Category Archives: Live Reviews

Slowdive

Saw Slowdive two nights running with my old friend Mark.

They still had it!  Really lovely feelgood factor in the room. Delighted for them and all that.

The second show at the Village Underground was rammed with people and slightly less fun. Sounded great though.

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So my summer gig adventures are now over.

Last night was Lee Hazlewood. It was a wonderful experience to see him in person. He had a band of about 10 musicians, all filling out and just about achieving various classic sounds from throughout Lee’s career. As he took to the stage, they played a nice pastiche of 13-era Lee, with funky beats and nice horns. Lee sat on a stool and told amusing stories. The material was a mix of old and new; old mostly. A particular highlight for me was ‘For one moment’. He played a medley of ‘hits’ – ‘sugartown’, ‘some velvet morning’, ‘summer wine’ etc. While he was playing ‘sugartown’, a girl near us in the audience leapt out of her seat and did some cool gogo dancing at the front. The musicians were great; a few of them were from Stereolab and the High Llamas, and they clearly had great reverence for the material.

Last Wednesday I saw Brian Wilson’s ‘Smile’ tour. I think he played for 5 nights, and this was definitely a big commercial tour, with keyrings, mugs, t-shirts and everything. The guy selling cheap bootleg t-shirts outside reminded me of trudging up to Brixton Academy in my youth, and the mass of people reminded me of the Madness ‘Madstock’ gig from 1992. The feeling was that the Beach Boys are so famous that lots of people just went because they heard the name and thought ‘legend’. I heard quite a few people asking about the Smile album as if they imagined they could pick up a vintage pressing! None of this mattered, and the show was stunning. The musicians were outstanding, and their professionalism and devotion to getting just the right sound was even more impressive than that of Lee Hazlewood’s entourage. The opening half featured Brian singing with the group gathered around him like a campfire. There was a bongo player sat on the floor. They played a delectable selection of 60s Beach Boys tracks, including ‘God Only Knows’, which Brian introduced slightly sarcastically as ‘Paul MacCartney’s favorite Beach Boys track’. Well, it’s mine too; I can’t help it!

After an interval, the group spread out and played the entire ‘Smile’ suite. The only disappointment for me was that there was no ‘Til I die’. I guess my Beach Boys knowledge isn’t flawless, since I had always thought that this track had been intended for Smile. Then as an encore, the band came back and roared through the radio hits of the Beach Boys – ‘surfin USA’, ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Help me Rhonda’ etc. None of these songs ever did too much for me, but it was a fun occasion. At this point most of the audience was on its feet clapping away. I could see very little from my ¬£ 35 seat (the picture above was taken at an extreme zoom setting!), but it sounded pretty amazing so I didn’t mind.

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Smile

Brian Wilson was great. I will give a more full report along after I see Lee Hazlewood tomorrow night. In the meantime, here’s some recent vinyl purchases.

Alzo & Udine: 'C'Mon and Join Us' (LP; Mercury; 1969)
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This album is just too much fun; I had to get hold of a copy. Discovered via that amazing Musical Taste site. The title track is wonderful - a latin-bee gees -funk style jam, and at least three or four of the other tracks are essentially the same song. But that's not a problem.

Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots: 'Merseymania' (LP; Pickwick; 1964)
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Rubbish exploitation album. Cool cover though, and probably the earliest Pickwick budget album in my collection.

Blossom Dearie: 'That's Just the Way I Want to Be' (LP; Fontana; 1970)
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One of those albums that somehow sounds better now I have the original LP. Very nice late 60s pop/bossa; far more varied than I remembered it. Most well known for the storming percussion on the final track, 'I like London in the rain' (an appropriate song for today, incidentally).

Chappel AV Series: 'Dance and Pop' (LP; Chappell; 1986)
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'This disc features dance and pop music based upon the styles & sounds of the mid 1980s' Pretty cool stuff! All tracks are written and produced by Steve Jeffries

Chappel AV Series: 'Sea/Water' (LP; Chappell; 1986)
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Chris Payne: 'Drama/Horror' (LP; Chappell; 1985)
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D. Farnon/R.Walter: 'Soft Sounds & Gentle Movements' (LP; Conroy; 1974)
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A great album that got me enthused, probably for the first time, about library records and production music. The first side is by Dennis Farnon, and has nice strings and gently groovy basslines. The second side is by 'R. Walter', and is more percussive, with that great open snare sound and some groovy tracks. Fantastic stuff, and with that added psychological bonus that since hardly any of these were pressed, I feel like I really have something rare and unheard here. That's probably bollocks, but hey...

Esquivel: 'Latinesque' (LP; RCA; 1962)
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I kind of wish I had the beautiful original US release of this one, but I'm happy to have any at all. And this later UK pressing seems to be of a high standard. This was one of the few Esquivel albums I had yet to pick up (well, of the reasonably common ones, anyway), and it's very cool - the classic zu-zu vocals and wailing brass are there, and I still haven't grown tired of them.

Isaac Hayes: 'Truck Turner' (LP; Stax/Pye; 1974)
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Very cool soundtrack double album. Nice to have some solid funk like this on vinyl.

John Fox Symphonic Orchestra: 'Pomp and Glory - the best of Edward Elgar' (LP; Sonoton; 1985)
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Half of this is 'condensed' (ie popsong-sized) arrangements of Elgar. The other is synthesizer versions of the same arrangements. I've only listened to it once, and I don't know when I'll listen again. But I couldn't leave it in the charity shop, could I...

Jorgen Ingmann: 'Min Ballon/Katten Og Musen' (45; Metronome; 1962)
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I bought this because the cover looked kind of cool and one of the tracks was a Billy Mure composition. But it's a kind of chipmunk style novelty record and hasn't exactly been stuck to my turntable.

Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger: 'Jools/Brian' (LP; MFP; 1967)
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This album seems much too groovy and cool to have been found in a charity shop, but that's what happened. It also seems too cool for the MFP label. It's a mixture of Julie Driscoll's late 60s dramatic pop ballads (with a bit of a Scott Walker/Dusty Springfield flavour) and Brian Auger/Brian Auger Trinity organ tracks, which are mostly smoking soul style instrumentals.

Very nice stuff! Shame my copy is more or less trashed. But dig the way my cover still has someone's 60s wrapping paper attached to cover up the price!

Michel Legrand: 'Violent Violins' (LP; Mercury; 1964)
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I coveted this UK reissue of Michel Legrand's 'Plays for Dancers' LP for years, mainly because of its very cool cover. Fisheye effect, a sparkly catsuit, S&M, a cool 50s atomic style font; this one has it all!

The LP is quite cool (I actually already have the US issue). The famous compiled tracks, 'Digue-ding' and 'Come ray and come charles' are the standouts, but it's all good fun.

Richard Anthony: 'Richard Anthony' (LP; Pathe; 1966)
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Surprisingly groovy and enjoyable French 60s rock'n'roll album, with originals and also cover versions of Dusty Springfield, Rolling Stones, and Holland-Holland-Dozier tracks.

Stanley Black: 'Festival in Costa Rica' (LP; Decca; 1961)
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Nice early Stanley Black album. It's 50s style sanitised Latin easy listening music. The album includes 6 Lecuona tracks and is really quite enjoyable.

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Fab Gear

It has been too long. I have been kind of busy. I was over in the UK this weekend for a family get-together, which was fun. NYC feels like the North Pole by comparison.

Anyway, Nancy Sinatra was really not a good show. Sorry Nancy. Don’t get me wrong – she can still sing really well, but her band were very rocky in an eighties way that I found very naff. Most of the crowd didn’t seem to care, but as a big fan of the 60s/70s production on most of her work, the Guns and Roses style licks didn’t sit well with me. The best moment of the night was a montage of Nancy’s film appearances. None of this was helped by the venue, BB King’s Blues Bar, a touristy spot in midtown. Because of where I was sitting (at the edge, on the side), wait staff walked in front of me, obscuring my view, literally 2 or 3 times a minute. I was a little pissed.

I bought an mp3 player. It turned out that for my requirements (a large hard drive, and the ability to record onto it), I had a choice of exactly one item. So, I bought it, along with some nicer headphones (no, I don’t always shop at amazon, but they were pretty good for these items). I’m very pleased with it so far. It’s a geeky, ugly little thing, which connects at high speed to my computer via USB 2.0. I was glad that mine came in black and silver, rather than the bright blue and silver advertised. Ok, it’s still ugly. But, it can operate as an extra hard drive, which is pretty cool (in fact, it’s a bigger hard drive than the one on my computer at home). My only problem with it is that there’s no ‘Record’ button. This means that in order to record (there’s a built in microphone), you have to scroll through some menus. Not very handy for spontaneous moments. But overall it’s pretty good. I was extra-pleased, because Amazon put the price up quite a bit after I ordered it.

To go with my mp3 player, I also bought a 3-month subscription to emusic. Although there was one day when it didn’t work, I’m pretty pleased with it overall. It’s a shame the mp3s aren’t of a higher quality (they’re 128 kbps), but there is a remarkable volume of great Jazz and Soul stuff on there (from verve, fantasy, stax) – the kind of stuff that would cost pretty much full price even if you were able to find it used on CD. So, it’s well worth checking out. As an extra incentive, they also have a huge amount of Ennio Morricone stuff on there.

Not much else is new. Misty Roses played a show at Rififi. We have another at Galapagos on March 12th. I’m thinking of going to see Sigur Ros at Radio City Music Hall. This will mean that I only go to see Icelandic artists there. Aston Villa lost the Birmingham derby in abysmal fashion. Life goes on…

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Bjork

Bjork was kind of amazing. Radio City Music Hall is a beautiful venue, but they suck for not stating in advance that cameras would be confiscated – we weren’t even going to use it, and had to waste an hour at the end of the show waiting to pick it up. Bjork had some sparkly outfits, and the sound of the stripped down electronics and her voice alongside a full orchestra was really astounding, particularly on her anthemic masterpieces ‘isobel’ and ‘bachelorette’.

I was just having a random internet voyage in search of new music, and I came across this interesting page. I’m coming across this kind of thing a lot – more and more of the people I encounter when looking for records are really massivly into hip-hop. Often these people seem to get turned on to older records by hearing them sampled on modern records. I tend to get into things a different way, but thinking about it, I’m probably a bit further down the ‘record information’ chain. Stuff I’m into like Dorothy Ashby probably surfaced in my life through 1) someone sampling it; 2) someone being turned onto it enough for it to get reissued 3) someone enthusing about the reissue to me. I’m not putting it very eloquently, but I guess I’m trying to say that it’s interesting how different musical ‘communities’ end up being into the same stuff, even though on the surface you’d think ‘hip hop fans’ and ‘instrumental pop/jazz/soundtrack’ fans might be into very different stuff.

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