I’m off to see The Manfreds in Dublin later this week. Looking forward to it – a bit of fun and a nice venue. Anyone here seen them before?
Colin H on Brian Houston
No Brian Houston gigs in several years and then two come along a week apart – first, a solo troubadour show to 40 people in the quaint and, frankly, bugger-to-find Brontë Heritage Centre in the wilder regions of County Down, near the Land of the Rathfris (Rathfriland) and then a packed Empire Music Hall show with full band and guests in Belfast. The cumulative verdict in one line: Brian Houston is an extraordinary performer with a mastery of musical styles and so at ease onstage that he can run a show like a gentle observational comedy when he wishes or get down on his knees and rock like it’s 1973 with such apparent naturalness that one never considers at the time whether any irony is involved.
The Brontë show was fun for all sorts of non-musical reasons: for a start, finding the place on a dark Saturday night, down backroads, up dirt tracks, and eventually there it is, an 18th Century church with attached cottage (museum) which has some connection to the Brontë sisters’ grandfather. Poor old Andy Peters – a tireless, easy-going promoter of roots music who runs an Americana club there every Saturday » Continue Reading.
The great Jan Akkerman, best-known for his time in Focus 1970-75, was previously in Dutch prog/blues band Brainboxy for a year or so.
Recently, he’s toured Holland occasionaly with a bespoke band in homage to that time/band, under the banner of ‘My Brainbox’ – to differentiate it, presumably, from the reformed (Mk2) ‘Brianbox’ (featuring his 1970 replacement Rudy De Queljoe).
Jan’s band features a singer whose sound is remarkably close to that of original singer Kaz Lux. Here they are a week or two back playing one of the original Brainbox songs, with period effects on the guitar, and variations on the blues scale that no one in Chicago would understand. Enjoy!
Plenty of notice – the ezquisite and perma-smiley Cornish-Chicagoan singer/songwriter tours the UK in April-May, from Penzance to Oban, in a more or less sensibly arranged south to north progression.
I never tire of her masterpiece ‘In Derby Cathedral’, with its mesmerising canon at the end. Someone has kindly uploaded a new live vid of it recently, wherein we not only hear but somehow see three Sarahs (Sarae?).
And for those who can’t get to any of the UK dates, there’s a month in Holland beforehand.
For the sake of a tenner, take a punt and go see her. You’ll not be disappointed!
I’ve just noticed this short but, I think, interesting interview with Andy Powell, posted by ‘Guitar Player’ a week or so back. He distills a lot of experience into a short space, with some good advice too.
Somehow, for 25 years, I have been entirely unaware of this 1991 Stanley Clarke album ‘Live 1976-77’. There a couple of Stanley’s mid 70s solo albums that I love, not least for his double bass playing and a couple of John McLaughlin’s cameos. well, here is a 7 minute studio outtake ‘Desert Song’ from 1976, with Stanley on sublime bowed double bass and John grooving with his 13-string Shakti guitar around a glorious spiral of those totally distinctive ‘Mahavishnu arpeggios’ which site the work to this period alone. Bliss!
For those who have been thinking, ‘If ONLY there was a 29-disc Cuby & The Blizzards box set’, your day has arrived:
Colin H on Brian Houston
The very first newspaper feature I wrote, during a seven-year period as a professional freelance writer, was 22 years ago, in 1994. The reason I mention that is because the artiste I interviewed on that occasion was Brian Houston – the Belfast Elvis, a full force gale, the king of rock’n’roll, the bar-room Bruce, the Celtic Soul brother number one, and all sorts of other epithets that I and others in the Belfast media would hang around his neck (like a verbose and perhaps unhelpful flock of albatrosses) over the next few years.
Brian grew up in working-class protestant East Belfast in the 60s and 70s, soaking up Elvis Presley films (however terrible) on Saturday afternoon TV and starting a love affair with American culture and music. He worked in a shipyard as a carpenter – a very good one by all accounts – and performed in the early 80s in a gospel-rock band called Communiqué, during a period when there was a thriving gospel-rock scene in Northern Ireland. Bands of all types – rock, soul, metal, synth, reggae – would typically play in church hall ‘coffee bar’ mission weeks, and there always seemed » Continue Reading.
So… what are all the old punks (1977-81 variety) up to? What’s new in the worlds of 999, Plastic Bertrand, the Uk Subs Bench and the rest? Let me kick off with the most recent footage of Sham 69, playing at some Christmas do in France…
I skimmed through the whole of the year 1970’s issues of Melody Maker a couple of days ago, scanning a few Quintessence concert ads (as you do), and I was struck by one name – among the many before-they-were-famous listings and had-their-moment names and fleeting ‘who they?’ names: Writing On The Wall.
The name was utterly unknown to me and yet they were working solidly throughout that year, supporting some big acts, headlining shows of their own, and obviously doing well enough for promoters to take out ads with the name in large font.
As I’ve been typing this Maha Dev from Quintessence happened to phone and I asked him, ‘Have YOU heard of Writing On The Wall?’ Answer: No! Even their contemporaries seem to have had no idea of this hiding-in-plain-sight Scottish progressive behemoth.
After a year’s worth of MMs I leafed through a Nov 7 1970 ‘Sounds’ that I’d just acquired, for its two-thirds of a page feature on Quintessence, and there, as if by magic, on the other third of the same page is a short feature on WOTW.
It’s 18 months since their debut LP ‘Power Of The Picts’, and they’re talking about a » Continue Reading.
Hard to imagine a market for this: a 16 disc UK box set…
My pals Johnny and Adele very kindly agreed to put a couple of videos together for two songs on my forthcoming record, Sunset Cavaliers. Here’s my homage to the late, great Billy Thorpe…
…I have an album coming out, in February. The estimable Peter Muir, Mogul of Market Square – taking the risk of appalling hubris off my own shoulders – has created a vid for the opening track, ‘Blues For The Mahavishnu’ [Radio Edit] (and yes, I know there’ll be a few smiles at the very idea that something like this will ever appear on the radio… 🙂 ).
Chris Spedding plays lead guitar on the track, with Premik Russell Tubbs on soprano sax, my regular collaborators Ali MacKenzie (bass) and Cormac O’Kane (piano), plus Cardiff Lou from Wookalily (drums) and Lee Hedley from the Mighty Mojos on harmonica. I’m on acoustic and the mono-synthy homage to 1979.
Hope some of you enjoy it – no worries if not.
I take my hat off to all these bar bands (most in New York, I suspect) who have a go at Mahavishnu covers. Here’s a new posting, very well atmospherically filmed with great sound and good playing (albeit that the synth’s violin setting suddenly makes the tune sound like it should have been an early 80s sitcom theme tune).
The musicians are:
Keyboard – Fabian Ballago Bass – Mohammed Omer Guitar – Carl Nordling Drums – Johan Sundvall
…we only need to raise 25 quid for them, or they cease to be electable (!).
Anyone want to throw in a quid?
No, me neither.
I may be late to this, but I just found out that Herbie Goins – mid 60s British soul/R&B man (ex USAAF), who took over as singer with the Night-Timers from Ronnie Jones, after Ronnie was ill-advisedly persuaded to go on a solo cabaret tour with the Bachelors.
One of the notable incifdents in Herbie’s tenure was the first-ever release of a John McLaughlin composition (John being the band’s guitarist), ‘Cruisin”, on a B-side. Yes, it’s atypical, yes it shows why John is not noted as a great lyricist, but it certainly grooves in that slightly angular, off-centre way we would come to expect a few years down the line…
I’m off to see a rare reheating of The Brush’s 1970/71 Skid Row repertoire souffle tonight in Dublin! And I shall be bringing earplugs (and Mrs H, who will also bring earplugs).
Having just been in touch with the Pacemeister, late of this parish, I thought we should catch up with his activities downunder. Shane tells me he’s been doing really well in the Aussie blues chart with his Trio’s latest album, and his form band the Bondi Cigars have a comeback album on the go too.
Here he is in fabulous form a year ago. (There are plenty more recent vids on youtube, but I just loved the feel of this one, and it’s atmospherically filmed.) That Pacemaker – he’s a class act!
Here’s a newly posted vid of a bar band playing Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘Trilogy’. The timing goes a tad wobbly here and there, but I take my hat off to them. Indeed, I take my hat off to them for actually being a bar band with a gong…
Has anyone else here ever seen a bar band with a gong?
I mentioned recently that I’d been to a couple of Wookalily TV recording events for a show that was inexplicably Not Allowed To Be Talked About. Now that the series in question has gone overground (advertising itself on BBC ticketing outlets), we can kick all that cloak and dagger guff into touch.
The wonderful Wookalily will be appearing on a forthcoming BBC4 series called ‘Britain’s Best Part-Time Band’. It seems to be some sort of competition, though not open to the public – all filmed in advance of broadcast. Comedian Rhod Gilbert and various music legends get to travel around the UK, see some bands, have a laugh and decide who they like best at a regional level and then, presumably, at a national level.
The Wookaladies are through from NI, and will be filmed again on January 15th at a live open-to-the-public thing in Belfast along with regional winners from the Celtic fringes. Tickets from the link herein.
Meanwhile, line up those mince pies and a steaming flagon of mulled wine, put your feet up and watch the Wookas on the considerably lower-budget NVTV performing six songs (some of their best, plus one real turkey). There are four chairs » Continue Reading.
The BFI ‘Ghost Stories For Christmas’ box set is essential for this time of year. Set aside 30 minutes and hearken to the sonorous voice…
My pals the Wooka-ladies were filmed in performance for, how shall I put this, ‘an extra-local broadcast in the not too distant’, last Saturday, in front of a select coterie of their greatest fans, closest family members and assorted people who had nothing much else to do on a wet and miserable Saturday afternoon in Belfast.
Unfortunately, I can tell you nothing whatsoever about the show, as the Wooka contracts suggest that if a word is breathed to anyone, a crack squad of BBC hitmen led by a figure like, say, Alan Yentob flying in with his Bond-villain cat at colossal expense will descend upon all their houses, sieze all their belongings and throw them in prison, never to see daylight again. Similarly, once the show is broadcast and available for anyone to see, they must not mention it for months to anyone. (You think I’m making this up?)
Meanwhile, here are Wookalily with no frills and not much amplication, filmed in a disused warehouse by an amateur enthusiast.
I was wanting to buy a Detectorists DVD for a friend who would almost certainly enjoy but I was put off by some seriously negative online comments on the technical quality of the visual aspect (from sharp to washed out and murky).
Does anyone have the official DVD versions? Is it really that bad?
What a crying shame that a brand new cinematically filmed, lovingly crafted TV series can be bunged out in some crappy transfer (if indeed that is the case)… Just get it right…
Just a heads up that Ralph ‘The Ralphmeister’ McLean at BBC Radio Ulster is having a 60s British R&B show tonight on his Rock’n’Soul show.
The likes of Them, Animals, Yardbirds in the first hour (8-9) and the Pretty Things in conversation in the second hour (9-10).
Available to ‘listen again’ or whatever it’s called if you miss it tonight…
Check out this fellow, playing four parts himself with split-screen video. AND his name is Tom Penguin. How much better can it get?
This is astoundingly close to the sound and feel of the two original pieces. Phew…