Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Have a Skanking New Year!

Not too much explanation or explication needed for this post.
Except to say: what more perfect a way will see in the New Year than a Classic Ska Collection?

So here is a Classic Ska Collection.

Add it to your party mix; or just light-up a big one, kick back the rug, throw down the talc and skank yourself through the chimes.

The Liquidators - compiled by Mark Stratford (1989)
Licenced by Trojan Records and Greenheart Music.

Liquidator - Harry J. All Stars
Rudy, A Message To You - Dandy Livingstone
Phoenix City - Roland Alphonso
It Mek - Desmond Dekker
Miss Jamaica - Jimmy Cliff
Musical Store Room - Don Drummond
Pressure Drop - The Maytals
Return of Django - The Upsetters
Skinhead Moonstomp - Symarip
Israelites - Desmond Dekker and the Aces
Guns of Navarone - Skatalites
Train to Rainbow City - The Pyramids
007 (Shanty Town) - Desmond Dekker
Guns Fever - Baba Brooks
Shame and Scandal - Peter Tosh and the Wailers
Double Barrel - Dave and Ansil Collins
Ethiopia - The Pyramids
Dollar in the Teeth - The Upsetters
Johnny Too Bad - Slickers
Don't be a Rude Boy - The Rulers
Train to Skaville - The Ethipoians
12 Minutes To Go - Tommy McCook
Monkey Man - The Maytals
Rudy's Dead - The Pyramids

CD rip, includes artwork
Liquidate yourself here

And whatever you get up to this New Year's Eve,
whatever your body holds host to,
whatever is coursing through your blood stream:
And have one on me

Have a Happy New Year! Yeah!
Shanti, roy

Monday, 29 December 2008

How Low can You go?

Ultramarine (Paul Hammond and Ian Cooper) peaked creatively in the early nineteen-nineties with their excellent albums Every Man and Woman is a Star (1991) and United Kingdoms (1993).

This single, 'Kingdom', came from the United Kingdoms album, and featured the voice of Robert Wyatt, something that made Ultramarine stand out from many of the electronic, ambient acts of the time.

Wyatt, who still has one of the more interesting and provocative voices in 'alternative' music, first appeared on the Every Man and Woman is a Star project, searched out by the pair as they were both keen fans and inspired by his own brand of idiosyncratic music.

It was a brilliant choice to juxtapose their own new sounds with; making ambient house music accessible to, and of interest to, many that had yet to experience it.

'Kingdom' is a great example of what Ultramarine were so good at: fusing ambient sounds with other genres. And having already mixed up ambient with house, reggae and rock, on this release they went for a folky mix; using Wyatt's vulnerable falsetto to superb effect.

The reedy, flutey sounds created here make for a baroque flavour; a style that perfectly accompanies the nineteenth-century inspired lyrics, originally penned by the protosocialist (friend of both Marx and Engels) and Chartist (a political and social reform movement from the mid-eighteen-hundreds, said to be the first working class labour movement in the world) Ernest Jones.

A hardened campaigner who often incited those who would listen to commit acts of violence on behalf of the cause, Jones was considered subversive and dangerous (there had been a lot of paranoia in Britain ever since the French Revolution; Jones and his Chartist movement [Chartists because they demanded a charter, a declaration of rights, something Britain has never had, still] heightened the paranoia, and many cities and towns across Britain were ruled by marshall law and curfews due to acts of rebellion and civil disobedience inspired by the likes of Jones) and was imprisoned for sedition in 1848 for two years; the only form of expression left to him being to 'write in his own blood on leaves torn from a common prayer-book'.

No wonder Socialism is so attractive to the young.
It's soooooo Romantic!

But that doesn't detract from this being a great lyric.
Very cynical; wonderfully satirical; deeply meaningful and as dangerous as... well, any other poem, I guess...

The Chartists are history; along with the Levellers and the Diggers and the Ranters and the Ravers...
But the moment is captured. The attitude is crystallized.
And Ultramarine and Robert Wyatt did a fine job in bringing it back to our attention.

Kingdom - Ernest Jones (circa 1848)

We're low, we're low, mere rabble, we know, but at our plastic power,
The mould at the lording's feet will grow into palace and church and tower.
Then prostrate fall, in the rich man's hall, and cringe at the rich man's door;
We're not too low to build the wall, but too low to tread the floor.

Down, down we go, we're so very low, to the hell of the deep sunk mines,
But we gather the proudest gems that glow, when the crown of a despot shines.
And whenever he lacks, upon our backs, fresh loads he deigns to lay:
We're far too low to vote the tax, but not too low to pay.

We're low, we're low, we're very very low, yet from our fingers glide
The silken flow, and the robes that glow round the limbs of the sons of pride.
And what we get, and what we give, we know, and we know our share;
We're not too low the cloth to weave, but too low the cloth to wear.

Prada anyone?

Ultramarine - Kingdom (1993)

Kingdom (extended mix)
Kingdom (edit)

12" Vinyl rip @320kbs
Get down, dirty and low here

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Something Old, Something New, Shoo-be-do-be-do

Nik Turner has had a long and eclectic career in music.

Known mainly for his work with Hawkwind, but dabbling and experimenting in all manner of musical concepts and genres; he has probably collaborated with more underground musicians than any other artist.

At present he fronts a R&B, jazz, dance band - as mentioned in my previous Nik Turner post - and Kubano Kickasso, released in 2003, captures his present sound pretty well; but as with Hawkwind, his band tends to have members with very itchy feet.

But back in the early eighties, long before Nik started playing jazz and R&B, the arty post punk scene grabbed his attention, and before long he was gigging with a new band: Inner City Unit.

Their first couple of albums were fairly chaotic affairs but caused a lot of interest in the alternative scene, appealing to punks, crusties, bikers as well as the hippy crew who were still into the whole prog thing.

By 1985, the band had pretty much run out of steam; but they did manage to produce what I think is their best album, The President's Tapes.

Not well received initially, which may account for its lack of CD release, but over the course of time I think it has travelled very well (better than the earlier releases); still sounding good, and as with all ICU's albums, tracks cross effortlessly across genre boundaries.

The opening number, 'Stonehenge Who Knows?', conspicuously reveals Turner's roots, sounding not a million miles away from Hawkwind's sound, circa Hall of the mountain Grill.

But by the second track, 'President's Tapes', the band acknowledge punk's influence big time, and a much harder edge is established.

After that it all starts to mash together, which essentially was what Inner City Unit was all about.

'The World of LSD' is a curious piece; a suite of music emulating the psychedelic experience.
Paranoia and all.
Space Punk? Maybe.

'Fungus Among Us' is the track that indicates where Turner's sound would be heading once he'd finished being a punk rocker.

And in the early days of Nik Turner's Fantastic All Stars, 'Fungus Among Us' was one of the few Inner City Unit tracks he would still play.

Inner City Unit - The President's Tapes (1985)

Stonehenge Who Knows?
President's Tape
Fungus Among Us
World of LSD
Big Foot

Excellent cassette rip @320kbs
Get space punked here

Despite Kubano Kickasso being essentially a dance album in the mode of jazz and R&B, it's still pretty far out and spacey; opening with a wonderful bit of dialogue setting the scene:

"My name is Chief Frank Buckshaft Standing Horse.
I am an Odawa Indian, and in ninety-fifty-nine, on July the twelfth, I took a trip in a flying saucer."

Kind of a neat way to introduce a jazzy R&B album!

So with Inner City Unit Turner brought us space punk.
Here he brings us space swing, space jazz and far out R&B!

It's a really fine album this, and hey, it'll go down well if you wanna kick the rug back over the holiday period and get on down and sweaty.

Just dig that Hammond playing on the very cool 'Watermelon Man', and after hearing 'Sidewinder', you'll just wish you'd learn to play the sax.

And despite all the past legendary, freaky behaviour, the far out road stories and the rock and roll excesses, this album certainly verifies Nik Turner as being a mighty fine mother of a sax player.

He can really blow that thing!

Nik Turner's Fantastic All Stars - Kubano Kickasso (2003)

Dangle From the Angle
So What
Skatrane (Last Train to Skasville)
Watermelon Man
Phat Man
James Brown
Cantelopue Island
Jive Samba

Full CD Artwork included.
Grab yourself some of that jazz man here

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Really Really Free

The story is with John Otway that Polydor Records signed him up on the back of a demo version of 'Really Free', believing that he was punk, and was going to become punk's answer to Neil Sedaka, or something.

The story concludes that Otway wasn't punk, but merely 'eccentric', so Polydor got bored and moved on to their next big thing (Penetration also suffered at the hands of Polydor, a label who really just didn't get punk at all!).

The truth is that Otway is really about as punk as you can get.
Okay, he may not have sported a mohawk or sputnik, donned bondage trousers or sang about smashing the state; but he was certainly DIY and very much the Situationist.

I first encountered him, as undoubtedly did many others, via a BBC television broadcast back in 78, accompanied by his long suffering on and off musical collaborator, the extremely talented Wild Willy Barrett.

It was an unbelievable performance.
I smashed my china pig that very night and the next day had in my possession the pair's 7" single: 'Really Free'.
And O bliss, on the flipside was 'Beware of the Flowers (Because I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You Yeah)'; I was hooked, and have been a fan of their music ever since.

So, hit upon some nostalgia here to see Otway & Barrett's amazing, now legendary BBC performance.
This really is the Situationist at work; someone really making the most of appearing on national television:

Just in case you can't be bothered to watch the whole of that incredible piece of TV, here's a seventeen second highlight from that performance of the bit where Otway looks as though he has done himself a quite serious injury - all in the name of art. Of course.

Watching this performance gives one an insight as to why it may have been the pair separated more times than any other musical unit - at one time they had an entry in The Guinness Book of Records for holding the record for an entertainment act splitting up and getting back together more than any other.

But Otway was always a great crowd pleaser; comparable to Jackie Chan in his stage antics.

I once saw him perform at London's Rainbow Theatre (RIP) in 1980 (without Barrett this time, they'd had a recent spat, so Otway performed with a full backing band [Polydor still believed in him at this time]), and he went through this number about meeting various people while walking down the street. Whoever he met, he became, and one of those he met was Olga Korbut (takes you back!), he then proceeded to throw himself around the stage, attempting cart wheels and back flips, resulting in what looked like he would never be able to walk again.

Notice the way in the BBC clip Barrett constantly has his eye on Otway, always ready to move out of the way when Otway spontaneously decides to include acrobatics as part of the song's delivery.

How Otway survived his self-inflicted physical punishment, he only knows - perhaps he has a rubber skeleton - but he did, and he's still performing - there's plenty of recent YouTube clips to prove it - do check out his double necked guitar, the like of which cannot be imagined!

Otway & Barrett's material has long been deleted; Polydor has failed to reissue the albums on CD, but this album, Gone With the Bin, really does capture the prime of their work; and for once the term 'Best of' is well used.

All the tracks bar one are selected from Otway & Barrett's collaborated albums, and that's certainly where the best Otway material can be found.
His solo albums... well... they never really did it for me.

Otway needed Barrett like Peters needed Lee or Karen needed Richard.

The only solo piece on this collection comes not from Otway, but from one of Wild Willy's solo albums, the excellent Call of the Wild.

An absurdest little number entitled 'I did it Otway'.
Here we hear Barrett playing a pleasant acoustic ditty, but sawing into the instrument as the tune progresses.
By the end of the track the guitar is totally dismembered, but it is amazing the extent of damage the instrument can take before finally becoming unplayable.
It's a great concept, and quite wonderful hearing the tune being played while slowly becoming sicker and sicker.

Apparently, the guitar belonged to Otway!

Otway & Barrett - Gone with the Bin (1981)

Beware of the Flowers
Racing Cars (Jet Spotter of the Track)
Oh My Body is Making Me
Running From the Law
Cheryl's Going home
Birthday Boy
Really Free
Louisa Riding on a Horse
Body Talk
The Man who Shot Liberty Valance
Baby's in the Club
I Did it Otway

Immaculate cassette rip @320kbs
Really really really free here

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Pronk Goes Dutch

Juxtaposed with the Here and Now band's mid-eighties' sound, Cardiacs' music doesn't sound quite so oblique, but that's not to say the Cardiacs were derivative, they weren't; they mashed up genres like they'd never been mashed before, and thus: Pronk was born.
Here the Pronk masters are caught towards the end of their peak period back in 1988.

An excellent recording captured at Amsterdam's Paradiso; a venue that's provided many a quality live recording over the years.

They always provided a good show did the Cardiacs.
Always a spectacle; with stage decked out in streamers, balloons, flowers and other colourful whatnot; and what with their strange and alienating theatrical antics, bizarre preambles and general degenerate behaviour (listen to the way the audience on this recording respond to the false endings and Tim Smith's surreal intros): yeah, it was always a good night out.

But despite all their madcap tomfoolery, as a band they were always frighteningly tighter than tight; just check out 'Loosefish Scapegrace' on this recording; you couldn't drop a fag paper between their synchronous phrasing and dramatic time changes.
Spooky. Unearthly.

Cardiacs - Live (1989)

The Icing on the World
To Go Off and Things
In a City Lining
Gina Lollcbrigda
There's Too Many Irons in the Fire
Tarred and Feathered
Goose Gash
Loosefish Scapegrace
Is this the Life

Excellent cassette rip @320kbs
Get a Cardiac rush here

Deictic Dissonance

Released by Cold Harbour Records in 1986, this recording captured the apparent farewell performance of the Here and Now band at Dingwalls in Camden Town early in the year.

Only two thousand copies were pressed, and I doubt a CD release has even been considered.
A shame, as it’s a great performance; and for that period of Here and Now’s career it’s definitely the best live recording.

Emerging from some cosmic debris left behind by the ever journeying Planet Gong, Here and Now began life as a spacey, crusty, psychedelic, free festival-loving, prog outfit, sounding a little like Hillage playing with Hawkwind after listening to early punk.

What they didn’t take from punk was an adoption of the short song; and live they could play for what seemed like hours without ever changing track.

But as the eighties kicked in, Here and Now’s sound morphed and changed, as did their line up.
Their songs got shorter, more coherent, and dare one say, more accessible (but not commercial).
New wave had a big influence on their output, and keyboards, often playing ska-like riffs, became as important and intrinsic to their sound as the EBowed guitar.

This recording does capture what was billed as Here and Now’s last gig.
But they weren’t away long.
In fact they’re still doing it.

I don’t know what they’re thinking some of these bands.
I mean, what else are Keith the Bass and Kif Kif going to do?
Get jobs in Spar?
I don’t think so.

Here and Now – Been and Gone (1986)

Intro – 23 Skidoo
Fake It
Another Tense
Drifting Away
Ways to be Free
Spaces In Between
Satellite Kid
Jacques Cousteau
Last Chance

Excellent cassette rip @320kbs
Get far-out with the Here and Now band here

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Our Daily Crusty

There was an area of this sceptred isle that was ever subversive.
A space within the tranquility of the home county known as Berkshire - close to Reading, where the annual corporate music fest is held; not far from Newbury, home of the anti-bypass movement - called Hungerford; made known in recent times by the psychopathic shootist Michael Ryan.

But better than, and more deserving of interest than Ryan, are RDF, Radical Dance Faction, the anarcho-punk band who also originated from Hungerford (the trigger-happy Ryan almost prevented RDF from existing little beyond their conception in 1987, but I'll come on to that in a moment).

At the centre of the ever-transmogrifying line-up of RDF, is charismatic front-man, singer and poet, Chris Bowsher.

Dreadlocked, passionate and very, very serious, Bowsher, rather like the Fall's Mark E Smith, is the only full-time member of the band; in fact he is the band.
And still is.
Here is some excellent footage of Bowsher and co performing at last year's Skanival fesival in Wales:

I'm not sure why it is that a member of the audience feels the need to stand inches away from Bowsher as he sings, but it's admirable the way Chris carries on, showing no sign of disconcertion; but then again he was probably used to it, and the video, if nothing else, is evident of just how shambolic gigs within the anarcho-punk scene often are.
A health and safety nightmare, what!

RDF released several albums in the first part of the nineteen-nineties, and they were all well received. In fact, RDF were one of the few crusty bands who got any attention at all in the hipper than hip music press of the time.

They were a favourite on the live scene; and their gigs tended to be like mini-festivals; attracting a crowd that would readily turn the Sir George Robey (Finsbury Park) or The Boston Arms (Tufnell Park) into a temporary facsimile of the Stone Henge Festival.
Dogs n'all.

Taking Refuge is RDF's first release.
I think it's from 1987 (I can't even remember acquiring it, it must have been at a gig, but as you can tell, my memory is a bit hazy!), but it's been quite difficult to find out anything about it.
Which is gratifying in some ways, only being released on cassette, the lack of information suggests a rare status.

The sound and recording quality of this mini-album is quite superb.
So you can really whack up the volume and appreciate this most excellent piece of crusty-dub.
It just makes you want to bob back and forth.
You can't help yourself. Their music is very primal.

All the tracks are excellent, but the real stand-out tune for me is the dub-psyche-freak out 'Red Flame', where we hear RDF in full flight; and it still sounds amazing, without sounding at all dated.

As for Michael Ryan, well his actions are the inspiration behind the closing piece on the album: 'Hungerford Poem'.
While Ryan ran amok in the quiet town of Hungerford, Bowsher very nearly became one of his victims (Ryan killed seventeen (including himself, and his mother), and injured fifteen others on an indiscriminate killing spree during a boring Wednesday afternoon in August, 1987).
Bowsher's experience, and probably the feelings of many from that area at the time, are captured in this effecting spoken-word performance, and when you hear it, you know that his words are genuine; poetry emanating from someone who was really there.

It's an excellent piece of reportage; and it's an honest and quite remarkable piece of art

RDF - Taking Refuge

Tension Town
Shedding the Tears
Red Flame
Hungerford Poem

Immaculate cassette rip @ 320kbs
Get Radical here

Monday, 8 December 2008

Cup o' tea anyone?

You see a lot of Gong in the blogosphere; but this is an album you never see.
I felt that needed addressing.

This is a great retrospective album, featuring some excellently recorded performances; and if there’s one thing that seems to be severely lacking amongst the plethora of Gong material, it’s quality of sound.

After existing as a kind of guerrilla art movement attached to various protests and acts of disobedience in ideologically ravaged France at the end of the sixties, Gong signed up with up and coming new independent label Virgin Records in nineteen seventy-two.
Apparently, Branson believed in the band so much, he gave them preferential studio time over Mike Oldfield (an artist who would keep Virgin Records afloat over the next few years with absurd sales of his wishy-washy Tubular Bells).

Gong Live etc, the last album the band made for Virgin, captures live performances from the band’s associative years with the label; leaving a solid reminder of their energy and creativity over their short but prolific stay, showcasing their best material from the first half of that gaudy decade.

So this is to a certain extent a Greatest Hits album; but it’s better than that, as all the recordings here are unique to this release. And let’s face it, Gong didn’t have any Hits!
Which is why I always loved them.

The album is chronological in structure, beginning in 1973 with material from Camembert Electrique, moving through the Radio Gnome Trilogy of 1974, into the final period of the original conception in 75, post-Gong shaman Daevid Allen and High Priestess Gilli Smith, usurped by Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy.

The quality of sound is superb throughout, corrupted slightly by the odd crackle from my recording – you can’t have everything – but it is far superior to many live recordings of this band in existence.

It is often forgotten, amongst all the pot-head pixies, earth-mother magick, flying teapots and mantra chanting, that Gong were a mighty fine collective of musicians.
Whether it was Didier Malherbe’ superb sax playing, Pierre Moerlen’s athletic percussion, Gilli Smith’s creepy space whispers or Allen’s or Hillage’s breathtaking guitar playing (I don’t know what it is, but the glissando guitar (I think it’s just slide played with a glass finger[?]) creates some beautiful sounds), the listener is transcended and readily abducted to their crazy, vibrant planet of sound.
And the Planet Gong was a beautiful and remarkable place.

Gong - Live etc (1977)

You Can't Kill Me
Zero the Hero & the Witche's Spell
Flying Teapot
Dynamite/I am Your Animal
Est-Ce Que Je Suis
Ooby Scooby Doomsday or The D-Day DJ's got the DDT Blues
Radio Gnome Invisible
Oily Way
Outer Temple
Inner Temple
Isle of Everywhere
Get it Inner
Master Builder
Flying Teapot

Excellent cassette rip @ 320kbs
Grab a cuppa here

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Finnish Punks on Dope

Every now and then – I don’t mean to be disrespectful, just an observation – something quite wonderful and brilliant emerges from the Finnish milieu.

Sibelius, Jorma Kaukonen, Hanoi Rocks [!], Sielun Veljet [?].
Yeah, that’s right: Sielun Veljet.
And their album, Softwood Music: Under Slow Pillars, is one of my favourite records of all time.
Formed in the early eighties, Sielun Veljet began their career as a hard-nosed, post punk noise band singing only in Finnish and known for their quite spectacular live shows, some of which were reported to go on for more than four hours.
This album was the only album they made in English; and it was a radical departure from anything they had previously released.
It wasn’t just the change in language that made Softwood Music so different, Veljet’s sound had dramatically changed as well, adopting a more psychedelic, twisted folk flavour which worked incredibly well with Ismo Alanko’s remarkable and unique voice (think David Sylvian with bronchitis, after a heavy night of smoking cigars with Fidel Castro – although that doesn’t really do Alanko’s voice justice; as I said he’s unique, so it’s difficult to find a vocal simile).
I really don’t know what Poko Records’ strategy was when dealing with Sielun Veljet.The albums they released in Finnish were available in and out of Finland, and their album L’amourha (1985) sold reasonably well throughout Europe.
However, when the band came to release Softwood Music, Poko limited its distribution to within the confines of Finland; pretty odd for an album that was sung in the English language!
As a consequence of its commercial failure [!] the band split, making Softwood Music their last original release.
A real shame, as it was by far their best.
But I guess its best to go out with a bang; not a whimper.
I’m not sure why the band decided to change to the English language for this recording, except they do sing about very universal subject matter; and are perhaps singing in English for the same reason such bands as Can and Amon Düül sang in English.
I have no idea either as to why they radically changed their sound from a fairly generic hard, arty, post punk sound to this wonderful blend of full-on psychedelia and twisted folk, mixed up with some ragga beats and East European, Romany sounding strings, but I’m really glad they did.
And as for the instruments they use to achieve some of the sounds that accompany the songs, well I’m not sure, but some of them sound as if they could well be alive.
Something that did obviously happen to the band, which quite possibly had an effect on their sound, is they turned-on.
And they encouraged all their listeners to do the same:
‘Now’s the time for all the honest citizens to turn to
Now’s the time for all the honest citizens to turn to crime.’
The lyric then informs the listener as to how a bucket-bong is assembled and used, recommending its value, as ‘You’ll never have a better smoke’.
Overall, this has to be one of the most THC saturated albums ever made; way beyond the conventions of ‘Stoner’.
The stoned sounds heard here seem to drift and meander, wafting through space like clouds of pollen and kief.
The fact the album sounds like it was recorded in a mediaeval castle in the middle of a Finnish birch forest adds to its extremely twisted flavour; and the fact that it was actually recorded in a sound studio in Helsinki only goes to show that this is a masterful recording, and the arrangement and production of the album is quite superb.
Sielun Veljet - Softwood Music: Under Slow Pillars (1989)
Mushroom Moon
I Wanna be a Frog
Life is a Cobra
Woe! The Maiden of my Heart
Immortal Bliss
Evil Kübl
Vicious Waltz
Hey-Ho Red Banana!
The Beast has Taken Over in my Mind Again
Old Masterpiece
Living in a Twisted World
Immaculate vinyl rip @320kbs

I highly recommend this album.
Nearly everyone I have played this album to asks for a copy of it.
As I said, it is unique.
And hey, there’s just not enough nice surprises in life; so download yourself a right nice surprise here

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Give me an eff...

Yes. This post even took me by surprise.

But I love Country Joe.
Fish or no Fish.

I discovered Joe Macdonald’s music (the country prefix mimicked one of Stalin’s ‘pet names’) back in the late seventies; so his music was always in retrospect; but little did I know, as he was still doing it.

And he still is!

And he’s not stuck in the past; his lyrics are still deeply relevant, and so are his causes.
In fact, Joe has one of the more interesting voices of dissent heard in recent years.

Check this out:

As for this album, well, it’s a fantastic introduction to his music, and includes some brilliant live recordings unique to this release.

Part One is made up of the best of the Fish’s early material, and captures in sound the whole San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury, Monterey kind of vibe; full of love and peace, agit-prop, finger cymbals, pot, love songs to Janis Joplin, warnings about the taking of crystal meth and some quite beautiful music.

Part Two includes some wonderfully recorded live performances, captured at the end of the Fish’s career (they split in 1970, reforming in 77 for the Reunion album).

And despite the slightly reserved nature of Part One, the Fish really kicked arse during these live recordings.

Barry Melton’s guitar playing is quite superb; to say nothing of his vocal delivery; his voice on ‘Love’ is tonsil breaking and nerve shattering. Yeah, man, he really means it.

Marijuana was one of the big flavours of the day, and the Fish weren’t afraid to celebrate it at any opportunity.

My favourite moment on this album occurs during the transition between the tracks ‘Rock and Soul Music’ and ‘Love’.

‘Rock and Soul Music’ ends with a repeated chord played seven times, staccato-like. On the eighth beat, the whole band shout in unison: ‘marijuana’, which is the cue into ‘Love’.
Okay, sounds a bit complicated.
I guess you’ve got to hear it; but honestly, cracks me up every time.

The anthemic herb even gets its own song; and the whole band takes part in an absurdist paean to their favourite plant; resulting, of course, in Pythonesque disorder, breakdown and chaos.

The album opens and closes with the band’s most famous of tunes, ‘Fixing to Die Rag’, the first version from the beginning of their career, and the second from Woodstock, the end of their initial incarnation.

The track still raises a smile, and is still able, in all its cynicism, to make the listener feel a little contrite, and listening to it now, makes one feel a little disillusioned.

It reminds me that we blew it.
An opportunity lost.
And we are now paying the consequences.

Pretzel anyone?

Country Joe and the Fish - The Life and Times of Country Joe & the Fish: From Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock (1971)

Fixing to Die Rag
Bass Strings
Flying High
Porpoise Mouth
Untitled Protest
Who Am I
Waltzing in the Moonlight
Death Sound Blues
Sing Sing Sing
Not So Sweet Martha Loraine
Rock and Soul Music
Crystal Blues
Masked Marauder
Love Machine
Fixing to Die Rag

Excellent cassette rip @ 256kbs
Grab a whiff of the sixties here for Part One
Inhale with the Fish here for Part Two

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Smash those filthy records, get rid of them...

12"s. They come and they go.
Sometimes they're released and you have absolutely no awareness of their existence.
Many releases almost seem a secret.
They are ephemeral.
Rarely entering the charts, they are the equivalent of a novella compared to the novel.
They're not quite an album: but their more than a 7" or single release.

This release came hot on the tail of the massively innovative and inspiring Entroducing, an album made in its entirety from recorded music and samples that already existed; the first true act of bricolage in modern music (Solex, the Dutch musician is also considered to be a pioneer at this time, but she does sing over her constructed music, so Shadow really was the first true bricoleur).

DJ Shadow (Josh Davis to his mum) is one of those artists who is able to cross normally impenetrable territory and raise interest in those who would not normally bother to cock a snook at 'dance music'.

I have never seen him live - I find the idea of a DJ on a stage with a large audience gazing at him while he mixes slightly absurd - but I do love his music.

A friend of mine informed me - he did go to a DJ Shadow gig - that the decks and control panel are filmed and projected up on to a screen at the back of the stage; and the first thing that DJ Shadow does, obviously, is to place a stylus on to a spinning record.
There was a big close-up of this moment apparently, and as soon as the stylus landed and bit, the audience erupted, went totally berserk. Apparently.

As I previously mentioned, this release did follow in the shadow (ahem) of Entroducing, and the residual sound from Entroducing is certainly identifiable here.

The first cut, 'High Noon' takes a familiar, almost distinctly DJ Shadow tune and bigs it up with a big hooky, surf-type, cowboy-like guitar riff [!] and kind of goes to town with it.
The beats are all over the place, as it sounds like he's sampled half a dozen kits all playing at the same time; but they never become cacophonous; and that is very much down to his control and skill.

All of the tracks include speech samples; either as introductions, outros or dropped in and manipulated into the mix.
This works best on the track 'Devil's Advocate' where a bigotted fundamentalist can be heard damning rock n roll music due to its 'sexualizing' powers.

Shadow's manipulation of the lecturer's discourse diminishes his diatribe down to the level of a quivering jelly, turning his very words into a degenerate beat.

But the best track is the final cut: 'Organ Donor', which is my all time favourite DJ Shadow tune.
This mix is wonderfully produced; generously spaced and a masterpiece of editing.

It isn't the usual full-on assault that so many of Shadow's tracks end up being, and it could even be considered minimal in its structure; but the way the sounds are recorded is quite wonderful.

The organ sound is loaded with a synasthetic darkness, removing it totally from the atmosphere of a tea dance or a pensioner-targeted gig in the park.
Juxtaposed with the manic scratching; so manic it creates a singular sound; and the wonderfully captured cymbal and snare beats, the mix is quite extraordinary; even for the Shadow.

DJ Shadow - High Noon (1997)

High Noon
Devil's Advocate (heaven v. Hell - Bonus Beat)
Organ Donor (Extended Overhaul)

Vinyl rip @ 320kbs
Gotta be really; be disrespectful otherwise.
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