ELEPHANT9-GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.

Elephant9-Greatest Show On Earth.

Label: Rune Grammofon.

After releasing two critically acclaimed albums with legendary Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske, a new chapter began for Elephant9 in October 2017 as they began work on their fifth studio album Greatest Show On Earth at Studio Paradiso. This was the first album that the core trio of Elephant9 had recorded since Walk The Nile in May 2009.  

Walk The Nile was a game-changer of an album, that the three members of Elephant9 would never forget as it had totally transformed their nascent career. It had been released to widespread critical acclaim in March 2010 and went on to win a Spellemannprisen Award. After that, Elephant9 released two albums with Reine Fiske, 2012s Atlantis and Silver Mountain which had been released in October 2015. Two years later, Elephant9 were about to release the followup Greatest Show On Earth which was recently released by  Rune Grammofon. The prophetically titled and genre-melting Greatest Show On Earth is a welcome return from Elephant9, and the latest chapter in a story that began in 2006.

That was when keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, drummer Torstein Lofthus and bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen decided to embark upon a new project. This new project they called Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus. The trio consisted of experienced and talented musicians who had a reputation for producing ambitious and innovative music. That had been the case throughout their careers, when they had worked on a variety of projects. 

The elder statesman of the trio was keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, who was thirty-seven in 2006. He had been a member of a number of bands including Audun Kleive Generator X, Veslefrekk, Pocket Corner, Humcrush, Pocket Corner and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Each of these groups had released at least one album, and so had the other groups Ståle Storløkken was involved with, Bol, Cucumber and Supersilent. It seemed Ståle Storløkken had an insatiable thirst for making music. That was also the case with drummer Torstein Lofthus.

Just like Ståle Storløkken, drummer Torstein Lofthus was a veteran of several bands. He was twenty-nine in 2006, and had previously been a member of Damp and Shining. Both of these band had released two albums, and Torstein Lofthus was no stranger to the recording studio or live scene. It was a similar case with third member of the trio bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen.

He had just turned twenty-eight in 2006, and was the youngest member of the trio. Just like the other members of the trio he was already an experienced musician. Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was already a member of Big Bang and The National Bank, who were regarded as rising stars of the Norwegian music scene. Despite this, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was keen to join the nascent trio, and like many Norwegian musicians was a member of several bands. 

That was also the case with Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus, who had spent much of their careers working on different projects and collaborating with a variety of musicians. Some of these projects enjoyed a degree of longevity, others were short-lived. When Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus began working together they had no idea that eleven years later, they would still be together and enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim. Before that, the new group had to change its name.

For much of the first year, the nascent band spent time honing their sound. When they made their first tentative steps onto the live circuit critics upon hearing Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus described the music as a mixture of fusion, progressive rock and neo-psychedelia. Before long, Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus’ music was already proving popular on the live scene. However, after a year together, the band decided to change their name, and Elephant9 were born in 2007.

Dodovoodoo.

Just a year after the birth of Elephant9, and already the nascent band were preparing to release their much-anticipated debut album Dodovoodoo. It was due for release on the Norwegian label Rune Grammofon in May 2008. However, before that, critics had their say on Elephant9’s debut album Dodovoodoo. 

Critics were impressed by Dodovoodoo and lavished praise and plaudits on Elephant9’s groundbreaking, genre-melting debut album. Some critics went as far as to forecast a big future for Elephant9, and tipped them as a band to watch. 

Buoyed by the critic’s response to Dodovoodoo, the three members of Elephant9 returned to the live circuit, where they over the next few weeks and months they began to play in front of bigger audiences. Elephant9 who had only been together for two years, had come a long way in a relatively short space of time. However, before long, Elephant9’s thoughts turned 

Walk The Nile.

Just over a year after the release of Dodovoodoo in March 2008, Elephant9 returned to the studio to record their much-anticipated sophomore album, Walk The Nile. Elephant9 returned to Grand Sport Studio, where they had recorded their debut album Dodovoodoo. After settling into the familiar surrounding of Grand Sport Studio, Elephant9 set about replicating one of their much vaunted live performances. They came pretty closes as they unleashed a spellbinding, genre-melting performance. Elements of fusion, jazz and rock were combined by Elephant9 at Grand Sport Studio by Elephant9 who reached new heights, on what was the most important album of their career. 

Before the release of Walk The Nile, Elephant9’s eagerly awaited sophomore album won over both jazz and rock critics who championed the album When Walk The Nile was released by Rune Grammofon, it was to widespread critical acclaim.

Record buyers were also won over by Walk The Nile, and Elephant9 were on their way to becoming one of Norway’s leading bands. However, Elephant9’s career got another boost later in 2008.

After the release of Walk The Nile, Motorpsycho asked Elephant9 to open for then in Norway and in London. This meant that Elephant9’s music was being heard by a much wider audience. For a group being hailed one of the rising stars of Norway’s vibrant and thriving music scene, 2010 was suddenly getting even better. However, just as it looked like things couldn’t get even better for Elephant9 they did.

Later in 2010, the shortlist for Spellemannprisen Awards were announced, and Elephant9 found their name on the shortlist in the jazz category. The Spellemannprisen Awards which are the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award were the most prestigious in Norwegian music, and even being nominated was an achievement in itself. However, Elephant9 went one better, and won a Spellemannprisen Award. 2010 had been the most successful year of Elephant9’s four year career, but they weren’t going to rest on their laurels.

Live At The BBC.

In 2011, Elephant9 released their first live album, Live At The BBC. It was recorded in London, and released by Rune Grammofon. Live at the BBC was a tantalising taste of Elephant9 live. Seamlessly, the three master musicians switched between genres on a quartet of tracks from their first two albums. From I Cover The Mountain Top, through Dodovoodoo, Aviation and the twelve-minute album closer Habanera Rocket, Elephant9 are at their very best. This whetted record buyer’s appetite for Elephant9’s third album. 

Atlantis 

For their third studio album Atlantis, Elephant9 decided to collaborate with legendary Swedish progressive rock guitarist Reine Fiske. He had made his name with Dungen, and then had joined Reform. However, when he first collaborated with Elephant9, Reine was a member of Sylvester Schlegel’s band The Guild. With Reine Fiske onboard, Elephant9 began work on their third album Atlantis. Once the album was completed, it was scheduled for release later in 2012. 

Before Rune Grammofon released Atlantis in October 2012, critics had their say on Elephant9’s third studio album. Just like their first two albums, critical acclaim accompanied the release of Atlantis. Some critics saw Reine Fiske as Elephant9’s missing link. Adding a guitarist to the lineup completed their sound, and now it was a case of onwards and upwards for Elephant9. 

That proved to be the case as Elephant9 took to the stage at some of Norway’s biggest festivals after the release of Atlantis. The biggest and most prestigious festival was the Kongsberg Jazzfestival. Elephant9 also won over audiences at Union Scene, and Victoria, before rounding off 2012 with an appearance at Najonal Jazzscene.

Silver Mountains.

After releasing Atlantis to critical acclaim and commercial success,  critics and record buyers awaited the release of Elephant9’s fourth album. However, they were in for a long wait, as the three members of Elephant9 were busy with other musical projects. As a result, it was a case of fitting the recording of Elephant9’s fourth album Silver Mountains into Ståle Storløkken, Torstein Lofthus and Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen busy schedules.  

In October 2014, Elephant9 returned to the studio where they were once again, joined by Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske. The quartet recorded four tracks penned by Elephant9 and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. These tracks became Elephant9’s fourth album Silver Mountains.

Another year passed before Rune Grammofon released Silver Mountains in October 2014. By then, critics had already hailed Sliver Mountain as the finest album of Elephant9’s career. Record buyers  agreed, and the Elephant9 success story continued apace.

Greatest Show On Earth.

Two years after the release of Silver Mountains, the three members of Elephant9 returned to Studio Paradiso in October 2017, where they were about to record their fifth album Greatest Show On Earth. This time, there was no sign of Reine Fiske, who many critics thought was the final piece of the jigsaw. These critics thought that Reine Fiske’s guitar filled and completed Elephant9’s sound. However, when recording began, it was just the core trio of Elephant9 that featured on Greatest Show On Earth.

Prior to the recording session of Greatest Show On Earth, Elephant9 unpacked their impressive musical arsenal which they had put to good use on four studio albums and a live album. Keyboardist Ståle Storløkken was soon showing his versatility as he switched between Fender Rhodes, Hammond Organ, grand piano, mellotron, Minimoog and Eminent 310 string synth. This time around, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen played electric while drummer Torstein Lofthus also added percussion. Making a guest appearance on Greatest Show On Earth was Pakka who added bells on what was a very different album from Elephant9.

As Greatest Show On Earth took shape, it became apparent that parts of six tracks were much more structured than on previous albums. However, there were still parts where a freewheeling Elephant9 could enjoy  the opportunity to improvise as they drew inspiration from disparate influences and genres, including Krautrock and the Canterbury Scene. Elsewhere, on Greatest Show On Earth Elephant9 a fully focused Elephant9 fused elements of fusion, jazz and progressive rock, and seamlessly changed keys and time signatures on tracks that lasted between five and seven minutes. Eventually, Elephant9’s fifth album Greatest Show On Earth was completed later in 2017, and all that remained was for the album to be mixed and mastered. 

Elephant9 mixed Greatest Show On Earth with Christian Engfelt, who had recorded the album with Marcus Forsgen. With the album mixed, Jørgen Træen mastered Greatest Show On Earth at Super Grotten in November 2017. Three months later, and Elephant9’s fifth album Greatest Show On Earth was released by Rune Grammofon.

Just the bass, subtle hissing hi-hats and soon, drums are joined by lo-fi synths to create a dark, hypnotic and cinematic backdrop. They’re soon joined by a Fender Rhodes, synth strings and bells which add to the eerie, mesmeric, cinematic sound. Later, swells of synth strings add a chilling, haunting sound during as drums provide the heartbeat and the bass meanders along and is joined by the lo-fi synth. By then, it’s as if Elephant9 have been asked to create the soundtrack to short Nordic horror movie. They succeed in doing so, as they combine disparate genres to create a spellbinding cinematic soundscape that is chilling, haunting, hypnotic and guaranteed to set the listener’s imagination racing.

Very different is Actionpack1 where the tempo rises as the rhythm section and keyboards power the rocky arrangement along. Soon, synth strings and blurts of synths are added to an arrangement that is big and bold. It veers between cinematic to rocky and sometimes, takes on sci-fi sound. Elephant9 who are in full flight then showcase their versatility as they seamlessly change time signature. By then, they’re already combined elements of rock, psychedelia, progressive rock and electronica, before heading in the direction of while a myriad of sci-fi synths beep, squeak and blurt out a seemingly secret code. They’re joining by washes of swirling Hammond organ before the arrangement reaches a crescendo. This isn’t the end and soon, Elephant9 burst into life and thunderous drums power the arrangement along as virtuoso keyboardist Ståle Storløkken picks up where he left off on before this genre-melting odyssey comes to a close after nearly seven magical minutes.

Farmer’s Secret has a stop start introduction, and it’s as if Elephant9 is toying with the listener as the Hammond organ and rhythm section combine. All the time, drums and bas power the arrangement along, before what sounds like a cathedral organ emerges from the depth of the progressive arrangement. Later, the Hammond organ replicates the sound found on many classic sixties and seventies album. By then, Ståle Storløkken is unleashing a fleet fingered masterclass and inspires the rest of Elephant9 as they reach new heights. As they do, they combine elements of classic rock, modern classical music, progressive rock, psychedelia and myriad of space age sounds. At the heart of the arrangement are Ståle Storløkken’s keyboards which play a starring role. He leaves space for the rest of Elephant9 as they power the arrangement to an uber rocky crescendo and in doing so, reach new heights on this genre-melting epic.

Stabs of keyboards sit atop Dancing With Mr. E’s progressive, cinematic arrangement as Elephant9 eschews the traditional 4/4 time signature. Just like on previous tracks, this allows Elephant9 to showcase their versatility and innovate. Elephant9’s rhythm section enjoy the opportunity to do so as they join with the Hammond organ to drive the arrangement along. By then, the arrangement has taken on a machine-like sound that is reminiscent of seventies Krautrock and progressive rock. Meanwhile, Ståle Storløkken adds bursts of cinematic synths which adds the final piece of the jigsaw. Soon, the time signature changes and a freewheeling Elephant9 in quick succession combine elements of free jazz, fusion and progressive rock. They play with freedom and fluidly and create genre-melting music that is inventive, innovative, cerebral and as the tempo increases impressive and cinematic.

Dreamy, lysergic and eerie describes Mystery Blend as the rumbling bass combines with keyboards. Sometimes, the bass takes centre-stage before the keyboards play a supporting role. However, when the Hammond organ enters, it’s initially happy to costar, before it starts to make its presence felt. It lumbers into the arrangement its dark, ominous sound swirling and swelling as the bass plays. Meanwhile, the Hammond organ is played with a degree of urgency as washes and swells add a progressive and cinematic sound. By then, drums provide the heartbeat whiles stabs, runs and swells of keyboards are added as the tempo increases and add to the drama. Elephant9 again play with a fluidity and inventiveness as they create imaginative filmic music. 

As Freaks closes Greatest Show On Earth, drums pound and with the bass power the arrangement along and the Hammond organ briefly replicates the type of music heard at a carnival. Soon, though washes of cinematic synths are added and the arrangement becomes eerie, moody and dramatic. Adding to the drama is the drums before the carnival organ returns and adds to the urgency as the arrangement is powered and skips along. All three members of Elephant9 play their part and before long, Elephant9’s rhythm section is in full flight and joined by swells and swirling keyboards. Meanwhile, the arrangement veers between rocky to psychedelic, progressive and dramatic to stirring and uplifting as Elephant9 close the Greatest Show On Earth on a resounding high.

After just over a two-year wait, Elephant9 recently returned with their much-anticipated fifth album Greatest Show On Earth, which was released by Rune Grammofon. Greatest Show On Earth is their first album to feature just the core trio of Elephant9 since Walk The Nile. However, Elephant9 have come a long way since Walk The Nile.

Since then, Elephant9 have released two albums with Reine Fiske, 2012s Atlantis and 2015s Silver Mountain. The addition of guitarist Reine Fiske was seen as the missing piece of the jigsaw. However, his absence on Greatest Show On Earth certainly hasn’t left a gaping hole in Elephant9’s sound. That is far from the case. After all, not every band needs a guitarist. Elephant9 certainly don’t, as they’ve got virtuoso keyboardist Ståle Storløkken who unleashes a veritable musical arsenal that includes a Fender Rhodes, Hammond Organ, grand piano, mellotron, Minimoog and Eminent 310 string synth. This array of keyboards are perfectly capable of replacing Reine Fiske’s guitar on Elephant9’s critically acclaimed fifth album Greatest Show On Earth.

What’s noticeable about Greatest Show On Earth is that it’s a much more structured album that Elephant9’s previous albums. While much of Greatest Show On Earth was fully composed there were opportunities for a freewheeling Elephant9 to improvise. This is something that Elephant9 excel at as they fuse disparate influences  including the progressive rock of Focus, King Crimson and Yes with the fusion of Miles Davis, Tony Williams Lifetime and Weather Report. However, Elephant9 fuse more to the Greatest Show On Earth than fusion and progressive rock. Elephant9 flit between and fuse avant-garde, free jazz, Krautrock, psychedelia, the Canterbury Scene and rock. Not content with fusing an array genres and influences, Elephant9 seamlessly change keys and time signatures during Greatest Show On Earth, which is another album of imaginative, inventive and innovative music where this talented trio play with a freedom and fluidity.

Throughout Greatest Show On Earth, Elephant9 throw a series of musical curveballs as the music veers between cinematic to lysergic to broody and moody to dark and dramatic to eerie and haunting to stirring and uplifting and everything in between. Always, though the music on the genre-melting odyssey that is Greatest Show On Earth is ambitious, bold, cerebral, exciting, innovative and intoxicating as is veers between cinematic to rocky. That comes as no surprise as Elephant9 features three master musicians as they return to their roots and reach new heights on a career defining opus that for the time being is the Greatest Show On Earth.

Elephant9-Greatest Show On Earth.

 

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GEORGE JACKSON-LEAVIN’ THE HOMEWORK DONE: IN THE STUDIO WITH GEORGE JACKSON 1969-1971.

George Jackson-Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971.

Label: Kent Soul.

When Dean Rudland and Tony Rouce were compiling the George Jackson compilation Old Friend The Fame Recordings Volume 3, which was released in late November 2013, they believed that there was only a handful of songs that had yet to be released. This was nowhere near enough for a fourth volume of recordings from the remarkable George Jackson, who was a truly prolific songwriter, but an occasional recording artist.

During his career, George Jackson penned over 300 songs, with artists of the calibre of James Carr, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Z.Z. Hill, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, Ann Peebles, Bobby Womack and Bob Seger recording his compositions. However, with George Jackson spending most of his time writing songs for other people, this left little time for him to pursue a recording career. As a result, George Jackson only released just one album and less than twenty singles. This wasn’t much to show for a truly talented singer-songwriter who had the potential to enjoy a long and successful career. However, George Jackson just like Sam Dees, seemed content to write songs for other artists.

It was only when Ace Records acquired the Goldwax Records and secured the licensing deals with Fame and Sound Of Memphis that  it became apparent that there was much more to  George Jackson’s discography than one album and less than twenty singles. Within the vaults of Goldwax Records, Fame and Sound Of Memphis there was what can only be described as a veritable feast of music baring George Jackson’s name. For connoisseurs of soul music this was  a tantalising prospect.

Ace Records’ Kent Soul imprint released their first George Jackson compilation In Memphis 1972-1977 in 2009. This musical amuse bouche certainly whetted the appetite of soul fans.

Over the next four years. a triumvirate of compilations featuring  songs George Jackson recorded whilst he was working at Fame were released by Kent Soul. This started with Don’t Count Me Out. The Fame Recordings Volume 1 was released two years later in 2011, with Let The Best Man Win: The Fame Recordings Volume 2 following in 2012. Just a year later in May 2013 The Fame Sessions was released on vinyl, and was an added bonus. Six months later in November 2013 came what was thought to be the third and final instalments in the series Old Friend: The Fame Recordings Volume 3. By then, it was thought that the cupboard was bare.

Despite Kent Soul having released what they believed to be the last of George Jackson’s solo recordings from his Fame years, soul fans were in for a pleasant surprise in January 2015. That was when George Jackson and Dan Greer At Goldwax was released. If all George Jackson’s Fame recordings had been released, then his Goldwax recordings were a welcome addition to his discography. However, fans of George Jackson were in for a pleasant surprise.

Just over two years later, and Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 was released by Kent Soul. It features the rest of the unissued tracks from George Jackson’s days at Fame. None of these songs have been heard before, although many people will be familiar with the cover versions. However, the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 were sung by the man who wrote them, and are a reminder of one of the greatest soul singers you’ve never heard. His story began in 1945.

George Jackson was born in March 1945, and spent the first five years of his life in Indianola, Mississippi. However, when he was five, the Jackson family decided to move to Greenville, in Washington County, where people soon realised that George Jackson was gifted musically.

From an early age, it was apparent to those around George Jackson that one day, he would embark upon a career as a singer or songwriter. He was a prodigious talent, and was already writing songs when he was just a teenager. Then when he was just eighteen, George Jackson met a famous producer.

Tis was none other than Ike Turner, who George Jackson met in 1963. Despite his Despite his youth, George Jackson found the confidence to introduce himself to Ike Turner. George Jackson told Ike Turner about his music and showed him some songs. Ike Turner was so impressed by George Jackson that he took him to New Orleans, to Cosimo Matassa’s studio. Together, they recorded Nobody Wants To Cha Cha With Me, which was then released on Ike Turner’s Prann label. While the single wasn’t a commercial success, it marked the start of George Jackson’s career. 

Two years later, in 1965, George Jackson recorded Rufus Come and Get Your Dog for the Doro label. However, again, commercial success eluded George Jackson. Despite two unsuccessful singles, George Jackson was determined to make a career out of music.

Later in 1965, George Jackson released Blinkity Blink as a single for Dot Records. Just like his two previous singles, Blinkity Blink failed to trouble the charts. This was a huge disappointment, and many artists would’ve considered calling time on their career. However, George Jackson was made of stronger stuff, and there was no way that he going to give up. Deep down, he knew he had what it took to make a career out of music.

After the commercial failure of Blinkity Blink, George Jackson decided to move to Memphis which had a vibrant and successful music scene. One of the most successful labels in Memphis was Stax Records, and arriving in Memphis George Jackson secured an audition at Stax. Incredibly, Stax passed on George Jackson, just like they had on James Carr. Little did they realise that they had  missed out on a prolific and talented singer and songwriter. 

Next stop for George Jackson was Goldwax Records, where he cofounded The Ovations with Louis Williams. George Jackson penned and sang on their 1965 classic, It’s Wonderful To Be In Love. It reached number twenty-two in the US R&B Chart, while reaching number sixty-one in the US Billboard 100. For George Jackson, this was his first hit single after two years of trying.

Soon, George Jackson was writing for other artists on Goldwax Records’ roster, and Spencer Wiggins and James Carr were beneficiaries of his songwriting skills. George Jackson also teamed up with Dan Greer, and formed the duo George and Greer. Alas, none of the songs this talented duo recorded for Goldwax Records were ever released. This was another disappointment for George Jackson. However, things got worse for George Jackson in 1968 when The Ovations split-up and this marked the end of his time at Goldwax Records.

 Having left Goldwax Records, George Jackson enjoyed a brief spell at Hi Records. He recorded a number of songs for Hi Records, but none of the songs were ever released. History was repeating itself, as this was what had happened to George and Greer at Goldwax Records. However, before long George Jackson was on the move again.

Following his spell at Hi Records, George Jackson signed to Decca and recorded a number of songs for his new label. When it came time to release them, George Jackson was billed as Bart Jackson. However, even a change of name didn’t result in a change of fortune for George Jackson, and he left Decca after failing to enjoy even a modicum of commercial success.

After Decca, George Jackson signed to Mercury and Capitol, but still commercial success eluded him. After three years of trying, George Jackson still hadn’t enjoyed a hit as a solo artist. This was hugely frustrating, as George Jackson knew he had what it took to enjoy a successful career within the music industry. All he needed was someone who could bring out the best in him. Fortunately, producer Billy Sherrill suggested George Jackson should get in touch with Rick Hall at Fame Records.

Fame Records at Muscle Shoals, was what George Jackson had spent the last few years looking form and when he arrived at the famous studio, it was like a homecoming of sorts. Straight away, he felt as if he belonged and was part of something. Buoyed by this new start, George Jackson’s career blossomed.

Soon, he was writing for some of Fame’s biggest stars. Among them were Candi Staton, Clarence Carter and Wilson Picket. George Jackson enjoyed instant success, when Clarence Carter’s Too Weak To Fight became a huge hit. It reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts. Buoyed by this success, George Jackson penned a string of hits for Fame’s artists. This included Candi Staton’s I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool), I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’) and Never In Public. Then in 1970, George Jackson wrote what was the biggest hit single of his career so far

Originally, George had written with One Bad Apple with The Jacksons in mind. That was until The Osmonds visited Fame Studios in 1970. When they heard One Bad Apple immediately, they liked the song. They decided to record it and it gave them the first hit of their career. Not only did it reach number one in the US Billboard 200, but number six in the US R&B Charts. For any songwriter, including George Jackson, this was the ultimate accolade. However, despite writing a number one single, George Jackson hadn’t given up hope of becoming a successful singer.

Over the next couple of years, George Jackson divided his time between songwriting and singing. He continued to be a prolific and successful songwriter, but occasionally headed into the recording studio to record a new song.

As a singer, he was noted for his versatility and ability to make lyrics come to life. If lyrics needed hurt, heartache or hope or anything from despair to joy George Jackson could deliver that. Despite this, commercial success eluded him. A reminder of this is Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 which features twenty-four unreleased songs.

George Jackson wrote many songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 on his own. This included the ballad Don’t Tell Me Nothing About My Baby, where George Jackson’s delivers a vocal full of frustration at the betrayal he’s experiencing as the arrangement fuses blues, gospel and R&B. George Jackson’s vocal is full of hurt and despair on the uptempo If This Is Love, before he drop the tempo and lays bare his soul on the beautiful, rueful ballad I Wish I Was A Child Again 

On Two Way Proposition George Jackson duets with Marjorie Ingram who was a young singer that he mentored. George Jackson had taught Marjorie Ingram well and she provides the perfect foil for him. Sadly, this is their only duet on the compilation.

George Jackson also wrote I Got To Stop You Road Runner, where blues and soul combine on this tale of betrayal. Very different is the ballad Your Love Is So Good where it seems that George Jackson has found happiness. However, it’s with someone else’s wife on a song that is reminiscent of Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs Jones. Keep Your Business To Yourself is a really catchy, radio friendly song that might have been the one that got away for George Jackson. Wait Till The Time Is Right is song about clandestine love where George Jackson paints pictures with the lyrics.

The rest of the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 were penned with a variety of songwriting partners, including Raymond Moore. They wrote a number of songs on the compilation including A Woman Respects A Man, the beautiful ballad A Few Precious Moments and the stomping confessional You Caught Me Red Handed. However, Raymond Moore was just one of George Jackson’s songwriting partners. 

He also wrote a number of songs with Edward Harris, including I Got A Feeling which opens the compilation and features a vocal where George Jackson sings about the hurt and betrayal he’s experienced. George Jackson then delivers an emotive vocal full of frustration on What Kind Of Woman Are You? It’s another tale of betrayal and deception that George Jackson brings to life. That is the case throughout the compilation.

On his collaboration with Earl Cage, George Jackson delivers a vocal full of regret on I Slowly Killed Your Love For Me. One of George Jackson’s vocals comes on the heart-wrenching ballad Quicksand Around My Mind which he wrote with George Brown. Then George Jackson he lays bare his soul on Never In Public which he wrote with Aaron McKinley. It’s just the latest hidden gem that was recently unearthed by Kent Soul for the Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 compilation.

 It’s a welcome addiction to George Jackson’s discography and covers what was the most prolific and successful period of his career…the Fame Years. The time George Jackson spent at Fame saw him write some of the best and most successful songs of his career. However, that is only part of this three-year story.

Right up until George Jackson left Fame in 1972, he was more successful as a songwriter than singer. He wrote many hits for other artists, but his singles never troubled the charts. This must have frustrated George Jackson.

Despite his lack of commercial success, George Jackson continued to record songs during his time at Fame. Some of the songs feature on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971. Often he was backed with a full band, while other times the arrangement are understated. Still, though the music is powerful and poignant as George Jackson who was blessed a hugely, soulful, emotive, expressive and mesmeric voice, breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Sadly, commercial success eluded George Jackson who nowadays, is better known as a songwriter than a singer.

That is a great shame as George Jackson had the talent, desire and voice to become a successful singer, but sadly that never happened. Not even at Fame, where George Jackson had access to a top producers and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. However, George Jackson spent most of his time writing songs for other artists.

That is often the case when talented songwriters who just happen to be singers, sign to a record label. Those running the label sometimes are more concerned with getting them to write songs, not record them. After all, it takes time and money to develop an artist’s career. Maybe record company executives thought that George Jackson, like other artists who were successful songwriters, would be better employed writing songs? After all, that was what George Jackson was good at. Looking back, maybe that was the case with George Jackson?

If that was the case, then George Jackson’s success as a songwriter was a double-edged sword? The more success he enjoyed, the less chance he had of becoming a successful singer. Record companies would rather George Jackson spent his time writing, rather than recording songs. This must have been frustrating for George Jackson, who wanted to be a star, not the star-maker. Sadly, that never happened, and nowadays, George Jackson is remembered primarily as a songwriter and occasional recording artist, whose musical legacy includes the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971. 

George Jackson-Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971.

NELSON PSYCHOUT

Nelson’s Pyshcout.

Label: Vampi Soul.

For the vast majority of record buyers, Nelson Records won’t mean anything to them, unless they happen to be a connoisseur of library music. That, however, is unlikely, as library music is still one of music’s best kept secrets and is a musical treasure trove. However, apart form this small coterie of musical connoisseurs, very few people have heard of library music, never mind Nelson Records. 

Thankfully, that has started to change over the last few years with various independent record labels releasing compilations of library music. These compilations are usually lovingly curated, and mostly, have focused on the bigger music libraries including KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Sonoton. However, recently the Vampi Soul label released a new compilation of library music, Nelson’s Pyshcout, which featured eighteen tracks from the vaults of Nelson Records which was one of the most important and innovative Italian music libraries of the seventies. This was a golden age for library music, and was when some of the greatest library music was recorded. However, the demand for library music grew in the fifties.

For many library companies, especially in Britain, the birth of television in the mid-fifties was a game-changer. No longer was classical music which had long been a staple of their businesses, as popular among their clients. As a result, some of the bigger library music companies, including Boosey and Hawkes, had decided to diversify into library music publishing. By then, there was already a huge demand for music to provide the soundtrack to radio, television and film.  

Originally, library music was meant to be used by film studios or television and radio stations, and was never meant to be commercially available. The music was recorded on spec by music libraries who  hired often young unknown composers, musicians and producers. This ranged from musicians who were known within publishing circles, to up-and-coming musicians who later, went onto greater things, and look back fondly at their time writing, recording and producing library music. This they now regard as part of their musical apprenticeship. 

For the musicians hired to record library music, their remit was to provide companies like KPM, De Woife or Boosey and Hawkes with a steady stream of new music, which was originality referred to as production music. During some sessions, the musicians’ remit was write and record music to match themes or moods. This wasn’t easy, but after a while they were  able to this seamlessly. Soon, the musicians were able to enter the audio and write and record a piece of music that matched a theme or mood for a film or television show.

Once the library music was recorded, record libraries sent out demonstration copies of their music to production companies. If the production companies liked what they heard, they would license a track or several tracks from the music libraries. That was how it was meant to work.

Often, the music that had been recorded on spec by library companies was never licensed. Since then, many of the tracks have lain unheard in the vaults of music libraries like KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy, Sonoton and Boosey Hawkes. That was no surprise, because the sixties and seventies was the golden age for library music. Competition was fierce amongst the major players who recorded a vast quantity of new music in the hope that they would license the tracks and use them in films, television or radio. It was a case of speculate to accumulate in what was a potentially hugely profitable sector.

Especially during the sixties and seventies when various film and television companies plus a number of radio stations agreed to license the music that had been created by these groups of largely anonymous composers, musicians and producers. Often the tracks that were licensed went on to provided the soundtrack to some of the biggest television programmes on British television, ranging from The Sweeney and The Professionals to cartoons like Dangermouse and current affairs to quiz shows. Many of these themes became part of the soundtrack to British life and are fondly remembered by a generation of adults. However, not everyone in Britain was a fan of library music.

This included the Musician’s Union in Britain, who banned their members from working on recording sessions of library music. Somewhat shortsightedly, the Musician’s Union thought that eventually, there would come a time when there was no need for any further recordings of library music. Their fear was that the sheer quantity of back-catalogue would mean no new recordings would be made, and their members would be without work. Soon, the record libraries had worked out a way to circumvent the band, which suited all parties.

Some record libraries would fly out composers, arrangers, musicians and producers to Holland and Belgium, where local musicians would join them for recording sessions. This meant that often, the same musicians would play on tracks for several composers. These were lucrative sessions for the musicians involved, who had the last laugh. 

Incredibly, it was only in the late seventies, that the stubborn dinosaurs that ran the Musician’s Union lifted their ban on new recordings of library music. By then, the golden age of library music was at an end, the Musician’s Union ban had cost their members dearly. 

Later, sample hungry hip hop producers who dug deep into the crates found albums of library music. This was the ‘inspiration’ that they were looking for, and many ‘borrowed’ samples from their newfound musical treasure. Soon, other producers, DJs and collectors went in search of these long-overlooked albums of library music. Since then, they’ve become increasingly collectable, with producers continuing to sample them, while DJs incorporating library music into their sets. There’s also a number of collectors who spend their time and money looking for, and buying albums of library music. Just like the producers and DJs, these collectors were aficionados of library music.

They’re all sure to enjoy the eighteen tracks from the vaults of the Italian record library Nelson Records, which feature on the new compilation from Vampi Soul Nelson’s Pyshcout.

The Nelson Records’ story began in Roma, in 1970, when Maurizio Majorana, Antonello Vannucchi and Roberto Podio founded a new label after they establishing the Telecinesound recording studio. That was where the New Italian Library Sound took shape.

Soon, this triumvirate of talented musicians were soon joined by guitarist Carlo Pes and together, they formed the studio group that feature on the majority of Nelson Records’ recordings, Marc 4. It took its name for from the first initial of each of the musician’s christian names, so Maurizio Majorana, Antonello Vannucchi, Roberto Podio and Carlo Pes essentially became part of Marc 4.

Having formed Marc 4, the four musicians began writing and recording new music on spec. They hoped that they could license the new tracks to film, television, radio or even advertising agencies. These tracks were recorded at the new Telecinesound recording studio, where the rhythm section of drummer Roberto Podio, bassist  Maurizio Majorana and guitarist Carlo Pes were joined by Antonello Vannucchi on Hammond organ and piano. The four musicians were versatile and talented and were capable of creating the New Italian Library Sound.

To create the new the New Italian Library Sound that features on Nelson’s Pyshcout, Marc 4 fused elements of jazz, pop, rock and psychedelia. While each of the members of Marc 4 were gifted musicians, and played their part in the New Italian Library Sound it was guitarist Carlo Pes who played a leading role. 

That was the case on Distorsion Mind which opens Nelson’s Pyshcout. Both Antonello Vannucchi’s Hammond organ and Carlo Pes’ guitar play leading roles. However, Carlo Pes’ blistering guitar steals the show on this groove slice of cinematic psychedelia. It’s a similar case on the lysergic sounding The Trip. However, on the eerie and haunting sounding Compression each member of Marc 4 plays their part in this cinematic hidden gem. Dirottamento is best described as psychedelic mood music that becomes dramatic as Marc 4 continue to explore variations in the psychedelic groove. They continue to do so on Beat Generation and then on Beat Morbido which is a cinematic opus full of drama and tension. 

Very different is the jazz-tinged cinematic psychedelia of Leslie Love. It gives way to Indagine which is full of drama, tension and  psychedelic surprises. Attesa Spasmodica sounds as if it’s been written with the horror genre in mind. It’s a similar case with Deep Bass which features rocky bursts of gothic psychedelia. Filter is a psychedelic rock workout with progressives undertones.

Although Airon has a much more understated cinematic sound, the psychedelic sound is still present. That is the case on stomping Wonder, where once again, Antonello Vannucchi’s Hammond organ and Carlo Pes’ guitar play leading roles. However, the guitar steals the show and Wonder wouldn’t be the same tracks without it. The tempo drops on Underground, which is dark, dramatic, trippy and has a cinematic sound that sets the imagination racing. Antonello Vannucchi’s Hammond organ taking centre-stage on Ray Ban which could’ve only been recorded during the seventies. It sounds as if it belong on the soundtrack to a seventies cop show or thriller and will bring back memories for people of a certain age. While there’s a “traditional” psych sound to Berkey ’70, Marc 4 aren’t afraid to experiment and improvise as this workout takes shape. Fast Bass which closes Nelson’s Pyshcout is best described as dark, moody, broody and gothic psychedelia from Marc 4. 

They made Nelson Records the success story it was between 1970 and 1976. During what was a golden age for library music, Marc 4 were making history as they defined the New Italian Library Sound which was published by Nelson Records. They became one of the  most important Italian music libraries of the seventies. 

Nelson Records became known for recording and ambitious and innovative genre-melting music, where Marc 4 fused elements of jazz, pop, rock and psychedelia. This genre-melting music was veered between  broody and moody to dark and  dramatic to eerie, haunting and lysergic to rocky and trippy. Always though, the psychedelic library music that Marc 4 made was cinematic and the highest quality. 

For six years, Nelson Records was one of finest purveyors of psychedelic library music in Italy. A reminder of this can be found on Nelson’s Pyshcout, which was recently released by Vampi Soul. Nelson’s Pyshcout features a tantalising taste of the library music within the vaults of Nelson Records, which is home to some of the greatest library music recorded in Italy during this golden era, where the label’s studio band Marc 4, defined the New Italian Library Sound.

Nelson’s Pyshcout.

ERNESTO CHAHOUD PRESENTS TAITU SOUL-FUELLED STOMPERS FROM 1960S-1970S ETHIOPIA.

Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.

Label: BBE Africa.

It’s often the case that the people who compile and curate compilations have a fascinating story to tell, and especially about how their love of music came about. That is the case with thirty-six year Lebanese DJ and crate digger Ernesto Chahoud who has compiled a new compilation for BBE Africa. This new compilation is Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers from 1970s Ethiopia which focuses on the golden age of Ethiopian music. 

For Ernesto Chahoud and many aficionados of Ethiopian music they’re in no doubt that the sixties and seventies was a golden age of Ethiopian music. During that period, musicians and bands decided to experiment, and fused a variety of different influences and disparate 

genres including boogaloo, funk,  jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll and soul to create new, exciting and innovative music. This Ethiopian interpretation featured pentatonic scales and often stomping beat while braying horns provided the melody and accompanied impassioned vocals sung in Amharic. It was potent and heady brew and one that won over Ernesto Chahoud the first time he heard it. 

This was the start of a lifelong love affair with Ethiopian music for Ernesto Chahoud, who even today spends much of his time looking for hidden gems and rarities to add to his burgeoning collection. Some of the Ethio-Soul singles Ernesto Chahoud has discovered over the years regularly feature in his now legendary DJ sets. Some of these singles are among the twenty-two tracks on Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers from 1970s Ethiopia, which instantly, transports the listener back to the golden age of Ethiopian music.  However, that wasn’t where compiler Ernesto Chahoud was born and where his remarkable story took shape.

Instead, Ernesto Chahoud was born in West Beirut, in the Lebanon into a family of communist militants in May 1981. By then, the Lebanese Civil War was underway, and it lasted fifteen long years. This was a War that loomed large in Ernesto Chahoud’s young life.

With Ernesto Chahoud’s family being communist militants and his father playing an active part in the Lebanese Civil War, it was  a regular occurrence for armed militia to arrive in the family home. Regularly, men and women arrive in the family and would eat and drink with Ernesto Chahoud and the rest of his family. Over the weeks, months and years, Ernesto Chahoud regularly saw handguns and machines guns in the family home. Unlike children in the West, Ernesto Chahoud grew-up playing with real guns rather than toy guns. Alas, this was only part of the story.

In the Chahoud family home, there were many books about the ideologies his parents believed in. The young Ernesto Chahoud read them in an attempt to make sense of what was going on around him. Meanwhile, Ernesto Chahoud and his family were constantly having to move house, because of threats to their lives. It was a worrying time for the Chahoud family.

To make matters worse, Ernesto Chahoud had to get use to his father disappearing for months on end. Back home, the rest of Chahoud family worried for his safety. There was always the possibility he had been kidnapped, wounded or even killed. However, it wasn’t Ernesto Chahoud’s father that was kidnapped.

Instead, it was his mother who was kidnapped in the mid-eighties by right-wing militia. For over a year, Ernesto Chahoud’s mother was kept hostage. For Ernesto Chahoud who was only a four or five, this must have a worrying time, as he didn’t know whether he would see his mother again. However, eventually Ernesto Chahoud’s mother returned home, but the dragged on.

After fifteen years, an announcement was made on the ’13th’ of October 1990 that the Lebanese Civil War was over. Sectarian groups had decided to give up their arms as a new era began. Meanwhile, Ernesto Chahoud remembers that day clearly and can picture the   militia men that were in house frantically shaving of their beards, and wondering what the future held for them?

For may militia men, the war and guerrilla warfare was all they knew. It had taken over their lives, and once Lebanese Civil War was over, they had nothing to fill the void. Some former militia men couldn’t readjust to civilian life, and fell into a deep depression. This included Ernesto Chahoud’s father. Other militia men were happy that the war was over, returned to their family and found new jobs. Ironically, peace affected people in different ways.

Despite the end of Lebanese Civil War, military training was still compulsory for young men in the Lebanon. When Ernesto Chahoud turned thirteen it was time for him to undertake his military training.

By then, Ernesto Chahoud had digested the works of Marx and Lenin, and had read about October Revolution and the Soviet Union which was where the communist militia’s loyalties lay. It was also where the AK-47 that Ernesto Chahoud was handed when his military training began. 

By 1994, the AK-47 was still the weapon de jour for everyone from so-called “revolutionaries” and “freedom fighters” to terrorists and armies that were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. This included the Lebanese Army, and at a time when teenagers in the West were entering high school, thirteen years old Ernesto Chahoud was learning how to use one of the most powerful automatic weapons available. It was a sad state of affairs, and teenagers in Lebanon were being robbed of a normal life.

The only thing that Ernesto Chahoud and his friends share with teenagers in the West was a love of music. However, much of the music that Ernesto Chahoud listened to consisted of revolutionary songs from Lebanon, the Soviet Union, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Syria and the Yemen. Even though he was still in his early teens, Ernesto Chahoud was embracing an eclectic selection of music. This love of music continued throughout his teenage years.

The problem that Ernesto Chahoud encountered, was that there was no music scene in the Lebanon. In this war ravaged country, there were no recording studios, music venues and music magazines. This didn’t stop Ernesto Chahoud immersing himself in music, and over the next few years he embraced numerous disparate genres, soaking new music up like a sponge. 

Soon, he was a familiar face in the tape shacks that had sprung up, and Ernesto Chahoud regularly followed the tape sellers as they sold they tapes on the city streets. Eventually, when Ernesto Chahoud had some money of his own, he would buy new record, which he would listen to at home with like-minded friends. Later, they would go out to local bars, which was where Ernesto Chahoud had a eureka moment,

As Ernesto Chahoud and friends sat in a bar in Beirut, they listened to the music playing. It wasn’t the type of music they liked, and it was then that Ernesto Chahoud decided to ask the barman if he could play his records in the bar? When he said yes, this was the start of Ernesto Chahoud’s DJ career.

Soon, Ernesto Chahoud was DJ-ing in other bars and clubs, and was a familiar face as he spun an eclectic selection of music. Initially, he played sixties R&B, but soon, his musical tastes were changing and broadening. Ernesto Chahoud had embarked upon a voyage of discovery, and soon, was spinning everything from jazz, fusion and seventies funk and later, disco and rap. The eclectic selection of music that Ernesto Chahoud played, came from an unlikely source…the local flea market.

Just like in Britain and America, very people wanted to buy vinyl in Beirut, as people were buying CDs. This was good news for Ernesto Chahoud, who was able to buy large quantities of vinyl for small sums of money in the local flea market. With vinyl so cheap, Ernesto Chahoud was willing to take a chance on singles and albums he knew nothing about. However, if they looked interesting, Ernesto Chahoud would add these records to his burgeoning collection. Soon, everything from American jazz, British pop and rock and even albums by Stockhausen and Agitation Free were added to Ernesto Chahoud’s collection. After a while, Ernesto Chahoud decided to head overseas on a crate digging expedition. His destination was Ethiopia where he journey with his DJ partner JJ Whitefield.

During his first expedition to Ethiopia, Ernesto Chahoud discovered a veritable musical feast of new and exciting music from the sixties and seventies. This as Ernesto Chahoud was to discover, was the golden age of Ethiopian music. That was when Getatchew Kassa recorded Zamam Sew Labene, which was the very first Ethiopian record that Ernesto Chahoud discovered. This was the first of many Ethiopian records Ernesto Chahoud discovered over the next ten years. 

Despite his best efforts, one record continued to elude Ernesto Chahoud, Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker. This was the record that Ernesto Chahoud describes as a “fever” and began his lifelong love affair with Ethiopian music, and especially Ethio-Soul. However, after ten long years, Ernesto Chahoud discovered a copy of  Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker which fittingly, features on his new compilation, Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia. It’s among a compilation that feature what Ernesto Chahoud described as “stompers” and “clappers.” That is a fitting description of this wonderful music, which sometimes may have a lo-fi sound, but features emotive and impassioned performances from the not just great and good of Ethiopian music, but some of its lesser names. They all play their part in the success of Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.

The legendary Mulatu Astatke, who is one of the most influential and Ethiopian musicians opens the compilation with an instrumental “stomper”he wrote and recorded, Emnete . It was released on the B-Side of a split single that was released by Phillips Ethiopia in 1970. However, this classic instrumental that has filled many a dancefloor is nowadays better known than Tilahun Gessesse’s single Tiz Alegn Yetintu.

Alkedashim is only single that Birkineh Wurga released during his career. It was written by Getatchew Alemu and released on Phillips in 1975 band. This hidden gem features an arrangement that marries elements of funk and jazz with an impassioned and soulful vocal. The result is a powerful and moving song, 

From the get-go, it sounds as if Alemayehu Eshete has been inspired by the self-styled Godfather of Funk James Brown on Chiro Adarie Negne, which was the B-Side of Afer Yemegnshale which was released  by Amha Records in 1970. Chiro Adarie Negne is uber funky as Alemayehu Eshete’s vocal veers between soulful and powerful. The man known as the “Ethiopian James Brown” returns on Mekeyershin Salawke which was also released on Amha Record and was guaranteed to fill a dancefloor. Alemayehu Eshete’s third contribution is one of his own compositions Gizew Honeshyna which featured on the B-Side to Fiker Fiker Naw. It’s an explosive track that was too good to languish on the B-Side of a single.

Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker is the track that Ernesto Chahoud spent ten years looking for. It was worth the wait to hear one of finest moments in the career of the First Lady of Ethiopian music. She’s backed by the Bodyguard band as she delivers an impassioned and emotive vocal on Ewnetegna Feker. Incredibly, it also languished on the B-Side of the single Des Yemiase which was released by Kaifa Record in 1977.  Five years earlier, in 1972 Hirut Bekele released one of the most beautiful, soulful songs on the compilation, Almokerum Nebere. It’s a clapper that was released on the Amha label and features a stunning jazzy guitar solo that adds the finishing touch to one of the compilation’s highlights.

Fittingly, Tilahun Gessesse who was the most popular Ethiopian singer in the seventies features twice on the compilation. His first contribution is Aykedashim Libe which was released as a single on Phillips in 1974. He’s accompanied by the Army Band who drive this funky, rousing arrangement along as Tilahun Gessesse’s vocal veers between powerful to passionate and vampish. Tilahun Gessesse’s other contribution is Sigibgib Joroye which was also released on Phillips and features a stunning, impassioned vocal on what’s regarded as a legendary dance track.

Temelese was the one and only collaboration between two of the giants of Ethiopian music, Hirut Beqele and Alemayehu Eshete. It was released on Amha Records and is features a funky arrangement, while the legends deliver a vocal masterclass.

Bezunesh Bekele’s Aha Gedawo is a horn driven clapper, that was released as a single on Phillips in September 1972. It finds singing call and response on this beautiful, sometimes mesmeric clapper where jazz, funk and soul are fused seamlessly.

Back in the early seventies, Seifu Yohannes was regarded as one of Ethiopia’s top clappers. Proof of that is his clapper Mela Mela, which was released on Amha Record in April 1971. It was written and arranged by the Soul Ekos band who are responsible for the braying horns and thunderous drums on this irresistible and hypnotic clapper.

Funky describes the arrangement to Getatchew Kassa’s Fikrishin Eshaleyu as the rhythm section combine with punchy horns and washes of swirling Hammond organ. Meanwhile, Getatchew Kassa adds the vocal to this glorious slice Ethiopian funk.

Muluken Melesse’s career began as a twelve-year-old when he began playing singing in nightclubs. By the time the singer and drummer signed to Kaifa Records in the mid-seventies, he was regarded as one of Ethiopian’s music best and most talented vocalists. Proof of that is Alagegnhwatem which was the B-Side Tizita which was released on Kaifa Records. It’s a reminder of another of the great names in Ethiopian music during this golden era.

Closing Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia is Ene Yewodedquat which was the B-Side to Tamrat Molla’s single Ber Ambar Seberelew. It was released on Amha Records in December 1971, and although there’s a rawness to the recording, the combination of the funky arrangement and Tamrat Molla’s soulful vocal is a potent and successful one that ensures the compilation ends on a high.

For anyone with even a passing interest in Ethiopian or African music, then Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia which has just been released by BBE Africa is essential listening. It’s a loving curated compilation from thirty-six year Lebanese DJ and crate digger Ernesto Chahoud who is passionate about Ethiopian music, and especially Ethio-Soul. However, its music from the sixties and seventies, which was the golden age of Ethiopian music that Ernesto Chahoud has spent over a decade searching for.

Even today, Ernesto Chahoud spends much of free time searching for music from the golden age of Ethiopian music, which he then spins during his now legendary DJ sets. These sets feature many of the tracks Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia, which are nearly impossible to find. Some of these tracks are real rarities, and change hands for every increasing sums of money. Sadly, only crate diggers with deep pockets will be able to afford original copies of these tracks even if they can find them. However, the easiest and most economical way to own these tracks is by buying a copy of Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia. It’s a reminder of the innovative music being released during the golden age of Ethiopian music.

During that period, musicians and bands took upon themselves  to experiment, and fuse a variety of different influences and disparate genres, ranging from boogaloo, funk,  jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll and soul in an attempt to create new, exciting and innovative music. The musicians used pentatonic scales and often stomping beat or handclaps while braying horns provided the melody and accompanied impassioned  and soul-baring vocals sung in Amharic. It was potent and heady brew and one that won over Ernesto Chahoud the first time he heard it, and will win over listeners when they hear  Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia for the first time.

Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.

THE SEEDS-A WEB OF SOUND.

The Seeds-A Web Of Sound.

Label: Ace Records.

When The Seeds were formed in Los Angeles in early 1965 by Sky Saxon, Daryl Hooper, Jan Savage, Jeremy Levine and Rick Andridge nobody had any idea just how influential the nascent garage band would be. Over the next four years, The Seeds released five albums, enjoyed four hit singles and pioneered mid-sixties garage rock and acid rock. The Seeds are nowadays regarded as one of the original freakbeat bands, who also coined the term “flower power” and paved the way for punk rock a decade later. However, by 1969 The Seeds were no more, with the latest lineup of the band deciding to call time on their career. It was the end of an era for an influential and innovative band who left behind a rich musical legacy.

This include The Seeds sophomore album A Web Of Sound which was released in October 1966, and was recently released on vinyl as a two LP set by Big Beat, an imprint of Ace Records. A Web Of Sound was the followup to The Seeds which had been released just six months earlier in April 1966. The Seeds was the album which had launched the band’s career, now they hoped to build on that success with their sophomore album A Web Of Sound.

It was hard for The Seeds to believe that their musical adventure had only started a year earlier when the five young musicians founded the band in LA. The Seeds were founded in 1965 and featured charismatic vocalist Sly Saxon who was by far the most experienced member of the band. 

He had been a professional musician since the late-fifties and had been releasing singles as Richie Marsh since the early sixties. Sly Saxon who came from Salt Lake City, had moved to Los Angeles to further his musical career. However, he had been treading water until he saw an advert in 1965 looking for musicians to join a new band. This Sly Saxon hoped might be the breakthrough he had been looking for. That proved to be the case, and after an audition Sly Saxon became The Seeds vocalist. 

With the lineup of The Seeds finalised, the new band spent time honing their sound. Soon, though, they made their first tentative steps onto LA’s live scene where they secured regular gigs at the Los Angeles nightclub Bido Lito’s. The Seeds were a popular draw with music fans flocking to the venue to see this new band’s high octane performance. Already The Seeds were making their mark on the LA music scene.

Not long after that, The Seeds recorded what would become  their debut single Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. With the recording complete, charismatic frontman Sly Saxon started trying to interest record labels in the song. Mostly, it was a case of thanks but no thanks, until he entered the offices of GNP Crescendo Records. They listened to the song and promised Sly Saxon they would get back to him. By then, he and the rest of The Seeds knew not to get their hopes up.

This time it was different, with GNP Crescendo Records getting back to Sly Saxon and telling him how much they liked the song. Not only did they like Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, but they wanted to take The Seeds back into the studio and rerecord it with Marcus Tybalt.

The Seeds agreed and headed into the studio with Marcus Tybalt, where they rerecorded Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. It was then released by Crescendo and picked up by Santa Monica based radio station KBLA. Soon, other radio stations had picked up on Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, and this future cult classic became a regional hit in Southern California. After just a few months together, already The Seeds already had a regional hit single to their name which was a dream come true for the band.

While The Seeds celebrated the success of Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, guitarist Jeremy Levine announced that he was leaving the band for personal reasons. This was a huge blow for The Seeds who looked as if they were on the verge of making a breakthrough. 

With The Seeds now a quartet, they returned Los Angeles’ vibrant live scene, where people were starting to take notice of this, new up-and-coming band who had just scored a hit with Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. By then,  The Seeds’ popularity was rising and they became a firm favourite of audiences across LA. They were impressed by The Seeds’ high octane, energetic performances as they showcased the new garage rock sound that they were pioneering.

The Seeds.

Although The Seeds spent much of their time playing live, they were already working on their eponymous debut album. Frontman Sly Saxon had dawned the role of The Seeds’ songwriter-in-chief and had penned ten of the twelve tracks that featured on The Seeds. He also wrote Evil Hoodoo with Daryl Hooper and penned No Escape with Jan Savage and Jimmy Lawrence. These twelve tracks were recorded at Columbia Studios, in Hollywood.

At Columbia Studios, Sly Saxon co-produced The Seeds with Marcus Tybalt who had masterminded their debut single Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. When the recording sessions began, drummer Rick Andridge wasn’t  joined in the rhythm section by vocalist Sly Saxon who it was thought played bass on The Seeds recordings. Instead, Daryl Hooper who played keyboards, organ melodica and piano, laid down the bass parts using a bass keyboard. Meanwhile, Jan Savage took charge of the bass parts on The Seeds. Eventually, The Seeds had completed their much-anticipated eponymous debut album which would be released by GNP Crescendo Records.

In April 1966, The Seeds were just about to release their eponymous debut album The Seeds. Critics on hearing The Seeds were won over by this classic-in-waiting. The Seeds featured an irresistible fusion of fuzzy guitars, bubbling Hammond organ and Sly Saxon’s vocal which seems to have been inspired by everyone from Mick Jagger to Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. When The Seeds was released, it was to plaudits and praise, and nowadays, the album is regarded as a garage rock classic. Indeed, many critics believe that The Seeds is the finest garage rock album ever released. 

On its release, The Seeds sold well and reached 132 in the US Billboard 200. Meanwhile, a decision was made to reissue Pushin’ Too Hard which had been released in 1965. While it failed to chart first time round, this time, Pushin’ Too Hard reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and forty-four in Canada. Later in 1966, Can’t Seem To Make You Mine was also reissued and reached forty-one in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-three in Canada. Things were looking good for The Seeds, as their thoughts turned to their sophomore album A Web Of Sound.

A Web Of Sound.

By the time The Seeds began work on A Web Of Sound, they had been working tirelessly since early 1965. They were now a familiar face and favourite on LA’s live scene. All The Seeds hard work was paying off and they had established a reputation as one of the most innovative bands of the mid-sixties. The Seeds were known to push musical boundaries to their limits as they created music that was best described as eclectic. Despite that, many people still referred to The Seeds as a garage band. However, The Seeds added elements of acid rock, proto-punk and psychedelia to their music. Their sophomore album A Web Of Sound was going to be a very different album to The Seeds.

Just like their debut album The Seeds, Sly Saxon was songwriter-in-chief on A Web Of Sound. On Tripmaker and Rollin’ Machine, the mysterious Marcus Tybalt was credited as one of the songwriters. However, this was just an alias of Sly Saxon who wrote Mr. Farmer, I Tell Myself, Rollin’ Machine and Up In Her Room. Sly Saxon and Darryl Hooper teamed up to write Pictures and Designs, Tripmaker and A Faded Picture. The pair then wrote Just Let Go with Jan Savage. These eight tracks were recorded during July 1966.

The Seeds recorded A Web Of Sound at RCA Victor and Columbia Studios in Hollywood. The sessions started on the ‘5th’ of July 1966 with Sly Saxon using the alias Marcus Tybalt taking charge of production. This time around, drummer Rick Andridge was joined by Harvey Sharpe who was brought onboard for the A Web Of Sound. Completing the rhythm section was Jan Savage who laid down all the guitar parts. Darryl Hooper switched between celeste, organ and piano, while vocalist Sly Saxon added percussion and played piano. After twenty-four days A Web Of Sound was completed on the ‘29th’ of July 1966. It was a very different album to their debut The Seeds.

Critics on hearing A Web Of Sound, realised just how far The Seeds had come in a relatively short space of time. In just six month, their music had progressed, and it looked as if The Seeds were going to match their LA based contemporaries like The Doors and Love every step of the way. That was the case with A Web Of Sound, which was an album of two very different sides.

A Web Of Sound marked the start of a new chapter in The Seeds career, as they broadened their musical horizon on what was a much more eclectic album. The Seeds incorporated elements of acid rock, blues, garage rock, proto punk and psychedelic rock on album that was embraced by the hippies. They were won over by A Web Of Sound which they believed was an unconventional album that featured open-ended songs which appealed to their mindset. These songs eschewed the carefully plotted thoughts and didacticism of the majority of songs on the charts, and left plenty of room for interpretation. The Seeds songwriter-in-chief Sly Saxon was an unlikely hero for the hippies.

Side One.

Sly Saxon and the rest of The Seeds took the hippies on a walk on the wild side during A Web Of Sound. It opened with light-hearted and almost joyous proto-psychedelia of Mr. Farmer, where washes of swirling organ helps drives the arrangement along as Sly Saxon struts his way through the song, as he revels in his role as frontman. It’s a similar case on the stomping psychedelic garage rock of Pictures and Designs. Sly Saxon unleashes a vampish vocal powerhouse as cascading keyboards reminiscent of those on Pushing Too Hard play a leading role in the sound and success of the song. 

Tripmaker features a driving, gritty,, genre-melting arrangement that incorporates elements of garage rock, psychedelic rock and proto punk. That is the perfectly description of Sly Saxon’s swaggering vocal, which must have influenced a generation of punks a decade later. Here, The Seeds don’t take themselves too seriously, briefly  adding sound effects to a mix that features blistering guitars, keyboards as drums that power the arrangement along. The result is a fist pumping anthem that straddles disparate genres. 

Suddenly, it’s all change on I Tell Myself where a heartbroken Sly Saxon tries not to reveal his sensitive side as he spits out a bravado fuelled  and emotive vocal. Meanwhile, washes of weeping guitar are added to the genre-melting arrangement which features elements of acid rock, blues, garage rock, proto-punk and psychedelia. They play their part in this heady and potent musical brew that shows another side to The Seeds’ music. It’s a similar case on A Faded Picture, where  the tempo drops and Sly Saxon sounds not unlike Mick Jagger on this slow, bluesy and lysergic soul-baring song which is one of the most underrated songs The Seeds recorded. 

Quite different is the jaunty Rollin’ Machine which canters along as washes of bluesy guitar give way to keyboards and washes of swirling and bubbling Hammond organ. Meanwhile, Sly Saxon delivers the lyrics to this latest open-ended song which were embraced by the hippies. Later, a searing, fuzzy guitar is added as this cinematic fusion of acid rock, blues and psychedelia takes shape and showcases just how versatile, innovative and imaginative The Seeds were by the time they released A Web Of Sound.

Side Two.

The second side of A Web Of Sound opened with the cinematic sounding psychedelia of Let Her Go. It finds Sly Saxon unleashing a needy, pleading vocal as the arrangement veers between mesmeric to driving. By then,  Jan Savage has unleashed his fuzzy guitar which gives way to the swirling Hammond that adds a progressive sound. They play their part in an arrangement that is a perfect foil to Sly Saxon’s vocal which later, becomes an urgent, hopeful powerhouse.

Up In Her Room which closes A Web Of Sound, is a near fifteen-minute epic, with lyrics that hints at sex and drugs which were no longer taboo subjects. This after all, was the beginning of an era when free love and experimenting with drugs was seen almost regarded as de rigueur. However, during Up In Her Room The Seeds enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs and experiment musically. To do this, they deploy a bottleneck guitar, electric fuzz-bass, Fender Rhodes and tambourine which combine with the drums that provide the heartbeat. Over the next fifteen minutes, The Seed push musical boundaries to their limits and fuse disparate genres on this epic musical workout. It’s another reminder of just how versatile and innovative The Seeds were on a track that signalled the start of a new chapter in The Seeds’ story.

That however, isn’t the end of the story of Big Beat’s reissue of A Web Of Sound. On The second LP are eleven other tracks that include the single version of Mr. Farmer and the single edit of the fifteen minute opus Up In Her Room. There’s also alternate takes of Pictures and Designs, Rollin’ Machine, A Faded Picture and the mono mix of Trip Maker. Welcome additions are alternate takes of The Wind Blows Your, Dreaming Of Your Love and Out Of The Question. They’re the perfect companion to A Web Of Sound on this lovingly curated two LP set which was recently reissued by Big Beat, an imprint of Ace Records. It’s the perfect way introduce a new audience to this cult classic, A Web Of Sound.

When A Web Of Sound was released in October 1966, the album wasn’t a commercial success initially. This changed after the reissue of Pushin’ Too Hard gave The Seeds another hit single. Suddenly, record buyers started investigating The Seeds’ sophomore album A Web Of Sound which had slipped under the radar. While it sold reasonably well, A Web Of Sound was a cult album that failed to replicate The Seeds. It was only later that A Web Of Sound would be embraced by a much wider audience.

By then, critics, cultural commentators and record buyers realised that A Web Of Sound was a stepping stone for The Seeds, as their sound continued to evolve on their third album Future. 

While The Seeds had pushed musical boundaries to their limits on The Seeds and A Web Of Sound, they blew these limits away on Future. The result was a mind-blowing fusion of psychedelia, garage, rock and pop that veered towards jazz and soul.Eclectic doesn’t even come close to describing Future. It’s a minor classic that is a long way from The Seeds roots as a garage band. However, listening to A Web Of Sound it’s obvious that The Seeds were in the process of changing.

Although the basis for many of the songs on A Web Of Sound is garage rock, there’s much more to the album that than. Garage rock was part of The Seeds’ recipe, as they added elements of acid rock, demonic blues, proto-punk, psychedelia. The result was a heady and potent musical brew that showcased a truly talented and versatile band who were musical pioneers. That had been the case since they released The Seeds in April 1966.

Six months later, when The Seeds released A Web Of Sound it was as if they had  let their imagination run riot as they created an album of groundbreaking, inventive and innovative music. Sometimes, The Seeds fused disparate genres that under normal circumstances shouldn’t have worked together. However, The Seeds were no ordinary band, and this talented band of musical mavericks led by songwriter, producer and vocalist Sly Saxon, they recorded the cult classic Web Of Sound in less than a month.

During July 1966, musical magpies The Seeds, collect musical genres and influences which are added to their lysergic melting pot. All that is left is for The Seeds, especially producer Sly Saxon to add some secret ingredients. A Web Of Sound was then left to cook for twenty-four days and nights. When this musical melting pot was removed from the musical oven, the world were introduced to the most ambitious, eclectic and innovative album of The Seeds’ short career, A Web Of Sound. It featured songs about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll as Sly Saxon sometimes strutted his way through songs, and other times, preached to converted on A Web Of Sound which was a pioneering and unconventional album that showcased the different sides to The Seeds, who were  much more than a garage band. 

The Seeds-A Web Of Sound.

THE BROTHERHOOD-STAVIA.

The Brotherhood-Stavia.

Label: Out-Sider Music.

After Ohio-based singer, songwriter and musician John Hurd wrote a new song Tragedy in 1971, he booked some studio time so that his band The Revised Brotherhood could record their debut single. Joining John Hurt in the studio when The Revised Brotherhood recorded Tragedy and Those Things was his friend Bill Fairbanks. 

When the time came to record Tragedy, Bill Fairbanks stepped up the microphone and added backing vocals which were the perfect foil for John Hurd’s lead vocal. As the two high school students  listened to the playback, they were pleased with the results. Now though, John Hurd planned to release Tragedy as a single.

This John Hurd knew was going to be easier said than done. He had two alternatives try to interest a local label in the single, or release The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single Tragedy as a private press. However, John Hurd had always planned to release Tragedy as a private press and arranged to have 100 copies pressed by the Heard label which was an imprint of Universal Language.

By the time John Hurd took delivery of the 100 copies of Tragedy, things had changed for the leader of The Revised Brotherhood. John Hurd and Bill Fairbanks had enjoyed recording Tragedy and were keen to repeat the experience. So much so, that they had decided to put together a new band and record an album together.

This new band they called The Brotherhood, which was very different to The Revised Brotherhood. For a start, it was setup more like a traditional rock band and was five piece band. The lineup featured John Hurd on bass, organ and piano and The Revised Brotherhood’s drummer Donny Hoskins. They were joined by Bill Fairbanks who played acoustic guitar, bass and piano. Soon, three became four when Bill Fairbanks recommended a talent and charismatic guitarist who would he believed would be perfect for addition to the new band, Jeff Hanson. He was a versatile guitarist who could seamlessly switch between lead and rhythm guitar. After an audition, Jeff Hanson joined The Brotherhood. By then, the lineup was almost complete and soon, the dream of making an album became reality.

The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when John Hurd met flautist MJ Coe, and invited him to jam with The Brotherhood. After the initial jam session, John Hurd asked MJ Coe to join The Brotherhood, and when he accepted the rest of the band knew that the lineup of the band was complete. Now they could begin working towards their debut album Stavia which was recently reissued by Out-Sider Music, an imprint of Guerssen Records. 

With the lineup of The Brotherhood in place, John Hurd asked Bill Fairbanks and Jeff Hanson to bring any songs that they had written and might suit the band to the first rehearsal. Neither John Hurd nor The Brotherhood were wasting any time, began work on their debut album straight away. Recording an album was The Brotherhood’s raison d’être. It was why the band had been formed in April 1972, and was what The Brotherhood worked towards over the next five months. 

At their next rehearsal, John Hurd brought along a couple of songs that he had been working on, Colour Line, Uncle and Meditation Part 2. These songs were work-in-progress until he showed them to Bill Fairbanks. Soon, Colour Line, Uncle and Meditation Part 2 were compete and were credited to John Hurd and Bill Fairbanks. He also contributed Back Door and Meditation Part 1, while guitarist Jeff Hanson wrote For Her Time. Meanwhile, John Hurd had written Rock and Roll Band and Cry Of Love. A decision was also taken to rerecord Tragedy which had been released in 1971 as The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single.

Over the next few weeks and months, The Brotherhood spent much of their time tightening and honing their songs and the group’s sound. The band knew that they had to have their A-Game on when they eventually entered the studio. As a result, much of their time was spent rehearsing, and occasionally The Brotherhood played live during the summer of 1972. However, they never lost sight of what brought them together recording an album.

Eventually, the time came for The Brotherhood to record the nine songs that became their debut album Stavia, which John Hurd decided should become a place that existed only in the band’s imagination. However, Stavia had a theme running through the nine songs on the album. That theme of Stavia was love, with The Brotherhood hoping that people could love and be free and pleasant to each other. This may seem idealistic in 2018, but Stavia has to be taken in context. In 1972, the Vietnam War was raging and the Civil Rights movement continued in its valiant attempt to transform the lives of African-Americans. It’s no surprise that The Brotherhood’s message on Stavia was love and the hope that people could be free and pleasant to each other.

When the time came for The Brotherhood to record Stavia, the band was more than ready to record their debut album. They had spent months tightening the song and honing their sound. Drummer Donny Hoskins was joined by Bill Fairbanks on acoustic guitar, bass, piano and vocals while John Hurd played bass, organ, piano and added vocals. Flautist MJ Coe also played acoustic guitar and added vocals. So did Jeff Hanson as he switched between lead and rhythm guitar. Soon, The Brotherhood had achieved what they had set out to do, and recorded their debut album Stavia.

With Stavia complete, the next step was for The Brotherhood to release their debut album. Just like The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single Tragedy, Stavia was released as private press. However, this time,  Rite Record Productions produced around 200 copies of Stavia which nowadays, it’s an extremely rare album. 

Stavia is also an album that for many a year was shrouded in mystery and had had become a mythical album. Some record collectors doubted that Stavia even existed. They’ve since been proved wrong with the recent reissue of Stavia by the Out-Sider label. 

Back in September 1972 The Brotherhood achieved what they had set out to do five months earlier when they released their debut album Stavia. Sadly, that was the end of the road for The Brotherhood now that they had released their debut album. There was no followup to Stavia, and the five members of The Brotherhood went their separate ways. However, their musical legacy is Stavia.

Opening Stavia is Colour Line a song where The Brotherhood hope that one day the racism that divided American would be a thing of the past. Tight harmonies join the rhythm section, chirping guitar, washes  of Hammond organ and a flute that climbs above the hopeful vocal. By then, it’s obvious that The Brotherhood is a tight, talented band as Donny Haskins drums anchor the arrangement and John Hurd’s Hammond organ and Jeff Hanson’s searing, blistering guitar licks play a starring role alongside a heartfelt and soulful vocal. Later, as The Brotherhood jam they showcase their skills, before they continue to combine social comment and hooks on this melodic and memorable thought-provoking song.

The tempo drops on the ballad Rock And Roll Band which was written by John Hurd. He takes charge of the vocal on this tale of love gone awry as a dreamy, thoughtful and dramatic acid rock arrangement unfolds around him and grabs the listener’s attention.

Soon, a swirling Hammond organ has joined the rhythm section, keyboards and chirping guitar. This is the signal for the vocal to drop out and The Brotherhood to jam. They enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs before the vocal returns and John completes the story. Meanwhile,  bristling guitar licks and washes of Hammond organ accompany him before his vocal drops out again. He adds the occasional whoop or holler as he encourages the group, and especially virtuoso guitarist Jeff Hanson to even greater heights.

Washes of Hammond organ combine with flute and the drums that drive the arrangement to Back Door along. It’s a tale of betrayal where the tender, rueful vocal swings. When it drops out this leaves the coast clear for the rest of The Brotherhood who tempo. As they do, the tempo rises and falls as the arrangement becomes progressive as the swirling Hammond organ, fluttering flute and searing guitar combine with rhythm section who provide the heartbeat. Later, when the vocal returns John complete the story and The Brotherhood power the arrangement along until it reaches a thoughtful ending.

As For Her Time unfolds, Jeff Hanson’s blistering guitar is joined by the swirling and driving Hammond organ and the rhythm section who produces a stomping beat. Meanwhile, the vocal tells the tragic story a woman with nothing to live for and: “nothing for her time.” Soon, the arrangement becomes lysergic, funky and at one point references The Who. All the time, Donny Hoskins drums drive and power the arrangement along. They’re joined by keyboards, searing, scorching guitars and later washes of Hammond organ. During a lengthy instrumental passage The Brotherhood in full flight reach new heights and this is an impressive sound. When the vocal returns it completes the story and adds the finishing touch to one of Stavia’s finest moments.

Meditation Part 1 is a pain led instrumental where The Brotherhood show another side to their music. Gone is the hard rocking band of the previous track as the track gradually builds with the rhythm section and flute joining the piano. This results  in a much more ruminative sounding track where The Brotherhood playing within themselves. The result is a quite beautiful sounding track that offers the opportunity for reflection. 

John Hurd was inspired to write Uncle after hearing Neil Young’s Ohio. The Uncle in the song is Uncle Sam, as John deals with  the subject of war and being young and having to serve your country. Lysergic keyboards and a Hammond organ are joined by the flute and guitar as the rhythm section enter and John delivers an impassioned and emotive vocal. Briefly backing vocals accompany him during a song that features a much more restrained performance from The Brotherhood. This allows the impassioned vocal to take centre-stage during thought-provoking song full of social comment.

Very different is Cry Of Love which gradually reveals its secrets and again, shows another side to The Brotherhood. Against an arrangement where washes of Hammond organ join the piano, rhythm section and flute John delivers a soul-baring vocal that is full of emotion. Meanwhile, the rest of the band take care not to overpower the vocal. That is the case when a swirling Hammond organ adds an elements of drama and joins the rhythm section and flute as this beautiful, poignant song reaches its crescendo.

Originally, Tragedy was released as a single by The Revised Brotherhood. It was revised by The Brotherhood on Stavia and features a vampish vocal by bandleader John Hurt. He’s accompanied by cooing harmonies, while the rhythm section anchor the arrangement as keyboards join a guitar and flute. Together, they play their part in progressive and sometimes funky example of acid rock that is without doubt one of the highlights of Stavia.

Meditation Part 2 which closes Stavia and is the longest song on the album. There was a reason for this as The Brotherhood wanted to leave room for a lengthy guitar solo from Jeff Hanson. The easiest way to do that was lengthen the song. It opens with a flute accompanying the subtle rhythm section, Hammond organ and tender vocal. This is the case until Jeff Hanson unleashes  a blistering, Hendrix-inspired solo at 1.12. Meanwhile the tender vocal sits below the guitar and the powerhouse of a rhythm section. However, it’s Jeff Hanson that plays a starring role in the track and steals the show with a musical tour de force. It’s the perfect way to close Stavia.

When The Brotherhood released 200 copies of Stavia in September 1972 it was a proud moment, and one that they had been working towards for five months. Little did five members of The Brotherhood realise the impact that Stavia would have over the next five decades.

Nowadays, Stavia is regarded as one of the great acid rock private presses released in America during the early seventies. However, sometimes, the music heads in the direction acid folk, funk, heavy rock and in the case of vocals soul. To this musical potpourri The Brotherhood add social comment as they comment on the problems facing America in 1972. Other times, John Hurd becomes a storyteller as he delivers tales of love lost and heartbreak on Stavia which was the mythical place that The Brotherhood invented.

The recent reissue of Stavia by the Out-Sider label is the perfect opportunity to discover or rediscover one of the rarest provide presses of the early seventies. Stavia was the one and only album that that the Ohio-based Rock and Roll Band The Brotherhood released during a career that lasted just five months. Incredibly, that was long enough for The Brotherhood to released their spellbinding acid rock genre classic Stavia which features a truly talented and versatile band.

The Brotherhood-Stavia.

CATFISH-GET DOWN AND LIVE CATFISH.

Catfish-Get Down and Live Catfish.

Label: BGO Records.

The story of Detroit-based blues rockers Catfish is a case of what might have been. This talented five piece band was formed in the late-sixties, and over the next few years opened for Black Sabbath, Bob Seger, Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent, and played at the prestigious Fillmore East. It was no surprise when Epic signed Catfish, who were regarded as a band with the potential and talent to become one of the top blues rock bands of the early seventies.

This was evident when Catfish released their debut studio album Get Down on Epic in 1970. Despite receiving plaudits and praise, commercial success eluded Get Down. Despite that, Live Catfish was released later in 1970 and featured a tantalising taste of Catfish’s live sound. Sadly, history repeated itself and Live Catfish failed to find an audience. That was the last album that Catfish released, during a recoding career that lasted less than one year. However, forty-eight years later and Catfish and Live Catfish have been rereleased by BGO Records as a two CD set, and these two albums are a reminder of one of the great lost blues rock bands of the early seventies. Their story began just a few years earlier.

That was when singer, songwriter and guitarist Catfish Hodge founded Catfish in his hometown of Detroit. This was something that Catfish Hodge had dreamt about since he was a boy.

Bobby Allen Hodge was born in Detroit in 1944, and growing up, his parents who were originally from Kentucky, introduced their son to blues, country and gospel. This was his introduction to music, which soon became his passion. 

Each day, Bob Hodge listened to the various local radio stations. Then at night, when Bob Hodge was meant to be sleeping, he listened to radio stations from as far failed as Chicago and Memphis. That was how the young Bob Hodge first heard Rufus Thomas and bluesmen John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and BB King. Bob Hodge absorbed all this new music and then on a Friday, he was able to choose one record which his mother would buy at a local record shop. For the young Bob Hodge this was the highlight of his week and was what he listened to during the weekend.

By the time he was in high school, Bob Hodge’s life was already revolving around music. Much of his spare time was spent listening to the music. However, when he wasn’t listening to music, Bob Hodge was making music. 

This came after Terry Kelly one of Bob Hodge’s friends from high him how to play the guitar. This was eureka moment for Bob Hodge, who suddenly, realised that he could follow in the footsteps of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, BB King and Lonnie Mack.

Terry Kelly also introduced Bob Hodge to a variety of new artists, including Lonnie Mack. His music made a big impression on Bob Hodge, and when he founded his first band in high school, a number of Lonnie Mack’s songs found their way onto the band’s setlist. However, Terry Mack wasn’t Bob Hodge’s only musical influence

By the late-sixties, Bob Hodge was absorbing the sounds of Detroit, and was a regular visitor to the Motown soul factory. Along with his friends, Bob Hodge sat in his car listening to the music emanating from the studios. Sometimes, Bob Hodge and his friends managed to sneak past the security guards and were able to watch the recording sessions. Some nights, they saw artists like 

Smokey Robinson recording their latest singles or album. Before long, Bob Hodge and his friends were usually discovered by an embarrassed guard and thrown out,…until the next time. This was a regular cat and mouse game for Bob Hodge and his friends. However, having watched the recording seasons at Motown, Bob Hodge became more determined to become a professional musician.

Despite that, when Bob Hodge left high school he started work at a finance company. One of the job’s he was given was collecting money from customers who had missed a payment. This included a forgetful member of the Four Tops. Whenever he was on tour, he forgot to pay his bills and Bob Hodge had to collect the payments. 

This would result in Bob Hodge having to take the forgetful Four Top or his wife to Motown, where they picked up some money to pay the bill. Naturally, seeing what was another world close up, made Bob Hodge’s mind up, now was the time to make music his career.

Bob Hodge’s first job in the music industry was as a songwriter and producer. He penned and produced Capreez’s Over You, which was released on the Detroit label Sound. That was Bob’s introduction to the music industry.

Soon, Bob Hodge was working with three up-and-coming local Detroit bands. Having hired an office, Bob Hodge started looking trying to get his clients a recording contract. One label that showed an interest in his client was Vanguard, so Bob Hodge caught the redeye to the Big Apple, and headed to see Maynard Solomon at Vanguard. Bob Hodge played him the tapes and although Maynard Solomon like what he heard, he reckoned that Vanguard weren’t quite ready for rock ’n’ roll. While this a disappointment, Bob Hodge decided to head into Greenwich Village after his meeting.

That night, Bob Hodge saw a still unsigned Jimi Hendrix playing in a Greenwich Village coffee bar. After that, Bob Hodge headed to Bleecker, and as he passed by a club that was closed, he heard music. Curiosity got the better of Bob Hodge who looked into the club, where he saw Van Morrison rehearsing. For Bob Hodge this was a eureka moment, and at last, he knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Back home in Detroit, Bob Hodge formed a new band Wicked Religion, which eventually evolved into the blues rock band Catfish. It was founded and led by Bob Hodge who was now known as Catfish Hodge who sang and played guitar. He was joined in Catfish by drummer Jimmy Optner, bassist Ron Cooke, guitarist Mark Manko and organist Harry Phillips. With the lineup of band complete, the rise and rise of Catfish began.

Before long, Catfish had established a reputation as one of Detroit’s top live groups and were soon rubbing shoulders with the MC5 and The Stooges. Catfish’s raw blues rock sound was winning friends not just in Detroit, but much further afield. This included in the offices of Epic.

Kenny Hodges who was an executive at Epic, had heard good things about Catfish on the musical grapevine. The word in Detroit was that Catfish were one of the top bands in the city’s live music  scene. Their brand of raw, but soulful blues rock was proving popular and music industry insiders in Detroit believed that Catfish had the potential and talent to become one of top blues rock bands of the early seventies. With this in mind, Epic swooped and signed Catfish. They weren’t going to risk anyone beating them to Catfish’s signature. The only problem would be, replicating Catfish’s famous live sound? 

Get Down.

By the time Catfish signed to Epic, they were regarded as one of the top live bands in Detroit. They had already started to spread their wings and were famous for their impressive live sound. The problem was going to be harnessing and replicating Catfish’s live sound in the studio. That was why Epic brought onboard Kenny Cooper to produce Catfish’s debut album which became Get Down.

For Get Down, Catfish Hodge had dawned the role of Catfish’s songwriter-in-chief, and penned The Hawk, 300 Pound Fat Mama, Love Lights and Coffee Song. Catfish Hodge and Mark Manko teamed up to write No Place To Hide, Tradition, and Get High, Get Naked, Get Down. The pair also added lyrics to T. Carson’s Catfish which bookended this eclectic album.

When Catfish arrived at the studio, little did anyone know that this was the only time the band would record together. That day, Catfish Hodge took charge of the vocals and played guitar. He was joined by a rhythm section of drummer Jimmy Optner, bassist Ron Cooke and guitarist Mark Manko, who were augmented by organist Harry Phillips. Producing this tight and talented band was Kenny Cooper, who had been brought onboard to help Catfish replicate their live sound. However, Catfish had their own ideas about how Get Down should sound.

The members of Catfish were responsible for the arrangements on the nine tracks on Get Down. It was hard to believe that Catfish had never set foot in a studio, and as Kenny Cooper pressed record, they seamlessly flitted between and sometimes combine elements of blues, country, folk, gospel, hard rock and good time rock ’n’ roll. In doing so, Catfish showed their talent and versatility on their debut album Get Down.

That was no surprise as each member of Catfish was a talented musician who had enjoyed the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents on Get Down. Catfish boogied their way through Get Down with a smile on their face. Unlike many similar bands, Catfish didn’t take themselves to seriously on their genre-melting debut album Get Down.

Critics on hearing Get Down, were won over by the album and believed that Catfish had a big future ahead of them. However, when Get Down was released it failed to trouble the charts. This was a huge disappointment for Catfish and Epic who had backed the band. 

Despite the disappointing sales of Get Down in America, Epic decided to release the album in Europe. While it wasn’t a hugely successful album, Get Down found an audience in parts of Europe. Meanwhile, Catfish’s popularity was growing in popularity in Detroit. That was where Epic decided that Catfish should record their sophomore album Live Catfish.

Live Catfish.

Hot on the heels of the release of Get Down, Catfish returned to Detroit, where they recorded what became Live Catfish at the Eastown Theatre. The decisions to record a live album made perfect sense. 

The problem that executives at Epic had been faced when they signed Catfish was getting the band to replicate their live sound in the studio. Catfish and producer Kenny Cooper had done their best to replicate Catfish’s live sound on Get Down. Catfish did their best to replicate the rawness, energy and spontaneity of one of one of their live performances and came very close. However, after the release of Get Down, a decision was made that the best way to replicate the rawness, energy and spontaneity of Catfish in concert was on a live album. 

It was also a much cheaper than recording a studio album, and if the album flopped, the losses would be significantly less. However, executives at Epic were hoping that Live Catfish would prove a successful album. After all, Catfish’s popularity was on the rise.

By the time Catfish arrived at the Eastown Theatre in Detroit, they had already opened for Black Sabbath, Bob Seger, Edgar Winter’s Band, Mountain and Ted Nugent. This showed just how far Catfish had come in a relatively short space of time. One of their biggest gigs was when they opened for Santana at the Fillmore East, and some say that they upstaged the headliners that night. 

That is no surprise, as Catfish were winning over audiences across America with their live show. Especially when they returned home to Detroit.

When Catfish took to the stage Eastown Theatre in Detroit, the lineup of the band was very different to the one that featured on Get Down. A new rhythm section that featured drummer Jimmy Demers, bassist Dennis Cranner and guitarist Dallas Hodge, who were augmented by the original organist Harry Phillips, who was the only original member of the band apart from Catfish Hodge.

An adoring hometown crowd welcome Catfish who launched into an explosive set. It began with Catfish reinventing Holland, Dozier and Holland’s Nowhere To Run, which sets the bar high for the rest of this six song set. Catfish then unleash a raw, but sometimes soulful and high-octane cover of Money (That’s What I Want). This gives way to the blues rock of 300 Pound Fat Mama which was penned by Catfish Hodge. The tempo rises on Mississippi River, which is a blistering slice of blues rock which features Catfish at their best. There’s no stopping Catfish now, as they unleash Letter To Nixon.It’s a mixture of social comment and blues rock that features a vampish vocal from showman and bandleader Catfish Hodge. He then encourages his band to greater heights on a barnstorming cover of Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On before exiting the stage left.

After recording Live Catfish, executives at Epic realised that they had captured Catfish at their very best. Live Catfish featured a  rawness, energy, spontaneity and soulfulness that were the all trademarks of Catfish’s explosive and high-octane performance. This was the album that Epic had been hoping for, and that they hoped would transform the band’s career.

When critics heard Live Catfish they too, were won over by Catfish in full flight during what was a captivating performance. It epitomised everything that was good about Catfish live. Surely, this Live Catfish was the album that transformed Catfish’s career.

Sadly, when Live Catfish was released later in 1980, the album failed commercially. History had repeated itself, when Live Catfish failed to even trouble the lower reaches of the American charts. The only small crumb of comfort was that when Live Catfish was released in Europe, it was embraced by a small but enthusiastic audience who took Catfish to their hearts. That was as good as it for Catfish.

After the release of Live Catfish, several members of Catfish joined forces with Mitch Ryder when he was forming his new band Detroit. They featured on Detroit With Mitch Ryder which was released in 1971.

By then, Catfish Hodge had embarked upon a solo career, and two years later in 1973 he moved to Washington DC. However, Catfish Hodge never forgot the years he spent leading Catfish as they became a successful live band. Sadly, the two albums Catfish released for Epic during 1970, Get Down and Live Catfish which were recently rereleased by BGO Records as a two CD set, failed to find the audience they deserved. 

Nowadays, the genre melting Get Down and the explosive and high-octane Live Catfish are a reminder Catfish at the peak of their powers. Sadly, Catfish who are one of the great lost blues rock bands of the early seventies, never enjoyed the success they deserved and their story is a case of what might have been?

Catfish-Get Down and Live Catfish.

BEATCHILD AND THE SLAKADELIQS-HEAVY ROCKIN’ STEADY. 

Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs-Heavy Rockin’ Steady.

Label: BBE.

While many of Byram Joseph’s classmates at junior school  Sarnia, a small city in Southwestern Ontario, in Canada were interested in sport, the future Slakah The Beatchild was much more interested in music. He already had a small record collection which his parents had given him, and these had become his prized possessions. 

When returned home from school, Byram Joseph would spend time listening to his collection of records. It was becoming smothering of a daily ritual as he headed up to his room and spent time flicking through his collection looking for a record he wanted to listen to. He carefully lifted it onto the turntable and put the needle on the vinyl and then sat down and listened to the music. Before long, Byram Joseph had decided that he would also like to make music.

The instrument that Byram Joseph wanted to play was the drums. At first, Byram Joseph borrowed the pots and pans from the kitchen, which became a makeshift drum set. For a while, his parents watched on as their son happily pounded away at his drum kit. Eventually, Byram Joseph’s mother decided to enrol her ten-year old son in drum lessons.

Having started with the drum lessons, Byram Joseph later learnt to play the piano and took singing lessons. All this would prove invaluable when Byram Joseph dawned the moniker Slakah The Beatchild and embarked upon a career as a professional musician.

Soon, Slakah The Beatchild was a familiar face in Toronto’s recording studios, where he spent many a night serving the equivalent of a musical apprenticeship. This stood him in good stead when his solo career began.

In 2008, Slakah The Beatchild signed to British independent record label BBE, who had agreed to release his debut album. Later, that year, BBE released Slakah The Beatchild’s critically acclaimed debut album Soul Movement Vol.1 which was also nominated for a Juno Award in his native Canada. This was the start of a successful career for Slakah The Beatchild.

Just under three years later, and Slakah The Beatchild returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album Something Forever in February 2011. It was released to the same plaudits and praise as Soul Movement Vol.1. However, by the time Slakah The Beatchild returned with his critically acclaimed third album Soul Movement Vol.2 in March 2014, he had founded a new band.

Slakah The Beatchild’s had formed his new band The Slakadeliqs in early 2012. Soon, Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs were working on their debut album The Other Side of Tomorrow. It was released in September 2012, and at the end of the year, found its way onto the long-list for the prestigious Polaris music prize in Canada. However, it was a case of close but no cigar for Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs.

Just over five years later, and Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs returned with their eagerly awaited sophomore album Heavy Rockin’ Steady which was released by BBE in February 2018.  

Heavy Rockin’ Steady is captivating, eclectic and genre-melting album where Byram Joseph once again, showcases his skills as a songwriter, musician and producer. He wrote California Coastin’, In My Arms, 2nd Most and Beach, and cowrote the other six songs with various songwriting partners.  These songs were recorded at Beatchild Productions in Canada.

In Byram Joseph’s studio, the multi-instrumentalist, played most of the instruments on Heavy Rockin’ Steady. That was apart from when he recorded The Good Life and Ricky Tillo was brought onboard to add the guitar parts. Then when In My Arms was recorded, Anna Atkinson played the viola and violin parts. Meanwhile, Byram Joseph was taking charge of production and later mixed Heavy Rockin’ Steady. Now Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’s Heavy Rockin’ Steady sophomore album was almost ready to release.

There was just one thing left to do master Heavy Rockin’ Steady. To do that, Mandy Parnell one of the leading mastering engineers in the world was brought onboard. This was a real coup, as Mandy Parnell is an award-winning mastering engineer with twenty-four years of experience. Mandy Parnell mastered Heavy Rockin’ Steady at her own Black Saloon Studios, in Walthamstow Village in London. Once the album was mastered, Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ sophomore album Heavy Rockin’ Steady was ready to release.

As California Coastin’ opens Heavy Rockin’ Steady, the sound of crackling vinyl and birdsong give way to a picked acoustic guitar and distant, tender scatted vocal. When it drops out a wistful rueful strings are joined by a strummed guitar, bass, beats and flute. By then, the sound of crackling vinyl, birdsong and distant vocal has returned and the track showcases a laid-back, dreamy sound. The tempo rises slightly  when a chirping guitar, rhythm section combine and the track reaches a memorable ending. In doing so, this sits the bar high for the rest of the album.

Very different is Giants and Monsters where Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs throw a curveball as acoustic guitar and a banjo are joined by ethereal harmonies and create a genre-melting track. Elements of bluegrass and country music have already inspired Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs. Soon, it’s all change as a piano interjects and the Beatchild sings call and respond with The Slakadeliqs. By then, the acoustic guitar and banjo have been joined by the rhythm section, weeping guitar, percussion and handclaps Meanwhile, the Beatchild’s soulful vocal delivers lyrics that are rich in imagery as The Slakadeliqs encourage him to greater heights. In doing so, they combines elements gospel during this captivating musical roller coaster ride.

Drums set these scene for Beatchild’s vampish  and charismatic vocal on The Good Life. Meanwhile, tight harmonies, handclaps, futuristic synths join the rhythm section who anchor the punchy, swinging arrangement. Beatchild seems to have embraced the role of frontman, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Later, a blistering rocky guitar cuts through the arrangement and latterly, is joined by sci-fi synths as this irresistible track reaches a crescendo.

Just a lone guitar opens Bottom Of You and is joined by the Beatchild’s emotive and urgent vocal. He’s joined by handclaps and harmonies which answer his call. The harmonies and later, drums add to the urgency before keyboards are added. Later, as the Beatchild delivers a heartfelt vocal, he sings call and response with The Slakadeliqs. Behind them, drums pound,  banjo and keyboards play while the handclaps are omnipresent. They play their part in this slice of genre-melting paean which features a catchy good time sound.

Straight away, it sounds as if Your Believer (Say Goodbye) has been influenced by the Beach Boys, Electric Light Orchestra and The Beatles from post 1966. The Beatchild’s vocal is high and distant, and like the rest of the arrangement sits way back in the mix. Gradually, the rhythm section, guitars and multi-tracked vocals are brought to the front of the mix and the volume increases. Keyboards are added, and soon, are joined by pounding drums, tight harmonies, keyboards and a searing guitar. Later, sci-fi synths, chiming guitars, keyboards and cascading harmonies are added. Sometimes, instruments make a brief appearance, other times they play an important role in this carefully crafted multilayered track where sixties sunshine pop and psychedelia melt into one. It’s Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ finest moment on Heavy Rockin’ Steady.

The first of the guest artists, Justin Nozuka makes an appearance on the piano led The Only Difference. It features another carefully crafted arrangement that gradually unfolds. From just stabs of a lone piano, hip hop beats where reverb has been added are joined by a chiming guitar and later, gospel-tinged harmonies. By then, there’s a more swing in the  drums and they play their part in the sound and success of this joyous and uplifting song. It’s a beautiful fusion of hip hop, Nu Soul and gospel harmonies 

In My Arms is another piano led track, but this time, space-age keyboards join a lysergic filtered vocal. Meanwhile, drums drive the arrangement along, while washes and stabs of keyboards join multi-racked harmonies and a scorching, searing vocal. Adding a contrast is the viola and violin, which sweep and swirl, while the piano and drums pound. Still, the vocal is lysergic and dreamy before a sample of a baby is added as this modern-day psychedelic symphony takes shape. It’s another of the highlights of Heavy Rockin’ Steady,

Straight away, there’s a cinematic and baroque sound to 2nd Most. However, it’s The Beatles have obviously influenced Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs. They create a cascading arrangement that is like a merry-go-round as psychedelia and sixties pop combine. Harmonies, handclaps, and guitar join with the rhythm section in providing a backdrop for the Beatchild’s otherworldly, dreamy and lysergic vocal. It plays its part on one of  Heavy Rockin’ Steady‘s finest moments.

The Remedy features the second guest vocalist Edda Magnason. Initially, the arrangement is understated,  allowing the tender, breathy vocal to take centre-stage. It’s accompanied by harmonies and a strummed guitar. However, when the vocal drops out, the rhythm section, guitar,  harmonies and weeping guitar are part of a Sg. Peppers’ inspired cascading arrangement. Later, the vocal is distant, dubby and haunting as the guitar, bass and glistening keyboards play leading roles. Together, they play their part in a spellbinding track that has been heavily inspired by sixties psychedelia.

It’s the piano then drums that play leading roles in Beach which closes Heavy Rockin’ Steady. These are the two instruments Byram Joseph first learnt to play. He’s a one man rhythm section who also plays the keyboards, rocky guitar and harpsichord. At 2.06 the instrumental pauses, adding a degree of drama. However, after this dramatic pause, the arrangement rebuilds and is driven along. Latterly, sounds assail the listener during this inventive instrumental. It closes Heavy Rockin’ Steady on a high.

After ten carefully crafted tracks lasting thirty-eight minutes,  Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ eagerly awaited sophomore album Heavy Rockin’ Steady is over. Long before the final notes of Beach which closes Heavy Rockin’ Steady, it’s obvious that this is the finest album that Byram Joseph has released. Heavy Rockin’ Steady which was recently released by BBE, surpasses the quality of Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ 2012 debut album The Other Side of Tomorrow. Heavy Rockin’ Steady also surpasses the two albums that Byram Joseph has released as Slakah The Beatchild. Quite simply, Heavy Rockin’ Steady is career-defining album from Byram Joseph.

Heavy Rockin’ Steady is also a musical roller coaster where Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs flit seamlessly between and sometimes combine disparate influences and genres. Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs draw inspiration from the Beach Boys, The Beatles and Electric Light Orchestra and everything from bluegrass, country, hip hop, Nu Soul, pop, psychedelia, rock and soul. There’s also hints of ambient, avant-garde and dream pop hidden within Heavy Rockin’ Steady which is a carefully crafted and captivating album full of subtleties and sonic surprises. 

Part of the success of Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ Heavy Rockin’ Steady is down to Mandy Parnell’s mastering. She is one of the top mastering engineers, and is who the great and good of music go to when they want an album mastered. Mandy Parnell shows why, on Heavy Rockin’ Steady, and is responsible for a beautifully balanced album which truly is a pleasure to listen to. Hopefully, Mandy Parnell will be BBE go-to-mastering engineer in the future, that is if her busy schedule permits.

For everyone who has patiently awaited the release of Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ sophomore album Heavy Rockin’ Steady, their patience has definitely been rewarded. Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs have returned with Heavy Rockin’ Steady, which is carefully crafted career-defining, genre-melting opus that sets the bar high for future albums.

Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs-Heavy Rockin’ Steady.

THE BEST VINYL RELEASES OF 2017 PART 1

The Best Vinyl Releases Of 2017-Part 1..

Bettye Swann-The Money Masters.

Label: Kent Soul.

Bettye Swann had the talent and potential to become one of the greatest soul singers of her generation. A remainder why can be found on The Money Masters which covers Bettye Swann’s time at Money Records, and includes singles, B-Sides and alternate tracks. The Dance Is Over a track written when Bettye Swann was still Betty Jean Champion makes a welcome return eleven years after making its debut on The Soul Of Money Records Volume 2. Just like the rest of songs on The Money Masters, they’re a reminder of Bettye Swann at the peak of her musical powers and why she should’ve become a soul great.

 

Black Moon Circle-Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension

Label: Crispin Glover Records.

In mid-2015 Trondheim-based Black Moon Circle announced their intention to release three albums of Studio Jamms. Just over two years later, they returned with the final instalment in this critically acclaimed series, Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension. It’s another ambitious, genre-melting adventure into sound with Black Moon Circle, and is their hardest rocking and the finest album of their five-year career. Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension is a reminder that the future of rock is in safe hands, thanks to groups like Black Moon Circle, with their pioneering and hard rocking brand of psychedelic space rock.

Brutter-Reveal And Rise. 

Label: Hubro Music.

Brothers Christian Wallumrød and Fredrik Wallumrød have both forged successful music careers since graduating from the Jazz Program at Trondheim Musikkonservatorium. Much of their time is spent working with other musicians. However, the brothers reunited to record Brutter’s sophomore album Reveal And Rise. Brutter manipulates an array of sounds whilst using sonic trickery and sleight of hands as they pose a series of questions and challenge musical norms? Brutter also let imagination run riot on Reveal and Rise, an album of anti-techno that is ambitious, cerebral, innovative, playful, witty and engaging.

Cluster-Konzerte 1972-1977. 

Label: Bureau B.

Although Cluster released seven studio albums between 1971 and 1979, they were also a legendary live band, whose marathon concerts usually lasted six hours or more. Sadly, Cluster never released a live album during the seventies. The nearest most people got to hearing Cluster live was when they heard Live In der Fabrik, a fifteen minute epic that featured on Cluster II in 1972. Since then, Cluster have never released an album of live material from the seventies. That was until the release of Konzerte 1972-1977, which features recordings from two Cluster concerts. These recordings are a tantalising reminder of what Cluster live in the seventies sounded like. Konzerte 1972-1977 is the musical equivalent of time travel, and transports the listener back to seventies, when Cluster was in their musical prime.

Cocteau Twins-Four Calendar Cafe.

Label: Mercury/UMC

For many record buyers, one of the highlights of Record Store Day 2017 was the reissue of two Cocteau Twins’ albums, including Four Calendar Cafe. It was released in October 1993, and was the seventh album from the Cocteau Twins. Four Calendar Cafe marked a move way from the ambient sound of previous albums, towards a more poppy sound. Despite that, Liz Fraser’s inimitable, dreamy vocals were even more intelligible and added a degree of mystery to an album that also incorporated elements of ambient, avant-garde and dream pop. With its haunting sound and ethereal  beauty Four Calendar Cafe, is one of the highlights of the Cocteau Twin’ eight album career.

Cocteau Twins-Milk and Kisses.

Label: Mercury/UMC

Five years after the release of Four Calendar Cafe, the Cocteau Twins returned in March 1998 with the album that was their swan-sing, Milk and Kisses. It was an album where the Cocteau Twins fused elements of ambient, avant-garde, dream pop and even rock to create music that was beautiful, dreamy, ethereal,  lush and lysergic where the world suddenly seemed a better place. Sadly, Milk and Kisses was their swan-song, and brought to an end the Cocteau Twins story. However, even today their music influences and inspires a new generation of musicians.

Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults.

Label: Rhino.

Thirteen years after its initial release, and Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults is still a compilation that oozes quality. It features old friends, familiar faces, new names and hidden gems. Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults was a welcome release for Record Store Day 2017 and is crammed full of quality sunshine pop and psychedelia. It was one of the best reissues released on Record Store Day 2017. However, anyone wanting a copy should get one sooner than later. Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults is a limited edition, with ‘only’ 5.500 copies available. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good.

Cream Disraeli Gears

Label: Reaction.

After the success of their debut album Fresh Cream in 1968, power trio Cream returned with their career-defining sophomore album Disraeli Gears. It was released to critical acclaim in November 1969 and certified platinum in the UK and America. That was no surprise given the quality of tracks like Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love, Dance The Night Away, Tales Of Brave Ulysses and We’re Going Wrong which found Cream embracing psychedelia. These tracks played their part in Disraeli Gears being hailed a classic album.

David Bowie Hunky Dory.

Label: Parlophone.

In December 1971, David Bowie  fourth album Hunky Dory, was released to widespread critical acclaim. Hunk Dory was one of the most eclectic, ambitious and innovative albums of David Bowie’s career. It reached number three in the UK, but didn’t replicate the same success in America. That was surprising given the quality of an album that opened with Changes and featuring Oh You Pretty Thing, Life On Mars and closing with the Velvet Underground inspired Queen Bitch. David Bowie’s latest musical reinvention had resulted in one of the finest albums of his long and illustrious career, Hunky Dory which is a stonewall classic.

David Bowie-The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.

Label: Parlophone.

When The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released in June 1972, it was loosely described as a concept album about a fictional androgynous bisexual rock star, Ziggy Stardust, who acts as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings. The album was influenced by glam rock and the album explored themes of sexual exploration and social commentary, as well as the ambiguity surrounding David Bowie’s sexuality. After being released to critical acclaim, The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars sold 7.5 million copies and became David Bowie’s second consecutive classic album.

 

THE BEST VINYL RELEASES OF 2017 PART 2.

The Best New Vinyl Releases Of 2017 Part 2.

Eric Clapton-Slowhand-Vinyl.

Label: Polydor.

When November 1977, Eric Clapton released his much-anticipated fifth album Slowhand, the reviews were mostly positive. Critics were won over by an album where Slowhand’s playing was much more subtle and understated on an album where he sometimes laid bare his soul. Slowhand featured future favourites Cocaine, Wonderful Tonight and Lay Down Sally, and was certified gold in the UK and triple platinum in America. Nowadays, Slowhand is regarded as a classic album and one of Eric Clapton’s finest albums.

Gabriele Poso Presents The Languages Of Tambores (A Spiritual Journey Through The Cultural Heritage Of Drums).

Label: BBE.

Gabriele Poso Presents The Languages Of Tambores (A Spiritual Journey Through The Cultural Heritage Of Drums) is best described as the musical equivalent of Homeric odyssey. It began in Britain before master percussionist and drummer Gabriele Poso heads to Nigeria, then to his homeland of Italy, where his musical career began. From there, he heads to Columbia and Brazil, before returning to Nigeria, and heeding to America, Cuba and finally Ghana. Soon the listener is Coming Home from an unforgettable and captivating musical journey. During that journey, the music veers between beautiful and soulful to emotive and evocative and even visceral, mesmeric and lysergic. Other times, the music on Gabriele Poso’s masterful musical odyssey is irresistible, melodic, memorable and akin to a call to dance.

Girls With Guitars Take Over!

Label: Ace Records,

There aren’t many compilation series that last for four decides. That is apart from Girls With Guitars series, which has been going strong since 1989. Twenty-eight years later, came the much-anticipated instalment in this long-running and successful series made a welcome return in 2017 with Girls With Guitars Take Over! Just like previous instalments in the series, it’s quality all the way with The Clingers, The Debutantes, The Delmonas, The Tomboys, The Lady-Bugs and The Hairem among the twelve guitar totting groups who make Girls With Guitars Take Over! a welcome addition to the series.

Harry Nilsson-Nilsson Schmilsson.

Label: RCA Legacy.

When Harry Nilsson released Nilsson Schmilsson in November 1971, it featured the number one single that became synonymous with him, Without You. Jump Into The Fire and Coconut were also hits and Nilsson Schmilsson reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. This carefully crafted album of pop and rock is now regarded as a classic album, and Harry Nilsson’s finest hour.

IF Music Presents You Need This–A Journey Into Deep Jazz Vol. 2.

Label: BBE.

For the best part of four decades, Jean-Claude Thompson has been one of the leading lights of London’s vibrant music scene. He also hosts a radio show, runs a record shop and last year, complied IF Music Presents You Need This–A Journey Into Deep Jazz Vol. 2, which features eight tracks that are spread across a triple album. It features a tantalising taste of inventive and innovative deep jazz from yesteryear that will appeal to DJs and dancers, as well as newcomers and veterans of jazz compilations. They’re sure to appreciate what is a lovingly curated compilation. 

IF Music Presents You Need This! An Introduction To Black Saint and Soul Note (1975 To 1985).

Label: BBE.

Two of the great European jazz labels were Black Saint and Soul Note which were founded by producer turned musical impresario Giacomo Pelliciotti who ran the labels until 1975. Over the next ten years, the labels changed hands several times. Still, both labels continued to release a groundbreaking albums from the great and good of free jazz. Proof of this is IF Music Presents You Need This! An Introduction To Black Saint and Soul Note (1975 To 1985). This 3-LP set features talented, inventive and innovative musician at the peak of their powers, as they push musical boundaries to their limits  and beyond, on whats the best free jazz compilation released during 2017. 

Iggy Pop-The Idiot.

Label: UMC.

When Iggy Pop released his debut solo The Idiot in March 1977, it was a stylistic departure from the former leader of The Stooges. The Idiot seemed to have been influenced by Kraftwerk, James Brown and David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy. As for the title, it had been inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot. Critics were impressed by The Idiot, which nowadays is regarded as one of his finest albums. It’s also an album that inspired many post punk, gothic and industrial artists and bands. However, with its fusion of art rock and industrial rock, The Idiot wasn’t representative of  Iggy Pop’s music and he never made another album like his critically acclaimed debut.

Insane Times-21 British Psychedelic Artyfacts From The EMI Vaults.

Label: Parlophone.

One of the limited edition releases for Record Store Day 2017 was Insane Times-21 British Psychedelic Artyfacts From The EMI Vaults which feature contributions from old friends, familiar faces and new names. This includes  Kevin Ayers, July, The Idle Race, Orange Bicycle, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Hollies, The Lemon Tree, The Parking Lot, The Koobas and The Yarbirds. There’s also more than a few hidden gems on 21 British Psychedelic Artyfacts From The EMI Vaults. It’s guaranteed to bring back memories for connoisseurs of psychedelia.

Mirwood Northern Soul.

Label: Kent Dance.

For many aficionados of Northern Soul, including  DJs, dancers and collectors, Randy Wood’s Mirwood Records, which was based in Los Angeles, was, and still is, one of their go-to labels. Its discography features many favourites for DJs  and dancers within the Northern Soul scene. They welcomed the  release of Mirwood Northern Soul in the autumn of 2017. Here was a lovingly curated compilation that featured fourteen top dancefloor fillers that showcase Mirwood’s unique and distinctive style. However, these are no ordinary dancefloor fillers that feature on Mirwood Northern Soul. Instead, they’re best  described as: “outstanding stomping soul dancers” and are still favourites on the Northern Soul scene.

Mogwai-Every Country’s Sun.

Label: Rock Action Records.

Every Country’s Sun marks the triumphant, rocky and explosive return of the Mogwai Young Team. Three years have passed since they released their eighth studio album Rave Tapes in January 2014. Over three years later, and Mogwai return with Every Country’s Sun an epic album that is poppy, joyous and uplifting and sometimes, elegiac and ethereal. Other times, the music is dark,  dramatic, eerie, moody, ominous and otherworldly. Often, there’s a cinematic sound to Mogwai’s music, as they switched seamlessly between and combine musical genres and influences on Every Country’s Sun. It marks the welcome return of grand old men of Scottish music, the Mogwai Young Team who put their twenty-two years of experience on this carefully crafted opus.

 

 

THE BEST VINYL RELEASES OF 2017 PART 3.

The Best Vinyl Releases of 2017 Part 3.

Motörhead -What’s Worth Words.

Label: Big Beat Records.

When Motörhead released What’s Worth Words on the ‘5th’ of March 1983, critics called the album one of the greatest live albums ever release. That was no exaggeration. What’s Worth Words featured a barnstorming, speed fuelled performance from Motörhead at The Roundhouse on the ’18th’ February 1978. It’s a snapshot in time, and features the material Motörhead played during the late-seventies and early eighties. After that, these songs hardly ever featured in Motörhead’’s sets. They were in the band’s past, a reminder of which is What’s Worth Words. It features the classic lineup of Motörhead at the peak of their powers on what’s one of the finest albums of a five decade career.

Naz Nomad And The Nightmares-Give Daddy The Knife Cindy.

Label: Big Beat Records.

In 1984, Naz Nomad and The Nightmares’ album Give Daddy The Knife Cindy found its way into record shops. Records buyers who saw the album didn’t know what to make of it?  At first glance, it looked like the reissue of a soundtrack to a low budget American horror film. Especially, when the album cover stated copyright 1967 American Screen Destiny Pictures. There was even a list of those who had ‘starred’ in Give Daddy The Knife Cindy. The album was beginning to look and sound like the soundtrack to a long forgotten film from 1967. There was a problem though, film critics didn’t remember the film, never mind know any of the “stars” of the film. This was a clue that everything wasn’t as it seemed. Instead, Give Daddy The Knife Cindy was an elaborate hoax by The Damned, who had the last laugh after  fooling  film critics and record buyers. Nowadays, Give Daddy The Knife Cindy is oft-overlooked genre-melting hidden gem from The Damned’s discography that deserves a wider audience.

Label: Chiswick Records.

Red Hot Boppers.

Label: Sun.

Anyone whose familiar with the Sun Rockabilly Legends’ Series will want to discover the delights of Red Hot Boppers which was released a limited edition of 1,000, and features ten tracks including contributions from Billy Lee Riley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Smith and Sonny Burgess. Red Hot Boppers was pressed on 10” red vinyl, and released by Sun, as part of HMV’s Exclusive Vinyl series, is the perfect rockabilly primer as it features some of the giants of rockabilly, and several stonewall genre classics.

 

Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal.

Label: Rune Grammofon.

To celebrate the career of Terje Rypdal and to coincide with his seventieth birthday, lifelong fan and American experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser organised the recording of Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal. It features many musicians who have been influenced by Terje Rypdal. This includes some of the great and good of Norwegian music, plus some musicians from much further afield. They reworked and reinvented tracks from Terje Rypdal’s back-catalogue, which became the double LP Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal, which is a fitting homage to a legendary musician.

Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal Volume 2.

Label: Rune Grammofon.

It turned out that there was more than enough music for the double album Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal. There were two tracks that didn’t make it onto the album, Icing and Filmore ’76, which is based on a 1978 live performance at Radiohuset Studios, in Stockholm. As Henry Kaiser and staff from Rune Grammofon listened to Icing and Filmore ’76 they realised that the tracks were too good to not to release. They became Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal Volume 2 which is a fitting accompaniment to the Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal.

Sun Ra-Janus.

Label: ORG Music.

Six years after Sun Ra’s died on May the ’30th’ 1993, aged just seventy-nine, a new album of his music was released in 1999 Janus. This was thought to be the title of an album that Sun Ra was planning to release around 1970 or 1971. Sadly, this never came to fruition, and in 1999 Janus became a very different album. It featured tracks recorded in the studio and live between 1963 and 1970. Island In The Sun, The Invisible Shield and Janus first featured on an album released on Saturn, while the live tracks Velvet and Joy had never been released prior to the release of Janus in 1999. Since then, Janus has never been released until Record Store Day as a limited edition. This was a welcome reissue which offers another fascinating insight into one of the pioneers of free jazz.

Sun Ra And His Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra-Discipline 27-||-Vinyl.

Label: Strut.

On Record Store Day 2017, Sun Ra And His Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra’s 1973 album Discipline 27-II received its first official reissue since its released in 1973. Discipline 27-II was a mixture of music and drama, where Sun Ra And His Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra married elements of avant-garde and free jazz. To do this, Sun Ra’s array of synths and keyboards were augmented by the horns and rhythm sections and a quartet of “space ethnic voices”. They were joined by Sun Ra, who added “vocal dramatising.” All this was part of an album that was variously melodic, ambitious, innovative and which also swung.

 

The Association-Insight Out-Vinyl.

Label: Rhino.

In June 1967, The Association released their third album Insight Out, which featured the number one hit Windy and Never My Love which reached number two on the US Billboard 100. Buoyed the success of the singles Insight Out with is mixture sunshine pop and psychedelia, reached number eight in the US Billboard 200. Nowadays, Insight Out is regarded as a classic album which was The Association’s finest hour. 

The Beatles-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

 

The Beau Brummels-Triangle-Vinyl.

Label: Rhino.

When The Beau Brummels released their fourth album Triangle in July 1967, it marked the debut of vocalist Sal Valentino and guitarist Ron Elliott. Critics were won over by Ron Elliott songs and even went as far as to compare Sal Valentino’s vocals to Bob Dylan’s. Despite these comparisons, Triangle stalled at 167 in the US Billboard 200, but nowadays, is regarded as a psychedelic cult classic thanks to songs like Magic Hollow.

 

The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music.

Label: BBE.

In 2014, compilers and DJs Mr Thing and Chris Read  were among the chosen few who have been invited into the inner sanctum that is Cavendish Music’s vast London vaults. That was when they discovered the music that three years later, featured on The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music. It features a myriad of hidden gems and musical gold that makes The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music the best album of library music that has been released during the last few years.

THE BEST VINYL RELEASES OF 2017 PART 4.

The Best Vinyl Releases Of 2017 Part 4.

The Monkees-Summer Of Love.

Label: Rhino.

Even today, The Monkees divides the opinion of many critics and record buyers. Partly that is because of the perception that The Monkees were a manufactured band that was the brainchild of television executives. Despite that, The Monkees went on to enjoy a long successful career. They also released a number of psychedelic songs that feature on Summer Of Love. It features some of the finest moments of The Monkees’ dalliance with psychedelia. Sadly, The Monkees’ psychedelic side of The Monkees is oft-overlooked and makes a welcome appearance on Summer Of Love which shows another side of America’s very own fab four.

 

The Orchestra Soledad-Vamonos/Let’s Go!-Vinyl.

Label: BBE.

When The Orchestra Soledad released their debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go! in late-1970, they were a popular band who played to packed houses that featured not just the Latino community in Brooklyn, but the wider community. Despite their popularity locally, The Orchestra Soledad’s album Vamonos/Let’s Go! failed to find an audience. After that, Vamonos/Let’s Go! became just another musical curio that sometimes, crate diggers in New York stumbled across in record shops and local flea markets. Eventually, it became a sought after rarity that changed hands for upwards of $600. No wonder, given the irresistible, joyous, dance-floor friendly, beautiful and soulful of the Brooklyn based salsa band.

The Zodiac-Cosmic Sounds-Vinyl.

Label: Rhino.

When The Zodiac’s Cosmic Sounds was released in January 1967, very few people realised the importance of this groundbreaking concept album which featured twelve tracks that were described as psychedelic mood music. It featured a myriad of exotic and electronic instruments and spoken prose that came courtesy of Cyrus Faryar. Sadly, it failed to find an audience and it was only later that record buyers and critics realised that Cosmic Sounds was a psychedelic cult classic. However, it’s a psychedelic cult classic, that: “must be played in the dark.”

Transparent Days: West Coasts Nuggets.

Rhino.

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer Of Love, a two-LP set Transparent Days: West Coasts Nuggets which was compiled by Alec Palao was released. It features thirty songs, including contributions from The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, The West Coast Branch, Gerry Pond, The Tikis, Art Guy, The Mojo Men, The Association, The Truth, The Bonniwell Music Machine, The Electric Prunes and Love. These are just a few of the bands that feature on Transparent Days: West Coasts Nuggets that provided the soundtrack to the Summer Of Love. These songs on Transparent Days: West Coasts Nuggets ooze quality and are sure to bring memories come flooding back for music fans of a certain vintage.

 

Vanilla Fudge-Vanilla Fudge-Vinyl.

Label: Rhino 

When Vanilla Fudge released their eponymous debut album at the height of the Summer Of Love in 1967, it reached number six in the US Billboard 200. This was no surprise as Vanilla Fudge was a groundbreaking album. Vanilla Fudge fused psychedelia, rock and blues rock on an album that features half-speed covers and three short original instrumental compositions. Nowadays, Vanilla Fudge s considered a classic album and one of the most innovative albums released during 1967.

 

 

BEAT GIRLS ESPANOL! 1960S SHE-POP FROM SPAIN.

Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain.

Label: Ace International.

In the early sixties, a new style of beat-oriented pop became popular not just in Britain and Europe, but as far afield as Japan. This new genre the French christened yé-yé, which was popular right through to the late-sixties, and transformed the career of many singers and girl groups. They became part of the yé-yé phenomenon that was sweeping Britain, Europe and Japan.

Right up until around 1968, yé-yé singers and girl groups enjoyed a string of hit singles not just in their own country, but other parts of Europe. Many of the yé-yé singers recorded singles in several languages, and as a result, enjoyed hits across continental Europe. Some yé-yé singers also enjoyed parallel careers as actresses and models and went on to enjoy long and successful careers. However, for some, life after their career as a yé-yé singer was over, they were happy to head to university or return to a “normal” career. They had enjoyed life as a yé-yé singer, which was an experience that they would never forget. That is sure to be the case with all the artists on Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain, which was recently released by Ace International, an imprint of Ace Records.

Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain is the latest instalment in the long-running and successful Beat Girls series, which is curated by Mick Patrick. Previously, the series has focused on girl singers and girl groups for England, France, Italy, Japan and Sweden. This time though, Mick Patrick turns his attention to the Spanish yé-yé girls and girl groups.

Just like other countries where yé-yé was popular, British and American hit singles from the early sixties influenced the Spanish yé-yé girls and girl groups. However, the Spanish yé-yé sound had a slightly different sound and ergo musical identity. This included sensuous rhythms and a degree of drama similar to that found in flamenco. This was yé-yé, but given a quintessentially Spanish twist by the one of the country’s main record labels.

This was Hispavox which back in the yé-yé era, was regarded as the most important Spanish record label. That was no surprise as Hispavox was hone to some of best and most talented arrangers, producers and session musicians who created what became known as the Torrelaguna sound. One of the most successful purveyors of the Torrelaguna sound was Karina, who was regarded as Queen of Spanish yé-yé. However, soon, others were challenging the Queen for her crown. 

This included the yé-yé singers that the Zafiro label discovered, including Marisol, an actress who enjoyed a parallel career as a singer. It was a similar case with another star of the silver screen Soledad Miranda. Then there was Sonia, whose best known for her unforgettable cover of the Rolling Stones Get Off Of My Cloud. However, Novola Records Massiel was different from many of her contemporaries as she was a singer-songwriter. She attained hero status Spain after winning the Eurovision Song Contest. These are just a few of the Spanish yé-yé singers who feature on Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain.

Opening Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain was Corazón Contento which singer and actress Marisol released on Zafiro in 1968. It features a driving, stomping arrangement where strings sweep and swirl and Marisol delivers a vocal that is a mixture of power and emotion. This is a potent and heady brew that sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.

The Queen of Spanish yé-yé Karina, was also a successful actress by the time she released Ya Verás on an EP on the Hispavox label in 1967. By then, Karina was twenty-three and had been releasing singles since 1961. The punchy Ya Verás which features a rueful, heartfelt vocal from Ya Verás shows why she was regarded as the Queen of Spanish yé-yé. So does her 1971 single on Hispavox, Yo Te Diré, which is a beautiful ballad where Karina delivers a tender vocal full of emotion. Despite the yé-yé era being over, Karina enjoyed yet another hit single and continued to be one of the most successful singers of her generation.

In 1966, beat group Los Stop who were led by yé-yé singer Christina released their debut single Molino Al Viento on the Belter label. It’s a polished performance where a stomping beat, washes of swirling Hammond and bells that chime accompany Christina’s vocal powerhouse before the song reaches a memorable crescendo. who unleashes a vocal powerhouse Molino Al Viento which was released on the Belter label in 1966. Christina’s vocal is accompanied by a stomping beat, washes of swirling Hammond and bells that chime. Despite such an assured performance, commercial success eluded the single.

By the time  Rosalia signed to the Barcelona-based Belter label she was already a vastly experienced singer. However, success had eluded her over the last couple of years, and signing to Belter was the start of a new chapter in her career. Her second single for Belter was Si Llegara El Amor, which she released as a single in 1969. It had already been recorded by Lulu as Are You Ready For Love? The song was given a makeover and an orchestral arrangement accompanied Rosalia’s vocal which is a mixture of power and passion. Sadly, despite the quality of the single, commercial success eluded Si Llegara El Amor.

The time Adriángela spent at Zafiro proved to be the most fruitful and successful of her career. One of her finest moments at Zafiro was Nunca Hay Bastante, which was released as a single in 1965. It features a string-drenched cinematic arrangement which is the perfect backdrop for a vocal that veers between emotive to heartfelt to soulful and powerful. It’s a reminder of Adriángela in her prime.

After winning the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest with La, La, La, Massiel became one of Spain’s most successful yé-yé singers, and was popular in other parts of Europe, including the UK. However, way before she won the Eurovision Song Contest, Massiel released No Sé Por Qué as single on the Novola label. Following her victory in the Eurovision Song Contest Massiel released Las Rocas Y El Mar which the nineteen year old had cowritten. Despite being a far superior song to La, La, La, commercial success eluded Las Rocas Y El Mar which is one of the hidden gems in Massiel back-catalogue.

Although Lorella’s career began in the second half of the fifties, she had reinvented herself as a beat single by the time she released the beautiful ballad Tendrás Que Llorar on RCA in 1965. It’s one of the highlights of Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain, and a reminder of a talented and versatile vocalist.

Las Chic was a four piece all-girl group, which was something a rarity in Span. The Hisparox label spotted this gap in the market, and promptly signed Las Chic. When they released their debut EP in 1965, the lead track was featured Pon Un Anillo En Mi Dedo. This was a cover of Put A Ring On My Finger which had been recorded by American singer Jaye P. Morgan. Despite being a bright, breezy and catchy sounding song Pon Un Anillo En Mi Dedo failed to catch the imagination of record buyers, and after two EPs Las Chic were no more.

Ivana is another yé-yé girl who features twice on the compilation. Her first contribution is  El Es Distinto A Ti which was released on Columbia in 1969. It’s a ballad that sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to the Spanish equivalent of the James Bond films. The other contribution from Ivana is Quiero Romper Tus Cartas which was released on Columbia in 1968. This a very different type of song. The arrangement is uptempo and jaunty with bursts of drums and swaths of strings accompanying Ivana’s powerful and impressive vocal. These two songs show very different sides to Ivana.

Marisol’s second contribution is Tiene La Tarara which was is based on a traditional song, and was released on Zafiro in 1967. Again, it features an urgent, pounding beat and a degree of urgency to Marisol’s performance which has obviously influenced by flamenco. Adding the finishing touch is crystalline guitar which join 

Conchita Velasco released Calor as a single on Belter in 1965. It features a moody, atmospheric and cinematic arrangement, which provides the backdrop for Conchita Velasco’s vocal powerhouse. She sings call and response with her backing vocalists before there’s a sting in the tail as Calor draws to close. It’s the final track on Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain, which is the latest addition this long-running compilation series. 

Over the last few years, Ace International’s Beat Girls’ compilation series, has been one of Ace Records’ most popular series. That is no surprise as the compilers have travelled far and wide in search of the creme de la creme of music from the sixties’ Beat Girls.

Previous sojourns have found the Ace International team pitch up in Japan, before heading to Europe, for crate-digging expeditions in Britain, Italy, France and Swede. This time though, the destination was Spain, which also has a rich musical heritage. 

Some of the artists on Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain went on to enjoy long and successful careers, while others turned their back on music after the yé-yé era was over. It began in the early sixties and lasted until the late-sixties. However, in Spain, some of the yé-yé girls were still releasing successful singles until the early seventies. They were the lucky ones.

Elsewhere, the yé-yé era was over by 1968. That was the case for many of the artists on Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain. However, the most successful of the yé-yé singers enjoyed a longevity that other singers could only dream of.

Some singers, including Conchita Velasco who became a popular entertainer in Spain, enjoyed a Conchita career that lasted over sixty years. Other singers also enjoyed lengthy careers, although not necessarily in music. A number of the Spanish yé-yé singers were also enjoying parallel careers as actresses, and enjoyed a career on the silver screen after the yé-yé era was over. Sadly, other singers and groups on Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain enjoyed just brief careers, which were over before they had begun. However, their musical legacy were some of the hidden gems on Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain.

These hidden gems rub shoulders on Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain with hits, near misses, rarities and oft-overlooked songs. The result is another carefully curated and welcome addition to the Beat Girls’ series, Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain.

Beat Girls Español! 1960s She-Pop From Spain.

JON SAVAGE’S 1965: THE YEAR THE SIXTIES IGNITED.

Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited.

Label: Ace Records.

When The Chipmunks released The Chipmunks Sing With Children on January the ‘1st’ 1965, it didn’t look as this was the start of a landmark year for popular music which would totally transform the popular culture forevermore. However, by the time The Beatles’ released their classic album Rubber Soul and The Who released their debut album My Generation on the ‘3rd’ of December 1965, critics and cultural commentators were realising they had just documented one of the most important years in the history of popular music. It’s documented on Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited which was recently released by Ace Records.

During 1965, many innovative, influential and important albums, including John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Herbie Hancock’s A Maiden Voyage, The Byrds’ debut album Mr. Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, Otis Redding’s Otis Blue, The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, The Who’s My Generation and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe in Magic? These albums are a reminder that 1965 was a good year for music.

1965 was also the year when LSD and marijuana infiltrated mainstream pop. Many musicians embraced LSD and/or marijuana which influenced their music. This would continue to be the case throughout the psychedelic era which had just begun. Music was definitely changing.

Bob Dylan had decided during the first half of 1965 that it was time for his music to change. This wouldn’t please his legion of fans, including those who witnessed his set at Newport Folk Festival on July the ’25th’ 1965. That day, he was backed by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, who knew what was about to happen. The audience had no idea that Bob Dylan was about to plug-in. Soon, his once loyal legion of fans were booing as Bob Dylan’s music moved in the direction of folk-rock. However, for many watching on at home, this must have seemed almost inconsequential.

The Vietnam War was raging, and American planes bombed parts of North Vietnam later in 1965. Still, though, large numbers of American soldiers died in Vietnam, and it was looking as if the Vietnam War was going to be long and bloody. Some commentators thought it was a battle that America couldn’t win. By May 1965, an anti-Vietnam teach-in took place at the University of California Berkeley. Opponents of the war including Norman Mailer, Norman Thomas and Dr. Benjamin Spock were among the speakers and attendees. Meanwhile, in the real world, Australia joined the Vietnam War and 1965 was proving to be an eventful year in America.

On February the ’21st’ Malcolm X the African-American muslim minister and human rights activist was assassinated by three members of the Nation of Islam. By then, the thirty year old was regarded by his detractors as a controversial and divisive figure who preached racism and violence. Nowadays, Malcolm X is regarded as one of the most important and influential African-Americans of the twentieth century.

So too is Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, who in  March 1965, had organised a peaceful demonstration for African-American civil rights and voting rights. That day, he led a 3,000 strong crowd as they marched from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. On their first two attempts to cross the Pettus bridge, the 3,000 strong crowd was stopped by State Troopers. It was only on their third attempt, that the crowd backed by the US Army and National Guardsmen were able to cross the Pettus bridge, and enter Montgomery, where they were met by 30,000 people who wanted to join the demonstration. That day, it became clear that the Civil Rights Movement was getting its message across and starting to make a difference.

The following month, the Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak struck the American Midwestern states on April the ‘13th’ 1965. This tragedy resulted in the death of over 260 people, while 1,500 others were injured. It would take a while before the Midwest recovered from this tragedy.

Meanwhile, the Gemini Space Program continued, even after the Ranger 8 crashes into the Moon following what had been a successful mission to photograph possible landing sites for the Apollo program. Four years later, America won the space race when  Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon on July the ’20th’ 1969. That was still to come.

Three months after Dr. Martin Luther King led a 3,000 strong crowd across the Pettus Bridge, President Lyndon Johnson signed The Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law in August 1965. In doing so, this guaranteed African-Americans the right to vote.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson also announced his program to create the Medicare program, which was part of his “war” on poverty. This was another important piece of legislation, and one that had a long-lasting impact on Americans.

It was a similar case across the Atlantic, when The Race Relations Act 1965 came into force to stop unrest in some British inner cities. However, in other parts of the world, there was unrest and bloodshed.

American citizens had to be evacuated after the civil war in the Dominican Republic began. Meanwhile, in Indonesia an attempted coup d’état by communists lead to the murder of over 500,000 people and a new regime led by Major General Suharto. However, America wasn’t immune to carnage and bloodshed.

On August the ‘1st’ 1965, the Watts Riots, in California began at 7.00pm. By the time the curfew was lifted on the ‘17th’ of August 1965, 34 people were dead and 1,032 had been injured. This included ninety Los Angeles police officers, 136 firemen, ten National Guardsmen, twenty-three people working for various government agencies and 773 civilians. During that sixteen day period, in excess of 600 buildings were set on fire and looting was rife. Over 200 buildings were destroyed during the Watts Riots in August 1965.

Three months later, thirty-million people were affected in parts of the North East of America and Canada by what’s known as the 1965 Northeast Blackout. What was the result of human error, brought large swathes of North America two a standstill for four days.  This was just the latest event to affect Americans during what had been an eventful year.

Despite this, 1965 is remembered by many as the year Bob Dylan plugged in, The Beatles played at Shea Stadium and The Grateful Dead featuring lead guitarist Jerry Garcia made their debut in San Francisco, where the Merry Pranksters continued to advocate the use of LSD. On both sides of the Atlantic marijuana and LSD were the drug de jours even amongst mainstream pop musicians. Many record buyers were also experimenting with marijuana and LSD and had decided turn on, tune in, drop out way before Timothy Leary coined the phrase in 1967. Everything seemed to be changing, from music to attitudes to drugs and even fashion. 

Men were growing their hair long and women wearing the mini skirt which Mary Quant had invented during 1965. Britain and America’s moral guardians were horrified at how much their respective countries had changed by the ’31st’ December 1965. However, that night, critics, cultural commentators and record buyers raised a glass and agreed that 1965 had been a great year for music.

Some of the music released during 1965 features on Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited, which is a two CD set that features forty-eight tracks. This eclectic collection features classics, hit singles, slow burners and hidden gems. There’s folk, garage rock, pop, psychedelia and rock n roll, plus funk and soul. These songs defined 1965, and captured the mood of a nation.

Disc One.

Opening disc one of Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited is Unit Four Plus Two’s Concrete and Clay which was the third single from the folk harmony group that featured Rod Garwood, Hugh Halliday, Howard Lubin, David Miekel, Tommy Moeller and Pete Moules. They had released their debut single The Green Fields in 1964, which stalled at forty-eight in the UK. Worse was to come when Sorrow and Pain failed to chart later in 1964. However,  Concrete and Clay was a game-changer and reached number one in April. It’s a reminder of a much more innocent age that even today is a favourite on oldies stations.

When Marianne Faithfull released a cover of Jackie DeShannon’s Come and Stay With Me in February 1965, she was just nineteen, but had already enjoyed a hit with her debut single As Tears Go By which had reached number nine in the UK in 1964. The followup was a cover of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind failed to chart later that year. However, Marianne Faithfull’s career got back on track when she released Come and Stay With Me. Strings and a harpsichord augment her heartfelt vocal on a single that reached number four. Little Marianne Faithfull realise that his was the biggest single of her career.

Martha and The Vandellas released their soulful stomper Nowhere To Run on Gordy in March 1965. It combines social comment and a hook courtesy of the Holland, Dozier Holland songwriting and production team. Fifty-three years later, and Nowhere To Run has stood the test of time, unlike many releases baring the Gordy or Motown label.

Down in Memphis in 1965, Booker T. & The MG’s were Stax’s studio band, but were also enjoying a successful recording career. When they released Bootleg as a single in April 1965, it stalled at a lowly fifty-eight in the US Billboard 100, but reached ten in the US R&B charts. Three months later, Bootleg was released in the UK, but failed to chart, and this carefully crafted and irresistible  instrumental was the one that got away for Booker T. & The MG’s.

While America had The Byrds, rather confusingly Britain had The Birds. They’re best known for serving their American counterparts with a writ when they arrived in Britain in August 1965. This publicity stand didn’t exactly further their career, and two years after releasing a cover of Holland, Dozier Holland’s Leaving Here in April 1965 The Birds were no more. However, Leaving Here where garage rock meets proto-punk and reminiscent of The Who early in their career, is The Birds’ finest moment and a reminder of what they were capable of.

In May 1965, The Hollies release I’m Alive a joyous and optimistic anthemic single on Parlophone. Alan Clarke’s vocal seemed to speak for a generation as this new era unfolded. It was no surprise when I’m Alive topped the UK charts in the summer of 1965.

Many people won’t have heard of Vashti, who was just nineteen when she released a cover of the Jagger-Richards composition  Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind as her debut single. Sadly, Vashti’s debut single failed to find the audience it deserved. It was forty years later when a new audience discovered the Queen of Psych Folk’s music. Nowadays, Vashti Bunyan has a cult following, and has released a trio of albums since making her comeback in the noughties.

May 1965 saw The Who released their sophomore single Anyway Anyhow Anywhere on Brunswick. They swagger their way through this Pete Townsend’s composition, playing with confidence and an assuredness. In doing so, they unleash a myriad of bleeps and squeaks while feedback squeals and surf harmonies augment Roger Daltrey’s strutting lead vocal. It was no surprise when Anyway Anyhow Anywhere reached number ten in the UK, as The Who in the summer of 1965.

The Price Of Love with its bluesy harmonica and pounding bass drum was very different to The Everly Brothers previous singles. Don and Phil Everly realised they had to reinvent their sound as clean-cut duos were rapidly going out of fashion. This worked and The Price Of Love reached number two in the UK.

Detroit based The Sonics released Boss Hoss as a single in America in May 1965. Its explosive sound is a glorious assault on the senses, as drums powered the arrangement along, while a saxophone wailed and the vocal was raw and raucous. The result was a track that married elements of  garage rock and proto-punk. Alas, the single failed to chart, and since then, this hidden gem has been appreciated by a small coterie of musical connoisseurs.

Heart Full Of Soul was the first single The Yardbirds released that featured virtuoso guitarist Jeff Beck. It was released by Columbia in June 1965, and features a sophisticated and complex arrangement. Choral harmonies rub shoulders with a fuzz guitar plus Eastern and gothic influences to create progressive, mystical and memorable sounding single. When it was released it reached number nine in the US Billboard 100 and two in the UK.

The Kinks’ See My Friends which closes disc one of Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited, was penned by Ray Davies, who hoped that their latest single would transform the groups’s fortunes. 1965 wasn’t the most successful year of The Kinks’ career, and things didn’t get any better when See My Friends was called a “dirge” in the music press. it was another case of critics not understanding a single were The Kinks’ deployed Indian influences and a 12-string guitar. They framed a vocal which spoke of loneliness and feeling alienated. This struck a nerve with younger record buyers, and the single gave The Kinks a surprise hit in the UK, where it reached number ten.

Disc Two.

Disc two opens with The Byrds who released their first two folk rock albums during 1965. The Byrds debut album was Mr. Tambourine Man, which featured I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better. It’s now regarded as one of the highlights of Mr. Tambourine Man. However, I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better was originally relegated to the B-Side of All I Really Want To Do. This was a lost opportunity for The Byrds, who became one of the most important bands of the second half of the sixties.

Musical chameleons The Seeds reinvented their music several times during their sadly short career. Led by Sly Saxon, The Seeds released Can’t Seem To Make You Mine as a single in August 1967. It reached forty-one on the US Billboard 100, and featured on The Seeds’ 1966 eponymous debut album. Nowadays, Can’t Seem To Make You Mine is quite rightly regarded as a garage rock classic.

By 1965, The Pretty Things’ popularity was on the rise after enjoying hits with Rosalyn, Don’t Bring Me Down and Honey I Need. In August 1965, The Pretty Things released their Rainin’ In My Heart EP, which featured London Town. It finds The Pretty Things moving in the direction of folk-rock on a track that is not only atmospheric but lysergic. Fifty-three years later, and it’s a reminder of a talented, versatile and iconic British group who should’ve achieved greater success.

When Bob Dylan released Highway 61 Revisited, the penultimate track on the first side was From A Buick 6, which later featured on the B-Side to Positively 4th Street.  From A Buick 6 is an oft-overlooked track that sounds as if it’s been inspired by Bobby and Shirley Womack’s It’s All Over Now. It has a raw, bluesy sound and finds Bob Dylan slashing at his guitar while delivering his distinctive and initiative nasally vocal. The addition of  From A Buick 6 is a welcome one, and tantalising reminder of Bob Dylan’s classic album Highway 61 Revisited.

By September 1965, the Bob Dylan songbook was a favourite of many singers and bands. They were looking for tried and tested songs that could give them a hit single. In Manfred Mann’s case, they chose Bob Dylan’s If You Gotta Go Now. When it was released by HMV, it reached number two in the UK. However, across the Atlantic the single failed to trouble the charts. All these years later, Manfred Mann’s cover If You Gotta Go Now has stood the test of time and is a reminder of a great British group and a legendary songwriter.

When The Animals released It’s My Life on Columbia in October 1965, they had a come a long way since their early days playing in the clubs in North East of England. Back home in Newcastle, they were local boys who had made good. Eric Burdon’s band had five already enjoyed top ten singles in the UK. Soon, five became six when the uptempo and rocky It’s My Life reached seven in the UK and twenty-three in the US Billboard 200. It’s My Life was the last single The Animals released for EMI and their last before a new lineup of the band emerged in 1966. By then, The Animals had signed to Decca and a new chapter began for the group.

Blow Your Mind which was released on Mirwood in October 1965 was the debut single by The Gas Co. It showcased a folk rock sound while Greg Dempsey’s sneering vocal is full of sarcasm. Kathy Yesse provides a foil and contrast during the choruses, on this hidden gem that sadly, failed commercially upon its release.

In October 1965, The Shangri-Las released Right Now and Not Later as a single on the Red Bird label in the UK. It was produced by Shadow Morton, who also produced the song that was tucked away on the B-Side. This was The Train From Kansas City which was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich had formed a successful songwriting partnership. Their lyrics are full of heartbreak and teenage angst while Shadow Morton’s production seems to have been influenced by what was happening at Motown. One of the quintessential girl groups had recorded their take on a Motown dance track.

Future Sunshine Superman Donovan, was an early adopter of the psychedelic sound on Sunny Goodge Street a track from his 1965 sophomore album Fairytale. Donavon picked up the story on his composition Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness), which was the B-Side of Turquoise which was released on Pye Records. Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) features Sunshine Superman, Donavon spinning an über lysergic tale that is rich in imagery.

Link Wray had released eight consecutive instrumentals for Swan by 1965. This changed in October 1965 when Link Wray released a cover of Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country. This familiar song takes on new meaning as Link Wray paints pictures with his soul-baring vocal, and is accompanied by his trusty guitar and wailing harmonica.

When the Small Faces released I’ve Got Mine in November 1965, it had already featured on the soundtrack to Dateline Diamonds. This didn’t help sales of what was the final Small Faces’ single to feature Jimmy Winston. He left the group in 1966, and was replaced by Ian McLaglan who was final piece of this musical jigsaw. Ian McLaglan was the final member of what became the classic lineup of the Small Faces and joined Kenney Jones, Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriot. However, I’ve Got Mine is an oft-overlooked single which marked the end of an era for the Small Faces.

Closing disc two of Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited is The Supremes’ My World Is Empty Without You. It was penned and produced by Holland, Dozier, Holland and released on Motown in America in December 1965. Soon, the single was climbing the charts, and reached number one. Although it’s dark and thought-provoking song about obsession, the arrangement follows the tried and tested formula which had served Motown and The Supremes so well. As a result, the Motown sound divided the opinion of record buyers in 1965, who either loved or loathed the Motown sound. 

Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited which was recently released as a two CD set by Ace Records, is the perfect companion to Jon Savage’s 1966 The Year The Decade Exploded and Jon Savage’s 1967 The Year Pop Divided. These three compilations chart how music changed between 1965 and 1967,  and are a fascinating insight into how music and wider popular culture evolved. This lovingly curated triumvirate of compilations, especially Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited are a perfect primer or reminder of what were three hugely important years for music.

This change began in 1965, and is documented on Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited which like the two previous volumes, oozes quality. It’s a truly eclectic compilation that features classics, hit singles, slow burners and of-overlooked hidden gems. There’s folk, garage rock, pop, psychedelia and rock n roll, plus funk and soul. The songs on Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited defined 1965, and captured the mood of a nation.

Jon Savage’s 1965: The Year The Sixties Ignited.

DOLORES VARGAS-“LA TERREMOTO” ANANA FUNK HIP 1970-75. 

Dolores Vargas-“La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75.

Label: Pharaway Sounds.

Ask anyone who saw Dolores Vargas at the peak of the powers in the early seventies and they almost go misty eyed as they describe a flamboyant performer who combined a unique and inimitable mixture of flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop with a wild, energetic and frenzied dancing style. Dolores Vargas’ performances had audiences spellbound, but it was her powerhouse of a vocal that resulted in her earning the nickname  “La Terremoto”  (“The Earthquake.”) At one point, in the early seventies, Dolores Vargas was being compared to  Tina Turner and some critics believed she was a far superior performer to Lola Flores. This was high praise, and it looked as if Dolores Vargas was going to become one of the biggest names in Spanish music. Sadly, Dolores Vargas didn’t enjoy the commercial success that her undoubted talented deserved.

Recently, though, there has been a resurgence of interest in Dolores Vargas’ music, with a new generation of record buyers discovering the delights of The Earthquake’s music. They were in good company and joined a small coterie of musical connoisseurs who hold “The Earthquake” in the highest regard. Sadly, though, the problem many newcomers to Dolores Vargas’ music were faced with, was finding copies of her albums, and especially those released between 1970 and 1975. Albums like Dolores Vargas La Terremoto proved impossible to find, which was frustrating for newcomers to The Earthquake’s music. Fortunately, Pharaway Music has released a fourteen track compilation “La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75 which is the perfect introduction to Dolores Vargas.

Her story began in Barcelona, Spain, when María de los Dolores Castellón Vargas was born on the ’16th’ May 1936 in Barcelona, Spain. Growing up, music played in important part in Dolores Vargas life. By the time Dolores Vargas was sixteen, she had already married her cousin José Castellón, a.k.a. Pepe who was a guitarist and composer. He wrote many of the songs Dolores Vargas recorded during her career. However, two more years passed before Dolores Vargas made her professional debut.

Eighteen year old Dolores Vargas made her debut in her brother’s show Brindis al cielo at the Theatre de Vega, in Madrid. Each night, patrons saw Dolores Vargas perform the rhumba Tiquaitan. This was the start of Dolores Vargas’ long career.

Two years later, in 1956, Dolores Vargas made her acting debut in the first of several folkloric films she appeared in, Veraneo en España in 1956. This was followed by Un Torero para la Historia in 1957. By then, it looked as if Dolores Vargas was set for a career on the silver screen. This changed in 1958.

Dolores Vargas and Pepe had travelled to Cannes in 1958, where she found herself sharing the stage with none other than Edith Piaf. She was so impressed with Dolores Vargas’ performance that the legendary French singer invited her new friend to America, where she arranged for her to appear on Ed Sullivan’s television show.

On the ‘19th’ of October 1958, Americans who tuned into Ed Sullivan’s television show on CBS saw Dolores Vargas make her debut on American television. So successful was Dolores Vargas’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show that she spent the next two years living in America.

During the time Dolores Vargas spent living in America, her recording career began. Her career began at Brunswick where she recorded her 1959 EP Dolores Vargas Vol. 2 on Brunswick. It’s one of the finest recording of Dolores Vargas’ American years. The same can be said of Dolores Vargas’ 1960 album for Decca “El Terremoto Gitano” (The Gypsy Earthquake). It was a tantalising taste of what was to come from The Earthquake.

After returning to Spain, Dolores Vargas signed to Barcelona based Belter Records in 1962. This was the start of the next chapter in her career, and for the next three years, Belter was home to one of the rising stars of Spanish music. 

Especially with Pepe supplying Dolores Vargas with new songs which she recorded during her first two years at Belter. Some of Pepe’s songs were released as singles between 1962 and 1964, while  others found their way onto the album Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto.” Alas, neither the singles, nor The Earthquake’s debut album for Belter were a commercial success, which was a disappointment for her.

Especially, as Dolores Vargas was about to become a mother for the first time in 1964. That year, her daughter Dolores “Lores” Castellón Vargas was born. Now that she was a mother, Dolores Vargas hoped that commercial success wasn’t far away.

As 1964 gave way to 1954, still commercial success continued to elude Dolores Vargas. This was hugely disappointing for Dolores Vargas who decided to leave Belter in 1965, and sign to Polydor. 

This turned out tone a wise move, as executives at Polydor began the process of modernising Dolores Vargas’ music. They realised that Dolores Vargas’ music had to evolve to stay relevant. However, they also realised that this change had to be gradual, so as not to alienate her fans.

Gradually, elements of rock, pop and soul were incorporated into Dolores Vargas’ music transforming this traditional form of music into something moderne and innovative. A new chapter in The Earthquake’s career began to unfold during Dolores Vargas’ three years stay at Polydor.

During that period, Dolores Vargas’ released a string of singles for Polydor, which documented how her music evolved. These changes  had just begun when Dolores Vargas’ first album for her new label came in 1965. This was the prophetically titled Spain’s Most Exciting Singer. Two years later, in 1967, Viva Flamenco! Una Antologia Del Baíle Flamenco was released by Polydor, but was Dolores Vargas’ swan-song for the label. 

When Dolores Vargas left Polydor in 1968, still a hit single continued to elude her. She was no nearer to making a breakthrough than she had been when she made her recording debut in 1959. This was a huge blow for Dolores Vargas. Despite that, she returned to Belter, and continued her search for a hit single.

The three years away from Belter had allowed Dolores Vargas to modernise her sound. Whether she would’ve been able to do this if she had remained at Belter is debatable. However, they signed a very different singer to the one that left the label three years earlier. Proof of this was Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” which was released in 1969, and saw the reinvention of The Earthquake continue.

As the seventies dawned, little did anyone realise that a golden period in Dolores Vargas’ career was about to begin. For the next five years she released what is regarded as some of the best music of her career. This period is documented on Pharaway Sounds recent compilation “La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75. 

By 1970, the reinvention of Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” as she was billed, recorded a new EP. One of the songs on the EP was the cumbia La Piragua,which was written by the famous Colombian composer José Barros. In Dolores Vargas’ hands it’s transformed into an irresistible and mesmeric gypsy-tinged rumba which was totally different to everything that has gone before. Surely this was a game changer for Dolores Vargas?

When the EP was released in 1970, La Piragua which quite rightly received top billing. It was also released as a single during 1970 in the hope that it would transform Dolores Vargas’ flagging fortunes. Sadly that wasn’t the case when the EP and single failed to find an audience. For Dolores Vargas this was a huge blow.

Despite the disappointment, Dolores Vargas returned later in 1970 with the single Urtain, El K.O. Y Ole. Again, executives at Belter and Dolores Vargas had high hopes for the single. It was a hook laden ye-ye rumba that benefited from a big, bold arrangement. This it was hoped would provide Dolores Vargas with that elusive hit single. Sadly, despite the quality of the arrangement and lyrics dedicated to Spanish boxer Jose Manuel Ibar Azpiazu who was the European heavyweight champion, the single failed commercially. This was just the latest disappointment for Dolores Vargas.

When Dolores Vargas released A-Chi-Li-Pu as a single later in 1970, this just happened to coincide with the dawn of Catalan rumba and flamenco pop era. Dolores Vargas’ single A-Chi-Li-Pu charted, and started climbing charts and even outsells Encarnita Polo’s dance track Paco, Paco, Paco. At last, Dolores Vargas had enjoyed that elusive hit single, eleven years after making her recording debut in 1959. However, A-Chi-Li-Pu which has become an oft-covered song amongst Spanish artists doesn’t feature on the compilation.

Both A-Chi-Li-Pu and Urtain, El K.O. Y Ole featured on the album Dolores Vargas La Terremoto, which was released in 1970. This was the first album Dolores Vargas had released since enjoying her first hit single. However, it didn’t feature Dolores Vargas’ second hit single.

Buoyed by her first hit single, Belter got behind Dolores Vargas’ next single, which was a cover of Middle Of The Road’s hit single Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. It’s almost unrecognisable during what’s a captivating and sometime anarchic reinvention of what was originally a throwaway pop single. In Dolores Vargas’ hands, it’s transformed and takes on new life and meaning. Dolores Vargas’ cover of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep topped the Spanish charts, giving the thirty-five year old her second hit single.

For the followup, Dolores Vargas’ husband José Castellón wrote Anana Hip with Spanish singer, songwriter and composer, conductor, arranger  and producer Juan Carlos Calderón. When Dolores Vargas recorded Anana Hip, it African rhythms were added the arrangement as the song headed in the direction of funk rock. It features a vocal powerhouse from Dolores Vargas as this memorable and mesmeric slice of funk rock shows yet another side to a truly versatile singer. Tucked away on the B-Side of Anana Hip is A La Pelota, which is one of the hidden gems from Dolores Vargas back-catalogue. It’s an explosive and driving slice of funk where Dolores Vargas unleashes a vocal that is a mixture of power, emotion and frustration. Nowadays, it’s hard to believe that A La Pelota was left to languish on the B-Side? Maybe if it had been released as a single it would’ve been more successful than Anana Hip?

After enjoying the most successful year of a career that had spanned three decades, Dolores Vargas was looking forward to 1972, and hoping that she would enjoy further success. Dolores Vargas released a trio of singles and an EP. One of her finest moments was the explosive and hook-laden El Ma-Ta-Ri-Le which features another vocal powerhouse from Dolores Vargas. Alas, it failed to find the audience it deserved and 1972 was proving to be a disappointing year for Dolores Vargas. 

Later in 1972, Dolores Vargas released El Toro De La Vida as a single, which doesn’t feature on the compilation. However, the B-Side El Desgrasiao is a welcome addition and again, falls into the category of hidden gem. Horns and backing vocalists accompany Dolores Vargas whose soon in flu flight, and as she veers between fiery to soulful. Sometimes, Dolores Vargas she sings call and response with her backing vocalists who are the perfect foil to The Earthquake. Again, El Desgrasiao is a case of a song being far too good to be relegated to a B-Side.

When Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” was released later in 1972, El Desgrasiao featured alongside El Ma-Ta-Ri-Le, La Hawaiana, Anana Hip, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep and La Piragua. Dolores Vargas would return to the album Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” in 1973, when she was looking for a new single.

During 1973, Dolores Vargas released three singles. This included Oh, La, La, which featured the Juan Erasmo Mochi composition El Despertador on the B-Side. Both songs were taken from the 1972 album Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” and oozed quality. Indeed, Oh, La, La which was written by her husband José Castellón is a truly joyous and irresistible song with a feel-good sound. Despite that, the single failed commercially and Oh, La, La was the one that got away for Dolores Vargas. 

1973 wasn’t a particularly successful year for Dolores Vargas, with none of her three singles charting. Two years had passed since her last single. Ironically, Dolores Vargas was releasing some of the best and most progressive music of her career. Maybe though, it was to progressive and innovative, and the record buying public didn’t understand or approve of what Dolores Vargas was doing to what they saw as Spain’s traditional music?

While Dolores Vargas had only released two singles during 1973, that number fell to two during 1974. This included Maria Lisi, where elements of flamenco and rhumba melted into one during a joyous and uplifting song. Despite its quality and a strong hook, it failed to trouble the charts. However, the next single Dolores Vargas released lifted her profile.

This was Macarrones which had been inspired by a type of sauce that accompanies macaroni. On the B-Side was El Co…collar where cinematic strings and handclaps accompany Dolores Vargas heartfelt vocal. It’s another oft-overlooked song from Dolores Vargas’ discography. That was unlike Macarrones which soon, was about to battle.

Although Macarrones was essentially a novelty song, it was one of two songs shortlisted to represent Spain in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. However, it was Peret who triumphed and won the day with Canta y sé feliz. While this was disappointing for Dolores Vargas who was now thirty-eight, being on the shortlist lifted her profile. Sadly, though, Macarrones wasn’t a commercial success, and it was now three years since her last hit.

When 1974 gave way to 1975, Dolores Vargas continued her search for a hit single. However, still commercial success eluded the two singles she released during 1975. However, one of the finest songs Dolores Vargas recorded during 1975 was the funky cinematic Gitana Real which sounded as if it belonged on the soundtrack to a Spanish thriller. Gitana Real which lent its name to Dolores Vargas 1975 album, also marked the end of the rhumba funk period. Sadly, Dolores Vargas’ album Gitana Real failed commercially and brings to an end the period covered on”La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75.

The five years period covered on “La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75 was a golden period for Dolores Vargas, and saw her release some of the best music of a career. By 1975, Dolores Vargas’ career had already spanned three decades and she was a vastly experienced singer. Despite her experience and considerable talent and versatility , Dolores Vargas had only enjoyed two hit singles between 1959 and 1975. This wasn’t much to show for an artist who had spent the last ten years reinventing herself musically.

The reinvention of Dolores Vargas began at Polydor in 1965, and continued when she returned to Belter in 1968. All her hard work paid off between 1970 and 1975, during what was a golden period for Dolores Vargas. She released ambitious and innovative music that included flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop. Dolores Vargas was on of the first artists to incorporate elements of pop, rock and soul into flamenco and rumba. 

It took a while before the record buying public understood, appreciated and embraced this new genre-melting sound. Some shortsighted traditionalists probably saw this as sacrilege, but failed to realise that if flamenco and rumba failed to evolve they risked becoming irrelevant. Musical pioneers like Dolores Vargas were determined that this wouldn’t happen, began to reinvent the music that meant so much to her. 

While Dolores Vargas who played her part in ensuring that flamenco and rumba remain relevant, the commercial success she enjoyed was only fleeting. After two hits in 1971, Dolores Vargas failed to reach the same heights during the period that Pharaway Sounds new compilation  “La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75 covers.

During that period, Dolores Vargas “The Earthquake” was a flamboyant performer who combined a unique and inimitable mixture of flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop. At one point, Dolores Vargas was compared to Tina Turner in her sixties prime. By then, many critics thought that Dolores Vargas was about to become one the biggest names in Spanish music. Sadly, Dolores Vargas enjoyed the commercial success that her undoubted talented deserved, and retired in 1987 after the death of her husband José Castellón. 

Following Dolores Vargas’ retirement, there was a resurgence of interest in The Earthquake’s music. This came after new generation of record buyers discovered some of Dolores Vargas’ old albums in record shops and second-hand shops. Straight away, they were won over by the delights of Dolores Vargas music, and joined an exclusive club that features a small coterie of musical connoisseurs with an educated musical palette who held The Earthquake’s music in the highest regard. 

Dolores Vargas watched on with interest as her music was discovered by a new and appreciative audience. They embraced the ambitious and innovative music Dolores Vargas recorded during her golden ear, which features on “La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75. Sadly, Dolores Vargas died on the ‘7th’ of August 2016, and never saw the release of  “La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75 which features her unique and inimitable mixture of flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop.

Dolores Vargas-“La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75.

TEEN BEAT VOLUME 6.

Teen Beat Volume 6.

Label: Ace Records.

When a new compilation series is launched, the compiler and record company always hope that this is the start of a long running and successful series. That was the case when Ace Records released Teen Beat-30 Great Rockin’ Instrumentals in September 1993. Nearly twenty-five years later, and Ace Records released Teen Beat Volume 6 in January 2018, which is the first instalment in eighteen years.

It was back in July 2000 when Ace Records released Teen Beat Volume 5 to plaudits and praise. Since then, fans of this popular compilation series have waited patiently for the next instalment of this much-loved series. Some doubters thought that there was as much chance of a new instalment in the Teen Beat series being released as Glen Miller landing his plane safely and wondering what all the fuss was about? Thankfully, the doubters have been proved wrong with the recent released Teen Beat Volume 6, which marks the welcome return of this hugely popular series that has focused on the oft-overlooked world of instrumentals for a quarter of a century. 

Just like on previous volumes, Dave Burke and Alan Taylor of Pipeline magazine stick to what has been a winning formula on Teen Beat Volume 6, and combine classics, hits, rarities and sometimes, throw a curveball or spring a surprise. This is what they’ve done on the five previous volumes. It’s definitely a case of you don’t change a winning formula.

Teen Beat Volume 6 features twenty-six tracks from familiar faces who enjoyed long and successful careers to what will be new names to many people. There’s instrumentals by Duane Eddy, His ‘Twangy’ Guitar and The Rebels, Johnny and The Hurricanes, The Rondels, The Titans, The Ramrods, Bobby Darin and His Orchestra, The Mus-Twangs, The Frantics, Chet Atkins, The Invaders, King Curtis and The Noble Knights, Don Cole and The Ventures who contribute two tracks. These are just some of the artists that feature on Teen Beat Volume 6,  which marks the comeback of a compilation series that has been much missed for nearly eighteen years.

Duane Eddy, His Twangy Guitar and The Rebels open Teen Beat Volume 6 with a cover of the Henry Mancini composition Peter Gunn.  It was produced by Lee Hazelwood and Lester Sill and was released on the Jamie label in July 1959, reaching number six in the UK and twenty-seven in the US Billboard 100. Later, in 1959, featured on the album Especially For You which reached number six in the UK and twenty-four in the US Billboard 100. Nowadays, Peter Gunn is regarded as a classic rock instrumental, and is the perfect way to open the compilation.

The best way to follow a classic rock instrumental is with another. This time, it’s Reveille Rock which was released by Johnny and The Hurricanes in 1959. By then, they were well on their way to becoming one of the most successful instrumental bands of the late-fifties early sixties, eventually chalking up nine singles in the US Billboard 100. Reveille Rock released in America in October 1959 reached and twenty-five in the Billboard 100 and seventeen in the US R&B charts. Across the Atlantic, the single reached fourteen in the UK, nearly sixty years later is regarded as a classic instrumental.

Way before Bobby Vee became a teen idol, received six gold discs he recorded one of the greatest instrumentals released in the late-fifties, Flyin’ High. It was recorded by Bobby Vee And The Shadows in Minneapolis, and released on the recording studio’s in-house label Sona in 1959. Not long after the its release, Flyin’ High was picked up by Liberty, and reissued in August 1959. Sadly, this memorable and oft-overlooked hard rocking instrumental stalled at a lowly seventy-seven in the US Billboard 100, and before long, Bobby Vee had embarked upon a successful solo career. However, this hard rocking instrumental of the late-fifties, Flyin’ High, shows a very different side to Bobby Vee.

Although Massachusetts is better known as the state where basketball and volleyball were invented in the nineteenth century, in October 1963, The Busters from Greenfield, released a stunning surf instrumental All American Surfer on the Philly based Arlen label. All American Surfer was The Busters’ sophomore single, and the followup to Bust Out which had been released in August 1963. Sadly, neither single troubled the charts, and The Busters only ever released another three singles over the next ten years. However, All American Surfer which is exhilarating hidden surf gem is by far The Busters finest hour, and a welcome addition to Teen Beat Volume 6.

The same can be said of The Ramrods from Alabama, who released the surf single Night Ride in 1963. This was The Ramrods sophomore single, which was released on the R and H label. It’s a A Rick Hall Production and the late, great producer is partly responsible for crafting the track’s authentic surf sound. However, Night Ride doesn’t have as full-on a sound as The Busters’ All American Surfer, but still epitomises the surf sound.

In July 1960, The Shadows released their cover of Bert Weedon’s Apache, which showcased Hank Marvin’s distinctive guitar playing. The Shadows cover of Apache topped the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and South African charts and was a hit all over Europe and as far afield as Australia. One of the few places Apache failed to chart was in America. Despite that, Jorgen Ingmann and His Guitar released his cover of the classic instrumental on Atco in November 1960. This lovingly honed homage to The Shadows classic instrumental reached number two in the US Billboard 100 and nine in the US R&B charts and topped the Canadian charts.

Many people remember Bobby Darin as a great vocalist. However, he was also a talented arranger, musician and composer. Proof of this is the Theme From “Come September” which was released by Bobby Darin and His Orchestra in 1961. Bobby Darin’s guitar plays a leading role in the cinematic sounding title-track to Theme From “Come September” where the singer enjoyed an acting role in this romantic comedy. However, while his guitar played a leading role in Theme From “Come September,” Bobby Darin’s played just a supporting role in the film.

At least 256 artists have covered Frankie and Johnny, including  Big Bill Broonzy, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison and actress and sometime singer Lindsay Lohan. However, nobody has recorded Frankie and Johnny like The Mus-Twangs. It was released on Smash in 1961, features a fleet fingered blistering guitar and wailing saxophone. By doing this, The Mus-Twangs reinvented Frankie and Johnny and took this oft-covered and familiar tracks and managed to totally transform it.

Teddy And The Rough Riders from Drayton, Ohio released Path Finder on the Huron label in June 1961. By then, they had been playing locally for three years and had already released their debut single Tomahawk in November 1960. Tomahawk failed to make any impression on the charts, and it was a similar case when Path Finder was released. Forty-seven years later and Path Finder, which is a rollicking hidden gem makes a welcome return on Teen Beat Volume 6, and is a reminder of what Teddy And The Rough Riders were capable of.

In September 1966, guitarist Travis Wammack released the explosive Have You Ever Had The Blue on Atlantic Records. This was his third single for the label after he left Tennessee ARA. Have You Ever Had The Blue was also Travis Wammack’s finest moment as he unleashed a fleet-fingered guitar masterclass while brassy horns augmented the driving rhythm section. Sadly, commercial success eluded the single, which is a reminder of a truly talented guitarist who later,  enjoyed four hit singles and for a while was producer Rick Hall’s go-to-guitarist. 

As drummers go, Sandy Nelson was one of the best, who released over thirty singles during the sixties. Despite that, there’s still unreleased Sandy Nelson tracks in the vaults. This includes Drum Shack, which makes its debut on Teen Beat Volume 6 was drum shack. It’s not only a reminder of why Sandy Nelson is regarded as one of the greatest drummers of his generation, but one of the rarest tracks on the compilation. Indeed, nobody was sure the track even existed until the maser tapes arrived at Ace Records’ headquarters. However, after only one play everyone realised that discovering Drum Shack was akin to striking musical gold.

Six years after releasing their debut single, The Astronauts released their cover of Heartbreak Hotel as a single on Victor in Japan in March 1966. Tucked away on the B-Side was a cover version of Big Hunk O Love. Sadly, the single was only released in Japan, and record buyers in Britain and America didn’t discover the delights of The Astronauts’ latest single and especially the B-Side Big Hunk O Love. It  was another carefully crafted guitar instrumental from The Astronauts who had been formed at Boulder High School, in Colorado in 1956, and ten years later, were one of the top surf bands in Japan.

One of the most successful surf bands in Japan in 1962 were The Ventures, who released The 2000 Pound Bee (Pt 1) as a single on Dolton. On the B-Side was The 2000 Pound Bee (Pt 2) which closes Teen Beat Beat Volume 6. Both sides were written by new Dan Wilson and new drummer Mel Taylor who showcases his considerable skills. However, it’s the fuzzy guitar that played an important part in The Ventures’ now trademark fuzzy guitar sound, as they became one of the most successful surf bands in America, Britain and Japan. A reminder of that can be found on The 2000 Pound Bee (Pt 1) and The 2000 Pound Bee (Pt 2) which closes Teen Beat Volume 6 on a resounding high. 

After an eighteen year wait, the latest instalment in the Teen Beat series was released by Ace Records. This was Teen Beat Volume 6 which is another lovingly curated compilation of instrumentals. They’re a mixture of classics, hit singles, hidden gems, rarities and obscurities from familiar faces and new names. They released the majority of these tracks between 1958 and 1966, apart from Sandy Nelson’s Drum Shack which has lain unreleased until the release of Teen Beat Volume 6. It’s one of several hidden gems on Teen Beat Volume 6 which was released by Ace Records and marks the comeback of this long-running and successful compilation series. Just like on previous volumes in the series, it’s another case of all killer and no filler on Teen Beat Volume 6.

Teen Beat Volume 6.

 

 

 

HIROSHIMA-EAST AND PROVIDENCE

Hiroshima-East and Providence.

Label: BGO Records.

By 1989, Hiroshima was preparing to release their much-anticipated sixth album East, which was the followup to 1987s Go, which was the most successful album of the band’s ten year recording career. For Hiroshima, East and Providence which was recently reissued by BGO Records as a two CD set, were the next chapters in their career. Dan Kuramoto who had founded Hiroshima in 1974, hoped that the success they had been enjoying would continue.

For Dan Kuramoto who had founded Hiroshima in 1974, the last fifteen years had  been a roller coaster ride. Much had happened to his group, including a number of changes in Hiroshima’s  lineup. However, everything paid off in 1979, when Larkin Arnold had signed Hiroshima to Arista. This was what Hiroshima had been working towards over the last five years, and they decided to grab the opportunity with both hands.

Later in 1979, Hiroshima released their eponymous debut album which sold over 100,000 copies in the first three months, and eventually peaked at fifty-one on the US Billboard 200. Buoyed by the success of Hiroshima, the irresistible Room Full Of Mirrors was released as a single and reached eighty in the US R&B charts. However, by then, Room Full Of Mirrors was a favourite within the easy listening community and introduced Hiroshima’s music to a new and wider audience.

Following the success of their eponymous debut album, Hiroshima returned with their sophomore album Odori in 1980. It reached seventy-eight on the US Billboard 200 during an eighteen week stay on the charts. By then, the lead single from Odori was Warriors, which gave Hiroshima a minor hit single when it charted at seventy-nine in the US R&B charts. This was the last hit single Hiroshima enjoyed at Arista.

After the release of Odori, Larkin Arnold who had signed Hiroshima moved to Columbia’s imprint Epic. This was a huge blow for the band, as Hiroshima was Larkin Arnold’s signing, and his replacement might not place the same importance on the band? Hiroshima found themselves in limbo.

Fortunately, Larkin Arnold hadn’t forgotten about Hiroshima, and by 1983, they signed to Epic and in 1983 released their third album Third Generation. It was their first album to make use of drum machines and synths, as Hiroshima had been later to embrace the new technology which transformed their sound. Despite that Third Generation stalled at 142 in the US Billboard 200 and fifty in the US R&B charts. However, when San Say was released as the lead single, it reached sixty-eight in the US R&B charts and became Hiroshima’s biggest hit single. For Hiroshima  this was a small crumb of comfort, as their thoughts turned to their fourth album Another Place.

By the time Another Place was released in 1985, there had been a number of changes, and session players brought in to augmented the depleted lineup. They played their part in the reinvention of Hiroshima on a genre-melting album. When Another Place was released to critical acclaim in 1985, it reached number seventy-nine in the US Billboard 200 and eight in the US Billboard Jazz chart. After a year in the US Billboard Jazz chart,

Another Place had sold over 500,000 copies and was certified gold. This meant that Another Place was the most successful of Hiroshima’s four album career. Now Hiroshima had to replicate the success of Another Place.

This wasn’t going to be easy, but the members of Hiroshima were determined to build on the success of Another Place. When Hiroshima returned in the autumn of 1987 with Go, it was hailed as one of Hiroshima’s finest albums, and a fitting followup to Another Place. Go which means five in Japanese, was released in autumn 1987, reached seventy-five in the US Billboard 200 and fifty-four in the US R&B charts. This was enough for the second gold disc of Hiroshima’s career, and became their most successful album.

East.

After the success of Go, Hiroshima were asked to create a musical play which told the story of the band. This was a surprise even despite Hiroshima’s recent success. While they had two gold discs to their name, many record buyers still hadn’t heard of Hiroshima. Part of the problem was that Hiroshima were unlike many bands, and didn’t fit neatly within one musical genre. Instead, their music straddled several genres and combined different cultures. In doing so, Hiroshima a band that reflected both American and Japanese cultures, created ambitious, genre-melting music. This was a story that deserved to be told.

Dan Kuramoto, agreed to write and perform a musical play that told the story of his band Hiroshima. The play eventually  became San Se, which in Japanese means third generation. This was apt, as  Dan Kuramoto and Danny Yamamoto’s were both third generation. Once San Se was written, both men were became part of Hiroshima’s next success story.

When Hiroshima took to the stage at the 850 seat Music Centre in downtown LA, on the first night of the San Se’s run, little did anyone know the impact the play would have. Not only did San Se with its inclusive narrative strike a chord from Americans who came from immigrant families, but San Se was a roaring success. Even today, it’s still the second or third generation play at the Music Centre. Hiroshima’s success story continued apace.

Following the success of San Se, Hiroshima began work on their sixth album, which eventually became East, where the band decided to celebrate their Asian roots. Each member of Hiroshima were from immigrant families, and had grownup in the ghettos. This commonality brought the band together and was something they share and could relate to as they began work on their sixth album. 

Before that, Hiroshima had to bring onboard a new vocalist as Barbara Long, the band’s previous singer had left after having a baby. Fortunately, the band knew the perfect replacement, and someone with an impeccable musical pedigree Margaret Sasaki-Taylor a.k.a. Machum. 

She was born in Japan, but had moved to America as a six-year-old. Before long, Machum had discovered music, and was following in the footsteps of her grandmother who was a Japanese koto master. Having discovered the koto, Machum went on to become one of its finest exponents, and by the time she joined Hiroshima, was recognised and regarded as a virtuoso musician. Despite her skills as a musician, Machum had been one of Pink Floyd’s backing vocalists on The Wall tour. Now that the tour was over, she was free to join of Hiroshima and become their vocalist.

For their sixth album Hiroshima decided to include some of the songs that had featured in their musical San Se, including Thousand Cranes. These tracks were augmented by some new ones. Again, founder member Dan Kuramoto was Hiroshima’s songwriter-in-chief penning East, Streetcorner Paradise, Come To Me and You and Me. He wrote Midtown Higashi with Danny Yamamoto, Johnny Mori and June Kuramoto; Tabo with Darrell Yoshihara; Living In America with Dean Cortez and Thousand Cranes with Derek Nakamoto. June Kuramoto and Kimo Cornwell wrote Daydreamer, while The Golden Age was a song penned and co-produced by Skylark who later, joined the Doobie Brothers in 1995. These song became East, which was Hiroshima’s sixth album.

Recording took place in LA, at Sunset Sound Factory and Sunset Sound Factory, where Hiroshima were joined by a few friends. By now, Hiroshima was a five piece band led by Dan Kuramoto who played keyboards, synths, flutes, saxophones, programmed synths and drum machines and added backing vocals. Danny Yamamoto played drums, percussion, keyboards, synths and was involved in programmed synths and drum machines. June Kuramoto played koto and shamisen, while Johnny Mori played taiko and percussion. New recruit Machum played guitar and sung lead vocals. Augmenting the new lineup of Hiroshima were a few friends.

Joining Hiroshima was bassist and backing vocalist Dean Cortez; guitarist and backing vocalist TJ Parker and keyboardist Kimo Cornwell who played and programmed synths. The trio was joined by vocalists included Augie Johnston, Jim Gilstrap, Lillian Tynes, Marva Barnes, Phil Perry and Phillip Ingram. These talented musicians and vocalists played their part in the sound, and hopefully, the success of East, when it was released in 1989.

When East was released in 1989, it was to plaudits and praise, as critics welcomed an album where Hiroshima celebrate their Asian roots. However, East was also an album where Hiroshima continued to fuse Asian and American influences on what was a slick, carefully crafted and genre-melting music.

On East, Hiroshima combined tradition Western and Eastern instruments with the technology that was transforming music. Synths and drum machines were deployed effectively on East, where Hiroshima combined everything from AOR and avant-garde, to electronica, funk, jazz, New Age, pop, R & B and rock. The result is an album where East meets West musically.

East opens with Midtown Higashi where a recordings of everyday city life gives way to what’s best described as an avant-garde, New Age instrumental. It’s followed by another instrumental, East where Hiroshima celebrate the cultural diversity of America in 1989. In doing so, that combine traditional Eastern instruments and influences with elements of electronica, funk, jazz and rocky guitar licks. Tabo makes Machum’s debut on this smooth and  soulful sounding track where the new vocalist delivers one of the best vocals on the album. Machum returns on Living In America where her heartfelt vocal adds the finishing touch to this fusion jazz, funk and rock. With its carefully crafted, slick sound where East meets West, Daydreamer, a beautiful, memorable instrumental almost heads in the direction of smooth jazz.

The tempo rises on The Golden Age, as Machum takes charge of the lead vocal. It veers between tender and impassioned to coquettish, but is always soulful. Streetcorner Paradise is another instrumental and again, and floats along its slick and smooth sound a successful marriage of Eastern and Western influences. On the beautiful ballad Come To Me, Machum combines emotion and sincerity as she delivers a soulful vocal masterclass while  Japanese instruments add the finishing touches to this cross cultural collaboration. Straight away, You and Me has a real eighties sound, but it’s a track that has stood the test of time. Maybe that is due to the fusion of Eastern and Western instruments and influences that play their part in this musical potpourri?  Closing East, is Thousand Cranes a poignant and thought-provoking song that originality featured in the play San Se. 

When East was released in 1989, the album stalled at 105 in the US Billboard 200, and failed to even trouble the US R&B charts. This was a huge disappointment for Hiroshima as this carefully crafted album was slick, melodic and had many memorable radio friendly songs. East was the one that one that got away for Hiroshima, who really needed their seventh album Providence, to be a success.

Providence.

Following the disappointing sales of East, Hiroshima weren’t tempted to rush out their seventh album Providence. Instead, it was three years before they returned with the followup East. Providence, the members of Hiroshima must have known was the most important album of their career. They only owed Epic one more album, and if Providence wasn’t a commercial success there was every chance that their contract wouldn’t be renewed. There was no sentiment in music, even though two of the four album Hiroshima released for Epic had been certified gold. For Hiroshima Providence was make or break.

This time around, Dan Kuramoto wrote five of the ten tracks and cowrote the other two. He also wrote Time On The Nile with Kimo Cornwell, while the pair wrote Island World with Dean Cortez. The other track on Providence was the June Kuramoto composition Turning Point was joined by a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Ribbon In The Sky Just and Diane Louie’s One Of Us. Just like the rest of the album, these cover versions were recorded in familiar surroundings.

Despite East’s failure to match the sales of Another Place and Go, recording again took place at Sunset Sound Factory and Sunset Sound Factory in LA. By then, Hiroshima was a seven piece band with bassist and backing vocalist Dean Cortez; keyboardist Kimo Cornwell who played and programmed synths joining new vocalist Jeanette Clinger, who had beaten off stiff competition to become  Hiroshima’s new vocalist. However, the newcomer had a lot to live up to after Machum’s contributions on East.

As recording began, founder, bandleader, producer and keyboardist Dan Kuramoto programmed and played synths, flutes, saxophones, shakuhochi and added backing vocals. Danny Yamamoto played drums and taiko; June Kuramoto played koto and shamisen, while Johnny Mori played taiko and percussion. The new lineup seven pice of Hiroshima was augmented by a guitarist Allen Hinds and percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia when Providence was recorded. 

Prior to the release of Providence in 1992, critics had their say on Hiroshima’s seventh album. Just like East, the album caught the imagination of critics who were won over by Hiroshima’s first album in three years.

Opening Providence Time Of The Nile, which dedicated to Miles Davis, and was a track he would’ve approved of as it seems to have been inspired by his 1986 comeback album Miles. It starts off as an atmospheric and dreamy mood piece, before becoming a jazz workout that allows Hiroshima’s new lineup to showcase their considerable skills. The ballad Cry Of The Sea finds new vocalist Jeanette Clinger making her Hiroshima debut as she delivers a tender, heartfelt and wistful vocal. By the end of the song, it looks like Hiroshima have found the perfect replacement for Machum. Slow, smooth and carefully crafted describes the ruminative sounding Turning Point which allows time for reflection.  Gradually, the instrumental reveals its secrets as Hiroshima combine American and Japanese as the arrangement builds before reaching a memorable crescendo. 

It’s all change on Island World where the tempo rises as musical shape shifters Hiroshima flit between Caribbean influences and Latin jazz. In doing so, they pay homage to the many Latin musicians they played alongside in LA.

Very different is the ballad Ribbon In The Sky, which features Jeanette Clinger at her most soulful. This she does against a slow, subtle arrangement which sometimes, becomes jazz-tinged before Hiroshima fuse American and Japanese influences. With This Heart heads in the direction as Jeanette Clinger picks up where she left off on Ribbon In The Sky and plays a starring role. Meanwhile, Dan Kuramoto’s scorching saxophone and Dean Cortez’s slapped bass play supporting roles on one of the highlights of Providence.  So too is the rueful dreamy, shimmering sounding instrumental Autumn Moon. It gives way to Kazen a short soundscape that lasts just forty-one seconds and acts as a bridge to Providence, which marks the return of Jeanette Clinger. Her powerhouse of a vocal reflects on the subjects of fate and destiny, while the arrangement is variously funky, rocky, percussive and jazz-tinged.

It’s as if Hiroshima are determined to end the album on a high. They do with One Of Us which was a stirring and inspirational anthem-in-waiting which ended the album on a high. Surely this would lead to a change in Hiroshima’s fortunes?

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. When Providence was released in 1992, the album was a commercial failure, neither troubling the US Billboard 200 nor the US R&B charts. For Hiroshima, this was the end of the road at Epic. They decided to leave Epic, as they had fulfilled their contractual obligations.

The Epic years had been the most successful of Hiroshima’s career, and saw 1985s Another Place and 1987s Go certified gold. Sadly, Hiroshima were unable to build on this, and neither East nor Providence enjoyed the same success. Instead, East and Providence which were recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records as a two CD set, feature two underrated hidden gems from Hiroshima’s back-catalogue. 

Both East and Providence are carefully crafted albums from Hiroshima, a multitalented band. They combined traditional Western and Asian instruments with the latest in musical technology on both East and Providence. This rested in Hiroshima’s innovative genre-melting sound that incorporated everything from ambient and avant-garde, to funk, fusion and jazz-funk, to pop, R&B and rock. There’s even diversions via electronic, New Age and tech-funk while Hiroshima incorporate elements of Asian and Japanese music to their music. Sadly, despite the music on East and Providence being of the highest quality, it failed commercially. For Hiroshima it was the end of an era.

Hiroshima left Epic after the commercial failure of their seventh album Providence. When they returned with their eighth album LA in 1994, they had signed to Qwest Records which was a join venture between Warner Bros and sixty-one year old Quincy Jones. Sadly, for Hiroshima, they never enjoyed the same success at Qwest Records than they had at Epic, which was where they enjoyed the most successful period of their long and illustrious career.

Of the five albums Hiroshima released on Epic, 1985s Another Place and 1987s Go critically were by far the most successful. However, East and Providence are two underrated and oft-overlooked hidden gems which features the multitalented Hiroshima at their most versatile as they flit between anthems-in-waiting to tender ballad and uptempo dance tracks.

Hiroshima-East and Providence.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2017-PART 1.

Best New Albums Of 2017-Part 1.

At this time of year, the lists of the best albums of the previous year are published. This year, I’ve delved deep into the all the releases from 2017 and picked my 100 Best New Albums Of 2017.

1982-Chromola.

Label: Hubro Music.

Norwegian power trio 1982 celebrated their tenth anniversary with the release of their fifth album Chromola. It’s an almost flawless album that is a genre-melting roller coaster that sometimes, takes on a liturgical sound. That is no surprise as Chromola was recorded in a church. The result was a captivating, ambitious and innovative album of multilayered, cinematic soundscapes that are full of textures, nuances and subtleties whew 1982 they continue to rewrite the musical rulebook in their quest to create groundbreaking music. This succeed in doing do on Chromola, which is a career-defining album from 1982.

A Projection-Framework.

Label: Tapete Records.

Framework was formed in 2013 and in 2015, released their critically acclaimed debut Exit. Two years later and Stockholm based A Projection returned in 2017 with Framework their much-anticipated sophomore album Framework. It’s a fusion of eighties electronica, indie rock and post punk that has been influenced Depeche Mode, New Order, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Cult and The Cure. These influences play their part in the sound and success of Framework hook-laden where anthems sit side-by-side with beautiful ballads and eighties inspired tracks.

Addictive TV-Orchestra Of Samples.

Label: K7!

Recording and producing Addictive TV’s debut album Orchestra Of Samples has been a labour of love for production duo Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler. They spent five years travelling far and wide, visiting over twenty-five  countries to record with hundreds of local musicians to create the source material for Orchestra Of Samples. These recordings were then sampled by Addictive TV, and eventually, became part of Orchestra Of Samples. It’s an exchange of musical ideas that features musicians from five continents. who join Addictive TV, and achieve Unity Through Music, on Orchestra Of Samples, which features a myriad of master musicians, including The American and a Sitar Hero, who help weave this vibrant musical tapestry.

Alice Coltrane-World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda.

Label: Luaka Bop.

All too often, Alice Coltrane is referred to as “John Coltrane’s wife.”  However, Alice Coltrane was also a talented pianist and composer who later, became a spiritual leader. Sadly, the death of her soul mate affected Alice Coltrane so badly that she suffered sleepless nights and lost so much weight that she weighed just ninety-five pounds. Sometimes, Alice Coltrane experienced hallucinations and thought trees spoke, believed beings existed on astral planes, and the sounds of: “a planetary ether” spun through her brain, and knocked her into what was a frightening unconsciousness. Despite all this pain and suffering, Alice Coltrane was one of the finest exponents of Indian spiritual music in a Western context. Proof of this can be heard on World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda which showcases a true musical visionary…Alice Coltrane.

Andreas Spechti-Thinking About Tomorrow, And How To Build It.

Label: Bureau B.

Not many people travel halfway around the world to record their debut album. However, Andreas Spechti decided to do so, and spent two months recording Thinking About Tomorrow, And How To Build It in Tehran. That was hugely risky, and at any time he risked arrest. Despite that, he spent his time fusing elements of electronica and contemporary dance music with avant-garde, ambient, experimental, improv, industrial, jazz and musique concrète. These genres are part of the carefully crafted and captivating musical tapestry that is Thinking About Tomorrow, And How To Build It, which will always be a reminder of the two month period that sonic explorer and adventurer Andreas Spechti spent in Tehran, during the winter of 2016/17.

Ane Brun-Leave Me Breathless.

Label: Balloon Ranger Recordings.

Ane Brun’s solo career began in 2003, and fifteen years later, she’s one of the most successful Norwegian singer-songwriters. Last year,Ane Brun, released her eighth studio album Leave Me Breathless which was an album of cover versions where she reinvents songs by Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Nick Cave, Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams and songs made famous by Foreigner, The Righteous Brothers and Radiohead. These songs are transformed and take on new life and meaning as Ane Brun redefines these familiar songs Leave Me Breathless which is the best album of  cover versions released during 2017.

Anneli Drecker-Revelation For Personal Use.

Label: Rune Grammofon. 

Thirty-years after coming to prominence as the lead singer of the Norwegian band Bel Canto, Anneli Drecker released her fourth solo album Revelation For Personal Use. It’s a career defining album from Anneli Drecker that surpasses the quality of 2015s Rocks and Straws. That was never going to be easy as Rocks and Straws had set the bar high for future albums. However, the Queen of Arctic Electronica, Anneli Drecker, rose to challenge and returned with her musical Magnus Opus, Revelation For Personal Use, which features music that ranges from memorable and melodic, to anthemic to heartbreakingly beautiful.

Anouar Brahem-Blue Maqams.

Label: ECM Records.

When Blue Maqams was recorded in New York’s Avatar Studios in May 2017, Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem was joined by a triumvirate of top improvisers Django Bates, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. While the trio had collaborated many times over the past twenty years, Blue Maqams was a special album for Anouar Brahem. Blue Maqams.was his first album to feature a jazz rhythm section since 1995s Khomsa. With such prestigious players accompanying him, Anouar Brahem played with a newfound freedom. It was if he was being encouraged to new heights on Blue Maqams, which is a captivating, game-changing improv opus for oud master Anouar Bahem.

Astrid Kuljanic Transatlantic Exploration Company-Riva.

Label: One Trick Dog Records.

Riva is also a truly eclectic album that features eight tracks where the Astrid Kuljanic Transatlantic Exploration Company flit between jazz standards to Brazilian samba and Bossa Bova, to traditional Croatian songs from island paradise of Cres. Seamlessly, the versatile and talented Astrid Kuljanic Transatlantic Exploration Company switch between Caribbean and Brazilian beats and also soul-baring ballads and joyous uptempo romps. Regardless of whichever genre of music the Astrid Kuljanic Transatlantic Exploration Company is playing on their debut album Riva, they play with energy, immediacy and spontaneity on album where the music is beautiful, joyous, ruminative and uplifting. 

Arve Henriksen-Towards Language.

Label: Rune Grammofon.

Pioneering Norwegian jazz trumpeter Arve Henriksen returned in 2017 with his ninth solo album Towards Language, which was described by some critics as a jazz album. However, Towards Language is much more than a jazz album, and is a genre-melting epic. Arve Henriksen and his band combined elements of ambient, avant-garde, with electronic, experimental, improv industrial music and even modern classical and free jazz. The result is a truly groundbreaking and thoroughly modern album where electronics instruments, samples and found sounds accompany Arve Henriksen’s trumpet and allow it to shine as he continues to make tomorrow’s music, today.

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2017-PART 2.

Best New Albums Of 2017-Part 2.

Ben Lukas Boysen and Sebastian Plano-Everything.

Label: Erased Tapes Records.

When it came for games designer David O’Reilly to commission composers to produce the score for Everything, he turned to German composers Ben Lukas Boysen and Sebastian Plano who were tasked with producing a sprawling four-hour, immersive soundtrack. This would provide the backdrop to a game about perspective and the interconnectivity of all life. To create the soundtrack to the game, Ben Lukas Boysen and Sebastian Plano drew upon their vast experience in creating stirring ambient soundscapes and evocative themes using a variety of acoustic and electronic sources. These are their musical palette, which they’ve put to good use over the years. That is the case on Everything, which showcases lush, ambient soundscapes where the music is ethereal, elegiac, rich in texture and cinematic. Ben Lukas Boysen and Sebastian Plano’s music sets both the gamer and the listener’s imagination racing, as they embark on journey that is Everything.

Bjorn Mayer-Provenance

Label: ECM Records.

Ever since Manfred Eicher founded ECM Records, his label had released many solo bass albums. However, until the release of Bjorn Mayer’s Provenance, ECM Records had never released an album where the electric bass takes centre-stage. The Swedish bassist, whose now based in Switzerland, recorded Provenance at the Auditorio Stello Molo RSI in Lugano. This was the perfect place to record a Provenance, as Bjorn Mayer knew the importance of the “room.” It proved extremely responsive space and helps bring out the subtleties and nuances in Bjorn Mayer’s landmark album Provenance which proves that sometimes, less is more.

Black Moon Circle-Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension

Label: Crispin Glover Records.

In mid-2015 Trondheim-based Black Moon Circle announced their intention to release three albums of Studio Jamms. Just over two years later, they returned with the final instalment in this critically acclaimed series, Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension. It’s another ambitious, genre-melting adventure into sound with Black Moon Circle, and is their hardest rocking and the finest album of their five-year career. Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension is a reminder that the future of rock is in safe hands, thanks to groups like Black Moon Circle, with their pioneering and hard rocking brand of psychedelic space rock.

Brockmann//Bargmann-Licht.

Label: Bureau B.

When Brockmann//Bargmann released their debut album Licht in 2017, this was the start of a new chapter for the duo. who  had previously recorded together as Camera. Their influence can be heard on Licht. So can the influence of Brockmann//Bargmann’s contemporaries Ulrich Schnauss and Rival Consoles, plus Kluster, Cluster, Qluster, Harmonia, Neu! and Kraftwerk. However, for much of Licht, sonic pioneers Brockmann//Bargmann set about forging their own unique and inimitable sound on Licht. It finds Brockmann//Bargmann pushing musical boundaries on Licht, which an ambitious album of inventive, innovative and imaginative soundscapes.

Brian Eno-Reflection.

Label: Warp.

As 2017 dawned, Brian Eno described his latest album: “Reflection is the latest work in a long series.” He’s unsure when this series started. That is no surprise as Brian Eno has been a musical pioneers since the dawn of his career. Whether it was with Roxy Music, Fripp and Eno or when collaborating with Cluster and Harmonia he has created ambitious albums of innovative music. That is the case with Reflection, which features a fifty-four minute epic soundscape from ambient pioneer Brian Eno that offers time to reflect and ruminate.

Brutter-Reveal And Rise. 

Label: Hubro Music.

Brothers Christian Wallumrød and Fredrik Wallumrød have both forged successful music careers since graduating from the Jazz Program at Trondheim Musikkonservatorium. Much of their time is spent working with other musicians. However, the brothers reunited to record Brutter’s sophomore album Reveal And Rise. Brutter manipulates an array of sounds whilst using sonic trickery and sleight of hands as they pose a series of questions and challenge musical norms? Brutter also let imagination run riot on Reveal and Rise, an album of anti-techno that is ambitious, cerebral, innovative, playful, witty and engaging.

Cakewalk-Ishihara.

Label: Hubro Music.

Three years after the release of Cakewalk’s critically acclaimed sophomore album Transfixed, the Norwegian supergroup returned in 2017 with their much-anticipated, third album, Ishihara. It finds musical mavericks Cakewalk at their innovative best, on what’s without doubt, their most ambitious album of carefully sculpted soundscapes. To create them, Cakewalk deploy traditional instruments, synths, plus a myriad of special effects and samples. They become part of Cakewalk’s carefully crafted musical tapestry, Ishihara. It’s a genre-sprawling, vibrant, cinematic epic from sonic explorers Cakewalk, who reach new heights on their much-anticipated third album Ishihara.

Carbon Based Lifeforms-Derelicts.

Label: Blood Music.

After a five-year wait, Göteborg-based ambient psychedelia pioneers Carbon Based Lifeforms returned with Derelicts, their carefully crafted comeback album. It featured soundscapes that veer between cerebral and ruminative while others are futuristic and otherworldly and dreamy, elegiac and ethereal. Some are dramatic and urgent, others edgy and trippy, but like the rest of are captivating cinematic. Sometimes, Carbon Based Lifeforms throw a curveball, and soundscapes head in unexpected directions, before normality is restored as they continue to take the listener on a lysergic magical mystery tour which features surprises aplenty for the unsuspecting listener.

Chip Wickham-La Sombra.

Label: Lovemonk Records.

While Chip Wickham’s career began twenty-five years ago, there was one thing he still had to do, release a debut album. This changed in early 2017, he released his long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album La Sombra. From the opening bars of La Sombra to the closing notes of La Leyenda Del Tiempo, Chip Wickham and a tight, talented band that feature some of Madrid’s top jazz musicians never miss a beat. They showcase their considerable talents on La Sombra, which was the much-anticipated debut album of one of Britain’s top reed men, Chip Wickham, as rekindles his love of jazz.

 

BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2017-PART 3.

Best New Albums Of 2017-Part 3.

Cluster-Konzerte 1972-1977. 

Label: Bureau B.

Although Cluster released seven studio albums between 1971 and 1979, they were also a legendary live band, whose marathon concerts usually lasted six hours or more. Sadly, Cluster never released a live album during the seventies. The nearest most people got to hearing Cluster live was when they heard Live In der Fabrik, a fifteen minute epic that featured on Cluster II in 1972. Since then, Cluster have never released an album of live material from the seventies. That was until the release of Konzerte 1972-1977, which features recordings from two Cluster concerts. These recordings are a tantalising reminder of what Cluster live in the seventies sounded like. Konzerte 1972-1977 is the musical equivalent of time travel, and transports the listener back to seventies, when Cluster was in their musical prime.

Conrad Schnitzler/Schneider-Con-Struct.

Label: Bureau B.

Just over five years after the death of Conrad Schnitzler, the fourth instalment in the Con-Struct series was released. This time, it was a collaboration between Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM. As collaborations go, it’s truly compelling and captivating project that resulted in an album of cinematic soundscapes. They were constructed by Schneider TM using sounds from Conrad Schnitzler’s vast archive that was assembled over four decades. Schneider TM delved deep into the archives in search of sounds and inspiration, and found plenty of both. These sounds were used to construct the fourth and best instalment of the Con-Struct series.

Danish String Quartet-Last Leaf.

Label: ECM Records.

Nowadays, the Danish String Quartet is regarded by many critics as the most exciting young string quartets in Europe, if not the world. They’ve been breathing new life and meaning into contemporary compositions and the classical repertoire. However, when the Danish String Quartet released their debut album Wood Works in 2014 it was a foray into Nordic folk music. So too, is the Danish String Quartet’s much-anticipated sophomore album Last Leaf. It’s another captivating and near flawless foray into the world of Nordic folk music from the Danish String Quartet who further enhanced their reputation on Last Leaf.

David Virelles, Ramon Diaz and Nosotros Ensemble-Gnosis.

Label: ECM Records.

Nowadays, Chilean composer and pianist David Virelles calls New York home. That was where he recorded Gnosis, at Avatar Studios in May 2016. It’s an album which was inspired by various cultures, and where David Virelles explores transculturation and traditions, and also the complexities of Cuban music. This includes the sacred, secular and ritualistic. However, the music on Gnosis could only have been written by a truly talented modern musician whose able to look at the music from an improviser’s point of view. His ability to do so, results in a fascinating album where David Virelles sees the musicians as “several families functioning within one unit: this dynamic symbolises multicultural interaction.” This is interesting, ambitious, exciting and thought-provoking concept and an exceptional album of improv.

Der Plan-Unkapitulierbar.

Label: Bureau B.

Last year, Der Plan embarked upon the next chapter of a story that began in 1979, when the band was formed. By 1992, the three members of Der Plan found that their business was taking up so much of their time, that it was overshadowing their music. Sadly, Der Plan never released another album until 2017, when they returned after a twenty-five years with Unkapitulierbar It’s magical mystery tour, where the music veers between melodic and memorable to dark and dramatic to dreamy and lysergic. Other times, it’s dubby, otherworldly and cinematic. Always though, the music is ambitious, and it’s impossible to second guess Der Plan. They throw curveball and spring surprises during Unkapitulierbar which marks the welcome return of comeback kings Der Plan.

Dieter Moebius-Musik für Metropolis.

Label: Bureau B.

After Dieter Moebius was invited to perform music to accompany a screening of Fritz Lang’s legendary silent film Metropolis, he decided to record a full-length album featuring the music from the Metropolis project. Recording began in 2012, but wasn’t completed by the time of Dieter Moebius’ death in 2015. That wasn’t the end of the project, and three of Dieter Moebius’ friends completed Musik für Metropolis. They played their part in soundscapes that were atmospheric, dramatic, futuristic, melodic, menacing, mesmeric, poignant and full of tension. Always the filmic music on Musik für Metropolis captivates and compels as Dieter Moebius paints pictures with music.

DJ Vadim and Blackstone–Double Sided

Label: BBE. 

Just three years after Blackstone made her debut on DJ Vadim’s Dubcatcher album, the pair have equal billing on Double Sided. This is reminder of why Blackstone is regarded as one of music’s rising stars. Proof if any was needed is Double Sided, where Blackstone’s vocals veer between traditional soul and Nu Soul. Meanwhile, DJ Vadim leashes an array of drum machines, synths and guitars, which are augmented by guest artists. They play their part in the sound and success of Double Sided which is without doubt one of DJ Vadim’s best albums. The reason for this is the addition of Katrina Blackstone, who steps out of the shadows and takes centre-stage and plays a starring role on Double Sided, the much-anticipated collaboration between DJ Vadim and Blackstone. 

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf-Krautwerk.

Label: Bureau B. 

Although Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskop are now two of German music’s elder statesmen, Krautwerk shows that they’re still capable of creating ambitious, innovative and genre-melting music. It veers between anthemic, joyous uplifting, to dark, moody and broody, and other times dramatic, futuristic and mesmeric. Krautwerk is also psychedelic, cinematic and always captivates as contemporary and futuristic music combine. Sometimes, Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf make the music of tomorrow, today on Krautwerk, an album of carefully crafted cinematic soundscapes. 

Eivind Opsvik-Overseas V.

Label: Loyal Label.

When Eivind Opsvik returned with Overseas V last year, it was an ambitious, inventive, innovative and genre-melting music. He was  accompanied by his band Overseas as they fused disparate musical genres including everything from avant-garde and art rock to free jazz funk and fusion and even, post punk and progressive jazz. The result was a captivating musical journey where the soundscapes are concise and immediate. They’re also atmospheric, edgy, challenging, melodic, hook-laden and rhythmic. While rhythm is more important than melody and atmosphere on Overseas V, the music is still cinematic on what’s Eivind Opsvik’s finest hour.

Erik Honoré-Unrest. 

Label: Hubro Music.

Although Erik Honoré’s career has spanned four decades, he only released his debut album Heliographs in 2014. Three-years later, and Erik Honoré returns with his eagerly awaited sophomore album Unrest. It’s another ambitious album of imaginative, innovative and influential music as befits one of the leading lights of the Norwegian music scene. However, Erik Honoré reaches new heights on Unrest, which is a captivating album which feature a mixture of intensity, darkness, drama, emotion and ethereal beauty, that sometimes, features a ruminative sound that invites reflection as one of Norwegian music’s pioneers, paints pictures with his cinematic soundscapes.