Nick Pride & The Pimptones
Gotta Leave The Lady Alone (45RPM single)
Deep Fried Southern Soul From The North Eastern Homelands.
I first discovered Nick Pride and the Pimptones by accident a few years ago; when their distinctive It’s The Pimptones album cover caught my attention on an American website. Two years later I saw they were coming to a local club in Newcastle and got all excited that I was finally going to see this ‘Hip American Jazz/Soul band’; imagine my surprise when I found the same version of English as what I do!!!!!
Any hoot; their last album Rejuiced Phat Shake, has subsequently become a Friday night and Sunday afternoon at Rocking Magpie HQ; so I was giddy with excitement when Head Pimptone Nick got in touch last week to say that a new album (Go Deep) would be released on June 3rd and while I was waiting for a review copy would I like to hear the single. HELL YES!
The A-Side, Gotta Leave The Lady Alone is 100% groovylicious; with Beth Macari singing her pretty little heart and soul out as the Pimptones somehow manage to catch not just a full on Stax sound; but top and tail anything that has come out of Daptone in the last five years.
The ubiquitous Pimptones horn section are augmented by a mad bongo player and a flute (?) that has classical roots; and the end result is absolutely wonderful.
Not only does Beth Macari steal the show again on the B-Side Baby Can We Start Again, a mighty fine a slice of danceable Northern Soul with a super Ska horn riff; but she gives me the opportunity to play Musical Top Trumps. This edgy and fulsome sound goes beyond what we’ve come to expect from The Pimptones; and while there are definite echoes of the now familiar Daptone ‘sound;’ but if you do your research you will find a little known Soul Label out of Memphis called Ecko Records; home to Barbara Carr and Denise LaSalle that has made music like this since 95; and this song fits into that sexy groove just perfectly.
After a bizarre week of freezing cold weather that brought snow and ice to the region; just as I put the disc in the player the sun came out; and these two songs feel like they are heralding the Sound of the Summer when Go Deep finally gets released in June.
Single Released May 13th 2016
Swamp Music Players
A Modern Guide to All That Is Great About Alt. Country Music.
I’m not altogether sure who the Swamp Music Players actually are; the list of American and Canadian collaborators is very nearly endless; yet I got my copy from the legendary Wily Bo Walker from London Town who is involved here somewhere.
Perhaps its a good thing that I don’t get bogged down in individual musicians as this is very much a ‘band effort’ if such a thing still exists.
The album opens with the wonderfully titled Softail to Sturgis; an acoustic flavoured slice of classic Americana, that couples (River period) Springsteen with somebody like Sturgill Simpson to create a cool and atmospheric ‘road tale’ love story that will tug at your heartstrings.
Two songs later some of the dirtiest guitars I’ve heard in years threaten the peace at the start of Return of the 1%er . Think Wild One meets Easy Rider via the Stray Cats on roofies and you will still only halfway to knowing how good this song sounds.
My mate Wily Bo is the featured singer on the dark and scary Devil’s Toothpick; which sounds uncannily like a Gene Vincent 78 played at 33rpm; with Tom Waits providing harmonies….seriously weird; but great fun at the same time.
No two songs are the same; not even similar if the truth be told; but for once that’s the strength of Timeless Cool, with out and out Rockers like Poison Heart rubbing shoulders with some kind of Swamp/Funk melange (Peggy 18) via straight up Country Rockers Sweet Hitch Hiker and my personal favourite here (sorry Wily!) the finger poppin’ Voodoo of Happy Tribe.
Then, just when you think things couldn’t get any weirder; track five Street Sweeper Blues and the final track are Beat Poet/ Radio-Noir story; with the latter being by Jason Murphy, taken from the ‘Hacking The System’ TV Series; and not a million miles away from an album David Olney released a few years ago called Rise of the Hell Knights, which is something I would sit glued to the radio for if it was a Saturday night series.
Timeless Cool, is different and certainly won’t appeal to the ‘average’ music fan; but if you are still reading this review you aren’t ‘average’ are you? You are a 1%er like me who wants something that isn’t going to be heard on network TV or Radio…….this is for you; from me and the Swamp Music Players.
Warning Sign (Single)
Just as I pack my bags to go to Finland for a holiday this beautiful piece of Lo-Fi Folk from Finnish singer-songwriter Mikko Joensuu arrived via the e-mail.
WOW! The song Warning Sign is a pre-cursor to the album Amen 1 which is due for release on June 10th…..if this song is anything to go by; then I will be waiting eagerly for the finished article.
Oooohhhh….Another Lovely Slice of British Americana Pie.
On the back of their recent successful album – Nashville Heart, Glasgow’s country duo Ashton Lane are releasing a brand new single ‘Seventeen’, and the Rocking Magpie has the EXCLUSIVE first play of the video.
The song will be released through digital channels on May 2nd 2016, and is now available for pre-order via iTunes.
Featuring both Esther & Tim O’Connor on lead vocals, SEVENTEEN centers around an old flame from high school, thinking back to “the one that got away”. In their own words: “I think it’s something that many people can relate to; a high school sweetheart that you think back to after the years have gone by”. It’s a song reminiscing about that carefree time of being seventeen and young love.
We think it’s rather lovely; and hope you do too 🙂
Released May 2nd 2016
We Are Scientists
A Massive Leap Into the Known For Our Favourite Californians.
On the day of release I finally got my ears around the fifth album from We Are Scientists.
Helter Seltzer is its name, which pretty much sums up the contents, because they are NOT punk nor straight-rock nor indie-pop but a delightful mix of absolutely everything that has poppy influences.
We Are Scientists are primarily singer/guitarist Keith Murray and bass-player Chris Cain, and for this release the welcome return of their former keyboard player Max Hart (now of Katy Perry’s band) and they release this corker of an album only a few days before taking it on tour.
The album opens with first single Buckle and it is quite a stomper with the heavy guitar sounds. The album glides through quite nicely and you can definitely hear the thought process of them playing a lot of Cyndi Lauper and Tears For Fears albums when making Helter Seltzer, especially in Too Late (dare I say, it’s a faster version of the Bee Gees’ You Win Again!) and We Need A Word. Then, in Hold On there is an almost anthemic chorus with electronic console keyboard sounds pulsating through, giving a slight 80s edge to it.
Knocking it down a few notches, We Are Scientists bring in a couple of ballads too, with Want For Nothing and Waiting For Love seemingly full of heartfelt lyrics like, “I bet it’s time I called you up…I can’t do this alone,” and “ don’t keep waiting for the rest of your life” respectively. It is interesting to note that Keith says, “it’s as much about my friendship with Chris as anything else,” when listening to those lyrics. Without getting too deep, Classic Love, comes in between these two on the album, and has an almost soulful surf sound to it; bringing back lush memories of the 90’s.
Bringing the album to a close is Forgiveness, guitar laden rock and much grittier sounding vocals making it a great way to bring everything to a close.
Helter Seltzer takes the We Are Scientists admirers on a magical mystery tour; while also introducing new listeners to their huge developments since their formation in 2000.
In other words, We Are Scientists have not changed or compromised too much to keep up with the current pace of what is out there today, in this crazy Helter Seltzer of a musical world.
Victoria Ling aka L’il Vik
Released April 22nd 2016
Lovers and Leavers
Thirty Tigers Records
A Masterclass in Americana Songwriting.
I came to the music of Hayes Carll relatively late in the day; and by a weird round about manner. When reviewing the first Hard Working Americans album, I raved about a song called Stomp and Holler; which led to several No Depression readers to take up the cudgels that ‘surely I would no that it was from the pen of the great Hayes Carll!’
The mistake was duly rectified and his songs soon became a staple of my late lamented radio show on NE1FM.
Which brings us to today; and his latest disc – Lovers and Leavers; his fifth since 2002, and one well worth discovering.
The soft and sad Drive which opens the record, thankfully carries on from the Award winning KMAG YOYO in 2011; and Carll’s distinctive world weary Texan drawl instantly hooks you like a fat fish on a silvery line.
As existing fans will know; there aren’t many laughs here; but the magical way Hayes uses the English language on Good While it Lasted and later, The Magic Kid will have people in years to come drooling over hidden meanings; just like the Dylanphiles do.
Love and most noticeably broken relationships are the golden thread that weaves all the way through this album.
Love Don’t Let Me Down, with it’s haunting steel guitar and subtle guitar picking will grab at your heartstrings like a limpet; and if ‘she’ ever hears this song; she will feel as guilty as sin, and come rushing back screaming “Sorry” at the top of her voice.
On a similar tip; but with a slightly jaunty tune featuring an electric organ, is Love Is So Easy. The theme of the song may not be new; but the way Hayes picks up the minutiae and delivers the words as if it’s one long sigh; is quite extraordinary.
In an album full of gems there is one actual diamond Sake of The Song; which is a fabulous story set to a powerfully atmospheric melody which slowly builds to something of a crescendo.
If you don’t already know Hayes Carll; like me two years ago; but like Guy Clark, Tom Russell, Sam Baker or perhaps Slaid Cleaves (all favourites of the Rocking Magpie) Hayes Carll will be a welcome addition to your record collection.
Released April 8th 2016
See Me With Your Heart
Emotional Return To Form For The Queen of San Diego.
It would be wrong of me to disclose a lady’s age; but suffice to say Eve Selis has been singing her heart out professionally since 1998, and is now a proud Grandmother…..but judging by opening song Fearless Heart both in mood and tempo; Eve Selis isn’t ready for her slippers and a bathrobe any time soon.
The song itself; is as good as anything she’s recorded since I first discovered her music 11 years ago at the inaugural SummerTyne Festival.
A lot has happened in Eve’s life since the year before her last album Family Tree in 2011; and a lot of that has found its way into this set of songs.
I love Eve’s faster rockier songs; but Mrs. Magpie does love the ballads; and as soon as she heard Can’t See Past Myself she smiled and nodded in my direction; presumably because it’s a beautiful; song and not because it’s a sentiment I should adhere to!
The singer’s stalwart band somehow manage to constantly shadow her dusky voice; but never threaten to over shadow her; which must be a problem for guitarist Marc ‘Twang’ Intravaia; who gives a Masterclass in the background; especially noticeable on Beautiful Dreamer and the slow and broody While The Night is Still Young.
Not quite a completely new direction; but the tightly wrapped rocker Little Wars; has a Country beat to it, but somehow had me remembering Eve’s version of Hendrix’s Fire on an early album; and shows that this lady can out-Rock the best of them when she puts her mind to it.
While I hadn’t actually missed it; it wasn’t until Mrs. Magpie returned home after a long car journey, and pointed out The Man He Never Was. Wow…..another staggering ballad; the type you used to hear in Country Music before Heavy Metal took over and a song that had the hair on the back of my neck standing ion end, when I really, really listened to it.
That is now Mrs. Magpies favourite here; but mine is the fist pumping rocker of a love song, Slow Down. If you use your imagination; it’s the type of thing Tina Turner may have sounded like if she’d gone down a Country path after Private Dancer.
See Me With Your Heart comes to a delightful close with Love Has the Final Say; a tale of heartbreak, redemption and most importantly…….hope for the future.
Eve Selis is indeed BACK, and with added fire in her belly again.
Released May 20th 2016
Continental Record Services
A Slow Burning Thing Of Beauty.
Up until March 2016 I’d never heard of David Corley; and when Cara Gibney got in touch saying she had the opportunity to interview the singer-songwriter for the website; I was a bit underwhelmed.
Within an hour of posting the interview it received 50 hits; and the numbers kept on dramatically rising for the next 72 hours; pushing it straight into the Top 10 reviews of all time!
I urge you to read Cara’s illuminating interview; but for these purposes I will say that Available Light is Lafayette native David Corley’s debut album, released in 2015……at the ripe old age of 53!
As you would expect, this debut album includes a lifetime of pent-up writing and why he hasn’t had the opportunity to record before I’m beggared if I know why. This guy has such an articulate way with words; and such a skillful way of constructing a song you’d think he had sat at the feet of Dylan, Cohen and/or even James Taylor.
The title track Available Light opens the album and Corley’s gravel tones; alongside a really tightly wrapped band had me one over within seconds. Reminding me of a young Tom Waits or perhaps Joe Cocker if he’d trod a Folk path, Corley has one of those voices that only a mother (or me) could love; and should reduce even the stoniest of souls to mush.
On Lean, Corley can get his story of self-examination across in a couple of minutes; but more often than not, he treads his own path; unencumbered by record executives and if a story needs seven and a half minutes; as the stunning Calm Revolution does that’s how long he takes; and even then not a second sounds wasted.
The instrumentation behind Corley’s magnificent voice varies from song to song; dependent on the mood he wants to create; with a slide guitar slicing through the foggy air on The End of My Run in a way I’ve not heard in many years. When listened to on headphones, the writer’s almost poetic words had me holding my breath so I didn’t miss a single syllable.
On Easy Mistake Corley glides into Leonard Cohen territory, with a piano and light-jazz bass and drums; plus sweet backing singers on a reflective song just perfect as an accompaniment for a strong drink either side of midnight.
Best listened to late at night; or very, very early in the morning this is grown up music for grown ups; and two songs in particular have touched my soul.
When I first listened to the quietly intense, The Joke I wasn’t sure where it was going; but the (slightly) up-tempo song soon tugged at my well worn heart strings and I eventually found myself sitting clench-fisted and wide eyed by the end; and had to press replay immediately; and it had exactly the same effect …..as it still does two weeks later.
The other is the gentle Unspoken Thing; which has an almost brittle Country-Blues feel to it and again; the more I listen to it the more subtle nuances I can draw out of it.
There’s not a lot else to say; this album has staggered me from start to finish time and time again; and if it wasn’t for the never ending supply of CD’s to review would never have been off my various players across the last month; or months to come.
Please, please, please investigate this album. You won’t regret it.
Live (The Farewell Tour)
The Very Best British Folk Band Of All Time Bow Out At The Top.
Is it me; or have Bellowhead had more ‘Farewell Tours’ than Frank Sinatra? It seems a lifetime since singer and co-founder Jon Boden announced that he was leaving and the rest of the band decided to ‘call it a day’ too; and it sometimes seems hardly a day goes by without a new album (a Greatest Hits and this…to be fair) and at the last count three actual Goodbye Tours.
Hey ho; onto this beautifully packaged Double CD and DVD, recorded on their final (?) UK Tour during November 2015.
As someone who has struggled to like; never mind fall in love with Bellowhead’s music; that in itself has left a bad taste in my mouth; as if I’d been a fan I would have wanted this to be a single concert; warts and all, but instead it is a carefully constructed and edited compilation of 52 tracks recorded in various venues across the country.
The music; all of the fans favourites are here; Betsy Baker, What’s The Life of Man? Gosport Nancy, London Town, New York Girls and Whiskey is the Life of Man. All of which sound glorious to the extreme; with Bodon’s rich voice never sounding better; and the eclectic instrumentation; which was always what made Bellowhead rise above their contempories constantly flits between ultra-traditional Folk playing through sea shanties, Collier Songs, rock structures to almost Classical content; and nary a note is missed.
Much to my surprise, as an un-fan, I still managed to find a few songs that I liked; and went back to voluntarily after sitting through the full two hours, for review purposes.
Let Union Be; instantly caught my attention as did the rather odd Moon Kittens; which is a bit Psychedelic in parts; but also almost hypnotic.
I stress I’ve tried my best to ‘like’ Bellowhead over the years; but have ended up just appreciating what they do; and what they do they do exceptionally well; as they have the ability to deconstruct songs like Old Dun Cow and Rosemary Lane, and give them an almost Jazz like lease of life.
Besotted fans may disagree; but for me there is one stand out song here; the staple of their set for many years and a song I learnt at Junior School 50 years ago; the Geordie folk song Byker Hill; and this version is as passionate and theatrical as I’ve ever heard from Bellowhead; sounding at times like something from a West End Musical!
The album closes with the rocking New York Girls and the rather elaborate Frogs Legs & Dragons Teeth during which, each band member is introduced and gets to do a mini-solo and eventually coming to a thrashing crescendo and a huge cheer from the audience.
While fans will no doubt love the CD and it will probably get welded into many car stereos to stop any other music sullying the speakers; it’s the actual ‘live show’ in all its 3D glory when Bellowhead truly come to life.
As a matter of professional courtesy I’ve gone out of my way twice at Music Festivals to see what all of the fuss is about; and both times I was really impressed; with their stage presence and the intricate way that each member bounces off each other in perfect time is both eye and mind-boggling.
All of my reservations about the construction of the CD are put to one side as the DVD is that very ‘warts and all’ (with no warts at all) concert recorded at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall and this is what will be what their fans will still playing in 20 years time; as it truly showcases why this band have been at the very top of the British Folk pile since their formation in 2004.
I’m 100% sure existing fans will have already pre-ordered this package months in advance of release; and won’t give two hoots for my opinion; unless they are the ones who sent me Hate Mail following my review of Matachin in Maverick Magazine back in 2008!
Released April 8th 2016
Smash The Clock
This Really IS Entertainment For the Modern World.
A little bit of me died in December 1982 when The Jam disbanded; as they really were a major part of the soundtrack to my life.
Subsequently I’ve tried to follow all three members careers over the years; loving the Style Council and Weller’s early albums; going to see Rick Buckler in Time UK, plus I bought quite a few of Bruce Foxton’s 45’s and his first solo album Touch Sensitive in 84; and even went to see him a couple of times in Stiff Little Fingers; but nothing compared to The Jam; did it?
I was always a bit sceptical about Foxton and Buckler’s re-incarnation as From The Jam; even though I’ve had some amazing drunken nights seeing them play live and reliving those heady days of my early twenties; but when I saw them sans Buckler; in the Summer of 2015 they had changed; ‘grown into themselves’ a friend called it. The Jam songs were great; but there was also the inclusion of a couple of ‘new songs’ and they fitted in a treat.
Those new songs; and more are on Bruce Foxton’s exciting new album Smash The Clock.
As you’d expect I was a touch apprehensive as I slid the disc into the player; and hardly dared take a breath for 30 seconds as a Style Council type brass section filled the air until Bruce’s distinctive voice followed reminding me of a Summery Small Faces meets Chic; Rhythm and Blues type dance tune. Phew; if the rest is as good as this; I’m in for the long haul.
Next up Round & Round is a touch more introspective and intense but somehow manages to have a mid-period Jam feel to it; although it probably owes more to Foxton’s own back catalogue. The best way to describe it is “it’s a song you wouldn’t turn off on the radio.”
The next two songs will give the album the promotion money can’t by.
The reason?In advance of hearing the album two particular songs, Pictures & Diamonds and Louder were the most eagerly anticipated as they are the most recent collaborations for B. Foxton and P. Weller Esq. In the Summer of 2015 the pair reunited at the Jam Retrospective at Somerset House in London; and while there is no chance of the ‘band’ reforming (I would actually go to Glastonbury at last if they did!) so this is probably what we’ve all been waiting for; but was the wait worth it?
In my humble opinion….YES!
Pictures & Diamonds features Paul on guitar (and what an impressive guitarist he is when he sets his mind to it) as Bruce and band deliver a lovely, slightly Psychedelic Summery ballad, with a deep Hammond organ spine; not unlike some of Stevie Winwoods early solo work.
T’other song Louder is a more jaunty, acoustic effort with Weller delivering a delightful piano accompaniament to presumably Bruce Foxton singing, and if it is its the best vocal performance of his career. This brings me to an ‘odd thing’, the album notes don’t tell us who plays what or indeed wether its Bruce Foxton or even Russell Hastings singing on any of the songs here. It was only via the Press Release that I knew of Paul Wellers inclusion, and at sometime Wilko Johnson plays guitar, but when and where remains a mystery!
It was only after playing these songs five or six times that I remembered what a great, undervalued singing voice Bruce Foxton has, and by the way he can still write a bloody good song too.
While many may hanker for the fiery days of their youth to be relived here; they should remember how old we all are; and while Bruce may have mellowed; the title track Smash The Clock should satisfy even the harshest of critics; with the sax solo stinging the ear drums while Bruce rages against the ravages of time……much like me these days.
Back Street/Dead Street which follows; is probably the nearest to an actual ‘Jam’ song here; with a chorus that is just perfect for belting out after 6 or 7 beers and don’t get me started on the fabulous harmonica playing by Sir Paul Jones of Blues Band fame.
Part of me doesn’t want to keep harping on about the Jam connection (and feel); but it’s difficult not to; baring in mind Bruce’s history; but what will surprise (pleasantly I hope) many listeners is the nod in the direction of Weller’s Stanley Road on a couple of songs.
Writing on The Wall and especially There Are Times (to make me happy), plus the two songs with Pau all sound like they could have been on that album; or definitely Heavy Soul in 97….which is a very good thing in my books; as this was PW’s creative peak in my humble opinion.
The album closes with a gorgeous instrumental; 50 Yards Down Sandy Lane; which in keeping with everything that has gone before it; sounds unlike anything else here; perhaps again, nodding in the direction of Traffic around the time of Dear Mr. Fantasy.
Well; after knocking Hell out of this in the car, on headphones and very, very loudly on the office stereo I can confirm every single minute of Smash The Clock has been well worth waiting for; and should easily please Foxton’s existing fan base and should also win over a host of Weller aficionados; as it is the best album that he hasn’t recorded since Heavy Soul!!!!!
Released May 20th 2016