Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Dätcha Mandala - Rokh, album review

Liking the Lineage, Loads

Formally from Bordeaux and now Mérignac, French band Dätcha Mandala rock in the universal language of Lineage a la Led Zep and exist in that classic rock trio formation which has served so many other acolytes over heavy-time immemorial.

Band members are Nicolas Sauvey - (Lead Vocal/Bass/Acoustic guitar/Harmonica); Jérémy Saigne - ( Lead Guitar and Vocals), and Jb Mallet - (Drums and Vocals) and their delivery of Heavy-Blues-Psychédélique music is about as far-out as it gets, opening two tracks Have You Seen the Light [with space for proper head-banging] and Da Blues belting out the excellent template. Third Misery presents the requisite rock ballad [though it picks up pace], and vocalist Sauvey has a distinctive higher register that warbles with a similar though slightly more rasping Justin Hawkins. Fourth Anahata pumps back into pulverising mode.

Uncommon Travel is a riff-led metal track, the vocal harmonies spreading jam on the toast. Smiling Man is probably the more obvious ballad, an acoustic track graced with West Coast harmonies and lamenting strings so I am totally in my liking-zone by now. Human Free follows with blues and sitar so we are staying thoroughly in the other zone of Time, these mix of middle tracks reflecting a complex re-working of influences.

The album closes on twelve minutes of Loot, here even a little grunge flavour laying the butter beneath that jam, the spread also a chant under the band’s excellent triplet of playing expertise, and the song slows to more chanting before building back up through a sitar rage with pounding bass and drums to reside in a calming acoustic guitar with cello out.

A superb performance from an excellent band highly recommended here.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Hands Music 31

Eric Johnson - Collage, album review

Mellow and Deft

Texan guitarist Eric Johnson demonstrates his lively licks across a mix of self-penned and cover songs, opening on Stevie Wonder’s Up Tight [Everything’s Alright] which is a tough task to rock on but Johnson does just this.

Third To Love You is a sweet ballad slowing the pace, but at eight minutes also providing space for his fine guitar work to luxuriate, as it does – the second solo spot a deep groove of echoed lead.

The instrumental Stratagem is an electrified romp followed by the acoustic instrumental of One Rainy Wish, both demonstrating Johnson’s exemplary playing. This is followed by the Beatles’ cover We Can Work it Out, a Paul Simon’s Gracelands-esque re-working that works. In a dramatic shift, this is followed by the blues standard which B B King’s made well known, Rock Me Baby – and covered by another Texan axeman Johnny Winter – and here Johnson plays it with a jazz-smooth tone and some lightning riffs.

The musical rounds gets visited a la 60s again with an instrumental cover of The Ventures’ Pipeline and this too updates with echo of its time and modernising, the mixed sounds of calypso and Jeff Beck exemplifying the musical meld.

The album closes on another glorious instrumental To Whom It May Concern and Johnson displays here a mellowness within a deft quickness of playing that impresses. A fine album.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Hot Dog Music, Again

We had the series, then an Ultimate, then a Reprise - well, if artists keep using the humble hot dog as an album image, Some Awe will celebrate it.

A road into the distance, a hand, an eyeball/eyes: these seem to be the major go-to symbols, but hot dogs will always be an absurd fav

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Eye Music 17

Mavis Staples - If All I Was Was Black, album review

If Only...

Mavis Staples at 78 has witnessed a world of wrong, and in these songs, mostly written by Jeff Tweedy who also produces, she adds her experience to their narratives, clearly in tune with them in so many ways. Build a Bridge is a fine if distinctive example, a song that echoes, if this makes sense, a Rolling Stones-esque soul-rock number, a chorus in a high register mimicking Jagger, and the lyrics suggesting the positive need for change – still hopeful, after all these years, in Staples' singing endorsement.

There are some stand-out funky numbers on this collection: opener Little Bit with its running up and down riff, a gospel-answering choric vocal and Tweedy’s brisk bending guitar notes; and third Who Told You That which is a funked-up gem.

The title track is the second song, a collaborative write with Tweedy, and the lyrical ruse of If all I… promotes what is so much of this album’s assertion that there is much more to give and achieve in an otherwise negative world, and more specifically the America of Trump and racism and guns and so on. The chorus resonates from the context of Staples' 78 years of experience,

All the love I'd give (Got love to give)
I've got natural gifts (Got natural gifts)
I've got perspective (Got perspective)
Just might make your shift (The way you look at it)

We Go High continues the positive urgings and one has to hope it can matter, though history tells us different. In this respect the album and its music is positioned within that ‘protest’ lineage of earnest but ultimately meaningful songwriting about rather than instrumental in creating change. This is followed by a blues chug of Try Harder which acknowledges evil in the world and the self, perhaps a more realistic summation of who and what we are, though the I am as good as I can be and got to try harder also sums up the other realities of caring. 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Space Music 21

Bob Seger - I Knew You When, album review


I caught up a little with Bob Seeger a while back here, and need to do more [though I have – just didn’t write about it].

This latest seems more of the fine same to me, and that’s an accolade because he has his signature and this is it, though opener Gracile is a dirty swamp-rock that is a stand-out track.

Indeed, for me this album’s strength is its signature sound throughout – basically upfront, straight rock that avoids complexity and is informed by Seger’s distinctive voice – but the fact it is bookended by Gracile and, on the deluxe edition, closer Glenn Song dedicated to his great friend Greg Frey gives it a memorable edge. The percussive beated simplicity of this song’s pace and its foreground lyrics in terms of rhyme are perfect as a fond, unadorned lament, the violin providing its plaintive accompaniment. I think it is superb.

The album also reflects on other passings with covers of Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen, this latter’s selected song Democracy [a rousing cover] so the album is reflecting on more than recent musicians’ deaths. We’re going to get more of this over coming years, sadly, but when it is as honest and self-reflecting as this, the music becomes the truest empathetic obituary.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Into the Distance Music 63

Jeff Lynnes ELO - Wembley or Bust, album review

Long Time Coming

I've written about this before, a couple of years ago. The consolidation of change continues...

When studying in Oxford I used to live in a flat just off the Iffley Road. It was a downstairs flat with another one above.

The first occupant upstairs was an American studying at one of the universities - I forget which - and he once invited me and my wife to his College for a meal in its great hall and with all the service afforded to those studying there. It was a most pleasant experience.

The second occupant was a drunkard and a complete asshole who used to play his music extremely loud late at night and it was usually ELO. I damaged the bathroom ceiling from banging on it for him to turn the volume down; called the police once who said they couldn't do anything for me [a lie I think], and I once stormed up to his place and pulled the stereo lead from the wall in as threatening a manner I could, and I think for that night only he didn't play any music. He probably fell asleep in a drunken stupor.

He ruined our lives at the time, ruined to this day my wife's ability to sleep soundly on a regular basis, and definitely ruined listening to ELO - so much so that hearing the band on the radio made us both sick and angry.

That was around 1979-80. I avoided ELO until 2015. Read here.

So I've listened to this album all these years later with the baggage lightened, especially through the catharsis of disliking intensely the asshole 'above' rather than the music he then played, and it is excellent. Lynnes' vocal is softer it seems to me, and the orchestrations on this recording less full of pomp and more restrained. The songwriting, obviously, retains its brilliance, including that not from ELO.

It's only taken nearly 40 years.