Friday, 28 July 2017


1.  Harmonica Slim – ‘Hard Times’ (1960)
A wickedly funky workout from Travis Leonard Blaylock. Despite the raw harp style this, to me, sounds a bit later than 1960.

2.  Dion – ‘Two Ton Feather’ (1965)
Dion’s lost 1965 album Kickin’ Child has finally been released this month and it’s a cracker of Dylanesque folk-rock in the style of Bringing It All Back Home. Some of the tracks did see light of day at the time, including this playful romp.

3.  The Temptations – ‘You’re Not An Ordinary Girl’ (1965)
No mistaking the hand of Smokey Robinson here but the track is credited to all the Miracles. The flip of ‘Beauty Is Only Skin Deep’, with lead vocal by Eddie Kendricks, the backing track hints at the way forward for the Showstoppers’ ‘Ain’t Nothing But A Houseparty’.

4.  Fortson & Scott – ‘Sweet Lover’ (1968)
Sweetest soul on the Pzazz label (“Put some pzazz in your jazz!”) outta Hollywood. Fabulous. Nothing more to say.

5.  Guitar Ray – ‘You’re Gonna Wreck My Life’ (1970)
Talking of record labels, this one’s on Shagg, something Guitar Ray doesn’t seem to be getting much of listening to his beautifully sung soulful blues. No money, no place to go, old and grey, his woman can’t stand him no more. Still, he cut this 45 and so it wasn’t all in vain. Cheers Ray.

6.  Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – ‘I Should Be Proud’ (1970)
Martha’s Vietnam protest song doesn’t pull any punches as she tells how Johnny died not for her but “fighting for the evils of society”. Reeves believed the government put heat on radio stations not to play it and Berry Gordy to withdraw it. The other side of the record features the far less controversial, and more well known, ‘Love Guess Who’.

7.  Jr Walker & the All Stars – ‘Way Back Home’ (1971)
This down home countrified soul was blown in my direction care of Zyd Hockey’s recent Motown show on Fusion and has been a regular spin ever since. As I said at time, and think every play, this would have suited The Faces down to the ground.

8.  Spacemen 3 – ‘Rollercoaster’ (1986)
From their debut Sound of Confusion, Spacemen 3 set their aim higher than the sun with a thoroughly convincing bug-eyed interpretation of the 13th Floor Elevators classic.

9.  Redskins – ‘A Plateful of Hateful’ (1986)
It’s a pity the Redskins never made a second album. ‘A Plateful of Hateful’ featured on their final single, ‘It Can Be Done’, and hit a Brit-funk groove falling between The Jam’s ‘Precious’ and Pigbag’s ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’.

10.  Benjamin Booker – ‘Witness’ (2017)
Booker’s sings about seeing a crime but Mavis Staples steals the show, no surprise there, witnessing something far more holy. Oh, by the way, Mavis’s show at the Union Chapel this month was, as always, sensational. Being in her presence is to experience very magical joy and happiness. And wow, can that lady still sing.

Thursday, 20 July 2017


“Inspired by The Clash and militant soul music the Redskins burnt brightly in the 1980s. They raged against capitalism with fire, passion and revolutionary politics. The 1984-5 miners’ strike was the pinnacle of their power, playing benefit gigs, appearing on TV and raising support for the strikers. This ten-minute tribute brings together the best of their songs, videos and interviews. The Redskins are gone but their legacy lives on with a message much needed today. Radical culture is a crucial component for any movement for mass social change. Thanks and solidarity to all the musicians and filmmakers who made this tribute possible. Take no heroes – only inspiration.”

By Open Eye Film and Revolting Films.

Thursday, 13 July 2017


The Fusion DJ roulette has landed on my number so I’ll be back in the chair again this Sunday to host Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show.

I’ve said it before but that one-hour slot every Sunday is one the highlights of the week no matter who’s entrusted to pick the records; there’s been a run of particularly brilliant shows in recent weeks. There’s always top-notch music and if you can listen live and join in the chat throughout the show it adds to the little Fusion family community vibe.

As usual the Wireless Show will be 60s-based but not tied to the decade, feature some classics, some semi-obscurities, some surprises maybe, and tracks will inevitably be followed by me saying how great they are or, to mix it up, saying they are great they are before playing them. I'm versatile like that.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017


When The Action’s album’s worth of 1968 demos first sneaked out in the late 90s it offered an insight into their progression from exemplary covers band to a unit finally concentrating on their own material. With Reggie King still at the helm for a little longer, the songs were short and snappy, retaining elements of soul and incorporating a West Coast flavour influenced by The Byrds and The Association.

The Rolled Gold material was a work in progress with the audio quality less than pristine so, despite the obvious quality, there’s always been an element of ‘what if?’. What if the songs had been completed and recorded properly? What if it had been afforded a decent production? Would it sound more like The Notorious Byrd Brothers or Traffic’s second LP?

Sidewalk Society have taken up the challenge of rerecording the album. There’s no escaping this is the work of a Californian powerpop band (some of the cymbals crash a little loudly and there’s an occasional Who chord in the guitars) yet they’ve balanced being faithful to the originals and infusing them with extra touches: piano more prominent in the mix, a touch of brass here, a stirring of strings there. Few can sing like Reggie King so Dan Lawrence’s vocals are distracting at first but the ear gradually adapts and the songs are, even to a rabid Action fan, given a fresh sparkle with some of the original muddiness removed.

The Action were bold in their covers – Kentish Town lads take on The Temptations and The Marvelettes – and Sidewalk Society have been here, like the Action they’ve put themselves into the music. The brass and strings are highly effective, not too overpowering but enough to add extra layers so these recordings feel like the finished rather than simply copied versions.

Being an Action nut, I was sceptical about this project. My initial reaction was to expect one listen and to question the point but sustained plays has altered that view. It offers a greater appreciation how incredible The Action were during this phase before they morphed into a far looser incarnation as Mighty Baby. Such is the standard of material it serves to strengthen the bewilderment as to how such a set of musicians achieved so little commercial success. Strange Roads should escalate – if that’s possible – the esteem The Action are held in and does no harm to Sidewalk Society either. That’s got to be considered a success.

Strange Roads by Sidewalk Society is released by Fruits de Mer Records.
An edited version of this review appears in Shindig magazine.