Monday, 21 January 2019

THE SOUL CELLAR OPENS ITS DOORS AGAIN: A TRIBUTE TO PETER YOUNG


It’s 1986. I’d left school at sixteen the previous year, was still living at home, and after a few months stocking freezers and pushing supermarket trollies to customer’s cars (they couldn’t be trusted to return them), was now spending my days cutting and pasting reports in a nondescript office block (physically cutting and pasting, armed with scissors and Pritt-Stick and a photocopy machine). I was a mod of a few years standing and little else mattered beyond music and clothes. The mod scene, the one dominated by kids who’d only caught the tail end of The Jam, had peaked during ’85 and was disintegrating by the week as the more popular bands folded and people gradually drifted from the centre.

Soul music was still, increasingly, the thing. That and rhythm and blues. Jazz was its exotic, mysterious cousin. The talismanic sounds of black America were fuelling the imagination and passions of white British suburbia. Sunday nights, while my dad was at work and my mum piled through the ironing (“Mum, remember to do the top button up on my shirts when you hang them”) I’d lie on the living room floor with the radio/cassette player tuned to Capitol Radio, my finger hovering over the play and record buttons for 9 o’clock and the start of the Soul Cellar, presented by Peter Young.

It’s difficult to explain quite how influential these shows were, not only to me but for thousands of likeminded brothers and sisters. When Peter died in November 2018, it was heartening to see people my age posting their memories of the shows and saying how they too would record them. I taped thirty shows in total, which I’ve now begun to share on Mixcloud.

Each week I’d have my trusty notebook in front of me. On the right-hand page, I’d write down the tracks. To economise on tapes, I’d edit out a few overly familiar songs or very rarely a track I didn’t like, to fit a show on one side of a C-90. After a few months, the pub called more loudly on a Sunday night and my mum would kindly hit record. I’d then collect the songs. Once purchased, either on single or on compilations (CDs didn’t count as owning it, having it on a cheapie MFP album from Woolworth’s did) I’d underline it in red pen. On the left-hand page, I’d doodle: drawing scooters, dancers, Right On fist salutes and get excited about the next 100 Club allnighter or Curtis Mayfield or Style Council gig.

The shows were a massive education. "PY, the Pork Pie" a wonderful teacher: warm, knowledgeable and so obviously enthralled by the music. The thumping sixties club-soul sounds were the Soul Cellar’s stock in trade but they featured much more. The first show I recorded, on Sunday 20 July 1986, perfectly demonstrates their breadth and how they broadened the horizons of purist young mods to whom December 1966 was previously the cut-off acceptance point.

There are some big Motown hits, a dedication to mods going down to Brighton for the weekend, but also Jimmy McGriff attacking ‘Jumpin' At The Woodside’ in a way Count Basie could never have envisaged and tapped into how jazz would be the next touchstone with all those Jazz Juice, Jazz Club and Blue Note compilations jostling for attention next to the trusty Kent soul LPs; the low-down blues brilliance of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee’s ‘Uncle Bud’; rare groove and anything James Brown related was becoming huge and Lynn Collins’ ‘Think’ soon sampled to an inch of its life; and finally, Jackie Moore’s ‘Both Ends Against The Middle’ and Barbara Acklin’s ‘I’ll Bake Me A Man’, from 1974 and 1973 respectively, smashed open the doors to a new unexplored decade.

Whether you listened to the Soul Cellar originally, and fancy revisiting them over 30 years later, or are coming to them for the first time, even allowing for the now familiarity of some tracks, they still sound fresh and exciting. Thank you, Peter Young, for the best radio I've ever had the pleasure to hear.


Follow on Mixcloud or Twitter for updates when new shows added (plenty more to come plus other radio shows of interest...)

Saturday, 3 November 2018

THE COOKIN' CATFISH CLUB, KENT - SATURDAY 17 NOVEMBER 2018

Two weeks to go until I make my return the R&B club DJ-ing arena, on a top looking bill at the Cookin’ Catfish Club in Kent. It’s been a while so will be great to crank out some of my all-time favourites plus more recent acquisitions to the box of Monkey magic. Here are the Catfish comrades with the full spiel…

Kent's sharpest night out returns. Saturday 17th November. 8pm until 2am. This time at The 4 Degrees Bar inside the historic Royal Star Arcade in the heart of Maidstone town centre. A venue of great pedigree which, as The Royal Star Hotel, hosted artists like Georgie Fame, The Alan Price Set & Davy Jones & The Manish Boys during the 1960s.

Raw rhythm & blues, soaring club soul. Latin, jazz, ska, beat & more will be on the menu once again. All spun before the dancefloor on original vinyl from the 20th Century's golden era of the 1950s & 1960s. Sean, Russell, Ivan & Mark will be in position on the decks as before, along with a truly mouth-watering line up of guest DJs.

Mark Raison, Mr. Monkeypicks, the man behind the legendary Shake club will be bringing his records from the big smoke down into leafy Kent. Should you follow his blog or radio shows on Fusion-On-Air, you'll require no further introduction. Top level.

The great Lee Miller will be making the journey down from Leeds back to his hometown again to build on his fantastic sets at the first CCC in June. A DJ on top of his game at the Brighton Mod weekender & worthy of the admission fee alone.

Stoke's Rob Powner, of Wang Dang Doodle fame, fresh from a storming set at Brighton and an electric turn at Dreamsville will be bringing the fire. Break any new shoes in prior the night is our best advice.

We're also pleased to welcome Jeff Farrant on board. One of the modernist scene's coolest cats will be bringing his fantastic records up from the South coast to get our dancefloor moving.

It promises to be a cracker once again with the venue's large dancefloor giving plenty of room for our crowd of superb dancers plus hopefully, you & yours this time. Advance tickets can be purchased for £6 from 4 degrees bar or via PayPal (friends&family/gift please) russ-breakaway@hotmail.com. include your postal details in notes. Admission on the night will be £8. Please be in by midnight.

Being a town centre venue there will be security, so please bring ID if you are fortunate enough to look young. People will be very smartly dressed at The Cookin' Catfish, though we do not enforce any dress code. Respect & tolerance is our way & we'd ask everyone attending to enjoy the night in the same spirit. Hope to see you there. Wear your dancing shoes...

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

ACTUALISATION by THE LUCID DREAM (2018)


Psychedelic, spacerock, Krautrock, dub, drone, shoegaze, blah, blah, blah. Never a band to worry about categorisation, The Lucid Dream sent the proverbially cat scurrying into a pack of startled pigeons in April when they unleashed ‘SX1000’ onto the public who, judging from pockets of indignation, hadn’t all been paying enough attention.

Traces of ‘SX1000’s squelching acid house sound could be found in the DNA of the band’s previous work but now it was out in the open, in all its beating Day-Glo glory, a 12-inch siren in homage to a distance summer of love.

If ‘SX1000’, and the revelation their next album was written without guitars and using only the classic Roland 303/808 synths, gave the impression Actualisation would be a full-on warehouse party banger, the resulting record doesn’t fulfil that promise/threat (delete as appropriate).

The clue comes before listening. There’s no big yellow smiley adorning the artwork, but a continuation of all their previous three albums. Two silhouetted figures stand on opposite precipices: dark, grey, desolate, eerie, take your pick, but it’s an environment where the division of joy is thinly cut.

The Lucid Dream are capable of, and on occasion do, twist one’s melons, but Actualisation doesn’t grab the listener in a pharmaceutically charged embrace in the spirit of openness and one-love but largely smashes their skull against the nearest wall in desperate urge to free itself from the suffering claustrophobic air of anxiety and frustration. The world is fucked, sunshine. Forget ecstasy, these are the days of spice and monkey dust.

‘Alone In Fear’, gets the blood is pumping from the off. This isn’t a celebration of a hedonistic yesteryear but a chilling mirror of today’s Britain at war with itself. Helicopters circle. “Grind you down, grind you down, grind you down, down, down” repeats Mark Emmerson like a whining trapped dog as the apocalyptic nightmare unfolds. Thump, thump, thump. Clickety-clack. “There’s no one home” he screams, “come on!” The end feels like a release.

‘Zenith (Part 1 and 2)’ hits a dark funk groove and, even in the face of adversity, offers a broadly positive spin before ‘SX1000’ works its magic and temporarily banishes the gloom for six and a half minutes. Although, to be honest, heard in the context of the album rather than a stand alone track it now feels less joyful than it did in the spring.

The guitars, and there are some, on ‘Breakdown’ echo John McGeoch’s playing on Siouxsie and the Banshees’ similarly terrifying (and equally brilliant) JuJu album.

After a spiralling psychedelic intro, ‘Ardency’ throbs into hypnotising action, the bass acting as rungs on the ladder, steps on a magical beanstalk, reaching higher and higher. “Sweet, sweet love” is the refrain, “love is all you need” the cry. Someone did pack a pocketful of doves after all. Love ya mate. That euphoria is short lived as reality bites again and “No Sunlight Dub” takes us home and it’s no gentle Sunday afternoon on the sofa comedown. “I can see no sunlight” repeats a petrified Emmerson, “loneliness is such a sad thing, where will the love go?

Where indeed? And where will The Lucid Dream go next? Constantly stretching, forever pushing themselves, there’s no telling. Actualisation isn’t for the faint hearted but it’s real and the fearless Lucid Dream stand up to and capture the mood of now like few others dare. An important and vital band of our time. 

Actualisation by The Lucid Dream is released by Holy Are You on Friday.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

OUTLOOK by GARY CHANDLER (1972)


During the mid-60s trumpeter Gary Chandler toured with the Motown Revue before joining the bands of Lou Donaldson then Charles Earland, where he featured on Living Black! and Soul Story in 1971. Producer Bob Porter urged Chandler to record his own album and enlisted a crack band including the irrepressibly funky Idris Muhammad on drums, Caesar Frazier on wild Hammond, plus the legendary Rudy Van Gelder on engineering duties.

With such pedigree and supporting cast the resulting 1972 album for Eastbound Records is every bit the tasty soul-jazz stew it promises. The rolling ten-minute groove ‘Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)’ is worth the purchase alone as the band stretch out with Chandler’s natural funk, Cornell Dupree’s twisting lines guitar (Dupree of Aretha’s “Respect” intro fame) and Frazier’s heavenly Hammond all taking a lead. Chandler’s compositions positively sizzle throughout with the dizzying dancefloor groove of ‘Kaleidoscope’ being the pick of the rest, although that in no way downplays 'Blue Dues' or 'The Jet Set'. Only on ‘Flamingo’, the album’s only ballad, is the heat turned from boil to simmer. 

Outlook proved to be Chandler’s only album. The question on this evidence is why.

Outlook by Gary Chandler is released tomorrow (12 Oct) as a limited edition LP on Tidal Waves/Light In The Attic. A version of this review first appeared in Shindig! magazine. 

Friday, 28 September 2018

SEPTEMBER PLAYLIST


1.  Barbara & The Browns – ‘I Don’t Want Trouble’ (1965)
Straight down the line Sticks and Stonesy R&B dancer from Barbara and her Brown brothers and sisters for Stax.

2.  Chuck Jackson – ‘What’s With This Loneliness’ (1965)
What a voice, what a track, what a man.

3.  Nico – ‘These Days’ (1967)
I’ve always liked some of Chelsea Girl but struggled with it as an album until this month when, finally, the penny dropped. Might crack The Marble Index soon.

4.  Bobbie Gentry – ‘Recollection’ (1968)
As someone who’s only previously chicken-scratched the surface of Bobbie Gentry, the lavish new 8-disc box set The Girl From Chickasaw County: The Complete Capitol Masters is proving a revelation. Featuring her seven albums from 1967-1971, all remastered with bonus demos and unreleased tracks, and an eighth disc of live BBC performances, it’s packed with delightful diversity: Gentry offering her unique take on - and blurring the boundaries of - country, blues, soul, pop. The gothic poetry of ‘Recollection’ from her third album, Local Gentry, stuns and haunts in equal measure and it’s far from the only track to do so. Fantastic collection.

5.  John Williams – ‘Can’t Find Time For Anything Now’ (1967)
This John Williams was a member of the Authentics whose claim to fame was supporting the Yardbirds at the Marquee before Williams ventured out on his own. The A-side to this Columbia release, ‘Flowers In Your Hair’, is a good ray of sunshine pop with a hint of cynicism in the lyric. On the flip that turns into full-blown depression. The catchy cello parts subsequently borrowed (to my ears) by Thomas Fersen on his brilliant ‘Encore Casse’ in 2017.

6.  Mulatu Astatke – ‘Kulunmanqueleshi’ (1972)
Vibes, woodwind, wah-wah and subtle rhythms conjure sheer magic from Mulatu of Ethiopia.

7.  Caesar Frazier – ‘Hail Caesar!’ (1972)
This month’s funky soul-jazz Hammond groove spot is captured by Caesar Frasier.

8.  Paul Orwell – ‘Speak of the Devil’ (2018)
'Speak of the Devil’, the first taste of long awaited second proper album, Smut. finds Orwell donning a leather jacket to join a motorcycle gang for a glamorama glory stomper, leaving Carnaby Street for dust as he swings into Devilgate Drive. A horny Bolan boogie for howling children of the moon.

9.  The Coral – ‘After The Fair’ (2018)
The Coral save the best track until last on their middling Move Through The Dawn. This fingerpicking acoustic number embellished with strings prompted me to dig out Everything But The Girl’s version of ‘English Rose’ afterwards. 

10.  Paul Weller – ‘Aspects’ (2018)
True Meanings is built for quiet contemplation and nowhere is it more moving than here.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

ENCORE CASSE by THOMAS FERSEN (2017)


This gets a post on its own as I've been playing it for months and love it. Enjoy. 

Saturday, 22 September 2018

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 2018

Monkey's Wandering Wireless Show returns tomorrow tonight on Fusion. 

Following the previous Rhythm & Soul Revue special, this one returns to the usual format of an hour of great music plucked from various genres and decades - from the 1950s to an exclusive track so new the mixing desk is still warm.

There's been some tinkering behind the scenes at Fusion so the web address is slightly different but hit the link below in time for an 8.30pm start. If you've previously logged into the chatroom your old password remains the same.

Onwards comrades.