Thursday, 11 February 2016

THE LUCID DREAM - "BAD TEXAN" (2016)


Monkey Picks mind expanders of choice, The Lucid Dream, have conjured up another cosmic voyage in to the back of the brain. ‘Bad Texan’ is the lead track from their forthcoming EP and a taster from their work-in-progress third album due in the autumn.

The track has a smidge of an early 90s “always been a dancefloor element to our music” feel in the extended tripped out intro before landing in more familiar wash-of-noise territory during it’s seven minutes. Seems only appropriate it’ll be released on 12 inch (and download) via Holy Are You Records on 11 March 2016 with BBC session versions of previous album tracks “Unchained Dub” and “Morning Breeze”. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

REEL TO REAL - LOVE with ARTHUR LEE (DELUXE REISSUE)


Forever Changes is such a universally acclaimed masterpiece it’s obscured the rest of Arthur Lee and Love’s output, especially work after the ’67 release of that album. Never more is this the case than the seventh and final album issued under the Love name, 1974’s Reel To Real, which only now, for the first time, makes it to CD (plus new vinyl version) thanks to a deluxe reissue package from High Moon Records.

Arthur never escaped the shadow of Forever Changes and his truculent personality and single-minded attitude meant he was going to do what the hell he wanted, not bend to the wishes of others and that included RSO president Bill Oakes who signed Arthur to his label. Providing Arthur with the biggest budget he’d ever worked with, Oakes, in the 32 page booklet/liner notes by David Fricke, holds his hands up. “I was chasing Arthur because of Forever Changes. I was banking on Arthur coming back with ‘Alone Again Or’. That was my romantic idea.” Oakes obviously failed to notice 'Alone Again Or' was Bryan Maclean's song but you catch his drift. 

Arthur, naturally, had other ideas and delivered an album of soulful and funky R&B. Thanks, said no one. The record bombed, RSO tore up the contract for a second album, Lee never recorded for a major label again.

Coming off the back of a few patchy albums, the year it was made, the dreadful artwork, and its scarcity have all contributed to Reel To Real remaining unheard by even fans of Lee. I remember seeing it at a record fair many years ago and recoiling in horror at what I imagined it contained and threw it back in the box. But time, as it happens, has been kind. From this distance and listening now, Reel To Real is a hugely enjoyable album. It’s slick, consistent, Arthur is in tremendously soulful voice, and it grooves. Love, in all their incarnations, was always a multiracial band so excuse me to crudely suggest that if Forever Changes was their whitest rock album, Reel To Real is their blackest soul album.

“Time Is Like A River” eases in like Al Green, Arthur limbers up, backing vocals and horns then escalate to the top. It’s a terrific opener. These were LA horns but there’s a real Memphis via Muscle Shoals feel to much of the record.  “Stop The Music” has an Otis Redding push and pull and “Good Old Fashioned Dream“stays in that bag; hear how Arthur sings “gotta”, pure Otis. “Who Are You?” is disco fever and as eyebrow-raising as that sounds, it works a treat and was strabgely overlooked as a single. This is an album of its time, 1974, but it’s a good album of its time. Arthur was moving with it and in the moment. Forever Changes, yeah? The clue was there. 

“Which Witch Is Witch” takes a more bluesy approach, albeit with a sing-song melody, with a guest appearance of Harvey ‘The Snake’ Mandel providing a suitable slippery contribution. “With A Little Energy” struts with some funky clavinet insertions; “Singing Cowboy” is breezier and has a simpler arrangement than the one on Four Sail five years earlier whilst “Be Thankful For What You Got” has Arthur cruising the hills of LA covering the beautiful Curtis Mayfieldesque William De Vaughn song which was riding high in the R&B charts. “You Said You Would” bounces along and “Busted Feet” provides the most out-and-out rock moment with traces of Arthur's old pal Jimi Hendrix. “Everybody’s Gotta Live” ends the party by the camp fire up in the hills of Laurel Canyon.

If all that wasn’t enough, this deluxe edition features an additional twelve tracks including four never before heard songs (the vinyl edition sticks to the original tracklisting but provides a download code for the extras). Few will claim Reel To Real as one of the greatest LPs ever made but it’s less intense, more focused and has a freshness lacking in Love’s Out Here and False Start; here Arthur Lee is relaxed, having fun, chilling and busting some moves. And all with a little twinkle in his eye. 

Reel To Real is released on CD/LP by High Moon Records on 19 February 2016.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

MEMPHIS SLIM - "I'M LOST WITHOUT YOU" (1963)


Here's Memphis Slim popping up somewhere in Europe during 1963 to perform "I'm Lost Without You" - covered in the UK a couple of years later by The Muldoons - accompanied by his regular guitarist of the time, and future Blues Brother, Matt 'Guitar' Murphy. Take it away boys...

Friday, 29 January 2016

JANUARY PLAYLIST

Joy Marshall goes shopping. 

1.  Charles Mingus – “Moanin’” (1960)
I was fortunate to catch the Mingus Big Band twice at Ronnie Scott’s this week. Sounds extravagant but I’m pleased I did as each 90 minute set only had time for half a dozen treatments of Mingus material in a Big Band format. They were fantastic on both occasions (different sets) and I guess Mingus himself would’ve approved of hearing his music arranged and presented in a way which wasn’t always practical in his lifetime. Among the numbers aired were Gunslinging Bird, Song With Orange, Diane, Bird Calls, Sue’s Changes, The Child’s Hour of Dream, So Long Eric, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Fables of Faubus (retitled Fables of Trump) and one of my favourites, from Blues & Roots, Moanin’.

2.  John Ashley – “Little Lou” (1960)
Ashley featured in many late 50s/early 60s TV shows and films (ones containing cars, werewolves or beaches appear to have been favourite) but it’s this rocking teen-drama which is of most interest. He’d later go on to produce the first four series of The A-Team and it’s his voice that narrates the introduction, fact fans.

3.  Little John – “Just Wait And See” (1965)
Fat horns, clinking keys, punching drums, call and response vocals, thumping, dog’s dangly bits floorfiller. Don’t even think about trying to find an original on Gogate. Sensational.

4.  Joy Marshall – “And I’ll Find You” (1968)
Recorded shortly before Marshall’s untimely death, Vicki Wickham’s sumptuous production for her Toast Records makes this fall somewhere between Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick.

5.  Glass House – “Touch Me Jesus” (1971)
Holland-Dozier-Holland get sanctified on their Invictus label with a 45 aimed at the dancefloor more than pulpit. The fact no members of Glass House appeared on the record, which was in fact recorded by Darlene Love’s group the Blossoms, didn’t appear to trouble their conscience.

6.  The Miracles – “Ain’t Nobody Straight In LA” (1975)
From the LP City of Angels which provided the Miracles biggest ever hit, “Love Machine”, this was a bold move. It took a couple of listens to catch which side of the fence they were with sitting – sounded like a piss take at first (“homosexuality is a part of society, well I guess they need more variety”) - but it’s supportive, embracing of diversity, with the group deciding “gay people are nice people too, man” before heading off to a gay bar. Cracking tune too.

7.  George Jones – “If Drinkin' Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)” (1981)
From the song’s Wikipedia entry: The upswing in his professional life brought little peace to his personal one; dogged by a years-old cocaine addiction and a near thirty year drinking problem, he continued to miss shows, engage the police in high speed chases, and show up at award shows obviously inebriated to accept honors. The despairingly hopeless "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)" verged on topicality as Jones sang about falling out of cars at four in the morning and drinking "twenty bottles."

8.  The Stairs – “I Remember The Day” (1988)
Recorded by a young Edgar Summertyme during his time on a YTS scheme at Attic Studios with early evidence of his Syd Barrett/Strawberry Fields leanings. Now featured as one of many curios on a new odd and sods Stairs compilation, The Great Lemonade Machine In The Sky.

9.  Spiritualized – “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)” (2003)
Hold tight as J. Spaceman launches this rocket.

10.  Paul Orwell – “Attack” (2016)
The songs are pouring out of Paul Orwell at the moment and Heavy Soul are catching them in a bucket and sticking them out as fast as their little arms and legs are able. This latest blink and you’ll miss it 45 is a simple yet effective acid rock Bolan boogie.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

GRAHAM BOND LIVE AT THE BBC AND OTHER STORIES


Covering a ten year period starting in 1962, Live at the BBC and Other Stories is another four-CD set of Graham Bond material from Repertoire following their acclaimed Wade In The Water in 2012 and digs deeper to uncover all of Bond’s BBC output – under his own name and featured with other artists – plus bonus material sourced from private home recordings, early jam sessions and rare EP material.

There’s a strong focus on the less celebrated chapters of Bond’s career, namely pre and post the classic Organization line-up. His first recordings, as a member of the Don Rendell Quintet (check Roarin’ from 1961), was as an alto saxophonist and a September ‘62 session gives evidence why he’d claim runner up in Melody Maker’s “New Star” jazz poll that year. Weeks later, foreseeing the changing club landscape, he left Rendell and would then be found behind a Hammond organ – with his name centre-stage - creating a tough, uncompromising amalgamation of R&B, soul, jazz and blues. Introductions by BBC presenters Steve Race, George Melly, Pete Drummond and John Peel have been retained and provide valuable background context to the fractious jazz scene as well as many droll moments. “Ginger Baker looking like a Francis Bacon portrait in 3D,” suggests, not unreasonably, Melly.

Bond’s final years saw deepening drug addiction, deteriorating mental health and a preoccupation with the occult, but his fiery rhythmic 1972 set with Pete Brown demonstrates despite personal distractions he had he could still conjure musical magic. These live versions are far more vigorous than the ones found on Bond’s studio albums of the era. Even more spectacular are two 1970 sessions by the Graham Bond Initiation. Quarter of an hour versions of ‘Wade In The Water’ aren’t for the faint hearted but Bond’s flamboyance and relentless, driving power make them a spectacular tour de force. There are five takes on ‘Wade In The Water’ in total, a track to which Bond repeatedly returned and one perfect for allowing his bands freedom to stretch in whatever direction they felt.

Some of the audio quality of the non-BBC material falls into the collectors-only category and interrupts the flow of the collection. Although at a running time of four and a half hours the set works best by picking and choosing individual sessions at a time. There are also points deducted for the disappointing packaging: two jewel-cases wrapped in a thin card cover with information spread awkwardly across two booklets. It’s a real pity the packaging doesn’t match the book-style and quality of the previous Repertoire box. However, these quibbles don’t’ negate this as a treasure trove from a tremendously talented and magnetic performer. 

A version of this review first appeared in Shindig! issue 53, available now, £4.95.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE MOD: FIVE ALBUMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

Those fine people at Adaptor Clothing – purveyors of modernist garb from Mikkel Rude, John Smedley, Brutus, Fred Perry, Bass, Baracuta and so forth – have scooted up and asked for five albums that inspired me from the “Mod subculture”. Never one to turn down an opportunity to chat about records, Mods and myself, I thought it’d make any interesting post, so let’s see.

All five on the list were acquired during the formative stages of my Mod conversion, a long time ago, during the early to mid-80s, and all provided a bedrock which sustains to this day. Back then Mod adhered to a very strict set of rules. Things were or weren’t Mod and no one had much difficulty with it. It felt a unified scene; there was a kinship with others, as you shared the same values and passions. It was a wonderfully exciting time. Non-Mods hated us and it only added to our sense of righteousness and air of superiority.

Mod today is wide open. There are a multitude of factions; people have individual takes on what it means and it’s been assimilated into the mainstream. It is now possible to pick and mix elements and different generations put their own spin on it: it stretches from the late 50s/early 60s modern jazz of John Coltrane or Tubby Hayes to current young guitar band The Spitfires and talented individuals like Paul Orwell. There are parts I feel no connection with but at the same time it’s been at the core of nearly everything I’ve enjoyed over the years. It’s led to the best nights out, with the best dressed people, listening to the best music, and it still steers into new areas of discovery. All of that can be traced back to the influence of these five albums, listed in the order I encountered them.


THE WHO - MY GENERATION
It’s testament to Townshend’s understanding of his young Mod audience that Mods continue to love The Who even long after the band moved from participants to occasional observers in the scene. Their debut LP is a record full of macho swagger, feisty attitude and flickers of vulnerability.

I’ll sheepishly admit to miming with a tennis racket in my bedroom mirror to ‘It’s Not True’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and ‘La-La-La-La-Lies’ (I skipped most of the bluesy tracks). They made me want to be in a band. Many years later when I was, playing my second ever gig, I attempted to do-a-Townshend during the final song in the set. After ramming my cheap guitar into the amp I tried smashing it on the stage. What I hadn’t considered was the stage was built of plastic beer crates and when I axed it to the floor it immediately bounced up, almost whacking me in the face. It didn’t look good, the guitar survived unscathed and I never tried it again.

The sleeve perfectly fits the record: the military-style stencilling; David Wedgbury’s photograph showing them stood next to highly inflammable propane drums; hair dyed orange and black; the clothes; jackets made of union jacks draped over their shoulder; Keith Moon with the face of an innocent cherub. They’re extraordinary looking geezers, especially Roger Daltrey who fixes the camera with a mix of frown and smirk. He’s telling the onlooker to f-f-f-f-off. What teenager couldn’t relate to that? I was lucky enough to get the album signed by Daltrey and he couldn’t have been friendlier or more accommodating. “You guys look great,” he kept saying to my group of friends.  It meant the world to us. We tried to approach Pete Townshend but he screamed “Argh, Mods!” and darted down the stairs. Even that felt like a compliment.


GEORGIE FAME – 20 BEAT CLASSICS
If you’re going to “do Mod” you need to assume a position of cool. Not everyone can do it. Some try hard and if you have to try hard you’re not cool; it’s one of life’s unfortunate truths. Coolness radiates from Georgie Fame. Whereas The Who turned up the volume, thrashed instruments, demanded attention, Georgie sat behind his Hammond – which he made the Mod instrument - and with the minimum of fuss served up a selection of soul, jazz, bluebeat and threw in a few pop touches. This was a Mod diet and this compilation served as an invaluable entry into those worlds. And look at the photograph here. Poised to light his fag, sleeves rolled up and about to get to work. Georgie means business. I love the look: the way his hair is cut in a French Crop and he’s wearing a simple pink button-down. It’s understated, there’s no need to overdo anything. Georgie Fame had exquisite taste in clothes and in the music he adopted. If you want a neat definition of Mod, there’s one right there.


VARIOUS ARTISTS – MOTOWN CHARTBUSTERS VOL. 3
Imagine a world without Motown. Makes me shudder. With a $600 family loan Gordy built his empire of labels which continue to fascinate and inspire. Even now previously unreleased gems surface and that’s in addition to absorbing all the rarities hidden in the dark recesses of Hitsville’s vast series of releases. Someone at school also gave me Tamla Motown Presents 20 Mod Classics which was equally important – it’s probably a better LP  - but Motown Chartbusters Vol. 3 was one of only a few records I managed to “borrow” from my parents and being an original 60s copy felt more authentic and treasured. It has this amazing silver and glittery sleeve, as if Tamla Motown knew what a special record it was so threw extra money at it. It’s full of classics: ‘Roadrunner’, ‘I Heard it Through The Grapevine’, ‘Stop Her On Sight’, ‘Get Ready’ etc. Songs built to last. Who can ever tire of listening to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ ‘The Tracks of My Tears’? For all the incredible records and songs I’ve unearthed in a never ending quest to discover something new and exciting, sometimes the very best are right there in plain sight. It’ll be one hell of day I find anything to top ‘This Old Heart Of Mine’.


VARIOUS ARTISTS – ON THE SOUL SIDE
One of the earliest Kent compilations and the first one I bought. Soon after, in the school holidays, I attended my first all-nighter, at the 100 Club. It is incredible those all-nighters are still running and although I’m no longer a regular I still dip in and out. Ady Croasdell, for his efforts with Kent and the 100 Club all-nighters, isn’t a musician but his influence on me – and many, many others - has been immeasurable. To Ady, it’s always been about the artists, not the DJs, a point too frequently forgotten with the who-played-what-where-first debates. It’s interesting to note there are no references to “Northern Soul” on this LP – it’s all “60’s Soul”. To me, 60’s Soul is pure Mod and Northern Soul is something else. There’s plenty of overlap of course between scenes and sounds but my mind’s eye associates the former with sharp dressers doing The Block and the later conjures visions of vest wearers performing handstands. That aside, soul music – as a whole, in all its forms – is a satisfyingly deep well. Over time it becomes more difficult finding truly exceptional songs but that increases the joy when it happens. Don’t stick with the familiar: keep on pushing.     


THE ACTION – THE ULTIMATE ACTION
The most played LP in my collection by the longest piece of tailor’s chalk. When I bought this from The Merc off Carnaby Street in the mid-80s little did I know how it would remain a constant in my life. The Action are my favourite band of all time. Back then there was a great mystery about them, which undoubtedly added to their appeal. All the information the young kids of my generation had were the photos on the cover and inner sleeve and a few paragraphs from Paul Weller to accompany The Action’s small output. Since then I’ve watched with delight every time a new piece of information, a new photograph, even previously unheard recordings have been made available. I’ve had the honour of having articles published about them, interviewed them, seen them reform and play live, been invited in to some of their homes, written liner notes for Reggie King releases on Circle Records, and with deep sadness attended Reggie’s funeral where hearing ‘Since I Lost My Baby’ in a tiny chapel provided a profoundly moving and privileged experience. I remain in awe of The Action: they had style, class, looks and talent in abundance. My life has been enriched beyond words thanks to the day Jimmy at The Merc passed me this record.

What albums influenced your initiation in to the world of Mod?

Friday, 15 January 2016

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 31 JANUARY, 8.30PM


Stand by yer modern-day internet wireless contraptions, Monkey's Wandering Wireless Show returns - finally - to the airwaves on Sunday 31 January on the hippest station on the dial, Fusion.

It'll be business as usual - although we've upgraded the mic from the early shows, I can't vouch that the content of my links will be any better - with an hour of tunes spanning the decades and genres but with one thing in common: they're all gonna be great records.

Come and join us and see if you agree. Click on the link below in time for a 8.30pm blast-off. And if you wanna join in the chat with the Fusion regular listeners you can register at any time.

See ya there comrades. This'll be the show planned for 17 January which, due to circumstances beyond our control (no pigging signal from Fusion's secret offshore location), had to be postponed (twice). Apologies for the messing about, it'll be worth the wait...

FUSION-ON-AIR.

UPDATE: Now available to listen at your leisure here.