Steve Young-To Satisfy You.

Label: Ace Records.

During his life and a musical career that lasted five decades, singer, songwriter and guitarist Steve Young always lived life on his own terms. Sadly, Steve Young like Gram Parsons, who played on his 1969 debut album Rock Salt and Nails, didn’t enjoy the recognition and critical acclaim that his music deserved. That was despite being a pioneer of country rock, Americana, alt country and the outlaw movement. Instead, Steve Young is better known as a songwriter, whose songs have been covered by the great and good of music.

During his career, Steve Young penned Lonesome, On’ry and Mean which was covered by Waylon Jennings, and Montgomery In The Rain which was recorded by Hank Williams, Jr. However, Steve Young’s best known song is Seven Bridges Road which was covered by The Eagles, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Iain Matthews and Rita Coolidge. The royalties that Steve Young received from these cover versions allowed him to live life on his own terms and make the music he wanted. This included his 1981 album To Satisfy You, which saw Steve Young move away from country music, towards a rockier sound. To Satisfy You which has just been reissued by Ace Records was Steve Young’s sixth album, and the latest chapter in the story of this musical maverick.

Steve Young was born in Newnan, Georgia on the ‘12th’ of July 1942, into a family of sharecroppers. His father who was a Native Indian, had been a sharecropper since the age of thirteen.  Life as a sharecropper was tough, and money was alway tight. To make matters worse, Steve Young’s father was  often getting into trouble, which resulted in the family having to pack up their belongings and move on. Eventually, the Young family settled in Gadsden, Alabama, and by then, Steve Young knew how he wanted to make a living.

Ever since he had been a young boy, Steve Young had listened to music, which made his life that bit more bearable. He could see the beauty in music, especially, Southern music, which Steve Young preferred listening to. However, from an early age, Steve Young wasn’t content to listen to music, and when people asked him what he wanted to do, he told them he wanted to be a singer, songwriter and musicians. To most people that was a pipe dream.

Things changed when Steve Young’s grandfather took him to  a swap meet, where he saw a warp necked Silvertone guitar. It was love at first sight, and Steve Young tried to talk his grandfather into getting him the guitar. However, the answer was no, and that day it was a disappointed Steve Young that returned home.

Still, he was determined to get a guitar of his own, and when he was fourteen, his mother relented and agreed to buy Steve Young his very first guitar. She bought him a Gibson ES 125 thin body electric guitar, which Steve Young knew  was enough to make his dreams come true, and follow in the footsteps of Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley at Sun Records.

By the time Steve had mastered his guitar, the folk boom had hit Birmingham, Alabama. Despite his love of Southern music, Steve started playing folk music and by his early twenties, was a regular face on Birmingham music scene. Soon, Steve Young was regarded as one of the rising stars of the Birmingham folk scene.

During gigs Steve Young played a mixture of his own songs and covers of some of his favourite Bob Dylan songs. Sometimes, he took to the mic and started voicing his support for the nascent civil rights movement. While this was admirable, this was dangerous in Birmingham, Alabama, which was Klan country.

Some folks around Birmingham, Alabama didn’t take kindly to folk singers talking about equality and civil rights. Especially, ones like Steve Young, who after gigs, headed out on the town and enjoyed carousing in clubs. Sometimes, this lead to trouble, but Steve Young didn’t seem to care. He was determined to live life on his own terms and this included voicing his support for the civil rights movement. Fortunately, Steve Young never came to any harm, and in 1963, left Birmingham, Alabama.

This came about not long after Steve Young met Richard Lockmiller and Jim Miller, who were both folk musicians. They had signed to Capitol Records as a folk duo Richard and Jim, and were heading to Los Angeles to record their debut album. Steve Young joined the pair on their road trip, and in LA, played on Richard and Jim’s 1963 debut album Folk Songs and Other Songs. 

Steve Young’s guitar playing on Folk Songs and Other Songs, and when Richard and Jim played live, brought him to the attention of other musicians and record buyers. One of the first musicians to discover Steve Young was Van Dyke Parks. 

From the first time  Van Dyke Parks saw Steve play live, he realised that he was a cut above most musicians. Here was a versatile and talented singer and guitarist who seamlessly could switch between disparate musical genres. His live act saw Steve Young playing folk, blues and even a hint of Celtic music and the audience were enthralled by his vocals and virtuoso performance on guitar. Despite this, Steve Young spent time busking on Sunset Strip. However, this was only temporary.

Soon, Steve Young was about to go up in the world when he joined the ranks of LA’s session musicians. He also became the lead guitarist for the Steve Battin’ Band. After shows, Steve Young partied with some of the biggest names in the LA scene, including Mama Cass, Tim Hardin and Van Dyke Parks. At these parties, Steve Young partied hard, drinking  and taking drugs in ever-increasing greater qualities. Still, though, Steve Young always turned up for sessions the next day and even formed a new band with two well known names.

The Gas Company included Van Dyke Parks and a young Stephen Stills, who played rhythm guitar. However, The Gas Company was just a stepping stone for Stephen Stills en route to greater things. Meanwhile, Steve Young’s life was professional and personal life was changing. 

He met and married Terry Newkirk, who with Roger Tillison performed as The Gypsy Trips. Now a married man, Steve Young decided to take a job as a postman to make ends meet. However, he hadn’t given up on his dream of making a living as a professional musician.

It was only a matter of time before Steve Young caught a break, and this happened when he was approached by Stone Country’s manager. They were looking for a guitarist, and Steve Young fitted the bill. He played on their debut album. Not long after this, Steve Young dream came true when he was signed by  A&M.

Rock, Salt and Nails.

This was the break he had been waiting for, and twenty-six year old Steve Young year old began work with producer Tommy LiPuma. Backed by a band that featured some top LA session players as well as Gram Parsons and Gene Clark, gradually, Rock, Salt and Nails started to take shape. Sadly, when Rock, Salt and Nails was released by A&M in 1969 the album passed an indifferent record buying public by. Record buyers had missed out on what’s now regarded as one of the hidden gems of the late-sixties, and the commercial failure of Rock, Salt and Nails was a huge blow for Steve Young.

After the commercial failure of Rock, Salt and Nails, Steve Young did a lot of soul-searching, and with a heavy heart announced that he was turning his back on music. This was something that he had never envisaged would happen. However, there was only so long anyone could struggle to make ends meet, with the hope that one day, he might make a breakthrough. Steve Young decided to make a fresh start and he and his wife left LA, and headed to San Francisco, where they settled in the Bay Area.

This was a new start for Steve Young, and was the first day of his life after music. However, by then, all that Steve Young knew was music, so he and Terry Newkirk setup a guitar shop in San Anselmo in 1970. It was the new start Steve Young had been looking for. That was until Andy Wickham of Reprise Records came calling.

Although Steve Young had turned his back on music, he was still under contract to A&M. Andy Wickham who had followed Steve Young’s career approached A&M to ask if they would be willing to release him from the contract. They agreed, and now all Andy Wickham had to do was persuade Steve  Young to sign on the dotted line. 

Given Steve Young was disillusioned with life as a professional musician, this was going to be easier said than done. Especially with the new guitar shop up and running. However, for Andy Wickham it was a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained. He approached Steve Young about signing to Reprise, and eventually, the singer, songwriter and guitarist agreed to make a comeback.

Having signed to Reprise, Steve Young was paired with Ry Cooder, who would produce his first single for the label. The song that was chosen was Bob Dylan’s Down In The Flood, which was retitled as Crash On the Levee. Producer Ry Cooder made a guest appearance on Crash On the Levee, which was released later in 1970 as Steve Young’s debut single for Reprise. Sadly, the single failed to chart, and Steve Young realised that history was repeating itself.

After the failure of Crash On the Levee,  a decision was made to pair Steve Young with a new producer. The Steve Young and Ry Cooder partnership was over after just one single. Replacing Ry Cooder as producer was Nashville based Paul Tannen, which to many industry insiders seemed a strange decision. 

Nashville in 1970 was, and to some extent, still is, a conservative town and Steve Young with his liberal politics,  wasn’t going to be well received when he travelled there to record his sophomore album. Sadly, that proved to be the case.

Seven Bridges Road,

Steve Young journeyed to Nashville, to meet his new producer and record his sophomore album. By then, he was aware that Paul Tannen had penned twenty songs  and had around forty production credits to his name. This experience Steve Young hoped would be put to good use when he recorded his sophomore album. However, Steve was in for a surprise.

When Steve met Paul Tannen, he quickly came to the conclusion that his new producer was more of interested in music publishing than songwriting. This didn’t bode well for the future. However, Nashville had some of the best session musicians in America, and Steve Young hoped that some of them would join him in the studio.

Before recording got underway, Steve Young was joined by Paul Tannen and some top session players. When they ran through the songs, some of the musicians took umbrage to the lyrics. To make matters worse, Steve Young’s liberal politics and outlook on life didn’t go down well with some members of the band. 

As the session got underway, it soon became apparent that the band weren’t all on the same page. Some of the musicians couldn’t understand how to play the songs as this wasn’t the type of music they were used to playing. By then, the choice of Paul Tannen as producer wasn’t looking like the right one and later, Steve Young claimed that he ended up producing what became Seven Bridges Road himself. However, it wasn’t an easy album to record.

For parts of the session, there was an undercurrent and a degree of  tension. Partly, this was because the band were unsure how to play their parts, but also because the musicians and Steve Young were polar opposites. Steve Young was a sixties child with liberal politics and views, while the band were older, and much more conservative views. With his long hair, and liberal views, some of the band most likely saw Steve Young as a hippy from California.  He saw some of the band as rednecks, and the type of people that up until then, he had spent his life avoiding. It was a case of never the two shall meet. However, in Nashville session musicians were professionals, and the album was eventually recorded and Steve Young then hotfooted it home to San Francisco.

When Steve Young arrived home, he brought with him the tapes to what would eventually become the album Seven Bridges Road. A few days later, Steve Young took the tapes to Andy Wickham at Reprise and he listened to the twelve songs. As everyone in the room listened to the album, they realised that despite the difficulties Steve Young had experienced recording Seven Bridges Road, it was a very special album of country music.

While everyone at Reprise Records realised that they had heard a very special album, they had no idea how to market the album. Seven Bridges Road was very different from the country music that was being released at that time. Reprise Records were faced with the same problems as A&M when realising Steve Young’s debut album, what to do with it? The problem was, that Seven Bridges Road was way ahead of its  time.

Steve Young was a musical visionary who was the architect of a new Southern country sound, which was a forerunner of the outlaw sound, which Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson later went on to pioneer. Sadly, very few record buyers would know of the part Steve Young played in musical history.

On its release in 1972, Seven Bridges Road failed to find an audience, and before long the album couldn’t be found record shop shelves. Steve Young watched his dream destroyed for the second time, and for the second time, turned his back on music. 

He and Terry Newkirk sold their guitar shop and bought some land in Nashville, where they built a log cabin and raised their son Jubal. The couple went on what Steve later called: “your basic vegetarian-mystical trip. This lasted for a while, until Steve Young started drinking heavily. That was when Terry Newkirk packed her bags and left. Quickly, Steve Young’s life was unravelling, until Jim Terr entered the picture.

Jim Terr owned Blue Canyon Records, and thought that Seven Bridges Road was the best record ever committed to vinyl. When Steve told him the album wasn’t even in circulation, the pair started hatching a plan. 

Seven Bridges Road 1975.

The first part of the plan was to get Steve Young playing live again. Initially, Steve Young started playing around Albuquerque and then rerecorded The White Trash Song with The Last Mile Ramblers. After that,  Jim Terr discussed with Steve Young buying the master to Seven Bridges Road from Warners, with a view to reissuing the album. Jim Terr hit Warners with a lowball offer, and they accepted. 

Before reissuing Seven Bridges Road, two changes to the track-listing were made, with the newly rerecorded version of The White Trash Song replacing the Nashville version. A cover of Merle Haggard’s I Can’t Hold Myself In Line replaced One Car Funeral Procession. With a new track listing Seven Bridges Road, was ready to be reissued.

Although Blue Canyon Records was a small company, and didn’t have a distribution network like Warners, the reissue of Seven Bridges Road in 1975 was relatively successful. The reissue of Seven Bridges Road outsold the original, and introduced Steve Young and his music to a new audience. Despite the relative success of Blue Canyon Records’ reissue of Seven Bridges Road, sadly, Steve Young remained one of music’s best kept secrets.

Honky-Tonk Man.

Later in 1975, Steve Young returned with his third album Honky-Tonk Man, which was released on Mountain Railroad Records. It showed a  different side to Steve Young, who was showcasing a much more traditional country sound on Honky-Tonk Man. Sadly, despite its quality, again, Honky-Tonk Man failed to find the wider audience it deserved, and still commercial success eluded Steve Young.

Renegade Picker.

Despite commercial success eluding thirty-four year old singer, songwriter and musician, RCA Victor who had an enviable roster of country artists, decided to take a chance on Steve Young. This was the break Steve Young had been waiting for.

He entered the studio with some top session musicians and producer Roy Dea in early 1976 and recorded Renegade Picker, which was a mixture of cover versions and Steve Young compositions including Lonesome, On’ry and Mean which later, gave Waylon Jennings a hit single. However, Renegade Picker also saw Steve Young’s music change, as he pioneered the outlaw sound. This marked a new chapter in Steve Young’s career.

When Renegade Picker was released in June 1976, it was to critical acclaim and Steve Young watched the album reach forty-eight in the US Country charts. While Renegade Picker had charted, this innovative album didn’t enjoy the success that it deserved. 

No Place To Fall.

While the commercial failure of Renegade Picker disappointed Steve Young, by early 1978 his songs were being covered by some of the biggest names in music. Writing songs was proving more profitable than recording albums for Steve Young. 

He  had written three new songs he had written Renegade Picker, including Montgomery In The Rain, which later was later recorded Hank Williams, Jr. It made its debut on No Place To Fall, which was another album of cover version and Steve Young compositions that was produced by Roy Dea.

When No Place To Fall was released in September 1978, it featured more of an outlaw sound than Renegade Picker. While the album was well received by critics, No Place To Fall passed record buyers by. They missed out on an album that featured the Steve Young compositions Montgomery In The Rain, Seven Bridges Road, Dreamer and Always Loving You, plus covers of Drift Away, Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right and JJ Cale’s I Got The Same Old Blues. These songs are part of one of Steve Young’s most underrated albums, and his swan-song for RCA Victor.

With no improvement in his record sales, RCA Victor and Steve Young parted company after two vastly underrated albums. By then, thirty-six year old Steve Young’s music was enjoyed by a small coterie of discerning record buyers, and he remained one of music’s best kept secrets.

After parting company with RCA Victor, Steve Young’s life spiralled out of control, and he seemed hellbent on destruction, nearly drinking himself to death. Eventually, he entered a clinic for homeless alcoholics in Nashville, and it was during his stay in the clinic, that Steve Young realised that his lifestyle had come close to destroying him. He made the decision to embrace his Native Indian heritage and became a Buddhist. His new holistic approach to life worked, and Steve Young started to rebuild his life, and although it took time, it eventually paid off.

Seven Bridges Road III.

In 1981, Steve Young returned after a three-year absence with not one, but two new albums. This included a remixed version of Seven Bridges Road, which featured a different track-listing. There’s a remixed version Seven Bridges Road plus new songs like Down in the Flood, Ballad of William Sycamore, My Oklahoma, Wild Goose and Days Of 49 on what was the third version of Seven Bridges Road.

The reissue of Seven Bridges Road was released by Rounder Records in early 1981, and sold reasonably well. It seemed that a new generation of record buyers were keen to discover Steve Young’s finest album which by 1981 was regarded as a cult classic. However, the original version of Seven Bridges Road released in 1972, and the 1975 version were both out of print. Rounder Records’ newly remixed version of Seven Bridges Road introduced a new generation to Steve Young, and in the process, helped transform his fortunes.

To Satisfy You.

After the success of Seven Bridges Road, Rounder Records offered Steve Young a recording contract. This came just a few months after The Eagles had covered Steve Young’s Seven Bridges Road on Eagles Live which was released on November the ‘7th’ 1980. Steve Young wanted as Eagles Live was certified gold in Canada and Britain, and after selling seven million copies in America, was certified platinum seven times over. This guaranteed Steve Young the biggest windfall of his three decade career, but still he wanted to record his sixth album To Satisfy You.

This time around, Steve Young only contributed one song to his sixth album, The River And The Swan. The remainder of the album was cover versions including Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly and Norman Petty’s Think It Over, Waylon Jennings’ To Satisfy You, Walter Vinson’s Top If The World, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ No Expectations and David Olney’s The Contender. They were joined by the traditional song Corinna Corinna, Jesse Winchester’s All Your Stories, Cat Stevens’ Wild World and William T. Davidson’s They Call It Love. These songs were recorded by Steve Young with a small, tight band.

During the sessions which were produced by Jerry Shook, Mac Gayden and Steve Young, three different version of the rhythm sections were used. This included drummers Buster Phillips, Mark Edwards and Tony Newman, who were joined by bassists Dave Pomeroy, Mike Leech and Paul Uhrig, plus rhythm guitarists Jerry Shook and Mac Gayden who also laid down some of the lead guitar parts. However, some of the other lead guitar parts were recorded by Dale Sellers, while Steve Young played acoustic guitar and added vocals on a very different album from its predecessors.

For much of To Satisfy You, Steve Young eschews his trademark country sound for a much rockier, and sometimes bluesy sound. Especially on Buddy Holly’s Forecast which chugs along from the get-go, rocking and rolling, bobbing and weaving before Steve Young delivers a lived-in bluesy vocal. It’s followed by To Satisfy You where Steve Young unleashes a vocal powerhouse as slide guitars play their part in this reinvention of this Waylon Jennings song which becomes an anthem-in-waiting. The oft-covered Top Of The World is also reinvented taking on a bluesy sound, before Steve Young revisits the outlaw sound on a heart-wrenching cover No Expectations. Closing the first side of To Satisfy You was David Olney’s The Contender, which becomes a six-minute epic that references everyone from The Band to The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis.

The traditional song Corinna Corinna takes on a laid-back country sound, with Steve Young’s vocal sometimes hinting at Bob Dylan as he revisits the outlaw sound he pioneered. On the ballad All Your Stories weeping guitars accompany Steve Young as he delivers a soul-baring vocal.  Very different is the anthemic Wild World which is delivered a in a Bruce Springsteen style, and is one of the album’s highlights. Steve Young then delivers a vocal full of despair, hurt and heartbreak on the oft-covered ballad They Call It Love. Closing To Satisfy You is the only song on the album penned by Steve Young, The River And The Swan. It’s an epic ballad full of metaphors that ebbs and flows over the course of six magical minutes, as Steve Young tells the story of a love affair and closes the album on a high with this beautiful paean. Steve Young had definitely saved the best until last on To Satisfy You.

After three years away, Steve Young had returned with the most eclectic album of his three decade career, To Satisfy You. It featured blues, country and rock on album which featured anthems and beautiful ballads and should’ve introduced his music to a much wider audience. However, the only problem was that Rounder Records were unsure how to market the album. Steve Young had been here before when he released his debut album Rock, Salt and Nails in 1969, and Seven Bridges Road in 1972. Nine years later, and history was repeating itself, which was another disappointment.

Despite Rounder Records being unsure how to market To Satisfy You won over critics, who hailed the album one of Steve Young’s best albums. Sadly, when To Satisfy You was released by Rounder Records that album never came close to troubling the US Country charts and within a matter of months had disappeared without trace. It was as if this vastly underrated hidden gem of an album had never existed.

Another five years passed before Steve Young returned with a much more experimental album,  while Look Homeward Angel in 1986 which showcased a much more contemporary sound. Sadly, that was the last album Steve Young released during the eighties. 

He returned in 1990 with Long Time Rider, with Switchblades Of Love following three years later in 1993. Still, interest in Steve Young’s music and his cult classic Seven Bridges Road continued to grow. Despite that, Steve didn’t release another album until Primal Young in 1999. By then, Steve Young was sixty but Primal Young was hailed as his best album in recent years. Sadly, after that albums continued to be sporadic.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Steve released Songlines Revisited Volume One, where he revisited many of his best known songs including The White Trash Song, Montgomery In The Rain, Rock Salt and Nails and of course Seven Bridges Road which were all rerecorded. Steve Young sold the album at his gigs when he played live. Two years later in 2007, Steve Young released the live album Stories Round The Horseshoe Bend, which sadly, was also his swan-song.

Although Steve Young continued to play until 2010, he never released another album. That was despite having around a 100 songs that he had yet to record. Sadly they never saw the light of day, because on the ‘17th’ March 2016, Steve Young passed away aged just seventy-three. That day, music lost one of its most talented sons.

While Steve Young’s greatest album is undoubtably the cult classic Seven Bridges Road which was released in 1972, it’s just one of the many albums that this truly talented singer, songwriter and musician released over five decades. This also includes his 1969 debut album Rock, Salt and Nails, 1976s Renegade Picker and 1981s To Satisfy You which was recently released by Ace Records. 

Sadly, when To Satisfy You was released in 1981 Rounder Records were unsure how to market such an eclectic album, and despite being released to critical acclaim, the album disappeared without trace. Since then, interest in Steve Young’s music has continued to grow, and like his old friend Gram Parson, Steve Young’s music has a cult following. Sadly, many of his album are almost impossible to find, and have been out of print for many years. That is the case with Steve Young’s oft-overlooked hidden gem To Satisfy You, which slipped under the radar in 1981, and nowadays, is one of hidden gems in his back-catalogue. To Satisfy You is the perfect introduction to a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician, Steve Young, whose solo career spanned five decades and saw him pioneer the country rock, Americana, alt country and the outlaw movements.

Steve Young-To Satisfy You.



Miles Davis and John Coltrane-The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6.

Label: Sony Music.

After Miles Davis released his seminal album Kind Of Blue on August the ’17th’ 1959, the sextet embarked upon a lengthy tour, which allowed jazz fans to witness one of the legendary bands at the peak of their powers. Sadly, nothing lasts forever, and within a year all wasn’t well within Miles Davis’ band. 

Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane who had played an important role in the sound and success of Kind Of Blue, had released his fifth and Atlantic Records’ debut Giant Steps on January the ’27th’ 1960. It was a game-changer for John Coltrane, who had written all the tracks on Giant Steps which was his breakthrough album as bandleader. With John Coltrane’s star was in the ascendancy after releasing his first classic album, he was reluctant to continue in his role as sideman to Miles Davis. Deep down, John  Coltrane knew that the time had come to leave Miles Davis’ band and concentrate on leading his own band?

Even Miles Davis realised that it wouldn’t be long before John Coltrane left the sextet to form his own band. However, jazz impresario Norman Granz had a booked Miles Davies to play a three-week European tour, with sold out shows in Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen which are featured on  The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 which was recently released by Sony Music and where Miles Davis and John Coltrane receive equal billing. However, back in 1960, Miles Davis band was receiving star billing.

This was the first tour that Miles Davis would play with his own band, and he wanted and needed John Coltrane in his quintet. A reluctant John Coltrane agreed, and travelled with Miles Davis’ band to Europe in the spring of 1960. By then, Miles Davis and John Coltrane were two giants of jazz, albeit with very different styles. Proof of that were their most recent classic albums. 

Kind Of Blue which was recorded by Miles Davis’ sextet in the spring of 1959, and nowadays is regarded as the  greatest modal jazz album ever recorded. The music is much more restrained, subtle and melodically innovative. Its architect Miles Davis later called Kind Of Blue: “a return to melody.” This was very different to the album that was released six months later.

This was John Coltrane’s first classic album Giant Steps, which features his exemplary melodic phrasing which later, became known as “sheets of sound,” and also his third-related chord movements that nowadays are known as “Coltrane changes.” Giant Steps which was a genre-defying opus, and just two months after its release, a reluctant John Coltrane travelled to Europe with Miles Davis’ band.

Joining Miles Davis on his European tour that took place in March 1969, was a rhythm section of drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers and pianist Wynton Kelly, who had all played on Kind Of Blue. However, Wynton Kelly who at the time was the pianist in Miles Davis band, only featured on one track with Bill Evans returning and playing on four of the five tracks. However, neither  Bill Evans nor Julian Cannonball Adderley made the trip to Europe. Instead, Miles Davis lead a septet.

Having arrived in Europe, Miles Davis’ European tour was due to begin in Paris, France on the ‘21st’ of March, and would last three weeks, ending on the ‘10th’ of April 1960. Given the success of Kind Of Blue, it was no surprise that many of the concerts on the European tour had already sold out when the band arrived in Europe. However, concerts in Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen were being recorded and would be broadcast on the national radio stations, and this had the potential to introduce Miles Davis’ music to a huge audience. Straight away, though, there was a problem.

From the moment that the band arrived in Europe, there was tension between Miles Davis and John Coltrane, who had reluctantly agreed to make the trip. By then, he knew he had outgrown his role as Miles Davis’ sideman and was ready to lead his own band. The tension between the two men can even be heard on Miles Davis and John Coltrane-The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6.

Five concerts are featured on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6, including the first two concerts on the tour, which took place at the Olympia, in Paris on the ‘21st’ of March 1960. After that, Miles Davis and his band travelled to Stockholm, Sweden, and played two concerts at the Konserthuset on the ‘22nd’ of March 1960. The fifth concert was in at the Tivolis Koncertsal, Copenhagen, in Denmark, on the ‘24th’ of March 1960. During these five concerts where are documented on the four discs on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6, there’s an air of tension between Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Meanwhile, Miles Davis was at a musical crossroads by the time he took to the stage at the Olympia, in Paris on the ‘21st’ of March 1960 and received rapturous reception. He wanted to continue to further explore the modal jazz of Kind Of Blue, but knew that this wouldn’t please everyone. Many who would come to see him during his European tour wanted to hear tracks from his 1957 hard bop classic ‘Round About Midnight. Miles Davis knew was going to be all things to all men and women over the next three weeks. 

Disc One.

After the applause died down, Miles Davis’ trumpet takes centre-stage on the ballad All Of You from ‘Round About Midnight, which gives way to the modal jazz of So What. Soon, John Coltrane is straining at the leash, as if no longer willing to play second fiddle to Miles Davies. He plays with speed, freedom, fluidity and an inventiveness during this thirteen minute epic. Closing the first Paris concert is On Green Dolphin Street where the tension between the two giants of jazz continues to simmer, and in a way, brings the best out in the men. The band receives a standing ovation from an audience blissfully unaware of the tension between Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

The second Paris concert opens with the hard bop of Walkin’ which was the title-track to the 1957 album by the Miles Davis All Stars. Sometimes, John Coltrane over-blows, which was something many free jazz musicians were doing by 1960. This was something John Coltrane embraced as music evolved and he embraced a much freer sound.

Disc Two.

After opening the second Paris concert with Walkin’, Miles Davis revisits Bye Bye Blackbird, and initially stays true to the original. Soon, John Coltrane starts to stretch his legs and plays with fluidity, freedom, power and invention adding flamboyant flourishes as this standard is stretched to fourteen majestic minutes. Miles Davis’ trumpet takes centre-stage on ‘Round Midnight, where a truce seems to have been declared as the two titans of jazz compliment each other on what was one of the highlights of the two Paris concerts. The truce continues on the hard bop of Oleo which featured on Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet in 1958, where both men play with a fluidity. However, it’s John Coltrane that steals the show, before the baton passes to Miles Davis on The Theme from his 1958 album Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet. Although it lasts less than a minute, it’s a tantalising taste of a jazz legend at the peak of his powers.

The remainder of disc two features the concert was at the Tivolis Koncertsal, Copenhagen, in Denmark, on the ‘24th’ of March 1960. After Norman Granz introduces the band, they launch into a set that was similar to the one they played in Paris three nights earlier. It opens with So What where John Coltrane quickly takes centre-stage and plays a starring role. Occasionally he over-blows and produces a dissonant, primal sound that provides a contrast to Miles Davis’ more restrained style. Still, though, there’s a degree of tension which disappears On Dolphin Street, as the band raise their game becoming one. Then on All Blues from Miles Davis’ from Kind Of Blue, is at his innovative best John Coltrane constantly overblowing his saxophone, which veers between dissonant and melodic as he embraces the freer style of playing. Later, pianist Wynton Kelly delivers a flawless solo, and plays his part in the successful modal reinvention of All Blues which becomes a sixteen minute opus. After that, The Theme closes the show and once again, Miles Davis and his band receive a standing ovation.

Disc Three.

After playing Paris, Miles Davis and his band had travelled to Stockholm, Sweden, where they played two concerts at the Konserthuset on the ‘22nd’ of March 1960. Again, Norman Granz introduces the band, before they once again open the show with So What and play at double time during what’s a breathtaking performance. The tempo drops on Fran Dance where Wynton Kelly’s piano proves the perfect foil and later, replacement for Miles Davis’ trumpet. It takes centre-stage as Walkin’ unfolds, before  John Coltrane mostly eschews his free jazz stylings while piano leaves space for the horns to play a starring role. This they do during what’s arguably the best version of Walkin’. After that, the familiar strains of The Theme close the show.

Disc Four.

Most of disc four features the second show at the Konserthuset in Stockholm, Sweden, on the ‘22nd’ of March 1960, the band launch into a spellbinding and sprawling version of So What, where John Coltrane and Wynton Kelly play starring roles, as they deliver breathtaking solos. Flourishes of Wynton Kelly’s piano open On Green Dolphin Street, before each and every member of the band showcase their skills as the arrangement ebbs and flows as it reveals its secrets, subtleties and surprises. However, it’s the horns, and especially John Coltrane’s tenor saxophone, and later the piano that play leading roles and are reminder of a band at the peak of their powers. It’s a similar case All Blues, where the piano sets the scene for Miles Davis and then John Coltrane who plays as if his very life depended on it. He plays with speed, fluidity and control, and also power and passion, and even when he over-blows the music is still melodic. Later the baton passes to Wynton Kelly and Miles Davis who both play their part in this modal jazz opus. After that, The Theme closes the show, and Miles Davis and his band take a bow for the fourth time.

Following the second Stockholm concert is a six-minute interview with John Coltrane that took place during the Spring 1960 Jazz At The Philharmonic Tour. However, the interview is a strange inclusion, and seems out-of-place on this landmark live album.

Not long after tour ended on the ‘10th’ of April 1960, John Coltrane parted company with Miles Davis and founded his first great quartet. As a parting gift, Miles Davis gave John Coltrane the soprano saxophone that he would use when he later embraced spiritual jazz. That was all in the future.

The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 which was recently released by Sony Music documents what was the end of an era for Miles Davis and John Coltrane. He had been a member of Miles Davis’ band for several years, but after John Coltrane recorded his classic album Giant Steps, he realised that he had outgrown his employer. By then, the two musicians were moving in different directions musically, with Miles Davis continuing to explore modal jazz while John Coltrane embraced free jazz. This is apparent on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 where John Coltrane’s free jazz stylings can be heard throughout the five concerts. 

Elsewhere on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 Miles Davis and his band switch between modal jazz and the hard bop he pioneered a few years earlier on albums like Kind Of Blue and ‘Round About Midnight. However, that was the past for Miles Davis, although he played tracks from both albums as he knew that was what many members of the audience wanted to hear. Sometimes, he stayed true to the original, other times they were reinvented and taken in a new direction by a truly talented band. Ironically, the 1960 spring European tour was the first tour that Miles Davis would play with his own band. Sadly, when he returned to Europe later in 1960 there was no sign of John Coltrane, who had made the move from sideman to bandleader. However, the four discs on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 feature a tantalising taste of this remarkable band at the peak of their powers, despite the tension between Miles Davis and John Coltrane which sometimes, seemed to drive the septet to even greater heights.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane-The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6.


Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip.

Label: Riding Easy Records.

In 2013, Easy Rider Records was formed in the small, sleepy town of Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles, and over the next year the nascent label released thirty-one releases on a variety of different formats. These releases proved popular, and by December 2014, everything was going well for this young, up-and-coming label until they opened their mail a week before Christmas 2014. That was when the owners of Easy Rider Records discovered that they had been served with a cease and desist letter from lawyers acting on behalf of Easyriders Magazine. This was a huge blow, and ruined the festive season for the staff of Easy Rider Records who wondered what the future held for the label?

Gold who were formed in San Francisco’s Mission district in 1969, open Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip with No Parking, which was the title-track to their debut album. It was released later in 1969, but wasn’t a commercial success, and nowadays, original copies of No Parking are almost impossible to find. Fortunately, No Parking was rereleased in 1996, and a new audience discovered the album. One of the highlights of the album is the title-track No Parking, which is a dark, dramatic and vampish hard rocking proto-metal track. There’s even a nod to The Who as Gold combine elements of music and theatre during a track that features blistering guitar licks that are played at breakneck speed.

By 1968 Canadian rockers Heat Exchange had been locked away in the studio recording tracks for their debut album for the best part of a year. As a result, Heat Exchange hadn’t played live for over a year, and were needing to raise their profile before releasing their debut album which was going to be called Reminiscence. Heat Exchange decided to choose the most commercial sounding song, which they would release as a single. Eventually, they settled on Can You Tell Me which they hoped would prove popular on FM radio and give the band a hit single. While the song attracted an audience in several Canadian cities, it wasn’t a hit single and Reminiscence wasn’t released until 2017. Maybe things would’ve been different if Heat Exchange had they chosen the B-Side Inferno which is one of the band’s finest hours, and sounds as if it’s been influenced by Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience?

Just like Heat Exchange, Travis only released the one single Livin’ In The USA on the Starshine Productions label in 1970. Ironically, the B-Side Lovin’ You was the stronger of the two tracks and is a melodic and memorable slice of anthemic rock that showcases this talented band from Ohio. Sadly, the original Travis never got the opportunity to fulfilled their potential unlike the “other” Travis.

The opening notes of Enoch Smoky’s It’s Cruel sound not unlike The Clash’s London Calling. That is the only similarity between the two bands. Enoch Smoky who were formed in Iowa City in the late sixties were a hard rocking psychedelic rock band, who only released the one single It’s Cruel on their own Pumpkin Seed Records. Sadly, there was no followup to It’s Cruel which is just the latest hidden gem that has been unearthed by the compilers of the Brown Acid series.

The Backwood Memory story began in Kansas City when Curtis Franklin, Gary Silvey, Joe Clyne and Pete Trecazzi decided to form a band together. On September the ’29th’ 1970  Backwood Memory released their debut single Give Me Time on their own label Memory. It features a vocal powerhouse from Curtis Franklin as classic rock and psych collide head on to create a truly irresistible single that is a welcome addition to Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip.

Many people on hearing Flight’s hard rocking single Fighting The Flight will think that it was recorded and released in the early seventies which was a golden period for rock music. They would wrong, as Fighting The Flight was actually released during the decade that taste forget, the eighties. Fighting The Flight was released on Nebula label in 1986, and was  the only singles that Flight released, and is proof that good rock music never goes out of fashion.

Truth and Janey were formed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1969, and three years later in 1972 released their debut single Midnight Horseman which featured a cover of the Rolling Stones’ Under My Thumb on the flip-side. Midnight Horseman was penned by Billy Janey and produced by Phil Richardson and Rick Hamilton and showcases a talented hard rocking band who went on to release a triumvirate of albums.

Another hard rocking band was West Minist’r who released a trio of singles between 1969 and 1975. Their sophomore single was Mr. Fingers which featured the Kirk Kaufman composition My Life on the B-Side. It was released in 1972 and is three minutes of memorable hard rocking music that deserved to fare better than a B—Side.

Purgatory was formed in Dayton, Ohio, in 1970 and the five piece heavy rock band were heavily influenced by The Doors, Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf. That is apparent on their one and only single Polar Expedition, which Purgatory self-released in May 1970. Nearly forty-eight years later and this hard rocking, bluesy, hidden gem makes a welcome return on Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip, and a new generation of music fans can discover this talented and little-known band. 

Four years after Johnny Barnes released his debut single Angel Of Inspiration in 1976, he returned in 1980 with his debut album The Johnny Barnes Story. It was released on Johnny Barnes’ own Nightcrawler label and featured the hook-laden and irresistible hard rocking Steel Rail Blues.

Closing Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip is Zendik’s 1970 single Is There No Peace, which was released on their own Pslhrtz label, and was produced by Bob Ambos and Mike Lima. They play their part in a slice of hard rocking and defiant psych that closes the compilation on a high.

Very few compilation series release six volumes, and those that get that far, are often starting to run out of quality music. That certainly isn’t the case with the Brown Acid series, which is going from strength-to-strength as the compilers continue to unearth long-lost and oft-overlooked heavy psych, proto-metal and stoner rock singles and album tracks from the sixties, seventies and eighties. Many of these singles and albums were released in small quantities as private presses, or by small regional labels. Often, these labels nether had budget nor expertise to promote their releases, and they failed to find the wider audience that they deserved. 

In some cases, it’s only much later when crate diggers, record dealers and specialist DJs unearth these singles and albums that they start to find an audience. That was the case with bands like Gold whose debut album No Parking was reissued in 1996, while Heat Exchange’s debut album was belatedly released in 2017. Since then, both albums have been discovered by a new and wider audience. Hopefully, that will be the case with the little-known and vastly underrated singles, B-Sides and albums tracks that feature on Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip, which is crammed full of hidden gems and is one of the best instalments in Riding Easy Records’ Brown Acid series. 

Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip.


Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls.

Label: Ace Records.

As 1959 dawned, Detroit based songwriter, producer and musical impresario Berry Gordy Jr had already discovered The Miracles and started to build a successful portfolio of recording artists. There was only one problem, what would Berry Gordy Jr do with these talented artists and groups? It was Smokey Robinson the leader of The Miracles that came up with the answer, when he suggested that Berry Gordy Jr found his own record label.

This made sense to Berry Gordy Jr, who borrowed $800 from his family to form his own R&B label.Originally, Berry Gordy Jr planned to call his new label Tammy Records, after a song that had been recorded and released by Debbie Reynolds. However, there was only one problem, someone had beaten Berry Gordy Jr to the punch, and he had to think of a new name for his nascent label. Eventually, Tamla Records was incorporated on January the ‘12th’ 1959, in Detroit, Michigan.

Nine days later, Tamla Records began trading on January the ‘21st’ 1959, and not long after that, Marv Johnson’s single Come to Me was the label’s first release. Tamla Records second release was another single by Marv Johnson, You Got What It Takes, which was released later in 1959 and reached number two in the US R&B charts. This was a huge boost to Tamla Records.

Already Berry Gordy Jr was making plans to expand and had formed the Rayber label which released Wade Jones’ single Insane. However, the ballad failed commercially and is nowadays, one of the rarest singles released by one of Berry Gordy Jr’s labels.

Later in 1959, Berry Gordy Jr’s next label, Motown Records released The Miracles’ single Bad Girl, which was released nationally by Chess Records. Little did Berry Gordy Jr realise that his new label Motown Records would become one of the most successful and iconic soul labels. 

In the spring of 1960 Berry Gordy Jr decided to merge his two small labels, and on  April the ’14th’ 1960 Tamla Records and Motown Records were merged into one label new company, Motown Record Corporation. Six months later, The Miracles released their single Shop Around nationally on the ‘15th’ of October 1960, which topped the US R&B charts late in the year, and reached number two in the US Billboard 100 in early 1961. By then, Shop Around had become Tamla Records’ first million-selling hit single. 

After the success of Shop Around, Berry Gordy Jr started looking for new signings for his labels, and discovered the then unknown Mary Wells, who would go on to enjoy hits with the Smokey Robinson compositions You Beat Me To The Punch and My Guy. Mary Wells became one of many successful female singers and girl groups who blossomed at Motown Records. They’re celebrated on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls, which was recently released by Ace Records.

Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls features twenty-four tracks, and is the long-awaited followup to Love and Affection-More Motown Girls which was released in late-2015. It was an album of rarities, and so is Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls. Fourteen of the songs on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls have never been released before. The other ten tracks were first made available as Motown Unreleased downloads between 2014 and 2017. However, these tracks have never been released on CD, and make their debut on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls.

The best way to describe Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls is a carefully curated compilation of mostly uptempo tracks that were recorded between 1961 and 1969, and features some of Motown’s leading ladies. This includes Mary Wells, Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Marvelettes, Brenda Holloway, Martha and The Vandellas, Rita Wright and Kim Weston. They’re joined by some of the lesser known names that recorded for Motown Records, including Liz Lands, LaBrenda Ben, Thelma Brown, Little Lisa and Yvonne Fair. They all play a part in the Motown Records’ story, which is celebrated on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls.

Not all of the artists on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls wanted to sign to Berry Gordy Jr’s label. Gladys Knight was reluctant to sign to Motown, fearing the group would end up as part of its musical “production line.” Ironically, The Pips who were just backing singers outvoted Gladys Knight and she signed on the dotted line in 1965.

On the ‘19th’ of April 1966 Gladys Knight and The Pips recorded their first song for Motown Records, In My Heart I Know It’s Right, which opens  Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls. It’s a melodic horn driven stomper that was produced by Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua, who bring out the best in Gladys Knight as she brings the lyrics to this irresistible stomping dancer to life. Just over a year later, on the ‘11th’ of May 1967, Gladys Knight and The Pips recorded Is This Why (I Gave My Love To You) in Los Angeles with producer Dennis Lussier who penned the song with Debbie Dean. Gladys Knight delivers a hurt filled vocal on this mid tempo hidden gem that never saw the light of day until 2017.

Prolific is the best word to describe the three years Brenda Holloway spent at Motown Records. She recorded 150 songs, albeit some were demos, and many others have never been release. This includes the original mix of Brenda Holloway’s Without Love You Lose A Good Feelin’ which was recorded during May and June of 1966 and produced by William Weatherspoon. He plays his part in a hook-laden dancer that maybe was the one that got away for Brenda Holloway? Her other contribution is Baby I’ve Got It which was recorded on the ‘22nd’ of June 1966 and goes from 0-60 within a few seconds, and is sure to find favour within the Northern Soul scene.

Ashford and Simpson penned and produced It’s Been A Long Time Happenin’ which was the recorded by the Motown house band The Funk Brothers on the ‘29th’ of September 1967. All that remained was for Tammi Terrell to record her vocal. Sadly, on October the ’14th 1967, she collapsed onstage and when she returned home to Virginia was diagnosed with a brain tumour. This was a devastating blow for Tammi Terrell and everyone at Motown Records. With Tammi Terrell unable to record It’s Been A Long Time Happenin’ which was reassigned to Rita Wright. She laid down a heartfelt but urgent vocal on the ‘16th’ of February 1968 which sometimes sounds similar to Diana Ross. However, Rita Wright’s version of It’s Been A Long Time Happenin’ was never released and fifty years later, is heard for the first time on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls.

Between 1963 and 1964 Liz Lands recorded over a 100 songs for Motown Records, including a cover of Frank Wilson’s It’s Crazy Baby. It was produced by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon, and was completed on the ‘25th’ of October 1964. Despite a radio friendly  commercial sound, It’s Crazy Baby was never released and is another song that makes its debut Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls.

Ann Bogan was discovered by singer, songwriter and producer Harvey Fuqua singing in a Detroit church, and signed her along with two friends who became Challengers III. They released three singles on the Tri-Phi label, and Ann Bogan also duetted with Harvey Fuqua on the What Can You Do. However, when Harvey Fuqua joined Motown, so did Ann Bogan. She recorded several songs including There Are Things which was written by Gwen Gordy and Harvey Fuqua who took charge of production. Sadly, There Are Things was never released and Ann Bogan’s vocal powerhouse has lain unreleased since it was recorded on the ‘4th’ of April 1963. Maybe it’s the one that got away for Ann Bogan who was obviously a talented singer?

Martha and The Vandellas also feature twice on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls. Their first contribution is I’m Willing To Pay The Price which was penned and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland on the 3rd’ of April 1963. It’s melodic and catchy with horns replacing the trademark stomping beat on a track that should’ve been released as a single. Very different is Martha and The Vandellas’ other contribution Mr Misery (Let Me Be). This ballad was recorded in 1962 and was produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland. They deploy percussion during the arrangement that sashays along, as Martha and The Vandellas showcase their vocal prowess.

Berry Gordy wrote and produced When Someone’s Good To You for Oma Page. It was recorded on the ‘7th’ of July 1964 with Oma Page delivering a tender, heartfelt vocal while handclaps, harmonies and horns accompany her. However, one can only wonder what the song would’ve sound like with out the handclaps that are omnipresent?

Robert Hamilton wrote and produce I Up And Think Of You for Kim Weston, which they recorded in 1963. It features a sensual and soulful vocal from one of Motown Records’ most talented female vocalists, who sadly, didn’t enjoy the success her talent deserved. 

Mary Wells was the first female vocalist to sign for Motown Records, and enjoyed a string of hit singles. However, very little is known about the Berry Gordy penned She Don’t Love You. Neither the date of recoding, nor where it was recorded is known. All that is known is that it was recorded outside Hitsville USA. That was where the slick arrangement with dancing strings and harmonies that accompany Mary Wells on this long-lost hidden gem.

A jazz-tinged piano opens The Marvelettes’ Playboy which is another track where details of the recording are unknown. Just the piano accompanies The Marvelettes who showcase their vocal prowess against an understated arrangement. It’s a similar case on The Marvelettes’ other contribution Sweet Talkin’ Guy, which was recorded during two days in early June 1966. By then, The Chiffons version of Sweet Talkin’ Guy was still in the charts when The Marvelettes recorded this memorable and melodic cover.

Strings sweep and swirl as Barbara McNair’s You’ve Got Possibilities unfolds. It was produced by producer Frank Wilson with Barbara McNair adding a sassy vocal on the ‘24th’ of May 1966. When combined with The Funk Brothers’ backing track the result is one of the highlights of Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls, and song that is unlike much of the music coming out of Hitsville USA at that time.

Closing Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls is So Long which was recorded in Chicago by Kim Weston on the ‘15th’ of January 1964 and finds producer William Stevenson reinventing her as a torch singer. It’s a powerful and poignant song, and very different to the type of music Kim Weston was recording in 1964.

For soul fans or even anyone with even a passing interest in Motown Records, then Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls which was recently released by Ace Records is sure to be of interest to them. It features fourteen previously unreleased songs and ten tracks that were first made available as Motown Unreleased as downloads between 2014 and 2017. However, these tracks have never been released on CD, and make their debut on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls.

It features some of the most successful female singers and girls groups who were signed to Motown Records between 1961 and 1969 when the twenty-four tracks on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls were released. There’s also contributions from artists who didn’t enjoy the same success, and only play a small or walk on part in the Motown story. However, many of these artists had plenty of talent, but didn’t get the break that could’ve transformed their career. 

Now over fifty years later, and many of these artists can be heard on Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls, which is the long-awaited followup to Love and Affection-More Motown Girls which was released in late-2015. Two-and-half years later and Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls is the latest instalment in Ace Records occasional series and is full of hidden gems from familiar faces and new names which for far too long, have languished in the vaults of Berry Gordy Jr’s iconic soul label.

Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls.


Juan Pablo Diaz-Fase Dos.

Label: Self-Released.

It’s safe to say that the last few years have been something of a roller coaster for Puerto Rican based salsa singer and songwriter Juan Pablo Diaz. The roller coaster ride began when he was offered a recording contract, that he had worked so hard towards. It was dangled in front of him like a carrot, only to be snatched away at the last-minute. This was a devastating blow, and one that many singers might not have recovered from. 

Fortunately, Juan Pablo Diaz was made of stronger stuff, and in 2013 he returned with his debut album Diaz. When Las calles de mi ciudad was chosen as the lead single, it reached number two on the various radio station charts in Puerto Rico. This was a huge boost to Juan Pablo Diaz’s confidence. 

Things got even better in late 2013, when Diaz featured on the National Popular Culture Foundation of Puerto Rico’s list of the twenty best albums released during 2013. This went some way towards making up for the recording contract that never was.

Despite enjoying a successful single and album, many within Puerto Rico still thought of Juan Pablo Diaz as an actor, which was what he started off as. Especially, comedy which was his speciality and lead to him enjoying a parallel career as a comedian. However, eventually, he followed in the footsteps of his father who was a musician.

Both of Juan Pablo Diaz’s parents were involved in show business, with his father working as a musician and as a television host, while his mother was a dancer. Whenever she had some free time, she would head to the salsa club to dance. However, despite his mother’s love of salsa and his father working as a musician, Juan Pablo Diaz ended up working as an actor.

Juan Pablo Diaz never ever, thought that one day he would become a salsa singer and songwriter. “I was into classic rock and funk and soul when I started writing songs in my early teens. I was into salsa but more as a fan, not as a performer.” Instead, he idolised Lenny Kravitz, and dreamt of becoming the Puerto Rican of the American rocker.

Things didn’t work out that way, and initially, Juan Pablo Diaz’s interest was the theatre. He was one of the founders of the top Puerto Rican comedy theatre group, Teatro Breve. Looking back, Juan Pablo Diaz realises that his work in the theatre helped hone his stagecraft. “Comedy helps me project myself, to connect with the public…My music has a really serious message, but comedy is a really useful tool in crafting a convincing performance to get that message across.”

It was a theatre production that featured salsa that ended up transforming Juan Pablo Diaz’s career. This resulted in him reinventing himself as a singer, although he’s been known to make the occasional guest appearance with Teatro Breve. Mostly, though Juan Pablo Diaz concentrates on his musical career nowadays.

Back when Juan Pablo Diaz decided to embark upon a musical career, little did he know that this was the start of a lengthy musical apprenticeship. During that period, he honed his skills as a salsa singer, and after weeks, months and years became a popular draw in Puerto Rica’s clubs. Eventually, Juan Pablo Diaz was offered a recording contract, which sadly, fell through at the last-minute. Despite this huge blow, the singer-songwriter continued his career and was determined that one day he would release his debut album. 

Juan Pablo Diaz even kept the unfinished painting that was meant to adorn the cover of the album that never was. It would motivate him, and drive him on, as he worked towards releasing his debut album.


Eventually, six years after starting out as a singer, Juan Pablo Diaz had completed his debut album Diaz, which was released in 2013. Diaz was released to critical acclaim in his native Puerto Rica, after winning over the local critics. Back then, Juan Pablo Diaz knew that salsa albums by up-and-coming artists never sold well. “Salsa by young people is in a really tough spot. The genre is not as popular as it was and those who follow the genre are my age and older. I like to say that salsa is the only genre that competes with its own past, with the golden age of the 60s and early 80s Fania. That’s always going to be the reference point. Fans aren’t always that adventurous and would rather listen to what they know. But it’s not impossible to earn fans’ trust.”

That proved to the case, as Diaz found an audience amongst fans of Puerto Rican salsa fans. Juan Pablo Diaz watched as his debut album climbed the Puerto Rican charts, before topping the charts.  Against all the odds, Juan Pablo Diaz who was still a relatively unknown name had triumphed with his debut album Diaz. 

Fase Dos.

In some ways, that to some extent was the easy part, and now Juan Pablo Diaz had to do it all again. Eventually, he began work on his sophomore album which would later become Fase Dos. Juan Pablo Diaz wrote eight new songs which were augmented by five cover versions on Fase Dos. These thirteen songs were part of an album that Juan Pablo Diaz wanted Fase Dos to capture the Puerto Rican experience, which he hoped would resonate with the wider world. “I’m trying to interpret what I can make out of this world, especially out of my country… I have a message that has local roots but appeals to a universal point of view, to the greed, frustrations, the madness that we’re living in. Puerto Rico has been a tough spot for a long time, way before Maria. That’s a very local point of view but it’s also very relatable.”

Eventually, the recording of Fase Dos was complete, and Juan Pablo Diaz hoped that we would have an album that would resonate with people far from his native Puerto Rico. Now his thoughts turned to the album cover, and he decided to use the unfinished painting that should’ve adorned his debut album before the deal fell through. It’s a something that Juan Pablo Diaz will never forget: “The week after everything fell apart, the artist I had asked to create a cover showed me his work and said, ‘This is where I am right now.’ I had an epiphany, that that unfinished work is a symbol of what I’m doing. The philosophy on the album: Your work is never finished. You’re never done and retired. There’s some dark beauty in that honest truth.”

Featuring the poignant, unfinished painting Fase Dos was self-released by Juan Pablo Diaz in Puerto Rico during the second half of 2016. Just like his debut album Diaz, his sophomore album Fase Dos was released to critical acclaim in Puerto Rico. That was no surprise given the quality of Fase Dos which is a carefully crafted album that showcases a truly talented singer and songwriter. It’s also an album where strings and horns feature in many of the arrangements.

This includes the irresistible album opener Canten where harmonies, horns, percussion and dancing strings accompany Juan Pablo Diaz on this joyous sounding track. The tempo drops on De Las Mala Compañías, but the horns, harmonies and percussion return as Juan Pablo Diaz delivers an impassioned vocal, before El Poderoso Caballero is full of social comment. Aquí o allá finds Juan Pablo Diaz breathing meaning and emotion into the lyrics about migration, against the carefully crafted arrangement. It’s a similar case on A tu lado where strings and horns accompany this rueful sounding old-school bolero. There’s also a melancholy sound to the cinematic strings on Preludio, before the tempo rises on País Gris which deals with Puerto Rico’s struggling economy. He then turns his attention to the ballads No Fue Suficiente and De Efectos Y Causas, which seem to bring out the best in him. After this, Juan Pablo Diaz heads for the dance-floor on Un Vez Yo Te Quisí, before he gives Argentine rocker Gustavo Cerati’s Puente a salsa makeover. Closing Fase Dos is Requiem Para Lita, a beautiful string-drenched song about love lost.

Three years after releasing his debut album Diaz, Juan Pablo Diaz had returned with his critically sophomore album Fase Dos and his career seemed to be going from strength-to-strength. Especially when he received his first Latin Grammy nomination in 2017 for Fase Dos. Sadly, Juan Pablo Diaz wasn’t aware of this at the time.

At the tome, Puerto Rico had been devastated by hurricanes, and  left islanders without electricity. It was only several weeks after the shortlist for the Latin Grammy nominations were announced that Juan Pablo Diaz realised he had been nominated. This was a proud day for him, but one that was tinged with sadness when he  saw the extent of the damage caused by the hurricanes.

His sophomore album Fase Dos spoke for his generation who still live in Puerto Rico. It’s also a reminder of the unfinished business that his generation has, and Juan Pablo Diaz became their spokesman as he talks with honesty and passion on Fase Dos of the poverty, greed and migration that has affected Puerto Rico. Many have left their homeland, and in some cases, abandoned it entirely having built a new life far from where their journey started. This is just one of the things that frustrates Juan Pablo Diaz and deals with on Aquí o allá. “Many people who stay don’t do anything for the country, and a lot who leave are trying to contribute to the country from afar. We’ve discussed that a lot over the past decade. This is a manifesto of sorts, that says you have to work for Puerto Rico wherever you are. It’s one of the more optimistic songs on the album.”

Nearly two years after Juan Pablo Diaz released Fase Dos in his native Puerto Rico, he’s hoping that the album will find a much wider audience outside of the island nation he still calls home. With its mixture of joyous uptempo tracks and beautiful ballads, Fase Dos is the finest album of Juan Pablo Diaz’s career. It’s also a very personal album, and one that is full of social comment as Juan Pablo Diaz contemplates the future for Puerto Rico. This is still his home and a place that he believes in and holds dearly. This is apparent from the music on his carefully crafted and career-defining sophomore album Fase Dos, which Puerto Rico’s new Prince of Salsa, Juan Pablo Diaz hopes will introduce his music to the wider audience it so richly deserves, and also remind them of his homeland.

Juan Pablo Diaz-Fase Dos.


Skydive Trio-Sun Sparkle.

Label: Hubro Music

Release Date: ‘27th’ April 2018.

Three years after the Scandinavian supergroup Skydive Trio released their critically acclaimed debut album Sun Moee, this multitalented and versatile power trio return with their much-anticipated and eagerly awaited sophomore Sun Sparkle, which will be released by Hubro Music on the  ‘27th’ April 2018. Sun Sparkle showcases the different sides to Skydive Trio, who unlike many bands don’t have a “trademark sound,” and instead, they seamlessly switch between and sometimes combine disparate musical genres on Sun Sparkle. As a result, each track on Sun Sparkle is very different stylistically, and also in terms of mood tempo and texture. This is no surprise given the three members of  the Skydive Trio’s reputation for making ambitious and innovative music.

That has been the case throughout the long and illustrious careers of the members of the Skydive Trio who, for many years have among the leading lights of Scandinavian music scene. It features the combined talents of Finnish drummer Olavi Louhivuori and Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen and guitarist Thomas T. Dahl, who have all enjoyed successful careers as bandleaders, co-leaders and sidemen.

Mats Eilertsen

The most experienced member of the Skydive Trio is bassist Mats Eilertsen was born in 1975, in Trondheim, Norway. That was where Mats Eilertsen first discovered music, and specially jazz music which soon, became his passion. However, Mats Eilertsen wasn’t content to just to listen to music, and was soon learning to play the bass, which eventually  resulted in him enrolling on the prestigious Jazz Program at the Trondheim Musikkonservatorium. 

That was where he met future Skydive Trio guitarist Thomas T. Dahl in 1995, when the both joined a new band the Dingobats. Over the next couple of years, Mats Eilertsen juggled his studies and played with the Dingobats. However, after graduating from the Trondheim Musikkonservatorium, Mats Eilertsen embarked upon a career as a professional musician. 

In 1997, Mats Eilertsen made his debut as a sideman when he played on Jacob Young’s sophomore album Pieces Of Time. This was the first of over 130 credits that Mats Eilertsen has amassed over the next three decades. During that time, he’s worked alongside Sverre GjørvadTord Gustavsen, the Hakon Kornstad Trio and Solveig Slettahjell’s Slow Motion Orchestra. Mats Eilertsen has also worked with many international stars including Joshua Redman, Pat Metheny and Kenny Wheeler. However, this is only part of the story.

Forty-three year old Mats Eilertsen is a veteran of many bands including the Alexi Tuomarila Trio, Groups Of Friends, Helge Iberg’s Jazz-Kammer, the Mark Solborg Trio, Nils Økland Band, Nymark Collective, Tord Gustavsen Quartet and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Mats Eilertsen was a member of Dingobats and the hugely influential band Food, and played on their first five albums between 1999 and 2007. By then, Mats Eilertsen had embarked upon a solo career which he was juggling with his other projects and work as a sideman.

Mats Eilertsen had released his debut album Turanga in 2004, with Flux following in 2006 and Short Stories in 2007. This was followed in 2009, with the critically acclaimed Radio Yonder on Hubro Music. Over the next seven years, Mats Eilertsen was busy with other projects, collaborations and working as a sideman, so his fifth album Rubicon wasn’t released until the summer of 2016. It was well worth the wait, and was a reminder of one Norwegian music’s most talented sons, who in 2017 played an important role in the sound and success of the Nils Økland’s critically acclaimed album Lysning.

Thomas T. Dahl.

Another of Norwegian music’s most talented sons is guitarist Thomas T. Dahl who was born in 1973, and enrolled on the Jazz Programme at the University of Trondheim in 1993. The same year, Thomas mad his musical breakthrough, with Krøyt.

Two years later, Thomas T. Dahl joined another band, Dingobats which featured future Skydive Trio bassist Mats Eilertsen. Now a member of two bands, Thomas T. Dahl had to juggle his studies and his musical commitments.

In 1998, Thomas T. Dahl had just graduated from the University of Trondheim, and Krøyt’s debut album, The New Dingobats Generation was well received by critics. However, when Krøyt returned in 2000 with their sophomore album Low. Not only was Low released to critical acclaim, but won a Spellemannprisen, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. 

This wasn’t the end of the celebrations. In 2000, Thomas T. Dahl won the Edvardprisen Prize for his composition Silent. It seemed that Thomas could do no wrong. However, he wasn’t for resting on his laurels.

Meanwhile, Thomas T. Dahl continued to play various bands over the next few years, including  Dingobats, Bergen Big Band and BMX. H also found time to produce HighasaKites, the Eivind Austad Trio, Knut Kristiansen and Bergen Big Band. However, nowadays, much of Thomas T. Dahl’s time is spent working in education,  and specially the Greig Academy in Bergen, where he’s an associate professor in music.

Olavi Louhivuori. 

Drummer and percussionist Olavi Louhivuori is the youngest member of Skydive Trio, and was born into a musical family in Jyväskylä, in Central-Finland, in 1981. So it was no surprise when Olavi Louhivuori decided to study drums and composition at the prestigious Sibelius Academy. 

This was an important part of Olavi’s musical education, which he put into practise with the Joon Toivanen Trio, the Ilmilekki Quartet and the Sun Trio. Each of these bands won the accolade Young Nordic Jazz Group, and since then, Olavi Louhivuori’s career has flourished.

Olavi Louhivuori has toured and recorded with the legendary Polish trumpet player Tomasz Stanko, and has also played with Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Susanne Abbuehl and Kenny Wheeler. That is not all. There also Olavi Louhivuori’s recording career to consider.

He’s released solo albums, collaborations and released albums with a variety of different bands. This included the Finnish experimental Jazz ensemble Oddarrang who have released a quartet of albums between 2006 and 2016. Their debut album Music Illustrated won the Emma Prize in 2007, which is the Finish equivalent of a Grammy Award. 

Since then, Olavi Louhivuori has been a member of the Ilmiliekki Quartet, Joona Toivanen Trio, Sun Trio and Tomasz Stańko Quintet and has also found time to lead the Olavi Trio who have released two albums 2011s Triologia and 2015s Oh, La Vie! By 2015, the thirty-four year old drummer was one of the leading lights of the Scandinavian music scene and had joined Scandinavian supergroup. Skydive Trio.

That is the case on Launch, a dramatic, driving slice of post rock where the rhythm section are responsible for a repetitive motif provides a backdrop to the searing, scorching and shimmering guitar that soars above the arrangement. They set the standard high on Sun Sparkle, as Skydive Trio make a welcome return

Straight away, there’s an element of drama to Convoy, despite Skydive Trio playing within themselves and eschewing power. Instead, cymbals shimmer and rinse while the bass is plucked and the guitar glisten and glimmer. By then, it sounds as if Skydive Trio are paying homage to Pink Floyd, before the rhythm section create a hypnotic and dramatic backdrop while the guitar weaves in and out adding layers of beautiful, pensive, poignant and filmic music. Although the guitar takes centre-stage, and plays a leading role, it can’t exist without the rhythm section during this carefully crafted cinematic soundscape which is full of beauty and drama, but also has a poignant ruminative sound.

Again, the drums on Apollo add degree of drama as the tempo rises, but don’t overpower the rest of Skydive Trio. Instead, the rhythm section become one, and add a dark, dramatic backdrop. This is very different to the glistening, shimmering guitar that takes centre-stage as  guitarist Thomas T. Dahl casts his spell. Later, he fires off brisk, urgent licks as the guitar is played with speed, fluidity and accuracy unleashing searing, blistering rocky licks. By then, the trio is playing as one, before washes of lysergic guitar and provide a contrast to the dramatic rhythm section. Together, they continue to create a widescreen, filmic sound that producers of Nordic noir should embrace.

Just Thomas T. Dahl’s wistful guitar glistens is played slowly on Engine Rest. Soon, it’s joined by Mats Eilertsen’s standup bass which played deliberately, and provides the perfect counterpart to the guitar. Effects are used as it shimmers and glistens and with the bass creates a beautiful, understated and melancholy track where Skydive Trio once again prove that sometimes less is more.

Again, it’s just a chiming guitar that opens Descending before the bass enters and soon is joined by cymbals and drums. The rhythm section again eschew power, playing within themselves and in a straight line. Soon, Skydive Trio take a diversion it’s all change. There’s a more thoughtful, and slightly darker sound as a fleet fingered guitar solo is part of this multilayered and rocky arrangement where Skydive Trio open the throttle and enjoy the opportunity to play with speed, freedom and fluidity. In doing so, they showcase their skill and versatility whilst showing another side to their music. 

Slow, spacious describes Surface Stride as the guitar shimmers and reverberates as the rhythm section play slowly and deliberately. They literally creep across the arrangement, as short drum rolls, hissing hi-hats and a deliberate bass leave room for the guitar. Effects are added to runs and solos as washes of glistening and shimmering guitar are sprayed across the arrangement. This is effective and adds to this dramatic, atmospheric and cinematic soundscape. It’s sure to send the listener’s imagination racing.

As Spruce unfolds, Thomas T. Dahl’s subtle, chirping and spacious guitar takes centre-stage as it adds the chordal refrain, while  Mats Eilertsen uses a bow to play the melody on his double bass and Olavi Louhivuori’s drums mark time. Together, they play their part in what’s the most beautiful tracks on Sun Sparkle, and what’s probably the finest moment of Skydive Trio’s career.

Very different is Ascending where Thomas T. Dahl’s guitar distorts  and he tames the tiger. Meanwhile, the drums are louder as they combine with the electric bass which has a heavier sound on this genre-melting track. Elements of heavy rock, psych, improv and folk combine as Skydive Trio lock into a groove and create a fist pumping anthem-in-waiting.

Skydive Trio then drop the tempo on Sun Sparkle where Thomas T. Dahl gives one of his finest performances. His playing is retrained as his guitar chirps and chimes as he crafts his finest hour on Sun Sparkle. Beauty is omnipresent on this meditative track where Thomas T. Dahl’s playing is restrained as he channels the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and draws inspiration from Carlos Santana, John Martyn and Bill Frisell. Meanwhile the rest of Skydive Trio play their part in the sound and success of the track, by playing within themselves and eschewing power during a breathtakingly beautiful six-minute epic.

Wish I Was Who? (Camera Off) closes Sun Sparkle and finds Mats Eilertsen switch to standup bass as drummer Olavi Louhivuori gives an another restrained performance as the arrangement shuffles along and Thomas T. Dahl’s guitar shimmers and twangs. In doing so, it plays its part in ruminative and melancholy sounding track that has partly been inspired by folk music, and is also beautiful and memorable.

After a three-year wait, Skydive Trio will return on the ‘27th’ April 2018 with Sun Sparkle, which will be released by Hubro Music. Sun Sparkle is Skydive Trio’s much-anticipated and eagerly awaited sophomore album, and the followup to their critically acclaimed debut album Sun Moee which was released in 2015. Now Skydive Trio make a triumphant return with Sun Sparkle.

The multitalented and versatile power trio Skydive Trio showcase the different sides to their music on Sun Sparkle. Unlike many bands, Skydive Trio, don’t have a “trademark sound,” and instead, they seamlessly switch between and sometimes combine disparate musical genres including avant-garde, folk, improv, Nordic Wave, post rock, psychedelia and rock on Sun Sparkle. As a result, each track on Sun Sparkle is very different stylistically, and also in terms of mood tempo and texture.

Many of the tracks on Sun Sparkle are best described as multilayered, and this is a result of overdubbing. Sometimes, layers of guitars and percussion were added to the ten tracks recorded by Skydive Trio. Sometimes, what was recording during the overdubbing sessions was very subtle and will only reveal itself after several listens. This is all part of Skydive Trio’s latest musical tapestry, which is veers between anthemic, atmospheric and beautiful to dramatic, melancholy, poignant and ruminative. 

Much of the music on Sun Sparkle has a widescreen cinematic sound that sounds. It’s as if Skydive Trio were recording the soundtrack to the latest Nordic Noir blockbuster, when they recorded Sun Sparkle, which is guaranteed to set the listener’s imagination racing. However, Skydive Trio’s cinematic opus Sun Sparkle is also full of beauty and drama, and is the fitting followup to Sun Moee, as this talented and innovative Scandinavian triumvirate make a welcome and triumphant return.

Skydive Trio-Sun Sparkle.


Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette-After The Fall.

Label: ECM Records.

Imagine that one day, you’re struck down by a mystery illness, and go from being healthy to constantly exhausted, with your head, muscles and joints constantly aching. All you want to do is sleep, sleep and sleep some more. Even then, you don’t feel refreshed and getting through daily life is impossible. So much so,  that you’re a shadow of your former self. To make matters worse, the doctors have absolutely no idea what is wrong with you.  

They draw blood, send you for a brain scan and lumbar puncture, and check for every imaginable illness, including some that you’ve never heard of heard of. Still the so-called medical professionals have no idea what is wrong with you. Meanwhile, you’re living a nightmare and no longer able to make a living, and watch as your life falls apart. 

Eventually, after being passed from pillar to post, eventually, a doctor realises exactly what is wrong with you, and diagnoses that you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This was disease that very nearly destroyed the career of one of the greatest jazz pianists of his generation Keith Jarrett in the late-nineties.

It was around 1996 that fifty-one year old Keith Jarrett became ill, and was diagnosed by doctors as having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This was a huge blow for Keith Jarrett who was enjoying a successful career, and was one of the greatest and most versatile jazz musicians of his generation. 

Keith Jarrett’s career began in the mid-sixties when he was hired by Art Blakey to play in The Jazz Messengers, and made his recording debut on their 1966 hard bop album Buttercorn Lady. However, Keith Jarrett wasn’t a Messenger for long, and soon, joined Charles Lloyd’s band.

Joining forces with Charles Lloyd who was signed to Atlantic Records was good experience for Keith Jarrett who was a prodigious talent. He played on Charles Lloyd’s 1967 albumForest Flower, and Love-In, Journey Within and En Concierto which were all released by The Charles Lloyd Quartet the same years. All this was good experience for Keith Jarrett who had just been signed by Atlantic Records.

On May the ‘4th’ 1967 Keith Jarrett made his way to Atlantic Recording Studios, in New York, where just four days before he turned twenty-two, he recorded his debut album, Life Between The Exit Signs. It was a trio recording that featured Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. Life Between The Exit Signs an album of post bop was released to critical acclaim on the ‘1st’ of April 1968 and launched Keith Jarrett’s career.

Despite having released his debut album, Keith Jarrett continued to work with Charles Lloyd right up until 1970. Then he joined Miles Davis band, and featured on 1970s Miles Davis At Fillmore and 1971s Live Evil. These were two very different albums with Miles Davis At Fillmore being a much more experimental album where the band veered between and combined elements of free jazz, fusion and experimental music. By comparison, Live Evil was a fusion album, which featured an all-star band. Keith Jarrett who had already shown he was a prodigious talent, belonged in such illustrious company, and by the end of 1971, had already released nine albums as leader or co-leader.

Twenty-five years later, and Keith Jarrett had been a truly prolific recording artist and a highly respected bandleader who was known for recording albums of ambitious and innovative jazz. He had already released fifty-seven albums as leader or co-leader by 1996. Many of these albums were released to widespread critical acclaim and showcase a versatile pianist who was comfortable playing everything from free jazz and fusion to classical music and variety of other sub-genre of jazz. It was a similar case when Keith Jarrett worked as sideman, and had played over 125 albums. Sadly, when Keith Jarrett was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome he had no idea when he would back in a recording studio or on the tour bus that sometimes seemed like a second home.

Little did Keith Jarrett know that it would take the best part of two years before he was able to return to the concert hall. During that period, he suffered from what’s a truly debilitating illness that ravaged his body and left him weak and frustrated. He had no idea how long Chronic Fatigue Syndrome would last, and neither did the doctors. Some people had it for two, three five, ten or more years and watched as their life was destroyed never to be the same. 

Fortunately, after nearly two years Keith Jarrett’s body gradually started to heal and with each passing day, he became stronger and more like he had before Chronic Fatigue Syndrome turned his life upside down. Eventually, his thoughts started to making a comeback in 1998.

The Melody At Night, With You.

This was a really low-key comeback which began in December 1997, when Keith Jarrett wanted to test his Hamburg Steinway piano which had just been overhauled, and when he woke up and was having a: “half-decent day, I would turn on the tape recorder and play for a few minutes. I was too fatigued to do more.” The tape that Keith Jarrett made he gave to his then wife  Rose Anne as a Christmas present. Little did either of them realise at the time that this was the start of Keith Jarrett’s comeback and the followup to Multitude Of Angels which was recorded just before he became ill. 

When Keith Jarrett eventually entered his Cavelight Studio, which is next to his New Jersey home in 1998, he still hadn’t made a complete recovery, but was ready to make some tentative steps. By then,  Keith Jarrett decided that he wouldn’t work with a band, and instead, The Melody At Night, With You would be a solo recording. 

During the session, he played seven standards, including I Loves You Porgy, I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good, Don’t Ever Leave Me and Someone To Watch Over Me. These standards were joined by two traditional songs My Wild Irish Rose and Shenandoah, which were arranged by Keith Jarrett. He also composed Meditation which was part of the two-part suite Blame It On My Youth/Meditation. These tracks were produced by Keith Jarrett and Manfred Eicher, the founder of ECM Records which had been home to the pianist for much of his career. 

When The Melody At Night, With You was complete, Manfred Eicher scheduled the release for October the ’14th’ 1999. Critics welcomed back Keith Jarrett and The Melody At Night, With You was released to plaudits and praise. By then, Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette had already record the live album After The Fall.

After The Fall.

To record the live album that completed his comeback, Keith Jarrett decided that he would use his standards trio which featured double bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. They were like the three musical musketeers, who had worked together on many occasions during their long and illustrious careers. The three musicians had an almost telepathic understanding and formed an enviable partnership. Despite that, there was an added edge to recording his comeback concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre, on November the ‘14th’ 1998, as Keith Jarrett every note and chord he played would be pored over, as critics and the jazz cognoscenti wondered whether he still had what it took to play at the highest level?

Keith Jarrett was sure he had, but he like anyone who had suffered from the illness knew that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was a debilitating illness that saps not just energy, but can affect concentration. Fortunately, Keith Jarrett’s trio planned to play tracks that they knew intimately. This included Allie Wrubel and Herb Magidson’s The Masquerade Is Over, Charles Parker’s Scrapple From The Apple, Dedette Lee Hill and Willard Robison’s Old Folks, Jacques Prevert, John Mercer and Joseph Kosma’s Autumn Leaves. They would be joined by Bud Powell and Walter Fuller’s Bouncin’ With Bud, Sonny Rollins’ Doxy, Noel Coward’s I’ll See You Again, Paul Desmond’s Late Lament, Pete La Roca’s One For Majid, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice and Edward Heyman and Victor Young’s When I Fall In Love. However, despite having played the songs countless times, the trio honed them in readiness for Keith Jarrett’s long-awaited and much-anticipated comeback.

Fortunately, the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre was a well equipped venue and there was a DAT player that was used to record Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette’s performance. The trio had a setlist that featured twelve tracks, which would last 100 minutes. Many of Keith Jarrett’s friends, fellow musicians and doctors who were aware of his health problem weren’t sure that the comeback concert was such a good idea, and were scared that it would hamper his recovery. Especially when they heard that Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette were planning to play a bebop set.

Disc One.

Keith Jarrett opens the set with the post-bop of The Masquerade Is Over, where he plays slowly as his fingers caress the keys, before Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette enter and start to open the throttle. However, it’s a slightly restrained but almost flawless performance as the trio play within themselves during a sixteen minute epic before the audience welcome the return of Keith Jarrett. There’s no stopping him as he opens Scrapple From The Apple plays with freedom and fluidity, the rest of the trio matching him every step of the way. By the time he gets to Old Folks he’s riding the crest of a wave, feeding off the audience who will him on. Autumn Leaves is one of the tracks where Keith Jarrett gives a more restrained performance as he stretches this standard to thirteen minute mark and just beyond. Still his fingers dance across the keyboard, and like his rhythm section, gives an impressive and performance. However, in the case of Keith Jarrett, it’s hard to believe he’s been unable to play for the best part of two years after such a breathtaking performance as he reaches the halfway point on After The Fall.

Disc Two.

Keith Jarrett then plays a starring role as he gives a fleet-fingered performance on the lively Bouncin’ With Bud, which gives way to Doxy  where Gary Peacock’s walking bass is yin to the piano’s yang. The tempo drops on a beautiful wistful interpretations of I’ll See You Again and Late Lament. However, it’s all change on One For Majid as the tempo rises and Keith Jarrett’s fingers fly across the keyboard, while Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette add some flamboyant flourishes, before the trio get into the festive season early with a rendition of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. It’s followed by John Coltrane’s Moments Notice where Keith Jarrett fingers scamper across the keyboard as the trio become one on this bebop favourite. They then close the set with a melancholy version of When I Fall In Love where beauty is omnipresent, and Keith Jarrett gives one of his finest performance as he completes his comeback.

After Keith Jarrett’s comeback concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre, many of his fans and critics thought that ECM Records would released the performance in 1999. However, that wasn’t the case, and the DAT lay unreleased in Keith Jarrett’s vaults for nearly twenty years. Eventually, Manfred Eicher’s ECM Records agreed to release Keith Jarrett’s comeback concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre, on November the ‘14th’ 1998. 

The recording was entitled After The Fall was recently released by ECM Records, and is a captivating and compelling live album where comeback King Keith Jarrett and his fellow musical musketeers Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette revisit everything from songs from the Great American Songbook to bebop and tracks by ‘Trane and Bird. During what must have been exhausting performance for someone recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Keith Jarrett’s concentration never wavers as regardless of whether he’s playing bebop or wistful ballads during what was a cathartic concert. As a relieved Keith Jarrett left the stage on November the ‘14th’ 1998 and reflected on his performance, he knew that was capable of reaching the same heights that he previously had.

While Keith Jarrett may have lost two years of his career to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, he managed to rebuild his career starting with the concert that became After The Fall, and over the next twenty years, became one of the greatest and most versatile pianists not just of his generation, but in the history of jazz. Keith Jarrett belongs alongside the legendary jazz pianists including Thelonius Monk, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Bud Powell, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. That is despite losing two years of his career to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and having to rebuild his career starting with his captivating album of bebop and wistful ballads, After The Fall, which features the comeback of Keith Jarrett, with a little help from his friends Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. 

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette-After The Fall.


Fra Lippo Lippi-Rarum 80-95.

Label: Rune Grammofon.

It is safe to say that when the name Fra Lippo Lippi comes up in conversation, it means different things to different people. Some people automatically think of the ‘15th’ Century Italian Renaissance painter, who inspired Robert Browning to write his what was one of his most sophisticated and dramatic monologues which discusses the purpose of art, the responsibility of the artist, the limits of subjectivity, the inadequacy of moral shapes and strictures. Fra Lippo Lippi is also regarded as a triumph of dramatic voice, which has inspired and influenced many people, and not just aspiring poets.

This also includes drummer Morten Sjøberg, bassist Rune Kristoffersen and keyboardist Bjørn Sorknes who had formed the band Genetic Control in their home town of Nesodden in 1978, and since then, had spent the best part of two years rehearsing. By 1980, the trio were ready to try something new, and decided to form a new band which they name Fra Lippo Lippi after Robert Browning’s epic poem. 

Little did the three members of Fra Lippo Lippi know that thus was the start of an adventure that would last three decades and see the band release seven studio albums between 1981 and 2002. However, Fra Lippo Lippi also recently released a new compilation Rarum 80-95, on the Norwegian label Rune Grammofon. The fourteen rarities on Rarum 80-95 are sure to be of interest to all fans of Fra Lippo Lippi. Their story begins in 1980.

Having founded Fra Lippo Lippi in 1980, the band soon began work on their debut single Tap Dance For Scientists, which they self-released. Only 1,000 copies of this electropop single were pressed and nowadays, it’s something of a rarity. However, for those unwilling or unable to spend $30-$40 it features on the recently released compilation Rarum 80-95. Fra Lippo Lippi show two sides to their music on Tap Dance For Scientists which featured four instrumentals. The three instrumentals on the A-Side Tap Dance For Scientists, Do The Modern Pose and Dolls On Parade were quirky electropop full of humour, while Backdrops had a darker side and sound. Fra Lippo Lippi had succeeded in their attempt to show the two sides to their music.

By 1981, Fra Lippo Lippi’s star was in the ascendancy and they had signed to the Norwegian independent label Uniton Records who released the single Now and Forever. The same year, Fra Lippo Lippi’s dark, dramatic electropop track Fabric Wardrobe featured on the German label Ata Tak’s compilation Fix Planet! This helped introduce Fra Lippo Lippi’s music to a wider audience as they wrote their debut album.

Just as everything seemed to be going well for Fra Lippo Lippi, Bjørn Sorknes left the band, and would soon join the experimental rock group Holy Troy. This was a disaster for Fra Lippo Lippi, but drummer Morten Sjøberg and bassist Rune Kristoffersen decided to continue as a duo and complete their debut album In Silence.

1982 was a big year for Fra Lippo Lippi, who released the single Now and Forever, and also their debut album In Silence. When In Silence was released in 1982, critics noted that its gothic post punk sound seemed to have been heavily influenced by The Cure and Joy Division. While some were won over by In Silence, others remained to be convinced by Fra Lippo Lippi and wanted to hear more from the band.

The lineup of Fra Lippo Lippi changed in 1983, when two became three when singer Per Øystein Sørensen, who was also from Nesodden joined the band. By then, Morten Sjøberg and Rune Kristoffersen were maturing as songwriters and this showed on their sophomore album Small Mercies. It showcased a much more pop-oriented sound and found favour with critics who embraced Fra Lippo Lippi’s new sound.

Fra Lippo Lippi’s other release during 1983 was The Treasure 12” which was released on Uniton Records and featured the tracks. This included the live versions of A Moment Like This and Time Transfixed which were recorded at the Club 7, in Oslo. They make a welcome return on Rarum 80-95 and show a much tighter band on A Moment Like This, while Time Transfixed is slow, dramatic and emotive and a hidden gem from Fra Lippo Lippi’s back catalogue.

After one of the most important years of their career, Fra Lippo Lippi made the journey to Silence Studio, in Stockholm, Sweden where an expanded lineup of the band recorded two new songs. Joining the band for the recording of Say Something and Out To Sea which also feature on the Rarum 80-95 compilation, were Bjørn Sorknes who plays bass and new member, Øyvind Kvalnes. The results of the session was the Say Something single, which was released by Union Records in 1984 and showcase Fra Lippo Lippi’s synth pop sound. However, it also marked the end of the Uniton Records years,

When Fra Lippo Lippi returned with their third album Songs in 1985, it was released on their own label Easter Productions. Reviews of Songs were favourable, and despite not having the means to promote the album, it sold in excess of 5,000 copies in Norway alone. Virgin Records who had been monitoring Fra Lippo Lippi’s progress offered the band a worldwide recording contract later in 1985. That contract was signed in 1985, just five years after Genetic Control became Fra Lippo Lippi.

In 1986,  Fra Lippo Lippi’s Virgin Records’ years began with the release of Shouldn’t Have To Be Like That which reached number four in their native Norway, but only troubled the lower reaches of the UK charts. Later, in 1986, a new version of Songs was released internationally, and with the aid of Virgin Records’ PR machine record buyers across Europe, North America and Asia were introduced to Fra Lippo Lippi. However, back in Norway, Songs sold another 20,000 copies and Fra Lippo Lippi star was again in the ascendancy.

Fra Lippo Lippi second single of 1986, was the hook-laden synth pop of Come Summer, which was remixed for the 12” single.  This extended remix of Come Summer features on the Rarum 80-95 compilation, where it’s joined by tracks from Fra Lippo Lippi third single of 1986. 

This was Everytime I See You which was completely reworked and featured The Heather On The Hills on the B-Side. However, it’s the rarer 12” mixes that feature on Rarum 80-95, which were released in late 1986 as Fra Lippo Lippi’s popularity continued to grow.

Meanwhile, music industry insiders believed that Fra Lippo Lippi had a big future ahead of them. Especially as the expanded four piece band played a successful tour of Norway during 1986, and night after night the sold out signs were up. By the time the Norwegian tour was over, the sales of Songs were good enough for Virgin Records to start making plans for Fra Lippo Lippi to tour America and record their fourth album. 

Straight away, Virgin Records started looking for the right producer for Fra Lippo Lippi’s next album, and Walter Becker from Steely Dan was approached. Ironically, he had just turned down the opportunity to work with Crowded House who had just released their critically acclaimed and commercially successful eponymous debut album in July 1986. However, Walter Becker agreed to produce Fra Lippo Lippi’s fourth album Light and Shade.

Given the type of bands Walter Becker usually worked with, many industry insiders were surprised by his decision to produce Fra Lippo Lippi who were known as a new wave and synth pop band. However, Walter Becker had previously produced British synth rock group China Crisis. However, the main reason that Walter Becker had been brought onboard to produce Light And Shade was because Virgin Records wanted Fra Lippo Lippi partnership to crack the large and lucrative American market. Suddenly, the Walter Becker and Fra Lippo Lippi made sense.

Between February and April 1987, Fra Lippo Lippi, producer Walter Becker and Steely Dan’s longtime and trusted engineer Roger Nichols worked on Light And Shade. During the sessions, some of the LA’s top session musicians were even drafted in, and eventually, after three months, Light And Shade was completed.

When Light And Shade was released, the album was well received by critics, who noticed a much slicker, polished sound that headed in the direction of pop rock. This was meant to help Fra Lippo Lippi crack the American market. Sadly, when Angel was released as a single in America, it was only in LA where the song received some airplay. This wasn’t enough for Virgin Records, and neither were the sales of Light And Shade after its release in the autumn of 1987. Later in 1987, Virgin Records dropped Fra Lippo Lippi from its American roster. 

This was a huge blow for Fra Lippo Lippi, and producer Walter Becker who had turned down Crowded House who were well on their way to becoming one of the most successful up-and-coming bands. Meanwhile Fra Lippo Lippi were growing frustrated with Virgin Records, and in 1988, parted company with the label.

Despite the disappointment with leaving Virgin Records, Fra Lippo Lippi discovered that they were hugely popular in the Philippines and were  invited to play a series of concerts. This included six sellout concerts over the course of two weekends at the Folk Arts Theatre in Manila, which had a capacity of 11,000 This was boosted Fra Lippo Lippi’s confidence and later in 1988, they signed a new recording deal.

Fra Lippo Lippi had already began writing new tracks for their fifth album, when they signed to the Swedish label The Record Station which had been founded in 1986 by Marie Ledin. However, by the late eighties, the label was owned by BMG Ariola. This meant that The Record Station had the marketing expertise and financial clout when Fra Lippo Lippi released their fifth album.

During February and March of 1989, Fra Lippo Lippi completed the recording of The Colour Album at the Rainbow Studio in Oslo. This time, Johan Ekelund took charge of production, and once the album was completed, it was released later in 1989.

The reviews of The Colour Album were favourable when it was released in 1989, but the album didn’t sell in the same quantities of Songs. This was disappointing, but things were to get worse for Fra Lippo Lippi.

They had been preparing to release the live album Crash Of Light later in 1989. It was due to be released by the Easter Productions’ label, and Crash Of Light was literally ready to be released. Sadly, that never happened after the distributor collapsed, and legal problems meant the only country that Crash Of Light was released was in the Philippines. 1989 had been a roller coaster year for Fra Lippo Lippi.

Following the release of The Colour Album, Fra Lippo Lippi split with The Record Station, and once again they were left without a label. This time it was different, and Morten Sjøberg and Rune Kristoffersen seriously considered calling time on Fra Lippo Lippi. However, after much thought, they decided to continue and write some more new songs. 

Meanwhile, Mother’s Little Soldier was released as a single on The Record Station label in 1990. On the 12” single was an extended remix of Mother’s Little Soldier by Bernard Löör and Johan Ekelund that features on Rarum 80-95. It heads in the direction of pop rock and is one of the highlights of the compilation.

In 1991, Fra Lippo Lippi started recording their sixth album in Rune Kristoffersen. The album became Dreams, which was released on the Norwegian label Sonet Grammofon in 1992. It was quite different from previous albums, and Fra Lippo Lippi veered between synth pop to a much more downtempo sound on Dreams. The chameleon-like Fra Lippo Lippi seemed determined to reinvent themselves musically but sadly, were no longer enjoying the success the once had.

By 1993, Rune Kristoffersen releases his first solo album as solo album as Elephant Song. It featured trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet and guitarist Tore Elgarøy who played their part in Elephant Song which was released to critical acclaim. However, where did this leave Fra Lippo Lippi?

Morten Sjøberg and Rune Kristoffersen weren’t sure, and were considering calling time on the band, but decided to release a best of album as their swan-song. The only problem was that that they were unable to do so because of contractual obligations. There was a way round this, but this meant that Fra Lippo Lippi would have to rerecord the tracks the wanted to release from Songs, Light And Shade and The Colour Album. 

Rerecording the songs suited Fra Lippo Lippi, who were also to keen to rerecord the songs for artistic reasons. They wanted them to sound the way they had originally envisaged and this was an opportunity to do so. As an added incentive for their fans to buy the best of, Morten Sjøberg and Rune Kristoffersen both contributed a new song. These new songs were Everybody Everywhere and If You Were In My Shoes were then mixed by Kaj Erixon in his Stockholm studio. Two years after the project began, The Best Of Fra Lippo Lippi 85-95 was completed.

The Best Of Fra Lippo Lippi 85-95 was then licensed to CNR Arcade in Norway and Polystar in Japan, and released later in 1995. To promote the compilation, CNR Arcade released the Everybody Everywhere Maxi-Single Promo which featured the Monolight Space Mix. This was a remix by Rune Kristoffersen who had recently dawned the Monolight moniker and in 1995 would release his eponymous debut album. His Monolight Space Mix of Everybody Everywhere is an atmospheric, moody and cinematic track even that sounds as good today as it did in 1995. So much so, that the Monolight Space Mix of Everybody Everywhere is another of the highlights of Rarum 80-95, which was recently released by Rune Grammofon.

Three years after the release of The Best Of Fra Lippo Lippi 85-95 Rune Kristoffersen embarked upon a new venture, when he founded his own record label Rune Grammofon. Twenty-three years later, and Rune Grammofon has gone from strength to strength, and has a reputation for releasing cutting edge, groundbreaking and innovative music. It’s just a pity that there wasn’t a label like Rune Grammofon around between 1980 and 1995 which the Rarum 80-95 compilation covers. 

Between 1980 and 1995, Fra Lippo Lippi were at the peak of their powers, and releasing some of the most ambitious and innovative music of their career. Constantly, Fra Lippo Lippi sought to reinvent their music during this period, and released everything from electropop to gothic post pop, new wave, synth pop and pop rock. Morten Sjøberg and Rune Kristoffersen who founded Fra Lippo Lippi and were omnipresent during the fifteen year period that the Rarum 80-95 compilation were musical chameleons who were determined never to make the same album twice and constantly sought to innovate. This Fra Lippo Lippi managed to do throughout their three decade career, and proof of this is Rarum 80-95 which is a welcome addition to this pioneering duo’s extensive discography.

Fra Lippo Lippi-Rarum 80-95.


Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan.

Label: Wagram France.

Record companies big and small are always looking for new ideas for a compilation, and over the past twenty years tried all sorts of new concepts with varying degrees of success. This has included genre specific albums, ranging from funk and fusion to jazz, Krautrock, Latin, progressive rock, psychedelia and soul jazz to yacht rock and zydeco. Some of these compilations feature familiar and tried and tested songs while other find tastemaker curators and DJs digging deep for oft-overlooked hidden gems. However, genre specific compilations are just the tip of the compilation iceberg.

Other compilations focus on a specific decade, with the sixties, seventies and eighties favourites of compilers and record companies, as music fans always seem want to relive their youth. Then there’s compilations that focus on some of the great labels, including Blue Note, Brain, Chess Records, CTi, Fame, Prestige, Stax, Trax and Trojan. Some other record companies, especially reissue labels, dig deep into the vaults of the smaller, short-lived labels and unearth tracks that failed to find an audience first time round. These compilations often focus of funk, jazz, rock and soul, and have proven popular. So too, has another type of compilation.

This is the tribute album, which first came to prominence around a decade ago, and since then has become popular. So much so, that in the past month or so, there’s been several tribute albums. Alas, the quality of these albums vary, and can be described as the good, the bad and the ugly. However, Wagram France has just released Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan which is one of the best tribute albums money can buy.

There’s an eclectic selection of jazz artists on Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan, ranging from Ben Sidran and Abbey Lincoln to The Neville Brothers, The Keith Jarrett Trio, Eric Bibb, Stanley Turrentine, Howard Tate, Bill Frisell, and Louisa Bey. In total, there’s fifteen artist on Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan who take familiar songs in a new direction.

Opening Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan is Ben Sidran’s cover of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, which featured on his 2009 album Dylan Different which was released by the Italian label Microcoscmo Dischi. Ben Sidran slows the song that originally featured on Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid in 1973 way down, and drums, Hammond organ and harmonies accompanying him reinvents a classic song. Gotta Serve Somebody which made its debut on Bob Dylan’s 1979 album Slow Train Coming was also covered by Ben Sidran on Dylan Different. Here, horns and harmonies accompany Ben Sidran who channels the spirit of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and of course Bob Dylan during this wonderful, jazz-tinged cover. 

In 1997, Abbey Lincoln released her album Who Used To Dance on Verve Records, and it featured a various cover versions including Mr Tambourine Man which featured on Bob Dylan’s 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. Abbey Lincoln’s version of the song takes the song in a new direction and with the help of the piano and rhythm section, Mr Tambourine Man is soon swinging.

 When American jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman released his album Timeless Tales (For Changing Times) on Warner Bros in 1998, it featured covers of songs from the Great American Songbook and by The Beatles and Bob Dylan. This including The Times They Are A Changin’ which breezes along, swinging as Joshua Redman’s saxophone takes centre-stage and transforms this hopeful anthem.

Nowadays, The Neville Brothers are the legends of the New Orleans scene, but in 1989 they had just released their fifth album Yellow Moon on A&M Records. It featured a cover of The Ballad Of Hollis Brown which originally featured on Bob Dylan’s 1964 album The Times They Are A-Changin’. While The Ballad Of Hollis Brown isn’t the best known song on The Times They Are A-Changin’, The Neville Brothers deliver a poignant and powerful version of this thought-provoking song.

My Back Pages was a track from Bob Dylan’s 1964 album Another Side Of Bob Dylan. It’s a track that the Keith Jarrett Trio recorded in 1968, and a year later, it featured on their 1969 live album Somewhere Before which was released by Vortex Records. It’s a captivating album, with a series of inventive performances, especially on the album opener My Back Pages.

Another of Bob Dylan’s classic albums was The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which was released in 1963 and featured Masters Of War. It was covered Eric Bibb on his 2017 album Migration Blues which was released in America on Stony Plain Records. Eric Bibb’s powerful reading has an added poignancy given the state of the world in 2018, and is a reminder of a truly talented and oft-overlooked artist

During the sixties, soul-jazz saxophonist Stanley Turrentine who released a series of critically acclaimed albums on Blue Note Records including Hustlin’, The Spoiler and Easy Walker. In 1968, Stanley Turrentine released Common Touch on Blue Note Records which featured one of the top Hammond organists Shirley Scott. One of the songs the quartet recorded was Blowin’ In The Wind which made its debut on Bob Dylan’s 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It’s given a soul-jazz makeover by some of its finest practitioners, who make Blowin’ In The Wind swing.

When Howard Tate released 8 Days On The Road as a single on Atlantic Records in 1972, tucked away on the B-Side was a cover of Girl From The North Country, another track from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Howard Tate’s cover of Girl From The North Country is heartfelt and soulful, and can’t really be described as jazz. However, it’s welcome addition to Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan.

In 2017, Jack Dejohnette, John Medeski and John Scofield dawned the moniker Hudson and the new group released their eponymous debut album Hudson. One of the album’s highlights was the Bob Dylan classic Lay Lady Lay which featured on the 1969 album Nashville Skyline. However, Hudson’s version stylistically is very different to the original, but instantly recognisable as they pay homage to a classic song.

Bill Frisell is nowadays, regarded as one of the greatest and most innovative jazz guitarists of his generation. Much of his career was spent signed to Elektra Nonesuch, where he released Have A Little Faith in 1993. It’s been slowed way down, and Bill Frisell’s shimmering Shadowesque guitar transforms this familiar track from the classic album Blonde On Blonde which was released in 1966.

Bob Dylan released some of the finest music of his career during the sixties, including Highway 61 Revisited in 1965, which opens with Like A Rolling Stone. It was covered by Danish jazz singer Caecilie Norby on her 2013 album Silent Ways, which was released by the ACT label. Like A Rolling  Stone has been slowed down by Caecilie Norby who delivers a deliberate, dramatic and emotive vocal. It’s a reminder of why’s she currently regarded as one of the top European jazz singers of her generation.

In 2000, American jazz guitarist Jef Lee Johnson released The Zimmerman Shadow on the Hope Street label, which was an album of Bob Dylan covers. It featured Ballad Of A Thin Man where he was joined by Yohannes Tona and Charlie Patierno. Together they give the Ballad Of A Thin Man from Highway 61 Revisited a moody and rocky makeover.

When Bob Dylan released his sophomore album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in 1963, it marked his coming of age as a songwriter. It included songs like Blowin’ In The Wind, Girl From The North Country, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall and Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right which features on Olivier Hutman Meets Alice Ricciardi’s album Is It Real? It was released by Cristal Records in 2016 and is a collaboration between French pianist Olivier Hutman and Italian jazz vocalist Alice Ricciardi. They’re responsible for a breathtakingly beautiful cover of Don’t Think Twice.

There’s an urgency to Louisa Bey’s vocal on her cover of Bob Dylan’s Everything Is Broken. It featured on Bob Dylan’s 1989 album Oh Mercy, and twenty years later Louisa Bey covered Everything Is Broken on her 2009 sophomore album Turning Me Jazz. This the perfect introduction to Louisa Bey, a talented jazz singer who closes Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan on a high.

Although there’s been several tributes to Bob Dylan over the years, there’s never been a jazz tribute to one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the history modern music. That was until Wagram Music released Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan, which features an eclectic selection of talented artists. Each of these have their own way of paying tribute to Bob Dylan.

Some stay true to the original song, while others reinvent it. This some do by slowing the song way down, and others increase the tempo slightly and ensure that the song swings, and then some. Regardless of the approach that is taken, each of the songs is a heartfelt homage o Bob Dylan, that oozes quality. However, there is a but.

Not all of the songs on Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan can be described as jazz. Especially Howard Tate’s soulful hidden gem Girl From The North Country, and Jef Lee Johnson’s moody, rocky version of Ballad Of A Thin Man. Despite that, Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan is one of the best Bob Dylan tribute album that money can buy, and will be welcomed by both his longterm fans and anyone who loves the esoteric genre that is jazz.

Dylan In Jazz-A Jazz Tribute To Bob Dylan.



Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s.

Label: Tramp Records.

When a record labels releases the first instalment in a new compilation series, the hope is that this will be the start of a  long-running and successful series that will prove profitable and give the label a much-needed injection of cash on a yearly basis. There’s several examples where this has happened, and has transformed a record company’s fortunes, and indeed, balance sheet. 

Some of these record labels have even used some of the profits made from a successful compilation series to subsidise loss-making but worthy releases, which under normal circumstances they wouldn’t have been able to release. Sadly, nothing lasts for ever, and even the most successful compilation series comes to an end. However, by then, they’ve been the lucky ones.

Every week dozens of compilations are released, and many are one-offs, that have been a labour of love for the compiler, but fail to attract the attention of record buyers. Sometimes, two instalments in a compilation series will be squeezed out, the second often more in hope than in expectation. After that, the dream is over and the compiler and sometimes, the record company are forced to admit defeat.

Over the last twenty years, the majority of compilations series have been relatively short-lived, with only two, three or four or volumes being released before the series vanishes from the record shops forevermore. That has been the case with some high profile and previously successful compilation series which were released to critical acclaim. Many of these compilation series were once guaranteed to boost the coffers of the record company releasing them. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

That is why many within the music industry have jumped to the conclusion that nowadays, there are very few long-running and successful compilation series. However, these naysayers  are overlooking a number of successful compilation series that have slipped under the radar of many record buyers. This includes the Praise Poems’ compilation series which the German label Tramp Records launched three years ago in 2015. 

Three years later, and the Praise Poems’ series is now one of Tramp Records longest running and most successful compilation series. Proof of that is Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s, which features sixteen tracks, including contributions from Verses, Monopoly, Tony St Thomas, Federico Cervantes, Fusion, Lola Falana, Robert Cote, Michael Kiser,  Waves, Daybreak, Elrige Anselmi and Flood.

Opening Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s is  Cherokee which is a slow, soulful and jazz-tinged hidden gem from Verses. It features lyrics that deal with racial discrimination of the Cherokees, and they’re delivered by a vocal that full of emotion, frustration and longing. Especially as he sings: “you know they want to be free.” The vocal is framed by a  genre-melting arrangement that meander along complimenting this a poignant and powerful hidden gem. 

The quality continues with Monopoly’s Things I Could Be which is a welcome addition to the compilation. It’s sad that it’s taken forty years for this wistful and timeless sounding Latin-jazz cut to find the wider audience it so richly deserves.

Ever since Buffalo Springfield release the Stephen Stills’ compassion For What It’s Worth in 1966, many artists and groups have covered this classic song with varying degrees of success. Sadly, when Cesar’s Children from Ontario, Canada, covered For What It’s Worth their beautiful, soulful, hopeful and joyous cover passed record buyers. Nowadays, though, Cesar’s Children For What It’s Worth is a highly sought after single, and after one listen you’ll realise why.

Tony St Thomas was born in the US Virgin Islands, and during his globetrotting musical career worked a singer, songwriter, arranger and producer. By 1979, Tony St Thomas was a veteran of several thousand shows, and owned and ran his own restaurant with his wife Sabina. At night, Tony St Thomas would take to the restaurant’s small stage and entertain the patrons, which proved popular. Afterwards, many patrons would head home clutching a copy of Tony St Thomas’ latest recording a single which featured Love Is Forever. His vocal an impassioned and soulful plea as he vamps and reminds the listener that: “Love Is Forever.” 

Tragedy struck for Frederico Cervantes when he lost his sight in a car accident as a teenager. This wasn’t going to stop this talented multi-instrumentalist forging a career as a musician, and in the early fifties, Chico Hamilton discovered Frederico Cervantes and took the young jazz pianist to Los Angeles. However, by 1965 he had reinvented himself as a jazz trumpeter and a new chapter began for this self-taught musician. By the seventies when he recorded Betcha Never Knew, Frederico Cervantes is back playing the piano and delivering a defiant and emotive vocal that is a reminder of a man who Chico Hamilton regarded as a musical genius.

Another multi-instrumentalist is Rama Dyushambee whose career began when he joined a doo wop group in high school in the late-fifties. However, after receiving his call up papers in 1961 his career was put on hold. Upon leaving the US Navy, Rama Dyushambee spent three years studying music with a private tutor completing his musical education. Only then did Rama Dyushambee head out on the college and club circuit with the Bill Colwell Band, who opened for John Lee Hooker when he played in Boston in the early seventies. By the late-seventies, Rama Dyushambee recorded several singles, including For All The Good Times which is a timeless slice of feelgood jazz.

During the seventies, fusion was still popular, and many new groups were formed in America. This included Fusion who released Going Crazy as a private press. Fusion play with an urgency, fluency and freedom as they showcase their skills and versatility during this progressive fusion track. There’s even hints of psych and soul in an equally urgent vocal during Going Crazy. It’s one of the highlights of Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s.  

Lola Falana was born in New Jersey in 1942, and was working in Harlem as a dancer when Sammy Davis Jr discovered her, and cast her as the lead dancer in the Broadway musical The Golden Boy. This was just the start for Lola Falana who released her debut single in 1966. After this, she made her film debut in A Man Called Adam, and went on to feature on various television shows. By the seventies, Lola Falana was known as the Queen of Las Vegas, and also recorded It’s A Good Feeling which is a cinematic and dramatic mixture of soul and jazz that showcases a talented singer. Sadly, Lola Falana was diagnosed with MS but was able to continue working for two more until 1989, when she retired from the entertainment industry and devoted her life to charity. 

When Orange Lake Drive recorded their single Move On, the band hadn’t a suitable song to record for the B-Side. Fortunately, Robert Cote had written Rare Thing a few years earlier, and when he played the song to Orange Lake Drive they agreed it was perfect for the B-Side of Move On. Rare Thing which is billed as  Robert Cote with Orange Lake Drive is a beautiful, hopeful and optimistic paean that breezes along. The addition of a lengthy flute solo was a masterstroke and was final piece of the jigsaw on one of the highlights of Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s.

Michael Kiser was born in Houston, Texas and started writing songs in the sixties, but didn’t make his performing debut until the early seventies. Soon, Michael Kiser was making up for lost time, and Melting The Ice in August 1981. It was well received by Billboard magazine, and Melting The Ice gave Michael Kiser a regional with this jazz-tinged and soulful single.

Alan Burton was just six years old when he played a guitar at a school talent show, and little did anyone in the audience realise that sixteen years later he would decide to cut a single in 1973. This was the lysergic sunshine pop of Sunshine You’ll Love It which is a real find and welcome addition to the compilation.

Another purveyor of quality sunshine pop were the Buffalo based band Waves. They rose like a Phoenix from the ashes of another local group, The Road in 1972. The story began when couple of members of The Road headed to Nashville with some other local musicians.  This left the three remaining members of The Road, Ken Kaufman, Phil Hudson and Ron Lombardo without a rhythm section and spelt the end of the band. However, as one door closed, another opened and the remaining members of The Road recruited drummer Glen Bowen and bassist John Burgio and Waves was born. This new five piece band recorded and released the single Feelin’ The Sunshine in 1973. It’s a jazz-tinged and progressive sunshine pop hidden gem that oozes quality and is guaranteed to brighten your life. Sadly, that was Waves’ only released. Although they began work on album a fter the release of Feelin’ The Sunshine, it was never completed before the band split-up.

During the sixties, when the Ohio based band Daybreakk! played live one of the songs in their set was Richie Havens’ Freedom. The strummed guitar instrumental always caught the attention of the crowd, and was one of the most popular songs in their set. It was no surprise that when Daybreakk! decided to record a single that they chose to record Freedom at the Courier Recording Studio. The newly recorded single was released on the RLB label and when it was played on the radio was mistaken for The Who. 

From the opening bars of Ted Ritchie And Friends’ melodic ballad Soda Creek Ferry, it’s cinematic and rich in imagery. Ted Ritchie, who was born and grew up in British Columbia, in Canada, and later worked as a cowboy in the Rocky Mountains paints pictures of a trip on Soda Creek Ferry which  a cable ferry that used to cross the Fraser River. After taking a trip on the Soda Creek Ferry, Ted Ritchie wrote the song sitting round a campfire. Over forty years later, this beautiful ballad is being discovered by a new audience who sadly, will never get the chance to take a trip on the Soda Creek Ferry.

In the mid-sixties, Elrige Anselmi was suffering from rheumatic fever, and decided to swap his boat for an acoustic guitar. Within a few years, he was playing in his high school band, and later playing saxophone in a cover’s band. By 1970, Elrige Anselmi and his thirteen year old brother Pookie who was a drummer formed the band Apollo, and in 1973, a new band Boone’s Farmers was born. They recorded four tracks at a studio in Thibodaux, Louisiana, including  Laughing In The Sun. That day, Elrige Anselmi delivered a vocal that is heartfelt and full of emotion as harmonies accompany him on another beautiful ballad.

Closing Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s is Flood’s White Bird. Flood was signed to Michael Thevis’ Atlanta based GRC label, and recorded the soundtrack to the film Blood Of The Dragon. Flood’s soundtrack was released to critical acclaim, and the band were about to fly to Jamaica for a record session when Michael Thevis was arrested for murder. Sadly, the recording session and Flood who were rising stars, never got the chance to fulfil their potential. However, by then they had recorded their six-minute psychedelic epic White Bird, which closes the album on a high.

Many compilation series have run steam by the time they get to the sixth volume, but that isn’t the case with Tramp Records’ Praise Poems. Just like previous instalments in the series, Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s oozes quality on album that is crammed full of hidden gems. They were recorded by truly talented artists and bands who sadly, never reached the heights that their talent warranted. Now some forty years after many of the tracks on Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s were released, they make a welcome return on this wonderfully esoteric and eclectic collection of music.

There’s everything from soul, funk and fusion to jazz, sunshine pop and psychedelia on Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s which will introduce the listener to  Verses, Monopoly, Cesar’s Children, Federico Cervantes, Fusion, Lola Falana, Robert Cote, Michael Kiser,  Waves, Daybreak, Elrige Anselmi and Flood. They’re just a few of the sixteen artists on Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s which is one of the most eclectic instalments in this long running and successful series that hopefully will run and run, and continue to uncover hidden gems by some of music’s unsung heroes.

Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s.



Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz-Fairytales LP.

Label:Odin Records.

Record Of The Week.

One of the most overused word in the English language is classic, with critics often hailing the latest book, play or album a “classic.” More often than not, this is hyperbole, and it’s only much later, that the same critics realise that they were rather fulsome in their praise and too quick to call the album a classic. However, when Norwegian singer Radka Toneff and American Steve Dobrogosz released Fairytales in the autumn of 1982, it was to critical acclaim with the album quite rightly being called a future classiske.

Straight away, this future classic was a hugely popular album,  with Fairytales winning the hearts and minds of Norwegian music lovers. Sadly, just two weeks after the release of Fairytales, tragedy struck when thirty-year old Radka Toneff was found dead in the woods of Bygdøy after taking an overdose of sleeping pills. Norwegian music lovers were in mourning as they had lost one of their greatest jazz singers, just five years after winning a Spellemannprisen in 1977 for her debut album Winter Poem.

Twenty-nine years after Radka Toneff’s tragic death,  Norwegian musicians were asked to vote for Norway’s best album of all time in 2011. By then, Fairytales was Norway’s best selling jazz album. Once the votes were counted, Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz’s 1982 album Fairytales was crowed Norway’s best album of all time. That was no surprise, as it’s a classic album, and one that has inspired and influenced two generations of musicians.

Seven years after being crowned Norway’s best album of all time, Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz’s classic album Fairytales has been remastered and reissued by Odin Records as a SACD and as on 180 gram audiophile LP pressing which was cut by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, in Los Angeles. It’s the perfect way to discover the delights of Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz’s classic album Fairytales. This was just the latest chapter in Radka Toneff’s career.

Radka Toneff.

Ellen Radka Toneff was born in Oslo on the ‘25th’ of June 1952, to a Norwegian mother and Bulgarian father who was a pilot and radio technician. The Toneff family lived first in Lambertseter and then Kolbotn, and by then Radka Toneff had already discovered music. This came as no surprise, as her mother had been a folk singer. Over the next few years, it soon became apparent that Radka Toneff hadn’t just inherited her mother’s love of music, but also her talent.

In 1971, Radka Toneff enrolled in a music course at the Oslo Musikkonservatorium, where she began a four-year course. During this period, Radka Toneff was also a member of the fusion band Unis throughout her time at the Oslo Musikkonservatorium. By 1975, Radka Toneff graduated and decided to form her own band.

Winter Poem.

This was the Radka Toneff Quintet which was she founded in 1975, and featured on her debut album Winter Poem. When Winter Poem was released by Zarepta Records in 1977, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Critics realised that Winter Poem marked the debut a truly talented vocalist who had the ability to breath emotion, life and meaning into lyrics which she lived rather than delivered. Sometimes, there was an intensity to the twenty-three old’s vocals and she seem older than her years. Some critics believed that Radka Toneff was destined for greatness.

This proved prescient when later in 1977, Radka Toneff won what should’ve been the first of many Spellemannprisen Awards when she won the best vocal for her album Winter Poem. Already, Radka Toneff had come a long way in a short space of time.

It Don’t Come Easy.

Just under years later, the Radka Toneff Quintet arrived at the Talent Studio, in Oslo in January 1979. Only drummer bassist Arild Andersen, guitarist Jon Eberson and keyboardist Lars Jansson had played on Winter Poem. Despite the changes to the Quintet’s lineup, this multitalented band was the perfect foil for  Radka Toneff on It Don’t Come Easy which was released later in 1979.

When critics heard It Don’t Come Easy, they agreed that Radka Toneff had matured and grown as a vocalist, and her sophomore album was released to the same critical acclaim as Winter Poem in 1979. However, soon, Radka Toneff was about to meet the musician who would become her musical muse.

Steve Dobrogosz.

This was Steve Dobrogosz a twenty-three year old composer and pianist, who was born on the ’28th’ of January 1956 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. However, his parents moved Raleigh, North Carolina, where he went to school and discovered his love of music. This led to Steve Dobrogosz heading to the Berklee College of Music, after he had graduated from high school. After he graduated, he decide to move to Stockholm, Sweden in 1978.

Having arrived in Stockholm, Steve Dobrogosz began playing live and recording. This was all good experience Steve Dobrogosz, who a year later, met Radka Toneff in 1979 and a new chapter in his career began.

Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz.

Although Radka Toneff was still leading the Radka Toneff Quintet by 1979, she had also formed the Radka Toneff Quartet. However, by then, the Quartet was looking for a new pianist, and Steve Dobrogosz who was still living in Stockholm heard about the vacancy and applied. Not long after this, Radka Toneff met Steve Dobrogosz, and she knew that she had found the new pianist for the Radka Toneff Quintet. Little did Radka Toneff realise that was the start of a three-year working relationship.

A year after Steve Dobrogosz joined the Radka Toneff Quintet, it was the end of the road for the Radka Toneff Quintet. It had been together since 1975, and although the lineup was fluid, the Radka Toneff Quintet stayed together. After that, Radka Toneff decided to concentrate her efforts on the Quartet.

By then, the Radka Toneff Quintet’s lineup featured Danish drummer Alex Riel, bassist Arild Andersen, pianist Steve Dobrogosz and Radka Toneff. Some nights when the Quartet played live, the drums and bass would drop out leaving just Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz, and the pair would play a couple of songs together. This proved popular they worked well together, with the Radka Toneff’s voice and Steve Dobrogosz’s piano in perfect harmony. This lead to the pair recording a duet for Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

This was an improvised version My Funny Valentine, which was produced by Erling Wicklund at the end of a radio recording session for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, in November of 1979. That recording sowed the seeds for Fairytales, and featured on the album when it was recorded in February 1982.


Just over two years had passed since Radka Toneff had released her sophomore album It Don’t Come Easy in 1979 and she was wondering about recording an orchestral album for the followup? Radka Toneff wasn’t sure that this was the way forward her. Neither did Steve Dobrogosz, who suggested the he and Radka Toneff should record an album together as a duo. Straight away, Radka Toneff liked the idea of recording an album featuring just Steve Dobrogosz’s piano accompanying her vocal. However, there was a problem though,  Zarepta Records who had released Radka Toneff’s first two albums had been dissolved, and she had no label backing her.

In a way, this was a fresh start, as this new chapter in Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz’s careers began.The pair started trying to interest Norwegian and Swedish labels in the project, but nobody was interested in the album. Then Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz caught a break.

Fortunately, the Norwegian Jazz Federation which was headed by Rolf Grundesen, had just launched their own record label, Odin. When Rolf Grundesen heard about the project, he was hugely supportive and even suggested that Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz record the album at the Grieg Hall in Bergen. It was featured some of the earliest digital recording equipment and also a good quality grand piano which Steve Dobrogosz would play as he accompanied Radka Toneff. 

Having secured the backing of the Odin label, Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz chose the songs that would join their cover of Rogers and Hart’s My Funny Valentine on Fairytales. It had been recorded in late 1979, and that meant only nine songs would be recorded.

This included covers of Jimmy Webb’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; Bernie Taupin and Elton John’s Come Down In Time; Kurt Weil and Maxwell Anderson’s Lost In The Stars; Eden Ahbez’s Nature Boy; Blossom Dearie and Dave Frishberg’s Long Daddy Green; Fran Landesman and Dudley Moore’s Before Love Went Out Of Style. The other three tracks saw Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz put poetry to music.

Both Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz shared a love of Fran Landesman’s poetry, and they decided to set two poems to music. Steve Dobrogosz wrote music to Mystery Man, while Radka Toneff penned the music to Wasted. The other poem that was set to music by Steve Dobrogosz was Emily Dickinson’s I Read My Sentence. It would eventually close Fairytales, which was recorded at Bergen Digital Studios.

Nine songs were recorded between the ‘15th’ and ‘17th’ of February 1982. Steve Dobrogosz played a top quality grand piano, and Radka Toneff delivered some of the best vocals of her career. This included Jimmy Webb’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress which features a tender rueful vocal from Radka Toneff where beauty is omnipresent as Steve Dobrogosz is yin to her yang. His piano sets then sets scene on Come Down In Time as Radka Toneff paints pictures with a vocal that is tender and full of emotion as she breaths life, meaning and emotion into the familiar lyrics. It’s a similar case on Lost In The Stars where Radka Toneff’s vocal is ethereal and sometimes wistful as it grows in power. Always, though she’s in control as she delivers a soul-baring vocal. Straight away, there’s a sense of sadness and frustration in Radka Toneff’s voice during Mystery Man. Meanwhile Steve Dobrogosz’s piano compliments her tender wistful vocal during this beautiful, poignant ballad. Side one closes with a beautiful, hopeful, poignant and sometimes needy cover of My Funny Valentine, where Radka Toneff with the help of Steve Dobrogosz reinvents this standard.

The piano provides a wistful backdrop before Radka Toneff delivers a heartfelt, hopeful and sometimes ruminative interpretation of Nature Boy where sometimes, there’s an intensity to her vocal. Later, Steve Dobrogosz’s piano takes centre-stage, before returns to complete this powerful and poignant cover. Radka Toneff then follows in Blossom Dearie’s footsteps on Long Daddy Green, on this breathtaking cover where she seems to have lived and survived the lyrics. Ethereal, emotive and full of regret describes Radka Toneff’s vocal on Wasted as the piano adds to the drama and emotion on one of Fairytales’ highlights. There’s then a mixture of joy and sadness in Radka Toneff’s vocal on Before Love Went Out Of Style, as she remembers what she once had, but lost. Slowly and deliberately Radka Toneff ponders her fate on this deeply moving rendition of Emily Dickinson’s poem I Read My Sentence set to music. It closes Fairytales, which was produced by Arild Andersen who had worked closely with Radka Toneff After just three days, this future classiske album was completed.

Odin Records scheduled the release of Fairytales for the autumn on 1982, but before that, the critics had their say on Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz’s first collaboration. Critics on receiving the album saw Fairytales’ distinctive album cover, which had been drawn and designed by Anne Toneff. This was the perfect accompaniment to the music within the magical world of Fairytales. Critics were won over by Fairytales and hailed the album masterpiece and an instant classic. 

Record buyers agreed, and for the two weeks after the release of Fairytales, the album was hugely popular and won the hearts and minds not just of jazz fans, but music lovers. They sought out Fairytales, which was selling well proving that Rolf Grundesen the head of the Norwegian Jazz Federation was right to back the pair. With a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album on their hands, this should’ve been a time to celebrate. 

Sadly, two weeks after the release of Fairytales, tragedy struck when Radka Toneff’s body was found on the ‘21st’ of October 1982. The thirty year old had died after taking an overdose of sleeping pills. Norwegian music lovers were in mourning as they knew that they had lost one of their greatest ever jazz singers.

After Radka Toneff’s death, pianist Steve Dobrogosz rejected any suggestions that she sounded lonely or depressed on Fairytales. Instead, Steve Dobrogosz believes that Fairytales features Radka Toneff: “at her best” as she interprets the ten songs on Fairytales which is the best selling Norwegian jazz album of all time. 

That is definitely the case throughout Fairytales, where Radka Toneff is like an actress as she plays a different character on each of the songs. No two songs are the same, and Radka Toneff experiences array of emotions, ranging from hope and happiness to melancholy and sadness. Other times, she’s in a reflective mood thinking about the good times, and also about what she had and lost. Always there’s a sensitivity in Radka Toneff voice throughout Fairytales, where she breaths life, meaning and emotion into each every song, living them and trying to make them her own.

Despite being a hugely talented singer, who brought songs to life and often reinvented them on Fairytales, Radka Toneff didn’t write any of the songs on the album. The closest she came was writing the music that accompanied Emily Dickinson’s poem I Read My Sentence. Maybe if Radka Toneff had written some of the songs on Fairytales, it would’ve given some insight into how she was feeling she recorded the album? However, like all singers, Radka Toneff was in character and wearing her musical mask as she recorded her future classic album. As a result, it’s almost impossible to separate Radka Toneff from the characters she was playing. Instead, it’s better to enjoy, embrace and appreciate the last part of Radka Toneff’s musical legacy, Fairytales.

After Radka Toneff’s death in October 1982, her pianist and musical muse Steve Dobrogosz was determined that nobody would forget one of the greatest Norwegian jazz singers. Steve Dobrogosz who was yin to Radka Toneff’s yang on Fairytales, has spent the last thirty-six years ensuring that Fairytales wouldn’t be forgotten by future generations of musicians. “It’s not just the sound itself, but it’s also about how Radka sings, about the sensitivity in her voice.”

It’s a voice that went on to influence and inspire two generations of Norwegian singers, ranging from Sidsel Endresen to singers embarking upon musical careers. However, it’s not just Norwegian singers that have been influenced and inspired by Radka Toneff but artists all over the world. Radka Toneff’s music won the hearts and minds of music lovers worldwide, who will ensure that her music will never be forgotten, including award-winning debut album Winter Poem and the followup It Don’t Come Easy. However, Radka Toneff’s finest hour was her collaboration with Steve Dobrogosz on their timeless classiske Fairytales, which was released just two before her death and became the swan-song of one Norway’s greatest jazz singers.

Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz-Fairytales LP.


Gordon Lightfoot-East Of Midnight, Waiting For You and A Painter Passing Through.

Label: BGO Records.

By July 1986, Gordon Lightfoot was one of the most successful Canadian musicians of his generation, and was preparing to release his seventeenth album East Of Midnight, which was his first album in three years. Gordon Lightfoot was hoping that East Of Midnight would prove more successful than his previous album Salute, which was released in July 1983, and stalled at 175 in the US Billboard 200 and fifty-nine in the Canadian RPM. Salute was Gordon Lightfoot’s least successful album since he released The Way I Feel in 1968.

Since then, Gordon Lightfoot had become one of Canada’s most successful musical exports, and in America, his 1970 album Sit Down Young Stranger and 1978s Endless Wire were certified gold, while 1974s Sundown and 1976s Summertime Dream both sold over a million copies and were certified platinum. The seventies were the most successful period of Gordon Lightfoot’s three decade career in America. It was a similar case across the border in his homeland.

In Canada, Gordon Lightfoot was one of the country’s most successful singer-songwriters during the seventies. Four of his albums topped the Canadian RPM chart, and his 1976 album Summertime Dream was certified platinum. There was also the small matter of sixteen Juno Awards, which were Canadian music’s most prestigious awards. Gordon Lightfoot was one of the legends of Canadian music, and was hoping that East Of Midnight which was reissued alongside Waiting For You and A Painter Passing Through as a two CD set by BGO Records, would transform his fortunes, and get his glittering career back on track. 

East Of Midnight.

After the disappointing sales of his previous albums Salute, Gordon Lightfoot began writing the songs that became East Of Midnight in 1984. After writing nine new songs, he joined forces with keyboardist and producer David Foster and penned Anything for Love. It became part of East Of Midnight which was recorded during 1985 and 1986.

Recording of East Of Midnight took place during January, June and December 1985 and during March 1986 at Eastern Sound, Toronto, Lionshare Recorders and Lighthouse Recorders, in Los Angeles. Over this four-month period, more than a dozen musicians played their part in the recording of East Of Midnight, including some familiar faces including keyboardist David Foster, guitarist Michael Landau, percussionist Lenny Castro and Vesta Williams and Richard Marx who both added harmonies. Meanwhile, Gordon Lightfoot played guitar, added vocals and took charge of production, apart from Anything for Love which was co-produced by David Foster who cowrote the song. It would later play an important part in the success of East Of Midnight.

Once Gordon Lightfoot had finished recording East Of Midnight in March 1986, Warner Bros Records scheduled the release of the album for July 1986. Before that, critics had their say on what was the first album that Gordon Lightfoot had recorded in four years. This was the longest he had been away from the studio, and critics were keen to hear his comeback album East Of Midnight.

Troubadour Gordon Lightfoot made a welcome return on East Of Midnight, and makes an impression straight away on the album opener the ballad Stay Loose. Morning Glory and the album closer I’ll Tag Along are both ballads, but feature understated arrangements that hark back to Gordon Lightfoot’s albums from the seventies. Ballads seem to be what he does best on East Of Midnight, and proof of that are East Of Midnight, A Lesson In Love and the Anything In Love which are carefully crafted songs with polished arrangement. 

Just like many albums recorded during the second half of the eighties, Gordon Lightfoot makes good use of the new technology. Synths are used on many songs, and effectively on the ballads Let It Ride and A Passing Ship. Meanwhile, the drums on Ecstasy Made Easy and You Just Gotta Be have an unmistakable eighties sound, as Gordon Lightfoot’s vocals play a starring role on his comeback album East Of Midnight.

After receiving favourable reviews from critics, Anything for Love was released as the lead single and reached thirteen on the Adult Contemporary chart and seventy-one on US Country charts. When East Of Midnight was released in July 1986, it stalled at 166 in the US Billboard 200 and in the Canadian RPM reached thirty-seven. However, this was enough for a gold disc in Canada, and Gordon Lightfoot was back or was he?

East Of Midnight was very nearly Gordon Lightfoot’s swan-song, and he went as far as to say that he wouldn’t record another album. It looked like the end of a long and successful career. However, by 1992, Gordon Lightfoot had had a change of heart and began work on Waiting For You.

Waiting For You.

Just like East Of Midnight, Gordon Lightfoot wrote nine of the ten songs on his Waiting For You. The other song was a cover of Bob Dylan’s Ring Them Bells. These song became Gordon Lightfoot’s eighteenth album Waiting For You.

In March 1992, Gordon Lightfoot and his small, but talented band headed to Eastern Sound, in Toronto. The band featured a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Barry Keane and bassist Rick Haynes who were augmented by lead guitarist Terry Clements and keyboardist Mike Heffernan. Gordon Lightfoot played guitar and took charge of vocals and production, and by the end of March 1992, Waiting For You was complete. 

Waiting For You was also a return to form from Gordon Lightfoot who was free from his addictions, and recorded his finest album since the seventies. Gordon Lightfoot was rolling back the years on an album where he revisited his old folk pop and folk rock sound on a very different album. Synths are used sparingly in contrast to Gordon Lightfoot’s last couple of albums. Gordon Lightfoot’s small, tight and talented band become yin to Gordon Lightfoot’s yang on Waiting For You.

That was the case on the album opener Restless which features a captivating vocal on the string drenched ballad that is rich in imagery. This gives way to a powerful cover of Bob Dylan’s Ring Them Bells before the brisk and memorable folk rock of Fading Away. Only Love Would Know which features a soul-baring vocal, before the tempo increases on the beautiful ballads Welcome To Try and I’ll Prove My Love which features Gordon Lightfoot at his best. Wild Strawberries harks back to the music on Gordon Lightfoot’s early seventies albums while the hooks hadn’t been spared on I’d Rather Press On which had single written all over it. Ironic describes the album closer Drink Yer Glasses Empty, because by 1992 Gordon Lightfoot had beaten his demons and finally had gotten himself sober after years of carousing drinking his glass empty. However, the song closes Gordon Lightfoot’s finest album since the late-seventies.

Critics agreed, and there were high hopes for Gordon Lightfoot’s eighteenth album Waiting For You. Sadly, the album failed to trouble the US Billboard 200, but reached twenty-four in the Canadian RPM chart. For Gordon Lightfoot the commercial failure of Waiting For You was a huge blow, and he wouldn’t return with another album until A Painter Passing Through in 1998.

A Painter Passing Through.

Three years after the release of Waiting For You, Gordon Lightfoot decided that it was time to return to the studio and record his nineteenth album, which became A Painter Passing Through. By then, Gordon Lightfoot had written eight new songs and had decided to cover Steve McEown’s I Used To Be A Country Singer and Ian Tyson’s Red Velvet. These songs became part of A Painter Passing Through which was recorded during 1996 and 1997 at Grant Avenue Studio, Hamilton, Canada.

Before Gordon Lightfoot entered the studio, he had made his mind up that A Painter Passing Through would be a live studio album. He was trying to replicate one of his live shows, with a new album of material. This was a first for Gordon Lightfoot, but he was joined by his a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Barry Keane and bassist Rick Haynes who were augmented by lead guitarist Terry Clements and keyboardist Mike Heffernan. They were joined over the next two years by a variety of musicians.

This included guitarists Bill Dillon, Wendell Ferguson and John Lewis while Doug Johnson played dobro, pedal steel and steel guitar. Meanwhile, Pee Wee Charles played pedal and steel guitar while Willie P. Bennett harmonica and Daniel Lanois laid down some guitar and mando-guitar parts. Despite his track record as a producer, Daniel Lanois left Bob Doidge and Gordon Lightfoot to co-produce Painter Passing Through, which was completed in 1997.

The following year, 1998, Reprise Records were preparing to release  A Painter Passing Through, which was another return to form from Gordon Lightfoot as he switched between folk and country during this ten song set. It opens with the mid-tempo and melodic country-tinged song Drifters, which gives way to the ballads My Little Love and Ringneck Loon. Very different is the cinematic country rock of I Used To Be A Country Singer, where Gordon Lightfoot sings of life on road, and just like Boathouse it’s rich in imagery. One of the album’s highlights is the beautiful ballad Much To My Surprise, before Gordon Lightfoot paints pictures on A Painter Passing Through and  On Yonge Street. It’s followed by the cantering country ballad Red Velvet, before the ballad Uncle Toad Said closes A Painter Passing Through, which was released forty years after Gordon Lightfoot made his musical debut in 1998.

Sadly Gordon Lightfoot wasn’t celebrating when A Painter Passing Through failed to trouble the US Billboard 200 and stalled at ninety-two in the Canadian RPM. This was hugely disappointing for Gordon Lightfoot, and was a far cry from the seventies when he was one of the most successful Canadian recording artists. It was changed days indeed.

After the release of A Painter Passing Through in 1998, it was six years before Gordon Lightfoot returned with his twentieth studio album Harmony in May 2004. It reached thirteen on the Canadian RPM and became his most successful album since Dream Street Rose in 1980. Sadly, Gordon Lightfoot hasn’t returned with a followup to Harmony, and his only release since then was All Live in April 2012, which reached sixteen on the Canadian RPM. 

Six years later, and seventy-nine year old Gordon Lightfoot is still remembered as one of the greatest singer-songwriters that Canada has produced. Gordon Lightfoot is remembered for songs of the quality of If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown, Carefree Highway, Rainy Day People and The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald. However, there’s much more to Gordon Lightfoot than that.

This includes the twenty studio albums he released between 1966 and 2006, including East Of Midnight, Waiting For You and A Painter Passing Through which was recently remastered and reissued as a two CD set by BGO Records. Although these albums weren’t the most successful of Gordon Lightfoot’s long and illustrious career, they’re underrated albums that are well worth discovering.

This starts with 1986s East Of Midnight which was certified gold in Canada, is a slick, polished album that has eighties production values where Gordon Lightfoot at his best on the ballads. The followup Waiting For You was released seven years later in 1993 and was Gordon Lightfoot’s finest album since the late seventies. The final album in the trilogy is A Painter Passing Through where Gordon Lightfoot seamlessly switches between and combines elements of country and folk. These three oft-overlooked albums East Of Midnight, Waiting For You and A Painter, are a reminder of one of Canadian music’s great singer-songwriters and most successful musical exports.

Gordon Lightfoot-East Of Midnight, Waiting For You and A Painter Passing Through.


Northaunt- Istid III.  

Label: Glacial Movements.

Twelve years ago in 1996, Norwegian ambient composer Hærleif Langås embarked upon a new and exciting chapter in his career when he began to explore and experiment with drones, field recordings, samples and minimalistic melodic elements which he used to create soundscapes that had been inspired and influenced by norse nature and landscapes. Little did Hærleif Langås realise that this initial project was the start of a twenty-two year journey, which would transform his career and see him create atmospheric, ethereal, melancholy and minimalistic music which was cinematic and rich in imagery. This music Hærleif Langås released as  The Human Voice, Therradaemon and Northaunt, which has been his most successful project.  

Recently, Northaunt returned with a new album Istid III which was released by Glacial Movements, and is the third album in the series. It’s the latest album in a long line of carefully crafted albums from Northaunt whose career began twenty years ago.

After embarking upon this new chapter in his career, Northaunt began work in his home studio where he explored and experimented musically, seeing what worked and what didn’t work. He used ambient, nature sounds, keyboards and an acoustic guitar to create the recordings that eventually became Når landet ligger øde. It wasn’t released commercially or used as a demo. Instead, Northaunt had some CDRs made and created the cover himself and handed out a few copies of Når landet ligger øde to friends in 1998.This was the start of Northaunt’s career.

A year later, in 1999, Northaunt had recorded The Ominous Silence which was professionally produced promo. It featured six of the eight songs that would eventually feature on Northaunt’s debut album.

Just under two years later, and The Ominous Silence album was released by Fluttering Dragon Records in January 2001. It was a  tantalising taste of what Northaunt was capable of.

Northaunt returned in April 2004 with his much-anticipated sophomore album Barren Land. It had been recorded between 2001 and April 2003 and was released on Fluttering Dragon Records. By then, Northaunt’s sound was starting to evolve.

When Northaunt released his third album Horizons on the Cyclic Law Records in 2006, it was hailed as his finest moment. It had been recorded between 2003 and 2005 and was a carefully crafted album where drones and field recordings were used to create dark and desolate soundscapes that would become Northaunt’s trademark sound.

Following the release of Horizons, nothing was heard of Northaunt for seven years. During that period, Hærleif Langås was working on different projects and released albums as Non Ethos, The Human Voice and Therradaemon. Then in 2013,  Northaunt and Svartsinn released the split album The Borrowed World, which featured his twenty-two minute epic If Only My Heart Were Stone. Northaunt was back.

The comeback was complete in January 2015 when Northaunt returned with in January 2015 with his first solo album in nearly eight years, Istid I-II, which was released on Cyclic Law Records. It featured a collection of minimalistic soundscapes that were atmospheric, ethereal, haunting and melancholy music that was cinematic and rich in imagery. Northaunt takes the listener to the barren landscapes with his soundscapes that ranged from a dark and almost desolate, to a much brighter hopeful ambient sound. Istid I-II was the finest album of Northaunt’s career, and the soundscapes showed the two sides to sides to his music.

In 2017, Northaunt was back with his latest album Night Paths, which was an album of dark ambient music. This was similar to some of the music on Istid I-II, and also reinforced that Northaunt was one of the finest purveyors of ambient music in Europe.

Meanwhile, Northaunt had a dilemma when he got the chance to release an album on the Glacial Movements label. He had always wanted to release an album on the label that specialised in releasing arctic themed ambient music. This wasn’t the only reason. Glacial Movements was also a label whose progress Northaunt had followed with interest since he featured on one of their early samplers. So when the chance came to release an album on Glacial Movements, Northaunt decided to revive the Istid series.

This was something that Northaunt hadn’t planned to do. Instead, Northaunt thought that Istid was part of his musical past. That was ironic given Istid I-II was Northaunt’s finest album, and looked like it was the start of something, rather than the end of it. Thankfully, Northaunt had a change of heart after getting the chance to release an album on Glacial Movements. That album became Istid III.

Northaunt was inspired to write Istid III as a reaction to modern life, and how the world can sometimes seem confusing, stressful and noisy.  This is very different to the books that Northaunt had been reading about the earth’s history, and especially the Ice Age. He read how about the forces that formed and gave birth to the modern world. 

Back then, when the modern world was in its infancy and before man walked upon the earth there was silence. However, this all changed when man first inhabited the earth. Northaunt decided to imagine man setting out on a lonely journey where he’s trying to make sense of the world around him, as he begins a searches for meaning in the world before there was even the merest hint of modern life.

During the making of Istid I-II, Northaunt had to ask himself what was the world like during this time? While the earth was most likely a dark and desolate place, Northaunt views the desolation as something that is “pleasant” in his mind, and believes the world wasn’t as “dark” many people believe despite being almost devoid of people. This is reflected in the music on Istid III.

Istid III opens with Istid III, Pt. I which meander along showcasing a dreamy, ruminative sound that allows the listener to reflect on what the world was like in the early days. Straight away, it has Northaunt’s name written allow over this minimalist soundscape where drones, field recordings, samples and minimalistic melodic elements are carefully combines to create the atmospheric and cinematic music. It’s rich in imagery as gusts of northern winds blow and snow hissing are amongst the myriad of disparate sounds flit in and out, constantly painting pictures in the mind’s eye.  

Meanwhile, waves of beautiful, ethereal music ebb and flow hypnotically, washing over the listener during Istid III, Pt. II which  is a fusion of ambient, drone music and modern classical. Beauty is omnipresent throughout this enchanting track which perfectly depicts the barren and spartan Nordic landscape.It’s possible to imagine making his first tentative steps across tundra and just like the listener to Istid III, Pt II, being smitten by its breathtaking beauty.

Gradually, Istid III Pt II reveals its secrets and this understated soundscape features Northaunt at his most melodic and cinematic. He uses an array of field recordings and samples while playing a haunting and melancholy melody on a keyboard. Although there’s a sadness and even sense of melancholy to the music, there’s also a beauty as Northaunt’s use of samples and field recordings results in a soundscape that sets the imagination racing.

Istid III, Pt IV is a ten minute epic which features Northaunt at his cinematic best, as snail-like synths sweep and paint atmospheric pictures of the beautiful barren Nordic landscape just after the Ice Age. Meanwhile, the wind gusts and blow eddies of snow which swirl as water drips and gurgles before. Then Northaunt bowls a curveball as the sound of man discovering this new, beautiful and barren landscape can be heard as the track draws to close. 

It’s as if everything has been building towards Istid III, Pt V, as the drama and tension builds, on a track that is once again atmospheric and cinematic as it meanders along revealing its secrets and subtleties. Gusts of wind blow, while keyboards contribute a melody and reverberate, as Northaunt continues to paint pictures during this hauntingly beautiful soundscape which brings the journey that is Istid III to an end.

The best way to describe Istid III, which was recently released by Glacial Movements is a cerebral and thought-provoking album that features atmospheric and cinematic music that is rich in imagery. So much so, that Northaunt takes the listener on a journey that seems very real, and they walk shoulder to shoulder with the first men who set foot on this beautiful, barren Nordic landscape just after The Ice Age. Not many albums have been able to paint pictures as vivid as this, but Northaunt does on Istid III the latest instalment in the Istid series. 

Istid III is a captivating and enchanting album that is  beautiful, dreamy and ethereal but also sometimes haunting, and tinged with sadness and melancholy. Sometimes, there’s a mesmeric quality to the music on Istid III as it washes over the listener and makes the world seem a better place as Northaunt combines elements  of ambient, avant-garde, drone music, modern classical and musique concrete. In doing so, Northaunt makes the album that everyone knew he was capable of making after Istid I-II.

Three years later, and Northaunt returns with a cerebral and thought-provoking genre classic, Istid III, which is a poignant and powerful career-defining album that is atmospheric, cinematic and rich in imagery, which is what critics and record buyers have come to expect from of one finest purveyors of ambient music.

Northaunt- Istid III.


Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul.

Label: BGP.

Throughout musical history, colourful and controversial characters have always been attracted to the music industry in the hope of earning fast and easy money. While that night have been part of the attraction why Michael Thevis founded the Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone labels, it wasn’t his main reason. Instead, Michael Thevis was looking for a legitimate way to get his substantial fortune into the financial system. By then, Michael Thevis was heavily involved in pornography, and  later admitted to a Louisville jury that he was: “the General Motors of pornography.” However, when Michael Thevis began building his musical empire nobody questioned his motive never mind the source of finances.

Eventually, Michael Thevis’ musical empire in Birmingham, Alabama included the Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone labels, which were releasing some of the finest Southern Soul and funk of the seventies. This includes the twenty-two tracks on a new compilation released by BGP, Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul which is the first in a new series that examines the convergence of southern soul and funk during the seventies. Before that, Michael Thevis set about building his musical empire. 

In the  early seventies, Michael Thevis had a major problem when  he discovered that he was under investigation from the FBI. This was hugely inconvenient to someone involved in his line of work…pornography. Not wanting to follow in the footsteps of Al Capone and Dutch Schultz, who were both brought down by federal investigations, Michael Thevis began looking for legitimate enterprises to launder his fortune. 

After looking for a legitimate business, Michael Thevis decided to form not one, but three record labels which he would use a laundromat to wash his fortune. These labels he named GRC (General Recording Corporation), Aware and Hotlanta Records which became part of Michael Thevis’ nascent musical empire. 

Soon, there was a new addition to Michael Thevis’ musical empire, the Sound Pit Studio in Atlanta which boasted some of the best equipment money could buy. Building the studio made financial sense as it saved hiring other studios, and meant artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records could record at the impressive Sound Pit Studio. When the studio wasn’t in use by Michael Thevis’ artists, it could be hired out, and bring in much-needed income. However, as all this empire building continued, tongues began wagging, including Michael Thevis.

Over the next few months, veterans of the Atlanta music scene watched, as the state-of-the-art recording took shape. No expense was spared to create the most advanced studio in Atlanta. It was a similar case as Michael Thevis expanded his musical empire which already included his record labels and the Act One publishing company. Soon, the Jason Management booking agency and a film company became part of Michael Thevis’ musical empire. This was something he was proud of, and wasn’t shy about telling people about it. 

Rather than keep a low profile, Michael Thevis ran his musical empire from a lavish suite of offices in a skyscraper looking over Atlanta. They were featured in Billboard in May 1974, when the magazine ran a feature on the Atlanta music industry. A bullish Michael Thevis told Billboard of his latest takeover, and his expansion plans.

Michael Thevis’ most recently acquisition was the Moonsong publishing company, which he had purchased from Bill Brandon. This became part of the GRC’s publishing division, alongside Michael Thevis’ own publishing company Act One. To run the newly expanded publishing division, Bill Brandon joined GRC, and became the publishing manager of the R&B division. However, the acquisition of Moonsong was just part of Michael Thevis’ grand plan.

Michael Thevis told Billboard of his plans to build a brand new twenty-eight story skyscraper in Atlanta which was where he would run his musical empire from. It would also have outposts in Nashville, Houston, Los Angles, New York and London. Nobody questioned Michael Thevis about his plans, and to make his story seem all the more convincing, he even booked eight pages of advertising in Billboard’s Atlanta special.

By then, most people thought that Michael Thevis was a legitimate businessman who had big plans for the future, and for Atlanta. By then, everyone seemed to buy into Michael Thevis’ grand plan. He was the local boy who had made good and was living the American Dream. 

Incredibly, nobody seemed to be paying close attention to the balance sheets of Michael Thevis’ record companies. If they had, they would’ve realised they weren’t particularly successful. None of the labels were consistently releasing hit singles or successful albums, which begged the question where was all the income coming from? Was it the publishing company, recording studio, booking company or film company? Nobody it seemed, was in a hurry to find out, and given Michael Thevis past and his reputation for violence, maybe that wasn’t surprising? However, if someone had cared to look there were plenty of clues where the money was coming from.

Originally, Michael Thevis’ film company had financed legitimate films, including Zhui Ming Qiang in 1973 and in 1974 Seizure which was one of Oliver Stone’s earliest films. By 1975, Michael Thevis had gone up in the world when he released Poor Pretty Eddy.Just like previous films, it proved profitable and brought greater riches Michael Thevis’ way. However, although Michael Thevis was trying to build a legitimate business empire, he had reverted to type. 

The film company he had acquired began producing pornographic films, and if a journalist had looked into the activities of Michael Thevis’ empire, it could’ve come tumbling down. This looked highly unlikely in early 1975.

Country singer Sammy Johns had been signed to GRC for a couple of years. In  early 1973, Sammy Johns released Chevvy Van as a single which was reported to have sold over three million copies. Given that a GRC artist had just enjoyed such a successful single, surely the label’s finances would be on a sound footing as 1975 progressed?

While most people  would’ve thought so, the truth was that many of GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records’ releases weren’t particularly successful, and none of their releases having sold in vast quantities. That was despite the labels having impressive roster an impressive roster of artists that included Dorothy Norwood, John Edwards, Floyd Smith, Sam Dees and Loleatta Holloway. The roster was like a Who’s Who of Southern Soul, and Michael Thevis’ labels should’ve been among the most successful  labels in the South. Instead, the record company’s losses were mounting up. However, the record companies had their uses though.

Running regional record companies offered Michael Thevis an opportunity and facility to launder dirty money. He could’ve used dirty money to buy his own companies’ releases. However, these phantom record sales would only exist on paper and would have the effect of laundering the dirty money through the company’s accounts. Once the money was in the record company’s accounts, tax could be paid on the profit that had been made. This would further legitimise any dirty money the company was making. Especially, as the FBI were still watching Michael Thevis.

GRC and the rest of Michael Thevis’ musical empire all came crashing down in late 1975. Michael Thevis’ attempt to build a legitimate business empire had failed. Soon, it emerged that Michael Thevis’ musical empire was always doomed to failure as the FBI had been investigating his business activities for three years.

This began when Roger Dean Underhill was involved in a routine traffic stop, and an eagle-eyed traffic officer noticed a small cache of stolen guns under the passenger seat. This resulted in Roger Dean Underhill being arrested. Rather than face the consequences, Roger Dean Underhill decided to inform upon his business partner, Michael Thevis. 

This lead to the start of a three-year investigation that resulted, in the arrest and subsequent conviction of Michael Thevis. For all the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records, this was the beginning of the end.

All the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records were left high and dry. It was disaster for all the artists affected by the collapse. They were left without a label and some of the artists were also owed royalties, which in some cases, was a significant sum of money. For the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records they had no idea what the future held for them. This included a number of the artists on Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul.

Opening Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul is Dave Camon’s Keep On Your Doin’ Your Funky Thing which is one of the unreleased tracks on the compilation. It perfectly demonstrates how funk and soul were starting to converge during the seventies on a track that is über funky, dancefloor friendly and soulful.

During her time signed to Aware, Loleatta Holloway released just six singles and two albums. One of the tracks from her debut album Loleatta, which was produced by her husband Floyd Smith, was the funky and soulful Only A Fool which features a sassy and defiant vocal. Two years later, in 1975, Only A Fool featured on the B-Side to the single Casanova. By then, Loleatta Holloway’s sophomore album  Cry To Me had been released and featured Frederick Knight’s The World Don’t Owe You Nothin’. It features a soulful vocal powerhouse full of emotion and defiance, while a funky rhythm section and keyboards create a backdrop for Loleatta Holloway. Sadly, the album Cry To Me was released not long before the demise of Michael Thevis’ musical empire and the album failed to find the audience it deserved.

The funk band Maggabrain was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1974, and before long, were part of Michael Thevis’ musical empire. They had soon recorded tracks of the quality of the funky, dancefloor filler Down At The Disco, and the slick, melodic and irresistible  Spacewalking where Maggabrain seamlessly combine elements of smooth soul, funk and disco. Sadly, neither track was released and make their debut on Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul. However, by the eighties Maggabrain was a successful band who were touring the world after enjoying several hits including New Wavin’.

In 1974, Floyd Smith released his sophomore single The Bump, which was his debut for the Aware label. Floyd had produced The Bump which he had written with William Johnson and Aware had high hopes for the single. It was slow, sensuous, soulful and funky and should’ve resulted in a hit for the talented singer, songwriter and producer. Sadly, commercial success eluded the single, and Floyd Smith released just a handful of singles, and enjoyed more success as a producer. 

After moving from Michigan to Atlanta, funk band Ripple added guitarist Barry Lee and keyboardist Victor Burks to the band. The new lineup of Ripple was signed to GRC, and soon, had written their debut single I Don’t Know What It Is, But It Sure Is Funky which was produced by Dave Ferguson. When I Don’t Know What It Is, But It Sure Is Funky was released in August 1973, it reached sixty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and eleven in the US R&B charts and was the biggest single of Ripple’s career. This was no surprise as I Don’t Know What It Is, But It Sure Is Funky was an anthemic and irresistible song where funk and soul combine to create a memorable and truly timeless single.

Although Archie Russell was better known as a producer by 1972, he entered the studio and cut Help Me (Pt. 1) and Help Me (Pt. 2). On both tracks, it sounds as Archie Russell has been inspired by the self-styled Godfather of Funk, James Brown as he delivers a vampish, powerful vocal. However, Archie Russell’s vocal is also soulful as his backing band keep things funky. The resulting tracks are favourites amongst breaks collectors and sample hungry producers. Help Me (Pt. 1) and Help Me (Pt. 2) also reinforce how by the early seventies soul and funk were converging as music continued to change.

By the time Jimmy Lewis signed to the Hotlanta label he had already  passed through a number of labels, never staying anywhere long. That was the case at Hotlanta, although Jimmy Lewis released three singles and the album Totally Involved during 1974. One of the tracks that was recorded for Totally Involved was When I Build My World, which didn’t make it onto the album. It was a funky, slice of hopeful soul from gravelly voice soul man, which was maybe the one that got away for Jimmy Lewis? It’s a welcome addition to Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul.

During their time signed to Michael Thevis’ musical empire, Deep Velvet recorded Complain To The Clouds (But You Can’t Change The Weather) which despite its quality, was never released. Just like Jimmy Lewis’ When I Build My World, Complain To The Clouds (But You Can’t Change The Weather) was the one that got away for Deep Velvet. This quality fusion of funk and soul lay unreleased in the vaults until it featured on the Kent Soul compilation Come Back Strong-Hotlanta Soul 4. Just under two years later, Complain To The Clouds (But You Can’t Change The Weather) returns for an encore on Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul and is a reminder of how soul and funk were converging during the first half of the seventies.

East LA Car Pool only single for GRC was Like They Say In LA which was released in 1975. By then, Michael Thevis’ musical empire was about to come tumbling down an as a result, East LA Car Pool never returned with a followup. This meant that Seeds Of Life never saw the light of day for thirty-seven years. Seeds Of Life features a deeply soulful and impassioned vocal while the arrangement is funk and urgent. Sadly, the song wasn’t released until 2002 when it featured on Living In The Streets 3-Busting Out Of The Ghetto. However, songs as good as Seeds Of Life deserve to return for encore, and sixteen years later, take a bow.

Ripple’s second contribution to Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul is Instrumental #2. It’s another unreleased track and finds Ripple fusing a funky rhythm section, brassy horns, and searing rocky guitar to create a hidden gem that sound as if it’s been influenced of Booker T and The MGs and Santana. 

The Counts were formed in Detroit, Michigan, in 1964 and signed to Aware in 1973. Over the next two years The Counts released four singles and two albums. This included the Mose Davis’ composition Funk Pump which was released as a single in 1974. Later in 1974, The Counts released their third album Funk Pump, and one of the highlights was the soulful, sassy and vampish funk of the innuendo laden title-track.

Soul singer John Edwards was another on the big names signed to Aware, and between 1973 and 1974 he released five singles and an album. However, one of the songs that was never released was Time. It features lush strings, a funky rhythm section and backing singers as John Edwards delivers an emotive and impassioned vocal on this hidden gem.

Tucked away on the B-Side of Joe Hinton’s 1974 single Hanna’s Love which was released on Hotlanta, was Shouldn’t I Be Given the Right to Be Wrong? It’s a hugely underrated funky slice of soul which was co-produced by Marlin McNichols and Joe Hinton that deserved to fare better than a B-Side.

Closing Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul is Checkmate the track that closed The Ebony Godfather’s 1974 album for GRC Moog Fluting. It finds The Ebony Godfather a.k.a. Joe Thomas using a Moog modulated flute on a track that although funky is quite different to the previous tracks. Mostly, that is because of the use of the Moog modulated flute which is something of a masterstroke from Joe Gordon and an innovative departure from him.

During the period that Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul covers, the twenty-two tracks show just soul music was converging with funk and the what had previously been two musical genres were becoming one. Even on the tracks by Loleatta Holloway, Jimmy Lewis and John Edwards who had made their names as soul singers they moved towards the new hybrid sound on Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul. However, this new hybrid of soul and funk showed that it wasn’t just the  times they were a changing, but so was music.

As a result, the new hybrid of soul and funk meant that much of the music on Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul was soulful and funky while some tracks were dancefloor friendly. Meanwhile, some of the tracks ranged from tough and funky to a much slicker, soulful and funky tracks. Occasionally tracks hinted at disco which would usurp soul and funk later in the seventies. Ironically, some of the artists on Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul including  Loleatta Holloway, later reinvented herself as a disco diva and enjoyed the most successful period of her career.

That was just as well, because some of the artists on Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul were owed money after the collapse of Michael Thevis’ musical empire. His three years of hard work came to nothing, and just like the artists on Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone, Michael Thevis had no idea what the future help from him.

With his grand plans in tatters, Michael Thevis it looked like the end of road for his musical empire. Fortunately, his wife Veld and son Michael Jr, took over the running of GRC and for a while, it was business as usual. That was until Michael Thevis’ world was turned upside down.

Michael Thevis was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson, and distribution of obscene materials. The man who sparked the three-year investigation into Michael Thevis, Roger Dean Underhill even took to the stand, and testified in court. At the time, he thought he was doing the right thing, but it was a decision that the FBI’s informant would live to regret

In 1978, Michael Thevis managed to escape from prison, and straight away, was placed on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list. By then, Michael Thevis and some of his ‘associates’ had placed an open contract on Roger Dean Underhill. When the hit came, the shooter was none other than Michael Thevis. He shot and killed Roger Dean Underhill and one of his associates. Not long after the murders, Michael Thevis was arrested and taken to a high security facility and the Scarface of Porn was later convicted of the two murders. Over thirty years later, and Michael Thevis is still serving his sentence, and parole looks unlikely for the man who founded the GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records.

Ironically, as Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul has just been released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records, Michael Thevis the man who founded the three labels and financed the building of the Sound Pit Studio where the music was recorded is still languishing in prison and it looks like he really is serving a life sentence. The sad thing is, that if Michael Thevis had set his mind to it and played by the rules, maybe he could’ve built a real musical empire that rivalled the leading independent soul labels of the seventies? 

Sadly, that wasn’t to be, and Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone were castles in the sand that folded after just three years. By then, had recorded and released some remarkable music including the music on Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul, where soul and funk converges and a new hybrid genre emerges as music continues to evolve.

Southern Groove: Hotlanta, Aware and Clintone Funk and Soul.





Jethro Tull-Heavy Horses-(New Shoes Edition).

Label: PLG UK Catalog.

As April 1978 dawned, Jethro Tull was still one of the most successful British bands of their generation, and were about to release their eleventh album Heavy Horses, which was the second album in a trilogy of folk rock albums. Jethro Tull hoped that Heavy Horses, which was recently reissued by  PLG UK Catalog as a five CD box set entitled the New Shoes Edition, would build on the success of Songs From The Wood which had been released in February 1977. It was the first instalment in Jethro Tull’s folk rock trilogy, which was a new chapter in their career. 

The origins of Jethro Tull can be traced to Blackpool,  Lancashire,  in 1962, where Ian Anderson formed his first group Blades, which was originally a four piece, featuring Ian Anderson on vocals and harmonica. A year later in 1963, Blades was a quintet and in 1964 the group was a sextet who played blue-eyed soul. However, by 1967 blades decided to spread their wings and  head to London.

Having moved to London, the band split-up within a short time, and only Ian Anderson and bassist Glen McCornick were left. This proved a blessing in disguise as they were soon joined by blues guitarist Mick Abrahams and drummer Clive Bunker. This was the lineup that featured of Jethro Tull that featured on their debut album This Was. That was still to co

Before that, the nascent band had to settle on a name, and various names were tried, only to be rejected. Then someone at a booking agent christened the band Jethro Tull, after the eighteenth century agriculturist. Little did anyone realise that the newly named Jethro Tull would become one of the biggest bands in the world over the next decade. 

Not long after becoming Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson acquired his first flute. Up until then, he had played harmonica and was trying to learn to play the guitar. Soon, , Ian Anderson realised that wasn’t a great guitarist, and having realised that the  world had enough mediocre guitarists, decided to expand his musical horizons and bought a flute. Little did he realise this would be one of Jethro Tull’s trademarks.

After a couple of weeks, Ian Anderson had already picked up the basics of the flute. He was learning as he played. While this wasn’t ideal, it was the only way that possible. Especially with things happening so quickly for Jethro Tull who would soon release their debut single.

Sunshine Day was penned by Mick Abrahams, with Derek Lawrence taking charge of production. However, when their debut single was pressed, Jethro Tull realised that an error meant the  single was credited to Jethro Toe. To make matters worse, Sunshine Day wasn’t a commercial success and failed to trouble the charts. Despite this disappointment, thing got better when Jethro Tull released their debut album This Was.

This Was.

Recording of This Was took place at Sound Techniques in London, with the sessions beginning  on the ‘13th’ of June 1968, and finishing on  the ‘23rd’ of August 1968. By then,  Jethro Tull had only £1,200 was spent recording their  debut album This Was. This money would soon be recouped when This Was released. 

Prior to the release of  Jethro Tull’s  debut album This Was critics had their say on the album. The majority of the critics were impressed by This Was which was a fusion of blues rock, R&B and jazz. This pleased Jethro Tull and their management, who decided to launch This Was at the Marquee Club, in London.

Jethro Tull was only the third band to launch their debut album at the Marquee Club, and would follow in the footsteps of  the Rolling Stones and The Who. Both bands were  amongst the biggest bands in the world by 1968, and so would Jethro Tull.

On the ‘25th’ October 1968 Jethro Tull released This Was, which reached number ten in the UK. Three months later,  Jethro Tull released This Was in America on the ‘3rd’ of February 1969 and it reached sixty-two in the US Billboard 200. This was seen as a success by Island Records in Britain and Reprise in America. Jethro Tull had made inroads into the most lucrative music market in the world. It was a successful start to Jethro Tull’s career, which was about to enter a period where critical acclaim and commercial success were almost ever-present. However, there was a twist in the tale.

By then, Mick Abrahams left the band after he and Ian Anderson disagreed over the future direction of Jethro Tull. The sticking point was that Mick Abraham wanted Jethro Tull to stick with blues rock, while Ian Anderson realised there was no real future in blues rock. He wanted to take Jethro Tull to explore a variety of musical genres. As a result, Mick Abrahams left Jethro Tull and was replaced by Michael Barre. Little did either Mick Abraham nor Michael Barre realize that Stand Up marked the start of a period where Jethro Tull would sell over sixty-million albums.

Stand Up.

With new guitarist Michael Barre onboard, work began on Jethro Tull’s sophomore album Stand Up, which was a much more eclectic album to This Was. Ian Anderson who was now Jethro Tull’s primary songwriter, penned nine of the ten tracks and drew inspiration from everything from blues rock, Celtic, classical, folk and rock. These ten tracks became Stand Up, which was recorded over three months in 1969.

Recording of Stand Up took place at Morgan Studios and Olympic Studios. The sessions began on the ‘17th’ of April 1969, and continued through to the ‘21st’ of May 1969. Three months later, and Stand Up was released.

Before the release of Stand Up in September 1969, the reviews of Jethro Tull’s sophomore  album were positive, with the musicianship and production receiving praise from critics. They also noted that the Jethro Tull’s music was starting to evolve, although Stand Up still featured blues rock sound. Elsewhere on Stand Up, Jethro Tull had started to expand their musical palette and  this struck a nerve with critics and record buyers.

On Stand Up’s release in the UK on the ‘1st’ of August 1969  Jethro Tull’s sophomore album. topped the charts.  When Stand Up was released on the ‘29th’ of September 1969 it reached number twenty in the US Billboard 200 Charts and was certified gold. This was the start of  a golden period in Jethro Tull’s career. 


Following the commercial success of Stand Up, Jethro Tull returned to Morgan Studios, in London, on the ‘3rd’ of September 1969 and spent the next five months recording ten new tracks which were penned and produced by Ian Anderson. By the ‘25th’ of  February 1970 Jethro Tull had completed Benefit, which was much more experimental and darker album and the first album of the progressive rock years.

Before the release of Benefit, the critics had their say on Jethro Tull’s third album, which they noted had a much more experimental sound as the band flitted between progressive rock and  folk rock. Ian Anderson had allowed Jethro Tull more freedom to express themselves as he also wanted Benefit to have a live sound. This shawn through, as does Benefit’s darker sound which Ian Anderson claimed was because of the pressure of a forthcoming American tour, and his disillusionment with the business side of the music industry. However, the new sound didn’t affect sales.

Jethro Tull released Benefit on the ‘20th’ of April 1970, and it reached number three in the UK, and eleven in the US Billboard 200 Charts. Just like Stand Up, Benefit was much more popular stateside than in the UK. It seemed American record buyers “got” Jethro Tull more than their British counterparts. This would the case when Jethro Tull released their first classic album, Aqualung.


By December 1970, Jethro Tull had just returned from a gruelling American tour, and were about to head into the studio to record their fourth album Aqualung. This wasn’t  ideal, and already, Ian Anderson wasn’t enjoying the months away from home. He missed his friends and family which was one of the downsides of being a member of one of the most successful rock bands in the world. To make matters worse, while his  friends and family were readying themselves for the forthcoming festive season, Ian Anderson and the rest of Jethro Tull were about to begin recording their fourth album, and their second progressive rock album, Aqualung.

Despite Jethro Tull’s gruelling touring schedule, Ian Anderson’s creativity hadn’t been stifled, and he returned with the lyrics to the band’s  most ambitious and cerebral album, Aqualung. It was a concept album that examined ”the distinction between religion and God.”  This seemed an unlikely subject for an album, even a seventies concept album. However, Aqualung, which feature two new band members was a game-changer of an album.

Joining Jethro Tull arrived at Island Studios in December 1970, where Ian Anderson and Terry Ellis took charge of production were new recruits, keyboardist John Evans and bassist Jeffrey Hammond. Both were looking forward to  recording their first album with their new band, which was another album of progressive rock that featured elements of folk rock. Aqualung  took until  February 1970 to complete, but was worth the wait as it was Jethro Tull’s most cerebral and philosophical album and also their most successful album.

Once Aqualung was completed, neither Chrysalis in Britain, nor Reprise in America wasted time in releasing Jethro Tull’s fourth album. Given the subject matter, there must have been a degree of trepidation amongst the executives at both record companies as concept albums were controversial. However,  a concept album that examined ”the distinction between religion and God” could prove hugely controversial and there could be a huge backlash against the album given its subject matter.

As copies of Aqualung were sent out to critics, executives at Chrysalis and Reprise awaited their reviews with bated breath. They need not have worried as most of the reviews were positive, with critics remarking upon the quality of the music, the standard of the musicianship and Ian Anderson’s thought-provoking and cerebral lyrics. Many critics hailed  Aqualung  as Jethro Tull’s finest album and a  progressive rock classic. Record buyers agreed.

On the release of Aqualung on the ‘19th’ of March 1971, it reached number four in the UK. Meanwhile, Aqualung reached seven in the US Billboard 20 and was certified triple platinum in America. Elsewhere, Aqualung reached number five in Germany, and was certified gold and Jethro Tull’s fourth album sold  seven million copies worldwide. This transformed Jethro Tull’s fortunes, who now one of the biggest rock bands in the world. 

For the two new members of Jethro Tull, this must have been hard to take in. Suddenly, they were part of a band who had just sold over seven million albums which must have seemed surreal for the newcomers.  Meanwhile,  another member of Jethro Tull decided to call it a day after the success of Aqualung.

Drummer Clive Bunker had been a member of Jethro Tull since the early days and it wasn’t going to be easy to replace him. He had decided to bow out after Jethro Tull’s most successful album, and must have known that following up Aqualung wasn’t going to be easy.

Thick As A Brick.

After the commercial success and critical acclaim of Aqualung, critics, record company executives and the record buying public wondered what Ian Anderson had in-store for the fifth Jethro Tull album?As always, it was a case of expect the unexpected.

What nobody expected, was that Ian Anderson would pen one lengthy track that took up both sides of Thick Of A Brick. Side one of the original album featured Thick as a Brick Part I, while side two featured Thick as a Brick Part II. This song of two parts comprised Jethro Tull’s latest concept album which was recorded at Morgan Studios, in London during December 1971 and was the first to feature new drummer, Barriemore Barlow.

Following critics conclusion that Aqualung was a “concept album,” Ian Anderson decided to have some fun at the critic’s expense. He decided to “come up with something that really is the mother of all concept albums.” Among his influences were Monty Python and the movie Airplane. Just like Airplane poked fun at the cinema goers, filmmakers and critics, Thick Of A Brick saw Jethro Tull poke fun at their audience and music critics. However, Jethro Tull weren’t laughing at their audience, they were laughing with them and maybe, were laughing at other groups.

Later, Ian Anderson would say Thick As A Brick was a reaction against the concept albums being released by groups like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. That would explain why Ian Anderson produced an album that he later described as “bombastic” and “over the top.” 

Thick As A Brick was recorded in a day. It was meant to be an adaptation of an epic poem written by a fictional eight year old prodigy, Gerald Bostock. Ian Anderson even went as far as giving the fictional Gerald Bostock a co-credit. The poem was meant to be pseudo Homeric, but with a bombastic, humorous style. The album came wrapped in a cover that replicates a comedic newspaper and  features the poem penned by the child prodigy. Although Thick As A Brick’s album cover and the album had spoof written all over it, many people didn’t get Jethro Tull, or more specifically, Ian Anderson’s unique style of humour. It was way too subtle.

With Thick As A Brick complete, and the fictional Gerald Bostock’s epic poem brought to life, copies of the album were sent out to critics. They hailed the album one of Jethro Tull’s finest. The music on Thick As A Brick was groundbreaking, innovative, slick and sophisticated. Most critics were won over by music that was complicated, but tinged with subtle humour. Incredibly, some critics failed to find the funny side of Thick As A Brick, and bought it hook, line and sinker. They failed to see that Jethro Tull were poking fun at the concept album, and laughing along with their audience at what Ian Anderson perceived as its pomposity. However, what very few critics overlooked was Jethro Tull’s first true progressive rock offering.

Thick As A Brick marked the completion of Jethro Tull’s move towards progressive rock which they had toyed with on their two previous albums. On Thick As A Brick they embraced  progressive rock fully, on album  which featured numerous musical themes, changes in time signature and tempo shifts. This proved popular with their legion of fans.

When Thick As A Brick  was released on the ‘10th’ of March 1972 it reached number one in Australia, Canada and the US Billboard 200 charts. Back home in Britain, Thick As A Brick reached number thirteen which wasn’t unlucky for Jethro Tull. Thick As A Brick  proved to be Jethro Tull’s most popular album in Britain and was certified silver. Meanwhile Thick As A Brick was certified gold in America and Ian Anderson’s parodic concept album saw Jethro Tull triumph again, as they became progressive  rock pioneers.

A Passion Play.

In March 1973, Jethro Tull returned to Morgan Studios, where they began work on their sixth album A Passion Play. It was another concept album where individual songs were arranged into a single continuous piece of music that followed the progress of the spiritual journey of Ronnie Pilgrim in the afterlife. Just like Aqualung, it was an ambitious and innovative album that was cerebral and through-provoking.

By the time work began on A Passion Play, the members of Jethro Tull were contemplating moving to France to escape the punitive tax rates that were imposed on high earners like rock stars. Jethro Tull had even identified the Château d’Hérouville as a potential venue to record A Passion Play which was meant to be a double album.

Eventually, Jethro Tull had only enough material for three sides of the double album, and they decided that A Passion Play should be a single album. One of the tracks, The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles seems to have been inspired by Prokofiev’s Peter and The Wolf, while other parts of A Passion Play are reminiscent of to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and John Milton’s A Passion Play, as Jethro Tull decided to head further down the road marked progressive rock. However, they also incorporated elements of traditional English folk music and played an array of disparate instruments on A Passion Play which was scheduled for release in July 1973.

Prior to the release of A Passion Play, critics had their say on Jethro Tull’s sixth album, but the majority of reviews were highly critical of the album. Although none of the critics were won over by A Passion Play, but record buyers were.

Despite the poor reviews, A Passion Play still reached thirteen in the UK on its release on the ‘13th’ of July 1973 and was certified silver. Ten days later, A Passion Play was released in North America on the ‘23rd’ of July 1973 and reached number one in Canada and the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Jethro Tull had triumphed over adversity for Jethro Tull, and had now old in excess of five million albums in America alone.

War Child.

Following the criticism of A Passion Play, it looked as like the end of the road for Jethro Tull, and it was rumoured that Ian Anderson was going to disband the group. However, eventually, Jethro Tull returned in October 1974 with a new album War Child.

Some of the tracks that hadn’t been used on Aqualung and A Passion Play resurfaced on War Child, which had been recorded in Morgan Studios, London, and in the Château d’Hérouville. Despite the poor reviews of A Passion Play, it was a much more relaxed Jethro Tull that recorded the new tracks at Château d’Hérouville that would feature on War Child. 

It was meant to be a double album that accompanied a film project The War Child, which was described as a metaphysical black comedy based on a teenage girl in the afterlife, who meeting characters based on God, St. Peter and Lucifer who were portrayed as shrewd businessmen. However, the film was abandoned after failing to find a major movie studio willing to finance it. This left just War Child.

When War Child was finished, it followed in the footsteps of A Passion Play, and was another album of orchestrated album of progressive rock that sometimes, headed in the direction of a more traditional rock sound. However, just like A Passion Play, critics disliked War Child, and wrote scathing reviews of the album. No longer were Jethro Tull the darlings of the critics.

Despite that, War Child was released on the ’14th’ of October 1974, and reached fourteen in the UK and two on the US Billboard 200. This was enough for another gold disc for Jethro Tull, who knew that they needed to change tack for their next album.

Minstrel In The Gallery.

By the time Jethro Tull began work on their eighth album Minstrel In The Gallery, they were one of the biggest selling groups of the seventies. However, this came at a cost to songwriter-in-chief and lead vocalist, and the constant cycle recording an album and then touring it, had cost him his marriage. Commercial success and critical acclaim had come at cost, by April 1975, Ian Anderson’s marriage to Jennie Franks had ended in divorce. It wasn’t a good time for the Jethro Tull frontman.

When Ian Anderson began work on what became Minstrel In The Gallery, it proved a cathartic experience, he wrote about his divorce, and the pressures of having to constantly, write, record and tour. These songs were recorded between the ‘5th’ of May 1975 and the ‘7th’ of June 1975 at Maison Rouge Mobile Studio, in Monaco. Ian Anderson had brought onboard a string quartet, to replace the orchestra that featured on the two previous albums. This he hoped would help transform Jethro Tull’s fortunes.  Once Minstrel In The Gallery was completed, it was scheduled for release in September 1975. Before that, the critics had their say.

The reviews of Minstrel In The Gallery were hardly glowing and some critics slated the album. Rolling Stone’s unnamed critic didn’t hold back. Their review called Minstrel In The Gallery “instantly forgettable.” However, Rolling Stone weren’t alone, and only a few reviews were favourable and the majority of the reviews were mixed. No longer was Jethro Tull’s fusion of progressive rock, folk rock and hard rock as popular amongst the critics. It was a different case with the record buying public, who had the final say.

On its release in Britain on the ‘5th’ of September 1975, Minstrel In The Gallery reached number twenty and was certified sliver. Three days later, Minstrel In The Gallery was released on the ‘8th’ of September 1975 and reached number two in the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold. Meanwhile, in Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden, Minstrel In The Gallery sold well and Jethro Tull were still one of the biggest bands of the seventies, thanks to Minstrel In The Gallery.

Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die!

After the gruelling Minstrels In The Gallery tour, bassist Jeffrey Hammond was exhausted. Life with Jethro Tull seemed to be a schedule of record an album, then tour the album. It was non-stop and Jeffrey Hammond wanted to slow down,  so, after the Minstrels In The Gallery tour, he announced he was leaving to become an artist. For Jethro Tull, this presented a problem, as they were about to record their ninth album Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die!

Fortunately, John Glascock was recruited and joined Jethro Tull just in time to record their latest concept album Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die! at Radio Monte Carlo, using the Maison Rouge Mobile Studio. This wasn’t the same studio that Jethro Tull had used to record Minstrels In The Gallery. However, Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! which was recorded between the ’19th’ of November 1975 and the ’27th’ of January 1976 was a very different album to its predecessor.

Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die! told the story of Ray Lomas,  an ageing rock star, who had retired from music, when the music he played fell out of fashion. Still, Ray Lomas was a greaser who wasn’t going to have a makeover. Not even when he went onto the “Quizz” show and won the jackpot. Even money however, didn’t bring Ray Lomas happiness.

After winning the money, Ray Lomas tries to commit suicide, and like the Sleeping Beauty, he falls into a deep sleep. When Ray Lomas wakes up, the greaser fashion is back in style, and he makes a comeback. Never did he lose faith that his style would come back into fashion. This was the story that Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die was attempting to tell and which featured on cartoon printed on the album cover. However, not everyone was impressed by Jethro Tull’s latest concept album.

Critics on hearing Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die weren’t impressed with the album, and felt that the plot lacked clarity and Ian Anderson may have been a gifted lyricist, but wasn’t a  storyteller. The reviews of Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die ranged from poor to mixed, but not all of these reviews were an honest reflection on the music on the album. 

The rise of punk, which was the antithesis to progressive rock, resulted in groups like Jethro Tull being labelled musical dinosaurs by a new breed of gunslinger critics. They perceived Jethro Tull as remnants of the music’s past and slated their albums. This affected sales of Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die.

When Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die was released on the ’23rd’ of April 1976, it stalled at fifteen in the UK. Three weeks later, on the ’17th’ of May 1976 Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 200, and this time there was no gold disc for Jethro Tull. By then, Jethro Tull realised that they had to change direction and  soon, the folk rock years would begin.

Songs From The Wood.

Following the disappointment of Too Old To Rock N’ Roll: Too Young To Die, Jethro Tull decided to reinvent their music and move in the direction of folk rock. This new era began at Morgan Studios, in London where between September and November 1976 Jethro Tull recorded the nine songs that became Songs From The Wood.

It’s an album that is rich in imagery from medieval Britain, while Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain seems to have inspired Ian Anderson as he wrote Songs From The Wood. Songs Jack-In-The Green, Cup Of Wonder and Ring Out Solstice Bells are full of medieval imagery and transport the listener back in time to another time and another place. Meanwhile, Velvet Green and Fire At Midnight showcase what’s best described as an ornamental folk arrangements while Pibroch (Cap in Hand) has a much more experimental sound. However, despite the strong folk influence on Songs From The Wood, Ian Anderson was quick to dismiss this description as irrelevant, and instead saw the album as Jethro Tull reaffirming their British identity. 

With Songs From The Wood complete, critics had their say on Jethro Tull’s first folk rock album. The majority of the albums were positive, and this made a change from recent Jethro Tull albums which had been slated by critics. It looked as if their luck was changing.

When Songs From The Wood was released on ’4th’ of February 1977, it reached number twenty in the UK and eight in the US Billboard 200. This was enough for gold discs on both sides of the Atlantic, as Jethro Tull announced their return with Songs From The Wood which marked the start of the folk rock years.

Heavy Horses.

Buoyed by the success of Songs From The Wood, Jethro Tull began work on their second folk rock album, Heavy Horses. Although Ian Anderson was still Jethro Tull’s songwriter-in-chief Martin Barre and David Palmer who both contributed to Heavy Horses. Mostly, though, Heavy Horses was an album written by Ian Anderson  and which featured telluric, imaginative and esoteric themes than those that feature on Songs From The Wood.

Journey Man saw Ian Anderson writing about how humans have to conform each and every day of their life. On a lighter note, Rover was dedicated to Ian Anderson’s dog and …And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps for his cat and No Lullaby was written for his young son, James. However, other songs found Ian Anderson contemplating the ever-changing and disappearing world which prove poignant and powerful. Meanwhile, Acres Wild and Weathercock find Ian Anderson hoping and pleading that better days are ahead for planet earth. Then there’s Heavy Horse, which is the second of two complicated suites that is comparable to the music on Aqualung, as it progresses from a  piano led ballad to the galloping arrangement which Ian Anderson knew that the older and more experienced lineup of Jethro Tull would cope with admirably as they began recording their eleventh album in May 1977.

This time, Maison Rouge Studio, in Fulham, London, was where Jethro Tull recorded their much-anticipated eleventh album Heavy Horses between May 1977 and January 1978. By then, Jethro Tull’s rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Barriemore Barlow, bassist John Glascock and guitarist Martin Barre. John Evan played piano and organ while David Palmer played  pipe organ, keyboards and  took charge of the orchestral arrangements. Ian Anderson played flute, mandolin, acoustic and occasionally electric guitar. Augmenting Jethro Tull was Curved Air violinist Darryl Way who featured on Acres Wild and Heavy Horses. He played his part on what was another carefully crafted, cerebral and thought-provoking album.

On Songs From The Wood, Jethro Tull decided to reinvent their music again, by eschewing the folk lyrical content that featured on their previous album, Songs From The Wood. It was replaced by a much more realistic outlook at a wold that was changing, and changing fast. Despite that, Heavy Horses was dedicated by Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull to the: “indigenous working ponies and horses of Great Britain.” 

With Heavy Horses completed, critics were keen to hear the followup to Songs From The Wood, and were pleasantly surprised to hear Jethro Tull at their tightest for many years rocking hard on an album of folk rock that sometimes headed in the direction of progressive rock. It seemed that progressive rock wasn’t in Jethro Tull’s past despite their recent reinvention as a folk rock band. However, Jethro Tull unlike many of their contemporaries weren’t willing to embrace punk and post punk in an attempt to win back listeners.

Instead, Jethro Tull stuck to their guns, and recorded Heavy Horses which was the folk rock album they had always intended to record. Granted, it was a harder rocking album and much more progressive album than Songs From The Wood, and won that found favour with critics.

Just like Songs From The Wood, critics lavished praise and critical acclaim on Heavy Horses and especially the instrumental arrangements, esoteric, cerebral and thought-provoking lyrics and when Jethro Tull decided to kick loose and rock hard. However, winning over critics was only half the battle, and Jethro Tull had still to win over record buyers with Heavy Horses.

They need not have worried, because when Heavy Horses was released on the ’10th’ of April 1978, it reached twenty in the and nineteen in the US Billboard 200. This was enough for a silver disc in the UK and a gold disc in America. However, that wasn’t the end of the story of Heavy Horses which was also certified gold in Canada. Record buyers just like critics in Britain and North America had been won over by Jethro Tull’s latest folk rock album.

That album, Heavy Horses, has just celebrated the fortieth anniversary of its release with the release of a lavish and lovingly curated five disc set which comes complete with ninety-six page booklet where Ian Anderson documents the recordings on the five diss within the 40th Anniversary New Shoes Deluxe Edition. 

On disc one of 40th Anniversary New Shoes Deluxe Edition Steven Wilson stereo remix of Heavy Horses, and nine previously unreleased tracks. This includes two takes of Living In These Hard Times and Botanic Man plus versions of Everything In Our Lives, Quatrain and Beltane which are welcome additions. The second and third disc features the Jakko Jakszyk stereo mix of Live in Concert: Berne, Switzerland, May 1978, where Jethro Tull roll back the years, putting all their years of experience to good use as they showcase their talent and versatility. 

Then on DVD 1, there’s the Steven Wilson 5.1 surround and stereo mixes plus the flat transfer of the original stereo and quadraphonic mixes of Heavy Horses and a selection of associated recordings. This is a welcome addition to any fan of Jethro Tull’s collection. So too, will be the contents of DVD 2, which were recorded live to a twenty-four track recorder at The Festhalle, in Berne, Switzerland by The Maison Rouge Mobile, which was then mixed to 5.1 DTS and DD surround sound and 48/24 LPCM stereo. For audiophiles who just so happen to be Jethro Tull fans, this is the icing and cherry on the cake. Incredibly, this five disc Heavy Horses costs less than one of many reissued LPs and is worth every penny as it features Jethro Tull at the peak of their powers d

Heavy Horses which was the second of Jethro Tull’s folk rock trilogy, continues where Songs From The Wood left off, and finds Ian Anderson continuing their return to form. They were once again enjoying commercial success and critical success and had now sold in excess of seven million albums in America along. Jethro Tull had come a long way since their early days as a blues rock band, and were still one of the most successful British bands of the seventies.

Ironically, Jethro Tull was still more popular in America than in Britain, where record buyers never seemed to ‘get’ their music. That was the case during their progressive rock years, and also when they reinvented themselves as a folk rock group. This began with Songs From The Wood which was reissued as a five disc box set in 2017, and the much-anticipated followup Heavy Horses, which documents the next chapter in Jethro Tull’s years. Heavy Horses is another  carefully crafted, cerebral and thought-provoking folk rock album which is also progressive and features Jethro Tull at their hard rocking best.

Jethro Tull-Heavy Horses-(New Shoes Edition).




Label: Hubro Music.

Release Date: ‘13th’ March 2018.

Three years after Oslo based Slagr released their critically acclaimed third album Short Stories, the talented trio return with the followup DIRR which will be  released by Hubro Music on the ‘13th’ March 2018, and is another album of meditative music that is quintessentially Nordic. That has been the case throughout Slagr’s fifteen year career.

Slagr was founded in Oslo, Norway, in 2003, and originally the group featured cellist Sigrun Eng, vibraphonist Amund Sjølie Sveen and Anne Hytta who played Hardanger Fiddle. Four years later, this was the lineup of Slagr that played on their debut Solaris, which was released to plaudits and praise in 2007. Solaris featured music that was unmistakably Nordic, which  would become Slagr’s trademark sound over the next decade.

After another gap of four years, Slagr returned with their much-anticipated sophomore album Straum, Stille in 2011. Just like their debut album, not only did it feature the same quintessentially Nordic sound, but there was  cinematic and dreamy. So much so, that it went a long way to prove Danish artist Asger Jorn’s quote the Scandinavia was: “the dream centre of Europe”

Buoyed by the critical acclaim and success of their first two albums, Norwegian jazz pianist Andreas Ulvo asked Slagr to collaborate with them on an album. It was recorded at isitArt studio between May ‘2nd’ and ‘3rd’ 2012, and six months later, Softspeaker was released on the ‘2nd’ of November. Softspeaker which was a beautiful, enchanting album that won over critics, who were impressed by Slagr’s first collaboration.

By the time Softspeaker was released, Slagr had already collaborated on album with the hugely talented Camilla Granlien. They had recorded Songs By Geirr Tveitt at Rainbow Studios, in Oslo, during August and September 2012. Then just four months after Slagr had released their first collaboration Softspeaker, they returned on the ‘1st’ of February 2013 with Songs By Geirr Tveitt. The collaboration with Camilla Granlien was breathtakingly beautiful and found favour with critics who hailed the album a resounding success. 

Short Stories.

After releasing two successful collaborations, Slagr’s thoughts turned to the group’s third studio album Short Stories, which was recorded in Hoff church in Østre Toten, Norway, during December 2013. Sadly, this was the last recording to feature one of the members of Slagr.

In the autumn of 2014 cellist Sigrun Eng left Slagr, and was replaced by Katrine Schiott. This was the first change in Slagr’s lineup in eleven years. However, it would nearly two-and-a-half years before Katrine Schiott made her recording debut with Slagr.

Before that, Slagr released their third album Short Stories on the ‘24th’ of April 2015. Critics called Short Stories Slagr’s finest album as they continued to paint pictures with quintessentially Nordic music. After the release of Short Stories, Slagr’s popularity continued to grow, and in 2015, they became an award-winning group. 

In 2015, the shortlists for the various Spellemannprisen awards were published and Slagr’s third album had been nominated for best album in the open category. This was a huge honour, as a Spellemannprisen is the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammy Award. Given the quality of Short Stories, Slagr must have known that they were in with a good chance of winning the award. They were taking nothing for granted as there were several albums in contention for this prestigious award.  However, it was Slagr who triumphed and Short Stories won the Spellemannprisen for the best album in the open category. This was a huge honour for Slagr whose star was in the ascendancy and critics and music fans eagerly awaited their fourth album which would mark the debut of new cellist Katrine Schiott.


After the critical acclaim and commercial success of their previous album Short Stories, Slagr had a lot to live up to, when they began work on their fourth album DIRR. Eventually, Anne Hytta and the other two members of Slagr had written the eight tracks that would become their much-anticipated fourth album DIRR.

For the recording of DIRR, Slagr headed to Sofienberg Kirke, in Oslo, a Gothic styled church that was built in 1877, and can seat 600 worshippers. It also has wonderful acoustics and the wintery sun shawn through the beautiful stained glass windows as the recording began on the ‘27th’ of February 2017. This time, Slagr had decided to produce DIRR themselves, which was a landmark album.

DIRR was the first album that Slagr had recorded since cellist Sigrun Eng had left the group in the autumn of 2014. Her replacement was cellist Katrine Schiott who was about to make her debut with Slagr. Katrine Schiott knew that Sigrun Eng had played a hugely important part in the sound and success of Slagr’s previous albums, but was ready to play her part in what was  new chapter in the Slagr story.

At the Sofienberg Kirke, recordists Andreas Mjøs and Espen Høydalsvik were preparing to record Slagr’s fourth album DIRR. While the personnel had changed, the instruments hadn’t as Anne Hytta played Hardanger Fiddle and joined by new cellist Katrine Schiott and vibraphonist Amund Sjølie Sveen who also played tuned glasses. The trio spent just two days recording DIRR, which was competed on the ‘28th’ of February 2017.

With DIRR recorded, Slagr asked Andreas Mjøs of Jaga Jazzist to mix their fourth album, which was then mastered by Morgan Nicolaysen at Propeller Mastering in Oslo. He was the perfect person to master DIRR, as he was a trumpeter with a background in classical music and acoustic jazz. Morgan Nicolaysen was sure to master DIRR in such a way that it brought out the best in Slagr’s much-anticipated fourth album.

Once DIRR was mastered, the final piece of the jigsaw was the album cover which featured a thought-provoking photograph by Slagr’s vibraphonist Amund Sjølie Sveen. That photograph adorns DIRR which was released by Hubro Music on the ‘6th’ of April 2018 and marks the welcome return of Slagr.

Atmospheric, minimalist, spacious and cinematic describes the introduction to Aur opens DIRR as gusts of winds blow and a creaking sound accompanies the wistful, mesmeric sounding cello flits in and out. It disappears, but quickly reappears as the Hardanger Fiddle plays in a wistful, ruminative and almost sinister cinematic sounding track that asks a series of questions and sounds as if belongs on the soundtrack to a Win Wenders’ film.

Straight away, the Hardanger Fiddle plays on Strimesong and is soon joined by the cello, and together add a sense of sadness and melancholy to a soundscape that is unmistakable is unmistakably Nordic sounding. It’s also full of breathtaking beauty and emotion and is guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings as it paints pictures in the mind’s eye.

There’s an urgency to Flimmer as it almost races along, like a Nordic Trans Europe Express for the ‘21st’ Century as the track is propelled along. By then, it’s as if the listener is travelling through the Norwegian countryside witnessing the beauty, flora and fauna that flashes part.  However, the introduction of the strings adds a sense of drama, and suddenly,  Slagr seem to be creating the soundtrack to a Jo Nesbø crime novel. Later, as the drama subsides there’s a sense of sadness as if reflecting a script that has yet to be written. Soon, though, the drama returns with less than a minute to go and it seems that Slagr have solved the mystery of what went on during Flimmer, which is a cinematic and rich in imagery?

As Hel unfolds, Hardanger Fiddle and cello enter, and take centre-stage, droning as the arrangement builds. So too does the tension, as the strings become shrill, before softening and becoming an emotional roller coaster. By then, the music is beautiful but there’s a  sense of sadness and melancholia as the music becomes cinematic. Suddenly, the music is rich in imagery and the listener can’t help let their imagination run wild. Meanwhile, a drone accompanies the breathtakingly beautiful sound of Anne Hytta’s Hardanger Fiddle as it paints pictures of barren landscapes far away from the madding crowds. Soon, there’s a sense of sadness and wistfulness as drones grow in power and combined with tuned glasses as tension builds. Again, the listener can’t help but  let their imagination run wild in another cinematic track,which is full of beauty, sadness and even melancholia and drama and tension. 

Shimmering, glistening vibes open Varle and add a sense of hope before a dark cello provides a contrast and wistfulness. Later, the vibes briefly drop out, but soon returns and coexist with the wistful, rueful and sometimes almost urgent and dissonant sound of cello. Then when the vibes take centre-stage the soundscape is transformed before the dark, broody cello returns and add to the sense of sadness. So does the Hardanger Fiddle which reinforces the sadness while its beautiful  sound adds the finishing touch to this emotional roller coaster.

Understated and atmospheric describes the minimalist introduction  to Eir as tuned glass shimmer and drone as subtle quivering strings sweep in and out. The spaces they leave are filled by the almost sinister sound of the tuned glasses. Gradually, the strings grow in power, droning and wheezing before the soundscape dissipates leaving the listener to reflect and ruminate on powerful piece of music.

Again, vibes shimmer as they’re played slowly and ominously on September and the rueful cello plays. Together, they create a soundscape that brings to mind the arrival of autumn and the thought of the long cold, dark winter months that lie ahead in Norway. When the Hardanger Fiddle enters, it adds to the beauty of a soundscape that is rich in imagery, as once again, Slagr put their sonic palette to good use. So much so, that September is one of their finest moments on DIRR, as they conjure up images of autumn leaves falling on frosty fields as the nights lengthen and smell of log fires drifts across the Nordic night sky.

Øyr closes DIRR, and straight away, otherworldly siren strings join a distant rustling, rumbling sound before the Hardanger Fiddle enters but pauses, which adds an element of drama. This trick is repeated and proves effective as Slagr combine drama on an innovative track where they variously play with invention, freedom and fluidity to create a dramatic, melodic and captivating genre-melting track. It’s the perfect way for Slagr to close their much-anticipated fourth album DIRR.

After three years away, Slagr return with their fourth album DIRR, which has just been released by Hubro Music, and is the first to feature cellist Katrine Schiott. She has settled into her new role, and plays her part in the sound and success of DIRR which marks the start pot a new chapter in the Slagr story.

What better way to start than with DIRR, an album that is cinematic and rich in imagery as Slagr paint pictures with their sonic palette. They take the listener on a series of journeys, and other times, encourage the listener to let their imagination run riot. As they do, the music veers between atmospheric to dramatic and gothic to broody, moody and dark and sometimes hopeful. However, for much of the time, the music on DIRR is beautiful and emotive and tugs at the listener’s heartstrings. Sometimes, there’s a sense of sadness that even becomes melancholy as the music becomes an emotional roller coaster. Other times, Slagr the listener to reflect and ruminate music that is powerful and poignant. Always, though, the music on DIRR has the Nordic sound that has been omnipresent on Slagr’s previous albums. 

This is what listeners have come to expect from Slagr, who don’t disappoint on DIRR. Far from, and they return with a genre-melting album where Slagr combine elements of ambient, avant-garde, folk, modern classical and Nordic Wave to create a fitting followup to Short Stories which won a Spellemannprisen in 2015. Three years later, and Slagr must be hoping that their cinematic opus DIRR, which is atmospheric, rich in imagery and an emotional roller coaster will bring them their second Spellemannprisen.



Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner. 

Label: Acid Jazz.

Eddie Piller has been a stalwart of the Acid Jazz scene for the best part of thirty years, and during that time, the fifty-four year old has been a DJ, promoter and founded the Acid Jazz record label in 1987. This was the start of new chapter in Eddie Piller’s career.

Over the next few years, the Acid Jazz scene blossomed, and Eddie Piller found himself writing, remixing and playing flute on Mother Earth’s 1992 album Stoned Woman which he also produced. By then, Eddie Piller was an experienced producer and his career continued apace. 

So would Eddie Piller’s career as a compiler, which began in 1989 when he and Giles Peterson compiled Totally Wired (A Collection From Acid Jazz Records). Since then, Eddie Piller has compiled numerous compilations for a variety of labels, including critically acclaimed compilations for Blue Note, BGP Records and Acid Jazz. Nearly thirty years later, and Eddie Piller is still compiling new compilations.

By 2016, Eddie Piller was about to add a new role to his impressive CV, when he asked his friend and fellow musical aficionado Martin Freeman to join him in hosting a jazz radio show. Little did they know how popular that show would when they started playing some of their favourite jazz cuts. It was a case of anything goes during On The Corner, with the hard bop of Lee Morgan and Art Blakey, following hard on the heels of soul-jazz, jazz-funk and the original acid jazz to the post modern spiritual jazz of Kasami Washington. The new radio show proved hugely popular, and week after week, the pair were inundated with emails and tweets. That was when they knew that they couldn’t leave things there, and began thinking of where they went next?

Eventually, the dynamic duo decided to release a compilation with each of them choosing eleven cuts each on Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner which was recently released by Acid Jazz. This lovingly curated compilation features Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Eddie Harris, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, Blossom Dearie, Leon Thomas, Marlena Shaw, Les McCann, Blue Mitchell and Eugene McDaniels. Always, the emphasis is on quality on this latest complication of quality jazz, Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner.

Disc 1-Martin’s Side.

Mose Allison’s If You’re Going To The City opens disc one which is Martin’s side of Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner. If You’re Going To The City is a track from Mose Allison’s 1962 album Swingin’ Machine which was released on Atlantic Records. By then, Atlantic Records were still persisting in promoting Mose Allison as a blues singer. This was closer to the truth than Prestige, who had previously tried to promotive Mose Allison as a pop singer. However, If You’re Going To The City shows that Mose Allison’s music was an irresistible mixture of blues and jazz that is timeless. 

When Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers released their 1961 classic album A Night In Tunisia, on Blue Note Records, one of the album’s highlights was Kozo’s Waltz. It features bandleader and drummer Art Blakey and his Messengers at the peak of their powers. Everyone from bassist Jymie Merritt, pianist Bobby Timmons, trumpeter and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter play their part in the sound and success of this hard bop classic.

In 1967, tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris released The Electrifying Eddie Harris on Atlantic Records and it became one of his most famous and important albums. Eddie Harris’ playing was innovative throughout an album where he used electronic varitone on his tenor saxophone. One of Eddie Harris’ finest moments on the album was his composition Listen Here. It finds Joe Wohletz and Ray Barretto adding Latin percussion to this slow-burning, hip-swaying slice of soul-jazz.

Lee Morgan led a multitalented and versatile sextet when he recorded his solo album The Sixth Sense in November 1967. However, it wasn’t until 1969 that Blue Note Records eventually released The Sixth Sense, which featured four Lee Morgan compositions. This included Psychedelic which is without doubt, one of the album’s highlights. Pianist Cedar Walton and saxophonist Jackie McLean join with bandleader and trumpeter to play leading roles on the sound and success of Psychedelic which is a memorable and melodic example of hard bop.

After spells with Prestige, Mercury and Barclay, thirty-four year old Blossom Dearie signed to Verve Records where she would record some of her finest music over the next five years. This began with the release of the album Blossom Dearie in 1957, which featured the beautiful, wistful ballad Now At Last. It’s a reminder of one of the greats of vocal jazz, at the peak of her powers.

After saxophonist Charles Williams signed to Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records, he released his debut solo album Trees and Grass and Things in 1971. It was produced by Bob Shad and opens with Don Pullen composition Trees And Grass And Things. It’s a truly irresistible as percussion, saxophones and a Hammond organ play starring roles as jazz-funk and soul-jazz are combined to create a truly irresistible dancefloor filler.

Disc 2-Eddie’s Side 

Opening disc two, which is Eddie’s side of Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner is Geoffrey Stoner’s Bend Your Head Down Low. It’s the track that closed his 1973 album Watch Out which was released on Dick Schory’s Ovation Records but wasn’t the commercial success that Geoffrey Stoner had hoped. One of Watch Out’s finest moments was Bend Your Head Down Low where Geoffrey Stoner delivers an impassioned and soulful vocal against an arrangement that is jazz-tinged and funky. When all this combined the result is a beautiful, powerful and poignant ballad.

During the time he spent signed to Bob Theil’s Flying Dutchman Productions, Leon Thomas released some of the best music of his career. This included his 1973 album Full Circle which he recorded with an all-star band. One of the highlights of the album was Just In Time To See The Sun, which is a glorious and joyous fusion of jazz, funk and soul.

By 1977, Marlena Shaw was signed to Columbia and released Sweet Beginnings which was produced by Bert DeCoteaux and featured Look At Me, Look At You. It features lush strings and backing vocals while Marlena Shaw delivers one of her most soulful vocals on Sweet Beginnings.

In 1966, pianist, songwriter and vocalist Les McCann released his album Les McCann Plays The Hits on the Limelight label. It featured Sad Little Girl which featured a hurt filled and emotive vocal that is one of the finest on this hugely underrated soul-jazz album.

When Eugene McDaniels released his album Outlaw on Atlantic Records, in 1970, he was already a vastly experienced and highly respected musician. Outlaw was a powerful album, with many of the tracks featuring lyrics that were full of social comment. These tracks were played by some top New York session players, and they accompany Eugene McDaniels on Cherrystones where he delivers a defiant vocal on this genre-melting track that features elements of soul, funk, psychedelia and rock. It’s one of the highlights of Outlaw which is one of the hidden gems in Eugene McDaniels’ back-catalogue.

Closing disc two and Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner is Ulf Sandberg’s Bolivia, which is taken from their 1993 album Ulf Sandberg Quartet which was released on the Acid Jazz label.  Although Bolivia was released in 1993, it sounds as if it was recorded a generation previously as then Ulf Sandberg Quartet create a track that is a mesmeric, melodic and memorable fusion of post bop and hard bop that closes the album on a high.

For all the listeners who have tuned in and enjoyed Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner over the past couple of years, will enjoy the compilations that they recently released on the Acid Jazz label. It’s entitled Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner and features music from twenty-two artists, including familiar faces and new names. 

There’s contributions from giants of jazz and soul including Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Eddie Harris, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, Blossom Dearie, Leon Thomas, Marlena Shaw, Les McCann, Blue Mitchell and Eugene McDaniels. Sadly, many people won’t have heard of Joe Gordon, Charles Williams, the Ulf Sandberg Quartet or the wonderfully named Geoffrey Stoner until they’ve heard Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner, which is sure to further their musical education.

That is the beauty of compilations like Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner, as there’s always a new track that waiting to be discovered. Especially on lovingly curated compilations like Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner where the compilers dig deep and combine deep cuts and hidden gems with tracks from classic album to create what’s undoubtably one of the best jazz compilations of recent months.

Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller Present Jazz On The Corner.


Dr John-Remedies and Desitively Bonnaroo.

Label: BGO Records.

When a copy of Dr John’s debut album Gris Gris was sent to Atlantic Records’ founder Ahmet Ertegun he disliked the album so much, that he was reluctant to even release the album and said: “how can we market this boogaloo crap?” This wasn’t the response that Dr John had been hoping when he recorded Gris Gris which was a combination of psychedelia, blues, free jazz, R&B, soul, funk, jazz. Add to this psychedelic stew the authentic music of the melting pot that is New Orleans and the voodoo image that Dr John had carefully cultivated  and Gris Gris was like no other album that Atlantic Records had released. That presented the label with a huge problem. 

Atlantic Records’ PR department had idea to promote an album like Gris Gris, as they had no cultural reference points, nothing to compare the album to. Despite the best efforts of Atlantic Records PR department, when Gris Gris was released on January the ’22nd’ 1968 and introduced the world to Dr John The Night Tripper, it failed to trouble the charts and neither critics nor record buyers understood Dr John’s groundbreaking debut album. However, like so many albums that fail to find an album on their release, Gris Gris was later reappraised and belatedly, was recognised as a seminal album that was the start of a rich vein of form from Dr John.

This was the start of a six-year period when Dr John could no wrong, and released seven innovative albums that are among the his finest work. These albums are the perfect introduction to Dr John, including his third and seventh albums, Remedies and Desitively Bonnaroo which were recently rereleased by BGO Records as a twofer. However, these albums were still to come, and before that, Dr John released another classic album.


This was Babylon which was recorded in late 1969, which was a turbulent time for Dr John, who was experiencing  problems in his personal life. “I was being pursued by various kinds of heat across LA” and this influenced the album he was about to make. So would the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr and the Vietnam War which is referenced in The Patriotic Flag-Waiver. The title-track Babylon was recorded in 3/4 and 10/4 time, and featured Dr John thoughts on the state of world in late 1968. It was a part of a powerful album that was released in early 1969.

Babylon was released on January the ’17th’ 1969 was a powerful, cerebral and innovative genre-melting album which socially had much in common with Dr John’s debut album Gris Gris. However, critics didn’t ‘get’ Babylon and the album which failed commercially. However, just like Gris Gris, Babylon was later reappraised by critics and nowadays is regarded as one of his finest albums and a minor classic.


Following the commercial failure of Babylon, things went from bad to worse for Dr John, before he could begin work on his third album Remedies. This started when a deal went south, and he was arrested by the police and ended up in jail. It was a worrying time for Dr John who was parole, and if he ended up with a parole violation, he knew he might end up in the infamous Angola jail. That didn’t bare thinking about, and already Dr John was desperate to get out of the local jail. However, he needed someone to post bail, so contacted his managers who he remembers: “were very bad people.” This proved to be an understatement. 

Not long after this, Dr John’s managers had him committed to  a psychiatric ward, where he spent some time. By then, it was obvious to Dr John that his managers were no longer playing by the rules. All he wanted to do was make music, and everything that had happened recently were nothing to do with music. Instead, it was all connected to Dr John’s increasingly chaotic lifestyle, which made it all the more frustrating for those that realised just how talented the Gris Gris Man was.

Eventually, having managed to put his problems behind him, Dr John wrote the six tracks that became Remedies using his real name Mac Rebennack. Among the tracks Dr John had written was What Goes Around Comes Around which later became a favourite during his live shows and Mardi Gras Day which paints pictures of New Orleans when it comes out to play. Very different was Angola Anthem which was inspired by a friend of Dr John’s who had just been released from Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary after forty years. Dr John paid tribute to his friend with an eighteen minute epic that took up all of side two of Remedies. It was produced by one of the most successful producers of the day.

Although Harold Battiste had produced Gris Gris and Babylon, he was replaced by Tom Dowd and Charles Greene who were tasked with transforming Dr John’s career. However, although Tom Dowd was enjoying the most successful period of his career, he had never worked with anyone like Dr John. 

When the recording of Remedies began, Dr John was joined by a small band that featured Cold Grits who played drums, bass and guitar and backing vocalists Shirley Goodman, Tami Lynn and Jessie Hill who also played percussion. Dr John played piano, added his unmistakable vocals and despite losing part of a finger during a shooting a few years previously, he played guitar on Remedies which was released in the spring of 1970.

Just like his two previous albums, critics didn’t seem to understand Remedies, which was credited to Dr John The Night Tripper. Remedies was another ambitious album of genre-melting, voodoo-influenced album where Dr John The Night Tripper through everything from psychedelia, blues, R&B, soul, funk and jazz into the musical melting pot and gave it a stir to create an album where the music was mysterious, otherworldly and haunting. 

That was the case from the album opener Loop Garoo while there’s a darkness and defiance to the lyrics to the hook-laden What Comes Around (Goes Around) which showed another side to Dr John. His recent problems and  experiences had influenced Wash, Mama, Wash where soaring backing vocals and horns accompany Dr John on a track that is tinged with humour. The horns return and play their part in the success of Chippy Chippy, before the darkness describes and music becomes moody and broody as chants, moans and cries emerge from this lysergic voodoo stew of Mardi Gras Day which gives way to the otherworldly eighteen minute epic Angola. It brought Remedies to a close, which was a potent and heady brew from Dr John The Night Tripper.

By the time Remedies was released on April ‘9th’ 1970, some FM radio stations had picked up on the album, and were playing it on their late shows. Despite the radio play Remedies had received, the album never troubled the charts, and it was only much later that record buyers realised that they had missed out on another important and innovative album from Dr John. 

The Sun, Moon and Herbs.

Despite Dr John’s first three albums failing to find an audience, many of his fellow musicians were fans of his music, and were only too happy to feature on his fourth album The Sun, Moon and Herbs. This included Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Bobby Whitlock, Graham Bond, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon and Doris Troy. They were joined by The Memphis Horns as Dr John and Charles Greene took charge of production. 

They were responsible for a dark and swampy sounding album that is rich in imagery and paints of New Orleans on a hot, sticky night as thunder crackles and rumbles in the distance like the drums on The Sun, Moon and Herbs. When it was released on August the ’31st’ 1971, still critics struggled to understand Dr John’s music, but this time, The Sun, Moon and Herbs which featured an all-star cast, spent five weeks in US Billboard 200 and peaked at 184. At last, Dr John’s music was starting to find a wider audience.

Dr. John’s Gumbo.

Buoyed by the success of The Sun, Moon and Herbs, Dr John decided to record an album of cover versions of New Orleans’ classics for his fifth album Dr. John’s Gumbo. It was produced by Harold Battiste and Jerry Wexler and ironically given Dr. John’s Gumbo featured tracks by legends some of the New Orleans’ musical legends including Professor Longhair,  Huey “Piano” Smith, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford and Dr John the album was recorded in LA. However, Dr. John’s Gumbo was  The Night Tripper’s most successful album.

Unlike previous albums, Dr. John’s Gumbo was a much more straightforward album of R&B, and it found favour with critics. After Dr. John’s Gumbo was released to critical acclaim, it reached entered the US Billboard 200 where it spent eleven weeks, peaking at 112. Dr John was on his way. 

In The Right Place.

Following the success of Dr. John’s Gumbo, Dr John headed to Criteria Studios, in Miami, where he recorded In The Right Place with songwriter, musician, arranger and producer Allen Toussaint. He was one of the most influential figures in the New Orleans’ music scene, and was able to bring out the best in Dr John as he laid down songs of the quality of Right Place, Wrong Time, Same Old Same Old, Peace Brother Peace and Such A Night. Once In The Right Place was completed, the two men returned to the Big Easy and watched as Dr John’s popularity soared.

Critics on hearing In The Right Place which was a fusion of funk, blues and New Orleans R&B hailed the album was one of his finest. Record buyers agreed when In The Right Place was released on February the ’25th’ 1973 thirty-three weeks in the US Billboard 200 and peaked at twenty-four. What Ahmet Ertegun had foolishly described as: “boogaloo crap” just a few years earlier, was now proving profitable for his company. Dr John was having the last laugh.

Desitively Bonnaroo.

The success of In The Right Place was a game-changer for Dr John, whose popularity soared. After six albums, he was enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim his music deserved. However, Dr John knew that he would have to think about his seventh album, and began writing what became Desitively Bonnaroo.

Of the eleven tracks on Desitively Bonnaroo, Dr John wrote nine and penned Desitively Bonnaroo with Jessie Jill.  These tracks were joined by covers of Earl King’s Let’s Make a Better World and Allen Toussaint’s Go Tell the People. These tracks were recorded at Sea-Saint Recording in New Orleans and Criteria Studios in Miami.

Just like In The Right Place,  Allen Toussaint produced Desitively Bonnaroo, played piano, keyboards and added percussion and backing vocals. Accompanying Dr John was The Meters, one of New Orleans’ hottest funk band plus a horn section and backing vocalists. They played their part in an album that followed in the footsteps of In The Right Place.

When critics heard Desitively Bonnaroo they were once again won over by another carefully crafted album of funk and New Orleans R&B from Dr John. It oozed quality from the opening bars of Quitters Never Win and included another version of What Come Around (Goes Around) plus the irresistible Mos’ Scocious and songs full of social comment like Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away and Let’s Make a Better World. They were joined by the soulful and funky Sing Along Song and Can’t Git Enuff which is one of the funkiest cuts on the album. However, one of the most beautiful and poignant was the ballad Go Tell The People, which gives way to the uber funky album closer Desitively Bonnaroo. It closed Dr John’s seventh album on a high.

On the release of Desitively Bonnaroo on April the ‘8th’ 1974, it charted in the US Billboard 200 where it spent eight weeks and reached number 105. Despite the quality of Desitively Bonnaroo it had failed to replicate the commercial success of In The Right Place, which must have been a huge disappointment for Dr John.

Sadly, Desitively Bonnaroo was the last album that Dr John released on the Atlantic Records imprint Atco, and was the end of a golden period for Dr John. From Gris Gris which was released on January the ’22nd’ 1968, right through to Desitively Bonnaroo which hit the shops on April the ‘8th’ 1974, musical chameleon and pioneer Dr John had been on the hottest streak of his career, releasing a string of groundbreaking albums, including several classic albums.

These albums showed different sides to Dr John’s music, as his music continued to evolve over a six-year period. By the time he released the funky New Orleans R&B of Desitively Bonnaroo in 1974, this was a long way from his classic debut album Gris Gris. It was an album the majority of critics and record buyers failed to understand.Sadly, that was the also case with Remedies which was released in 1970. It saw Dr John The Night Tripper throw psychedelia, blues, R&B, soul, funk and jazz into the musical melting pot and gave it a stir to create an album where the music was mysterious, otherworldly and haunting. However, this vastly underrated album passed record buyers, and it was only much later that record buyers appreciated and embraced this innovative album. 

Nowadays, original copies of Dr John’s aren’t easy to find, but recently, Remedies and Desitively Bonnaroo were remastered and reissued by BGO Records as a twofer, and this is the perfect way to discover two very different sides to Dr John’s music.  Between 1970s Remedies and 1974s Desitively Bonnaroo this musical pioneer had reinvented his music and was enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim he so richly deserved. Sadly, Desitively Bonnaroo brought to an end what was a period where Dr John could do no wrong, as this musical legend released some of the best music of his long and illustrious career.

Dr John-Remedies and Desitively Bonnaroo.


Gitkin-5 Star Motel.

Label: Wonderwheel Recordings.

Release Date: ‘6th’ April 2018.

A lifetime ago, a mysterious man known only as Gitkin, once dreamt of forging a career as a musician, but when his dreams were shattered, he bought a consignment of knock-off Gibson guitars which he sold, as he travelled the length and breadth of the land of the free. After a while, it was the only thing that Gitkin knew, and he was content to hustle his way through life, living on his wits and sailing close precariously close to the wind. 

Usually he booked into a low rent hotel on the wrong side of town, and that night, would seek out his marks in a local dive bar who might be in the market for a cheap guitar. It was a slick, clever and practised pitch, with Gitkin shooting the breeze with a newcomer or stranger in town, and after putting them at ease, he made his pitch. Most times, he had chosen his mark well, and soon would be closing the sale.

The pair would step outside away from prying eyes and any off-duty law enforcement officer, where Gitkin would take a guitar from the trunk of his car and show it to the mark  under the moonlight. That was when Gitkin’s guitars looked their best. However, they  always sounded their best when Gitkin unleashed some of his trademark licks which he had honed and perfected over the years he spent on the road. This was always enough to close the sale, and  after that, Gitkin moved on to the next dive bar knowing that his guitar licks had made a difference. 

Over the years, Gitkin had watched and learned from some seasoned guitarists down on their luck, tried and bought his guitars. After that, Gitkin returned to his hotel room where he practised the licks he had witnessed into he early hours, then and continued to dream.

Like many other guitarists, Gitkin had always dreamt that one day he would become a professional musician, but that never panned out, and instead, he had fallen into the life of a hustler, who made a living selling third-rate, rebadged guitars in dive bars which were akin to fool’s gold. In Gitkin’s world, all that glittered wasn’t gold. 

Sometimes, though, away from the hustle, Gitkin chanced on late night jam sessions in backstreet bars, and would sit in as with local musicians and play until the early hours. These were the nights that Gitkin remembered and enjoyed, when there was no hustle and he could spend a few hours doing what he loved, making music. 

Other times, after Gitkin arrived in town and had made some and connections, they would head to someones apartment or a hotel room, and everyday objects became makeshift instruments. Gitkin and his newfound friends would play and shoot the breeze until the early hours or until someone complained, and the party came to an abrupt end. Even then, Gitkin remembered these nights fondly as he arrived in another town, where he risked life and limb on another hustle.

Always though, Gitkin managed to survive, even if it was by the skin of his teeth, and burning rubber as he shot a red to escape an unhappy mark. Later, and long after Gitkin had called time on his career hustling, he started to recall the years he spent living on his wits and the days of daring do and close calls when he sailed perilously close to the wind. Not many members of Gitkin’s family wanted to hear his stories as they were hard-working respectable people. They didn’t want  to hear his Gitkin’s secrets. That only came  much later. 

Long after Gitkin had passed away, and gone to sell knock-off guitars in the next world, his nephew Brian J Gitkin heard about his uncle and his past which the family were reluctant to talk about. However, Brian J Gitkin who was by then an up-and-coming musician, had never met the mysterious guitar salesman, and eventually managed to persuade some of his relatives to tell him about the man and his colourful past. 

This he knew wasn’t going to be easy as Gitkin’s huckster lifestyle was off-limits at family gatherings. However, some of the older members of the family could be encouraged to reminisce about Gitkin and his colourful lifestyle. Eventually, after spending many a late night listening to steady stream anecdotes about Gitkin, his nephew was almost able to piece together the life and times of the old guitar salesman. However, the final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when Brian J Gitkin found an old cassette which featured some of his uncle’s songs. This was a game-changer for Brian J Gitkin.

Having borrowed a tape recorder, he sat down and started to listen to the music on the cassette which he collected to his ho-fi and pressed play. Although the music was decidedly lo-fi and scratchy, Brian J Gitkin was captivated by the music’s otherworldly quality and listened as his late uncle as he seamlessly switched between musical genres, playing everything from Tuareg funk to Peruvian chicha and even Turkish psych. Despite having a relatively educated musical palette, Brian J Gitkin sometimes struggled to discerner between the musical genres. This didn’t matter as he was transfixed as he listened to uncle he never knew, who was obviously a talented and versatile musician, who never had the opportunity to fulfil his potential, and instead, had embraced the hustler lifestyle. As the cassette finished, and Brian J Gitkin realised this, a sense of sadness came over him.

After some thought, Brian J Gitkin decided to record his own homage to the uncle he never knew, which became 5 Star Motel which fittingly is credited to Gitkin, and will be released by Wonderwheel Recordings on the ‘6th’ April 2018. On 5 Star Motel the Gitkin Jr expands upon his late uncle’s musical philosophy that featured on the cassette that he found.

It’s no surprise that the guitar is the common thread that runs through 5 Star Motel. This was the instrument Gitkin played as he hustled his way across America, and is the instrument that his nephew plays throughout 5 Star Motel’s twelve songs. The guitar gave birth to myriad of musical ideas, which Gitkin Jr develops with the help of an array of folkloric stringed instruments on an album that embraces disparate musical cultures. Still, it’s the guitar that takes centre-stage on 5 Star Motel, and brings everything together on this carefully crafted album that embraces an array of different cultures. They shine through on 5 Star Motel, which although is an album about travel and America, looks at the world outside the land of the free.

Essentially, 5 Star Motel with its array of musical influences is a snapshot of just America in 2018, when people come from all over the world, looking to make a new life and attempt to live the American Dream. They bring with them their own music, which becomes part of the soundtrack to modern America in 2018. This music Gitkin has used to continue what his uncle began when he recorded the music onto a cassette tape. In doing so, Gitkin squares the circle on 5 Star Motel his nephew discovered and began 

5 Star Motel opens with Tail Chaser, which canters along as a shimmering surf guitar takes centre-stage, and is a reminder of the music Gitkin’s uncle must have heard as he hustled his way across America. Gradually, the track becomes lysergic, dreamy and melodic as this captivating cinematic surf track continues to reveal its secrets. Later, it canters along, as if hinting at the Westerns that were part of the American way of life, before the track reaches a crescendo. In doing so, it sets the bar high for what follows.

This includes Canción Del Rey which picks up where Tail Chaser left off, and is a showcase for Gitkin’s fleet-fingered fuzzy guitar, while the rhythm section anchor the track, but ensure that it still swings. Meanwhile, the sound of sound of Peruvian chicha can be heard as Gitkin’s enchanting musical adventure continues to captivate. 

There’s no stopping Gitkin, and on the genre-melting Plaid Suit, where combines elements of dub, psychedelia and soul-jazz to create a lysergic and dreamy track.  Pinto by comparison is a musical roller coaster that is initially sounds psychedelic before it’s combined with a surf instrumental. Later, it’s all change and Pinto sounds as it was recorded in San Francisco at the time of the Merry Pranksters as the music floats along becoming distant, dreamy and otherworldly, before Gitkin returns to the other “side” of Pinto which has much in common with Plaid Suit.

Yama is another captivating and mesmeric instrumental where Middle Eastern influences are omnipresent. Meanwhile the driving rhythm section and dusty Hammond organ play add an element of funk as the music becomes dramatic and thanks to the Middle Eastern influences, irresistible and dancefloor friendly.  Very different is Siskayou Trail, which is slow, moody mesmeric and rich in imagery, as it paints pictures of a bleak but beautiful barren landscape.

Grand Street Feast is another genre-melting track, where he combined foggy funk with psychedelic Afrobeat as Gitkin adds to the musical melting pot, an array of sounds from far-flung paces. However, Gitkin isn’t finishes and uses filters to transform the track where a guitar and folkloric stringed instruments play starring roles during this genre-melting musical feast. It’s a similar case on Zone Jumper where an array of exotic sounds and musical genres assail the listener, teasing, taunting and tantalising them as disparate cultures collide. That is the case on Whiskey Road, which features everything from Thai to dub and electronica and even a hint of Irish music as this memorable track heads into singalong territory.

Equally memorable is El Millonario  where Gitkin is encouraged with handclaps during this cinematic track. It gives way to Fang Dubbard where not for the first time, Gitkin makes good use of tape delay and spring reverb. They add a warmth to the music as it shimmer and glistens, and sometimes, takes on a dubby, lysergic sound. These effects play an important part in the track’s sound and success of what’s one of the album’s highlights. Closing 5 Star Motel is Ohm Rider (When you Die You’ll Meet God), which veers between dubby, lysergic and ethereal sound before the music becomes melodic, jazz-tinged, intense and elegiac. In doing so, Gitkin closed his debut album on a high and finishes a story his late uncle, the mysterious guitar salesman and hustler recorded onto a cassette tape.

That was where it lay unloved, with nobody having bothered to listen to what was a veritable musical feast. This was enough to inspire Gitkin to record a homage to the uncle he never met, which became 5 Star Motel, which will be released by Wonderwheel Recordings on the ‘6th’ April 2018.

Fittingly, 5 Star Motel is an album about travel and America, which brings the story back to Gitkin’s uncle who week after week, months after month and year after year, hustled his way across America, spending each night trying to persuade marks to buy a knock-off guitar outside dive bars. These guitars looked good after several bottles of Budweiser, and may have sounded good as Gitkin’s uncle unleashed some flashy licks, but the next morning as the mark sobered up, reality struck and they realised they had been had. By then, the guitar salesman and frustrated musician was long gone, and he continued to crisscross the land of the free with a seemingly never-ending supply of knock-off guitars. Maybe if things had been different, maybe Gitkin’s uncle would’ve made a living out of music, as he had the talent, which shawn through on the cassette tape which was his musical legacy?

That cassette tape later inspired the nephew he never met to record 5 Star Motel, which was written and produced by Gitkin whose a multitalented multi-instrumentalist who played nearly every instrument on this carefully crafted homage to the uncle he never knew. It finds Gitkin combining disparate musical genres, and an array of exotic sounds from far-flung places that are now part of multicultural America in 2018. The final piece of this musical jigsaw ware the tape delay and spring reverb which Gitkin puts to good use throughout 5 Star Motel. These effects aren’t overused, and play their part in the sound and success of 5 Star Motel, which marks the debut of a truly talented musician…Gitkin. 

His carefully crafted and much-anticipated genre-melting debut album, 5 Star Motel, finds the New York based musician paying homage to the uncle he never knew during the twelve tracks on 5 Star Motel. It’s a cinematic album that is rich in imagery as Gitkin follows in his uncle’s footsteps, and he takes the listener on a musical road trip where they travel the length and breath of the land of the free with 5 Star Motel providing the soundtrack,  never once reset to selling a hooky guitar outside a dive bar.

Gitkin-5 Star Motel.


Nat Birchall-Cosmic Language.

Label: Jazzman Records. 

Manchester-based jazz saxophonist Nat Birchall has come a long way since releasing his debut album The Sixth Sense in January 1999, and nowadays, is regarded as one of the leading lights of the vibrant British jazz scene. Nat Birchall is also one of the most talented and inventive British jazz saxophonists of his generation, whose playing is always soulful and spiritual. That has been the case on the nine albums that he’s released over the past three decades. This includes Nat Birchall’s most recent album Cosmic Language which was released by Jazzman Records. It’s the next chapter in the Nat Birchall story.

The Nat Birchall story began in 1957 when he was born in a secluded rural idyll high in the hills above North-West England. This was where he was first heard music playing on his parents radio. By 1971, fourteen year old Nat Birchall bought his first single, which was Isaac Hayes’ Shaft. This wasn’t the start of a lifelong love affair with soul, and instead, Nat Birchall embraced reggae, especially roots and dub. Gradually, he amassed an enviable record collection, which although it mostly featured  reggae, also included one jazz album.

This was John Cotrane’s 1957 album Blue Train, which Nat Birchall rediscovered in a corner of his collection one day in 1979, and which inspired him to learn to play the saxophone. Fortunately, a record shop that Nat Birchall that was a regular visitor to, had an alto saxophone for sale, and he managed to persuade the shop owner to sell it for £20. Little did Nat Birchall that it was the best £20 he would ever spend.

Although Nat Birchall was a late starter when it came to the saxophone, the twenty-two year old started taking lessons with local saxophonist Harold Salisbury who also had a passion for modern jazz. After each lesson, Harold Salisbury would hand his pupil a pile of albums and he would listen to in between practise sessions. After just a dozen lessons, Nat Birchall could already play the saxophone by ear and didn’t bother with another lesson until 1994.

By the mid-eighties he was already a member of various fusion, jazz-funk and Turkish fusion bands. This was the equivalent to a musical apprenticeship for Nat Birchall, who by 1992, was ready to form his own band.

This was Corner Crew, an innovative group who were formed in 1992 and incorporated a rapper and sampling as they played their own unique style of jazz-tinged hip hop. The new band proved popular and their live shows were well received. However, but after two years with Corner Crew Nat Birchall was ready to complete his musical education.

In 1994, Nat Birchall enrolled onto a Higher National Diploma course in jazz studies, which allowed him to learn musical theory. Nat Birchall knew that he could only go so far in jazz playing by ear, so knuckled down and completed his musical education. This would prove important when Nat Birchall embarked upon the next chapter in his career.

After six years leading Corner Crew, Nat Birchall was ready to try something different. He had taken Corner Crew as far as he could, and in 1998 the band split-up and later that year, Nat Birchall formed a new band whose roots were the hard bop…Sixth Sense.

Later in 1998, the nascent Sixth Sense began recording a demo, and when Nat Birchall and those around him listened to the demo, they realised that it was good enough to release as an album. Rather than try to interest a record company in the album that became Sixth Sense, Nat Birchall decided to self-release his debut album. 

Only a small amount of Sixth Sense were pressed and released on Nat Birchall’s new label Sixth Sense on January the ‘9th’ 1999. However, Sixth Sense was released to critical acclaim and was one Jazzwise Magazine’s albums of 1999. By then, looked as if Nat Birchall had a bright future in front of him.

Sadly, Nat Birchall’s band Sixth Sense only lasted a few years, and before long, he found himself looking for likeminded musicians. There was a problem though, the type of musicians Nat Birchall was looking for tended to gravitate towards London. Meanwhile, Nat Birchall was still living high in the hills of rural North West England which was, and still is, his spiritual home. Nat Birchall had not intention of leaving his home, so decided to wait until he connected with the right musicians.

Eventually, Nat Birchall’s patience was rewarded when he met Matthew Halsall in early 2007. Here was the likeminded musician he had been looking for, and who would produce Nat Birchall’s 2009 sophomore Akhenaten which was released to plaudits and praise on Gondwana Records. 

A year later, and Nat Birchall returned in 2010 with his much-anticipated third album Guiding Spirit which was produced by Matthew Halsall and released by Gondwana Records. Just like his first two albums, Guiding Spirit was released to widespread critical acclaim. Nat Birchall’s star was in the ascendancy and he was regarded as one of British jazz’s rising stars.

On the ‘22nd’ and ‘23rd’ of January 2011, Nat Birchall returned to the studio with his band and over a two-day period recorded his fourth studio album Sacred Dimension. Later, in 2011, Sacred Dimension was released by Gondwana Records and enjoyed the same critical acclaim as previous albums. By then, Nat Birchall’s music was already starting to find an international audience who embraced and enjoyed the saxophonist’s soulful, spiritual sound. 

Eighteen month later, Nat Birchall and Nat Birchall and a talented band of likeminded musicians headed to Peel Hall, in Salford on the ‘3rd’ and ‘4th’ of July 2012 where they recorded the seven tracks that became their first live album World Without Form. It was released on Nat Birchall’s Sound Soul and Spirit Records, and was a tantalising taste of Nat Birchall live.

Ten months after the release of his first solo live album, the Nat Birchall Quintet headed to Larissa, in Greece, where they recorded their debut album Live In Larissa on the ‘11th’ and ’12th’ of May 2013. The following year, Live In Larissa was released as a two LP set by Sound Soul and Spirit Records and showcased the Nat Birchall Quintet in full flight.

In October 2015, Nat Birchall returned with his fifth studio album Invocations, which was his sixth overall. Invocations which was an album of spiritual modal jazz, was the first album that Nat Birchall released on Jazzman Records. Critics hailed Invocations as one of Nat Birchall’s finest albums and noted the influence of jazz greats, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler. They had definitely influenced and inspired Nat Birchall as a new chapter in his career began.

Just nine months later, Nat Birchall released his seventh solo album Creation on the ‘22nd’ July 2016. Creation was Nat Birchall’s second album for Jazzman Records and featured a much freer, but still soulful and spiritual sound. This found favour with critics who continued to lavish praise on the Manchester based jazz man, Nat Birchall.

After the release of Creation, Nat Birchall continued to play live and was invited to play a concert at the Maharishi Golden Dome in Skelmersdale, which was a Transcendental Meditation centre in his native Lancashire. This was very different to the usual venues that Nat Birchall played.

Nat Birchall realised this, and decided that when he played at the Maharishi Golden Dome he would need to take a band that was sympathetic to such a quiet-minded setting. That was when Nat Birchall remembered the harmonium that he had owned for many years. The small pump organ would be a perfect replacement for the piano when played at the Maharishi Golden Dome.

That night, at the Maharishi Golden Dome, Nat Birchall and his usual band took a cross-cultural approach combining elements of jazz with Indian ragas. In doing so, he was following in the footsteps of two jazz greats Alice Coltrane and Yusef Lateef. The wistful harmonium was the perfect foil for the soulful, spiritual sound of Nat Birchall’s saxophone during a memorable performance and one that inspired Nat Birchall’s next album, Cosmic Language.

On the ‘16th’ of December 2016, Nat Birchall and his band headed to Limefield Studio, in Manchester, where they would record the four tracks that became Cosmic Language. That day, the rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Andy Day and bassist Michael Bardon were joined by Adam Fairhall who played harmonium while Nat Birchall played tenor saxophone and percussion on spiritually cleansing album.

Cosmic Language opens with Man From Varanasi where Nat Birchall pays homage to one of his favourite Indian musicians, Bismillah Khan. He hails from then Northern Indian city that is named in the opening track which is an eleven minute epic that has been inspired by the Indian raga tradition. This was also a basis for much of Bismillah Khan’s music. Here, Nat Birchall’s slow, sultry and soulful sounding saxophone soars above the understated and initially percussive arrangement and soon, it veers between melodic, memorable and spiritual to a much freer sound as the tempo increases. Meanwhile, just a melancholy, droning harmonium, shimmering cymbals, standup bass and drums augment the saxophone. Later, when the saxophone drops out, the rest of the band take centre-stage as this clearly defined musical journey continues. Then when Nat Birchall’s saxophone returns, his playing is still soulful and has the spiritual sound that has been omnipresent throughout this beautiful meditative track.

Initially, Nat Birchall and his band plays slowly and within himself  as Humility gradually unfolds. What follows is akin to a spiritual experience as waves and washes of soul-baring music unfold. At one point when the saxophone drops out, the arrangement is almost stripped bare, allowing time to ruminate and reflect on humility. When Nat Birchall returns, his playing is even more soulful and spiritual as if he’s in the midst experienced some sort of spiritual awakening.

This spiritual quality continues on A Prayer For which is a captivating combination of Indian ragas and jazz which is a step further along the road to musical enlightenment. 

Cosmic Language closes with Dervish where a wheezing harmonium, percussion and rhythm section provide the backdrop for Nat Birchall’s tenor saxophone. Soon, he’s variously playing with speed, power, passion, fluidity and freedom as if he’s reached musical enlightenment on this spiritual during this epic album.

Although Nat Birchall never released his debut album The Sixth Sense until he was forty-two, he’s come a long way since then. Nowadays, Nat Birchall is one of Britain’s top jazz musicians, whose album have received critical acclaim in different parts of the world. However, Cosmic Language which was recently released by Jazzman Records, and is Nat Birchall’s eighth solo album is the best of his career. 

Cosmic Language features Nat Birchall at his most soulful and spiritual as this inventive and innovative musician embarks upon a spiritual voyage of discovery. The starting point for this was the concert at the Maharishi Golden Dome which is a Transcendental Meditation centre in his native Lancashire. That was where this spiritual journey began, and lead to Cosmic Language which was akin to spiritual awakening for Nat Birchall. 

Over four tracks lasting thirty-six minutes Nat Birchall combines Indian ragas and jazz on cross-cultural, genre-melting album. Nat Birchall gives something of himself on each of the four tracks on Cosmic Language which is his most personal album yet. It’s as if he was seeking enlightenment as he delivers soul-baring and heartfelt performances where Nat Birchall seamlessly combines Indian ragas and jazz on album that features Nat Birchall at his most soulful and spiritual. However, that is only part of the story of Cosmic Language.

Unlike many musicians, Nat Birchall is a quiet and unassuming man, who shies away from the limelight and prefers to let his music take centre-stage. That is the case on Cosmic Language as he journeys towards spiritual communion. This is something relatively few musicians ever achieve, but Nat Birchall follows in the footsteps of Alice and John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and Yusef Lateef on Cosmic Language. It features beautiful, powerful, poignant, meditative and ruminative music that allows and encourages the listener to reflect during Cosmic Language, as Nat Birchall takes the listener on a soulful and spiritual journey on during this career-defining opus.

Nat Birchall-Cosmic Language.