Issue 3

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner – From Poets to Wives | Talking Elephant

There’s something of the proverbial elder statesman about Peter Knight, in terms of his place in music, which cannot be overstated.  It’s not just in the quality of his playing, which now comes across in more defined terms than previously, due in no small part to his highly inventive work with Gigspanner, but also, in the dignified manner in which he carries himself as a major league musician whose work stretches well beyond traditional folk music.  There’s a focus on the sheer inventiveness of Peter’s playing, in the adventurous arrangements he shares with his collaborators and in his musical leadership.  The latter end of this abysmal war we find ourselves in is probably a fitting time to release a compilation of some of the trio’s finest work to date, a fine primer then for those new to the band’s work as well as a timely reminder to those fortunate enough to have been around since the band released their debut album back in 2009.  Named for the span of time between the band’s debut Lipreading the Poet (2009) and their most recent album (as a trio) The Wife of Urban Law (2017), the compilation From Poets to Wives begins with the epic eight-minute epic version of the traditional “She Moved Through the Fair”, which is a perfect place to start, an instrumental that emphasises Gigspanner’s skilful credentials as fine arrangers, with a steady build that grows into an almost euphoric climax, as Peter’s fiddle skitters like a bird throughout, held together with the glue that is Roger Flack’s guitar and Vincent Salzfaas’ informed percussion work.  It’s almost Vaughn Williams’ Lark Ascending in its sheer virtuosity.  “Si Bheag Si Mhor” and “The Blackbird” likewise focus on the art of arrangement, with fine performances from each of the musicians involved, the latter which features percussionist Sacha Trochet, the band’s newest member at the time.  To emphasise the point that Peter Knight’s Gigspanner is not just a great studio band, but also a remarkable live band to boot, “The Butterfly” demonstrates this well as one of the trio’s notable live takes, a piece that originally featured on the band’s first live album Doors at Eight back in 2010.  Once we’ve absorbed the instrumentals, then it’s up to the songs to complete the picture, all of which are equally accessible and each featuring Peter’s unfussy, almost laid back vocal on such songs as “Bold Riley”, “Bows of London” and the well-trodden, yet in this case ingeniously revitalised “Hard Times of Old England”.  From Poets to Wives is by no means the whole story, but it covers some of the best parts of the story so far.  If it’s reasonable to assume that every good record collection requires at least one Gigspanner album, then it might as well be this one. 

“Bold Riley” is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.


Widely recognised as one of the leading producers and independent record label owners in the folk and acoustic world, Andy Bell is to launch an exciting new music club to benefit both artists and audience. As founder of the Yorkshire-based Hudson Records he has released award-winning music by some of the biggest names in folk including Karine Polwart, Jon Boden, Sam Sweeney, The Furrow Collective and the latest addition to the label, the mighty Bellowhead. Never short of ideas, he is preparing to launch the innovative HUDSON CLUB on April 15, a unique monthly subscription scheme offering access to exclusive music, videos, podcasts, streaming, online shows, interviews, special discounts and more, with an aim to build a strong sense of community and a new-look co-operative of mutual benefit.

Says Bell: “Not only will this provide our audience with access to some incredible new music – it will also be an alternative way of supporting our artists, allowing both them and the label to forge ahead with creative new projects and collaborations.”

Hudson Records was founded in 2016, named after Bell’s faithful (and now famous!) hound, Hudson. The label’s sole aim, then as now, is to support musicians and get their music to a global audience. Five years and one pandemic later, the Hudson Club will open its doors, allowing streaming access to the entire label roster of music. Unlike other subscription platforms where artists receive only penny fractions for plays of their music, the Hudson Club will pay pounds instead, introducing a new model that will help artists make a fair living out of their music, videos and other digital work.

“The music industry is beset with challenges, not least the pandemic, says Bell. “We wanted to find a way for as many people as possible to enjoy the music whilst making a positive impact for our artists and, at the same time, helping sustain our label in an ever competitive musical world. By signing up to The Hudson Club subscribers will be part of our collective, all working together to put our artists at the forefront where they belong.”

Launching on Thursday, April 15 and costing £10 per month to subscribe, members will have access to a custom-designed club portal with myriad features. Each month subscribers will receive an exclusive digital music release and the first will be a previously unheard recording from Scottish singer songwriter Karine Polwart.

On Friday, April 30 members will be able to join the community for a special Zoom launch gig featuring Hudson artists Jon Boden, Salt House, Lucy Farrell, MG Boulter and Neil McSweeney.

More information at

Honey and the Bear – Journey Through the Roke | Self Release

Named for the East Anglian word for the mist that rises from the marshlands and meadows of Suffolk, Lucy and Jon Hart, otherwise Honey and the Bear, take a close look at their own environment with a dozen beautifully crafted songs.  Following their acclaimed debut Made in the Aker, their latest album once again showcases the duo’s command over melody and arrangement, with a strong focus on close harmony singing and informed song craft.  With inspiration drawn from the newly discovered joys of the great outdoors, one of the positive results of our current situation, the duo began to craft these songs keeping a keen eye on the county they call home, together with its rich history and its engaging stories, interweaving at the same time the natural world around them.  The stories have gravitas, especially those that address real life events, such as the 1953 floods that devastated the eastern coastline, which took the life of at least one local Suffolk resident Frank Upcraft during his attempts to help his community.  “3 Miles Out” relates to the distance from the shore of Southwold, from where Upcraft’s boat The Ivy was eventually dredged over a quarter of a century later.  “Buried in Ivy” takes a look at another pressing issue, that of preserving the environment, with a clear message to those seemingly unconcerned about future generations, the duo going one step further in dedicating a song to David Attenborough and his endeavours to get this message across over the years.  “Life on Earth” is a note of appreciation in a time of widespread ignorance.  Perhaps it’s time for the roke to be lifted from our eyes while we still have a chance.

Freddie Cooper is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Boo Hewerdine – Selected Works | Reveal

Selected and sequenced by label owner Tom Rose, Selected Works delves deep into the more recent back catalogue of one our most respected songsmiths, arriving at a generous twenty-song compilation that includes some of Boo Hewerdine’s best loved later work.  Both metaphorically and geographically, Boo Hewerdine has made a steady journey to the top, moving from London to Cambridge and then more recently to Glasgow, where he appears to move ever more closer to the top of the world, a place that he must occasionally feel is very much now in reach, judging by the quality of his songs.  If we consider “Birds are Leaving” to be easily as good as many a Beatles song and “American TV”, to be something that wouldn’t seem out of place on, let’s say, the Summer Days (and Summer Nights) album, as it captures the heyday of the Beach Boys sound, albeit in a sort of pastiche manner, then it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine Boo taking his material in any direction.  If we know anything about Boo at all, then it’s his penchant for collaboration and here we find one or two fine examples of joined-up working, notably with both Kris Drever and Brooks Williams on the gentle “Bluebirds” and “Why Does the Nightingale Sing” respectively.  Possibly Boo’s best known collaborator is the singer Eddi Reader, and though not present here personally, the songs Eddi sings are represented, notably “Follow My Tears” and “It’s a Beautiful Night”.  One female singer who does make an appearance here is Rosalie Deighton, who helps out on “Write”, just one of Boo’s instantly accessible and memorable songs, of which this collection contains a multitude.    

American TV is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Samba Touré – Binga | Glitterbeat

From the first few notes of “Tamala” we can almost pinpoint precisely where we are both musically and geographically, as the spirit of Ali Farka Touré lives on through the infectious rhythms of Samba Touré.  Having grown up in Dabi, a small village in the Tombouctou region of Mali, we instinctively know that this music is deeply rooted, evident in the conversational hand percussion and trance-like guitar motifs that dominate the songs.  It’s desert blues in its rawest form.  Samba’s connection with his former mentor Ali Farka Touré runs deeper than that of a mere follower or fan, or indeed student, Samba’s mother having been one of the first women to sing with the late musician.  Listening to Binga brings strong reminiscences of first hearing Ali Farka Touré’s music back in the 1990s, with the same sonic references ingrained in the chords, which carry optimism in the face of adversity.  In light of cancelled shows due to the current crisis, Samba manages to remain optimistic, which is demonstrated in the uplifting “Sambalama-A”, a song of positive energy, which strives to beat a positive path through all the difficulties.  The  socio-political crisis in Mali has probably strengthened the country’s leading artists and musicians resolve in order to get through many a crisis, which comes over in the quality of music from this particular region.  Songs like “Fondo” ask pertinent questions of why young people desert their families and land in search of a better life only to find the grass is seldom greener on the other side, a notion told in an almost mournful soliloquy.  The mixture of optimism and pessimism is almost tangible.  Samba is joined by Djimé Sissoko on ngoni, Souleymane Kane on calabash, Richard Shanks on harmonica and Philippe Sanmiguel on various percussion, while Djeneba Diakité provides the backing vocal on the album opener “Tamala”.  Superb.

Tamala is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Grainne Brady – Newcomer | Self Release

The delicate sound of the tide’s ebb and flow, together with the distant call of a gull provides a fitting opening for Newcomer, the second album by the Co Cavan fiddle player and composer Gráinne Brady, as Jack Houston reads from Patrick MacGill’s The Rat Pit, the story of Norah Ryan, which forms the backbone for this significant project.  Following her impressive debut album of 2019, The Road Across the Hills, which is also based around the writing of MacGill, Newcomer features spoken word, cinematic instrumentals and one or two songs, each of which bring to the album a sense of narrative, a sense of place and time and a sense of the natural world around us.  Recorded in Glasgow with producer Mike Vass at the helm, Newcomer features an array of empathetic musicians, each of whom provide exemplary performances, adding touches of French horn, cello and flute in strategic places, to perfectly complement the guitar, accordion, piano, violin, viola and percussion.  If the narrative of the spoken word and the lyrical nature of the songs help tell the story, the instrumental passages serve equally as mood setters, especially on such contrasting pieces as “In the Lane” and “Abyss”.  If this album serves any purpose at all, other than providing a demonstration of fine musical collaboration, it has every possibility of taking the listener to somewhere restful, calming and hopefully warm.

Unfulfilled is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Charley Crockett – 10 For Slim: Charley Crockett Sings James Hand | Son of Davy | Review by Liam Wilkinson

James “Slim” Hand, often referred to as “the real deal”, sadly died in 2020.  The heart of the Texan country singer and purveyor of finest Honky Tonk music beat its last in his hometown of Waco back in June, marking the end of a notable though all-too-short recording career.  Thankfully, his young protégé Charley Crockett has ensured that Hand’s legend lives on with this outstanding ten-track tribute.  Crockett is one of the several contemporary artists who are ensuring that Honky Tonk lives on in this new century.  His last few albums have owed much of their style to the likes of Earnest Tubb, Hank Williams and Webb Pierce, with each song telling tales of hard times, hard drinking and hard-hearted women.  10 for Slim sustains Crockett’s evocative style to breathe new life into the songs of James Hand, including the dust-kicking “In the Corner”, the hauntingly sprawling “So Did I” and sweetly relaxed “Over There That’s Frank”.  The late James Hand would, I’m sure, be delighted to know that Crockett has ushered his listeners into a dark and smoky saloon for a very worthy tribute indeed.

Over There That’s Frank is included in the Whistle Stop feature on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Jason McNiff – Dust of Yesterday | Self Release

The seventh album by Bradford-born singer/songwriter and fingerstyle guitar player Jason McNiff takes us on a journey through the past from his Yorkshire beginnings to the darkened corridors along the capital’s Tin Pan Alley.  Now resident in Hastings after a spell in London, where he would frequent the twilight clubs from which he picked up much of his craft, notably through the informed fingers of Bert Jansch, sitting at the guitarist’s feet during his residency at the famed 12 Bar Club just off Soho, the musician reflects on past peregrinations, the troubadour life and the midnight gigs along Denmark Street.  There’s something of the old Les Cousins about this album, with Al Stewart, Jackson C Frank and Wizz Jones waiting in the smoky wings and possibly the spirit of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” hovering over the reflective “A Load Along”.  Produced by Roger Askew and recorded at his studio in Eastbourne, each of the songs are delivered with an almost fragile voice, an assured guitar accompaniment and one or two tasty electric guitar licks reminiscent of the playing of Philip Donnelly.  Dust of Yesterday is also treated to some unfussy cello and violin accompaniment courtesy of Beth Porter and Basia Bartz respectively.  A taste of Bohemia with a pinch of nostalgia.

Whenever I Choose is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Crimi – Luci E Guai | Airfono

Luci E Guai sees the healthy cross fertilization of styles from Algerian raï, New Orleans funk and Sicilian folk song, together with more than just a nod towards Afrobeat, to agreeable effect on this, the debut album by the four-piece French group Crimi.  Julien Lesuisse takes his twenty-odd year musical experience as a noted sax player to weave together some of the most delicious rhythms on this exhilarating eight track album, enhanced by some fine guitar and vocal sparring, the two ‘voices’ seemingly made for one another, especially on the stirring “La Vicaria”.  Lesuisse introduces his distinctively conversational sax playing on “Conca d’Oro”, as a prelude to a highly emotive vocal performance, which has an almost  pleading quality.  “Quetzalcoati” offers a moment of hushed reflection before “Ciatu di lu Margiu” lifts the spirits in an explosion of sound, with a groove that would have both David Byrne and Tom Verlaine sitting up and taking note.  The line-up is completed by Cyril Moulas on guitar, Mathieu Felix on bass and Bruno Duval on drums.  This is a very good album and well worth investigating further.

La Vicaria is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Mike Clerk – The Space Between My Ears | Wardlaw Music

The Space Between My Ears is the debut solo album by the former frontman of The Lost Generation, in which Mike Clerk aims to ‘mend the after effects of historical over indulgence’.  After a period of inactivity, Clerk returns to music having scored a publishing deal with Wardlaw Music, whose impressive roster continues to draw attention.  Going solo is by no means going quiet, nor an opportunity to become withdrawn or contemplative.  There’s no rustic soul searching here, although the acoustic guitar is employed to good effect on both “Come Down With Me” and “You When You”.  Instead, for the most part, Clerk ups the volume and thrashes out ten bold songs with a true alt.rock sensibility.  ‘Who’s My Enemy? is a question tentatively asked during “Do Something New”, a song from which the album’s title derives and an invitation for those who might not necessarily be quite onboard with the idea of a solo Mike Clerk yet.  The songwriting is robust throughout, with seasoned guitar licks mixed with short bursts of electronica and a determined drum beat.  The album should serve existing followers and newcomers alike.

You When You is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Ben De La Cour – Shadow Land | Flour Sack Cape

After setting the volume to a reasonably generous level in order to fill the room with the gritty sound of Ben De La Cour’s new album, my immediate thought midway through the opening song, “God’s Own Son’ was Ennio Morricone and his memorable cinematic western scores, largely due to the heavily reverb’d ghost whistle and the threatening sound of a rattlesnake.  Once I eyed the accompanying press release, it occurred to me all over again that great minds tend to think alike, with the comparison already made.  Shadow Land is a bold album, created by a songwriter who means business.  The initial introduction to an outlaw in the first song seems to set the level for the gritty stories to follow in its wake.  “High Heels Down the Holler” takes us from the open space of the prairie to a lively downtown Friday night, with its sleazy, almost sneering fiddle signifying a Devil at play, probably before he makes the trip down to Georgia.  Ben De La Cour used to be a boxer before he hung up his gloves and sharpened his fingernails, to become a guitar slinger, yet maintaining a menacing furrowed brow, ready for the fight.  The fights with the bottle are reflected upon in “The Last Chance Farm”, for which Ben gets up close to the microphone to address his first day in rehab, as if whispering into just the one ear.  Sensitivity is rarely expressed in such convincing terms.  Perhaps the album’s show stopper is “Swan Dive”, a song that addresses suicide with both passion and conviction. 

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Ray Cooper – Land of Heroes | Westpark Music

Opening with the mandolin-led instrumental, “The Burning Pile”, inspired by the grizzly events of a 17th century witch trial in Ray Cooper’s adopted home of Sweden, which in a way serves as an overture to the songs that follow, the former Oysterband multi-instrumentalist looks at who our heroes might be today in the age of growing concern.  Known as the cellist who by ditching the chair while also adding a harness to his instrument, made it entirely feasible for Woody Allen’s character in Take the Money and Run to indeed play in a marching band.  There’s more to Ray Cooper though, who delivers these songs in a voice no dissimilar to that of Steve Knightly, especially in the spoken passages, bringing with it an almost preachy aspect.  Locking himself away in his log cabin over summer, coming out only for the occasional swim in the nearby lake, Cooper has woven together these songs of consciousness, looking at such concerns as journalist whistle-blowers, the angel nurses and the occasional beast.  ‘Welcome to the Middle Ages’ the singer announces at the beginning of “The Beast”, in a voice as confident as a circus ringmaster,  considering how history repeats.  Cooper finds heroes closer to home, notably in “Circles” where he fondly recalls a promoter friend, who went above and beyond the call of duty when booking gigs for the musician in Europe.  Our friends and family members can be considered heroes, it doesn’t always have to be those in uniform or those on the posters upon our walls.  Thought provoking in places.

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Roberto Cassani – Ansema We Stand | Self Release

With a title that almost predictably translates from the Lombardy dialect of Rivoltano as ‘together’, the new album by Roberto Cassani is a potpourri of musical traditions, each selection delivered in Cassani’s native tongue, which by all accounts is a first, therefore quite unique.  Known chiefly as a double bassist, Cassini crosses borders to bring together the spirit of his native homeland of northern Italy with the sounds and nuances of his adopted Perthshire home.  As an occasional comic performer, some of the fun element is added to his musical palette, certainly on “La Santissima” and “Eviva”, where you can imagine precisely what would’ve happened had Francis Ford Coppola invited a bunch of Scots for the wedding scene in Godfather One, yet the heart of the album comes with such sublime numbers as “L’Arcobalena” and “L’Ada”, both of which are really quite gorgeous.  Helping out on the album is a handful of notable Scots musicians including Anna Massie, John Somerville, Steve Fivey, Ross Ainslie, Hamish Napier and Greg Lawson.

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New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers – Vol 2 | Stony Plain

For the second installment of these blues sessions recorded back in 2007 but not released until now, we see the late Jim Dickinson once again surrounded by his two sons Luther and Cody Dickinson, together with noted bluesmen Charlie Musselwhite, Alvin Youngblood Hart and the ex Squirrel Nut Zippers’ frontman Jimbo Mathus, each musician keen to wear their blues sensibilities on their respective sleeves.  As with the first ten songs that were released on Vol 1 last year, there’s a live feel to the sessions, which took place at Jim Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch, with each of the musicians forming a circle as they jammed in earnest.  The liner notes use culinary metaphors a-plenty and you do indeed get the feeling that something was definitely cooking during these sessions.  Charlie Musselwhite takes the lead on the opening number, his harmonica written all over his own blues workout “Blues for Yesterday”, before Alvin Youngblood Hart puts in an excitable reading of Doug Sahm’s mid-1960s 12-bar “She’s About a Mover”.  Jimbo Mathus takes the lead on one of the session highlights, “Searchlight (Soon in the Morning)”, with some fine harmonica playing courtesy of Musselwhite, who spars effortlessly with Dickinson’s piano.  Jim himself takes the piano to the church with the pleading “Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop That Atom Bomb on Me”, offering one of the most mournful performances of the entire session.  There’s some between song banter, which indicates that these musicians were having fun at the same time.  Wrapped in almost identical sleeves, differentiated only by the ink stamped branding Vol 1 and Vol 2,  the two discs could easily be released as a double album.

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Jason Ringenberg – Rhinestones | Courageous Chicken Music

Spurred into action by the COVID-19 situation, Jason Ringenberg popped on the Stetson and presumably the cowboy boots and got himself rhinestoned.  Among the originals, such as “The Freedom Rides Weren’t Free” and the autobiographical “My Highway Songs”, Ringenberg has selected one or two familiar covers, including the Carter Family’s “The Storms Are on the Ocean”, with a guest appearance by Kristi Rose and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Time Warp”, a sort of rockabilly horror show line dancing masterpiece, together with a nod towards Hank Williams with the bluesy “You Win Again”.  The famed Lakota war leader gets a mention in “I Rode with Crazy Horse”, an almost manic ballad, which tells of the legendary warrior from the perspective of an unnamed cousin who allegedly rode with him in the 19th century.  The general ethos for all this can be found in the chorus on “Stoned on of  Rhinestones”, ‘I’m stoned on rhinestones with a telecaster in my hand, I’m gonna find a satisfied mind pickin’ in a hillbilly band’.  Have your rhinestones ready for the party.

The Ciderhouse Rebellion – The Whitby Rose | Self Release

Under the guise of The Ciderhouse Rebellion, Adam Summerhayes and Murray Grainger explore the intricacies of their respective instruments once again with a brooding instrumental entitled “The Whitby Rose”, named for a boat built by the fishing company that Adam’s grandfather partly owned.  Some of the construction of the boat was filmed by Adam’s grandfather and this piece of music developed with that footage in mind.  The two-part arrangement allows for plenty of improvisation, during which the fiddle and accordion converse, the first part a relatively slow air followed by a slightly more dramatic second part, which brings with it all the tension and mystery of the rugged coastline.  Certainly worth further investigation.

The Whitby Rose is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Andrew Howie – Sycamore | Self Release

“Sycamore” is the initial single release from Andrew Howie’s forthcoming album Pale White Branches, a highly melodic song which features the album’s title within its lyric.  Written from the perspective of someone dealing with the ongoing struggle of a partner, while maintaining a hopeful and optimistic message throughout, “Sycamore” is a mature pop song written and performed in the mould of Emitt Rhodes, with a message that seems to say that all’s not lost, citing the sycamore as the relationship’s overriding bonding factor.  There’s a warmth to the melody, with tender lyrics as Lucy Cathcart Frödén provides backing vocals to Andrew Howie’s confident lead.  The single is produced by Iain Hutchison. 

Sycamore is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Suthering – Gather | Self Release

The wheatsheaf illustration that adorns the cover of the new single by Suthering, the newly adopted name for the established Devon-based folk duo Julu Irvine and Heg Brignall, illustrates the notion of gathering admirably, as the duo look at the changing seasons.  The interweaving voices, augmented by a gentle piano accompaniment and soothing cello marks an exciting phase in this duo’s journey, with a new name taken from an eye-catching word in Robert Macfarlane’s book Landmarks who quotes John Clare’s poem The Autumn Wind: ‘The Autumn’s wind on suthering wings’.  This is nothing short of a fantastic single and I see good things ahead for Suthering.

Gather is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Suzie Ungerleider – Baby Blues | Self Release

Formerly Oh Susannah, the American/Canadian singer/songwriter Suzie Ungerleider now embarks on the next phase of her career, reverting to her birth name, having ditched the moniker in true Chicks and Lady A fashion.  The Northampton, Massachusetts-born, now Vancouver-based singer aims to name her forthcoming album My Name is Suzie Ungerleider as if to emphasise the point further and releases “Baby Blues” in advance of its planned release in August.  Putting all the political correctness aside, we are left with the same singer, the same song writer, who continues to create the same superb music, in this case a slow ballad with a strong confident vocal and lush strings, reflecting on childhood trauma from the vantage point of maturity. 

Baby Blues is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Mike Vass – Threes | Self Release

During the opening few bars of the new single by Nairn-born composer, musician and producer Mike Vass, a discordant Thelonious Monk note is dropped in, just to give us something to think about.  This is just another in a long line of rewarding surprises that this highly creative musician has brought to the table over the last few years, notably the song based album Save His Calm, which came unexpectedly after a series of purely instrumental albums, Decemberwell, In the Wake of Neil Gunn and Notes from the Boat.  With “Threes”, Mike returns to instrumental tunes based on traditional Scots dance music, which can be enjoyed equally from the dance floor as from the futon.

Threes is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

Malcolm Cecil (1937-2021) 

In my youth, there was a sparsely furnished cardboard box at the side of the Fidelity Music Master twin speaker affair in a girlfriend’s bedsit back in 1971, with just the three LPs, each of which were played on rotation.  The recently departed Jimi Hendrix’s Hendrix in the West was one of them, Wishbone Ash’s self-titled debut was another and the third was the relatively off-the-radar Zero Time created by an outfit with the outlandish moniker Tonto’s Expanding Headband, which was by far the best of the three albums in terms of providing the listener with something strange while laying flat on their back as the aroma of joss stick smoke wafted by.  The British jazz musician Malcolm Cecil was one half of this formidable duo, the other being an American producer Robert Margouleff.  While Hendrix went to great lengths to make his guitar sound like anything but a guitar and Andy Powell and Ted Turner harmonised with their respective axes through the epic “Phoenix”, Cecil and Margouleff were at the helm of a monstro Heath Robinson contraption labelled TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra), a sort of synthesiser housed in furniture the size of several wardrobes, a little like HAL in the Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.  There wasn’t really much about in terms of electronic music in those days aside from Walter (later Wendy) Carlos’s Switched on Bach and the soundtrack to another Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange, Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air and a little later Isao Tomita’s recitals of Claude Debussy’s best loved impressions on Snowflakes Are Dancing.  The six pieces on Zero Time ranged between the highly melodic “Cybernaut” and “Tama”, to the abject weirdness of “Jet Sex”, a forerunner of Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” or indeed Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn”, with a heart beat running through it.  Around the same time, Cecil and Margouleff collaborated with Stevie Wonder on some of the Motown musician’s best remembered albums of the early 1970s, including Music of My Mind (1972), Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), for which Cecil won a Grammy for best engineered recording, Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and the later Jungle Fever soundtrack (1991).  Malcolm Cecil died on 28 March, 2021 at the age of 84.

Cybernaut is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Dave Evans (Unknown-2021)

I always thought there was something unusually calming about the opening few bars of the title song on Dave Evans’ debut record The Worlds In Between, a record I became aware of many years after its initial release back in the early 1970s.  Once I was aware of this musician, largely through seeing regular mentions of his name in fRoots magazine and The Southern Rag before it, I began to build up a picture of this sad-eyed singer/songwriter and guitar player, who I immediately likened stylistically to the young Steve Tilston, back in his An Acoustic Confusion days, both records coincidentally having been released on the lamented Gloucestershire-based Village Thing label, founded by Ian A Anderson.  The fact that the two musicians worked closely together all those years ago didn’t really come as any surprise, having heard the two records, in fact listening to An Acoustic Confusion and The Worlds In Between back to back would probably have listeners guessing which one belongs to which.  The two records were actually the label’s fourth and fifth releases respectively.  Dave tired of performing live quite early in his career, giving up the road for other artistic pursuits such as ceramics and also became a gifted instrument maker.  Dave Evans passed away in hospital in Brussels in the early hours of 4 April 2021. 

The World’s In Between is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

50 Moments. In this series of fifty on-stage, off-stage, backstage and out in the field group photographs taken over the last fifteen years, we reminisce about the good days. (Click on the image, which features Robert Wyatt flanked by the Unthank sisters, Rachel and Becky.)

Pamela Wyn Shannon at the Wheelhouse, Wombwell in 2010

Wizz Jones at the Rock, Maltby in 2010

Sharon King at the Wheelhouse, Wombwell in 2010

21. Nic Jones – Penguin Eggs | Topic 12TS411 – 1980

The very first time I visited a UK folk club was in 1982, shortly after a near fatal accident involving a car, a lorry and the folk singer Nic Jones.  Nic had just finished a gig at the Glossop Folk Club and the accident that night became stuff of legend.  Once I’d visited the Rockingham Arms Folk Club in Wentworth and began to mix with, for want of a better term, ‘folkies’, I came to the understanding that no folk record collection would be complete without a copy of Penguin Eggs by this highly regarded singer/guitar/fiddle player and so I put that right immediately by going out and buying a copy.  I already had a vague knowledge of who Nic Jones was from a Jon Raven LP I had knocking about at the time called Songs in a Changing World, which featured Nic on guitar and fiddle, which I’d borrowed from a neighbour, whose dad apparently started the Traditional record label.  I devoured Penguin Eggs and soon discovered a guitar style that sounded relatively easy to play, but was in fact extraordinarily difficult.  After several attempts at playing those few chords, I asked a nurse friend to disentangle my frustrated digits and I never bothered trying again.  I was fortunate to meet Nic a few times, the first time in York, where he gave my son some good advice on playing folk music, “don’t take this music as seriously as we all did, just enjoy it”, a notion we were both happy to take on board. 

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22. Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones | Warner Bros K56628 – 1979

In the 1980s I occupied myself with various tasks as a volunteer at a local hospital radio station, which involved presenting a weekly folk show, then a jazz show, then a pop album show, which led to a senior position (Programme Controller) and ultimately the fool who was coaxed into towing the outside broadcast caravan to various weekend events.  This is when I realised that if you’re cursed with an inability to say ‘no’, they get you doing everything.  I digress.  During those pop show years, I played Rickie Lee Jones almost every week.  “Chuck E.’s in Love” is just such a great radio song and I was convinced that playing it made the patients better, that was until I realised that nobody was actually listening at all.  “Just give us a ring and I’ll give you a thousand pounds” I declared on air, which was proof enough for me as I waited in vain for the phone to ring.  Despite this small inconvenience, I was happy in the knowledge that there was at least one person enjoying the shows and I continued to play several songs from this album (and others) throughout the 1980s.  With contributions from Dr John, Randy Newman and Michael McDonald, the album features such gems as “The Last Chance Texaco”, “Weasel and the White Boys Cool” and the sleazy “Easy Money”, which was covered by Lowell George and was the only single released from his solo album Thanks, I’ll Eat it Here, in the same year.

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23. Ry Cooder – Into the Purple Valley | Warner Bros K44142 – 1972

When I first saw Ry Cooder on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1972, I became totally obsessed with his music and in particular his bottleneck guitar playing style, which led to seeking out other such players including Lowell George, Duane Allman and Bonnie Raitt.  At the time, I didn’t know “Vigilante Man” was a Woody Guthrie song, I didn’t even know who Woody Guthrie was.  Neither did I know who Ry Cooder was, although his name had been cropping up in the music press and I had one of his tracks on the Warner Bros Fruity sampler LP, the one with the round sleeve to match the record.  Here, I thought, is a guitar player appearing on the TV in an empty darkened studio, wearing a piece of cloth on his head and a shirt, which looked for all intents and purposes as if someone had vomited on it, while running the chopped off neck of a beer bottle up and down the neck of a very attractive guitar.  I couldn’t even decide whether he was singing in tune or not, all I knew for sure was that it was worlds away from Sweet’s “Little Willy”, a song that was at the same time seen on Britain’s only other rival music show.  After seeing this very ordinary looking dude, who looked like he had a glass eye (he did), sitting next to Bob Harris on my then favourite TV show, I went out and bought this album, mainly for “Vigilante Man”, but then to discover such gems as “Billy the Kid”, “Denomination Blues” and “Teardrops Will Fall”.  I only ever got to see Ry Cooder the once, on stage with David Lindley at the Manchester Apollo sometime in the 1990s.  Cooder remains one of greatest sources of musical eclecticism to this day.

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24. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill | ABC ABCL 5024 – 1972

Again, it was the Old Grey Whistle Test that brought this band to my attention way back in the early 1970s via a live clip of the band performing “Reeling in the Years”.  Aesthetically, this album had nothing going for it really, with its garish Pop Art lips, its sleazy row of 1950s hookers and foetus-like nymph straddling the shoulder of a shirtless Terry Wogan lookalike and let’s not forget the band is named after a sex aid (courtesy of William Burroughs), yet the music almost literally jumps out of the speakers upon first hearing “Do it Again”, “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Fire in the Hole”.  The album also offers a couple of songs that both my wife and I agree upon (finally), the soulful “Dirty Work” and the country-inflected “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)”, both of which include a fine vocal courtesy of the outgoing David Palmer.  These days, whenever I see OGWT anniversary shows, I always expect to see Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker, reeling in those years.

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25. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis | Mercury 5707137 – 1969

Dusty’s voice was one of the first female voices I ever heard coming from the old teak radiogram back in 1962, when I was just five-years old.  “Island of Dreams” was one of the most played singles around the house at the time and one that resonated with me, especially the optimistic chorus, “high in the sky is a bird on a wing, please carry me with you, far far away from the mad rushing crowd, please carry me with you”, which was pure escapism for a kid who had no inclination of washing his neck or eating onions.  I desperately wanted to be on that bird’s wings.  If the Springfields’ folky song filled my childhood dreams with hope, then hearing that same voice eventually mature into what we were to hear just six years later was nothing short of staggering.  Dusty in Memphis is one of those albums largely ignored at the time of its release, only to be picked up on much later, though “Son of a Preacher Man” had long been a favourite.  It’s little surprise that many still consider Dusty to be the greatest British female vocalist of all time and some of the proof of that is captured on this record.

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26. Aretha Franklin – Aretha Now | Atlantic SD8186 – 1968

The first time I heard the voice of Aretha Franklin was probably “I Say a Little Prayer”, which reached number 4 in the UK charts back in 1968, though the first single I bought was “Spanish Harlem”, which came along a little later in 1971.  When Aretha died in 2018, it was obvious to me that we’d lost one of the greatest voices of our times in any genre.  Aretha Now was released exactly fifty years earlier and it still sounded great when I popped it on the turntable in respect after the singer lost her short battle with cancer.  I was just packing to go on a family holiday to Cornwall for a couple of weeks and stuck a few Aretha CDs in the car for the drive down.  I needn’t have bothered, as Radio 2 played many of her songs on that five and a half hour drive down, indicating that I was far from being the only one saddened by this singer’s untimely passing.  Released in 1968, Aretha Now was the first Aretha Franklin LP I bought and remains one of my favourites to this day, not least for the inclusion of “Think”, “Say a Little Prayer” and “You’re a Sweet Sweet Man”.

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27. Jonathan Kelly – Twice Around the Houses | RCA Victor SF8262 – 1972

When I first saw Jonathan Kelly play live, he’d been around the houses a good few times already.  I was far too young to catch him the first time around and I always thought that I’d perhaps missed out on the opportunity, Jonathan having retired from the music business decades earlier.  It was really good to see him return to the stage, if only temporarily, when I heard dozens of familiar songs for the first time live, “Ballad of Cursed Anna”, “We’re All Right Til Then” and “Sligo Fair” among them.  The week before that particular concert in Doncaster, I played a short set at the same club and promoted the next gig by singing a fairly pedestrian version of “Sligo Fair”, a song from this LP, in which I changed the final chorus from ‘Sligo Fair is just a week away’, to ‘Jonathan Kelly is just a week away’ to one or two guffaws from the audience.  Too many syllables I know, but I got away with it nonetheless.  Apparently, the concert was taped and the performance was played (rather embarrassingly) to Jonathan, who when I met up with him a week later, wrote “thanks for doing my song” on the cover of this, his best known LP.  Sadly, we lost Jonathan in 2020.

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28. Claire Hamill – One House Left Standing | Island ILPS 9182 – 1971

All my girl friends in 1971 (real or imagined) appeared to look like Claire Hamill.  Just seventeen years old on the cover of her debut LP, Claire was rightly or wrongly compared to Joni Mitchell, which was probably more of a hindrance than a help.  Nevertheless, Claire was a regular feature in all the music press at the time and as a consequence, was adored by one sweaty Herbert from Doncaster.  The cover shot of One House Left Standing, inexplicably sees out heroine perched upon some railway debris in an industrial part of Middlesbrough with the Tees Transporter Bridge looming large in the background.  It was a little like John Everett Millais painting Ophelia in a puddle at the face of a South Yorkshire colliery.  John Martyn plays on the record as does Terry Reid and David Lindley, good company for this young northern schoolgirl to say the least.  I was fortunate enough to meet up with Claire over three decades later and fell in love with her all over again as she signed my old crackly copy of this memorable LP, who then got up on stage with her guitar to perform “The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow’s Sunshine”, “Where Are Your Smiles At” and the jaunty “Baseball Blues”, all from this LP.

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29. Nick Drake – Heaven in a Wild Flower | Island ILPS9826 – 1985

Those whose musical taste began to develop just as the 1960s morphed almost seamlessly into the 1970s, might possibly remember the name Nick Drake from the series of Island sampler LPs such as Nice Enough To Eat (“Time Has Told Me), Bumpers (“Hazy Jane) and El Pea (“Northern Sky”).  In my case, Drake’s songs would be largely ignored as I dove straight into the tracks by Free, Mott the Hoople, Traffic or even Quintessence, heaven forbid.  My first real introduction to Nick’s songs came a few years later, when in around 1985, Island brought out the affordable Heaven in a Wild Flower compilation, released a good ten years after the singer’s untimely death.  The LP features fourteen of Drake’s most representative songs and probably served as a slice of nostalgia for the handful of fans who remembered him and who bought his three albums upon their initial release, but also a signpost for those new to his music.  It wasn’t until a few years after the release of this LP though, that young musicians would begin to take a real interest in Nick Drake through other compilations such as Way To Blue, or the Fruit Tree box set, or indeed a certain radio documentary presented by onetime collaborator Danny Thompson, all of which effectively rescued the singer-songwriter from on going obscurity.  Since then you can hardly turn on the TV without hearing snippets of Nick Drake’s guitar in commercials or as part of some movie soundtracks.  It’s also worth noting that when Joe Boyd sold his Witchseason production company to Island Records, it came with the condition that all three of Nick Drake’s official solo albums, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon,  would always remain available, which they are to this day.

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30. The Steve Miller Band – Masters of Rock Vol 3 | Capitol C054-81 583 – 1973

In the early to mid 1970s I discovered the Steve Miller Band, one  of San Francisco’s leading rock bands, through my fellow thesps in the college theatre group I was involved with at the time.  Between the members of this group, we made a concerted effort to collect the entire Steve Miller Band LP collection, including Children of the Future, Sailor, Your Saving Grace and Recall the Beginning.. A Journey From Eden, even sending off to the US for the Holy Grail of Steve Miller LPs at the time, Brave New World, which was only available through import.  In 1973, Capitol Records released an impressive introduction to the Steve Miller Band in their budget series Masters of Rock, which for me is still one of the best of Miller’s records, despite it being a retrospective collection.  The budget-priced LP features some of the band’s best know songs from the band’s first seven albums, including “Journey From Eden”, “Living in the USA” and “Rock Love”, together with the appearance of a new song “The Joker”, with its memorable ‘wolf whistle’ guitar riff, which had only just been released as a single, inevitably bringing the band to a wider audience.  To anyone new to the Steve Miller Band, this is a good place to start.

21. Alice Cooper – School’s Out | Warner Bros K16188 – 1972

Quite by coincidence, I left school in the summer of 1972 just as Alice Cooper’s aptly titled record “Schools Out” was enjoying some chart success in the UK, the song reaching the number one spot in June of that year.  The significance of the song at that particular time cannot be overstated; a defining rite of passage song.  Who else has left school to such an school leaving anthem other than those in the summer of ’72?  But it was the year before when I first became aware of the LA band, which was led by the charismatic sword-wielding, snake charming, mascara wearing son of a preacher man, Vincent Furnier, when I heard the opening song to the band’s previous album Killer, released in the winter of 1971.  It was “Under My Wheels” that first caught my attention, a rock and roll song with attitude, which also opened the Warner Bros sampler album Fruity, the first circular shaped album sleeve I had ever come across.  Both songs would be played repeatedly at a friend’s house every Saturday night as we two 15 year-olds enjoyed a bottle of Guinness and a night of rock music, possibly the original Bill and Ted, recently of Balby High School. 

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22. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – I’m the Urban Spaceman | Liberty LBF 15144 – 1968

The first time I became aware of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band was back in the late 1960s when they appeared each week as the resident band on the children’s comedy TV show Do Not Adjust Your Set, a weekly programme that would launch the careers of some of the members of the Monty Python team.  Much of my fondness for surreal humour began with this show and it was fitting that the Bonzos were part of the fixtures.  Neil Innes wrote many of the songs for the band including this novelty song, which was released in 1968, reaching number five in the UK charts.  Produced by Paul McCartney under the pseudonym Apollo C. Vermouth and with an equally popular b side “Canyons of Your Mind”, written by Viv Stanshall, the single went on to win an Ivor Novello Award in the same year.  To my regret, I never did get to see the Bonzos live, though I did get to see Neil in the guise of The Rutles in York a few years ago, when we were given the opportunity to relived the golden days of the Pre-Fab Four with two sets of Rutles hits performed by original members Ron Nasty and Barry Wom (John Hasley), together with a band of fab musicians.  It was good to hear once again such classics as “Cheese and Onions”, “Piggy in the Middle”, “Doubleback Alley” and “Get Up and Go”.  The Rutles have the second best story in the history of pop.

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23. Area Code 615 – Stone Fox Chase | Polydor 2066-249 – 1970

Fifty years on from the first edition of The Old Grey Whistle Test, possibly the most influential music magazine show ever shown on British television, it still intrigues me why this instrumental track by Area Code 615, a relatively little known Nashville-based session band made up of some of the leading players of the day, was chosen for the theme tune for this long-running show.  As familiar to viewers as the show’s most memorable host Bob Harris, the tune is basically a drum and harmonica duet, featuring Charlie McCoy, a notable session musician who had already worked on such classic Dylan albums as Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline.  The much sampled track is particularly remembered for its opening few seconds, but has later drawn attention by samplers for its hypnotic breakdown midway through, featuring a mixture of congas, drum set and cowbell with additional kalimba.  “Stone Fox Chase” is one of those singles that you can’t listen to without thinking about the OGWT and we can’t think of the OGWT without thinking about Charlie McCoy’s memorable harmonica riff.

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24. James Taylor – You’ve Got a Friend | Warner Bros K16085 – 1971

Two specific events drew me to the songs of James Taylor, firstly his appearance on Top of the Pops back in 1971, performing his version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”, which I always considered to be a much better version than the original.  Secondly, I recall a student from High Melton Teacher’s Training College sitting down next to me one evening and singing “Sunny Skies”, a James Taylor original from his previous album Sweet Baby James, accompanying herself on a classical guitar, which I considered the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.  “You’ve Got a Friend” is a song that seems to have been with me throughout my entire life, though I was all of 14 when I first saw this awkward looking lanky Boston-born singer songwriter, slumped over an acoustic guitar on that edition of TOTP, while I awaited patiently for the weekly appearance of Pan’s People.  There was something in Taylor’s gentle voice that caught my attention and it wasn’t long before I was bothering the assistant at Foxes Records for Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, from which this song had been lifted.  It was the beginning of my obsession for the ‘singer songwriter’ as a genre, which also included the likes of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Randy Newman.

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25. Strawbs – Lay Down | A&M AMS7035 – 1972

Who could ever forget Dave Cousins and his cohorts in Strawbs (no definite article), resplendent in their glitter suits and mascara, keeping up with all things ‘glam’, while miming to this earlier hit on the telly back in 1973?  If the folky Strawberry Hill Boys looked slightly uncomfortable alongside such major exponents of Glam as David Bowie, Marc Bolan and the lads from Sweet (though they looked a little too comfortable it has to be said), drummer Richard Hudson made every effort to smile throughout, albeit with what looked like a missing incisor the size of the moon.  The year before, the single “Lay Down” became the band’s first top 20 hit, reaching number 12 on the UK chart, a record that was played frequently on the jukebox at the Silver Link, where I was drinking illegally throughout that same year, having barely left school.  The song’s memorable opening guitar riff, which is repeated a couple of times in show-stopping fashion, together with its hymn-like singalong chorus, was a welcome sound as I sipped nervously on half a lager, while keeping my eye on the pub’s door in case Mr Plod walked in.  In an attempt to keep up the momentum, which in all fairness worked, the band’s follow up release went as far as number 2, with the utterly dreadful “Part of the Union”, which was kept off the prime spot by both “Blockbuster” by the aforementioned Sweet and “Cum on Feel the Noize” by the literacy challenged Slade.  Many years later, I interviewed Dave Cousins in his dressing room, while he was changing his trousers.    

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26. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Fire! | Track 604022 – 1968

In 1968 I was probably just as shocked as the next person, the next person in this case being my dad, who sitting right next to me, when during Top of the Pops, the kids’ weekly half hour TV concession, up jumped onto our screens a wide-eyed and white-caped Arthur Brown, complete with tribal painted face and with his head on fire.  I seem to recall dad grunt, put down the evening paper and head towards the kettle in a mixture of mild irritation and disgust.  Fortunately he didn’t stay around long enough to see the singer remove his fire helmet, disrobe and the spend the rest of the performance gyrating manically while warning us all that we were ‘gonna burn’.  Even my two sisters looked at me in silence as they waited for The Love Affair to come on.  Today, the video and song seem quite tame in comparison to the musical exhibitionism that was to come in the subsequent years, but in 1968, it was totally ground breaking and forced parents into considering whether it was time to lock away their sons as well as their daughters.

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27. Humble Pie – Natural Born Bugie | Immediate IM 082 – 1969

I had a huge admiration for any band that Steve Marriott was involved with, particularly The Small Faces and then again with the super group Humble Pie, which in their early days also featured Peter Frampton, Greg Ridley and Jerry Shirley.  Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore remains one of my all-time favourite live albums to this day, due in no small part to the sheer energy captured on the two disc set.  “Natural Born Bugie”, sometimes “Natural Born Boogie” or even occasionally referred to as “Natural Born Woman”, was the band’s debut single released in 1969 on the pink Immediate label, shortly before the label’s demise in 1970.  The single managed to get to number 4 in the British singles chart and clearly marked the beginning of a fruitful career for a band that went on to record almost a dozen albums over the next decade.  Steve Marriott’s untimely death in a house fire in the early 1990s put an end to any serious notion of reforming the band, although Jerry Shirley made an attempt to re-launch a version in 2002 releasing just one album.  

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28. Badfinger – Come and Get It | Apple 20 – 1969

Written and produced by Paul McCartney in 1969, “Come and Get It” was another song originally composed for the cult film The Magic Christian, which starred Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, the song featured in both the opening and closing sequences of the film as well as being the opening song on Badfinger’s debut album Magic Christian Music.  The song was originally recorded as a demo with Paul McCartney playing all the instruments, which the Beatle then passed on to Badfinger, then still known as The Iveys, demanding that the band record the song precisely to his arrangement on the demo.  In subsequent years the band suffered much turmoil in terms of personal relationships and business difficulties, which resulted in not one, but two suicides, most notably Peter Ham, who wrote some of the band’s most memorable songs including “Without You”, which became a huge hit for both Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey.

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29. The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations | Capitol CL15475 – 1966

I often wonder what it must have been like to have been in Brian Wilson’s circle in the mid-1960s, sitting around the poolside with Van Dyke Parks dangling his little legs in the cool water, while Mike Love directs hippy dippy lyrics in the general direction of a bloated musical genius busily emoting at a grand piano, albeit standing in an indoor sand pit.  I remember seeing photographs of Brian in the studio, wearing a red fireman’s helmet, while twiddling with the knobs and faders on a huge sound desk, creating astonishing sounds that I’d only previously heard on the theme tune to Dr Who.  I later discovered this was the sound of the Theremin, the only musical instrument I’m aware of that requires no physical contact to get a sound out of it.  The multi-layered sounds that were poured into “Good Vibrations”, allegedly over ninety hours of tape, had an enormous effect on me, a song I first heard on the radio in the same year as England’s one and only victory in the World Cup.  The sound of mad cellos permeated the back alleys of my hometown, augmented by rich human voices in harmony, emphasising the word ‘good’ as if it were a message from the Gods.  Strangely, I never really took much notice of the lyrics, only to discover much later that I was singing a completely different song.  ‘I hear the sound of the church bells ring’ appears nowhere in the song after all.

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30. Small Faces – Itchycoo Park | Immediate ZS7 501 – 1967

Of the records released by the Small Faces in the mid to late 1960s, “Itchycoo Park” was the only one that jumped out as me as something slightly more adventurous than their previous singles such as “Watcha Gonna Do About It”, “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” and the band’s number one smash “All Or Nothing”.  The fact that the band had moved from Decca to the Immediate label seemed to give the Small Faces a little more credibility as the single joined a growing collection of psychedelic records, which included the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”, Traffic’s “Hole in My Shoe” and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.  Ronnie Lane, who co-wrote the song with Steve Marriott, claims that the title refers to the stinging nettles in a local Ilford park, where they used to play as kids.  Despite the song’s assumed drug references and psychedelic leanings, which included one of the first uses of the ‘flanging’ or ‘phrasing’ studio technique, “Itchycoo Park” remains one of the most accessible and memorable pop records of the Summer of Love.

Playlist for Show 15.04.21 (#523)

Bold Riley – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner (From Poets to Wives)
Freddie Cooper – Honey and the Bear (Journey Through the Roke)
Sycamore – Andrew Howie (Single)
American TV (Radio Edit) – Boo Hewerdine (Selected Works)
Tamala – Samba Touré (Binga)
La Vicaria – Crimi (Luci e Guai)
Nobody – Doobie Brothers (The Doobie Brothers)
Cowgirl in the Sand – CSNY (4 Way Street)
Unfulfilled – Grainne Brady (Newcomer)
The Whitby Rose – The Ciderhouse Rebellion (Single)
Cybernaut – Tonto’s Expanding Headband (Zero Time)
I Ain’t Dead Yet – Eddie Sanders (That Kind of Lonesome)
Red Bird – Langhorne Slim (Strawberry Mansion)
Over There That’s Frank – Charley Crockett (10 For Slim)
The Words In Between – Dave Evans (The Worlds In Between)
Gather – Suthering (Single)
Whenever I Choose – Jason McNiff (Dust Of Yesterday)
Baby Blues – Suzie Ungerleider (Single)
Love Her Madly – The Doors (LA Woman)
Threes – Mike Vass feat. Ali Levack (Single Radio Edit)

Doobie Brothers – The Doobie Brothers | Warner Bros K46090 – 1971

Though perhaps not the first album I ever heard by the Doobie Brothers, it was in fact the first LP I sought out, almost immediately after discovering the band’s second album Toulouse Street towards the end of 1972 in a second hand record shop in Doncaster.  After the initial relief, that the band chose to appear fully clothed on the stark black and white cover, in contrast to the once seen, hard to unsee, centre spread of their second album, I found the band’s sound already pretty much established on the opening song “Nobody”, with some almost manic acoustic guitar, which effectively gets the album off to a good start.  The album sold poorly initially, allegedly being picked up by a mere handful of Californian hippies, yet listening to the album fifty years on, it’s every much as enjoyable as their later, more successful albums.  If anything, the Doobie Brothers were an important band in my mind, notably for pointing me in the direction of the other West Coast bands to follow, including Little Feat and The Eagles, opening an entirely new catalogue of albums that would in turn lead me to the likes of Jackson Browne, Jesse Winchester and Warren Zevon.

Nobody is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Crosby Stills Nash & Young – 4 Way Street | Atlantic 2400132/33 – 1971

I was a late comer to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, a band I only really noticed when I heard them on the triple LP Woodstock soundtrack, then a few years later on the actual Woodstock film, which I didn’t see until around 1977 on its second cinema run, at the Gaumont Theatre in Doncaster.  The band was literally all over the film, not only during their impressive acoustic stage appearance, in which they performed a pretty faithful “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, which I later discovered was edited and overdubbed to make it sound as good as it does, making me think that it probably sounded lousy on the night, but also through the use of such tracks as “Long Time Gone”, “Wooden Ships” and a rocked-up version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”, which was played through the closing titles.  This double live album is far from disappointing, with performances that really show off the talents of four individuals rather than an actual band, which CSN&Y never really was.  It actually sounds like a live album should, complete with the odd audience encouragement from Graham Nash and one or two mid-song giggles.  It doesn’t sound at all like a bunch of musicians who would go on to fall out and engage in infantile squabbling throughout the years to come.

Cowgirl in the Sand is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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The Doors – LA Woman | Elektra EKS 75011 – 1971

This was the final album by the Doors to feature Jim Morrison, recorded a year before he went off to Paris to drink himself to death.  It’s pretty much back to blues for the most part, though the album does feature one or two show stoppers, such as the sprawling “Riders on the Storm” and the equally sprawling title cut.  “Love Her Madly” is probably the most commercial song on the album, which was released as a single, going on to reach number 11 on the Billboard singles chart in 1971.  Fifty years on and the LP can be found once again in record shops around the world, with a rather more expensive price tag than, let’s say the band’s self-titled debut or The Soft Parade, which is probably due to the sleeve that features a transparent window, the yellow background being the record’s inner cardboard sleeve.  Classy.   

Love Her Madly is included on this week’s edition of the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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All reviews and features by Allan Wilkinson unless otherwise stated