Matt Andersen – Honest Man

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Matt Andersen
Honest Man
True North Records

Enough Sheffield Steel from Canada to Make You Cocker Happy.

I’ve loved Matt Andersen’s last couple of albums; and in concert at the Jumping Hot Club his raw dynamism and technical brilliance on the acoustic guitar is still talked about two years later; but nothing previously has prepared me for this album.
Opening track, Break Away made me do a double take; as it has a slightly Reggaeish list to it and the production makes Andersen’s voice sound a lot less raw than on previous outings. Plus it features backing singers on the chorus and a flute too.
Jump forward four tracks and it was Mrs. Magpie who made the penny drop about what was so different; “Is this Joe Cocker?” She asked.
Well; without actually sounding exactly like my favourite ever singer; the gold plated production and ace backing band allows Matt to deliver a series of exceptional songs in the manner of Sheffield’s finest son.
If pressed I would previously have referred to Matt as a guitarist who sings; but that is definitely not the case here; as it’s his magnificently rich voice that everything revolves around.
There are times here I was left open mouthed; I’m particularly thinking of the delicately beautiful I’m Giving In; which is basically just a piano and vocals; but Andersen’s voice goes off like an operatic Space Rocket at times while the piano playing could be Elton John circa Blue Moves (it’s that good).
The other was Last Surrender; again Joe Cocker sprang to mind; but this is as good as Matt Andersen has ever recorded and if there’s any justice will be a song that features in all manner of Award ceremonies in late 2016.
Another song; Let’s Get Back; baffled me at first and I certainly didn’t want to like it; mainly because it has ‘Electronic Beats’ alongside a banjo; but a week after first hearing it; the song manages to move me in a way ‘modern’ music doesn’t usually; and I certainly feel that by sticking with it; I’ve made a leap of faith that has been repaid handsomely.
My favourite song though; is the title track Honest Man. Somewhere between Andersen’s powerful presentation, a Stax-like horn section and lyrics that will tug at your heartstrings make for a raw Alt. Soul song like you’ve never heard before; well not since the heady days of Otis and Wilson Pickett in the 60’s.
I’ve played this album in the car on motorway journeys, at home while having dinner and/or reading and when it touched me most of all; lying in bed at 5am with headphones on when Andersen’s voice made me cry more than once.
I’m writing this on 31st December 2015 and I already know Honest Man will be a contender for my Album of the year 2016! It will take one Hell of a record to be better than this.

Released February 26th 2016

http://www.stubbyfingers.ca/

http://www.truenorthrecords.com/

Shipcote & Friends – Old Is Cool Again

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Shipcote & Friends
Old Is Cool Again
Low Fella Records

The King of Geordie & Western Swing Does It Again.

Every week in 2015 I received albums from all around the globe; some from household names and many from regional acts looking for a ‘leg up’; but none excite me as much as when Shipcote casually teld me he was sending a new disc.
I can’t even tell you why that should be; because most other albums of this ilk leave me a little bit nonplussed; but perhaps the way Shippy happily combines Western Swing, Gipsy Jazz and Old-School Blues with the occasional local theme; it tickles my fancy every time.
The album opens with a delightfully short instrumental; based around a piano accordion and a rumbling Rumba tune. Saltwell Park Lilt could go on forever for me; and while it’s named after a local park; it feels like a sunny walk in the park anywhere in the world.
Just when you are sitting comfortably, without a care in the world letting the music wash over you; Shipcote drops two smart-bombs, in the guise of the toe-tapping Carehome Blues and the big, bouncy and brassy Sometimes Your Up. It’s all too easy to pass these two songs by; but delve a little deeper and you willfind two eye wateringly, heartbreaking stories hiding within two jaunty tunes.
It’s very rare that a British songwriter can make our Cities and regions sound as romantic as they do in the Americas; but Graham manages just that in North of England. It’s so good; I’d pay good money to see him sing it live somewhere in the Colonies (or London) and hear the audience sing along with the catchy chorus. The NE has a new anthem!
While it may not appeal to everyone; but I absolutely love the track Football Focus. OK there’s a lot of blinkered music fans out there who hate the Beautiful Game; but those of us who are fans will smile at the recognition of many things he picks up on.
The title track Old Is Cool Again; will appeal to all of us of a ‘certain age’ (even those in denial) and for the first time on a Shipcote album, we get girly backing singers on the chorus. Couple that with our fella’s warm and friendly voice alongside that accordion again plus Bry never sounding finer on ‘Jazz’ guitar; we have a distinct winner.
By far my favourite track on a lovely album; is Mr. Wonderful. A delightful Country-Jazz ode with a tight tsh-tsh beat; that has had me baffled for weeks; as it must be about someone I actually know! But I can’t put all the pieces together to come up with a name; perhaps I’m thinking too hard about it and should just love it for what it is. Oh – I can’t think of another time someone has rhymed Excitement with Newcastle United; in fact it’s a long time since those words were even mentioned in the same sentence.
The album closes with a rather beautiful love song, Angel of the North (pt2) which may or may not be a reprise of the song of the same title on his previous album; but this one manages to reference the greatest Music Club in Christendom – ‘We Go Dancing at the Jumping Hot Club’ that apart; it’s a glorious story of long term love that could be about me and Mrs. Magpie.
For nearly 10 years now Shipcote; with or without his Friends has been my default setting for cheering myself up when things get bleak; and yet again he has somehow managed to surpass his previous offering and everything that has gone before it.

Released January 22nd 2016

https://www.facebook.com/Shipcote-Friends-136553633082250/?fref=ts

Alan Price – Savaloy Dip (1974)

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Alan Price
Savaloy Dip
Omnivore Records

The Great Lost Album from Geordie Piano Player.

As a child I loved Alan Prices’ hit singles; primarily because he was a local lad; and in some small way he was eventually the link to my discovering Randy Newman; so when asked if I was interested in reviewing a ‘lost album’ from 1974; I showed mild interest; but as soon as I saw the album title I screamed YES, YES, YES!
Apparently Savaloy Dip was recorded in 1974 when Price was at something of a career high; but apart from a (quickly recalled) release on 8-Track; the album never made it the shops, until those nice people at Omnivore Records found it gathering dust in the Warner’s vaults and thought it a curiosity worthy of International release
So, let’s start at the beginning; a very good place to start.
Very much ‘of its time’ the album opens with a typical Alan Price ‘talking Blues’ set to a Mamba Beat – Smells Like Lemon, Tastes Like Wine is the type of song that doesn’t really make sense; but will leave you tapping your toes and smiling like an idiot.
Several songs are definitely stereotypical Alan Price from that era; with interchangeable tunes from his and Georgie Fame’s back catalogue; but that shouldn’t deter you from enjoying Willie The Queen and Keep on Doing It, which have actually aged quite well.
After repeated listening; there are a couple of songs here that have really grown on me; Passin’ Us By is an easy-listening Jazzy tune, worthy of Jamie Cullum or even Ben Folds, if you ask me; and You Won’t Get Me is a rollicking R&B/Jazz hybrid that really showcases the Geordie Lad’s piano skills.
It’s still unclear as to why the album never saw the light of day; but with hindsight; and me being picky, I wonder if halfway through Alan thought he could turn a few songs into an autobiographical Concept Album; but never got it together?
Although Price was living and working in the US of A at the time; three songs in particular hark back to his Northern roots and show signs of a little bit of homesickness.
Poor Jimmy sounds as fresh as a daisy today in 2016; but could have been written at any time in the last forty years. The band sound red hot as Price gives it his all on an electric piano; as he regales us with a story of collier lad who is the cock o’ the walk and about to face his nemesis one dark Friday night. In it’s own way; this really is a song that is sad to think has languished in a vault all that time.
If you run with my theory And So Goodbye could easily sit in my ‘concept album,’ as could Keep On Doin’ It; which is a New Orleans stomper; but about a Friday night in Newcastle (I think!).
Then, we come to the title track Savaloy Dip; and if this isn’t a local lad feeling homesick; I will bare my backside in Fenwick’s window!
Why would the title be a deal breaker for me? Everyone in the colonies (and South of Durham) may well ask. Well; a Savaloy dip is a local delicacy in NE England and a source of cheap lunchtime nutrition for many years when I worked in a furniture shop in the 1980’s.
Bashing out a cracking R&B beat like the best pub pianist in the world; Price recalls Savaloy Dips, pork pies, pease pudding, Sunday afternoon trips and a host of other local ‘things,’ in a way I’ve only heard Van Morrison do without making it sound twee.
Then; of course there is the only song to beat the cull – Between and Yesterday, which closes this record but became the title track of the album that replaced it.
For once it is only Price singing while playing the piano; and still sounds absolutely stunning and could easily have been the song that kyboshed my ‘Concept Album’ as it sounds a totally new direction compared to the rest; and went on to bring him even greater success.
So; was the wait worth it? Yes and no, in fairness. The bulk of the album is certainly a period piece; but Price’s impressive songwriting, distinctive voice and a tip-top R&B backing band make it well worth a listen; and if you or yours hail from NE England I urge you to download the track Savaloy Dip at the very least.

Released 15th January 2016

http://alanprice.absoluteelsewhere.net/biography.html

http://omnivorerecordings.com/

 

 

Danny Bryant – Blood Money

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Danny Bryant
Blood Money
Jazzhaus Records

Damn Cool Blues of the Highest Quality.

I’ve definitely liked much of Danny Bryant’s earlier albums; but probably fast-forwarded to my favourite tracks, rather than listening to a whole album in one sitting.
That will change completely with this album!
In the past Danny has been guilty of trying to emulate his mentor Walter Trout by playing as loud and fast as possible – not necessarily a bad thing; but I always felt he had something in reserve that was Danny Bryant, pure and simple.
He gets the Walter Trout ‘thing’ out of the way on the title track Blood Money, which opens the album by getting the revitalised Walter to duet with him. The song is a brooding Blues Rocker of the finest order, with Master and Apprentice in fine form on guitars and in the vocal department too.
But; it’s when producer Richard Hammerton lets Danny fly free that we hear the very best from him.
There are less out and out ‘Rockers’ here than I’d expected; with Sugar Sweet being a restrained belter; with some snarly guitar behind Bryant’s flowing vocals.
We all like different styles of The Blues; and for me I prefer the low down; dirty slow Southern style best and that’s what we get here; with bells on!
Unchained is as slow and funky as I’ve heard Bryant perform, and not a single note sounds superfluous; and the horn section sweeps in and out like a tail wind as Bryant finally grows into his magnificent voice.
I think you will agree that the best Blues songs are about loving and losing or at the very least cheating on a loved one; young Mr. Bryant does both on Fools Game, when he makes his geetar HOWL in pain; and straight afterwards Holding All The Cards sounds like the best Johnny Winter song you’ve ever heard.
There’s a second collaboration here; with the re-rejuvenated Bernie Marsden joining Bryant on the ballad Just Won’t Burn; which actually does burn like a smouldering love letter.
Sarah Jayne closes the album; another ballad; but one that has a piano as lead instrument and truly showcases that amazing voice in a way; his guitar histrionics didn’t allow on earlier albums.
While everything here rocks along with lower case letter r; Danny also throws a curve ball with a real soulful and powerful humdinger of a song; Slow Suicide. Strange subject matter, but the song is stunning and shows that Danny Bryant can write a truly outstanding song and deliver it with panache.
Just a couple of years ago he was ‘one to watch,’ but with Blood Money, Danny Bryant has finally arrived in style.

http://www.dannybryant.com/

Released January 29th 2016

Jumping Hot Club 2016 Gig Guide PODCAST

Our friends at the Jumping Hot Club in downtown Newcastle have been hard at work bringing a veritable cornucopia of Roots acts for the aural delectation of the local music lovers.
If you are unlucky enough not to live in or near God’s Country just enjoy this hour of tip-top Roots music.

1) Shipcote and Friends – Mr. Wonderful
2) Rod Picott – Drunken Barber’s Hand
3) Lindi Ortega – Jimmy Dean
4) Lindsay Lou and the Flatbelly’s – Smooth and Groovy
5) This Little Bird – Romance is Not Dead
6) Christopher Paul Stelling – Too Far North
7) The Toy Hearts – Tequila and High Heels
8) Locust Honey String Band – I’ve Forgotten More (Than you’ll ever know)
9) The Railsplitters – Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes
10) Laura Cortese – Woman of the Ages
11) Hayes Carll – Bye Bye Baby
12) Richmond Fontaine – Lost in the trees
13) Kath Bloom – Let the Music Come
14) Malcolm Holcombe – Someone Missing
15) Sam Outlaw – Jesus Take The Wheel
16) Dan Baird and Homemade Sin – Be Good to Yourself

Birds of Chicago – Real Midnight (2016)

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Birds of Chicago
Real Midnight
self-release (Kickstarter)

Alt. Country Finally Finds its Soul.

I can vaguely remember when I first encountered Jeremy Lindsay; the male half of the Birds of Chicago; as it was on a sunny afternoon at one of the first SummerTyne Festivals and he was under the moniker JT Nero. While he looked a bit like Shaggy from Scooby Doo his voice knocked me sideways, backwards and upside down.
A few months later he returned to the Jumping Hot Club as JT and the Clouds; and I was sitting front and centre, open mouthed for an hour and a half. It was Country Jim; but not as we know it!
Jump forward another year and JT was billed above a female act called Po’ Girl at the Newcastle Evolution Festival. I can’t remember the actual details; but I do remember him joining the girls onstage and when he sang harmonies with the pretty  Allison; the stars aligned and their voices melted together like strawberry sauce and vanilla ice cream on a hot day.
I saw JT and the Clouds at least one more time; but it was when JT was meant to do a solo UK Tour in 2012 (I think) that things changed; because he was joined by the beautiful Allison Russell and the twinkle in their eyes when they harmonised told the small crowd that we were witnessing history in the making.
Enough of the history!
As with many Americana and Folk acts these days; this album was pre-funded by fans via Kickstarter and much to the couple’s surprise the target was reached in a few short weeks and the studio booked. Snippets were sent out to excited fans and just before Christmas the much anticipated download arrived.
Gulp.
I actually went airheaded as Allison’s voice oozed out my speakers within seconds of the start of track #1, Dim Star of the Palisades. Three minutes later I was sat back on the sofa like a cartoon teenager who has been hit with the ‘love hammer’ – bluebirds were genuinely twittering around the room as I sat grinning like a ninny.
Song #2 Remember Wild Horses has JT taking lead vocals on love story of Cinemascope magnitude. Somehow Lindsay takes a relatively simple story; twists it around and then adds some poetic phrases that will blow your mind – well; it did mine.
This is by far; the best and most ‘grown-up’ collection of songs that Lindsay and/or The Birds of Chicago have released; with the harmonies and quiet piano, guitar and drums on Real Midnight being a weird Blue Note Jazz/Southern Americana hybrid that works like a dream.
The first time I heard (The Wind that Shakes the) Barley I was left open mouthed! Allison sings acapella with only hand clicks, tambourine and the occasion bass drum accompaniment on a Gospel song; so sweet it could draw me back to Chapel after 45 years in the wilderness.
While I love JT’s voice (it’s never sounded finer than on Love Kills Shadows and Time & Time) he’s wise enough to know that Allison is a star in the making; letting her take lead on the majority of songs here; especially memorable on the stunning The Good Fight and later, Good Dream, which closes the album.
While I absolutely love everything about this album, the song Colour of Love is Jeremy Lindsay’s song writing at it’s very best, coupled with Joe Henry’s cutting edge production and Allison sounds uncannily like a young Aretha. Put those things together and you will be moved to tears; like I have been each time I’ve heard the song.
As usual; JT’s songs are quite stunning in their complexity; but never so much that you can’t listen to them if you are a bit thick like me! Just like when I discovered Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen in my mid-teens; I didn’t understand everything they sang about; but I knew it was intelligent and beautiful in equal measures and I may understand it one day; and if I didn’t the music would still be good enough to draw me back time and time again. The Birds of Chicago fall into exactly the same category.

Released February 13th 2016

http://www.birdsofchicago.com/about/

Miranda Lee Richards – Echoes of the Dreamtime

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Invisible Hands Music IHCD63

Darkly Atmospheric, Articulate Tales of Love and Loss.

The slightly psychedelic and 60’s inspired album cover very nearly put me off listening to this delightful album for a couple of weeks; as I was expecting something in the mode of Pentangle or perhaps some Indie-Hippie pastiche like Kulashaker; but I was a little bit wrong.
Opening track, 7th Ray made me sit back and listen intently as soon as Miranda’s smoke voice entered the frey; as she immediately reminded me of Caution Horses era Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies). The lyrics are quite deep; but listening on headphones was quite a ‘buzz’ and took me back to those heady days of being a teenager; trying to deconstruct songs.
The Cowboy Junkies theme came back to me during the spiky Littleradio; an soft acoustic song but with a slightly Gothic edge when the fuzzy guitars kick in. Just what I needed in the aftermath of those Christmas excesses.
Aha! I knew she couldn’t get through this album without a cursory nod towards psychedelia; and it arrives courtesy of Julian; a rather beautiful song with a violin, cello and viola that could have been recorded in West London between 1968 and 70; but it’s not and will sound as fresh as a daisy to anyone under 25.
Later on Colours So Fine; someone manages to make their instrument (possibly a slide guitar) sound like a sinister sitar; an odd thing to do, sounding spooky and wonderful in equal measures; as does the song itself.
While there are only 8 tracks here; don’t worry as the shortest song is four and a half minutes long and the epic It Was Given clocks in slightly shy of eight minutes with not a second wasted; as Miranda cloaks us in a story of Percy Bysshe Shelley proportions.
Echoes of a Dreamtime is another album that should be listened to as a complete work; preferably late at night with candles flickering and the third glass of something strong and alcoholic by your side; but if pushed I would recommend the stunning First Light of Winter as your entry portal to see if you might like the album.
I mentioned the Cowboy Junkies earlier; and Miranda Lee Richards will certainly appeal to their fans; alongside lovers of Lucinda Williams, The Handsome Family and most of all Tift Merritt.
Although Miranda Lee Richards released her first LP in 2001 on the fledgling Virgin Records label; she’s actually a new name to me; but on hearing this beautifully constructed album; I will actively be seeking out her earlier work.

Released January 29th 2016

http://mirandaleerichards.com/bio

James Hunter Six – Hold On!

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James Hunter Six
Hold On!
Daptone Records

Quality Rhythm, Blues, Soul and a little bit of Rock & Roll to Kick Start 2016!

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to receive this album a couple of months ago; and keeping it a secret until now has been quite painful.
I first discovered the delights of this young man 20+ years ago when he was the quaintly monickered Howlin’ Wilf; and a stalwart of the Jumping Hot Club in Newcastle. Since his re-branding as James Hunter his career and quality of albums has thankfully gone from strength to strength.
The rocking If That Don’t Tell You is atypical James Hunter; but better in some strange; mystical way. The production is pin-sharp; allowing the five band members to surround the singer-guitarist with a Wall of Sound not heard in these parts for many years.
Personally I would have placed This is Where We Came In as the opening track; primarily because of the amazing organ intro; followed by the double sax’s of long time side-kicks, Lee Badau and Damian Hand coupled with the sweet  Nova tune and the feel of a lovely sentimental song.
James has always had a romantic side; and just about every song here is a timeless love song, in one way or another with A Truer Heart and Light of My Life being quintessential James Hunter; but managing to mine a new seam with his deep lyrics.
The mood swings back and forth from start to finish with high energy R&B songs like (Baby) Hold on and Free Your Mind; both crying out to be played live; while A Truer Heart is a perfect soundtrack for late at night.
Something brand new is the instrumental Satchel Foot; which allows the band to ‘let rip’ in a controlled manner and well worthy of those cool tunes on Bluenote ‘back in the day.’
It’s not easy for me to select a favourite track; as I love them all but In The Dark; which closes Hold On! is as slow, sultry and sexy as the guys have ever sounded; with Andrew Kingsland’s organ sounding like Booker T on a great day.
James Hunter has never wavered from his belief in playing authentic Rhythm and Blues; and it may have cost him dearly some years ago; but now with this; his fourth album with the same amazing band he must surely be on the cusp of monetary success to go along with all of the hearts he’s won in the last 25 years.
As an unadulterated fanboy, I didn’t think he was doing any wrong with his recordings; but now he’s signed to the near legendary Daptone record label and Bosco Mann (aka Gabriel Roth) has taken over the controls – WOW – they have combined to create a little bit of a Masterpiece.

http://www.jameshuntermusic.com/

Released February 5th 2016

Danny and the Champions of the World – Jumping Hot Club (Newcastle)

DATCOTW

Danny and the Champions of the World
Jumping Hot Club
The Cluny, Newcastle
December 19th 2015

Regardless of family, friends and work my diary is always cleared for the Jumping Hot Club Christmas Party. This year was no different; and possibly more special than usual because the headline act was, club regulars Danny and The Champions of the World who are currently riding something of a wave of success.
The opening turn were King Size Voodoo Traveller; the latest incarnation for local legend Ally Lee.
As the man himself pointed out; they are a ‘Glorified Pub Band’ but ‘without the Glory!’ Which is actually a bit harsh; because all four musicians are truly excellent in their own rites; but only the fickle finger of fate meant they were the support tonight and not headlining somewhere grander.
As usual Ally’s introductions were self-depreciating and very funny; especially when he told us Steve Earle was living in Alnwick when he wrote his ode to the A1 – Hillbilly Highway! The song was a doozy from start to finish; as was their Twang infested version of the Breeze; but the stand out song was Mercury Blues; stripped down and as raw as a Street racer.
The only downside was Ally getting drawn into a battle of wits with a lump of a drunk at the front of the stage. Sadly the bloke thought he was part of the act all night long and even managed to upset Danny later in the night.
Hey ho.

KSVT
Cluny II was pretty damn full when Danny came onto the stage and received a roar from the 150 or so in attendance. Sadly, the singer was just setting up his guitar; but took the time to engage with the fans who made fun of his freshly shaved face.
Ten minutes later; the band did make their full appearance; and again the cheer was worthy of a 1D concert.
While absolutely fabulous, and full of Crazy Horse style fuzzy guitar interplay; I didn’t actually recognise the opening son Consider Me. Perhaps it was a teaser for a new album; I hope so!
Song two was Colonel and The King; and my heart skipped a beat when ‘Free Jazz’ Geoff seamlessly slid in a sax solo from the Gods.
Song three; and it was Every Beat of My Heart; a love song par excellence in my humble opinion. Even this early in the gig I was wondering what they had left in the tank; as each member was already ‘giving it their all’ and those songs were each worthy of any legendary Americana act you can think of.
What more can I say? Danny’s voice has never sounded finer (was the beard muffling his larynx?); guitarist extraordinaire, Mr. Paul Lush got to showcase his skills several times throughout the night; especially memorable on Keep Building that Space Rocket and later What Kind of Love, when his guitar appeared to sizzle.
No Americana band can be without a pedal-steel; and the Champs are no different; but in Henry Senior Jr. they actually have a Master Craftsman; who can make those strings sound like an Angel’s harp (am I getting too carried away here?); then there is the rhythm section of Chris Clarke on bass and drummer Steve Brookes who combine to keep time better than my Dad’s Rolex.
Have I missed someone? Of course! “Free Jazz’ Geoff on saxophone and keyboards; possibly the last piece in the jigsaw; but he’s the bit that makes Danny and the Champions of the World sound as good as they do and a whole lot different to your average band; or even above average band.
Back to the songs – Henry The Van got its usual run out; and became a happy go lucky sing-along for die hard fans; Red Tree Song managed to segue into Bruce’s Thunder Road and back again, without anyone noticing; then Stay True was as heartfelt as ever, but the slow and sensual Be Alright in The End was probably the highlight of the evening for me.
Wary of the curfew Danny told the ecstatic crowd that they would forgo the usual will they/won’t they charade of an encore and just play straight through; which they did for nearly two hours and the noise as they left the stage meant that they did return; for a passionate version of These Days; which sent 150+ fans home very satisfied indeed.
It doesn’t happen very often to South Londoners; but Danny and the Champions of the World are most definitely adopted Geordies now; and I can’t think of a finer accolade to bestow on them.

http://www.dannyandthechamps.com/

 

Danny photo-set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Danny-and-the-Champions-of-the/

 

Voodoo photo-set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/King-Size-Voodoo-Traveller/

 

Straight Outta Compton (Soundtrack)

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Straight Outta Compton (Soundtrack)
Universal Music

The Sound of a Generation Comes Back to Scare Your Parents (Again)

I have to confess to not ‘getting’ or liking Rap music; not even a little bit. Perhaps if I was a black teenager living in the Inner City Ghettoes of North America I just might be this angry; and indeed; this potty mouthed, but I’m not.
Therefore I passed this album over to some friends in the band The Agency; who at different times in their lives listened to this type of popular music with a more accommodating ear.

So; over to the chaps in The Agency –

As a band that blends indie rock with Americana music (among other things), we saw the opportunity to review the soundtrack to ‘Straight Outta Compton (OST)’ as an interesting challenge.
The eponymous opening track (Straight Outta Compton) by NWA, whom the film is about, still possesses a blistering energy after all these years. The songs’ liberational ‘call to arms, will be enough to excite Old-Skool listeners and intrigue younger fans drawn to the album because of the ‘mystique’ surrounding the bands involved.

The next track, ‘Flash Light’ by Parliament is undoubtedly a classic track, reminding our guitarist Steve of Sly and the Family Stone. He adds that ‘everyone’ likes Parliament, and our bassist Andy likes the thumping bass.

‘We Want Eazy’ by Eazy-E (a member of NWA) fared less well, leading to a rant from Andy about ‘what is real music’. Nevertheless he admitting to being hooked by the end.

Back to NWA and ‘Gangsta Gangsta,’ which Andy suggested may not possess the most positive message for the disenfranchised youth of the inner city areas; however, he concedes that it is great story telling with very good enunciation. Truly it is a good example of hip hop during its evolutionary stages. It is clear how the slightly rudimentary sampling techniques have inspired the generations of rappers that followed. Andy is particularly pleased with the laid back funk ending.

‘(Not Just) Knee Deep’ by Funkadelic was immediately greeted by Andy’s claiming ‘it is Funkadelic ain’t it? What more can you say – it’s perfect’. Steve agreed, drawing a comparison with Shalimar, but did affirm that NWA is more his ‘thing’.

One of the more Classic tracks included, ‘Boyz in-the Hood’ by Eazy-E, was greeted with some resignation, but Andy does appreciate the 808, yet Steve argued that the Beastie Boys copied and bettered the ‘sonic stylings’ on display.

The dancefloor classic ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ by Roy Ayers Ubiquity was always a floor-filler nwhen Steve DJ’ in a Jazz/Soul/Funk club once upon a time. With chilled out beats, gorgeous piano and aptly positive vocals, Andy described it as ‘happy funky, bluesy, sunshiny, stuff that’s nearly a summer record but not quite’.

Three tracks by the protagonists NWA follow, the second of which is the notorious tune ‘F**k Tha Police’, which has had plenty said about it elsewhere over the years. The soundtrack would not be complete without it and you either love it or hate it already. Similar sentiments could be used to explain the importance of ‘Express Yourself’ to this collection.

Andy greeted ‘Weak at the Knees’ by Steve Arlington’s Hall of Fame with his instant approval; but Steve was less impressed; but Andy did concede that after the instrumentation at the beginning, it doesn’t really develop into anything.

Back to NWA for the next couple of tracks. Existing fans of NWA and the the hip hop genre in general are likely to have their attention held by ‘Quiet on the Set’ and ‘8 Ball’ but some of the others haven’t really stood the test of time. There’s a real sense of collegiate understanding throughout these songs; as the various band members reference each other in their lyrics.

Ice Cube is probably the most successful post-collective performer and his track ‘The N*** Ya Love to Hate’ will need little introduction to fans of the music. It is a ‘high energy protest song’…we think. A further Ice Cube track ‘No Vaseline’ is a welcome relief, following ‘Real N****’ by NWA. One thing is for sure, there is a very definite theme running through the works of NWA and their side projects!
The OST finishes with a track by the third member of the collective Dr Dre, with the infamous and cultish Snoop Doggy Dogg on ‘Nuthing but a “G” Thang’, which provides an apt ending and high point to a very strong collection; that has generally aged well.

To summarise, this is a nostalgic tour de force through the NWA back catalogue and their various influences. Fans of the music and style will need little enticement to explore this. There is something, however, for the curious and those with a fond but fretting memory of the musical genre and era.

Track Listing

1. N.W.A – STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON 04:17
2. PARLIAMENT – FLASH LIGHT 04:28
3. EAZY-E – WE WANT EAZY 05:00
4. N.W.A – GANGSTA GANGSTA 05:35
5. FUNKADELIC – (NOT JUST) KNEE DEEP 04:29
6. EAZY-E – THE BOYZ-N-THE HOOD 05:37
7. ROY AYERS UBIQUITY – EVERYBODY LOVES THE SUNSHINE 03:59
8. N.W.A – DOPEMAN 05:20
9. N.W.A – F*** THA POLICE 05:15
10. N.W.A – EXPRESS YOURSELF 04:23
11. STEVE ARRINGTON’S HALL OF FAME – WEAK AT THE KNEES 03:48
12. N.W.A – QUIET ON THA SET 03:57
13. N.W.A – 8 BALL 04:50
14. ICE CUBE – THE N**** YA LOVE TO HATE 03:13
15. N.W.A – REAL N***** 04:27
16. ICE CUBE – NO VASELINE 05:12
17. DR. DRE featuring SNOOP DOGG – NUTHIN’ BUT A “G” THANG 03:58

 

Released 8th January 2016

Dbl Vinyl – 22nd January 2016