Saturday, 29 November 2008

Got a light, Bud?

I've been listening to a fair bit of Black Uhuru lately, inspired in part by some recent posts from the Dust Devil over at YoungMossTongue; including an album I have wanted to replace for a long time: Black Sounds of Freedom. Fantastic.

So here is the procrastinator's anthem, Sinsemilla, and in my humble opinion, Black Uhuru's greatest release.

Black Uhuru began their career in Jamaica in the late seventies; they mainly sang civil rights' songs (Uhuru is Swahili for freedom), but soon broadened into more conventional reggae territory; however, with the addition of Puma Jones's voice, their sound was soon to become uniquely distinctive.

They created some fantastic music throughout their career, but their early albums are those that really shine.

And once Michael Rose had departed in 85, well, Duckie and co did go on, but the dynamic of sound was never the same.

Rose's voice on this album is quite phenomenal, the way he gargles those vowels - his delivery on 'There is Fire' is extraordinary - far superior to any stereotypical French rural accent.

The rhythm section here is the wonderful pairing of Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, and their sound had evolved into the tightest of units; seamlessly woven into a single entity, really showcased well on this release.

Indeed, I believe Sinsemilla is Sly and Robbie's finest moment.

The bass and percussion just bubbles, boiling mud-like; creating a buoyant foundation for piano, guitar, voice and desk.

I say desk, because as with so many reggae cuts, the desk, the mix and the production is just as much an integral part of the band's identity in sound as the musicianship; and Sly and Robbie, with their hands on the knobs, were masters of the genre.

And let's face it, reggae isn't the easiest of genres to be entirely original; but Black Uhuru created a unique and identifiable sound.

It still sounds vital and timeless now.
For nothing has really followed it.

The Punky Reggae Party is dead.
Long live the Punky Reggae Party.

Black Uhuru - Sinsemilla (1980)

World is Africa
Push Push
There is Fire
No Loafing (Sit and Wonder)

Nice cassette rip @ 256kbs
Score some Sinsemilla here

Thursday, 27 November 2008

It's a nice sound, it's a happy sound, and it's er not doing anybody any harm

I like Chumbawamba.
I’ve always liked them, despite their irritating tub thumping.

And this is my favourite.

I had narrowed it down to this and Never Mind the Ballots, but in the end Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records is definitely the best Chumbawamba album.

Never Mind the Ballots is too much a product of its time; too plugged in to its own zeitgeist, and unless you were there, so to speak, it sounds a little like a historical tract.

Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, however, has travelled through time incredibly well, and sounds as vital today – especially in our present state of economic crisis and potential ideological meltdown (those living under the Soviet Union didn’t think it could happen either) – as it did on release in 1986.

This album should be on the school curriculum.
It’s not preachy, but it does make you think.
And that’s no bad thing.
Is it?

But really, has music ever changed anything?
After all, I don’t ever remember Curtis Lemay admitting that Charlie wasn’t so bad once 'All You Need is Love' had been piped round the world.

Music is really only important in the moment.
And I’m sure those who sang 'Feed the World' along with Sir Bob & co back in 1985 sincerely felt the world was gaining sustenance merely from their heartfelt harmonious exhalation.

But music really only connects with those who listen; and those who listen tend to be the last people that should be listening, because they know it all ready.
So protest music is merely rhetoric, and the audience nod and agree with everything that is being said.

But that said, we love it.

And I love this.

And Chumbawamba used a trumpet long before Belle and Sebastian or Ian Brown.
Which is another thing I love about them.

The stand out tracks here are numerous; but the longer more complex songs such as ‘How to Get Your Band on Television’, with its wonderful ‘Slag Aid’, are superb:

“In keeping with the fashion of charity, not change
Here’s our contribution, we’ve called it Slag Aid
For every Pop Star that we slag off today
A million pounds will be given away!”

Followed by a ‘slagging off’ of all the household favourites, concluding with a masterful attack on Cliff (choral sounds, intense light) Richard:

“On behalf of our viewers watching on telly
And on behalf of the millions with empty bellies
We’re donating something special that we’re all going to like
Cliff Richard, we’re going to nail you up to a cross tonight.”

The song cycle ends with a repeated refrain which keeps “on going round”, and the only way out of the repetitive cycle is to “burn the house of commons to the ground”.
Seems like a fairly logical solution when it’s put so eloquently…

‘Unilever’, adopting a punk riff and an in your face guide to ethical shopping, only adds to the vitriol and contrition.
Also features a great chuck at the end!

But as always, Chumbawamba are terribly slippery when it comes to being shoved into a genre, as they move from punk to folk to satirical variety numbers.

And why not?
O yeah, and I adore the Tony Blackburn sample.

Chumbawamba - Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records (1986)

How to Get Your Band on Television
British Colonialism and the BBC
Commercial Break
More Whitewashing
An Interlude, Beginning to Take it back
Dutiful Servants and Political Masters
And in a Nutshell: 'Food Aid is our Most Powerful Weapon'

Vinyl rip @256kbs
There are some pops during the quiet bits, but they're few and far between.
But hey, it is a Porky Prime Cut,
so get yourself a slice here

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Definitely Not the Surf Band

The driving train-like rhythm that opens this album transports me straight back to the nineteen eighties.

Squatted apartments in Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, Hackney: dark despairing dens occupied by lurchers, disparate people, paranoia, nihilism and hate.

Mark Astronaut had an ability to crystallize those times; a true Hogarth in sound, revealing a vivid and authentic snapshot of that bleak, cynical, destructive period.

He had an incredibly keen eye; an acute power of observation, and a Pepys-like mode of expression: witty, cynical, self-deprecating, often sublime and often deeply provocative.

Through his objectivity and an outsider's stance and view, he was able to reveal the truth, dismissing romantic ideas, whether to do with ideology or action, and really tell it as it was; capturing and realizing the genuine feelings and attitudes of Thatcher's bastard children

Mark Astronaut, like the greatest of artists, 'reported back'; but it's the way he 'reported back' that really makes him stand out.

Provocative as the lyrics are, The Astronauts really adopted an apolitical position.
Anarchists and Marxists may have adopted the band, but in no way did the band propagandize.

It is in The Astronauts' sound that the link can readily be made between punk rock and folk music; for urban folk is what The Astronauts created, and with much folk music, poetry plays a big part.

Maybe you've never heard The Astronauts.
And maybe you think this is all rhetoric based on my own nostalgic view.
But honestly, Mark Astronaut was a genuine outsider poet, and his music and his band were definitely one of the more authentic sounds of the post punk period.
If you like music from this genre and period; music that attempted to be serious and provocative, then this is well worth having a listen to.

This album from 1986 is a great introduction to their music; it's also an album you never see (there are others, mainly the excellent Peter Pan Hits the Suburbs, available on other blogs).
Soon showcases new material (for 86) and repackages a couple of early 7" releases: The Astronauts e.p. from 79, and Pranksters in Revolt released in 1980.

Mark's voice is rather like that of Fairport's Dave Swarbrick (told you they had a folky flavour); the music is very punk on the early recordings (think The Mob or Subhumanz); but with the addition of a sax, the recordings from 85 sound a little like Inner City Unit, but more... what? Organic. Earthy, somehow.

If there is any interest in this album, I have more.
And I'd be really interested to hear your impressions or memories of this excellent band...

The Astronauts - Soon (1986)

Friends (1985)
Books (1985)
Blues for a Sceptic (1985)
The Birds (1985)
Following Orders (1985)
Survivors (1979)
All Night Party (1979)
Young Man's World (1980)
We Were Talking (1980)

Vinyl rip @256kbs
Be amazed by the view from outer space; get The Astronauts here

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Token Music

In my formative years as an avid music enthusiast my access to the rock world was via the weekly publication Sounds.
I began with Melody Maker, but it was aimed at those who were interested in what strings Richie Blackmore favoured; I tried NME but couldn't understand when reading a review of a Stranglers' gig why the author was deconstructing the life and works of Søren Aabye Kierkegaard.
Sounds was just right.

And long before the days of cover mounts, these weeklies that adopted the portentous style of broadsheet newspapers, would entice their readers into getting their hands on free music by publishing collectible tokens on a weekly basis for a month or so.
Save 'em up, send 'em off, and hey, about two months later you get your free record through the post.

Which is how I came to be in possession of this.
And I still love it.

Released in 1978, the Sounds Album Vol 3: Can't Start Dancin' was a collaboration with Stiff Records, one of the more exciting of the new wave of independent record labels that were rapidly springing up on the back of punk ideology and enthusiasm.

Fourteen tracks, performed by seven Stiff artists; beginning with their big home grown star, Ian Dury, who gives away his first single release with the Blockheads: 'Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll ', and that excellent anthem to hedonism was juxtaposed with the equally wonderful 'Razzle in my Pocket', the single's original flipside, and my favourite all time Dury track.

Back in 1985, I shouted myself hoarse at Glastonbury during one of Ian Dury's frequent reunions with the Blockheads, demanding they perform 'Razzle in my Pocket'.
They didn't.
I wonder if that was the reason why lots of people threw mud at them...

But if you've never heard the track; a witty monologue, with the narrator telling the story of how he went 'out on the nick' in 'Romford', and what happened to him when he 'put his thieving hand on something rude', well, find out the rest for yourself.
I'm not gonna spoil it for you.

Mickey Jupp is next to belt out a couple of songs, showing how punk allowed for a lot of fringe and peripheral musicians to gain some appropriate attention.
Produced by Nick Lowe, Mickey Jupp, as a member of the ambiguous pub rock genre, suddenly became interesting after being in the music business since the early sixties.
And his songs included here reveal just how professional and tight many of the pub circuit musicians were at this time, as they're both really fine numbers.

The real highlight of the collection can be heard next, courtesy of a pre-'Stop the Cavalry' Jona Lewie, with his wonderful song 'Denny Laine's Valet'.
I have listened to this song on and off for the last thirty years, and I still haven't got a clue as to what the fuck he is going on about, but it really is true genius.

Wreckless Eric's contributions are a couple of typifying numbers that capture the excitement of his early songs. Destined to be massive by Stiff, he shyed away from the manner in which they marketed and promoted him; and became one of the most peripheral of all cult singer songwriters, seemingly enjoying his less than commercial relationship with the music industry.

The track 'Semaphore Signals' that appears on this collection was produced by Ian Dury, and a fine job he made of it; it really is one of Eric's stand out tunes from this part of his career.

Talking of expectancy and the desire for big things, Rachel Sweet was also heavily promoted by Stiff as being the next Patti Smith or something.
Listening to her sickly voice now, it's amazing that she even made the Stiff roster, let alone being singled out for success.

(I guess like Branson's Virgin camped just down the road from Stiff, what everybody really wanted was number ones. Branson got lucky with 'God Save the Queen', Stiff made it with Dury's 'Rhythm Stick', but they kept on promoting more 'commercal' artists, this I believe was responsible for a lot of ex-Stiff artists recalling unhappy times with the label.)

Sweet was a kind of indie Britney figure.
Peaches she wasn't.
Where is she now, I wonder?

Lena Lovich on the other hand had a pretty successful career.
Starting as a funk singer in the early seventies, the English, Serbian, America-born artist was soon convinced by Stiff to adopt a punky look.
It paid off, and she achieved a commercial hit with the upbeat song 'Lucky Number'.

I gained a free ticket one time to see her perform at the Lyceum in Hammersmith.
I left after two numbers and chanced my luck at getting into the Odeon down the street where Blue Oyster Cult were playing.
I failed.
Would I have left the Lena Lovich gig if the ticket wasn’t free?
Probably, yeah.

Her second track here really sounds like it should have been included on the Broken Glass soundtrack; as Lovich performs a magnificent impersonation of Hazel O'Connor.

The Rumour, a support band for many solo artists of this time, were normally associated with singer Graham - 'Hey Lord don't ask me Questions' - Parker.
It does sound like Parker sings lead on the first of their tracks here, but I'm unable to verify this.

The Rumour are yet another example of a band that were really known from the pub circuit - it must be said, the pub music scene was thriving at that time, and venues such as The Hope and Anchor in Islington, The Red Cow in Hammersmith and The Falcon in Camden Town were the best places to see cutting edge, wild and often innovative performances in London in the mid to late seventies.

The Rumour's second track on this collection, 'Loving You is Far Too Easy', reminds me of this time probably more than any other track on the album; as it was a sound so indicative of those times; even more so than more successful bands such as The Damned or The Dickies.

7 Stiff Artists - The Sounds Album Vol 3: Can't Start Dancin' (1978)

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll - Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Razzle in my Pocket - Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Making Friends - Mickey Jupp
You Made a Fool Out of Me - Mickey Jupp
Denny Laine's Valet - Jona Lewie
I'll Get By in Pittsburgh - Jona Lewie
Semaphore Signals - Wreckless Eric
I Wish it Would Rain - Wreckless Eric
I'll Watch the News - Rachel Sweet
Cuckoo Clock - Rachel Sweet
Monkey Talk - Lene Lovich
Momentary Breakdown - Lene Lovich
All Fall Down - The Rumour
Loving You is Far Too Easy - The Rumour

Get a copy of this never commercially released Stiff sampler as a vinyl rip @256kbs here

If anyone has got a clue as to what the hell 'Denny Laine's Valet' is all about, I'd love an inkling...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Profane Thrill

I was fourteen years old.

I had my seventy-nine pence, and I could finally go and buy the record I had heard played a few days before in my local Harlequin Records store.

I approached the counter, attracted the attention of the ever-so-trendy bored looking member of staff, who gazed at me in my school uniformed adolescent state with absolute disdain.
He was no doubt expecting me to ask for a copy of ‘Staying Alive’ or something.

But then came my big moment:

“Have you got ‘Fuck Off’, please?”

Much to my delight, the desirably monikered tune came pressed into grey vinyl, and it had three other tracks on it. Wicked!

Of course, ‘Fuck Off’ is an absolute punk rock classic; but listening to this e.p. now, it’s amazing how close the Electric Chairs sounded to the 60's garage bands that became familiar to a lot of us British folk through the Nuggets collection.

And that’s right where the song ‘Night Time’ came from, originally by the ‘I Love Candy’ band: the Strangeloves.

The Chairs' version is equally as good as the original, and County’s spiteful, yet distinctly camp voice delivers it perfectly.

‘Toilet Love’ is an anthem to cottaging, and I’m still waiting for George Michael to release it for his next big comeback.

The e.p. finishes with ‘Mean Motherfuckin’ Man’, a kick-arse number in an appropriate MC5/Stooges style.
I just love the way County adds asides to [at that time] his lyric; voicing kitsch disgust and disapproval at what is being revealed.

Wayne County was a great character; and Jayne’s even more wonderful and bizarre.
Long may s/he reign.

Wayne County and the Electric Chairs - Blatantly Offensive e.p. (1978)

Fuck Off
Night Time
Toilet Love
Mean Motherfuckin' Man

Get this Vinyl rip @256kbs without the embarrassment or thrill of having to ask for it over the counter here

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Babylon Cashing In

Despite its 5th form art project-like cover, this album is selling for £350 on Amazon's Market Place!

So I figured I'd post it here, as I'm in a dancing mood; and it's a nice compliment to the New Age Steppers; and Jeez, nobody should have to pay three-hundred and fifty pounds for an album. That's obscene.

Misty in Roots, a collective formed in Southall, London, in the mid-seventies (I believe the music collective was set-up by the Manpower Services Commission; a scheme designed to get people into work, and in pre-Thatcher Britain, if you could convince those working at the social security office that you were destined to be an artist or pop star, then they would accommodate you, and pay for your set of brushes or drum kit, or whatever, and even provide you a space to practice in. Halcyon days...) were one of the best of the British roots and reggae bands.

To see them live was a wonderful experience, and I was fortunate enough to see them a couple of times; once in London, and again, a truly magnificent performance at Glastonbury festival in 1985, where they turned a very soggy, cold and muddy, fucked-up rainy afternoon into one of the best parties I've ever attended.

They played on the smaller stage, Stage 2 (this was quite early days at Glastonbury, and the imaginatively titled branded stages hadn't been conceived yet), and completely packed out the allocated audience space.

Steel Pulse had played the main Pyramid stage earlier on in the day, and had hardly any audience at all.
Two things can be learned from this, I feel, if you're ever thinking of putting on a festival and want reggae music to be a part of it:
1. don't put reggae bands on before three o'clock in the afternoon.
And 2. don't put reggae bands on a great big stage, fifteen feet up in the air.
Reggae and roots music is intimate, the audience need to be close; for the audience is what makes the reggae gig.

This album from 1982, is just that, very, very intimate.
The lyrics here are deeply spiritual; prayer-like in some respects.
Some songs, 'Bail Out', 'Wise and Foolish', are parables; didactic, evangelical almost.

But don't be put off.
Misty in Roots' sound is crucial, tight and wonderfully soulful and celebratory.

The horns and brass that accompany the songs are softly blown.
And apart from the occasional kick arse all-out dub workout - listen in awe to the final two minutes of 'Live Up' - the band are perfectly restrained; and work brilliantly as a single unit.

All the songs here wonderfully evoke those times of the punky reggae party that was so much part of the late seventies-early eighties period; whether it was in London or way out in a field in the middle of nowhere; or Wiltshire as it is known.

The one track that does seem a little out of place on this album is the song 'Jah Bless Africa'. However, this song is a response to the Zeitgeist of the early eighties, and was Misty's homage to the ANC, as the song 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' (the song Misty reinterpreted) was their anthem.
In fact the song was banned in apartheid South Africa, and was always associated with and sung rebelliously by the oppressed.
It is now South Africa's national anthem.

Despite the fact that those who made up Misty in Roots got together in London, their music harked back to the classic Caribbean 70's roots sound (think early Black Uhuru, Dennis Bovell, Jimmy Cliff), and there was also a distinct acknowledgment of their true roots: Africa.
Their version of 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' was part of their outward expression of allegiance, and the track 'Slavery Days' only furthered their connection with their own heritage and past.

This album connects me with my own past.

But then I guess that's what all music does.

Misty in Roots - Wise and Foolish (1982)

Bail Out
City Blues
Wise and Foolish
Live Up
Life Boat
Slavery Days
Jah Bless Africa
Peace and Love

You can go to Amazon and buy this for £350.
Or you can get this vinyl rip @256kbs for free.
Mine is a little crackly,
but not enough to ruin anyone's pleasure.
And hey, it ain't £350.
So save yourself an awful lot of money and play Misty for yourself here

Monday, 17 November 2008

Step It Up

The second New Age Steppers' album is far less textured and multi-layered than both the first and the third of their releases.
Here they sound much more like a conventional roots outfit; except, as a band they were always a good few steps ahead of anyone else working in the genre at the time.

And this maybe an album of covers, but with Ari Up singing on the majority of the tracks, and with Adrian Sherwood (the 1980's alternative music version of Mark Ronson) twiddling the knobs, you just know it's going to be good.

The album kicks off with what is probably the best known of the Steppers' tracks: 'My Whole World'; a gorgeous eco-conscious song that allows Ari to really show off her vocal dexterity.
She achieves real sonic proportions on this album; makes my dogs go berserk.

Probably the best example of Ari's sonic capabilities can be 'heard' on the only dub track on the album, the amazing, and a little scary, 'Nuclear Zulu'; a track that features one of the most far-out dub mixes ever heard.
Sounds seem to come from everywhere, and sounds are introduced through reverberation as much as they, in the conventional manner, decay. The guitar seems to emanate from inside your head.
It's very freaky. Good for spinning round and round to.

Often referred to as psychedelic dub, Sherwood's production and mixing style grew from what he'd learned from the likes of Scientist and King Tubby, mixed up with a healthy dose of punk rock; and being blessed with those ever so important magic ears that all innovative producers have, and voila! the very distinctive sound that became so indicative of On-U Sounds.

O yeah, and dedication and pragmatism. They're pretty important features for a producer to have, too.

Apart from 'Nuclear Zulu' Ari sings all the songs except 'My Love', where Neneh Cherry takes the vocal helm, strongly supported by Bim Sherman's lush backing vocals.

As well as her voice moving outside of the range of normal human perception, we also hear Ari sing in her native German on the wunderbar track: 'Problems', that extends itself into a classic dub workout.

The album finishes with a haunting version of the Heptones' song 'Guiding Star'. Ari showing that she has a soulful side, and when she has to sing in key, straight, she's as good as anyone.
Check out her website - she's still a very busy person

Despite the variation in line-up for 'My Love', this does sound much more like a band's album than a collective effort.
And despite the high quality of material on this album, it did make their next album, Foundation Steppers, sound years ahead; but that was the nature of the times, I guess, technology in the early eighties, probably more than any other time, was allowing new sounds and new ways of generating and manipulating sounds to be added to the producer's palette.

New Age Steppers heard here:
George Oban
Tony Phillips
Eskimo Fox
Ari Up
Neneh Cherry
Bim Sherman

New Age Steppers - Action Battlefield (1982)

My Whole World
Observe Life
Got to Get Away
My Love
Nuclear Zulu
Guiding Star

Excellent quality cassette rip @256kbs
Keep on stepping here

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Third Step to Heaven

A beautiful album by the best reggae and dub collective that ever existed.

This was the third album the Steppers cut for Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sounds label. All of their material is wonderful, but I think this one is my definite favourite.

Back in 1983, when this album was recorded, Sherwood's label was a big hit with those amongst the underground and alternative scene. With a roster of some of the greatest reggae and dance acts around, Sherwood released not only the New Age Steppers, whose first album was the first On-U Sound's release, but Lee Perry, Tackhead, Mark Stewart, Dub Syndicate, Asian Dub Foundation, African Head Charge and others.
The label was instrumental in creating a new wave of interest and a new wave of sound in roots and dub music.

Sherwood had magic ears and magic fingers; and he also had an uncanny knack for juxtaposing perfectly the right voice with the right musicians.
This album has two excellent examples of Sherwood's magical harmonious concoctions, as he brings in for vocal roles the wonderfully charismatic Ari Up (John Lydon's step daughter and ex-Slit) and the angelically voiced Bim Sherman.

Ari makes the two real stand-out tracks on the album: 'Some Love' - "It really gets you down, down, down" - a fantastic opener that really sets the mood - yeah, kick the furniture (and the dog) out of the way, crank up the bass and start skanking, basically.
Her second song is the best reggae cover you'll ever hear, as the Steppers get down and knock out an amazing version of the 1930's classic 'Stormy Weather'.
You'll be singing it forever. "Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky...".

The late Bim Sherman joined the Steppers for four tracks on this album, and they're all gorgeous.
But his voice on 'Dreamers' is just incredible, proving that his loss in 2000 was a massive one to reggae and roots music; he undoubtedly had one of the greatest and most original voices in the genre.

The other tracks on here are all dub numbers, and its in these instrumentals that the brilliance of the Steppers' musicianship really shines.
The horns on this album are superbly mixed and blended - and you can't often say that about horns - reminiscent of one of the Steppers' contemporaries, another great band from the time, and possibly the greatest live reggae band ever: the majestic Misty in Roots.

The dub on this album is not as outlandish or as freaky as it was on their previous recording, Action Battlefield, but the more reserved nature of these tracks makes for an easier listen (some of the Steppers' dub can be downright scary), and makes them a darn sight easier to dance to.
And you will. Even the true anarchists amongst you - coz anarchists don't dance, right - but you will. You will.

New Age Steppers here are:
drums: Style Scott
percussion: Bonjo I
electric percussion: Eskimo
lead vocals: Ari Up; Bim Sherman
harmony vocals: Ginger; Bim; Ari; Eskimo; Joseph; sis Judah
bass: Crucial Tony; Errol Flabba Holt; George Oban
lead guitar: Dwight; Crucial Tony; Derek
rhythm guitar: Crucial Tony; Bingy Bunny
piano: Bubblers; Steely
organ: Bubblers; Kishi; Nick Plytas; Doctor Pablo
horns: Vin Gordon; Bammy
Chinese lute: Kishi

New Age Steppers - Foundation Steppers (1983)

Some Love
5 Dog Race
Misplaced Love
Stormy Weather
Vice of my Enemies

This is an immaculate vinyl rip @256kbs.
Put on your dancing boots and start skanking here

Friday, 14 November 2008

For all the happy Poison Girls

I’m tired of crying for the underprivileged
For the blacks, the women, for even black women
For the starving children, for the Irish, I’m tired of crying
For the unemployed, the one eyed Jews, I’m tired of crying
For refugees, for amputees, I’m tired of crying
For the pain of the third world, the poor unfortunates
Hiroshima, Bikini, I’m tired of crying
America, America, I’m tired of crying for America.

I’m tired of crying for collecting boxes, for noble causes, for victims, more victims
Victims of violence and protection, victims of privilege, more violence, more victims
For teachers’ lies, for poisoned milk, I’m tired of crying, it changes nothing
For the abuse of sex, the endless rape, the decay, the decaying, I’m tired of crying
For the broken broken broken hopes, the broken hearts and promises
For the broken backs and the broken dreams, I’m tired of crying
It’s a savage world, a savage world, and I just want to cry for me.

Cry No More, Vi Subversa, 1982.

There is a slight sense of resignation on this album.
Disillusion with the cause?
Despair with the left and the dialectic squabbles?
Nihilism within the anracho-punk movement?

But there is also a sense of maturity.
Self-preservation and concerns about the individual are more noticeable here than heard in the Poison's earlier material, and Vi’s lyrics are less vitriolic, less spat.
She seems more reflective, more poetic, and her delivery benefits from the adopted mood.

The big targets are still apparent: Rio Tinto Zinc, warmongery, gender stereotyping and surveillance are all attacked in typical Poison Girls’ fashion; but the polemics are accompanied by fairly bouncy upbeat tunes.

The evident maturity is not only heard in the lyrics, but is also apparent in the musicianship: check out Richard Famous’s acoustic picking during the track ‘Mandy is having a Baby’.

And with the addition of Chris Grace’s superb fretless bass playing on many of the tracks, the Poisons get quite funky on this album; and many of the tracks are distinctly dance numbers.

The accompanying brass on several tunes really adds to the general funky flavour; but if anything, it’s a kind of post punk funk [!]; and it’s interesting that this album was released in 1982, a year before 23 Skidoo released their seminal ‘post punk funk classic’: ‘Coup’.

This was the last album the Poisons made before bringing in a keyboard player, which radically changed and affected their sound – not for the good, in my opinion.

So this album has a special place in my heart; as I consider it to be the last album the Poison Girls (as I knew and loved them) made; and for me, they went out with a bang.

Poison Girls – Where’s the Pleasure (1982)

Where’s the Pleasure
Lovers are they worth it
I’ve done it all before
Whisky Voice
Ménage Abattoir
Take the Toys
Soft Touch
Take the Toys (Reprise)
Velvet Launderette
Rio Disco Stink
Cry No More
Mandy is having a Baby
Fear of Freedom

Vinyl rip @ 256kbs
This album has not had a CD release.
(It has collectively as part of a Poisons' box set, but not as a single release - thanks, anon.)
There is a little surface noise occasionally on this recording - but only during the quiet bits!
It has been very, very loved.
Love it too here

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Zip A Dee Dada

Ever wondered where experimental and alternative recorded music originated?
Well, if you were like me and believed it began with 'Revolution No.9', you may be surprised to know that it began about sixty years before that; beginning in fact around one hundred years ago.

And don't these guys look like they're having a ball? What with their psychedelic sound system, levers and whatnot.

It must be said that this isn't an easy listen.
This is a challenging, but very rewarding album, as it assembles the best of the early futurist recordings - but dated, it ain't.
Some of these tunes and soundscapes could easily have turned up or turn up on an album by the Beatles, the Mothers, the Butthole Surfers, The Fall, Coil or Nurse With Wound.

Way back in 1909, 'Futurist godhead Filipo Tomasso Marinetti recognised that the Futurist ideology would include sound and noise in the armoury of the war against traditionalism.
The Roar of a motor car, he claimed, was more beautiful than any Michaelangelo'.

I recommend listening to this album while watching TV with its sound muted.

The piano pieces work especially well, as they do sound a little like silent movie accompaniments - and it really doesn't matter what you're watching, it always works - that's the thing with sound and vision, I guess: it always works.

The vocal tracks on this album are truly bizarre.
And we all thought Mark E Smith was unusual.
But he sounds mainstream compared with Marinetti, who sounds a little like the Crazy Frog after its been held down and shot-up with methedrine.

Drone, sludge, no-wave, I thought these were modern genres until I heard Luigi Russolo's material - he seems to be the Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound) of the Futurist generation - capturing perfectly in sound a really scary bad trip, two decades or so before Hoffman had even put his bicycle clips on.

But for sheer totally freakiness, the climax of the album, Marinetti's 'Five Radio Sintesi', cannot be topped.
It's a kind of 'Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast' meets Peter Blegvad.
A composition full of ambient sounds, cut-ups, pauses (the most difficult of all 'sounds' to listen to) and some masterful editing; conjuring an hallucinogenic soundscape mainly created by twiddling knobs on a radio (and I thought John Cage was original...).

This is Musique Concrète of the highest order.

CD artwork included.
I have also included a copy of the excellent, highly informative booklet that accompanies this wonderful collection.

Give it a try - you'll be amazed.
Board the hobby-horse here.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

In the Spirit of the Grandmother

Another one for Jimmy.
As the previous post generated a fair amount of interest, I thought I'd post the second Grandmothers' album Looking Up Granny's Dress.

This also appears to be unavailable anywhere else.

Like the first album, Looking Up Granny's Dress was released by Rhino Records, and despite being released in 1982, a year later than the first album, the first side of the album features music from a live Grandmothers' set recorded in Denmark in 1980.

The Grandmothers heard here are: Don Preston: keyboards, vocals; Jimmy Carl Black: drums, vocals; Tom Fowler: bass, violin; Walt Fowler: keyboards, trumpet, vocals; Bunk Gardner: sax; Tony Duran: guitar.

There is some new material played, but of most interest is the band playing some great loungey versions of old Mothers' tunes.

'Mother People' is particularly excellent, with a great closing jam; Tom Fowler unleashing some soaring violin notes.

The second side is more reminiscent of the first album, being made up of mainly solo material from various ex-Mothers.

Ray Collins makes a welcome appearance; singing on an early version of 'Deseri' (featuring FZ on drums); and then going completely over the top during the wonderfully hyberbolic 'Mayonnaise Mountain'.

It just oozes; fat-like into your head. Beautifully asphyxiating.

Eliot Ingber's gorgeous instrumental blues, 'Gingerwail', proves that FZ wasn't the only mean plank-spanker in the band.

The final track, is a Grandmothers' recording of a Motorhead Sherwood song: 'Going to Idaho', where he takes the lead vocal and plays a satisfying slide guitar.

All the studio tracks are accompanied by little intros and preambles, all of which crack me up.
Who said North Americans couldn't do irony?
At least, I think it's irony...

Grandmothers - Looking Up Granny's Dress (1982)

Uncle Meat
Mother People
Medula Oblongata
Peaches en Regalia
Silicone Hump
Oh No
Eric Dolphy's Memorial Barbecue
Acid Rain Pelting the Underground
Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder
My Love Has Gone
Mayonnaise Mountain
Going to Idaho

Quality Cassette rip @256kbs
Get it here
If burning, remove pauses for best effect.

Respect to United Mutations, the best damn resource for all info Zappa related.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

My Favourite Grandmother

This post is dedicated to Jimmy Carl Black.

Unfortunately, the Indian of the Group is no longer with us.
Jimmy Carl Black succumbed to cancer last weekend, aged 70.

Peace Be Upon Him.

Jimmy and the Muffin Men visited
West Wales a couple of years ago, and I got to see them at one of my local venues (I know! And all the way from Texas).

They were superb. And Mickey Jones, the Man Band guitarist, added to the gratification by joining the band for a jam in a most Jonesian/Zappaesque kind of way.

Sometimes it really does pay to live out in the sticks! You just never know what’s going to happen.

I did get to have a chat with Jimmy during the intermission, which was fucking amazing.

He immediately became the Jimmy Carl Black I’d vicariously known for many years, through my avid listening to old Mothers of Invention albums.

I asked him if there was any truth in the story that he had apparently started a painting and decorating firm with Arthur Brown:

'Yeah, man. Well we just weren't gettin' any money together; and shit, ya gotta live ya know. So I'm pretty handy, ya know; and Art can really paint, man, he can really paint. But shit, it's not me, man, so we're back on the road; just tryin' to earn a livin', ya know; doin' what we love, but just tryin’ to earn a livin''.

Or something like that.

This really blew me away.

Not only was I now experiencing bizarre visions of the Indian of the Group and the God of Hell-Fire turning up at someone’s house to do a decorating job, but here he was, straight off the Uncle Meat album (credited for ‘drums, droll humour and poverty’) where he is wonderfully captured in conversation complaining to Zappa about his lack of and need for money, as he’s ‘not living very extravagantly, that’s fa-sure’.

He couldn’t have made my brief moment in his existence any more perfect.


A benefit will be held on 9 November at the Bridgehouse II in London.

To accompany this post, I thought I would share something wonderful; so here is the first Grandmothers’ album from 1981.

It is essentially a collection of ex-Mothers’ solo material; with the occasional Mothers' meeting, resulting in a revisit to their roots by banging-out some excellent white man’s R&B, with JCB at the vocal helm, sounding uncannily like Beefheart.

There’s some really crazy mixed-up stuff on here – mainly recorded in the early seventies, it features free-jazz, hardcore blues (Eliot Ingber’s ‘We Don’t Feed No Livestock Here’ is a wonderful piece of outsider blues; knocks spots off Seasick Steve; more in the vein of the Lonesome Organist if anyone), R&B, hard rock, avant-garde, and general anarchic chaos.

Grandmothers - A Mother of Anthology

1: '59 Chevy
2: Sweet Fifteen
3: Qualude to Chaos and Fine
4: A Bit Blue
5: Motorhead's Bumble Bee
6: Basement Theme Downstairs
7: The eye of Agamoto
8: Trail of Tears
9: One for the Girls
10: We don't Feed No Livestock Here
11: I Can't Breathe
12: The Fight Out

Grandmothers: Jimmy Carl Black: voice, trumpet; Jim Motorhead Sherwood: sax; Bunk Gardner: horns; Buzz Gardner: horns; Don Preston: moog; Denny Walley: guitar; Andy Cahan: drums; Tom Leavy: bass (tracks:1,5,8,12).
Menage a Trois: Bunk & Buzz Gardner, John Balkin (Tracks: 3,6,9).
Raw Milk: Don Preston, Sandy Reiner, Christy Rundquist, Phil Davis (Tracks: 2,7,11).
Eliot Ingber (tracks: 4,10).

I’ve kind of rediscovered this album as a consequence of Jimmy’s passing; and it’s a real joy to listen to.

So Jimmy lives on.
He’ll always be the Indian of the Group.
And as his own website says:
Jimmy says hi to everybody and he doesn't want anybody to be sad.”

Get happy with Jimmy with this cassette rip @256kbs.
You won’t find this album anywhere else; this is now damn rare.
Adopt a Grandmother here

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Beat to Death

Fred Giannelli met Genesis P-Orridge in thee mid-eighties.
By thee end ov thee decade Gianelli not only found E self to be a full time member ov Psychick TV, but thee E responsible for thee creation ov thee band’s new direction and sound.
(I'll stop that now.)
These were good times for the band; their touring schedule was massive, and their shows were going down a storm, gaining reputation and even music press interest.
They’d come out from the underground; and in the heat of the new found light played venues such as London’s Astoria in 1988, where I was very happy to be part of an excited, capacity audience.
And they were totally mindblowing.
I have never attended a gig since that came close to what Psychic TV achieved that night in London.
I have never since been part of an audience that is so stunned by what they are hearing and seeing (the visual element had been really turned up by this point, becoming an integral part of their performance - body-builders with numerous piercings going through routines in the skimpiest of pairs of trunks; spells and rituals being acted out on stage by accompanying actors; at least a dozen large-screen TVs broadcasting cut-up images, montage-mixes and eye candy of the most epileptic inducing intensity); so stunned that at the end of one number Genesis asked us, the open-mouthed stunned into silence audience, if we'd like them to stop!
The tunes on this album are very similar to the music the band were creating that night.
Tribal, percussive, trancy soundscapes that build and build, creating intense walls of sound through repetition and heavy, heavy layering - Giannelli's feedback guitar playing on this album is stunning: slotted into the mix theremin-like; really filling-in all the gaps; seamlessly blended in an act of pure musical alchemy.
And it is a very dance-orientated sound. A very early version of trance in fact; one that is now considered to be pioneering for its time and one that was inspirational to many.
Yet, despite the genre, this is not an album that is full of joy and celebration.
In fact, if this album is about anything at all, then death is really what lies at its heart.
After all, what is the infinite beat?
Everything must come to an end.
O yeah, everything except no longer existing (don't mean to upset any resurrectionists out there!).
So the Infinite Beat is death... maybe...

The album itself is dedicated to the Spanish artist Salvador Dali, who died in 1989, and there is an epitaph for him on the inner sleeve.

The track 'I.C. Water' is "For Ian Curtis".

(On the single 7" vinyl release of this track, etched onto the flipside are these words:

Curtis's epitaph is scratched between twenty-three layers of spiral.
The album Towards Thee Infinite Beat begins: "There are only 23 words...".)

At the beginning of the track, John Lennon can apparently be heard, talking from what sounds like a pub; one that has a very noisy pool table.

At the end of the track, 'Bliss' (featuring Hadj Abdelsalam Attar, a master musician of Jajouka, those almost mythical musicians who Brian Jones went to seek out in the 1960s), a recorded telephone message can be heard; the message informs Genesis (and us) that the artist Brion Gysin has "just died" (he died in '86).
Genesis had been a bit of a disciple of Gysin, and by following in the path of another one of his heroes, William Burroughs, he sought out and worked with the artist.

I guess by sharing this intimate moment with his audience, Genesis is making the demise of his collaborator and friend into an art piece.
For Genesis, life is art, therefore: art is life (and death).
Art is not something one does: it is all.
You don't believe me?
Do a search on the word Pandrogeny, and see how life has shaped-up for Genesis over the last few years...
Despite all the loss and absence that infiltrates the album; there are moments of real joy to behold.
The track 'S.M.I.L.E.', I believe, contains one of Genesis's greatest lyrics; not only in its composition but also in its delivery.
It's a beautiful song, and when I hear it, it always reminds me of my daughter (Ahh! or Heave... whichever you feel is most appropriate), which is an odd thing to say when discussing an album that I have already associated so heavily with death and morbidity!

But if anyone is going to take you by surprise, well, Psychic TV and Genesis P-Orridge have always known how to do that...

Psychic TV - Towards Thee Infinite Beat (1990)

Infinite Beat
Drone Zone
I.C. Water
Black Rainbow
A Short Sharp Taste OV Mistress Mix
Horror House
Alien Be-In

Vinyl rip @ 256kbs.
It is a little crackly in places - this was a big session album - but still sounds sweet.
This is now quite a rare piece it seems, so forget digital emptiness and get on down to these real vinyl beats. Yeah! Get it here

Saturday, 1 November 2008

ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur, ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur, ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-huh-huh

A request posting for Mr. Hackenbacker.

Four mixes here of the Butthole Surfers' version of Donovan's 'The Hurdy Gurdy Man'.
I'm not sure which versions they are, as my 12" is a white label; so I'm not sure if it's the U.S. release or the European release.
But does it really matter?
The fact is they're all different.

I've included the version from Piouhgd as well, it has a much fuller sound than the single release, and a great deal more production value.

The best version is the 12" A side. Haynes is far more laid back and surreal with his vocal, and the stretching out of the track allows for different textures to be heard; pared down in places so only the rhythm section is playing; but I guess that was (and still is) typical of album track mixes, especially those of a 12" vinyl variety.

The single was released by Rough Trade records while sitting on the Piouhgd album; it did creep into the British single charts, but only at No.98, and not for very long.

But it did mark a big change in the Surfers' sound.
And the end of some very far out music.

Butthole Surfers - The Hurdy Gurdy Man Remixes (1991)

Track 1 - Piouhgd version
Track 2 - 12" A Side
Track 3 - Instrumental mix 1
Track 4 - Instrumental mix 2

Vinyl rip @256kbs
Get them here