A promo of Astralasia's new album 'Oceania' (Fruits De Mer) landed just a day or two ago and I'm still lying on the ceiling. Shouldn't I be lying on the floor looking at the ceiling? I never thought I'd get into music like this, but slowly and surely, their releases and remixes for FdM have seeped into my consciousness. I surrender!
This double album isn't quite all chilled electronica, there are a few 'heavier' moments, but for the most part it leaves me safely some place else. Strange that both their albums so far released by FdM have an 'aquatic' based title. For me their music points towards the sky. I hear touches of 'Riders On The Storm' on first hearings, particularly the opening to 'Ghosts Inbetween' before it picks up flight. The synanthesia continues - title track 'Oceania' is more like a train journey 'Station To Station'. I'm really enjoying 'Kaleidoscopic' too, particularly the guitar – keyboard interplay. I only wish it was longer.
'Oceania' in my mind is a journey, cue 'Astral Voyager' and hear what I mean. 'Ishdan' has a touch of the oriental about it, and when that slide guitar begins and builds, just go with it! The closing 22 min epic 'Time & Tide Eternal' is the chill out that we've been waiting for. A gentle flute and tabla like raga to wind things down nicely. Ladies and gentlemen we have arrived at our destination, please make sure you take what's left belonging to your mind with you.
Honestly I can't believe I like an album like this the way I do, and I've only just begun listening to it. Epiphany!
Kris Gietkowski's 'Songs from The First LP by Egg' is another forthcoming FdM release in April on their Strange Fish imprint. I've never heard Egg's first album. I can make no comparisons, but I do like this interpretation of most of that album. Even the fiddly classical 'Symphony No. 2' – all four movements! It's the organ solos running throughout the entire album, changes of pace and overall tightness of the performance. It's very well played. You really have to admire Kris for his playing of the whole thing by himself.
Another interesting discovery by Keith at FdM too, up there with the mighty Tor-Peders album of a few years ago. I remain thankful. There's promise of more to follow as well. Can't wait.
I'm also impressed with Superfjord's take on Frank Zappa's monumental 'Peaches En Regalia' for excellent musicianship too. Yet again on FdM and released in April. Another progressive workout, but managing to keep itself within 7” constraints. Flip it over and Sendelica offer 'Don't Eat The Yellow Snow'. I like Zappa and I'm happy a couple of his tracks are now part of the esteemed FdM catalogue. Probably my favourite cover version performed by Sendelica so far. It's a creepy, sneaky interpretation, but losing none of the humour in the process. Guest vocals by Karen Langley – an inspired choice.
I'll check in again shortly.
I can't get the song 'On Her Bike' (from the new Mark & The Clouds album 'Cumulus' on Mega Dodo) out of my head at the moment. Smooth-as-you-like changes, particularly verse to chorus - it's good to know Marco's melodic sensibilities remain intact. Superb song. Excellent songwriter.
The album has been in heavy rotation here for a week or two now. No pretensions, just good 'n' honest pop-rock with a voice not afraid to let loose and holler if it suits either. Not to say the album is one-dimensional. There are quieter moments, check 'Road, Mud & Cold', the Zeppelin III - like 'I'm Stopping Here (Bombs & Guns)' and dreamy 'The Endless Road'. There's even a cheeky nod to The Sex Pistols in the intro to 'Don't Block The Sun' that never fails to raise a smile.
A worthy follow up to 'Blue Skies Opening' and right on target. I'll continue to listen with interest.
Jack Ellister has had a bit of a tidy-up of cover versions previously scattered over FdM single sides and rare promo CDs while at the same time turning up some previously unissued tracks too. The vinyl only 'Roots Conference' bridges the gap between his debut 'Tune Up...' and a forthcoming new album set for a Spring release.
I've fond memories of sunny days spent on Putney Heath, strains of his version of The Stones track 'Citadel' ringing in my ears, the chunky guitar riff cleverly replaced by piano – was it really two or three years ago, or longer? Then there are the bells in 'Dear Prudence' (here remixed) - another good idea for an arrangement. Syd's 'Matilda Mother' also gets a tweaking and sounds all the better for it as well. There's no pinning this guy down - elsewhere on the album we're treated to tracks originally recorded by Bowie, Open Mind, Mark Fry, Jackson C Frank, Dizzy Gillespie, The Fool and Steve Vai. 300 copies only and destined to sell out quickly. Don't miss out.
Richard John - Riley pulled the amazing 'I Can't Tell You (How This Feels)' out of the hat last year which showed what a versatile songwriter he is. Certainly blew a few people away, myself included. Well, he's putting his house in order in the next few weeks with the release of 'Holloway 1998 – 2016' collecting 7 tracks from the vaults still worthy of release. There's nothing here as experimental as 'I Can't Tell You', but plenty of slick songwriting. I hope I hear radio calling!
'Tesraine' is one 'Stones' song the Stones seem to have overlooked. Not the usual parody though, this is much more subtle. I can almost hear Jagger stretching the vowels, guitar-weaving too, not to mention a horn section.
I like it when Riley rocks, and 'Throw Me The Rope' does just that. Is it just me or can I hear The Clash here, or maybe it's Elvis Costello? Well, it's that good and my pick of the bunch actually. There's also 'Shut Up My Dear' a close second, coming across as a little angry perhaps, but in the nicest possible way at the same time. The temptation to twiddle a dial proves too much and from the middle onwards it becomes 10cc's 'I'm Not In Love' through the looking glass. Riley has a sense of humour, it's there in a lot of his songs.
I also believe Riley to be a romantic and the remaining tracks are ample proof of this as he tries to make sense of that mystery of all mysteries, the human relationship. 'Did You Say', 'Take Me On So Easy' and 'I Do' are all concerned with the matter wrapped up in unashamedly pop arrangements. 'Top Of The Pops' though is the rather wonderful 'Six And Nine'. After perhaps the most honest vocal performance of the entire seven tracks and all is laid bare, the music does the rest of the talking. One of those tracks that can carry on forever - 'Hey Jude', Clapton's 'Let It Grow' - you get the idea. I've listened to this track several times and no doubt will a few more times too. Gets me every time, as I said - Wonderful!
Heyday Top Ten 2016
Another good year! Here are my favourite releases. A big thank you once again to the labels and artists for their help and promo material. Thanks also to all Heyday customers for their continued support as well, much appreciated.
Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017 to everyone!
Hats off to the following...
Jack Ellister / Tune Up Your Ministers... CD
Exedra / Elemental CDR
Jimi Hendrix / Machine Gun – Fillmore East First Show 31.12.69 CD
Honey Pot / Ascending Scales LP
Octopus Syng / Hollow Ghost – Rochelle Salt CD
Orange Drop / Stoned In Love CD
Rolling Stones / In Mono CD box set
Ravi Shankar / In Hollywood 1971 CD
Starry Eyed & Laughing / To Try for The Sun CD
Us And Them / Fading Within The Dwindling Sun 10”
I'll be in touch again in the New Year.
As the saying goes, 'What a long strange trip it's been'. Fruits De Mer are set to release their 100th vinyl title in December. The honour goes to Honey Pot to mark the occasion, with a double album crammed with groove busting talent entitled 'Ascending Scales'. Check the guest list! Dick Taylor from The Pretty Things, James Lowe of Electric Prunes, Tom Newman & Peter Cook from July, Nick Saloman & Ade Shaw from Bevis Frond, Judy Dyble, Anton Barbeau, Fuchsia's Tony Durant, Cary Grace, Us & Them, Curvey from Luck Of Eden Hall and Jack Ellister and others. Phew! Oh, and if you like guitars, there are enough solos here to keep you going well through Christmas and New Year. They're burning bright, believe me.
Favourites so far? I'm quite partial to the version of 'America'. Completely unexpected, still a pomposity, but a bloody marvellous listen. It always works, I could never dislike it. 'Dr. Crippen's Waiting Room' with Anton Barbeau on vocals is lovely 60s grooviness - all together now repeat the mantra – 'Dr. Crippen guarantees a place in high society, stethoscope and his degree have bought for him his dignity'. The beautiful 'Into The Deep' is a real rainy day dream away song. Special mention for 'River Runs By' with Tony Durant sharing vocals with Crystal Jacqueline. I could listen to this one all day. Gentle. 'Half A Memory' featuring the guys from July is beginning to simmer nicely. Sneaky riff, eerie vocals. 'Lucky Spaceman' with Curvey from Luck Of Eden Hall also hit me clean right over after a couple of listens. There's something for everyone on the album, as another saying goes.
It must have been no small task to get this album together, but step up Honey Pot.
Congratulations too to FdM, there's no label quite like you. I was afraid of becoming cynical about certain aspects of the music biz until you came along. Thank you again.
Us & Them's 'Fading Within The Dwindling Sun' 10” is also released by FdM in December, featuring five tracks usually associated with Sandy Denny. There's something about this Scandinavian duo that evokes feelings of reflection in me. Not sadness though, I come out of it overwhelmed by the beauty. One day I'll be better able to put it into words, but for now, let's just say I love their music.
Their releases always arrive in tune with the current season. Nights are drawing in, the colours of Autumn now fading (they've been spectacular this year haven't they?) and Us & Them return with the perfect soundtrack yet again. There's a warmth in Britt's vocals, now missing outside, crystal clear yet slightly melancholic and Anders is always there with tasteful arrangements letting the songs breathe. The two tracks that really work for me are both Sandy Denny originals – 'Next Time Around' and 'Take Away The Load'. Both ideally suited to Us & Them. Lovely to have this duo around.
Finally, I'm becoming rather fond of two tracks on the FdM-Static Caravan split single upcoming in December – Art Of Memory Palace's 'First Flight Hymnal Collapse' and Jack Ellister's 'Reminder'. The former is an instrumental that's aching to be the theme to something (on the same note, or maybe not as the case may be, why wasn't The Bunnymen's 'Killing Moon' ever used as title and theme for a James Bond film?) and the latter because I'm always left in awe of Jack's talent as a songwriter and musicianship. This guy writes the most amazing songs and plays everything on them too! Take a bow!
Some interesting neo-psych pieces have caught the ears recently.
Mega Dodo continue a good year with Orange Drop's debut 'Stoned In Love'. This US outfit have a dreamy-incense swirled-narcosis about them that has always appealed to me. I think there'll be comparisons made with Brian Jonestown Massacre for the present, not unfair either, but it gives you the idea. Orange Drop are a lot tighter though. In my opinion there's a dose of dora flood in here too. No bad thing. 'Stoned In Love' gets better with each play and the guitars really work well. It'll be interesting to hear how these guys progress. Respectful cover version of Floyd's 'Julia Dream' included.
On a more experimental kick is 'AM in the PM' by Mind Monogram. Slightly rougher round the edges than Orange Drop with more basic arrangements, but there are a lot of interesting ideas packed into this seemingly short reverb-drenched 8 song release. Plenty of musical changes and shifts in pace. It's a roller coaster ride. I like the vocals, just slightly at the back of the mix - very free and expressive without being overpowering. It's scratched psych, but I like it...
Finally, promising UK label Those Old Records (TOR) are set to release Richard John-Riley's 'I Can't Tell You (How This Feels)' as a 300 copy only yellow vinyl edition. This is a masterpiece production! There's a four minute radio edit version here, but I'd plead with any radio station with the good taste to spin this to stick with the lead ten minute version. A wonderful experimental piece! So much to listen to. Weird voices, sound samples – sometimes harrowing in places. The lunatics have taken over the radio dial! Lovely acoustic guitar passages support the chant-like vocals. So hard to describe, I guess the title says it all. Chris from TOR told me to listen with headphones. I don't know if I dare...Beautiful!
I'll check in again soon.
There's been a slight return to pop sensibilities here recently after I dug out some 10cc tunes to listen to. Such fantastic arrangements and so many happy memories of hearing them on the radio at the time. Where does the time go? By coincidence, I've also received a copy of the new Simon Felton solo CD 'Return To Easton Square'.
Simon is a member of Garfields Birthday and the founder of indie pop stalwarts Pink Hedgehog records. He also has a knack for quintessentially English pop songwriting. It's easy to mention the name Ray Davies for these type of albums, but it gives you the idea.
This is a mature piece of work, with plenty of memorable melodies, humour and observations of everyday life. Well worth a listen.
The opener 'Will You Be There (By My Side)' is worth the price of the disc alone. I love the fuzzy synth bit in the middle of the track, it's fun!
Pretty much the entire album is played by Simon on his home studio set up and it has a lovely intimate feel to it. I'm playing it everyday.
One of my favourite releases this year has been exedra's self-released 'Elemental' CDR. Superb kraut/psych/mood music from Darrall Knight and Jeremy Gluck. As a stop gap until the new album, Darrall has recorded a set of instrumental mood pieces under the exedra name entitled 'Illuminized'. I'm grateful to have been sent these to listen to. The hope is that some of these tracks will see release on a label eventually, I hope so too!
Seven pieces - five hardly rising much above a murmur. Absolutely perfect late night/early morning listening. This is beautiful music! There's the air of ambience of Bowie & Eno's German experiments, and it's not a million miles away from Fruits De Mer's Strange Fish label output either.
'Miracle World' has bold 'orchestrated' intentions, while 'Salacia', 'Further Along The Sacred Way' and 'Exoplanet Transit' drift gently bringing calm - it's all very atmospheric. Only 'Music For Ocean Swell' and 'A Reaction For Mark Blanco' have a beat, but gentle piano progressions to continue the laid back mood - and talking of piano, check 'The Velvet Gentleman' for reflection. There's a real fragility and vulnerabilty about the performance. Contrast this with the assured electric guitar 'outro' of 'Blanco'...I'm hooked.
Ah man, this is bliss!
Thank you to Keith at Fruits De Mer for the CD promos of the label's August releases.
Vibravoid are back with a solid version of 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida'. There are a few interesting effects at the back of this to justify the 'psychedelic' tag and actually, it's grown on me quite a lot. I was prepared not to like it as I find the original a little ponderous, despite owning the album! Go figure...
It is also to be one of those releases where the song is too long for the 7" single format, so it spills over to side two where it continues. I love that. I treasured my 7” copy of 'Marquee Moon' for years. I've never liked edited versions and the 12” format is a waste of vinyl besides harbouring filler material too, so top marks to band and label for being resourceful. The customer still gets value for their money.
Sidewalk Society also return to the FdM fold with a four track EP featuring two covers of David Bowie and two covers of The Action. Again, well performed and as much as I loved The Action's 'Rolled Gold' release from which 'Look At The View' and 'Strange Roads' are taken, the Bowie choices win hands down – 'Can't Help Thinking About Me' and the beautiful 'Let Me Sleep Beside You'. Ah, the memories...
I'm no sci-fi fan, and I know nothing about 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' either, but the third release for August is three interpretations of 'Journey Of The Sorcerer'. Unlike the the other two releases, the music is new to me and I've nothing to compare it with. That's rather refreshing! As a result, open ears and an open mind greet the amazing Astralasia, Icarus Peel and Blue Giant Zeta Puppies, the latter showing a little restraint in comparison to their other FdM outings. The Icarus Peel track is the standout. I've not heard him sound this spacey before. There's a little bit of Hendrix in the arrangement.
My favourite single of the bunch too.
Luck Of Eden Hall have a new single on Mega Dodo due shortly too. Thanks for the promo John. A very strong coupling of the 'exclusive to this format' 'The End Of The Lane' and 'Blown To Kingdom Come' (taken from 'Acceleration Of Time'). 'The End of The Lane' is moody with 'White Album' era picking. Highly addictive listening actually. 'Blown to The Kingdom Come' is a powerhouse with the trademark drums driving everything along. It's all over too soon. Hit repeat...
I'll check in again shortly.
'Hollow Ghost / Rochelle Salt' is the new album by Octopus Syng and currently in heavy rotation here. You can lose yourself in the haze of this slow burning, haunting psych - a perfect example of the legacy of solo Syd Barrett, but with a melancholic twist all of its own. From the murmur of the beginning of instro. 'Carbon Dust And Latin Romances', the album gradually fills the room with eeriness through 'Woman' and 'Echoes From The Past Centuries' until turning strange on 'Surrealistic Room' ('...my typewriter is singing...' oh yeah!) - this is one star turn of a song for sure.
The titles of the tracks alone are intriguing and sometimes that's all I need to lend an ear. 'Lady Florette', 'Melancholy Of Delight', 'Walking In The Pale Light', 'Reverberating Garden Number 7', what more can I say?
'Melancholy Of Delight' is a rare beauty, one of the best songs Procol Harum never wrote. Reflective to the point that I start to get very emotional when listening to it. I love songs like this to bits and back again - every time. 'Belle And Ville' is just plain weird, almost vaudeville. It sounds like it's speeding up as it plays and probably is, but who cares – I'm still along for this ride.
Another excellent album for 2016.
For those who like a dash of the mysterious with their music.
I'll check in again shortly.
New on FdM, Crystal Jacqueline's 'Morning Dew' EP, featuring laid back and ably performed versions of 'Morning Dew', 'Moonsong:Pelog', plus 'Sally Go Round The Roses' is a current favourite here. The real gem for me though is the new Icarus Peel penned track 'Ivy'. Dreamy indeed. Reminds me of those early 70s acoustic Floyd songs that filled lazy summer days of many a misspent youth.
I always look forward to releases by Octopus Syng and their new single 'Reverberating Garden No. 7' on Mega Dodo is another prime slice of ghostly sounding psych. The track was not included on the recent album of the same name, and is a different version to the one which will be featured on their new one later this year! Confusing isn't it? Other worldly vocals, lovely keyboard and guitar arrangements and of course, plenty of reverb - love it! The flip is their version of Syd's 'Flaming'. A nice pairing, ahem... There's no-one quite like these guys, can't wait for the album!
Wow, what an interesting listening experience exedra's debut CDR 'Elemental' is. This collaboration between Jeremy Gluck and Darrall Knight feels like it's come out of nowhere, but has pretty much everything these ears like to hear. The guitar work is outstanding, keyboards bring ambience and the vocals hypnotise. 'Elemental', 'World Junk' and 'Flash Forward' are mesmerizing and some of the best songs heard round these parts in recent weeks. 'Exotica' is one beautiful instrumental too. The music on this album is quite special. Hard to pinpoint a style, but there's a little Krautrock, a little psych, a little art-rock and a whole lot of atmosphere. It's quite stopped me in my tracks to be honest. Excellent!
Well, it's St. Patrick's Day and the forthcoming live album from Tir Na Nog expected in June on Mega Dodo has landed here on CD. Thanks John! Recorded at Putney's Half Moon venue last May, this is a very intimate performance. They really are something special live. Included is their excellent driving version of Nick Drake's 'Free Ride'. Everything about their performances seems effortless, but the emotions these guys stir up. This show is no exception and is a keeper. Catch them if you can.
So many fine releases so far this year.... I'll be back.
It's been a few weeks since I last checked in, but there's been plenty of interesting things to fill any silence round these parts...
Fanfare please! Game Theory's 1987 album 'Lolita Nation' is reissued and expanded! Listening to this one all over again, and again, and.... A genuine modern classic for all the same reasons as 'OK Computer', in my opinion. Excellent chords (and lots of them), abstract lyrics, plus a heap of experimentation – it's one huge musical collage. I never tire of this album. Actually I'd dare to call it a concept. Art rock too.
A few alternate versions, choice radio sessions and live cuts are welcome listening on the second disc. Interesting cover versions – Sex Pistols, PiL, Joy Division, Elvis Costello & two by David Bowie. No wonder a lot of people are missing Scott Miller, what a unique and intelligent songwriter. 'Dripping With Looks', The Waist And The Knees, 'Last Day That We're Young', 'Together Now, Very Minor', 'We Love You Carol And Alison', phew...These are amazing songs, and only a small selection of the originality on offer here. Grab a listen if you've never heard it before or enjoy all over again if you caught it the first time around. Genius - and no one's twisting my arm!
Sendelica release their version of 'Ziggy Stardust' on FdM in April. How do you tackle a genuine classic like this? Well, you have to completely re-arrange it I guess, and this is what Sendelica have attempted to do. Possibly half the speed of the original, I get the feeling it's dragging too much. Better is the flip, the Marc Swordfish/Astralasia remix. This version realises the the ambience tried for on the other side, but de-clutters things and reinstates the original riff, synth-orchestrated, right near the end. Beautiful! Brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it, becoming a very moving, tasteful tribute to the man.
The version of 'Here She Comes Now' by Claudio Cataldi first appeared on FdM's limited CD 'Strange Fruit & Veg' last year. He also covered Syd's 'She Too A Long Cold Look' on their 'Momentary Lapse Of Vinyl' Syd/Floyd CD tribute, so he's now completed his apprenticeship and moves up to the big time with a vinyl offering in April. 'Here She Comes Now' is the lead track and is a straight re-working of the Velvet Underground track. The other three (original) tracks are of more interest. They have an 'outsider music' feel that I like. 'All My Friends Are Here' and 'Final' (also previously included on Friends Of The Fish Promo 6) feature some fine/emotive slide guitar playing and the echoed vocals keep things nice 'n' eerie. 'Ropes And Strings' (a feature of the Friends Of The Fish Promo 8 CD) is an acoustic instrumental with again, a ghostly feel, thanks to the organ (or is it an accordion??) lingering at the back of the mix. Whatever it is, it's very beautiful. I like this single!
The version of the Manfred Mann's Earth Band track 'Saturn, Lord Of The Ring / Mercury, The Winged Messenger' by Proud Peasant intrigues me. This is off-radar listening for me generally, but one of the reasons I love FdM releases. They kick me out of my comfort zone. I get to listen to songs by artists I don't usually listen to, thanks to versions by new artists who I do want to hear. Does this make sense? Well, 'Saturn..' starts out like a 'Percy' era Kinks country ramble, before venturing into what I'd call frantic 'getaway car' prog rock, which actually works in this instance. Quite a trip really, very Floyd-like in parts too. It's released in April on FdM with an a-side of Eloy's 'Daybreak'. This is a full-on 'getaway car' romp though, but too 'white knuckle' for me, sorry!
I loved Chemistry Set's version of the Jimi Hendrix track 'Love Or Confusion'. Tabla and sitar – what can I say? My favourite sounds. My only gripe was it wasn't long enough. Well, there's a 22 minute Marc Swordfish/Astralasia remix entitled 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Laboratory' on the extra disc of the expanded 'Endless More And More' album out in April, again on FdM. I can't complain this time. This is definitely a trip through space. I'm getting to quite enjoy these Astralasia remixes. Float on and on brother...
There's also a nice feel to Kula Shaker's new album 'K 2.0'. I've always liked this band. Again, it's the Indian influence. They continually improve. Since setting up their own label Strange Folk they put out some interesting albums. 'Infinite Sun' is beautiful. There are nods to Steve Miller and David Bowie (ch-ch-changes) in there and just a general happy vibe all round. 'Holy Flame', '33 Crows', 'Oh Mary' and the obligatory chant 'Hari Bol' are also very good. Worth checking out.
See you next time.
Honey Pot seem to be in a good place at the moment from what I'm hearing on the forthcoming single 'Lisa Dreams' and album 'Inside The Whale'.
'Lisa Dreams' is sweet pop, very catchy, very 'To The Edge Of The World' Honey Pot. Interesting vocal arrangement. The flip, 'Into The Deep' finds the band stretching out, sounding more West Coast. A taster for 'Inside the Whale'. The single is very limited, so hurry if you'd like a copy. Neither song features on the album.
What about 'Inside The Whale'? Well we're 'flying Jefferson Airplane' here. Strong vocals, psych guitars (cue 'The Outskirts Of Your Mind' and 'Psychedelic Circles') plus really tasteful keyboards (the piano on 'Butterfly Ride' – simple, but beautiful). There's a nice, easy pace to everything, just kick back and follow. It's a very melodic album. I hear The Byrds and The Doors in there too. The title track is perhaps the most progressive piece recorded thus far by the band. Trippy Mellotron/guitar intro and those chords...Oh yes! I love it.
There are sensitive moments too, 'Walking On Eggshells' particularly, but also the closing 'A Curate's Egg'.
Full to the brim with ideas, yet nothing overplayed. Onwards and upwards Honey Pot.
I'll check in again in the New Year.
Merry Christmas and a Happy 2016 everyone!
Heyday Top Ten 2015
Yes, that time again, phew! This year has really flown by.
Here are Heyday's Top Ten favourite releases for 2015.
A big thank you to the labels and artists for their help and support of Heyday this year. I appreciate it!
Now without further ado it's hats off to the following...
Beautify Junkyards / The Beast Shouted Love (album)
Chemistry Set / Endless More And More (album)
Church / Further – Deeper (album)
Cranium Pie / Mechanisms II (album)
Bob Dylan / The Cutting Edge (6CD set)
Gothic Chicken / Lift The Cobweb Veil (album)
Magic Bus / Seven Wonders – Eight Miles High (single)
Me And My Kites / Is It Real Or Is It Made (album)
Keith Richards / Cross Eyed Heart (album)
Us And Them / Summer Green And Autumn Brown (album)
I've been checking out the recent double CD reissue on RPM of Tim Rose's 'The Musician' and 'The Gambler' albums. 1975's 'The Musician' is a very good listen. I really should get out of the habit of overlooking work in the 70s by artists better known for their 60s releases. I've been pleasantly surprised a few times now by how interesting some of these releases are. Maybe I just needed to be a little older to appreciate more mature work.
I really like the feel of 'The Musician' though. It has that 'hazy late Saturday night/early hours Sunday morning' feel to it. Interesting choice by Rose to cover Neil Young's 'Old Man' too. Best of all is 'The Day I Spent With You' - wonderful chorus. Had me hitting the repeat button again and again and.... The bonus tracks of 'Morning Dew' and 'Hey Joe' are welcome as well.
1977's 'The Gambler' has remained unreleased until now and I've still got to get round listening seriously to it (I've been too busy playing 'The Day I Spent With You'), but no doubt about it, Tim Rose's voice remained a pretty amazing instrument. I'm glad I got to see him a few years back in a pub in Clapham. I was knocked out then by the power of his vocals.
Having missed out on one of the 111 copies of Jack Ellister's unusually titled 'Tune Up Your Ministers And Start Transmission From Pool Holes To Class Hypergiants' album, I've managed to obtain a promo CD copy. Thanks Jack and Keith at FdM for that. I'm really happy Jack's finally managed to put out 'physically' some of the songs he's had lingering only on the internet these past two or three years. They are fully deserving of a release, but if like me, you blinked at the time of release of the vinyl, then I'm afraid it's back to being without. I'm grateful for this CD copy though. 'Man With The Biochopper' brings back happy memories, so does 'The Sun Sends Me Hails, Victory, Power, Peace And Shelter'. Great to have a studio version of the live favourite 'Old South' too. One of the more interesting songwriters I've come across in recent years. Good on you Jack...
Thanks to Simon at Pink Hedgehog I've been sent a CD promo of a vinyl only release on the label (in January) by Gothic Chicken entitled 'Lift The Cobweb Veil'. Listening to the album (without first reading the press sheet) I was struck by how much like Schnauser the band sounded. Then, ahem, I read the press sheet. The songs were recorded about ten years ago and feature Alan Strawbridge, pre-Schnauser. In fact by the time I got to 'Westward Ho?' (the best song Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks never wrote) the penny finally dropped, as I remember this song from a recent Schnauser album. Small world. Well, at least my ears don't deceive me yet. Like Schnauser, Gothic Chicken are/were musical anarchists, putting changes in songs that shouldn't work, but do. It makes for very interesting listening - bet they were a riot live. I really like this album a lot. Marco Rossi was also in Gothic Chicken too. He's now in Gathering Grey who featured in FdM's marvellous '7 & 7 Is' box set recently. Nice West Coast sounds as I remember....
Anyway, back to 'Lift The Cobweb Veil'. Listening to it is like being in a lyrical/musical firing range! Odd lines and instrumental passages are flying everywhere at once towards my ears. Which to listen to first? Well, with each spin I concentrate on one or the other. Lyrically, it can be quite amusing at times (''Once upon a time I was a lion, when I still had my pride'' – 'It's All Up To You, Saint Jude') and musically, the opening tracks 'Overture? - Overthrow' have just about everything – Elegant 'orchestrated' passage - to ¾ time - to something elsewhere entirely - to Eastern vibes. Phew! Lyrically, in my mind, 'Overthrow' seems to sum up the album's intentions - 'now's the time to overthrow the fools, now's the time for breaking all the rules...' Yup, you can say that again! Really inventive use of instrumentation throughout as well.
This is such a good album. How come it's been under wraps for so long?
One of my favourite tracks is 'Pitta Bread Man'. Pure 60s pop/psych. Lovely hint of mellotron in there and tongue firmly in cheek lyrically too! I think Frank Zappa would have liked Gothic Chicken a lot (and Schnauser too).They're his natural heirs. I know I keep mentioning Schnauser in this entry, but it's hard to separate the two bands in my mind. It's almost like Gothic Chicken were Schnauser's blueprint. I have to thank Simon for getting me into Schnauser in the first place as Pink Hedgehog were the first label to to promote the band. Here we are again, full circle with Gothic Chicken. Thank you Simon! Like Chemistry Set, Gothic Chicken will be in the Heyday Top Ten for 2015, again on a technicality!
I'll be back again shortly.
Wow! The first three tracks on the new Chemistry Set album really punch the breath out of me and then proceed to pull my imagination round distant horizons only hinted at in the lyrics. No surprise the fourth track is the familiar and still rather wonderful, 'Time To Breathe'. Phew. This is how to begin your new album - hold nothing back. I'm particularly impressed with the opener 'The Splendour Of The Universe', fanfare and all. It radiates a 'I-feel-so-good-that-there's-nothing-the world-can-throw-at-me-today-to-make-me-feel-down-at-all' vibe. The Byrdsian touches are welcome to these ears as well.
Yes, a CDR promo of 'The Endless More And More' has arrived here courtesy of FdM (thank you Keith) and it's caused quite a stir.
The beauty of this album is in the detail. I've said before that these guys know their way round the studio and here is further proof. Every time I listen I hear something new and interesting. I really appreciate that bit of thought in the arrangements for songs and ChemSet never disappoint. Shame it's not released until January next year, it'd be in my Top Ten for 2015 right now. Maybe I'll sneak it in anyway, on a technicality! This is some of the best British neo-pop-psych I've heard in some time.
It's not all three chords and a cloud of space dust though (there is very much a theme of galactic about the album), as the mellower moments show the duo's ability to diversify. Besides the previously mentioned 'Time To Breathe', there's the aching beauty of the ballad 'Winter Sun' and 'Albert Hoffman' has that whimsy of Syd's Floyd about it, with extra spookiness. I can't help but be charmed by bar-room sing-a-long (though not quite a knees-up) of 'Crawling Back To You'. After some listens I think 'Crawling...' is my favourite song on the album. It's this kind of song that makes the album special. It's completely unexpected. This kind of approach never hurt The Beatles on their albums either. Elsewhere, the single 'Elapsed Memories' still has a chorus a lot of bands would kill for and of course, you can't have a psychedelic album without the whiff of incense...'The Open Window' takes care of the Eastern side of things. Nice!
Excellent effort guys, go to the top of the class!
January's other release on FdM is an ambient album by former dora flood and now Soft Bombs leader Michael Padilla. I'm no expert on this type of album. How do you describe an ambient release? I suppose it's how it makes you feel?
This is the music of the sky. Clouds changing shape, drifting. As the album progresses more sounds fill in the 'sound picture', giving the feeling of some kind of journey. It's not quite all stillness. Closing with 'The Waiting' you do get a sense of the end of an adventure. So, how does it make me feel? Well, the album 'Atmospheres' leaves me in a good place.
The FdM members disc given away with the above new releases will be a CD of David Bowie cover versions entitled 'Fashion'. I've only just received a copy of this and after a few spins, I'm impressed. Well, no surprise really, I like these songs. They've been a part of my listening for a good few years now. I've been immediately smitten by 'Black Country Rock' (Cary Grace), 'Life On Mars' (Sheepshanks), 'Drive-In Saturday' (Jack Ellister), 'Sense of Doubt' (Rob Gould) and 'African Night Flight' (Seventh Ring Of Saturn). An interesting selection overall. We're lucky people! Thank you again for another year of great music FdM!
I'll check in again soon.
Thank you to John at Mega Dodo for the CD promo of Us & Them's eagerly awaited debut album 'Summer Green & Autumn Brown'. It's the perfect soundtrack, now the days are getting shorter and the backdrop from my window is a wash of the colours brown, red, orange and yellow.
Us & Them are a male/female duo from Sweden who release gentle psych/pop/folk. The vocals are a notch above a whisper and the music, reflective, unfolds in its own time. There's no rush. It's all very beautiful!
I've returned to this album every day since receiving a copy. It's a song cycle of sorts, from the opening instrumental 'A New Beginning' to the closing 'Insight' (a reprise with the chant-like lyrics of 'Stay a while, stay for summer, stay for good') In-between, introspective lyrics, full of feeling. 'Summer Green...' is a well thought out piece of work. I'm grateful to have this job and have albums like this land in my lap!
The intro to 'We Are Sacred' is so intricate, it nearly knots itself as it twists and turns. The song is the sound of clockwork. I've never heard the 'f-word' sung so beautifully either, check out 'State Of Mind'! 'Here Again' hits me every time I hear the words '...and start the life I should be living'. Why? Probably because it's a statement of intent. There's strength in these lyrics, despite the gentle delivery. 'Me and My Mission' is a beautiful tune, uplifting chorus too. 'Step by step....' There's a film to be made by someone where this will roll out over the closing credits. Centre-piece is 'From The Inside, Looking Out'. The mellotron passage haunts, the lyrics yearn for freedom. Listen and weep.
On the surface, an album that may seem unassuming, but listen hard for the rewards. 'Summer Green And Autumn Green' is a Pandora's Box of emotions - sometimes things may not be right, but there's always hope.
I'll check in again soon.