Thursday, 28 April 2016


Get yer lugs around these...

1.  Jimmy Forrest –‘Night Train’ (1952)
The Night Train James Brown boarded, here in its original winding version. Some say Forrest pinched the tune from his former bandleader Duke Ellington (‘Happy-Go-Lucky Local’). You can hear it but you can follow these things back to banging rocks if you try hard enough. If Led Zeppelin wanna employ me in court with that as a defence I’ll cut ‘em a decent rate.

2.  Miles Davis – ‘Miles Ahead’ (1957)
Watched the new Miles Ahead film yesterday. The mix of fact and fiction didn’t bother me like I thought it would - it’s easy to differentiate, even to folks with little knowledge of the subject – and the selective non-linear telling worked well. Don Cheadle was believable as Miles (I’m now only gonna talk in a husky whisper) but Ewan McGregor’s role (and his acting) was such bullshit and naff it spoilt what had a makings of a decent film. Three stars from Barry Norman here.

3.  Johnny Griffin Orchestra – ‘Wade In The Water’ (1960)
Opener from tenor saxophonist Griffin’s does-what-it-says-on-the-sleeve, The Big Soul Band, LP. Gospel, jazz and soul all in one, well, Big Soul Band. Great track, great album. 

4.  Keith Relf – ‘Mr Zero’ (1966)
Solo Yardbird 45 written by Bob Lind has a wordy “left the cake out in the rain” feel to it. Scraped to number 50 fifty years ago.

5.  Butterfield Blues Band – ‘Nut Popper #1’ (1964)
Mike Bloomfield tears it up on guitar but it’s Paul Butterfield himself who steals the show on his driving harp led instrumental from an Elektra session only weeks after the band’s formation.

6.  Brother Jack McDuff – ‘Butter (For Yo Popcorn)’ (1969)
Not your popcorn, but yo popcorn. Word.

7.  Steve Davis – ‘Lalune Blanche’ (1970)
No, not him off the snooks but another one singing in French and playing organ. Got George Clinton on vibraphone too, no not him off the Mothership but another one. It’s all very confusing but very laid-back cool too.

8.  The Auteurs – ‘How Can I Be Wrong’ (1993)
I think the combination of them being blown away at early gigs by Suede and Luke Haines’s shit hair meant I practically ignored the Auteurs during the 90s. However, since reading Haines’s very funny account of those days in his Bad Vibes and watching the documentary Art Will Save The World I’ve dipped my toe in their debut – and Mercury Prize runner-up – New Wave and it’s, surprisingly, almost as good as he claims.

9.  Charles Bradley – ‘Ain’t It A Sin’ (2016)
Good God! Charlie attempts to lead a righteous life while cutting some serious rug to this frugging chugger.

10.  The See No Evils – ‘That’s Right With Me’ (2016)
The See No Evils’ Inner Voices is the best straight-ahead garage LP I’ve heard for many a years and the wild Pretty Things rave-up of ‘That’s Right With Me’ exemplifies their approach.

Monday, 18 April 2016


Heavy Soul Records celebrated their tenth birthday on Saturday with a showcase of three acts on the label.

The See No Evils released their debut album, Inner Voices, last month and opened the evening with a scorching set of straight-ahead no nonsense garage punk. I love the unabashed clarity of vision of these oiks. Grab the Pebbles albums; early Pretty Things, Yardbirds and Kinks 45s; a bunch of simple rhymes; some throat shredding screams; and set fuzz and fury to them.  Even throw in a cover of ‘Gloria’. This is garage punk in its purest, untamed form and utterly irresistible. Their vocalist looks like Phil Collins after breaking up from his wife and sleeping on a park bench for a week and sings with all the snotty resentment that brings, his face becoming redder with every exaggerated vowel. It’s a wonderful thing to behold. ‘Hooked On The Buzz’, ‘Hanging Around’, ‘You Make Me Move’ and ‘Sweet Thing’ among the highlights of a faultless set.

The Magnetic Mind move the music calendar on a couple of years. With singer Ellie’s appearance, vocal style and the band’s multi-part harmonies they’re always going to willingly draw immediate comparisons to Jefferson Airplane and whilst that’s undeniable they’re slightly sprightlier and poppier in places than their San Franciscan ancestors. Their ‘Should Have Listened To You’ being a prime example, with a neat pop hook and breezy melody. I say it’s theirs, could be a Mamas & Papas album track, in which case I stand corrected. A version of The Carrie Nations’ ‘Sweet Talking Candy Man’ from Beyond The Valley of The Dolls added to tracks from their …Is Thinking About It album.

The jewel in Heavy Soul’s crown is Paul Orwell. His records have been pouring out of the label for the last year or so, selling out immediately, and his Blowing Your Mind Away one of the albums of 2015. His live shows have been few and far between and this gig was advertised as an acoustic set. Thankfully that turned out not to be the case and although there was no organ as featured on some of his records, Paul was joined by regular bassist Mikey and possibly Luke Goss from Bros on drums. All black leather jacketed-up – part Beatles/part Libertines - Orwell and gang set about whipping up a storm.

Fired up from the start an extended ‘Payback’ thumped and kicked a well-aimed pointy boot in the bollocks. It didn’t let up from there. The trio attacked the songs at full pelt, even the usually more measured 'You’re Nothing Special’ given extra power. Other biting 60s-pop style singles ‘Little Reason’ and ‘Tell Me, Tell Me’ followed a similar path.

Orwell is not one to hide his light under a bushel so whilst The See No Evils might imagine shaking maracas at Eel Pie Island, the Magnetic Mind turning on the freaks at the Avalon Ballroom, Paul – with his “let’s see those hands in the air” and leaving bandmates to play as he dumps his guitar to jump in the audience – doesn’t see a Leytonstone pub in front of him, with posters for tribute act Motorheadache on the walls, but his mind’s eye conjures visions of Wembley Stadium. Gotta kinda admire such confidence. Fortunately his undoubted talent and ability just about let him get away with it.

Such talent is evident by the quantity and quality of tracks he’s released and already recorded so whilst a furious take on Larry Williams/The Jam’s ‘Slow Down’ was fine, to follow it with another three covers in a row – James Brown’s ‘I Got You’, Benny Spellman/Artwoods ‘I Feel Good’, and Billy Lee Riley’s ‘Red Hot’ - was slightly strange. Nothing wrong, as such, with any (‘Red Hot’ was indeed that) and Paul was simply cutting loose and having fun, yet felt unnecessary to fall back on so many fast tempo covers - like an early Strypes - when his own material is strong enough. Next time Paul, next time. Despite that journalistic nitpick it was a superb end to the night. 

Friday, 15 April 2016


It’s not every evening one can be in the same room as Roky Erickson as he sings an hour of 13th Floor Elevators songs. For all he’s has been through - and I’m not going to dwell on that, if you don’t know the harrowing story watch the 2006 documentary You're Gonna Miss Me – it’s a blessing he’s here at all. And by here I mean both London Town and, let’s be honest, on earth.

I’d seen Roky play twice previously but on those occasions the sets focused on his post-Elevators preoccupation with zombies, aliens, alligators, Lucifer and two-headed dogs. Both times were good but on Wednesday he was great. That unique voice that made The Psychedelic Sounds Of and Easter Everywhere is still unmistakable. Try as I can, I can’t really pick a winner out of those ground breaking albums. If psychedelic rock started there, and it did, no one has improved it since.

Roky wasn’t, of course, the Elevators. More than most bands they were a collective, even non-members contributing. As jug blowing lyricist and spiritual pathfinder Tommy Hall once memorably said on national television “We’re all heads”. But it was Roky’s magically reverberating voice that gave them that extra ingredient, that special otherworldliness.

His current young band made a decent enough fist of the material although the jug, it seems, is harder to master than I’d previously imagined. Not everyone can "Elevatorize" a jug y'know but from the moment Roky strapped on his guitar and sat perched on the edge of a stool it was classic after classic.  From the opening ‘Fire Engine’, straight into ‘Earthquake’, onto ‘Tried To Hide’, even through the muddy Forum PA, this was clearly a special occasion.

There were no oil wheel projections to dress it up, simply songs packed with a depth perhaps only comparable to Dylan back in ’66 when these missives first hit the stores. ‘Slip Inside This House’, ‘You Don’t Know’, ‘Monkey Island’, ‘Make That Girl Your Own’, ‘She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own)’, ‘Roller Coaster’, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ all rattled past. ‘Levitation’, one of my all-time favourite songs, what an absolute treat. Still they came. Roky’s voice might not have the sheer physical force of his youth but it’s him, just a tiny bit more fragile which, in a way, seemed wholly appropriate.

It was also noticeable Roky appeared to be, somehow, less “pre-programmed” than previous shows I’d seen when he’d say thank you automatically after the last note of every song (it drove me to distraction). This time around he didn’t, only when someone shouted “We love you Roky!” did he offer a little smile, a twinkle in his eye, and a gentle “thank you” in return. It’s hard to describe how touching that was.

‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ almost brought the house down and an encore of the one non-Elevators track ‘Two Headed Dog” damn well did. It felt a privilege to witness such an emotional event. Thank you Roky, we do love you. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016


If you have time to spare – and it you don’t, make some – here are some fantastic performances by Motown artists on the US music variety show Shindig! Jr. Walker & the All-Stars, the Temptations, Martha & the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, the Blossoms (okay, not Motown but what the hell), Four Tops and the Supremes all singing live during 1964/65. Enjoy.