Wednesday, 14 June 2017

THE IMPRESSIONS at the UNION CHAPEL, ISLINGTON


I’ve not experienced emotion like it at a gig before. After a stunning rendition of ‘Choice of Colors’, a song banned by radio stations for daring to challenge racial prejudice, the audience rose as one for a standing ovation so long and heartfelt it reduced Impressions Fred Cash and then Sam Gooden to tears.

After 59 years “the most iconic soul group all time”, as described in their introduction and with no argument for me, are calling it a day and played London last night for the final time. It’ll be an evening no one in attendance will ever forget.

There is something truly magical about The Impressions. Not only the life-affirming, galvanising nature of their music but in the personalities of the group. Curtis Mayfield quite rightly takes the bulk of the plaudits but even without him on lead vocals, wingmen Fred and Sam amply demonstrated their vital contributions.

Young Jermaine Purifory was entrusted with the Curtis role, after long time Impression Reggie Torian died last year, and did it well but from the opening number, ‘It’s All Right’, the way Fred and Sam exuded sheer uncontrollable joy quite literally brought a tear to the eye. With their kind, beaming faces, gently rocking their shoulders and clapping their hands they looked like the two happiest men on earth, as if they’d hit the jackpot of life. Matched with Mayfield’s songs of comfort and hope and the result was soul stirring. Even the way the pair provided the gentle harmonies on ‘Gypsy Woman’, not even needing words, was spine tingling.

The set was packed with the irresistible dancers: ‘Woman’s Got Soul’, ‘I Need You’, ‘Can’t Satisfy’ ‘You Ought To Be In Heaven’ and ‘Stay Close To Me’ all sounding more Motownesque than on record while ‘You’ve Been Cheatin’’, with Fred handling the lead, brought the house down and another standing ovation, an occurrence which punctuated the show at regular intervals. The ballads including ‘I’ve Been Trying’ were no less affecting and let Purifory showcase his talent; there was a touch of Marvin Gaye about the way he soared on ‘I’m So Proud’.

The venue, the Union Chapel, was the perfect setting and the way a single purple spotlight shone down on Fred Cash at close of ‘People Get Ready’, when he sang the closing line “You just thank the Lord”, with his finger pointing skyward, moved even the sternness nonbeliever.

Before the close, on a count of one-two-three led by Purifory, another thunderous ovation. Grown men and women were weeping - on stage and, heaven help them, standing on the chapel pews. The finale of ‘Move On Up’ caught the band and group out of synch but it was understandable with emotions running so high.

No more tears do we cry and we have finally dried our eyes” they sang on ‘We’re A Winner’. I’m not sure that’s true yet, I’m welling up again just writing this. The Impressions - with your inspirational music, your message, your soul, your spirit - you’re winners. We might not see you again but you’ll live on forever. Thank you for everything.

Thanks to Glen Manners @Mamaroux78 for the photo.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

"I DON'T KNOW" by THE SHOOTS (2017)


After months of teasing The Shoots finally release their debut single.

The band are, in effect, the latest Paul Orwell project with lead vocal duties handed to Lord Essien.

‘I Don’t Know’ is two breathless minutes of the good Lord grabbing ya by the short and curlies as the combo snap and snarl like rabid dogs before Orwell unleashes the wildest onslaught of manic freakbeat guitar. On the flip they ‘Do The Jerk’ which could be very dangerous if you’re in close proximity.

Available only as a 7-inch single, with painstakingly period detail, on Heavy Soul Records. Limited to 300 copies, get ‘em while they’re hot. Out today.

Friday, 2 June 2017

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 4 JUNE 2017

After a few months of gremlins, Fusion are back on-line with their weekly Sunday night hour slot of fantastic music selected and increasingly presented by their listeners.

After Mick's flagship Kitchen Boogie show last week, Monkey's Wandering Wireless Show is back this Sunday. If you've listened before you'll know the format by now: loads of brilliant records from across the decades (admittedly heavy on the 60s) interrupted occasionally by me trying to speak in complete sentences with varying degrees of success. It'll be fun, trust me.

To tune in just hit this link - mixlr.com/fusion-on-air - in time for your wireless (okay, laptop/tablet/phone) to burst into sound at 8.30pm on the dot.

If you want to join in the chit-chat as the show goes on you'll made to feel more than welcome by the lovely folk in the Mixlr chatroom but if you just wanna sit back and relax that's equally cool. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Catch-up link: http://mixlr.com/fusion-on-air/showreel/monkeys-wandering-wireless-show-11/

Thursday, 1 June 2017

MAY PLAYLIST

Balls, ran outta time in May but this is a quick round up of some of the things spun in Monkey Mansions the last month. Healthy amount of new releases which is great. Check 'em.

1.  The King-Beats – ‘Same Way Every Day’ (1966)
Gloriously sunny pop from The King-Beats and featured on a terrific comp, German Measles: Sun Came Out At Seven: ‘60s Mod, Pop and Freakbeat from Germany.

2.  Eden Kane – ‘Gotta Get Through To You’ (1967)
An Australian only 45 from Kane now included on a 3-CD set from Cherry Red, Night Comes Down: 60’s British Mod, R&B, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets. One of many highlights.

3.  Orange Deluxe – ‘Anti-Gravity Blues’ (1995)
I never really forgave Orange Deluxe (or the Nubiles) for not being Five Thirty but listening back to Necking it has more in common wit Paul Bassett’s previous band than I’d been willing to concede.

4.  The Bongolian – ‘Londinium Calling’ (2016)
Spend last Saturday afternoon down in Margate watching the Bongolian beat out funky jazzy instrumentals. Never been particularly sold on their records but unreservedly recommended as a live act.

5.  Paul Weller – ‘The Cranes Are Back’ (2017)
Ditched much of the squiggles and audio doodling (not that I’m adverse to those) A Kind Revolution is ten songs strong on melody. Forty years down the line and Paul Weller makes one of his best albums.

6.  Don Bryant – ‘I Got To Know’ (2017)
Don's still taking it to church.

7.  Daniel Romano - 'Roya' (2017)
The stand out tender moment from genre dodging Romano’s new Modern Pressure. Track of the month.

8.  The Primitives – ‘I’ll Trust The Wind’ (2017)
The Prims were on their usual sugar and spice form at the 229 Club on Friday. Super to hear a couple of tracks from their new EP, New Thrills, including this blockbuster.

9.  The Limboos – ‘Been A Whole Lot of Time’ (2017)
Exotic rhythm and blues from Spain and the Limboos’ second album, Limbootica. Simultaneously cool and hot. I'm desperate to see this lot live.

10.  BMX Bandits – ‘Saveoursmiles’ (2017)
Even though heartbreak and sadness permeate BMX Bandits’ world it always strikes me as a gentler and kinder place to live than this other world. From the wonderful BMX Bandits Forever.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

DON BRYANT - 'HOW DO I GET THERE?' (2017)


Here, straight outta Memphis, Tennessee, is Don Bryant with your Sunday sermon, ‘How Do I Get There?’

Don has cut a phenomenal amount of records – dating back to the late 50s with Willie Mitchell, to his soul sides for Hi Records in the 60s, before taking a backseat as a staff writer for the label in the 70s where his benefactors included Otis Clay and wife-to-be Ann Peebles.

This month, aged 75, Don has a new album, Don’t Give Up On Love, out on Fat Possum Records and it should rejuvenate his career in much the same way as fellow soul survivor William Bell's This I Where I Live did last year. It's an album in that bracket and that's praise.

Many thanks to congregation member @IanPople1 for bringing this home.

Monday, 8 May 2017

THE TRUTH at the 100 CLUB, LONDON



With a face like a bowl of mixed fruit Dennis Greaves was few teenager’s idea of a pop star but in 1983 there he was, kicking balloons skyward on Top of the Pops and splashed across the pages of Smash Hits as The Truth infiltrated the charts with their first two singles, ‘Confusion (Hits Us Every Time)’ and ‘A Step In The Right Direction’.

In the summer of ‘83 The Truth played an under-16s matinee show at the Marquee on Wardour Street. It was the first gig I ever attended. Not only was it a great gig, with the band giving it everything they had even though they had a ‘grown up’ show to do after, but the way they mingled and signed autographs for us kids beforehand left a lasting impression.

Despite Greaves’ claim “You won’t find our audience wearing parkas or Jam shoes” that’s precisely what you would have found them wearing. With a following born from the cooling ashes of the mod revival or, as I like to think of it, the lit match of a new post-Jam modernist movement, The Truth found favour with a young fan base searching for a fresh band to pin to their lapels. Ill plead not guilty to the parka, guilty to the Jam shoes.

After that initial success, they unfortunately released the limp ‘No Stone Unturned’, deservedly a flop in ‘84. Dropped from their label, increasingly keen to distance themselves from anything mod, they lost their way and their audience. By the time debut album, Playground, was released in ’85 it was too little, too late. The production was flat, there was no spark, the songs sounded tired and the bright happy faces of their early days had given way to the dark, cold, miserable looking scowls that adorned an uninviting album sleeve. Things then got really shit but let’s not go there.

Instead, let’s go back to 1984 and the second gig I ever went to, The Truth at the 100 Club on the night they recorded their Five Live EP, with a new rhythm section and where, a mere 33 years later, the band returned at the weekend. It’s a risky business, this nostalgia. Some things are best left in the past, memories intact, untainted by retrospective analysis, but this was reaffirmed everything I felt as boy. I didn’t get everything right but The Truth were, then and now, superb.

Their live shows always far outshone their records and they’d lost none of it. Swirling, snappy, bobbing and weaving Brit-Soul played from the heart. I’d love a new band like this to exist now. The Truth didn’t studiously examine Motown records and attempt to recreate them in sterile, laboratory-like conditions; they had a crack at them – both through covers and originals – in their own style, infusing them with vibrancy and earthy, geezerish charm; their frequent call and response exchanges less Detroit church and more London terrace.

The set was strikingly similar to those old shows – ‘From The Heart’, ‘Exception of Love’, ‘Second Time Lucky’, ‘Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby’, ‘Is There A Solution’, with a few later additions such as ‘Playground’ and ‘Spread A Little Sunshine’ thrown in. Plus the hits of course. No new songs. Dennis Greaves and Mick Lister led from the front, trading harmonies, keeping energy levels high, keen on audience participation. ‘I’m In Tune’, ‘Ain’t Nothing But A Houseparty’, ‘I Just Can’t Seem To Stop’, and ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’ were always big frenzied favourites but the more measured ‘You Play With My Emotions’ was stunning. Perhaps because it wasn’t one to jump around to I’d never fully appreciated how good that song is, real depth, and Dennis’s vocals packing a mighty punch.

The audience were less exuberant than 30-something years ago but despite not leaping around in a seething mass of sweaty teenage boys I enjoyed this just as much as I did as a pizza-faced 15-year-old in Jam shoes.  

Sunday, 7 May 2017

THE PRIMITIVES - NEW THRILLS EP (2017)


I once asked Paul Court what he did when not occupied with Primitives business. Paul’s a quiet man of few words anyway but he appeared particularly stumped by this question and I didn’t get a straight answer, more a feeling that he didn’t actually do anything if he could help it.

"I like to sit around” he sang tellingly on the Primitives ‘Working Isn’t Working’ from their 2014 Spin-O-Rama album, “I just want to sit doing nothing”.

It’s a theme the former Lazy recording artists continue on ‘I’ll Trust The Wind’ the storming lead track from their brand new 10-inch EP, New Thrills. ‘I think that I’ll just trust the wind, it might seem aimless but I’ll get there in the end”, sings Tracy Tracy before bursting into a typical buoyant Prims do-do-do-doo hook. Led by one of Paul’s sharpest razor guitar riffs and a thumping rhythm section ‘I’ll Trust The Wind’ will blow a gapping hole through many people’s Top 5 Primitives songs. It’s two and a half minutes of infectious fizzy, fuzzy fun. An instant classic.

'Squeak ‘n’ Squawk’ follows in the same manner and is sure to be a highlight in their live sets; Paul gets his usual quarter of lead vocal duties on the gently rocking ‘Oh Honey Sweet’; and ‘Same Stuff’ is Tracy back with a bang and a sugary twang.

Whatever Paul Court and the Primitives method of working, or not, it is working for me. This EP is as good as anything they’ve done. The only slight disappointment is this is an EP and not the first four songs on an album but who knows how long that would take so let’s not quibble about being gifted these ten minutes of new thrills.

New Thrills is out now on Elefant Records. The Primitives play the 229 Club, London on Friday 26 May 2017.