Friday, 29 July 2011

Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Spirit -Review

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.”Hunter S Thompson

This quote sums it up perfectly for me at the moment, the reason why my recent reviews and online blogging titbits have been laboured on so much of late. I’m losing my insanity. Slowly but surely I’m getting more and more hits on my blog and starting to get a little too comfy on my musical laurels. I need something to fight against and battle for, I can’t like everything I’m given can I?

Thank you Jonathan Wilson you may have saved my soul, you have presented before me an album of such vacuous half hearted acoustic meandering that even though I’m ready to take a hammer to it you have helped me turn a corner. After seeing Jonathan Wilson live recently at London’s Borderline (see previous review a few back) with the excellent band DAWES and a special appearance by Jackson Browne (another singer/songwriter par excellence) I thought I was in for a treat when the album itself arrived in my inbox and looked forward to giving it a balanced fair appraisal. Stranger things have happened.

Wrong is probably too harsh a word but bland is probably right on the money. Jonathan Wilson is a good musician, fair singer and I’m sure a decent enough guy, but the music on the album is like being stuck on VH1 for eternity. The influences are clear, Crosby, Stills and Nash with a big slice of Neil Young’s guitar thrown in to season. Sounds good on paper although what all these artists had that Jonathan Wilson is lacking is edge and personality. He can wear the beaten up army shirt like Neil Young but he hasn’t lived through the times that Neil Young was living, interacted with the people etc. In short it’s a case of all theory no practice. He might be able to arrange the harmonies like David Crosby but I doubt the police are about to kick Wilson’s door down for too much hell raising, after all Crosby may look (and is) like an old hippy now but in the late 60s early 70s he was the guy that would take all the drugs, take all the girls and still hike to Woodstock to let his freak flag fly without missing a cue from Nash and Stills. The collection of songs here seem like more time was spent studying photos of ‘After The Goldrush’ and ‘Music From Big Pink’ rather than writing songs from personal experience and feelings. Of course this is all conjecture and he could be completely genuine although with track names like ‘Woe is Me’ and ‘Natural Rhapsody’ I’m signalling the barman already to medicate me.

The album here ‘Gentle Spirit’ isn’t a bad album, the songs are well constructed and even some lovely interplay on the electric guitars on ‘Desert Raven’ is reminiscent of Duane Allman and Dickie Betts from The Allman Brothers. The problem with albums these days is the format. I can’t Frisbee a download across the room into a pile of smashed c.d’s in disgust and find the right click drop to recycle bin just lame and counter productive to my anger.

I remember seeing Joe Strummer on TV talking about The Ramones and discussing the genius behind their 2 min tracks, no talk in-between stage banter just 1-2-3-4 and bang track 1, then track 2, track 3 and by the end of the 4th, only 8 minutes has passed, people have busy lives they want fast food rock and roll. There is simply no place for a track that lasts over 10 minutes such as ‘Valley of The Silver Moon’. I remember hearing the track in the encore at The Borderline and felt myself repeatedly checking my phone for a message, an update on Facebook/twitter or anything to wake my sense up from the catatonic pounding it was getting from this dirge. Thank the good lord for Jackson Browne bringing ‘Take It Easy’ to the stage moments later and saving the suicide hotlines from exploding.

I’m sure this album will do well in the crowds and circles it was primarily aimed at (waves to Bob Harris) but for me it seems too clinical and slick to ever be one I’ll treasure. Time for a quick blast of ‘Sister Ray’ and another run through of Anna Calvi’s loud and dramatic debut to blow away the cobwebs that have appeared here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Amy Winehouse

What did Amy Winehouse ever do to cause this much negative and over the top hurtful comments from so called “caring” people? The sort of liberal bunch that would cry their eyes out at Peggy Mitchell leaving Eastenders but are straight away fighting over the soapbox to preach their opinions on someone they didn’t know and didn’t understand from the start. Just reading some comments on both Facebook and even international newspaper sites (where there is a box for comments) and seeing those who find simply reading a news story not enough and feel that adding their own version of events is the next step they MUST take. Idiotic comments such as “if she wasn’t famous and just an ordinary Joe in the street there wouldn’t be this much press attached to her death”…well fuck me if that’s not the most obvious thing anyone has ever said, probably up there with the fact that when my dog died when I was younger it didn’t get as much press as Princess Di’s death, outrageous I know! Of course she is getting more press, she’s famous, she’s in the public eye, and the amount of hassle she was given by the press over the years the very least they could do now would be to give her a good write up and try and concentrate on the most important aspect of her short life… the music. Also while we are on the subject lets stop with the Billie Holiday comparisons, two different people from two very different times and it’s simply lazy journalism to jenga the two together. Amy was if anything an individual that made “Amy Winehouse” music.

Facebook and Twitter is the haven for the cretin. Most people use them and other social network sites (no I can’t think of any others either but I’m sure there must be some) to organise nights out, post pictures and generally chit chat crap with their friends… and that’s fine that’s it’s purpose. Some people on the other hand think it’s a tool to bring down the government and feel they are some how urban cyber terrorists as they are using a picture of Scarface as their avatar and writing in a bold font and feel that every single thought or opinion needs to be shared with everyone from their uncle and aunt to their year 7 geography teacher in their buddy list.

The attacks in Oslo at the weekend weren’t Amy’s fault. Nor her fans, her friends or indeed family, so probably best not trying to link them in terms of which is more important or more politically sound to be upset by. The attacks in Oslo were horrific and its beyond comprehension why anyone would want to do something like that ever. But to think that the public as a whole and persons individually have a grief bank account and can only choose one side and that if you are upset about Amy Winehouse’s death that you have drawn your line in the sand and are sticking two fingers up at Norway is ridiculous and an insult to both sides, and considering ‘Back to Black’ has sales over 2 million in just the USA alone imagine if there was an Amy Winehouse fan who was killed in Oslo? My god! The heartless bloggers would probably have an aneurysm trying to work that one out.

There will be many music obituaries run in the wake of Amy Winehouse’s death and I’m certain they will be more articulate and fact based than I could muster but if you take the whole thing back to basics, she made one dynamite classic album in 'Back To Black' crammed full of great tracks such as the obvious ‘Rehab’, ‘My Tears Dry on Their Own’, ‘You Know That I’m No Good’ (recently covered by Wanda Jackson and Jack White no less), the title track and of course the almost centre piece and most poignant 'Love is A Losing Game' (another song that was later covered, this time by Prince). Am I going to be the first one to stand up and say lets see how “amazing” and “classic” ‘21’ is looking in 5 years.

The debut ‘Frank’ had shining moments such as ‘Fuck Me Pumps’ and ‘I Heard Love is Blind’ was still the sound of an artist finding her place and music direction and was more the act of an artist showing their potential and laying the groundwork to what was to come next. In fact the question of her recording output is another issue which many people are taking offence by, the fact she only managed two albums. Two full albums isn’t bad going and put’s her in good company with The Libertines (two albums), beats The Sex Pistols (only one album) and just misses Jimi Hendrix’s tally with only three albums being released in his lifetime. On the other hand you have artists such as Cliff Richard who has released an ear stagnating 33 studio albums!! Quantity doesn’t always mean quality and this is a perfect example. In fact I believe the author Barbara Cartland managed over 500 books in her career. Where as J.D Salinger had only ‘The Catcher in The Rye’ as his major contribution, which one is being taught at schools? Clue: It’s not ‘The Duke and the Preacher’s Daughter’.

Some people are never going to make 50 years old, it’s just written all over their face. Everyone knows people like it and if you don’t then have a look in the mirror and maybe think about getting a gym membership. These people travel through life at 100mph and do nothing by half. They aren’t all saints but at the same time they aren’t all evil either, they are individuals like you and me and it’s just unfortunate that their fuse is burning out faster then others. They say that the line between insanity and genius is a fine one, although it’s something that I can understand the meaning behind and see where the saying is coming from it has always confused me, as the difference between Mozart and a mad tramp sitting in his soiled under-crackers making a helmet out of kitchen foil to “keep the aliens away” is hardly a fine one to separate! I do agree that individuals that are capable of creating heartfelt and soulful work whether in art, literature, film or music have a definite skin too few and by giving everything of themselves to their chosen form manage to create works of great beauty while also taking the scars from the ordeal afterwards.

So throw the soap boxes on the fire, use Facebook to get your friends together have a few drinks, crank ‘My Tears Dry on their Own’ and send Amy on her merry way..

…and I didn’t even mention ‘Valarie’ “sorry Charlie Murphy, I was having too much fun”...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Jonathan Wilson gig review

Jonathan Wilson/Dawes
The Borderline, London

The Borderline is one of the last great venues in London to attract international acts without being herded into a McGIG venue such as the O2 ARENA or somewhere equally impersonal and cavernous with their own history hall of fame pictured as you walk in. From the absence of barriers and wall of security guards blocking the view from the stage, it can be said that The Borderline is simply about the music rather than the bows and frills.

Tonight we have a double hitting of with Los Angeles’ own wandering sons, Dawes, as well as the headliner for this evening, and Dawes producer, Jonathan Wilson. There is also a rumour floating about that 70’s superstar troubadour Jackson Browne will be making an appearance later in the show, and going from the amount of 1000th wash vintage Jackson Browne t-shirts floating about the crowd I would say that this is more of an open secret rather than any amazing scoop that nobody could have predicted.

Dawes start the proceedings and waste no time in kicking the show into a high gear with their own brand of country rock with southern heavy guitars keeping things loud. It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air to see bands referencing acts such as The Allman Brothers, The Band and Little Feat rather than just running down the usual suspects of Uncut magazine approved ‘Americana acts’. Each member of the band brings something unique to the table, especially the excellent guitar work of lead singer/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith and the Levon Helm inspired drumming of brother Griffin Goldsmith, keeping the rhythm both funky while totally serving the song at all times.

Two of the biggest cheers of the night occurred in Dawes’ set when they first played fan favourite ‘Fire Away’ and secondly a very cool cover of Little Feats ‘Long Distance Love’, which was executed to perfection. The 70’s Laurel Canyon vibe the band brings to the proceedings is totally genuine and better than the majority of dial-a-folkie bands around trying to fight for the same audience. The band here is the real deal through and through…and this is just the support set!

The headliner tonight is Jonathan Wilson, and complete with Neil Young wardrobe he leaves nobody in the crowd confused about what type of music is about to be played. Most tracks fall into the ‘Cowgirl in the sand’ long jams which show Wilsons own proficiency on electric guitar with only minimal lyrics, support is given by Dawes (clearly earning their money tonight with 2 sets one after the other and giving the whole night a kind of ‘Last Waltz’ flavour). Some tracks actually leave the country rock genre and veer over to Pompeii era Pink Floyd territory (minus the flying pigs and Tolkien references of course). The track ‘Desert Sky’ featured an excellent guitar harmony dual between Jonathan Wilson and Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, that was performed note perfect and brought back memories of the Allman Brothers without veering the track into Top Gear areas of cheese.

The rumours are true! Jackson Browne takes the stage with the band and after a settling in with ‘Gentle Spirit’ he takes over the group with his own classic ‘These Days’ which takes the crowd up a notch and even leaves a smile on Wilsons face as he tunes up for the next song and says into the microphone “God I love that song” to a smirking Browne, like the master just finishing a lesson. For me the song always brings back memories of Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums which features the song on its soundtrack performed by Nico (ex-Velvet Underground singer and one time girlfriend of Browne). This isn’t the Jackson Browne show by any means and the next track this evening from this super group is a cover of the late great Warren Zevon’s ‘Muhammad’s radio’, which shows that even after nearly 8 years since his untimely death, what a loss Zevon is to music as a whole. After a faux “ending” the band were back and kicked into ‘Silver Moon’ (another guitar jam), but make no mistake the crowd were going nowhere without ‘Take It Easy’ and Browne, Wilson and Dawes supplied a full on version with close harmonies and a genuine love for the music. Only one miserable ‘fan’ stood behind me muttered “I can’t believe he played that, he’s just playing to the crowd, it’s disgusting”….but 1% will never out sing the 99% and tonight the smiles on the crowd’s faces as they leave the venue will always beat the pathetic opinions of Billy no mates and his ‘ironic’ Pac-Man t-shirt. Taxi!

Here's a link to Jackson Brown, Jonathan Wilson and Dawes playing "these days"

Friday, 15 July 2011

Behind the curtain...

When you write your own blog and contribute to music magazines/sites on a regular basis you do manage to get a few perks now and then that compensate for the lack of any financial benefits such as free downloads, free CD’s, free gig guest listing as well as actually getting the opportunity to meet and chat with bands and artists that you like and admire in a 1-1 setting where they actually answer your questions rather than scribble their autograph and move on back behind the velvet rope.

Some of the other perks I’ve discovered now include the ‘freebee’, industry nights put on to promote either a brand or band/artists that the label or company feel is important and by getting various movers and shakers in the industry to and ply them with free booze hopefully they’ll throw some money into the pot or give them a good write up. Apart from these people who are actually music industry suits you also have backdoor gate crashers like me who have no real business being there but have managed to wangle their name on one list or another to get past the security and make my way to the bar (free 7pm-11pm no less)

When you’ve finished a few drinks, carefully replenished and actually scanned the room you do actually realise that the puppet masters behind the scenes are just the same as any other manager or supervisor in any other office job whether it’s a paper mill in Slough or a IT software company in Uxbridge. I shudder to think about the records these people own but in the words of Super Hans from Peep Show when discussing industry ‘marks’ just looking at them “ties done up to eleven, clicking their fingers to the fucking Lighthouse Family” they couldn’t care less what sounds good but simply what sells, which is your favourite artist you’ve signed? Their favourite is simply the one that sold the most. But then again where does it say that the persons in the music industry have got to have good taste in music? It doesn’t and that is part of the tragedy. I’m not saying they have to have a music quiz brain for trivia and can name all the Frank Zappa and The Mothers albums in chronological order but a working knowledge of music and important bands and influences would at least be a plus don’t you think? Especially when they are the ones that put pen to paper and present new bands to the public and the industry.

Tonight we are treated to sets by 2 bands, obviously hen picked from a bunch associated with the evening itself. Bland and vacuous is probably the nicest way of explaining them. Everything about them was 2 years too late. The first act tried their best to mix Kate Nash, Laura Marling and a little bit of Mumford & Son violin for good measure and failed at each stop. If you were still awake by the end you were then presented with a scratchy indie band that just reeked of professionalism so much you would swear even their strumming was choreographed.

I am not one to be ungrateful as I did get a free evening of booze but if this is what the other side of the velvet rope looks like I can see why bands and artists like Pete Doherty spend their time off stage with fans and regular punters rather than the budget organiser, label executives and road manager from the record company.

Best line of the evening:
“No sir, no payment is required, it’s a free bar till 11pm”

Worst line of the evening:
“Ya, for sure, I originally met Toby and Barney when we worked at Myspace together actually”

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Lennon: New York Years

In response to a piece on the NME website regarding the recent John Lennon TV programme 'Lennon: The New York Years' which argued the point that Lennon spent the 1970’s in a under achieving funk compared to his previous incarnation in The Beatles and in the 60’s as a decade. Well where do you start with something like that? First of all there are some points to be taken into considering when talking about John Lennon’s solo career such as:

•His solo career only lasted a grand total of 6 years. Between recording the much discussed ‘Rock N Roll’ album in 1975 and his final ‘Double Fantasy’ just before his assassination in 1980 he took a nearly 5 year break to raise his newborn son Sean. So looking at the albums as 6 years work suddenly ‘Plastic Ono Band’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Some Time In New York City’(definitely the weakest out of the bunch, no argument there), ‘Mind Games’, ‘Walls & Bridges’, ‘Rock N Roll’, ‘Double Fantasy’ starts to pile up as a wonderful achievement, not taken into account albums such as ‘Pussy Cats’ which he produced for Harry Nilsson and simply dismissing it as “acting a bellend” just misses the point by a long shot.

•Secondly NOBODY can match up to The Beatles as a group, especially 1 part of them, they were 4 after all. Match John Lennon against his contemporaries not himself when he was part of the most influential group of all time.

•Blaming Lennon for influencing The Charlatans is obviously a sly attempt at humour although it does keep being brought up as if this has any bearing on anything whatsoever. What’s next? Blame Led Zeppelin for all the shitty 80s heavy metal hair bands that appeared in their wake (although maybe this week we are all supposed to ironically love hair metal?)

•I can say honestly that I think ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’ isn’t in my top 10 favourite Lennon solo songs by any stretch but for knocking it because it got to #1 in the charts just stinks of indie elitism, also the same for his contribution to ‘Fame’ with David Bowie...also #1 in the charts.. He was John Lennon after all, did you really expect him make a record that was destined to tank with a number 90 lead balloon in the billboard charts and only be available as a Japanese import only EP. He was a Beatle for Gods sake!

I will admit that whenever I see Lennon on the front of the many magazines available these days I am always filled with the 50/50 split of “what the hell is there left to talk about in regards to his career that hasn’t been dragged up and pinpointed already?” and the other part of me which thinks “wow, I hope there is a picture I haven’t seen before or a quote or two from other musicians about his music”, it’s the enduring appeal of Lennon that makes fans both casual and fanatic protective over his legacy and image and whenever some wet behind the ears indie kid looking to make a shallow name for himself starts knocking him to hopefully get a response*, you can only roll your eyes and realise its all for effect and that nobody is that stupid as to believe any of it. What’s next? Muhammad Ali was actually rubbish at boxing claims 17 year old media student on their I-phone updated blog. Whatever gets you through the night.

*=yes I’m fully aware that moaning that it’s all for effect in an attempt to get a response while actually responding is kinda walking straight into a trap but what the hell it’s nearly the weekend what’s a few more misjudgements?

In response to:

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Beatles VS Everyone else

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon is a game that originated in regards to the American actor Kevin Bacon. It would seem that he has been in so many films, even when he was not the main star or even supporting actor with so many stars or future stars in the making throughout his career so you can link him within 6 moves to pretty much everyone else in Hollywood (past and present.)

An example would be Humphrey Bogart, Hollywood legend that died January 14th 1957, in fact a full year before Kevin Bacon was even born (1958) Impossible?

1.Humphrey Bogart was in 'Casablanca' with Ingrid Bergman
2.Ingrid Bergman was in Notorious with Cary Grant
3.Cary Grant was in Charade with Walter Matthau
4.Walter Matthau was in 'JFK' with Kevin Bacon

or in fact

1. The Beatles
2. The Beatles starred in 'A Hard Days Night'
3. 'A Hard Days Night' features a young Phil Collins in one of his earliest roles in a crowd scene
4. Phil Collins also starred and voiced a character in the animated movie 'Balto'
5. 'Balto' also starred....Kevin Bacon

And that’s how it goes..

Now as this site is predominantly about Music and POP culture so lets take the top gods of Olympus, the head honchos, the Fab Four….THE BEATLES, can we link them to any other band or recording artist? In the immortal words of Art Attacks Neil Buchanon “try it yourselves”

Let’s start simple...

1.Elvis Presley
2.Covered ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Something’, Yesterday’
3.All written by The Beatles

Another easy one...

1.The Rolling Stones
2.The group's 2nd single and first top 20 hit ‘I Wanna be Your Man’
3.Written by The Beatles

A little bit harder...

1.Bob Marley
2.Wrote and recorded ‘I Shot the Sheriff’
3.‘I Shot the Sheriff’ was made an international #1 hit by its cover by Eric Clapton
4.Eric Clapton played lead guitar on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ by The Beatles

Right…take it up a notch...

1.Tom Jones
2.Sung one of his biggest hits ‘What’s New Pussycat?” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David
3.Bacharach/David also wrote ‘(They Long to be) Close To You’ sung and recorded by The Carpenters to have their first #1 hit
4.The Carpenters single before this was ‘Ticket to Ride’ written by The Beatles

Ok…you must be mentally making notes and joining it by now…otherwise I’m just a lunatic with too much useless information on clogging the grey matter.

A little more...

2.BLUR guitarist Graham Coxon played on Pete Doherty’s solo album ‘Grace/Wastelands’
3.Pete Doherty was the singer/guitarist in The Libertines
4.The Libertines covered ‘Eight Days a Week’ written by The Beatles

2.Adele had a massive hit with the track 'Make You Feel My Love'
3.'Make You Feel My Love' was written by Bob Dylan on his 'Time Out of Mind' album
4.Bob Dylan was a member of of the Travelling Wilburys with George Harrison
5.George Harrison was in The Beatles

ok lets get current...

2.TAKE THAT had a number 1 hit with 'Relight my Fire' feat. LULU
3. LULU was previously married to Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees
4. The Bee Gees starred and performed in the motion picture SGT.PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
5. SGT.PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND is based on the music and lyrics of The Beatles

A double hitter!

1.Arctic Monkeys
2.As part of Live Lounge Arctic Monkeys covered ‘Love Machine’
3.The song ‘Love Machine’ was originally performed by Girls Aloud
4.Girls Aloud released a cover of Aerosmith classic ‘Walk This Way’ as part of comic relief
5.Aerosmith acted and performed ‘Come Together’ written by The Beatles
6.This song was performed by Aerosmith in the motion picture ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ based on the album written by The Beatles

Right…no more games…up 2 notches

2.Recorded his hit ’99 Problems’ with Producer Rick Rubin
3.Rick Rubin produced ‘Wildflowers’ by Tom Petty
4.Tom Petty was part of the Travelling Wilburys with George Harrison
5.George Harrison was in The Beatles

Another fiver?

1.The Velvet Underground
2.Included Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist Lou Reed
3.Lou Reed hit album ‘Transformer’ was produced by David Bowie
4.David Bowie covered ‘Across the Universe’ on ‘Young Americans’ album
5.‘Across the Universe’ written by The Beatles

The first proper 6!...

1.The Flaming Lips
2.Recorded their song 'Flight Test' on their album ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’
3.The same song was brought to the attention of the courts when it was noted the similarity between it and the Cat Stevens (now Yusef Islam) track ‘Father and Son’
4.Other songs by Cat Steven’s included his composition ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’
5.This very track was covered and made a hit by P.P.Arnold
6.P.P Arnold had another hit with a cover of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles

Another double hitter!

1.Miles Davis (Jazz pioneer and legend)
2.Covered the Michael Jackson song ‘Human Nature’
3.Michael Jackson covered ‘Come Together’ written by The Beatles
4.Michael Jackson owned 50% of Northern Songs publishing who collect the song writing royalties of The Beatles!

A six

1.Al Jolson pop singer active between (1911-1950)
2.Al Jolson had one of his biggest hits with ‘You Made Me Love You’
3.This same song was later covered by Blues singer Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1958
4.Screaming’ Jay Hawkins is most remembered for his hit ‘I Put a Spell on You’
5.The same song was later covered by Nina Simone in 1965
6.Nina Simone covered ‘Here Comes the Sun’ written by The Beatles


2.Prince played guitar on Stevie Wonder's track "What The Fuss?"
3.Stevie Wonder had a hit with 'We Can Work it Out' written by The Beatles

oh dear...

1.Vanilla Ice
2.Career defining song with mildly annoying ‘Ice,Ice,Baby’
3.‘Ice,Ice,Baby’ sampled it’s hook from Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’
4.Queen’s line up included guitarist Brian May
5.Brian May covered the Larry Williams song ‘Slow Down’ on his ‘Another World’ album.
6.The very same song was covered in 1964 by……The Beatles

Some others...

1.Led Zeppelin
2.Led Zeppelin’s line up included Bass player John Paul Jones
3.John Paul Jones played bass on the song ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ by 60’s hippy singer/songwriter Donovan
4.Donovan contributed lyrics and background vocals on ‘Yellow Submarine’ by The Beatles


2.FREE’s line up included Guitarist Paul Kossoff
3.Paul Kossoff’s solo album ‘Back Street Crawler’ featured on Drums Alan White
4.Drummer Alan White went on to join Progressive Rock band YES
5.YES covered on their debut album the track ‘Every Little Thing’ written by The Beatles

Surely not?

1.MC Hammer
2.MC Hammer had his biggest hit with the track ‘You Can’t Touch This’
3.‘You Can’t Touch This’ used the song ‘Super Freak’ by Rick James (Biiiitch) as it’s main hook/sample
4.Rick James had a follow up hit with the track ‘Standing on the Top (part 1) featuring The Temptations
5.The Temptations covered ‘Hey Jude’ written by The Beatles

Bigger than Rod??

1.The Faces
2.The Faces line up included singer and front man Rod Stewart
3.After going solo on his album ‘Smiler’ Rod Stewart covers the Paul McCartney song ‘Mine For Me’
4.Paul McCartney was in The Beatles

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sharon Jones LIVE@Barbican

FEAT.Charles Bradley
The Dap-Ettes
London, Barbican

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings came to my attention from the publicity and press for Amy Winehouse's second album "Back To Black" in 2006 (yes it's been that long waiting for a follow up, but that's a different story altogether.) Producer Mark Ronson had used some of The Dap-Kings musicians to give the tracks an authentic soul and 60s vibe and brought them on board during the recording sessions. It was here where I first heard them and the seed was planted. A few google clicks later and I'm staring at their own web page and can see that not only do they produce and sell their own records, they have their own studio and label as well with their own roster of artists with the same vision and taste.

The first record I saw for sale was Sharon Jones '100 Days, 100 Nights' and from then I've been hooked. I hadn't managed to catch the group live so jumped at the chance to see them at the Barbican in London and give my own thoughts on them face to face.

Wednesday 6th July is the date and although my mind for such small details is as empty as a hermits address book I can honestly say I will remember this gig forever. It was almost like a passport back to another time, as if I'd walked from Barbican Tube Station and walked into the Harlem Square Club in 1963. This band has everything down perfectly, the introductions, the instrumentals and acts that send the audience to fever pitch. Another nice touch about the evening is the fact that instead of separating the support act and the headliner they simply promote and call the evening "The Daptones Soul Revue" feat. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, The Dap-Ettes and Charles Bradley (The Screaming Eagle of soul) who started the show at 100mph and didn’t slow down till the end complete with knee drops, James Brown screams and a water tight band that keep everything pure and full of old skool soul and funk throughout playing tracks from his debut album ‘No Time for Dreaming’

The Dap-Kings took the stage and after some instrumentals that could have come straight from ‘Superfly’ or ‘Across 100 Street’ the Dap-Ettes were introduced and each took a song that although are 100% original sound so well executed and arranged that it’s quite a feat that everyone in the crowd ‘knew’ them already, without knowing (cop that Mr Miaggi.) It would be a dis-service to simply call the band 'retro', I prefer to just see them as carrying on the great tradition of American music that came before them.

The sound itself is amazing, whether The Dap-Kings have their own 'on the road' sound engineers I don’t know but the whole show from start to the final encore was pure vintage and mixed to perfection. Usually at live shows of this nature every instrument and voice is spread across a million channels and panned in the newest 5.1 Dolby stereo fancy pants-ness where as tonight it seemed they were taking the technology back with them. Horns blended together around single microphones, you could actually see the drummer where as most of the time at gigs they are hidden behind racks of microphones and stands, even guitar amps were tiny. Most importantly, throughout the performance everyone left room musically for everyone else to play. Less is more seems to be a cliché but one that is the hallmark here.

Sharon Jones took the stage in a sequined gold dress straight from The Ike-Ettes wardrobe and made the thing shake throughout. For a woman of 55 she puts the young pretenders in the shade, she dances, she sings, she cracks jokes, tells stories, never pausing for breath. She has said in interviews that her biggest musical hero is James Brown and you can’t argue with that statement in any way. She is a force of nature in full flow.

The set features mostly from the new album ‘I Learned the Hard Way’ but picked also from the classic ‘100 Days, 100 Nights’ (the title track especially bringing one of the biggest cheers of the evening.) There were cover versions added throughout including a brand new Dap-Kings arrangement of Prince’s 80s tune ‘Take Me With You’ which when played against the original sounds like this came first and Prince’s was the cover (the band have just come off tour with Prince who joined them on guitar for a few songs only a couple of days earlier in Belgium). Other homage’s include snippets of Louis Armstrong to the final breaths and moans of James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ for the encore.

R&B means a whole different thing to what it used to. Images of handsome black guys with shaved heads singing about fine wine, silk sheets and songs that start with a time check i.e. “3 o’clock in the moooorning….shorty walks innnnn etc” have clogged up the airwaves and the racks in record shops leaving only a few spaces for the originals and the real deal R&B and Soul acts such as Ray Charles, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and Otis Redding. Sharon Jones and the whole Daptones label are kicking the doors off the hinges and taking the genre back to its roots. One day R&B will mean Rhythm and Blues once again. Beyonce, Leona Lewis, Rihanna,Alexandra Burke and anyone else you care to mention, you’re all being pushed in the shadows of the sell outs. AOR masked as R&B, you’re all being whipped by a woman your mother’s age and she’s dynamite….watch and learn.

'originally on the 405'

Many thanks to Sapphire Mason-Brown for the photography.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Dave Cloud & The Gospel Of Power

Practice In The Milky Way
Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power
released 1st August 2011
Fire Records

Ok let’s get straight to the point with Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power. The elephant in the room here is that although everyone must be thinking about but nobody is going to flat out say is “hmmm, doesn’t this sound a hell of a lot like early Captain Beefheart”. Various music writers in the press have tried to steer us away from these magic band comparisons by bringing up names such as Tom Waits and Neil Diamond strangely enough but let’s all hold our hands up and let the Trout Mask slip a little, this is Don Van Vliet territory by numbers and brings some wonderful results to the table in the process.

Practice In The Milky Way starts with a spoken word introduction “Have no fear because this is David Cloud delivering to you the story of Siberian hypnotism” before dropping straight into ‘On The Rebound’ a straight ahead boogie rocker that sees a tongue placed firmly in cheek with the refrain of “good loving can be found…on the rebound”.

Throughout this 20 track album (at least he gives you bang for your buck) you sometimes feel that you can see the wires holding everything up and it’s all no more than an elaborate put on by Cloud rather than some genuine eccentricity or free form artistic expression. Tired clichés are broken down and taken back to their most primal origins with tracks like ‘Sky High On My New Bimbo’ and ‘Bring On The Nubiles’ which would push most dyed in the wool blues purist wince at the apparent misogyny of it all (as if someone like Charlie Patton or Robert Johnson weren’t getting smashed on moonshine and whiskey and copping off with every piece of skirt they could find)

The only thing that bothers me about Dave Cloud as a performer and character on stage is the fact that it seems very apparent that this is exactly what it is, a character. Dave Cloud is an old style pantomime villain that appears at the start of the gig and is turned off when the last chord has been strummed. This is where the Don Van Vliet comparisons fall short, as Captain Beefheart was still Captain Beefheart when he woke up, made breakfast or brushed his teeth, it wasn’t a hat he had to wear or persona that needed to be invented to separate the man off stage to the man on stage. He simply was.

Although to be perfectly upfront and possibly sacrilegious to the ‘captain’s’ legacy there is a pile of tracks within this collection from Dave Cloud & the Gospel of Power that I myself would personally play more regularly than 90% of Captain Beefheart’s discography (although that 10% does include the 5 star Safe As Milk mind you). Truly Dave Cloud has found his niche and can string together a great garage rock track.

The album is executed well and chugs along with fuzz guitars, sharp sonic snares and bass lines holding everything together tightly enough for Clouds almost beat poetry and sometimes strangely heartfelt and quite sweet lyrics as heard on the doo wop almost Zappa-like ‘Nudist Camp’, although lets not lead you all up the wrong alleyway here, the Howlin’ Wolf turns of phrase and blues hollers aren’t far away to add some grease and dirt to the mix (as heard on the excellent ‘Razmatazz’)

I refuse to use any Marmite based analogies here as it seems to be the most standard and lazy thing to do recently (I’ve seen it in 5 reviews this month!) The simplest way I can think of describing Dave Cloud as a performer is by drawing your attention to another one. Mark E Smith from The Fall, to some he is a genius, a maverick, someone that doesn’t compromise his vision and will not change his viewpoint because of fashion, record company pressure or members of the band themselves leaving or adding their 2 cents. To others he’s a drunken tramp shouting slurred obscenities at the audience who aren’t laughing with him. There’s your choice, which side of the fence do you sit? Great googly moogly!

'originally on the 405'