= November 2019 =  
 Bridget St John
 Ken Burns - Country Music
 Jeff Kelly
 the Green Pajamas
 Deniz tek & The Godoys
 Sendelica
 Dr Strangely Strange
 Opel
 Meadowsilver
 Kris Needs book
 La Grande Armee
 Kungens Man
 Moon Ra
 Andrew DR Abbott
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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BRIDGET ST. JOHN - LIVE AT THE BETSEY TROTWOOD

(LP on Shagrat and Feeding Tube Records)

Imagine hearing Nico's dark, smoky voice but beautifully in tune (and English) and you'll touch the melodic tip of what's so gorgeous about Bridget St John. Originally Bridget recorded for John Peel's short-lived Dandelion label (1969-1972), which promptly gave her the well-deserved label of "chanteuse". Critical acclaim did not equal commercial success however, and St John seemed to vanish, only to re-emerge a few years later in the New York City area of USA. Live performances were sporadic during the early part of the 21st century but many will remember her wonderful set at Terrastock 6 in Providence, RI during April 2006.

Fifty years since her debut ‘Ask Me No Questions’ – in fact, almost 50 years to the day since the release of her debut single - ‘Live at The Betsey Trotwood’ is a live recording of a February 2017 show by Bridget St John at the eponymous London venue, pressed on vinyl and released in an edition of 500 copies by Shagrat and Feeding Tube Records. Bridget covers a lot of territory in her set – classics like ‘Fly High’, ‘Lazarus’, and of course ‘Ask Me No Questions’; covers of songs by Joni Mitchell, Michael Chapman and Leonard Cohen, and a handful of songs that were never released during her Dandelion days, including the set opener ‘Castaway.’ The song itself is a window into Bridget’s personal psyche. Having arrived in New York in 1976, St. John found herself seeking a balance between the city’s “intoxicating energy and the calm I need.”

Bridget’s songs have a natural calming effect on the listener even today, thanks in no small part to her trademark gentle fingerpicking and quivering vibrato; but her delivery is engaging and her knack for storytelling through song ensures the audience remains spellbound throughout. ‘Live at The Betsey Trotwood’ closes with two Bridget St. John classics. ‘Ask Me No Questions’, the title track from her first album, and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’.

The selection on offer here, whether her own songs or covers of her contemporaries’, revolve around the wonder of joyful experiences, the quest for freedom, and the dangers of greed and corruption - at one point she launches into her own interpretation of ‘America the Beautiful’: alone on stage, armed with just guitar and voice, Bridget St John breathes new meaning into those venerable old songs, whilst reminding listeners of the power of music as a force to unite and rebuild. And God knows we need some of that right now.

(Phil McMullen)



 

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – COUNTRY MUSIC – A FILM BY KEN BURNS (THE SOUNDTRACK)

(5 CD/Digital on SMG Records)

 

This sprawling, epic set takes you on a twisting, historic musical journey you’ll be glad you took.  Ken Burns, one of our finest, if not the finest documentarian, created the massive eight-part documentary for public television, with this, the accompanying five-disc companion set.  Burns was admittedly not much into Country when he first embarked on the project, a trait we both shared.  I’m good for it in doses.  I put off watching for over a month, until a friend convinced me it was essential.  He was right.

 

This is the motherlode.  Spanning decades, the music – “three chords and the truth” - shows incredible soul and development.  And it’s all right here, from the primordial soup of rural and multi-racial influences to the sound of Nashville today, well almost today.  Although the soundtrack album has, well, everything, what I really hope you’ll do is seek out and watch the documentary, even if you’re not into Country.  Now why would a man in his right mind ask you to invest that kind of time and effort if it’s not your thing?  Three reasons:  1) It’s questionable that I’m in my right mind at best.  2) Burns is a master storyteller, and the stories, the warmth of the artists and industry insiders who tell them, and the many amazing tales of rags-to-riches to utter heartbreak will draw you in and keep you wanting more, and finally, 3) So much of the music herein would go on to influence the music carbon-based life forms would make from these humble origins to the present.

 

Beginning in the 1920s, we have Country’s first stars, The Carter Family and Meridian Mississippi’s yodeling “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers, both signed by Ralph Peer in Bristol, Tennessee amazingly in the same week.  The story winds from mountain music to singing cowboys of the 1930s, such as Gene Autry and Sons of the Pioneers.  There’s Roy Acuff and the rise of Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry.  And there’s one of my favorites, the western swing of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys.

 

There’s the dawn of bluegrass, with the instrumental gymnastics of Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley.  And Hank Williams, the “Hillbilly Shakespeare,” understandably receives a lengthy section of his own.  By the 1950s, in addition to Williams and the rise of Honky Tonk music, we have Johnny Cash and the other Sun Records breakthroughs.  Plus, there are the Everly Brothers, and singing tale-spinners like Marty Robbins and Lefty Frizzell.

 

More?  There’s the smooth, classic early 60s “Nashville sound” crafted by Chet Atkins and Fred Rose, including the unforgettable voices of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and so many others.  There are hardscrabble, beaten down to the depths of their soul artists like Merle Haggard and George Jones.  The late ‘60s and early ‘70s country rock sound is featured with The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and the kinship between Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, featuring their duet on “Girl From the North Country” from Cash’s TV show.

 

Still more?  There’s the bluegrass revival kicked off by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s landmark “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” album, and more recent pickers like Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill as keepers of the flame.  The ‘70s would also see unsung hero singer-songwriters like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, along with Willie Nelson finally getting his due.  (Nelson’s long, hard road to fame, plus the interviews with this genuinely warm soul will have you rooting for him when he finally strikes it big.)

 

I especially enjoyed the interviews with some of the Nashville Cats, Country’s version of the Wrecking Crew.  These include Charlie McCoy, known for his harmonica work, but who actually could and did play every instrument under the sun, steel guitarist extraordinaire Lloyd Green, and singing group the Jordanaires.  The tales these folks tell!  I felt this segment could have made a fine spin-off documentary series all its own.

 

Of all the many wonderful interviews in the series, special mention goes to Marty Stuart.  The erstwhile mandolin wunderkind’s incredible font of knowledge and charismatic presence as a raconteur do for director Ken Burns essentially what Robbie Robertson’s interviews did for Martin Scorcese in The Last Waltz.

 

Nashville itself is a star of the documentary, rising from a sleepy southern town to the capital of a juggernaut empire.  The Grand Ole Opry understandably serves as a home base, and Country’s cathedral is a dateline for endless fascinating tales.

 

Director Burns chooses two subjects to return to again and again through the saga, The Carter Family and Johnny Cash.  Wise choices, as not only are their lives intertwined, but the Carters, bedrock to the genre, represent family, an essential ingredient to Country, even if it’s a slightly dysfunctional one, while Cash is the maverick, tortured genius, fighting his demons while having an insatiable palate for the greater cultural world around him.  Both these themes would resurface again and again in the person of other artists.

 

Likewise, Burns chooses two songs as touchstones, the Carters’ “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and Jimmie Rodgers’ “Muleskinner Blues.”  Both songs would be reworked again and again over the years as new artists made them their own while reinventing Country.

 

A monumental work, well worth both watching and listening.

 

 (Mark Feingold)

 





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JEFF KELLY - BENEATH THE STARS, ABOVE THE RIVER

THE GREEN PAJAMAS – POISON IN THE RUSSIAN ROOM

(LPs on Sugarbush Records)

The latest solo album by Jeff Kelly, the Green Pajamas’ front, has been given a limited vinyl reissue by Sugarbush Records. It takes the form of a love letter to his beloved fado and flamenco music, experienced during Jeff and his wife Susanne’s recent travels to Spain and Portugal (with a brief stop-over in England to perform solo, along with Nick Saloman from the Bevis Frond, at Phil McMullen’s birthday party at Cleeve House, the Woolf II festival venue). While not overtly traditional, these songs form the soundtrack to strolls through hidden corners of the Iberian peninsula,experiencing the rains on the Douro River (‘River Rain 1’ and ‘2’, ‘Douro River Wind’), poor beggars in the streets (‘Señor, Señor’), and slice-of-life reminisces of the señora in a scanner station, drinking beer under cathedral bells, or watching Romani gypsy street scenes. It’s a musical travelogue of a holiday that almost feels like you’re accompanying the Kellys every step along their journey.

     From the opening accordion and flamenco-styled acoustic guitars, we are transported into the title track lyric from ‘The Initial Kiss’, that magnetic attraction for your new home for the next few weeks. ‘Señor, Señor’ and ‘Moon Over Granada’ pull out the full electric instrument arsenal and are closest to the full Green Pajama experience (complete with Kelly’s irresistible penchant of earworm melodies)., and ‘Todo por la Gitano’ revisits the swaying waltz-like cadence of tracks like ‘Laura Petry’s Eyes’ (from 1990’s Portugal), with lilting “la la la’s” of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Joan of Arc’ (both are Kelly fascinations) and bullfight-like, mariachi brass flourishes tossed in for extra atmospheric impact.

    Vampires have always fascinated Kelly, and ‘The Lisbon Vampire’ is another eerie addition to the canon, while ‘Lily’ and ‘Kiss The Moon Hello’ also float along the warm summer winds of flamenco guitar accompaniment, the latter also evincing a cinematic aura, like Cohen collaborating with Ennio Morricone scoring a “tapas Western”! ‘Alleys of Music’ ends our musical holiday on a nostalgic note, as we wander aimlessly through the titular alleys accompanied by (presumably) Susanne’s harmonies, muted brass embellishments, and experience the surprise and wonder of what lies undiscovered around the next corner. No maps or tourist guides to assist us as we “get lost in the alleys of Madrid”.

     Fans of both the Pajamas and Kelly’s distinctive solo work will certainly hear much to enjoy in this collection of musical snapshots of his vacation, absorbing and regurgitating the musical atmosphere encountered along the way. Somewhat reminiscent of his 1997 Rosary and The House of Jade concept album (included in Camera Obscura’s Melancholy Sun box set in 1999), Kelly’s latest love letter is another jewel in an ever-expanding and consistently brilliant discography.

The Green Pajamas originally released Poison In The Russian Room in 2009. It’s a conceptual piece split into two distinct parts, the first of which highlights the more rocking’ side of the band. ‘Any Way The Wind Blows’ is a gorgeously constructed Jeff Kelly song notable for a classic rolling Joe Ross bass line and some very Spiritual (i.e. Randy California-esque) slide and feedback guitar work from Jeff. ‘Cristina Dancing’ has a flamenco feel – Jeff wrote it as a tribute to Andalucian flamenco dancer Cristina Hoyos  - and again, some mesmerising guitar sounds. ‘This Angel’s on Fire’ is one of the strongest songs on here and to my mind would have made a great choice for title track. ‘The Queen of Broken Hearts’ (gorgeously sung by rock goddess Laura Vanderpool) is yet another classic Jeff Kelly number, up there with the similarly titled ‘Queen of Sunshine’ (from the ‘Meagan’s Bed’ album).
 
The second side forms a Pentangle-esque song cycle of acid-tinged folk-rock, sub-titled 'In Search of the Elusive Fairy Queen and Some Pleasure Unknown’. ‘The Fairy Queen I’ introduces some sublimely George Martin inspired psychedelic effects, and ‘Who’s That Calling’ has the quality of a film soundtrack about it. You can almost see the rain hitting the sidewalk and splashing the flickering street lamplight into a million fragments in the mind’s eye. The cycle closes with the sublime ‘The Fairy Queen II’ – a song you sense the Pajamas will be playing live for the rest of their days - and the album closes with a reprise of Eric Lichter’s ‘Poison in the Russian Room’ from the first side of the record. This is not only a bloody good album, but a bloody good Green Pajamas album. And that’s saying something.

(Jeff Penczak and Phil McMullen)

 
 


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DENIZ TEK AND THE GODOYS – FAST FREIGHT

CD available on Career Records

This rootsy, rock and roll trio comprising Radio Birdman founder Tek and the punk rockin’ Godoy twins have previously recorded under the Golden Breed and Last Of The Bad Men monikers. The Godoys have also served as Tek’s touring rhythm section for over 25 years. So they’re obviously comfortable with each other in the recording studio to the point that Fast Freight was recorded in just two days, directly to 8-track tape using vintage analog equipment. Short and sweet (ten tracks whiz by in an economically Ramonesian half hour), the album is straight-ahead, balls to the wall, pedal to the metal rawk, from the adrenaline rush of ‘John Henry’s Hammer’, Tek’s flame-throwing soloing on ‘Path of Most Resistance’, and the hellbound train kept a-rolling boogie of ‘When The Trouble Comes’ to the chugging ‘Shanghai Cab’ and the Motorhead-on-streriods punk blast of ‘Death Of The Mood’. There’s even an honest-to-goodness early Christmas track to get you in the spirit in the snappy toe-tapping, pseudo-surfin’ instrumental ‘Truck For Christmas’.

     As expected, the Godoy twins pack a shit-hot rhythmic wallop and lay down a vicious bedrock for Tek to run his six-string prowess around. You can almost feel his fingers bleeding! Fans of prime ‘70s Stones, vintage Stooges, and Mike Ness’s bad boy bravura have another album to add to their collection.

(Jeff Penczak)

 
 

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SENDELICA – THE COSMONAUT YEARS VOLUMES 1-3

(LP/CD on FRG Records)

Back in the dim and distant past Sendelica embarked on a Russian adventure (which thankfully involved no dubious political connections, was extremely fruitful and completely beyond reproach) that resulted in the release of three CD albums between 2007 and 2010 on the R.A.I.G label. ‘The Cosmonaut Years’ reissues those albums with bonus material on three volumes available on vinyl and CD and for those fans quick off the mark in a special bundled edition.

Volume 1 ‘Spaceman Bubblegum And Other Weird Tales From The Mercury Mind’ kicks things off with a fine collection of tracks both short and long. It’s a varied listen taking in post punk energy underpinned with urgent motorik grooves, cosmic easy listening, bursts of experimental noise and space rock across its contents. ‘Sunfazed’ floats perfectly in space on a laidback groove, ‘Spaceman Bubblegum’ touches on Public Image Limited like basslines whilst launching into extended space rock soloing and ‘It’s A Neu Thing’ brings motoric urgency and repetition with flashes of The Stranglers in a head shaking epic that gets more frantic, occasionally jazzy and unleashes outbursts of experimental noise. ‘Siren’ has perhaps the clearest signs of future more blissful space explorations with its languid beginnings and ascent into space rock joy. ‘Indrid Cold’ weaves a range of moods around a riff laden space jam that starts with a Floydian twist and takes on heavier energy and a touch of funk as it goes.

Volume 2 is entitled ‘The Girl From The Future Who Lit Up The Sky With Golden Worlds’ and beyond the Tyrannosaurus Rex like title once more gives us a variety of listening pleasures. It opens with the  hard rocking riffs of ‘Standing On the Edge’ and moves onto ‘Manhole Of The Universe’ with its dense, growling and indeed eventually high flying solo demanding attention from the start. ‘Hazelnut’ takes the pace down, at least briefly, starting as a lovely melodic drifting piece of music until another guitar driven epic emerges from the calm. ‘Dark Disko’ is an infectious track that has strong hints of post punk in the throbbing repetitive basslines and stabbing guitar lines which takes us into an edgy avant funk workout before ending as a space rocker where that left field bass and rhythm stubbornly hang on. ‘The Girl From The Future’ is kosmische inflected and rather beautiful with waves of jangly echoing guitar and blissful synths and percussion. We also get what must be the title of the day and your reviewer is truly grateful that word counts do not apply before launching into ‘Several Species Of Furry Humans Gathered Together In A Cave Grooving Like Groovy Picts’. Now for anyone attending the Nth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festivals each year at Sendelica World Headquarters in Cardigan, this description might appropriately describe the Saturday night mayhem in the Cellar Bar after too many pints of festival ale but for other listeners this is almost 14 minutes of swirling, murky, intensity with perhaps the first real outing for Sendelica’s trademark sax sound. This remarkable track seems at times structured and at other times coruscating guitar noise and sax work together to create a free improvisation abandon and intensity.

The final Volume ‘Streamadelica She Sighed As She Hit Rewind On The Dream Mangler’ continues the theme of extremes and diversity with the ambient sound experiments of ‘Song Of The Seidr’, the bouncy shapeshifting rock of ‘Dream Mangler’ and the dramatic space/prog hybrid ‘Screaming and Streaming Into The Starlit Nite’. Softer psychedelic touches are found in ‘Carningli (Hill of Angels) which bring to mind some of the Fellowship of Hallucinatory Voyagers work and the more pastoral elements of the ongoing Cromlech Chronicles series. ‘Day Of The Locust’ at over 25 minutes is extraordinary and after a jittery improvised feel at the beginning it slowly but definitively hits its stride into a heavy psych excursion that embraces a roaring beauty taking us to an Acid Mothers Temple like peak of almost unhinged, free ecstasy.

Taken individually and collectively these three volumes are a fascinating and highly enjoyable dive into the Sendelica archive, setting out many core influences which are used to great effect to create a roadmap to the Sendelica sound of today and at the same time hint at some intriguing alternative routes that could have led to pastures new. In many respects it’s the sound of a band exploring directions and styles and whilst at times quite ‘live’, openly and indeed bravely experimental and occasionally even raw in feel, there is the expected variety of sound and mood from visceral to blissful and all points in between delivered with imagination, enthusiasm and panache. Highly recommended for your listening pleasure and 100% guaranteed not to tamper with any forthcoming elections.

(Francis Comyn)

 
 

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DR STRANGELY STRANGE - FITTING PIECES TO THE JIGSAW

(book by Adrian Whittaker)

Dublin in the early to mid 1960’s embodied a weird mixture of age old tradition and the first stirrings of some kind of counterculture. Into this scene arrived a band called Dr Strangely Strange. The band consisted of Ivan Pawle, Tim Booth and Tim Goulding. 

Dr Strangely Strange’s early years sees them crossing paths with future Incredible String Band members, the first part of the book has tales of smoking such exotic combustibles as Afghani Black, Red Leb and of trips out in countryside after consuming tabs of LSD and of the bands early days at Mount Street at Sandymount Orphanage in Dublin with Orphan Annie aplace where they met Tim Booth the last to join in the fun and frolics.

Gary Moore also arrives at various intervals. They make friends with Phil Lynott, then lead singer with the Black Eagles. There are a few tales about carrying a harmonium up and down to various gigs; they are after all quite big instruments. The two albums they went on to make were firmly in the folk rock genre, with various instruments such as guitar, bass, drums, whistle, organ, harmonium, fiddle, synths and glockenspiel.

After recording a high quality demo tape, they duly sent a copy in to Joe Boyd of Witchseason, he was probably on their radar due to Licorice McKechnie of the ISB, who also stayed at one of the orphanages at the same time. He pondered for a few months and eventually delayed signing the band for a while but finally yielded to his gut feeling and so they joined the likes of Heron and the ISB in falling under his stewardship.

The first album ‘Kip Of The Serenes’ was issued on Island records in 1969, and was released to some decent reviews. The band played gigs at Les Cousins and various clubs, gradually built up a fan base, playing the ever popular college circuit. Peel Sessions duly followed, then it was back in to the studio for second album ‘Heavy Petting’, which was released on Vertigo, sandwiched between Paranoid and Very ‘Eavy Very ‘Umble In 1970 and sees Gary Moore playing lead guitar and Dave Mattacks on drums. It has a great, if somewhat impractical, sleeve designed by Roger Dean.

Tim Goulding left the band and they were bolstered for a while by the husband and wife team of Gay and Terry Woods. There follows a horrendous tour of the lowlands in Brussels, Belgium and Holland. Back in Ireland things were very difficult what with border controls and the troubles etc, however they gradually integrate back into home life and really that was that as far as albums went for them. They did release an album entitled Alternative Medicine in 1997 and Hux records put out ‘Halcyon Days’ in 2007.

The book runs to over 300 pages with lots of photographs, lyrics and ephemera and is a hugely enjoyable read, with many great insights and strange tales.

Online sales by Wordery: Wordery page

(Andrew Young)

 
 

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OPEL - WICKER HYMNS

(Future Wizards records)

Opel have had a stop-start career to date from 1994 to 1999 - they operated as a four piece before going quiet, and reconvening in 2017 releasing ‘The Bough At Jacobs Rake’ and in 2019 ‘Sand And Stone’, both on Reverb Worship. Primarily the band is Warren Wilson (Music) and Claire Colley (Vocals).

This is a limited edition single sided 12” vinyl featuring a three song suite comprising of “Dance Of The Fire Blower”, “The Witch” and “Mugwin’s Tune”. Female led folk rock, labyrinthine snaking pearlescent lead guitar smeared all over a strummed mesh of acoustic guitar.

 The music is conceptual and very much inspired by the British Folk Horror films of the late '60's/early '70's - a few snippets of horror film dialogue are evident.  I’m reminded of the great Simones, or perhaps a little of Spirit with a hint of Quicksilver; it’s quite trippy with added fuzz tones appearing at the edges, as it develops and runs its course. Well worth seeking it out.

(Andrew Young)





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MEADOWSILVER – SINGLES

(CD from www.millersounds.co.uk )

Meadowsilver consist of Stephen Stannard, Grey Malkin and Gayle Brogan who will probably be known to readers of the Terrascope through bands such as The Rowan Amber Mill, Widow’s Weeds and Pefkin, amongst others.

This is a super little artefact collecting some of the digital singles that the band has released over the last year or so. Gayle handles the vocals and has a lovely voice, with Stephen and Grey playing all manner of instruments. Mellotron, analogue synths, piano, drums, electric guitar, mini moog, harpsichord, organ and wind wrangling.

“Midsummers Queen” opens the proceedings, a spooky number with a narcoleptic tune, belladonna and nightshade, electric guitar, moog, synth, harpsichord and church organ embroider a fine opening song. “Fair Sapphire” follows with what i thought sounded a lot like a hammered dulcimer an instrument not listed. Gayle does have a nice voice a purity of tone and really enunciates clearly. The synths whir and what sounds like a flute being played in another room.

“The Coronation Of The Herring Queen” is the second song concerning female monarchs. A mesh of ebowed guitar, analogue synth and much orchestral wrangling result in a fine traditional sounding song that sounds otherworldly, Gayle’s double tracked voice and the added spectral flourishes make it a joy. This excellent EP ends with “She Casts Her Spell”, another impossibly beautiful, gossamer light, folk song, sprinkled with their magic. It’s also another edited single and when the album arrives next year. I should think that some of these songs will be included but in longer versions, all the songs here hover around the three to four minute mark.

(Andrew Young)




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KRIS NEEDS -  JUST A SHOT AWAY: 1969 REVISITED PART ONE JANUARY TO JUNE

 (New Haven Publishing, paperback)

For anybody to write about and encapsulate such a culturally defining year as 1969 would be a daunting task of almost Sisyphean dimensions. In a way I’m not surprised that there have been so few books already out there this year to mark its milestone anniversary. So much happened not least in the wonderful world of rock and roll!

If anybody is fit for the job it has to be Kris Needs. The one thing I truly admire about Kris is his ability to have hung on to his passion and enthusiasm for music after serving in the sewer of British music industry for some five decades as a writer, DJ and musician. Most people would have hung up their pen or burnt out in half that time. And if anyone is qualified to write about those 365 days 50 years ago, it is Kris: after all he was taking his first baby steps into the biz that very year as a Buckinghamshire school boy.

This is a head-spinning piece of work so packed full of detail that you have to read it slowly to absorb all the fascinating facts, it contains. The book opens with Hendrix on the Lulu TV show and ends with Brian Jones leaving Kris’s beloved Rolling Stones. In between is a rollercoaster ride that may start off in the Home Counties at the fag end of the 60s but zooms forward and across continents as he fastidiously places stuff in context and watches it develop. One of the book’s most positive attributes is how Kris pinpoints movements/genres nascent in that momentous year and how they impacted decades later. Thank God he has an encyclopaedic brain that has a grip on not just rock in all its kaleidoscopic forms but soul, jazz, rave culture, electronic music, even disco.

Kris sets his stall out by citing the three key figures who got him going in all of this.

Central to it all is John Peel whose DJing and journalism had such a profound influence on all of us. You don’t have much money when you are a kid so Peel’s Top Gear and Night Ride shows were a way of accessing all the amazing music coming out back then for free!! A treasure trove of underground sounds, there was really nothing like them and aside from a few other maverick jocks, the best the radio could offer once the government scalped the pirate radio stations. You just needed a pair of open ears and willingness to absorb it all.

Kris also cites his mentor and friend, Pete Frame who of course launched Zigzag magazine that April. Zigzag was the daddy of them all and to Kris’s continuing amazement, I think he still has to pinch himself that in 1977 Frame handed over the editorship of the publication to him!

Just as significant is sympathetic chemistry teacher, Robin Pike who got Kris started off (with a coach trip to the Albert Hall to see Hendrix that January). Pike was also one of the founders of the now-legendary Friars club which started up in June 69 and soon became a home from home for the young Needsy – am sure there will be a lot more about the venue in Part 2.

The book is not a conventional cultural history or a diary but a very idiosyncratic take on the times and all the better for it. Of course, those of us who lived through that great year, will have our own memories and defining moments. Living 250 miles up the motorway from the capital in a backwater, I relied on the same sources and started to form my own musical tastes on a diet that included the Bonzos, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, the Idle Race, the Liverpool Scene, and Moby Grape plus many of the musicians Kris describes in his book.

Aware of a lot of the music Kris disinters, and in some cases a big fan, there are some obscure nuggets I knew nothing about, for example, the one concerning pianist Mike Taylor, contemporary and friend of the likes of Pete Brown, Graham Bond and Ginger Baker who drowned himself in the Thames Estuary that spring.

For those of you not around then and unaware of the genesis of personalities who later became such major figures in rock, this is fabulous place to start digging and immersing yourselves in some of the finest music the twentieth century created. Kris thank God does not attempt to re-write history, something which ruins so much contemporary journalism.

Most importantly buried in its pages is Kris’s requiem for his soul mate and muse Helen Donlon who passed away far too prematurely on 3rd June 2018. The way he weaves his comments about Barbet Schroeder filming More at Punta Galera on the island of Ibiza and its Floydian soundtrack back in 69, with a description of the magical sunset he and Helen shared together in the same location some 45 years later, makes for a fitting and moving climax to the book.

Going on this so far, I can’t wait for ‘Part 2: July to December’ to appear.

(Nigel Cross)



LA GRANDE ARMÉE - LA GRANDE ARMÉE

(LP on Riot Season Records)

La Grande Armée are from San Pedro de la Paz in Chile and are an instrumental trio formed in November 2017. The eagle eyes and bat like ears of Andy, chef-proprietor of Riot Season Records chanced across their self titled debut EP released digitally by the band through a Facebook post and its lucky for us all that he did. Riot Season present us here with a remixed and expanded version of that debut EP.

Opening track ‘El Canto De Las Ballenas’ begins with an ambient psychedelia where fluttering, echo drenched guitars float over a solid beat before the guitar takes on a heavier space rock tone and the drums raise the energy levels.  ‘La Tripa Intergalactica’ needs no translation and indeed maintains the space rock theme. It’s a strong track with a more urgent momentum from the start based on heavier, occasionally growling guitar, a driving rhythm but with a prominent melody too. Its general feel and sound has a strong progressive rock edge as well as pushing all the space rock buttons correctly to spark ignition. ‘Normandia’ returns to a more floating Floyd infused psychedelia and a very Gilmour-esque guitar solo grounded in blues rock but with wisely employed spacey colours and touches. ‘Misiles Desde Pyongyang’ is a rockier beast based on a heavy drum pattern and a guitar solo that perhaps has more of a seventies hard rock feel in its riff and guitar solo but it’s a catchy thing that occupies a little over four minutes very well. To finish ‘Viaje Al Vacio’ takes a slightly different path with a touch of jazz rock added to the melody and hi-hat/rhythm albeit reaching heavier terrain along the way.

La Grande Armée are new to me and this record was certainly an enjoyable listen from a very promising new band, who sound confident in their playing and direction. They wear their influences well and I look forward to hearing much more from them going forward. There’s a strong nod to bands inhabiting this musical territory such as Sendelica or Mt. Mountain and for fans of those bands there are rewards to be had from seeking out this fine record.

(Francis Comyn)



KUNGENS MÄN – HÅRT SOM BEN

(LP on Riot Season Records)

Kungens Män’s last release ‘Chef’ received a somewhat glowing review from this reviewer and it is one of the year’s undisputed highlights. I was therefore a little giddy at the news that a second release was coming out this year and the giddiness levels reached new heights with news that they would tour the UK in early December around its release. So was my giddiness justified….

‘Hårt Som Ben’ is the result of the band’s Spring road trip into the woods of Varmland with two cars filled with band and instruments. The resultant recordings at the (somewhat ironically named) Silence Studios are every bit as stunning as I had hoped for. Title track ‘Hårt Som Ben’ sets a high bar from the start with a rolling repetitive riff over which we get some simply stunning heavy psych guitar solo work that jumps out of the speakers and grips the listener without having to resort to flashy histrionics.

‘Måttanpassad Minneslucka’ follows and completely changes the mood with a kind of ambient avant funk using repeating throbbing bass lines and creating an almost Eno like precision soundscape and minimalism. It’s relatively short and hugely hypnotic and could be a canvas for a longer sound experiment live or indeed on record. ‘Evigetern’ is more urgent and sparse with a post rock minimalism centred around drums and guitars but it builds up a fine head of steam throughout its seven minutes. ‘Rose-Maries Bebis’ is quiet and ambient based on a pulsing drone, small percussive colours and occasional short bursts of atmospheric synth. It has a certain desolation and indeed touch of darkness in the soundscape created and it’s a wonderfully haunting piece of music.  Finally we have the lengthy ‘Patriarkivet’ which is a stunning slow building epic. It has a touch of eastern mystery in its opening section which is maintained as the track builds layers of melody and becomes more of an overtly psychedelic excursion, getting more intense and captivating as it begins to soar. It’s a near perfect ending to this stunning record.   

This is a superb record which highlights the many shades of Kungens Män. As on the last record ‘Chef’ they essentially work with simple ingredients but really know how to create something very special from them. They manage light and shade and the dynamics that help to define a really great record and therefore whilst it’s a record of huge contrasts in style and mood it works together beautifully. I for one cannot wait to see them live next month. Buy the record and go see the live Kungens Män experience if you can which I am sure will blow you away.

(Francis Comyn)



MOON RÃ – MOON RÃ

(LP on The Weird Beard Records)

Moon Rã are a five piece band hailing from Marseille. This is their second release but the first release I’ve had the pleasure to lend my ears to. So what lunar pleasures are on offer?

‘Spy’s Uniform’ sets us on our way with organ and guitar which are indeed like covert coded signals  before settling into a rockier piece with some dynamic contrast from alternating melodic guitar figures and heavy riffing in the chorus. It has roots in 70’s progressive and melodic hard rock with the guitar and organ interplay and is a fine opening to the record. ‘Burn In Burn Out’ has a sparse and mysterious opening guitar melody with touches of keyboard and percussive colouring working around it before gradually hitting a heavier repeating guitar and organ fuelled prog/psych stride but again with plenty of light and shade primarily through the use of stop/start riffs and prog-like keyboards to add variety to both mood and texture. ‘Snowpiercer’ emerges through a swirl of keyboard driven mists as a much heavier psych rocker driven by the momentum of solid drumming and with hard Mugstar- like riffing before a brief acoustic interlude signals a change in pace and feel leading to some lovely spacey guitar soloing underpinned by subtle keyboards. ‘Alkaid’ uses a motorik rhythm to provide the launch pad for an exploratory piece of music that has stabbing, angular Television style riffing, keyboard touches that borrow from Kosmische, jazz and prog rock influences and heavy psych soloing that has an occasionally slightly eastern feel. It’s clever, great to listen to and in my view the highlight of the album. ‘Dead Mustaine’ is a shorter, hard riffing but also prog informed track where guitar and organ interplay is once again a prominent feature delivering sometimes complex melodic moments. To finish ‘Remontada’ uses a rolling rhythm and sliding guitar to create an almost jaunty opening before setting into the heavy guitar and organ interplay around the core riff which is a particular feature of this record. As the track progresses things begin to speed up and it takes on a degree of space rock chaos before coming back to earth with a howling dog to end proceedings (the only vocals on this otherwise instrumental outing I might add and I assume not from a regular band member).

The name ‘Moon Rã’ suggests travelling the astral spaceways may be a big element of the band’s musical style but over much of this record, whilst there are moments of cosmic wanderings space is not always the place. What we do have is an interesting record of instrumental music that takes root in a mixture of space, psych, prog, art and jazz rock influences and cleverly uses them to create a classic but also contemporary sound where Deep Purple like guitar and keyboard interplay can sit happily with the modern heavy psych riffing of bands such as Mugstar and a host of other melodic and instrumental touches. This is a good thing and this is a very good record from a band that deserves your attention.

 (Francis Comyn)



ANDREW DR ABBOTT – DEAD IN CHELLOW DEAN

(LP on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

Andrew Abbott is well known in West Yorkshire musical circles as a gifted and imaginative guitarist and composer whether in the noise rock duo, ‘That Fucking Tank’ or the experimental and yes, often noisy, psych quartet ‘NOPE’. At the other end of the spectrum his solo guitar outings are grabbing growing (and indeed glowing) attention in much the same way as his South Pennine compatriot Dean McPhee does through a personal, often introspective guitar style that is innovative and drenched in imagery informed by the culture and history of industrial and indeed post industrial Bradford and the South Pennines landscape on its doorstep. Andrew released a very fine solo cassette in 2018 on the Bloxham Tapes label entitled ‘Live on Daisy Hill’ and ‘Dead in Chellow Dean’ follows in its footsteps and wonderfully so.

The record is in essence a psycho-geographical journey beginning with a lonesome porch-style air of mystery and a mixture of natural sounds and primitive percussive colours before a country blues and raga informed guitar instrumental, ‘Heaton Wild Woods’, begins the journey proper. There are hints of many of the solo guitar innovators that must surely provide the foundations for Andrew’s guitar style and influences and I can hear Jack Rose, Michael Chapman, John Fahey and Steffen Basho-Junghans amongst others singing loudly through his strings. ‘Daisy Hill Return’ is very Chapman-esque and has an intensity and strong slide blues sound that gives it a spring in its step and yet the music has a certain melancholy at the same time. ‘The Ballad Of The Empty Tortoise Shell Part 1’ is a brief and minimal percussion interlude with a African feel before ‘Sunny Brow Cave’ with a tense and slightly off kilter repeating melody that gives it an unsettling and slightly disorientating feel which is almost claustrophobic. ‘Interlude’ is what it says on the tin and returns to the natural sounds and themes of the opening before the brisk canter of ‘Chellow Dean Top’ and the light and shade of ‘Chellow Dean Bottom’ take us back to the cinema of the solo guitar for hypnotic, immersive and melodic tunes that evoke to me the four seasons in the Pennine landscape around Bradford through the light and shade, wild beauty, changes in tempo and spaciousness built into the music, This is widescreen and yet personal and that’s quite a trick to pull off. ‘The Ballad Of The Empty Tortoise Shell’ is reprised before the lengthy ‘Hill Top Mount Retreat’ which is in turn dense, reflective and maintains a dramatic quality through various changes in tempo. ‘Outro’ completes the musical cycle with a return to the lonesome and reflective ambience of the introductory piece and allows the listener to try and probably fail to adequately describe the emotional journey conveyed by the music which I would argue is different every time depending on where you are, what you are doing and how you feel.

This is a wonderful record which is bleak, yet warm and colourful, sad yet joyful. Like the area that inspired the music it is quirky, diverse and industrious with a strong sense of heritage, place and stories to tell past and present. If there was a flickering black and white archive film about Bradford and its surroundings this would be the perfect soundtrack as it would be for any mental or physical journey through the area today or tomorrow. Most highly recommended indeed.

(Francis Comyn)