Woods – Sun and Shade
Random thought for the day. I wonder if Jeremy Earl uses reverb on his voice when calling at the local shop to buy a bottle of milk? Anyway, away from such ridiculous notions, it’s impossible to mistake his distinctive vocal on “Sun and Shade” although the production proves less lo-fi than previous outings. This in no way does this detract from the fabulous and diverse album on offer, the melodic psychedelic folk leanings apparent as ever, enhanced by tape technician G. Lucas Crane incorporating eccentric soundscapes. “Pushings Only” the perfect introduction to the Woods, featuring more invention and innovation within the last ten seconds than most bands muster in a whole album.
60’s and 70’s influences are also apparent however within “Sun and Shade”, “Any Other Day” The Byrds on a bad acid trip and “Out of the Eye” pure Neu. “Sol y Sombra” hinting again towards Kraut Rock, on this occasion including a Black Sabbath rendezvous circa Planet Caravan, while Ravi Shankar drops by to burn incense and share a joint. At every turn it seems another folk based artist and album appear, while Woods may be categorised within that genre, ultimately they are individualistic and unclassifiable which can only be commended. www.myspace.com/woodsfamilyband
Jo Dudderidge commented last month, “The Travelling Band are unfashionable and probably always will be,” the same applies to Nitroville. Their blues based hard rock won’t fit with the indie kids, the teeny R & B fans or whatever genre happens to be flavour of the month in the latest edition of the NME. Surely however, music shouldn’t be about fashion, a good band is a good band and Nitroville are a bloody good band. If there’s a better sound than a distorted Gibson Les Paul, I don’t think I’ve heard it and guitarist Kurt Michael Boecks delivers to the absolute max. His guitar work is the proverbial relentless freight train and as Nitroville proclaim “Can’t Stop What’s Comin” and why would you want to.
Lyrically, vocalist Tola Lamont and Boeck are far removed from their London base, titles of “Cheating the Hangman,” Mississippi Wide Boy”and “Dust Devil” infinitely more Dallas than Dagenham although bemoaning inner city depravation or the current state with regards the national debt wouldn’t quite fit the sound, so who can blame them. If I have any criticism of “Can’t Stop What’s Comin” while Tola Lamont gives a great performance with her fabulously bluesy voice, on occasions it comes over as slightly reserved, suggesting more power is available. Just go for it girl, hit us with everything you’ve got. More evident, a few of the endings are slightly limp even studio fades, c’mon guys, you’re a self described rock / fkn / roll band, where are the big finishes? “Cheating The Hangman” especially, literally crying out for a cacophonous massive rock finale. These are minor grievances however, “Can’t Stop What’s Comin” is a complete release of an album, finding me zippin up my (cowboy) boots, going back to my roots, sticking the CD in the car, cranking up the volume, dropping those windows, playing it loud and playing it proud, exactly how Nitroville would want it. http://www.reverbnation.com/nitroville
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On 40th Anniversary
To celebrate 40 years since the first appearance of “What’s Going On” a super deluxe edition has been released by Universal music including a fully remastered version of the original album with the original mono hit singles, a rejected, “no strings” mix of the title track, several post-album outtakes; his single sequel, “You’re The Man”; and a series of recordings, mostly instrumental, produced in Detroit before Gaye followed Motown to Los Angeles. “What’s Going On” is regarded as a musical landmark , constantly topping charts as one of the greatest album’s of all time. So, easy review time, all I need to do is echo the praise showered on a brilliant album.........well, not quite.
As a collection of protest songs recorded in the early 70’s by a major black artist, against the wishes of label boss Berry Gordy who’d already experienced tremendous success with a particular brand of sexy soul , “What’s Going On” was an incredibly brave and commercially risky statement. It’s impossible to criticise the motives, the passion and the sheer ideology. The subject matters within the lyrics are compelling and I’m sure to many at the time, controversial. Anti war themes sit alongside poverty, drug abuse and pollution, all delivered by that incredible voice. So why have I never been able to connect with “What’s Going On”. Simply, it’s the music. Apart from the title track I find the arrangements tedious and disjointed.......there, I’ve said it and await the hate mail and vilifications. Yes, there are some wonderfully funky bass lines going on, but apart from that, nothing attracts, I become very agitated listening to this record, distracted from the strong lyrical themes. The fact a majority of the bonus tracks on the deluxe version are instrumentals, doesn’t bring me any closer to understanding it’s absolute reverence.
Admittedly, “What’s Going On” is a collection of songs everyone should own, a tribute to a man prepared to put his career and possibly even his life on the line for the sake of everything he believed in, commenting forcefully and fervently on a time in America’s history of major political and social unrest. I just wish it a bit more listenable. www.marvingayepage.net
Light For Japan – Various Artists
It’s inspiring to find a Chinese Label, Handshake Records releasing a compilation album in aid of victims of the Japanese Tsunami especially as historically, relations between their home country and Japan have been, shall we say, strained over the years. Proof once again, music crosses all boundaries, geographically, politically and culturally. “Light For Japan” includes artists from many regions of the globe including the U.K, U.S.A, Switzerland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and in Lullatone, Japan itself, providing their services completely free.
Apart from the tremendous cause the album supports, “Light For Japan” stands up as an excellent collection of predominantly indie music. A jangly opening from Manchester’s Answering Machine with “Animals” followed by Mudkiss favourites Exile Parade contributing an acoustic version (including false start) of “I’m Not Famous” a track taken from their soon to be released debut album. Away from our shores, there are further highlights, the ethereal shimmering beauty of “Sun Is Alive” by Latvia’s Tribes of the City, math inspired twists and turns from both Hong Kong’s Chochukmo and China’s Sparrow, along with the psychedelic riffery and feedback induced chaos of South Korean’s, Vidulgi OoyoO. Add a wonderful piece of artwork designed by Kap Cheun and you have an album worthy the relatively small investment.
Anything helping the survivors of the Tsunami rebuild their lives is worthy of support, add in a great record, you really can’t go wrong. link
Vintage Trouble – The Bomb Shelter Sessions
Like the majority of people in the U.K aware of L.A’s Vintage Trouble, my first introduction came from an incredible performance of “Blues Hand Me Down” on Jools Hollands Later show, a better example of dynamic rock n soul you’ll never see. The self confessed influences of Otis Redding and Led Zeppelin completely apparent within the vocal execution of a manically gyrating Ty Taylor and virtuoso incendiary guitar work of Nalle Colt. The performance had me literally drooling at the thought of an albums worth of soul infused heavy blues rock, even the title “The Bomb Shelter Sessions” suggests sturdy headwear required before an aural assault of cataclysmic proportions, although the reality proves distant from that ideal. While this is a good album, the further nine tracks slightly disappointingly never reach the sheer exuberance of “Blues Hand Me Down.” A more refined, sultry direction is incorporated, “Still and Always Will” hinting toward “Mustang Sally” and “Gracefully” emphasizes Taylor’s gorgeously controlled vocal. “Run Outta You” brings Colt to centre stage, his guitar work on the track truly outstanding.
Having had the privilege of seeing the band live however, it becomes apparent a recorded album is merely a shop window, a display to provide interest in exploring further and deeper. On stage, this band and these songs come alive. I had a similar experience with early Thin Lizzy albums, another outfit unable to capture the brilliance of the live performance in studio conditions.
My advice......buy the album as an introduction, access, their website below and discover a show nearest you, head out and experience exactly what Vintage Trouble are all about. 'The Bomb Shelter Sessions' is released on July 25th.
Kevin Ridley – Flying in the Face of Logic
After spending many years behind the desks, engineering and producing for various metal bands, including the massively influential Venom, Kevin Ridley decided rather than being a part of the back room staff, he’d prefer the opportunity to assume a more central role, accepting vocal duties with another band he’d produced, Skyclad, after Martin Walkyier left in 2001. After two albums with the folk metallers, “Flying in the Face of Logic” finds Ridley releasing a solo album, while to a certain extent a continuation along the same road as Skyclad particularly 2004’s “As Semblance of Normality” primarily he takes a more personal turn towards his native North East, utilising intelligent, unambiguous lyrical themes around his memories. “Well I’m back here on the North East shores, same cold wind still whips my face, where I kissed the girls when I was seventeen” from “De Profundis (Back Home Again) or “Jostling queues outside a nightclub, shoulders, tits and arses rub” “Still Lucid After All These Beers” enhancing Ridley’s clever wordplay, again very much a Skyclad trait.
Musically, Celtic influences to the fore, edging generally away from the heavier band aspects, focusing more on traditional folk fundamentals which provides an agreeable enough listening experience, although without sufficient depth or originality for the “Flying in the Face of Logic” to ultimately be conspicuous from the crowd.