MAXINE BROWN-THE BEST OF THE WAND YEARS-VINYL.

Maxine Brown-The Best Of The Wand Years-Vinyl.

Label: Kent.

In 1960, twenty-one year old Maxine Brown signed to the small, New York-based Nomar label who released her All in My Mind. The deep soul ballad which was written by Maxine Brown and reached nineteen in the US Billboard 100 and number two on the US R&B  charts. Buoyed by this success, Maxine Brown released Funny which reached twenty-five  on the US Billboard 100 and number three on the US R&B  charts. By them, critics and industry insiders had high hopes for the former member of The Angelairs and The Royaltone.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and by the time Maxine Brown signed to Swan Records in 1963, she had only enjoyed one further minor hit single. This was My Time For Cryin’, which stalled at a lowly ninety-eight on the US Billboard 100. 

Despite this Swan Records were keen to sign Maxine Brown, and soon, she was in the studio recording her debut single for her new label. This was Ask Me, which was released in March 1963 and  reached seventy-five on the US Billboard 100. Tucked away on the B-Side was the soulful ballad Yesterday’s Kisses. where strings and growling horns accompany Maxine Brown’s impassioned vocal. Ask Me which features on The Best Of The Wand Years, which has been released by Kent on vinyl. This is a welcome reissue .

Seven months later, in October 1963, Maxine Brown released the soulful dancer Little Girl Lost, which failed to chart. Despite that it’s a welcome addition to The Best Of The Wand Years.

Coming Back To You was released as a single in early 1964, and stalled at ninety-nine on the US Billboard 100. On the B-Side was the hidden gem Since I Found,which features a defiant vocal from Maxine Brown.

In April 1964, Maxine Brown returned with I Cry Alone, which also failed to chart. However, Maxine Brown’s next single On No Not My Baby reached twenty-four in the US Billboard 100 and became synonymous with her in years to come.

The followup It’s Gonna Be Alright, was released in January 1965, but stalled at fifty-six, while reaching twenty-four in the US R&B charts. Maxine Brown was back with another hit single One Step At A Time a slick slice of poppy soul was released in May 1965 and reached fifty-five in the US Billboard 100. 

Maxine Brown released the album Spotlight On Maxine Brown during 1965. It featured familiar songs like Ask Me, I Cry Alone and Oh No Not My Baby. Another song that featured on Spotlight On Maxine Brown was the Van McCoy penned soulful dancer  I Wonder What My Baby’s Doing Tonight and Gotta Find A Way

Sox months later, If You Gotta Make a Fool Of Somebody, which was released in November 1965 but reached just sixty-three in the US Billboard 100.

Seven months later, I Don’t Need Anything was released in June 1966, but failed to chart. Hidden away on the B-Side was Let Me Give You My Lovin’ which nowadays, is a favourite on the rare soul scene. Another single from 1966 was One In A Million, which was penned by Rudy Clark and is one of finest singles Maxine Brown released on Wand Records.

Not everything Maxine Brown recorded was released and when The Best Of The Wand Years was being compiled a trio of dance tracks were found. This includes a version of I Want A Guarantee with an alternative vocal), the Otis Redding produced stomper It’s Torture and  Baby Cakes. These hidden gems are a reminder of Maxine Brown, during her Wand Records’ years when she released the best music of her career.

For vinyl lovers, The Best Of The Wand Years which has just been released on Kent, is the perfect introduction to some of Maxine Brown. It features hits, hidden gems, B-Sides, album tracks and unreleased dance tracks from Maxine Brown, who was at the peak of her powers as a recording artist at Wand Records. Proof of that can be found on The Best Of The Wand Years which features fourteen slices of soulful music from Maxine Brown whose enjoyed a six decade career and is still going strong.

Maxine Brown-The Best Of The Wand Years-Vinyl.

MOGWAI-THE STORY SO FAR.

Mogwai-The Story So Far.

The Mogwai story which began in 1991, when Stuart Braithwaite and Dominic Aitchison met in Scotland’s musical capital, Glasgow. Four years later, they met drummer Martin Bulloch and formed Mogwai, which film buffs will remember, is a character from the movie Gremlins. Mogwai was always meant as a temporary name, until they came up with something better.  

Later in 1995,  three become four when guitarist John Cummings joined Mogwai. Since then, John Cummings’ role in Mogwai has changed, and he’s now described as  playing “guitar and laptop,” and is regarded as the maestro when it comes to all things technical. However, not long after John Cummings joined Mogwai in 1995, the nascent band started honing their sound and making plans for the future.

In 1996, Mogwai founded their own record label Rock Action Records. It would play an important part in the rise and rise of Mogwai over the next twenty-one years.  So would Mogwai’s Castle Of Doom Studios, which was cofounded by Mogwai and Tony Doogan in 2005. It’s situated in  the West End of Glasgow, and is a home from home for Mogwai, when they record a new album. That was still to come.

Before that, Mogwai released their debut single Tuner on their newly founded label Rock Action Records. Tuner was released to critical acclaim and the NME awarded it their single of the week award. Later in 1996, Mogwai released two further singles.  Angels v. Aliens and Summer. By then, Mogwai were well on their way to becoming  one of the hottest bands of the late nineties.

Mogwai’s career continued apace in 1997, when they released two more singles.The first of these, was New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1, which  showed Mogwai growing and maturing as a band. NME agreed, and just like their  debut single Tuner, New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1 won NME’s single of the week award. The followup Club Beatroot  was also well received by critics. This was the perfect time for Mogwai to record their debut album, Mogwai Young Team.

Mogwai Young Team.

For Mogwai Young Team, Mogwai brought onboard Brendan O’Hare the Teenage Fanclub’s drummer. Another guest artist was Aidan Moffat of Falkirk based band Arab Strap. He added the vocal to R U Still In 2 It, while the rest of Mogwai Young Team consisted of instrumentals. Mogwai Young Team was recorded at Chem 19 studios and produced by two of  Scotland’s top producers, ex-Delgado Paul Savage and Andy Miller. Once Mogwai Young Team was completed, it was then released on Scotland’s  biggest record label, Chemikal Underground Records.

Before its release, Mogwai Young Team was a hailed as a groundbreaking album of post-rock by critics. They were won over by Mogwai Young Team, and Mogwai were hailed as a band with a big future. 

That proved to be a perceptive forecast. When Mogwai Young Team was released on 21st October 1997, sold over 30,000 copies and reached number seventy-five in the UK. The Mogwai Young Team were on their way. However, a few changes were about to take place.

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Come On Die Young.

A year later, Mogwai were back in the studio recording their sophomore album Come On Die Young. Much had changed. A new member had joined the band, Barry Buns a flautist and sometimes pianist, who had already played a few gigs with the band. He was invited to become the fifth member of Mogwai.  Not long after this, violinist Luke Sutherland joined Mogwai, but not on a full-time basis. This wasn’t the only change.

Recording of what became Come On Die Young was split between New York and Glasgow. This time, they’d forsaken Chem 19 in Blantyre and recorded parts of the album in Rarbox Road Studios, New York. Some sessions took place in Glasgow’s Cava Studios. Producing Come On Die Young was Dave Fridman. For some critics, his addition changed Mogwai’s sound.

Some critics felt his production style resulted in a much more orthodox sounding album. However, others felt that Come On Die You was part of Mogwai discovering their “sound” and direction. Come On Die Young is a much more understated, but also ambient, experimental, multi-textured and melodic. There’s a fusion of ambient, grunge and post rock on Come On Die Young, which was released in 29th March 1999. 

On its release, Come On Die Young  reached number twenty-nine in the UK. Mogwai it seemed  were now on their way to finding their sound and fulfilling the potential that was evident on their debut album. This was apparent with tracks of the quality of  CODY and Hugh Dallas s. However, like all innovative bands, Mogwai continued to reinvent their music.

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This proved to the case on their eponymous E.P, which  includes Stanley Kubrick, which was recorded in the exotic surroundings of Cowdenbeath in  Fife. Burn Girl Prom Queen was recorded at Cava Studios, in Mogwai’s hometown of Glasgow. These two tracks were part of E.P., which further enhanced Mogwai’s reputation as post rock pioneers. So did their third album Rock Action.

Rock Action.

Mogwai’s music continued to evolve on their third album 2001s Rock Action. More use was made of electronics on Rock Action. This was part of a process that would continue over the next few albums. There were even more layers and textures on Rock Action, as Mogwai continued to expand their sonic palette. Seven of the songs were instrumentals, while Dial Revenge featured Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals. Again, Rock Action was produced by Dave Fridman, while recording took place in New York and at Glasgow’s Cava Studios. Once Rock Action was completed, it became Mogwai’s first album to be released on Play It Again Sam.

Rock Action was released in April 2001, and proved to be Mogwai’s most successful album. It reached number twenty-three in the UK. Critics remarked upon how Rock Action wasn’t as dark an album as its predecessors. That didn’t mean that Mogwai’s view of the world had changed. They were still worldweary which   would become a Mogwai trademark.

Six months after the release of Rock Action, Mogwai returned with another single, The My Father My King. It was released in October 2001, and was described “as the companion piece to Rock Action.” A sticker on the cover bore Mogwai’s description of the single as: “two parts serenity and one part death metal.” That was about to change. Soon, they’d be happy people writing happy songs and making a breakthrough into the American market.

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Happy Songs For Happy People.

Happy Songs For Happy People was released in 2003, and Mogwai’s evolution continued. Their music continued further down the electronic road. While Mogwai still deployed electric guitars and a drummer, synths were playing a more important role in Mogwai’s music. So were the addition of strings and a piano. They played their part in what was a much more understated album. Part of this change in style was a change of producer.

Tony Doogan was brought onboard as producer, and replaced Dave Fridman. Gone were transatlantic recording sessions. Happy Songs For Happy People was recorded at Cava Sound Studios, Glasgow. On its release in June 2003, Happy Songs For Happy People was well received by critics. Critics drew attention to I Know You Are But What Am I? and Hunted By A Freak,  two of the album’s highlights. The critics also welcomed Mogwai’s latest change in style. So did record buyers. 

While Happy Songs For Happy People only reached number forty-seven in the UK, it spent a week in the American charts, reaching number 182 in the US Billboard 200. After four albums, Mogwai had broken into the American market. Happy Songs For Happy People it seemed, was a landmark album.

Having made inroads into the lucrative American market, Mogwai didn’t rush their fifth album. It was released three years after Happy Songs For Happy People. There’s a reason for this. They were working on tree separate projects. 

The first was their fifth album Mr. Beast. Then there was the first soundtrack they’d written and recorded. This was for the 2006 movie Zidane: A 21st Century Soundtrack. Mogwai also collaborated with Clint Mansell on the soundtrack to The Fountain. Although soundtracks were a nice sideline for Mogwai, their fifth album Mr. Beast was of huge importance. Especially, if it was a commercial success in America.

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Mr. Beast.

Recording of Mr. Beast took place at Mogwai’s new studio, Castle Of Doom Studios in Glasgow. Co-producing Mr.Beast with Mogwai, was Tony Doogan. Between April and October 2005, Mogwai honed their fifth album, and after six months, Mr. Beast was complete. It was Mogwai’s most important album.

Everyone realised the importance of Mr. Beast. Mogwai were on a verge of breaking into the American market. Happy Songs for Happy People had got Mogwai’s foot in the door of the American market. Now was the time for the Mogwai Young Team to kick the door of its hinged, and make their presence felt.  That was what Mogwai intended to do with tracks like Travel Is Dangerous, Friend Of The Night and We’re No Here. They featured Mogwai at their innovative and creative best. This trio of tracks were part of an album that would please critics, Mr. Beast.

On its release, it was mostly, to critical acclaim. Critics were fascinated at how Mogwai’s music continued to evolve. For Mogwai, standing still was going backwards. Record buyers agreed and expected Mogwai to continually release groundbreaking and innovative. That was what Mogwai delivered.

When Mr. Beast was released on 5th March 2006, record buyers found an album of groundbreaking and innovative music. It climbed thirty-one in the UK. Across the Atlantic, Mr. Beast reached number 128 in the US Billboard 200. Mogwai were now one of Scotland’s most successful musical exports. They were certainly well on their way to becoming Scotland’s most innovative band. This was a title they weren’t going to give up without a fight. 

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Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.

Following the release of Mr. Beast, the other two projects that Mogwai had been working on, were released. The first was Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. This was project that came about in late 2005, when artist Douglas Gordon asked Mogwai to write and record a soundtrack to a film he was making about footballer Zinedine Zidane. This was Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Having heard the details of the project, it didn’t take Mogwai long agree to provide the soundtrack  to Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, which gave them their entry into the world of soundtracks.  

Mogwai grasped this opportunity, and recorded Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait at their Castle Of Doom Studios. During the sessions, Mogwai recorded ten tracks, which were produced by Tony Doogan. However, when the soundtrack was released, it came baring a secret.

This was the hidden track Untitled, which was a twenty-three minute epic, that  featured Mogwai at their most inventive. That was the case throughout Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Most critics realised this. However, a few didn’t seem to ‘get’ Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Despite the slings and arrows of the critics that didn’t get Mogwai’s introduction into the world of soundtracks, the critics that mattered gave Mogwai the recognition they deserved when Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait was released on 30th October 2006. Then less than a month later, the soundtrack to The Fountain was released on 27th November 2006.

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The Fountain.

The Fountain was a collaboration between contemporary classic composer Clint Mansell, string quartet the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai. To some onlookers, it looked like an unlikely collaboration. That wasn’t the case though.

Mogwai had spent December 2005 locked away in their Castle Of Doom Studios with producer Tony Doogan. Other parts of The Fountain project were recorded in New York and Los Angeles. Then once the project was complete, The Fountain was released on 27th November 2006.

When The Fountain soundtrack was released, the reviews were positive. Mogwai’s contribution to the soundtrack had proved vital, while the Kronos Quartet proved a perfect foil the Mogwai Young Team. Mogwai’s lasted soundtrack had enhanced their reputation as the go-to guys for a soundtrack. That would their sideline in the future. However, before they released another soundtrack, Mogwai would release another two albums.

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The Hawk Is Howling.

The first of these was The Hawk Is Howling. To ensure they kept their title of Scotland’s most innovative bands, Mogwai returned to the studio where it all began, Chem 19 in Blantyre. 

Andy Miller who had co-produced Mogwai Young Team, Mogwai’s debut album was chosen to produce what became The Hawk Is Howling. This was Mogwai’s sixth album and marked a first. It was Mogwai’s first album to consist of just instrumentals. Among them were I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead, The Sun Smells Too Loud, Batcat and Scotland’s Shame. They feature the post rock pioneers pushing musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond. Once The Hawk Is Howling was recorded, Garth Jones mixed the album at Castle Of Doom Studios in Glasgow. After that, The Hawk Is Howling was ready for release.

The Hawk Is Howling was released on 22nd September 2008. Critics were won over by The Hawk Is Howling. There were no dissenting voices. This was one of Mogwai’s best albums, and it was no surprise it sold well in the UK and America.

On its release, The Hawk Is Howling reached number thirty-five in the UK and number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 200. It seemed with each album, Mogwai’s music evolved and matured. This resulted in even more success coming their way. Would this continue with Hardcore Will Never Die?

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Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.

For their seventh album, Mogwai returned to Chem 19 Studios in Blantyre, where they hooked up with ex-Delgado Paul Savage. Since  he had produced Mogwai’s debut album, Mogwai Young Team Paul had established a reputation as one of Scotland’s best producers. 

By then, Paul Savage had worked with everyone from Franz Ferdinand to R.M. Hubbert. However, it was a very different Mogwai Paul encountered. They were very different to the band who recorded Mogwai Young Team Paul. Their music had evolved and was continuing to do so. They’d matured as musicians and embraced the new technology. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will was proof of this.

Here was an album of groundbreaking, genre-melting post-rock with attitude. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will was also an album not short on humour. Poppy soulster Lionel Ritchie provided the inspiration for You’re Lionel Ritchine. There was also a celebratory sound to Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.

The death of Scotland’s nemesis, Margaret Thatcher sparked celebration in Glasgow’s George Square. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, celebrated provided the soundtrack to the celebrations.  It was just one track on an album of pioneering, post rock music crammed full of hooks, humour and attitude.  Others highlights Mexican Grand Prix, Rano Pano and How To Be A Werewolf .  With music of this quality, surely Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will couldn’t fail? 

Before the release of Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Rano Pano was released as a single. On the flip side was Hasenheide, which didn’t feature on Hardcore Will Never Die. . Things it seemed were looking good for Mogwai.

Yet again, Mogwai won over the majority of critics with Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. A couple of contrarian critics proved to be mere dissenting voices in the wilderness. Most critics realised that Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will was one of Mogwai’s finest hours. Record buyers would agree.

Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will reached number thirty-five in the UK and number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 200. For Mogwai, they were now into their third decade as band and had just enjoyed their biggest album to date. The question was, what would Mogwai do next?

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Les Revenants.

The answer to that was Les Revenants, a soundtrack to a French television series.  Les Revenants or The Returned, is essentially a television program about zombies, albeit with a twist. Just like similar films, Les Revenants, finds  the “undead” returning to the town they lived in. However, the zombies in Les Revenants  weren’t how most films portray zombies.  Another difference was the way Mogwai were commissioned.

Usually, someone writing a soundtrack can watch the film they’re writing music to. Not Mogwai. They were just shown a few scripts, which gave them an overview of what the series was about. From there, Mogwai wrote thirteen of the fourteen tracks including Wizard Motor and Hungry Face. They’re two of the album’s highlights.  The other track on Les Revenants was What Are They Doing In Heaven Today, which was written by Charles Elbert Tilney. These fourteen tracks were recorded by Mogwai, who produced Les Revenants with Neil MacMenamin. Once Les Revenants was finished, it was released in February 2013.

Before Les Revenants was released an E.P. was released. It featured four tracks. That was a tantalising taster of what was to come. After all, Mogwai would approach a soundtrack like Les Revenants in a different manner. They wouldn’t do anything predictable. Les Revenants was a case of expect the unexpected. Critics loved Les Revenants and hailed the album as one of the best albums Mogwai had released. However, Mogwai had other ideas.

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Rave Tapes.

Rave Tapes features ten tracks which were written by Mogwai. These tracks were recorded at Mogwai’s Castle Of Doom Studios, in Glasgow. Producing Rave Tapes was ex-Delgado Paul Savage, who had produced previous Mogwai albums and knew how the band worked. This was important, given Mogwai were at last, enjoying the critical acclaim and commercial success their music deserved. Work began on Rave Tapes on the 28th August 2013. 

This was like the first day back at school for Mogwai, as they began recording what was their eighth studio album. The lineup of Mogwai has been settled for a few years. This included a rhythm section of bassist and guitarist Dominic Aitchison, drummer Martin Bulloch and guitarists Stuart Braithwaite and John Cummings who also played piano. Barry Burns plays organ, piano and guitar. at Castle Of Doom Studios, Glasgow, Mogwai recorded the ten tracks that became Rave Tapes, which was released on 20th January 2014.

Rave Tapes was one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. The big question was, what direction Mogwai’s music would head? After all, Mogwai’s music never stands still. It’s in a constant state of evolution. That’s no bad thing. Standing still is akin to going backwards in Mogwai’s book. On Rave Tapes, Mogwai’s music continues to evolve. Musical  genres and influences melt into one on tracks like Remurdered, The Lord Is Out Of Control and Tell Everyone I Love Them. However, one of the most prominent influences on Rave was Krautrock. Add to this ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, indie rock and rock. We hear different sides to Mogwai on Rave Tapes. Whether it’s fuzzy soundscapes or kicking out the jams, Mogwai didn’t disappoint with Rave Tapes.

Critics agreed. Rave Tapes was released to widespread critical acclaim. Superlatives were exhausted in search of a fitting description of what many felt was Mogwai’s finest hour. Some critics wondered aloud whether Mogwai’s music was mellowing. Others felt that Mogwai were improving with age. Record buyers agreed.

When Rave Tapes was released on 14th January 2014, the album reached number ten in Britain and fifty-five in the US Billboard 200 charts. Rave Tapes became Mogwai’s most successful album in Britain and America. Elsewhere, Rave Tapes sold well across Europe. Mogwai were enjoying the most album of their three decade career. However, it would be two years before Mogwai released a new album. Before that, Mogwai decided to celebrate their twentieth anniversary in style.

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Central Belters.

In 2015,  Mogwai were celebrating their twentieth anniversary. By then Mogwai were Scottish music’s elder statesmen, A lot had happened to them during the first twenty years of their career. Mogwai have released eight studio albums and three soundtracks.  That’s not forgetting there’s countless singles, E.P.s and two remix albums. It was official, Mogwai had been one of the hardest working bands in music between 1995 and 2015. They were also one of the most innovative.

It was no surprise that critical acclaim and commercial success accompanied the release of each Mogwai album. Suddenly, the Glasgow-based were enjoying success not just in Britain, but in Europe and in America. Now was the perfect time for Mogwai to release Central Belters,  a  three disc career retrospective box set. Central Belters tells the story of the first twenty years of Mogwai.

With Mogwai not planning to release a studio album or soundtrack during 2015, Central Belters was a perfect stopgap. It was released on 23rd October 2015, and reached number forty in Britain, Central Belters sold reasonably well across the Europe, and was a perfect primer to the first twenty years of Mogwai’s career. The  next chapter of Mogwai’s career began with a soundtrack album, Atomic.

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Atomic.

Having enjoyed celebrating their twentieth anniversary during 2015, Mogwai got back down to business on 1st April 2016. That was when they released Atomic, their first new album in over two years. Atomic was Mogwai’s fourth soundtrack album,

During the  summer of 2015, Mogwai had provided the soundtrack Mark Cousins documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise. It was aired on BBC Four, and was a very personal memoir of growing up in the nuclear age. Using archive film, Mark Cousins constructed an impressionistic cinematic memoir of what was a harrowing time.

Post rock pioneers Mogwai were commissioned to write the soundtrack to Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise.  It was hailed as the perfect backdrop to Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, which was a personal and poignant cinematic memoir. However, after the documentary was aired in the summer of 2015, Mogwai decided to re-record Atomic.

At their Castle Of Doom Studios in Glasgow, Mogwai were joined be an old friend, occasional band member Luke Sutherland. Mogwai were also joined by Sophie, Robin Proper-Sheppard formerly of The God Machine and Glasgow composer Robert Newth. Together, they got to work on Atomic, which was Mogwai’s twelfth album since they formed back in 1995.

Once Atomic was completed, it was scheduled for release on 1st April 2016. Before that, Atomic was hailed as Mogwai’s finest soundtrack album, and a welcome addition to their discography.

On Atomic, Mogwai combine disparate and eclectic musical genres. Elements of avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica and experimental music are combined with indie-rock, Krautrock, post-rock and psychedelia. This results in a genre-melting, cinematic album. Atomic captivates and compels, and takes the listener  on a musical journey. It veers between dramatic and dreamy, to surreal and lysergic, to beautiful, pensive and understated to melancholy and melodic. Other times the music is dramatic, moody and broody. One thing the music never is, is boring. That is one thing that can never be levelled against Mogwai. Instead, it was another case of always expect the unexpected.

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That’s been the case since Mogwai were formed in 1995, and released their debut album Mogwai Young Team. Since then, it’s always been a case of expect the unexpected from the  Mogwai, who continue to release albums of ambitious and innovative music. There was no way that Mogwai would contemplate recording the same album twice. Instead, they leave that to lesser bands who specialise in albums of twee or pseudo-intellectual music. That isn’t Mogwai’s bag. They’re constantly moving forward musically and making music that pushes boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. Proof of that is Every Country’s Sun, which is their ninth studio album and thirteenth overall.  

Every Country’s Sun.

Every Country’s Sun is Mogwai’s first studio album since they released Rave Tapes in January 2014. However, Mogwai haven’t been resting on their laurels and enjoying the fruits of the rock star lifestyle. That isn’t Mogwai’s style. Since the release of the Rave Tapes, Mogwai have released  the three CD best compilation Central Belters in October 2015, and the soundtrack album Atomic in April 2016. There’s also the small matter of running their own record label Rock Action Records and their Castle Of Doom studio in Glasgow’s West End. Still, the four members of Mogwai found the time to return to the studio and record their ninth studio album Every Country’s Sun, which showcases their new sound.

When the time came for Mogwai to record  Every Country’s Sun, they didn’t renew their successful  partnership with Tony Doogan, who had produced their most recent album Atomic. Tony Doogan had also produced Mr. Beast and Zidane-A 21st Century Portrait, and is part of Mogwai’s inner circle. He knows Mogwai better than most, and knows that they often work with different producers. That was the case on Every Country’s Sun, where Mogwai renewed their partnership with experienced American producer Dave Fridmann.

The last time Mogwai had worked with Dave Fridmann was on Come On Die Young, which was released in 1999. Since then, much had happened for Mogwai and Dave Fridmann. Mogwai have released twelve albums and Dave Fridmann now has over 200 production credits to his name. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in indie music, including Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Jane’s Addiction, The Delgados, MGMT and The Vaccines. Dave Fridmann had beefed up his CV since the last time he worked with Mogwai.

Having made the decision to work with Dave Fridmann, Mogwai decided to record Every Country’s Sun at their own  Castle Of Doom Studios in Glasgow. The alternative  was for Mogwai to travel to New York to work with Dave Fridmann at Tarbox Road Studios in New York. That was unnecessary expense, considering that Mogwai had their own studio. They could always send the tracks over to Dave Fridmann in New York. This was very different to when Mogwai recorded their debut album Mogwai Young Team in 1996,

Each day, drummer Martin Bulloch, bassist Dominic Aitchison, guitarist and vocalist Stuart Braithwaite plus multi-instrumentalist Barry Burns entered Castle Of Doom Studios and began laying down the eleven tracks. These tracks were sent to Dave Fridmann in New York, who took charge of production. Gradually, Every Country’s Sun started to take shape and Mogwai were well on their way to completing what would be their first studio album in over three years. Eventually, Mogwai completed recording Every Country and Dave Fridmann mixed the album at Tarbox Road Studios. All that remained was for the album to be mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios, in London. Now Mogwai were ready to embark upon a new chapter in a career that began twenty-two years ago in 1995.

Since then, post rock pioneers Mogwai have enjoyed an unrivalled longevity, and are now one of the most successful Scottish bands of their generation. Remarkably, the three original members of the band, Stuart Braithwaite, Dominic Aitchison and  Martin Bulloch still remain are still part of Mogwai’s and played their part in latest album ambitious and innovative album, Every Country’s Sun. 

There was an air of excitement when Mogwai announced the arrival of Every Country’s Sun earlier in 2017. The big question among critics and cultural commentators was what direction would Mogwai’s music head in? Most agreed that Every Country’s Sun would mark another stylistic departure for Mogwai.

The music on Every Country’s Su is 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.

Mogwai combine elements of numerous disparate musical genres, ranging from classic rock, grunge, pop, post rock, psychedelia and space rock, to ambient, avant-garde, the Berlin School, electronica, experimental music and Krautrock. These are all part of the rich and vibrant musical tapestry that is Mogwai’s ninth studio album Every Country’s Sun, which was recently released by their own Rock Action Records. Every Country’s Sun and is Mogwai’s finest hour. The big question was what was next from Mogwai.

Kin.

Following the success of Every Country’s Sun, Mogwai were asked by film directors Jonathan and Josh Baker to write the soundtrack to the American sci-fi film Kin, which was written Daniel Casey. This was something that Mogwai had wanted to do since they began working on soundtracks for documentaries and films.

While Mogwai had written the score to three documentaries and contributed to tracks to 2006s The Fountain and Before The Flood in 2016 writing the soundtrack to a film was a challenge that they welcomed.

Not long after this, Stuart Braithwaite, Dominic Aitchison and Barry Burns began writing soundtrack to Kin. Eventually, they had written the nine tracks, including Eli’s Theme, Scrap, Flee, Funeral Pyre, Donuts, Miscreants, Guns Down, Kin and We’re Not Done (End Title). These tracks became Kin, which was recorded  in familiar surroundings.

This was Mogwai’s own Castle Of Doom Studios, which is situated in Glasgow, Scotland. While Kin was recorded and produced by Mogwai, Paul Savage took charge of engineering duties. He watched on has Mogwai deployed an array of synths, traditional  instruments and effects as Kin started to take shape. Eventually, Mogwai’s first post rock soundtrack was ready for Tony Doogan to mix.

Once Kin was mixed, the album was mastered at Abbey Road Studios, in London, by Frank Arkwright. Now Kin was ready to released on Mogwai’s  Rock Action Records.

The release of Kin was scheduled for the ‘31st’ of August 2018. Before that, critics had their say on  Kin which was the first soundtrack Mogwai written and recorded.

Straight away, Kin brings back memories of another of Mogwai’s soundtrack albums Les Revenants. Both albums feature the minor key piano where reverb is deployed to give Mogwai’s trademark sound. This has become  a feature of many Mogwai albums, and Kin is no different.  

The grand old men of Scottish music put their twenty-three years of experience to good use on their latest carefully crafted album Kin. It’s the first film soundtrack that Mogwai have released. Kin showcases a cinematic sound which features drama, tension, sci-fi sound and poppy hooks on a melodic and memorable soundtrack album. It also finds Mogwai fusing disparate musical genres  on Kin.

Mogwai were inspired by ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental music, indie rock, Krautrock, pop, post rock, psychedelia and space rock on Kin. Sometimes, these genres can be heard only briefly on Kin. It’s Mogwai’s first ever film soundtrack and marks a new chapter in a story that is into its third decade. 

Twenty-three years after Mogwai were founded in 1995, the post rock pioneers return with their cinematic epic Kin, which is which is their first ever film soundtrack and a reminder why they’re still one of Scotland’s too bands

Hopefully, it won’t be long  before Mogwai begin thinking about their next musical  adventure. This isn’t the type of adventure Enid Blyton’s Famous Five once enjoyed. Far from it. There’s no picnics, lemonade and bicycle trips. Instead, it’s Mogwai’s musical adventures are a  bit more edgy and gritty. That has been the case throughout Mogwai’s career, where  the post rock pioneers i have continued to created groundbreaking and innovative music. 

Mogwai-The Story So Far.

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JIMI HENDRIX-BOTH SIDES OF THE SKY-VINYL.

Jimi Hendrix-Both Sides Of The Sky-Vinyl.

Label: Sony Music.

From the moment that Jimi Hendrix saw T-Bone Walker playing his guitar with his teeth he took it as a challenge, and was determined that one day, he would be able to replicate what he had just witnessed the veteran bluesman do. 

In years to come, this became part of Jimi Hendrix’s routine as he took the stage with The Jim Hendrix Experience and later with The Band Of Gypsy’s and played his guitar as if his life depended upon it. Although Jimi Hendrix was a technically brilliant guitarist he was also a showman, and some nights, Jimi played his guitar behind his back, other times played it with his teeth and even set on one occasion even set his guitar on fire. It was as if Jimi Hendrix was trying to exercise some inner demons through the medium of music during a career that spanned just four years. 

Between 1967-1970, Jimi Hendrix released just three studio albums and one live album before his career was cut tragically short. Music was robbed of one of its most talented sons when Jimi Hendrix  passed away on September the ’18th’ 1970 aged just twenty-seven. However, he left behind a rich musical legacy, which included the musical holy trinity of Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland plus The Band Of Gypsy’s eponymous live debut album. These albums however, only tell part of the story.

Since Jimi Hendrix’s death, there’s been a number of posthumous releases, including twenty-two live albums and twelve studio albums. That number just rose to thirteen with the release of Both Sides Of The Sky which was released by Sony Music as a two LP set. It’s the third instalment in a trilogy of compilations of posthumously released archival recordings that were meant to feature on the followup to Electric Lady. This began with 2010s Valleys Of Neptune and continued with 2013s People, Hell and Angels. Now Both Sides Of The Sky is the final instalment and transports the listener back to the late-sixties when Jimi Hendrix was at the peak of his powers and it looked as if he was about to enjoy a long and illustrious career. This began in 1967, when the charismatic musical maverick released his debut album, which was a gamechanger.

Are You Experienced.

That was apparent from the moment critics heard The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 explosive debut album Are You Experienced. It showcased the considerable talents and chemistry of the now legendary power trio, which featured a rhythm section of drummer Mitch Mitchell, bassist Noel Redding and guitarist Jimi Hendrix. They had recorded eleven tracks penned by Jimi Hendrix which fused rock and psychedelia.

These eleven tracks became Are You Experienced, which was recorded between October 1966 and April 1967 at three of London’s top studios. Joining The Jimi Hendrix Experience in De Lane Lea At Studios, CBS, and Olympic Studios, in London was Chas Chandler who took charge of production. The former Animals’ bassist had a wealth of experience and guided The Jimi Hendrix Experience through the recording of Are You Experienced. Once it was completed, Are You Experienced was released in Britain in May 1967.

Prior to the release of Are You Experienced, critics hailed the album as one of the greatest debut rock albums ever recorded. This was no exaggeration as Are You Experienced was a groundbreaking fusion of rock and psychedelia that was way ahead of the musical curve. It featured future Jimi Hendrix classics like Foxy Lady, Third Stone from the Sun and Are You Experienced. At the heart of the album’s sound was the freewheeling sound of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. He could do things other guitarists could only dream of, and unleashed a series of breathtaking performances on Are You Experienced? Add to the equation Jimi Hendrix’s languid, charismatic vocal and it’s no surprise that Are You Experienced was such a huge commercial success.

When Are You Experienced was released in Britain, on the ‘12th’ of May 1967, it reached number two, and this resulted in a gold disc for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. However, soon, things would get even better for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Three months later, in August 1967, Are You Experienced was released in America and it reached number five on the US Billboard 200, and went on to sell over five million copies. This resulted in Are You Experienced certified platinum five times, and was the start of a three-year period where Jimi Hendrix could do no wrong.

Axis: Bold As Love.

Seven months later, on the ‘1st’ of December 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience returned with their sophomore album Axis: Bold As Love in the UK. It featured thirteen tracks, including twelve penned by Jimi Hendrix. These tracks showed that Jimi Hendrix was already maturing  and evolving as a songwriter. He may have just been twenty-five, but he was a talented songwriter. Proof of this were tracks like Spanish Castle Magic, Wait Until Tomorrow, Castles Made of Sand and Bold As Love. They featured Jimi Hendrix coming of age as a songwriter, and  were recorded at one of London’s top studios.

Recording of Axis: Bold As Love took place at Olympic Studios, London and began in May 1967 and continued into June. However, when the album wasn’t completed, The Jimi Hendrix Experience returned to the studio in October to complete the recording of Axis: Bold As Love, which was scheduled for release later in 1967. 

The contract that the Jimi Hendrix Experience had signed stipulated that the band had to release two albums during 1967. They had completed the album just in time for Track Records to release the album at the start of December 1967. However, before that, disaster struck for Jimi Hendrix.

One night, Jimi Hendrix took the master tapes to side one of Axis: Bold As Love to listen to at home. Unfortunately, he left them in a taxi, and despite a frantic search for the master tapes they were never found. This resulted in side one having to be mixed again, which was a delay that everyone could do without. Fortunately, this didn’t delay the release of Axis: Bold As Love.

Axis: Bold As Love, was released in Britain, on the ‘1st’ of December 1967, and was released to the same critical acclaim as Are You Experienced. Critics ran out of superlatives in an attempt to describe Axis: Bold As Love where The Jimi Hendrix Experience flitted between and sometimes combined blues rock, psychedelia and rock. It was a heady and irresistible brew that once tasted was unforgettable. In the reviews,  Jimi Hendrix was described as some sort of musical messiah, who had music’s future in his hands. Record buyers agreed with the critics description of Axis: Bold As Love when they heard the album.

When Axis: Bold As Love was released in Britain, it reached number five and was certified silver. This must have been slightly disappointing as Axis: Bold As Love hadn’t replicated the success of Are You Experienced. However, The Jimi Hendrix Experience knew that Axis: Bold As Love was still to be released in America, where their debut had sold five million copies.

A decision was made not to release Axis: Bold As Love during 1967, in case it affected sales of Are You Experienced. It wasn’t until January the ‘15th’ 1968, that Axis: Bold As Love was released in America and  reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. Just like in Britain, Axis: Bold As Love had failed to replicate the success of Are You Experienced, which was disappointing. However, by then, Jimi Hendrix was riding the crest of a musical wave.

Electric Ladyland.

By October 1968, when The Jimi Hendrix Experience were preparing to release their third album Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was one of the most successful musicians in the world. His albums sold by the million, and when The Jimi Hendrix Experience played live, they were one of the hottest live acts. Proof of that was Electric Ladyland which was the most ambitious album of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Unlike The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s two previous albums, Electric Ladyland was a double album that featured sixteen songs. Thirteen of these songs were penned by Jimi Hendrix while Noel Redding contributed Little Miss Strange. The other tracks were covers of Bob Dylan’s All Around The Watchtower and Earl King’s Come On (Let the Good Times Roll. These tracks, and the rest of Electric Ladyland were recorded at three recording studios.

Recording sessions for Electric Ladyland took place at Olympic Studios in London and the Record Plant Studios and Mayfair Studios, in New York and began in July 1967 and continued right through until December 1967. After the festive season, The Jimi Hendrix Experience reconvened in January 1968 and spent four months completing their third album Electric Ladyland. It was completed in April 1968, and the release of Electric Ladyland was scheduled for release in October 1968.

As soon as critics heard Electric Ladyland, they realised that this was The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s finest hour as they flitted between and sometimes combined blues rock, hard rock, psychedelia and rock on an album that oozed quality. Proof of that were tracks of the quality of Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), All Along the Watchtower and Gypsy. Electric Ladyland which featured future classics was hailed as the greatest album of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s career and a future classic. Record buyers agreed.

When Electric Ladyland was released in Britain, on the ‘16th’ of October 1968, it reached number six and was certified gold. Electric Ladyland had outsold Axis: Bold As Love and replicated the success of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album Are You Experienced.

Nine days, later, on the ‘25th’ of October 1968 Electric Ladyland was released in America, and reached number one on the US Billboard 200. Having sold two million copies, Electric Ladyland was certified double platinum and the rise and rise of The Jimi Hendrix Experience continued.

Just like their previous two albums, Electric Ladyland would later become a classic album. Electric Ladyland was the album that the Jimi Hendrix Experience were always capable of making and they had now fulfilled the potential that on an album that marked the coming of age for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. However, having just released the finest album of their three album career there was a twist in the tale for the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

 

Electric Ladyland would be the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s final album and a fitting swan-song from a legendary power trio. Sadly, the Jimi Hendrix Experience would only ever take to the stage on two more occasions.

Eight months after the release of Electric Ladyland, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played their last concert on June the ‘29th’ 1969 at Barry Fey’s Denver Pop Festival which was a three-day event held at Mile High Stadium. Little did anyone in the audience realised that they had witnessed last performance by the original lineup of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

While the Jimi Hendrix Experience played one further concert in 1970, to allow Jimi Hendrix to spread his message of universal love, it was without Noel Redding who had quite the band, and embarked upon a solo career. As far as he was concerned, it was the end of the road for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Woodstock

By the time of the demise of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, its leader was the highest paid musician in the world. Promoters were desperate to add Jimi Hendrix to festival bills and the promoter of The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was no different. It was another three-day festival that was scheduled for took place between the ’15th’ and ‘17th’ of August 1969 on a dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains of southern New York State. Jimi Hendrix invited the invitation and would close the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

By the time Jimi Hendrix arrived at the three-day Woodstock Music and Art Fair, which had been eventful and sometimes chaotic, he was keen to showcase the new lineup of his band. It featured drummer Mitch Mitchell, replacement bassist Billy Cox and recent additions rhythm guitarist Larry Lee and conga players Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez. As the band took the stage it was 9am on the ‘17th’ of August 1969 ‘only’ 200,000 people watched on as MC Chip Monk introduced the group as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but the bandleader was quick to clarify: “we decided to change the whole thing around and call it Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. For short, it’s nothin’ but a Band of Gypsys. 

With that, Jimi Hendrix unleashed what was a spellbinding performance that made musical history. At one point, the former paratrooper unleashed a breathtaking performance of The Star-Spangled Banner, and incorporated a myriad of feedback, distortion, and sustain to replicate the sounds made by rockets and bombs exploding during this incredible and spellbinding rendition of the American  national anthem. Once again, Jimi Hendrix was able to make his guitar do things other guitars could only dream about as closed his set at 11:10 am having made musical history. 

Band of Gypsys.

After his triumphant appearance at Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix was keen to embark upon the next chapter of his career. By then, he knew that the Jimi Hendrix Experience were now part of musical history, and the time had come for him to form a new band.  

Those that attended Woodstock had heard Jimi Hendrix christen his new band the Band Of Gypsys. Just like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Band Of Gypsys was a trio, but Jimi Hendrix had firmed up the lineup which featured drummer Buddy Miles, bassist Billy Cox and Jimi Hendrix on guitar. The Band of Gypsys were already planning to record their debut live album on the ‘1st’ of January 1970.

When the Band Of Gypsys took to the stage at Filmore East, in New York, on the ‘1st’ of January 1970, they had been busy rehearsing and writing six new songs. Jimi Hendrix had penned four tracks, including Who Knows and the funky, anti-Vietnam War song Machine Gun which featured on side one of Band Of Gypsys, He also wrote Power To Love and Message Of Love. Meanwhile, jazz drummer Buddy Miles, had written Changes and We Gotta Live Together. These six tracks found the Band Of Gypsys moving in a different direction from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Elements of funk, R&B and soul shine through on Band Of Gypsys which wasn’t surprising, given Jimi Hendrix’s bandmates’ past. However, Jimi Hendrix’s trademark fusion rock and psychedelia is still present on Band Of Gypsys. What’s obvious, is that Band Of Gypsys was keen to take his music in new and different musical directions. He wasn’t going to be tied to the one musical genre, and instead, he was willing to experiment musically. Band Of Gypsys was just the start.

When critics heard Band Of Gypsys, they were won over by this captivating genre melting album. They realised that Band Of Gypsys was an ambitious album and believed that Machine Gun was the album’s highlight and centrepiece. It showed what musical maverick and pioneer Jimi Hendrix was capable of, even without The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Even after one album, it was obvious that like just the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Band Of Gypsys was the perfect musical vehicle for Jimi Hendrix.

Band Of Gypsys was released in Britain on the ‘25th’ of March 1970 and reached number six. Nearly three months later, on June the ‘12th’ 1970, Band Of Gypsys was released in America, and reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Band Of Gypsys being certified double platinum after selling two million copies. Still it seemed that Jimi Hendrix could do no wrong, and  critics and record buyers waited with bated breath to see what direction his career headed.

After the release of Band Of Gypsys, Jimi Hendrix returned the studio, where he began work on his next album. Jimi Hendrix was  a prolific artist, and recorded many tracks over a relatively short space of time. So much so, that by the time Jimi Hendrix headed to the second Atlanta Pop Festival on the ‘4th’ of July 1970, there were many tracks in various states of completion. This was more than enough for several album’s worth of material. Some of the new songs would be showcased by the newly reformed lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Atlanta Pop Festival, which sadly would prove to be Jimi Hendrix’s swan-song.

Atlanta Pop Festival.

Lesser musicians than Jimi Hendrix would’ve been nervous about playing at the Atlanta Pop Festival, which took place in the heart of the Deep South. Not Jimi Hendrix, who relished the challenge of uniting a region divided. He planned to do this with the help of the newly reformed lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. 

Sadly, bassist Noel Redding wasn’t going to take to the stage at Atlanta Pop Festival and Of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox would take his place. At least Noel Redding The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s original drummer was by Jimi’s side as they took to the stage. What had been a legendary power trio were about to try to unite a region divided.

That’s what The Jimi Hendrix Experience went on to do. In the process, they wrote their place into music history by playing a starring role in what’s now remembered as the “last great rock festival.” Jimi Hendrix had united a region that had been divided. His message of unity, universal love and Freedom had him friends on both sides of the racial divide. Now Jimi Hendrix could concentrate on completing his next album. However, that never sadly happened.

On the ‘18th’ of September 1970, music was in mourning. Jimi Hendrix, it was announced, was dead. The reports started that he had been found unresponsive around 11a.m. on the ‘18th’ of September 1970, at an apartment in the Samarkand Hotel, in Notting Hill, London. He was rushed to the St. Mary’s Abbot’s Hospital, but pronounced dead at 12.45p.m. Jimi Hendrix was just twenty-seven. However, music had lost one of the most influential and innovative guitarists of his generation. 

That was despite Jimi Hendrix’s career beginning just four years earlier. Since then, Jimi Hendrix had released a trio of studio album and one live album, and taken music by storm. By the time of his death, Jimi Hendrix was the highest paid musician and was vying for the title of rock’s greatest guitarist. Jimi Hendrix the flamboyant showman who had initially modelled himself on T-Bone Walker, had written his name into the musical history and would inspirer several generations of guitarists.

That is still the case today, as a new generation discover Jimi Hendrix’s music. It’s not just the music that the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys that this new generation are discovering. Just like Jimi Hendrix’s old fans, they’ve embraced the myriad of posthumous releases that have been released since The Cry Of Love was released on March the ‘5th’ 1971 and featured material that was meant to feature on Jimi Hendrix’s fourth studio albums. Since then, twenty-two live albums and twelve studio albums have been released, including Both Sides Of The Sky which was recently released by Sony Music

Both Sides Of The Sky.

Both Sides Of The Sky is the third instalment in a trilogy of compilations of posthumously released archival recordings that were meant to feature on the followup to Electric Lady. This began with 2010s Valleys Of Neptune and continued with 2013s People, Hell and Angels. Now Both Sides Of The Sky is the final instalment and transports the listener back to the late-sixties when Jimi Hendrix was at the peak of his powers.

There’s thirteen tracks on Both Sides Of The Sky, including nine penned by Jimi Hendrix. They join covers of Muddy Waters’ Mannish Boy, Stephen Stills’ $20 Fine, Guitar Slim’s Things That I Used To Do and Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. Fittingly, Jimi Hendrix recorded these  tracks with members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys. 

For the recordings, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s lineup featured the classic drummer Mitch Mitchell, bassist Noel Redding and Jimi Hendrix on guitar and vocals. On the tracks that feature the Band Of Gypsys, drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox join Jimi Hendrix on guitar and vocals. They’re joined by Stephen Stills who plays keyboards and adds vocals on $20 Fine and Woodstock, while guitarist Johnny Winters features on Things That I Used To Do. Saxophonist and vocalist Lonnie Youngblood features on Georgia Blues. Mostly, though, it’s just Jimi Hendrix joined by the two bands he made his name with… the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys. 

Opening Both Sides Of The Sky is a genre-melting cover Muddy Waters where funk, rock and blues are combined to reinvent this blues classic. It gives way to Lover Man which bursts into life and Jimi Hendrix unleashes a fleet-fingered solo that is a reminder of why he was regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of his generation. The addition of this alternate take of Hear My Train A Comin’ is a welcome one, as Jimi Hendrix slows the track down and deploys effects and in doing so, shows another side to one of his finest hours. There’s an urgency to Stepping Stone where Jimi Hendrix plays with speed, fluidity and invention as he unleashes a powerful vocal.

Stephen Stills plays keyboards which fills out the sound on $20 Fine, and delivers a soulful vocal. Later, Jimi Hendrix unleashes another blistering guitar solo and plays his part in the success of this hidden gem. There’s no stopping Jimi Hendrix now. He veers between blues, funk and rock on the first part of Power Of Soul which is a showcase for his guitar masterclass. After that, he adds a vocal that is a mixture soulfulness and emotion, as backing vocalists accompany him on what’s one of the album’s highlights. 

The tempo drops on the understated, spacious and ruminative instrumental, Jungle, where Jimi Hendrix seamlessly switches between funk and blues. The bluesy sound continues on Things I Used To Do, which features guitarist Johnny Winters. It’s proof if any was needed that two guitarists are always better than one. Slow, moody and bluesy describes Georgia Blues as washes of swirling Hammond organ accompany Jimi Hendrix’s searing guitar. Meanwhile,  Lonnie Youngblood adds gravelly vocal and later adds blistering saxophone solo that adds the finishing touch.

Straight away, Sweet Angel which was recorded in 1968  sounds like an instrumental version of another song Jimi Hendrix wrote, Angel. Here, he plays rhythm and lead guitar, and also plays vibes as he shows his versatility. Stephen Stills returns and adds a vocal and plays Hammond organ on an anthemic version of Woodstock. Send My Love To Linda was recorded with the Band Of Gypsys in January 1970 and finds Jimi Hendrix’s guitar and vocal taking centre-stage. Later, he unleashes another flawless blistering guitar solo that is one of the best on Both Sides Of The Sky. It closes with the atmospheric and cinematic instrumental Cherokee Mist where Jimi Hendrix’s replicates an array of sounds that is reminiscent of his version of  The Star-Spangled Banner. This is a real find and the perfect way to close Both Sides Of The Sky and the trilogy.

Both Sides Of The Sky is just the latest lovingly curated release from the Jimi Hendrix archives, and is a tantalising taste of a true musical legend at what was the peak of his powers. Between 1967 and 1970, Jimi Hendrix could do no wrong, whether it was with the Jimi Hendrix Experience or the Band Of Gypsys. 

Sadly, the Jimi Hendrix Experience only released three studio albums between 1967 and 1969 and the Band Of Gypsys one live album in 1970. However, each of these albums are regarded as classics and featured one of the greatest guitarists at the peak of his powers. These albums only document part of the story of Jimi Hendrix’s career in the studio.

Jimi Hendrix was a truly prolific artist and at the time of his death, he had been working on the followup to Electric Ladyland. While many musicians struggle to record an album, there was nearly enough for four studio album. Then there was all the other songs that Jimi Hendrix recorded between 1967 and 1970 which has been released on twelve previous studio albums. Both Sides Of The Sky is the thirteenth album featuring unreleased tracks, and still the material is of the highest quality. Indeed Both Sides Of The Sky is a veritable treasure trove which features the different sides to Jimi Hendrix as he flits between and combines blues rock, funk, psychedelia and rock with the help of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys. They’re joined by a few friends on an album that is a poignant reminder of one of the true musical greats.

During his short but successful career the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys were the perfect showcase for Jimi Hendrix who always played his guitar as if his life depended upon it. Especially when they played live and Jimi Hendrix became a flamboyant whose raison d’être was to entertain. This technically brilliant guitarist was a true showman, playing his guitar behind his back, other times with his teeth and was known to set his guitar on fire. It was as if Jimi Hendrix was trying to exercise some inner demons through the medium of music during a career that spanned the four-year period between 1967 and his death in 1970.

Sadly, on September the ’18th’ 2018 it will be forty-eighth anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death. This year, if he had lived,  Jimi Hendrix would’ve been celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday. This makes the release of Both Sides Of The Sky all the more poignant as one can’t help wonder what heights he would’ve reached had he lived? Would Jimi Hendrix gone on to enjoy the long and illustrious career as many people be believed he would? Maybe he would’ve become a musical chameleon constantly reinventing his music in an attempt to stay relevant. There’s always the possibility that Jimi Hendrix best years were behind him and that this otherworldly musical visionary had expounded all his creativity by the time of his death. That is highly unlikely, Jimi Hendrix was a truly prolific, versatile and talented artist who recorded more music in four years than many artists record in a lifetime. This includes the thirteen recordings on Both Sides Of The Sky, which are part of Jimi Hendrix’s musical legacy, and a reminder of the boy who dared dream after seeing T-Bone Walker playing the guitar with his teeth.

Jimi Hendrix-Both Sides Of The Sky-Vinyl.

WAKE UP! MUSIC USA-UK-NU-HOUSE: THE START OF SOMETHING SPECIAL.

Wake Up! Music USA-UK-Nu-House: The Start Of Something Special.

Written By Derek Anderson and Maddy Gomez.

Label: Wake Up! Music Group.

In early 2018, I was asked by Maddy Gomez, who runs Wake Up! Music Group to write the liner notes to Music Is My Life, the comeback album from Chicago-based DJ and producer Matt Warren. Mostly, when writing liner notes, it’s case of writing and submitting them, before moving onto the next project. Not this time, as this was the start of a new adventure in many ways.

By July, Music Is My Life was completed, and I had become much more involved in the project and was arranging for the album to be mastered and had coined the term Nu-House, which described the music on Music Is My Life. The other thing I was organising was PR for the UK and EU release.

That was a long way away, as Music Is My Life was scheduled for release in North America on the ‘19th’ of October 2018. In America, it was all systems go for Music Is My Life and everyone at Wake Up! Music Group.

Meanwhile, the CDs and limited edition vinyl were being produced by two American companies. One company, SunPress, which was based not far from Wake Up! Music’s South Florida headquarters was producing the limited edition splatter vinyl.

It was a similar case in Britain, where preparation began for the UK and EU release of Music Is My Life on the ‘15th’ of February 2018. The packaging and booklet for the CD was redesigned, although the track listing to this future Nu-House classic remained the same. The other change was the design of the limited edition special relationship splatter vinyl.

As design and production of Music Is My Life was taking place in Britain, the staff at Wake Up! Music watched as Music Is My Life was released to widespread critical acclaim. Music Is My Life featured a starring role from legendary house diva Pepper Gomez and marked the debut of the soulful sounding Janis McGee and features flamenco singer Elena Andujar.  This triumvirate of divas played their part in the sound and success of Music Is My Life which received plaudits and praise from critics, and was hailed as a future Nu-House classic.

During the next two months, Music Is My Life started climbing the various American charts. Soon, they were both riding high on chill, electronic, hip hop and Latin. Meanwhile, the video to Get On Up which features two of Wake Up! Music’s YASI stars Izzy D and J Rock was becoming a viral hit.  Surely, things couldn’t get any better for the Wake Up! Music Team?

It could, and Music Is My Life and Get On Up weren’t just riding high in the various American charts but topped the DRT Indie charts for two weeks. This was the perfect Christmas present for the  team Wake Up! Music Group. Then glad tidings arrived in the form of something very special and Maddy Gomez takes up the story.

Ho, Ho, Ho – Merry Christmas to all as we prepare to countdown the days left to 2019.  And, to the UK release of Matt Warren’s disc, “Music Is My Life.”  The US vinyl is in!  You can find it at https://www.wakeupmusicgroup.com/streaming-downloads This is a very special splatter pressing by SunPress in Sunny South Florida.  Sounds great and would look super as art, too.  Very nice.  As we’ve pressed a very small number, there’s no doubt that in the future collector’s market this vinyl may rival the crazy prices that the original “Pushin’ Too Hard” by Master Plan has held.  So, for all the House Heads, Nu-House Lovers and collectors, hope you really enjoy the fruits of our labors.  I admit I still get a thrill when I hold the physical copies and the vinyl is extra exciting.  Can’t wait to see the UK pressing which will be its own work of art.  It is sure to be totally gorgeous and will make a beautiful sounding disc as it celebrates the special relationship that the US has always had with the UK as well as the EU historically and with music specifically.  Extremely exciting – yes, these things excite me.  Our UK Director, Derek Anderson, has made the whole UK/EU preparation for launch an unforgettable experience.  With airplay already happening there ahead of the release, we’re just keeping our surfboards waxed and pretty as we keep riding the wave that started on October 19, 2018 with the US release of “Music Is My Life”.

You’d think the Ho-ho-holidays would give us some down time but you’d be wrong.  We were #1 for two weeks in a row on the Digital Radio Indie Charts!  We’ve had Matt busy with radio interviews and getting ready for his TV appearances.  We’re still elated about making it to MTV and BET video programming.  On New Year’s Day, 2019, the first single from “Music Is My Life” – “Get On Up” will air on VH1.  We’re prepping our second single, “How Do I Love Thee” for the same and more.  Now that’s the way to ring in the New Year! We’ll be toasting to everyone who have made it such a great 2018!  So, here’s to you!  Let’s do it again – 2019!  Here we come!  Peace and love y’all – as always!  

Wake Up! Music USA-UK-Nu-House: The Start Of Something Special.

US CD 

SOUL OF A NATION: JAZZ IS THE TEACHER, FUNK IS THE PREACHER-VINYL

Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher-Vinyl.

Label: Soul Jazz Records.

Just fifteen months after the release of their critically acclaimed compilation Soul Of A Nation, Soul Jazz  Records release the much-anticipated followup Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher as a three LP set. It covers the period between 1969 and 1975, which was an important period in modern American history and also in music. 

The release of Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher will coincide with the opening of the Soul Of A Nation–Art In The Age Of Black Power exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, New York and then Los Angeles in 2019. These two cities will be the latest to host the critically and commercially successful exhibition that opened at the Tate Modern in London in 2017. Back then, Soul Jazz  Records had just been released Soul Of A Nation, and now comes the followup, Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher.

There’s fourteen groundbreaking tracks on Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher which were released between 1969 and 1975 and feature the various Afrocentric poly-rhythmical styles of music that was popular in America. This included everything from free jazz, proto-rap, radical jazz and street funk which was music with a message. The artists on Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher explore Black Power and civil rights’ inspired notions of self-definition, self-empowerment and self-respect and which they practised in their own lives.

Among them were two pioneers of the experimental jazz movement who bookend the compilation. The Art Ensemble of Chicago opens Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher with Theme De Yoyo-O. It features a powerful and impassioned vocal from soul singer Fontella Bass. Bookending the compilation is Don Cherry’s Brown Rice. Both tracks showcase musical pioneers who were creating radical and groundbreaking music that was way ahead of its time and introduce new elements to jazz music. This included the civil rights concept of freedom and the black power ideas of self-respect, righteousness and anger.

Meanwhile, The Har-You Percussion Group, which was a group of young Harlem teenagers, used  government-sponsored social initiatives to create art and music. This included their genre-melting  1969 eponymous album which featured Welcome To The Party. It’s a melting pot of musical influences. 

So was the music created by two collectives that feature on Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher. The Pharoahs’ Damballa is taken from their 1971 album The Awakening, and Detroit’s Tribe contribute Beneficient. Both groups  fuse deep jazz and street funk to create innovative music that sadly, didn’t find the audience it deserved.

Neither did Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s who contribute the cosmic cult classic Celestial Blues. Another cult classic is The Oneness Of Juju debut album African Rhythms which features Space Jungle Funk. These tracks offered spirituality and cosmology to record buyers.

Sadly, James Mason’s debut album Rhythm Of Life is another cult classic that failed to find the audience it deserved first time around. It features  Sweet Power, Your Embrace, which is one of the highlights of an album that belatedly found the audience it deserved within in Britain.

Very different is the poetry of Gil Scott-Heron and Sarah Webster Fabio. Gil Scott-Heron contributes Whitey On the Moon which is full of social comment. So is Sarah Webster Fabio’s Work It Out which is performed with a backdrop of street funk and heavyweight percussion. These two poets with their proto-rap sound are provided the template for rap later in the seventies. 

P-Funk pioneers Funkadelic contribute Nappy Dugout where they showcase their hyper funk psychedelic sound. It’s a welcome addition, and so is Hard Times by Baby Huey and Byron Marris and Unity’s Kitty Bey. They’re joined by Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe’s Exchange, Pt. 2 on Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher which is the latest lovingly curated compilation to be released by Soul Jazz Records.

Just like, Soul Of A Nation, the much-anticipated followup Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher features familiar tracks, leftfield choices and hidden gems. They’re a reminder of what was a hugely important and in some cases, frustrating and turbulent period in African-American history. 

It’s documented on Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher which is the perfect followup and companion to Soul Of A Nation. It features groundbreaking music from musical pioneers, who rewrote musical history and are remembered on Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher which is one of the best compilations of recent months,

Soul Of A Nation: Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher-Vinyl.

PAUL BUCHANAN-FROM THE BLUE NILE AND BEYOND.

Paul Buchanan-From The Blue Nile and Beyond.

Enigmatic, reluctant and contrarian are words that best describe The Blue Nile, who were the complete opposite to most bands. To say that The Blue Nile were publicity shy is something of an understatement. Ever since Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and P.J. Moore formed the Blue Nile in 1981, they’ve been one of the most low-profile bands in musical history. It seems that when they were formed they ticked the “no publicity” box. This has proved a double-edged sword, and resulted in The Blue Nile becoming one of the most enigmatic groups ever. Their story began at the prestigious Glasgow University.

Paul Buchanan was born on ‘16th’ of April 1956 in Edinburgh, Scotland but his family moved to Glasgow when the future Blue Nile frontman was still a child. That was where he met his lifelong friend Robert Bell.  The pair grew up together, and when it came to head to university, they both enrolled at Glasgow University.

That was where Paul Buchanan studied literature and medieval history, while Robert Bell was a mathematics undergraduate. Glasgow University was also where Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell first encountered Paul Joseph Moore, who was studying electronics. P.J. Moore had also grown up in the same part of Glasgow as Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell, but their paths didn’t cross until they were all undergraduates. By then, Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell’s musical careers were well underway.

Prior to forming The Blue Nile, Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and P.J. Moore were previously members of another short-lived Glasgow based band, Night By Night. It was originally name McIntyre, in homage to the John McIntyre Building, which was the name of Glasgow University’s administrative offices. Soon, McIntyre became Night By Night and the nascent band made its first tentative steps  in the Glasgow music scene.

Later, Paul Buchanan admitted that Night By Night only played live on two or three occasions. The band was never a familiar face on the Glasgow music scene. Nor did Night By Night secure that elusive recording contract. They were told that their music wasn’t seen as commercial enough. That wasn’t the Night On Night’s only problem. 

Part of the problem was Night By Night’s fluid lineup. Members joined and left the band, and by 1981 the last men standing were  Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and P.J. Moore. They decided not to bother recruiting another band member, and swapped a guitar for an effect pedal. Their next move was to borrow a drum machine, which was only able to play Hispanic American music. With these new additions to their lineup, a new band was born.

For the nascent band, necessity was the mother of invention, and they began to play live. They had no option as they badly needed the money. Soon, they were playing cover versions around the city. Part of their lineup was the drum machine which provided Hispanic American rhythms. Despite this, people recognised the songs the band played and they escaped relatively unscathed. It had been a learning experience as their new band was christened The Blue Nile.

Once The Blue Nile were formed, they setup their own record label Peppermint Records. It was on Peppermint Records that The Blue Nile released their debut single, I Love This Life. This single was then picked up and rereleased on the RSO label. Unfortunately for the Blue Nile, RSO became part of the Polygram label and I Love This Life disappeared without trace. Despite this setback, The Blue Nile persisted.

Still, The Blue Nile kept writing and recording material after the merger of RSO with Polygram. Some of that material would later be found on A Walk Across the Rooftops. That was in the future.

Recording of The Blue Nile’s demos took place at Castlesound studio near Edinburgh. That’s home to the man whose often referred to as the fourth member of The Blue Nile, recording engineer Callum Malcolm. He was listening to recently recorded demos through the studio’s Linn Electronics system. It had recently had a new set of speakers fitted. Around that time,  Linn’s founder, Ivor Tiefenbrun, decided to visit Calum Malcolm to hear his thoughts on the speakers. That was when Ivor Tiefenbrun first heard The Blue Nile. 

Calum Malcolm played Ivor Tiefenbrun a demo of Tinseltown In The Rain. Straight away, the founder of Linn was hooked. He decided to offer The Blue Nile a record contract to the label he was in the process of founding. Most bands would’ve jumped at the opportunity. Not The Blue Nile.

It took The Blue Nile nine months before they replied to Ivor Tiefenbrun’s offer. When they did, the answer was yes. The Blue Nile’s debut album A Walk Across The Rooftops would be released on Ivor Tiefenbrun’s newly formed label Linn Records.

A Walk Across the Rooftops.

Linn Records and The Blue Nile seemed a marriage made in musical heaven. They weren’t like a major label who would be pressurizing The Blue Nile into making a decision and delivering an album within a certain timeframe. Instead, Linn Records allowed The Blue Nile to do what they did best, make music. From the outside, this looked as if it was working, and working well.

Years later, Paul Buchanan commented that during Linn Records didn’t operate like a record label. Mind you, he conceded that, during this period, The Blue Nile didn’t operate as a band. However, eventually, in May 1984 The Blue Nile’s debut album was released on Linn Records.

On the release of A Walk Across the Rooftops, it was released to critical acclaim. Critics described the album as a minor classic. A Walk Across the Rooftops was described as atmospheric, ethereal, evocative, soulful and soul-baring. It also featured the vocals of troubled troubadour Paul Buchanan. Despite the critical acclaim A Walk Across the Rooftops enjoyed, it wasn’t a huge commercial success, reaching just number eighty in the UK. However, since the A Walk Across the Rooftops has been recognised as a classic album. So has the followup Hats.

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Hats.

Unlike most bands, The Blue Nile weren’t in any rush to release their sophomore album Hats. There was a five-year gap between A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. It was well worth the wait as The Blue Nile had done it again, and released a classic album. 

Hats featured  seven tracks which were written by Paul Buchanan, Glasgow’s answer to Frank Sinatra He’s a tortured troubadour, whose voice sounds as if he’s lived a thousand lives. Producing Hats was a group effort, with Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and P.J. Moore taking charge of production duties. Guiding them, was Callum Malcolm. On the release of Hats, British and American audiences proved more discerning and appreciative of the Blue Nile’s sophomore album Hats.

On the release of Hats in the UK in 1989, it was critically acclaimed and commercial success, reaching number twelve in the UK. Then when it was released in America in 1990, audiences seemed to “get” Hats. Not only did it reach number 108 in the US Billboard 200 Charts, but The Downtown Lights reached number ten in the US Modern Rock Tracks charts. It seemed that The Blue Nile were more popular in America, than in Britain. Gradually, The Blue Nile’s music was beginning to find a wider and more appreciative album. Especially when The Blue Nile decided to embark upon their debut tour later in 1989.

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Although The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, and Hats was The Blue Nile’s sophomore album, the band had never toured. Partly, The Blue Nile seemed worried about replicating the sound of their first two albums. They needn’t have worried, with The Blue Nile seamlessly replicating the sonic perfection of A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats on the sold out tour. The Blue Nile’s star was definitely in the ascendancy.

Their first ever tour had been a huge success and The Blue Nile had conquered Britain. However, The Blue Nile had also made a breakthrough in America. Hats had sold well, and their American tour had been successful. Most bands would’ve been keen to build on this and released another album before long. Not The Blue Nile.

Seven long years passed, where Blue Nile fans wondered what had become of Glasgow’s most enigmatic trio. However, they’d been busy. After Hats found its way onto American radio stations, The Blue Nile, who previously, had been one of music’s best kept secrets, were heard by a number of prestigious musicians. Among them were Robbie Robertson and Annie Lennox, Michael McDonald. After a decade struggling to get their music heard, The Blue Nile were big news. During this period, America would become like a second home to The Blue Nile, especially Paul Buchanan.

Paul took to life in America, and in 1991, decided to make it his home. This just so happened to coincide with Paul Buchanan’s relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette between 1991 and 1993. Hollywood starlets and Sunset Boulevard was a long way from Glasgow’s West End. In the midst of Paul Buchanan’s relationship, disaster struck for The Blue Nile, when they were dropped by their label.

Linn Records and Virgin decided to drop The Blue Nile. For some groups this would’ve been a disaster. Not for The Blue Nile. 

They signed a million Dollar deal with Warner Bros. While this sounded like the ideal solution for The Blue Nile, Paul Buchanan made the deal without telling  P.J. Moore and Robert Bell. He later explained that “none of the others were in town at the time.” With a new contract signed,  The Blue Nile began thinking about their third album, Peace At Last.

Peace At Last.

Witt work about to start on their third album, The Blue Nile started looking for the perfect location to record their third album. They travelled across Europe looking for the right location. This location had to be private and suit their portable recording studio. Cities were suggested, considered and rejected. Among them, were Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Venice. Being  The Blue Nile, things were never simple. Eventually, and after much contemplation The Blue Nile ended up recording what became Peace At Last in three locations, Paris, Dublin and Los Angeles. For the first time, The Blue Nile recorded an album outside of their native Scotland.

For their major label debut, things began to change for The Blue Nile. They brought onboard drummer Nigel Thomas, a string section and a gospel choir. Peace At Last was going to be a quite different album to A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats. However, one things stayed the same, The Blue Nile continued to work with Calum Malcolm. With his help, Peace At Last was ready for release in June 1996. Before that, critics had their say.

Critics remarked upon the change of sound on Peace At Last. It had a much more understated, restrained sound. Acoustic guitars and piano play important parts. Still, The Blue Nile’s beloved synths remain. Occasionally, The Blue Nile add strings. There’s even a gospel choir on Happiness. Gone was the sound of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. Peace At Last showed a different side to The Blue Nile and their music, one that divided the opinion of critics and fans. Paul, Robert and P.J. were back, but it was a different sound. One constant was Paul Buchanan’s worldweary vocal. Glasgow’s very own Frank Sinatra, Paul Buchanan plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee on songs about  love, love lost, betrayal, heartbreak, growing up and growling old. Paul Buchanan was still the tortured soul, who wore his heart on his sleeve on Peace At Last.

On the release of Peace At Last, in June 1996, it reached just number thirteen and sold poorly. For The Blue Nile this was disappointing, given it was their major label debut. Worse was to come when the lead single Happiness failed to chart. The Blue Nile’s major label debut hadn’t gone to plan. Sadly, Peace At Last was the only album The Blue Nile released on a major label.

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High.

Following Peace At Last, it was eight years before The Blue Nile released another album. High was released in 2004. During the last eight years, the three members of The Blue Nile had been leading separate lives. While P.J. Moore and Robert Bell were content  with their lives in the West End of Glasgow, while Paul Buchanan had been spending his time between Glasgow and Hollywood. Now they were back and ready to record their fourth album, High. 

Once High was recorded, all that was left was for The Blue Nile to find a label to release the album. The Blue Nile had been dropped by Warner Bros. So with High completed album, The Blue Nile shopped High to various labels. Eventually, they settled on Sanctuary, which would release High in August 2004. However, before that, critics welcomed back The Blue Nile.

Eight years after the release of Peace At Last, critics remarked that High was a much more grownup album. Songs of family life and heartbreak sat side-by-side. Paul Buchanan who had been suffering with illness and fatigue, seemed to have found a new lease of life. His lyrics are emotional, observational, cinematic and rich in imagery. They’re also poignant, and full hope, hurt and anguish. Meanwhile, Paul Buchanan’s vocals were worldweary and knowing, while the music is emotive, ethereal and evocative. Critics love High. So did music lovers.

When High in August 2004, the album reached number ten in the UK. High proved to be The Blue Nile most successful album. This proved to be fitting.

High was The Blue Nile’s swan-song. Nobody realised this when the album was released. It was only as years passed without a followup to High, that the reality sunk in. There would be no more music from The Blue Nile, and one of the greatest bands of their generation was now part of musical history. 

Following High, critics thought that The Blue Nile would return, possibly after another lengthy break. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, and The Blue Nile were no more. At least they did things their way. Right up until the release of High, The Blue Nile were enigmatic, almost reclusive and publicity shy. Mind you, The Blue Nile weren’t exactly your normal band. 

The rock ’n’ roll lifestyle favoured by other bands wasn’t for The Blue Nile. Their music was much more cerebral, and had a substance that much of the music recorded between 1984 and 2004 lacked. During that twenty year period, The Blue Nile only recorded four albums. These albums are unique. Musical fashions and fads didn’t affect The Blue Nile. Their attitude was almost contrarian and albums were recorded slowly and methodically as the Blue Nile strived for musical perfection. 

Many have tried to achieve perfection. However, very few have come as close as The Blue Nile. Their debut album A Walk Across The Rooftops and the followup Hats, are nowadays both regarded as classic albums where The Blue Nile came close to achieving perfection.  Peace At Last and High show another side to The Blue Nile. There’s a much more grownup sound, to the albums. However, just like A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats, both albums showcase one of the most talented bands in Scottish musical history, The Blue Nile. 

While The Blue Nile never enjoyed the commercial success their music deserved, they stayed true to themselves. They never jumped onto a musical bandwagon in pursuit of fame, fortune or starlets. Quite the opposite. For The Blue Nile it was their way or no way. If an album took years to record, so be it. It was always worth the wait. After all, not many bands pursue perfection, and achieve that perfection four times. The Blue Nile did, and ended their career on a High

The Solo Years.

Eight years after the release of 2004s The Blue Nile’s swan-song High, Paul Buchanan returned in May 2012 with his long-awaited and much-anticipated debut solo album, Mid Air. It was a very different sounding album from Paul Buchanan, who had changed in the eight intervening years. 

Mid Air featured an  older and wiser Paul Buchanan who was now fifty-six. From and from the music on Mid Air, Paul Buchanan had spent much of his time reflecting on life and everything it has thrown him. Whether it was love or loss or pain and death, it has affected Paul Buchanan and influenced the music on Mid Air.

This included the death of one of Paul Buchanan’s closest friends, which has caused him pain and hurt. It also made Paul Buchanan reflect on mortality and  the breakup of The Blue Nile which  had caused him pain and hurt. The Blue Nile were more than just a band, they were members had been three close friends for over thirty years.  Paul Buchanan thought that The Blue Nile would last forever and its breakup was yet another loss that scarred him emotionally. The demise of The Blue Nile and everything that’s happened to Paul Buchanan between 2004 and 2013 shaped the music on Mid Air.

Mid Air featured  fourteen songs written by Paul Buchanan in his flat in Glasgow’s West End. With just a piano in his kitchen for company, Paul Buchanan spent the early hours of many a night writing the songs on Mid Air Rather than write the songs on his trusty guitar, he preferred the immediacy of the piano. He could just sit down whenever he wanted, working on an idea for a song. Eventually, Paul Buchanan had fourteen songs written, and the recording took place mostly in his Glasgow flat, but also at a studio in Glasgow.

Recording of Mid Air took place over a period of two years and was recorded by Cameron Malcolm, son of Calum Malcolm The Blue Nile’s former producer. Joining  Paul Buchanan was his oldest friend Robert Bell, The Blue Nile’s bassist. Two of the three members of The Blue Nile were back in the studio and working  on Mid Air. Eventually, after two long years, Mid Air was released on 21st May 2012. 

Just like The Blue Nile’s debut album twenty-eight years previously, Mid Air was released to critical acclaim. Critics welcomed the return of the former Blue Nile frontman, as he embarked upon a solo career. 

On the release of Mid Air, the album reached number fourteen in the UK. This meant that Mid Air had almost matched the success of The Blue Nile’s most successful album High, which had reached number ten in the UK. In his native Scotland, Mid Air reached number one, while it reached number four in Ireland. It seems that fans loved the older, wiser and more pensive Paul Buchanan that features on Mid Air.

Mid Air was without doubt, a very personal album from Paul Buchanan. Sometimes Glashow’s own troubled troubadour  lays bare his soul, while other times he’s searching for answers to what life had thrown him since The Blue Nile released their swan-song High in 2004.  Other times,  it was as if Paul Buchanan was  searching for the meaning of life itself as he delivers a series of worldweary vocals on Mid Air. It’s a really mature, grown-up album from Paul Buchanan,

He was  fifty-six when Mid Air was released, and his world-weary voice has matured with age. So have his talents as a songwriter. In many ways, Paul Buchanan has become Scotland’s answer to Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Not only has age resulted in wisdom, but fourteen tales of life, love and loss. To put this into perspective, it took The Blue Nile eight years and two albums to produce fourteen tracks, whereas Mid Air took but two years from start to finish. 

Many critics hoped that Paul Buchanan would return with his sophomore solo album before he turned sixty. Sadly, that wasn’t to be and  Paul Buchanan turned sixty on 16 April 2016. That day, the former Blue Nile  was eligible for free travel around Glasgow’s West End where he still lives. Later in 2016, it was the thirty-fifth anniversary of the founding of The Blue Nile in 1981. Still there was no sign of the reissue of The Blue Nile’s 2004 swan-song High. 

Just over two years later, and still there’s no sign of the reissue of High. Nor is there any sign of  Paul Buchanan returning with his long-awaited sophomore album. By now, critics and record buyers know that things take time in the world of The Blue Nile. Maybe Paul Buchanan will return with the followup to Mid Air by the time he’s sixty-five? Let’s hope so, as Glasgow’s troubled troubadour has traveled the same roads as  many of the people who bought The Blue Nile’s four albums and Mid Air.

They want to hear more of Paul Buchanan’s engaging and emotive music which speaks to and for them. Especially as Paul Buchanan explores subjects that are relevant to their lives nowadays. This ranges  from  love and loss, to heartbreak, hurt and hope right through to regret and sadness. These are the subjects and emotions that Paul Buchanan’s older, more mature audiences are experiencing and thinking about in 2017.  While The Blue Nile’s music still strikes a chord with them, and always will, they need someone to put into words what they’re now feeling and experiencing. One man capable of doing that is  Paul Buchanan, who has similar experiences and has travelled the same roads and can articulates their experiences and emotions. That is what  Paul Buchanan has spent a lifetime doing, and hopefully what Glasgow’s troubled troubadour will continue to do on his long-awaited and much-anticipated sophomore album.

Paul Buchanan-From The Blue Nile and Beyond.

JON SAVAGE’S 1968-THE YEAR THE WORLD BURNED.

Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned.

Label: Ace Records.

When the Rolling Stones released Street Fighting Man as a single in America in August 1968, it was called their most political song to date. The song started life as Did Everyone Pay Their Dues, but it’s alleged became Street Fighting Man after Mick Jagger heard and watched events unfold across the globe.

This began when his friend Tariq Ali attended an anti-war rally at the US embassy in London, and mounted police tried to control a crowd of 25,000. Mick Jagger also found inspiration in events unfolding across the English Channel, where the student riots on Paris’ Left Bank were a precursor to the ciivl unrest that took place in May 1968. Paris was just the latest city where social unrest was taking place.

Across the Atlantic, The Civil Rights Act of 1968 had been filibustered as the year dawned. This had happened several times before, and most likely, would’ve happened again. However,  when The National Advisory Commission On Civil Disorders in 1967 published its report on the ‘1st’ March 1968, it recommended that: “a comprehensive and enforceable federal open housing law” was a possible remedy to the civil disturbances. It looked as if there was a solution to what had been a long running problem.

Ironically, as The Senate debated The Civil Rights Act of 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis, on April the ‘4th’ 1968. This lead to the worst ever wave of civil unrest in more than 120 cities. This resulted in thirty-nine deaths, in excess of 2,600 injured and many African-American communities ravaged, left with residents and business left reeling from millions of dollars in damages and losses.Suddenly, filibustering was a thing of the past.  

The House passed The Civil Rights Act of 1968 on April ’10th’ and President Johnson signed it a day later on the ‘11th’. Although this was a important day for African-Americans, the death of Martin Luther King Jr, who had been an inspirational figure for many within the Civil Rights’ Movement.

Meanwhile, many Americans realised just how brutal and pointless the Vietnam War was and protests were organised across America. However, some of the peaceful protests turned to riots. Surely things couldn’t get any worse in America?

Sadly, it did. On June the ‘5th’ 1968, Senator Robert F Kennedy was assassinated by a twenty-four year old by a Palestinian man. This sparked disorder and incidents across America.

One of the worst riots took place in Chicago, as law-enforcement officers beat what was a gathering of mostly nonviolent youths. This led to the actions of law-enforcement officers being described as a: “police riot.

Across America, riots spread to other American cities, and police brutally evicted student protesters from buildings on Columbia University Morningside Heights campus, This was a blow to students who believed that the universities were a place where dissent was tolerated and wouldn’t be crushed.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Berlin and Mexico City, students and workers took to the streets to protest, but the police were quickly crack down on the protests as blood continued to flow in the streets.

1968 was a bloody year married by violence, riots and the assassinations. It was a year many people wanted to forget as the clock struck midnight on the ‘31st’ of December 1968. However, 1968 was also an important year musically, and is documented on Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned, which has just been released by Ace Records as a two CD set.

Disc One.

Opening disc one of Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned is Honey Chile by Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. It finds an almost defiant Martha Reeves singing: one day I’m gonna get stronger, and I won’t need you no longer” on a song the reflects the rise of feminism.

Very different is the psychedelic rock of Sunshine Help Me from Spooky Tooth’s debut album It’s All About. Lysergic describes the mod-psych sound of The Creation’s How Does It Feel To Feel, while the pop psych sound of Grapefruit’sDear Delilah has still relevant and popular in 1968.

Big Bird was Eddie Floyd’s tribute to his friend and Otis Redding, who had died in a plane crash. It’s a fitting homage to the legendary soul man. Meanwhile, Tighten Up a fusion of funk and soul proved to be one of the finest songs of Archie Bell and The Drells’ long career. 

Continuing with what’s already an eclectic compilation, Everydays is a laid back, jazz-tinged track from The Buffalo Springfield, while Talkin’ About The Good Times is a slice of pop psych from The Pretty Things. The psychedelic sound continues on Dave Mason’s Just For You, and The Kinks contribute one of their hook laden single Wonderboy. 

Dionne Warwick’s contribution is the soul classic Do You Know The Way To San Jose. It’s one of her finest singles of her career, and has stood the test of time.

So has the Love’s Your Mind and We Belong Together which signals an end of the psychedelic era. Suddenly paranoia and withdrawal were the order of the day as the psychedelic dream became a nightmare. Other welcome additions to disc one are Canned Heat’s World In A Jug from their sophomore album, and The Beau Brummels’ folk rock single Lift Me. Closing disc one of Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned is Al Wilson’s The Snake, which was a favourite of dancers in 1968.

Disc Two.

Given the situation in parts of Europe, South America and throughout America, it’s ironic that Fire! by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown opens disc two of Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned. After that, Hard To Handle by Otis Redding and People Got To Be Free by The Rascals are followed by two classics. The first is I Say A Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin which is followed by Piece Of My Heart by Big Brother and The Holding Company which features a vocal powerhouse from Janis Joplin.

Soul and funk was popular throughout 1968. The For Tops released I’m In A Different Worlds, while the Godfather of Funk James Brown enjoyed a hit with Say It Loud!-I’m Black And I’m Proud (Pt 1). One of the most underrated soul songs from 1968 was Freedom Train by James Carr.

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band released what was their finest moment Smell Of Incense. Fifty years later and it’s a truly timeless tracks.

Another of Motown’s biggest names, The Temptations, released their psychedelic soul album Cloud Nine. The title track was one of Cloud Nine’s highlights, while Sly and The Family Stone released call their for harmony with Everyday People.


Away from soul and funk, Throwaway Street Puzzle was a tantalising taste of what folk rockers Fairport Convention  were capable of. However, one of the rarest tracks on Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned has been kept until last. That is a preview pressing of MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, which closes this lovingly curated compilation in style.

1968 was, and always will, be remembered as a tumultuous year in history, marred by violence, riots and assassinations. It was a year many people wanted to forget as the clock struck midnight on the ‘31st’ of December 1968. The cost in human and financial terms was huge in America, as well as parts of Europe and South America during the year the world burned. 

Providing a soundtrack to that year was the music on Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned, which is a truly eclectic compilation and one of the best of 2018.

Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned.

PHIL ALVIN-UN “SUNG” STORIES. 

Phil Alvin-Un “Sung” Stories.

Label: Big Beat.

After the demise of The Blasters in 1985, founder member, lead singer and guitarist Phil Alvin wondered what the future held for him? He knew he could join another group, or even form another band. However, eventually Phil Alvin decided to embark upon a solo career and record an album that featured music of by some of his earliest musical influences and memories. That album was Un “Sung” Stories, which was released in 1986 and has just been reissued by Ace Records’ imprint Big Beat.

Having made the decision to record an album that reflected his earliest musical influences and memories, Phil Alvin began thinking of the music his parents played California town of Downey in the late fifties and early sixties. Eventually, Phil Alvin settled on the material he would record for his debut solo album Un “Sung” Stories. This included Someone Stole Gabriel’s Horn which gave a young Bing Crosby a hit, Otis Blackwell’s Daddy Rollin’ Stone and songs like The Ballad Of Smokey Joe, The Old Man Of The Mountain Brother Can You Spare A Dime? These, and the rest of the ten tracks were recorded with some special guests.

Joining Phil Alvin were former members of The Blasters, Sun Ra and The Arkestra and the New Orleans’ based Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Jubilee Train Singers. They all accompanied Phil Alvin as he recorded the ten songs on Un “Sung” Stories.

When Un “Sung” Stories was released in 1986, it was to plaudits and praise. However, the Slash label only released it only on vinyl and cassette, having not yet fully embraced the new CD format. This didn’t help sales of Un “Sung” Stories, which didn’t reach the audience it deserved.

Many music fans missed out on Un “Sung” Stories which nowadays, is regarded by many critics as a hidden gem. However, back in 1986 some critics were struggling to describe the music on Un “Sung” Stories. It’s best described as Americana, which was still in its infancy in 1986. 

Thirty-two years later, and Americana is thriving and Un “Sung” Stories is regarded as Phil Alvin’s finest solo album. It opens with a breezy cover of Someone Stole Gabriel’s Horn which gives way to New Week Sometime, a two-part mixture of music, drama and humour. 

The Ballad Of Smokey Joe finds Phil Alvin paying homage to Cab Calloway, with Minnie The Moocher, Kicking The Gong Around and The Ghost Of Smokey Joe. However, the highlight of this triumvirate of tracks is Minnie The Moocher, which features Sun Ra and The Arkestra. They return on The Old Man Of The Mountain and a rueful rendition of Brother Can You Spare A Dime? Their unique and inimitable sound gives the songs a new twist. 

 Bringing the sound of the Big Easy is New Orleans’ based Dirty Dozen Brass Band on Un “Sung” Stories. However, on Death In The Morning The Jubilee Train Singers add backing vocals and again, are joined by former Blasters’ drummer David Carroll. 

He returns on a moody, broody cover of bluesman Otis Blackwell’s Daddy Rollin’ Stone. That isn’t the end of the blues. It continues on Titanic Blues, while Collins Cave is a mixture of hillbilly and blues. Closing Un “Sung” Stories is Gangster Blues, which brought to a close Phil Alvin’s captivating and energetic debut album.

For anyone with even a passing interest in Americana, Phil Alvin’s Un “Sung” Stories will be of interest to them. It marked the start of a new chapter for the, founder member, lead singer and guitarist of The Blasters. However, despite being released to plaudits and praise, Phil Alvin was in no hurry to release the followup to Un “Sung” Stories.

Eight years later, Phil Alvin returned with his sophomore album County Fair 2000. Since then, Phil Alvin has recorded two albums with Dave Alvin and has reformed The Blasters who are still playing live in 2018. However, as far as his solo career is concerned, Phil Alvin’s finest hour was, without doubt, his debut album Un “Sung” Stories. 

Phil Alvin-Un “Sung” Stories.

C. J. & CO-AIN’T IT AMAZING THE UNRELEASED WESTBOUND MASTERS.

C.J. & Co-Ain’t It Amazing-The Unreleased Westbound Masters. 

Label: Westbound.

The C. J. & Co story began in Detroit, Michigan, in the mid-sixties when they were known  as The Strides. By the early seventies,  The Strides featured Curtis Durden and his wife Connie, Cornelius Brown Jr and Joni Tolbert. This was the lineup that signed to the Sussex record label, where they were they first encountered the production team of Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey who produced them as C.C. & Co.  However,  by then, all wasn’t well at Sussex, and the label was soon no more. Fortunately, Westbound boughtC.C. & Co’s recording contract.

In their early days at Westbound, C.C. & Co worked on soulful songs with Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey including the club hit Let Them Talk. However, with the arrival of disco C.C. & Co decided to change direction.

One of C.C. & Co’s earliest disco singles was Devil’s Gun which was  written by the British songwriting team of Barry Green, Ronald Roker and Gerry Shury. It was the single that changed C.C. & Co’s fortunes when it reached number thirty-six on the US Billboard 100 and two in the US R&B charts. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in the UK, Devil’s Gun reached forty-three and gave C.C. & Co their first British hit single.

Despite the success of Devil’s Gun, this wasn’t the original version of the song. It only came to light a couple of years ago, when Mike Theodore told Ace Records about the existence of some unreleased tapes by C.J. & Co which he had recorded when they were signed to Westbound. His next question was would Ace Records be interested? 

They already had some unissued tracks by C.J. & Co ut not enough for a new compilation. Maybe the unreleased tracks were the answer to their problems? That turned out to be the case, and the previously unreleased tracks became part of Ain’t It Amazing-The Unreleased Westbound Masters, which has just been released via Ace Records’ Westbound imprint. It’s a reminder of C.J. & Co who were active between 1977 and 1978.

Buoyed by the success of Devil’s Gun, C.J. & Co released We Got Our Own Thing which reached number ninety-three in the US R&B charts and number one in the US Dance charts in 1977. This led to C.J. & Co recording their first album with Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey.

This was Devil’s Gun, which was released to plaudits and praise in 1977, and reached number sixty in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B charts. Surely the C.J. & Co success story would continue?

When C.J. & Co released their third single Sure Can’t Go To The Moon in 1977. It failed to trouble the charts. 

Neither did C.J. & Co’s sophomore album  Deadeye Dick, which made no impression on the charts. It was a similar case with the singles Big City Sidewalk and Deadeye Dick. After just two hit singles and hit album C.J. & Co’s popularity dwindled and they released no more music. However, there was still unreleased tracks in the Westbound vaults. They feature on Ain’t It Amazing-The Unreleased Westbound Masters. 

This includes some of the earliest recordings C.J. & Co made for Westbound, including Ain’t It Amazing sure fire dancefloor filler with mesmeric vocal interplay. Rainbow Music and The Golden Touch were both quality dance tracks that had the potential to entice even the most reluctant dancers onto the floor. Quite different is Get Lucky, where the addition of an electronic bass line make it sound like  Giorgio Moroder production when he was working with Donna Summer. However,the previously unheard original mix of their biggest hit Devil’s Gun is the highlight of Ain’t It Amazing-The Unreleased Westbound Masters and sounds as if its been influenced by Norman Whitfield’s productions for Undisputed Truth. 

Ain’t It Amazing-The Unreleased Westbound Masters features a dozen soulful disco tracks that were never released by Westbound. The demise of disco meant that further albums by C.J. & Co were  released by Westbound. Now forty years after C.J. & Co released their swan-sing Ain’t It Amazing-The Unreleased Westbound Masters has just been released and is a welcome reminder of their vocal prowess and the production skills of Mike Theodore and Dennis Coffey.

C.J. & Co-Ain’t It Amazing-The Unreleased Westbound Masters. 

THE BETA BAND-HEROES TO ZEROES.

The Beta Band-Heroes To Zeros.

Label: Because Music.

The Beta Band was formed in Edinburgh in 1996, and a year later, in July 1997 released their Champion Versions EP, which was the first of a trio of innovative EP’s the folktronica pioneers released.

In March 1998 The Beta Band released their sophomore EP The Patty Patty Sound, with Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos following in July 1997. By then, critics were starting to take notice of The Beta Band whose popularity was growing. 

Nearly two years later, The Beta Band was released to widespread critical acclaim in June 1999, and everyone at Regal Records celebrated as The Beta Band reached number nineteen in the UK, However, not everyone was happy with the album.

Despite their eponymous debut album giving them a hit in the UK, Steve Mason  of The Beta Band called the album: “fucking awful” and  “it’s definitely the worst record we’ve ever made and it’s probably one of the worst records that’ll come out this year.” Steve Mason then said in an interview with NME that the album had: some terrible songs,” and they weren’t e “fully realised or fully even written. Half-written songs with jams in the middle” The Beta Band seemed determined to sabotage their career at Regal Records.

To make matters worse, The Beta Band seemed in no hurry to record their sophomore album. Steve Mason recorded and released the No Style EP under his King Biscuit Time EP moniker. After this, Steve Mason and the rest of The Beta Band’s thoughts turned to their sophomore album Hot Shots II, which has just been reissued by Because Music.

Eventually, The Beta Band decided it was time to return to the studio, and this time brought onboard British producer Colin Emmanuel, aka C-Swing, who oversaw production of what eventually became Hot Shots II.

During the Hot Shots II sessions, The Beta Band recorded ten new tracks with C-Swing. The tracks were very different to those on The Beta Band. Some of the songs were much quieter and a less is more approach to production was the order of the day. This allowed the songs to breath, with less ‘obstacles’ obscuring the key parts of the songs. Some of the songs were slow and dark and featured descending chords as The Beta Band continued to innovate. To do this, they took their own unique and inimitable approach 

On the album opener Squares, just drumbeats and bass lines accompany Stephen Mason’s chanted vocal. It’s only during a chorus where gorgeous string-drenched trip hop chorus does the song reveal its secrets. Then on Gone, it’s just bass, piano, and backing vocals that play their part in the sound and success of the song. However, on other tracks The Beta Band deploy everything from samples of stunting acoustic guitar melodica and grandiose horns. They’re part of a rich and vibrant musical tapestry. Sometimes, The Beta Band kick loose, and find their inner rocker and become a very different band to that on their eponymous debut album. They’re also a much more focused band and less prone to bouts of eccentricity like The Beta Band Rap. It was as if The Beta Band  had come of age on Hot Shots II.

Critics were won over by Hot Shots II, and hailed  The Beta Band’s sophomore album as one of the albums of 2001. Hot Shots II was hailed as The Beta Band’s finest hour. 

Buoyed by the critical acclaim, Hot Shots II was released in July 2001. Hot Shots II reached number thirteen in the UK and sneaked into the US Billboard 200 at 200. It also reached fourteen in the US Heatseekers chart and eleven in the Independent album charts. The Beta Band looked on the verge of breaking into the lucrative American market. Sadly, they only produced one more album.

This was Heroes To Zeros which has just been rereleased by Because Music. It was The Beta Band’s swan-song. The Beta Band began demo sessions for what later became Heroes To Zeroes in September 2002. They then entered the studio with producer Tom Rothrock in 2003 and completed a number of tracks. There was a problem though.

Neither The Beta Band nor executives at Regal Records were happy with the recordings and producer Nigel Godrich was brought in to mix the album, which was finally finished in early 2004. 

The lead single, Assessment, was released on the ’12th’ of April 2004 and reached number thirty-one in the UK. Two weeks later, the album Heroes To Zeros was released on the ‘26th’ of April 2004 and reached number eighteen in the UK. This would normally be something to celebrate.

Heroes To Zeros featured music that had a much more dense and direct sound but strikes a balance between The Beta Band’s more traditional sound and music that was way ahead  of the musical curve. However, some of the music on Heroes To Zeros saw The Beta Band turn their attention to creating pop music.

This being The Beta Band wasn’t ordinary pop music, but pop music with a twist. Heroes To Zeros opened with Assessment which is a slow burner that occasionally hints at U2 before The Beta Band accompanied by horns, sprint for the finish line. Wonderful, which is a love song could only have been written by The Beta Band, while Troubles features a worldweary vocal. By then, there were Troubles afoot within The Beta Band Maybe this is a hint of what was about to happen in August 2004?

Very different was Out-Side, a jagged pop freakout  which opens with sampled dog barks, while Space Beatle veers between sparse with eerie verses to a much fuller and viscous sound. Space Beatle and other tracks on Heroes To Zeros sounded as if had been influenced by one man.

It was obvious that Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was still a huge influence on The Beta Band and especially tracks like Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villain. So were albums like 20/20 and Friends. However, The Beta Band were also forging ahead with their own sound, which was intricate and multilayered. They were best qualified to produce the album and bring their new ideas to life. 

To do this, The Beta Band adopted a variety of production techniques to bring out the best in what was an idiosyncratic band. No other producer would’ve been able to achieve what The Beta Band did on Heroes To Zeros. 

Many of the songs on Heroes To Zeros ended up very different from the initial ideas recorded by The Beta Band. They honed the songs on Heroes To Zeros which open with Assessment and closed with Pure For. Heroes To Zeros featured The Beta Band at the peak of their creative powers on their self-produced swan-song.

By the time The Beta Band released Liquid Bird, as their second single from Heroes To Zeros, many critics had realised that the song was based on a sample of the Siouxsie and The Banshees’ song Painted Bird. This could’ve been an expensive mistake for The Beta Band.

Despite this mistake, The Beta Band released Out-Side, their second from Heroes To Zeroes in July 2004. When it stalled at fifty-four in the UK charts, little did critics or record buyers realise that the end was neigh for The Beta Band. 

They announced their breakup on their website on the ‘2nd’ of August 2004.  Despite that, The Beta Band performed at the Summer Sundae festival and embarked upon a farewell tour which drew to close in Edinburg, at the Liquid Rooms on the ‘5th’ of December 2004. This was the end of the story for The Beta Band.

Their swan-song Heroes To Zeros was the only album that The Beta Band produced themselves, since signing to an imprint of a major label. They hadn’t been happy with their first two albums and often made their views known in the music press. 

Usually, this was before the album was even released. As they made these comments, members of The Beta Band seemed to forget that they still had help promote their latest release.  Executives at Regal Records must have been left shaking their heads in exasperation. Despite the comments of the members of The Beta Band, their three albums were all commercially successful. However, the big question is how successful could The Beta Band have been if they had played the PR game, and reigned in their outspokenness, maverick tendencies and tendency to self sabotage. 

Looking back, The Beta Band weren’t suited to being signed to a big label, and would’ve been better suited to a smaller indie label or even self-releasing their albums through their own label.  Maybe they would’ve enjoyed a longer career and released more that three albums, including their critically acclaimed,self-produced swan-song Heroes To Zeros? 

It features the inimitable genre-melting sound of folktronica pioneers The Beta Band at the peak of their creative powers on Heroes To Zeros their self-produced swan-song where the musical mavericks realise their potential. 

The Beta Band-Heroes To Zeros.

SHE’S A DOLL! WARNER BROS’ FEMININE SIDE.

She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side.

Label: Ace Records.

One of Ace Records’ most popular compilation series’ over the past few years has been Where The Girls Are. There’s already been nine volumes of the critically acclaimed Where The Girls Are, with another due for release in 2019. This hasn’t stopped Ace Records compiling and releasing another new compilation of girl pop, but one with a difference.

This is She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side, which has just been released by Ace Records. It features twenty-four tracks which were released by Warner Bros and its various imprints between 1962 and 1968. These tracks  feature She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side, which could well be first instalment in a series of label-centric compilations of girl-pop.

If so, what better label to start than Warner Bros, which was home to everyone from The Three Degrees, Vickie Baines, Barbara Jackson, Ramona King, The Dolls, Bonnie, Connie Stevens,  The Honeys, Brenda Hall, Barbara English and Joyce Alexander to Lorraine Ellison. With a mixture of familiar faces and new names, She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side has something for everyone.

This includes Contact which The Three Degrees, who open She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side with Contact, a smooth slice of Philly Soul released as a single on Warner Bros Seven Arts in 1968. Sadly, this was The Three Degrees one and only single for Warner Bros Seven Arts, and it wasn’t until they signed to Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records in the seventies  that they enjoyed commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic.

Philly born Vickie Baines recorded and released two singles on Parkway in 1965, and two years later released Sweeter Than Sweet Things in 1967 on the Symbol label. Tucked away on the B-Side was the hidden gem We Can Find That Love. It was pickled up by Loma, an imprint of Warner Bros who released We Can Find That Love as a single. Sadly, this hidden soulful gem failed to find the audience it deserved, and fifty-one years is a welcome addition to She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side.

Barbara Jackson only released two singles during a recording career which began in 1963 and was over by 1965. Her finest hour came at Warner Bros where she recorded and released He’s Good in 1965. Alas, commercial success eluded She’s Good and that marked the end of Barbara Jackson’s short recording career. Her story is a case of what might have been.

Ramona King recorded for various labels during her career, and between 1964 to 1965 was signed to Warner Bros and recorded Chico’s Girl. However, it was never released and makes a belated debut on She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side.

With the rise of popularity in girl groups The Socialites were formed in 1960, and released a trio of singles. This included their swan-song You’re Losing Your Touch which was released in 1964. It featured Jive Jimmy on the B-Side, which is a reminder of the early sixties girl group sound. Sadly, the single failed commercially and The Socialites called time on their career not long after releasing You’re Losing Your Touch. Maybe things would’ve been different if Jive Jimmy had been released as a single?

Movie and television star Connie Stevens embarked upon a musical career in the early sixties and in 1963, released the double A side Little Miss Understood and There Goes Your Guy. While the single failed to chart,There  Goes Your Guy is regarded as one of Connie Stevens’ finest sides. 

He’s A Doll was The Honeys sophomore single and was released on Warner Bros in 1964. By then, one of The Honeys, Marilyn Rowell, and  Beach Boy Brian Wilson were engaged and married shortly after the release of He’s A Doll. However, commercial success eluded He’s A Doll and The Honeys began working as backing vocalists, and only released one further single in 1969. However, their finest single was He’s A Doll.

Sugar N’ Spice’s single Come Go With Me was the Loma label’s first venture into the girl group market. It wasn’t a successful one, although the B-Side Playboy is something of a hidden gem.

Nashville born Brenda Hall only ever released one single during her career. This came in 1965, when she  released Soldier Boy Of Mine on Loma. On the B-Side was Oh Eddy, My Baby which was a death song inspired by The Shangri-Las. It’s another oft-overlooked song from the Warner Bros’ vaults.

Prior to founding Sly and The Family Stone, Sly and Rose stone were members of The Tonettes. In 1964,Gloria Scott and The Tonettes released I Taught Him (Pt 1) as a single which failed to chart. The following year, Gloria Scott was hired by Ike Turner which spelt the end of the group, which was part of the story of Sly and The Family Stone.

Joyce Alexander’s one and single Here I Come was released on Warner Bros in 1963. Sadly, there was no followup from this truly talented singer. That was a great shame.

Closing She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side is In My Tomorrow by Philly born Lorraine Ellison. It was released as a single on Loma in 1968, and is a soulful reminder of the talented Lorraine Ellison.

After the success of the critically acclaimed Where The Girls Are compilation series, Ace Records have just released  another new compilation of girl pop,She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side. It features twenty-four tracks which were released by Warner Bros and its various imprints between 1962 and 1968 by familiar faces and new names. They all have one thing in common their quality.

Given the quality of the tracks on She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side, this could well be first instalment in a series of label-centric compilations of girl-pop and another success story for Ace Records.

She’s A Doll!-Warner Bros’ Feminine Side.

HOLGER CZUKAY, JAH WOBBLE, JAKI LIEBEZEIT-FULL CIRCLE-VINYL.  

Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit-Full Circle-Vinyl.

Label: Gronland Records.

Having released eleven albums in eleven years, Can called time on their career in 1979. By then, Can were rightly regarded by critics as one of the most important, influential and innovative bands of the Krautrock era. However, like many of the Krautrock bands, Can hadn’t enjoyed the commercial success that their music had deserved. While their music found an a small, but discerning audience in Britain and France, Can, like many of the other Krautrock bands had failed to find audience in Germany. This was disappointing, just like the demise of Can the group that Holger Czukay cofounded.

After the demise of Can, Holger Czukay dusted himself down after two years where he was marginalised in the group he cofounded.“During the recording of Out Of Reach, I felt an outsider in my own group. I was on the outside looking in. I was on the margins. All I was doing was adding sound-effects.” Holger Czuaky felt his group had been hijacked by Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah and  things got so bad, that Holger quit Can. 

Sadly, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah dominated Out Of Reach. Gone was the loose, free-flowing style of previous Can albums. Even Jaki Liebezeit’s play second fiddle to Baah’s overpowering percussive sounds. The only positive thing was a guitar masterclass from Michael Karoli. Apart from this, things weren’t looking good for Can. It was about to get worse though.

The critics rounded on Out Of Reach. They found very little merit in Out Of Reach. Gee and Baah were rightly blamed for the album’s failure. Even Can disliked Out Of Reach. They later disowned Out Of Reach. Despite this, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah remained members of Can.

Unable to play with the necessary freedom Can were famed for, the two ex-members of Traffic stifled Can. Rebop’s percussion overpowers Jaki’s drums, which have always been part of Can’s trademark sound. At least Michael’s virtuoso guitar solos are a reminder of classic Can. A nod towards Carlos Santana, they showed Can were still capable of moments of genius. Sadly, there wouldn’t be many more of these.

Some time after the release of Out Of Reach, Can decided to release a new single. It wasn’t one of the songs on Out Of Reach. Instead, it was reworked version of Jacques Offenbach’s Can Can. This was somewhat surreal, and far removed from classic Can. They had moved far away from the music that featured on their golden quartet. Can’s loyal fans wondered what the future held for Can. Sadly, Can would breakup after their next album. 

Can.

Following the commercial failure of Out Of Reach, the members of Can began recording what became their tenth album, Can. Remarkably, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah were still part of Can. Sadly, Holger was not longer a member of Can. He had left during the making of Out Of Reach. His only involvement was editing Can which was a travesty.

Allowing Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah to remain members of Can while Holger left the band he cofounded was a massive mistake. Faced with the choice or losing Holger or keeping Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah in Can, should’ve been a no-brainer. Incredibly, Holger was marginalised further.

Neither Rosko Gee nor Rebop Kwaku Baah were suited to a band like Can. Both came from a very different musical background, and as a result the decision to hire them initially was flawed and questionable. Their playing on Out Of Reach was odds with the way Can played. They had spent their career playing with freedom that resulted in inventive and innovative music. The much more rigid style of Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah stifled the other members of Can. To make matters worse, their playing overpowered the rest of Can, and was one of the reason’s for the album’s failure. Yet when recording of Can began, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah remained.

Can, which is sometimes referred to as Inner Space, was released in July 1979. Again, critics weren’t impressed by Can, and the album received mixed reviews. No longer was Can the critic’s darlings. 

The music on Can was a fusion of avant-garde, electronica, experimental, psychedelia and rock. Add to that, a myriad of effects including distortion and feedback, and here was an album that divided the opinion of critics. While the critics agreed, it was better than Out Of Reach. They also agreed that Holger was sadly missed. 

Even Holger’s renowned editing skills couldn’t save Can. Try as he may, he could only work with what he was given. He did his best with Can, which the eleventh album from the group he co-founded. By the time Can was released, Holger: “had come to a realisation, that it was time to go his own way.” Holger describes this as “necessary.” 

Can had split-up after the release of Can. That was their swan-song. However, even before that, Holger: “felt marginalised, this had been the case since Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah became part of Can. They had hijacked Can,” and ultimately, this lead to the death of a great and innovative band. 

With Can now part of musical history, Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit set about reinventing themselves. Music critics wondered whether they would form new bands or embark upon solo careers? Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay and Michael Karoli all embarked upon solo careers.

Movies!

Holger Czukay hadn’t really been making music since 1976, and had edited the last two Can albums. This meant that Holger Czukay had to find “his own sound again.” He had “been through this with Can,” Now he’d have to do so again. It would be worth it though, when he released his first solo album since 1969s Canaxis 5, Movies!

When Holger Czukay released his much-anticipated sophomore album Movies! to widespread critical acclaim and was hailed as one of the best albums of 1979. It was an eclectic album described as variously psychedelic, cinematic, melodic, moody, understated and progressive, here was the next chapter in Holger’s musical career. The one track that everyone agreed was a minor masterpiece was Cool In The Pool. It was Movies’ Magnus Opus.  Holger’s decision to embark upon a solo career had been vindicated. He was back doing what he did best, creating ambitious, groundbreaking and pioneering music. That would continue in 1981, when Holger released On The Way To The Peak Of Normal.

On The Way To The Peak Of Normal.

For Holger, 1981s’ On The Way To The Peak Of Normal was “one of the albums I’m most proud of. It was also Holger’s first collaboration with Conny Plank

Working with Conny Plank Holger remembers, was a revelation. Holger felt Conny was a consummate professional. “Here was someone who understood what I was trying to achieve.” He ensured that I never made music people neither understood, nor wanted to buy. The sessions were organised and disciplined, very difference from the indiscipline of late Can albums.” 

Recording took place in the familiar surroundings of Inner Space Studios, Cologne. The only member of Can were present was Jaki Liebezeit. Other members of the band included Conny Plank and Jah Wobble, who Holger and would collaborate with on 1982s Full Circle and the 1983 Snake Charmer E.P.

Before that, Holger released On The Way To The Peak Of Normal in 1981. Just like the early days of Can, Holger was once again, the critic’s darling. 

Critics were won over by On The Way To The Peak Of Normal. The album was a fusion of ambient, avant-garde, electronic, experimental, funk, industrial, jazz, psychedelia and rock. Genre-melting describes an album of bold, challenging, innovative, inventive and influential music. It was a case of expect the unexpected on On The Way To The Peak Of Normal, which saw Holger continue to create groundbreaking music. Here, was one of the most inventive albums Holger had recorded.

Although Holger had been making music for three decades, he still had plenty to say musically. This included when Holger Czukay collaborated with Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit on the album Full Circle which was recently reissued by Gronland Records.

Full Circle.

Holger Czukay had collaborated with Public Image Limited’s bassist Jah Wobble and former Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit on his third album On The Way To The Peak Of Normal. They had enjoyed working together and decided to record an album which reflected their respective musical backgrounds and influences.

Holger Czukay and Jah Wobble wrote How Much Are They?, Where’s the Money, Trench Warfare and Twilight World. They also joined forces with Jaki Liebezeit to write Full Circle RPS (No 7) and Full Circle RPS (No 8). These six tracks were recorded at Can’s Inner Space Studio, Cologne,

During the recording of Full Circle, Holger Czukay switched between guitar, piano, organ, French horn, added vocals on Full Circle RPS (No 7) and drum machine on How Much Are They? Jaki Liebezeit played drums, percussion, trumpet and added backing vocals on Full Circle RPS (No 7). Jah Wobble added bass, vocals and synths on Full Circle RPS (No 7). The three pioneering musicians had soon recorded the six tracks that became Fill Circle which was mixed by Holger Czukay.

When Full Circle was released in 1982, it was hailed a groundbreaking album of innovative music by critics as dub and Krautrock melted into one. Scratch below the surface and elements of avant-garde, electronica, experimental and rock can be heard on Full Circle. It features multilayered soundscapes that are dreamy,dubby, filmic,futuristic, lysergic, otherworldly and was full of subtleties and surprises. Full Circle was a truly groundbreaking album.

Sadly Full Circle wasn’t the commercial success that it deserved to be, and this crucially critically acclaimed collaboration between Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit hasn’t found the audience it deserved. It’s shades of Can, before their music started to receive the recognition it deserved.

As for Full Circle, it’s always been an underground album, appreciated by a small coterie of music lovers who understand and appreciate the combined talents of the three musical innovators of Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit who were responsible for an early eighties cult classic. 

Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit-Full Circle-Vinyl.

VENEZUELA 70 VOLUME 2: COSMIC VISONS OF A LATIN AMERICAN EARTH: VENEZUELAN EXPERIMENTAL ROCK IN THE 1970S AND BEYOND-VINYL.

Venezuela 70 Volume 2: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s and Beyond-Vinyl.

Label: Soul Jazz Records.

During the seventies, Venezuela was one of the most prosperous countries in South America after oil was discovered in the North West of the country in 1914. Soon, there was the equivalent of gold rush in the Maracaibo basin. However, it was liquid gold prospectors came in search of, oil.

Before long, most of the biggest oil companies were beating a path to the Maracaibo basin and were soon shooting fish in a barrel. There was oil, and plenty of it. As a result, people came from all over the world in search of work and wealth. This was no surprise, as Venezuela was ideally situated.

Venezuela was the gateway to the Caribbean, so people from Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago arrived in Venezuela. So did immigrants from neighbouring South American countries including Bolivia, Brazil and Columbia. However, by then, Venezuelans were used to people settling in their country

That had been the case for over 200 years. People had emigrated fro Germany, Italy and Portugal, and  so had Arabs and Africans. Venezuela had always been a multicultural country, and it was no different in 1928.

By 1928, Venezuela was the largest exporter of oil in the world and  had become home to many of the world’s biggest oil companies. They came in search of black gold, and found a plentiful supply. This they exported to across the globe. However, by 1943 the Venezuelan government were tired of watching their oil heading out of the country, and decided to take action.

In 1943, the Venezuelan government passed laws that resulted in a 50/50 split in profits between the government and the oil companies. This was a huge blow to oil companies, but the Venezuelan government were resolute. They weren’t going to change their mind. Especially when the money raised from the oil  tax transformed Venezuela into one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

That was the case through the remainder of the forties and fifties. By 1960, Venezuela’s new, democratically elected government played a leading role in founding OPEC, whose aim was to ‘support’ the price of oil. Things were changing in Venezuela. 

The country continued to prosper in more ways than one  during the sixties. By then, Venezuela had a rich cultural capital. The kinetic arts scene was thriving, and so was music. Traditional forms of Venezuelan music continued to prosper in some parts of Venezuela. However, many Venezuelans began to look outside of the country for musical inspiration. 

They looked to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Latin America. Some Venezuelans had travelled to New York, and heard the Nu Yorican which was popular within the Latino community. This music soon began to influence Venezuelans. So too did British rock music. However, other types of music from within Venezuela began to influence the music scene.

With so many immigrants settling in Venezuela, they brought with them their own musical influences. These different genres all played an important part in Venezuela’s musical future. 

Meanwhile, the prosperity continued, and there was an air of positivity during the sixties. Venezuela was a very different country and was now run by democratically elected government, who looked like they were about to play an important part on the world stage, given their role in OPEC. However, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, Venezuela changed, and the wider world were in for a surprise.

In 1973, Venezuelans voted to nationalize the oil industry. For all the companies who had invested heavily in Venezuela, this was a massive blow. The only small crumb of comfort was that the new law didn’t take force until the 1st of January 1976. After that, Petróleos de Venezuela would take over exploration, production, refining and exporting oil. This meant all the money made out of oil, stayed in Venezuela, and made the country even more prosperous. That was the theory.

The only problem was, that by the seventies corruption was rife within Venezuela. Still the country continued to prosper, pre and post the ‘1st’ of January 1976 and Venezuela remained a wealthy and prosperous country financially and culturally.

Part of Venezuela’s rich cultural capital during the seventies was its music scene. Venezuelan musicians were creating ambitious and innovative music. However, that music has never been heard outside of Venezuela, which is a great shame, given the quality of music produced by Venezuelan musicians during the seventies.  However, Soul Jazz Records have just released Venezuela 70 Volume 2: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s and Beyond which is another selection of groundbreaking music.

That music was made by pioneering musicians whose raison d’être to create album of  groundbreaking and innovative music. Most of these artists and bands were part of the Venezuelan underground music scene and were relative unknowns. Sadly, that remains the case even today, and it’s only the release of compilations like Venezuela 70 Volume 2: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s and Beyond that may introduce these artists and bands to the wider audience that their music so richly deserves.

Back then,  artists and bands fused elements of disparate and sometimes unlikely musical genres with everything from progressive rock and jazz, electronica, experimental music and even disco during the seventies. This was very different from much of the music that was popular in Latin America during the seventies.

This included salsa which filled dancefloors across Latin America. Meanwhile, many Venezuelan rock bands were heavily influenced by British and American bands. However, this changed in the seventies when there was a  revolution in Venezuelan music.

Suddenly, a new generation of Venezuelan artists and bands began releasing groundbreaking music from the seventies onwards. Eighteen of these  artists feature on Venezuela 70 Volume 2: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s and Beyond which was recently released as a two LP set by Soul Jazz Records. This includes Vytas Brenner who contributes the folk rock of Agua Clara. He returns later with La Sabana and Tragavenado which are a reminder of a truly talented singer and songwriter.

Straight away, Daniel Grau’s cosmic disco experiment Dejando Volar El Pensamiento which in parts brings to mind Giorgio Moroder who has obviously been an influence, Daniel Grau’s other contributions include Delirio En Fa Menor and Voy which are both a remainder of a pioneering musicians.

The driving disco-tinged funk of Orchestra Julian ’s Do It With Class is a real hidden gem. So is the psychedelic rock of Vytas Brenner’s Gavilan with its blistering guitar licks and funky backdrop. Vytas Brenner also contributes Mandingo, La Sabana and Morrocoy which are a reminder of one of one of Venezuelan music’s pioneers who sadly, is one of the country’s best kept musical secrets. 

Machu Picchu Dos (El Nino Anciano) is best described as a slice of tropical funk from Un Dos Tres Y Fuera. They only feature once and so does Johnny Lamas whose Noches En Caracas is one of the compilation’s finest moments. Closing Venezuela 70 Volume 2: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s and Beyond is Aldemaro Romero Y Su Onda Nuevo’s joyous  sounding Una Por Una with its feel-good sound.

The various artists and bands on Venezuela 70 Volume 2: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s and Beyond were all pioneers determined to push musical boundaries to their limits as they created groundbreaking and innovative music. 

To do that, the artists and bands fused elements of  electronica, funk, jazz, and Latin rhythms with progressive rock, psychedelia and rock. Some added Venezuelan roots music to the mix which created a new and unique sound which combined elements of the music of the past and present. This music was all part of a new musical era which is celebrated on Venezuela 70 Volume 2: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s and Beyond and is a further reminder of the groundbreaking and innovative music being released in Venezuela during what was a golden age for underground music.

Venezuela 70 Volume 2: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth: Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s and Beyond-Vinyl

BUILDING INSTRUMENT-MANGELEN MIN.

Building Instrument-Mangelen Min.

Label: Hubro Music 

Ten years ago, Building Instrument was formed in 2008, by Mari Kvien Brunvoll, Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and Åsmund Weltzien in Bergen, Norway, with a view to making electronic music. It wasn’t long before Building Instrument decided to change direction.

After a musical rethink, Building Instrument settled on a very different sound. This time, they decided to make acoustic music, which would allow Building Instrument to improvise and innovate. Having made the decision to change direction, Building Instrument began to practise, honing and shaping their new sound. Gradually, their own unique genre-melting sound began to take shape. 

It’s best described as genre-melting, with Building Instrument drawing inspiration from various musical genres and influences. Once they had honed their unique sound, Building Instrument began to play live

Each night Building Instrument took to the stage, they took the audience on a magical, musical, mystery tour. One minute Building Instrument’s music is understated, then the next it’s playful as  Building Instrument throw a curveball, and change direction. The next track is totally different, with Building Instrument losing their earlier self restraint, becoming bold as they kick out the jams. As a result, Building Instrument’s music is always innovative, inventive and interesting. Other times, glorious rhythms and melodic music assailed the audience, who were enthralled by veered between emotive and ethereal to compelling and dramatic. Other times, the music was adventurous, bold and always, innovative. However, that wasn’t surprising given Building Instrument’s multi-talented lineup.

Building Instrument’s vocalist is Mari Kvien Brunvoll, who also takes charge of an eclectic and interesting selection of instruments. This includes the zither, percussion, kazoo and sampler. Mari Kvien Brunvoll released her eponymous debut album in 2012. She has also worked with many artists during her carer. This includes her collaboration with Stein Urheim on their 2013 album Daydream Twin. It was nominated for a Spellemannprisen in the Open Category in 2013. However, Mari Kvien Brunvoll isn’t the only experienced musician in Building Instrument.

So is drummer and percussionist Øyvind Hegg-Lunde. He has been a member of several groups, i, including Crab Is Crap, the Erlend Apneseth Trio, Glow, Klangkameratane, Strings and Timpani and The Sweetest Trill. The final member of Building Instrument is Åsmund Weltzien, who plays synths, melodica and adds electronics and melodica. Together, the three multitalented members of Building Instrument proved a formidable force.

Having laboured long and hard to establish a reputation as a live band, Building Instrument was now familiar faces on Norway’s thriving and vibrant music scene. By then, Building Instrument’s concerts were receiving rave reviews. In the increasingly competitive Norwegian music scene, Building Instrument were regarded as rising stars. Their music was adventurous, inventive, innovative and totally unique. They had forged and honed their own style over the last few years. During this period, they’d worked away, quietly recording their eponymous debut albu

Building Instrument.

In March 2014, Building Instrument was released to critical acclaim. The music was beautiful, cinematic, ethereal, innovative and inventive album of genre-melting music, where Building Instrument push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond It was a captivating album, and one that sonically and stylistically, defied description.

Building Instrument combined elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, folk, free jazz, pop, and rock. There’s even a nod to sixties soundtracks and jazz. At the heart of Building Instrument’s sound, was the ethereal beauty of Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s vocal. The result was an album where Building Instrument certainly fulfilled their potential, and in doing so, whetted the listener’s appetite for the followup.

Given it had taken Building Instrument six years to release their eponymous debut album, the question was how long would it take them to release their sophomore album? Building Instrument it turned out, took just over two years to record Kem Som Kan Å Leve, which by todays, standards, isn’t long. Kem Som Kan Å Leve is one of the most anticipated albums of 2016, and finds Building Instrument heading out on another magical musical mystery tour.

Kem Som Kan Å Leve.

Having released their eponymous debut album, Building Instrument’s thoughts turned to the followup. It took the best part of two years to complete what became Kem Som Kan Å Leve. The music was composed by Building Instrument, while vocalist Mari Kvien Brunvoll wrote the lyrics and is responsible for the melodies. However, the inspiration for some of Kem Som Kan Å Leve came from the artwork of Kurt Schwitters on yheoir .

Just like on their eponymous debut album, Building Instrument combine disparate musical genres. Elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronic, experimental, folk, indie pop, improv, industrial and jazz. It’s a captivating fusion of musical genres and influences. These influences include Kurt Schwitter a painter, but a collage artist, sound poet and installation artist.

On Kem Som Kan Å Leve, Building Instrument followed in the footsteps of Kurt Schwitter. Building Instrument: “go further in the direction of expanding or erasing the meaning of language, just as Schwitters did with his sound poetry.” This was an ambitious project, but the results were fascinating and captivating and features sonic explorers Building Instrument at their inventive and innovative best. Kem Som Kan Å Leve was Building Instrument’s musical Magnus Opus, and was an ambitious and adventurous, but also beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic and melodic. This set the bar high for their third album Mangelen Min which will soon be released by Hubro Music.

Mangelen Min.

Having released two critically acclaimed albums, critics, cultural commentators and a coterie of music fans with a discerning musical taste wondered what direction Building Instrument’s music would head in? The answer was Mangelen Min, an album of truly groundbreaking music that is way ahead of the musical curve. 

The three members of Building Instrument have spent ten years improvising and experimenting together as they pushed musical boundaries to the limit and sometimes beyond Building Instrument are also well aware of the current trends and taste in modern music. Despite their interest in contemporary music, Building Instrument’s appeal ranges from  serious music fans to those who preference is for popular music. Both types of listener are drawn to, and strikes a chord with the new and innovative music that Building Instrument have been making for ten years. This includes on their new album Mangelen Min.

This time around, Building Instrument were joined by sound engineer and musician Anders Bjelland of Great News, Electric Eye, Jørgen Træen of The National Bank, Susanne Sundfør, Jaga Jazzist and Lars Horntveth. They all play their part in what’s an exquisite fusion of musical and influences.

Listen carefully to Mangelen Min and there’s elements Balkan music, classical baroque, electronica and Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s vocals which range from ethereal and celestial to assured and powerful. Add to the mix drums that have a melodic sound and deep spacey synth sounds. They sound as if they belong on the soundtrack to a feature film by Nicolas Winding Refn. All this is part of a truly captivating albums full of subtleties, and surprises and also nuances and changes  aplenty. Mangelen Min finds Building Instrument lock down the groove on a very danceable album with an intriguing title.

For those wondering what the album title Mangelen Min means, singer, co-composer and lyricist Mari Kvien Brunvoll explains that it translates into English as: “the thing missing in my life” or “my lack” Essentially Mangelen Min is the presence of something that is missing or no longer there, and is a akin to a body of sorrow that follows someone around. It’s also a bit like a companion creature that is made up of all the longing inside a person. Those separated by distance and lovers-in-waiting will understand this feeling of longing. Mari Kvien Brunvoll describes  Mangelen Min as: “your alien-like shadow friend.” It watched on as  Building Instrument recorded their third album.

Mangelen Min found Building Instrument embark upon a musical adventure, but one where there wasn’t a pre-defined destination in sight. Øyvind Hegg-Lunde remembers: “We were starting to get confident about what we’ve created as a band, and during the ten years we’ve been working together we’ve become close friends.“ his time, we went into the studio knowing that we had a team of talented people around us, who would all be working on the creative chaos together. Plus we were surrounded by a lot of equipment and a pretty big set-up.”

Despite Building Instrument’s expanded lineup,  they stick to the same successful formula that worked so well on their first two albums. This means fusing real-time playing on an eclectic selection of instruments, live sampling and electronic processing. All this is combined and becomes part of a musical mosaic that has been painstaking put together by Building Instrument. Mangelen Min is an ambitious and imaginative album made by groundbreaking musicians who create music that is innovative and inventive. In doing so, sonic explorers Building Instrument combine the past and present on Mangelen Min.

While many bands prefer to work in the digital domain, Building Instrument used analogue technology more than digital on Mangelen Min. It’s a combination of Man Machine. There’s also  DIY ethos on parts of Mangelen Min, although state of the art technology is used elsewhere on an album where layer upon layer of instruments are combined and intertwine. Mari Kvien Brunvoll remembers:  “We employed everything from Hardanger fiddle samples, vibraphone, sampled wind instruments and whistles in addition to our customary resources of song, drums and synthesisers.” The final piece of the jigsaw was Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s versatile vocal which spans several octavse. It’s part of a genre-melting album from sonic explorers Building Instrument who return with a fitting followup to Kem Som Kan Å Leve. 

Mangelen Min is another ambitious project from Building Instrument, and the results are both fascinating and captivating. The Norwegian sonic explorers are at their inventive and innovative best on Mangelen Min as they push musical boundaries to their limit and sometimes beyond. This resulted in Mangelen Min, an album of truly groundbreaking music that is way ahead of the musical curve, which is what critics and cultural commentators have come to expect of Building Instrument during the last ten years.

Building Instrument-Mangelen Min.

JOHN COLTRANE-1963: NEW DIRECTIONS-VINYL.

John Coltrane-1963: New Directions-Vinyl.

Label: Impulse!

As 1963 dawned, John Coltrane was at the peak of his powers and was already regarded as one of the greatest tenor saxophonists of his generation. However, the previous year 1962, had been somewhat disappointing by his high standards. Neither of the two albums he released in 1962, Ballads nor Duke Ellington and John Coltrane were his finest or most innovative albums. Instead, they were a reminder that Impulse! the label hat John Coltrane was signed to, saw him as a mainstream jazz musician. John Coltrane had other ideas.

In 1962, John Coltrane had joined forces with Eric Dolphy and released the album Live At The Village Vanguard. This was much more representative of where John Coltrane was musically at the time. By then, he was leading what later became knowns as his classic Quartet.

The lineup featured drummer Elvin Jones, double bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner who all feature on a new five LP box set 1963: New Directions that has just been released by Impulse! It features John Coltrane at the peak of his creative powers on what was a pivotal year of his career.

This was very different from 1962, which musically wasn’t a vintage year for John Coltrane.  He had also struggled with the mouthpiece of his tenor saxophone and rather than persevere, had some work done on it. This ruined what was a perfectly good mouthpiece. To make matters even worse John Coltrane was also experiencing marital problems, and watched as his marriage broke down. It was no surprise that John Coltrane was pleased when 1962 gave way to 1963.

It offered a new start for him, and on the ‘5th’ of March 1963, John Coltrane and has classic Quartet played a barnstorming set at Birdland, and was one of their best sets since they started out in 1962. Buoyed by this, the Quartet was ready to record a new album.

John Coltrane and his classic quartet arrived at the Van Gelder studios in Englewood Cliffs, on the ‘6th’ of March 1963, and the band were in good spirits after their barnstorming set at Birdland the night before. It was without doubt one of their finest sets and  this set them up nicely to record a new album with Rudy Van Gelder, which would be released by Impulse later in 1963.

Bandleader John Coltrane planned to record an entire album during the session, which was something he had done many times before, and so had the other members of the quartet.This time, John Coltrane planned to record an album that featured mostly his own compositions. He had written Slow Blues, One Up, One Down and Villa which was based on Franz Lehár’s Vilja Song from The Merry Widow. John Coltrane planned to revisit another of his compositions Impressions, and had decided to cover Nature Boy. However, John Coltrane knew from experience that anything could happen when he was recording an album.

That proved to be the case, and John Coltrane and his classic Quartet recorded several takes of each track, including those that feature on  1963: New Directions. The classic Quartet deliver a series of restrained and stunning performances on Takes 3 and 5 of Villa, Nature Boy and on the four takes of Impressions. These four tracks are a reminder of just how versatile and talented the four members of the classic Quartet were. They had an almost telepathic understanding as Takes 1 and 6 of One Up, One Down show.

Twenty-one tracks were recorded on the ‘6th’ of March 1963. This includes an eleven minute epic version of Slow Blues, the beautiful After the Rain and tracks of the quality of Autumn Serenade and After The Rain. However, not every track features the classic quartet.

In April 1963 drummer Elvin Jones had to enter rehab to deal with his drugs problem. Roy Hayes seas brought in to deputize for him and can be heard on Dear Old Stockholm and a cover of Billy Eckstine’s I Want to Talk About You which was recorded live at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1963. However, many jazz aficionados familiar with the two drummers’ work will be able to spot the difference in styles between Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes.

There’s two more live tracks from the Newport Jazz Festival, including a fiery and inventive seventeen minute version My Favorite Things where John Coltrane switches to soprano saxophone. There’s also a fifteen minute version of Impressions where John Coltrane explores this familiar tracks as he returns to tenor saxophone and plays with an inventiveness and aggressiveness. Elvin Jones returns on The Promise,  a lengthy and laid-back eight minute exploration of I Want To Talk About You and Mongo Santamaria’s  classic Afro Blue featured on the original Live at Birdland. So do Your Lady which references John Coltrane’s future wife Alice, and make the start of his spiritual side. However, the most poignant and thought-provoking track is Alabama, which was  written for the four African-American girls killed in the despicable bombing of a church in Birmingham, the previous September. This proves a  ruminative way to close disc three 1963: New Directions, at the thought of barbarian racists  murdering four innocent girls in a place of worship.

For anyone with even a passing interest in John Coltrane’s music 1963: New Directions is an important musical documents and acts as a roadmap for what was still to come. The classic Quartet were known for their versatility as their music continued to evolve.

This included on his two spiritual masterpieces Crescent and A Love Supreme. They were followed by explorative Ascension and Meditations, which saw John Coltrane continue to push and stretch the boundaries of what was the regarded as jazz. However, by 1965 John Coltrane music had moved on the direction of avant-garde period which was the direction his music headed until his tragic death on July the ’17th’ 1967 aged just forty. 

That day, jazz music lost one of its greatest saxophonists who left behind a rich musical legacy including the music which features on 1963: New Directions which documents a landmark year for John Coltrane and his classic Quartet as they continued to write their way into jazz history.

John Coltrane-1963: New Directions-Vinyl.

COVER ME-THE EDDIE HINTON SONGBOOK.

Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook.

Label: Ace Records.

When Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler saw Eddie Hinton playing in Muscle Shoals he called him “the  next big thing.” By then, Eddie Hinton was a talented songwriter who regularly collaborated with Marlin Greene, Donnie Fritts and Dan Penn, and played guitar on nearly every session held at Quinvy and Muscle Shoals Sound studios between 1967 and 1972. However, Eddie Hinton wasn’t content to be a session musician and songwriter all is career.

Eddie Hinton wanted to embark upon a solo career, but his career was hampered after a drugs charge in the early seventies saw him forced to leave his home Muscle Shoals. Despite that, Eddie Hinton wasn’t about to give up on his dream. 

In 1977, Eddie Hinton had signed to Capricorn Record and released his debut album Very Extremely Dangerous. Many record industry insiders and critics believed that Very Extremely Dangerous would launch the Muscle Shoals based soul man’s career.

It would’ve done if Capricorn Records hadn’t entered bankruptcy a few weeks later. This was a disaster for Eddie Hinton.

By then, Eddie Hinton’s life had already started to spiral out of control and soon, he was battling with mental illness plus drugs and alcohol addiction. The man dubbed: “the next big” by Jerry Wexler was in danger of becoming the forgotten man of soul.

In 1986, Eddie Hinton released his long-awaited  sophomore album Letters From Mississippi. Then five years later, he followed this up with Cry and Moan in 1991. Sadly, though, his fourth album Very Blue Highway was the last album Eddie Hinton released during his lifetime.

Tragedy struck on the ’28th’ of July 1995 when Eddie Hinton died after suffering a heart attack. the fifty-one year old soul man was at home in  Birmingham, Alabama with his mother Deanie Perkins and stepfather Paul Perkins. It was the end of era.

Looking back, the story of Eddie Hinton is one of a truly talented singer who never fulfilled his potential. However, during the first decade of his career Eddie Hinton the songwriter enjoyed a rich vein of form and more than fulfilled his potential. Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook which is the lasts instalment in Ace Records’ songwriter series features twenty-four songs he penned  between 1967 and 1977. Some of these songs were written with Marlin Greene, Donnie Fritts and Dan Penn and were recorded by everyone from Dusty Springfield, Bobby Womack, Candi Staton, The Sweet Inspirations, Mink Deville, Cher, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Gwen McCrae and Bonnie Bramlett. Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook is a reminder of a truly talented songwriter.

Opening Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook is his best known song Breakfast in Bed which was recorded by Dusty Springfield for her classic album Dusty In Memphis which was released by Atlantic in 1969. This oft-covered song has since become synonymous with Eddie Hinton. However, it’s just one chapter in the story.

Jackie Moore recorded Cover Me, which lends its name to this compilation, for Atlantic in 1971. It was perfect suited for the twenty-five year old soul singer from Jacksonville, Florida. 

So was A Little Bit Salty which soul survivor Bobby Womack recorded for his 1976 album Home Is Where The Heart Is. It was released on Columbia, but passed many record buyers by as disco was by then flavour of the month. That was a great shame given the quality of songs like A Little Bit Salty.

In 1972, Candy Staton was signed to Fame and working with Rick Hall who produced her single In The Ghetto. Tucked away on the flip side was Sure As Sin which is a hidden gem from one of the greatest female soul singers of her generation.

Although many people remember The Sweet Inspirations for adding backing vocals on songs by the great and good of music, they released a number of albums. This included Sweets For My Sweets in 1969 which featured Always David. It’s one of the highlights of the album and a reminder of a talented and soulful trio.

It’s All Wrong But It’s Alright was recorded by Eddie Hinton in 1967, but wasn’t released until 2000 when it featured on the album Dear Y’all. It’s a poignant reminder of one of Eddie Hinton who had the talent and potential but never made the breakthrough and for too long, remained one of soul music’s best kept secrets. 

Cher covered Save The Children and her heartfelt version featured on her 1968 Atco album Jackson Highway. 

Six years later, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin covered Every Natural Thing on her 1974 album for Atlantic Let Me Into Your Life. This uptempo song features a vocal masterclass from Aretha Franklin who was at the peak of her powers.

Judy White released a cover of the Eddie Hinton and Marlin Greene composition Satisfaction Guaranteed as a single on Buddah in 1969. It’s an underrated single and welcome addition to Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook.

Percy Sledge recorded Standing On The Mountain for the B-Side of 1972 single for Atlantic Rainbow Road.  It’s another Eddie Hinton and Marlin Greene composition that Percy Sledge breathes life and meaning into.

It’s a similar case with Lou Johnson People In Love which featured on his debut album Sweet Southern Soul. It was released on Atlantic Records’ imprint Cotillion in 1968 an showcases the talents of the soul singer from Brooklyn, New York.

Closing Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook is fittingly Lulu’s cover of Where’s Eddie. This Eddie Hinton and Donnie Fritts composition was tucked away on the B-Side of her 1970 single. It’s wistful sounding song with a lovely horn chart that compliments Lulu’s vocal and ensures Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook closes on a high.

Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook is a welcome addition to Ace Records’ celebrated Songwriter Series. This lovingly curated compilation is a reminder of the first ten years of Eddie Hinton’s career, which was the most fruitful period of his career.  During that period, the great and good of music covered Eddie Hinton’s songs. 

Despite being a talented singer and songwriter Eddie Hinton never reached the heights he should’ve. He bravely battled mental health problems and was addicted to drink and drugs. Still he continued to write and record, but the first ten years of singer Eddie Hinton’s career was the most fruitful. 

Sadly, Eddie Hinton never made the commercial breakthrough many record industry insiders and critics believe, and his career was cut tragically short when he passed away just aged fifty-one after suffering a heart attack. Soul music was in mourning after the death of a a talented singer and songwriter who left behind a rich musical legacy including the songs on Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook.

Cover Me-The Eddie Hinton Songbook.

ALAN HAKWSHAW/BRIAN BENNETT-FULL CIRCLE.

Alan Hawkshaw/Brian Bennett-Full Circle.

Label: Be With Records.

Ever since the dawn of hip hop, library music has proved a source of inspiration for sample-hungry hip hop producers and crate-digging DJs alike. Library music has also proven popular with a coterie of music lovers with discerning musical tastes over the last few years. This was something that the founders of Chappell, Bosworth and KPM Music could never have envisaged.

They had no idea the lasting effects the music of mainly anonymous, young composers would have on several generation of musicians and music fans. This includes children growing up in the seventies, weaned on cartoons like Dangermouse, viewers of TV quizzes or current affair programs. Library music also influenced hip hop producers like Jay-Z, Doom and Guilty Simpson, film producers including Quentin Tarantino or cutting-edge DJs. The influenced of library music can played an important part in the development of many musical genres. Despite that, library music has been, until relatively recent still one of music’s best kept secrets. 

Thankfully, over the last few years, interest in library music has started to grow as reissue labels release compilations and albums. This includes Be With Records who have been digging deep into the vaults of KPM Records to reissue ten albums from across the KPM 1000 Series and the Themes International Music catalogue. They’re joined by Full Circle the new album by Alan Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett, who nowadays are regarded as among leading lights of the British library music scene. They were responsible for some of the best library music that KPM Records released during its golden era. However, the KPM Records story began nearly two hundred years earlier.

The Rise of KPM 

Robert Keith founded a comp[any in 1780, to make of musical instruments, and fifty years later, in 1830, entered into a partnership with William Prowse, a music publisher. The newly formed partnership was named Keith Prowse Music (KPM), and over the next hundred years, the company grew and expanded into other areas,

By the early twentieth century, Keith Prowse Music was selling sheet music and concert tickets, but it was  the invention of the gramophone proved to be a game-changer. Demand for sheet music and concert tickets grew, and in 1955, Keith Prowse Music was decided to diversify, into one of the most profitable areas of music, music publishing.

One of the reasons behind the decision to diversify into music publishing, was to feed the demand for soundtracks for radio, television and film. Previously, music libraries supplied classical music, which was what was required.  By the mid-fifties, and the birth of television, the world and music were changing, and changing fast.

Four years later, in 1959, Associated Rediffusion bought another music publisher Peter Maurice and merged it with Keith Prowse Music. The newly merged company became Keith Prowse Maurice, which became known as KPM Music. The newly named KPM Music was a much bigger player in the world music publishing. However, in the mid-sixties, a new name took the helm at KPM Music, and transformed the company into one of the biggest names in library music.

When Robin Phillips joined KPM Music in the mid-sixties, he proved to be an astute and visionary businessman. Two decisions Robin Phillips made demonstrate why. His first decision was that KPM Music should switch from the old 78 records to the LP, which made sense, as LPs were what people were buying. They were less prone to breakage, which meant less returns and more profit. LPs could contain more music, and could be released in limited editions of 1,000. The other decision he made was to hire the best young British composers and arrangers. 

Among the composers Robin Phillips hired were Keith Mansfield and Johnny Pearson, whose talent and  potential as composers he recognised.  Robin Phillips managed to hired them before they’ had established a reputation,  although they were known within music publishing circles.

Later, Robin Phillips managed to hire some of jazz musicians of the calibre of John Cameron, Syd Clark, Alan Hawkshaw and Alan Parker. Their remit was to provide him with new music, which was referred to as production music. Many of their remits was to write music which matched themes or moods, which initially, wasn’t isn’t easy, but soon, the composers were able to do so. Almost seamlessly, the composers created themes for many well known television shows and films.  

For the composers and musicians involved in writing and recording library music, they were part of what was one of the most lucrative areas of music. When EMI realised that KPM Music had one of the best and most profitable music libraries and decided to buy the company. Executives at EMI had spotted the profitability of library music and the consistency, quality and depth of KPM Music’s back catalogue. However,  not everyone within the music industry approved of library music.

Other songwriters looked down on writers of library music, and the British Musician’s Union wasn’t fan of library music. They 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. 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. Fortunately, KPM Records thought of a way to subvert the ban.

KPM Records would fly out composers, arrangers and musicians to Holland and Belgium, where local musicians would join them for recording sessions. This meant that often, the same musicians would play on tracks that were penned by several composers. For the musicians involved, this proved lucrative and some were reluctant to turn their back on session work for companies like KPM Records.

Still the Musician’s Union’s ban continued, and it wasn’t until the late seventies that the Musician’s Union lifted their ban on new recordings of library music. By then, the Musician’s Union realised that they were fighting a losing battle and had no option but to concede defeat.

Meanwhile, the music that was being recorded in Europe and once the ban was lifted in Britain, found its way onto albums of library music released by KPM Music. Again, KPM Music were innovators, and  released limited editions of library music. Sometimes, only 1,000 albums were released, and they were sent out to film studios, television and radio stations and advertising agencies. However, by then, interest in library music had grown. 

Although the albums of library music  were never meant to be commercially available, a coterie of musical connoisseurs had discovered KPM Music’s albums of library music and were determined to add each release to their collection. They weren’t alone.

Later, DJs and sample hungry hip hop and house producers discovered the world of library music. This was a boon for many of these producers who were musically illiterate, and could neither read music nor play an instrument. However, with some lots of practise the musically challenged ‘producers’ were eventually able to sample albums of library music for their latest ‘production’ and very occasionally, this resulted in a hit single for the musical pirates. However, most of the credit should’ve gone to those who made the music that had been sampled.

This included pianist and Hammond organist Alan Hawkshaw and former Shadows drummer Brian Bennett. When Brian Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett teamed up they laid down some of the slickest and funkiest library music was ever recorded in the UK. Especially the music they recorded for KPM which ‘inspired’ several generations of ‘musicians.’

Brian Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett’s KPM recordings have been sampled by artists like Dilla, Nas, Kanye West and Drake. That is no surprise as Brian Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett’s beat driven tracks are among the best library music tracks recorded during the seventies. Forty years later,the two library music veterans are back with their new album Full Circle.

Full Circle comes housed in the authentic and iconic KPM cover which was designed Richard Robinson. It houses a slab of 180 gram vinyl which was  pressed by Record Industry in Holland. They’ve done a wonderful job and are to be commended. If only all new vinyl that is released sounded this good.

When Full Circle starts to play, the listener is transported back to the seventies, as laid-back jazz-funk is emitted through the speakers. Full Circle  opens with the dreamy and summery Flying which hints at smooth jazz as it meanders along.  From the smooth sound of Flying, the Hammond organ driven Hole In One and Reignited are uber funky. Straight Up grooves as the rhythm section and horns unite as bursts of Hammond organ punctate the arrangement. Quite different is the beautiful and ruminative sounding Strengeti. It’s all change on the moderne sounding Open Road where jazz funk and electronica unite successfully as the horns ensure the track swings and then some.

The tempo drops on the floaty and cinematic In The Clouds. Then Brian Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett up the tempo on Corcovado, which is another highlight of Full Circle and showcases their considerable skills. On The Nile sees the quality continue on a track that where smooth jazz horns combine with elements of jazz funk, fusion and electronica.

Marrakech with its cinematic sound paints pictures and encourages the listener to let their imagination run riot. So does the genre-melting Oasis, where rocky guitars and jazzy horns combine. Closing Full Circle is the smokey late night sound of Midnight Jazz which hints at another musical era.

For anyone with even a passing interest in library music, or anyone who likes good music, Brian Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett’s new album Full Circle is essential listening. It features twelve slick, polished tracks from two veterans of British library music. Key to the music are Brian Hawkshaw’s arrangements.

To the rhythm section, Brian Hawkshaw adds the Hammond organ, flute plus horn and string sections. Each instrument is part of a rich musical tapestry which was woven  by Brian Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett, and becomes part of their new album Full Circle. It finds two legends of British library music Brian Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett coming Full Circle as they scale the same heights they reached forty years ago in their pomp seventies at KPM.

Alan Hawkshaw/Brian Bennett-Full Circle.

BOB DYLAN-THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 14:MORE BLOOD, MORE TRACKS-VINYL.

 Bob Dylan-The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks-Vinyl.

Label: Legacy Records.

On January the ’20th’ 1975, Bob Dylan released his fifteenth album Blood On The Tracks, to mixed reviews. Despite that, Blood On The Tracks, which was recorded in New York and Minneapolis during September and December 1974 topped the US Billboard 200 and sold over two million copies and was certified double-platinum. Not for the first time were critics were proved wrong.

Bob Dylan’s fans were totally won over by a deeply personal and confessional album, where many of the songs are about his estrangement from his then-wife Sara. This is something Bob Dylan later denied in a number of interviews. However, Bob Dylan’s son Jacob later called Blood On The Tracks was later described by Jacob Dylan as: “his parents talking” on an album that is number sixteen on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and in 2015 was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.

Now some forty-three years later, The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks which was recently released on a 2 LP set by Legacy Records and revisits Blood On The Tracks. This comes twenty-seven years after Bob Dylan released The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare and Unreleased) 1961–1991.

The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks is akin to musical time travel, and takes the listener back to 1974, when Bob Dylan spent time recording Blood On The Tracks between the ’16th’ to the ’19th’ ofSeptember 16–19, 1974, at A & R Recording in New York. By then, there were changes afoot in Bob Dylan’s personal life.

Having just completed his 1974 tour with the band, Bob Dylan was in New York for a few weeks while he attended art classes with the painter Norman Rae, who the singer later credited with changing his understanding of time. This resulted in Bob Dylan starting to write a series of songs in a red notebook with his newly acquired knowledge.

It was during this time that Bob Dylan first met Columbia Records employee, Ellen Bernstein. Soon, the pair began a relationship which was to spell the end of Bob Dylan’s marriage to his then-wife Sara. 

Later, Bob Dylan took Ellen Bernstein to his farm in Minnesota, where he completed the seventeen songs from which Blood On The Tracks was formed. Little did Bob Dylan realise as he wrote this soul-baring album that later, it would be regarded by many critics as one of the finest collections of love songs of the last century. 

Blood On The Tracks is an emotional roller coaster, and features songs that bring to life the hurt and heartache of a marriage where the final curtain was about to fall. Here was an album many record buyers could relate to.

Ironically, before Bob Dylan entered the recording studio he decided to give some of his musician friends a sneak preview of his new songs. David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Tim Drummond and Peter Rowan listened intently as Bob Dylan ran through the songs. When he left the room Stephen Still hadn’t been won over and said: “He’s a good songwriter…but he’s no musician.” This was an ironic comment from a singer-songwriter who never came close to replicating the success Bob Dylan enjoyed.

Prior to recording Bob Dylan thought about using an electric backing band with Mike Bloomfield playing lead guitar. This made sense as the guitarist had played on 1966s Highway 61 Revisited. However, when Bob Dylan played Mike Bloomfield the songs he planned to record, he played them too quickly for the guitarist to learn. Bob Dylan then moved to plan B.

This was recording stripped-back acoustic arrangements of the songs on Blood On The Tracks during sessions in September and December 1974. Not long after the album was completed, Bob Dylan signed to Columbia Records in the hope that their commercial  marketing muscle would help result in Blood On The Tracks would be a commercial and critical success.

Alas, the reviews of Blood On The Tracks were mixed, but sold well across the world and was certified gold in Britain, platinum in Canada and double platinum in America after selling two million copies. This was the perfect start to Bob Dylan’s second spell at Columbia Records.

Forty-three years after the release of Blood On The Tracks, the standard edition of The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks turns features eleven songs which ooze emotion, hurt and heartache as Bob Dylan lays bare his soul. Among the highlights of this stripped back collection of songs are Tangled Up In Blue, Shelter From The Storm, You’re A Big Girl Now, If You See Her, Say Hello and You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. The less is more approach works and understated acoustic arrangements are the perfect foil for Bob Dylan’s soul-baring vocals on The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks.

Often albums consisting of outtakes lack quality, and it’s soon apparent why the material has lain unreleased for so long. That isn’t the case on the single disc edition of The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks. For some Bob Dylan fans, this will be a tantalising taste of the delights that await the listener on the six CD set. Many other Bob Dylan fans will be content with the single disc edition of The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks. 

Personally, single disc edition of The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks the perfect companion to Blood On The Tracks, which features a truly beautiful and heart-wrenching collection of love songs from Bob Dylan as he lays bare his soul as his marriage to his then wife Sara teeters on the brink, as the hurt and heartache shows in the eleven songs shows.

Bob Dylan-The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks-Vinyl.

THE LIGHTMEN-FREE AS YOU WANNA BE-VINYL.

The Lightmen-Free As You Wanna Be-Vinyl.

Label: Now Again Records.

Before founding The Lightmen, drummer, bandleader and political activist Bubbha Thomas had toured the length and breadth of America playing in R&B revues. The rest of his career had been spent working alongside the legends of jazz and playing on sessions for Peacock and Back Beat Records. However, Bubbha Thomas’ career took a different path in the late-sixties, after witnessing the political and social upheaval that was tearing America apart.

Bubbha Thomas formed a new jazz group The Lightmen, who released four albums of spiritual jazz during the seventies. This includes The Lightmen’s debut album Free As You Wanna Be, which was recently reissued by Now Again Records. It finds The Lightmen following in the footsteps of the late John Coltrane on Free As You Wanna Be, on what was a powerful album of spiritual jazz from Bubbha Thomas’ new band.

He was born and grew up in the Houston’s Fourth Ward, where Bubbha Thomas’ father was a preacher and his mother a musician. Sadly, Bubbha Thomas’ mother passed away before he started school, and he was brought up by his maternal grandmother. Growing up, Bubbha Thomas was a talented basketball player, but it was music that he grew to love.

All around the Fourth Ward, the young Bubbha Thomas heard music playing, especially the blues. He could walk down the streets and hear Big Mama Thornton, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Bubbha Thomas heard the music as he made his way through the Fourth Ward. This made an impression on Bubbha Thomas, and so do did what was happening within the Fourth Ward.

Many of the black residents who had moved to the Fourth Ward in the post-war years, were becoming upwardly mobile socially and economically. Some were keen to become active politically, while others had joined the police force and were determined to change the force from within. This included by opposing the enforcement of the Jim Crow laws from within the police force. It looked like Houston and the South was changing.

Meanwhile, as Bubbha Thomas headed to school each morning, he always met a professional drummer called Fats. By the time Bubbha Thomas returned home at night, he could hear Fats practising. He had spent most of the day honing his skills and was a talented drummer who made a big impressions on Bubbha Thomas.

By then, Bubbha Thomas was attending Booker T. Washington High School, and was playing basketball. However, his first love was music, and he was the drummer in the intermediate and senior bands. Later, he was taught by Conrad O. Johnson who would later enjoy a successful career in jazz music. Prof as he was affectionately known, would influence many young musicians, including Bubbha Thomas. 

Via what was called the orchestra Booker T. Washington High School, Prof introduced his pupils to jazz music. This wasn’t meant to happen, but Prof saw this as part of his pupil’s musical education. The curriculum at the school had been drawn up by white people for primarily white children. Those that were responsible for the curriculum referred to the “orchestra,” which under Prof’s tutelage became a jazz band and Bubbha Thomas’ its drummer.

Between the influence of Prof and Fats, Bubbha Thomas’ people were soon taking attention of the young drummer. He was still playing basketball, but that was more of a hobby. Bubbha Thomas was more interested in music. Meanwhile, he was about to discover the other side of Houston.

When Bubbha Thomas boarded a bus in Houston, he was still forced to sit at the back of the bus, away from his white friends. It’s hard to believe that any civilised society was treating its citizens like this in the fifties. Bubbha Thomas who was still in high school new this was wrong.

Gradually it started to eat away at him, being treated like a second class citizen. Things came to a head when he boarded a bus with his elderly grandmother who was exhausted and needed a seat. The only remaining seat was on the white part of the bus, and Bubbha Thomas encouraged his grandmother to sit down. She wasn’t sure but, was so tired that she eventually sat down. When a white woman got on the bus, she wouldn’t sit down in the empty seat next to Bubbha Thomas’ grandmother. The bus driver was watching what was happening, and stopped the bus and told Bubbha Thomas’ grandmother to get out of her seat and give it the white lady. Bubbha Thomas got upset with the driver, and this resulted in them being thrown off the bus. This was the first time Bubbha Thomas had been a victim of racism, and this would shape his future and eventually he would rail against political and social injustice.

Before that, Bubbha Thomas was hoping to head Wiley College, in East Texas, on a basketball scholarship. He was told that there were no scholarships available until the following year, but he was offered a musical scholarship. Bubbha Thomas and one his neighbours in the Fourth Ward spent the next four years drumming in East Texas.

When Bubbha Thomas returned the his grandmother had died, and the house that he lived in the Fourth Ward had been sold. Meanwhile, the Fourth Ward was now seen as part of the Gregory-Lincoln campus. It wasn’t the place Bubbha Thomas knew and he left the Fourth Ward for good, and moved in with his father in another part of Houston.

That was until Bubbha Thomas received his call up papers, and soon, he was en route to Korea. The irony was he Bubbha Thomas was being asked to fight for a country where he was regularly discriminated against, and couldn’t even sit next to a white person on a bus.

After a few days doing mundane chores in Korea, Bubbha Thomas told a superior officer that he was a musician, and soon doing what he did best playing music. He spent his time in the army playing jazz rather than as a regular soldier. By the time Bubbha Thomas left the army, he was a much better musician than the one that arrived in Korea.

Back home in Houston in 1961, Bubbha Thomas put together his own band and hit the road. Each night, Bubbha Thomas played his own music, but other nights, he was asked to accompany other artists. He and his band backed R&B singer Chuck Jackson, bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins and jazz musicians like Leon Spencer and Melvin Sparks. Before long, Bubbha Thomas and his band were capable of playing every style of music.

It was around this time that Bubbha Thomas met Frederick Tillis who would influence him as a musician. So would Don Wilkerson, who released his debut album The Texas Twister in 1960, and then released a trio of well-regarded albums on Blue Note Records. Soon, Bubbha Thomas and Don Wilkerson were part of a quartet together and played all over Texas. 

By the mid-sixties, Bubbha Thomas was a talented and versatile musician who had played all over America. He played from small venues and taken to the stage in some of the most prestigious concert halls America had to offer.  However, by then, jazz’s popularity was in the decline in America, and other musical genres were growing in popularity.

Fortunately, Bubbha Thomas was asked to join Chuck Jackson’s band in the mid-sixties, and after that, led a trio in Houston that featured Leon Spencer. Later, Bubbha Thomas founded The Jazz Merchants, who despite their name, weren’t influenced by Houston’s very own The Jazz Crusaders. The Jazz Merchants were determined to head in a different direction and make music that was unique. This they managed to do as the world around them started to change.

By the late-sixties, the civil rights movement had brought about change in America, and the country was changing. Bubbha Thomas had been part of the civil right’s movement and played his part in the changes that were taking place around him. Now he turned his attention to the musicians with the Houston music scene.

While Houston had many talented musicians, Bubbha Thomas realised that they had an image problem. People’s perception of the local musicians wasn’t good. They were seen as people who slept all day, lived on fast food and after gigs drank too much and smoked reefer. Many people were looking down their noses at musicians, and they were starting to receive bad PR. This Bubbha Thomas knew was wrong and ironic as he was university educated, and many of his musician friends were well-educated. Others were studying at college and music was a way of paying the bills. This was very different to the articles that were being write about local  musicians in Houston.

Bubbha Thomas started to spend more time with groups of musicians, and got to know them. His next step was to try to get them some much-needed publicity. This was how drummer Bubbha Thomas found himself working for the local anti-poverty, grassroots newspaper Voice Of Hope.

Soon, Bubbha Thomas had a regular column and wrote about a variety of local issues. This resulted in the local police targeting Bubbha Thomas, who was regularly followed and stopped for no apparent reason. The musician and part-time community and cultural activist was once again being discriminated against. Just when it looked as if things were changing in the land of the free.

Meanwhile, Bubbha Thomas was collaborating with playwright, poet and professor at Texas Southern University Thomas Melecon. He was combined the philosophy of the Black Panthers with the style of early Bob Dylan. It was a potent and powerful combination and one that impressed Bubbha Thomas. 

So much so, that Bubbha Thomas produced the two singles that Thomas Melecon released on Judnell Records. Not long after this, Bubbha Thomas asked the poet to join him when he played live,  and bring a new angle to his music. Bubbha Thomas was already an innovator when it came to art and music.

He was also someone who wanted equality, and when he noticed that there were no black television presenters, wrote to local stations. This resulted in Bubbha Thomas being given his own television show, which sadly, was short-lived. It featured the only live footage of the Kashmere Stage Band, and spiritual jazz combos the Fifth Ward Express and The Lightmen Plus One led by Bubbha Thomas. It was part of his plan for the future.

As 1969 dawned, Bubbha Thomas was leading The Lightmen and The Jazz Merchants. They accompanied some of the high-profile local jazz musicians including Annette Cobb. However, Bubbha Thomas was thinking beyond live gigs and wanted to release music that was very different to what his peers were releasing. The music would be ambitious, innovative and revolutionary, and released on record labels that were co-ops. This was way before Strata in Detroit and Strata Records in New York thought of the concept.

Soon, Bubbha Thomas and his band The Lightmen were rehearsing and writing material for a new album. During the rehearsals before the recording of Free As You Wanna Be, the members of The Lightmen had been discussing the concept of freedom from the perspective of the African-American people. By then, many had started to question the United States’ constitution regarding their rights as American citizens. Ed Rose who knew that Bubbha Thomas had been active within the civil right’s movement asked Bubbha Thomas: “how free are black people in America?” 

It took some time before Bubbha Thomas responded:  “free as they wanna be.” This inspired Ed Rose to write new track.

He remembers: “with the answer to the question came the name to a tune i had written, the title tune of this album. After the head of tune, there should be no sense of time; each musician has the freedom to be free musically, as he can imagine himself.” 

By the time The Lightmen were ready to record their debut album Free As You Wanna Be, members of the band had penned seven tracks. Bandleader Bubbha Thomas had written May ’67, which referred to a clash between student protesters in the Third Ward and the Houston Police Department. During the clashes twenty-four year old rookie policemen Louis Kuba was shot, and 500 people were arrested. These events insured Bubbha Thomas to write May ’67.

Meanwhile, Ed Rose who had written Free As You Wanna Be had also written Luke 23:32-49 which deals with Jesus’ forgiving two criminals just before his crucifixion. These two songs by Ed Rose were joined by Joe Singleton’s High Pockets, Kenny Abair’s Talk Visit, Doug Harris’ #109 Psychosomatic and Creative Music which was a Carl Adams and George Nelson composition. These tracks were recorded by The Lightmen.

Bubbha Thomas’ band featured a rhythm section of drummers Bubbha Thomas and William Jefferies, bassist Ed Rose and guitarist Kenny Abair. They were joined by conga player Mike O’Connor and a horn section that featured trumpeter Carl Adams, trombonist Joe Singleton, tenor saxophonist Doug Harris and flautist Ronnie Laws who played alto and soprano saxophone. The Lightmen’s debut album was produced by George Nelson.

When the Houston underground jazz collective had completed its debut, The Lightmen released Free As You Wanna Be on Judnell Records in 1970. Sadly, The Lightmen’s debut album never found the wider audience it deserved. However, Free As You Wanna Be found a small, but appreciative audience in Houston.

It was only much later that a new generation of record buyers discovered The Lightmen’s debut album Free As You Wanna Be. By then, it was regarded as a hidden gem and an oft-overlooked album that featured music that was ambitious, cerebral, innovative album, powerful and thought-provoking  album of spiritual jazz. 

Especially tracks like  Free As You Wanna Be, May ’67 and the album closer Luke 23:32-49. These are especially thought-provoking and have a strong narrative. However, the  album opener Creative Music, High Pockets, Talk Visit and #109 Psychosomatic feature a group of like-minded innovative musicians pushing musical boundaries to their limits and sometimes beyond. 

Album opener Creative Music finds spiritual jazz almost heading in the direction of free jazz, before The Lightmen play with speed, power and freedom on Free As You Wanna Be. It gives way to the melodic shuffling High Pockets and then Talk Visit where the tempo increases and The Lightmen keep things melodic. That is despite playing with the utmost urgency, power and accuracy. May ’67 is cinematic and thought-provoking and is without doubt one of Free As You Wanna Be’s highlights. So is #109 Psychosomatic where sharp bursts of squealing horns play their part in  the sound and success of the track. Closing Free As You Wanna Be is Luke 23:32-49 which is another slower cinematic and cerebral track from spiritual jazz pioneers The Lightmen.

Forty-eight years after The Lightmen released Free As You Wanna Be, it was recently reissued on vinyl by Now Again Records. This is the perfect opportunity to discover an oft-overlooked spiritual jazz hidden gem that nowadays, has achieved cult status. 

It features Bubbha Thomas’ band The Lightmen as they embark on the start of a four album musical journey with Free As You Wanna Be. It’s an album of spiritual jazz that is ambitious and innovative and finds The Lightmen pushing musical boundaries to their limits  Free As You Wanna Be as they play with freedom. In doing so, The Lightmen created music that is cerebral, cinematic,  melodic and thought-provoking as they broach subjects like freedom, religion and one of the darkest days in Houston’s recent history in May ’67. All this makes Free As You Wanna Be as a compelling and groundbreaking album of spiritual jazz from Houston-based musical mavericks The Lightmen.  

The Lightmen-Free As You Wanna Be-Vinyl.

MADELEINE PEYTROUX ANTHEM-VINYL.

Madeleine Petytroux-Anthem-Vinyl.

Label: Decca.

Twenty-two years after singer-songwriter Madeleine Petytroux released her debut album Dreamland in 1996, she recently returned with her eighth album Anthem. It’s the much-anticipated followup to her 2016 album Secular Hymns which was released to plaudits and praise. Just like Secular Hymns, Anthem finds Madeleine Petytroux breathing life, meaning and emotion into twelve new songs. This is nothing new for Madeleine Petytroux during a three decade career.

Madeleine Peyroux was born in Athens, Georgia, on the ‘18th’ of April 1974, but began her musical career as a teenager singing jazz and blues on the streets of Paris. This was Madeleine Peyroux’s musical apprenticeship, and in 1996 the American jazz singer and songwriter released her debut album Dreamland. It was a tantalising taste of what as to come from twenty-two year old Madeleine Peyroux.

Eight long years passed before Madeleine Peyroux returned with her eagerly awaited sophomore album. When Careless Love was released in 2004 Madeleine Peyroux realised the potential that was apparent on Dreamland and sold in excess of 500,000 albums. Careless Love launched Madeleine Peyroux’s career;

Just two years later Madeleine Peyroux returned with Half The Perfect World in 2006, which featured covers of songs by Tom Waits, Fred Neil and Leonard Cohen. Critics were won over by Half The Perfect World, and the followup Bare Bones in 2009. It featured eleven songs which Madeleine Peyroux wrote with various songwriting partners. Madeleine Peyroux was already being hailed as one of the most talented singer-songwriters of her generation.

This was confirmed by the release of Standing On The Rooftop which was Madeleine Peyroux’s 2011 debut for Decca. Madeleine Peyroux had written the majority of songs on Standing On The Rooftop as she pushed musical boundaries and tried to change people’s perception of her music. 

Two years later in 2013 Madeleine Peyroux released The Blue Room to widespread critical acclaim. Her followup to Standing On The Rooftop was hailed as one of her finest albums.

The following year, 2014, Keep Me In Your Heart For A While-The Best Of Madeleine Peyroux was released by the Rounder Records. It was the perfect introduction to Madeleine Peyroux who returned in 2016 with her seventh studio album Secular Hymns. It was a vibrant and soulful album that featured everything from funk, blues and jazz  as Madeleine Peyroux showcased her talent and versatility. Critical acclaim accompanied Madeleine Peyroux who was celebrating twenty years as a recording artist.

Just two years later Madeleine Peyroux returned with her eight studio album Anthem, which features twelve new songs with strong narratives that are poignant, ironic, full of pathos and social comment. The songs on Anthem found Madeleine Peyroux collaborating with various songwriters and musicians.

This included Patrick Warren who previously has worked with everyone from  Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, JD Souther, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Madeleine Peyroux also joined forces with Brian MacLeod who has worked with Leonard Cohen and Tina Turner. David Baerwald who has worked with Joni Mitchell and Sheryl Crow was Madeleine Peyroux’s other songwriting partner and when it came time to record Anthem, her three songwriting partners became her rhythm section. This talented trio provided the perfect foil to Madeleine Peyroux.

Recording of Anthem began  during what proved to be the crucial period of the 2016 US elections. Madeleine Peyroux and Larry Klein who cowrote and  produced Anthem watched as events unfolded before their very eyes. They knew if they were going to comment on what had happened that didn’t want to come across as preaching to the listener. 

Instead, Madeleine Peyroux and her collaborators penned twelve songs which looked at subjects including the then political landscape and the singer’s personal life. Other songs combine what’s going on in the outside world with their personal lives, and this resulted in songs tinged with humour and empathy. The result was Anthem  an album that was a sobering, philosophical and poetic assessment of the world today as seen through Madeleine Peyroux’s eyes.

Part of the success of the album was Madeleine Peyroux and fellow songwriters sitting together in one room,  as they considered idea for Anthem. This proved to be a masterstroke as each member of the team came up with ideas for Anthem.

This included the sadness felt by  David Baerwald’s after  the passing of poet John Ashbery. The loss resulted in thoughts of hugely admired figures lost over recent years and resulted in the song All My Heroes which pays tribute to pioneers and innovators who although they: “light fires in the shadows,” have a  degree of vulnerability that makes them human.

Opening Anthem is the jazzy and wistful sounding On My Own, which is the strongest track on the album and features Madeleine Peyroux at her best. There’s a poignancy to Down On Me which deals with the financial problems that many people are currently experiencing. The rueful bluesy Ghosts of Tomorrow is a tale of dreams unfulfilled, while The Brand New Deal  full of powerful and scornful social commentary. There’s also two cover versions  on the album, including a soulful rendition of Anthem penned by Madeleine Peyroux’s hero the late, great Leonard  Cohen.  Closing Anthem is Paul Eluard’s World War II poem Liberté, which is a sobering and thought-provoking way to close Madeleine Peyroux’s eighth album.

Anthem which is primarily a jazz album which sometimes heads in the direction of blues is without doubt one of the finest albums of forty-four year old Madeleine Peyroux’s twenty-two year recording career. It’s a carefully crafted album, which was honed by a small but talented band and together, they have created  the finest album of Madeleine Peyroux’s Decca years.

Quite simply, Anthem is a truly ambitious album and sets the bar for future albums from Madeleine Peyroux. The twelve tracks are variously beautiful, cerebral, sobering and full of social comment while others reflect on loss and love and are thought-provoking and wistful. Anthem features Madeleine Peyroux back to her very best on what’s without the finest album of her Decca years, and quite possibly her finest album since her 2004 breakthrough album Careless Love.

Madeleine Petytroux-Anthem-Vinyl.