Friday, 29 April 2016

Purson - Desire's Magic Theatre, album review

Pedigree Rock

I'm delighted to have received my signed copy of Purson's latest release Desire's Magic Theatre today, even more so to be listening now to its excellent, intelligent prog/straight rock, all songs composed, arranged and produced by the extraordinary talent that is Rosalie Cunningham who is also the band's lead singer and a fine guitarist. Indeed, Rosalie takes on many of the instrumental duties across all tracks, with touring band and extras getting occasional look-ins [and they are a fine touring band, so this is an interesting division of labour...].

The band will no doubt be sick of references to precursor sounds, so I'm going to avoid that well-trodden route. This is, as I say, excellent and intelligent in its crafting and performance, reviews from me on previous work and live here.

I am and have been for some time a genuine fan and can only reiterate the talent and control of Cunningham on this mature second album. But seeing the band live and finding them quite a collective force, I will just mention fourth track Pedigree Chum where the outstanding bassist Justin Smith gets his storming part, and as we are told within the inner sleeve, '(2nd part only)'. This is accompanied by fine, gutsy saxophone playing from Jon Seagroatt.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Into the Distance Music 33

Sam Lee and Friends - 'Lovely Molly' performance, BBC Folk Awards, 2016

I have written enthusiastically about Sam Lee on record and live here [on the first page] and if any reader wants a further recommendation, I suggest looking at and listening to this genuinely gorgeous performance of Lovely Molly:

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Jingle Bells in the Funk - James Taylor previous post, just in case you were thinking......

James Taylor's Funk

If you aren't convinced, this live performance of Steamroller funks the funk of James Taylor. This is my list of his best sass, and yes, Jingle Bells is one of them, this perhaps the second best to his rolling of the steam:

Sweet Potato Pie
Stretch of the Highway
How Sweet Is Is [To Be Loved By You]
Wasn't That a Mighty Storm
In the Midnight Hour
Jingle Bells
Hallelujah I Love Her So
Knock on Wood
Ain't That Peculia
One More Go Round
Raised Up Family
Night Owl
Let Me Ride

Allison Crowe and Band - Heirs + Grievances, encore

Hastings Gig

Further to my review of the studio recording of Heirs-Grievances, I was pleased to get the full double-cd which includes Introducing (Live).

All I wanted to add is that I was disappointed not to make Allison's one and only live gig here in England, at Hastings, and I haven't been able to find a review of that, but assuming it was full of the joy and fun that comes across on this cd's live offering, the audience at St Mary in the Castle will have been royally entertained.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Top Fifty Albums - Final List and Observations

I Haven't Included Chicago Transit Authority's First and That is a Mistake

I started a ‘Top Fifty’ albums category on this site some years ago, but have left it behind, so to speak, of late. However, I returned to compile a top fifty albums for another venue – thinking I would search here and just include the number I had got to – only to find I had actually achieved my fifty [with some tweaking….].

That tweaking consists of, [1] including John Martyn’s six solo albums from and including Bless the Weather [not entirely reviewed yet, so a next task], and [2] splitting Chris Smither's first two albums into each, having initially cheated and included that twofer as a one. Oh the shenanigans.

So I am posting this Top Fifty Albums list now with a few comments. The first is to say that this list isn’t in a chronological order of preference – I really don’t have the stomach to attempt that, and it wouldn’t be that meaningful. What I do know, however, is that John Martyn’s Bless the Weather would always be first. And is.

The second is a quick extension on the gist of what I was writing about in my previous post about Prince’s death and my liking for his music. I made the distinction – quite an obvious one – that ‘favourites’ in music [and other things, I presume] cannot just be based on the music: it cannot be divorced from the thoughts, feelings, empathy, emotions and so on attached to these, and this reality comes to mind because the selection consists almost entirely of albums with which I ‘grew up’ – so I mean that literally but also in other respects, perhaps in terms of musical taste-shifts, though the list wouldn’t suggest there was much of that.

Most of the favourite albums appear around the late 60s and early 70s period, an influential one in my life as a teenager and young adult. John Martyn being a favourite individual artist, his last in this list was produced in 1980, so there are exceptions. Other exceptions are clear to see, for example, Gillian Welch’s Revival because she has become such another individual and consistent favourite, and Ron Sexsmith’s eponymous album because it is outstanding.

But two others are perhaps more interesting in how they cross over in terms of reasons for being favourites. Pearl Jam’s Ten, 1991, is special because it is brilliant, but because I was in the States visiting family when I first heard, yet also that particular grunge sound was quite reminiscent of the rock I had ‘grown up’ with and it hit that nostalgic nerve with a sense of the comparable new. But mostly because it is first-to-last track brilliant! The second is Brad’s Shame, 1993, shared with me by a good friend and entirely new at the time, but also because it had at this time in the early 90s a re-emergence – like PJ – of  that ‘familiar’ rock sound, though it has its own distinctions that you can read about in my review.

All of this and other apt detail will be in each individual album review. Just a few final observations, for those interested. I could have included many more James Taylor, America and Eagles albums in the Top Fifty because they produced similar quality, if not better, to the ones I included with subsequent work. Affinity only produced that one album [though subsequent recordings and compilations have appeared]. NRBQ never produced another album like the eponymous one I have included, though continuing as a great band. Juicy Lucy’s inclusion is by and large for one song – read the review.

So, here it is, for a sense of completion as much as anything else, and as ever, I have written this to explore and organise my own thoughts on the process.

I may go for another 50 Newer Album Favourites, though I doubt this: perhaps 25. Maybe just top fifty songs. Or stop being anal. Bless the Weather would be the top song. Jason Isbell’s Elephant would be second. I think. And I am thinking.....

John Martyn - Bless the Weather, 1971
Richie Havens - Alarm Clock, 1971
Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland, 1968
Jimi Hendrix - Axis Bold as Love, 1967
James Taylor - Sweet Baby James, 1970
Buddy Rich – Swingin’ New Big Band
Bert Jansch – The Bert Jansch Sampler
Fill Your Head With Rock – CBS Compilation
The Byrds –Ballad of Easy Rider
John Martyn - One World
Donovan - A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, 1968
Eagles, Desperado - 1973
John Martyn - Inside Out, 1973
Quintessence - Quintessence, 1970
John Coltrane - On West 42nd Street, [1957]
The Nice - Ars Longa Vita Brevis, 1968
Brad – Shame, 1993
The Fugs - it crawled into my hand, honest [1968]
America - America [1971]
Brewer and Shipley – Shake off the Demon, 1972
Manfred Mann Chapter III - Same [1969]
Affinity – Affinity
Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Teddy Thompson – Separate Ways
Chris Smither – I’m a Stranger
Chris Smither – Don’t It Drag On
Joni Mitchell -  Blue
Gillian Welch - Revival
Ron Sexsmith - Ron Sexsmith
Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced
Hoyt Axton – My Griffin is Gone
Juicy Lucy – Lie Back and Enjoy It
Tir na Nog – A Tear and a Smile
The Isley Brothers - Harvest For The World
Rickie Lee Jones, 1978
John Martyn - Solid Air
The Greatest Show on Earth - Horizons
Al Green - Greatest Hits,
John Sebastian - The Four Of Us
NRBQ - NRBQ [1969]
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Blood, Sweat and Tears – Same
Curved Air – Air Conditioning
Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan – Brief Replies
Free – Ton of Sobs
Steve Tilston – Songs From the Dress Rehearsal
The Doors – Waiting for the Sun
Pearl Jam – Ten
John Martyn – Sunday’s Child
John Martyn – Grace and Danger

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Prince - June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016


I've been listening to two main recordings I have of Prince over the last two days: one a live recording from a concert in Detroit, the second a greatest hits compilation.

In his case - and as has been the context so much this year already, a nostalgic listening on a great artist's passing - my appreciation is almost wholly objective, if fulsome. What a great writer and performer! Seemingly a scant eulogy among the many tributes out there, but others have said it all. My point is I didn't 'grow up' with Prince's music in the way I did, to varying degrees, with David Bowie or Glenn Frey or Keith Emerson, and so I don't have that phenomenal connection which is a nostalgic empathy that can be hugely emotive. But I do listen with the clarity of being totally impressed with his pure musicianship.

I did get to see him live at one of his London O2 shows in 2007, and that was a concert my family and I definitely wanted to go to, and did.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Henrik Freischlader Trio - Openness, album review


Don't have much of his [Henrik's] but what I do I like, and this is some of the best funky, soulful and bluesy rock on one album you'll hear. Consummate songwiting, guitar and vocal, slow and fast. Simples.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Richmond Fontaine, with support from Fernando - The Tunnels, Bristol, 18th April, 2016

The End

Willy Vlautin with The Delines, and Fernando in support, last played The Tunnels in November 2014 and that was a brilliant gig.

Last night's return had Fernando playing a sweet set with long time recording and performing partner guitarist Dan Eccles [also from RF]. So much of the material Fernando played consisted of gentle ballads so this highlights his wonderful vocal but also quality as a performer because it is hard, it seems to me, to engage an audience - as he did fully - with that kind of thoughtful, meditative pace, as you might expect in a totally acoustic folk setting. It has to be said that Eccles' amped-up guitar work adds phenomenal depth to the live presentation of Fernando's great songs, including covers, and the reverb/tremolo he gets from vibrating the neck is amazing 

This return also had Willy now with long-time band Richmond Fontaine playing on their farewell tour, and songs from their final album You Can't Go Back If There's Nothing To Go Back To featured throughout: those familiar plaintive Vlautin narratives in Wake Up Ray, I Can't Black It Out If I Can't Wake Up, I Got Off The Bus and A Night In The City. These are so moving in their storytelling core, but the band playing live fill this out with other emotional depths, with Freddy Trujillo on thumping bass and some lovely harmony vocals, and the great Sean Oldham on backbone drums and also vocal duties. Eccles is again so influential in this, the haunting resonance of his guitar work on A Night in the City a fine example. And as a whole tight band! In addition to these musical vignettes, the band rocked in older, earlier RF numbers [and hard-core fans from that past clearly enjoyed this selection from the archives] as well as from a Ventures-esque instrumental to a psychedelic jam like The Door's The End in Apocalypse Now.

But I hope they all return again in whatever formation brings them back to the UK.

My reviews of both Fernando's latest here and Richmond Fontaine's here.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Car Music 24

Sam Carter - How the City Sings, album review

An Important Album

Quite simply a fresh but also traditional folk album, this is Sam Carter’s third and my first to know of his. The Guardian makes a comparison with Richard Thompson which baffles me, unless it is the fact Carter plays both acoustic and electric - his vocal is a near polar opposite, a higher register with a natural warble, and guitar playing that is fine. That acoustic/electric dichotomy is evidenced by the opening two tracks: the gentle and sweet acoustic opener From the South Bank to Soho that narrates wonderfully, Sam Sweeney’s viola beautifully woven within; and second electric Dark Days seems a Balkan waltz of menace. I prefer the former.

Third Counting the Cost merges the two styles, electric guitar and a beautiful rising melody sung sweetly, with smoothing viola again; King for a Day is piano and gorgeous vocal; Drop the Bomb, as with others, reminds of Rufus Wainwright, this having requisite drama as the title would suggest, then there is The Grieved Soul, electric guitar chords sharp in the background behind the contrasting folk harmonies that are tightly multi-layered, brief guitar reverb seeing the track out. There is more of this excellence right to the twelfth song and end, and it is an important album.