This time last year one of my best friends bizarrely challenged himself to ‘posting an album a day’ from his ‘musical life’ on Facebook throughout 2018…..which I thought was utter madness! Somehow he’s managed it, and set me thinking…… 352 was far too many surely, perhaps I could post 12 as ‘an album a month’ from across my life, throughout 2019, which became a list that very quickly grew and grew to 50+ i.e an album a week. Then, last week that list was 175 albums! Mercifully I’ve now culled it down to a manageable Festive 100! Seriously; all of these 100 albums have effected my musical tastes over the 50 years since my big brother Brian first gave me a pile of LP’s that he no longer wanted back in the Summer of ’69, with the Dusty Springfield one being part of that package. The first and indeed Top Ten are My Favourite Albums of all time, but the other 90 are various gateways into the many directions which finally brings me to where I am today; and are just the order in which they came into my head. I’ve always had eclectic tastes and an inquisitive mind; but generally, as you will see it’s a pretty commercial collection of albums with nothing intrinsically ‘cool’ or ‘clever’ that I’ve discovered on Google just to impress you…… it’s all a snapshot into my musical life and back catalogue. * As with John’s original idea, the only caveat was that I would only use one album per artist (i.e. Rod Stewart and the Faces being two distinctly seperate turns in my head). Let me know if these stir any memories……………..
Every Picture Tells a Story
Sin of Pride
5 Live Yardbirds
Live in Europe
Rip It Up
London 0 Hull 4
Down By The Jetty
String Driven Thing
The Machine That Cried
Goats Head Soup
I Can Stand a Little Rain
I’m Your Man
Sounds of the New West
New Boots and Panties
Wheels of Fire
In The City
Last of The True Believers
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Come On Come On
Upstairs at Erics
A Girl Called Dusty
If You Want Blood
Garden in the City
Sweetheart of the Rodeo
In Your Eyes
High on Tulsa Heat
Because It Feel Good
One Step Beyond
Arthur 2 Stroke
Live at Banwells
People Gonna Talk
I’m The Man
Rip It Up
High Land, Hard Rain
Night Boat to Bolivia
Skinhead Box Set
Old Is Cool
House of a Thousand Guitars
Girl of Your Dreams
Not The Tremblin’ Kind
Down The River
I’ll Make The Most of My Sins
Justin Townes Earle
Harlem River Blues
A Nod’s as Good as a Wink
Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
Anymore For Anymore
Bad and Lowdown World
North of a Miracle
Live at Last!
East Side Story
Squeezing Out Sparks
A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
A Man Under The Influence
The Houston Kid
Albeit bot anywhere near this list; if one song sums up me and RMHQ…… this is it; local lad made good, Mr John Miles esq. ….. Music (Was my First Love)
I was sure I’d reviewed Rich Krueger’s debut album LIFE AIN’T THAT LONG in late 2017; but it appears I only actually posted his Christmas single instead……yet I can vividly remember listening to it several times.
I must have been otherwise engaged at that time with the recuperating Mrs Magpie.
Singing songs about their favourite Bars is a staple in Country Music; but I doubt Toby, Keith or Kenny would ever dare set foot in (Kenny’s) It’s Always Christmas Here) which kick-starts the record in a glorious left of centre manner that I love; and it kinds of reminds me of The Jerry in my home village of Craghead, in deepest, darkest Co. Durham but without the cocktails.
You can tell that Rich Krueger is obviously an educated man; by the way he writes and builds his songs, but they are always about real people in real situations with Waltz (Terpsichore) being a classy example as he drolly describes the girl, “She throws back her hair back/as she laughs/Her hair’s as wild as an arsonists dream” as a haunting fiddle and hypnotic drumbeat play out in the background.
When you hear it; you will know exactly the type of girl he’s singing about.
Many of the songs here are quite complex; but still accessible if that isn’t too big a contradiction. He himself cites Jacques Brel, Tom Waits and Robbie Fulks as inspirations and you can hear that in the intricately clever In Between Kingfish and In Regard of Flight, both of which academics could immerse themselves in for years and still not unravel. But not all songs are to be taken literally, are they?
But Krueger also delves back into his traditional Folk roots with the Celtic tinged Yesterday’s Wrong (Green) on which I can nearly visualise him singing with a finger in his ear.
Personally, as much as I like Rich’s songwriting skills I absolutely love his warm and distinctive voice; especially on the love song Elizabeth and the jaunty toe-tapper Me & Mr Johnson, which is about his relationship (fantasised) with Bluesman Robert Johnson.
There are left and right turns throughout here; but any album that can include songs as diverse as Por Que No Me Amas (Love Me) and Yesterday’s Wrong (Green), yet still make everything sound cohesive is alright by me!
Like most singer-songwriters of my acquaintance Rich Krueger has a day job to pay the bills; and that makes a feint appearance in the glorious O What a Beautiful Beautiful Day, in which he describes the joy and horrors of childbirth in the quirkiest of manners; as he draws on the regular 80-100 hours a week he spends as a Doctor at the University of Chicago!!!
Then of course there’s my Favourite Song and it’s one that caught my attention first of on the track list; but when I heard Girls Go For Arseholes I couldn’t stop smiling as my mind drifted back to my own teenage years ……. And even today I see this song being lived out every day around me.
Not only; but also this song contains one of my favourite lines for years…..
“they make me laugh/until I fart.”
How Rich Krueger’s found the time and inclination to write a bunch of songs as strong and eloquent as these is beyond me; but I am so happy he has…….as you will be when you first hear this album and will then pass on his name to all your friends too.
As is my won’t sadly; when Madness and The Specials were Top of the Pops I not only hoovered up everything I could that was even marginally 2 Tone; but immediately delved back into the Ska back catalogue and history books; and that is where I discovered The Skatalites and my life changed over night.
Hopefully if you are reading this you already know who these cats are and why they are so important; so I won’t bore you with a history lesson apart from saying this was first released in 1964 and because The Original Skatalites were an ever moving ensemble; vocal performances came from a vast array of young singers who went on to international success in their own rite. BTW original copies now change hands for inordinate amounts of money ….. but, onto the music!
The powerful and cinematic Freedom Sounds featuring Tommy McCook will blow your mind, as it did mine when I first heard it. You have to remember that when these tracks were first recorded the band were being influenced by American music; particularly Jazz and that’s the thread behind this luscious stomp with a wonderful saxophone leading proceedings.
That ‘Jazzy’ vibe pervades throughout; but we don’t have to wait very long for the Skatalites trademark ‘bounce’ to appear; with Roland Alphonso on Full Dread still sounding so very exciting over half a century later.
I only know two tracks from this collection, and when you hear You’re Wondering Now you know why it has subsequently become a staple of every Ska band over the last thirty odd years and the other being the red hot and skanking Lee Harvey Oswald who was obviously in the headlines when they were in the studio; hence the title.
Part history lesson and part groundbreaking benchmark; there are some amazing songs and tunes here with The Maytals and Heaven Declare showing us how Ska evolved out of Bluebeat and Jazz; and Ska Ba sounds just like it could be from half a dozen current American Ska bands I can think of……funny, that!
Listening 54 years after these songs were first recorded it’s fascinating to listen to the words in Brown Skin Gal and realise who so little has changed in this department across the world, and the way Delroy Wilson executes Sammy Dead is a forerunner for a whole host of songs in my collection.
In choosing a Favourite Song I could have been uber-cool and gone for Lee Perry singing Mother in Law; but no, I’m choosing Turn Your Lamp Down Low by Jackie Opel simply because when I played this album for the first time last week……I danced to it. I couldn’t help myself, first the hips then the feet and before I knew it I was Skanking in the kitchen, much to Mrs. Magpie’s amusement but when I pressed ‘repeat’ she joined in…..and that is what Ska Music was, is and always be about……dancing!
Tuesday 4th September 2018
Is she an actress who sings or a singer who acts? That was my dilemma a few weeks ago when I was about to review the star of the Nashville TV series’ Clare Bowen’s debut album release.
Afterwards it was pretty apparent that it was the latter; as the young Australian really can sing, which made us pretty excited when it was announced she would be playing Sage Gateshead in early September.
Because of work commitments I arrived as support act Striking Matches were on stage; so rather than disrupt proceedings we decided to have a relaxing drink in the foyer for once, before making our way into the pretty full Hall 1 us the lights were dimming.
The band entered the stage in the dark and were already playing as a spotlight lit up the far side of the stage and the smiling Clare Bowen, wearing a delightful golden dress and sporting feathers in her hair carefully made her way to the centre and launched into the powerful Where I Belong, which coincidently was the prefect choice to get the party started.
There really was so much to like tonight; Ms Bowen’s voice is quite staggering when heard live…….she can milk the emotion out of every single note on ballads like Ays Song and the song she wrote in the wake of the London Bridge and Manchester Arena attacks, Little By Little; but to me she sounds best when ‘rocking out’ on the Bluesy Let It Rain or Premonition which Mrs Magpie reminded me was from the TV series.
Then there were surprises galore with a couple of sultry duets with husband Brandon, who got to sing his own latest single, which went down very well with the appreciative crowd; and she also sat in awe as guitarist to the stars Colin Linden got his moment in the spotlight.
Highlights came in all shapes and sizes too; especially her stories linking to the songs usually being quite heartfelt, if occasionally a bit Hippyish in context; but that’s no real bad thing as the songs that followed like Lullaby and All The Beds I’ve Made were all the more memorable because of them.
As the show drew to a loud and danceable close, I was surprised to find there had been 20 songs including a medley of Country Classics and had lasted well over an hour and half; which had flown by.
One other thing about tonight; I was reminded a few times why I love live music; as this group of musicians made magic happen before my very eyes, turning random musical notes into moments that will stay in my mind for a long time to come.
This bit may seem odd; baring in mind ‘who’ Clare Bowen is and where she’s come from, but I really do think she has all the qualities, especially a voice to become a Bona-fide Country Star in the near future; and her acting career could well fall by the wayside.
As it’s a major milestone for me on Friday April 20th I thought I’d do a sort of Top 10 of songs that have influenced me over that 60 years; or 55 years in musical terms!
As regular readers will know I have very eclectic taste which probably started in my childhood as the youngest of four brothers in the 1960’s.
My Mam loved Glenn Miller and the like and my Dad who had a good baritone voice, liked a good singer on the TV; but was very sceptical of modern ‘long haired’ music (cue Stereotype jokes).
Norman, my oldest brother was a Teddy Boy and played Elvis, Cliff and Marty Wilde 78’s whenever he was home from the Navy.
Brian was a bit of a Folkie who eventually introduced me to Blues Music via his massive record collection.
Melvyn was a Mod who loved the Who and Small Faces then evolved into a Dylan fan and the Singer-songwriters of the 1970’s…..which was an open door for what was to come in my later life.
Me? Born in 58 I was a child of the 70’s starting with T Rex and Slade singles which begat ‘Big Boys Music’with the Faces, Rory Gallagher and the Rolling Stones (which was actually a thread for all three younger siblings).
When you get to #1 on Friday you will realise that there are well over 100 other songs that have influenced me at one time or another but these 10 really are cornerstones to what you read on the Rocking Magpie on a daily basis.
So; here goes with #10………
Jeffrey Osborne, On The Wings of Love. I saw him on The Tube one Friday tea time and immediately ran out the following morning and bought both the album and 12″ single.
I still want this played at my funeral.
Bennett Wilson Poole
Aurora Records/Proper Music
Razor Sharp Songs, Tear Inducing Harmonies and a Majestical 12 String Rickenbacker.
In many ways this album should sink without trace as it’s three English guys from Americana bands most music fans haven’t heard of, yet many ‘in the know’ people are referring to them as a ‘Supergroup’ and this album is more than likely going to be ‘The Sound of the Summer’ and subsequently appear in all of the Cool Top 10’s in December!
Confused? Well…..Bennett is Robin from the Dreaming Spires and St. Etienne, Wilson is Danny George originally in the legendary Grand Drive and more recently the absolutely marvelous Danny and the Champions of the World and Poole is Tony; once of Starry Eyed and Laughing but more recently a ‘go to’ Producer.
Opening track Soon Enough made me smile as it instantly made me think of The Byrds…..then The Hollies….then CS&N then…..Tom Petty; but actually sounds nothing like them really apart from some tear inducing harmonies and a majestical 12 string Rickenbacker.
With an opening song like this on their album most bands would have already peaked; but not so BWP…..things just get better and better.
Funny Guys and Wilson General Store take us on a glorious West Coast field trip but The Other Side of The Sky and That Thing You Called Love while in the same vein; are a whole lot darker and thought provoking; proving what outstanding songwriters this trio are.
Speaking of ‘thought provoking’ the guys dabble with Politics on a couple of songs too. Hate Won’t Win; an intensely powerful song written days after Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a Right Wing Terrorist in Rochdale, Northern England. As you’d hope with such a raw subject the lyrics are touching and abrasive but those guitars….ANGRY or what???
Lifeboat came together when Tony Poole saw a photograph of refugees on the Mediterranean juxtaposed with a story about ‘Selfies;’ and the result is a truly memorable song wrapped around two horrible subjects.
Probably the most commercial song here; and the one I expect to hear on the wireless across the Summer is Soon Enough; but absolutely everything else could be the RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ on merit; as not only are all of the constituent songs well written and aurally beautiful but when played one after an other as an album should be they combine to create 40 odd minutes of musical bliss; so I’m going out on a limb with Hide Behind a Smile and I don’t know why, but feel it is a cornerstone for everything else to build around.
This album shouldn’t have been a surprise to me; but it has been from start to finish with each song being cleverly constructed yet sounding so easy on the ear and the lyrics themselves are all as sharp and astutely observant as I’d hoped; but when you hear them sung in harmony or indeed each singer taking their turn with a verse then couple all of that to a Rickenbacker fronted band you have a little bit of Musical Heaven from England’s green and pleasant land.
It’s been another amazing and occasionally tearful year here at RMHQ during 2017; I had my own health issues at the beginning of the year and in late October Mrs Magpie was rushed to hospital for an emergency operation (you don’t need to know the details……but it was a very scary time for me) but during the year there was always MUSIC and some of the music I’ve listened to in 2017 has been staggeringly good (some quite poor and disappointing too!) but some of the discoveries I’ve shared will change your lives.
Strangely enough when checking the data we had 93 more visitors than 2016 but 117 less views! All of which still blows my mind after two short years of going solo due to musical and financial differences.
After reviewing 312 albums, singles and box-sets choosing Ten and only Ten favourite albums was nigh on impossible; so this year I’ve stretched the list to twenty…..but it could have been fifty.
My criteria for selecting this 20 was basically sitting down with a piece of paper, a pencil and three strong cups of coffee remembering albums that ‘touched’ me in some way. Some are from perennial favourites who continue to make new and interesting music, but a lot on this list are brand new artistes to me and took my breath away in some way.
Ho Ho Ho; ’tis the season to be Merry and all that stuff; but it’s also the Season to produce Annual Top 10’s on websites like RMHQ, so being the awkward so & so’s we are we are producing two Top 10’s; with one being my own personal Top 10 Albums of 2017 and because we have reviewed 312 Albums, singles, books and concerts this year…….the Annual RMHQ Readers Top 10 as judged by actual hits/reads will be a Top 20!!
So……tada (drum roll)…in reverse order…..here is the Rocking Magpie Readers Top 20 Albums of 2017 as read by you lovely people.
20) Grainne Duffy – WHERE I BELONG.
19) Stephen Fearing – EVERY SOUL’S A SAILOR
18) Mark Eitzel – HEY MR. FERRYMAN
17) Trevor Sewell – CALLING NASHVILLE
16) Orphan Brigade – HEART OF THE CAVE
15) The Flaming Groovies – FANTASTIC PLANET
14) The Haley Sisters – ALWAYS BY MY SIDE
13) Project Mama Earth – MAMA EARTH
12) The Raspberries – POP ART (LIVE)
11) Sam Baker – LAND OF DOUBT
10) Rob Vincent – I’LL MAKE THE MOST OF MY SINS
09) Rodney Crowell – CLOSE TIES
08) Will Hoge – ANCHORS
07) Colin James – BLUE HIGHWAYS
06) Danny & The Champions of the World – BRILLIANT LIGHT
05) Chuck Prophet – BOBBY FULLER DIED FOR OUR SINS
04) Prosecco Socialist – THIS DOG’S FOR LIFE
03) Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – SELF TITLED
02) Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – BAYSWATER ROAD 01) Ian McNabb – STAR SMILE STRONG
Honourable mentions also go to…….
*Bruce Foxton – SMASH THE CLOCK. (2016 winner but still pulled enough votes to come in at #12!!)
*Blackberry Smoke – Rock & Roll Again (Video) just kept getting watched 2 years after being posted.
* Heather Lynne Horton – DON’T MESS WITH MRS. MURPHY (4 x great days)
* Pickxen – PICKS & VITTLES (Unknown outside their own backyard but the hits kept coming all year)
* Mick Wynne – WORLD OF MICK (Another unknown ‘local musician’ who had an amazing month on the RMHQ Charts)
* Bap Kennedy – RECKLESS HEART (The legend lives on)
As always the Top 20 (plus 6) highlight how eclectic The Rocking Magpie is. I/We just love music regardless of genre……which is why we listen to as much as possible hopefully bringing you your new most favourite album of all time, or at least piquing your interest.
The Cornshed Sisters
HONEY & TAR
Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves And With Fire and Grace.
It was only by accident that I found out about this exciting new release; and in fairness it hardly took any begging at all for the record label to send me a copy.
Where do I start? These delightful young ladies all hail from within a couple of miles of my own front door and when they released their debut album TELL TALES in 2012 they seemed destined for stardom as Nu-Folk was in the ascendancy and their harmonious tales fit in perfectly with what the broadsheets were falling over themselves to hail as ‘The Next Big Thing!’
Alas, ‘proper jobs,’ relationships and marriages meant that their music went back to hobby status; until 2016 when out of nowhere I saw that they were playing GLASTONBURY! OK, not the Pyramid Stage, but how many people do you know who have played that Festival?
Forget the past…..here’s the present!
The opening song nearly made my eyes pop out of my head! It’s…..it’s…..unquestionably the Cornsheds, but they’ve gone Electro! The Message is a bit Bananaramaish or perhaps even Shakespeare’s Sister; but a damn site classier; and perfect for Radio 2 or even Radio 6…..but definitely r-a-d-i-o.
Sigh…..track #2 Cuddling is back to what I expected; but hey…..there’s also a Northern Gothic Lo-Fi sensitivity to it too; but there’s no mistaking those harmonies; they would make Phil Spector proud.
It’s fair to say the Cornsheds transcend what we know as Folk Music on this album, with or without the NU prefix; this is Classy and inventive Pop Music for intelligent adults; Waiting For Audreya is simply stunning and the multi-layered title track Honey & Tar sounds whimsical at first; but yet again becomes positively Gothic the more you hear it.
The 80’s Electro-Pop sensations return with the enigmatic Black and White and later the claustrophobic Show Me; which also happens to have a razor sharp narrative.
Just over the halfway mark another curve ball is lobbed into the proceedings with a bit of a rocker…..Running; and it will leave you breathless if you try to sing along with the chorus.
But; my favourite track; is a coin toss between the jaunty Jobs For The Boys, which had me singing along until I realised that it is a deceptive Feminist Anthem! It has to be said though…..the sentiment is bang on the money.
The other is Sunday Best/Small Places, which sees the Cornsheds go back to their roots with an acapella opening followed by some gentle ukulele and cello as a string section sweeps across a beautiful woman’s voice on a delightful love song. What’s not to like?
Sadly I’m writing this after only hearing each songs only three times; but that is more than enough to know HONEY & TAR is a very special record, very special indeed.
I LOVE YOU TO DEATH
Ireland’s Best Kept Secret, But Not For Much Longer.
Some days keeping the website up to date can be a bit of a chore; then occasionally a bit of sunshine comes into my life, like the charming e-mail Padraig McCauley aka Disconcerting P sent a few weeks ago, asking if I would have a listen to his latest album.
I had a courteous quick listen to the first couple of tracks as I updated the site and replied to a bunch of e-mails; and found myself quickly putting it back to track #1 Woman and a Man as I made a cup of coffee and sat back, listening even more intently.
That first song is absolutely delightful, and ticks every box I have for singer-songwriters; a fairly simple narrative that immediately captures your attention as the harmonies and gently strummed acoustic instruments wash over you.
Next, In The Clouds (With You) is a more complex arrangement, but the haunting and hypnotic song had me close my eyes and drift off into another unworldly place imagining Mrs Magpie and myself walking in the surf holding hands and looking longingly into each others eyes.
Coincidently the next song Your Lungs actually has a chorus ‘Jump Into The Sea’; as well as one of my favourite lines of the year “The heart in my chest/I love you to death/I love you to death/the heart in your chest/love me to death.” Powerful and emotive stuff; and something that touched me deeply.
Perhaps it was the mood I was in that morning; but here I am still playing the record two weeks later and feel the same way about Disconcerting P’s heartfelt and evocatively sad love songs, especially the song of our times This Is Your Life…..are pretty much all outstanding and will tug at your heartstrings, as they did mine.
This Is Love Speaking To You Directly, finds Padraig alone with his acoustic guitar and a broken heart, and it is exactly what you would expect from such a title; but more so.
I’m not really sure where to start picking a ‘favourite song’ as this is very much an Album in the old-fashioned sense; something you put on the stereo as you turn down the lights and just wallow in the beautiful misery that comes from the speakers. Yesterday I was going to choose (We Are) The Dreamers which closes the album and could easily be the theme tune for RMHQ and a song that will make you feel it was written about you too, then this morning I thought it might be the fragile My Heart Bursts which conjures up memories of John Martyn and Tim Buckley; but (and this will change tomorrow) I’m going for Love Is Like a Loaded Pistol, with its Jazz-Lite melody and left of centre; but strangely true sentiments.
If I have one complaint; and it’s a small one……the drums, or electro drum-beats are occasionally pushed too high in the mix distracting from Irish man, McCauley’s softly expressive voice; but in the grand scheme of things that isn’t worth worrying about as, strangely for a singer-songwriter in these corporate and selfish times, and for a man with such a magnificent way with words, McCauley does this for ‘fun’……remember that concept? He writes and records at home then releases his music for FREE on Bandcamp……strange but true; and if there is any justice a Record Label will discover him soon and you will be forced; albeit willingly to part with coins of the realm to buy his works.