Wednesday, 6 November 2019
November's Wireless Show now up and waiting for you. An hour of music, mutterings and Man About The House idents. Enjoy.
Tuesday, 24 September 2019
The Acoustic Egg Box, placed it third in their album of the year list, wrote, “Whilst the influences of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer or Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe may lurk knowingly in the background of the nine songs on this delicate and, in places, achingly beautiful album, there are also harmonies and melodies that would sit gracefully on any classic Everly Brothers album.” Shindig magazine, gave it a full five stars, called it a “magical collection” adding “these woody outdoor lullabies twinkle in the stars as references to sea and sailors, booze and opium, give a gently woozy and hallucinatory effect.”
The follow-up, The Hills Are Old Songs, released last month on Wonderful Sound, is no less impressive, another sumptuous collection of songs beautifully performed and produced. Softly strummed with a cornucopia of ancient instruments carefully picked, plucked and brushed. RW Hedges and compadre Luca Nieri, tie up their horses, pitch their tent, and sing lullabies as beans heat gently in the can. Matt Allwright takes time off from chasing rogues on the telly to embellish a couple of songs with the salty weep of a pedal steel guitar.
If The Hunter In The Snow harked back to the 50s and 60s, The Hills Are Old Songs imagines the American West of 1877, the year the phonograph was invented, although the Great American Songbook still warms their work. Again, so many of the tracks echo like they’ve been handed down through the generations. ‘Down To Venesuala’, ‘Deep In The Valley’, ‘Haven’t Seen Her In A While’, 'The Westerners' and others (practically every one) already feel like established classics. The exquisite ‘Sure Enough’ is a contender for RW Hedges' pinnacle so far, lyrically heartstring tugging ("the cries of lonely crows catch a glimse of sun crawling up the hill to find me") and feels in some ways like Bob Dylan’s ‘To Make You Feel My Love’, a song that could take on a whole life of its own, covered all over the world, with versions from simple acoustic readings played for one listener to a full orchestra holding a packed Royal Festival Hall in silent rapture.
There's gold in them hills, get searching.
Monkey Picks spoke to RW Hedges.
Tell us first about The Hunters In The Snow. What were you striving to achieve?
The Hunters in the Snow came about because Luca (Nieri) and I were in a similar frame of mind at the same time. It took some relearning and I had to adapt to a better working technique. It’s a melancholy yet melodic album. It was conversational, we were making a plan, listening to music often, with guitars always on our backs, always talking about it... that album had an effect on our future projects and opened up a door. However, it is a more personal album whilst The Hills are Old Songs is more story/character based.
What influences your songs. Both musically and in other way?
Musically we both love exotica, easy listening, early doo wop, American Songbook, Broadway, Hollywood. In our early days it was more folk and rock ‘n’ roll. That’s all still good but we are maturing as writers and needed other avenues. Other influences, a fire or a trip to the river. Anything that is free like that. But also, it’s the effort to collect wood or to notice nature as an important thread to songs. The interviews that are available with the American songbook writers are interesting as they really loved Song, they loved the whole thing. They loved each other’s songs. When you look at how great songs were made it can inform you.
Tell us about “RW Hedges”. It seems to have developed from yourself, Roy, to now encompass Luca.
Luca is a producer as well as a solo artist. RW Hedges songs are stronger for the work I have done with Luca and we see ourselves as a team. I wrote one song with Luca for his next album. I’m sure as we develop there will be more joint projects. But an RW Hedges album is hopefully just as special as one by Luca Nieri.
How do you collaborate? Who does what, the division of labour etc.
Luca can do everything but the divide of labour depends on how you see authorship. We share and we enjoy whatever we have done. Our motto is ‘Song is King’ but that doesn’t change the fact that Luca is the multi-instrumentalist and I’m the guy who likes to talk.
There appears a theme to the collection on The Hills Are Old Songs, care to explain? Did you set out with that in mind?
After buying Dee Browns book ‘The Westerners’ last summer there was a sudden realisation of a few things. We had already written two Western themed songs, I had a mini library on the subject but had never brought it together on a shelf. We set about studying similarly to Hunters In The Snow but with a stronger theme. This was natural as we wrote another album last year for a 2020 release also with specific references. The American West is a fascinating period in history. And given the chance to soak in the movies and the popular culture is just a great pleasure. The whole thing took eight months to write and make from start to finish. A theme is a challenge as it can become a pastiche. This album is not one.
I like how your songs never outstay their welcome. They say all the need, then move on. Concise.
You’ve got to try not to hang about I guess. Many artists seem to start the song up after a whole 50 seconds. Then there’s the musicians wanting extra rolls, arrangements and solos. All boring. Five minutes or more of a simple song is unbearable for me. We nip all that off the bud these days.
I sense you take the creation of music very seriously. You’re quite outspoken about music that doesn’t meet your ideals. Why is it so important?
It is important to make a song walk and talk on its own. Anything else will deflate over time. Writing for a character, a theme, a period, another work of art is so much more fulfilling than writing about yourself. People call themselves artists in the name of a very narrow space in their head. The individualistic has perhaps been overdone.
What are you planning on doing to promote the album? What’s next?
We will go to Liverpool where people seem to like us. The gigs we do are few but increasingly special. We are likely to do a lullaby, a funny song, a few from the Songbook of America and then we will pick a few from our albums. We will promote of course but many artists are frustrated with the industry. It doesn’t always give back. But Luca and I have a plan and we write specifically. We project ahead by a few years, we have our equivalent of a song trunk where we keep our songs sometimes letting them hibernate. On our next album we return to the countryside of England with something I believe is a real treat.
Buy The Hills Are Old Songs direct from Wonderful Sound
Saturday, 21 September 2019
Welcome to September's Wandering Wireless Show, an hour of fab music from ye olden days right up to a healthy smattering of new releases. Styles? Yeah, they've all got style. Dig? Dig.
Saturday, 17 August 2019
August's Wireless Show is now available for your listening pleasure. An hour of great music from 1955 to the present day with yours truly occasionally interrupting tell ya what you've already heard. Enjoy!
Tuesday, 9 July 2019
The July edition of ye olde Wandering Wireless Show is up. Music old and new. Like an old cassette lovingly made by your mate. Enjoy.
Saturday, 29 June 2019
Whoops, just realised I forgot to post the latest Wireless Show here. From a few weeks back, like always, it's a mixture of great music and perfunctory presenting skills. If you have an hour spare...
Saturday, 18 May 2019
On Saturday 17 March 1990, ahead of his gig at the Town and Country Club, in what would be his final London appearance, Curtis Mayfield stopped by the studios of Jazz FM for an interview with the Manfreds’ Paul Jones.
For an hour they chatted about Curtis’s career from the early days in Chicago to the present day and featured a selection of tracks including a James Brown cover Curtis hadn’t heard before. I stuck a tape in the machine and pressed record. The result, now rescued, is well worth your time.
Thursday, 2 May 2019
The latest edition on Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show is up and ready for your ears. If you’ve listened before you’ll know the format: an hour of brilliant music cutting across the decades and styles with the occasional comment by yours truly. Give it a go…
Saturday, 30 March 2019
The 20th edition of Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show features music from 1951-2019, tracks from every decade from the 50s onwards (minus one) and features artists from at least nine countries. None of that was planned, just the way it ended up. Expect lots of stuff with horns! Get yer groove on comrades. Enjoy.
Friday, 29 March 2019
For sheer visual elegance alone, Elio Petri’s 1965 Italian movie, La Decima Vittima (The Tenth Victim), starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress, is riveting, but its added combination of style with substance, social commentary with wry humour, make it essential viewing for fans of cult 60s cinema.
Mastroianni, a huge star since La Dolce Vita, had led in Petri’s 1961 directorial debut, L’Assassino, accused of murder in what Petri described as an examination of “a new generation of upstarts who lacked any kind of moral scruple”. It’s a theme carried over to La Decima Vittima, based on Robert Sheckley’s 1953 short story, Seventh Victim, where contestants find celebrity in a legalised game of murder, The Big Hunt, and their elderly parents are locked away, hidden from the authorities, for reasons best guessed.
A giant computer in Geneva selects a hunter and victim. The hunter knows the victim, the victim must find out and kill their potential assassin. Kill the wrong person and face 30 years in prison. The winner receives a cash rising to a million dollars if they survive ten rounds. The general public are hooked. A cool club of beautiful people applaud their evening’s entertainment Andress fires lethal shots from a silver swimsuit made of twisted tin toil while the Ming Tea Company want to film her tenth kill for a new advertising campaign.
For all Petri’s lofty aspirations and desire to Say Something Important about morality and murder, commercialism and celebrity, marriage and relationships, organised religion (check the scene where the Sun Worshippers are abused by the Moon Worshippers, “Take your sunsets someplace else!”), it's all done with a light pop touch. Political but playful rather than po-faced. It’s fun and, let’s be honest, pairing the gorgeous Andress with Mastroianni, a constant source of edgy discomfort, it’s damn sexy.
Every scene is a feast for the eyeballs. Set at some point in the 21st Century, it’s futuristic without being too science-fiction; there are no spaceships, beaming up, and the most hi-tech contraption is a small robotic pet. When Marcello (Mastroianni) needs to contact his mistress, he parks the car and uses a phone box. Instead it scans like a flick through the pages of mid-60s Vogue or Queen. Black and white op art paintings hang on the walls; pop art is at every turn; comic books are now antique collectables; there’s the pinball machine, the furniture, the strange sculptured figures dotted around house and garden; Andress swans around in an E-Type Jag; and Blur would later pinch the television dancers’ costumes for their Music Is My Radar video. The single most striking item is a giant, blinking eye behind a heavy-set pair of spectacles. It could be Harry Palmer wearing this iconic Curry & Paxton frames, but is Joe Tilson in a fabulously cheeky reworking of the pop artist’s self-portrait, Look!, from the previous year. The whole film, in fact, is eyewear heaven.
Piero Piccioni's soundtrack is glitzy space age jazz, a combination of plinking strings and fuzzy organ, the chirpy yet dramatic title theme sung by Mina, who’d recently been banned by Italian TV and radio for causing scandal with her pregnancy by a married actor. Her inclusion by Petri, a working-class former communist who’d had his own issues with the Catholic church, presumably no coincidence.
“I’m going to die, I’m sure of it” confides Marcello, unaware of his hunter. “I know you’ll die, Marcello”, replies his mentor at the Big Hunt training centre, “but the important thing is how one dies. Like an insect or like a samurai”. In other words, whatever you do, do it with style.
This piece first appeared in Anglozine, Issue 2, produced by the hip outfitters of the same name whose current range is inspired by the film. You can kit yourself out here.
Saturday, 2 March 2019
This is almost too good to be true. An hour of Curtis Mayfield, clear as day, live on the telly, from January 1972.
I've seen parts of this before but not the complete set and not in such good quality. I won’t spoil any of the surprises, just watch it, it’s amazing, and his band featuring Craig McMullen (guitar), Joseph ‘Lucky’ Scott (bass), Tyrone McCullen (drums) and ‘Master’ Henry Gibson (percussion) are smokin’.
When ya think ya couldn’t love Curtis Mayfield more…
Sunday, 24 February 2019
It’s back! Yep, after months shuffling its feet in the wilderness, Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show returns and is available to listen NOW!
The format is the same as before, the only difference, following the sticky demise of Fusion-on-Air, is it’s now an independent production and not part of a collective. A shame in some ways; Fusion was a brilliant thing to be involved with for years and I’m immensely proud of it. Many of the contributors have reconvened as Passion Radio but I fancy a new challenge and working to the beat of my own drum and having freedom to do shows more regularly (the intention is monthly).
No longer part of an internet radio station I will miss the buzz of broadcasting “live” and the communal spirit of listeners engaged at the same time but many caught-up after the event anyway. Shows will now, like how films with limited commercial potential went straight to DVD, be uploaded direct to Mixcloud/Mark Raison12 and advertised via the usual social media channels.
The hour-long broadcasts will continue to be based, but not rooted, in the 60s; decades and styles meandering back and forth with an emphasis on soulful shufflers and popish toe-tappers.
Hope you find time to tune in. Spread the word. Enjoy!
Monday, 21 January 2019
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.
Listen here to PETER YOUNG'S SOUL CELLAR ON MIXCLOUD.
Follow on Mixcloud or Twitter for updates when new shows added (plenty more to come plus other radio shows of interest...)