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!
VIVA! Los Pacaminos LIVE!
The Most Authentic Tex-Mex Band This Side of the Atlantic!
Do I start with a History Lesson about how London Pub Rock in the early 1970’s begat not only Punk Rock, but what we now know as Alt. Country all around the world; or do I just pile straight into this fire cracker of an album?
Let’s go for the latter shall we? I don’t want to bore or antagonise you
Los Pacaminos are often lazily billed as Superstar, Paul Young’s band but they are so much more than that; as if you check out the CV of each musician you will see they are something of a mini-Supergroup in their own rite and us this format to have a blast whenever they can get the band together.
VIVA! LIVE! Is their fourth album and follows on from the immaculately titled A Fist Full of Statins from earlier last year; and really does showcase the best Bar Band in NW London at their very best in a club in Harrogate, North Yorkshire which is frequently compared to the border town of Tijuana, Mexico.
The party; and that’s the best way to describe a Los Pacaminos concert starts with a shady rendition of Highway Patrol and the whoops from the audience are 100% genuine and similar to the sounds inside my head as the guitars squeal and hiss as whoever is singing rumbles like a storm brewing in the dessert.
That’s the beauty of Los Pacaminos, even though Paul Young was/is a bonafide Pop Star, he’s more than happy to share the spotlight with his band mates.
As you would expect, the song selection is quite exceptional with Little Sister, A Little Bit is Better Than Nada and He’ll Have To Go all getting dusted off and gussied up for a night on the town; and even old nuggets like Smoke That Cigarette, Wooly Bully, the dazzling Come a Little Bit Closer and a favourite of Mama Magpie Edie, Wooly Bully somehow sound as fresh as the day they were recorded over half a century ago by their originators.
There’s even a Guest Spot from Honouree Pacamino, Senor Chris Difford who takes the lead on (the remixed) Tex Me I’m Yours which fits in like guacamole on a taco; and why no one thought of adding a slide and pedal-steel guitar to the original I will never know!
There are also a couple of originals in here too alongside the Classics; but things move along so quickly and there aren’t really any song intros; and the record cover misses these things out completely but I didn’t recognise Poor Boys or Girl From Tennessee but both are rip-roaring stonkers and quickly had me tapping my toes, swaying my hips and even miming along with their choruses; even though I’d never heard them before.
And it’s the same with both songs that became RMHQ Favourites after only two sittings; both Battered And Boozed and Our Favourite Things; could easily have been something the Blasters or Fabulous Thunderbirds would have played to a smoky and packed cantina somewhere sleazy and hot, ‘back in the day’……. Perhaps they did; and if they did I bet it was a great night there too!
In many ways there’s ‘nothing new’ here; but that misses the point completely this is an album and indeed audience paying homage to a cool genre of music (Tex Mex/Tejano) that has been airbrushed from the Americana History books in recent years; but still makes for a cracking good night of happy songs, dance tunes, love songs, break up songs and especially drinking songs when done as well as this.
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.
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 #8
Dr Feelgood – Roxette . In the days before Social Media and the Interweb I had to wait until they came on the Old Grey Whistle Test to see what they were like after reading about these urchins in Melody Maker. It’s still a bone of contention that I refused to walk the future Mrs. Magpie home until after I’d seen them…….again; it meant me trying to buy Down By The Jetty the following day in Woolworths but having to go to Newcastle on the Saturday and buy it from Callers.
If I can’t be Rod Stewart when I grow up, can I be Lee Brilleaux?
With a huge backlog of albums to review, something about the cover shot on this EP appealed to me and thrust it to the top of the pile.
Then when I actually played the first track, Fooled By You I knew my ‘senses’ had been proved right yet again.
Mick Wynne has been a session-player and that apprenticeship shines through on every second of this classy mix of British R&B, Pub Rock and Country-Blues……true Roots/Americana but with a hefty splash of British grit. ‘Homesick’ Mick has the type of stylish, yet rough around the edges singing voice I love; coupled with Alison David on harmonies, some chichi piano playing
and red hot guitar combine to create a song that lies somewhere between Dr. Feelgood, Squeeze and even Joe Cocker! All favourites on the RMHQ stereo.
Track #2 Love of My Woman appears to have been recorded live and goes some way to showcase a really cool and rock solid band; the type I would pay good money to see in a hot n sweaty pub on a Friday night.
The three track sampler for an album to be released later in the year comes to a close with a song dedicated to the legendary Peter Green; You Are My Message, where Wynne sounds and plays uncannily like a young Eric Clapton circa Bluesbreakers and his first solo album.
The playing, singing and production here is quite exceptional for a singer/band that I’ve never heard of; but when you see Mick Wynne’s impressive CV it’s no surprise at all; and I can’t wait to hear the full album when it gets released in July.
Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone
Proper Music/The Last Music Co.
The Titan and The Godfather of Pub Rock Rip It Up In The Lounge.
If you already know these two names you will buy this ‘historic’ album anyways; and if you don’t I think you are on the wrong the website!
Bill co-founded Commander Cody nearly 100 years ago; even before Country Rock was born, never mind Alt. Country and Austin de Lone goes down in British music history as a member of Eggs Over Easy who were the founders of Pub Rock, which begat…….you do the Googling.
As friends and colleagues since those heady days in the 70’s Bill and Austin have played together on stage and in the studio many times; but never actually made an album together…..that wrong is righted here.
TRANSATLANTICANA couldn’t open with anything other than a gorgeous slice of trademark Bill Kirchen. Quirky, funny and intelligent lyrics, tipping a hat towards Merle and Company on top of some of the sweetest Telecaster and Baritone geetar your ears will ever hear.
Kirchen takes the lead again on the following track Wine, Wine, Wine only this time Bobby Black compliments the sad song with some sweet pedal steel alongside Bill’s trademark guitar sound, while De Lone comes and goes at ease on the piano in the corner.
As expected the ‘Country Rockers’ come thick and fast; with Butch Hancock’s Oxblood giving Austin the opportunity to happily punch the piano keys through to the floor as Kirchen and Hancock trade words and licks like feisty teenagers.
If I didn’t know any better I’d have thought All Tore Up was a Rockabilly classic, but it’s not it’s from the pen of Austin De Lone and allows him to take lead on vocals and piano and the world is a whole better place for it!
While I love the fast paced tracks with all of my heart; my soul keeps making me go back to the slow and tender ‘lounge’ songs that are included; not just because I wasn’t expecting them (which I wasn’t) but because each one is staggeringly sad and beautiful.
On Losing Hand De Lone and Kirchen sound like the house band at midnight in a run down club in the dangerous part of Vegas; singing to and for all the losers and hustlers cradling their last drink of the evening. Tucked away towards the end the duo tear up Dylan’s hoary old The Times They Are a Changing; filling it with the bile and fire first associated with it nearly 50 years ago; but sadly missing from most interpretations.
Warm and Tender Love is a serious contender for ‘favourite track’ especially as it has the warmth and depth of something Nick Lowe would sing; but has the fragility of Goffin and King too.
Another could be the Country-Gospel Somebody’s Going Home too; but my heart and soul concur that Back in The Day ticks every box there is in Country Music.
Written by Kirchen’s wife Louise; the singer looks back on those hazy, crazy days of 1969 when they all had flowers in their hair but ‘they had tear gas and guns’ as they sang ‘we shall overcome’…..sadly this song is all too appropriate for 2017, and the doleful way Kirchen uses his voice; as the band create a tension that is nearly frightening make for a song that deserves to be heard by Politicians and their volatile supporters of all hues around the world.
If you are lucky as me, your copy will include the bonus tracks No Need For Knocking and the legendary Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette too.
Baring in mind this album was recorded in several sessions across several cities on both sides of the Atlantic, Malcolm Mills production and the razor sharp editing come together to create an album that sounds like it was recorded in one glorious session that went on late into the night.
I’ve seen Bill Kirchen play live many times over the years; and for once he doesn’t try to recapture that magic on disc. This is an ‘actual album’ full of songs and immaculate playing by musicians who are all at the top of their game; recreating this sound on stage will be a problem for another day.
Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers
British Pub Rock Really Did Invent Alt. Country!
From the 60’s we have always had our own Blues infused Pub Rock scene in the NE; but in the mid 70’s London developed it’s now legendary Pub Rock scene. Every Thursday I would look enviously at the pages of Melody Maker and see exotically named bands like Eggs Over Easy, Ducks Deluxe, Brinsley Schwarz, Bees Make Honey and of course Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, but because of my tender age and that there London being 300 miles away I never actually got to see them.
Over the years I’ve collected a few VA albums featuring these bands; but very few of their actual LP releases have been transferred to the new fangled Compact Disc format; which is why this release has really excited me.
Let’s start with the album sleeve…..OOHEEE! A Barney Bubbles image on the outer sleeve is certainly eye catching; and the accompanying 24 page booklet really does capture a ‘moment in time’ and kept me enthralled all last night.
For Chilli aficionados this release is made up of both LP releases, Kings of the Robot Rhythm and Bongos Over Balham plus the I’ll Be Home Sessions and live recordings plus one unreleased track.
For the rest of us…..here goes….
CD 1, the Kings of Robot Rhythm plus some demos open with Living Out of My Suitcase; a luscious slice of what we now know as Americana but must have been mind-blowing in 1972, when Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y albums were out of the reach of the average man in the street.
The fiddle and harmonies on Window Pane sound rudimentary today must have been groundbreaking back then; certainly I wouldn’t have heard anything like it at the time. Nashville Rag still stands up today; and I love the way they turn That’s Alright Mama into a bit of a Country Reel.
With this re-release I’d love to hear one of the New Wave of British Country bands have a go at recording Drunken Sunken Redneck Blues and/or the closing track from the debut album A Page in History. Both are still relevant in 2017.
Friday Song was recorded as a single but didn’t get released; which is a bit of a shame as it’s a glorious concoction of Hall & Oats, Gram Parsons and Poco all rolled into one magic carpet ride.
Of the demos, several went on to be included on Bongos, but the delightful Don’t Hurt The One You Love appears to have been lost in the mist of time until now; and the world is a better place for it.
CD 2 is the second album Bongos Over Balham plus some outtakes and live tracks from that era.
The very first song shows a radical change in direction by opening with a rip-snortin version of the Jive classic Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie, and then Desert Island Woman sounding like something you would have heard on Miami Vice.
As you would expect after 40 years, not everything has stood the test of time; but plenty have with Jesse Winchester’s Midnight Bus appealing to me on a personal level and Truck Driving Girl is a joy from start to finish, plus All In a Dream and 9-5 Songwriting Man, while harking back to the first album, show a maturity in the actual songwriting.
This disc is then made up of ‘other sessions’ demos and live versions’ of more or less the same songs, with only Fire On The Mountain, which out fiddles The Charlie Daniels Band, the Rockabilly swing of Pinball Boogie and the new song Papa and Mama Had The Blues baring repeated listening; and I will repeatedly listen to them!
Then of course we have their ‘signature tune’ and title of the best compilation from this era, Goodbye Nashville (Hello Camden Town) which is one of those songs that every songwriter must wish they had written.
At 44 songs in total this could have easily been edited into a tip-top Best Of; but obviously REAL SHARP is aimed at ‘collectors’ while priced to attract casual music fans like me; so works on every level.