Shipcote & Friends
Hurrah! Friend of the Rocking Magpie and all around nice guy, Shipcote and his friends have made the daftest and coolest video of 2016 to promote the fabulous single Mr. Wonderful.
Here it is in all its Technicolor brilliance……EXCLUSIVE to the Rocking Magpie!
Long Time at Sea (single)
A Great Song for a Wonderful Cause.
‘Charity begins at home’ they say; and it’s true, but here at RMHQ there are a couple of causes that really tug at our heartstrings, with the current Refugee Crisis being at the very top of a short list.
It may not be on the TV News every night but these days but there is still a heartbreaking stream of families wandering around Europe looking for a home, and that’s not a home that you or I would call home…..primarily they just want to be safe from fear.
So, singer-songwriter Josh Coppersmith has been moved to write a song about these migrants, and all proceeds will go to these three amazing Charities –
Hand in Hand for Syria
Medecins Sans Frontieres
This is the link to the fundraising page
We Were Young
Very Classy Debut From Alt. Pop Singer-Songwriter.
So much music lands on the RMHQ doorstep that it can become very difficult to choose what to listen to and then review. Obviously some artists and labels will always take preference but occasionally I fancy a lucky-dip and randomly pick out a couple of CDs to take on a car journey; such was the case with We Were Young, the debut album from Billings, Montana bass player Parker Brown.
The first couple of songs were actually passing me by but I noticed Mrs. Magpie tapping her hand on her thigh along with the beat; meaning they had passed the first and most difficult test in the business.
I put the first track People Watching back on and took a deeper interest in proceedings. A bit more commercial and possibly ‘AOR’ than I would normally listen to; the Brown’s voice had a certain timbre that reminded me of those early Jackson Browne and Graham Nash albums that I pored over in my teenage bedroom.
As a professional studio musician and guitar/bass teacher it’s no surprise that each song is meticulously constructed and the playing is nothing short of perfect; but Brown’s songwriting is quite remarkable; he can tell a story in a way I’ve not heard a lot of since those heady days of the Brill Building.
Summer Day sounds like a charming bittersweet love song until you peel away the layers and a much darker tale lies beneath the surface; plus it has a magnificent Rhodes solo in the middle.
Hand Me Downs is a good old fashioned Soft Rocker in the style of Stevie Winwood, if any of you can remember him or Billy Joel when he was cool.
Once I’d ‘got into the album’ I too found myself tapping my toes; which isn’t always a good thing when that foot is on the accelerator!
The title track We Were Young is a really classy AOR song that would easily have been a ‘Radio Hit’ back in the 80’s or 90’s but today possibly needs stripping back a bit; possibly losing the tsch-tsch drumbeat but that could just be me, as Mrs. Magpie gave me a ‘look’ when I had the audacity to suggest such a crazy thing.
Now we are home two songs really, really stand out. Another Man’s Blues is a cool smoky late at night Jazzy/Blues crossover that showcases Brown’s sweet and expressive voice; while Hold On Sam was an expression we kept using all weekend as my Grandson Sam, kept walking and talking at 110mph! Even without that caveat this is a companion piece for Another Man’s Blues and best listened to with the lights turned down low and your mood on the right side of miserable.
Parker Brown has been around for a long time on the local music scene; and I’m not sure he intends this album being the gateway to International stardom but there are more than enough absorbing and interesting songs hear to bare repeated listening and make me want to hear a more stripped back second album.
Released September 2016
Call Me a Friend
Break Out Your Flares – Country Rock is BACK!
We don’t normally ‘do’ singles at RMHQ, as we are normally far too cool for disposable pap like that; but occasionally a song comes along that we can’t ignore and we feel the need to shout it’s glories from the Internet Rooftops!
Such is Call Me a Friends from Londoners The 27 who took their name from the infamous ’27 Club’ made up of musicians who died at the age of 27.
They make no bones about their love of Classic Country Rock with harmony rich vocals, multi-layered guitars (acoustic and semi-acoustic) all coming together to create 3 glorious minutes of sunshine to brighten up even the coldest, greyest days of Winter.
Based around the singing and songwriting of 23 year old Henry Parker alongside Tom Mitchell, David Page and drummer Alex Tschaikowsky The 27 have been honing their combined talents for ix years now and this wonderful song bodes very, very well for a full album in the New Year.
PS The video was recorded in Amy Winehouses’ former home in Camden and stars the beautiful Page 3 model Rhian Sugden.
Released June 14th 2016
LA Don’t Love You (EP)
Bodan Kumo Recordings
Frantic and Emotional Power-Punk That Will Shake Your Spine.
Back in September we were given the honour of EXCLUSIVELY launching Grit’s debut video for the song New Car; and after a long wait (3 months?) we finally get the actual EP that it comes from.
New Car kick starts the 5 track EP like a turbo charged Ford RS Cosworth; fast furious and only a cursory grip on the road. Singerist Kat Meoz sounds like her life depends on it as she recounts the feeling she had when a friend who nearly killed her in a car crash used the insurance money to buy a shiny new car, with barely a thought for Ms. Meoz’ feelings or health. Friends, eh? What can you do?
Track’s #2 & #3Fool’s Gold and Cold Blooded are complete doozies! With a band behind her that is as tight as a Nun’s chuff, Kat neatly straddles the blurred lines of American Punk, Chicago Blues and ROCK! to create a sound not too far away from the magic of the long lamented Detroit Cobras, and to some degree ‘Rip Her To Shreds’ era Blondie.
Things get damn personal on Look Away with the charismatic Kat and band trading machine gun like licks while the drummer stops just short of punching holes in his kit.
The title track, and by far the ‘killer song’ here, LA Don’t Love You closes the disc and comes from a time in her life when songwriter Meoz had decided that she wasn’t going to ‘make it’ in LA and move back home to Las Vegas……..only for a phone call inviting to an interview that led to a full time job; affording her the security to carry on making glorious music in the City of Angels.
I don’t know what ‘the kids’ listen to these days; but I’m sure that there must be a place somewhere among the MTV/VH1 Generation for a quality band like Grit.
Released October 1st 2016
Fire on the Floor
Hot, Sensual and Confessional Blues For After Midnight.
I got something of a shock the first time I played this album, as the opening track Jazz Man is a swinging slice of Dinner Jazz with the welcome addition of Ms. Hart ‘scatting’ in the middle just like favourite singer Cleo Laine did back in the 1960’s. Not what I was expecting at all; but a terrific way to prove the LA Blues singer ain’t no ‘one trick pony’…..this girl can sing; and sing anything.
Track #2 Love Gangster follows in a similar sassy vein; but with Hart at the piano on a more Bluesy offering; of the late at night variety.
Surprise come at you left, right and centre with Beth pouring her heart out into the microphone on the hit single Love is a Lie and later on the biting and bittersweet Woman You’ve Been Dreaming Of, but she also enters Aretha territory on Good Day to Cry which will not only tug at your heartstrings but feel like a punch to the gut at the same time, which is quite some feat.
From day #1 Beth Hart has been a very good songwriter, but some of the songs here are staggeringly good; the way she tells the story during Picture in a Frame is quite astonishing, as is the danceably funky Baby Shot Me Down too.
While the other ‘hit single’ and title track Fire on the Floor is obviously one of the best songs Beth has ever recorded; my favourite track here and a song that had my jaw hanging loose even before I saw the title is Fat Man. Cool, sassy and a veritable gumbo of Blues, Soul and even a smidgen of Southern Gothic thrown in for good measure combine to make a fist punching, sing-along toe-tapping party anthem for Rock & Rollers of all ages. I likes it a lot!
I once got into a ‘Twitter Spat’ with Joe Bonamassa for saying ‘he had finally discovered his voice, and that voice was Beth Hart’ in a review of their Sees-Saw album; and I stand by that concept today. Beth Hart has such a distinctive singing voice that it defies comparison which is a rarity in these days of Spotify and 24 hour music streaming; and the world is a better place for it and her.
No overnight success, Beth Hart has worked bloody hard overcoming a whole series of demons to get to where she is today with this, her twelfth album; and it is by some way her most accomplished to date and showing her magnificent voice off in all it’s mellifluous glory.
Released UK October 14th 2016
Released US February 3rd 2017
A Full Live Album And More from Guitar Maestro.
We’ve long been Jeff Healey fans here at Rocking Magpie HQ, and feel the Rock and Roll History Books seem to have airbrushed him from their pages.
Thankfully Jeff’s wife Cristie alongside labels Provogue and Mascot seem Hell bent on righting that wrong, with yet another release that will keep the flame burning 8 sad years after his untimely death.
This album is billed as a ‘companion’ to Heal My Soul, the great ‘lost album’ which came out earlier this year, with the first five tracks being from the same sessions coupled with a live recording from the Rockefeller Music Hall in Norway from 1999.
Holding On opens with the splendiferous Love Takes Time. For a track that had been gathering dust this is well worthy of opening the new disc. Healey sounds on great form; ripping the notes from his guitar and his voice sounds as rich as ever on a damn fine song, that is about exactly what the title implies.
Every Other Guy is next; and is a touch slower and moodier with Healey pleading with his Lady to ‘walk on by’ from Every Other Guy while he is away from her. The guitar actually sizzles as it punctuates the song, while the Canadian has hardly ever sounded so emotional. Blues Rock par excellence.
All That I Believe is a lot punchier and even ‘Heavier’ than I recall Healey ever being; but well worth seeing out, in my humble opinion.
Of the five ‘new tracks’ there are two absolute honeys; CNI Blues is a short and sweet instrumental that hints at a whole new direction that wasn’t to be; and Dancing With Monsters is as good a riff-driven Blues Rocker as I’ve heard in years. All that is missing is Jeff introducing it with 1-2-3-4!
The Oslo concert opens with a proper introduction from an MC, how I miss those days, then the band immediately rip into My Little Girl with Healey showing why guys like me speak in reverential tones about his talents as a singer and a guitarist.
The tracks are a nice mix from his four albums to date; although the majority come from his Cover to Cover album, and showcase his mastery of all the Blues styles.
If you’d asked me a month ago if I would be happy going to the grave never hearing another ‘version’ of Dust My Broom again; I’d have replied in the affirmative but I’d have been wrong, as our man dusts it off, fits a new handle and electrifies this hoary old classic; proving quality songwriting never goes out of style.
The first time I heard it, I actually raised my eyebrows; but his deconstruction and rebuilding of Stuck in the Middle With You is quite mesmerising; and at the end he playfully morphs into Tequila. Another track that made me do a double take was Yer Blues. I sort of recognised it; but couldn’t place it, thinking it was something from my Chess collections….Hell No! This is a Beatles song of course…..from the Whit Album, but like Stuck in the Middle Jeff Healey really does make it his own with his signature guitar licks as sterling as ever.
While I like (no, make that love) the ‘surprising’ tracks here, my favourites are two trademark Jeff Healey songs, I Think I Love You Too Much and See The Light; both making me wish more than ever that I’d seen him play live in Newcastle.
An album combining 5 studio tracks and 9 song live concert is something of an oddity and to some degree makes for an unbalanced album; but it is what is and I heartily recommend it to existing Jeff Healey fans, Rockers and Blues Heads alike; you won’t be disappointed.
Released December 9th 2016
Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire
Middle of Nowhere Recordings. MONR30
Eclectic Musical Postcards From Scotland’s West Coast.
Although a friend in Scotland has raved about Roddy Hart for a couple of years I genuinely had no idea what to expect when I pressed ‘play’ the first time.
Opening track Tiny Miracles has a classy 80’s vibe to it with Hart’s windswept vocals reminding me to some degree, of Paul Buchanan from the late lamented Glaswegian band The Blue Nile and the song itself isn’t a mile away from that band’s latter sound either.
Track the dark and brooding #2 Berlin, takes a wild step left of centre though; with a nod in the direction of Bowie circa Low the story will draw you in, whether you play it loudly or quietly; and I’ve done both.
No Monsters follows a similar tack; with a monotone vocal over a multi-layered and deeply textured backdrop as Hart takes us into the darkest pits of his imagination.
Just as I was thinking I had a handle on Hart, he throws another curve ball with In The Arms Of California. A much more up-tempo song showcasing Hat’s vocal range and quirky writing style and the band sound as tight as a badgers bum, in the background.
The first couple of times I played the album it sort of ‘drifted over me’ as it’s not my normal first choice of music…….modern! But, the more I played it in the car the more songs like the doleful We’re The Immortals and the quirky Low Light with it’s funky bass-lines seeped into my mind and soul.
Tucked away in the middle of the record is the charming Violet; a love song of sorts and the sort of romantic song I always associate with Indie Scottish Pop bands from Orange Juice through The Blue Nile (again?) and even Belle & Sebastian.
Unsurprisingly there is actually a ‘favourite track’ too, the relatively straightforward Alt. Rock of Dreamt You Were Mine, which has ‘radio play’ written all over it and has a hook that the young people would call an ‘ear worm.’
‘Swithering’ is a Scottish word meaning ‘uncertainty as to which course of action to take’ which sort of makes sense when you listen to the album the first time; but the more time you invest in listening the more you realise that each track lights the spark for the next and the overall result is the sound of a band with a lot of imagination and aren’t afraid to go their own way; regardless of the consequences and I salute them for that.
#PS I gave my copy to Daughter in Law #2 who loves bands like Midlake, Band of Horses and Arcade Fire and she absolutely loves it.
Released November 25th 2016
UB40 (featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey)
British Reggae Hits Stripped Back and Brought Up To Date.
UB40’s debut 1980 album Signing Off changed my life, literally. OK, I was aware of Reggae, well Pop-Reggae but the first time I heard Food For Thought, on the radio (John Peel Show, I presume) my head spun 360 degrees like the girl in the Exorcist. What was this strange magical music? The following day I was waiting outside Woolworths as it opened and bought the 45 RPM single, then wearing the grooves out over the next few weeks. Leap forward to the release of the ‘game changing’ debut album, and its iconic UB40 cover (a homage to the legendary slip the dole gave you when you finally found a job) and the roots of my love for all things Reggae were sown (the DUB album that came with the original release was another ‘head-spinner’).
UB40 have recorded a lot of music in the intervening 37 years, some good, some brilliant and some downright average……but when they are on form UB40 are as good as any band (Reggae or otherwise) in the world, as the accompanying Greatest Hits album will testify.
Does the world need another Best of UB40? Probably not; my local ASDA has three versions for sale; but this disc serves them very well reminding us how cool King, Cherry Oh Baby, Red Red Wine and Kingston Town were/are and King, the B-Side to that original single hasn’t aged a day and still makes your brain spin with its lyrical brilliance.
But, that is the past; UNPLUGGED is the present. UB40 have had their internal differences over the years and are now two completely separate entities, with original lead singer Ali Campbell alongside founder members (and the heartbeat) of the band Astro and Mickey Virtue forming their own band and releasing an album of new/original material in 2015; and during the promo at radio stations around the country the trio performed acoustic versions of the Hits and the format for this remarkable album took shape.
The album opens with the deconstructed Kingston Town and, while taking nothing away from the original now sounds as fresh as a daisy; which is true of all 16 tracks to be fair.
Still with a funky bassline, Red Red Wine follows and the harmonies are so deep you can wallow in them for hours, not just the 6 minutes here.
Over the last few days I’ve done a ‘compare and contrast’ with both albums (as you do) and before hand I’d never have thought UB40 would sounds dated; but a few original songs include a lot more synthesizer than I’d remembered; so hearing Many Rivers to Cross and (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You, among others more or less acoustic really brings out the lyrics and showcases Ali Campbell’s wonderful singing style.
There are a couple of inclusions that have left me shrugging my shoulders, Baby Come Back, featuring their friend Pato Banton is very alright, and their take on Prince’s Purple Rain could and should have been left in the studio.
But; there is more than enough here to keep me coming back for years to come with Homely Girl and Rat In Mi Kitchen sounding better than I’d remembered.
Then…..there….are the Classics. How do they fare in this setting? Well, the socio-political songs from the early 80’s Food For Thought, Tyler and One In Ten are both still thought provoking, lyrically sharp and sadly so relevant today in 2016.
Plus, with a back catalogue so big and far reaching there are a couple of surprises here too with That’s Supposed To Hurt and I Got You Babe (featuring Kaya Campbell) both sounding wonderful.
While the trio and their band want to concentrate on new music; this Unplugged album really shows what a legacy the band has left on British and indeed Reggae music and long may that continue.
Released November 19th 2016
Beth Hart & Colin James
13th November 2016
For a variety of personal reasons I’ve hardly been to any gigs in 2016, and this was my first since SummerTyne in July…..so it was a big deal for me.
I’m sort of a fan of Beth Hart, having seen her at this venue twice previously but it was the opportunity to see Colin James that got me out of the house.
I love his latest (18th!) album Blue Highways so was a little bit excited when he trotted out in front of an already full auditorium, onto the stage alongside his friend and rhythm guitarist the hirsute ‘Chris.’
With a beaming smile the duo launched into a storming acoustic version of Ride With Me Tonight and the night was off to a rattling start.
As he changed guitars James told us that this was his first visit to the UK since 1991 when his band supported Robert Plant. With Chris still on acoustic Colin played the dirty end of the fret board on his electric to make Horn of Plenty actually sizzle.
I was in Blues Heaven for the next half hour as the duo flitted between tracks from the latest album and James’ back catalogue plus the native of Montreal dabbling with Celtic mysticism when he carefully slid Into the Mystic into the set, which really suited his own warm and sensitive voice.
Without the need for ‘loud’ James proved what an excellent guitarist he is, on both acoustic and electric; especially on a song called I Want You To Love Me (You Know It Pleases Me).
The 40 minutes flew by and as they left the stage there was even a couple of calls for “more” from the front of the Hall, which will hopefully bring him back with his band sometime soon.
During the break I treat myself to a cup of coffee and took the opportunity to ‘people watch,’ which was quite illuminating especially as only three years ago Beth Hart only drew about 300 people on her first visit and tonight nearly 1700! The new crowd appeared to be an eclectic mix of mature couples on a ‘nice night out,’ ageing Rock fans in band t-shirts, young hipsters and assorted music fans. Not what I’m used to at all.
The band came out and began a slow burner that evolved into Your Heart is as Cold as Night when Beth entered the Hall from the rear amid huge cheers, then sang her way to the front, glad-handing fans all of the way.
Now on stage Beth urged everyone to get on their feet and then launched into a Jazzy freestyle number that included a thrilling ‘scat’ in the middle; this was then followed by the slow and sultry Delicious Surprise; which more or less set the tone for the evening.
In the past I’ve compared the ‘rocking’ Ms. Hart to Tina Turner and she was; but tonight I was very pleasantly surprised to find Beth has ‘grown into her voice’ and isn’t like anyone else but Beth Hart. Her voice is truly amazing, smoky, individual, variable and most of all….hers.
Less of a surprise to me, but apparently to many around me Bet Hart can play the piano….no, seriously…..really play; almost Classical standard and so well songs like I’ll Take Care of You and Good Day To Cry Jazz-Blues crossover of the very highest standards.
At one stage she told us that “playing the piano was cathartic for her; for which she thanked her Mother,” then glided into a beautiful song for and about her Mother, Baddest Blues.
What I’ve always loved most about ‘live music’ is the opportunity to see and hear things that no one else in the world would witness. This happened a couple of times this evening; Beth actually messed up the beginning to a song and had to re-start it; and during the applause to another song she appeared to change the set list around, sending the band off stage before performing a staggeringly raw version of Close To My Fire with only her piano as accompaniment. The applause was deafening.
We got stories aplenty on the intros with Beth more than baring her heart and soul as she talked about her Mother, Father (Tell Her You Belong To Me was an absolute highlight and right from the very bottom of her heart) and sister……wow, Sister Heroine was not just spellbinding but heartbreaking at the very same time.
The set ended with an epic song (That I didn’t recognise!) during which Beth jumped off stage and again wandered up and down the aisles, high-fiving fans and even getting a kiss and cuddle from one guy; but still never missed a note.
The obligatory encore really amused me, scroll back a few paragraphs and you will see I once compared Beth to Tina Turner but has now moved into a new stratosphere…..guess what the first encore song was? Yep, Nutbush bloody City Limits! The rocker got the audience straight onto their feet and there they remained for another 15 minutes with the red hot Love is a Lie followed by Beth again sending the band offstage so she could sing the song she wrote for her husband Scotty, who was standing in the shadows. Unusually for a ‘show closer’ this song was as slow and moody as anything else this evening; but hearing her pour her heart in a song as she gently played the piano was truly mesmerising.
What a night! Beth Hart really is the new….Beth Hart and will be a household name very, very soon.