Chains of Daisy DEAD AS STONE (EP)

Chains of Daisy
Dead as Stone
Self Released

Putting the Swagger Back Into British Rock

It hasn’t been the best of days; even if I have managed to crank out a couple of other reviews, so I was just finishing up a couple of hours ago, in readiness for watching something funny on Netflix when an e-mail arrived from Mike Blackhart, the hirsute singer from a Rock band called Chains of Daisy; claiming all kinds of support from Classic Rock stations and websites that normally make me run for the hills.
But ……. there’s always a but; there was ‘something’ that made me download their EP.
Here I am now, three coffees later, headphones on desperately trying to reconcile my diary so I can see them play live some time soon.
“Why would that be?” You may well ask.
Opening track Dead As Stone blew me away straight from the get go! The obvious comparison is The Faces; not Sir Rod Stewart and The Faces; but Long Player The Faces when Rodders was just the singer and not yet a Superstar. A heart-stopping bass, rinky-dink piano and searing, yet refined guitar solos and a swaggering and cocky singer who wouldn’t get past Round #1 on Britain’s Got Talent …… what’s not to like?
Absolutely nothing…. that’s what!
These kids can really write a Rock Ballad; that’s for sure; as the tragically beautiful A Farewell Winter Blues proves. Trust me; turn the lights down low and cuddle up …… it’s that type of Lurve Song; full of tears, pathos and heartache. (Which is just what I needed to hear today).
The fourth and final track finds the band going acoustic for Never Walk Alone; and Blackhart’s pained voice and the intricate guitar play between Carlos Oliviera and Aristeidis Makaronas; especially the inclusion of some sweet bottle-neck reminded me of the interplay between Rodgers and Kossoff in the late lamented Free …… and trust me; that’s high praise indeed from me.
Then, there’s the next single and my personal Favourite Song here; Morning Song with its surprisingly Countryesque melody and toe-tapping beat …… it’s a sure fire radio hit; and has the touch that could even make it a crossover hit too.
This multi-talented trio are from from London, Greece and Portugal and make truly International British Blues Rock!

EP Released May 2019

Bruce Springsteen THERE GOES MY MIRACLE (Single)

Bruce Springsteen
There Goes My Miracle (Single/video)
Columbia Records

Just like London busses, you wait ages for a new Bruce Springsteen single and just as you are ‘getting on board’ ……. another one comes along straight after it!
My first thought? I like it …… and it sounds like he’s channelling his inner Roy Orbison, in both words and deeds.

” Columbia Records will release ‘Western Stars’, Springsteen’s 19th studio album, on 14th June. The 13 tracks of Western Stars were recorded primarily at Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey, with additional recording in California and New York, and encompass a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope. Ron Aniello produced Western Stars with Springsteen, and the album’s musical arrangements include strings, horns, pedal steel and contributions from more than 20 other players.
“This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements,” says Springsteen. “It’s a jewel box of a record.”

Springsteen’s first new studio album in five years takes his music to a new place, drawing inspiration in part from the Southern California pop records of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. ‘Western Stars’ is available for pre-order now here.
‘Western Stars’ track listing
1. Hitch Hikin’
2. The Wayfarer
3. Tucson Train
4. Western Stars
5. Sleepy Joe’s Café
6. Drive Fast (The Stuntman)
7. Chasin’ Wild Horses
8. Sundown
9. Somewhere North of Nashville
10. Stones
11. There Goes My Miracle
12. Hello Sunshine
13. Moonlight Motel
 All songs written by Bruce Springsteen. 

Ellis Mano Band HERE & NOW

Ellis Mano Band
Here And Now

An Adrenaline Shot in the Arm For Classic Rock.

Swiss Blues Rock? No, me neither…… but….. that’s where these guys come from and that’s what they do; and they do it as well if not better than just about anybody else in Europe these days!
I know that’s quite a bold statement; but…… trust me…… if you love Classic Rock from acts like, Led Zeppelin, Joe Cocker or maybe The Faces or more pertinently Free you are gonna love this album!
WOAH there! Steady the horses! Opening track Whiskey is a good ole fashioned gut wrenching, foot stomping heartbreaker starring some crunchy guitar solos from Edis Mano, some powerhouse Hammond from Kiko Babic and an industrial strength drum & bass supporting singer Chris Ellis, who alternates between uber-power and breathless on this cracking Rock Ballad, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve heard this century.
Although this is a ‘debut album’ it’s easy to tell that these guys have been around the block a time or two; and they have …….. as they are all top European Session Men who have recorded and toured with just about every household name apart from me.
While you know that Edis Mano’s guitar and Severin Graf’s bass will be allowed to wig out on stage, they are quite restrained here as this album is about the songs, first and foremost, with Ellis’s slightly raspy whiskey soaked voice gets to ring every last ounce out of the title track Here and Now and Bad News Blues, without ever sounding over indulgent.
Maybe it’s because I heard Wishing Well by Free on the radio this morning that I can’t get them out of my head when I hear songs like I Want You Back and Goodbye My Love; but only because the Ellis Mano Band can make slow burners sound as powerful as their noisier songs; in a way that Free nearly copyrighted back in the day.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Rockers using melodies and tunes; in fact I wish more ‘Blues Bands’ would write songs like Georgia or Where We Belong instead of thinking ‘turning it up to 11’ is the definitive way to perform Blues Rock. It’s not and never has been.
There’s a little twist to the tale too, with a couple of songs Badwater and A Lifetime having a touch of ‘Country Rock’ tucked away in the shadows; full of great imagery and metaphors, and they fit in perfectly well in this type of company.
Hmmmmm; choosing a Favourite Song has been a bit easier today than it was yesterday; as overnight I found myself singing/humming the slightly whimsical and jazzy Jeannine that closes the disc in a gloriously ramshackle and rumbustious manner that will perfect for the last song of the night when the beer and adrenaline have taken over and dancing and loving are the only thing left on your mind.
I grew up in the 70’s and yes, I got to see most of the Great Bands; especially the British ones; but unlike many of my friends I’ve moved on and can’t bear to go and see grey haired men wheezing our teenage anthems; bring out the news songs I say; and while they fit into the Classic Rock trajectory The Ellis Mano Band are like a breath of fresh, Swiss mountain air in a very foggy part of the industry.

Released May 3rd 2019

Nils Lofgren BLUE WITH LOU

Nils Lofgren
Blue With Lou
Cattle Track Road Records

Classic Rock Meets Punk in an Abandoned Diner.

Way back when, legendary producer Bob Ezrin had the inspired/crazy idea to suggest that Nils Lofgren and Lou Reed; both pretty much at the height of their fame should write some songs together; even though they were from polar opposites of the then Pop Music spectrum.
The collaboration netted 13 songs (all written by Reed in a non-stop 3 day orgy of writing); eight of which appeared on the pairs albums over the next few years.
The other five lay hidden in Lofgren’s archives until 2017 when the kernel of an idea to re-visit them came during a tour of Australia.
The first of this quintet, Attitude City opens this album like a bolt from the blue. You can only imagine the fire that was burning in Reed’s belly when he wrote these lyrics; that are now spewed out by an aging Lofgren; but that juxtaposition actually works a lot better than it should; and it’s a similar sensation with the other songs from this odd collaboration.
I love the fluid guitar that breathes passionate life into Give; a song about ‘Charity’ written nearly half a century ago by an experimental Punk Rocker but very much a signature tune for where we are and what we should be doing for our fellow man in 2019.
Lofgren’s arrangement on Talk Thru The Tears is equal parts sympathetic and ‘honourable’ (?) on Reed’s romantic nod in the direction of the classic ballad Smile. Nils sounds like he’s singing about himself while sliding in some short and stunning guitar solos while the band and backing singers provide a claustrophobic fog behind him.
Bizarrely (for me) City Lights has a feint Reggae lilt to it as Reed uses Charlie Chaplin, star of the film of the same name as a metaphor for life on and in the busy and dark streets of an unnamed American city. The song itself; especially with Branford Marsalis’ wonderful saxophone is the epitome of 80’s AOR yet sounds as fresh as a daisy today.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down; is arguably the tightest and toughest song from the odd couple; with some razor sharp lyrics welded to a stinging back beat and melody.
At this stage I kind of think I’d have liked Lofgren to have revisited the other songs from Lou Reed that they had already released to bring them full circle; as it where; but the rest of this album is made up of some new, freshly penned songs of his own.
The most pertinent of these is Dear Heartbreaker a Rocky-lite love song to and about Nils’ friend Tom Petty, and performed in the style of the great man; with Lofgren’s grizzled voice absolutely perfect for such a hymnal.
It appears that going back to the old songs has reignited Nils’ own muse as there are a couple of belters here from his own pen; as Pretty Soon and Rock or Not are both perfect for Daytime Rock Radio and the title track Blue For Lou; even without the back story is one helluva Modern Rock song that deserves a wide audience.
There’s also a rather charming new ballad here too, Too Blue to Play that he dedicates to his wife Amy and it certainly feels like it comes from deep withing the writers soul the way her purrs;
“Took our innocence and comfort
Strolled it joyfully ’round town
You showed me off a bit too much
Had to hurt a few boys till word got around.”

I do like a love song, it has to be said.
The last of the five collaborations Cut Him Up is actually my Favourite Song as it has all the hallmarks of to Lofgren’s solo glory days in the late 70’s and Reed’s wise words combine the spite of Punk and the guile of Rock just perfectly.
With only five of the original thirteen songs here the ‘Sales Pitch’ from the record label is a tad misleading; but if you put that behind us BLUE WITH LOU is a much better album than anyone could ever have hoped to hear from Mr Nils Lofgren after all these years.

Released April 26th 2019

Grand Canyon Le Grand Cañon

Grand Canyon
Le Grand Cañon
Bodan Kuma Recordings

From LA to New Jersey Via Route 66.

Sadly a few really good releases are falling by the wayside these days at RMHQ, and this belter nearly did too, bizarrely as I wrote another review recently I was reading this Press Release while listening to something so very and completely different!
‘Everything happens for a reason’ my Sainted Mother used to say; and today I have now immersed myself in the correct music and I now feel a whole lot better than I did when I got out of bed.
I’d love to think that the raw Alt. Country Rock of opening track Lucinda is at leased dedicated to Ms. Williams if it’s not exactly about her, as singer Casey Shea drops a musical time bomb of Springsteen or maybe early Bon Jovi proportions…… so I guess there might be more New Jersey than LA where the band come from, in the mix .
With that in mind it’s all too easy and a little lazy to describe this as ‘Classic Rock’ when it’s nothing of the sort. OK there is more than a hint of Bruce and Jon in New Yorker Shea’s singing drawl; but it’s quite distinctive in its own rite too; as is the Masterclass in Rock Guitar from Joe Guese on every track from the restrained beauty of Heaven and the all out, head down boogie of Kansas City which will sound even better coming from the speakers on a 58 Camero rather than my ’58 plate Laguna.
Listeners of my vintage will obviously pick up on the band’s inspirations and influences; of which there are many; but hey…. if you are under 30 and out for a good time on a Friday night then the likes of Shangri La-La Land and Made in LA will most likely be the most exciting music you’ve ever heard in your life; and will be just as thrilling the following Tuesday on the drive to work.
Two songs in particular have stood out for me; and both showcase not just Casey Shea’s singing and songwriting alongside Joe Guese; but the multi-faceted talents of all of the musicians that actually make up Grand Canyon.
The piano led Theory of Everything finds Shea and Amy Wilcox swap verses in a way not bettered since Meat Loaf was top of the Pops and the other, Standing In the Shadows ticks every box I have for a truly great modern Rock & Roll song, from the clever duet between Shea and Wilcox through the power chords from Guere’s guitar and a bass n drum combo that could grace any musical troupe from the Heartbreakers through the Pretenders and even the E Street Band!
There’s not a bad track here and nor is there a duplication either; and for all of the grey haired and grumpy music fans out there sporting Neil Young, Bruce, Dylan or Fleetwood Mac t-shirts there really is new, interesting and exciting music in the Classic Rock format if you are only prepared to scratch the surface and look for it…… Grand Canyon are the perfect starting point.

Released November 2018


Jesse Kinch
I’m Not Like Everybody Else
Curb Records

Truth and Beauty By A Star Rising From The Ashes

It’s all too easy for my ageing generation to sneer at the myriad of Talent Show Winners who litter our lives these days; but every so often one or two are genuinely talented……. Leona Lewis, James Arthur and Olly Murs to name but 3 in the UK, and where would   Kelly Clarkson be without her leg up from a TV talent show? 
So kids, forget Musical Snobbery and let me tell you about this album from a winner of ABC’s US Rising Star IN 2014; he’s a lot more talented than you’d imagine….. and in his defence he walked away from his Prize contract with Capital, because ‘this’ is the album he had wanted to make and not just any old Pop-Pap……….so, give him a chance. 
Obviously I didn’t know his background when I first heard the hip-shaking and head-banging opening track Preaching Like The Pope…… Hell…I just wished I could grow my hair long enough to enjoy it to the Max…Dude!
While Kinch cites many and various bands and singers as influences; RMHQ will throw another name into that hat…….. Ian McNabb ex of the Icicle Works. 
Biff! Bang! Pow! This four minutes of Rock infused Country is straight from Mac’s Merseybeast template…… and it crops up again on the much gentler and more melodic ballad How Do I Reach You? Which follows, and these two songs alone highlight an amazing talent who can slide seamlessly between both worlds with ease.
Presumably the handsome young man with the angelic locks isn’t really being directed at my age group; but with quality songs from his very own pen like the raggedy Rock & Roll of Tamed, the ultra-passionate Nighttime In New York City and the winsome and string drenched After All These Lovers will endear him to music fans of all ages and persuasions surely?
I’m led to believe his choice of songs to cover in the show where his own; and if that’s true…… Jesse Kinch has impeccable taste and was brought up in a very eclectic household. 
Kinch cleverly changes the arrangement on I Put a Spell on You to make it sound more like Jose Feliciano than anyone else I can think of; and on RMHQ Favourite I’m a Man he goes all Spencer Davis; which is a name no one under 55 will know of; but hopefully enough youngsters will Google the name and discover a whole garden of earthly delights on You Tube. 
Jesse drops in a beautiful musical time bomb on yet another classy song from the RMHQ memory bank; the Beatles This Boy, which now has enough pathos to re-float the Titanic, and a song that made me make Mrs Magpie sit down and listen to with no distractions.
And…… that’s not even the best cover version here…… that accolade goes to a marvelous re-invention of Billie Jean, which I didn’t even come close to recognising as Kinch plays it on the acoustic guitar with a whole lot of echo; and wow…… I can easily understand why it took America by storm.
And…… that’s not even the best song here…… or to be more precise….. not even my favourite song here……. that goes to…..the exquisite title track, and a rare Kinks album track to boot, I’m Not Like Everybody Else. Back in the day this would have been called a Power Ballad; and it still is to some extent, but by jings Jesse Kinch has somehow crafted a very clever Rock song that wouldn’t have been out of place at the top of the charts in any decade across the the last 50 years! 
There’s a whole lot to like here, with Kinch first and foremost showing himself to be a cracking singer and very accomplished songwriter, plus the inclusion of 5 cover versions certainly isn’t a weakness, as his arrangements show a great talent at work in that area too. 
# When I first played her the album, Mrs Magpie asked “Is he the guy from A Star Is Born?” Which he obviously isn’t; but methinks will have a very similar demographic of fans of that soundtrack who like quality Rock Music with intelligent and occasionally sensitive lyrics and stories. 

Released USA March 16th 2018
Released Europe Jan 18th 2019 (LP & CD)
Download and Streaming all areas now.







Classic Rock Meets Americana in a Sweaty Club.

While not quite a Supergroup; the four constituent parts of London based band Jawbone most certainly have very enviable CV’s after playing alongside Rock Royalty like Robert Plant, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and Tom Jones to name but four over the years.
With that in mind it was the name Marcus Bonafanti that jumped out for me, even though I don’t actually any of his solo albums…..I know he’s a quality guitarist with a capital Q!
So; I was taken aback by the almost laid back Country Rock and Americana feel to opening song Leave No Traces, which just goes to show you should never pre-judge these things.
Still reeling I was, and still am impressed by the harmonies Bonafanti and keyboardist Paddy Milner create in between taking alternate lines on haunting and clever song about ‘being lost’ in both life and love……which is something many of us can associate with.
This is one of those albums that work in many settings; but for me having it on the car stereo was when it really and truly came to life.
While Jawbone are probably ‘Rockers’ at heart; songs like the cleverly constructed and deeply personal Family Man, Rolling on the Underground and Sit Around The Table show a mellower and occasionally more playful side than full on Blues Rock would ever allow.
I’m sure when they play live many of these songs will take on a whole new life; as indicated by the neatly restrained powerhouse Big Old Smoke and possibly even the rolling and smouldering Get What You Deserve….. but I could be wrong of course.
To some greater or lesser degree the complex arrangements and the way they revolve around Milner on the piano with Bonafanti playing in the shadows, means that Bet On Yesterday and the song that closes events The Years Used To Mean So Much owe a helluva lot to the master-works of Elton John; and that is meant to be a huge compliment.
There are plenty of songs here that are perfect for the radio; but one in particular has all the hallmarks of being a crossover hit, making the wonderful Rock Ballad When Your Gun Is Loaded easily my favourite song here; especially the chorus,
‘When your gun is loaded
Don’t point it at your feet
I never make the same mistakes
I make new ones every day’

Come on; who among us doesn’t think that applies to them? I certainly think it could be about me, and me alone.
There’s a lot going on here, with the intensity of someone U2 in their early days sitting alongside the harmonies of CSN&Y, while, honestly some of the sweeping flourishes could be Queen without the pomposity and bizarrely there are also tiny echoes of Little Feet and the Band too at times.
This have been an amazing journey of discovery and in Marcus Bonafanti and Paddy Milner Jawbone have two very diverse yet complimentary singers; and each of the four bring an individual set of musical skills that add together to create an extraordinary debut album, that has the potential to lay the groundwork for a very special next few years.

Released 9th November 2018



Sir Rod Stewart
Decca Records

Every Song Tells a Story and Then Some.

Is a new Rod Stewart album still something to be celebrated and get excited about? Hmm; as a fan for well over 40 years I did still got a little tingle of excitement when this package arrived (a couple of days after the release date due to an ‘administrative error’) but more than a touch of a apprehension too, as his output this century has been patchy, to say the least.
Human, in 2001 started things off so well, and Mrs Magpie is still partial to a couple of songs from it, and it was a similar story with TIME too, but those covers album? Nah; and as for the Great American Songbook Vol’s 1 – 57? They sure ain’t for this old Mod.
So without comparing and contrasting with his classics that helped change Rock music in the 70’s where does his 31st studio album, BLOOD RED ROSES fit into Sir Roderick’s canon of work?
Let’s find out shall we?
Opening track Look In Her Eyes is actually a very good song, that needs less Bass n Drums and more guitar to give it the oomph that the lyrics and melody deserve.
Hole In My Heart, which follows is more like it with Rod giving it his all on a cracking rocker of a song about loving and losing; and the Blues Brotheresque horn section ain’t half bad too on the choruses.
The clever lead single Didn’t I is quite fascinating; as it’s about a father talking about the perils of the Rock n Roll lifestyle to a daughter that is on the verge of a wayward life; but you can tell he is troubled by the hypocrisy in his own words as she fights for her life in a hospital bed. Not for the only time on this record; I’d love to hear an acoustic version of this song.
Obviously there are a couple of now obligatory Irish/Celtic folk songs; with Grace being a delightful and windswept love song, but the title track Blood Red Roses is sure to be a showstopper on the Live Tour especially when (I guess) a troupe of River Dancers come on stage; but hmmmm….it sure ain’t Rock & Roll, is it?
At times the songs can be ‘Rod by Numbers’ with Give Me Love sounding like it’s an out-take from Blondes Have More Fun, and Rest Of My Life and Farewell both sounding like something he’s written before, dusted off and basically just tarted up…… but Mrs Magpie actually loves the latter, which is about a great friend/relative from his youth who is no longer with us (about a friend called Ewan Dawson and not Ronnie Lane as I first thought).
But; when he puts his mind to it Rod can still be the electrifying Rod Stewart we all love and adore. Honey Gold; about an intriguing yet unnamed young woman who, again, has the essence of Killing of Georgie running through it and should have been the lead single; and still has the time to rack up quality radio plays across the whole Western World.
Possibly drawing on the Great American Songbook days; the beautiful ballad Cold Old London which closes the disc is very theatrical in construction and one of the few of his songs with a full orchestral backing that I will admit to liking.
Then, while not exactly groundbreaking Rest of My Life is as good a Love Song as our man has recorded in 30 odd years and doesn’t just get you tapping your toes but it will put a zing in your heart too! Plus, it’s now Mrs Magpie’s Favourite Song here.
My own Favourite song here is an either/or between the ‘obvious,’ Muddy Water’s Rollin’ and Tumblin’ which I last heard on Full Cream; and shows that even now; Rod still has great taste when it comes to covering songs (more like this please next time!) and the lovely and wistful story of unrequited teenage love Julia (14 to Rod’s 10 years)……funny how these things come back to us, isn’t it?
It’s a ‘given’ for a fan like me to think that everything here is a little bit over-produced with some weird Disco-Bass and electro backbeat combos distracting from Rod’s voice and his really well written and constructed songs; even if Mrs. Magpie vehemently disagrees (as usual!).
If I give it time, like my wife has and actually will, BLOOD RED ROSES will definitely grow on me in a way very few from the last 35 years has ever managed, so I will place it on the shelf next to Human and Foolish Behaviour.

Released September 28th 2018


j burn 2018

J Burn

The Lizard King Meets Some NY Punks In a Vegas Strip Club.

I’m going to try an experiment here; one I haven’t tried without a tightrope for a long time……I’m going to review an album during the first listen!
J Burn has previously given RMHQ Exclusive first plays of tracks from his albums but for some reason this album has arrived with no Press Release and only two days before it is let out into the wild; so here goes.
Opening track Hydra’s Tooth wasn’t what I expected at all! Boom! It’s a big ole NYC Punk Rocker in the style of RMHQ favourites Willie Nile and Jesse Malin……and I can only imagine Burn almost swallowing the mic as he spits out the lyrics and at least one of the participants (probably the bass player) sounds like his guitar is slung at knee level but turned up to 11……Yikes…..what a great start.
Mercifully things slow down a tad for the next track Good Enough; which is much more like what I was expecting with Burn now smoozing into the mic while he makes his guitar gently weep and wail in the background, on a peach of a song.
That spiky attitude reappears soon enough on the menacing TBD which comes from the the dark end of Rock Street, and sounds a lot like a Sensational Alex Harvey Band 45 played at 33….which is a good thing at RMHQ.
There’s a wonderful bizarreness about the mix of song structures here; with what I’ve just described coupled to the jaunty almost Country tunes Seem That Way and the Twangtastic Rascally Man, which might even be a contender for ‘Favourite Song’ status.
Then there’s Fade, which again has a slightly menacing feel to it; but it’s masked under a much more melodic tune……and the way Burn delivers the lyrics sounds like The Byrds have been held hostage by Leonard Cohen!
Dirt which follows now has Jay Burn sounding uncannily like Roger McGuinn reciting mystical poetry as the Doors jam away in the background……confused? Who cares……this is Alternative Music for the Alternative Generation…..if such a thing exists.
The album closes with the mystical and almost psychedelic Nothing (Full) which is as good a place as any to close proceedings; especially that wonderful guitar solo……oohhheeee IS IT GOOD!
Then there has to be an RMHQ ‘Favourite Track’ which is easier than you’d think baring in mind the diversity on offer here; I’m going for Un-In-Spiralled which again sounds very 60’s but very ‘now’ too with its hypnotic organ and brooding bass fighting a sizzling electric guitar for attention as Jay Burn can’t decide if he’s Jim Morrison or David Crosby up front; but he sounds like he’s wearing leather trousers, so I guess he’s channelling his inner Lizard King on a gorgeously intense Rock Song Deluxe.
So; after only one listen I’m left a bit bamboozled but none the less impressed by the diversity on offer here; which somehow still manages to sound like a collective piece.
Well done everyone; and I can think of a few friends who will love an album like this.

Released April 20th 2018

The Vietnam War (Soundtrack) – VARIOUS ARTISTS

vietnam soundtrack

The Vietnam War (Soundtrack)
Universal Music

A Snapshot Of a Time That Changed Our Lives and The World.

Does the world need another compilation of 60’s Rock and Pop music? Hardly; and much like you I probably already own 90% of the songs on this double album; so why bother RMHQ reviewing it?
Well; this album is the Soundtrack to Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s amazing 10 part BBC documentary on the Vietnam War; starting with the build up and ending (I think) with the aftermath and re-building; and talking to people that were involved from every perceivable side and these songs are used to set the scene for some key parts.
With that in mind I’ve tried to clear my brain of any preconceptions and listen to the songs as if they were brand new to me; as they were to the teenagers in the 1960’s who were either being drafted and fighting a seemingly never ending war in a country they couldn’t find on a map; or the ones left at home in America protesting against it.
Put into that context Dylan’s A Hard Rain which opens proceedings on Side #1 is mind-blowing and when you listen carefully…..bloody hell……it’s still relevant in 2017!
This is followed by a Country song that I’d not heard before, Hello Vietnam written by Tom T Hall and sung by Johnnie Wright. WOAH……what a brave song to write and release in 1965; just two songs in and you realise that this compilation is really quite special.
Normally I would have expected to hear We’ve Gotta Get Outta This Place by the Animals; but here we get It’s My Life a far more intimate and intense song and is perfect for the portion of the film it’s included in.
An album like this is bound to have plenty of ‘obvious tracks’……but hearing the Staple Singers with Masters of War sent a tingle down my spine, and Nina Simone growling Backlash Blues is worth the entrance fee alone.
There are plenty of what went on to become Classic Rock tracks like Are You Experienced, Strange Brew, Piece of My Heart, Magic Carpet Ride and Gimmee Shelter; but when juxtaposed with Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, The Thrill is Gone and Otis smouldering with rage on Tell The Truth you get a whole new objective on what have become commercial pop songs on Gold Radio stations.
As well as the three Bob Dylan inclusions, a key part of the documentary is the recounting of the riot at Ohio State University and Ohio by CSN&Y is the actual cornerstone of this magical double album.
I will repeat myself by saying the difference between this release and all others is context; and the way the second album closes should and will bring a tear to your eyes and a shiver down your spine; as Ray Charles sings America The Beautiful followed by Marvin singing What’s Going On, then Simon & Garfunkel’ Bridge Over Troubled Water leads us into Let It Be by the Beatles.
For days now I wasn’t going to choose a ‘favourite song’ but I keep getting drawn back to Pete Seeger singing Waist Deep in the Big Muddy; which was surely never ever played on the wireless but must have struck a dark chord with American soldiers of all colours and religious persuasions.
Not only, but also the accompanying booklet is as fascinating as the music itself; and even though I am only half way through the actual series I can’t recommend it too highly; but I’ve learnt so much about the background to this key part to my life than I ever expected after all this time; and the music is well worth seeking out too.

PS There’s another double album out to run alongside this with the Original Score written and played by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross too.

Released September 15th 2017