Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Jimmy Bowskill - Back Number

Freely Nostalgic

I mentioned this young guitarist and singer early in the youth of this blog - appropriately, as Bowskill was a child rock prodigy, discovered at aged ten busking, apparently, Robert Johnson blues, with a first album at 12 and gaining a Canadian Juno Award music nomination at 14, the youngest ever.

Five albums later with this release, he is 21 and continues to rock in an aged, nostalgic manner: what I mean, of course, in the classic rock guitarist/rock trio manner. This is another one of those totally authentic offerings in the thread of band The Answer or fellow rock guitar archivist and significant contemporary precursor Joe Bonamassa. It's not new but it sure is real. In that respect there's little to articulate other than reiterate its rock credentials, both in the virtuosity of the guitar playing and the maturing vocal. Two songs will suffice as apt promotion and echo: Salty Dog which seems mapped precisely across the beat and riff of Free's Mr Big [and Paul Rodgers is allegedly a good friend] and Seasons Change which as a rock ballad displays the vocal confidence - more Terry Reid than Roger Plant in its tone, but both invoked as a compliment.

Four* Old Poems and Music

3. I See The Want To In Your Eyes - 1974
[Lexington, Kentucky]

The Greyhound bus is
America on wheels
and all roads are its domain.
Travelling across bluegrass Kentucky
it showed me tobacco fields,
hillside shacks, thoroughbred farms,
the usual billboards
and night fires of the Ku Klux Klan.

Earlier a woman had asked
why, when there were other places,
I would sit next to a black man.
Looking back it's hard to picture exactly
the flames or procession,
whether the window at my side
burned orange, or if I could have
dreamed the wild faces.

I was still learning the true facts of life
as the music changed too,
listening to Conway who moved from
rock 'n' roll to the American folklore
of country blues, singing of how to
make love to his woman tonight,
not love's absence in a state still
shaped by the poles of black and white.

[* though it may be three as I can't find a fourth I want to post here]

Monday, 30 January 2012

In The Dark

Van Der Graaf Generator - Live at Weeley Festival 28th August, 1971

Came across this bootleg recording recently and it is a great capture of the energy and experimentation that was VDGG at the time and at a festival I have written before about attending, not that I recall as much as I would like, for example whether I saw this performance or not. But any excuse to mention this amazing festival again, and post some images of it that were placed in the cover design for this recording. I did see VDGG a few times, though again when and where is hazy, but once was at Felixstowe. Ultra-brilliant psychedelia and stagecraft.

There are very few recording of the Weeley Festival: there is mine which I really must transfer off its cassette onto some cleaned and preservable format; there is a little of King Crimson that I have from somewhere else, and there is a vinyl of the Pink Fairies' performance that I purchased some time ago which is virtually unlistenable - bastards didn't advertise that in the promotion.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Four Old Poems and Music

2. Purple Haze - 1967
[Ipswich, Suffolk]

Muddy Water licks,
the blues turned
purple as sound was fed back
again and again then
held until its release
railed against the walls:

electric insolence
in teenage bedrooms
and later in those
stranger places where
the music helped to spin
ceilings and floors.

Jimi's words were like whispers
when he attacked the notes
saying this was
living - said this in
feedback like an airplane,
machine gun and
Monterey fire rising it its
unexpected pyre,

and in a twelve-string, twelve-bar
acoustic dreamland
he drew along any neck,
singing his poet's croon
to illustrate the movements
in his own spinning head.

In the poetry of soft sounds
he sang language into vowels
of colour and shape,
other worlds to travel to
on turntable space
riding right into the
inner groove,

and it was later when deconstructing
the Star Spangled Banner
he sculptured Vietnam in a scream,
painted America in the wildness
of Woodstock's dream
and a generation's believing
that never died

until a tornado sang
out of control
  and a haze fell
  castles crumbled
  six remained six
  watchtowers dimmed
and the wind just cried.

Violin Lollipops

The Flock - The Flock

In writing recently about Curved Air I referred to other rock violin bands like The Flock. I said Curved Air had, through Darryl Way, a more classical edge, but in listening to Jerry Goodman's solo material as well as returning to The Flock's debut eponymous album, I realise that statement wasn't strictly true. Introduction on The Flock album has classical strains, perhaps some more dissonant and 'modern' in that respect, as well as jazz tones, but it is nonetheless classical, and playfully so. Next song Clown on the album is a wild amalgam of rock and jazz, with sax and brass ensemble playing, and this is something Curved Air did not venture into in the same way - their rock being more pop, if that makes sense: more song structured than containing improvisational sounding elements. Third track I Am The Tall Tree is much more pretty, and uses melodramatic vocal harmony with Goodman's violin adding its own sweetish licks. The memorable Kinks cover Tired of Waiting For You - brought to our attention through the CBS sampler Fill Your Head With Rock - is simply an outstanding track in its own right, Goodman's violin psychedelicised through amplification and echo.

On The Flock Best Of release there is a wonderful track Lollipops and Rainbows that was intended for inclusion on the first album but was instead shelved, released much later on this compilation. Good thing. Goodman's violin has here the more classical strains I have re-discovered, and there are blatant jazz interludes to reflect the experimentation of mixed-genre production in those days, but it's the lyrics that date it terribly, and would have confused the harder edge sustained on the album as released. But it is a hoot to listen to now, the twee telling about lollipops, toy shops, sand boxes and candy stores making the drugs taken then sound positively childlike in their hallucinatory projections.

Four Old Poems and Music

1. Surfer Girl - 1963
[Elk Horn, Iowa]

The significance of a great speech
passed me by in '63 -
sipping sodas to Surfer Girl
in an Elk Horn cafe put a young boy's thoughts
on custom cars, first sex and an
even more distant beach

whereas the slow drawl
of Kennedy's Ich bin ein Berliner or
the rhetoric in King's I had a dream
would have to wait like treasure
buried in the subconscious and
unearthed in some future recall.

My small town then held all realities:
older boys jerked off in disused rooms
as I turned away; ghosts in the haunted house
made me run as they mounted the stairs,
and the cicadas came in singing swarms
then left their empty shells stuck to trees.

Discovering the fear in living with this
meant more than why in Saigon
Quang Duc turned himself into a fireball
or how JFK's vision would disappear
down a Dallas boulevard - and looking back
it's the Beach Boys innocence I would miss.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas

The Bastard

I was listening to this new album from Leonard Coehn as I was inputting exam marks on the computer, a dirge of a chore that in a non-derogatory way was an empathetic act within the aural experience. Opening song Going Home is the best on the album, and the opening lyrics set the mocking self-effacement laced with honesty,

I love to speak with Leonard  
He's a sportsman and a shepherd  
He's a lazy bastard  
Living in a suit

It is these lyrics that capture and fascinate as you listen. Here, the self-referencing is honest and acceptable not just because of its comic humility but because in evoking his desire as songwriter and poet [as you'll see further on in more of the lyric] you know he has already achieved what he continues to seek. That is impressive as an expression of a man, who at 77, still aspires to be wise. Some songs are also simply dark and it is certainly a weighty listening experience in many ways.

But for me there is across this album a dreariness in the continuous spoken narratives, though the angelic female vocals do often highlight melody, as simple and effective as ever, or smooth out the rough whole of Cohen's vocal. Where Waits has a crooner's gravel that can soar to sweet falsetto, Cohen's baritone growl rumbles persistently, and even if you squeezed his certain cojones in a vice, there could be no rise in that bass register. So it's the words that uplift in a singer who always had a dour tone and style anyway,

He wants to write a love song  
An anthem of forgiving 
A manual for living with defeat
A cry above the suffering  

A sacrifice recovering  
But that isn't what I want him to complete
I want to make him certain 

That he doesn't have a burden  
That he doesn't need a vision
That he only has permission  

To do my instant bidding  
That is to SAY what I have told him  
To repeat

But maybe it was just the dirge of the inputting......

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Postings From Planet Rock

Still Got The Blues - Gary Moore, Still Got The Blues

In a similar vein to the previous, with its obvious link, here's another classic played earlier today and which halted me just the same: a beautifully sung blues love lament, this too is accentuated by the plaintive and yet erupting guitar solo. I think Gary Moore is second only to Hendrix in his ability to ride feedback, having tamed it like a wild and dangerous horse.

Postings From Planet Rock

Still In Love With You - Thin Lizzy, Alive and Dangerous

Perhaps a new category, but certainly a response to the compulsion to post competing with the commitment to examining. As I mark, I listen to Planet Rock and have grown to increasingly find comfort in its classic if repetitive selections. A few minutes ago - and thus this brisk break - it was Thin Lizzy's live version of So In Love With You, and it stops you in your assessment tracks, pen hovering in awe as you listen to this most compelling of love songs, beautifully sung by Phil Lynett and with glorious guitar soloing.

As an aside, I nap - marking is tiring work - to the background aural continuation of Planet Rock, and it is amazing to awake, like Coleridge but drugged on sound, to songs that have infiltrated my sleep and permeated it with depths of appreciation it's hard to define. You just feel it, man.

OK, that's more of a break than I should have taken. Back to An Inspector Calls and Of Mice and Men.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Winter Wasps

Two dead winter wasps on window sills in
different rooms, not trophies but remnants
of my grey January sloth and their misjudged
audacity. It’s not like this is the killing moment
but I was more annoyed than if it were their
right time to die. This far from summer’s sun
puts us both in fragile territory when the warm
surprise of these past few months unsettles
natural things, and I have been teased by
misery simply coinciding with relentless clouds
and climate change on every horizon.
So an eventual Spring clean will remove the cruel
sting from all this uncertainty, but can a hope of routine
return us to a life before the damage done?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Terry Callier - Lookin' Out

Gait Music

Heavily into examining at the moment so there won't be many posts, though much music is being listened to. Taking a short walking respite yesterday I had this 2005 Callier playing and it is the essence of cool with its jazz smooth and occasional soul funk grooves caressing around short spoken poetic interludes [Truth in Tears]. It is the sweetest of sweet sounds, and Callier's voice is truly interpretive and soothingly soulful, as on Blues for Billie Holliday and the sensual Beatles cover And I Love Her that exudes the title's declarative with tenderness.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Blood, Sweat & Tooth

David Clayton-Thomas - Soul Ballads (2010); Mike Harrison Meets The Hamburg Blues Band - Touch (2002)

A quick post to highlight two great male vocals - having looked at the ladies - and this pair truly represents greatness and doing so at a more contemporary arc in their long, legendary careers: David Clayton-Thomas, lead vocalist from Blood, Sweat & Tears; and Mike Harrison, lead vocalist from Spooky Tooth.

Both albums are wonderful but significantly different to one another. Soul Ballads is a collection of soul standards like Midnight Train to Georgia; A Change is Gonna Come; People Get Ready, and Dock of the Bay. Clayton-Thomas brings his distinctive vocal to all just above conventional arrangements, his voice never being thrust out and bringing charm and elegance to these covers rather than any dynamic impact. I stress this because it is the tone that controls these songs, all of which have established and iconic original renditions. He performs a beautiful version of the classic Sunny, my favourite on the album.

Touch is a a more rock-focused performance with Harrison's vocal punching out its glorious growl alongside the excellent playing of The Hamburg Blues Band. There are ten original numbers and each is an old-fashioned, rock-simple template over which Harrison and the band construct driving anthems or raw ballads. There is an eleventh track, a live reincarnation of the majestic Spooky Tooth song Waitin' for the Wind.

Both these albums are simply great fun to hear. Nothing original and all the more authentic for this.

Saturday, 7 January 2012


For Ray, blessed in his diminishing days,
it was gravy - the lingo of his contentment; mine is all
too real, working from Carver’s other joy of what is,
but even this now needs throwing away: how my actual
day begins and ends so oppositely, from the happy
expectation and work to make it so – this simple sauce
in a pan - then destroyed in a moment’s clarity of truth
and honesty as painful as it turned out to be, even in the
shock of the telling. That too reminds me of Ray
and his warning to keep quiet - the please, please
will you please be quiet when knowing the
candour of revealing is also the ending of everything.

Carver’s gravy that pains me with the joy of his ease
and mine left cold with the unwillingness to eat.

Top Fifty - Curved Air

Curved Air – Air Conditioning [1970]

Curved Air wasn’t the first band to use rock [amplified] violin – East of Eden, Mercator Projected, and The Flock and It's a Beautiful Day with eponymous albums all released these violin-full debuts in 1969, and there were others, as well as jazz examples, but these didn’t have Sonja Kristina on lead vocal, or the songwriting slant of classically trained Darryl Way and Francis Monkman.

The line-up for this first outstanding album is: Sonja Kristina – lead vocals; Darryl Way – electric violin and vocals; Francis Monkman – lead guitar, organ, piano, mellotron, electric harpsichord, special effects equipment and VCS3 synthasizer [sic]; Robert Martin – bass guitar; Florian Pilkington-Miksa – drums: all as written on the cover. The title is presented as both Air Conditioning [on the spine] and Airconditioning [on the cover]. A final piece of straight detail is that this release was one of, if not the first lp picture disc made for commercial release. I didn’t get – probably couldn’t afford – the picture disc when I purchased in 1970, but have acquired one since. 

The album begins with the memorable It Happened Today, and it’s Kristina’s vocal that dominates first for me. But the piano chords are pounding their accompaniment, as is the bass line and the thundering drums. Lead guitar runs throughout. All this heads to the sudden shift of Way’s melodic and flowing violin solo, accompanied by a distinctive bass line and swirling background synth. Second Stretch is an anthemic number with its simple but rousing six-beat rhythm, and the distinctive feature in this song is the rise to a violin and guitar duel where the dissonant conflict rises further to a crescendo that breaks back to the anthem of its melodic line. This is followed by the equally memorable Screw which slows the pace and has the violin lead the melody which is picked up by Kristina. There are orchestrated bars and then the violin rises, again, to a peak with organ reverberations and it is all highly charged in its beautifully melodramatic construction.

The album is replete with such finely crafted numbers. Side one ends with Way’s brilliant instrumental Vivaldi. Here is the electric rock violin played in all of its virtuoso pomp and power. This playing is ably supported by the driving rhythms of bass, drum and lead guitar, but it is Darryl Way’s composition that merges rock raunchiness with lyrical strains and the at times moody tones, echoed and fuzzed as the song builds and builds. I was lucky enough to see them play this live in Ipswich on their first tour, and it was in the relatively small Arts Theatre/Centre where the power and volume of this tour de force was wall-shatteringly stunning, as it was to differing degrees when I saw them in South Devon at the Malborough Village Hall in 2008. On side two of the vinyl there is another Way instrumental, this time the sweetly short and soft Robert Martin penned Rob One. The penultimate track Situations – before the short reprise of Vivaldi to close out the side – utilises Monkman’s synthesisers to the full and is perhaps the most prog-rock sound of the whole album.

The picture below is used for Curved Air’s more recent Retrospective compilation album and if you wanted to sample beyond their first – and don’t fancy obtaining all [but I would recommend this!] – then here is a good place to start.


Friday, 6 January 2012

Surprise Songs

Peace Pin Boogie - Kurt Elling [Note of Hope - A Celebration of Woodie Guthrie] - 2011

Not surprising in as much as I am a big Kurt Elling fan, but in trawling through collaborations Elling has done with other artists, I came across this wonderful but unexpected version of Woodie Guthrie's satirical song. It is sung with Elling's trademark flair, but also a lively sense of the fun intended: sassiness in the sonorous rendition. As Guthrie put it,

Peace, peace, peace, peace, boogie for peace,
Wanna kiss my sweet, I gotta boogie for peace.
Looks like I'm gonna, ain't got no peace pin on;
Can't kiss my sweet peach when I've got no peace pin on!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


Goldie and the Gingerbreads - Compilation

Genya Ravan, born Genyusha Zelkowitz [and known also as Goldie Zelkowitz, the name on her solo album of 1974] started her career in what is often cited as the first all-female rock band signed to a major record label [Atlantic Records], and in my researching and writing about Ravan I came across these photos as well as a compilation of the band's work. It's no surprise to hear Ravan's voice cutting such a distinctive sound in these pop and R'n'B tunes from the early 60s.

As I've said, I don't believe she is as well know as is deserved, and this in spite of the vocal genius, the iconoclastic early career, her subsequent music production and, I believe, film work. I hope these brief references encourage anyone who reads to seek out some of her music.

Genya Ravan – They Love Me They Love Me Not [1973]

Horn Band and More

Writing this blog is, at the very least, a musical education. I have recently purchased two reasonably rare and interesting vinyl lps on the back of listening to new-to-me cds of bands from the 60s/70s, and will be mentioning/reviewing these at a later date.

Having written about Genya Ravan and, in the process, listened to everything I have of hers – which is most – I discovered this unknown album and managed to get a download copy yesterday from amazon.co for just over £7 [not an advertisement, but I do find them a good source, even if it is for used vinyl copies from other sellers advertising on their site]. It’s another great testament to her vocal brilliance. It is certainly more varied than work with Ten Wheel Drive, but then so is her other solo work.  

I’m not going to detail the songs this time around. Suffice to say there is ‘horn band’ stuff, ballads, a popish tune or two, a great tease in the 45 seconds of You Got The Blues [wow, that would have been a great, full track!], and all the time Ravan’s impeccable voice. For an excellent review of the album, check out http://www.allmusic.com/album/they-love-me-they-love-me-not-r47614/review


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Top Fifty - Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan

Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan – Brief Replies

This is a superb album, driven by a big band sound a la Blood Sweat and Tears [Genya Ravan had expressed her desire to front this kind of sound - oh I want a horn band - so the achievement of it is an apt quality] and made distinct by the supreme vocal of Ravan.

Ravan has writing credits on two of the songs – increasing this input with later albums - and keyboardist Michael Zager, with others in the band, are responsible for most of the rest. In many ways it is formulaic of that BS&T/Chicago sound, but this is to its credit. The playing throughout is tight and at times titanic. Stand-outs for me are Come Live With Me, a light ballad with acoustic guitar, harmonica, soft background saxophone, and the sensual invitation of Ravan’s vocal Come live with me, I want you so bad baby that struts along the melodic line; the other is the totally stunning Stay With Me [Ragavoy-Weiss], a pleading blues lament that Ravan screams out in the most sublime vocal pain and yearning.

How Long Before I’m Gone is one of those more titanic numbers and showcases the band’s rousing credentials. Ravan again belts out the core attraction, but there is a fine soprano sax solo by David Leibman, and the horn section keeps it lively as the song works through its differing paces, including a Latin groove with swift solos by Steve Satten on trumpet, Dennis Parisi on trombone, and Leibman again on tenor sax. When the song returns to its opening, pounding melody you realise what a great ride it has been. The album finishes on a beautiful, lushly orchestrated number with heavy jazz elements, Interlude: A View of Soft, where Ravan hums/scats rather than sings, and it is gorgeous, especially as she duets with the echoing saxophone solo. It is the personification of peacefulness.

There are, of course, other vocal gems from Ravan throughout this album, and whilst she did go on to have a solo career I don’t believe she has the wider recognition as one of the greatest female vocalists that she should. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Return of the Awe

For anyone who had tried to access this site and found a google 'attack' warning instead, it has all been cleared: a site in 'My Blog List' was the one having been attacked, and by association, google software - as ultra-protection - attached a warning here. I have removed that site from my list, and google has removed the warning.

Sorry for any inconvenience. It's been a learning curve.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby

Ruby Jones - Ruby Jones [Ruby Starr - Stone Junkie] 

Ruby Starr, another stellar female rock vocalist, made her name as backing singer for Black Oak Arkansas. She had released her first solo album before this in 1971 as Ruby Jones, later re-released as Stone Junkie and with her stage name. It's a brilliant album of tracks dominated by her phenomenal vocal power. Indeed, a set of standard rock material - sound as it is in Blood, Sweat and Tears territory - gains its singularity through Starr's legendary lead. Minnie Ripperton meets Janis Joplin - if you need a reference point.

Check out as well Ruby Starr and Grey-Ghost; Scene Stealer, and Smokey Places


Linda Hoyle would make up the perfect quartet of outstanding European female vocalists, and I say 'would' because I'm being precise and haven't actually managed to listen to her today [yesterday, as I write], but it's all in the head and it makes sense, and is easy, to mention her now and here.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

More Of The Same

I have moved on to listen to the other great female vocalist Sonja Kristina. I have posted about her before and enjoy doing so again.

I am listening to the album Curved Air Reborn which has surprised me because these revisitings are fine when I thought I wouldn't like such a revamp, and they showcase a wonderful vocal which is, after all, today's preoccupation.

Fabulous Female Vocalists

I have been listening all morning to Genya Ravan [solo; Ten Wheel Drive]

and now to Inga Rumph [solo; Frumpy]

two of the great female rock vocalists, and this is a heads up on an imminent posting about Ten Wheel Drive who are going to make my Top Fifty.