Who knows where the time goes …. 5 months and 21 Music hours; phew. This week features our friend Bobbo Byrnes talking about his Gateway Record; which for the second week running was something I’d never heard before ….. which is what this is all about. Apart from that I’ve delved deep into my own collection for everything else; so …. nothing new this week, just me being self-indulgent.
STONE THE CROWS (REP UK 1392) ODE TO JOHN LAW (REP UK 1397) TEENAGE LICKS (REP UK 1395) ONTINUOUS PERFORMANCE (REP UK 1400) MAGGIE BELL: QUEEN OF THE NIGHT (REP UK 1398) SUICIDE SAL (REP UK 1399)
I’ve been a fan of Maggie Bell since the night her I saw her with Stone the Crows on OGWT as a teenager; though sadly I only ever owned second hand copies of her Suicide Sal and the Best Of LP’s; which is why these re-releases have so excited me ….. even though I haven’t heard them yet. All I can do tonight is pass on the info from the Press Release and wait patiently for my review copies to arrive….
Stone The Crows released their self-titled debut album in 1970, and featured the impressive guitar talent of Les Harvey, younger brother of the great Alex Harvey. Also in the band was bass player / vocalist Jim Dewar, who would go on to be a stalwart of the Robin Trower powerhouse trio of the mid-seventies, and also drummer Colin Allen, a former member of Zoot Money Big Roll Band. The band were managed by the formidable Peter Grant, who also managed Led Zeppelin, and under his guidance Stone The Crows made solid progress through their four album tenure on Polydor Records. However, tragedy struck the band when Harvey was fatally electrocuted onstage at Swansea University in May 1972. His replacement on guitar was the mercurial, diminutive Jimmy McCullough, formerly of Thunderclap Newman, who would go on to join Wings, with Paul McCartney. McCullough completed the recordings for their final album, ‘Ontinuous Performance, before the band split for good in 1973.
After the split, Maggie Bell commenced a solo career. After recording two solo albums which were unreleased, she eventually released her first solo foray, Queen of the Night, in 1974. She followed this with the sparkling Suicide Sal in 1975 (recorded at Startling Studios – owned by Ringo Starr, and featuring guest slots from Phil May (The Pretty Things), Jimmy Page and Pete Wingfield) both of which were released on the Swan Song label, which was owned by Led Zeppelin and Peter Grant. Despite good reviews and extensive touring, the albums failed to sell, and Bell would go on to front the band Midnight Flyer, again under Grant’s management.
Maggie Bell would later achieve a greater profile as the vocalist on ‘No Mean City’, the theme from the long-running ITV detective series Taggart.
Maggie Bell still tours and performs regularly (Lockdown permitting!) in the UK and Europe.
Unreleased Tracks That Would be Career Highlights For Many of His Peers.
I was ‘late to the party’ regarding Gary Moore; pretty much missing out on his whole career before his untimely death 10 years ago; but thanks to those nice people at Provogue Records, who are keeping the Flame Alive with a yearly series of releases; I’m nearly up to speed. Normally with albums that are full of ‘unreleased material’ my gut reaction is to shy away, as 99% of such music was left in the vault for a reason ….. it wasn’t good enough. But yet again, Gary Moore kept songs back that would have been career highlights for many of his peers; and even a cursory listen to opening track (Freddie King’s) Tore Down let’s you know that this kid could not just play his electric guitar as well if not better than most; but what a voice he had! Speaking of guitar playing; Moore does things on track #2 Steppin’ Out that are still illegal in several US States! By my normal standards it’s LOUD, but by Jove he has a delicate touch even when shredding the strings on his trusty guitar of choice. Honestly, there’s not a Blues Fan out there that will hear HOW BLUE CAN YOU GET and think any track is ‘filler’ and there to milk the audience’s bank balance. As per usual this album is a mix of Moore’s own penned love songs and a heady mix of his intelligent re-interpretations of songs by the Masters; and the new; and rather beautiful version of Love Can Make A Fool Of You will send a shiver down your back and by the time you get to finale, Living With The Blues you will know that you are in the presence of a Modern Master of the Blues idiom; very few of his generation, if any at all can combine the sensitivity of singing the Blues in all it’s forms with the way Gary Moore plays an electric guitar. For a Favourite Track I’ve been torn between going for the stunning re-inventions of Elmore James’ Done Somebody Wrong and the heart-breaking ballads How Blue Can You Get? and In My Dreams, with the latter being in a similar vein to Parisienne Walkways; but with added zip; and on the former Moore pays homage to BB King, when he adds extra sparkle to a song I’ve loved for near 40 years. So, today ……. cue drum roll …….. I’m going for In My Dreams, primarily because it suits my mood this evening; but Hell …… how and why Gary Moore left this in a drawer will remain a mystery for decades to come! As I sit here I got to thinking about where Gary Moore sits into the pantheon of British and indeed Worldwide Blues Guitarists (for which he’s best known). Even though he packed concert halls across the UK and stadiums in Europe he barely gets a mention; and that’s not fair as his legacy is as good and probably more varied than many who have stolen a living for decades, hawking out the same few riffs over and over again to an ever greying audience. Gary Moore – he’s Up There, both figuratively and literally.
PS When I last visited his home town of Belfast in 2013 his family and friends were petitioning for a statue in his honour; and now it’s picking up some momentum ……… I recommend you check the website out and do what you can; as Gary Moore was the original Belfast Boy. http://garymoorestatue.com/
British R&B at Its Magnificent Best …… and Still Rocking Today!
To some degree I could (and plenty will) have written this review without ever receiving the actual Double CD. Why? I am unashamedly a Dr Feelgood fan ……. wearing a tour t-shirt and drinking copious amounts of strong coffee from my Down by The Jetty mug as I type ….. just to keep the ‘vibe’ going. But; just for you dear reader, I have sacrificed several precious hours over the last month listening to this latest package from one of Britain’s greatest and under-rated bands just so I can give you my honest thoughts … from 2021. SPOILER ALERT; there’s obviously nothing here not to like, especially for fans ….. but I may query the sequencing and running order; which is why I thought She Does It Right a strange choice to start the 41 tracks with ….. but 45 seconds in; I re-booted, thinking ‘why the Hell not? It’s a belter!’ and it is. That’s the thing with Feelgood’s songs; there’s not a bad one, is there? OK, naysayers will point to their ‘formula’ but Hell’s Teeth man …… it works doesn’t it? And …. it worked for Muddy, Wolf, Hooker and of course Chuck Berry who all had a hand in this type of heady Rhythm and Blues music. ‘Greatest Hits’ may be a bit of a stretch; as even their most famous and memorable singles hardly dented the Pop Charts with Milk & Alcohol hitting #9 and Roxette and Back in the Night not even going Top 75! But; to the likes of me and presumably you, Sneakin’ Suspicion, Hunting, Shooting, Fishing, Baby Jane and No Mo Do Yakamo are ‘Hits’ as I can sing every word and know where every break comes. The joy for me though has been rediscovering old gems from albums that are long forgotten …….. Shotgun Blues? WOW! Violent Love? You couldn’t release that today …… but it’s still a belter. Mad Man Blues? Double WOW! There are plenty of surprises here too; I’d forgot (I’m not even sure I’d realised) how diverse their output was; especially in the early days. I Can Tell and especially the B-Side Keep it Out of Sight show a subtlety oft forgot. Personally I stopped buying albums and even seeing the band after Lee Brilleaux died; so it’s been enlightening hearing the ‘new band’ (does being 37 years old still constitute ‘new’?) on the last third of the selection; starting with Dave Bronze growling Sugar Turns to Alcohol straight through the rifftastic Instinct to Survive, when singer Pete Gage more than holds his own in front of the Feelgood’s microphone; and his/their take on JB Lenoir’s Gimmie One More Shot is good enough on its own to keep the flame burning. Even though Roxette and Back in The Night are both in my Top 20 songs of all time, and all of the singles from the bands first ten years merit being My Favourite Track here; I’ve decided to be contentious and go for a toss up between a song I’d forgot about and another I can’t actually remember. The first is Jumping From Love to Love which borders on Heavy Rock, but never loses the bands trademark R&B swing and boy does it swing as Sparko’s bass shakes the rafters; and the other comes from the latter days, King For a Day (a live recording here, but originally from Stupidity) which shows what a brilliant, yet diverse band Dr. Feelgood could be and were well worthy of the accolade Kings of Pub Rock! Obviously fans of all persuasions will buy this because it is what it is; but I urge you to buy this for the younger music fans in your family; you know …. the one with the Stones or Ramones t-shirt they bought from Primark; you will most likely change their lives in a heartbeat.
As I said last year when I reviewed their CITY NIGHT album; I was staggered to find that Savoy Brown were still ‘on the go’; but pleasantly so as the album itself was “full of fire, passion and excitement and is a bit of a keeper.” So; apart from the world almost imploding; has anything changed in the Savoy Brown camp? Mercifully, the answer is a resounding NO! While I’m sure if you did a ‘compare and contrast’ with their 1967 debut, SHAKE DOWN this and that would be chalk and cheese; but …….. while having progressed; and pretty much slowed down (it’s an age thing kids) AIN’T DONE YET is still an obvious product of the 60’s British Blues Boom; and I couldn’t be any happier because of it. Without actually sounding like a ‘feeling sorry for yourself’ song; opening track All Gone Wrong is a tongue in cheek Blues walloper, that appealed to me on every level from the diesel powered spine from drummer and bassist Garnet Grimm and Pat DeSalvo through Simmonds’ dynamic solos on the Gibson Flyin’ V (a much maligned but staggering beautiful sounding geetar!) and of course the story could be about me #wink. It’s patently obvious that after plying his trade for over half a century that Kim Simmonds would have the hang of it all, by now; but it’s never the less mega-surprising when you stumble on track #3 River On The Rise for the first time. Acoustic guitar and slide par-excellence; as Simmonds’ gravelly voice tells a stark tale of Climate Change, in a way that will appeal to wrinkly old rockers and sandal wearing hipster alike. ‘Write about what you know’ is the finest adage a songwriter can hear; and Kit still does that with intrigue and fascination in equal measures. The band get their ‘Boogie on’ during Jaguar Car; a ‘dream’ prized possession for the singer; and although as British as British things get; I think it will be a winner on American Blues/Rock radio too. The song that precedes it, sounds semi-autobiographical too; the sad tale of the troubadour musician; Feel Like a Gypsy ……. slow burning and mournful too; and Simmonds’ slide guitar sounds as if it’s got the ghost of Peter Green haunting it. Another I presume from the same lineage of ‘write about you know’ is Soho Girl; although it’s presumably not to be taken 100% literally; as it’s a growling song of unrequited love about an unattainable, fantasy woman that flits around bohemian circles in the likes of both London and New York’s Soho districts. While Kit Simmonds certainly has his own distinctive style of guitar playing, which is showcased right across all 10 songs; he’s not afraid to wear his influences on his guitar strap; especially on the instrumental Crying Guitar which is as fluid as anything George Harrison or Gary Moore ever recorded in their most melancholic moments; and of course Rocking in Louisiana is everything you would expect from a song with that title; and I guess that there are more louder versions in the can; and will possibly ending up being a good ole electric guitar stomper eventually; but will always be remembered for the authenticity that’s brought to the original here via the steel Dobro and a jug-band arrangement. #classy I’ve decided to delve into Savoy Brown’s trademark nod to the Blues for my Favourite song here; and it’s a gold pound toss-up between the Albert Collins and Shuggie Otis (?) inspired slow burner Devil’s Highway and the rifftastic title track Ain’t Done Yet, which could easily have been recorded by Savoy Brown any time in the last 50 years; but makes much more defiant sense today in 2020, as he/they and us are desperately trying to hold on the last vestiges of our youth or should that be Middle Age? In fairness, the album title says it all ……… Savoy Brown – Ain’t Done Yet!