Lou Rhodes New Album Theyesandeye

The best Albums released so far this year 1 Blackstar David Bowie 2 Night Thoughts Suede 3 A Moon Shaped Pool Radiohead 4 Earth Neil Young and now 5 Theyesandeye Lou Rhodes.Lou Rhodes has released a genre defying album yes she sounds American and she reminds me in phases of many many other singer songwriters.The atmosphere is gentle ambient the lyrics vivid dreamy hankering by suggestion for a more peaceful past but without denying the present…..a stunning new release which deserves the high praise it seems to be getting and one which might have to have the cd i have joined by the vinyl version.The emotional impact of this album has really taken me back in time.xxxx

lou rhodes

Kevin Ayers First five albums box set

Having a pop at major labels and their transparent remake-remodel stratagems in relation to their legacy artists, releasing mammoth box sets that will in all probability be played in their entirety no more than twice, a ruse aimed squarely at milking the wallets of those of us of a certain age is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, as the saying goes.

Nope, for once – and it is once, I can’t recall it happening before – I am giving praise where praise is due to one of the big players. A major label, in this case Universal, and they do not come any more major than that, has found a neat way to repackage the catalogues of artists from the golden age of rock’n’roll, this time aimed at those of us with more sense than money. This series of releases takes five or so albums from the discographies of artists who for the most part did not quite make the major league in terms of sales, and comes under the banner “Original Album Series”. They make ideal replacements for worn out vinyl or as collection gap-fillers. I will now witter on about one of the more essential of these boxes…

As I write, for a mere £10.10 chucked in the direction of the corporate tax dodgers who shall remain nameless you can have the first five, and frankly the best solo albums of the reluctant pop star genius known as Kevin Ayers. The CDs are all the last remastered versions, and the package is a no-frills no-bonus tracks slimline box, and forms a perfect introduction to one of England’s finest songwriters.

Joy Of A Toy

A worrisome trait throughout Kevin’s career was his dodging, consciously or otherwise, of potential success every time it beckoned. The first instance of this came in 1968 when Kevin sold his bass guitar to Noel Redding and fled to Ibiza after the rigours of a seemingly endless Soft Machine tour of the States supporting Jimi Hendrix, who had given him an acoustic Gibson on the promise that he would not, as threatened, retire from the music biz completely. Obviously inspired by Hendrix’s faith in him Kevin came up with the songs that would form his first solo album. Backed by his by now former Soft Machine colleagues, including Daevid Allen, and his mate David Bedford, a consummate arranger and musical polymath, Joy Of A Toy sets the scene for Kevin’s highly individualistic and accessible songwriting style.

Hints of Kevin’s darker side come through in some of the lyrics, but this is mostly a highly enjoyable collection of charmingly naive sun-kissed ditties and daft larking about, its playful nature no doubt in part a reaction to the more earnest direction his former band were headed in.

Highlights – Song For Insane Times, Eleanor’s Cake (Which Ate Her), The Lady Rachel

Shooting At The Moon

By 1970’s Shooting At The Moon, Kevin had assembled a proper working band around him, formed earlier in the year to tour Joy Of A Toy. Naming them The Whole World, our glorious leader retained David Bedford on various keyboards and occasional guitar, and he was joined by saxophonist Lol Coxhill, whom Kevin discovered busking in the street. Then there was drummer Mick Fincher, and an extremely young Mike Oldfield on bass. Mike’s melodious style is evident from the off, taking a lead line in one of Kevin’s timeless classics, the wistfully romantic May I?, which works even better in French as Puis Je?, sadly but understandably not available on this “no frills” box set.

Oldfield also gets to play his instantly recognisable lead guitar on Lunatics Lament, and with the benefit of youthful fire in his belly, contributes a full-on psych wigout halfway in. The song, with Kevin on bass and featuring his semi-buried treated vocal is structured like one of the Velvet Underground’s rockier ventures as it lurches along in fine acidic fashion.

Contrasting his now trademark and seemingly effortless songs with a fast developing experimental side, Shooting At The Moon shows no little ambition and encapsulates the “anything goes” mantra of the era. In the mad professor’s sound laboratory, strange effects and edits punctuate second track Rheinhardt & Geraldine/Colores Para Dolores, and Pisser Dans Un Violin, which luckily for the instrument in question has no violin in earshot. Pisser…features Lol Coxhill in characteristic avant-garde mood on electric sax. This eight minute ending to side one of the original album is an intriguing sound collage that the less adventurous would describe as filler. It isn’t, but I will admit it is probably twice as long as it needed to be; semi-filler then, the sort that falls out of that hole in the wall after six months.

Highlights – May I?, Lunatics Lament, Red Green And You Blue

Whatevershebringswesing

After the inevitable break up of The Whole World came the recording of Kevin’s most commercially successful album. Whatevershebrinswesing was released in November 1971 and most of his old road band play on the record, along with cameos from Robert Wyatt and Didier Malherbe. This album saw the fusing of experimentation and straight songwriting that was pioneered on Shooting At The Moon work to its best effect.

This has always been my favourite album of Kevin’s and it is a treat from start to finish. From David Bedford’s orchestral introduction to the seven minute song suite There is Loving/Among Us/There is Loving to the closing babbling brook of Lullaby there is no surplus fat or throwaway nonsense on this record. Includes perhaps his most well-known tune, the rock’n’roll smoking songStranger In Blue Suede Shoes, which features some dazzling piano work, again from David Bedford. There are some great contributions throughout from the other players, once more including Mike Oldfield on both bass and lead, and combined with Ayers’ growing lyrical confidence, the record is a category-defying masterpiece, with everything from waltzes to dark experimentation at the bottom of a well.

Highlights – put it this way, there aren’t any lowlights. If you only buy one Kevin Ayers album, buy this one!

Bananamour

May 1973 would see the release of Kevin’s last album for Harvest Records for three years, and probably his most accessible to date for the iconic label. Another new band was assembled under the name Decadence, and there are guest appearances from Wyatt again, and Mike Ratledge. Also appearing is Steve Hillage, who was to be only a temporary member of the band, soon to return to France and Gong. Steve contributes some highly melodic runs to another of Ayers’ more well-known tunes, Shouting In A Bucket Blues. That song and album opener, the faux-soul-shouter Don’t Let It Get You Down hint at Kevin’s battle with demons unspecified, but he was a glass half-full guy, as the lyric “I say to everyone who thinks there’s no way out…Baby if you all shout, someone will hear you” attests.

The experimental and psychedelic edges are well represented by Interview and Decadencerespectively, the latter with some highly acerbic lyrics aimed at Nico. The album also features Kevin’s tribute to Syd Barrrett, with Oh! Wot A Dream being done “in the style of” through a Kevin Ayers filter, with some very touching lyrics.

Around this time Kevin somehow avoided having a hit with the very catchy and very kitsch-calypso single Caribbean Moon, a song that in any other hands would be cringeworthy, but Kevin turns it into a joyous muckabout – you may recall the supremely silly video! Not on this budget version of the album, unfortunately.

While Bananamour does not hit the dizzy heights of its predecessor, it is still a great listen.

Highlights – Shouting In A Bucket Blues, Oh! Wot A Dream, Hymn

The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories

A year has passed, and Kevin has decamped to Island Records. May 1974 sees the world mostly ignore The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories, the last CD in this rather scrumptious box but the first to feature guitarist Ollie Halsall. Kevin’s reaction on first hearing him play was “love at first solo”, quite understandably. Ollie, previously with the marvellously tight-but-loose jazzrockers Patto was a much underrated player who could turn his talented hands to any style required, and was easily as gifted as Clapton or Beck. Halsall and Ayers from this point on formed a long working relationship and friendship that lasted until the guitarist’s untimely substance-aided demise in 1992.

This time round the idea of “a band plus guests” is abandoned for a long list of illustrious aiders and abetters, including Rupert Hine, Steve Nye, Mike Oldfield, Michael Giles, Nico (they must have kissed and made up!), Geoffrey Richardson, and Lol Coxhill, to name but a few.

It doesn’t take Ollie long to introduce himself, and on Didn’t Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of Youhe unleashes some furiously acidic runs that take the otherwise langrous groove off into space. Wonderful stuff! It Begins With A Blessing reprises Ayers’ riff from the old Soft Machine song Why Are We Sleeping?, now reimagined as the theme of a smoky psychedelic blues song cycle.

The focal point of the album is the sprawling title track that occupied all bar the final one and half minutes of side two of the original vinyl release. A dark entry with a typical mantra-like vocal from a disembodied Nico warns of Irreversible Neural Damage from too many drugs, maaan, presaging Dr Dream’s tuneful presrcriptions and a long surreal trip ending with the Dr Dream Theme, a relentless and slowly building funeral march, the stuff of nightmares. Kevin was never going to leave us dangling in the dark, and the last track Two Goes Into Fouris as charmingly winsome as it gets.

This album is far more focused and densely packed than the earlier works and the title track takes a bit of getting into, but once you dig below the surface it is an absorbing piece of work.

Highlights – Didn’t Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You, Everybody’s Sometime And Some People’s All The Time Blues, It Begins With A Blessing/Once I Awakened/But It Ends With A Curse

When it came to the crunch, Kevin Ayers was always more comfortable in the company of a bottle of decent vino and a good woman than he ever was under the spotlight, and he never took himself or the music business too seriously. Kevin was a consummate story teller and bon viveur whose love of life shone through, despite the sense of melancholy that permeates a goodly part of his work, thus illuminating another side of his character. These quirky and infectious tunes will live long in the memory of those of us who love the old-fashioned English eccentric’s take on life.

Had he had more ambition, who knows where he may have ended up, but wherever that might have been, the man at the end of that trip would not have been the Kevin Ayers we recognise. As it is Kevin has left us with a good number of timeless songs that do not require their creator to have had fame and success in order to justify their rightful place in rock’s rich tapestry.

“Let’s drink some wine/And have a good time/But if you really want to come through/Let the good times have you…”

Kevin Ayers – 16/8/1944-18/2/2013 – RIP – …and thank you very much…KEVIN AYERS BOX SET

Future Islands (turning point)

A bunch of seemingly misfit types from Baltimore, USA are very much in demand these days with their relentless touring and recording on the fly. Those early years of intensive ground work have finally started to pay off in the currency of popularity, quite rightly so. It is not just hard work and determination that is propelling these chaps into the realms of a more mainstream band. It just so happens that they are very good.

Every band needs a turning point and in the case of Future Islands that turning point came about during an appearance on the David Letterman show in 2014 (their first TV appearance).

The performance was nothing out of the ordinary to what would be a normal day at the office to these guys but it exposed their brand to a whole new audience whom otherwise had never heard of them. Crazy dancing to one side, what made the real cherry sit nicely on this cake just happened to be that lovely track “Seasons” from the album “Singles”.

The zany chest punching dance routine of vocalist Samuel T Herring could initially be overlooked as a gimmick, but soon you find yourself being sucked in, digging it, a bit of a “yeah, it looks a bit weird but I get it” eureka moment. From that point on, you’re hooked and start to notice the other cool things about this band. The bass player is holding a well knackered bass. The synth is parked on its flight case with a laptop for company. What I love about Future Islands is that rough and ready this is what you get feel that this band have. You know you are watching, well seasoned veterans and everything is second nature to them.

Letterman-01

Future Islands could serve a real purpose in delivering a message to all the mainstream manufactured trash out there. Watch this band, they are the real deal and this is how it should be.

David Bowie’s passing statement from Kate Bush

There have been some loving touching statements from some of Bowie’s long time collaborators like Tony Visconti Brian Eno and from one of Bowie’s own musical hero’s Scott Walker but the statement that had the most affect on me was the one made by Kate Bush printed by the Guardian.

Kate Bush has paid tribute to David Bowie in a rare public statement printed by the Guardian this weekend. Read her remembrance below.
David Bowie had everything. He was intelligent, imaginative, brave, charismatic, cool, sexy and truly inspirational both visually and musically. He created such staggeringly brilliant work, yes, but so much of it and it was so good. There are great people who make great work but who else has left a mark like his? No one like him.
I’m struck by how the whole country has been flung into mourning and shock. Shock, because someone who had already transcended into immortality could actually die. He was ours. Wonderfully eccentric in a way that only an Englishman could be.
Whatever journey his beautiful soul is now on, I hope he can somehow feel how much we all miss him.

BOWIE X

 

 

Elvis the debut album 1956

I am listening to Elvis’s first album on heavyweight 180 gram vinyl LP record released in 1956 that is 60 years ago.For many people this is the album that started it all although some cite Little Richard some Jerry Lee Lewis some Chuck Berry as being the spark that lit the flame in terms of popular appeal Elvis was the one that made the biggest commercial impact as soon as the needle touches down on the platter and the opening lines of Heartbreak Hotel jumps out at you you know you are listening to history.

elvis first LP

 

Suede new LP “Night Thoughts

The new Suede album “Night Thoughts” is truly magnificent ! a relentless collage of ambient guitar driven lyrically philosophical stream of consciousness. Just like a maturing fine wine Suede get better and better so who needs Coldplay and their embarrassing leader Chris Martin. Watching him hamming it up with Beyonce last night at the Super Bowl what an unpleasant spectacle.WE HAVE SUEDE we don’t need stylized U2 soundalikes like Coldplay. 20 years on from “Coming Up” (1996) always my favorite Suede album that record now has a rival. as the NME review states “it snubs consolidation and takes a daring, defiant leap into the unknown”

SHAM – Fast Life Cafe


SHAM - Fast Life CafeSham is a man from Montreal, that we know and he is also a bit of an enigma in the music scene. Stage, studio or rolling his thing down on the subway is all in a stride, there are many sides to Sham but all pulling in the same direction. His previous release “Mix Tape” featured the track “Bullet”, take it from me, that is one bullet you wanna take in the head. From that point on I’ve always known Sham has bucket loads of talent & this latest release strengthens my judgement ten fold, in fact it excels in every way.

Opening title track welcomes all to the Fast Life Café – a soul is laid bare to the World, a World of pain and pleasure, depends what you want, guns, bomb, girls, under and over the counter drugs that gets you so high you’ll crack the ozone. This is a lyrical magician at work who conjures his genius throughout the album with amazing twists and contrasts. This album has been on loop in my car, my stereo & my personal player for 5 solid days. To pick a stand out track for me is difficult but if push comes to shove it has to be “Dream Chaser”. I’m just chasing a dream stuck in-between, where I wanna go and where I’m sick of being. Keep chasing that dream Sham because people like you are few and far between and deserve to be living that dream.

If you’re gonna go and get an album this week then make sure it is this one. Available to download at Bandcamp. It’s a Pay what you want deal but above all just get it on loop

SHAM