If you come to find out who you are…

kevin-morbyThought I’d drop a few lines about a couple of artists whose records I’m really enjoying these days and whom you may, if you’re lucky, hear drifting from the window of a tiny Nissan Micra scampering around the Gloucestershire countryside this summer. If you’ve got your ear to the ground you’ll no doubt be well acquainted with these fellers, but if not, well, you’re welcome.

Kevin Morby / The Babies

Up until last year or so, Kevin Morby’s dayjob was to play bass in Jeremy Earls’ wonderful, technicolour Woods, another of my very favourite bands. I didn’t realise this at first when I originally picked up on Morby’s sparkling solo records, so when the penny eventually dropped, it made me look at the Woods records he was involved with (four, I think, up until Bend Beyond in 2012) in something of a new way. An embarrassment of riches for sure – think Jimmy Page playing bass with the Yardbirds, or maybe Petr Cech on the bench at Chelsea.

I’ve seen Woods a couple of times, and on both occasions they were superb. Morby had already left by the time Woods took the show at Psychfest last year, but the first time I saw them at End of the Road in 2012, I remember thinking that this was a band bursting with ideas and individuals. I’m rarely that prescient but within a year Morby had made the move across the city to Arsenal (if I’m going to try to maintain the dodgy bassist-as-reserve-goalkeeper metaphor) and was working on his own songs. By the time of End of the Road, he’d already formed the Babies with Cassie Ramone from the Vivian Girls and released a self-titled album, with another, Our House on the Hill, to come out later that year.

There are now two Kevin Morby solo records, Harlem River and Still Life, both of which are really excellent, jam-packed with emotive, unhurried strokes of some genius, and if you include the second Babies record, which sounds a lot more like a Morby record than the first, you’ve got quite a rich seam of music to pick at. All of this came out within two years’ pretty frantic creative activity – (Still Life was apparently completely written whilst touring with the Babies), the very purplest of patches

Here’s a rather fine KEXP session from the Babies:

 

It took me a couple of listens to get used to Morby’s Dylan-ish drawl but actually now I really like it. He has a knack of writing really insistent melodies that impress his ideas upon you. I’m a great one for imposing my own thoughts and issues on other people’s songs, mostly inappropriately and in the most superficial of ways, but I remember, at a time when my daughter was leaving for six months for America, becoming quite fixated with “Wild Side (Oh the places you’ll go)”. I think if you can do that sort of thing to your audience, you’re clearly hitting the mark.

Oh go on.

Here’s some more from one of those rather distinctive Blogothèque Take Away shows…

 

I have a ticket to see Kevin Morby at the Lousiana in Bristol in September, and I’m rather looking forward to it…

Ah now, I’ve gone on too much I feel, I’ll come back to the second of my car-stereo recommendations tomorrow. You know I’m good for it…

But in my father’s house, there are no doors!

Well, I did IMG_1352 (1) well with my four gig May/June mini-festival, getting two posts up at all (given recent form) is something of an avalanche. But now… alarmingly, I find myself a whole three gigs behind – not too fussed about Young Fathers or last night’s Everything Everything events: neither band, although well-fancied, were up to much (and don’t get me started on EE’s needy keyboard player…) – but last month’s Chuck Prophet, I should’ve got onto before now…

Chuck Prophet at the Tunnels Club

I do know of at least one punter who could with some justification be a little miffed at this delay. A friend of mine who is one of the grizzled cohort I stand with at Kingsholm on a Saturday afternoon, apart from being a textbook Springsteen fanatic, is something of a Chuck Prophet … devotee. One afternoon, he mentioned that the man himself was on tour, playing in Bristol and did I fancy it?

For those of you who might need reminding (I was one), during the eighties and nineties Prophet played in Green On Red, one of the “Paisley Underground” bands to come out of the States and were one of too few bands of the day who passed my stringent “quality control” guidelines, being both backwards-looking and still using guitars (in an age when they seemed at times to have been quietly shelved). I certainly had some fun rediscovering their back-catalogue and that coupled with the chance to glimpse the twilight world of an obsessive was more than I could resist…

Prophet has a whole catalogue of his own, mind, which doesn’t sound a whole lot like GoA, but his two most recent records “Night Surfer” and his portrait of hometown San Francisco, “Temple Beautiful” are pretty good, with some real highpoints.

The talk on arrival the Tunnels Club was of Prophet’s band, Mission Express, being stranded elsewhere and that a solo set was a possibility. In the event, I completely forgot about this as the evening developed, and a set that started solo (with support from wife Stephanie Finch), included an intermission and concluded with a full band section actually seemed a perfect balance. It allowed you to appreciate Prophet’s expressive, sometimes melancholic song-writing and then kick off your shoes and soak up the more energetic, boisterous run of songs that he completed the evening with.

So we got two sets from Chuck, both about an hour long, with a short break in between (presumably for his band to put down their cases and shake the biscuit crumbs out of their wrinkled suits). In the first half, we were given carefully performed versions of 12 songs, mostly drawn from the two records I’ve mentioned, all of which was intertwined with Prophet’s charming, lengthy introductions and stage banter, which was genuinely interesting and often very funny. Highlights were a plucky “Wish Me Luck” and a wittily introduced “Would You Love Me?”

By the time, we got on to part two, I was getting tired and this affected how much I enjoyed what the recording confirms was a cracking set of tunes, including a rousing cover of the Flamin’ Groovies “Slowdeath” and again many tracks from the two records I knew. I enjoyed Night Surfer’s exhilarating opener “Countrified Inner City Technological Man” and “Ford Econoline” which he paired with Jeff Beck’s “I’m Not Talking”.

It was a pretty great night, really – hot, sweaty and clever – with plenty of audience participation (I usually hate that sort of stuff but Chuck’s an engaging character…). The Tunnels is a pretty good place for recordings, it’s turning out, and although the audience were a little over-familiar at times, the songs I’ve got here are a good taster of a winning evening.

Wish Me Luck

Would You Love Me?

Ford Econoline / I’m Not Talking

Tell Me Anything (Turn To Gold)

I often say to myself, Am I livin’ a righteous life?

misty in roots

Bugger!

I hate sport sometimes. Should’ve got on with this post, instead of watching the rugby.

Breathes deeply…

Well, I knew I’d be struggling to keep up with a run of four gigs in ten days, and true to form I’m a week late already…

The second date of my Spring bonanza came the day after the rough frenzy of the Sleaford Mods and involved a second trip down the motorway to the music capital of the West Country, my second favourite city, Brizzle. The venue this time was in the catacombs beneath Temple Meads, namely the Tunnels Club, an earnest little space which occasionally puts on some cracking evenings. Tonight “Misty in Roots, live and direct…”

Misty in Roots at The Tunnels Club

Any hopes of a heady evening in the company of serious dreads amid sweet-smelling clouds of ganja were predictably wide of the mark. A healthy looking hundred or so punters turned out, pretty much all of them white middle-aged guys such as myself, and were treated to an intense evening of warm, spiritual, grade A roots reggae from a gaggle of been-there, done-that and took-the-beatings real legends. A genuine privilege to be there.

By turns, shambling and then tight, the band wandered through a lengthy glowing set which touched on a number of high points from a 35 year career. Singer Delbert “Ngoni” Tyson led his troupe through the evening, and although he claimed at one point that he was just singing what he felt, beneath this disarming charm, there was a genuine discipline that playing together for most of your life will bring about.

It was a full, full sound too – massive bass, three piece brass section, nyabinghi drumming, edgy rhythm and lead guitars, spidery warm keyboards – a rootsy full house. As the band and the evening warmed up, the songs got longer, looser and began to splinter into dub styles. They were wonderful.

The recordings are quite good, although often marred by an enthusiastic white audience trying to sound like black folk and the age old problem of people who treat the band as a backdrop to their own conversations (one over-friendly stranger kept trying to start a conversation with me. Sorry mate); but, ho hum, such is the concert going experience these days….

Highlights were an extended, dubby Ghetto of the City, and intense, soulful versions of Jah See Jah Know and See Them ah Come. Enjoy them:

Ghetto of the City

Jah See Jah Know

See Them ah Come

Anyone’s guess how I got here!

CFpYpUyWMAAvmzt (1)Wow!

Gr-ea-t, rough night at the Exchange on Friday, courtesy of the indomitable Sleaford Mods.

Just, wow!

I’ve been to the Exchange a few times and always had a good time, but it always strikes me how small the place is. I remember Suuns and Speedy Ortiz being pretty packed, even though they’re pretty much niche bands still, so I was imagining it might get a bit tight with the Sleaford Mods in town. Simple… play two nights.

Old school, not sure too many bands would do that, these days.

Sleaford Mods at the Exchange, Bristol

Missed most of Kogumaza’s dense, swirling set, but they might be worth having a look at another time. Their standard indie, grungy look made the shambling figures who presently made their way to the stage stand out even more.

Andrew Fearn wandered on first and stood patiently on stage, obligatory beer bottle in hand, waiting for Jason Williamson to come skittering on later. Fearn’s role is apparently to sort out the rhythms and samples (they’re great, by the way – razor sharp, cheap and nasty beats and brain-numbing basslines), so by the time they’re on stage his only remaining function is to press a button and stand around looking pleased with himself.

Williamson, on the other hand, is a right old bundle of nervy anger and jerky awkwardness. Launching into a set which didn’t last much longer than an hour but which seemed to work in double time; it was as if he was drawing two breaths to every one of the rest of us. Shifting erratically about the stage, using a series of eccentric tics and semi-autistic gestures, he tore through a (Mc) flurry of sweary, semi-coherent tongue twisters with jaw-dropping energy and no-little dexterity. At the time, we thought he looked a bit like severely-constrained Mick Jagger in some of his stylings, but when Josie saw the YouTube videos afterwards, she said straight away that he had something of Ian Dury about him. (And she’s right…)

It was a cracking set, taking in Jobseeker, Jolly Fucker and Tied Up in Notts amongst a bunch of other profane classics. I would’ve liked to hear him deliver the “You walk around like you just wrote Jimmy Mac, fuck off, twat!” line from The Committee, but there was more than enough wit and smart-arsery to satisfy even the archest of punters.

He blew raspberries, swore royally and joked about like he was having a rare old time. Introducing the last song, he apologised for the shorter set and quipped that the previous night they’d played for two hours, brought sandwiches along and gave everyone a tenner. And with that he steamed into a version of Jobseeker which was actually a fair bit more boisterous than this version from the Thursday night

(Presumably the feller with the sandwiches was round the other side…)

The recordings are a bit raucous but pretty representative of a hugely exciting evening. Get it down!

A Little Ditty

Jobseeker

Tied Up In Notts

Tarantula Deadly Cargo

I say you please return me, will you ever return me?

IMG_1250I’ve come to realise in the course of the barrel-full of wayward posts I’ve put together over the years that I’m definitely one for over-hyping bands, records, gigs. Using “great” when “quite good” might be more accurate would be one thing I probably should work on when composing a gig review. But then, where’s the fun in that?

Having said this, there are obviously loads of “great” bands out there, I just don’t think I’ve manage to catch too many of them, live and in their pomp. This being the West Country and all. But… occasionally… as I think I’ve said before, every now and then our dear old, jaded, faded Guildhall manages to pull a truly great band. And this Tuesday, the magnificent Super Furry Animals took to the stage for the first time in six years, and they were here in Gloucester.

Wha?!?

Super Furry Animals at the Guildhall

I actually had tickets to see Dan Mangan and Blacksmith at Thekla for the evening (a very good evening by all accounts) but when the news emerged of SFA playing a warm up for their big dates to come, I did what I had to do…

The old place was full (thankfully – I do worry about these things…) and the queue for a beer was reassuringly long. Essentials duly taken care of, SFA shambled onstage at eight thirty and it all kicked off.

Dressed in lugubrious white contamination suits, they launched straight into a full-throated sequence of songs that included Rings Around the World, Do or Die, Show Me Magic and Demons It was an impressive, dynamic start: it looked like they were determined to pick up where they had left off. I’ll put it down to nerves that there wasn’t much of a connection with what was an enthusiastic audience, made up mostly of middle aged hipsters who had presumably grown up buying Guerrilla, Phantom Power and Radiator.

In fact, they barely spoke to each other either and it was hard not to draw conclusions from the stage places – Gruff Rhys on the far left of the podium, everyone else on the far right, the middle ground only taken up by drums and the occasional appearances from the two trumpet players.

It’s such a songbook they have though, that you couldn’t be worrying about that for very long. All of the first six albums were pretty heavily drawn on, there being distinct Radiator, Guerrilla and Mwng phases. (Mwng, by the way, is being re-released tomorrow). There were a good few songs I didn’t know, although on looking them up later, I don’t think any of them were actually new.

By the end of a pretty generous two hour set, everything and everyone had warmed up considerably (including one tired and emotional punter bellowing from the front “I’ve already pissed myself twice!” in a hoarse valleys accent). The band were beginning to enjoy themselves and had loosened up considerably. Yeti costumes were pulled on, Gruff donned his Power Rangers helmet and the encore stretched out to almost half an hour – you felt that without a curfew, they might have gone on longer.

There’s already a YouTube clip online – and doubtless there’ll be more:

 

The recordings are good, and include some pretty decent highlights (I could’ve chosen almost any of the 25 songs they played):

Hometown Unicorn

Do or Die

Ymaelodi ar Ymylon

God! Show Me Magic

Bad Behaviour

A great evening that I shall remember for a long time. The rest of the tour promises to be something special…

Psychologically speaking we’re in a state of mental diarrhoea – talkin’ shit, a barrel a minute

gclinton-1429537034A remarkable, boisterous, overwhelming evening at Bristol Academy last Friday in the company of a rather strange old gentleman from another planet…

P-Funk at Bristol Academy

In truth, I’m not sure where or when Funakadelic begat Parliament, or when either of them begat P-Funk. I wouldn’t be surprised if the great George Clinton was a little fuzzy about it too (in fact I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t). And I had absolutely no idea what to expect of the latest tour from such a notoriously eccentric character, but lawks! What an evening!

I’m quite enjoying the ride down to Bristol these days, now the weather’s kinder and work finishes in daylight hours, and as a result I had the chance to drive down in the sunshine, enjoying re-familiarising myself with the only Parliament record I own – 1970’s Osmium, a pretty eclectic affair it has to be said. On arrival (or “landing” as I should probably refer to it from here on), I spent a rather serene couple of hours chilling out in the Park Street area, gracing a couple of record stores and loafing about in St George’s park. All of which turned out to be a deceptively chilled start to what turned into some sort of inferno of an evening.

In a 2014 interview, Clinton was asked what he expected from a concert audience

“I expect them to shake their ass.” he said, “I’m expecting that there’s a whole lot of booties gonna be jumping around and having a good time. My job is to make sure that booties shake. Im gonna have everyone bring two booties and we will double the shaking.”

As the skinniest and whitest of skinny, white guys, I’m a little uncomfortable around talk like this and the prospect of one of those evenings where you may be required to shake your skinny, white ass, even just a little, makes me feel queasy. And, within seconds of George Clinton arriving with an entourage that at times swelled to as many as 18 people on stage at the same time, it was pretty obvious that, yeah, I’d walked into one such time. But c’mon, what was I thinking?

It was an honour and a privilege.

At this point, a word about audience participation: I’m not a fan, I’ve railed about it before. All I can say is that, with apologies to Colin Melloy, when the actual Dr Funkenstein tells you to put your hands in the air, well… Again, An honour… A privilege…

Looking rather dapper, and comparatively sober in jacket and tie (no dreads, no wings, no spandex), he still looked ridiculously sprightly. Flanked by a rhythm section (sans Bootsy, I’m afraid), two lead guitarists, three backing singers, at least four other singers/comperes, a brass section and assorted keyboard players, it could’ve looked like Clinton was going to spend at least some of the time on the sidelines, enjoying the fruits of his labours, letting the next generation take the strain a little. That wasn’t really how it panned out, though. With only the briefest of sitting breaks, Clinton led his curious ensemble through a two and a half hour set which made nonsense of his barely credible 74 years.

As a spectacle, it was at times breath-taking, dancers and musicians mingling onstage like some sort of jiggy circus. At one point, and at various times during the evening, a particularly outlandish character dressed in a full-length sheepskin coat and wide-brimmed sheepskin hat strolled on and draped himself about the stage exotically, across musicians, atop speaker stacks and in and out of the audience, leading a troupe of Bristol Laydeez onto the stage.

Clearly it was never going to be a refined evening and a degree of self-indulgence was a given – a twelve minute version of Maggot Brain, gave way to an eight minute scat singing opus at one point – but there were some moments of real poise alongside the delirious movement of bodies throughout.

A great, great evening, which restored my faith in old guys. Highlights were a gigantic version of One Nation, a pretty demented Atomic Dog and, well, all of the grooving.

There are already a few clips on YouTube, this one being my favourite:

 

Crikey! In truth I’ve not yet got through the full 160 minutes of the recording, but they’re ok, reflecting a raucous evening pretty accurately. Here are a couple of disorderly highpoints

Mothership Connection

One Nation Under a Groove

Furia en la Corazón!

los_aos_ye-ye-cuando_espaa_hizo_popMay I interest you folk in a little Sixties Ye-Yé, straight outta Franco’s Spain?

Just came back from a bit of a city-break type thing in Liverpool and a jolly good time was had by all. Sights were seen, tapas was eaten and alcohol was drunk. Oh yeah, and one or two CDs were purchased…

Paid my second ever visit to the near-legendary Probe Records, too, now in School Lane, but still going strong (my first visit was in 1982, when I almost literally bumped into Pete Burns, thumbing through the singles racks. Spent rest of the day expecting to find myself sat next to Julian Cope on the bus…). I spent a happy hour or so going through their shelves, and left with a substantially lighter wallet but a bag full of esoteric goodies. I’ll no doubt start banging on about most of the stuff at a later date (there was a Robert Wyatt record amongst them and you know I’m not going to be able to resist writing about that…) but in the meantime…

¡Chicas!

The record I was most deliriously excited about and I’ve played almost continually since getting home is this, though, the second volume of Vampisoul’s sparkling “¡Chicas!” compilation. The first volume was good enough, with many, many memorable moments such as Vainila Doble’s weirdly psychedelic “La Maquina Infernal”, Sonya’s ballsy “Aqui en mi nube” and this by the delightfully bonkers Pili y Mili – “Un Chico Moderno”:

 

Played the record to death when we came back from Madrid the year before last, but to be honest, if anything, this second volume is even better than the first. It’s full to bursting with daft but unwaveringly groovy numbers from beginning to end, all of which seem to have eluded Franco’s eagle-eared sensors. Watch this, for instance, by French singer Claudine Coppin “40 grados a la sombre”. The sound’s not great – there’s a better sounding version on YouTube but it doesn’t have this top footage from the film of the same name:

 

So anyway, I was thinking it must be about time I put together a Ye-Yé Lucky Seven post and, well, here it is, you lucky, lucky people…

Lucky Seven – ¡Chicas!

Pochoclo – Las Trillizas de Oro (disturbingly bonkers version of “Popcorn” complete with the frothiest of lyrics. What’s not to like?)

Come, C’mon – The Satin Bells (a group of Liverpool lasses – so that’s appropriate – who moved to Spain and released a clutch of ill-fated singles. I’m slightly disappointed that it’s in English but nonetheless it’s a rather steamy little number…)

Tabú Tabú – Sola (another burner, with soulful Mexican vocals and a feckless, wandering bassline that won’t be told…)

No Te Acuerdas de mí – Marisa Medina (really ballsy song, belted out by the redoubtable Sra Medina, complete with full band, flutes and a jaunty little touch of Eddy-esque twang)

Soy una Nube – Elia y Elizabeth (my favourite track from another superb Vampisoul collection of this pair of sisters’ greatest hits. Lovely driving bass and guitar combination, superbly led by hippy child vocals. Really great stuff)

Hey, Hey Bunny – Los Gatos Negros (Not actually a “chica” as such, but a groovy mid-sixties number, driven on by a brass section and electric organ combination that is pretty damn irresistible. Could surely have been a Northern Soul classic…)

Furia – Furia (Finally, something a little later, early seventies I’m guessing. A heavyish, somewhat proggy hummer, driven but always danceable.)

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