The Life and Times of Chi Coltrane.

The word prodigy is an overused word, but that is the only way to describe Chi Coltrane who could play eight different instruments by the time she was twelve. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Chi Coltrane had absolutely no formal musical training. Instead, her ability to play such a wide variety of instruments was innate. It was her gift. Eventually, Chi Coltrane decided to concentrate on one instrument the piano. 

It was at the piano that eighteen year old Chi Coltrane wrote her first song as an eighteen year old. By then, she was a playing bars, clubs and restaurants in Chicago. That was where she was discovered by the manager of the Shubert Theatre, who took Chi Coltrane to the West Coast where she recorded a six song demo which was sent to Columbia Records. Soon, an audition with Clive Davis was arranged, and after singing just one verse Chi Coltrane was offered a contract. 

With the contract signed, Chi Coltrane recorded a trio of albums for Columbia Records.  For Chi Coltrane, embarking upon a career as a singer-songwriter was her destiny. It was what she as born to do.

The Early Years.

Chi Coltrane was born on November the ’16th’ 1948 in Racine, Wisconsin, and was one of seven children born to a Canadian mother and  German father who was a violinist. Soon, it became apparent that Chi Coltrane had inherited his musical talent.

Just like most young girls growing up in the early fifties, Chi Coltrane and her friends played with dolls. One day seven-year old Chi Coltrane took her doll and went to play with her friend next door. When she went into the house, Chi Coltrane discovered the family piano. Suddenly, Chi Coltrane lost interest in her dolls and started to play the piano. This was the start of a new chapter in Chi Coltrane’s young life.

Not long after this, Chi Coltrane’s mother remarried and moved into her stepfather’s house, where she discovered a piano. When Chi Coltrane started to play the piano, her mother was surprised. She had no idea about her daughter’s musical gift. Soon, Chi Coltrane’s mother was receiving notes from the school telling her that her daughter was gifted musically. 

That was something of an understatement. By the time Chi Coltrane was twelve, she was able to play eight different musical instruments. She could usually work out how to play an instruments within an hour. This was almost unheard of.  However, it wasn’t Chi Coltrane’s only gift.

Another innate gift that Chi Coltrane had, was the ability to empathise and connect with animals. This was an unusual gift  something very few people were able to do. However, Chi Coltrane was a very gifted child.

Meanwhile, Chi Coltrane was singing in church, where he voice started to develop. Soon, she was being asked to sing solo, which allowed Chi Coltrane to become used to singing in front of audiences. This would stand her in good stead for the future.

Musical Apprenticeship.

By her late teens, Chi Coltrane was already singing in bars, clubs, restaurants and supper clubs in Chicago. This was where Chi Coltrane would serve her musical apprenticeship over the next few years and mature as a singer and indeed songwriter.

Chi Coltrane had already written her first song as an eighteen year old, and this was the start of a successful songwriting career. However, the patrons at the establishments Chi Coltrane played and sang at, wanted to hear very different songs. So Chi Coltrane made a point of learning the classic songs that her older, wealthier audience would enjoy. 

Many of the venues Chi Coltrane played at were frequented by some of Chicago’s local celebrities, politicians and businesspeople, and  each night, she tailored her sets to the suit her  audience. As she sang and played the piano, the audiences started to take notice of the young singer. Sometimes they spoke to Chi Coltrane, and many members of her appreciative audience left tips in the crystal jar that sat on top of her piano. Before log, Chi Coltrane was a popular draw across the Windy City with people flocking to see the young singer. 

This included the manager of the Shubert Theatre, who when he heard Chi Coltrane singing in a restaurant, suddenly lost all interest in his meal. All he wanted to do was listen to the singer next door on the lounge. When he arrived in the lounge and listened to Chi Coltrane, he realised that this was no ordinary singer. By the end of the evening, Chi Coltrane had a new manager who would take the young singer-songwriter to the West Coast.

Big Break.

When Chi Coltrane and her new manager arrived in the West Coast, she recorded a six song demo which was promptly dispatched to Columbia Records. The demo worked its magic, and Chi Coltrane was invited audition in front of Clive Davis. He asked Chi Coltrane to sing, and before she had finished the first verse, was offering the her a contract. The years that Chi Coltrane had spent playing the local circuit in Chicago had paid off. That was her 

Chi Coltrane.

With the contract signed, Chi Coltrane was soon working on her debut album for Columbia Records. She was paired with studio drummer turned producer Toxey French. He had played on albums by some well known artists including Judy Henske, The Dillards and Tommy Rae. More recently, Toxey French had produced another Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Patty Dahlstrom. This was most likely why he was paired with Chi Coltrane.

Despite not yet being twenty-four, Chi Coltrane was writing songs that belied her relative youth. She was maturing into a talented and versatile songwriter who had an old head on young shoulders. When it came to choosing the material for her eponymous debut album, the eleven songs that were all Chi Coltrane compositions. They were recorded by a band that featured some of LA’s top session players.

Columbia Records was backing their latest signing by allowing producer Toxey French to put together a band that included some of the finest session musicians LA had to offer. Some of the musicians featured on the entire album, while others featured on one or two tracks. This included a rhythm section that included drummers Jim Gordon and Ron Tutt, bassist Larry Knechtel, Lee Sklar and Steve Lefever and guitarists Dean Parks and Ben Benay. They were augmented by percussionist Victor Feldman, King Errisson on congas, plus strings, woodwinds, horns and  The Billy Barnum Chorus. No expense was spared for Chi Coltrane who played piano, organ and added vocals. She also on arranged the eleven songs with producer Toxey French, and was involved in the production process on her eponymous debut album.

With Chi Coltrane completed, the time came to choose a lead single. This was a hugely important decision that could make or break an album. If the wrong song was chosen, an album could sink without trace. That wasn’t the case with Chi Coltrane which was full of possible singles. Eventually, the song that became the lead single, was the song that opened the album, Thunder and Lightning.

Thunder and Lightning was the perfect debut single for Chi Coltrane, who unleashes one of her trademark vocal powerhouse on this soulful single. This was very different to many of the Laurel Canyon singers who didn’t lacked the power, control or soulfulness that Chi Coltrane had. When Thunder And Lightning was released as a single in 1972, it reached seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and entered the top ten in the Cash Box and Record World charts. This was the perfect start to Chi Coltrane’s recording career.

Meanwhile, Chi Coltrane was released to critical acclaim later in 1972, and spent the best part of the three months in the US Billboard 200 and found an audience across mainland Europe. Already, twenty-four years Chi Coltrane was enjoying success on both sides of the Atlantic. After Chi Coltrane had showcased the young  singer- songwriter skills, more success came  her way.

Chi Coltrane’s controversial album track Go Like Elijah was released as a single later in 1972, and although it failed to trouble the charts in America. It was a very different story in Europe, where Go Like Elijah spent a month at number one in the Netherlands. This gave Chi Coltrane her first number one single, and was something to celebrate. 

By then, Chi Coltrane was enjoying success across Europe. Just like many American before her, Chi Coltrane was more popular in Europe than in America. The only country she had yet to make a breakthrough was in Britain, where restrictive trade union practises hampered her progress. 

This came about when Chi Coltrane’s appearance on Old Grey Whistle Test was cancelled at the last-minute. A musician’s union rule stated that if an American musician appeared on British television, a British musician had to be booked to appear on American television. When that wasn’t about to happen, Chi Coltrane’s television appearance was suddenly cancelled. Despite that disappointment, Chi Coltrane had come a long way since the release of her eponymous debut album.

Let It Ride.

After the success of Chi Coltrane the twenty-four year old singer-songwriter decided to enrol at the Salter School of Music in Los Angeles. She managed to combined the course with her burgeoning musical career.

One of Chi Coltrane’s priorities was writing her eagerly awaited sophomore album Let It Ride. Chi Coltrane  wrote nine new songs, which joined Hallelujah which was written by Gary Zekley, Mitch Bottler and Roberta Twain. With the songs written, Chi Coltrane was already thinking about asking if she could produce Let It Ride herself. She had learnt a lot from producer Toxey French, and was ready to put that knowledge to good use.

When Chi Coltrane asked about producing Let It Ride, executives at Columbia Records agreed, pointing out that she was essentially the de facto producer of her eponymous album. 

Now that it had been agreed that Chi Coltrane could produce Let It Ride, she set about putting together a band that featured a mixture of old faces and new names. The rhythm section included drummers Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Barry De Souza and  Steve Parsons, bassists Larry Knechtel, Chris Lawrence, Emory Gordy, Joe Puerta, John Gustafson, Klaus Voorman and Mark Cipola and guitarists Ben Benay, Larry Byron and Lee Ritenour. They were joined by Paul Buckmaster on synths, Alan Estes on tambourine and  Bobbye Hall who played congas and tambourine. Completing the lineup were backing vocalists Merry Clayton, Clydie King and Stephanie Spruill plus a horn, string and woodwind section. This was the band that accompanied Chi Coltrane at Mama Jo’s studio in North Hollywood, and Trident Studios in London, during her European tour.

Once Let It Ride was completed, Chi Coltrane’s sophomore album was released later in 1973. By then, Chi Coltrane had established a following within the music press who realised that she was a cut above the majority of singer-songwriters around at that time.

Proof of that was Let It Ride which featured a songwriting masterclass from Chi Coltrane who as a vocalist, was equally comfortable on ballads and uptempo songs. Critics hailed Let It Ride as an even better album than Chi Coltrane. She had reached new heights on an album that marked the musical coming of age of twenty-six year old Chi Coltrane.

When Let It Ride was released in 1973, it was more popular in Europe than in America. Let It Ride was quickly certified gold in several European countries. It was only later that Chi Coltrane would be certified gold in these countries. By then, all wasn’t well at Columbia Records.

Clive Davis left Columbia Records not long after the release of Let It Ride. After some changes within Columbia Records, it became apparent that Chi Coltrane wasn’t high on the label’s priorities. Eventually, Chi Coltrane’s lawyer negotiated her release from the Columbia Records’ contract.

Road To Tomorrow.

Now the search began for a new label for Chi Coltrane. By then, over three years had passed since the release of Let It Ride. Despite this, Chi Coltrane had no problem finding a new label, and signed a two album deal with the TK/Cloud label, a Miami based label which specialised in disco, funk and soul releases. 

Given Chi Coltrane’s musical background, the TK/Cloud label seemed the wrong label for the LA based singer-songwriter. Despite the misgivings of many music industry insiders, Chi Coltrane  began work on their album Road To Tomorrow.

It featured ten new songs penned by Chi Coltrane, which were recorded by a band that featured some of LA’s top session musicians including drummer Jim Gordon and Jeff Porcaro and percussionist Victor Feldman who also played vibes. Adding backing vocals was none other than Jennifer Warnes. Some members of this multitalented had worked with Chi Coltrane before  on her two previous albums. However, Road To Tomorrow was the first album produced by Peter Bernstein.

When Road To Tomorrow was released the album was well received by critics, but failed to find an audience in America. Road To Tomorrow was more popular in America, but failed to replicate the success of Chi Coltrane and Let It Ride. This was disappointing for Chi Coltrane.

Fortunately, fate intervened when Chi Coltrane attended a meeting at the Beverley Hills Hilton, and mistakenly went into a room where a CBS conference was taking place. Straight away, the various executives recognised Chi Coltrane and soon, were trying to sign her to CBS Germany. The only problem was the contract with TK/Cloud.

Eventually, a decision was made that CBS Germany would offer to buy Chi Coltrane out of her contract with TK/Cloud. When CBS Germany approached the Miami-based label, they accepted the offer and Chi Coltrane was free to sign to another major label. She was going up in the world again.

Silk and Steel.

As soon as Chi Coltrane had signed to CBS Germany, she began work on Silk and Steel, her fourth album. Eventually, Chi Coltrane had written eight new songs that would become Silk and Steel. It featured a very different band and producers.

For the recording of Silk and Steel, Larry Brown and Freddie Piro were chosen to produce the album. Wim Kutz and Chi Coltrane assumed the role of associate producers, as she began working with a new band.

Joining Chi Coltrane was a rhythm section of drummers David Kemper and Mark Sanders, bassists Charlie Souza, David Edelstein and Jeff Eyrick and guitarists Daryl Caraco, David Mansfield, Eric Turner, Steve Hunter and Tom Fowle. They were joined by Bernie Leadon on acoustic guitar and Larry Brown who played synths and percussion. As usual, Chi Coltrane played piano, keyboards and now synths while adding lead vocals. Once the album was complete it was ready for release in 1980.

Silk and Steel marked a return to form from Chi Coltrane. Her carefully crafted fourth album received praise and plaudits from critics, who were won over by the longer songs on Silk and Steel that which was a quite personal album for Chi Coltrane.

By then, Chi Coltrane was constantly touring and playing around 300 concerts each year. This was starting to take its toll and she deals with the exhaustion caused by gruelling tours. This was something that Chi Coltrane addressed on the uptempo rocker Jet Lag. Little did she realise the effect the constant touring was having on her. That would only become apparent later. Before that, Chi Coltrane released Silk and Steel

Eight years after releasing her debut album, Chi Coltrane released her fourth album Silk and Steel, which showcased a truly versatile vocalist who was maturing with every album. Sadly, still commercial success continued to elude Chi Coltrane at home, and again, Silk and Steel was more popular in Europe than in America. It was a familiar story for Chi Coltrane.

That had been the case since Chi Coltrane released her sophomore album Let It Ride. Since then, her albums sold well in Europe and her concerts sold out. Meanwhile, in America Chi Coltrane was still trying to replicate the success of her 1972 eponymous debut album. 

Sadly, Chi Coltrane never came close to replicating the success of her eponymous debut album at home in America. Meanwhile, Chi Coltrane’s career was blossoming in Europe. Eventually, she decided to move to Europe, which became her adopted home.


Having settled in Europe, Chi Coltrane decided to release he first live album of her career. The album was recorded in the spring of 1982. Chi Coltrane’s skills as a multi-instrumentalist were put to good use as she played Fender Rhodes, piano and synths as she worked her way through ten tracks for her burgeoning back-catalogue. The set-list included You Were My Friend, Leavin’ It All Behind, It’s Not Easy and her number one single in the Netherlands Go Like Elijah joined the album closer Road To Tomorrow on the setlist to what became Live!

Once the album was recorded, Chi Coltrane decided there would be no overdubbing. Unlike many artists, Chi Coltrane wanted to replicate her true live sound. This proved popular when it was released by the Teldec label later in 1982. Live! kept her fans happy while Chi Coltrane began work on her next album.

Ready To Roll.

Chi Coltrane went away and wrote the nine new songs that would become her new album. When it came to recording Ready To Roll, Chi Coltrane arranged and produced the album which was released later in 1983 by Teldec.

When Ready To Roll was released, it was well received by critics, and sold well in Europe. That was where Chi Coltrane was most popular, and often she played 300 concerts a year. This was a gruelling schedule, but one Chi Coltrane kept over the next three years.

The Message.

Three years passed before Chi Coltrane returned with a new album, The Message. It featured nine new songs from Chi Coltrane, which she had arranged and produced. They were recorded by a tight talented band, and when The Message was completed, it was released in 1986.

Critics hailed The Message as the best album Chi Coltrane had released for Teldec. It showcased how she had matured as a singer, songwriter and producer. She had come a long way since released her eponymous debut album in 1972. 

Upon its release in 1986, The Message found favour with Chi Coltrane’s European fans and had sold well. Sadly, nearly two decades of constant touring took its toll on Chi Coltrane. She was exhausted and had burnt out.


Chi Coltrane was no longer able to play live and it wasn’t until a holistic doctor treated the illness in 2007, that she was able to make a comeback in 2009.

That was when Chi Coltrane resumed her career after twenty-three long and frustrating years. Chi Coltrane released  new compilation The Essential Chi Coltrane–Yesterday, Today and Forever in 2009. It  featured songs from the three albums Chi Coltrane had released for Teldec during the eighties,  Live!, Ready To Roll, and The Message, and  also contained three new recordings, including Yesterday, Today and Forever. Chi Coltrane was back and making music.

Three years later, in 2012, and Chi Coltrane released her second live album The Comeback Concert-Live In Vienna. Fifty-four year old Chi Coltrane was back doing what she did best, making music, which was what she had been doing since releasing her eponymous debut album in 1972.

The Life and Times of Chi Coltrane.



Mirwood Northern Soul LP.

Label: Kent Dance.

For many aficionados of Northern Soul, whether DJs, dancers or collectors, Randy Wood’s Mirwood Records, which was based in Los Angeles, is one of their go-to labels. Its discography has been, and still is, a source of many dancefloor favourites and fillers for DJs within the Northern Soul scene. They’ll welcome the recent release of Mirwood Northern Soul on vinyl by Kent Dance, an imprint of Ace Records. Mirwood Northern Soul features fourteen dancefloor fillers, that feature the label’s own unique and distinctive style.

The Mirwood Records story began in Los Angeles in 1965, when Randy Wood, a former Vee-Jay executive who owned and ran Mira Records decided to found another label. That label became Mirwood Records which mostly, would release soul and jazz recordings during its three-year existence.

Having founded Mirwood Records, Randy Wood brought onboard songwriter and producer Fred Smith. Along with arranger James Carmichael, they would forge Mirwood Records’ unique sound. It was variously energetic had a sophisticated and soulful sound befitting an LA label. 

Mirwood Records first single was The Gas Co’s Blow Your Mind, which was released in October 1965 baring the catalogue number 5501. With its garage rock sound this was very different to the soulful sound of the label’s next release.

In November 1965, Mirwood Records released its sophomore single The Duck, which was credited to Jackie Lee. The Duck gave the nascent label and Jackie Lee their first hit single. However, the only problem was that The Duck had actually been sung by Earl Nelson of Bob and Earl. However, the success of The Duck launched Mirwood Records, which over the next three years released over fifty singles. These singles include the: “fourteen outstanding stomping soul dancers” on Mirwood Northern Soul.

Side One.

Opening Mirwood Northern Soul is That Beatin’ Rhythm by Richard Temple. It was the B-Side to Could It Be which was released in 1967. That Beatin’ Rhythm was produced by Leonard Jewell Smith and Sir Graham and is a melodic stomper which showcases Mirwood Records sophisticated and soulful sound. 

A year after Jackie Lee’s The Duck launched Mirwood Records, she released The Shotgun and The Duck as a single in March 1966. Tucked away on the B-Side was Do The Temptation Walk a Fred Smith and Earl Nelson song. It was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith who had already crafted the Mirwood Records sound. All that was left was Jackie Lee, accompanied by backing vocalists to deliver a powerful soulful vocal on this timeless dance track.

The Olympics released a cover of Sherie Matthews’ The Same Old Thing as a single in November 1966. It’s another song that was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. This uptempo dancer would go on to become a favourite of DJs and dancers on the UK Northern Soul scene, and even today would fill a dancefloor.

I Wanna Do Everything For You Baby by The Mirettes lay unreleased in the Mirwood Records’ vaults until 2006 when it featured on Kent Soul’s compilation The Mirwood Soul Story Volume 2. Somewhat belatedly, this soulful stomper penned by Sherie Matthews, made its debut and is a reminder of the quality of music The Mirettes released on Mirwood Records. 

Three years after Mirwood Records closed its doors for the last time, the Jay Boy label released The Bob and Earl Band’s single  My Little Girl. This is another Sherie Matthews that was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. A driving, stomping slice of irresistible string drenched soul, it’s a pity it wasn’t released on Mirwood Records. It’s the one that got away for Randy Wood’s Mirwood Records and could’ve given The Bob and Earl Band a hit single.

Unlike the other tracks on Mirwood Northern Soul, Curtis Lee penned Is She In Your Town? which was released on Mirwood Records’ sister label Mira Records in 1967. It was arranged by Bob Mercereau, while Rod Krohn and Sonny Knight took charge of production. Despite being released on Mira Records, the stomping beat and blazing horns are still present. What’s different is the bluesy sound that comes courtesy of a harmonica. Meanwhile Curtis Lee’s vocal veers between pop and blue-eyed soul influence. on a track that later, would find favour in the British Northern Soul scene.

Closing side A of Mirwood Northern Soul is Oh, My Darlin’ by Jackie Lee. It’s a Sherie Matthews that was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. Oh, My Darlin’ was released in October 1966 and featured a hurt-filled vocal that was delivered against the omnipresent stomping beat. This was a powerful and successful combination.

Side B. 

Bobby Garrett’s Oh, My Darlin’ opens Side B of Mirwood Northern Soul LP. It’s a Fred Smith, Earl Nelson and Robert Relf composition that was released in December 1965. It was produced by in-house producer Fred Smith who combines Bobby Garrett’s soul-baring vocal with soaring harmonies and rasping horns. They’re joined by the stomping beat that is the final touch to what’s one of the finest singles from Mirwood Records’ back-catalogue.

The Olympics released Mine Exclusively as a single in April 1966. It’s another Sherie Matthews composition that was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. The triumvirate had formed a successful partnership, with Sherie Matthews’ songs being recorded by various artists and groups singled to Mirwood Records. They were also beneficiaries of the Mirwood Records’ sound that arranger James Carmichael and producer Fred Smith had masterminded. An example of this can be found on the hook-laden Mine Exclusively which features The Olympics at their best.

July 1966 saw singer-songwriter Jimmy Thomas release Just Tryin’ To Please You. Tucked away on the B-Side was another Jimmy Thomas composition Where There’s A Will (There’s A Way) which was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. Where There’s A Will (There’s A Way) is a true hidden gem is every bit as good, if not better that the single.

For their debut single, The Belles released the Sherie Matthews composition Don’t Pretend in 1966. It was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. They played their part is sweet soulful stomper that epitomises  the Mirwood Records sound.

Jackie Lee’s third contribution on Mirwood Northern Soul is Anything You Want (Any Way You Want It) which lay unreleased until February 2005. That was when this Sherie Matthews and Earl Nelson song made its debut on The Mirwood Soul Story compilation. Belatedly, aficionados of Mirwood Records were able to hear this driving stomper with testifying backing vocals accompanying Jackie Lee’s impassioned vocal.

Mirwood Records wouldn’t release many more singles after The Performers released I Can’t Stop in June 1968. It was penned by Lawrence Scarbrough and Robert McGlothin, who produced the single Hank Graham. Although the single was arranged by James Carmichael, it’s a move away from the Mirwood Records’ sound, with a rawer sound replacing the sophisticated sheen of earlier releases. Despite that, it found favour with DJ and dancers on the Northern Soul scene.

Stubborn Heart by The Sheppards closes Mirwood Northern Soul. It was penned and produced by Eddie La Shea and released in 1967. It’s a heartwrenching ballad from The Sheppards and a beautiful way to close Mirwood Northern Soul.

 Mirwood Northern Soul which was recently released on vinyl by Kent Dance, an imprint of Ace Records, is the latest compilation of music from the Mirwood Records’ vaults. It’s a  a reminder of Randy Wood’s LA-based Mirwood Records, which for the three years between 1965 and 1968 released fifty-two singles. Some of these singles, plus the occasional B-Side are joined by two tracks that were only released in the noughties. They’re part of what’s a lovingly curated compilation which aficionados of Northern Soul will embrace and enjoy. Whether it’s DJs, dancers or collectors, Mirwood Northern Soul is sure to find its way into record boxes or record collections. 

For newcomers to Mirwood Records, then Mirwood Northern Soul is the perfect place to start. After that, they can investigate the delights of The Mirwood Soul Story and The Mirwood Soul Story Volume 2 which were released on CD. They’re reminders of Randy Wood’s LA-based Mirwood Records, which for many soul fans, is one of the greatest sources of Northern Soul. Proof of that is Mirwood Northern Soul which features: “fourteen outstanding stomping soul dancers” that are still dancefloor favourites and fillers for DJs and dancers within the Northern Soul scene.

Mirwood Northern Soul LP.


Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band-Bone Reader.

Ten years after the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band were founded in Washington DC in 2007, the twelve piece, award-winning, Afrofunk orchestra return with their eagerly anticipated third album Bone Reader. It’s the first album the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have released since Chopteeth Live in February 2010. Since then, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have performed all over America and opened for everyone from Funkadelic and Parliament to Aaron Neville, Konono No. 1 and Gov’t Mule. Night after night the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have been winning friends with their own unique trademark sound, where they fuse the funkiest music West Africa has to offer, with American popular music. This is a potent and heady brew, one that features on Bone Leader, the latest chapter in the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band story.

It’s a band that was essentially born after a terrible tragedy made Robert Fox rethink his priorities in life. At the time, Robert Fox was a labor organiser and he was mourning the death of one of his closest friends after a car accident.  He remembers “it was a terrible, terrible thing…I came back from this and thought, ‘Wow, that could have been me!’ It made me assess what’s important in life.” 

After much time thinking about what was important in life, and where his life was heading. The two thing that were important to Robert Fox were his family, and his work within the labour movement. However, there was also something that Robert Fox had wanted to do for many years, but had never plucked up the courage to form an Afrofunk band. The death of his friend made him realise that if he didn’t grasp the nettle, and do so he would regret not doing so in later life

Having made the decision, Robert Fox decided to bring to life his dream of playing bass in a band that played like Fela Kuti’s seventies Afrobeat band, and combining this with James Brown’s high energy funk and the Yoruba musical tradition. To do this, needed the right personnel for his new band.

Robert Fox started looking for the musicians that would become the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band. The first to join the new band was  guitarist and songwriter Michael Shereikis, whose musical CV included playing in the Central African Republic and on the stages of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. This would stand him in good stead when he became the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band’s musical director.

Having recruited Michael Shereikis, Robert Fox continued his search for the right blend of musicians. Some were recruited after answering small ads, while others heard through the Washington DC musical grapevine that Robert Fox was putting together a new band. Eventually, Robert Fox had recruited the three women and nine men that became the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band. 

The twelve band members all came from different very backgrounds, and were a mixture ages and nationalities. Three decades separated the youngest and eldest members who came from far and wide. Some were local musicians from Washington DC, while others came from the Deep South. Other band members came from as far failed as Romania and Kenya. They were part of a rainbow nation of musicians, that became the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band, who would soon, become familiar faces in the Washington DC music scene.

It was a Nigerian businessman that offered the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band. This was the break the nascent band was looking for. More importantly, he introduced the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band to  Kenyan singer Anna Mwalagho. She would play an important part in the rise and rise of the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band.


Just a year after the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band was formed in Washington DC, in 2007, the twelve piece band began work on their debut album Chopteeth. It showcased the band’s unique and eclectic sound, which had its roots in Afrobeat, the big-band funk sound invented by Fela Kuti in seventies Nigeria. Afrobeat was a fusion of modern jazz, Yoruba tribal music and funk. The Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band had initially fused this with the Yoruba musical tradition. However, this was only part of the story, as the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band sound that also included salsa, soukous and Balkan-style time signatures. This was all part of a truly eclectic debut album.

When the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band released their debut album Chopteeth in 2008, it was a call for rhythmic regime change. The “Crazy Fools of Afrobeat”combined new and original songs from  Ghana, Senegal, Congo, Guinea, and Nigeria on an album that showcased their new and inimitable sound. Chopteeth found favour with critics and the Washington Area Music Association. 

At the Washington Area Music Association awards ceremony later in 2008, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band won awards for Debut CD of the Year, Artist of the Year and World Music Group of the Year. This was recognition of how far the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band had come.

Chopteeth Live.

Nearly two years after the release of Chopteeth, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band returned with their sophomore album Chopteeth Live in February 2010. It captured the award-winning, twelve piece from Washington DC’s live sound. 

They fuse Afrobeat, funk, jazz and soul as they recreate the seventies glory days of African music. In doing so, they pay homage to legendary African musicians like Fela Kuti and Peter King on a vampish take on Freedom Dance. Elsewhere the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band take the listener on journey through Africa, as the play songs from Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal and Congo. This allows the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band to showcase their versatility and talent on an album that was an irresistible reminder of their live sound. So impressed were the Washington Area Music Association that the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band won the World Music CD of the Year in 2010.

Since then, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have spent much of their crisscrossing America, playing prestigious festivals and opening for some of the biggest names in music, including Funkadelic and Parliament to Aaron Neville, Konono No. 1 and Gov’t Mule. The Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have also added to their tally of awards over the past seven years.

By 2016, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band had won thirteen awards at subsequent Washington Area Music Association award ceremonies. The Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have now won Artist of the Year, Debut CD of the Year and have twice won the World Music CD of the Year. However, the all-conquering the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have now won the World Music Group of the Year award for the past nine years. The recent release of Bone Reader should see the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band make that ten in a row, and add to their impressive list of awards.

Bone Reader,

For Bone Reader, the “Crazy Fools of Afrobeat” have combined new compositions with updates of African dance classics. However, The Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band stay true to the original spirit of these classic songs. With the new songs, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have been inspired by Twi proverbs, Ivorian pop, the death of Freddie Gray and Edward Snowden the former Intelligence Community officer and whistleblower who leaked classified documents. All this influenced the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band as they began work on their much-anticipated third album Bone Reader which is dancefloor friendly and full of social comment.

Cofounder and guitarist Michael Shereikis explains the concept behind Bone Reader: “You’re dancing, so let’s engage on another, more challenging level as well.  You may be having a good time, but you’re also hearing and considering an issue that has a resonance for you. That’s how many of us approach songwriting for this band.”

On an album which features seven different vocalists, it’s no surprise that several members of the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band contributed songs to Bone Reader. Cofounder and bassist Robert Fox wrote two Edward Snowden and Rambeau, while other songs were collaborations between several band members.

This included Funtumfunafu, whose roots can be traced to the day percussionist David McDavitt brought in a Ghanaian adinkra, the symbol of a two-headed crocodile into the studio. It provided part of the inspiration for the song. So did the Twi proverbs that Michael Shereikis had researched. He then worked out the horn chart on a piano, and sent them to horn section arranger and trumpet player Cheryl Terwillinger. The result was Funtumfunafu, a beautiful, mid-tempo song that sounds as if it was recorded in the seventies, which was the golden age of African music.

Another song, Warriors, took shape after drummer Mahiri Keita showed the group the powerful balanta rhythm he had learned from his Ghanaian teacher. Mahiri Keita explains more about the song’s background, and how it took shape. “Lanta are warriors from Guinea-Bissau and Gambia, and balanta is a popular dance. But no one’s put it into a contemporary funk context. The breakdown goes with the warrior dance. I wanted to see if the band could play it. And they could! I laid the foundation on the drum, and the band built from there.” They were able to do so when they entered the studio, and an irresistible energetic workout where  the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band combine the balanta rhythm with Afrobeat horns and funk. It’s one of ten tracks laid down one Washington DC studio.

In the studio, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band’s sound was much tighter as they fused West African rhythms, funk and hip hop on Bone Reader, which is full of social comment and also, dancefloor friendly.

Opening Bone Reader is Questions Of Our Day where the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band fuse blazing Afrobeat horns, funk and social comment in dancefloor filler designed to make the listener think. So too is Edward Snowden where samples are deployed, including one of the former Intelligence Officers vocal. Meanwhile, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band jam, fusing elements of Afrobeat, funk, blistering jazzy horns and later, a searing rocky guitar. It’s a glorious, thought-provoking musical potpourri.

DC Vote features Head-Roc and initially, sounds as if it’s been inspired by seventies Afrobeat, funk and Blaxploitation soundtracks. Soon, Head-Roc adds an impassioned  rap, which  adds a new dimension to another song full of social comment. It gives way to Rambeau, a genre-melting jam where the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band are at their tightest as they kick loose and pay homage to Monica Rambeau a Marvel comic character who later, became a leader of the Avengers. Her roots are in the Big Easy, and it’s the music of New Orleans that has influenced the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band on this musical homage the Big Easy’s first female superhero. 

From superheroes the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band move on to Cop Show, which straight away, takes the listener back to the seventies. It’s not unlike the funky theme to a Cop Show. That was what the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band thought when they recorded the track. However, they were so worried that they had been influenced by another track that they scoured the internet listening to themes to seventies cop show. By the time they realised that they hadn’t been influenced by another track, Freddy Gray had died in Baltimore. This resulted in Flex Mathews being drafted in to lay down an impassioned rap which is the final piece of this musical jigsaw.

So You Say was written by Justine Miller, and is a song that stands up for those that are defiant and skeptical. It features a vocal that veers between tender and soulful to defiant powerful and sometimes is full of scepticism. Meanwhile, fought horns and washes of Hammond organ join percussion and the rhythm section in powering the arrangement along. In doing so, Justine Miller shows another side to the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band.

Tribulation is soulful Afrobeat with lyrics full of social comment. It gives way to Solomon’s Party which closes Bone Reader, and is another song that shows the soulful side of the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band. They combine their soulfulness with their trademark sound, on what’s a melody and ruminative track, that closes the album on a high.

After a seven-year wait, the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band make a welcome return with their third album Bone Reader. The twelve-piece band from Washington DC is a much tighter band on this carefully crafted album of new songs with updates of African dance classics. They’re part of what’s a career-defining album from the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band.

Bone Reader is a genre-melting album, where the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band fuse Afrobeat, funk, jazz, soul and even the occasional rocky guitar lick. Much of the music on Bone Reader is also dancefloor friendly, but is also full of social comment. The Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band certainly don’t shy away from tackling important issues on Bone Reader, and set out to record an  album that was designed to make the listener think. 

This isn’t always easy, but fortunately the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have a number of talented songwriters that contribute to the new songs on Bone Reader. They tackle various social problems and deal with recent injustices. These songs are also designed to encourage the listener to think about what’s going on in the world around them, ranging from politics to recent injustices. The lyrics to these songs are brought to life by the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band’s seven vocalists, whose vocals are impassioned and full of emotion. Each of the seven vocalists play their part in the sound and success of Bone Reader.

The Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have succeed in what they set out to do when they began work on Bone Reader, and have created a dancefloor friendly album that will make the listener think. It can’t have been easy, but the twelve members of the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band have succeeded in doing so on Bone Reader, which has been worth the seven-year wait,

Bone Reader showcases the multitalented and versatile Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band who are a much tighter and even better band than they were when they released Chopteeth Live in 2010. They   reach new heights on Bone Reader, which is a cerebral, thought-provoking and dancefloor friendly album from the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band which is sure to add to the Washington DC band’s impressive array of awards.

Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band-Bone Reader.


Lets Do The Boogaloo.

Label: BGP.

By the time eighteen year old Chubby Checker released his cover of The Twist in the summer of 1960, records that that launched new dance crazes were nothing new. They had been around since the late-fifties, when The Diamonds 1957 single The Stroll launched a short-lived dance craze. It was a similar case in 1959, when The Olympics enjoyed a minor hit with The Hully Gully and a new dance craze was born. However, a year later, when Chubby Checker’s The Twist topped the US Billboard 100, it launched what was one of the most popular dance crazes in the history of popular music.

In the wake of The Twist, record companies across America started releasing singles that they hoped would launch a new dance craze. This included The Pony in 1961; The Hitchhiker, The Loco-Motion, The Mashed Potato and The Watusi following in 1962 and The Swim and The Jerk in 1964. These dance crazes enjoyed differing degrees of success, and some are still remembered fondly by the Baby Boomers. 

So too is the boogaloo, whose roots can be traced to the spring of 1965 when comedians, dancers and singers Tom and Jerrio enjoyed a top twenty single Boo-Ga-Loo. It was essentially an instrumental, with occasional vocal interjections from Tom and Jerrio. Their single launched the Boo-Ga-Loo dance craze, which the pair first saw at a Herb Kent record hop in the Windy City of Chicago.

The boogaloo was unlike any previous dance, and saw the dancer’s entire body, including their upper body, shoulders and head moving in a what was essentially a pulsating movement from side-to-side. This soon caught on, and just like The Twist five years earlier became a hugely popular dance. 

For the next eighteen months, boogaloo which started life as a soul dance, became a favourite on dancefloors across America. By then, the soul boogaloo had been joined by the Latin boogaloo and the two coexisted, potentially appealing to different audiences who would happily dance side by side.

In America which to some extent was still a country divided by race, the boogaloo brought together young Americans from different backgrounds together. On the dancefloors, a rainbow nation of white, Latin and African-American danced together as pulsating proto-funk beat was joined by braying horns and sometimes, frenzied percussion. They danced to soundtrack that included a mixture of old and new tracks.

Given the popularity of boogaloo, artists were recording and record companies were releasing records to cash-in on the genre. Other records were perfectly suited to the soul boogaloo or Latin boogaloo, and quickly became favourites of dancers and DJs.

By 1968, soul boogaloo was no longer as popular as it had been, and by the end of the year, had more or less disappeared from the soul scene. 

Still, the Latin boogaloo scene was popular right up until the sixties gave way to the seventies. By then, boogaloo sound had been replaced by salsa. It looked the end of the boogaloo era.

Some five decades and forty-eight years after boogaloo’s supposed demise in 1969, the music still remains popular today amongst DJs, dancers and compilers. This includes Dean Rudland, who compiled Lets Do The Boogaloo, which was recently released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. Lets Do The Boogaloo features twenty-four tracks, including two that make their debut on the compilation.

Opening Lets Do The Boogaloo is Prince and Princes’ cover of the Harold Thomas composition Ready, Steady, Go, which was released by Bell Records in July 1965. It was co-produced by Jimmy Miller and Larry Fallon. This was way before Jimmy Miller found fame producing the Rolling Stones, Traffic, Blind Faith, Spooky Tooth and Bobby Whitlock. However, Jimmy Miller and Larry Fallon add blazing Latin horns and frenzied horns, which play an important part in the sour and success of Prince and Princes’ hook-laden dancefloor filler.

In December 1966, Hector Rivera released Playing It Cool on the Barry label. It was written and arranged by the New York born bandleader Hector Rivera, whose family were from Puerto Rica. His music provided part of the soundtrack to the Latin boogaloo era, including his club classic Playing It Cool.

Although Jimmy Castor’s music was popular during the boogaloo era, his popularity increased after hip hop producers sampled some of his best known tracks. Soon, a new generation of music fans started to discover Jimmy Castor’s music. After this, his songs started to appear on compilations, and his albums were reissued. One of Jimmy Castor’s finest moments during the Latin boogaloo era was Block Party, which he wrote with John Pruit. This irresistible dance track became a favourite of DJs and dancers during Latin boogaloo era, and later found favour with sample-hungry hip hop producers 

During the fifties, vibes player, percussionist and bandleader Pete Terrace, became known as The King Of Latin Jazz after releasing a series of critically acclaimed and now incredibly rare albums. By 1967, Pete Terrace’s music had fallen out of favour, and he decided to reinvent himself as a Latin boogaloo musician. With the help of producer Marty Wilson, The King Of Latin Jazz recorded King Of The Boogaloo for A/S Records. One of the tracks on the album was I’m Gonna Make It a Pete Terrace, Marty Wilson and Marty Sheller composition, which was released in Britain and Europe by Pye International. With its infectious, feelgood sound, it’s a track that has stood the test of time and shows why Pete Terrace was regarded by some as the true King Of The Boogaloo.

The Bar-Kay’s story began in 1966, when the group was formed in Memphis, Tennessee. By 1967, they had become Otis Redding’s backing band and toured with him. They were also signed to Stax, and in 1967 recorded their debut album Soul Finger, which was also the title of their hit single. The Soul Finger album was released on Atlantic in America, and on the Stax imprint Volt in Europe. One of the highlights of the album was Bar-Keys Boogaloo, which became a favourite on the soul boogaloo scene, and fifty years later is a timeless track that’s a reminder of the Stax sound.

As the sixties drew to a close, it was official, Mongo Santamaría was the most successful Latin musician of the sixties. He had also played an important part in the development of Latin boogaloo. In 1963, Mongo Santamaría and His Orchestra had released the album Watermelon Man! Little did Mongo Santamaría realise that the beat to the title-track would provide the basis for Latin boogaloo. Three years later, Mongo Santamaría covered the Rodgers Grant composition Mongo’s Boogaloo, which was released on Columbia in 1966. It was fitting that the man who provided the Latin boogaloo beat, now had  Latin boogaloo named after him. It’s a glorious reminder of the Cuban percussionist who helped define the Latin boogaloo sound.

Lou Courtney’s recording career began as an eighteen year old in 1962. By 1967, he was still to make a breakthrough, so decided to record a soul boogaloo single Me and You (Doin’ The Boogaloo). It was penned by Lou Courtney and Bob Bateman and released on the Riverside label. While it was played on soul boogaloo scene, commercial success continued to elude Lou Courtney. Later, Me and You (Doin’ The Boogaloo) became a favourite on the British Northern Soul scene.

Houston born Shirley Butler only released half-a-dozen single on various independent label in her home city. This included Boogaloo Zoo, which was released on Tear Drop label in 1968. It’s funky, soulful  and features vocal powerhouse from one of Houston’s best kept musical secrets Shirley Butler.

After scoring a hit single with Harlem Shuffle in 1963, Bob and Earl struggled to replicate its success. It was a frustrating time for the pair, who even tried releasing songs about the latest dance craze. This included The Sissy and The Jerk. When the boogaloo era began,  the duo decided to jump on the boogaloo bandwagon. The Bob and Earl Band entered the studio to record Boogaloo Part 1, which is an irresistible, stomper. Sadly, the track was never released and makes a welcome debut on Lets Do The Boogaloo.

Willie Rosario and His Orchestra signed to Atco in 1968, and recorded  Boogaloo and Guaguanco, an album of mainly Latin jazz which was augmented by three covers of popular songs. When it came to release  a single from Boogaloo and Guaguanco later in 1968, there was only one option Watusi Boogaloo It’s without doubt the highlights of Boogaloo and Guaguanco with stabs of blazing horns, percussion and vocals sung in Spanish. They play their part in this carefully crafted  Latin boogaloo hidden gem.

Soul singer, songwriter and keyboardist Timmy Thomas from Evansville, Indiana, is best remembered for his 1972 hit single Why Can’t We Live Together. However, Timmy Thomas’ solo career began in 1967 when he signed to Goldwax Records. Later that year, he released his sophomore single Have Some Boogaloo for Goldwax Records. It was the first single to feature the drum machine that became part of his trademark sound over the next few years.

Closing Lets Do The Boogaloo is Funky Funky Boogaloo, which is taken from Jimmy Brown With The Jimmy Brown Band’s debut album The Jimmy Brown Organ-Ization. It was released on A-Bet in 1967, and when it came to choose the lead single, Funky Funky Boogaloo was chosen. This jazz boogaloo showcases the skills of little-known organist and bandleader Jimmy Brown, who sounds like a disciple of legendary jazz organist Jimmy Smith.

For anyone yet to discover the delights of boogaloo, then Lets Do The Boogaloo, which was recently released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records is the perfect starting place. Lets Do The Boogaloo features twenty-four tracks, including two that make their debut on the compilation. This includes The Bob and Earl Band hidden gem Boogaloo Part 1. It’s just one of the many highlights on Lets Do The Boogaloo, which featured familiar faces, old friends and a number of new names. They contribute a mixture of soul boogaloo, Latin boogaloo and in the case of Jimmy Brown With The Jimmy Brown Band, jazz boogaloo on Lets Do The Boogaloo, which oozes quality.

That is no exaggeration. While other record companies have released boogaloo compilations in the past, Lets Do The Boogaloo stands head and shoulders above the competition. It’s sure to bring back memories for DJs and dancers who remember the boogaloo era between 1965 and 1969. They’ll be able to relive these days by buying a copy of Lets Do The Boogaloo, which is without doubt, the best boogaloo compilation money can buy.

Lets Do The Boogaloo.





Label: Ponderosa Music Records.

Just over three years ago, Albanian cellist Redi Hasa and vocalist Maria Mazzotta from Puglia, in Southern Italy, released their first critically acclaimed collaboration Ura, in September 2014. Ura was the result of a four-year journey, which showcased and combined the powerful and poignant sound of Redi Hasa’s cello and the tenderness and emotion of Maria Mazzotta’s vocal. They were combined with a myriad of live recorded loops during what was a groundbreaking cross-cultural collaboration.

Ura found Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta revisiting and reinterpreting ancient stories from South Italy and the Balkans. The key to reinventing these ancient stories was experimentation and improvisation. This was something that had never been tried before, and Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta were heading into what was unchartered water. Despite this, critics described Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta’s reinvention of the ancient stories on Ura as evocative, haunting and uplifting. Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta’s cross-cultural collaboration was hailed a resounding success. 

This was fitting, as Ura in Albanian mean bridge and in the Salento dialect translates to now. Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta had set out, and succeeded, in creating what was essentially a bridge between§ their respective cultures, in the here and now. Having succeeded in doing so, Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta then set about thinking about the followup to Ura, which had been an ambitious and groundbreaking project.

Three years later, and Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta return with their much-anticipated sophomore album Novilunio which was recently released by Ponderosa Music Records. Novilunio finds Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta continue the journey that began on Ura. This means more music from the two shores of the Adriatic, the Balkans and Puglia, which are joined by melodies from Roma, Bulgaria and Montenegro. There’s also song that were first sung by migrants, odes to the pagan tarantella and the Virgin Mary during Novilunio, which brings together songs from different eras and songs that were originally sung in lost languages. Novilunio promises to be another beautiful and enchanting album that builds on Ura, and continues this musical journey.

It’s a journey that began back in 2010, when the two musical pioneers, embarked upon what proved to be a seven-year voyage of discovery, where Albanian cellist Redi Hasa and vocalist Maria Mazzotta from Puglia, in Southern Italy, have been revisiting and reinventing the musical traditions of their birthplace. This is something that other musicians have tried before, but Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta’s approach on Ura was very different.

Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta’s partnership was a meeting of musical minds, with each complimenting each other perfectly. This was no surprise as Redi Hasa was regarded as one of Albania’s top cellists, while Maria Mazzotta had played an important role in the rebirth and revival of Salento’s musical heritage. Her nascent partnership with Redi Hasa marked a new chapter in her career.

Over the next four years, Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta were like a musical yin and yang, as they reinvented the ancient songs of their birthplaces, and took them in a new direction on Ura. To do this, they relied upon experimentation, improvisation and innovation. This included the use of live recorded loops. However, at the heart of Ura’s sound was the brooding, opulent and lyrical sound of Redi Hasa’s cello which was combined with the tenderness,  emotion and radiance of Maria Mazzotta’s mesmeric vocal. The result was Ura, a groundbreaking and crucially acclaimed cross-cultural collaboration. Now they continue their journey on the followup to Ura, Novilunio.

Recording of Novilunio took place at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, where Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta recorded eight new songs and covered two traditional ballads. They were produced by Alberto Fabris and recorded by Tim Oliver. With Novilunio complete, Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta’s sophomore album was scheduled for release in the autumn of 2017 by Ponderosa Music Records.

Opening Novilunio is E’ Tiempu, where Maria Mazzotta’s impassioned, powerful vocal is joined by two very special guest artists. This includes Iranian percussionist Bijan Chemirani who is joined by Mehdi Nassouli, of the Gnawi brotherhood of mystics. Later, Redi Hasa’s sweeping cello helps power the arrangement to this uplifting and rousing song along. Later, Maria Mazzotta’s vocal becomes tender and heartfelt during this captivating cross-cultural collaboration 

Very different is Aux Souvenirs, where Redi Hasa’s cello ensures the arrangement waltzes along painting pictures of another musical era, as Maria Mazzotta sings of lost love. Her vocal oozes emotion, sadness and regret. This changes later, when a big band enter. Still, the arrangement waltzes along, but Maria Mazzotta’s vocal becomes joyous before Aux Souvenirs reaches a memorable crescendo. 

Capufrisca is the second song to feature Iranian percussionist Bijan Chemirani and Mehdi Nassouli of the Gnawi brotherhood of mystics. They play their part in another cross-cultural collaboration. This time, the song combines Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta’s respective musical roots. Again, Maria Mazzotta’s vocal is impassioned, as she sings with an urgency while Redi Hasa provides a poignant and sometimes almost dramatic accompaniment. Later, harmonies and percussion combine, before the cello returns and Maria Mazzotta delivers soul-baring vocal. It’s one of her finest on Novilunio.

One of the most beautiful song on the album is Novilunio, which features a tender, ethereal vocal from Maria Mazzotta. She delivers this intimate song to the moon, with cello, percussion, harmonies and a lone horn accompanying her. Meanwhile, Maria Mazzotta delivers a whispery vocal on this intimate song to the moon. It comes complete with the hope of love in the future, and also of peace. Novilunio is a  beautiful song, and showcases a truly talented and versatile vocalist.

A lone, wistful cello opens 25 Trecce (25 Braids), which is an Albanian love song, before Maria Mazzotta delivers a tender, heartfelt vocal. Her reading of the evocative lyrics is accompanied by, and later, replaced by the broody cello. Together, they transport the listener to the Balkan Peninsula, and Albania where this love song is part of the country’s rich musical heritage.

Contine is a more lighthearted and ironic sounding song, which in some ways is reminiscent of a children’s nursery rhyme. It bursts into life, with Redi Hasa’s plucked cello being joined by Maria Mazzotta’s brisk vocal. She matches him every step of the way during a song that shows another side to Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta.

Woodroom came about after Redi Hasa decided to improvise on his cello. Little did he realise that a thought-provoking and cinematic piece of music was about to flow through him. It has a ruminative sound, and there’s sense of trepidation and anxiety, as if Redi Hasa fears for the future in what’s becoming an increasingly uncertain world. He sounds as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, during two minutes of thought-provoking, ruminative and cinematic music,

Cu Ti Lu Dissi is a classic tune by Italian folk singer and songwriter Otello Profazio and Rosa Balistreri, another Italian singer-songwriter. They wrote this song about a  “creaky heart” which is reinterpreted Redi Hasa and Maria Mazzotta. Her vocal is a mixture of emotion, drama and theatre, as she breaths life and meaning into the lyrics. Meanwhile, Redi Hasa’s cello plays a supporting role on this emotive and impassioned fusion of music and drama.

Another beautiful ballad is Il Mondo Di Rosso e Di Blu, which features a tender, elegiac vocal from Maria Mazzotta. She’s joined by Redi Hasa’s subtle and haunting cello, which augments Maria Mazzotta’s vocal which takes centre-stage, where it belongs.

Novilunio closes with Libro D’Amore (The Book Of Love) a pizzica tarantata, which features a fusion of traditional rhythms and unusual melodies. They’re meant to represent the concept behind Novilunio, which is music that heals and regenerates, whilst finding a new equilibrium. That’s sure to be case as Maria Mazzotta unleashes a vocal powerhouse, where she combines power, passion and emotion. Later, swells of strings sweep and swirl having replace her vocal, and add an element of drama as Novilunio ends on a resounding high. The Hasa-Mazzotta partnership have kept one of the best until last.

After ten tracks lasting thirty-nine minutes, Hasa-Mazzotta’s sophomore album Novilunio is over, and is a reminder of what this talented and versatile duo are capable of. They reach new heights on Novilunio, which manages to surpass the quality of their critically acclaimed debut album Ura. Novilunio which was recently released by  Ponderosa Music Records, is the second album since their musical journey began back in 2010. 

Hopefully, Hasa-Mazzotta will return in the future with the followup to Novilunio, which is a career-defining collaboration. On Novilunio they revisit and reinterpret two songs from their musical heritage, and draw inspiration for the eight new tracks on the album. They’re an eclectic selection, and range from soul-baring ballads to rousing, uptempo tracks and cinematic instrumentals. 

They’re part of Novilunio, which features music that is meant to heal and regenerate, whilst finding a new equilibrium. Novilunio is also a career-defining cross-cultural collaboration that features beautiful, cinematic, thought-provoking and uplifting music from Hasa-Mazzotta, who are a musical yin and yang.

Hasa-Mazzotta Novilunio.


Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1. 

Label: Mayway Records.

Each and every weekend in life, record collectors around the world, spend their precious free time searching backstreet record shops, garage sales, auction houses and thrift stores in search of vinyl. Some are even willing to venture down into dusty basements or old warehouses in search of elusive boxes of vinyl that have lain undiscovered for years. Usually, the search is in vain, but very occasionally, the record collector strikes musical gold, and secures these boxes of musical treasure for a bargain price. That was what happened to the people behind the Belgian record label Mayway Records, who recently released the compilation Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1. 

The story behind the Belgian Nuggets 90-00s Vol. 1 compilation began in 2009, when VRT, the Belgian public service broadcaster, announced that it was selling off a large quantity of CDs from its record library. These were the CDs that record labels and hopeful artists had sent to VRT each and every day, in the hope that they would find their way onto the radio station’s playlist. However, only a few found their way onto the playlist, while the remainder languished unloved in VRT’s record library until the day they would be rescued by a local record collector. 

That day came not long after the future owners of Mayway Records saw the advert that VRT were selling off some of the music from their record collection. This was something that they were interested in, and they set out to secure this comprehensive collection of CDs.

Fortunately, they secured the collection of CDs, which they soon discovered gave them a comprehensive overview of two decades of Belgian music, the nineties and noughties. Having secured this huge collection of CDs, the next step was working out what to do with them?

Tony Vandenbogaerde the man behind Mayway Records, decided to make a career out the collection of music he had just bought. “I decided to make a living of it and began to sell them on eBay and Discogs. That was my full-time job for like 5-6 years. But while doing that, I discovered a lot of great Belgian music and the idea to do something with that, became to form in my head. In the beginning of this year I decided to do it and start a record label, and thus began the compilation series Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s.”

Fast forward to November 2017, and Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1 has just been released by Mayway Records. The compilation features twenty tracks, ranging from long-forgotten singles to B-Sides, album tracks and even the occasional demo. Most people, even many Belgian music lovers won’t have heard these tracks and Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1 is an opportunity to discover music that slipped under the musical radar during the nineties and noughties.

This includes Two Russian Cowboys’ The Spider In Love which opens Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1. Their lineup includes Luc Dufourmont and his daughter Cleo, who takes charge of the lead vocal. She unleashes what can only be described as a vocal powerhouse, on this irresistible hidden gem. It’s taken from the Two Russian Cowboys’ sophomore album Killem, which was released on MAP Records on 2005. Seven years later, The Spider In Love featured on the soundtrack to the British cult film Spiderlings. Now five years later, The Spider In Love returns for an encore on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1, and sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.

From the opening bars of Thou’s Don’t Ask, it’s obvious that something special is about to unfold. That’s no surprise, as previously, Thou have been described as on of Belgium’s pop’s best kept secrets. It doesn’t take long to realise why on Don’t Ask, a track from the Elvis Or Betty Boop album which was released in 2002. Don’t Ask is a tantalising taster of this truly talented group whose music deserved to find a wider audience.

After signing to Sony, Kolk released their debut album Nachtschade on Columbia in 1999. It opened with Lemmet, which starts life as  beautiful, elegiac example of electropop. There’s also elements of synth pop and later, blistering rock guitar on Lemmet, which was one of the highlights of Nachtschade, and eighteen years later, Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1. 

When progressive rockers The Same released their debut album Spoonc on G.R. Editions in 1995, their lineup featured some familiar faces. This included Anton Walgrave who was dividing his time between his solo career and the group Awake, who was joined by Aram Van Ballaert a classical and film composer and Dave De Peuter later of CPeX. One of the highlights of Spoonc was Swallow, a memorable and melodic driving track, where Klaas Goublomme’s fleet-fingered Hammond organ solo play a starring role. 

Although Sarge featured on Pop Machine’s 2002 Greatest Hits album, it sounds as if it was recorded in the mid to late-sixties. That was what Pop Machine intended, and set about to do. They were inspired by Francoise Hardy’s vocal and the orchestral sound of James Last and Caravelli, and set about combining these disparate influences on Sarge. This they do successfully, on what’s a carefully crafted and catchy example of orchestrated perfect pop that brings back memories of another musical era. 

Tania Gallagher and Bart Demey first became Nid and Sancy when they released their debut single Be Yourself Tonight. A year later, in 2005, Nid and Sancy released their debut album Talk To The Machine, on Surprise Records. It features the anthemic track What You Want/What You Get which sounds as if Nid and Sancy have been inspired by the Chemical Brothers early albums like Exit Planet Dust, Dig Your Own Hole and Surrender.

One of the real finds on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1 is Wizards Of Ooze’s Bright Day, which featured on their 1996 sophomore album Bambee! It was released by Backbone Records and was one of a trio of albums Wizards Of Ooze released during the nineties. Bright Day finds Wizards Of Ooze fusing lounge and acid jazz on this ballad. They provide an understated backdrop while Zap Mama’s Sabine Kabongo takes charge of the lead vocal, and plays a starring role on  what’s the best track on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1.

By 2000, the Brussels based electro-trip hop project Airlock was preparing to released their sophomore album Drystar on the One Little Indian label. It featured In The Mouth Of The Fish a spacey, lysergic instrumental with a cinematic sound that’s another of the compilation’s highlights.

When The Beautiful Babies recorded their sophomore album Serenade in the summer of 1993, they brought onboard producer Martin Rushen who by then, had worked with everyone from The Stranglers, Buzzcocks and Joy Division to XTC, Deke Leonard and the Human League. Later in 1993, Serenade was released by EMI and featured one of The Beautiful Babies’ finest songs Angelina. Unsurprisingly, this hook-laden slice of perfect pop was released as a single, but sadly, didn’t find the audience it deserved.

Closing Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1 is Psychologica, a track from Gèsman’s debut album Slich Van ‘T Eten, which was released by Radical Pigeon Recordings in 2004. It’s a track that emerged out of a jam session, and in parts, sounds as if it was inspired by The Grateful Dead and The Doors. Gèsman combine a falsetto vocal, shimmering keyboards and searing, soaring guitars that cut through the arrangement. They’re part of a genre-melting track where Gèsman combined elements of pop, psychedelia and rock on a track that shows another side to Belgian music during the nineties and noughties.

Although I’ve only mentioned eleven of twenty tracks on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, they’re just some of the highlights of what’s hopefully, the start of a successful compilation series. It looks back at the nineties and noughties, when Belgium was fortunate to have such a diverse and vibrant music scene. Proof of that is the music on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s. It’s a reminder of what many Belgian critics now regard as a something of a golden period musically.

During this twenty years period, bands and artists in towns and cities across Belgium were creating many different genres of music. This included everything from pop, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock to Acid Jazz, electropop, lounge and trip hop. These genres and more are all represented on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, which was recently released by Mayway Records

The twenty tracks Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s include long-forgotten singles, B-Sides, album tracks and even the occasional demo. There’s also anthems, hidden gems and hook-laden perfect pop. Sadly, most people, even many Belgian music lovers won’t have heard of the tracks on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1, as they weren’t played by VRT, the Belgian public service broadcaster during the nineties and noughties. Fortunately, these tracks make a welcome return on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, which is the perfect opportunity to discover some musical treasure that slipped under the musical radar first around.

Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1.


Henry Gross-The Seventies Solo Years.

When Henry Gross took to the stage with Sha Na Na at ‘7.30pm’ on Sunday, August the ‘17th’ 1969, the eighteen year old made history, he became the  the youngest person to perform at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Despite his relative youth, Henry Gross took  playing in front of 400,000 people in  his stride during Sha Na Na’s thirty-minute set that preceded the arrival of Jimi Hendrix. This was no surprise, as Henry Gross was already an experienced musician.  

Henry Gross was born on the ’1st’ of April 1951, in Brooklyn, New York. His mother was a music lover who encouraged Henry Gross’ love of music and later, nascent career.

By the time Henry Gross was thirteen, he had already played at the World’s Fair with his first band. Within a year, fourteen year old Henry Gross was a familiar face in the clubs of New York. This was a tough musical apprenticeship.

One of the clubs Henry Gross’ band played was owned by a major New York gangster who encouraged Henry to pursue his musical career. Playing the tough, rough and ready clubs of New York meant Henry Gross was ready for anything. However, when the summer came, Henry played to a very different audience.

When the school term ended, Henry Gross headed to the Catskill Mountains where he played at the resort hotels. This was other part of Henry Gross’ musical apprenticeship. 

By the time Henry Gross graduated from high school in 1969, his music apprenticeship was complete and  he headed to Brooklyn College. That was where Henry Gross founded Sha Na Na. 

Sha Na Na.

When Sha Na Na were founded, there was one word that many critics used to describe the nascent band…unique. They realised the importance of standing out from the crowd, so Sha Na Na billed themselves as a group: “from the streets of New York.” They wore leather jackets and gold lame. Their hair styles ranged from a pompadour to slicked back ducktails. Similarly unique were their shows. 

When Sha Na Na walked on stage they proceeded to combine song and dance, and the music they played was a mixture of fifties rock ’n’ roll and doo w0p. Sha Na Na managed to simultaneously revived and sent up rock ’n’ roll. This proved a popular draw, and before long, Sha Na Na were opening for some of the biggest names in music including  Dr. John, Grateful Dead, B.B. King, Canned Heat, Santana, Taj Mahal and The Kinks. That was how highly Sha Na Na’s peers thought of them. For Sha Na Na, this was just the start of their rise and rise.

Later in 1969, Sha Na Na released their debut album Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay. Although it only reached number 183 in the US Billboard 200, word spread about Sha Na Na. This lead to Sha Na Na being asked to play at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair.

The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair took place between the 15th and 17th August 1969, and was advertised as “three days of peace and music.” For Sha Na Na this would launch their career.

When the day came, Sha Na Na headed to the main stage where they  played a thirty-minute set that began on ‘7.30pm’ on Sunday, August the ‘17th’ 1969. For a relatively new band, this was the opportunity of  a lifetime, and  was like hitting a home run in the World Series. However, Henry Gross didn’t see it like this.


Standing at the side of the stage, Henry Gross watched some of the biggest names in music play. Then as Jimi Hendrix brought the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair to a close, Henry realised Sha Na Na wasn’t what he wanted to be doing. 

He thought about Sha Na Na, which featured twelve men and women dressed as if they’d stepped out of the fifties. However, psychedelia was King, and the fifties was another country. Musically, Henry Gross knew that the fifties was music’s past. Henry Gross also looked at the other members of Sha Na Na.

They were happy doing what they were doing, and Henry Gross knew They were good people. However, they weren’t taking things seriously. Henry Gross was different, and  wanted to make a living out of music. He knew had was a talented singer and songwriter, so, in 1970, Henry Gross left Sha Na Na.

The Solo Years.

Having left Sha Ne Na in 1970, Henry Gross signed to ABC-Dunhill Records in 1971, and soon, was working on his eponymous debut album. When he wasn’t working on his debut album, Henry Gross did some session work. One of the albums he played on was Jim Groce’s I Got A Name. It was released in 1973, and reached number two in the US Billboard 200. By then, Henry Gross had left ABC-Dunhill Records.

Henry Gross.

Having written and recorded his eponymous debut album, Henry Gross released by ABC-Dunhill Records in 1972. Henry Gross was reasonably well received by critics with tracks like My Sunshine and Loving You-Loving Me showing what Henry Gross was capable of. However, some critics felt that Henry Gross was a couple of tracks short of being a fine album. Prayer To All and You’ll Be Mine disappointed critics.While these tracks may not have been the strongest on the album, Henry Gross certainly showed how much potential  the young singer-songwriter had.

When Henry Gross was released in 1972, record buyers failed to spot that potential and  Henry Gross failed to chart. As a result, Henry was dropped by ABC-Dunhill Records. He wasn’t without a record contract long and signed to A&M in 1973.

Henry Gross.

ABC-Dunhill Records seemed to have been hasty releasing  Henry Gross, and he was snapped up by A&M. Henry Gross hadn’t been allowed to develop and mature as an artist by ABC-Dunhill, which   takes time. Sometimes, an artist doesn’t hit his stride until his second or in some cases, third album.

Now signed to A&M, Henry Gross began work on his sophomore album, which when it was completed, somewhat confusingly, was also entitled Henry Gross. It found favour amongst record critics.

On the release of Henry Gross in 1973, it was apparent that Henry was maturing as a singer and songwriter. Accompanied by a tight, talented band, Henry Gross worked his way through ten tracks. One of the highlights was Meet Me On The Corner, which gave Lindisfarne the biggest hit of their career.  Other highlights included Simone, The Ever Lovin’ Days and Lay Your Love Song Down, which all showcased Henry Gross as he evolved as a singer and songwriter. It was no surprise when Henry Gross was released, to widespread critical acclaim. Sadly, commercial success eluded Henry. 

Despite the undoubted quality of Henry Gross, the album failed to chart. For Henry Gross, this must have proved frustrating. After all, singer-songwriters were in vogue, and James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell and Carole King were enjoying critical acclaim and commercial success. Soon, so would Henry Gross.

Plug Me Into Something.

Although the commercial failure of Henry Gross’ sophomore album was disappointing,  it made him even more determined to succeed. Henry Gross went away and began work on his third solo album, Plug Me Into Something.

When Plug Me Into Something was released in 1975, it proved to be a coming of age for Henry Gross musically. Plug Me Into Something was hailed a career defining album for Henry Gross, and saw him continue to mature as a singer and songwriter. Proof of this were songs of the quality of One More Tomorrow, I’ll Love Her, All My Love and Tomorrow’s Memory Lane, which showed how far the twenty-four year old Henry Gross had come. 

When twenty-four year old Henry Gross he released Plug Me Into Something in 1975, he was still only twenty-four, and had grown and matured as a singer, songwriter and storyteller since leaving ABC three years earlier. His critically acclaimed third album  Plug Me Into Something  reached number twenty-six in the US Billboard 200 chart, which made it the most successful album of his career.  

Over at ABC-Dunhill Records, someone had some explaining to do. They had cut Henry Gross loose too early in his career. Adding to their embarrassment was that he was about to enjoy the most fruitful period of his career, starting with Release, which featured the biggest hit single of Henry’s career, Shannon. 


By the time Henry began work on his fourth album Release, he was in-demand as a session guitarist. Henry Gross had also left A&M Records, and signed  to Terry Cashman and Tommy West’s Lifesong Records. 

Signing to Lifesong Records must have been a culture shock for Henry Gross, who had  previously been signed to large labels, ABC-Dunhill Records and A&M Records. At Lifesong Records, the roster was smaller and meant each artist was treated as individual.Artists were no longer  part of the corporate machine, and the label’s two co-owners Terry Cashman and Tommy West would produce Release, Henry’s Lifesong Records’ debut.

For Release, Henry Gross penned a total of ten tracks, which included a song he wrote about the death of Carl Wilson’s red setter dog, Shannon. To onlookers, this seemed a strange subject for a song. Little did anyone know the effect Shannon would have. However, before Shannon was released as a single, it had to be recorded.

Recording of Release took place at The Record Plant, New York, between September and November 1975. Henry Gross was joined by a band that featured some session players. Once they had played their part, a horn and string section adding the finishing touches to Release, which was released in 1976.

When critics heard Release, they were won over by Henry’s fourth album. Release received widespread critical acclaim. Henry Gross’  blend of pop, soft rock and A&M pop found favour  with critics. Dissenting voices were very much in the minority. Everything was looking good for the release of Release.

That proved to be the case when Shannon was released as a single, it  reached number six in the US Billboard 100, number one in Canada and number thirty-two in the UK. Eventually, Shannon was certified gold in America alone. The sophomore album Springtime Mama, then reached number thirty-seven in the US Billboard 100. Then when Release, which was Henry Gross’ most eclectic album was was released in 1976, it reached number sixty-four in the US Billboard 200.

The only disappointment was that Release hadn’t reached the same heights as Plug Me Into Something. However, Release  featured Shannon which had just been certified gold and was regarded as most eclectic and finest album. Everything  in Henry Gross’ career had been building up to Release, and critics thought that this was the start of a lengthy period when critical acclaim and commercial success would come Henry Gross’ way. 

Show Me To The Stage.

After the commercial success and critical acclaim of Release, Henry started work on his fifth album. He wrote the ten tracks that became Show Me To The Stage, which  was recorded at The Record Plant, New York.

Recording took place between October 1976 and January 1977, at The Record Plant. Some of the musicians who played on Release returned for Show Me To The Stage. Once again, Tommy West and Terry Cashman took charge of production, and once recording of Show Me To The Stage was completed, in was released in 1977.

Five years after releasing his eponymous debut album in 1972,  Henry Gross released Show Me To The Stage. Critics regarded Show Me To The Stage as an album of two sides. Side one was something of a slow burner, cumulating in an intriguing cover of The Beatles’ Help.  It showcases the not just the production skills of Cashman and West, but their harmonies. Then on side two of Show Me To The Stage Henry can do no wrong. Hooks are in plentiful supply as side two has an uplifting and joyous with a feel-good, summery vibe. Critics forecast great things for Show Me To The Stage.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Show Me To The Stage stalled at just number 176 in the US Billboard 200. For Henry, his career had stalled. Worse still, he was back to where he was after his sophomore album. For Henry Gross this was a huge disappointment. 


Show Me To The Stage was one that got away for Henry Gross, and is an album deserved to far much better than it did. It’s without doubt the most underrated album of Henry Gross’ career. However, for  Henry Gross the most worrying thing was that he was  back to where he was after his eponymous sophomore album. His next album was the most important of his career. 

Love Is The Stuff.

Fortunately, Henry Gross still owed Lifesong Records one album, and this offered him the chance to redeem himself.  If his next album was successful, there was every possibility his contract would be extended and he could continue to rebuild his career.    

Meanwhile, Tommy West and Terry Cashman had decided that Henry Gross’ next album would be a live album, This was much cheaper to record than a studio album like Show Me To The Stage. Maybe, the pair had realised that Henry Gross’ career was already on the slide, and that if they poured money into recording a studio album, it was money they were unlikely to recover. However, with Henry Gross was booked to play twice at New York’s Bottom Line for the King Biscuit Flower Hour this was the perfect opportunity to record a live album.

Tommy West and Terry Cashman arranged for both of Henry Gross’ performances to be recorded, and one of these would become Show Me To The Stage. Eventually, it was the second of Henry Gross’ two appearances  at  New York’s Bottom Line for the King Biscuit Flower Hour was chosen by Tommy West and Terry Cashman. chose the second, where Henry Gross plays a selection of his best known and best-loved songs. The late shows saw Henry Gross playing nine songs, including Rock ‘N’ Roll I Love You, Come Along, Juke Box Song, Southern Band and his biggest hit single Shannon. This live set of some of his finest songs, Henry Gross hoped would rejuvenate his career upon its release in 1978.

Before Lifesong Records released Love Is The Stuff, critics had their say on an album which found Henry Gross switching between pop, rock and rock ’n’ roll. While most of the critics were won over by the album, some critics weren’t convinced by Love Is The Stuff.

When Love Is The Stuff was released in 1978, the album failed to even trouble the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200. This was a huge disappointment for Henry Gross, considering it was his swan-song for Lifesong Records.

Not long after Love Is The Stuff was released, Henry Gross was signed by CBS Records, who had given a distribution deal to Cashman and West’s label. Now signed to a major, who had the budget to promote his albums, this should’ve been the start of the rise and rise of Henry Gross. Sadly, Henry Gross’ only release for CBS was What’s In A Name, which was released by Capitol Records in 1981 and failed to chart. This was the end of Henry Gross’ time at CBS.

When Henry Gross returned six years later, with his new album I Keep On Rockin’ in 1987, he was signed to the Scandinavian label Sonet Records. Just like his previous album, commercial success eluded I Keep On Rockin’. It was a similar case when Sonet Records released She’s My Baby in 1989. After that,  Henry Gross left Sonet Records and in the early nineties, formed his own label Zelda Records.

By then, the success of the album Plug Me Into Something and his the single Shannon must have seemed a long time ago, However, it was only 1975, that critics were forecasting a great future for Henry Gross, who had been heralded as having the potential to become one of the great singer-singers of the seventies. 

Especially after the release of Plug Me Into Something in 1975, which featured his biggest hit single Shannon. However, it was all downhill after Plug Me Into Something, with Henry Gross never reaching the same nights. When Henry Gross released his fifth Show Me To The Stage in 1977, it was his last album to chart.The rise and then demise of Henry Gross had been equally rapid.

That was a great shame, as Henry Gross had released the best music of his career during the seventies. Plug Me Into Something and  Release were Henry Gross’ finest albums, while Show Me To The Stage and Love Is The Stuff  are both hidden gems.. They’re a reminder of Henry Gross, whose star briefly shawn brightly during the mid-seventies, when it looked  looked this truly talented troubadour was going to become one of great singer-s0ngwriters of his generation.

Henry Gross-The Seventies Solo Years.




Label: Chiswick Records.

By the time Motörhead’s  eponymous debut album was  released by Chiswick Records in August 1977, the two previous years had proved eventful for Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and his band. So much so, that it was a wonder Motörhead was ever got as far as recording, never mind releasing their eponymous debut album Motörhead. Everything that could’ve gone wrong, had gone wrong. It was as if Motörhead had upset the musical gods.

During the last two years, Motörhead had survived two changes in their lineup; had signed for United Artists who refused to record the album they had recorded and and even got as far as planing their farewell gig. Then Ted Carroll the owner of Chiswick Records rode to the rescue, by securing Motörhead’s release from their United Artists contract.

Ted Carroll then gave the group £500 to record their debut album Motörhead which was released in August 1977. Forty years later, and Chiswick Records, an imprint of Ace Records have recently released the fortieth anniversary version of Motörhead, which became one of the group’s classic albums. It’s also the album that started Motörhead’s career that lasted five decades, twenty-two albums and thirteen live albums. Their story began forty-two ago when disaster struck for Lemmy.

In My 1975,  Hawkwind’s tour bus arrived in Windsor, Ontario, at the Canadian-American border, but before the band could cross over into America, for the next part of their tour, the band were  subjected to a routine drugs search. For Hawkwind bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, this spelt disaster and resulted in his arrest on drug possession charges. For Lemmy it was the end of the road for him, and he was sacked by Hawkwind. This was the always thought, the excuse the other members of Hawkwind had been waiting for, to sack Lemmy  from the band.

On his return home to England, Lemmy started putting together a new band, which he initially called Bastard. This was what he planned to call the new band which featured guitarist Larry Wallis, who previously was a member of The Pink Fairies. Steve Took’s Shagrat and UFO.  He was joined by drummer Lucas Fox who joined Lemmy on bass in Bastard’s rhythm section. However, the group’s then manager Doug Smith explained that there was no way a group called Bastard would feature on prime time TV, and suggested the name Motörhead.

Not long after this, Motörhead signed to United Artists, which was also home to Lemmy’s former group Hawkwind. With the ink dry on the recording contract, Motörhead headed to Rockfield Studios in Wales to record their debut album.

During late 1975 and early 1976, Motörhead recorded what was meant to be their debut album. However, when United Artists heard the album, they refused to release it. This was a huge blow to Motörhead.

Just over a year later, and Motörhead’s lineup had changed beyond recognition by the ‘1st’ of April 1977. Drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor had replaced Lucas Fox who didn’t seem committed to the band. Guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke had also joined Motörhead as the second guitarist and would join up with Larry Wallis. However, not long after this, Larry Wallis left Motörhead. This was another blow to the band. 

So much so, that Motörhead decided to call time on their short but eventful career. However, they were determined to bow out in style with a farewell gig at London’s Marquee Club later in 1977.

Meanwhile, Ted Carroll was running Chiswick Records, the label  he formed not long after Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind. Ted Carroll also owned a record shop, where Lemmy was a regular visitor, buying rare singles. When Ted Carroll heard that United Artists weren’t willing to release Motörhead’s debut album, he decided to ride to the rescue.


After negotiating Motörhead’s release from their contract with United Artists, Ted Carroll signed the bad to his label Chiswick Records. At first, Motörhead wanted to record their farewell gig at the Marquee Club. However, the owners of the Marquee Club wanted £500 to allow the recording to take place. That was out of the question, so Ted Carroll offered Motörhead the chance to record a single over two days at Escape Studios in Kent, England, with producer John “Speedy” Keen. That was the plan.

By the time Motörhead arrived at Escape Studios, the band had a list of songs they wanted to record. This included the eight that would eventually find their way onto Motörhead. Two of the, Motörhead  and The Watcher were penned by Lemmy  who cowrote Lost Johnny with Mick Farren. White Line Fever was the first song penned by the three members of Motörhead who cowrote Keep Us On The Road with Mick Farren. Drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor wrote Iron Horse/Born To Lose with Mick Brown and Guy “Tramp” Lawrence. The two other songs were Vibrator, which  former Motörhead guitarist Larry Wallis, plus  a cover of Train Kept A-Rollin’.  These tracks were recorded during a stimulant fuelled seventy-two hour recording session.

Between the ‘27th’ and ‘29th’ April 1977, Motörhead aided by some illicit substances recorded eleven tracks. When Ted Carroll heard the tracks, he paid for further studio time to complete Motörhead which features the classic lineup of drummer, Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke. They would write their name into musical history.

From the opening bars of Motörhead, the group’s unique and inimitable musical style reveals itself.  This consists of Lemmy’s raspy, rasping, lived-in vocal which sits atop the rhythm section  of Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor’s drums, Lemmy’s bass and “Fast” Eddie Clarke’s guitar  powers the arrangements along as Motörhead gives way to Vibrator, Lost Johnny and  Horse/Born To Lose. By then, Motörhead have gone through gears and have their feet to the floor as they power this stimulant fuelled musical juggernaut along. Although Motörhead playing lacks the polish of later albums, it’s a mixture of energy and enthusiasm.

That’s the case as Motörhead launch in White Line Fever, which gives way to Keep Us On The Road. By then, there’s no stopping Motörhead as they launch into the dark almost sinister sounding The Watcher. Closing the album in style was Train Kept A-Rollin’, and  Motörhead take their bow after just under thirty-three hard rocking minutes.

During that time,  Motörhead showcased their unique and inimitable style that had taken shape since they made their debut in 1975. By 1977, Motörhead was fusing  hard rock and rock ’n’ roll with a hint of blues rock, which all played a part in their  barnstorming, speed-fuelled performance on Motörhead. Forty years later, Motörhead has stood the test of time, and is regarded as one of Lemmy and Co’s finest albums.

When Motörhead was released on the ’21st’ of August 1977, it reached forty-three in Britain and was later certified silver. Somewhat belatedly Motörhead’s recording career was underway.

Motörhead would go on to release twenty-two studio albums and thirteen live albums between  1977 and 2016. Sadly, by then founder  Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister had passed away on the ‘28th’ of December 2015, four days after his seventieth birthday. One of the hardest living men in rock music had outlived and out-rocked many of his peers. Motörhead with Lemmy at the helm had been one of the most prolific and of the past forty years, and their thirteenth live album Clean Your Clock was released in June 2016. This brought to an end a long and successful, hard-rocking career.

It began with the release of Motörhead by Chiswick Records in August 1977, which nowadays, is considered one of Motörhead’s classic albums. Motörhead was recently released by Chiswick Records, an imprint of Ace Records, and was the album that started it all of for Motörhead.

They embarked upon a six-year period where they could do no wrong, and enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. Motörhead also released several genre classics, including their eponymous debut album Motörhead,Overkill, Ace Of Spades and the legendary live album No Sleep ’til Hammersmith. Along with their second live album What’s Worth Words, these albums include some of the best music that Motörhead recorded during a five decade career.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Motörhead were one of the great rock bands of the past forty years. Sadly, after Lemmy’s death, that was the end of the line for Motörhead. Without Lemmy’s vocal and bass playing, Motörhead wouldn’t be the same band.

Lemmy was at Motörhead’s helm for forty years. He founded the band in 1975,  after his sacking from Hawkwind. Being sacked from Hawkwind was the beset thing that happened to Lemmy, who had the last laugh, and enjoyed much more success than Hawkwind between 1975 and 2015. During that period  Motörhead were one of the hardest living and hardest rocking bands on planet rock, and released several classic albums, especially between 1977 and 1983. This included Motörhead’s  hard rocking opus Motörhead which featured a barnstorming, speed-fuelled performance and music that was raw, raucous and truly timeless.






Ken Boothe-Inna de Yard. 

Label: Chapter Two/Wagram.

On the ‘26th’ of October 1974, twenty-six year old reggae singer Ken Boothe was celebrating his first number one in Britain, with a cover of the David Gates’ composition Everything I Own, which two years earlier, gave Bread a worldwide hit in January 1972. Now it was Ken Boothe’s turn to celebrate after the title-track to his third album for Trojan Records gave him his biggest hit in Britain. The chart-topping single was being played on radio stations across Britain, and this he hoped would give his seventh album Everything I Own a boost. It was times like this that made the last eleven years worthwhile for the singer known as Mr Rocksteady, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1948.

Little did Ken Boothe realise in 1974, that forty-three years later, in 2017, his career would still be going strong, and that the sixty-nine year old singer would be preparing to release his first international album in twenty-five years. That new album is Inna de Yard, which is the latest instalment in Chapter Two’s unplugged reggae series and finds Mr. Rocksteady work his way through eleven of his best known songs from the sixties, seventies and eighties. Inna de Yard which will be released by Chapter Two/Wagram on the ‘24th’ November 2017, marks the welcome return of Ken Boothe, whose career began as a fifteen year old in 1963.

That was when Stranger Cole, a singer and neighbour of Ken Boothe heard the young man sing and arranged an audition at Duke Reid’s studio, in 1963. This was a dream come true for Ken Boothe, who had developed an interested in music while he was a pupil at Denham Primary Elementary School. Before long, Ken Boothe was spending much of his free time listening to music, and was inspired and influenced by vocalist Owen Gray. By then, Ken Boothe had started singing, and was encouraged by his eldest sister Hyacinth Clover, who was already an established vocalist. Soon, there would be two singers in the Boothe family,

Stranger Cole took Ken Boothe to his audition at Duke Reid’s in Kingston, and when the time came, the pair sang Unos Dos Tres for the producer.  After hearing, the pair sing Duke Reid offered the duo a recording contract. They decided to form a duo, and by 1965 had released several singles. However, after two years, the partnership ran its course and Stranger Cole and Ken Boothe moved on.

The following year, 1966, Ken Boothe and Roy Shirley formed the duo Roy and Ken, and released a single Paradise. Ken Boothe’s second partnership was short-lived, as later in 1966, he embarked upon a solo career when he signed to Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One label.

Within the first year of his career, Ken Boothe had already recorded for three different producers, Duke Reid, Phil Pratt and Sonia Pottinger. Ken Boothe had also enjoyed his first hit single with The Train Is Coming, where he was backed by The Wailers. This he followed with the first ska version of You’re No Good which featured The Soulettes, and then a cover of Lonely Teardrops. By the end of 1966, eighteen year old Ken Boothe had already come a long way.

By 1967, producer Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd started promoting Ken Boothe as Mr. Rocksteady. This moniker stuck, and fifty years later, Ken Boothe is still known as Mr. Rocksteady. Later, in 1967,  Ken Booth released his debut album Mr. Rock Steady on Studio One. When Ken Boothe returned with his sophomore album More Of Ken Boothe in 1969, he had already released the much sampled rocksteady classic Moving Away. It would become one of Ken Boothe’s most popular singles.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, Ken Boothe signed to Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s Records. However, due to the producer’s death, his time at Beverley’s Records’ was short-lived. Still, Ken Boothe managed to release his third album Freedom Street in 1970 and enjoyed hits with Freedom Street and Why Baby Why?

After the death of Leslie Kong, Ken Boothe released Boothe Unlimited on Federal Records in 1972. However, Ken Booth was just passing through, and in 1973, signed Trojan Records.

Having signed to Trojan Records, Ken Boothe released a trio of albums, including his fourth album Black Gold and Green in 1973.  It featured seven tracks from Boothe Unlimited and some tracks taken from The Great Ken Boothe Meets B.B. Seaton and The Gaylads. Ken Boothe followed Black Gold and Green up with Let’s Get It On in 1974, which featured a much lighter reggae sound. 

So did Everything I Own, which was released later in 1974. The title-track, Everything I Own topped the charts on the ‘26th’ of October 1974, and spent three weeks at number one single in Britain. Crying Over You was released as a followup, and reached number eleven in Britain. Ken Boothe’s new sound had reached a much wider audience and it looked as if he was about to enjoy a successful career in Britain.

Despite the success of Everything I Own, Ken Boothe left Trojan Records, and two years later, returned in 1976 with Blood Brothers, which was released on LTD. After this, Ken Boothe released albums on various labels, including 1978s Showcase on Sonic Sounds; 1979s I’m Just A Man on B. Lee and Reggae For Lovers on Tuff Gong. The third album Ken Boothe released in 1979 was Who Gets Your Love? which was released on Trojan Records. This triumvirate of albums were the last albums Ken Boothe would release for seven years.

When Ken Boothe returned in 1986 with his new album Imagine, he was thirty-eight and well into his third decade as a recording artist. This he followed up with Don’t You Know in 1987 and Call Me in 1989. It was only Ken Boothe’s only third album of the eighties.

Little did anyone know that Ken Boothe would only release four albums during the nineties. The first was Talk To Me in 1990, with Power of Love following in 1992. After that, releases became more sporadic, and the albums that followed weren’t released internationally. 

For Ken Boothe’s fan’s this was hugely disappointing, as Mr. Rocksteady continued to release albums. This included Natural Feeling 1995 and Acclaimed in 1996. However, after that albums were released much more sporadically.

Over the past twenty-one years, several Ken Boothe compilations have been released, and Live In Paris in 2010. The same year,Ken Boothe released his gospel album Door 2 Door in 2010. However, since then, very little has been heard of Mr. Rocksteady’s fans and what his legion of fans have been waiting for is a new album. Soon, the wait will be over

Inna de Yard which is the latest instalment in Chapter Two’s unplugged reggae series, is Ken Boothe’s first international release in twenty-five long years. It finds Mr. Rocksteady reinterpret eleven of his best known songs from the sixties, seventies and eighties. This includes Let the Water Run Dry, which featured on the The Soul of Jamaica compilation earlier in 2017. Just like the rest of songs on Inna de Yard, they’re a reminder of one of Jamaica’s great singer and songwriters, whose enjoyed a fifty-one year solo career, and in 2018, celebrates his seventieth birthday. 

After participating in the Soul of Jamaica compilation, a newly reinvigorated Ken Boothe decided that the time had come to record a new album, and teamed up with producer Romain Germa to record what become Inna De Yard, the second instalment in Chapter Two’s unplugged reggae series. 

Ken Boothe had never recorded an unplugged album during his six decade career, and was excited about the prospect which would allow him reinterpret eleven of his favourite songs that he had released during the sixties, seventies and eighties. 

Choosing just eleven tracks from what had been the most successful and prolific period of Ken Boothe’s career wasn’t going to be easy. Eventually, after some consideration he had decided upon Speak Softly Love, I Am A Fool, Black, Gold and Green, Artibella, I Don’t Want To See You Cry, African Lady, Let The Water Run Dry, When I’ll Fall In Love, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, Just Another Girl and Rastaman Chant. These tracks would be recorded far from the busy streets of Kingston, in a unique recording studio,

To get to producer Kiddus I’s makeshift studio, Ken Boothe had to head high into the hills above Kingston. His eventual destination was Kiddus I’s studio, which sits high above the vast forests that decorate the hills on the outskirts of Kingston. It’s an unlikely site for a recording studio.

Eventually, Ken Boothe arrived at the studio, and was greeted by some of the great and good Jamaican music. They all wanted to accompany Mr. Rocksteady, and had made their way Kiddus I’s studio.

In the studio, copies of the records recorded in the studio hang on the wall. So do photos of the artists who have recorded at Kiddus I’s studio. Soon, Ken Boothe’s photo will join this roll of honour. As they enter the main studio, Rastafarian paintings hang proudly on the wall. Among the familiar faces and old friends that greeted Ken Boothe were bassist Delroy Nevin, guitarist Winston ‘Bo-Pee’ Bowen, organist Robbie Lynn, French accordionist François “Fixi” Bossard, saxophonists Guillaume Briard and Nicolas Laroque. There’s also a myriad of percussionists, including those who will play the Nyabinghi drums, the sacred percussion played at Rastafarian ceremonies. With Ken Booth  in the studio, this vast cast of musicians prepare to accompany him.

Many of the musicians had spent the early part of their career at the Inna De Yard studio. However, Ken Boothe was a relative newcomer to the studio and producer Romain Germa remembers:“when we brought Ken to this house in the mountains to record he said: “Where is the studio?”. We replied: “This is the studio–the musicians play outside on the terrace, everyone together”. When he started to record he had a kind of shock – it is very different to what he has done before, mostly recording on his own over rhythm tracks.”  

Ken Boothe recalls the time spent recording at Inna De Yard: “when I was there it was like I could touch the mountain and it made me express myself in another way. Inna de yard was where I started, where we all started, everyone recording at the same time and this album is like a fulfilment of this”.

To help Ken Boothe do this, producer Romain Germa looked to reggae’s past and an instrument that had been lost to reggae for three decades.  “Nyabinghi drums virtually disappeared in reggae’s digital era (1980s onwards). Here it provides a spiritual and cultural element for the musicians…it’s like a family playing together…whilst creating more space and air for the music.”

This was important given reggae’s history and tradition. Romain Germa explains how: “we wanted to reignite a musical tradition that we feel has been lost in contemporary Jamaican music” They also had “to try and bring a different perspective to Ken’s music and really bring out the emotion in his voice.” 

This they have succeeded in doing on what’s a very personal album where once again, Ken Boothe connects to his Rastafarian roots on album that contains some of his favourite songs. “Slavery has done so much wickedness to people. My grandmother was American-she came to Jamaica because of slavery. My voice comes from my mother and when I sing I feel my ancestors-it’s like memory. When a person truly expresses themselves that’s what I call soul.”

Although a rocksteady and reggae singer, Ken Boothe voice is imbued with a soulfulness that he puts to good use throughout Inna De Yard. It finds the veteran singer flit between reggae and rocksteady, on an album that features ballads and uptempo songs. They’re a mixture of familiar songs and old favourites, which Ken Boothe’s old and new fans will embrace and enjoy.

The best way to describe Inna De Yard is a polished and enchanting album of unplugged reggae. Especially with tracks of the quality of the confessional roots reggae ballad Speak Softly Love, which was written by Larry Kusik and Nino Rotta for The Godfather soundtrack. In Ken Boothe’s hand it becomes a beautiful, heartfelt ballad that opens the album, and sets the bar high the remainder of the album. It gives way to I’m A Fool, which combines elements of jazz with reggae, as Ken Boothe delivers a soul-baring, hurt-filled vocal. 

Very different is the righteous roots reggae of Black, Gold and Green where emotion and pride oozes out of Ken Boothe’s vocal during what sounds a very personal song. 

Artibella was a song that Ken Boothe originally recorded with Stranger Cole when the pair were a duo between 1963 and 1965. Over fifty years later, he reinterprets the song, which becomes a rolling reggae ballad, where Ken Boothe delivers a hopeful vocal, and at one point almost pleads as asks the errant Artibella: “who took all my money…to please come with me.” In doing so, he breathes new meaning into this familiar song.

I Don’t Want To See You Cry is another relationship song, with Ken Boothe having to leave his partner behind: “just for a time though.” He promises: “I will return…I will be back I’m in love with you baby” as Mr. Rocksteady delivers a vocal that’s a mixture of emotion, sincerity and soulfulness. 

Bob Marley’s African Lady is a familiar song which Ken Boothe totally transforms. It takes on a bluesy hue as elements of gospel and R&B are combined, while Ken Boothe delivers an impassioned vocal with backing vocals accompanying every step of the way. 

Let The Water Run Dry finds Ken Boothe telling the story of a former lover wanting him back. He’s been hurt by her before, and be hurt again and almost defiantly sings: “now you’re on your own and have no-one to call, picking up your telephone wanting me to come home.”  The defiance returns as Ken Boothe sings: “let the teardrops fall from your eyes,” as his partner experiences the hurt he once felt.

Many artist have covered When I fall In Love, including everyone from Nat King Cole to Ken Boothe. When he revisits the song, the tempo increases as he delivers a heartfelt and hopeful vocal against a mid-tempo reggae arrangement. It gives way to You Keep Me Hangin’ On where the tempo drops, and Ken Boothe reinvents the song. What could’ve been delivered as a hurt-filled ballad becomes where he almost demands: “set me free why don’t you babe?” 

 Just Another Girl finds Ken Boothe climb on the roller coaster of love. At first, it sounds like he’s found true love as he tenderly sings: “this love is really true,” until later he adds “but there’s one thing you should know you’re Just Another Girl.” This gives way to the spiritual sounding Rastaman Chant, where Ken Boothe testifies as he delivers an impassioned vocal against one of the best arrangements. It ensures Ken Boothe’s comeback album ends on a high.

 Twenty-five years after Ken Boothe released his last international album, the veteran singer returns with Inna de Yard, which is the latest instalment in Chapter Two’s unplugged reggae series and finds Mr. Rocksteady working his way through eleven of his best known songs from the sixties, seventies and eighties. Inna de Yard which will be released by Chapter Two/Wagram on the ‘24th’ November 2017, marks the welcome return of sixty-nine year old Ken Boothe, who like a fine wine, seems to mature with age.

Inna de Yard is an album that’s sure to appeal to Ken Boothe’s old fans, and will introduce the veteran reggae and rocksteady singer to a new audience. It’s an album that oozes quality, and often finds Ken Boothe’s voice full of emotion, passion, hope and hurt as he switches between ballads and uptempo tracks. Sometimes, uptempo tracks are reinvented as ballads, while ballads become uptempo tracks as Mr. Rocksteady works his musical magic. In doing so, Inna De Yard becomes Ken Boothe’s best album in twenty-five years, which is fitting, as that was the last time one his albums was released internationally. 

Ken Boothe will release Inna De Yard internationally, which marks the welcome return of Mr. Rocksteady, with his first ever unplugged album, where he reinvents eleven familiar songs, and in doing so, breathes new life, meaning and emotion into them, to create his best album in three decades.

Ken Boothe-Inna de Yard. 


The Zodiac-Cosmic Sounds-LP.

Label: Elektra Records.

By 1967, many critics and record buyers regarded Elektra Records as a folk rock label, that had released albums by some of the genre’s finest exponents including Judy Collins, Love, Tom Rush and Tim Buckley. Many of these albums would later become important and influential albums, and some are nowadays regarded as genre classics. However, some people’s perception of Elektra Records was about to change in May 1967 with the release of The Zodiac’s album Cosmic Sounds, which became a cult classic. That is the still the case in 2017 when Elektra Records reissued the fiftieth anniversary version of Cosmic Sounds on luminous vinyl.

The Zodiac’s Cosmic Sounds was a groundbreaking concept album which featured twelve tracks that were described as psychedelic mood music. It featured a myriad of exotic and electronic instruments and spoken prose that came courtesy of Cyrus Faryar. Cosmic Sounds was no ordinary album, and The Zodiac was no ordinary band.

That was certainly the case. The Zodiac didn’t even exist before the recording of Cosmic Sounds. Jac Holzman the head of Elektra Records came up with the concept for Cosmic Sounds after the success of The Doors’ eponymous debut album which had been released in January 1967. He then set about making The Zodiac and their debut album Cosmic Sounds reality.

To do that, Jac Holzman hired Alex Hassilev, formerly a member of  The Limeliters, to produce the album. Alex Hassilev brought onboard Mort Garson who he had recently formed a production company with, to write the music for Cosmic Sounds.

With producer Alex Hassilev and composer and musician Mort Garson onboard, the Cosmic Sounds’ concept quickly grew legs, and the pair were planning to record and release a series of similar concept albums. Before that, Mort Garson began work on Cosmic Sounds.

Eventually, composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor and pianist Mort Garson had written twelve tracks, with one for each astrological sign. This included Aries-The Fire-Fighter, Taurus-The Voluptuary, Gemini-The Cool Eye, Cancer-The Moon Child, Leo-The Lord of Lights, Virgo-The Perpetual Perfectionist, Libra-The Flower Child, Scorpio-The Passionate Hero, Sagittarius-The Versatile Daredevil, Capricorn-The Uncapricious Climber, Aquarius The Lover Of Life and Pisces-The Peace Piper. These tracks would become Jac Holzman’s album of psychedelic mood music-Cosmic Sounds.

By then, producer Alex Hassilev had returned from producing The Dusk ‘Till Dawn Orchestra’s Sea Drift album. One of the tracks incorporated a piece of music that was meant to feature on a followup album, The Sea. However, it had been scrapped, after Rod McKuen, who was meant to feature on the project, left and worked on his own version with Anita Kerr. This had been a disappointment, but Alex Hassilev was fully focused on producing Cosmic Sounds.

To record Cosmic Sounds, and capture the sounds that producer Alex Hassilev required wasn’t going to be easy. It would require a variety of exotic and electronic instruments. Fortunately, Alex Hassilev knew a couple of musicians who could help create the sound that he was looking for.

This included Paul Beaver, who back in 1967, was known as someone who provided sound effects for the film industry. He was also passionate about the new electronic instruments and had amassed an enviable collection, including a Moog synth. He would play the Moog and other electronic instruments on The Zodiac.

In 1967, the Moog synth was a new instrument, which its inventor Robert Moog and Paul Beaver had just demonstrated at the California Audio Engineering Society convention in early 1967. This was the assembled audience got the opportunity to see and hear the Moog on the West Coast. They realised it was a gamechanger, as did Jac Holzman the head of Elektra Records. The Moog he knew would play an important part on Cosmic Sounds. 

Jac Holzman was keen to bring Paul Beaver onboard for The Zodiac project, as he was one of just a handful of people on the West Coast who knew how to setup and use the Moog synth. Paul Beaver agreed to join The Zodiac project and was keen to showcase the instrument’s vast capabilities on Cosmic Sounds,

With Paul Beaver onboard, producer Alex Hassilev was keen to enlist percussionist Emil Richards, who had played with great and good of music, and on over 1,700 movies. Emil Richards was also a collector percussion instruments, and had already amassed a collection of 700 instruments from all over the world. He would put some of the strange and exotic percussion to good use on The Zodiac.

The day of the recording sessions, electronics guru Paul Beaver setup his Moog synth, and an array of electronic instruments. When percussionist Emil Richards arrived at the studio, it was in a truck. As members of the band looked out, they were amazed to see that half of the truck was filled with myriad of exotic percussion instruments including water chimes and angklungs, bamboo rattles from Southeast Asia. They were unloaded from the truck, along with a sitar and harpsichord. These instruments were taken into the studio, where producer Alex Hassilev introduced Emil Richards to the rest of the band.

It featured some of L.A’s top session musicians, including members of the legendary Wrecking Crew were waiting.  This included drummer Hal Blaine, who was joined in the rhythm section to bassist Carol Kaye. They were joined by keyboardist Mike Melvoin and Bud Shank on bass flute. Other members of this experienced group of musicians that recorded Cosmic Sounds weren’t credited on the album. 

With The Zodiac in the studio, they began recording the twelve tracks that became Cosmic Sounds. Mostly, the recording sessions ran smoothly. The only problem the band encountered was that the Moog’s oscillators were somewhat unstable and this meant that Paul Beaver had switch the machine on way before the sessions began, to allow them to warm up. Occasionally, the Moog failed to stay in frequency and the tuning was out. Apart from that, there were very few problems. What many members of the band remembered, was percussionist Emil Richards dashing round the studio playing anything up to five or six instruments live. Somehow, he managed this and after four recording sessions, the twelve backing tracks were recorded.

With Cosmic Sounds complete, The Zodiac listened to the playback, and listened intently to the twelve tracks that featured a spacey but tight groove. Cosmic Sounds sounded like an instrumental psychsploitation soundtrack. However, that would soon change.

With the backing tracks completed, folk singer Cyrus Faryar was brought onboard to narrate Cosmic Sounds. He was the final member or The Zodiac, and added the twelve vocals against a futuristic, moody, haunting and lysergic backdrop that combined the debut of a Moog synth with a sitar, flute, Hammond organ, haunting harpsichord and even searing, mid-sixties rocky guitar riffs as Cyrus Faryar’s voice veered between ruminative to dramatic and ironic. This was the final piece of the musical jigsaw that was Cosmic Sounds.

Once Cosmic Sounds was completed, Jac Holzman decided to release The Zodiac’s debut album in May 1967. William S. Harvey was hired to take charge of the artwork on Cosmic Sounds, and must have surpassed even Jac Holzman’s expectations. The elaborate sleeve was a patchwork of bright, bold and gaudy colours, and was almost luminous. It also featured wavy undulating lettering and pictures that were lysergic and had been influenced by classical mythology. This was a perfect cover for The Zodiac’s  album of  psychedelic mood music, Cosmic Sounds.

Not for the first time, Jac Holzman’s timing was perfect, with the release of The Zodiac’s debut album in May 1967 coinciding with a resurgence of interest in astrology, while psychedelia had also become hugely popular. Surely, this was the perfect time for The Zodiac to release their groundbreaking and innovative concept album Cosmic Sounds? It was sure to appeal to those who were about to turn on, tune in, drop out.

Unfortunately, Cosmic Sounds divided the opinion of critics, many of whom failed to understand this groundbreaking and imaginative album of psychedelic mood music, which came with instructions that the album “must be played in the dark.” Some critics embraced and understood the album, and were won over by its mixture of exotic and electronic instruments and spoken prose.

It was essentially a fusion of psychedelia, rock and astrology played by some the of L.A’s top musicians and narrated by Cyrus Faryar. This Jac Holzman hoped would tap into the burgeoning market for all things psychedelic.

Unfortunately, there was a degree of confusion amongst critics and soon, record buyers who were unsure about who the album was by. Some thought that the album was The Zodiac by Cosmic Sounds, while others were of the opinion that the album was Cosmic Sounds by The Zodiac. Even after looking at the sleeve and the insert critics and record buyers remained confused. This wasn’t good news for Jac Holzman who had masterminded Cosmic Sounds.

It was his concept, and one that he hoped would cash-in in the recent resurgence of interest in astrology and psychedelia’s popularity. Sadly, The Zodiac’s debut album Cosmic Sounds didn’t sell in vast quantities, but still found a small but appreciative audience. Soon, Cosmic Sounds was a cult classic, and for many, who aficionados of psychedelia, the album was part of the soundtrack to the psychedelic era. Some record buyers played the record so often that they got through several copies. Especially as they sat cross-legged on bean bags ingesting tetrahydrocannabinol as lava lamps flickered in the background. 

Despite the popularity of Cosmic Sounds within some parts of the psychedelic community, the album failed to crossover and find audience within mainstream music fans. By then, Cosmic Sounds was a psychedelic cult classic, and over the next fifty years would be discovered by several new generations of record buyers. 

That is the still the case in 2017 when Elektra Records reissued the fiftieth anniversary version of Cosmic Sounds on luminous vinyl. It’s the only way to discover The Zodiac’s groundbreaking concept album Cosmic Sounds, which is a cult classics that features psychedelic mood music that: “must be played in the dark.”

The Zodiac-Cosmic Sounds.


Sweeney’s Men-Sweeney’s Men and The Tracks Of Sweeney.

Label: BGO Records.

One of the bands that emerged from the mid-sixties Irish roots revival was Sweeney’s Men, who were formed in Dublin in May 1966, by Andy Irvine, “Galway Joe” Dolan and Johnny Moynihan. They would be together for just three years, and released two albums, Sweeney’s Men and The Tracks Of Sweeney which were recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records as a two CD set. These two albums feature one of the most important and groundbreaking Irish folk bands who went on to influence a generation of electric folk groups, including Planxty, Moving Hearts, Steeleye Span, and later, groups like The Pogues and Moonshine. By then, Sweeney’s Men story was over.

Four years before Sweeney’s Men was formed, O’Donoghue’s Pub in Dublin was where many Irish folk musicians gravitated and played in the evenings. Those that drank in the pub saw The Dubliners, The Fureys, Seamus Ennis and Irvine who was born in London in 1942 to Scottish and Irish parents.

Andy Irvine was a former child actor, who as an eight year old, had featured in the film A Tale Of Two Cities. He also took to the stage in London and Dublin, which was how he first discovered the city. Later, Andy Irvine became fascinated by American folk and blues music, after discovering Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. However, when the twenty year old moved to Dublin, and discovered O’Donoghue’s Pub he became interested in Irish folk music.

As his interest in folk music blossomed, Andy Irvine met Johnny Moynihan one night in O’Donoghue’s Pub, and the pair started traveling the length and breadth of Ireland to music festivals.

It wasn’t long before the pair began performing at various folk venues in Dublin. Sometimes, they were joined by Johnny Moynihan’s girlfriend Anne Briggs, who was also a folk singer. Regardless of whether they performed as a duo or a trio, the audience’s reaction was inconsistent. Sometimes, they were wildly enthusiastic, other times, the response bordered on indifferent. On these nights, they left the stage feeling deflated and wondering if there was something missing? Maybe they needed to change their lineup?

While Andy Irvine enjoyed playing the gigs with Johnny Moynihan, he decided to busk around Europe and play some gigs with another friend Eamon O’Doherty. Andy Irvine’s musical partner 

Johnny Moynihan stayed at home, and continued to work as a draftsman in Roscommon. Music was something he did in his spare time. Meanwhile, Andy Irvine had got as far as Denmark, where he Eamon O’Doherty were playing some club gigs. That was when he received a message from another musician “Galway Joe” Dolan.

He was a former member of Irish showband Premier Aces, who had embarked upon a career as a folk musician. Galway Joe” Dolan had secured a booking for the entire summer at the Enda Hotel in Galway, and wanted Andy Irvine to join him. When Andy Irvine heard the news, he returned home and headed to Galway where they were to stay in a cottage behind the hotel.

At the weekend, Johnny Moynihan would head to Galway and stay at Andy Irvine and Galway Joe” Dolan’s rural idyll, and join them when they played live. Everything was going well for two or three weeks, until Galway Joe” Dolan had a fight with hotel owner. That was the end of their summer season at the Enda Hotel.

Despite not having any bookings, the three friends decided to travel around Ireland, playing wherever they could land a gig. The three men decided to name their group after the pagan king Suibhne, who was cursed for throwing a cleric’s bell into a lake. However, when Suibhne is anglicised it became Sweeney which lead to the trio becoming Sweeney’s Men. 

The newly named Sweeney’s Men spent their first summer touring Ireland in an old red Volkswagen van. Little did the trio know that the summer the spent touring the Emerald Isle was akin to a  musical apprenticeship and when they return home to Dublin in the autumn, the three members of Sweeney’s Men were well on their way to becoming professional musicians.

With the arrival of autumn, Sweeney’s Men returned to Dublin and lived in a house in North Strand Street. Not long after this, they met Des Kelly, a member of the Capitol Showband who became their manager. 

By then, Sweeney’s Men had turned their back on popular, sentimental ballads that peppered the sets of the older Irish bands. Replacing these songs, were a very different type of ballad, that came from America, England, Ireland and Scotland. They featured incredibly complex arrangements that Sweeney’s Men played on a guitar, mandolin and bazouki. They provided the backdrop as the trio of unique voices complimented each other and became part of Sweeney’s Men’s trademark sound that they continued to hone in Dublin’s clubs. However, Sweeney’s Men knew they were more than ready to record their debut single.

Sweeney’s Men went into the studio and recorded several songs, including Pecker Dunne’s Sullivan’s John which was, released on Transatlantic Records in 1968. Before that, Sweeney’s Men would sign to Pye Records, and released Old Maid In The Garret as their debut single during first half of 1967. However, much would happen before then.

This included a change in Sweeney’s Men’s lineup when “Galway Joe” Dolan left the group, and later, journeyed to Israel. Fortunately, Paul Brady was able to replace “Galway Joe” Dolan and probed a more than adequate replacement when he joined Sweeney’s Men for a gig in Limerick. Unfortunately, Sweeney’s Men were unable to secure Paul Brady’s services long-term, and he joined The Johnstons.

Finding a replacement for “Galway Joe” Dolan, and someone of the calibre of Paul Brady proved problematic, and it took time for Sweeney’s Men to settle on Terry Woods. He was a tenor vocalist who played guitar, 5-string banjo and accordion. Terry Woods had grownup listening to folk, blues and country music, and was already a fan of Sweeney’s Men’s music.

With a new lineup of Andy Irvine, Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods, Sweeney’s Men recorded their second single for Pye International, Waxie’s Dargle. It was also the final single that Sweeney’s Men released on Pye Records.

By then, Sweeney’s Men had changed managers, and were now managed by Roddy Hickson, John Mahon and Gerry McDonagh, also managed The Johnston. Changing managers was a good move for Sweeney’s Men as they were able to get bookings at some of Dublin’s top folk clubs. Their new managers also managed to get Sweeney’s Men onto the ballroom circuit, where they earned £50 a night for a thirty-minute set. Sweeney’s Men’s new management team secured a recording deal with Transatlantic Records in early 1968. This was the break Sweeney’s Men had been waiting for.

Sweeney’s Men.

Now signed to Transatlantic Records, the three members of Sweeney’s Men began working on their eponymous debut album. 

They chose thirteen songs, including Pecker Dunne’s Sullivan’s John, Peggy Seeger and Terry Woods’ My Dearest Dear, Dominic Behan’s Dicey Riley and Frank Warner’s Tom Dooley. They were joined by nine traditional songs, including Sally Brown, Exile’s Jig, The Handsome Cabin Boy, Willy O’Winsbury, Dance To Your Daddy, The House Carpenter, Johnstone, Reynard The Fox and Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willy which is believed to have been written by Scottish poet Robert Burns. Most of the traditional songs were arranged by Sweeney’s Men, except Willy O’Winsbury which Andy Irvine arranged. These songs were then recorded during a memorable session. 

With the material chosen, Sweeney’s Men entered the studio with their unique mixture of disparate instruments. They all added vocals and harmonies, while Andy Irvine played guitar, mandolin, bazouki and harmonica. Johnny Moynihan played tin whistle and bazouki, and nowadays, is regarded as the first musician to incorporate the bazouki into Irish music. Terry woods played guitar, 12-string guitar, banjo and accordion. Taking charge of production was Bill Leader, who oversaw a thirty-six hour marathon recording session that was fuelled by countless pints of Guinness and a steady supply of Dexedrine. Eventually, after the marathon recording session Sweeney’s Men was completed in time.

This was fortunate, as Terry Woods was about to marry Gay Concaron in Dublin, on the ‘18th’ of May 1968. Terry Woods had asked Andy Irvine to be the best man, and the wedding was a double celebration given Sweeney’s Men had just completed their eponymous debut album.

When Sweeney’s Men was released later in 1968, critics discovered an album which featured a carefully chosen selection of American, English, Irish and Scottish folk songs. Unlike most folk bands, Sweeney’s Men didn’t have just the one, or even two vocalists. Instead, they the vocals were shared between the three musicians, with great care taken to find the right vocal for the song. They were accompanied by harmonies and a unique blend of musical instruments quite different from many Irish folk bands were using. Especially the bazouki which Sweeney’s Men pioneered, on an album where the unique and inimitable choice of instruments was imaginative and inventive as they work their way through thirteen songs.

Johnny Moynihan opens Sweeney’s Men with a cover of Robert Burns’ Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willy which is set to slip jig rhythm and played in 9/8 time. Among the other songs that Johnny Moynihan  sings are Sullivan John, Dicey Riley, The Handsome Cabin Boy and murder ballad Johnston. These were songs he knew and sang before joining Sweeney’s Men, and he was best qualified to take charge of the lead vocal. These songs he brings to life and sings passion and emotion.

It’s a similar case on The Exile’s Jig, another slip jig, where the two remaining original members of Sweeney’s Men duet. Johnny Moynihan and Andy Irvine are responsible for one of the highlights of Sweeney’s Men.

Not to be outdone, the newest member Sweeney’s Men, Terry Woods, wrote new music to Peggy Seeger’s My Dearest Dear and sang the lyrics. He also takes charge of the vocal on the ballad The House Carpenter and on the American ballad Tom Dooley. By then, it’s apparent that Terry Woods is already playing an important part in the sound and success of Sweeney’s Men.

It’s a similar case with Andy Irvine, as he sings the sea shanty Sally Brown, the ballad Willie O’ Winsbury and the English folk song Dance to Your Daddy. For many, Andy Irvine’s finest moment on Sweeney’s Men was his vocal on the traditional Irish song Reynard The Fox which closed the album.

Sweeney’s Men was an album that divided the opinion of critics, and the reviews were mixed. It was only later that critics and musical historians would realise how important and influential a  Sweeney’s Men and their debut album was. 

One member of Sweeney’s Men took the mixed reviews of their eponymous debut album badly. It was the final straw for Andy Irvine, who hadn’t been happy playing the ballroom circuit, even though they were earning £50 a night. The audience didn’t sit and listen to the bands like they did in folk clubs, and Andy Irvine saw this as a disrespectful. By then, he was ready to try something different, and when he left Sweeney’s Men travelled to Eastern Europe to discover the indigenous music.

After Andy Irvine’s departure from Sweeney’s Men, the search for a replacement began. Eventually, the two remaining members  settled on Henry McCullough, the Eire Apparent guitarist from Portstewart, Northern Ireland was recruited.

With Henry McCullough onboard, a new era began for what was Sweeney’s Men Mk III. Henry McCullough was part of the band when they played on the RTE television series Twenty Minutes With, and by then, there were elements of African and Eastern music to Sweeney’s Men’s sound. There was also a shift towards a more psychedelic sound.

This became apparent when Sweeney’s Men played at Liberty Hall, in Dublin. For the first half,  Andy Irvine joined Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods. Then after the break, Henry McCullough joined Sweeney’s Men as they showcased their new contemporary sound which sometimes, incorporated elements of psychedelia. Little did Sweeney’s Men realise that this was their swan-song at Liberty Hall.

Later in 1968, Sweeney’s Men played at the Cambridge Folk Festival, where they once again, showcased their new contemporary sound. By then, Henry McCullough who had introduced the electric guitar to Sweeney’s Men had started writing some new songs. Two of these would feature on Sweeney’s Men sophomore album The Tracks Of Sweeney. Much would happen before that.

Not long after their appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Henry McCullough left Sweeney’s Men. He had been won over by  the John Mayall’s set of electric blues at the Woodstock Festival. This he thought was the future. For the third time, Sweeney’s Men was reduced to a duo.

The two remaining members of Sweeney’s Men started looking for a replacement. Eventually, the settled on singer, guitarist and 5-string banjo player Al O’Donnell. He became third member of Sweeney’s Men Mk IV. However, Al O’Donnell left Sweeney’s Men by the winter of 1968.

This left Sweeney’s Men to tour Britain as a duo. However, when Sweeney’s Men arrived in London they met Andy Irvine and talks began about him rejoining the band. However, too much water had passed under the bridge.

Not long after this, Sweeney’s Men spilt-up for the first time. Johnny Moynihan played tin whistle on Skid Row’s debut single New Faces Old Places. Meanwhile, Terry Woods had met and started working with Phil Lynott who had founded his new band Orphanage. With the two remaining members of Sweeney’s Men working with other musicians, this looked like the of the band.

That was until early 1969, when Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods agreed to reform Sweeney’s Men. Soon, they were working on their sophomore album The Tracks Of Sweeney.

The Tracks Of Sweeney.

Rather than try to bring onboard a third member of Sweeney’s Men, Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods decided to record The Tracks Of Sweeney as a duo.

Eleven tracks were chosen for The Tracks Of Sweeney, including four penned by Terry Woods. He wrote Dreams For Me, Brain Jam, When You Don’t Cry and Afterthoughts, and previously had written A Mistake No Doubt Henry McCullough who also contributed Hall Of Mirrors. They were joined by Leonard Cohen’s Go By Brooks and a quartet of traditional songs. This included the instrumental The Pipe On The Hob, plus Pretty Polly, Standing On The Shore and Hiram Hubbard. These songs were recorded in early 1969.

When recording began at Livingston Recording Studios, Barnet, Sweeney’s Men used the two vocalists and a disparate selection of instruments to achieve their new Acid Folk sound on much of the album. Johnny Moynihan played bazouki and tin whistle, while Terry Woods played guitar, 12-string guitar, banjo and accordion. Once the eleven tracks that became The Tracks Of Sweeney were complete, that marked the end of Sweeney’s Men’s recording career.

Sweeney’s Men’s sophomore album was a mixture of styles, and found them embracing the Acid Folk sound on number of songs  Tracks Of Sweeney. Especially tracks like Dreams For Me, Brain Jam, A Mistake No Doubt, Go By Brooks, When You Don’t Care For Me. The only Irish jig was The Pipe On The Hob, while Pretty Polly, Standing On The Shore and Hiram Hubbard on looked towards traditional American folk music. Many critics felt that Tracks Of Sweeney was a much better album that its predecessor. Sadly, by the time it was released in late 1969, the Sweeney’s Men story was over.

After three years and what are now regarded as two important and influential albums, Sweeney’s Men split-up. The two remaining members of the group went their separate ways. In some ways, it was a case of what might have been? What direction would Sweeney’s Men have headed in the future, and were they on the cusp of a commercial breakthrough? However, Sweeney’s Men left behind a rich musical legacy that includes their two albums Sweeney’s Men and The Tracks Of Sweeney, which were recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records as a two CD set. 

These two albums, Sweeney’s Men and The Tracks Of Sweeney,  feature one of the most important and groundbreaking Irish folk bands of the late-sixties. Sweeney’s Men went on to influence a generation of electric folk groups, including Planxty, Moving Hearts, Steeleye Span, and later, groups like The Pogues and Moonshine. Even today, Sweeney’s Men continue to influence a new generation of folk musicians, who look to their two groundbreaking albums, Sweeney’s Men and The Tracks Of Sweeney for inspiration for the music of tomorrow.

Sweeney’s Men-Sweeney’s Men and The Tracks Of Sweeney.


Hilario Durán-Contumbao.

Label: Alma Records.

Nowadays, sixty-four year old Hilario Durán is regarded as one of the greatest Cuban pianists of the ‘20th’ Century. His career began in 1973, and twenty-five years later, in 1998,  he left Cuba behind and  emigrated to Toronto in Canada, which has been his adopted home for the past two decades. However, when  Hilario Durán collaborated with some top Cuban musicians on  his recently released album Contumbao, he returned home to Cuba. That was where he recorded the twelve tracks that became Contumbao, which was released by Alma Records. It’s another chapter in the story of composer, arranger and jazz pianist Hilario Durán.

The Hilario Durán story began in Havana, Cuba, in 1953, when he was born into a musical family. Every day of his young life, Hilario Durán could hear an eclectic selection of music playing in the area where his family lived. Hilario Durán was drawn to the music of Errol Garner, Roy Eldridge, Harry James, Jachaturian, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, Ernesto Lecuona, Bola de Nieve, Vicentico Valdés and Adolfo Guzman. Having listened to the music, Hilario Durán tried to imitate and replicate the music he had heard. His parents who watched this unfold, decided to arrange private lessons with some of Cuba’s top music teachers. 

It wasn’t long before Hilario Durán’s family realised that he was a prodigious talent. In 1968, fifteen year old Hilario Durán started studying piano part-time at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory of Music, and taking private piano lessons with Andrea Mesa, a highly respected Havana based piano teacher. By 1969, Hilario Durán moved from being a part-time student, to a full-time student, and was taught by Professor Oscar Lorie. He ensured Hilario Durán received the best musical education possible.

This continued when Hilario Durán arrived home, and spent much of his free time listening to music. By then, Hilario Durán’s favourite type of music was jazz, and he immersed himself in American and European jazz. This was already influencing Hilario Durán, and it seemed almost inevitable that Hilario Durán would eventually embark upon a musical career. However, before that his country came calling.

Seventeen year-old Hilario Durán began his military service, which many young Cubans dreaded. However, Hilario Durán spent much of his time playing clarinet with the military band Estado Mayor del Ejercito, where he played alongside musicians of the calibre of Jorge Reyes, ElpiIdio Chapotin, Carlos del Puerto and Ignacio Berroa, plus musical director Remberto Egües. They played alongside Hilario Durán for the next three years, and in 1973, he completed his military service. Now he could embark upon a career as a professional musician.   

Hilario Durán’s career as a professional musician began when the twenty year old joined Los Papa Cun­-Cun Ensemble in 1973. He was replacing one of the great Cuban pianists, Freddy Gonzalez de la Maza. This wasn’t going to be easy, but Hilario Durán was soon blossoming under the guidance of musical director  Evaristo Aparicio. However, after a few years, Hilario Durán left Los Papa Cun­-Cun Ensemble.

Another great pianist, Chucho Valdés, was leaving the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, and asked that Hilario Durán replace him.  By then, Hilario Durán was regarded as one of the rising stars of the Cuban music scene. This was too good an opportunity to decline, and Hilario Durán joined the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna.

With Hilario Durán’s star was in the ascendancy, he decided to release his debut solo album Habana 9 P.M. in 1976. However, it was over twenty years before Hilario Durán released the followup.

Over the next few years, Hilario Durán worked as a pianist and arranger, and was involved in a variety of different projects. His versatility meant he was able to work with artists that included Omara Portuondo, Miriam Ramos, Amaury Perez Vidal, Donato Poveda, Silvio Rodriguez, and Beatriz Marquez. Other times, Hilario Durán worked as an arranged with German Piferrer and Demetrio Muñiz. However, as the seventies gave way to the eighties, Hilario Durán received an offer he couldn’t turn down.

In 1981, Arturo Sandoval who was one of the great Cuban trumpet players, invited Hilario Durán to join his band. Hilario Durán became Arturo Sandoval’s arranger, musical director and played piano and keyboards. This was how Hilario Durán spent the next nine years.

By 1982, Arturo Sandoval’s new arranger became an award-winning arranger, when he won the Premio EGREM for Best Arranger of the Year 1982-83, which is one of Cuba’s most prestigious music prizes. For Hilario Durán, this was a huge honour far the thirty year old pianist.

Over the next nine-year, Hilario Durán had toured the world several times with Arturo Sandoval, and shared a stage with Michel Legrand and legendary jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. This resulted in Hilario Durán playing on Dizzy Gillespie Y Gonzalo Rubalcaba album Gillespie En Vivo, which was released in 1985. Hilario Durán had come a long way since making his professional debut in 1973.

For the next five years, Hilario Durán continued to work as Arturo Sandoval’s arranger and musical direction, and played piano and keyboards. This all changed in 1990, when Arturo Sandoval left Cuba to start a new life in the United States. However, he left his band behind in Cuba.

Fortunately, Hilario Durán stepped in to the void and started moulding the remaining band members into a new band, who would head in a different direction from before. This new band he called Grupo Perspectiva, who over the next few years toured Europe and South America, and released two albums, Tiembla Tierra and Buscando Cuerdas in 1994. Despite spending much of his time leading Grupo Perspectiva, Hilario Durán found time to work on other projects.

One of these collaborations came about when Hilario Durán was approached by Chucho Valdés, who was then the bandleader of Irakere. They were one of Cuba’s most influential bands, and Chucho Valdés wanted Hilario Durán to take charge of the arrangements for Irakere’s recording Indestructible. This was all good experience for Hilario Durán.

So was working with Canadian flautist Jane Bunnett. She had invited Hilario Durán to play on her 1992 album Spirits Of Havana. Later in 1992, Spirits Of Havana won a Canadian Juno Award. This resulted in Jane Bunnett inviting Hilario Durán to Toronto to perform with The Spirits Of Havana group. Then when Jane Bunnett recorded her Rendezvous Brazil Cuba in 1994, Hilario Durán was invited to play on the album. 

During some downtime, during the recording of the Jane Bunnett’s Rendezvous Brazil Cuba in 1994, Hilario Durán met Canadian bassist Roberto Occhipinti. The pair played a few gigs together, and would later be reunited. Before that, Hilario Durán was offered a new role.

Not long after this, Hilario Durán became Jane Bunnett’s arranger, musical director and pianist, and they spent three years touring North America and Europe. When three years of touring was over, it was time for Hilario Durán to take centre-stage.

Twenty years after releasing his debut album, Hilario Durán released his sophomore album Francisco’s Song in 1996, on the Justin Time label. Joining Hilario Durán was Francisco’s Song flautist Jane Bunnett who produced the album with her husband Larry Cramer a Canadian trumpeter. The pair also produced the followup, Killer Tumbao which was released in 1997. However, by the time Hilario Durán released the third album in the Justin Time trilogy, he had made one of the biggest decisions of his life.

The following year, 1998, Hilario Durán decided that his wife Cristobalina and daughter Yailen would leave Cuba behind, and make a new life in Toronto. This was a huge decision, but one that paid off. 

Soon, Hilario Durán was a familiar face in Toronto’s vibrant music scene, and was working not just in Canada, but across the border in America and touring the world. Still, he found time to complete the Justin Time trilogy when he released Habana Nocturna in 1999. This was the first album Hilario Durán had released since moving to Toronto. His recording career would continue in the new millennia.

This included Hilario Durán’s fifth solo album Havana Remembered, which was released in 2002. Later, that year, it was nominated in Canada for the Best Global Album released during 2002. Hilario Durán was also a member of the World Festival Orchestra when they played at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre in October 2002. That night, they played Hilario Durán’s latest composition Suite Afro-Cubana. For Hilario Durán this was a huge honour.

Two years later, Hilario Durán signed to the Canadian jazz label Alma Records in 2004. Hilario Durán had been introduced to Alma Records by his friend and bassist Roberto Occhipinti who he had met ten years previously in 1994. Roberto Occhipinti knew Alma Records president Peter Cardinali, and introduced him to Hilario Durán. This was the start of a long and fruitful relationship between Hilario Durán and Alma Records.

For his Alma Records’ debut, Hilario Durán went into the studio with drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and bassist Roberto Occhipinti who produced New Danzon. It was released in 2005, and later that year, won the Canadian Juno Award For 2005. 

By the time Hilario Durán won his first Canadian Juno Award, he had returned to Cuba to record an album at EGREM studios in Havana with producer Roberto Occhipinti, where they were joined by some of the former members of Perspectiva. They received equal billing, on Encuentro en La Habana, which marked the return of Hilario Durán and Perspectiva in 2005. The album reminder of how the group played with passion, spontaneity and an inventiveness. It was no surprise when Encuentro en La Habana was nominated for a Canadian Juno Award in 2006. However, in 2007 Hilario Durán founded a new band.

This came about after Hilario Durán told Roberto Occhipinti how since he was a child, he had dreamt of founding a Latin Jazz Big Band. Roberto Occhipinti encouraged Hilario Durán to found the band, and Hilario Durán and His Latin Jazz Big Band was born. It featured some of finest Latin and Cuban musicians, who played at various festivals across Canada. Hilario Durán and His Latin Jazz Big Band proved a popular draw, and in won the  Latin Jazz Award of the Year 2006 at the Canadian National Jazz Awards. By then, Hilario Durán and His Latin Jazz Big Band had decided to record an album.

Hilario Durán and His Latin Jazz Big Band’s debut album From The Heart was produced by Roberto Occhipinti and released by Alma Records in 2007. From The Heart went on to win the Canadian Juno Award For Best Contemporary Jazz Album of 2007 and  received a Grammy Nomination for Best Solo Performance on the Hilario Durán composition, Paq Man. For the second year consecutive year, Hilario Durán and His Latin Jazz Big Band won the  Latin Jazz Award of the Year 2007 at the Canadian National Jazz Awards. That wasn’t the end of the awards, and later in 2007, Hilario Durán travelled to Miami where he received the Chico O’Farrill lifetime achievement award for his outstanding contributions to Afro-Cuban jazz and Latin Jazz. This was the third award Hilario Durán had won during 2007, which was one of the mast successful years of his thirty-four year career.

After the success of Hilario Durán and His Latin Jazz Big Band, its founder embarked on a variety of new projects, including  The Hilario Durán Trio and  Hilario Durán and Orquesta Havana Remembered. This Hilario Durán combined with his various academic commitments.

While Hilario Durán combined his musical projects and academic work, he received another honour when he returned home to Havana. Hilario Durán won the award for the World Group Artist of the Year 2008. Hilario Durán as Special Guest of Odessa/Havana. It was just the latest award he had won since moving to Toronto.

Three years passed before Hilario Durán released his next album. This was Motion, which was released in 2010, on Alma Records. following year Hilario Durán and Jane Bunnett released their collaboration Cuban Rhapsody in 2011.  Another two years passed before Hilario Durán released Christmas Salsa in 2013. Around the  time of the album’s release, Hilario Durán was crowned Musician of the Year by the Toronto Musicians Association. This was just the latest award he had won since arriving in Toronto fifteen years earlier.

Since 2013, Hilario Durán hasn’t released another album. However, that changed in June 2016, when Hilario Durán returned to at EGREM studios in Havana to record his recently released album Contumbao. 

The album’s title Tumbao is term that came from Africa and the Caribbean, and means “an indescribable African sexiness or swing.” Tumbao rhythm is part and parcel of Afro-Cuban music. For some, it’s an attitude, and an attitude that not all musicians are blessed with. However, the quartet of hugely talented Cuban musicians were capable of providing the Tumbao on Contumbao. That’s no surprise, as they’re all experienced, talented and versatile musicians who are familiar faces in the Toronto music scene. 

Joining Hilario Durán in the rhythm section are legendary drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernández and bassist Roberto Riverón who has twenty-five years experience behind him. The final member of the band was percussionist Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” who the late Tata Güines named The Child Prodigy. When it came to record Duo Influenciad, Cuban piano great Chucho Valdes joined Hilario Durán on what’s a meeting of musical minds.

After ten days the twelve tracks that became Contumbao were completed. Hilario Durán’s hand-picked quartet had reached new heights and had the ability and versatility to play a variety of African and Cuban styles. The result was a compelling and captivating album of Afro-Cuban Jazz with elements of Bembé 6X8, Güajira and Son Montuno that was enriched with that unique Tumbao. This typical Cuban ostinato melody can be found in most genres of Cuban music, and features throughout Contumbao.

Hilario Durán’s first new album in four years features eleven new compositions. There’s also a cover of the upbeat rumba El Tahonero, that’s a favourite of Hilario Durán. “I heard this song when I was in Cuba a few years ago and fell in love with it.” No wonder, as  El Tahonero and Rumba de Cajon are both irresistible, spirited and sonorous rumbas that were part of Hilario Durán’s of musical concept.

“My musical concept with this album was to try to reach a wider audience. It is an album that can get people dancing, while those who like sophisticated music can enjoy it too.” Hilario Durán certainly succeeds in doing so on Contumbao. Throughout Contumbao, the tempo, tone and mood continues to change, on what’s also a personal album.

Proof of that is Parque 527 a quite beautiful, autobiographical song where Hilario Durán explains: “this is the address of the house in Havana I spent much of my life in. I grew up there and lived with my wife there, so there was a lot of joy in that house. It is like the story of my life in that song.”

Among the highlights of the album is the title-track Contumbao, which bursts into life, as a glorious full-on Latin jazz track unfolds. It’s another irresistible track from the truly talented quartet, and sets the bar high for the rest of album. Very different is Recuerdos a gorgeous piano ballad, where Navarette’s quivering vocal is accompanied by the quartet, including Hilario Durán’s piano playing. Hilario Durán’s piano plays an important role in the sound and success of the piano led Afro-Cuban Guajira. It’s a similar case on Los Muñeco where pianist Hilario Durán delivers a musical masterclass. This encourages the rest of the band to raise their game to even greater heights. Closing Contumbao is Danzon Farewell where Hilario Durán’s quartet combine to create what’s one of the most beautiful tracks on the album. It also showcases this all-star Cuban band’s combined skill on Contumbao a truly captivating album.

After twelve tracks almost flawless tracks Contumbao, the latest album from Hilario Durán is at an end. It’s his first album in four years, and is a welcome return to form from Hilario Durán, who nowadays, is regarded as one of the greatest Cuban pianists of the ‘20th’ Century. 

Hilario Durán’s career has lasted forty-four years and five decades, and still the sixty-four year old hasn’t lost any of is appetite for music. Contumbao which features twelve tracks, is the best album that Hilario Durán has released in a decade, and features eleven new compositions. It’s also an album that showcases his talent and versatility as he switches between the tempo, tone, mood and genre. This Hilario Durán does seamlessly on album that he hopes will introduce his music to a much wider audience. 

Hopefully, Contumbao is the album that introduces Hilario Durán to a new and wider audience. With its mixture of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz, Contumbao is a captivating album of irresistible, joyous and upbeat music, while other tracks are beautiful, dreamy and ruminative. Contumbao which is the latest album from legendary Cuban pianist Hilario Durán, where he expresses his creativity and creates music for head and the heart, and others that are akin to a joyous and irresistible call to dance.

Hilario Durán-Contumbao.


DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland.

Label: BBE.

DJ Andy Smith has spent much of the last three decades DJ-ing in clubs at home and abroad where his eclectic sets can feature anything from boogie and disco to funk and hip hop, right through to Motown, Northern Soul and even on occasions, AC/DC. Audiences never know what to expect when DJ Andy Smith steps behind the wheels of steel and digs deep into his trusty record box. They do know that the next couple of hours are going to be a musical roller coaster, with surprises a plenty in store for dancers.

It’s a similar case with the various compilations that DJ Andy Smith has compiled over the last three decades. Just like many within the DJ-ing fraternity, DJ Andy Smith is a self-confessed and unapologetic crate-digger, who dares to go where others fear to tread. Backstreet record shops, dusty basements and warehouses and thrift stores. That is the natural habitat and has led to DJ Andy Smith collaborating with Portishead and becoming their international tour DJ. He’s also provided samples for the Prodigy, and spent the best part of twenty years releasing mix albums and compiling compilations.

The first mix album that DJ Andy Smith released was The Document in 1998, which showcased a truly talented and creative DJ. After that, DJ Andy Smith released two further instalments in The Document series, and later, released mixes  of Northern Soul and reggae. DJ Andy Smith was also asked to compile funk and reggae compilations which was the perfect excuse to embark upon a crate-digging expedition, where he went looking for new music. 

By then, DJ Andy Smith was one of Britain’s best DJs, and was spending much of his time DJ-ing, across Britain, Europe and as far away as Australia. Part of his success was down to his mixing skills, which set him apart from the majority of DJs. However, what made DJ Andy Smith stand out from the crowd was the music he played. He had the patience and ability to unearth hidden gems and long-lost musical treasure during his regular crate-digging expeditions. Some of the hidden gems and musical treasures find their way into DJ Andy Smith’s DJ sets or onto the various compilations that DJ Andy Smith has compiled over the last three decades. 

This included his forthcoming compilation DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland, which will be released by BBE as a two CD set or three LP set on the ‘17th’ of November 2017. It’s guaranteed to get any festive party started.

Disc One.

Disc one allows DJ Andy Smith to showcases his DJ-ing skills as he spins a carefully chosen set that features fifteen slices of disco and boogie. Opening his set is World Premiere’s Shake The Night (Intro) which announces the arrival of the DJ’s DJ, and after just over a minute, DJ Andy Smith seamlessly mixes into Cloud One’s Patty Duke. This is the case throughout the sixty-two minute mix on disc one.

DJ Andy Smith’s mixing is seamless and unhurried, as he puts over three decades of experience to good use. Gradually, the tempo builds as each of the tracks play their part in this seamless mix. This ranges from Tamiko Jones’ Let It Flow to Don Laka’s I Wanna Be Myself and the Disco Dub Band’s For The Love Of Money. It gives way to Joanne Wilson’s Got To Have You, and then Jimmy Young’s Time Is Tight. Sadly, that proves to be the case as Jimmy Ross’ First True Love Affair is the penultimate track in DJ Andy Smith’s mix. He’s saved one of his hidden gems for last, and that’s T-Connection’s B-Side Groove To Get Down, an anthemic, dancefloor filler closes disc one of DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland.

 Disc Two.

Whereas the mix on disc one had fifteen tracks, there’s only thirteen full-length tracks on disc two of DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland. The two tracks that miss out are World Premiere’s Shake The Night (Intro) and Cloud One’s Patty Duke. Despite these two omissions, it’s quality all the way. 

Opening disc two is I Wanna By Myself which was the title-track to Don Laka’s 1984 sophomore album, which was released on the Transistor label. By then, the South African jazz pianist, composer and producer was one of the leading lights of the country’s dance music scene. It’s a funky and soulful slice of boogie that’s a tantalising taste of what’s to come on DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland.

When Freedom released their debut album Farther Than Imagination on Malaco Records, in 1979, it featured Get Up and Dance, which was licensed by T.K. Disco later that year, and became a favourite amongst the hip hop community. With a party atmosphere and a funky, soulful, dance-floor friendly sound, it’s still guaranteed to get a party started.

Advance was one of the groups who emerged during the boogie era, and released a trio of singles for the Italian label X-Energy Records. Their finest moment was their debut single Take Me To The Top which was released in Italy in 1982, and in other parts of the world in 1983. Take Me To The Top became a favourite among DJs and dancers, and has stood the test of time thirty-four years later.

James Albert Ross was born in Trinidad, and as the eighties dawned, formed a partnership with member of the Italo Disco group Kano.  The partnership proved fruitful and in 1981, Jimmy Ross signed to Full Time Records and released the single First True Love Affair. It lent its name to Jimmy Ross’ debut album, which features the six-minute version of First True Love Affair. However, it’s the Larry Levan remix of First True Love that features on the compilation, and is a reminder of Jimmy Ross’ fusion of soul, disco and boogie.

By 1976, Tamiko Jones from Kyle, West Virginia, was thirty-one and had made her debut thirteen years earlier with Is It A Sin on Checker? Let It Flow which was released on T.K. Disco in 1976, saw Tamiko Jones reinvent herself as a disco diva. However, the track doesn’t head all the way to 127 Disco Heaven. Instead, it’s slower than most of the disco tracks released around this time, and also has an arrangement that marries disco and proto-boogie. Despite that it was a favourite of many DJs, and is still is, including DJ Andy Smith whose been known to give the track a spin during his eclectic sets.

Originally, Joanne Wilson released her cover of the Tony Wilson composition Got To Have You, in 1980, on Kalinda, a label based in Trinidad and Tobago. It’s now an incredibly rare record that when an original copy becomes available, changes hands for in excess of €500. However, in 2014 the (Whiskey Barons’ Rework of Got To Have You was released by Cultures Of Soul Records. The original version has been transformed into a six-minute epic, which is reminder of a truly talented Trinidadian singer Joanne Wilson who only release a trio of singles. Her finest hour was Got To Have You in 1980.

Neddy Smith was born in Jamaica, but emigrated to America and now lives in Norwalk, Connecticut. That was where the  singer, songwriter, producer, bassist and bandleader’s career began in 1982 with Give It Up, an incredibly catchy boogie single that was released on the Italian label Delirium Records.  Sadly, very little was heard of Neddy Smith until he returned in 2008 with Turnaround, an album of funk and soul. However, many dancers and DJs still remember Neddy Smith for his dancefloor filler Give It Up, that makes a welcome return on DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland.

Jimmy Young from Mount Vernon, New York released his debut single Times Are Tight on Delirium Records in 1982. It was a song he had written, and then arranged, produced and mixed at Bayside Studio. When Times Are Tight was released, it was popular amongst dancers and DJs on both sides of the Atlantic. Especially in Britain, where this fusion of funk, soulful and disco gave man known as “The Real Jimmy Young” a top twenty dance hit.

World Premiere’s 1983 single Share The Night is a bit of a slow burner, and it takes just over a minute before it starts to reveal its secrets. Share The Night was released by Easy Street Records in 1983 and finds World Premiere successfully combining elements of funk, disco and boogie to create a dancefloor filler that’s stood the test of time.

The most recent track on the compilation is Sure Thing’s Holding You Tight which was originally released on the Bristol-based Gutterfunk label in 2012. Back then, Sure Thing set out to replicate the sound of 1982, to fill dancefloors in 2012. Two years later, the track was reissued in 2014 by Defected, and it’s that version that features on the compilation.

Main Thing was released on Easy Street Records, in 1985, by Shot featuring Kim Marsh. It’s a track that straddles two genres of dance music during this six-minute single. Shot drew inspiration from the disco era, and combined this with boogie, which rose to prominence after disco’s demise on Disco Derby Demolition Day on July the ’12th’ 1979. Since then, DJs had taken to spinning boogie. However, by 1985 some boogie singles incorporated elements of disco, including Main Thing where Kim Marsh is transformed into a disco diva.

Closing DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland is the Disco Dub Band’s For The Love Of Money. It was originally released on the British label Movers in 1976. Three years later, Downstairs Records Inc East West released For The Love Of Money in 1979. By then, it was still an innovative single which was über funky, jazz-tinged and thanks to  a 4/4 beat dancefloor friendly. Forty-one years after its initial release,  For The Love Of Money is still a timeless instrumental.

After thirteen tracks that were released on labels from America, Britain, Italy, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago, disc two of DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland is over. These labels released this eclectic selection of tracks that were released between 1976 and 2014. However, the majority of the tracks were released between 1976 and 1986 which straddles the disco and the boogie era. 

The twelve tracks on DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland that were released between 1976 and 1986, ranged from disco, boogie or a hybrid of the two genres. Other tracks incorporate elements of funk, soul, jazz and R&B. Indeed, several of the tracks are best described as  funky, soulful and dancefloor friendly. They’ve also stood the test of time.

Sometimes, that isn’t the case with boogie tracks, and the more commercial, bandwagon-jumping disco tracks. DJ Andy Smith eschews such low rent tracks, and concentrates on quality throughout his forthcoming compilation DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland which will be released on the ‘17th’ November 2017 by BBE as a two CD set and three LP set by BBE. Whichever version of DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland music fans buy, it’s a compilation that’s guaranteed to get any party started.

DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland.



The Story Of Tom Scott’s Short-Lived Supergroup L.A. Express.

Musical history is littered with artistes and groups that never enjoyed the commercial success that their music deserved. That was the case with L.A. Express is an oft-0verlooked fusion supergroup who released a quartet of albums between 1973 and 1976. Sadly, these albums never found the audience they deserved and it was only later, that L.A. Express’ music started to be appreciated by jazz and fusion aficionados. By then, the group’s founder Tom Scott had moved onto other things.

This included founding The Blues Brother Band, providing the theme tune to  Starsky and Hutch and receiving thirteen nominations for a Grammy Award. By then, Tom Scott had enjoyed a long and illustrious career which began as a fifteen year old, when t featured on Jan and Dean’s 1963 album Surf City And Other Swingin’ Cities. However, the one that  got away for the  jazz saxophonist, composer and producer, Tom Scott was L.A. Express. His career began in earnest in 1967.

By 1967, seventeen year old Tom Scott,  L.A. based jazz saxophonist had already decided to  embark upon a career as a professional musician, and became the leader of the jazz ensemble Neoteric Trio. This came as no surprise to those that knew Tom Scott and his family.

Especially his father Nathan Scott, who was a prolific and well-respected composer, conductor and orchestrator, who was well on his becoming one of the most prolific composers in the history of American film and  television. He had started out in the music industry in 1939, after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in music. Since then, Nathan Scott had lived in L.A. where his son Tom Scott was born on May the ‘19th’ 1948.  Now that Tom Scott was making his own way in the  musical world and it was a proud day for Nathan Scott.

He had watched as his son made his recording debut on Jan and Dean’s 1963 album Surf City And Other Swingin’ Cities four years previously. Now just years later, in 1965, and Tom Scott was the  leader of the Neoteric Trio. This was just the start of the rise and rise of  Tom Scott, who soon, would be playing alongside the great and good of jazz.

This included joining the  Don Ellis Orchestra  when they recorded Live At Monterey! which was released in 1966. The next album Tom Scott played on was Live In 3⅔/4 Time which tested his skills as a musician. However, Tom Scott rose to the challenge and played an important part in the album’s sound and success.  Live In 3⅔/4 Time was released in 1967, and was one of number of albums that featured Tom Scott. 

He also collaborated with  Roger Kellaway on the album Spirit Feel. When it was released on Pacific Jazz, they were billed as Roger Kellaway Featuring Tom Scott on  Spirit Feel. Tom Scott also featured on Gábor Szabó’s Light My Fire With Bob Thiele, Oliver Nelson’s Live From Los Angeles and Bob Thiele And His New Happy Times Orchestra’s Light My Fire, which were all released in 1967 on Impulse! This was the label that the nineteen year old Tom Scott had signed to, and was preparing to record his debut alum.

It was Bob Thiele who ran Impulse! for ABC, that had signed Tom Scott to Impulse!, which by 1967, was one of jazz’s top labels. Bob Thiele would also produced many of the albums released by Impulse!, including a number of classic albums. This made Bob Thiele the perfect person to produce Tom Scott’s debut album. It featured nine cover versions and the Tom Scott composition Blues For Hari. Later in 1967, Impulse! released Tom Scott’s debut album The Honeysuckle Breeze where the saxophonist was billed as Tom Scott With The California Dreamers. Despite marketing the album towards a younger generation of jazz fans, The Honeysuckle Breeze wasn’t the commercial success that Impulse had hoped. 

By 1968, Tom Scott was already a familiar face in the West Coast session scene, and was always in demand. Partly this was because of his versatility, but mostly because he was already regarded as one of the top young saxophonists.  As result, he played on Ravi Shankar’s Charly soundtrack, Sergio Mendes’ Favorite Things,  The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, Gábor Szabó’s Macho, Richard “Groove” Holmes’ album Welcome Home, Plummer’s Cosmic Brotherhood, Monk Higgins’ Extra Soul Perception and Oliver Nelson and Steve Allen’s Soulful Brass. Tom Scott was also drafted in to play saxophone on two albums by psychedelic rockers Carnival, Carnival and Gypsy Carnival Caravan. This was all good experience for twenty years old Tom Scott.

1969 saw Tom Scott successfully juggle his career as a sideman with his solo career, and soon, his nascent career as a bandleader. However, Tom Scott’s career as a sideman was flourishing, and in 1969 he found himself playing on a number of albums, including  Lalo Schifrin’s soundtrack to Che!, Howard Roberts’  Spinning Wheel, Joe Byrd and The Field Hippies’ The American Metaphysical Circus. Some of the other albums Tom Scott played were produced by Bob Thiele, including Jimmy Gordon And His Jazznpops Band’s Hog Fat, T-Bone Walker’s Every Day I Have The Blues, Otis Spann’s Sweet Giant Of The Blue and Bob Thiele Emergency’s album Head Start. Still, though, Tom Scott found time to record his sophomore album.

This was Rural Still Life which  featured three of Tom Scott’s own compositions and marked the twenty-one year old’s production debut. However, just like The Honeysuckle Breeze, Rural Still Life failed commercially and Tom Scott left Impulse!

Fortunately, Bob Thiele had just founded his new label Flying Dutchman Productions, and one of his signings later in 1969 was the Tom Scott Quartet. They released Hair To Jazz in 1969, and followed this up with Paint Your Wagon in 1970. While the albums were well received, they never found a wider audience. This was a disappointment for Tom Scott, who had come a long way in a short space of time.

Five years after making his professional debut, Tom Scott had already released two solo albums and two albums with his new Quartet.  By 1970  Tom Scott was also  one of Los Angeles’ top session players, and a familiar face on the West Coast music scene and that year, accompanied some of the biggest names in music, including Neil Diamond, Jimmy Webb, Phil Ochs,  The 5th Dimension, Dave Antrell, Sergio Mendes and Freddy Robinson.

Over the next two years, Tom Scott continued to work with some of the top names in music. In 1971, albums were released by Nillson, Lalo Schifrin, Sérgio Mendes and Brasil, Jimmy Webb and The Fifth Dimension that featured Tom Scott’s saxophone.  So did albums by Joni Mitchell, Albert Hammond, Gerry Mulligan and Claudine Longet in 1972. While Tom Scott was still enjoying session work,  he still wanted to release another solo album,

Later in 1972,  twenty-four year old Tom Scott had just signed to A&M and was preparing to record his third album Great Scott. When it was released in 1972, it was well received by critics. However, it was three years before Tom Scott returned with his fourth album, as he was about to found a new supergroup L.A. Express.

The Birth Of  Tom Scott and The L.A. Express.

By 1973, Tom Scott was looking for a backing band within the West Coast music scene. The contacts that he had established over the last few years served him well, and he was able to secure the services of four talented, versatile and vastly experienced musicians who had worked as session musicians and bandleaders. This included drummer and percussionist John Guerin, bassist Max Bennett, guitarist Larry Carlton and keyboardist Joe Sample. They would become L.A. Express which was formed in 1973.

 Tom Scott and The L.A. Express.

Not long after Tom Scott recruited the four members of The L.A. Express, they headed into the studio to record an album together. That album was Tom Scott and L.A. Express, which was an accessible album of fusion which was released by Old in August 1973. By then, fusion was at a crossroads.

The West and East Coast sounds were quite different, and jazz-funk was growing in popularity. All this affected sales of Tom Scott and L.A. Express, which is a vastly underrated album from the all-star band. This was a disappointing start to the partnership between Tom Scott and L.A. Express.

Joni Mitchell -Court and Spark.

The second album that Tom Scott and The L.A. Express worked on together, was Joni Mitchell’s sixth album Court and Spark.  Tom Scott and John Guerin featured on all eleven tracks, while Max Bennett and Larry Carlton featured on eight songs. Joe Sample only featured on Raised on Robbery, but in doing so, played his part in what was Joni Mitchell’s most successful album. 

When Court and Spark was released in January 1974, it reached number one in Canada, where Joni Mitchell was born. Across the border, Court and Spark reached  number two in the US Billboard 200,  and was certified gold in America and Britain.  Later Court and Spark was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 1975, with Joni Mitchell and Tom Scott winning the  Grammy Award for Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals. By then, things had changed for L.A. Express.

Joni Mitchell and The L.A. Express-Miles of Aisles.

Two months after the release of Court and Spark, work began on what would become Joni Mitchell’s seventh album Miles of Aisles. Joni Mitchell decided that The L.A. Express should accompany her on Miles of Aisles. This time, The L.A. Express received equal billing with Joni Mitchell.

Recording took place between the ‘2nd’ and ‘4th’ of March 1974, and was completed between August the ’14th’ and ‘17th’ of 1974. Not long after this, two members of L.A. Express dropped a bombshell.

Larry Carlton and Joe Sample left L.A. Express, and decided to concentrate their efforts on their ‘other’ group The Crusaders. However, the original members of L.A. Express would later be reunited. Before that, Tom Scott and the remaining  members of L.A. Express started looking for replacements for Larry Carlton and Joe Sample.

Tom Cat.

This wasn’t easy, given that Larry Carlton and Joe Sample were talented, versatile and vastly experienced musicians. Eventually, though, L.A. Express settled on guitarist Robben Ford and keyboardist Larry Nash. They would make their debut on the Tom Scott and L.A. Express album Tom Cat, which was recorded in late 1974.

Early in 1975, Tom Scott and L.A. Express’ sophomore album Tom Cat was released.  Just like their eponymous debut album, it was a carefully crafted and memorable album of fusion. With fusion no longer as popular as it had been in the late-sixties and early seventies, Tom Cat failed to find the audience it deserved. It was only later that Tom Cat which is an underrated album, became popular album amongst fusion and jazz aficionados. However, in 1975 the commercial failure of Tom Cat resulted in Tom Scott parting company with  L.A. Express and returned to his solo career.

Tom Scott-New York Connection.

Ode Records signed Tom Scott, who soon, began recording  his first album in three years, New York Connection. It featured six new compositions from Tom Scott and three cover versions. They were recorded at the Hit Factory, in New York, between the ‘25th’ and ‘29th’ August 1975, and featured  a band included some top musicians.

Among the names that joined Tom Scott were  Bob James, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken and Ralph MacDonald. When it came to record Appolonia (Foxtrata), a slide guitarist was needed and George Harrison agreed to make a guest appearance. When the album was completed, it was scheduled for release in late 1975.

Four months later, New York Connection was released and found favour with critics, and reached forty-two in the US Billboard 200. This vindicated Tom Scott’s decision to leave L.A. Express who were hard at work recording L.A. Express,

L.A. Express.

After Tom Scott’s departure from the band, the rest of L.A. Express had to think about the future. For  the remaining member of L.A. Express the loss of  Tom Scott was a huge disappointment. He had founded the band, recruited some of the musicians and been its driving force. However, the loss of Tom Scott was also an  opportunity for the remaining members of L.A. Express to strike out on their own.  This would mean a few changes though, and before long, there were two changes to the lineup.

The first thing  L.A. Express needed to do, was recruit a new saxophonist. They set their sights on securing the services of David Luell, a talented and experienced saxophonist, who was equally comfortable playing baritone, soprano and tenor sax. While David Luell agreed to join L.A. Express, there was still one more change to make, replace the keyboardist Larry Nash. 

Replacing Larry Nash, was none other than Victor Feldman. He was born into a musical family in London, England, but was now resident in Los Angeles. Victor Feldman was perfect fit for L.A. Express, given he could play keyboards, synths, percussion and vibes. Now the final piece of the L.A. Express jigsaw was in place.

Now L.A. Express began to think about recording their debut album. However, there was a problem.  It was Tom Scott and L.A. Express who were signed to Ode Records. This was essentially a partnership, where Tom Scott was perceived as the senior partner, and it no longer existed. For L.A. Express this was a problem, but also was an opportunity for  what was essentially L.A. Express Mk.III.

When L.A. Express got the chance to sign for Caribou Records, which was founded by James William Guercio, who produced Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears, Ode Records didn’t stand in their way. It was a new start for third line-up of L.A. Express.

L.A. Express.

Now that L.A. Express  were signed to James William Guercio’s Caribou Records, they began work on their eponymous debut album. Bassist Max Bennett penned a trio of tracks, Midnite Flite, Suavemente (Gently) and Cry Of The Eagle and cowrote It’s Happening Right Now with Victor Feldman. He contributed The Shrug and Western Horizon, while John Guerin write Down The Middle. Guitarist Robben Ford chipped in with two songs, Stairs and Transylvania Choo Choo. The nine songs that became L.A. Express had all been written by the band.

Recording of L.A. Express took place at A&M Studios, in Los Angeles during early 1975. By then, L.A. Express’ rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist John Guerin, bassist Max Bennett and guitarist Robben Ford. They were joined by saxophonist David Luell and Victor Feldman, who switched between keyboards, percussion, synths and vibes. Rather than employ a producer, The L.A. Express decided to take charge of production. Once the album was recorded, it was ready for release in 1976. Before that the original members of L.A. Express were reunited their former band mates and some new names.

Joni Mitchell who was then engaged to L.A. Express drummer John Guerin,  was about to record her seventh album, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns. L.A. Express were invited to play on the album. This included the two former members of L.A. Express, Larry Carlton and Joe Sample. They would meet L.A. Express’ new guitarist Robben Ford. However,  neither David Luell nor Victor Feldman played on The Hissing Of Summer Lawns. It would be released to critical acclaim in November 1975,  and become one of Joni Mitchell’s most successful classic albums. The following year, L.A. Express released their eponymous debut album. 

When L.A. Express was released early in 1976, it was to critical acclaim. Inevitably, comparisons were drawn with the two albums Tom Scott and L.A. Express had released. While  L.A. Express was another fusion album, it was a much more accessible and pop-oriented take on fusion. Still, though, the emphasis was on quality for fusion’s latest supergroup.  

When L.A. Express was released in early 1976, the album failed to trouble even the lower reaches of the charts. By then, music was changing, and fusion was no longer as popular as it had been. Record buyers missed out on the critically acclaimed L.A. Express. Its commercial failure was a huge disappointment for fusion’s latest supergroup.

For Tom Scott who must have been watching with interest, this further vindicated his decision to leave L.A. Express to record a solo album and pursue other musical interests. Meanwhile, the band he had founded was about to receive another bitter blow.

Not long after the release of L.A. Express,  guitarist Robben Ford left the band. This was a big loss, as he contributed two tracks to L.A. Express and wasn’t just a talented, versatile guitarist, but one who was expressive and inventive. His  guitar played an important part in L.A. Express’ sound on their eponymous debut album. Replacing Robben Ford wasn’t going to be easy.

Eventually, the other members of L.A. Express settled on guitarist Peter Maunu as Robben Ford’s replacement. Now work could begin on L.A. Express’ sophomore album, Shadow Play.

Shadow Play.

With Peter Maunu onboard, L.A. Express Mk. IV headed out of Los Angeles to work on their sophomore album Shadow Play. Their destination was James William Guercio’s Caribou Ranch, in Colorado which sat high above the mountains. It was an atmospheric and inspiring place, and perfect for writing and recording an album.

Founder member of L.A. Express, John Guerin, wrote Velvet Lady and Mad Drums And Englishman (Mavro). New recruit Peter Maunu contributed Nordic Winds, Double Your Pleasure and Virtex. Victor Feldman penned Chariot Race, Dance The Night Away and Silhouette. Shadow Play was written by David .Luell and  R.Philipe. These songs were recorded by L.A. Express at the Caribou Ranch, with a little help from their friends.

This time around, when recording Shadow Play began, L.A. Express’ rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist John Guerin, bassist Max Bennett and guitarist Peter Maunu. They were joined by saxophonist David Luell and Victor Feldman, who played piano, Fender Rhodes,  Arp Odyssey, Hammond organ and congas. Joining L.A. Express were two vocalists Paulette McWilliams and Joni Mitchell, who featured on three tracks. Again rather than employ a producer,  The L.A. Express decided to take produce the Shadow Play themselves. It was ready for release during the second half of 1976.

Before that, critics had their say on Shadow Play, which would be the second album L.A. Express had released. Shadow Play was well received by critics, who noticed that L.A. Express had moved from fusion towards a rockier sound on Shadow Play. The addition of the two guest vocalists was welcomed, which showed another side to L.A. Express They were a chameleon-like and versatile band.

While critics were won over by Shadow Play, the album failed to attract the attention of record buyers. Just like L.A. Express, Shadow Play didn’t trouble the charts. For L.A. Express it was the end of the road.

By then, the members of L.A. Express were involved in a number of different projects, which would prove more successful and lucrative. It wasn’t going to be as easy to find time for L.A. Express to record together any more. So a decision was made that Shadow Play would be L.A. Express’  swan-song. 

Meanwhile, Tom Scott’s fortunes had improved since his departure from L.A. Express. He continued to work with the great and good of music, and accompanied everyone from Minnie Riperton, Carole King, Aretha Franklin to Merry Clayton to  Wings, Melvin Van Peebles, George Harrison, The Carpenters, Glen Campbell, Joni Mitchell to Boz Scaggs  and Hall and Oates.  Still, millions of viewers  heard one of Tom Scott’s most successful compositions when they tuned in to  The Streets of San Francisco between 1972 and 1977. However, in 1975, another Tom Scott composition, Gotcha, became the theme to Starsky & Hutch. This would prove lucrative for Tom Scott, who recorded Gotcha for his 1977 a bum Blow It Up.  By then, L.A. Express called time on their career,  and like Tom Scott had moved on to other projects.

When L.A. Express called time on their career in 1976,  they had only been together for just three years, but had accomplished a lot. They had recorded two albums as Tom Scott and L.A. Express, featured on a trio of  Joni Mitchell albums and released two albums for Caribou Records, L.A. Express and Shadow Play. The albums they recorded as Tom Scott and L.A. Express and then Tom Scott is a reminder of one fusion’s oft-overlooked, but multitalented and versatile supergroups which was founded by Tom Scott and should’ve reached greater heights. 

The Story Of Tom Scott’s Short-Lived Supergroup L.A. Express.


Miles Davis-Bitches Brew.

Label: Sony Music.

Although Miles Davis’ recording career began in 1951, when he released his debut album The New Sounds, he soon had established a reputation as a prolific, and innovative musician. He released further forty-three albums between 1951 and 1969. This included classics like 1957s Round About Midnight and 1959s Kind Of Blue. While both of these albums would become classic albums, neither sold in huge quantities at the time of their release. Certainly not enough to result in a gold or platinum disc. That was all about change when Miles Davis released his forty-fifth album, Bitches Brew  which has just been reissued  Sony Music as a two CD set.

Bitches Brew was the third of Miles Davis’ “electric albums,”as he continued to embrace the fusion sound that was growing in popularity, and as was seen by many as jazz’s saviour. This latest period in Miles Davis’ career began with In A Silent Way. It was released in July 1969, and completed the shift that began on Filles De Kilimanjaro in September 1968. 

In a Silent Way

For Miles Davis, In a Silent Way marked a stylistic change and indeed, a change his fortunes when the album was released on ‘30th’ July 1969.  The forty-two year old had recorded the album at CBS 30th Street Studio, on the on February the ‘18th’ 1969 with a band that featured some of the future greats of fusion. This included twenty-seven year old guitarist, John McLaughlin who was a relative newcomer. However, he would win the trust and respect of his Miles Davis and the rest of the band with his playing on In A Silent Way, where they  incorporated elements of the classical sonata form plus elements of jazz, psychedelia and rock. With the session over, Miles Davis left Teo Macero to edit the recordings.

Teo Macero’s part in the success of In A Silent Way can’t be underestimated, as he began editing the album. When it came to the two lengthy tracks, Shhh and In A Silent Way, Teo Macero’s idea was to edit them so that they consisted of three different parts which can be regarded as exposition, development and recapitulation. By the time Teo Macero had finished editing  Shhh, the first and last six minutes of the track featured the exact same piece of music. However, this would play its part in the sound and success of album that some critics called ‘space music’ upon its release.

In A Silent Way was an album that divided the opinion of critics. Some critics were shocked at Miles Davis’ decision to incorporate electric instruments on the album, and took this as a betrayal and Miles Davis was seen by some critics as heretic. While some jazz critics sent Miles Davis to Coventry, where he was forced to sit on jazz’s equivalent of the naughty step, other critics welcomed the addition and incorporation of electric albums on In A Silent Way which they called a groundbreaking album from musical chameleon Miles Davis. However, with critic’s opinion split on In A Silent Way, record buyers had the final say on the album.

When In A Silent Way was released, it reached number 134 in the US Billboard 200, and became Miles Davis’ first album to chart since Seven Steps To Heaven in 1963. In A Silent Way also reached number three in the US Jazz charts, which   meant it was Miles’ most successful album. It seemed Miles’ new sound had introduced a new generation to Miles Davis. So, it’s no surprise that Miles decided to return to the studio straight away.

Bitches Brew.

Miles Davis booked three days at Columbia Studio B, New York for the sessions that would later become Bitches Brew. They began on August the ‘19th’ 1969, and over the next three days, Miles Davis’ extended band would record six songs that became one of Miles’ most ambitious and innovative albums, Bitches Brew.

Between the ‘19th’ and ‘21st’ August 1969, a huge cast of musicians, that can only be described as the great and good of jazz, made their way Columbia Studio B. This included a rhythm section of drummers Lenny White and Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland on standup bass,  Harvey Brooks on electric bass and guitarist John McLaughlin. They were joined by Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea on electric piano. Adding a percussive backdrop were conga players Don Alias congas and Juma Santos, who also played shakers. Soprano saxophonist Wayne Shorter joined soprano saxophone, Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet and Miles Davis trumpet. With the lineup in place and in situ, the session on the ‘19th’ of August set the tone for the next three days.

 ‘19th’ of August.

Three songs were recorded on the ‘19th’ of August by producer Teo Macero, Bitches Brew, John McLaughlin and Sanctuary. This was quite a feat as Miles Davis’ band was very different to most bands of that time. He used two drum kits and two electric pianos. Lenny White’s drum kit was situated on the right, and Jack DeJohnette’s on the left. Similarly, Chick Corea electric piano sat on the right, while Joe Zawinul was situated on the left. There were also two bases used. Dave Holland played standup bass and Harvey Brooks electric bass. Some of the musicians had never encountered this setup before, nor had engineer Frank Laico. Nobody it seemed, had encountered Miles Davis’ way of working on Bitches Brew, but were willing to try it. 

What’s quite remarkable given what happened over the three-day session, is that Miles Davis had brought the band together without much notice. Looking back, it’s as if he wanted them to arrive without any preconceived ideas. He needed them to work with him and trust him as he pioneered what was an innovative way to record what would be a groundbreaking album.

Very little of the material on Bitches Brew had been rehearsed by the band. That was  how Miles Davis had planned it. He wanted everything the band played to be off-the-cut. Briefly, he would give them some hints and guidance about tempo, chord structure, melody, mood or tone, then when the red light came on, Miles Davis stood watching and studying each of the musicians If needed, he would encourage and cajole a performance out some of the musicians who were struggling with this new way of working, and other times would give cues when to change tempo or chord. Often, the only cue a musician had, was when Miles Davis clicked his fingers. With Miles Davis guiding his all-star band, gradually a very different style of music emerged.

The three tracks that were recorded on the ‘19th’ of August, Bitches Brew, John McLaughlin and Sanctuary hinted at the direction Bitches Brew was heading. Miles Davis was turning his back on traditional jazz rhythms and instead, had decided to fully embraced the much looser rock-tinged, improvisational style. This was what Miles Davis had been trying to cajole out of his band. As Miles Davis sat down at the end of the session with producer Teo Macero and played the tapes back, he knew he was on the right road.

Miles Davis had coaxed and cajoled the basis for three tracks out of the band he had hastily put together.Bitches Brew would eventually become a twenty-seven minute epic. John McLaughlin would be trimmed to just over four minutes. Sanctuary, which was penned by Joe Zawinul, would close Bitches Brew. It would eventually clock in at just under eleven minutes. However, there was still half an album to record, plus a lot of editing to do.

 ‘20th’ of August 1969.

As the ‘20th’ of August 1969 dawned, the same musicians made their way to Columbia Studio B. The only change was Stan Tonkel engineered the rest of the sessions. Everything else stayed the same.

If the previous day had been a shock to their system, the band now they had some idea of what Miles Davis and producer Teo Macero were trying to achieve. The band embraced the concept, and having thought about it, realised that they had the opportunity to be part of musical history, as Bitches Brew potentially, was a truly innovative album in the making. Especially, those in the rhythm section.

For those in the rhythm section, they must have realised the enormity of rhythmic innovations. The use of two bassists, two drummers and two electric pianos was groundbreaking. Especially, as they all played together as one. This was what some rock groups had been doing, and this had influenced Miles Davis. So had the Jimi Hendrix Experience who influenced and inspired Miles Davis to reinvent his music, and head  in a new direction.

As part of the reinvention of Miles Davis, he decided that his rhythm section should be allowed off the leash. They enjoyed the opportunity to take centre-stage, as they unleashed  lengthy and improvised solos. For musicians of the calibre of John McLaughlin, Dave Holland and Chick Corea, this was music to their ears.

Whereas the previous day, Miles Davis’ band had recorded three tracks, they only recorded the one track on the 20th August, Miles Runs The Voodoo Down. It’s an equally ambitious track, that eventually, was edited down to fourteen minutes. However, that day in August, when the red light went on, Miles Davis again, coaxed, cajoled and encouraged a performance out of his band. He wasn’t interested in a good performance. That wasn’t good enough for a perfectionist like Miles Davis who demanded an outstanding performance befitting a potentially groundbreaking album. His band was capable of this, and as bandleader, it was Miles Davis’ job to coax it out of the band. 

Unsurprisingly, Miles Davis managed to do so. He had been a bandleader long enough, and using a mixture of praise and constructive criticism, somehow,  encouraged the band to raise their game and reach even greater heights.

Just like on the ‘19th’ of August,  the rhythm section was responsible for a truly innovative performances. Similarly, Wayne Shorter’s soprano saxophone, Bernie Maupin’s bass clarinet and Miles’ trumpet played leading roles in another epic track. It would later be edited down to fourteen minutes. That was still to come. There were two more tracks to record.

‘21st’ of August 1969.

The two final tracks that would make up Bitches Brew, were Spanish Key and Joe Zawinul’s Pharaoh’s Dance. They were scheduled to be recorded on  the ‘21st’ August 1969, and when  the same band reconvened, Miles Davis announced that he had decided to add a third pianist. He knew the very man, Larry Young.

Bringing in a new face so let on in the Bitches Brew session made sense, as Larry Young would have no preconceived ideas about what to play. He would play with an unbridled freedom. That was what Miles Davis and producer Teo Macero wanted from Larry Young, whose piano would sit in the centre of the arrangement. This resulted in yet another layer of music, as Miles Davis and Ted Macero continued to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, even beyond. 

Over the course of the 21st August, Miles encouraged, coaxed and persuaded two final performances out his band. They responded to Miles Davis’ encouragement and delivered two sterling performances. As engineers Frank Laico and producer Teo Macero looked on, little did they know that they were in the process of making history.

Making History.

With the six songs that became Bitches Brew recorded, the band left Columbia Studio B, New York. None of them realised that they had just played their part in an album that would transform jazz music. However, there was a lot of work to do before then.

Much of this entailed the editing process, which was Teo Macero’s area of expertise. He had plenty of material to choose from. This came as no surprise, as Miles Davis had encouraged the band to lay down a series of performances. Now he was left to pick and choose what made its way onto the final tracks. Surrounded by piles of reel-to-reel tapes, Miles Davis and Ted Macero worked their way through the various reels. What followed was like piecing together a musical jigsaw. Sometimes, numerous edits featured in the one track, and on Bitches Brew alone, there were fifteen edits, including the same loop being repeated on three occasions.

Then on Pharaoh’s Dance, the number rose to nineteen. Never before had editing been used so extensively, and later, Bitches Brew was seen as a landmark album in terms of utilising the available studio technology to is full potential  This wasn’t the only reason though.

In the studio, all producers had a variety of effects they can use. Like most musicians, Miles Davis was well aware of this and encouraged Teo Macero to deploy them effectively and if he wanted, extensively. Essentially, Miles Davis wanted to transform the studio into another musical instrument. This wasn’t a new concept, and was one the musique concrète composers of the fifties and sixties had used extensively. Now Miles Davis was about to follow in their footsteps, as  he and Ted Macero deployed tape delays, reverb and echo. They would play their part in what would be the most ambitious and innovative album of Miles Davis’ career. However, before then, Miles returned to Columbia Studio B, New York, on January 28, 1970.

January ’28th’ 1970.

Many of the same musicians that featured on the other tracks on Bitches Brew returned to Columbia Studio B. This included a rhythm section of drummers Lenny White and Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland on standup bass and,Harvey Brooks on electric bass and guitarist John McLaughlin. They were joined by Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea who both played electric piano. Percussionist Airto Moreira also played cuíca, and was joined by soprano saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin and trumpeter Miles Davis. This was the band that would record Wayne Shorter’s composition Felio.

Over the course of January the ‘28th’ 1970, Miles Davis, producer Teo Macero and engineer Stan Tonkel recorded Felio. Gradually, the song began to take shape. Eventually, by the close of play, Miles Davis had another song in the can. However the big question was would it make its way onto Bitches Brew?

The answer was no. Despite its quality, Felio didn’t make it onto Bitches Brew. It was an ambitious and groundbreaking double album that lasted ninety-four minutes and eleven seconds. Miles Davis and Teo Macero had poured their heart and soul into an album which they believed, could, change the face of jazz music. 

There was a stumbling block though. Critics weren’t won over by Bitches Brew. Just like In A Silent Way, the reviews were mixed. Rock critics seemed to “get” Bitches Brew, and most were excited by this melting pot of musical genres. They could understand the marriage of avant-garde, experimental, musique concrète, funk, jazz, psychedelia and rock. It seemed to harness the best of various disparate genres. However, not everyone agreed.

Jazz critics especially, wrote the most disparaging and damaging reviews of Bitches Brew. Some went as far as to say this wasn’t jazz music. The problem was, many of these critics over the past two decades had been fed on diet of “mainstream jazz,” and just didn’t understand this gushing vortex of groundbreaking, genre-melting music. An expanded rhythm section featuring multiple drummers, bassists and pianists wasn’t something they had encountered before. This was something new, imaginative, influential and innovative that was being referred to as fusion. It caught the attention of a several generations of music lovers.

Unlike some music critics, record buyers tuned in and were turned on to the music on Bitches Brew when it was released on March the ‘30th’ 1970, and before long, became Miles Davis’ biggest selling album. Bitches Brew reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number one on the US Jazz charts. This resulted in Miles Davis’ first ever gold album in America. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, in Britain, audiences had embraced Miles Davis’ groundbreaking opus Bitches Brew, which was certified silver.  

It was fitting that Bitches Brew had given Miles Davis his biggest selling album on both sides of the Atlantic, as it was the forty-fifth album of  the forty-three year old trumpeter’s career.  Eventually though, Bitches Brew sold over two million copies in America, and was certified double platinum. By then, people understood Bitches Brew.

Just like so much groundbreaking music, many people didn’t understand Bitches Brew initially and many  critics, musicians and record buyers were puzzled. Why had Miles Davis plugged in? What was with the expanded rhythm section and the myriad of effects? They found it hard to comprehend where Miles was coming from. Soon, it all became clear, at least to those who cared to listen.

The Godfather of cool and modal jazz was at the vanguard of a yet another new musical movement, fusion. Where Miles Davis lead, others followed. Soon, it would become one of the biggest musical movements of the seventies. Miles Davis would, eventually, be crowned its founding father. Recognition came a year later.

In February 1971, Miles Davis released The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions. This four album set featured the Bitches Brew Sessions in their entirety. In some ways, this further explained where Miles Davis was coming from musically. The four discs explained the musical journey that became Bitches Brew. Suddenly, many who hadn’t understood Bitches Brew were enlightened. Already enlightened however, were the Grammy Awards’ judges.

From 1961, there had a Grammy Award for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. One of the nominees in 1971, was Miles Davis’ Magnus Opus Bitches Brew. Looking back, it seemed inevitable Miles’ would win a Grammy Award for Bitches Brew. However, it was far from a fait accompli. 

On its release, Bitches Brew had divided opinion. While Bitches Brew won the hearts and minds of rock critics, jazz critics weren’t convinced. To them it was strange brew of disparate musical genres and influences; one they either didn’t understand, or want to understand. However, the Grammy Award judges were made of sterner stuff, and understood innovation when they heard it. They were more than happy to reward Miles Davis’ innovative fusion classic Bitches Brew. 

At the glittering Grammy Awards’ ceremony in April 1971, Miles Davis was vindicated. His decision to plug-in, and change direction musically on Bitches Brew, was richly rewarded. He won a Grammy Award for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. By then, fusion as it became known, was growing in popularity, and  the man who gave birth to fusion was receiving his reward. This has been the case over the last forty-five years.

Ever since the release of Bitches Brew, it has been recognised as a landmark album. This musical tour de force is now perceived as one of the most important albums in the history of jazz. Bitches Brew was a game-changer. Suddenly, jazz’s rhythmic rules were rewritten. Anything was now possible. Rhythm sections grew in size, and suddenly, two drummers, bassists or pianists were acceptable.  The use of effects were embraced, transforming the recording studio into an extra instrument. Similarly, editing was used as part of the creative process. Here, Miles Davis drew inspiration from the musique concrète composers of the fifties and sixties. This was just another piece in the musical jigsaw that was Bitches Brew. It rejuvenated interest in jazz.

By 1970, many critics and record buyers regarded jazz as yesterday’s music. It was the music their parents and grandparents listened to. A new generation of record buyers turned their back on jazz. That was until Miles Davis released Bitches Brew. 

Suddenly, jazz was back in fashion. It had been reimagined and reinvented by Miles Davis on Bitches Brew. This was a game-changer, and fusion as the genre became known, proved to be happy a marriage between jazz and rock. Before long, fusion was the most popular genre of jazz. A generation of jazz and rock musicians collaborated, resulting in jazz that was commercially successful and critically acclaimed. It’s also music that’s stood the test of time.

That’s why forty-seven years after the release of Bitches Brew, Sony Music have just rereleased Bitches Brew as a two CD set, with second disc also featuring alternate takes, an edit and singles. This is the perfect way to discover or rediscover the delights of  Bitches Brew, which should make its way into every self-respecting record collection. It’s not just one of Miles Davis’ best albums, but one of his most ambitious and groundbreaking albums. Yet again, Miles Davis set out to reinvent himself and jazz music, and succeeded in doing so, and in the process, created a pioneering album that transformed, and rejuvenated jazz, Bitches Brew. 

Miles Davis-Bitches Brew.


Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra-The Reason Why Volume 3.

Label: Headspin Recordings.

Just over four-and-a-half years ago, Swedish trumpeter Goran Kajfeš released the first volume in The Reason Why trilogy, on Headspin Recordings the label he had founded with producer David Osterberg in 2004. The Reason Why Volume 1 was hailed by critics as an ambitious and groundbreaking album, and was later nominated for a Grammis, the Swedish equivalent of a Grammy Award. This came as no surprise to those who had heard The Reason Why Volume 1, and felt that Goran Kajfeš would’ve been a fitting beneficiary of such a prestigious award. After all, Goran Kajfeš had been one of the leading lights of Swedish music scene for three decades, and had divided his time between touring and recording albums with various groups he was a member of, and solo albums.

Just under two years later, in March 2015, the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra returned with the eagerly awaited The Reason Why Volume 2. The second instalment in this trilogy of albums featured an all-star cast that included some of Goran Kajfes’ musical friends. They all played their part in the sound and success of The Reason Why Volume 2, which received the same critical acclaim as its predecessor. This meant that the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra  had just one further volume of The Reason Why trilogy to release.

Now after two years and eight months later, the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra make a welcome return with the third and final instalment in the trilogy The Reason Why Volume 3 which was recently released by Headspin Recordings. It marks the end of another chapter in the career of bandleader, composer, musician and producer Goran Kajfeš.

He was born in Tyresö, in Stockholm County in east central Sweden on  the ’22nd’ of June 1970, into a musical family. Goran Kajfeš father was Davor Kajfeš, the renowned Croatian pianist and composer.  His musical talent would rub off on Goran Kajfeš, who growing up, learnt to play the trumpet among a variety of other instruments. Goran Kajfeš was already budding multi-instrumentalist, and would put his versatility to use later in his musical career.

This included in the various bands that Goran Kajfeš founded and joined. One of the earliest groups Goran Kajfeš was a member of was Regis, in the late-nineties. However, as a new decade dawned, Goran Kajfeš became part of several bands. 

Among the various groups was the jazz band Oddjob who have released nine albums between 2002 and 2017. Goran Kajfeš found the time to join improv band Nacka Forum who released three albums between 2002 and 2012. It was just one of several groups he joined, who played everything from jazz and reggae to ska and soul.

One of these bands was The Solution, who raison d’être was to replicate the sound of sixties soul. The Solution released two albums, 2004s Communicate and 2007s Will Not Be Televised, and became a popular live draw. During this period, Goran Kajfeš was a member of the Swedish ska and reggae band Club Killers, who released two albums between 2005 and 2008. They were also he house band at the Stockholm club, Club Killers. 

A year later, and Goran Kajfeš was a member of the Rocking Babooshkas when they released their album Демоны Любви in 2009. By then, Goran Kajfeš had joined The Moon Ray Quintet who released two albums between 2009 and 2010. After this, Goran Kajfeš was part of the Fire! Orchestra, and improv group Angles 8 when they released their album By Way Of Deception in 2012. However, Angles 8 was short-lived and   Angles 9 was born in 2013. They’ve released three albums between ambitious albums of improv between 2013 and 2017. 

Remarkably, while working with all these bands, Goran Kajfeš was working with a variety of different artists in the studio and live. This included Magnus Carlson, Fläsk Quartet, Stina Nordenstam, Eagle-Eye Cherry, Håkan Hellström, José González, Eric Gadd, Janet Jackson, Stephen Simmonds, and The Thing XL. Still, though, Goran Kajfeš had found time to embark upon a solo career.

Goran Kajfes’ debut album Solodebuten Home was released to critical acclaim in 2000, and was an innovative fusion of jazz and electronics. Four years later, and Goran Kajfeš returned with his long-awaited sophomore album Headspin. It was released to plaudits and praise in 2004, and won a Grammis, the Swedish equivalent of a Grammy Award. For Goran Kajfeš this was a huge honour, and gave his solo career a boost.

Despite winning his first Grammis, it was six years before Goran Kajfeš returned with his third album X/Y in 2010. Critics sung X/Y’s praise upon its release, and it some critics and the album won the prestigious Nordic Music Prize. For Goran Kajfeš all his hard work was over the past two decades was starting to pay off.

In April 2013, Goran Kajfeš returned with his latest project, the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra who released The Reason Why Volume 1. It was the first in a trilogy of albums that the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra were about to release. Critics upon hearing The Reason Why Volume 1 called the album ambitious and groundbreaking. It was no surprise when it was later nominated for a Grammis, the Swedish equivalent of a Grammy Award. Sadly, The Reason Why Volume 1 didn’t follow in the footsteps of X/Y.

Just under two years later, in March 2015, and the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra returned with The Reason Why Volume 2. The second instalment in this trilogy of albums featured an all-star cast that included some of Goran Kajfes’ musical friends. They all played their part in the sound and success of The Reason Why Volume 2, which received the same critical acclaim as its predecessor. This meant that the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra  had just one further volume of The Reason Why trilogy to release.

The latest all-star lineup of Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra released The Reason Why Volume 2 in November 2017, and this brought to an end one the most hotly anticipated trilogies of recent years. As soon as each instalment hit the shelves of record shops, critics and music fans were eagerly awaiting the next volume. The one question on many people’s lips is this really the end of the released The Reason Why series?

Goran Kajfeš has always been clear that The Reason Why was a trilogy, and that there would be no other volumes after that. It’s not a case that the cupboard is bare, and there’s no more music to release. Instead, Goran Kajfeš explains that: “when we came up with idea of performing interpretations of the music that inspires us, we decided to limit the project to three volumes to avoid being pigeonholed as a covers band. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for the group’s sound and development, but now it’s time to look forward and see what’s next for the Subtropic Arkestra.” At least music lovers can sleep soundly knowing that there’s a future for the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra.

What direction the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra will head in the future is for their founder to decide. “This is exciting because none of us knows what’s in there,” says Goran Kajfeš as he plots the next musical move in a career that began nearly back in the late-eighties.

Since then, Goran Kajfeš has been one of the hardest working men in Swedish music, playing with various bands, and some of the biggest names in music. This has taken Goran Kajfeš around the world several times, and he’s taken to the stage in North America, South America, Japan, Europe and Britain. Still he finds time to record albums of innovative music, including The Reason Why Volume 3.

For the final instalment in the trilogy, the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra have chosen seven tracks that mean something to them. This included Hailu Mergia and The Walias’ Ibakish Tarekigne; Christer Bothén’s Trance Dance; Bernard Fevre’s Le Monde Avait 5 Ans; US 69’s I’m On My Way/Patch Of Blue;he Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou’s Ne Rien Voir, Dire, Entendre; Noah Lennox a.k.a. Panda Bear’s You Can Count On Me and Caribou’s Sandy. These seven tracks became The Reason Why Volume 3, which was recorded by the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra.

Recording of The Reason Why Volume 3 took place at Svenska Grammofonstudion, in Göteborg, Sweden. The rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Johan Holmegard, bassist Johan Berthling and electric guitarists Robert Östlund and Reine Fiske who also  played mellotron. Jesper Nordenström switched between organ, Fender Rhodes, piano and synths, while percussionist Juan Romero made a guest appearance on Ne Rien Voir, Dire, Entendre. Joining trumpeter Goran Kajfeš in the horn section were saxophonist and flautists Per “Ruskträsk” Johansson and Jonas Kullhammar, while Per “Texas” Johansson played saxophone, clarinet and oboe. This was the lineup of the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra that played on The Reason Why Volume 3.

Opening The Reason Why Volume 3 is Ibakish Tarekigne, which was penned by Ethiopian keyboardist Hailu Mergia and The Walias. There’s more than a nod to the original, as guitars chime and combine with the rhythm section. Soon, growling horns enter, before a drum roll signals the chirping and weeping guitars. Later, a rasping, braying horn takes centre-stage as the rest of the Arkestra provide a sweeping, swaying accompaniment. This continues when the horns unite, before a weeping, shimmering guitar and rolls of drums interject. Mostly, it’s the four horns that take centre-stage, whether playing together or when Goran Kajfeš unleashes a blazing solo that plays their part in this beautiful homage to Hailu Mergia and The Walias. It sets the bar high for the rest of The Reason Why Volume 3.

Just subtle keyboard plays as Trance Dance before the volume increases and hissing hi-hats join a glistening guitar and bass, before the braying horns enter. They seem to be playing within themselves, as the track starts to take shape. Meanwhile, the bass prowls as a distant guitar shimmers and chimes, as blistering horn kick loose and join with the mellotron and drums that power the arrangement along. By now, the Arkestra is in full flight and it’s a joy to behold. Their playing is flawless, as horns growl, bray and blaze and the bass continues to prowl as the arrangement surrounds the listener. It’s an immersive experience as an array of sounds assail the listener and the Arkestra play with speed, fluidity and precision. By then, the arrangement has become hypnotic, as stabs of searing horns and effects laden keyboards interject. Later, a blistering guitar solo comes close to stealing the show, as a progressive organ wah-wahs and rolls of thunderous drums power this nine minute epic to its impressive crescendo.

As the drums provide the heartbeat on Le Monde Avait 5 Ans, cascading and glistening keyboards set the scene for the subtle horns that add to this melodic cover of this Bernard Fevre composition. It’s played slowly, thoughtfully and with the utmost care, with each instrument, including the flute, electric piano, glistening guitar, synths, horns and rhythm section playing their part in what’s akin to a beautiful, melodic and melancholy musical tapestry woven by the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra. It shows another side to this talented combo.

Drums roll and rumble, horns bray, blaze and howl while a guitar is plucked and the bass is played with speed before a cymbal crashes on I´m On My Way/Patch Of Blue. That is the signal that it’s time for the Arkestra to get down to business. The rhythm section combine with the organ as a guitar rises above the rest of the arrangement and cymbals crash. Horns bray and blaze before the tempo drops, and the arrangement meanders melodically along, with the Arkestra showcasing their considerable skills. Especially a fleet-fingered guitar that weaves it way across the arrangement as horns growl and wail, before taking the track direction of free jazz. Later, a much more understated, mellow sound returns, as the chameleon-like Arkestra complete their ten minute musical adventure par excellence.

Hissing hi-hats and drums are joined by horns on Ne Rien Voir, Dire, Entendre which was originally recorded by the Benin-based Orchestre Poly-Rythmo. Seamlessly, the Arkestra’s homage to the legendary orchestra takes shape. As the rhythm section provide the heartbeat, hypnotic chiming guitars provide a backdrop for the braying, blazing horns that are the Arkestra’s secret weapon. They play with speed, fluidity and invention. Then at the midway point a drum solo is accompanied by a searing, erects-laden guitar before the horns return and the arrangement rebuilds. When they drop out, the blistering guitar remains and washes of cascading mellotron are added while the rhythm section lock down the groove. In doing so, they play their part in what’s without doubt, one of The Reason Why Volume 3’s highlights.

Rueful, rasping horns dominate the arrangement to You Can Count On Me, which the Arkestra play carefully and thoughtfully as an almost spiritual sound emerges. Later, as the horns drop out, a shimmering guitar, drum rolls and washes of glistening mellotron are added. They’re joined by a lone wistful horn, that is played with speed and fluidity as it quivers, while the rest of the horns add a rueful backdrop. By then, the spiritual and hopeful describe this beautiful track. Latterly, though, as the arrangement dissipates, the thoughtful arrangement allows time for reflection

Closing The Reason Why Volume 3 is Sandy, which has a much more experimental sound as the arrangement meanders and drones, as sounds emerge from the arrangement. They’re not quite fully formed but can be identified, as subtle bursts of horns,  a shimmering cymbal, a bass and keyboards emerge. However, the Arkestra is merely toying with the listener, and at 2.52 their cover of Sandy starts to take shape. The rhythm section provide a backdrop for the scorching, howling wailing horns while keyboards and percussion play their part as the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra freewheel to the finishing line, where they bid their farewell to The Reason Why trilogy. This they do in style with an inventive, genre-melting track with a twist in the tale.

After seven tracks lasting fifty-three minutes, The Reason Why Volume 3 is at an end, and the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra have saved the best until last. Goran Kajfeš is of a similar opinion: “The Reason Why Vol. 3 is another album we are extremely proud of and one which we feel leaves the project on a high note. This time the band has been expanded further with horn blower Per “Texas” Johansson and the album was recorded at the Svenska Grammofon studio in Gothenburg and mixed in the Studio Rymden in Stockholm. I hope you enjoy it and will come to see us live on stage somewhere in the universe.”

While they’re traversing the universe, Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra will surely be looking for inspiration for their next album of genre-melting music. Sadly, it won’t be another instalment in The Reason Why series. Sadly, The Reason Why Volume 3 which was recently released by Headspin Recordings is the last in the trilogy. However, it’s another eclectic genre-melting album.

This time around, the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra combined elements of free jazz, fusion, jazz and rock with avant-garde, experimental and even African music on a  couple of tracks, Ibakish Tarekigne and Ne Rien Voir, Dire, Entendre. These tracks see the multitalented Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra pay homage to Hailu Mergia and The Walias and the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou who are two of African music’s best kept secrets. Hopefully, this will encourage music fans to investigate the music of the bands from Ethiopia and Benin. These are just two of the seven tracks on The Reason Why Volume 3, which features a musical masterclass from the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra.

They’ve followed in the footsteps of musical luminaries like Tom Waits, David Bowie and Peter Gabriel, in releasing a trilogy of albums. While many trilogies are unintended or accidental, the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra set out to release a trilogy of albums and have spent the last four years doing so. With each instalment in this critically acclaimed trilogy, the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra have reached new heights and won new friends. However, the Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra have kept the best until last on The Reason Why Volume 3, which is another ambitious, innovative and flawless genre-melting opus which is a triumphant ending to this memorable trilogy.

Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra-The Reason Why Volume 3.


Erik Honoré-Unrest.

Label: Hubro Music.

As 2014 dawned, Erik Honoré had just turned forty-seven, and was a vastly experienced composer, musician, producer and vocalist with over twenty-five years of experience and 150 credits to his name. Erik Honoré was also a writer, but since graduating from the Norwegian Institute For Stage and Studio in Oslo, as a sound engineer and producer, seemed to have lived and breathed music.

Previously, Erik Honoré had been a member of Punkt,  Velvet Belly and Woodlands, and had worked with the great and good of Norwegian music, including Arve Henriksen, Christian Wallumrød, Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang. Erik Honoré had also worked with David Sylvian on several occasions, and with Jon Hassell, Brian Eno and Peter Schwalm. Still Erik Honoré found time to run the Punkt-festivalen which the two friends had founded in 2005. However, there was still one thing that Erik Honoré had to do…release his debut album.

Nine months later, on the ‘8th’ of September 2014, Erik Honoré’s critically acclaimed, groundbreaking debut album Heliographs was released on Hubro Music. It showcase the considerable talents of Erik Honoré, who was, and is, one of the leading lights of the Norwegian music scene and a pioneering musician who had always been willing to push music boundaries to their limit. Heliographs was, without doubt, one  of the best Norwegian albums of 2014, and many critics thought was a possible contender for a Spellemannprisen, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. That was testament to Erik Honoré’s talent, imaginative and ability to innovate.

Three years after the release of his critically acclaimed debut album Heliographs, Erik Honoré makes a welcome return with his eagerly awaited sophomore album Unrest, which was recently released by Hubro Music. Unrest was the album that many critics and record buyers have been waiting for, to see what direction musical pioneer Erik Honoré’s music would head on his sophomore album? It’s just the latest high-profile album that Erik Honoré has worked on during the last couple of years.

Ever since the release of Heliographs, time management has been important for Erik Honoré. He is often involved in many projects simultaneously, including running the Punkt-festivalen, which Erik Honoré and Jan Bang founded in Kristiansand 2005. 

By then, the pair had been collaborating since they were teenagers, and had been involved in a number of projects. Erik Honoré and Jan Bang’s latest project, Punkt-festivalen, was a groundbreaking concept where concerts that have just taken place were then remixed live. At the heart of the concept was improvising with sampling. Little did Erik Honoré and Jan Bang realise how popular their Punkt-festivalen would become. Now there are spinoff festivals in over thirty cities in Europe and Asia, and the original festival has been curated by the great and good of music, including Brian Eno, John Paul Jones, Laurie Anderson, David Sylvian, and in 2017 Daniel Lanois. However, the Punkt-festivalen has taken up just some of Erik Honoré’s time since he released Heliographs in September 2014.

Erik Honoré has still found time to work with a number of artists, in a variety of roles. This included making a guest appearance on two tracks on Karl Seglem’s 2015 album Lærad=The Tree. Then when  Arve Henriksen came to record his latest album Towards Language, in August Erik Honoré played an important role in its success. Erik Honoré cowrote eight of nine tracks, played synths and co-produced Towards Language, which was released to critical acclaim in June 2017. 

After spending much of his time working with other artists,  it was time for Erik Honoré to concentrate on his own projects. This included recording Tuesday Gods, which was his second collaboration with his partner Greta Aagre. Tuesday Gods was the followup to their critically acclaimed debut album Year Of The Bullet which was released in 2012. When Tuesday Gods was released in August it received the same praise and plaudits as its predecessor, which augured well for the release of Erik Honoré’s eagerly awaited sophomore album Unrest.

It wasn’t going to be easy to followup such an ambitious, important, influential and innovative debut album as Heliographs. However, Erik Honoré was determined to build on his debut album Heliographs and drew inspiration from the what was going on around him. Erik Honoré explains:how: “the album was made during a period of unrest…both the external, social unrest that we have all felt in recent years and more personal experiences of agitation, conflict, turbulence. It became increasingly clear to me that these perceptions influenced the aesthetic choices I made during the process. I have probably chosen sharper edges in these compositions and collages, subconsciously or intuitively in the first, improvisational stage and later extremely consciously in the production and editing processes. ‘Unrest’ was a working title early on, but in the final analysis it was the only title that fit.”

The majority of Erik Honoré’s sophomore album Unrest, was recorded at The Green Room, in Oslo. That was where Erik Honoré and The Musicians composed the eight soundscapes that became Unrest. This included drummer Erland Dahlen, guitarist Eivind Aarset, vocalist Sidsel Endresen, saxophonists Espen Reinertsen, trumpeters Arve Henriksen, violist Ole-Henrik Moe, violinist Kari Rønnekleiv and Jan Bang who took charge of live sampling. Erik Honoré programmed and played the synths, acoustic guitar, piano, percussion, added vocals and produced and mixed Unrest, where Erik Honoré once again used sampling.

This has been a feature of Erik Honoré’s projects, and was used on Heliographs. This time around, Erik Honoré used a variety of vocal and instrument samples that had been recorded at Punkt events in Kristiansand, Molde and Prague. They were then condensed and reworked in Erik Honoré’s home studio at Kampen, Oslo. However, this wasn’t the only example of sampling technology being used on Unrest.

One of the tracks, Procession is Erik Honoré’s live remix Erik Honoré from a Stian Westerhus’ concert at Punkt 2016. It’s yet another reminder that Erik Honoré is pioneering musician who creates groundbreaking music. 

Erik Honoré’s described how he uses sampling on Unrest. “The process was very similar: improvisation around live samples of vocalists and instrumentalists, followed by extensive editing and collage work. A quick, intuitive phase, and then a protracted, detail-oriented process. But in my ears the expression is rougher and more confrontational. I hear the album as more direct, and definitely darker. Heliograph’s ‘Dark-Eyed Sister’.” That is a good description of Unrest, where Erik Honoré headed in a different on several songs.

Up until Unrest, Erik Honoré was known for composing and recording instrumental music. However, on Unrest Erik Honoré and Sidsel Endresen add vocals which add to the sheer intensity  and emotion of Unrest which is a resonant and captivating album from one of Norwegian music’s pioneers, who paints pictures on eight cinematic soundscapes.

Cinematic certainly describes Surge, which opens Unrest. So does dark, eerie and moody, as the soundscape unfolds and a plink plonk piano plays slowly as the sounds and samples flit in and out, rumbling, crackling and creaking. This includes a distant, otherworldly vocal and brief burst of a braying horn. It signals a change, as the music becomes understated and much more melodic. Pizzicato strings and rasping horns enter and disappear, before percussion and piano replace them as the soundscape becomes ruminative and even dramatic as a drone emerges and accompanies the pizzicato strings as this captivating cinematic soundscape draws to a close.

Abandoned Home is the first of a triumvirate of tracks to feature vocalist Sidsel Endresen. She delivers the tenderest of heartfelt vocals as distant piano plays and an acoustic guitar is strummed. Later, when her vocal drops out, strings swell and are joined by beeps, squeaks and samples that play their part in the understated arrangement. It’s a case of less is more. That is the case when Sidsel returns and delivers  a slow, whispery vocal. As it drops out, strings replace it before the piano plays and replicates the ethereal beauty of Sidsel’s vocal. Together, they’re yin to Sidsel’s yang in beautiful, emotive soundscape.

Unrest allows Erik Honoré to use his imagination, as he deploys shrill strings that squeal and squeak before feedback threatens to interject and add to the Unrest. Soon, the sweeping strings become urgent and add to the intensity before samples of dripping water and subtle shimmering drones combine with electronics. Then when a ruminative horn enters, and is joined by a distant cooing sound this beautiful combination is a game-changer and transforms this imaginative and chameleon-like soundscape

Remain is the shortest soundscape on Unrest, and lasts just 1.21. It finds Arve Henriksen’s trumpet taking centre-stage on this beautiful, ruminative soundscape. 

Blinded Windows marks the return of Sidsel Endresen’s vocal, which quivers and shivers emotively as the arrangement builds and provided a dramatic backdrop as it ebbs and flows and sometimes surges. Synths, samples and a subtle lone piano which sends out what sounds like a secret code as Sidsel’s vocal is a mixture of emotion, drama and intensity. Later, it becomes ethereal and soul-baring as it plays its part in this powerful and poignant song.

A rumbling sound ushers in a distant piano on Apparition, which is accompanied by an array of samples and strings. They set the scene and add to the tension as Erik Honoré’s vocal is transformed into an instrument as he improvises and injects emotion and drama into his vocal. Maybe he has seen an  Apparition, and is trying to convince himself the ghostlike figure doesn’t exist. Behind him, swells of cinematic strings, join beeps and squeaks as Erik Honoré paints pictures on a soundscape that is sure to set the listener’s imagination racing. 

Procession is a near eight minute epic, which Erik Honoré remixed live at a Stian Westerhus’ concert at Punkt 2016. Straight away, there’s a hypnotic sound as a sampled vocal is repeated and joins drums to create a captivating and mesmeric backdrop. Meanwhile, percussion and samples are deployed and add to the dreamy, hypnotic sound that is reminiscent of The Orb as Procession floats along, making the world seem a better place.

The Park closes Unrest, with Arve Henriksen’s trumpet ushering in Erik Honoré’s vocal which is accompanied by the distant ethereal sound of a choir and occasional bursts of thunder. Synths are deployed are but used subtly, ensuring they don’t overpower the choir and the vocal as it delivers evocative and powerful lyrics. Later, when Arve Henriksen’s trumpet enters, it adds the finishing touch to one of the highlights of Unrest.

Just over three years after Erik Honoré released his debut album Heliographs September 2014, he returned recently with Unrest which was also released by Hubro Music. Erik Honoré described Unrest as: “Heliograph’s ‘Dark-Eyed Sister.’” That is a good description of Unrest, which is album that has an intensity and an element darkness and drama. 

Unrest is also an evocative album that that triggers emotions and forces the listener to think as Erik Honoré and his all-star band paint pictures during the eight cinematic soundscapes. Some of the soundscapes on Unrest are chameleon-like, as Erik Honoré takes the listener on a musical roller coaster. Occasionally, he throws curveballs as darkness and drama give way to beauty. Other soundscapes are ruminative, while others have an ethereal quality as Erik Honoré combines disparate musical genres.

This was the case on his debut album Heliographs, and is the case on Erik Honoré’s eagerly awaited sophomore album Unrest. It finds Erik Honoré combining elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental music, improv, jazz and musique concrète. There’s even a hint of Krautrock on Procession, which the multitalented Erik Honoré remixed live at a Stian Westerhus’ concert at Punkt 2016. It’s quite unlike the other soundscapes on Unrest, but shows Erik Honoré’s versatility and ability to innovate.

Innovating is something that fifty year old Erik Honoré has been doing throughout a four decade career. Mostly, he’s worked with other people, been part of a band or most recently, collaborated with his partner Greta Aagre. As a result, Unrest is only Erik Honoré’s sophomore album. However, Unrest is a career defining album from musical pioneer Erik Honoré whose honed and sculpted his own unique and inimitable sound and style which debuted on Heliographs and makes a welcome return on Unrest.

It has been well worth the three-year wait, and Unrest is sure to set the bar high for Erik Honoré’s future. Doubtless, he will rise to challenge once again, and return with another ambitious album of imaginative, innovative and influential music as befits one of the leading lights of the vibrant Norwegian music scene. However, Erik Honoré reaches new heights on Unrest, which  is a captivating album which feature a mixture of intensity, darkness, drama, emotion and ethereal beauty, that sometimes, features a ruminative sound that invites reflection as one of Norwegian music’s pioneers, paints pictures on eight cerebral and cinematic soundscapes.

Erik Honoré-Unrest.



Erland Dahlen-Clocks.

Label: Hubro Music.

For the last three decades, forty-six year old drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen has been regarded as one of Norway’s top drummers. He’s the drummer’s drummer, and the man who the great and good of Norwegian music go to when they’re looking for a drummer. As a result, Erland Dahlen is constantly in demand for session work, and has now over 300 credits to his name. Erland Dahlen has been like a musical gunslinger who travels from town to town, playing on album after album. So much so, that studios are like a second home to Erland Dahlen. However, in 2011, there was one was thing missing from Erland Dahlen’s impressive CV…a solo album.

By then, Erland Dahlen has just turned forty, and decided that now was the time to record his debut album. Rolling Bomber was released Hubro Music in February 2012. It was hailed as one of the finest albums of 2012. Erland Dahlen’s solo career was underway.

In August 2015, Erland Dahlen returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album Blossom Bells. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Blossom Bells, which was nominated for a Spellemannspris, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Erland Dahlen’s solo career was going from strength-to-strength, and the followup to Blossom Bells was eagerly awaited. 

Recently, the wait was over when Erland Dahlen released Clocks on Hubro Music. Clocks features six epic cinematic soundscapes, and is without doubt, the most ambitious album of Erland Dahlen’s long and illustrious career. 

Erland Dahlen was born in Ulefoss, Norway, on the ’15th’ of May 1971. Growing up, Erland Dahlen discovered music, and started to learn to play the drums. Little did he know that this was when he had first lesson that he would end up one of Norway’s top drummers.

As the new millennia dawned, Erland Dahlen’s career was well underway. He was by then, an established session musician and was had a countless credits to his name. This included playing on albums by some of the biggest names in Norwegian music. However, when he wasn’t working as a session musician, Erland Dahlen was a member of a couple of groups.

This included the jazz group HET, who released their debut album Lost In The Lurch in 2002. Erland Dahlen wrote four of the seven tracks, played and programmed the drums, marimba, added vocals and took charge of the electronics. Alas, there was no followup to Lost In The Lurch, and Erland Dahlen concentrated his efforts on another group, Kiruna.

They released their genre-melting debut Irun in 2002. By the tine Kiruna returned with groundbreaking sophomore album Tarasarus in 2007, Erland Dahlen was a member of two other groups.

Erland Dahlen had joined Madrugada in 2005, and played on their fourth studio album Deep End, and their live album, Live at Tralfamadore. Both of these albums were released to plaudits and praise in 2005. Then in 2007, Erland Dahlen played on Madrugada’s eponymous sixth album. When Madrugada was released in 2008, it proved to be the band’s swan-song. By then, Erland Dahlen was a member of another new band, Boschamaz.

Just like Kiruna, Boschamaz’s music incorporated a variety of disparate influences. That was apparent on their debut album This Is Not Sweden in 2007. It was an ambitious genre-melting album that fused elements of ambient, electronic, experimental,  jazz and post rock. However, it would be another four years before Boschamaz returned with the followup to This Is Not Sweden.

Over the next four years, Erland Dahlen continued to work as a session musician, and by 2011 he was recognised as one of Norway’s top drummers. He had spent over a decade as working as a session musician, and had divided his time between playing on other people’s albums and as a member of HET, Kiruna, Madrugada and Boschamaz. They returned with their sophomore album Rød in 2011, a year later. It was the last album the group released. Meanwhile, another group were about to hit the comeback trail, Kiruna.  

Kiruna made a welcome return after five years away when they released their third album The River in 2012. While the album was well received by critics, Kiruna like Boschamaz haven’t returned with another album. Since then, Erland Dahlen has had other things on his mind…his solo career.

When Erland Dahlen turned forty, he realised that there was still one glaring omission from his impressive and burgeoning CV, a solo album. He was a veteran of a couple of hundred seasons, and took to the stage with everyone from Stian Westerhus, Eivind Aarset, Hannah Hukkelberg,  Anja Garbarek, Nils Petter Molvaer and Xploding Plastix, to John-Paul Jones and Mike Patton. Still, though Erland Dahlen hadn’t released his solo album. He decided that now, the time was right to embark upon a solo career, which he could fit around his session work and his work as a producer.

As 2012 dawned, Erland Dahlen was preparing to release his eagerly awaited debut album Rolling Bomber. It was released by Hubro Music to praise and plaudits in February 2012. When the year drew to close, Rolling Bomber was hailed as one of the finest albums of 2012. Erland Dahlen’s solo career was underway.

Just over three years later, in August 2015, Erland Dahlen returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album Blossom Bells. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Blossom Bells, which was later, nominated for a Spellemannspris, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Erland Dahlen’s solo career was going from strength-to-strength, and the followup to Blossom Bells was eagerly awaited. 

After a two-year wait, the drummer’s drummer Erland Dahlen will make a welcome return when he releases Clocks, which features six epic cinematic soundscapes. They’ve been carefully created by Erland Dahlen and using his newly expanded musical arsenal.

Throughout his career, Erland Dahlen has collected a myriad of disparate musical instruments. Some of these he’s put to good use on his two previous Rolling Bomber and Blossom Bells. However, for Clocks Erland Dahlen has put together an unlikely array of musical instruments. He explains: “before I went into the studio to make this album I bought some Cymbells, a Mellotron, several large sheets of metal and a variety of drum machines and stringed instruments.” That isn’t all. 

On Clocks, Erland Dahlen also used antique drums from the thirties, a selection of gongs, xylophones, bells, bowed instruments and strings as well as drone-boxes and electronics. Sometimes, Erland Dahlen has to think outside the box to recreate the sound he wants to create. This resulted in him using the sounds of knives and forks, or even marbles rolling on a plate. Erland Dahlen believed that: “it’s incredibly inspiring to explore new instruments and find new sounds.” They certainly play their part in what’s the most ambitious album.

So did two of Erland Dahlen’s ex-colleagues in Xploding Plastix. Hallvard W. Hagen remixed the track Lizard, while Jens Petter Nilsen mixed Clocks. All that remained was for Helge Sten to master at Audio Virus Lab and Clocks would be ready for release. It’s the album that critics, cultural commentators and music fans have spent two years waiting for.

As the title-track opens Clocks, there’s an element of drama and tension. This comes courtesy of the rhythmic, rounded sound of the drums. They’re panned as an array of disparate sounds flit in and out of the arrangement. This ranges from a scrabbled guitar, synths, drone box, gongs, percussion and a steel drum. Later, eerie, buzzing and jangling sounds join with guitars and soar high above the arrangement as drums power the arrangement along. By now, Erland Dahlen is a one-man band as he unleashes a myriad of instruments. They combine to create a soundscape that is full of drama and tension, as it veers between uplifting to otherworldly. Always, Clocks has a cinematic sound and sets the imagination racing before it reaches a crescendo. 

Briefly, there’s an understated, orchestral sound at the start of Glas. Soon, karate drums are unleashed and crack, as flourishes of percussion join washes of shimmering guitar and bells. They create an elegiac backdrop while drums scamper and a myriad of beeps and squeaks join the ominous sound of a bass synth. It taps out a code, as if sending a message to distant land on what could easily be part of the soundtrack for a sci-fi film. 

As Ship unfolds, Erland Dahlen’s drums briefly reference Krautrock. Then a drum roll signals it’s all change as drums pound and join with gongs, bells, xylophone, percussion and electronics. By then, there’s an element of drama, as this eight minute epic starts to reveal its secrets. A gong adds a hypnotic siren sound, as if the Ship is distress. Meanwhile, Erland Dahlen powers his way round his drum kit combining drama and urgency, as a variety of sounds flit in and out. This ranges from Eastern sound to jangling and deliberate sound. All of a sudden, a haunting vocal emerges from deep in the mix, and adds the to the drama. So do a variety of stringed instruments, electronics, handclaps, percussion, and bells. They’re all part of a carefully crafted and dramatic soundscape, that documents life and drama aboard the Ship as it sets sail across the ocean.

What better way to follow one eight minute epic than with another, Bear. Straight away, a drone box combines with the drums to create an ominous backdrop. They’re joined by a droning organ as a searing guitar cuts through the arrangement. This adds to the drama. So do the keyboards as the arrangement ebbs and flows, drama almost ever-present. Meanwhile, bells rings and effects are added to the arrangement which briefly distorts. Then eerie, otherworldly and buzzing sounds are added as the soundscape shimmers and shivers, as it marches to the beat of Erland Dahlen’s drum. Latterly, the soundscape is haunting, futuristic, atmospheric and evocative. It’s without doubt, one of the pieces of music Erland Dahlen has ever recorded during his three album solo career.

In the distance the ethereal sound of Lizard can be heard. As it unfolds, beeps and squeals are added and create a mesmeric backdrop. Soon, a drum roll signals that things are about to change. Effects are added, and as the arrangement howls, beeps and buzzes. By now, the soundscape sounds like a man machine, as it slowly comes to life. Meanwhile, bells ring and jangle, while eerie, otherworldly sounds are added as drums pitter patter. When rapid fire beeps emerge from the arrangement, it’s as if the man machine is malfunctioning. Later, quivering, shivering sounds join bells, beeps and squeaks during this captivating cinematic soundscape that features Erland Dahlen at his inventive and innovative.

Closing Clocks is Wood a seven minute epic, where drums play while  Erland Dahlen improvises and the sound of a marble rolling across a plate can be heard. So can a drone boxes, keyboards and percussion. They’re joined by bells, gongs and bursts of thunder. Sounds flit in and out, some playing a fleeting visit, while others play a leading role as Erland Dahlen puts his mutual palette to good use. This includes the eerie, otherworldly sound that Erland Dahlen has put to good throughout Clocks. It joins an array of bells and drums, and plays its part in the sound and success of another atmospheric, evocative and thought-provoking cinematic soundscape.

After six tracks lasting thirty-nine minutes, Erland Dahlen’s third album Clocks is over. All that remains is the memory of what’s without doubt the most ambitious and cinematic album from sonic pioneer Erland Dahlen. He wrote, played all the interments and produced the six epic soundscapes on Clocks. It sounds like a soundtrack album, awaiting a film.

Erland Dahlen unleashed his creating and imagination on Clocks, which has been compared to Antonio Sanchez’s percussive score for Birdman. However, given the array of influences and reference points, a much more accurate comparison would be the soundtrack work of Tangerine Dream, Ryuichi Sakamoto or former Stewart Copeland’s music for Rumblefish. They may have been amongst the influences and inspirations for Erland Dahlen. So to some extent was Japanese musician, composer and producer  Yasuaki Shimizu, plus American composer, music theorist and creator of bespoke musical instruments Harry Partch. He also successfully transformed an array of everyday items into musical instruments. This Erland Dahlen did when recording his genre-melting, cinematic opus Clocks.

On Clocks Erland Dahlen combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental, Krautrock, Nordic Wave, post rock, psychedelia and rock. Disparate musical genres melt into one, on an album that’s variously dark and dramatic, to elegiac and ethereal, to eerie, futuristic, haunting and otherworldly. Other times, the music is atmospheric and evocative, before becoming emotive and uplifting and then ruminative, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Always the music on Clocks is inventive, innovative and cinematic as Erland Dahlen creates music that is sure to set the listener’s imagination racing. That’s not all.

Without doubt Clocks is the most ambitious album of forty-six year old Erland Dahlen’s career. Although Clocks is just his third album, Erland Dahlen draws upon a lifetime’s musical experience that comes with playing on over 300 albums. The result is Clocks, a breathtaking, career-defining album of atmospheric epic cinematic soundscapes from sonic pioneer, Erland Dahlen.

Erland Dahlen-Clocks.


The Johnstons-Bitter Green, Colours Of The Dawn and If I Sang My Song.

Label: BGO Records.

During the mid-sixties, folk music on both sides of the Atlantic was growing in popularity, in America and Britain. It was a similar case in Ireland, where a number of folk bands were founded, including The Johnstons in Slane, County Meath, whose original lineup featured Adrienne Johnston, her younger sister Lucy and brother Michael. 

When The Johnstons started out in the early sixties, they had a ready-made venue on their doorstep, their father Marty’s pub in Slane. That was where they made their debut, singing Irish ballads and folk songs in their father Marty’s pub in Slane, with Michael Johnston playing a twelve-string guitar as Adrienne and Lucy sang harmonies. This went down well with the customers, and soon, people were coming to the pub to see The Johnstons sing. Before long, The Johnstons were heading further afield.

It wasn’t long before The Johnstons started to get bookings in the Dublin area, and made their to the capital of the Republic Of Ireland. By then, the group had only been together for a short time. This made what happened next a remarkable achievement.

The Johnstons decided to enter the first ever Wexford Ballad Competition in February 1966. At stake was a £100 first prize and more importantly, an appearance on the Irish television programme the Late Late Show. Despite their relative inexperience Adrienne Johnston, her sixteen year old younger sister Lucy, and brother Michael triumphed and won the inaugural Wexford Ballad Competition. They arrived home that night £100 richer and with an appearance on the Late Late Show to look forward to.  The Johnstons had come a long way in a short.

Life was about to get even better for The Johnstons, who were offered a recording contract by Pye Records. One of the first songs The Johnstons recorded was a cover of Ewan McColl’s The Travelling People, which topped the Irish charts in 1966. This transformed The Johnstons career and indeed lives.

Suddenly, The Johnstons embarked upon a gruelling touring schedule and were constantly on television. They also had to find time to record  a second single. Before that, Michael Johnston left the band that he had founded, and was replaced by Paul Brady who would go on to enjoy a long and successful solo career and become one of the biggest names in Irish music.

When Paul Brady from Strabane, County Donegal, joined The Johnstons, he came from a very different musical background, and had previously played in various R&B and beat groups. He was a talented musician and vocalist who would play an important part in The Johnstons’ success. However, Paul Brady wasn’t the only new name joining The Johnstons.

The other musician joining The Johnstons was Limerick born Mick Moloney, a multi-instrumentalist, who had been a member of The Emmet Folk Group. He had also worked with a number of well known Irish traditional musicians. Mick Moloney and Paul Brady made their debut on The Johnstons’ sophomore single.

For their followup to The Travelling People, The Johnstons recorded and released The Alamo later in 1966. It charted and The Johnstons’ popularity continued to grow. By then, The Johnstons were a popular draw and in Dublin and a familiar face in city’s folk scene. The addition of Paul Brady and Mick Moloney had allowed The Johnstons to expand their repertoire. This ensured that The Johnstons’ popularity continued to grow.

Especially when The Johnstons’ third single I Never Will Marry was released by the Pye Records’ imprint Target in 1967 and charted. This was the group’s third consecutive single, but still, The Johnstons hadn’t released an album. However, this would change when they signed to the London-based Transatlantic Records in early 1968.

Signing to Transatlantic Records was the start of a new chapter for The Johnstons, who many critics though were on the verge of making a breakthrough in Britain and Europe. Their music, which was a mixture of folk songs and traditional music had found an audience in Ireland, and Transatlantic Records hoped would soon, find an audience further afield.

When it came to choosing their debut single. The Johnstons recorded and released They’ll Never Get Their Man on Transatlantic Records in 1968. Just like their three previous singles, it gave The Johnstons a hit single in Ireland. Later in 1968, The Johnstons released their eponymous debut album which featured a mixture of folk songs and traditional music. This proved popular in Ireland and was a commercial success. 

Further cementing The Johnstons reputation was one of Ireland’s leading folk groups was the success of the Gaelic language singe Gleanntáin Ghlas Ghaoth Dobhair they released on the Gael Linn Records. By then, The Johnstons’ popularity was at an all-time high in Britain and Ireland and critics on both sides of the Irish Sea were praising the group.

After the success of their eponymous debut album, The Johnstons returned in 1969 with not one, but two albums, Give A Damn and The Barley Corn which they released simultaneously. The two albums showcased a versatile band who were able to interpret, arrange and perform a wide range of different songs that would appeal to do different types people. 

The Barley Corn saw The Johnstons return to the sound that featured on their eponymous debut album, and was a mixture of folk songs and traditional Irish and Scottish music. This proved popular, as the music chosen replicated The Johnstons’ live sound. However, The Barley Corn featured a polished performance from The Johnstons, who changed direction on Give A Damn, which was another successful album.

Part of the success of Give A Damn were the songs that were chosen by The Johnstons and the album’s much more contemporary sound. The Johnstons covered Ewan McColl’s, Sweet Thames Flow Softly and Dave Cousins of The Strawbs’ You Keep Going Your Way. Three of the songs on Give A Damn were by two up-and-coming singer-songwriters. One of these was Joni Mitchell, who wrote Urge For Going and Both Sides, while Leonard Cohen penned Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. These songs were joined Julia and Walking Out On Foggy Mornings which were penned by Irish songwriter Jon Ledingham. These songs featured a slick sounding performance from The Johnstons and a contemporary sound that found favour with a wider audience.

After the success of The Barley Corn and Give A Damn, The Johnstons decided that the only way to further their career, was to make the journey across the Irish Sea to London. This was a journey many Irish artists and bands had made over the years. However, Lucy Johnston didn’t want to leave her home in Dublin, where she had married photographer Roy Esmonde. As a result, there was only one original member of The Johnstons left in the band, and even Adrienne Johnston would later come to regret making the journey to London.

Once The Johnstons had settled in London, they would begin work on their fourth album Bitter Green, which is joined by Colours Of The Dawn and If I Sang My Song which feature on a two CD set recently released by BGO Records.

Bitter Green.

By the time The Johnstons started work Bitter Green, they were regularly touring Britain, Ireland and Europe, especially Germany, Holland and Scandinavia where their popularity was growing. The Johnstons’ music often featured on radio and they were making regular appearances on television. The Johnstons had come a long way since they started singing in Marty’s pub in Slane.

For Bitter Green, The Johnstons decided to combine the music that had featured on The Barley Corn and Give A Damn. Covers of Ewan McColl’s Jesus Was A Carpenter, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Gypsy and Bitter Green joined Leonard Cohen’s The Story Of Isaac and Joni Mitchell’s Marcie. These songs were a reminder of the music on Give A Damn, while a selection of traditions songs harked back to The Barley Corn and their eponymous debut album The Johnstons. This included 

Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender, The Kilfenora Jig, Fiddler’s Green and The Penny Wager. They were joined by reels a medley of reels which included The Fair Haired Boy, Kiss The Maiden Behind The Barrel and The Dawn which were all arranged by Paul Brady, Adrienne Johnston and Mick Moloney.

The recording of Bitter Green took place at Sound Techniques, in London, where The Johnstons recorded their next single. It was a cover of Ralph McTell’s Streets Of London, which as apt given The Johnstons had just relocated from Dublin to London a year ago.

When Bitter Green was released later in 1969,  it found favour amongst critics on both sides of the Irish Sea. Bitter Green was regarded as one the best albums of The Johnstons’ career so far. It was certainly the most eclectic of the four albums that The Johnstons had released on Transatlantic Records. 

Bitter Green featured a mixture of traditional Irish music and contemporary soundings songs. The traditional Irish music was represented by a variety of jigs and reels, where The Johnstons replicated their live sound. Then on the five covers of songs by Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and a poignant reading Ewan McColl’s Jesus Was A Carpenter, The Johnstons became a very different band as they returned to the contemporary sound  that featured on Give A Damn. It was an ambitious and bold album where  The Johnstons tried to appeal to as many people as possible.

For some, critics the contemporary sound that The Johnstons revisited on Bitter Green had a much wider appeal than the traditional Irish music. This they believed in the long term, had a limited audience outside of Ireland and the Irish diaspora. Traditional music some critics felt that it would only take The Johnstons so far. However, at that time it seemed unlikely that The Johnstons would turn their back on their musical roots.

After the release of Bitter Green, which sold reasonably well, The Johnstons released their cover of The Streets Of London as a single. in 1970. This was followed by The Johnstons Sampler later in 1970, which featured tracks from their first three albums and their singles. The Johnstons Sampler bought the group time while they recorded their sixth album  Colours Of The Dawn.

Colours Of The Dawn.

After a tour of Britain and Ireland, The Johnstons returned to Sound Techniques, in London, where they recorded their next album Colours Of The Dawn. By then, Chris McCloud was part of The Johnstons inner circle after he began a relationship with Adrienne Johnston and the pair would eventually marry. Before that, he produced Colours Of The Dawn which marked the start of a new chapter in The Johnstons’ career. 

Unlike previous albums, The Johnstons dispensed with the traditional Irish music that had been a feature of their previous album and moved towards a much more contemporary sound. To do this, Paul Brady wrote Brightness, She Came and penned Colours Of The Dawn and I’ll Be Gone In The Morning with Chris McCloud. He also contributed Crazy Anne and Angela Davies. Cover versions included Gordon Lightfoot’s If I Could, Leonard Cohen’s Seems So Long Ago, Nancy, Ian Campbell’s The Old Man’s Tale and Peggy Seeger’s Hello, Friend. These nine songs would become Colours Of The Dawn which was released in January 1971.

Critics on hearing Colours Of The Dawn, heard a very different album from The Johnstons, whose songs were full of social and political comment to from The Johnstons.  They commented on recent political events and even broached the subject of political subversives. The Johnstons also commented on racism and the class struggle on Hello, Friend and The Old Man’s Tale which bookended the album. In between, were the Paul Brady compositions where he ruefully remembers the illusory and fleeting nature of relationships, on Brightness, She Came and on I’ll Be Gone In The Morning. There’s also a cinematic quality to Colours Of The Dawn, where The Johnstons paint pictures with the lyrics. However, two beautiful songs and poignant songs were the covers of Gordon Lightfoot’s If I Could and Leonard Cohen’s ruminative reading of Seems So Long Ago, Nancy which played their part in the sound and success of Colours Of The Dawn, which was The Johnstons’ finest album. 

The Johnstons’ decision to release an album without any traditional Irish music had paid off. It was as if they had belatedly realised that traditional Irish music was only going to take them so far. Having realised this, The Johnstons decided to return the contemporary sound of Give A Damn. This paid off, when Colours Of The Dawn sold well and was released by Vanguard in America later in 1971.

Just when things were going well for The Johnstons, Mick Moloney decided to leave the band. For The Johnstons this was a huge blow, but they decided to continue as a duo.

Later in 1971, the two reminding members of The Johnstons toured America for the first time, and opened for Joan Baez in front of an audience of 20,000. They then appeared at Gerde’s Folk City in New York, played at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and opened for Arlo Guthrie and Bonnie Raitt. This was all good experience for The Johnstons, who when they retrained home, would begin work on their next album, If I Sang My Song.

If I Sang My Song.

By the time work began on If I Sang My Song, Adrienne Johnston and Paul Brady had made the decision to relocate, this time to America, where New York became their latest base. However, The Johnstons  returned to London to record If I Sang My Song, once the material for the album was completed.

By then, the two remaining members of The Johnstons had chosen the ten songs, that became If I Sang My Song. This included December Windows and Continental Trailways Bus which were penned by Paul Brady. He and Chris McCloud wrote The Wind In My Hands, Won’t You Come With Me, Border Child, If I Sang My Song and You Ought To Know. Adrienne Johnston wrote Bread And Wine and The Morning Of Our Love with Chris McCloud, who also contributed I Get To Thinking. These songs were recorded in the now familiar environs of Sound Techniques, London.

Joining the two remaining members of The Johnstons was a band that featured drummer Phil Chesterton and Steeleye Span bassist Rick Kemp. They were joined by pianist Don Fraser, flautist Frank Nolan, fiddler Joseph Templeton and Keith Bleashv on congas. Peter Abrahamsen and Hallvard Kvale ‘played’ kazoo while Steeleye Span’s Tm Hart joined Royston Wood and Paul Brady in adding backing vocals. Paul Brady sang lead vocals and harmonies, plus played acoustic and electric guitar, electronic pain, harmonium and whistle. Adrienne Johnston sang lead vocals and harmonies, while Chris McCloud took charge of production. When  If I Sang My Song was completed, it was released in 1972.

If I Sang My Song saw The Johnstons’ music continue to evolve and sometimes moved towards a folk rock sound on Won’t You Come With Me, If I Sang My Song and You Ought To Know which rubbed shoulders with beautiful orchestrated ballads including The Wind In My Hands, I Get To Thinking and the beautiful, ethereal sounding December Windows which features one of Paul Brady’s best vocals. One of the ballads Border Child, dealt with the perilous political situation in Paul Brady’s home country of Ireland. Then on the cinematic sounding Continental Trailways Bus, Paul Brady remembers the countless journeys he took between New York and Philly. These songs were part of an album that received critical acclaim upon its release. 

If I Sang My Song was by far, the finest album of The Johnstons six-year and seven album career. Many critics thought that The Johnstons  had found their sound, and the combination of folk rock and orchestrated ballads was the direction they should head in. This critics and music industry insiders though that this was what The Johnstons should’ve done years ago. Their determination not to turn their back on their roots had held them back long enough. Now was their chance to shine, and realise their potential.

As a result, after the release of If I Sang My Song, The Johnstons added lead guitarist and bassist Gavin Spencer to their lineup, and returned to touring as a trio. They even got as far as working on new songs while The Johnstons toured the East Coast of America. However, the end was nigh for The Johnstons.

In 1973, and after seven years and seven studio albums, it was the end of the road for The Johnstons. The band split-up in 1973, and Paul Brady who remained in New York managed to survive by painting houses and playing in Irish folk clubs. However, he left New York behind when he was invited to join Planxty for the second time.

The first time Paul Brady turned down the chance to replace Donal Lunny due to his commitment to The Johnstons. That proved to be a mistake, but when Christy Moore left Planxty came calling again, and  Paul Brady joined the group. By then, he was an experience singer-songwriter, who would go on to enjoy a successful solo career.

Sadly, the story of Adrienne Johnston is a tragic one. For the last few years of Adrienne Johnston’s life, even members of her family and her closest friends were unable to contact her.  As a result, Adrienne Johnston never knew that her father Marty, whose pub in Slane, she first sang in, had passed away. Adrienne Johnston died in 1981, and the date on her grave states the former lead singer of The Johnstons passed away on the ’27th’ of May. However, even Adrienne Johnston’s death is shrouded in mystery and speculation.

While the coroner’s ruling was that Adrienne Johnston’s death was accidental, many believe that she was murdered. This stems from a conversation that the medical examiner is alleged to have had with a family member, and expressed: “concerns about this case.” Later, there were allegations that Adrienne Johnston was possibly the victim of a domestic abuse, and suffered at the hands of a partner who was controlling, opportunist. These are just allegations, and nothing has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. 

Paul Brady and Adrienne Johnston’s lives took very different paths after The Johnstons’ spilt-up, and one can only wonder what would’ve happened if the band had stayed together? 

By 1972, The Johnstons had released a trio of albums that had been released to praise and plaudits, including Bitter Green, Colours Of The Dawn and If I Sang My Song which were recently released by released by BGO Records as a two CD set. Bitter Green with its mixture of traditional Irish music and a much more contemporary sound, hinted at what was to come for The Johnstons. They were reborn on Colours Of The Dawn which features the contemporary sound that showed a very different side to the band. The evolution of The Johnstons continued on If I Sang My Song, where The Johnstons combine orchestrated ballads and folk rock on what was their finest hour, and The Johnstons swan-song of a band that could’ve reached even greater heights.

The Johnstons-Bitter Green, Colours Of The Dawn and If I Sang My Song.


The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music.

Label: BBE Music.

The names Sonoton, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Cavendish Music roll off the tongue of aficionados of library music, which ranges from a small coterie of collectors to sample hungry hip hop producers to DJs and compilers like Mr Thing and Chris Read. The two BBE stalwarts were part of the chosen few who were invited into the inner sanctum that is Cavendish Music’s vast London vaults in 2014 when the pair were participating in WhoSampled’s Samplethon event.This was a competition where producers had to create new tracks using samples of tracks from the Cavendish vaults. There was a catch though, everyone was against the clock. 

This must have been hugely frustrating for Mr Thing and Chris Read who at last, had gained access to the Cavendish vaults, which is the largest independent library music publisher in Britain, and also represents many music catalogues from the four corners of the globe. However, with time at a premium, Mr Thing and Chris Read were unable to take time to discover all of the treasure and hidden gems that were hidden within the Cavendish vaults. However, whilst looking through a box of records and tapes, the pair discovered an eclectic selection of timeless library music that they felt deserved to be heard by a wider audience in its original form. Some of that music found its way onto The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music, which is a two LP set that be released by BBE on the ‘10th’ of November 2017. It’s a captivating and fascinating insight into the little known world of library music.  

The origins of Cavendish Music can be traced back to 1930, when two of Britain’s long-established and well-respected musical companies Boosey and Company and Hawkes and Son merged and became Boosey and Hawkes. By the time Leslie Boosey and Ralph Hawkes’ companies became one, the combined company manufactured brass, string and woodwind instruments and was well on the way to becoming the world largest classical musical publisher. Later, Boosey and Hawkes became the largest independent library music publisher in Britain, and represented many different music catalogues from around the world. That was still to come.

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

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

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

Once the library music was recorded, record libraries like Boosey and Hawkes, which is now known as Cavendish Music, sent out demonstration copies of their music to production companies. If the production companies liked what they heard, they would license a track or several tracks from the music libraries. That was how it was meant to work.

Often, the music recorded on spec by library companies was never licensed. Since then, many of the tracks have lain unheard in the vaults of music libraries like Cavendish Music. That was no surprise, because during the sixties and seventies, which was the golden age for library music, and indeed Cavendish Music, when a vast quantity of music was recorded in the hope that it would license the tracks and use them in films, television or radio.

Sometimes that proved to be the case; especially during the sixties and seventies, when the music created by these groups of largely anonymous composers, musicians and producers provided the soundtrack to some of the biggest television programmes on British television, ranging from The Sweeney and The Professionals to cartoons like Dangermouse and current affairs to quiz shows. Many of these themes became part of the soundtrack to British life and are fondly remembered by a generation of adults. However, not everyone in Britain was a fan of library music.

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

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

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

Later, sample hungry hip hop producers who dug deep into the crates found albums of library music. This was the ‘inspiration’ that they were looking for, and many ‘borrowed’ samples from their newfound musical treasure. Soon, other producers, DJs and collectors went in search of these long-overlooked albums of library music. Since then, they’ve become increasingly collectable, with producers continuing to sample them, while DJs incorporating library music into their sets. There’s also a number of collectors who spend their time and money looking for, and buying albums of library music. Just like the producers and DJs, these collectors were aficionados of library music and are sure to enjoy the twenty-three tracks that feature on The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music which is a lovingly compiled double album.

The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music features an eclectic section of music that was recorded by largely anonymous groups of musicians. They were given a variety of names by the staff at Cavendish Music, which ranged from Sound Studio Orchestra to The Cavendish Orchestra, The New Dance Orchestra and the groovy sounding Sound Studio Set. Other times, the musicians became The New Sounds or the exotic sounding The Latin American Orchestra who contribute Come Cuban! Sometimes, the musicians arrived at the studio to be told that they were going to become The New Concert Orchestra or The New Percussion Octet. It was like a real-life episode of Mr. Benn who was also a beneficiary of library music during his lifetime. These various groups feature on The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music and seamlessly switch between themes, moods and genres.

That is the case throughout The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music, where this group of versatile and talented musicians create twenty-three tracks that the executives at Cavendish Music hoped would be used on films, television and radio. 

Side A.

Certainly one can imagine the Sound Studio Orchestra’s recording of the Dennis Farnon compositions Southbound and Snowmobile finding their way onto the soundtrack to a British television show in 1974. Snowmobile sounds as if it belongs on an episode of The Sweeney, accompanying a rueful Jack Reagan as the blaggers get away. 

Trevor Duncan wrote Funkund which was recorded by The Cavendish Orchestra in 1975, and just like the John Scott 1979 composition Milky Way and Tony Kinsey’s Kaleidoscope from 1979 have a seventies cinematic sound that paints pictures and bring back memories of cop shops where car chases and punch-ups were the order of the day. These tracks are sure to bring back memories to people of a ‘certain’ age.

Side B.

The New Dance Orchestra recorded the Dennis Farnon composition The Trackers in 1972, a stirring, dramatic big band recording that sounds as if it’s been inspired by Lalo Schifrin’s film scores. 

Sound Studio Set recorded two of Pete Moore of compositions in 1974, Two Bars and The Scape Goat in 1974. They’re among the jazzy numbers on the compilation. One of the hidden gems on the compilation is the John Cacavas composition, The Big Score, which was recorded by The Cavendish Orchestra. They combine elements of jazz and funk to create a filmic instrumental that in 1973 should’ve provided the backdrop to a script that featured cops and conmen. Closing Side B is The Latin American Orchestra who recorded the Come Cuban! in 1971 which shows just how eclectic library music was.

Side C.

The five tracks on Side C were written by Dennis Farnon, who was a talented composer who could write music for all types of moods and situations. This ranges from The Rally which was recorded by the Sound Studio Orchestra in 1974, and would’ve been the perfect accompaniment to footage of souped-up Hillman Imps, Minis and Ford Escorts racing across the British countryside. So would Night Driver which was one three  Dennis Farnon compositions recorded by The New Dance Orchestra in 1972. Just like Border Incident and Lady Killers, Night Driver would’ve been the perfect soundtrack to high-speed car chases in a television shows or films in 1972, as pre-PACE and non-PC PCs chased bad guys and dished out justice in their own Old Testament way. This they do to a soundtrack penned by Dennis Farnon and recorded by The New Dance Orchestra.

Side D.

The New Dance Orchestra return and open Side D with the first of their two versions of Sam Fonteyn’s One Long Trip. The Warm Version was recorded in 1971, while the Cool Version was recorded in 1973. Mr. Thing and Chris Read’s decision to include the two versions offers the opportunity to compare and contrast these two timeless tracks. It’s a similar case with the inclusion of the long and short versions of The New Concert Orchestra’s Night Shade which were recorded in 1973. This allows listeners two opportunities to reflect as they enjoy this beautiful, ruminative and rueful track. 

Another orchestrated track from 1973 was Smile Of A Stranger, which was recorded by The New Sounds. It also features some funky guitar which will appeal to sample hungry producers. They’ll enjoy the delights of The New Percussion Octet’s Graphic Pt. 2 which was recorded in 1972 and is a source of myriad of different percussion. It’s the final track on The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music, which was compiled by DJs, compilers and BBE stalwarts Mr. Thing and Chris Read.

They’ve dug deep into the Cavendish Music vaults for musical delights for delectation of record buyers everywhere and have discovered a myriad of hidden gems and struck musical gold on a number of occasions when compiling The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music. Many of the tracks are a reminder of the type of music that provided the soundtrack to films and television and radio shows during the seventies. For those of a certain age, the music on The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music is a reminder of the seventies, which was a golden age for library music and many would say, British television.

That is why so many seventies’ television shows and films are being remade by new a generation of producers and directors with varying degrees of success. The music on The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music would be perfect for the remakes of these television shows and films as they’re an authentic reminder of the seventies.

The sixties and seventies was the golden age of library music, when companies like Sonoton, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Cavendish Music commissioned a vast amount of music which fifty years later, has found an appreciative audience that includes DJs, sample hungry producers and record collectors. Especially the music recorded and released by Cavendish Music, which was is the largest independent library music publisher in Britain.  Very few people outside of the environs of Cavendish Music have gained access to the company’s vaults until relatively recently. 

Then in 2014, compilers and DJs Mr Thing and Chris Read, two BBE stalwarts, were among the chosen few who have been invited into the inner sanctum that is Cavendish Music’s vast London vaults. That was when  discovered the music that features on The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music, which is a two LP set that will be released by BBE on the ‘10th’ of November 2017. The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music is, without doubt, the best album of library music that has been released during the last few years, and features a myriad of musical treasure and hidden gems aplenty.

The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music.