Friday, 25 February 2011

Yellow Finn

Essentially, Hot Tuna were a live act - can you get anymore ostentatious than a Flying V bass? - and their recorded output verified that: the essential live Double Dose is easily their greatest album; but as studio albums go, I think this is by far the best of the bunch.

Having dispensed with their hillbilly, American outlaw, jug-band kind of sound, Kaukonen and Casady had a rethink, and before our very ears, Hot Tuna morphed effortlessly into a smart, hard-rock boogie band.

Phosphorescent Rat (1973) suggested where it was going, and by the time they arrived at Yellow Fever (1975) their sound had hardened; tightened; become heavier; with the band playing much more as a single unit rather than that loose homestead feel associated with their earlier incarnation.

Yet despite it's heavier vibe, this is a feel-good, upbeat album - I mean, just look at the artwork: no mean blues album this.

I guess to say it's typical of mid-seventies' San Francisco hard-rock would be a cop out, but with Kaukonen spanking the plank, and Casady - just dig that bass-man! - constantly dueling with him, this is archetypal, and not really typical at all.

Hot Tuna - Yellow Fever (1975)

Baby What You Want Me To Do
Hot Jelly Roll Blues
Free Rein
Sunrise Dance With the Devil
Song for the Fire Maiden
Bar Room Crystal Ball
Half/Time Saturation
Surphase Tension

Excellent rip from cassette @320kbs
Canned Tuna here

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Frost Burns

Remaining within the unplugged vein, here's a very tasty acoustic set from Jorma Kaukonen recorded back in 1978.

It wasn't until I married a Finn that I realised Jorma Kaukonen, in name at least, could only be of Finnish extraction.
I always thought the name looked odd alongside those archetypal U.S. sounding monikers, you know: Grace Slick, Jack Casady, Marty Balin, et al.
Of course in today's Wiki-wonder-world it only takes a moment to confirm that his father was 'Finnish-American', but adding to the obvious is the fact that his mother was Russian; creating a curious background for someone who did their own growing up in Washington and San Francisco.

They have a certain kind of melancholy do the people of the North, and it is so often expressed through the manner of music and song.

Now I'm not saying Jorma Kaukonen is any kind of shaman or anything like that, but he adds something to American blues that is not evident in those who are of what? Shall we say hotter blood?

His solo music is prickly, icy, cold.
But at the same time warm and deeply satisfying.

(It's a bugger this trying to write about music thing: think I'll just give up....)

But perhaps that's it!
It's all about opposites: contraries.

Hot Tuna had finished [!] and Kaukonen was between identities.
There also seems to be an audience of about ten people; adding enormously to the intimate and intense atmosphere of this recording.

The quality is so good, on occasion you can hear the glug of bourbon swishing about in the bottle as Kaukonen raises it, replenishing his larynx and his attitude.

The highlights?
Well, the Tuna songs sound particularly poignant; whether there's an extra resonance of grief attached I'm not sure, but I don't remember them sounding quite so affecting when performed by the band.
'Watch the North Wind Rise' is a particular favourite of mine, and really does sound like a calling: its got something of the wastes surrounding Valhalla about it.

But hey, it's all good, and the fact that he performs a couple of songs twice really doesn't matter. It just works. He's such a mesmerising player; his kind of blues just takes you right out of yourself.

Jorma Kaukonen - Old Waldorf, San Francisco: 2/4/78 (Soundboard Boot)

Come Back Baby
Trial By Fire
Another Man Done Gone
Watch the North Wind Rise
Police Dog Blues
Let Us Get Together
Another Man Done Gone
Water Song
Whinin' Boy Blues
Police Dog Blues
Killing Time in the Crystal City
Mann's Fate

CD rip to mp3s (68 mins)
Cool off here

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Bardic Beat

The first time I saw Roy Harper perform he was perched between two of Landseer's lions, singing 'I Hate the White Man'.
It was an anti-Windscale demo back in nineteen seventy-something or other; Trafalgar Square was heaving.

The next time I caught him was at nineteen seventy-eight's Knebworth Festival, where he played during every change over, keeping the restless, angry, hippie-styled crowd amused until the next big act.
He proceeded to get more and more wasted as the day went on.

His final appearance, which surprised even him I think by its length (Genesis were apparently waiting for absolute darkness before beginning their set; you know, just so everyone could really appreciate the lasers and the nuances of their exquisite light show), was highlighted by the inebriated bard falling, mid-song, backwards off his stool; soles to the sky: roaring with laughter.

Genesis were a bit of a disappointment after that!

This compilation samples Harper's work from the early seventies, highlighting his balladeering spirit and his slightly eccentric, rather twisted take on Englishness and the English folk tradition.
The collection therefore concentrates on his shorter songs; and I guess for a sampler that's only to be expected.

So I've played around with it a bit; adding the full thirteen minute version of Stormcock's magnificent 'Me and My Woman' - seeing as how I'm not limited by groove length - allowing Harper's mosaic-styled, genre crossing compositional technique, often adopted for his longer songs, to be heard.

I've also changed a couple of the originally selected versions of tracks; choosing live versions of 'South Africa' and 'When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease' (both from Unhinged) over the original studio takes, for no other reason other than quality (I'm sorry if that offends any purists. Get your own blog, innit).

So, if you only know Roy Harper as the bloke who sang the vocal for Floyd's 'Have a Cigar', or the geezer Led Zep dedicate what is probably their most unlistenable song to, why not check this out?

And if you know Roy Harper's music a little more intimately, this is a great compilation to accompany any wine-sodden, log-fire-hugging winter's eve; whether of Albion or Abroad.

Roy Harper - 1970-1975 (1978)

Don't You Grieve
I Hate the White Man
Tom Tiddler's Ground
Me and My Woman
Little Lady
South Africa
Forbidden Fruit
I'll See You Again
Another Day
When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease
Home (with Ian Anderson. Unique to this comp)

Immaculate Vinyl & CD rips @320kbs
Cuddle up with Roy here

Monday, 7 February 2011


I'm not going to become all hypocritical and say I am or was a big fan of Gary Moore's work: I wasn't; I'm not.
But this is truly a shit-hot beast of an album, and Moore added an awful lot to make it so.

Long before the major success of 'Parisienne Walkways' and some well selling blues albums, Gary Moore played hard-rock jazz fusion with the outfit Colosseum II; part two of drummer extraordinaire Jon Hiseman's original proggers Colosseum.

Colosseum II were far the better band; losing a lot of vocal and concentrating on hardening up a genre that was rapidly becoming far too muso for its own good.

The opening track is played completely flat-out, not quite John Abercrombie, but not far off; Moore playing some blistering notes with very quick fingers; encapsulating the fusion sound of that time; you know, kind of Alan Holdsworth (U.K.) or John Goodsall (Brand X); both artists in fact who made music comparable to Colosseum II; but with Hiseman leading from the kit, Colosseum II's sound was far more dynamic and kick-ass: they didn't noodle or pussyfoot around so much; they just got down to it.

'Desperado' is the standout track for me; it really does everything you want hard-rock jazz fusion to do.
And it does it with much gusto.

Moore's big track is 'Rivers', essential for all those who value his music.
It's a big anthemic track, the only vocal on the album - which Moore sings - and he plays a tastefully subdued legato solo at its centre.
He could certainly cut it, and he didn't need to be ostentatious.
Satriani he wasn't.
(If he was he wouldn't be on here, that's for sure!)

But it must be said, all the guitar parts and solos on this album are incredibly well constructed and well played; he really found a niche here, but he was obviously a fidget, and other things beckoned.

This is now a rare piece it seems, so I'm glad to share it; and I think it makes for a fitting tribute to the man's art.

Man, those notes!
May they live on.


Colosseum II - Electric Savage (1977)

Put It This Way
All Skin and Bone
The Scorch
Am I
Intergalactic Strut

Immaculate vinyl rip @320kbs
Savage fusion here

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Doctor's Note

If you're on an Hawkwind trip, then what better way to end than to hear from the captain and good doctor himself.
And again, I'm flabbergasted this album is no longer available.
What's going on, Dave?

I like Dave Brock - sorry Nik - his music and ideas have given me a great deal of pleasure over the years. I've seen him live many times: in fields, venues, clubs, sheds and tents; and have spent many a pleasant moment with his music as an accompaniment.

So when this, his first solo cut, came out back in eighty-four, myself, and many a Hawkwind fan had expectant and anticipatory ears.

It met all expectations; and expanded them.

A totally home-made, self-reliant piece this, and okay, at times the odd track may sound a little like a Hawkwind demo; but the low production values and sparsity of sound really help to create an intimate atmosphere; a sense of peering and listening in to Dr. Technical working in his lab.

There is a bit of double-dipping, including the 'Assassination' thing from Church; but there's some great trancy Warrior styled jams, some interesting electronica, and even a bit of bubble-gum pop in the hooky 'Sweet Obsession'.
I say it's bubble-gum pop, in fact, thinking about it, it's probably about stalking.
Buy hey, it's got a great melody!

Along with all the epic, cosmic flights of fancy; the literary erudition and the spaced-out concepts; Dave Brock has a great sense of humour and fun, and that really shines on this album, and unlike Agents of Chaos, his next solo piece released three years later, this is very upbeat indeed.

The Orb recently got together with the wrong Dave, you know.
Patterson should have made an album with Brock.
Now that would have been interesting.

Dave Brock - Earthed to the Ground (1984)

Earthed to the Ground
Green Finned Demon
Sweet Obsession
Machine Dream
Now is the Winter of our Discontent
On the Case

Excellent vinyl rip @320kbs
Plug in here

It's Time!

I can't believe this album is out of print; changing hands at thirty-five quid for a second hand CD version: ridiculous!
Most of Hawkwind's back catalogue is available at much reduced price; yet this, what has to be one of their finest albums, isn't.

Of all the Hawkwind albums, this has to be the most musically ambitious and progressive - in the genre sense - of their entire discography; and as an album; a singular piece of work; a whole, complete product; it could well be their masterpiece.

And the original vinyl edition cover did this when opened out fully:

And this on the other side:


They did some great things with their covers did Hawkwind; my favourite has to be the blanket sized enormity of the original Space Ritual; man, how we used to pour over those things.

The band were at their peak during this period; and with two drummers and Lemmy as a rhythm section there's some pretty pounding, almost industrial rhythms accompanying many of the tracks.

(Lemmy has stated that he hated this period of working with Hawkwind, with 'fascistic drummers taking over the sound', but has also admitted that Warrior does contain some quite superb cuts.)

In fact, it's quite trancy in places, a little Neu, even; but essentially Warrior is a very heavy album, with long instrumental breaks, allowing the band to really show off their development and their chops.

To bring in Moorcock was a masterstroke.
Dave Brock knew his audience; and he was right, we were all reading Runestaff, Elric, and the brilliant Jerry Cornelius' stories.
Moorcock was the writer of space rock: the absolute literary equivalent of their music.

Poet, Bob Calvert, had become so much a part of the band's identity and sound he was sorely missed (absent: later to rejoin for Astounding Sounds), the poetry added something quite essential to their sound at the time; Moorcock was the perfect replacement, filling Calvert's role admirably; and in places sounding uncannily similar to the original Hawkwind 'Space Poet'.

The poetry nuzzles its way in between the tracks, often acting transitionally between the pieces of music.
Many of the segues on this album are so seamless, and I think so essential to the listening experience I haven't interrupted them; to have done so would would have been criminal; so some tracks are grouped together as single mp3s; but I'm sure you'll agree: many of these pieces run together like suites, and that's how they should be heard.

The album ends with the classic Hawkwind tune: Moorcock and Brock's 'Kings of Speed'; a track that somehow encapsulates all that both the writer and the band stood for during this period.
And it still sounds great.
Ear whizz to add a spring to anyone's step; a great big aural injection of energy: a mainline straight to the psyche.

Hawkwind - Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975)

Assault & Battery Part I
The Golden Void Part II
The Wizard Blew His Horn
The Demented Man
Standing at the Edge
Spiral Galaxy 28948
Dying Seas
Kings of Speed

Excellent vinyl rip @320kbs
Go inner space here

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Windy Pops

Awhile since some Hawks, so here's a now deleted classic that best captures some highlights from the early days of the band's ever eternal career.

The wonderful Barney Bubbles' cover sets the scene, leading and preparing the aural space cadet for a most hallucinatory super sonic journey; steered by the most outrageous bunch of lunatics who ever laid hands on the controls.

Collected from the early albums, tracks segue together seamlessly; the juxtapositions creating something new from something old.
Dave Brock was incredibly good at this; a true master of bricolage: forever remastering, recycling and repackaging.

Roadhawks was really the first example of this, but as always, well, nearly always, Brock threw in a few sweeteners; a few gems to keep his audience happy.

(In this case, wicked live versions of 'You Shouldn't Do That' and 'Silver Machine', and the 'banned by the BBC' single: 'Urban Guerilla':

"I'm an urban guerilla
I make bombs in my cellar..."

Not the best time for release as far as the establishment was concerned; the IRA were at the height of their mainland bombing campaign.)

Yes, Dr. Technical was a master of knowing how to entice the punter just enough to force them into buying music they already owned; hooked by a lustful desire for the two or three unreleased elsewhere tracks.
But hey, that's the music business, right; and I'm with Thom Yorke on this one:
'The music industry is dead!'

Long live music!

Hawkwind - Roadhawks (1975)

Hurry on Sundown
You Shouldn't Do That (Live)
Silver Machine (Live)
Urban Guerilla
Space is Deep
Wind of Change
The Golden Void

Decent vinyl rip @320kbs
Go outta space here

Another classic out of print Hakwind album on the way.
Watch this SPACE