Monday, 30 November 2009

Leaves on the Line

Considered by many to be the British dub outfit's greatest work, this 1995 release still makes for a great uplifting listen.

With their sound system roots, Homegrown Fantasy saw Zion Train cleverly fuse and mash dub, ska, dancehall, soul, techno, electronica and several other sub-genres, to create a colourful and diverse sound; making the album as a whole sound more like a compilation than the work of a single collective.

Very upbeat, very bouncy; and due to its eclecticism very much the party animal, whether it be in house or field.

Zion Train - Homegrown Fantasy (1995)

Dance of Life
Free the Bass
The Healing of the Nation
Universal Communication
Get Ready
For the Revolution
Why Should We Have to Fight?
Live Good IV
A Better Day
Love the Earth
One World, One Heart
One Conscience

CD rip to mp3s
Get aboard here

Friday, 20 November 2009

Driller Thriller

Debut album from my favourite live band of the late nineteen-eighties.

The name comes about due to the first pressings of the vinyl edition not having a central spindle hole, but it did include instructions, and encouragement, to enable the user to add the hole [is adding a hole a paradox?], complete with recommended drill bit size.

It still sounds great this album. And if you're used to the more dancy, electronic PFX-style Gaye Bykers, then this might take you by surprise, as this is a far more down to earth, raw and dirty affair, with the band playing flat-out, full-tilt boogie.
Every track races to the end: flange set on max, a buzzing rhythm section and Mary Mary growling along in an often Foetus-like fashion.

Highlights are 'Motorvate', 'All Hung Up', two tracks that include great refrains - Mary could do a good chorus - 'Zen Express' with its Harrison-like riff, and 'After Suck There's Blow': literal existentialism.

And boy, just dig those helicopter effects during 'World War 7 Blues'.

Gaye Bykers on Acid - Drill Your Own Hole (1987)

Call Me a Liar
All Hung Up
Zen Express
World War 7 Blues
Git Down (Shake Your Thang)
After Suck There's Blow
So Far Out
Drive In Salvation
T.V. Cabbage

Decent cassette rip @320kbs
Occasional level fluctuation; soon rights itself.
Get your ready-made here

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Culture Shock's only full length album from 1988.

It does contain more songs and less dub than appear on their shorter e.p. releases, but it does allow ex-Subhuman Dick Lucas to really show off his lyrical prowess; and boy, did Dick have a lot to say.

Despite the band's Marxist/Anarcho bent, their bass-heavy take on ska has an uplifting feel to it; and on close examination Dick's lyrics readily sway towards positivity; he may have been critical of the society of the nineteen-eighties, but he often offered solutions: radical, yes; but solutions none the less.

Occasionally his songs are more personal than political; and what can seem a typical polemic against the state actually turns out to be an angsty rumination about the state of the relationship he has with his girlfriend.

There is also frustration expressed about the elitism and segregation associated with counter cultural groups and tribes.
'He didn't come here to feel like this' from the track 'United' captures that attitude very well, and Lucas was brave enough to have provoked his own audience into thinking about the uniforms they were wearing; the rules and conventions that determined their sense of belonging;
and exclusion.

This album also includes 'Civilization Street', one of Culture Shock's greatest tunes; a track that takes me right back; I just want to get out and put on my old NATO boots and have a good old stomp about....

Culture Shock - Onwards and Upwards (1988)

Colour TV
Fast Forward
You Are Not Alone
If You Don't Like It
Civilization Street
Catching Flies
When the Fighting's Over
Open Mind Surgery
Don't Worry About It

Decent Cassette rip @320kbs
Grab yourself some cultural heritage here

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Manufactured Dissent

Despite what you may think of the society, system, machine in which you exist, it's kind of good to be part of a society, system, machine that allows those who are critical of it to express those opinions; and I'm lucky to be able to spend my time sitting here doing this and you're lucky to be where you are reading it.
It really could be a lot worse.

But of course it can always be improved upon, right?

And in the best philosophical tradition, Consolidated were always ready to provoke and challenge personal perceptions and attitudes.

They were much slagged off in their time, but I think a lot of the criticism aimed at them was similar to attacks made against those such as Andrea Dworkin, Pete Singer or Noam Chomsky: using words that prick the conscience; discussing ideas that challenge personal prejudices.

And as any two year old will tell you, the best way to get a reaction is by being extreme.

And this is by far the most extreme of all the early Consolidated politico albums.
It's also, in my opinion, their best; and certainly the album that contains the best marriage between their discourse (no other word for it really) and their music.
There's some real big beats on here; moving into industrial in places; creating an angry RevCo kind of vibe.

Samples from the band's own Q&A sessions - part of their live performance - often find a place in their music.
They make for interesting listening. Often they are critical of the band. Often they are made by those who are obviously feeling a little guilty or somewhat morally challenged.
But the band are never detached from this; there's no snobbery involved; no holier than thou attitude; which is something I always liked about the band: their inclusion; their recognition that they too are part of the problem (it's always 'we' and 'us' in their lyrics, rather than 'you', the preferred pronoun in so many counter-cultural polemics).
The band have always been the first to recognise their own failings and hypocrisy.

This self-deprecation is captured well during the Theodor Adorno like criticsm of popular culture heard in 'Music Has No meaning'. A track not only anticipating X Factor and Pop Idol culture but also recognising that music's power is totally ephemeral.
You might want to riot or change the world in the moment, but as soon you get outside the venue or the record comes to an end... well....

So apathy is really the main target of this album- whether it's due to the dumbing-down of society, drug use, the adoption of stereotypical behaviour or just plain laziness- and the title, Friendly Fascism, is a quotation from the work of Bertram Gross [!], the writer of a Chomsky styled polemic, stating that we have all been conditioned because we're too damn lazy or comfortable to want to do anything about it....

Another reason Western society is so apathetic is due to all the meat it consumes; and it's the meat industry and meat eaters who are next to suffer Consolidated's wrath; including an assault from the sexual political angle - the band being joined by Carol J Adams, the author of The Sexual Politics of Meat - and from the ecofeminist point of view: man rapes the earth like man rapes woman.

And you can dance to it!
What more could anyone want?

Consolidated - Friendly Fascism (1991)

Brutal Equation
Our Leader
Unity of Oppression
The Sexual Politics of Meat
Typical Male
Entertainment Tonight
Friendly Fascism
We Gotta Have Peace
Meat Kills
White American Male (The Truth Hurts) Part 2
Music Has No Meaning

Excellent vinyl rip @320kbs
Agitprop yourself here

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Windy Pops

Recorded by the BBC back in 1972 for their radio show In Concert, this brief Hawkwind set is a real blinder, catching the band at their peak and experimental best.

Featuring the classic early Seventies line up, including both Del Dettmar and Dik Mik generating sonic oscillations and brain warping electronic atmospherics, this set effortlessly moves from one track to another via some far out space poetry.
'Earth Calling', 'Welcome to the Future' and the opening riff on Moorcock's words from his sci-fi horror classic The Black Corridor all make for a nerve tingling listen.

This set also includes what has to be my favourite version of 'Silver Machine'; Lemmy spits the words; just making me want to get in my car and drive; just drive; drive away into the night.
You know what I mean?

Hawkwind - Live at the Paris Theatre, 1972.
Ripped from digital broadcast @320kbs

I decided not to edit this as it works so well as a single piece.
Black Corridor
7 By 7
Earth Calling
Silver Machine
Welcome to the Future

Space out here

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Gong Show

I've been listening to a lot of Gong recently due to their excellent new release 2032; the best new release I've heard for a long time; and, from my point of view, a strong contender for album of the year.

(Very good Fortean Times article on the band; go there to check it out: includes Daevid Allen interview and some excellent recent pics.)

So I wanted to post some Gong material to celebrate their new found vitality and dynamism; and this Anthology album seems to be one of the rarer items in their massive back catalogue (much of which has now been made available due to new interest; an interest I believe that's come about through their music being discussed and shared by bloggers...).

The collection begins with some very angry people, French people, being very angry indeed.
Despite the 'riot' being recorded in 1971, this is a most fitting start to a retrospective collection of Gong's music, as they were conceived during the most troubled of times; emerging out of the 1967/68 Paris underground scene.

The earliest recordings here are in demo form; including the original demo for 'Magik Brother', one of the band's first recordings.
But the majority of this album is made up of live tracks; all of which are unavailable elsewhere, so despite many of the titles being familiar, the recordings are not; and there's some great versions of some real Gong classics.

The highlights include a wonderfully hyperbolic psychedelic version of Kevin Ayers' 'Why Are We Sleeping?' and Gilli Smith at her scariest best in a perfectly controlled hysterical delivery of 'I Am Your Pussy'.

Gong - Anthology 1969-1977

Riot 71 - France, 1971.
Pot Head Pixies - Live, France, 1972.
You Can't Kill Me - Live, UK, 1974.
Magik Brother - Demo, 1969
Why Are We Sleeping? - Live, France, 1972.
Radio Gnome - Live, France, 1972.
Dreaming It - Live, France, 1972.
Bambolay/Ya Sunne - Glastonbury Fayre, UK, 1971.
Es Que Je Suis - Demo, France, 1970.
Hypnotize You - Demo, France, 1970.
Oily Way/Outer Temple - Live, France, 1977.
You Never Blow Your Trip Forever - Live, France, 1977.
You Can't Kill Me - Live, France, 1973.
I Am Your Pussy - Live, France, 1973.
Fohat Digs Holes In Space - Live, France, 1973.
Pot Head Pixies - Live, France, 1972.
Perfect Mystery - Live, Norway, 1974.

CD rip to mp3s
Travel to Planet Gong here

Monday, 2 November 2009

High Culture

In 1978 Culture were on a roll.

Culture, essentially a three-piece vocal harmony group lead by Joseph Hill, had experienced success working with the legendary producer Joe Gibbs who had help cut their first two albums; and in 1978 were about to adopt a long and fruitful relationship with the hardest working woman in the Jamaican music business: Sonia Pottinger.

But between working with those two great producers (and some mighty musicians: Sly and Robbie, Lloyd Parks, 'Sticky' Thompson, Tommy McCook, to name but a few) Culture found themselves with time to spare; so they utilized it in the studio; cutting new tracks with a collective of unknown musicians and inexperienced production engineers.

Virgin Records, motivated by their success with punk, were hunting for authentic roots and reggae acts, and soon whisked Culture into the Treasure Isle Recording Studios; married them up with Pottinger and together recorded Culture's first album for their reggae label Front Line.

The result was Harder Than The Rest, a very safe West-friendly sound - to my ear it sounds like an attempt to jump on the Peter Tosh bandwagon - launching a very differently styled Culture; a sound that was quite far removed from their other two L.P. releases.

However, at the same time Harder Than The Rest was released, an unofficial recording became available; one that captured that time in the studio before hooking up with Virgin.

And despite the lack of big name producers or immensely skillful session musicians, Africa Stand Alone is by far the superior of the two releases.
It benefits enormously from the hands off approach, allowing for a deeply soulful and live sounding delivery of gorgeous melodic roots numbers.

There is some occasional brass, but primarily this is a very stripped down recording. Even the production is light, and the desk only really comes into play during the final track, with dub music forming the outro.

Culture never sounded so beautiful.

Culture - Africa Stand Alone (1978)

Love Shines Brighter
This Train
Dog Ago Nyam Dog
Tell Me Where You Get It
More Vacency
Iron Sharpen Iron
Garvey Rock
Innocent Blood
Behold The Land

Technically a bootleg album, this has not been released on CD.
Several of the tracks were re-recorded for Harder Than The Rest; they make interesting comparisons.
This 320 rip comes from a very fat vinyl copy released by April Records, a subsidiary of Dragon Music.
There is a little crackle on the ins and outs, but in the main sounds deep and heavenly.
Get yourself Cultured here