Wednesday, 30 August 2017


1.  Max Roach – ‘Freedom Day’ (1960)
Freedom Day, it's Freedom Day. Throw those shackle n' chains away.” With lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr, sung by Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach’s We insist! Freedom Now Suite is a potent, unflinching album fuelled by the civil rights movement.

2.  Ken Jones – ‘Chicken Pot Pie’ (1963)
The label credit reads Ken Jones, His Piano and Orchestra but you can add Kitchen Sink to that list as Jones cooks up a swinging OTT instrumental feast of go-go goodness.

3.  Darlene McCrea – ‘My Heart’s Not In It’ (1964)
Darlene sang with the Cookies but this Gerry Goffin/Russ Titelman song and production tops anything they did.

4.  Him - 'It's A Man Down There' (1966)
He was Doug Sham and this featured on the first Sir Douglas Quintet LP but curiously was released as a 45 under the more mysterious name. Either way it's swampy Texan blues to get down to.

5.  Jimmy McGriff – ‘Miss Poopie’ (1969)
When Starsky and Hutch busted some badass pimps in a New York strip joint, the band played on.

6.  Frumpy – ‘Indian Rope Man’ (1970)
Worst band name ever and although teetering on the brink of proggy, German rockers Frumpy knock out a pretty groovy version of the Richie Havens via Brian Auger/Julie Driscoll classic.

7.  The Supremes – ‘Life Beats’ (1970)
Earmarked for their first post-Ms Ross single, only for it to be ousted at the last moment for ‘Up The Ladder To The Roof’, it showed there was still plenty of life in the Supremes.

8.  The Deep Six – ‘Heading For A Fall’ (2017)
Makin’ Time were one of the shining lights in the mid-80s Mod scene so it’s good to hear from co-singer Mark McGounden again. New album with new band, Introducing The Deep Six, doesn’t have the gloss of his illustrious past – sounds like it was recorded on a tight budget – but Mark’s knack for breezy 60s toetappers remains with ‘Heading For A Fall’ the pick of the bunch.

9.  Childhood – ‘Californian Light’ (2017)
My thanks to Ian Pople of The Acoustic Egg Box for repeatedly nudging me about Childhood who’ve transformed themselves into a sleek modern soul band – part MGMT, part Isley Brothers - all top down, arm out the window, cruising the coast of Santa Cruz via the mean streets of South London.

10.  Len Price 3 – ‘Telegraph Hill’ (2017)
Forthcoming Kentish Longtails (out 15 September) is currently in pole position for the Monkey Picks album of the year, it's that good. The usual bish-bash rowdy singalongs remain, as do the mod-pop Townshend windmilling anthems, and while they’ve done subtler songs before (‘Medway Sun’ for example) they’ve truly up their game here with a handful of soft-centred corkers. ‘Telegraph Hill’ is truly beautiful: full of tea-and-biscuits romanticism, with echoes of the old Hovis advert and Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag. Bonus points for “The hurly-burly and the hullabaloo, won’t stop us doing all the things we want to do, before we get much older”. Song of the year for sure.

Monday, 28 August 2017


Such was the success of The New Untouchables returning the Mods to Brighton for August Bank Holidays back in the late 90s, the town now hosts a multitude of events across the weekend put on by various promoters to cover the overspill and cater for differing tastes. The NUTs scooter rideout on Sunday remains the focal point and the largest congregation of Mods in all their dominations come together outside the Volks Tavern. Such were the numbers it took ten whole minutes for the procession of Lambrettas and Vespas to pootle off. Here they are...

Friday, 18 August 2017


Georgie Fame’s back catalogue has been well served recently with 2015’s five-disc The Whole World’s Shaking: Complete Recordings 1963-1966 and last year’s Survival: A Career Anthology six-disc set. This latest addition, a more modest two-CD package, picks up where The Whole World’s Shaking left off to focus on Georgie’s first album for CBS, following a high-profile switch from Columbia, plus everything else he recorded during 1967.

The original The Two Faces of Fame, split between live and studio recordings, backed by a mix of big band sessions and his post-Blue Flames combo, is presented here in stereo and mono versions. Some folk might get the horn comparing the two, fill yer boots, I’ve no strong preference but what’s noticeable is both sound far punchier than the original LP. Yes, I know we’re all supposed to have a vinyl fetish – my penchant too – but it doesn’t always make the audio better.

As for the album, I’d always been lukewarm towards it. ‘Great Back Dollar Bill’ is a smart opener and ‘El Pussy Cat’ a fun instrumental but while the Harry South Big Band, rolling over from Fame’s previous Sound Venture, swing with a Who’s Who of British jazzers – Tubby Hayes, Dick Morrissey, Ronnie Scott, Pete King etc - Georgie tackling three Great American Songbook standards would then, and now, have many feeling underwhelmed. I can tolerate Bob Dylan’s recent attempts at crooning his way through these standards in his twilight years but Georgie was 23 years old. In ’67 Brian Auger had cannily teamed up with hip priestess Julie Driscoll, Zoot Money was running like a psychedelic madman in his kaftan with Dantalian’s Chariot and Graham Bond’s extreme nature was pushing the boundaries of tolerance for him and his music. Georgie Fame meanwhile was doing supper club jazz with ‘It Could Happen To You’ a hit for Bing Crosby in the 1940s. There’s a slight perversity I can appreciate now but it’s taken a long time. Listening repeatedly to The Two Faces of Fame again I’ve warmed to it. It’s not a classic but it’s better than I remember and helps I don’t expect everything to be ‘The Monkey Time’ anymore.

I wouldn’t unreservedly recommend purchasing the album on its own but this deluxe edition features an additional 24 tracks (seven previously unissued) and, as Nick Rossi suggests in his thorough liner notes, when taken as a whole, 1967 was as strong a year for Georgie as any and makes this a must-buy.

There’s so much to take in. A-sides, B-sides, EPs, storming instrumentals, swinging pop, up-tempo soul, sensitive ballads, a kitsch chart-topper (kitsch being polite, if I never hear ‘The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’ again it’ll be too soon), Italian translations and even an International Pop Song Festival entry released for the Brazilian market.

A few highlights: the improved audio quality gives a massive boost to the Georgie Fame EP which originally sounded flat but now brings ‘Knock On Wood’ and ‘Close The Door’ to soul stomping life; ‘Roadrunner’ (the Bo Diddley one) is everything you’d imagine and was new to me; ‘Because I Love You’ and the dreamy ‘Try My World’ were excellent singles; ‘A Waiting Time’ a planned but dropped 45 – leaning towards an increased MOR style yet showing it could be done gracefully – remained unreleased until Survival and deserves repeating here for a wider audience; ‘Celebration’ is pop competition fun; the seven unreleased tracks show Georgie’s quality was consistently high – the version of ‘Tell It Like It Is’ is gorgeous; ‘Jumpin’ The Gun’ is in a similar vein to the old Hammond and horns fave ‘Beware of the Dog’; and – the length of this list tells you something - ‘Respoken’ and ‘Conquistador’ are class new discoveries for everyone.

One new discovery to me is ‘No Thanks’, the flip to ‘Try My World’. I can hear many of you now scoffing incredulously, “What? You’ve never heard it before? They played it every week down the Purple Bubblegum Curiosity Shop club in Camden on Thursday nights in the 90s when we were wearing bootcut cords and buzzing off our tits on cheap speed and Mad Dog 20/20”. I’m sure you did and quite right too. It includes every club classic ingredient and lands perfectly in the swirly/soul crossover dancefloor dynamite box, much like the later ‘Somebody Stole My Thunder’ which you’d only have to step outside your front door to hear throughout the Brit-Pop years.

This reissue (although it’s much more than simply that) is well packaged and, thanks to the abundance of bonus tracks, is bursting with great music. In 1967 alone Georgie proved he had more than two faces and, whichever one he showed, he did so with style.

The Two Faces of Fame is out now on RPM/Cherry Red.
A heavily edited version of this review appears in latest issue of Shindig magazine.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017


On a snowy evening in 1972, trumpeter Lee Morgan was shot dead between sets in the New York club, Slug’s, where he was playing. Morgan was 33.

Kasper Collin’s recent documentary looks at the life, and especially death, of one the stars of the Blue Note stable. It’s established from the opening scenes that Lee’s wife, Helen Morgan, fired the shots which killed him, the film then retraces the route to that point using interviews with friends, fellow musicians and, crucially, Helen herself, who finally gave an interview in 1996 to Larry Reni Thomas - a jazz fan, radio announcer and fellow high school teacher – years after he first requested it and only a month before she died. This revealing taped conversation is central to the film.

Those wanting a blow by blow account of Lee Morgan’s music career will perhaps be disappointed. This isn’t one of those type of films. Yes, we hear how he was a confident star in Dizzy Gillespie’s band at a young age and how he played with Art Blakey but there’s precious little else. There are snatches of music of course (all untitled on screen) but viewers wishing a full insight into his musicianship, recording sessions, legacy and landmark recordings will need to look elsewhere. His classic, The Sidewinder, one of the most recognisable jazz numbers of the 60s, which unexpectedly dented the pop charts, and a “gateway” track for many (one of the first proper jazz records I liked: bluesy, soulful, with an understated finger-snapping funk; and by “proper” I mean without a Hammond organ, that always felt like cheating) isn’t even get mentioned. In fact, almost no individual tracks are mentioned and only a few covers of the dozens of albums he made briefly appear on screen.

I Called Him Morgan is instead a portrait of two people: Lee and Helen, who both lived fascinating lives and conscious of its focus, it’s simply told. There’s no voice over narration or, like so many music documentaries these days, gimmicky animation to flesh out the lack of artist footage (not that there’s much of that here either) nor mercifully, unlike recent movies based on fellow trumpeters Miles Davis and Chet Baker, will you cringe at hammy acting or clunky dialogue. This sensitive study examines what led to the tragedy in Slug’s and gently tries to make sense of it through the reminiscing of uniformly engaging interviewees. It’s almost like a murder mystery except there’s no mystery over whodunnit and, without spoiling it, the New York cops hardly needed to give Columbo a call to discover the motive.

I Called Him Morgan draws attention to Lee Morgan once again. We know what happened in the end, the fun part now for new listeners is discovering all the music he left behind (there's a lot). Oh Lee, just one more thing, where did you get that amazing coat?

I Called Him Morgan is now available on Netflix.