Thursday, 30 June 2011
Greetings and salutations my most excellent friends.
Just a quick update to let you know I haven't forgotten about all of you (19 to be exact) I have loads of upcoming reviews both album and live as well as a few pieces that will probably slide over into the insanity bracket of my site, as various topics are punched into my keyboard by my white knuckled hands as I sit wide eyed and bushy tailed cackling to myself as I lonely debate the merits of whether I actually hate outside music festivals or simply just hate people trying to convince me that "getting back to the basics" is somehow better for my soul than a warm bed and electricity.
reviews in the pipeline include Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power and gig reviews from the amazing Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
keep those eyes peeled for updates...
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 15:17
Monday, 27 June 2011
So the news has finally hit the cyber stands that pioneer of funk and all round multi talented star Sly Stone is soon to be making his way down the comeback trail with a new album titled ‘I’m Back! Family and Friends’ which on first perusing looks suspiciously like a bunch of other acts playing already famous Sly & The Family Stone tracks while Sly probably mumbles a bit during the chorus.
This isn’t a new album as such. It is a patched together collection of recordings by friends and associates of Sly that still have some kindness and goodwill left in their hearts for him and hope that by letting him use their own likeness and name to help push this album hopefully it might spur him onto to getting clean and making something worthwhile.
Although his recent arrest for cocaine possession would suggest that any personal goal of re-claiming the crown he once held is slipping further and further as the years go by (and just to give you an idea of how many years have gone by the iconic and seminal album ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On’ was made nearly 40 years ago!)
Some of the tracks on the album include ‘Dance to the Music’ (featuring Ray Manzarek from The Doors), ‘Thank you (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)' featuring Texas Blues Guitarist Johnny Winter and ‘Hot Fun In The Summertime’ featuring Funk legend and bassist Bootsy Collins.
Now full judgement will have to wait until the album is released and each track digested properly but I think just from the environment and situation Sly has been in both mentally, chemically and possibly financially (according to news reports) I don’t expect much and if anything all these tracks will do will be to push fans and newcomers alike to dig out the original versions and realise that Sly Stones talent and ability although possibly still within him are as dormant and defused as his own star.
With his last studio record ‘Ain’t but the one way’ being released in 1982 to a critical firing squad and contender for worst cover version for his pointless and totally misguided recording of The Kinks classic ‘You Really Got Me’ the 3 ‘new’ songs that are being included to the new album I’m willing to bet will fall into 1 of 2 categories, 1) Pointless and meandering Funk workout or 2) vaguely familiar re-writing of one of his previous hits like the last 3 solo albums he released were packed full of.
Throughout pop music history trends come and go and although great artists can weather the storm of contemporary music and fashion and still make quality work for both themselves and their own fan base nobody ever stays ‘on top’ forever, not to say these artists don’t continue to make excellent work or still pack the crowds at their live shows but even a band such as The Rolling Stones would find it impossible to beat their early 70’s run of albums, stature and gigs; even with their own shows growing in size and numbers since then and their newer albums never embarrassing them against their contemporaries their moment in the sun has been and gone for the number 1 spot. The same has happened with Sly Stone, ‘I’m Back?'...who's waiting?
Sly Stone’s recent gigs have been shambolic at best and although with mid flickers of beauty throughout it seems that sometimes life imitates art.
“Stand! You’ve been sitting much too long, there’s a permanent crease in your right or wrong” (Stand! 1969) Sly & The Family Stone
‘I’m Back! Family and Friends’ -Is released on the 16th August through
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 15:14
Friday, 24 June 2011
‘The Blackbird Diaries’
When I initially got given this record to review I’m sure like most people of my age group Dave Stewart was known purely from The Eurythmics and for songs like ‘Sweet Dreams (are made of this)’ and other 80’s synth pop songs. Where as the album before me is one that may indeed raise a few Botoxed eyebrows and one that will collect a new fan base altogether as Dave has gone country and left his Casio key-tar at home.
‘The Blackbird Diaries’ are a new collection of songs that lean towards a more mature country and blues format and is one different from anything Stewart has attempted in his past. Rather than do the typical Armani suit and a Stratocaster schtick that artists such as Eric Clapton have provided us with, he has decided to make the songs the focal point while still opting to use a stripped down acoustic based line up, with only pedal steel and Hammond organ adding the required flourishes to the finished product.
The album includes many guest artists such as Martina McBride, Colbie Caillat and Stevie Nicks. The more cynical of us here know this to be a tried and tested way for an artist on the comeback trail, looking to make the big push back into the mainstream to help cast the fan base net wider than their own crowd by cramming the album with a lot of guest stars (stand up Carlos Santana and the 'Supernatural' Grammy rollercoaster) although I will say that each artist here plays their part beautifully and does warrant inclusion purely on their own individual merit.
It seems that ‘roots’ is a word and style of music that artists are reaching back for when they get to a certain point in their careers, artists such as Bob Dylan who once lead the market in the 'new' sound have decided to play the music they love and head back to the cradle of the blues, both live and in the studio. Where as in the 70’s everyone from John Lennon to Bowie and even The Band made albums of their favourite songs in between new albums of original material, with sometimes wonderful or half baked results, here we have what would seem to be a flick through the influences directly and a look back at the music that continues to inspire Dave Stewart, the man as well as the artist/performer.
Tracks such as ‘Alibi’ and the collaborative ‘Cheaper than Free’ with Stevie Nicks, show a real strong inbuilt talent to weave a melody over a simplistic musical template and still create something new and interesting. Stevie Nicks brings something special to their track and although her voice sounds more weathered than the classic Fleetwood Mac track’s she is primarily known for, there is a more plaintive and honest quality giving the song an overall heartfelt audio hug.
Other songs included here that make this a great album to listen to include the swampy New Orleans ‘One Way Ticket To The Moon’ with its accordion accompaniment and ghostly echoed backing vocals that is a welcome change of pace to the proceedings and straight ahead country styles of the previous songs before it.
Not all the songs are slow or medium tempo, Stewart turns things up on ‘Stevie Baby’ with its Keith Richards riff getting pulled out of the closet of licks and being used to full effect, as well as the fuzz guitar and honky tonk piano led ‘Beast Called Fame’ which I would guess could be a contender for one of the singles.
The track that seems to be getting the most press and raising the most questions from its author is ‘Worth The Waiting for’, this is a track Dave Stewart co-wrote with Bob Dylan in the 1980s and one that seems to be at home with the other material here, especially bookended with ‘Gypsy Girl & Me’ (which is pretty much the Traveling Wilburys ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ in everything but name). It’s not an amazing song by any stretch, when you consider each of the writers other material in their back catalogue, but it’s a nice example and has almost been included for posterity.
Overall throughout the album it seems to be very obvious that Dave Stewart may have indeed made the album of his career and when you stop trying to live up to an image and just simply embrace the music that you personally like the best, the results that occur will always be interesting. I can't imagine a record executive sitting around during the playback and clicking his fingers and discussing how many singles he thought would be required. Country music goes in and out of the pop fashion although during the late 90s and early 2000s alt.country was on the lips of every music magazine. Here we have a well made, well executed labour of love from the artist, one that gives the listener a handful of great tunes that will quieten down the most hardened fan from calling out for 'Sweet Dreams' every night.
'The Blackbird Diaries' is released on June 28
*special thanks to Beth Heath Netherton at Republic Media
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 13:49
Monday, 13 June 2011
I have been encased in a Herman Dune shaped bubble recently with this review to complete as well as an interview with the group followed up by a first hand account of their recent London show at XOYO in Old Street (to follow).
Strange Moosic is the 10th full length album from the current duo (although trio for this album recruiting bass player Ben Pleng). Like with some of their other albums, this one feels a little too long in places, mainly due to the average length of each track just pushing the 3 minute mark which in the classic pop sense seems perfect but due to the fact that a lot of the basic structures and melodies follow a similar pattern can in places get a bit samey and predictable.
The album starts with the lead single ‘Tell Me Something I Don’t Know’ and it’s easy to see why this was chosen as both the single and opener, with its strong and catchy hook and instantly brain worm chorus it is an instant fan favourite as well as highlight of both this album and recent live sets. The video for this also features current man of the moment and star of ‘Mad Men’ Jon Hamm and is one I’m sure will be getting loads of airplay and MTV exposure. There are other high points throughout the album including the track ‘Lay Your Head on My Chest’ which shows a definite maturity in both the writing and overall production as well as the folkie ‘The Rock’ which again, is fitted with a strong melodic hook that will bury itself in both your brain and whistle for the weeks ahead after hearing it. ‘In The Long Run’ shows the country influence of the band with a snaking pedal steel part that brings new flavours to this collection.
Lyrically the album and individual tracks own themes are similar, with lost love and relationships being the main source of inspiration. However, on occasion throughout some of the Dylan-esque, play on words and rhymes are too obtuse and misfire under the pretence of the stream of consciousness and flowing poetry target.
Sometimes the quickest route is a straight line and less is more.
The album is executed very well and musically it’s very full and arranged so every instrument is playing their own integral part to the songs themselves rather than simply holding their end of the responsibility up and instead provide a strong anchored cradle for the songs themselves. The best example of this is probably the end track ‘Magician’, which shows the bands individual playing styles and live chops in their best light and itself is a welcome change of pace.
As a fan of the group I can see a progression and continuum from album to album. As extra members and contributors have come and gone along the way, and over the course of the bands own journey, Herman Dune have still managed to forge their own distinct sound and style. This album was created as a ‘trio album’ and although it hasn’t hindered them as a group, I think some of the songs would have benefited from more complexity in their overall final renditions and would have helped break up the running order a bit better rather than the shopping list hit and miss final representation we have here.
'originally on 405'
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 14:30
Friday, 10 June 2011
Monday 6th June
XOYO – Old Street
HERMAN DUNE INTERVIEW
(Interview with Herman Dune, vocals and guitarist David-Ivar Herman Dune
And drummer, backing vocals Neman Herman Dune.)
Q)Strange Moosic is the new album, are you happy with the finished version? Did it turn out exactly as you’d envisioned it?
A)David – I am happy because it didn’t turn out how we imagined it, it turned out much better, it surprised us but we are happy that we got to that stage and it turned out like it did, that’s the magic involved. A lot of artists that we know record the vocals afterwards so they have time to work on parts and think about how it needs to sound, with us we record all live in the studio so you don’t have time to think about it to much, you just DO it, it’s like a sound picture.
Q) How was the recording process? Did you try anything different this time? Or are you pretty much experienced and well versed recording wise so it’s just a case of get in, tune up and get out…
A) David -I don’t remember thinking about it in that way although sometimes we’d play the songs through like a practice first of all and then we’d record them live in the studio as they happened and unfolded. When I write a song, with my guitar and voice I don’t even think about any other parts or how it would sound live and the song then takes shape on its own
Q) Do you like putting restrictions on yourself in the studio as well as on your writing? Due to the almost everlasting amount of options in today’s studios giving you/the band a million possible sounds and instruments.
A) Neman- Yes sometimes that is the case, although on this record there are a few keyboards on it, they aren’t big things on the overall sound but there were a few keyboards that Adam (producer Adam Selzer) had in the studio that complimented the tracks and sound that we hadn’t thought about it beforehand. But sometimes it happens yeah. Although we did really want to stick to the three piece format live environment recording idea we had at the start.
David- Both Neman and I don’t really think about the recording in the case of instrumentation too much. We just want the song to sound right, and we have noticed that this is a different process than with other people I have worked with that aren’t completely song based. With Herman Dune it’s never about what instruments we want to use, who’s going to play what instrument or whatever.
Neman- It’s the best way to be, just listen to the song and go from there.
David – I’ve always said it’s a fantastic experience working with him (Neman) if I was a drummer I would be more interested in what I’m going to be playing on the drum track and wanting to try a new groove or a new fill I’d learnt or created, but Neman has always been more song based, and paid a lot of attention to the overall music and lyrics and sometimes would even be the one to say “that’s enough, I don’t think I need to add anything else there”, just serving the song completely. I’ve played with other drummers and it’s rare.
Q) Some of your other recordings from the ‘Giant’ album onwards really featured a more groups recording with additional musicians. Where as live you seem to prefer a more stripped down arrangement of the tracks from this period, do you ever find this 2 piece restricting LIVE?
A) David - There is always a time for something, and then a time for something else and with this recording it was time for a trio album, we wanted Ben on bass (Ben Pleng) and record it as a trio album, sometimes we tend to change our minds halfway through although with this one we stuck to it throughout. It sounded better and better every day and we are really happy with the outcome.
Q) There are some YouTube clips up of you doing various covers, such as Bob Dylan’s ‘Just like Tom Thumbs Blues’ in Paris, would you ever rule out including cover versions on your recordings, it seemed in the 60s and before artists would cover songs on their albums regularly, the charts might even have the same song by 2 different artists out at the same time.
A) David – Yeah, I love playing Bob Dylan songs, I do it every day (laughs), actually in Paris recently they set up something for his 70th Birthday (Dylan) and were looking for bands to each cover a whole album as part of it and Neman and I have decided to cover ‘Shot Of Love’ and we’re going to work on it this year. Maybe it’ll be released next year, we want to use a gospel choir and really work on it. It’s one of my favourite albums of his, I think it’s a very sharp and cleaver album that teaches me a lot. I love ‘Blood on the Tracks’ too it’s great but to me this album just transcends a lot of things, every line almost say’s exactly what you want to say. I love it.
Q) As a group you are very prolific, writing and recording 10 albums in as many years, do you think that having this level of artistic freedom is something that you could have only got by being on an Independent label?
A) David – It sure gave us a lot of freedom being on an independent label, such as releasing 2 albums in one year. Although we have 2 albums that are on EMI (major label) and there was no pressure making those at the time, we didn’t notice any difference making them than we did making the others. It’s different for different bands I guess. Some have a really hard time with pressure from the label; and that can even be from Independents too, not just majors.
Q) What music do you listen to for your own pleasure?
A)(Both) – Bob Dylan! (Both laugh)
David – The Beatles too…just today in the van I was listening to ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Street Legal’ (Bob Dylan
Q) Are there currently any bands that you like i.e. bands that you have gigged with or seen on the circuit?
A) David -Sure,The Woes from New York, The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Nemen likes a lot of bands as well, he plays a lot of records
Q) You were greatly championed by John Peel on his show, do you think there is anyone else out there at the moment that is giving new bands (even unsigned ones) the spotlight and air time that he did?
A) David - I don’t think there could ever be someone else like him, or even similar to what he achieved. He helped us out so much, he was so unique and just played bands that he liked which is so rare for radio these days. His audience would be 16-60 year olds easily, and he was just so much into music. He was a champion of music and sometimes he didn’t even play a record in relation to the release date, he’d play old songs of ours or even brand new ones in no order, he might even play the same song twice just because he liked it.
Neman - We really admire him.
Q) Are you playing any of the summer festivals here in the UK?
A) David -Maybe the album came out a little late, so maybe it’s too late to get on some of the bills, we have some secret ones.
Neman - We can’t really talk about those though, although there should be some.
STRANGE MOOSIC was released on 6th June on Strange Moosic(records) through FORTUNA POP
Thanks to Lucy Hurst at butilikeyouPR
'originally posted on 405'
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 09:15
Friday, 3 June 2011
IC1s, Harrow based but clearly not a ‘Harrow band’, current and on the London scene but at the same time not a 2011 band at all. A North West London 5 piece interested only in the finer things in life and adamant to the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality which is both a blessing and a breath of fresh air to the ‘smash the formula’ bands of the moment as well as helping them form a strong fan base of like minded individuals that are either going to love the music straight away or dismiss it just as quickly with no middle ground to worry about. With a classic 5 piece line up of 2 guitars, bass, drums, vocals a new ‘experimental’ new sound or jazz odyssey free form track isn’t waiting in the wings, instead it’s a combination of power, hooks and a fair amount of blag thrown in for good measure. Reminiscent of the true manifesto of punk, the musical equivalent of holding a mirror up to the crowd and saying ‘we’re not just like you, we ARE you’ there is no gap between the two.
The influences are written through every chord and fill like a stick of indie Blackpool rock. Throughout gigs there aren’t going to be any surprises or obscure references to underground French garage bands thrown in, but for a band where ‘turn it up, count it off and floor it’ seems to be the mantra, it’s all about the right here and right now, they’re moving and going on ahead whether you follow or not. Whether it’s a gig at a Camden back room venue or playing to a few thousand people at an outdoor festival, IC1 take the stage like they’re filling the headlining slot at Live Aid and will make you feel it too. On more than one occasion I’ve seen the skinny trendy types in ‘ironic’ Pac-Man t-shirts with crossed arms watching from the back transported to the front of the stage by the 3rd song into the set, wide eyed a guilty pleasure? Or a wake up call?
Labels and industry folk may be quietly furrowing their brows about where IC1s are going to fit in the current music and marketing climate but in my opinion the only way to be a classic band is NOT to fit in with the current scene. You have to make your own scene or in the case of IC1s build on a scene that flourished previously in bands like The Stone Roses and Oasis and make it your own.
Currently earning their stripes and perfecting their musical chops on both the London circuit and up and coming festivals this summer (recently playing and triumphing at the Friends Of Mine Festival) the group is looking to cast it’s net far and wide, picking up fans wherever they arrive and with a non-compromising view of rock and roll that would make Liam Gallagher seem progressive. It shows the underlying strength of the band is connecting with the people that work a full time job and need a release on Saturday night. They aren’t about to become an Internet sensation or new flavour of the week down at the local student union. They are a band for people who struggle but still get up every morning to try and make their lives a little better…
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 10:47