Issue 8

Lady Nade – Willing | Self Release

It seems that every once in a while a voice comes along to stop us in our tracks, a voice that manages to convey just the right emotion for each of the songs; one moment deep and soulful, the next breathy and wistful. The third album by the Bristol-based Lady Nade features eleven songs that speak of friendship, love and loneliness, each song accompanied by a delicious acoustic arrangement and with each of the musicians involved contributing their bits from afar due to the lockdown, yet fully engaged as if in the same room.  It doesn’t take long before you feel that you might have known Lady Nade all of your life, a voice you can trust and with a delivery that makes you crave more once the album reaches the end.  From the opening title song, Lady Nade tells us that she is on our side, willing to comfort us, willing to listen, with no strings attached.  It’s a positive start to a positive album in less than positive times.  There’s been much heartbreak though, and “Complicated” comes over as a heartfelt letter to a lost family member, beautifully hand delivered, to a gently strummed guitar accompaniment.  There’s no question that someone is very much missed, however complicated these feelings are.  “You’re My Number One” is an almost dreamy love song, which takes us through an ordinary day with the anticipation of being reunited at the end of it, all of which makes a choice single from the album.  “One Sided” has a more contemporary feel, with some fine double-tracked vocals and a complex arrangement, one of the most inventive songs on the album.  Human relationships take centre stage in much of Lady Nade’s writing, none more so than “Call Yourself a Friend”, an eavesdrop on the end of a relationship, or perhaps two. In many ways Willing is reminiscent of Adele’s debut album, where the heart stays very much on the sleeve throughout the journey. 

Willing and Complicated are included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention festival postponed until 11- 13 August 2022

Fairport Convention. Simon Nicol, Gerry Conway, Ric Sanders, Dave Pegg and Chris Leslie

Fairport Convention have announced that their annual music festival, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, has been postponed for the second time.  The three-day event had been scheduled to take place on 12-14 August this year.  It will now be staged over the weekend of 11, 12, 13 August 2022 on its usual farmland site in Oxfordshire.  The organisers hope the current line-up of acts will be carried forward. Artists booked to appear this year have provisionally agreed to transfer their bookings to 2022.  Highlights are expected to include Trevor Horn Band, Clannad, Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited, Richard Thompson, and host band Fairport Convention. Festival Director Gareth Williams said: ‘We’re left with no other choice than to postpone our festival again.  We have reached the point where we’d need to spend big money but without any certainty we could go ahead.  The dilemma we are facing is simple – proceed and risk potentially going out of business or postpone for a year and live to fight another day.’

‘So far, despite over six months of lobbying, the government has failed to support any form of Covid-related cancellation insurance scheme for the festival industry,’ Mr Williams continued.  ‘Also, there has been no guidance on what mitigations might be required post Step 4.  This has made it effectively impossible to plan this year’s event.’  ‘Like the rest of the festival industry, we’ve tried everything we can to keep going but I’m afraid we would be placing Cropredy’s future in serious jeopardy if we were to go ahead.’ Mr Williams said tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021 will be valid for the rescheduled festival.  ‘Ticket buyers who can’t attend next year will be entitled to a refund,’ he added, ‘but we hope people will hang on to their tickets until next year.  This will help us keep the festival going throughout the coming months while we prepare a great weekend of music for next summer.’

Crowd on big screen looking back at itself (Photo: Charlie Bryan)

Anoushka Shankar – Love Letters P.S (Deluxe) | Mercury KX | Review by Liam Wilkinson

As the world was falling apart last year, an EP emerged which combined enchanting Indian classical music with modern songs of hurt and heartbreak.  Love Letters was the six-track result of two tempestuous years in the life of Anoushka Shankar, one of the world’s greatest sitar players and daughter of the late Ravi Shankar.  In the hands of other artists, the songs might have presented a difficult listen; these bitter tales of love gone awry were raw, emotionally naked and uncompromisingly honest. But when set against the enthralling, spine-fizzingly beautiful backdrop of Shankar’s sitar, the songs – penned in collaboration with the wonderful German-Turkish singer songwriter Alev Lenz – entered an otherworldly and gorgeously meditative realm, especially where the deeply moving vocals of such singers as Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Ibeyi and Nina Harries were provided.  But there was one crushingly disappointing thing about this EP. It was simply too short. And whilst I’d never wish hard luck on anyone, let alone one of my favourite musicians, I admittedly craved more of these powerful songs.  Thankfully, Anoushka has now released a deluxe version of the EP under the title Love Letters P.S., featuring a further four tracks to turn the senses of its listeners into colourful abstract paintings. The highlights from the EP are still shining bright, such as the bleak and haunting “Bright Eyes”, the achingly sad “Lovable” and rhythmically-hypnotic “Wallet” which, like many of the songs on the album addresses issues of feminism with more might and agility than a Bindel or Dunham could ever hope to achieve. Maybe they, too, should take up the sitar.  The album closes with the standout track, a new recording entitled “Opening, Flowering, Drinking” which not only features the most infectious of Shankar’s delicately unravelling sitar refrains, but also an arresting vocal from elder half-sister, Norah Jones.

Opening, Flowering, Drinking is included in the Whistle Stop feature on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Lillebjørn Nilsen Andy Irvine – Live in Telemark | Helio

The meeting on stage between the Norwegian folk singer and musician Lillebjørn Nilsen and his Irish counterpart Andy Irvine was apparently seventeen years in the planning.  Having first met in the mid-1970s, the two musicians made a vow to get together at some point in order to play and that moment came on 13 November, 1994 at the Telemark Festival in Norway, which has been captured here in a fifteen song set.  Irvine confessed to being nervous before the show and at times this is still evident, notably on “Stewball and the Monaghan Grey Mare”, formerly “The Plains of Kildare” the opening song on Irvine’s collaboration LP with Paul Brady first released in 1976. In this live recording, the singer seems to be chasing his words in a couple of places, though the playing is of a high standard throughout the concert, with material taken from both their respective solo repertoires.  Nilsen’s unaccompanied “Vidvinkel-Stev” or “The Photographers” is apparently hilarious, though as it is delivered in Norwegian, it’s impossible to know exactly what’s going on.  “Fort Gjort a Glemme” or “East to Forget” is likewise hilarious, in that a ragtime tune delivered in anything other than a southern states accent, is almost redundant – but that might be a somewhat elitist opinion.  There are one or two excellent moments though, particularly Irvine’s reading of “My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland” and his own tragic, yet evocative coal mining ballad “Prince Among Men”.

A Prince Among Men is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Duncan Lyall – Milestone | Red Deer Records

Known for his almost subliminal presence on stages up and down the country (and further afield) as a member of Kate Rusby’s band and also through his work with the festival-storming powerhouse that is Treacherous Orchestra, Duncan Lyall puts aside his trusty double bass and reaches for the Moog synthesiser in order to create some highly inventive soundscapes, borrowing from the tradition, whilst eliciting the assistance of some of the bright young things around him, not least Lori Watson, whose ethereal voice helps bring some of these pieces alive.  Describing his overall sound as ‘cinematic-folk-electric-a-rock-funk’ (prefixed by an all important hashtag), Lyall embraces a plethora of sounds and styles to create seven lengthy pieces, each of which aims to reflect key moments in the musician’s life so far.  That’s his job, while ours is to listen attentively and to keep up with him.  Commissioned by the Celtic Connections festival in 2019, Milestone provides a rather accomplished end result, a fine follow up to his debut solo album Infinite Reflections, which was released a good eight years ago.  “Twa Corbies” was originally intended for Lori Watson’s own album but was nabbed for this one instead, after it was considered too different in feel from the other songs on her album.  The song finds a welcome home here, dove-tailing seamlessly between the breath-taking arrangements of “Barnacarry Bay”, a veritable opus of musical ingenuity and “Roli”, a piano-led piece written especially for Lyall’s musically savvy rabbit, which features some fine interaction between the musicians involved, notably the fiddle and electric guitar.  The album ends with “Titan”, a piece inspired by Lyall’s teenage Glastonbury experiences, possibly during late night sets by the Orbital, but I’m only guessing here.

Twa Corbies is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

John Hinshelwood – Called Back | Littleroots Records

This sixth solo album by Scottish singer-songwriter John Hinshewood sees the musician tackle, in both songs and instrumentals, the poetical works of Emily Dickinson.  Pretty much a collaboration between Hinshelwood and Dickinson, albeit a century and a half apart, the words are treated to gentle musical accompaniment, aided and assisted by a gathering of informed musicians.  There’s something of The Eagles about “The Sun”, the first song on the album, which is probably due to the lap steel guitar and the gentle breezy acoustic feel, topped by Cathryn Craig’s harmony over the top of Hinshelwood’s convincing “Best of Our Love” Don Henley. There’s never a sense of forced fitting here and each of the poems make a surprising transformation into song with little use for a shoehorn, in fact in places, it’s easy to forget we’re listening to poetry from an entirely different era, notably “Hunger”, which is as contemporary to the West Coast music scene of the 1970s as it probably was to the East Coast literary scene of the 1870s.  Throughout the album Hinshelwood is joined by his regular band with contributions from the likes of Laura-Beth Salter (The Shee) on mandolin, Australian fiddle player Jeri Foreman and BBC Young Musician of the Year David Bowden, together with one or two vocal contributions courtesy of Cathryn Craig, Barbara Nesbitt and Mairi Orr. 

Hunger is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Murray McLauchlan – Hourglass | True North Records

Perhaps not quite as well known over here as some of his contemporaries, the Canadian folk singer Murray McLauchlan has in fact collected no less than eleven Juno awards, together with the Order of Canada, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and a place in the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame; so, no slouch and that’s for sure.  With over twenty-five albums under his belt and a prolific back catalogue of songs, McLauchlan’s latest release Hourglass features a further ten originals to add to his achievements.  Bang up to date with its subject matter, with a tender nod towards George Floyd in “I Live on a White Cloud” and a wry observation on  our current obsession with COVID in “Pandemic Blues”, the songs appear to be rather more personal and political than previously.  With a small gathering of musicians, Al Cross on drums, Victor Bateman on bass, Burke Carroll on steel guitar and Vezi Tayyeb on keyboards, Hourglass was recorded midway through the pandemic, and comes with a clear message, as inscribed on the sleeve ‘I wish that love would win wherever hate is found’, a line from the album closer “Wishes”.  Well, Amen to that.

Pandemic Blues is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Various Artists – Party for Joey | True North Records

Subtitled ‘A Sweet Relief Tribute To Joey Spampinato’, Party for Joey is a celebration of the music of the singer, songwriter, musician and co-founder of NRBQ, the vintage rock band that first burst onto the scene way back in 1969.  Responding to a call of help after Spampinato fell ill with cancer, a bunch of notable musicians offered up their services and embarked on the recording of a bunch of Spampinato songs especially for their old pal, which has resulted in this fourteen track album.  Bonnie Raitt is on top form on “Green Lights” both vocally and through her distinctive slide guitar playing, while none other than Keith Richards joins Ben Harper, Charlie Musselwhite and others on the funky “Like a Locomotive”, which chugs along deliciously for all of its four and a bit minutes.  Almost midway through this veritable feast of joyous rock and roll, Zooey Deschantel delivers “How Can I Make You Love Him”, which could easily have rubbed shoulders with the early 1960s hits of The Teddy Bears and the like.  Perhaps the most unexpected contribution on the album is Penn and Teller’s reading of “Plenty of Somethin’”, which features Penn on both upright bass and Tom Waits-like vocal.  With other contributions from Peter Case, Steve Forbert, Los Lobos and the Minus 5, Party for Joey is a party to remember.

Green Lights is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Pilgrim – No Offense, Nevermind, Sorry | Horton Records

The new album by the Tulsa-based band Pilgrim is immediately accessible, largely due to its lilting opener “Darkness of the Bar”, a fine acoustic song of mild desperation, where the light of the song’s heroine Marie is continually obscured by the darkness, a metaphor perhaps for these times.  Where is the light?  Where is the tunnel’s end?  Beau Robertson, whose side line is wrestling (apparently), owns each of the eleven songs, with“Kate” being the only non-original, all of which are delivered with honesty and conviction throughout.  Self-taught, despite his mother being a piano teacher, Robertson began his journey after picking up his first guitar at the age of fourteen, an unexpected heirloom, which he took to heart.  Some of that has now manifested itself on this fine release.  Recorded at Leon Russell’s former Paradise Studio at Grand Lake in Tia Juana, Oklahoma, Roberson surrounds himself with a trustworthy bunch of musicians, John Fullbright on keyboards, Paddy Ryan on drums, Aaron Boehler on bass, Stephen Lee on guitar and Jesse Aycock on some pretty fabulous steel guitar, notably the quirky fettles on the opening song.

Darkness of the Bar is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

HAV – Haar | Polpols Records

Having been slightly spoiled by the initial single release of “The Alabama”, reviewed in Issue #6 of the Northern Sky Review, which features the voice of Iona Fyfe, one of the rising stars of the Scottish folk music fraternity, the eagerly anticipated debut full-length album by HAV doesn’t disappoint.  Experimental at its core, Haar features just six extended compositions, each rich in atmosphere and each unrushed in order to capture the essence of each voice, each instrument and each sampled sound.  HAV (Danish for ‘Sea’), is made up of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alex Ross, fellow multi-instrumentalist and producer Jonathan Bidgood and bass player Ian ‘Dodge’ Paterson, who between them create an almost otherworldly sound, rich in texture and depth.  The vocal on “Saint-Valeri” sounds not unlike the ghost of Gerry Rafferty, with some haunting backwards effects adding to the ambient soundscape.  The album is enhanced further by one or two guests, including the aforementioned Iona Fyfe and Dr Laura Lindsay, who reads the Eeva Kilpi poem “Rakkaus on Lepo (Love is Rest)”. Musically explorative, intriguing and rewarding; there’s every possibility that you didn’t know you wanted to go to the places that this album can take you.  Vocalist Bridie Jackson appears on the concluding track, duetting on the extraordinary “A Garten Mother’s Lullaby”, which sounds a little like a duet between June Tabor and Iarla Ó Lionáird in another lifetime.  Gorgeous.

Elli De Mon – Countin’ the Blues | Area Pirata Record | Review by Marc Higgins

Elli De Mon, for the last decade has been a force to be reckoned with across Europe with her personal take on the blues.  During her pregnancy Elli wrote Countin’ The Blues Indomitable Women, a book about female blues artists of the 20s.  With the book published Elli decided to record the songs she wrote about, in tribute to these great writers and performers.  “Prove It On Me” is a raw, vital piece of barn blues, built around  the funky hammer drum best and dirty slide guitar that has served Seasick Steve so well.  Elli’s take on Bessie Smith’s “Blue Spirit Blues” has a touch of the genuine disturbing about it.  De Mon’s vocal, solo, or double tracked is whispered and conspiratorial over fuzzy guitar. This crackles wonderfully with the log cabin dimly lit Gothic edge of PJ Harvey or Nick Cave.  That brooding stomp and edge runs through “Downhearted Blues”,  Alberta Hunter sounds melancholy and well downhearted, Elli seethes and sounds like she’s going to get even.  The vocals are down in the mix, creating atmosphere and fuzz, but the visceral emotion pours from the music. “Shave ‘Em Dry” has another of those ancient blues vocals and a superb guitar riff that brings out the air rhythm player in the listener.  This is another passionate salute to the spirit of the queens of the blues, not some scowling Essex Delta dwelling Art School drop out affecting a sneer.  “Dope Head Blues” adds some unexpected exotic atmosphere as Elli uses the sitar as a blues instrument, creating some genuine folk blues on the Indian instrument, behind some fine vocals.  Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train” is played straight on a nimble acoustic, with De Mon’s delicate vocal finding a Greenwich Village Coffee Bar delicacy and beauty in the song.  Laid bare and turned down Elli still holds our attention completely.  “When The Levee Breaks” with an infectious rhythm foot and some stunning guitar picking is another acoustic delight. The guitar carries the strong rhythmn pulse while the voice breathes a quiet storm. “Wayward Girl Blues” is a rich piece of Folk Blues, nimble slide guitar, a fine vocal and what sounds like old school washboard percussion combine perfectly.  “Trouble In Mind” is taken slow with every nuance and inflection wrung out of those guitar notes.  The vocal when it arrives is vital and authentic this is someone who has lived it and is channelling the spirit.  The electric tracks breath a new one woman band layered energy into these old songs, steeping them in passion and fire.  The acoustic tracks crackle with a more smouldering intimate power, just as much torque, just less glow from the valve amps.  This album demonstrates that De Mon is intimately familiar with the original artists and the stripped back original versions, while also showing that she can run with that spirit to create something ancient and modern. Add a little crackle and these could be the queens Elli is, saluting. Loud or quiet, electric or acoustic the mix is, intoxicating and a powerful listen.  Watch the YouTube video for Bessie Smith’s “Blue Spirit Blues” and be drawn in.

When the Levee Breaks is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Ross King – Gentle Home | Self Release

Recorded at home on an old Yamaha eight-track recorder, the four songs appear to channel the spirit of Elliott Smith, whose almost whispered ethereal voice seems to permeate all eighteen minutes of this EP.  Almost dreamlike in places, notably on the lead song “Shape of Our Love”, which is accompanied by a finger-style guitar sound reminiscent of mid-period Bert Jansch, around the time of Bert’s short-lived acoustic band Conundrum, though updated to include electronic effects rather than the flute and fiddle playing of the late Martin Jenkins.  King is in no hurry to demonstrate a broad range of repertoire here, but is content to present four similar sounding songs, each of which reveal his distinctive style rather than his eclecticism.  There’s little doubt that the listener will come away completely aware of where Ross King is coming from in terms of feel.  Relaxing, comforting and almost meditative, Gentle Home is an indication of a burgeoning talent who ought to be heard.

Shape of Our Love is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Talisk – Aura | Self Release

With two critically acclaimed albums already under their belt, the Scottish power trio Talisk return with a brand new single release that appears to sparkle with raw energy.  The combined talents and sheer musical dexterity of concertina wizard Mohsen Amini, fiddle player Hayley Keenan and guitarist Graeme Armstrong, combine to soar through this six-minute instrumental, which encompasses both light and shade, the upbeat and the downbeat, the raucous and the soothing, to create a piece of breath-taking brilliance that has the ability to lift us out of the dreaded lockdown miasma we find ourselves in with a firm foot down on the pedal and hopefully into a bright new future.  Well at least that’s how it feels.  With a string of dates now planned, including several festivals, Talisk are poised to sprinkle some of their own very special aura upon those music hungry audiences out there, if all goes well that is.

Aura is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Holly Lerski – Carmel/Mighty Big Sur | Laundry Label

In collaboration with Bonnie Raitt’s bassist James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, the Norwich-based singer/songwriter Holly Lerski releases this new double A sided single, both songs set in the endless sunshine of California’s coastline, its beaches and its mountains.  On “Mighty Big Sur” Holly plainly confesses that she actually belongs there, a daughter of the iconic California coastal region.  Originally conceived while on tour with Crosby Stills Nash, Hutch’s tune is transformed by Holly’s engaging lyrics into an anthem to the picturesque coastal and mountainous area of the Golden State, somewhere between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon.  There’s a longing in Holly’s tone, which is almost tangible.  Likewise, the flipside of this is “Carmel”, which offers a love song to the Monterey area, whilst sharing a message bordering on homesickness.  The two songs appear to be inseparable and should perhaps be played on rotation and preferably on repeat. 

Carmel is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

E.W. Harris – Bad Ghost | Hanging Dilettante Records

The high falsetto vocal on “Bad Ghost”, in which Harris addresses the symbiotic spirits within, is perfect for this song, as are the Laurie Anderson voice effects, which would normally jar to be honest.  The contemporary feel and steady build, that effectively creates tension throughout the song, gives the single some considerable punch, something the Brooklyn-based musician seems perfectly at home with.  Underestimating the potential popularity of the song, the physical release sold out almost immediately, with the highly melodic song becoming something of a memorable curiosity, although I dare say, few will be able to sing along in quite the same key, or indeed in this chosen octave.  I look forward to hearing more from this burgeoning contemporary artist.

Bad Ghost is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Rickie Lee Jones – Last Chance Texaco | Grove Press

When Rickie Lee Jones emerged from the shadows in the mid to late 1970s to take her rightful place in the spotlight, bringing to our attention such songs as “Chuck E.’s in Love”, “Easy Money”, “Coolsville” and “The Last Chance Texaco”, little was known of her troubled back story, her formative years of growing up beneath the ‘pink and yellow and blue’ skies of the California desert, her wonderfully colourful vaudevillian grandparents, the various orphanages that were home to her parents, her subsequent dysfunctional family life, through to her various teenage rebellions and family tragedy, all of which would later play an important part in her personal journey into adulthood, with all the usual drug-fueled shenanigans and ongoing alternative hippie lifestyle.  In Last Chance Texaco; Chronicles of a Troubadour, the title taken from the song of the same name but also the premise that the singer, songwriter, chanteuse and relentless beret wearer, spent most of her life in ‘cars, vans and buses’, proceeds to pour out her earlier memories with some force, in fact mention of her critically acclaimed eponymous debut LP of 1979 doesn’t get a whiff until chapter eighteen, more than three-quarters of the way through.  Within these pages, Jones is candid, honest and almost casual in her descriptions of growing up and her subsequent brushes with fame, her apparent disdain of being compared to the likes of Joni Mitchell, claiming the only similarity to be that the two are female blondes, together with her open proclamation of an almost obsessive love of The Beatles and West Side Story. Along the way, we are also allowed to eavesdrop on a series of intense romances, on/off relationships, one night stands and brief encounters with the likes of Tom Waits, Lowell George and Van Morrison among others.

Jon Hassell (1937-2021)

The American trumpet player and composer Jon Hassell emerged from the experimental jazz world in the 1960s and is best known perhaps for his musical explorations into what he later described as the ‘Fourth World’, a ‘unified primitive/futurist sound’ that combined world traditions with electronic techniques.  This series began with Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics, a collaboration with Brian Eno in the 1980s.  Over the subsequent years, Hassell has collaborated with many leading musicians including Peter Gabriel, Ry Cooder, Talking Heads, Ani DiFranco, the Theatre of Eternal Music and Tears for Fears.  Born in Memphis in 1937, the musician once said that he was proud to come from the home of the blues, though instead of following in the path of such bluesmen (and women) as Frank Stokes, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis and Memphis Minnie, Jon diverted his attention to the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, before moving to Cologne to study under Karlheinz Stockhausen, taking the composer’s electronic piece, “Gesang der Jünglinge” as an inspiration.  Jon Hassell died from natural causes on 26 June.  He was 84.

Donovan at the Great British Folk Festival in 2010

Andy Cutting at the Greystones in Sheffield in 2010

Anna Coogan at the Wheelhouse in Wombwell in 2010

51. Martin Simpson – Golden Vanity (Trailer LER 2099 – 1976)

When Martin Simpson wrote ‘Best Wishes, Martin Simpson, 32 years on’ across the reverse of this record sleeve, I realised that it had indeed taken the best part of three decades for me to get him to sign it.  I’d seen the guitarist on stage at least a dozen times before I shoved this particular record under his nose prior to a show in Rotherham, midway through changing the strings on his two guitars.  “I always change my strings before each show” he revealed, going on to say “Paul Simon apparently changes his strings before each set!”  Although I already had a good few Martin Simpson LPs by this time, each dutifully signed, it occurred to me that I should really complete the set and have him scribble on this one.  It was during the time when the old LP format had virtually disappeared in favour of the comparably dull CD, almost undeserving of a signature.  Bill Leader produced this particular LP, while Barbara Dickson wrote the sleeve notes, referring to the guitarist as a ‘strong and original new talent’.  Golden Vanity features both traditional and contemporary material, notably Martin’s original version of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927”, which he would later re-record for the CD generation.

52. Various Artists – Bumpers (Island IDP1 – 1970)

I don’t actually recall where I picked up the Bumpers double sampler LP from, quite possibly Ken’s Swap Shop along St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster.  Unlike Foxes Records, where you could listen to new records in one of their little wooden sound booths before deciding to buy, you had to take your chances at Ken’s.  Sampler albums were by far the best way of hearing new bands and artists at the time and I always felt that the label was more of an attraction than the actual music within.  If the sampler was on the Harvest label or Chrysalis, Charisma, Vertigo or indeed Island, then the content would almost always be guaranteed to hit the mark.  This particular double sampler LP was my introduction to the likes of Nick Drake, Mott the Hoople, King Crimson, John and Beverley Martyn, If, Blodwyn Pig and many others, although I was already well aware of Cat Stevens, Free and Jethro Tull by the time this LP was released.  Most of the tracks were recorded in 1970 but I dare say I picked up this album a little later.  It’s still a record I like to pop on the turntable every now and then, which always takes me right back to the early Seventies.  I also had my own pair of ‘bumpers’, an almost obligatory item of footwear.

53. The Jimmy Giuffre Trio – The Train and the River (Atlantic Special 590011 – 1958)

One of the most memorable moments in the film documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival is the opening title sequence, where familiar names such as Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, Chuck Berry and Mahalia Jackson (to name but a few) are credited over several arty shots of the Newport Riviera, where abstract rippling waters can be observed, while the Jimmy Giuffre Trio play their iconic cool jazz hit “The Train and the River” at breakneck speed.  I can’t remember where I first picked up this LP, most probably a dusty old second hand record shop in Yorkshire, but I do recall being slightly disappointed at the relatively slow pace of the title track, being used to the Newport live version.  The trio in both the film and LP versions feature Giuffre on sax and Jim Hall on guitar, although the bottom end differs slightly with Bob Brookmeyer in the film playing trombone, while Ralph Pena plays the bass on this LP.  I’ve subsequently warmed to the slower, more deliberate version here and tend to feel the live version too rushed.  A little snippet from the tune also features on one of the tracks on the debut LP by Bert Jansch.

54. Whippersnapper – Promises (WPS WPS001 – 1985)

By the mid-1980s, I was pretty much immersed in the local folk club scene in Doncaster and eager to assist in helping to book some of the great acoustic acts in the country at the time, artists such as Martin Simpson, Martin Carthy, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, Jo Anne Kelly and such like.  When Dave Swarbrick’s new acoustic band Whippersnapper burst onto the scene with their debut album in the mid 1980s, they quickly rose to the top of my wish list and I, along with a bunch of friends, arranged for the band to come and play for us at the Corporation Brewery Taps on Cleveland Street close by the town centre.  They were probably one of the most exciting bands on the scene at the time and I made every effort to see them as often as I could during their existence, especially when they were a four piece, which also included Martin Jenkins, Kevin Dempsey and Chris Leslie.  The band provided many good memories and as a live band, they were in a league of their own, although I do confess to playing their albums rarely these days. 

55. Tim Buckley – Happy Sad (Elekra K42072 – 1969)

The first time I saw Tim Buckley was on the Old Grey Whistle Test, performing his version of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins”.  Being an almost fanatical devotee of The Monkees back in the late 1960s, I would have undoubtedly seen Tim perform “Song to the Siren” in episode 68 of their zany cult TV show, but it probably wouldn’t have registered at the time.  It would’ve meant nothing to a ten year-old fan of the pre-fab four, eagerly awaiting the next hilariously childish skit.  In the 1970s, Tim Buckley would pop up on sampler LPs here and there such as Elektra’s Begin Here, therefore I would’ve been aware of one or two songs by then.  I didn’t actually take notice until later, when I discovered the real genius of this performer on his second album Goodbye and Hello, released in 1967.  This led directly to the third and still my favourite, Happy Sad.  This album is probably Tim’s most atmospheric album, which shamelessly borrows from the cool jazz of Miles Davis in places and in my opinion never really ages.  A good starting place for newcomers.

51. Lennon/Ono – Instant Karma (Apple 1003 – 1970)

When I first heard John Lennon’s single “Instant Karma”, performed on Top of the Pops way back in 1970, I was immediately struck by the power of the performance and its dominating drum fills, courtesy of Alan White, not to mention the song’s uncompromising lyrics, while the freshly shorn Yoko attempted something typically ‘arty’ on a stool between her husband and bass player Klaus Voorman.  Once I got hold of the single itself, which I picked up from Fox’s Records shortly afterwards, I was delighted with the fact that Apple had printed ‘play loud’ in bold capitals on the label, as if I had to be asked twice, and something I certainly did once I had the record on the turntable.  The B side however, Yoko’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?” had ‘play quiet’ printed on the ‘cut apple’ side to which I took one step further and didn’t play at all.  The single seemed to herald in the end of the Beatles and the arrival of a new musical dawn, which as we all know, wasn’t to last that long, with all the in-fighting and animosity between Lennon and McCartney and finally the tragic murder of the musician in New York just ten years later. 

52. Frijid Pink – The House of the Rising Sun (Deram DM288 – 1970)

I first became aware of the Detroit band Frijid Pink in the late 1960s when I first heard their re-working of this old American folk song.  Bob Dylan had a bash at the song on his debut LP back in 1962, which was apparently based on an arrangement by Dave Van Ronk.  A couple of years later, The Animals recorded possibly the definitive version of the song, which featured the late Hilton Valentine’s guitar arpeggios and Alan Price’s driving Vox Continental organ.  However, tastes were changing by the late 1960s and rock music had reached a new level, with a much harder sound beginning to develop.  Frijid Pink, a band formed in 1967, recorded this psychedelic version of the song as an almost throw away recording, having found some spare time left over in the studio.  The single went on to be played on UK radio quite a lot in 1970 the year of its release and reached number four in the UK charts.  

53. Duncan Browne – Journey (RAK 135 – 1072)

I was just fifteen when Duncan Browne’s uplifting acoustic classic “Journey” hit the charts in 1972.  Trained as a Classical guitarist, the English singer-songwriter’s unusual style seemed to provide a welcome change to some of the pop fodder around at the time, in fact the single was voted the most unusual single of the year.  During the summer of 1972 I was on holiday in North Wales with a bunch of friends from my local youth club and this bedsit song became pretty much the soundtrack of that life-changing week; little wonder that the song, with its beautifully cascading classical guitar patterns still resonates with me to this day.  Duncan Browne released five albums in his short life and is also responsible for the music for the TV series Travelling Man in 1985.  Many of his songs have also been covered by such artists as Patti Smith, Ian Matthews, Colin Blunstone and most notably David Bowie, who recorded his song “Criminal World” back in 1983.  The singer died from cancer in 1993 aged just 46.

54. Carly Simon – You’re So Vain (Elektra K12077 – 1972)

The first time I heard Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” was without doubt on Radio One in 1972, yet my abiding memory of the song was listening to it almost constantly via the jukebox in the subterranean bar beneath the  Silver Link pub along Bradford Row every Friday night throughout 1973.  There was something about the song that found favour among everyone around that time, inviting multiple suggestions of who the song might be about. Carly Simon herself revealed Warren Beatty to be the most likely candidate, though rumour has it that it may also have been Mick Jagger, in part confused by the fact that the Stones’ front man also sings on the chorus.  Produced by Richard Perry and taken from Simon’s best selling album No Secrets, the iconic guitar solo was played by Jimmy Ryan, who claims it was recorded in one take, though Perry disputes this.  The equally iconic bass part was played by Klaus Voorman, which has subsequently been sampled, notably on Janet Jackson’s “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)”.  “You’re So Vain” is one of those songs that immediately transports me back to 1972 quicker than a DeLorean DMC-12.

55. Fairport Convention – Now Be Thankful (Island WIP6089 – 1970)

The first time I heard the folk rock outfit Fairport Convention was via a Track sampler LP, which featured the earlier “If I Had a Ribbon Bow”  featuring the voice of the late Judy Dyble.  The Island sampler Bumpers, released a little later, featured the infectious chorus of “Walk a While”, both songs which drew me in as a curious observer.  Within a short period of time I had the band’s retrospective double LP set, The History of Fairport Convention, which in turn introduced me to such songs as “Fotheringay”, “Crazy Man Michael” and “Matty Groves”.  One of the songs included on History was Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick’s hymn-like “Now Be Thankful”, with Swarb taking the lead vocal.  Tony Palmer’s contemporary film documentary Live in Maidstone 1970 featured the Full House line-up performing this song, while army helicopters circled above the festival site.  The single, which was released on the original pink Island label, is curious in that the B-side has one of the longest titles in the history of 45s, (deep breath) “Sir B. McKenzie’s Daughter’s Lament For The 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat From The Straits Of Loch Knombe, In The Year Of Our Lord 1727, On The Occasion Of The Announcement Of Her Marriage To The Laird Of Kinleakie”.  The A side however restricted its title to the much more label conducive three words, thankfully.

Playlist for Show 01.07.21 (#528)

Green Lights – Bonnie Raitt and NRBQ (Party for Joey)
Hunger – John Hinshelwood (Called Back)
Willing – Lady Nade (Willing)
Bad Ghost – EW Harris (Single)
A Prince Among Men – Lillebjorn Nilsen Andy Irvine (Live in Telemark)
Carmel – Holly Lerski (Single)
Cafe Regio’s – Isaac Hayes (Shaft)
Stormy Monday – Allman Brothers Band (At Fillmore East)
Opening, Flowering, Drinking – Anoushka Shankar (Love Letters P.S (Deluxe))
That Is All – George Harrison (Living in a Material World)
Darkness of the Bar – Pilgrim (No Offense, Nevermind, Sorry)
Complicated – Lady Nade (Willing)
Shape of Our Love – Ross King (Gentle Home)
Pandemic Blues – Murray McLauchlan (Hourglass)
Twa Corbies – Duncan Lyall (Milestone)
Fireball – Deep Purple (Fireball)
When the Levee Breaks – Elli De Mon (Countin’ the Blues)
Aura – Talisk (Single)

The Allman Brothers Band – At the Fillmore East (Capricorn 2659 039 – 1971)

It’s really a testament to the Allman Brothers Band’s credentials as a first rate live outfit that their third album release should not only have been a live album, but a double live album at that.  Having already released two fine albums, their eponymous debut in 1969 and its follow up Idlewild South a year later, this third outing featured recordings made at the legendary Fillmore East in New York City on the 12 and 13 March 1971.  There’s just seven songs on the album, two of which, “You Don’t Love Me” and “Whipping Post”, take up an entire side each.  The cover epitomises the live album as we see Jim Marshall’s photo of the band stretched out in front of all their sound equipment, presumably around the back of the venue, with the crew treating themselves to a beer.  The album is considered one of the best live albums of the period, matching the reputation of The Who’s Live at Leeds and Humble Pie’s Performance, Rockin’ the Fillmore, recorded at the same venue a couple of months later.

Stormy Monday is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Isaac Hayes – Shaft (Stax 2369 007 – 1971)

In 1971, soul music was pretty much non-existent in my small collection of 45s and almost certainly bereft of such items on my LP shelves.  I was at the time a rock music nerd through and through and therefore soul music was avoided wholesale.  I was however a relatively small time fan of Isaac Hayes and already had a copy of the Isaac Hayes Movement LP, which featured an eleven minute version of the song “I Stand Accused”, which I couldn’t stop playing, especially late at night, possibly inspired by some of the blaxploitation movies I was seeing at the time.  Once the single “Theme From Shaft” hit the charts, I went in search of the album.  It was a double album and therefore out of my reach financially at the time and therefore I resolved to borrow it from a pal, who possibly didn’t quite realise the extent of the duration of this particular loan.  Once I did come up with the funds to buy my own copy, I returned the album to its rightful owner and proceeded to wear out my own copy.  Strangely, to this day, I’ve never seen the film.

Café Regio’s is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Deep Purple – Fireball (Harvest  SHVL793 – 1971)

Fireball sits on the shelf between two iconic rock albums of the period, Deep Purple in Rock, released in 1970 and Machine Head from 1972.  Sandwiched in the middle is the much weaker and less credible Fireball, which was not quite as fulfilling as either its predecessor or its successor, yet it did have one or two memorable moments, not least the title track, which starts with what was presumably aimed at being a fireball sound effect as the extra terrestrial object soars through the galaxy, though the actual effect is nothing more exciting than an air conditioner being switched on.  I saw the band during this period at the City Hall in Sheffield, with its most memorable line-up of Ian Gillan, Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice.  This album comes out rarely, yet it’s always good to hear the title track and “Demon’s Eye”.  “Strange Kind of Woman” is probably the most memorable track of the period, though it didn’t appear on the album originally, being released as a single instead.

Fireball is included on this week’s Vaults radio show.

Playlist for Show 20.06.21

Plains of Kildare – Andy Irvine and Paul Brady (Andy Irvine and Paul Brady)
Wyoming Wildflowers – Rachel Baiman (Cycles)
Eliza Jane – Nick March (Swing Your Partners EP)
The Italian Job/Lodge Road – Rod Stradling (Treacle and Bread)
Rigs of the Times – Lunatraktors (The Missing Star)
She Rules My World – Nick Harper (Harperspace)
Scotland Yet – Robin Williamson (Ten of Songs)
Songbird – Moulettes (The Bear’s Revenge)
Minnie – Padraig Jack (Single)
Penny the Ragman – Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry (Purple Kittens)
AUATC – Ally Forsyth (The Longest Night EP)
For Real – Celtic Social Club (Single)

Much more can be found in our extensive archive by clicking on the panel above

All reviews and features by Allan Wilkinson unless otherwise stated