Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Every Beat Of My Heart - from Winterlude 19/02/2011

"Walking down the stairs of the Borderline / Big Steve’s been singing 'bout his grandpa’s grave” 

“Tyler said that he’s gradually learning / I wish I was too"

“I’ll be the one on the crazy night bus home / head inside of Bucketfull Of Brains”

Video courtesy of Ali Rawlings (Rawlings Cakes)

Winterlude: The Story

The Conway Hall, charming headquarters of the South Place Ethical Society and oasis of sanity and reason in an increasingly mad world, sits quietly at the hidden end of a leafy Holborn square. Over the years it has hosted some singular events; Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs’ multi-media invocation of their adventures with the Merry Pranksters, and an evening of spoken word featuring Nick Cave and Ken Campbell, remain vividly  memorable. To these we now add the two Winterludes, organised by Raz and Scotty from The Betsey Trotwood.

Situated a brief walk away from Red Lion Square, down in Farringdon Road, The Betsey has, in a few short years, achieved an impressive status. It now serves as the heart and refuge of the musicians and fans frequenting not just its own events, such as Clerkenville West and The Lantern Society, but also The Tapestry Club (whose festival it provided the bar for), Come Down And Meet The Folks, and The Easy Come. At the two Winterludes (thus far) it has celebrated that status in presenting impressive line-ups drawn from its habitués.

Thus one element of Winterlude is a bit of a gathering of the clans, but that in itself  wouldn’t fill a 500-plus capacity hall, and would be far too smugly up its own arse as well. So on both occasions a wider audience is deliberately aimed for, making the bills a pleasing mix of local heroes and renowned crowd-pleasers. In 2008 The Magic Numbers were the star attractions and played a magical set; this year John Otway signed up, along with Camden country icons The Rockingbirds, and Danny And The Champions Of The World. 

Arriving out of the late afternoon drizzle it was good to come into the inviting foyer and be immediately greeted by music; the interludes between the acts in the main hall being enlivened by a series of soloists and ensembles. There were also the redoubtable Rawlings Cakes and Betsey Pies to be discovered in the same locale. The hall itself was already well-populated and ready for The Cedars; they made for a gentle opening on a stage arrayed as a front room. Following them was Benjamin Folke Thomas and his band, in whom we must confess an interest. In a set of eight songs Ben took full advantage of playing on a proper stage, seizing his material by the scruff of its neck, and resolutely projecting himself; though the excursion into the audience which ended with an undignified clamber was perhaps unwise. Paul Cuddeford alternating between lap steel and electric guitar continually put his effective mark on the material, and Graham Knight and Steve Brookes proved yet again the utterly dependable rhythm section they are. Fine readings of ‘Dreams Of High Quality Truth’ and ‘Paradise Lost (Heaven Found)’ opened the set and the benchmark thus laid down was adhered to throughout. 

Following Ben were The Treetop Flyers. My pal Karl in Hamburg has been going on about these since he saw them at the Reeperbahn Festival last September, to the extent of threatening to fly to London just to catch them again, and seeing  what their twin guitarists got up to I can appreciate why. Note to self: dig out that recording he sent.

Then John Otway! What do you say about this man? The Great English Eccentrics’ Great English Eccentric of choice. It’s a mighty long way down rock’n’roll since he played in Aylesbury Town Square with Kris Needs on bongos, and a good long time since ‘Really Free’ first charted, and you can do nothing but commend his survival and continuing successful self-publicity. This was a thoroughly entertaining set. We got ‘Really Free’, and ‘Beware Of The Flowers Cause I'm Sure They're Going To Get You Yeah’, along with the forward rolls, the headbanging, and the theremin, plus versions of ‘Crazy Horses’, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ and ‘Two Little Boys’. However by far the best song he sang was ‘Josephine’ which showed he can really write good songs and sing with real emotion, and I’ll tell you what, I’d have swopped the lot for ‘Geneva’. 

The arrival of The Rockingbirds cranked the evening up another notch. The Betsey’s good ales were doing their work, and this is the band everybody loves, the band who bought country rock back to Camden, and through Alan Tyler (and, of course, Big Steve) in Come Down And Meet The Folks provided it with a home. Their return was the secret wish that everyone on that scene carried all through those years and now it’s happened. So this couldn’t help being something of a homecoming with an audience determined to enjoy themselves. Well into the groove on their third show in three nights this was a cracker of a set; a lot of new songs (an album on the way seemingly) along with the favourites like ‘Jonathan, Jonathan’ and  ‘Gradually Learning’, finishing off with ‘Time Drives A Truck. Happily for me, unlike the previous evening in Leigh, I got the whole of ‘Till Something Better Comes Along’, which is Tyler’s finest song since ‘Ladder Of Years’.

And thus to Danny & The Champions Of The World whose set, even a couple of days after, still has something of the quality of a dream to it; a very good dream, naturally, and one that you sorely want to retain as much as possible of. As the show played out I had reaffirmed for me the very reason why I’m still in this game. For kids who grew up in the 60s week in, week out, you heard new and amazing and magical music that pulled you up and shook you, and the buzz from that is the jones that we still want satisfying. 

First up was the shock of the new Champs; three very familiar faces in Paul Lush on guitar, Chris Clarke on bass, and Steve Brookes on drums, then Rosalie Deighton on guitar and support vocals, and a keyboard and sax player only identified thus far as ‘Free Jazz’ Geoff. Quickly followed by the sound and the swagger. The body of the set is all new songs taking off where ‘Follow The River’ from Streets Of Our Time left off, losing the banjos and mandolins and very much adopting the electric thrust of those Hawkish Champs who backed up Fionn Regan last spring. Unsurprisingly there’s a lot of New Jersey in it plus the dynamics of late 70s/early 80s stadium rock; did I hear Boston and Journey? 

Looking around me there are people simultaneously gob-smacked and beatific; you can hear their immediate responses on some of the videos already posted. The songs really rush by; marvellous moments of guitar and sax interplay, and a great extended intro from Paul Lush; and snippets of lyrics stick. And particularly there's ‘Every Beat Of My Heart’; a celebration of the musical milieu Dan grew up in and which formed him it name-checks Big Steve, Alan Tyler, and the Borderline, along with a certain magazine. It’s set to be the first track of the new record, produced with the help of Tony Poole, and currently being mastered, and, did such things still exist, has all the makings of a classic radio hit.

Here’s an (informed) stab at the set list:

‘Ghosts In The Wire’
‘Heart And Arrow’
‘Every Beat Of My Heart’
‘Soul In The City’
‘On The Street’
‘Colonel And The King’
‘Brothers In The Night’
‘Can’t Hold Back The Hands Of Time’

‘These Days’:

the encore being the only back catalogue song played

The event thus drawing to its close there was little left to do but make that brief walk down to Farringdon Road, where long and hard, almost inevitably too hard, another splendid day in the life was celebrated to its conclusion.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Phil Gammage’s Kneel To The Rising Sun Album re-released in deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition

PreFab International Productions is pleased to announce the re-release of Phil Gammage’s critically acclaimed album Kneel To The Rising Sun. The album was the second of Gammage’s four solo albums recorded in the 90’s. Originally released in 1991 on France’s legendary indie rock label New Rose, the record spotlights some of Gammage’s best compositions and performances.

Gammage’s vocals and guitar work are excellent throughout. His guitar playing shows an element of tasteful refinement and restraint not found in his extensive work with the New York rock band Certain General. The songs share elements of blues and folk with strong melodies and lyrics.

Kicking off the album is “Shed My Skin” a catchy song about renewal and personal rebirth. Other standouts are “Season of Rage”, “Through My Window”, and the Fred Neil classic “Everybody’s Talking At Me”. The band’s musicianship overall is stellar and features some of the best New York based players from that era. Marc Jeffrey (Band of Outsiders, Playtime) contributes guitar and slide guitar, Vinny DeNunzio (Feelies, Richard Hell, Health and Happiness Show) plays percussion and harmonica, Dave Kaufman (The Nails) is on keyboards, D. Lee (Band of Outsiders) is on bass, and Phil’s band mate from the Corvairs, Martin Blazy joins in to play percussion and drums.

The 2011 reissue features two previously unreleased bonus tracks. “Johnny Guitar” is the collaboration with Spanish chanteuse Patricia Navarro and the music is pure Gammage. “Yes It’s Me” is from a recording session shortly after the Kneel sessions and fits beautifully with the rest of the collection.

This album was a minor hit in France upon its original release in ‘91 but never saw a proper American issue. Overall it is a dynamite collection of songs from a long overlooked and underappreciated songwriter and musician.

Available for digital download through most digital distributors (iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Rockingbirds and Cusack in Leigh-On-Sea - Friday 18th Feb

Lance Baldock

A little Friday night excursion into Essex to see The Rockingbirds and Cusack provided a amiable prelude to this afternoon's Winterlude. The Ship, in Leigh-On-Sea is a proper pub with a comfortable and inviting function room upstairs, and it's always refreshing to see favourite bands away from the London maelstrom. And aside from anything else it was good to see Will, Matt and Dave from The Lucky Strikes, and Borderline Barry Everitt, master of the House of Mercy, currently down in Thorpe Bay seeing to family obligations. 

A vignette of a set from Cusack. Lance Baldock sang a mixture of songs from the splendid new Mildsensations album, accompanied by Matthew Boulter on pedal steel, to moving and entertaining effect. Along with 'Never Get To Heaven' and 'Get Well Soon' there were memorable covers of Big Star's 'Thirteen' and Neil Young's 'On The Way Home'.

Mr Tyler

Having to get the last train we didn't see all of The Rockingbirds' set but cracking versions of 'Jonathan' 'Restless' Standing At The Doorstep Of Love' and 'Everybody Lives With Us' - "from our ill-fated second album" said Alan - suggest this afternoon's set might be a riot. We were making our way out into the cold as they were playing 'Till Something Better Comes Along'; that I don't propose to miss today. See you there.

Matt Boulter

Buy Mildsensations here 

Thursday, 17 February 2011

International Pop Overthrow finally hits London - May 27th to 30th

David Bash's International Pop Overthrow hits London finally. It's been a long wait for the world's premier festival of power pop to reach the capital; there's been an IPO Liverpool at The Cavern for several years now, and there's one there this year in the week preceding the London event.

Many acts are booked already for the London event at The Bull & Gate; no names yet, no prices, but mark down the dates - 27th to 30th May.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Dino Valenti - Lost Recordings set for release

Splendid news reaches us of some lost Dino Valenti (let's not dwell on the spelling of Chet Powers' pseudonym) recordings about to show the light of day. I first heard 'Time' on one of the Rock Machine comps a very long time ago and was pleased to get the Dino Valente Epic album on CD when Koch put it out at the back end of the 90s, but as you can read form the press release this is a fascinating prospect:

Who would have thought that Philadelphia record label ItsAboutMusic.com would uncover lost music from legendary Quicksilver Messenger Service lead vocalist Dino Valenti, and the quality would be this good? And when we say "lost" - we really mean it. The tapes used to form this new CD 'Get Together' were found in a storage unit in northern California by some very nice people who just knew that this music was valuable without even hearing the tapes. They figured out how to reach Dino's son, Joli and the rest is history in the making.

This CD marks the very first time that a Dino Valenti album offers his own recording of his song, "Get Together" (made more than famous by The Youngbloods). It also features covers of "Midnight Rider" (Gregg Allman) and "I'll Try Something New" (Smokey Robinson) which are both stellar performances. But the true gems on this album are the original tunes that were recorded back in the early to late Sixties. How did this music survive all this time and sound so cool? And since the recordings have been literally lost, it's a question as to who's playing on it besides Dino. Some of the tracks sure sound like Quicksilver Messenger Service - you decide.

In the early 1960s Dino Valenti performed in Greenwich Village coffee-houses, often with fellow singer-songwriters Fred Neil, Bob Dylan, Lou Gossett, Josh White, Len Chandler, Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul & Mary) and others, influencing other performers including Richie Havens who continues to perform some of Dino's early songs. By 1963 Valenti had relocated to Los Angeles where folk-rock had already become popular. During this period he wrote his best-known song, "Get Together", a quintessential 1960s love-and-peace anthem that was later recorded by Jefferson Airplane and became a major hit for The Youngbloods.

Valenti moved north to the San Francisco Bay area where after working with several groups, played in an early line-up of the San Francisco psychedelic rock group Quicksilver Messenger Service featuring John Cipollina (guitar), bassist David Freiberg, and Jim Murray (harmonica/vocals). Dino later rejoined the group in 1970 as its lead singer and main songwriter. In the late 1960s he signed as a solo artist with CBS Records, releasing an eponymous solo LP. He traveled with Quicksilver's Gary Duncan to New York in January 1969 to form a new band to be called The Outlaws, while Quicksilver's noted album 'Happy Trails' album was released in March. While Valenti and Duncan were in New York, British keyboardist Nicky Hopkins joined Quicksilver for their third album, 'Shady Grove' (December 1969). Eight of the nine songs on the group's next album, Just for Love (August, 1970) were written by Valenti, six of them under the pseudonym of Jesse Oris Farrow. He remained the chief songwriter on their next album, in December, 'What About Me?'. Despite occasional personnel changes, the band released 'Quicksilver' (1971) and 'Comin' Thru' (1972) before disbanding. The 2-LP 'Anthology' was issued in 1973 and a tour and the album, 'Solid Silver', appeared in 1975.

Quicksilver Messenger Service first gained popularity in San Francisco's Bay Area, and then the rest of the world through the release of their critically aclaimed albums. Several of the group's LPs reached the Top 30 on the Billboard Pop charts. With their jazz and classical influences, as well as a strong folk background, QMS attempted to create a sound that was individual and innovative. Dino Valenti drew heavily on his early folk music influences. According to John Cipollina, “It was Valenti who organized the group. I can remember everything Dino said. 'We were all going to have wireless guitars. We were going to have leather jackets made with hooks that we could hook these wireless instruments right into. And we were gonna have these chicks, backup rhythm sections that were gonna dress like American Indians with real short little dresses on and they were gonna have tambourines and the clappers in the tambourines were going to be silver coins.' And I'm sitting there going, 'This guy is gonna happen and we're gonna set the world on its ear.' "

Dino Valenti passed away in 1994. According to his son, Joli, his father recorded a multitude of songs that were never released. The songs on the ItsAboutMusic.com release, “Get Together” were recorded during the period from 1964 to 1970 but were only recently found in a storage area in Northern California. In an effort to be authentic, ItsAboutMusic.com licensed the cover photo from Herb Green who is famous for taking the cover shot for Jefferson Airplane’s 'Surrealistic Pillow'. The song “Get Together” was never released on a Dino Valenti or Quicksilver album. Its only appearance came on the Rhino box set entitled 'Love Is The Song We Sing' – a 4 CD collection of recordings by Bay Area artists from the Sixties.

Visit here for song samples and more info regarding Dino Valenti's 'Get Together' 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Moon Duo - Mazes - debut album due in April

Moon Duo are set to return with their debut full length album Mazes, which sees its release on April 18th through Souterrain Transmissions (Zola Jesus, Marnie Stern, Tweak Bird).

Formed in San Francisco in 2009 by Wooden Shijps guitarist Ripley Johnson and his partner, Sanae Yamada, Moon Duo’s first two critically acclaimed EPs, Killing Time (2009) and Escape (2010), fused the futuristic pylon hum and transistor reverb of Suicide or Silver Apples with the heat-haze fuzz of American rock ‘n’ roll to create tracks of blistering, 12-cylinder space rock. Now their debut album Mazes, recorded in San Francisco and mixed in Berlin during 2010 as the band prepared to move to the mountains of Colorado, explores a far broader, lighter, sound.

That’s most clear on the dreamy organ and skipping riff of the title track, which recalls the Velvet Underground, or the handclaps and swinging organ bloops over the potent shredding and guttural riff delivered by Johnson in When You Cut: “He is an incredible guitar player,”enthuses Yamada, “He is one of those musicians who has the ability to elicit a guttural, corporeal response in the listener.” Throughout, Mazes is the sound of Moon Duo carving out their own identity, looking to the horizon, and moving forward.

Ripley says that, as a guitarist and songwriter, delineating between Moon Duo and Wooden Shijps “happens naturally. I focus on one project at a time, and the way the two bands operate is very different. And there are certain limitations that Moon Duo is forced to accept, not having a drummer for example, and I really like that. I like the creative challenge of working with limitations. Having done so much home recording cultivates that. Working with one other person is much different from working with four.” 

Yamada is happy to discuss how the romantic relationship at the core of Moon Duo has affected Mazes: “Any creative partnership involves a certain level of intimacy, as does any coupling. In each type of partnership you understand certain things about the other or others involved based on the nature of your interactions,” she explains. “To mix the two is kind of a melding of intimacies – you discover different dimensions of knowing the other person. At the same time it is hard to distill specific aspects that that dynamic brings to the music.” And she insists: “The music is the music.” 
“We wanted to do something in a more ‘rock 'n' roll band’ style, something a bit fuller than our previous recordings.”In terms of recording this meant that Moon Duo “used more tracks on this record, in order to get a denser, layered sound to make this our ‘rock band’ record. I grew up a huge Stones fan, so I've always liked that dense sound, with multiple guitar tracks, percussion, piano, organ - anything you can squeeze into the mix.” 

This meant a vastly different recording process to Moon Duo’s first two EPs, which were recorded fast and at home. Mazes was a more drawn-out process, involving proper recording studios for the first time including the trip to Berlin to mix and re-record certain parts and the track ‘Run Around’. “The working title was Die Blumen [the flowers], so going into the mix sessions we kind of felt like it was becoming our ‘Berlin record’, but in the end it retained the stamp of San Francisco and we liked Mazes title better anyway.” And ultimately, Mazes is a definably American record, recorded against the backdrop of the Johnson and Yamada’s move from the Californian coast to the heights of Colorado. “I think a lot of our music has something to do with the mythology of the road,”muses Moon Duo’s Sanae Yamada.

And if Mazes is a quest, a journey through American landscape and music, Johnson concludes that its key is “finding one's place in the world; moving forward,and the different paths one takes moving through life, trying to reach various goals, literally moving; love; pain; change. Or just getting by, and making sense of things”.

Mazes is released in Europe on April 18th through Souterrain Transmissions (US release via Sacred Bones).

Listen to the title track here and visit Soulterrain Transmissions to download

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Stuntfox and Honky Tonkin' Sunday - Sunday Gigs in Camden

Two good shows for you Camdenites to choose from on Sunday afternoon. Our old friend Piers Miller, once of Turning Worm, now of Stuntfox, kicks off a series of laidback afternoon shows in the front room of The Bull & Gate. These are weekly and from March Bucketfull Of Brains will be curating one afternoon a month. This week features TALL TREE 6FT MAN,  BLEECH, and our own BENJAMIN FOLKE THOMAS.

Meanwhile the recent parade of Paisley Underground aristocracy continues at Honky Tonkin' Sunday at The Golden Lion where SID GRIFFIN and his COAL PORTERS play, along with THE KITCHEN DRINKERS. This follows the recent appearances of Dan Stuart, Steve Wynn, and Chris Cacavas. Groovy times indeed.