al’s son Matt. Brian should give Matt Jardine more songs as this was exceptional. Famously one of Keith Moon’s favourite songs, he wasn’t so daft after all.

3.  Judy Stone – ‘4,003,221 Tears From Now’ (1964)
Okay, this isn’t a great record – far too jaunty for someone with that amount of tears to shed - but gotta admire that precise prediction. Reached number 11 in Australia, fact fans.

4.  Tawny Reed – “I Got A Feeling” (1965)
Tawny came outta South Wales aged 17 seeking fame and fortune in London. She was soon back singing in the Cardiff clubs but not before cutting this supercharged version of the Baby Washington’s Sue 45. Now featured on new comp, Scratch My Back: Pye Beat Girls.

5.  Lulu – ‘People In Love’ (1970)
Got to hand it to Lulu for her New Routes album, her first for Atco. Recorded at the end of ’69 in Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with all the Swampers and plus Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin at the controls. Tremendous stuff.

6.  Gilbert O’Sullivan – ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ (1972)
I remember this as a kid and didn’t think too much of it, it was just another song on the wireless, yet listening to it properly it’s real tear jerking stuff. Truly heart breaking. There can’t be many sadder songs. Brace yourself and have another listen.

7.  Poco – ‘Brass Buttons’ (1973)
Nothing will beat the Gram Parsons version - Evan Dando has a good stab but does a straight copy – yet Poco alter it but still keep the beauty. Taken from the album Crazy Eyes, the title track also paying homage to Parsons.

8.  Richie Havens – ‘Going Back To My Roots’ (1980)
The Lamont Dozier original was okay, Odyssey’s disco smash was shit, but this is fantastic. Not only does Havens sing it with sincerely and emotion but the opening couple of minutes of funky piano build the foundation of House music. One love. 

9.  Violent Femmes – ‘Good Feeling’ (1983)
‘Blister In The Sun’ has previously put me off going anywhere near Violent Femmes but this is more Velvet Underground and Nico and far less irritating.

10.  Manic Street Preachers – ‘No Surface All Feeling’ (1996)
The Manics have been out commemorating the 20th anniversary of Everything Must Go and I’ve been celebrating 25 years of going to see them. Thing is, I did take a couple of years out when this was released due to the combination of not wanting to see them without Richey and not wanting to see them in super-sized megabowls with herds of newbie fans who didn’t know Richey Edwards from Glyn Edwards. So it was nice to see them at the Royal Albert Hall romp through the album – a stone cold classic – the other week. ‘No Surface All Feeling’ over the years pushing its way up the all-time great Manics songs.