WHERE DOES THE TIME GO INDEED!

Yet again, half a year has flown by and I am only now returning to this WordPress blog! Since my previous post, I have completed the Brighton Marathon along with my daughter – a truly wonderful and memorable weekend. No records were broken but ‘one’ was received when I was met at the finish by Eleanore of Eleanore and the Lost whose album ‘Parlour Games’ (reviewed here previously) had impressed me greatly during my months of training. She has strong links with WWF and had written a theme song for the organisation’s 50th anniversary.

With the marathon out of the way I jumped at the chance to return to the cross-country mountain bike tracks at Glentress – I managed to cycle non-stop to the start of the main downhill sections only to have my ‘reward’ spoiled when the rear derailleur broke just as I set off down! After free-wheeling back to the car and inspecting the bike I came to the conclusion that too many other bits were on their last legs to justify repairs. I am now making the most of the new replacement.

Our lovely grand daughter is now 18 months old and continues to bring delight to our family.

With regard to community radio, ABC has returned as North Highland Radio, allowing me to keep ‘Views From The Edge’ going. Some ex-collegues from Generate Radio have also established a home-based broadcasting system creating Scotland Online Radio. ‘Views From The Edge’ is now broadcast twice a week, on both www.northhighlandradio.co.uk and www.scotlandonlineradio.co.uk

I recently had the great privilege of helping out with gathering interviews for a special programme to chart the history of the Borders LGBT Group who recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. This will be broadcast at the end of LGBT Pride Week, and available thereafter as a listen-again link.

http://td1radio.com/celebrating-30-years-of-lgbt-in-the-borders/

I anticipate that I will continue to be busy, particularly with community radio; I will consider how practical is is to keep this blog updated.

More soon???


‘DOWN AND OUTS’ IN HAWICK, SPAT EP LAUNCH NIGHT

Friday 18th October found me travelling across the Scottish Borders, through a very dark evening complete with driving rain – my destination being The Station Bar where I was eagerly anticipating an evening of punk excitement. The occasion was the launch of local band Spat’s EP, ‘Down And Outs’, a truly great offering that contains a varied range of exciting songs – with no attempts to conform to current populist trends.

As the opening act got things started around thirty minutes after the billed starting time I wondered if there might be a knock on effect at the other end. Any such concerns were quickly dispelled as I found myself thinking about bands such as Sham 69 – having travelled up from Cumbria, No Thrills managed to trash the myth that ‘punks can’t play their instruments’; their set was very extremely tight and presented a great combination of skillful metal guitar played by a cowboy boot wearing giant alongside a rockabilly styled bass player, supported by a tiny powerhouse of a drummer; all fronted by a combat short and boot wearing singer with short red mohawk hair whose Ian Dury style moves kept the audience enthralled. If I had one criticism, it would be that the sound had been turned up beyond what the room could sustain; the instrumentals remained crisp and clear but the vocals had less clarity. Having said that, the intent behind the lyrics remained crystal clear. This was something that I reflected upon when driving home after the gig whilst thoroughly enjoying Natacha Atlas signing in Arabic (which I definitely don’t understand)!

The second band up were the reason I was there, local band Spat had impressed me from my first hearing – following the departure of Angie, this was to be their first performance with new bass player, and they were also joined by a trombone player who fitted in perfectly. I was very impressed by their ability to inject tremendous enthusiasm into their music. Each song was delivered well, and the idiosyncratic addition of the trombone added greatly to the overall effect. The band quite clearly relished their moment in front of the audience and it was a pleasure to see the smiles on their faces as they gave it their all! Having a personal mention during the introduction to my ‘track of the month’ ‘Robot’ certainly added to my appreciation of their set!

Splinter came, in parts, from Glasgow and Fife and added yet another dimension to the evening – very political and angry, they rattled through a number of quick fire songs, many ‘for the government’ as introduced by front man Dek. The bass player particularly caught my eye, he either had extremely long arms or was somehow enabled to pull off an exceptionally distinctive low-slung playing stance.

To close, The Zips kicked off – a crisp, sharp and tight sound, very reminiscent of The Clash! Their drummer may not win any prizes for delicate subtlety, but he more than made up for that with out and out brutality – no way was anybody in the room going to ignore the drumming! Further to my earlier concerns, the band were requested to cease playing shortly after midnight, around half way into their set. They went ahead and played one more song but wound up after that. Speaking to singer Johnzip afterwards he recognised the need to stick to local arrangements in order not to alienate neighbours so that future band nights might be allowed to continue thereby denying a local audience further opportunities to experience such electrifying music.

All credit must be given the Hawick ‘Underground Army’ for their dedication in striving to bring such excellent bands into the Scottish Borders. I look forward to seeing more of a similar style and standard in the future.


ELEANORE & THE LOST ‘PARLOUR GAME’

In these days of instant gratification, streaming playlists, downloading individual tracks and shuffle players it is such a joy to come across an album that very definitely deserves to be listened to in its entirety, and sequentially starting with track 1. The songs do stand on their own and certainly suffer no significant loss by being listened to in isolation. A number of them also have very well produced and atmospheric videos to accompany them and a search on YouTube will result in a very pleasant viewing/listening experience. The title track opens the album, with a minimalist clock beat rhythm followed by beautifully enunciated naïve vocals that I found to be rather timeless, and had me recalling a number of bands that I had enjoyed listening to way back in the 1960s. The lyrics encourage the listener to put on a mask and explore – thus we begin our ‘parlour game’ that chronicles a journey of self discovery. Shortly the minimalist piano and cello opening develops depth as extra elements are added to the mix. “Don’t be afraid, put on your mask and let’s play.” The time signature of this has prompted me to pay more attention to other music that I listen to as it strikes me that this waltzing rhythm sounds so unusual – just how uncommon is 3/4 time?

The crystal clarity of Eleanore’s vocals is further showcased in track 2 where it is augmented with some powerful electric instrumentation – “there’s something here that yearns, and something more that drives”. Next, track 3 ushers in hints of middle eastern influences that are reminiscent of some of Natacha Atlas’ work;“wrapped in dark, I dream away.” Instrumentally this third inclusion takes the listener back to a more gentle piano and strings combination.

Track 4 is distinctly ‘Evanesence-esque’, and a bit darker, ”there are demons in your soul and they’re tearing you apart” – once again it features a multi-layered and powerful, heavy yet melodic, rock supporting instrumental foundation on which Eleanore’s exquisite voice builds and continues to amaze. The rock motifs are progressed with track 5 which reverts to a more reserved and thoughtful delivery; yet the hint of something more driven, bubbling away just below the surface, keeps letting its presence be known.

A short instrumental interlude echoing the opening track marks a distinct change in the album’s tone – “everything that lies ahead remains a mystery” – as the songs become distinctly less rock orientated, with echoes of Madonna circa ‘Erotica’, and Gwen Stefani becoming audible. This change offers a chance to fully appreciate the full range of Eleanore & the Lost’s skill and creativity, whilst the signature symphonic/operatic sound continues to provide the thread that unifies the wonderful collection of songs; “I am starting to believe, and I feel wonder filling all of me”.

The intelligent lyrics are beautifully nuanced, and effortlessly reflect Eleanore’s personal development and journey through life. ‘The Key’ is a lovely uplifting and inspirational anthemic prelude to the richly textured closing track. “Now I can see what you’ve hidden from me – I’m trapped in the beat, the music’s taken hold of all of me – I’m learning who I am, and she’s stronger than I’d guessed – strange how I thought that I knew you”. The more I listened to ‘Parlour Game’ the more I heard to intrigue and fascinate me; the broad variety of the songs is truly wonderful, Eleanore’s stunningly entrancing four octave voice, and its lack of fast paced tracks results in a rather uplifting yet relaxing listening experience.

FOOTNOTE:

Life seems to be full of coincidences; regarding this album, another one arose when I read the accompanying Press Kit. I am currently in training for the Brighton Marathon in April 2014 to help raise funds for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); I was pleased to discover that Eleanore was specially commissioned to compose the theme song for WWF’s 50th anniversary – the result piece being ‘A True Nature’ – off now to track that down.

1/ Parlour Game (La danza d’amore)

2/ The Calling

3/ Even More

4/ Demons

5/ Everything

6/ Interlude – La danza d’amore

7/ Hidden Wings

8/ Synthesized

9/ Magical

10/ The Key

11/ Strange

Eleanore – all vocals on all tracks

Parlour Game / string arrangements – Eleanore and Adam Pain, drums & keyboard programming Adam Pain, strings -The Holywell String Quartet (Verity Evanson, Kathryn Riley, Gemma Sharples, Amantha Wijesekera)

The Calling / drum programming, keyboards & bass – Adam Pain, guitars – James Betteridge

Even More / all instruments – Adam Pain, bowed double bass samples provided by Nik P.

Demons / all instruments – Roger Davis

Everything / drum programming, keyboards & guitar – Adam Pain, additional guitar – James Betteridge

La Danza D’Amore Interlude / string arrangement & harp programming – Eleanore, strings – The Holywell String Quartet

Hidden Wings / all instruments & additional vocals – Adam Pain

Synthesized / all instruments – Roger Davis

Magical / all instruments – Roger Davis (originally inspired by ‘Barnes’ by c_housel

Strange / string arrangements – Eleanore & Adam Pain, drum programming, keyboards & synth bass – Adam Pain, guitars – James Betteridge

The Key / all instruments – Roger Davis


SPLINTER ‘HISTORY’

It’s really quite refreshing to be reminded that some musicians and bands are more than happy to remain faithful to their beliefs, both musical and political, as they aim to avoid chasing passing trends. Splinter offer an excellent blend of no nonsense streetpunk delivering a carefully considered critique on today’s society and politics. Fourteen short snappy tracks (plus a bonus one) – driving and insistent, defiant and immediate. This is energetic unpretentious in your face punk that ranks with the best. There are no technically stunning virtuoso instrumental performances, but then again that would be so out of place, just solid and tight, driving guitar, bass and drums.

Stand out tracks on first hearing are ‘Technology’s Lies’, ‘Keyboard Cowards’, and “dedicated to the government” as introduced by Dek when I witnessed them live – ‘Imbeciles’, “the world’s being run by fools”. The album ends with a special bonus track that begins at a slower pace than the rest, initially it sounds as if it will be a bit more laid back but the lyrics reveal a much darker side and the tone of the track changes – the title ‘Night Clubs’ is absolutely nothing to do with an enjoyable night out in the city – it is about the culling of young seal pups.

Shev – bass

Dek – vocals / drums

Rik – guitar / vocals

1/ History

2/ Fashion Victims

3/ Flashback

4/ Tecnnology’s Lies

5/ Cut The Crap

6/ Anticipation

7/ One Of The Same

8/ Keyboard Cowards

9/ Cloud Of Regret

10/ Era Collapse

11/ Forget

12/ Imbeciles

13/ Got A Feeling

14/ Last In Line

15/ Night Clubs

facebook.com/razoredgerecords


SPAT ‘DOWN & OUTS’

“The liars keep on lying and the triers keep on trying and the ones who don’t have fun they all refuse ……… the show-offs keep on showing and the know-it-alls keep on knowing and the posh ones keep on looking down their nose ……… so rise up high and look them right in the eye ……… you gotta fight for the right to be you!” (Fuckwits)

Nestled in the rolling Scottish Borders hills is the mill town of Hawick, famous, amongst other things, for its quality knitwear and rugby; it gained national headlines a few years back over a row about whether or not ladies could ride alongside men in the town’s historic Common Riding, and more recently as a result of having a district in ‘GTA V’ named after it. It now deserves a further place in the headlines as a result of the efforts of some dedicated local musicians. Spat’s line-up may have changed since they recorded this excellent EP but the band have been able to make up for Angie’s departure by incorporating Tazz on bass, and Cozzy with his trombone!

They bill themselves ‘Punk Rock, Riot Grrrl/Boy Madness from The Scottish Borders!’ In years gone by the ‘Border Reivers’ freely roamed around the area regularly criss-crossing an almost irrelevant border, these historical raiders are now replaced by many talented musicians. Spat add to that pool of talent and offer an exciting alternative to help increase the diversity of live music that can be enjoyed in the area. Despite working hard to help bring other similar bands into the area, it seems that there remains a certain reluctance to accept bands that are not prepared to restrict themselves to more traditional folk/rock, or churning out cover versions of favourite songs. In fact it seems that many venues quickly lose interest when the words ‘perform their own songs’ are mentioned – such a shame that people are denied opportunities to experience and appreciate original talent.

The lyrics of the opening track, ‘Fuckwits’ sets the scene for what is to follow; recognising that we are surrounded by many different ‘types’ of people, some positive and others negative – the message is, ‘what is most important is to be true to your own beliefs, stand up and be proud’. Listening to this I was reminded of a wonderfully vivid part of Simon Armitage’s ‘Black Roses (The Killing Of Sophie Lancaster’ where ‘Sophie’ lists the range of humanity that passes by outside the flat that she shared with boyfriend Robert:

“We could bolt the door

and keep the world out

or watch the world

as it wondered past,

in all its glory, beautifully mad,

all the nightshift workers and daylight shirkers,

the mods and rockers and emos and moshers

and joggers and bikers and slackers and slickers

……………………………

and the dog-walkers and the dawdlers,

all the late starters and the early risers …

all the human race in its crazy parade.”

Sophie and Robert were attacked because of their alternative dress/culture; I find it extremely refreshing that bands like Spat continue to advocate personal choice and freedom rather than become absorbed by some boring ‘normal’ standards.

The EP continues with ‘No Thrills’, a short and snappy number that would would have been very much at home back in the early days of punk, but still sounds fresh and current to me! ‘Robot’ so impressed me that I featured it as my ‘track of the month’ for October, there are shades of Poly Styrene as Hay powerfully delivers another heart-felt plea for self-belief and honesty – “just take off your mask and be free!” The penultimate track is ‘S.A.D.’, the opening bars of which remind me very much of early Black Sabbath, it soon develops a distinctive character that showcases the band’s instrumental skills – it certainly puts paid to any suggestion that punks cannot play their instruments! The lyrics are intelligent and thoughtful too, which is another thing that appeals to me. Finally, ‘Snobs’, another song with a clear message of self-belief and anthemic hook, “I don’t backstab and I don’t bullshit ….. I’m more real than you’ll ever be.” During initial hearings I was getting a ‘misheard lyric’, “I don’t back down and I don’t bullshit”, which might be misheard but probably wouldn’t be misplaced.

This band’s enthusiasm is really quite infectious and they truly deserve to be given a fair hearing – having seen them live I can also confirm that they are equally proficient and exciting outside the recording studio.

Hay – vox, guitar

Ainz – guitar

Angie – bass

Ryan – drums

1/ Fuckwits

2/ No Thrills

3/ Robot

4/ S.A.D.

5/ Snobs


TOM PERLONGO ‘ALL TIED UP’

Tom is extremely passionate about his music. Strongly influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa and Eric Clapton this album brings a selection of original compositions to complement his earlier ‘Blues To The Max’ release. His timeless blues sound includes a contemporary edge as he works his way through a range of songs that demonstrates his range of skills; his masterful guitar playing is a perfect accompaniment for his deep soulful voice.

I have been lucky enough to have been kept informed about the development of this album which makes this release so much more special for me. I previously reviewed ‘Blues To The Max’ and have been able to hear Tom’s music develop from interpretations of other writers’ songs to a greater focus on his own writing. Whilst there is always a place for well played and inspired covers, I have to admit a strong preference for original work and this album doesn’t disappoint. The range of songs contained here is enhanced by the input from Jan Carroll Gregory who shares writing credits on two of them, ‘Hoochie Coo’ and ‘Little Miss Lucky’. Tom is an extremely accomplished guitar player, favouring a special ‘Violator’ as produced by Haywire Custom Built Guitars; his voice could equally have been ‘custom made’ for blues. I can readily imagine Tom and band playing these live in some smokey basement bar, less likely in real life due to indoor smoking bans here in the UK, but smoke of not I’m sure that a great night would be had by all. The songs range from quirkly up-beat numbers, through much more laid back slower ones and includes the extremely poignant tribute to Tom’s late father, ‘Rock My Tears Away’. This album is very much a labour of love and has a great deal of emotion invested in it.

I can easily see’All Tied Up’ helping to increase Tom’s audience, and look forward to hearing more new songs in future.

1/ I Can’t Sleep

2/ Hoochie Coo

3/ All Tied Up

4/ Walkin’ Shoes

5/ Poison In My Eyes

6/ Little Miss Lucky

7/ She Loves Me

8/ Paper Thin

9/ Rock My Tears Away

10/ Stogie Smokin’ Woman


FERAL CONSERVATIVES ‘BREAKS AND MENDS’

Living in the UK and being amazed by the desperate machinations of our current Con-Dem government I was immediately drawn to find out more about a band called Feral Conservatives. I have to admit that what I discovered didn’t quite match my initial expectations; but I certainly wasn’t disappointed and am glad that the name caught my eye and caused me to click further! I had expected something dark, angry and punky with lots of ‘gnashing’ teeth melded with thrashing, discordant, feedback ridden electric guitars! Whilst there are definitely some hints of anger and discord, what is offered in this album is a very different beast indeed. Feral Conservatives are a multi-instrumentalist duo, Rashie and Matt, who describe themselves as playing mandolin-based indie rock with an aggressive edge and a soft bottom (although neither of them will admit to having the soft bottom).

Somebody once told me that the use of a ukelele would automatically bring a smile to her audience’s faces – the prominence given to the mandolin by Feral Conservatives adds an equally positive enhancement to this album. The selection of songs is intriguing and provides ample opportunity for Rashie and Matt to demonstrate their diverse talents. ‘Control’ is a great opening track that grabs attention – dropping the mandolin, ‘Golden Coast’ follows nicely on whilst the next tracks in sequence move pleasingly towards my latest ‘track of the month’, the delightful ‘Haven’t Given Up’. I do love the vibe of ‘Can’t Do This’, but there is a crucial aspect of the lyric that means I will have to avoid playing it on radio – sometimes ‘radio edits’ can work but I fear such treatment would be a step too far and would crucially spoil this song.

Rashie and Matt must be commended for producing an excitingly diverse album that suggests much more is to follow – I eagerly await future developments, but in the meantime will continue to revisit and immerse myself in this wonderful offering.

Rashie Rosenfarb – vocals, mandolin, piano, bass

Matt Francis – drums & percussion, guitar, organ

1/ Control

2/ Golden Coast

3/ Brighter Dawn

4/ Friends Bail Always

5/ Recycled Parts

6/ Haven’t Given Up

7/ Can’t Do This

8/ Captivated

9/ Hourglass