woensdag 31 januari 2018

Dream Wife. Dream Wife

Noisy, punk infused rock from the U.K. Young and loud. With Shame we have already highlighted one such band recently. With Dream Wife we introduce an all woman trio from the U.K. that plays and certainly sings in a lighter vain then Shame. For the rest the band delves into the same well for inspiration. The punk explosion of 1977 is where things Dream Wife starts and from there all sorts of girl bands come in from The Go-Gos to The Bangles and more recent like The Courtneys. Things may be rougher, but the girl quality songs are a part of the musical make up of Dream Wife.

Being just three is the limit Dream Wife accepts in making its music. Guitar - bass - drums have to the work. The voices do the rest. Named after a 1953 movie (Cary Grant - Deborah Kerr) with a feminist twist, Icelandic singer Rakel Mjöll, Alice Go (guitar) and Bella Podpadec (bass) (I have no clue who plays all the drums) met in Brighton where they decided to form a band. From there the art college they met at is left behind for what it is and on to world domination. Like Shame they tour Australia early February.

Over the past years of this blog many girl bands have passed the review. At a certain point I had sort of heard enough as all these bands started to sound like one another. And on comes Dream Wife, like a dream indeed. The fresh sound of 'Dream Wife' and the wilder, more punky style seems just to be what I needed by now.

It isn't even necessary to pick out a specific song. They all have an inner standard, a way to explode in my face and grab me. Dynamics work in a great way. The enthusiasm is just so enticing. Sitting still is not an option. Singing along simply mandatory. Dream Wife cites Blondie as an inspiration. It must be the Blondie of 'Parallel Lines' but most of all 'Plastic Letters'. Like Debbie Harry the ladies of Dream Wife may purr, but ought not to be approached without a firm glove on. There's a clear hint of danger in the music, laced with a hint of pop disguised as anger. This music holds the right mix of it all. A rare thing these days.


You can listen to and buy 'Dream Wife' here:


dinsdag 30 januari 2018

Songs Of Praise. Shame

Every pop and (alternative) rock fan in The Netherlands must be aware since mid January what the new flavour on the block is: Shame from London. What strikes me most at first listen is that, barring the voice of Charlie Steen, not one of the commentators goes back to 1980 and U2s first album, 'Boy'. I won't say Edge's sort of guitar playing is all over Songs Of Praise, but influential? Certainly! From there things get much darker though and not only because of the unschooled and rough singing of Steen. His compadres match him every step of the way in the level of noise they create together to support his bravado where technique may run short.

Looking at the album like the man I am, I could take the same approach as I took with 'Going Platinum!' by Robert Finley. Do we like the album for what it is or for the things we are starting to miss in our lives: good new albums by our original heroes (dead of alive)? Shame does everything many a band from the late 70s and early 80s just cannot do any more. The Stranglers, The Clash, U2, The Alarm and a little later Big Country, The Armoury Show and my recent discovery The Jazz Butcher, etc., etc., etc. Lots and lots of excitement, loads of energy and quite some rough edges left unfiled, so dangerous to the touch. So do I?

The answer is no. Songs Of Praise fully deserves my attention and not just because I like this music better that the soul/blues of Finley. For that the music of Shame is brought with too much spark to ignore. Once let in this band is all over me and demanding my full attention. Deserving it as well. So nice to find that a hype for once seems very much deserved.

One small detail catches my eye. The first three songs take 3.34, 3.34 and 3.35. I would have played with that one second either in the first song, 3.33 or in the last 3.34. That would have looked nicer, wouldn't it?

Trivia aside. Songs Of Praise starts in my face. Directly, without holding back. Shame is not trying to play nice first in 'Dust On Trail'. "Music for the weak" is the motto on Bandcamp. Well I doubt it, perhaps in spirit? Gravelly guitars go all the way and Steen singing like he's chanting in a Satan's mass. Before he puts on his punk voice that is, like many singers sang around 1977, Joe Strummer style. The rhythm sections is tight. There is just nothing nice about 'Dust On Trail'. This album is from the street, even if the average Shame lad does not appear to be from there.

The die is cast. Songs Of Praise is an album with the strength of 'Definitely Maybe', the spirit of 'Franz Ferdinand' and the power of 'Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not'. Arguably the best debut albums in the past 25 years. Shame throughout the album is able to work with moods, the light and the shade creating a strong and varied album. An album where anger and rage compete with the pleasure of playing these songs. There are only 10 of them and I can only hope for Shame that they can add a set to them soon instead of travelling the world round three times over for three years on the basis of just 10 songs. It will probably kill its fun in writing and creative processes. Write, boys, write, like it is 1963. Develop, grow, as all the potential is there to come up with even better songs. Boy, am I enjoying Songs Of Praise.


You can listen to and buy Songs of Praise here:


maandag 29 januari 2018

Goin' Platinum!. Robert Finley

Having listened to Goin' Platinum! once, my first reaction is: Let's not over do it, people. Yes, this is fine record, with well-valued production duties of Dan Auerbach, who does everything to make the dark, tainted, southern soul voice of Robert Finley shine in a bunch of songs sounding authentic. The story around Finley is the kind to allow for empathy and sympathy for things gone wrong in his life. My cynical side says "remember Seasick Steve?"

When I put everything surrounding this release aside, and that is the only possible way to listen to Goin' Platinum! with the ears and mind it deserves, I can only write this album isn't half bad at first listen. But what happens after that?

I notice that the opening song starts with a guitar riff reminding me of Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain' and a vocal melody that could have been one by The Black Keys. The elementary blues scheme it follows is soothingly familiar, the differences surprisingly fresh. Finley's voice is doing everything that is promised. It sounds rough, well worn out and used, like a favourite leather coat that only feels better with the years of wearing, no matter the looks. 'Medicine Woman' has the same sort of excitement.

It is with the third song I am starting to have some doubts. 'If You Forget My Love' goes back a long time in sound and feel. All the way to Otis, who is dead for over 50 years this month, Wilson Pickett and other soul singers of the 60s with rough voices that could touch the heart of listeners none the same. Now I do not know what sort of music Finley played in his army days and beyond, before he quit music. It could have been anything of the day to entertain people and make some money on the side. Listening deeper into Goin' Platinum!' I get a stronger feeling that the materiel is selected/written to make Finley sound as authentic as possible, without me knowing whether he is. (Yes, I am the bit cynic here, I'm afraid.) Now hardly any authentic voices remain, the world is in need of one. And here is Robert Finley -and Dan Auerbach filling in the details for him.

Alright, I'll admit to never having been a real fan of soul. It certainly has its moments, but not for a long time as far as I'm concerned. The same goes for 'Goin' Platinum!'. The album has its moments. The mix of blues and soul works well, but in the end, not unlike Auerbach's recent solo album it never really comes alive somehow. Despite the fact these musicians all seems to be playing fine, it just doesn't sparkle, while I'm left with the feeling the materiel on the album could have allowed for it.

So, having gone up and down the album a few times, I'm sort of stuck in the middle. On the one hand I can understand the hullabaloo because of Finley's authentic, yet much-missed vocal (style). On the other I have heard so much better in the past. So does the missing of those from the past allow for all the present joy? That is for you to find out and decide upon. Good luck, as this is just me writing.


You can listen to 'Medicine Woman' here:


zondag 28 januari 2018

Existential Beast. Miranda Lee Richards

Miranda Lee Richards ken ik vooral van haar tweede album Light Of X uit 1999. De singer-songwriter uit San Francisco maakte destijds psychedelisch aandoende muziek, die meer dan eens deed denken aan de muziek van Mazzy Star en dat is een band die ik hoog heb zitten.
Ook op Existential Beast laat Miranda Lee Richards zich weer nadrukkelijk beïnvloeden door de psychedelische muziek uit de jaren 60, maar associaties met de muziek van Mazzy Star had ik bij beluistering van de vierde plaat van de Californische singer-songwriter veel minder vaak.
Op haar vierde plaat combineert Miranda Lee Richards haar voorkeur voor psychedelische klanken vooral met invloeden uit de folk en de country. Ze keert ook dit keer in muzikaal opzicht ver terug in de tijd, maar blijft in geografisch opzicht vooral in haar thuisstaat hangen.
Veel songs op Existential Beast laten zich beïnvloeden door de muziek die in de late jaren 60 en vroege jaren 70 in de heuvels rond Los Angeles werd gemaakt, maar ook de door psychedelica gedomineerde muziek van voormalig stadgenoten Jefferson Airplane heeft invloed gehad op de songs van Miranda Lee Richards.
Door de vele citaten uit de 60s psychedelica is Existential Beast een lekker zweverige plaat. De breed uitwaaiende klanken vol benevelende gitaarloopjes doen het uitstekend bij de mooie heldere stem van Miranda Lee Richards, die met pastorale klanken terugkeert naar de glorietijd van de Laurel Canyon, maar ook een zwoeler en moderner geluid kan laten horen.
Wanneer Existential Beast iets moderner klinkt hoor ik naast invloeden uit de jaren 60 en 70 ook zeker invloeden uit de 90s dreampop. Wanneer invloeden uit de dreampop hoorbaar zijn, duikt heel af en toe de associatie met Mazzy Star op, maar zeker niet zo duidelijk en nadrukkelijk als in het verleden.
De hierboven genoemde invloeden uit de country spelen minder vaak een rol, maar als ze er zijn moet het vergelijkingsmateriaal wederom in het Californië van de jaren 60 en 70 worden gevonden.
Existential Beast van Miranda Lee Richards is een plaat die uitnodigt tot het noemen van namen uit een ver verleden, maar de vierde plaat van de singer-songwriter uit San Francisco is veel meer dan een serie kliekjes uit vervlogen tijden. Miranda Lee Richards komt op Existential Beast ook met een serie geweldige songs op de proppen.
Het zijn songs die lekker in het gehoor liggen, maar het zijn ook songs die knap in elkaar steken en je maar aangenaam blijven verrassen. Het zijn songs waarbij het, zeker wanneer de lome psychedelische klanken overheersen, heerlijk wegdromen is, maar Existential Beast is ook een plaat die nadrukkelijk de aandacht opeist.
Dan pas hoor je hoe mooi de instrumentatie op de plaat is en hoe mooi Miranda Lee Richards zingt. Existential Beast ontleent een groot deel van zijn kracht aan deze vocalen, maar ook het gitaarwerk op de plaat is van een hoog niveau en hiernaast zijn er nog flink wat andere wonderschone, maar ook zeer functionele accenten.
De vierde plaat van Miranda Lee Richard heeft tot dusver niet al teveel aandacht gekregen, maar hoe vaker ik hem hoor, hoe meer ik er van overtuigd raak dat Miranda Lee Richards een plaat heeft gemaakt die veel meer verdient dan een bestaan in de marge. Die overtuiging is alleen maar gegroeid nu ik weet dat Existential Beast voor een belangrijk deel een aanklacht is tegen de daden van de man die momenteel in het Witte Huis zetelt. Het is een extra reden om deze prachtplaat er eens bij te pakken.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Existential Beast hier beluisteren en kopen:


zaterdag 27 januari 2018

How To Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1, 2 and 3). Belle & Sebastian

It's been a while since I wrote something on Glasgow based band Belle & Sebastian. The recollections are not as faint as on the T.V. show the band based its name on, they are so patchy these recollection could be more based on the song and some photo's than true. I have several of the albums, having started to buy them in 200x, somewhere early. Through a then neighbour/friend who exposed me to the band. That writing was in the paper version preceding this blog, meaning my liking of the last two albums was near non-existent. (I did not even start to listen to the last one on the basis of the reviews.)

This means my hopes for this, a bit forced for a band with this reputation, 3 EP release were not very high. But, hey, I'm writing. Perhaps that the recording on the brink, i.e. in the band's hometown with no producer that led to an exit of two members the last time, did Belle & Sebastian some good?

I am writing on the release of Part 1, although part 2 is out already. One step at a time. The intention is to add a part at the time. Time will tell if I get so far. The intention is there.

How To Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1)
Listening to 'Sweet Dew Lee' I had nearly made up my mind and packed up my ears straight away. Not again?! The clicking optons on Spotify saves a person from making too fast decisions. The disco beat of 'We Were Beautiful' is not something I wait for, but like Arcade Fire last year, something beautiful can grow from it. The singing of Stuart Murdoch gives the atmosphere a second change and draws me in. Something that is only heightened by the lead singing of Sarah Martin in the third song. The mood changes again all over. We are in France in the mid 60s with Françoise Hardy and colleagues. The mood so soft and sweet, flute and all.

Belle and Sebastian keeps changing the mood like it is mandatory. From serious to lightheaded pop music and back to disco rhythms with a light bouncing and sounding organ. Just like the lead vocals change. There is a mood and song for all and all days, moods and seasons. While I'm bemused by so much exuberance from a band that I would not always describe as the happiest in the universe, I notice that I like the choices it has made for Part 1.

Of course that typical Belle & Sebastian feeling that a glass can never be half full is all over the album and I'm happy it is. It is the mix between these two extremes that come off so well in the band's best songs in the past. Like they do in How To Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1). By the song I am endearing myself more to this EP.

Last summer I was so surprised by 'Everything Now', Arcade Fire's last album, that was attacked over the months almost viciously by reporters. Surprised in a very positive way. Perhaps not coincidentally the final song on this EP has, nearly, the same title: 'Everything Is Now'. It seems the explanatory song for what is going on here. "Everything is now. Everything is different", the band sings. Again a totally and more moody as well as much slower song than three out of four that came before. A declaration of intent for this set of EPs? That time will tell.

What has happened after a few listen sessions is that opening song 'Sweet Dew Lee' has fallen into place as well as a part of a fairly brilliant set of five songs. It seems I can't wait to take on part 2 and 3 soon.

How To Solve Our Human Problems (Part 2)

Belle & Sebastian starting a song a bit like the first big hit of U.S. punk band The Offspring, ‘Self Esteem’? Okay, only a little, but the idea is put into my head. ‘Show Me The Sun’ goes off in a totally different direction. Of course it does. Yet the song is an up tempo, poppy, almost rock song. The ideal follow up to where EP 1 ended. The upbeat singing, male – female, the fiery 60s sounding guitar solo, it makes for a perfect beginning.

How To Solve Our Human Problems is into its second iteration of three. I am playing it now for about two weeks and certainly getting pleasantly used to it. ‘The Same Star’ is sung by Sarah Martin. This alteration between front singers is one of the strong points of Belle & Sebastian. She is able to give the songs the same kind of melancholy as bandleader Stuart Murdoch is able to put into the songs he sings. The little horn stuff in the middle makes for vintage Belle & Sebastian. The way this song is almost attacked by the band, makes it of a superior kind of dreaminess. The guitar again really goes for it in the solo, augmented by the trumpet that follows it.

The mellowness that follows ‘The Same Star’ changes the mood in a correct and pleasant way. ‘I’ll Be Your Pilot’ takes the mood down with an acoustic guitar and bongos. But just like in the busier songs EP 2 started out with, ‘I’ll Be Your Pilot’ shows that Belle & Sebastian has a fine ear for detail. The delicate playing and singing, the hobo (?) solo, the harmonies are all intricate and so finely played.

Eight songs into the three Eps I am under the impression that Belle & Sebastian is totally back at the level where it was when I got to know the band in the mid-00s. That fine balance seems to be back that I found lacking on the bands last efforts (the ones I listened to that is).

In ‘Cornflakes’ the band again goes back to the 60s. This is a somewhat strange mix of soul, Dusty Springfield, The Moody Blues anno ‘Go Now’ and The Carpenters, including some ‘Star Trek’ title songs in the solo. ‘Cornflakes’ is a busy song, a bit erratic, that I have a hard time digesting. Different it is though. With enough details to discover for those who like this sort of song.

‘A Plague On Other Boys’ puts the mood down once again. A soft version of a Scott Walker song. It has all the bombast without just that. Without any problem I can imagine all the Walker wall of sound music underneath the soft singing of Stuart Murdoch. Something like ‘Jackie’. Strange, but true. In the meantime I am enjoying myself here. The slow moving song has all these little details to discover in the singing and the arrangement of the song. There is a lot going on here, while the mix is spacious, leaving room enough for all the instruments to excel.

Four out of five is a great score. I am already looking forward to Part 3, to be released soon. It seems this is likely to be continued.

How To Solve Our Human Problems (Part 3)

Part 3 is upon us and the only conclusion possible is, Belle & Sebastian continue its high level of playing, composing, singing and creating the exactly right mood for its songs. The band keeps that fine balance between the lightness of life and the melancholy of living. Like the four expressions on the sleeve right next here depict perfectly.

The element of disco can be heard in some of the songs, again. Again Arcade Fire springs to mind (and let me state here that I still think 'Everything Now' is a fine album), without overdoing it one inch. Belle & Sebastian have a lighter touch or when things get more exuberant, like in 'Too Many Tears', the melancholy is never far away and neither is that lightness. The high sounding guitars, the horns that perk up the mood and stoke the fire within the song.

The five songs in Part 3 manage to be different and be coherent as a whole. 'Poor Boy' reminds me of Franz Ferdinand, because of the title on its last album, 'Lazy Boy'. Sarah Martin takes the lead again and her voice comes by a few times in Part 3. The 60s pastiche that ends this trilogy is another showcase by her. 'Best Friend' is a tip of the hat to The Supremes, The Shangri-Las, etc. Her voice may be too old for this kind of song; and the topic. The song as a whole works and is a great ending to this album cut in three. I have no doubt it will get into this home in one form or other.

Cutting it in three made me look out for the next in line, because of what I had heard before. Belle & Sebastian are a long way from the soft voiced songs on 'Tigermilk'. In essence that band is still there. Over it all is laid a more mature version. One that can produce a sophisticated song like 'Everything Is Now (Part 2). The voice is the same, the band and the music is just so much better. I may have missed out on a few albums. I got back into Belle & Sebastian at exactly the right moment. How To Solve Our Human Problems is a question that may not have been answered explicitly, implicitly this album answered a large chunk of it. Beautiful music is a part of the solution to a better lived and enjoyed life. Thank you, Belle & Sebastian.


Listen to the WoNoBlog Spotify playlist here:


vrijdag 26 januari 2018

Solitary High. LAVALU

Achter LAVALU gaat de in Cleveland, Ohio, geboren maar in Nederland opgegroeide Marielle Woltring schuil.
LAVALU maakte de afgelopen jaren al een aantal platen, maar deze zijn me eerlijk gezegd ontgaan. Het zijn platen waarop een toegankelijk popgeluid wordt gecombineerd met een experimenteel randje en waarop LAVALU aan de haal gaat met flink wat invloeden.
Zeker interessant om nog eens te beluisteren, maar de volgende stap die Marielle Woltring, die ook al tekende voor de muziek bij het zo succesvolle theaterstuk Het Pauperparadijs, heeft gezet is wat mij betreft een stuk interessanter.
Voor Solitary High, naar verluidt het eerste deel van een trilogie, koos Marielle Woltring niet voor het bandgeluid van de vorige platen van LAVALU, maar voor de combinatie van haar stem en haar pianospel.
Met deze combinatie gingen vele grote vrouwelijke singer-songwriters haar voor, maar Marielle Woltring treedt met Solitary High buiten de gebaande paden. Het pianospel op de plaat verraadt een klassieke opleiding en een voorkeur voor de moderne pianisten binnen de klassieke muziek. Het levert warme en klassiek aandoende klanken op, die worden gecombineerd met de mooie stem van Marielle Woltring.
De klassieke klanken van de vleugel zorgen ervoor dat LAVALU op Solitary High in eerste instantie ver verwijderd is van de pop, maar door de mooie zang schuift de plaat toch steeds iets meer op richting pop, al ontstijgt de muzikante uit Arnhem het doorsnee popliedje met speels gemak. Hier en daar raakt LAVALU aan de muziek van Tori Amos, maar dan gelukkig zonder het hysterische. De zang op Solitary High is vooral ingetogen en past prachtig bij het zo verzorgde pianospel op de plaat, maar ondanks het ingetogen karakter van de zang heeft de muziek van LAVALU de intensiteit die de platen van de door mij zeer bewonderde Fiona Apple kenmerkt.

Nu heb ik wel meer platen in huis waarop een zangeres genoeg heeft aan een piano, maar meestal gaan deze platen me na een aantal songs vervelen. Bij beluistering van Solitary High van LAVALU gebeurt het tegenovergestelde. Ik vond de plaat in eerste instantie wat te pretentieus en wat te klassiek, maar toen ik eenmaal gegrepen werd door de mooie songs van LAVALU liet de plaat me niet meer los.
Zeker wanneer je de volumeknop wat verder open draait vullen de pianoklanken op Solitary High op bijzonder fraaie wijze de ruimte, maar valt ook op hoeveel ruimte Marielle Woltring leeg laat. Deze lege ruimte wordt gevuld met haar stem en het is een stem om van te houden. De vocalen op Solitary High zijn fluisterzacht en warm en contrasteren prachtig met het klassieke pianospel op de plaat. Piano en zang draaien op de nieuwe plaat van LAVALU prachtig om elkaar heen en stuwen de plaat steeds weer net iets  verder omhoog.
Er zijn niet veel zangeressen die overeind zouden blijven bij de instrumentatie op Solitary High, maar LAVALU doet het op indrukwekkende wijze. Dat doet Marielle Woltring overigens ook wanneer ze in de slottrack ook de piano nog eens laat zwijgen en nog wat dieper onder de huid kruipt.

Solitary High maakt natuurlijk nieuwsgierig naar de volgende twee delen van de trilogie, maar is op zichzelf beschouwd een gewaagde, buitengewoon knappe en uiteindelijk zeer geslaagde plaat, die zich vrij makkelijk weet te onderscheiden van vrijwel alles dat recent is verschenen. Solitary High zal in het begin misschien ongemakkelijk voelen, maar zet door en je krijgt al snel een plaat van een bijna onwerkelijke schoonheid in handen.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Waiting'


donderdag 25 januari 2018

Marble Skies. Django Django

Can albums grow or is the judgement always correct at first listen? This philosophic question is nearly impossible to answer. For starters it's impossible to judge how long it will last after that first impression. There are examples of albums I truly misjudged at first listen. Soulwax's second album being my favourite example. Albums that blew me away have not always lasted. Often they have though.

Fact is that I have started to enjoy, especially the first four songs of, Django Django's  'Born Under Saturn' more and more through the past years, while I have never really returned to the first album since 2012. The reason I'm writing all this is that I felt so tremendously joyful listening to the title track of this new album for the first time. The opener is the perfect opener for the album for all lovers of songs like 'Giant'. Where do things go from here? I'll be back later in time.

Having listened some more it seems like I am bothered by the 'Born Under Saturn' syndrome again. Django Django again does what it is good at and I am having a little trouble gathering speed. On Marble Skies the band plays its modern version of pop and dance with simultaneously applying enthusiasm and keeping the brake firm in hand. It is a combination that leads to impressive songs like 'Champagne'. Loads of darkness are thrown over wishful thinking as if the singer knows the champagne and mountain streams will never be within his grasp no matter how hard he tries.

Listening intently to 'Tic-Tac-Toe' Django Django reveals how intricately it puts its songs together. Three chords in three notes? Why not. It just keeps changing them, while the song is not impaired by the fact that what lies underneath it is so full of unrest. The brilliancy is in fact in the wholeness of the song while in fact it is more like the debris of a crashed crystal vase. The beat and the vocal melody keep it all together anyway.

Django Django is a fourpiece. Listening to the records I truly wonder how the band ever reproduces its music on stage. So much happens that (a lot of) electronic assistance is necessary. Nevertheless I am sure that the band does deliver live. Perhaps I'll be finding out soon. Like in 'Beam Me Up' all seems synthesizers and keyboards, beats and all. So four members behind synths like Depeche Mode and Soulwax? Why not? With those two names some of the influences on Django Django come to the surface not just a little.

No matter how electronic, perhaps even lifeless 'In Your Beat' sounds at first listen, again the sun comes out because of the pop feel the band manages to put into the song. The electronic notes and beats are leapfrogging over each other to get to the other side. Singer Vincent Neff just hails his notes in celebration of his singing.

Every song on this album could have its story. You get the drift. Marble Skies is growing on me and faster than 'Born Under Saturn' was able to do. This album is even more electronic with its blips and blops from a long time ago over extremely modern rhythms creating something very here and now with just a hint of nostalgia. Django Django have done it again. One of the first great releases of 2018 it seems.


You can listen to 'Tic-Tac-Toe' here:


dinsdag 23 januari 2018

We're Not Going Anywhere. David Ramirez

"Where were you ...  when we lost the twins. Where were you when the fear settled in". That is one way of entering into an album and how David Ramirez introduces himself to me. Spooky, scary and almost other worldly. It is just not something I fell comfortable being confronted with. An expression of feelings so intimate, so privately confrontational that I can only hope (for) Ramirez (he) has made this up or used an example he encountered somewhere along the road of life.

On 2 February David Ramirez plays the Q-Bus in Leiden and this could well be a show that is going to be very interesting attending. Based on his latest album, We're Not Going Anywhere, to me it is clear that I will be going somewhere soon. The music is a mix of dark Americana, pop synths and indie rock, including a strong influence by Ryan Adams.

Ramirez started playing music in the 90s covering indie rock songs until under the influence of Ryan Adams he started a new band playing folk and Americana songs. Since the second half of the 00s he's playing solo and recording records since. We're Not Going Anywhere is my first exposure to his music.

The title of the album is not one of excitement, progress nor change. We're Not Going Anywhere suggests a dark touch and that is exactly what David Ramirez delivers. Some of the songs do not allow any light in. With the title song perhaps as the darkest of all. Don't ever listen to this song when standing on a platform with the train rolling in .... Ramirez at first whisper-singing the song making it near impossible to stress any part of the melody. With just a piano behind him, he fills the whole space of the mix with his voice as soon as the volume and emphasis go up.

Others hold a little pop feel within them. Again others play with the more heartfelt songs of Bruce Springsteen, without ever getting that pompous sound that I dislike so much in that artist. Ramirez is able to give that kind of song a lighter touch, allowing it to breath and show its strong points without having to overdo anything.

David Ramirez manages to keep my attention with the record. By infusing other elements into his songs, like a strong indie rock guitar solo in 'Communion' combined with some fine pedal steel guitar playing, the song does not so much let the light in, yet totally comes alive. It shows how different sides of music can influence each other in a successful way.

Musically David Ramirez fits in well with many artists I have seen in Q-Bus over the years. Like Grayson Capps, Tim Easton or Nels Andrews. Ramirez shows more restraint on record. The less is more principle definitely was applied when arranging and recording We're Not Going Anywhere. Devoid of instruments is the wrong definition, how to apply them as little intrusive as possible is certainly applicable.

We're Not Going Anywhere is not an album for everyone (if such an album exists of course). Many will be turned off by the dark atmosphere. Those who get past the first lines and song, may be in for a trip. Perhaps an unsettling one, but not devoid of beauty. I'll be honest and share that I have not made up my mind entirely what my relation to this album will be. What I do know, is that if Ramirez can bring this intensity to the stage, his shows in this country may prove to be very memorable. Just try the album is my advice and see how far in you get.


Information on the Q-Bus show you find here:


You can listen to 'Time' here:


maandag 22 januari 2018

No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal. The Apartments (2)

'Tinseltown In The Rain'. I heard the song for the first time in years recently and now I'm listening to No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal for the first time and The Blue Nile just does not want to leave my head. There is something in the class of this album that brings forward this dark 80s song; that I never even truly liked. The class is underscored by the cover art. A beautiful picture showing a timeless setting. Only the way the lady under the umbrella is dressed will give a way something. The rest can be anytime between the invention of electrical light and now. A mystical photograph because of the combination of electric light, the snow and dark or perhaps the extreme greyness of a snowy, winter's day.

The Apartments in an Australian band from Brisbane that started 40 years ago this year. Off and on the band around Peter Milton Walsh played and recorded. In 2015 the band produced this album, released by the French independent label Microcultures that recently released that other beautiful album ' Dreameater' by French artist Garciaphone. I was made aware of the existence of No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal by the review of Erwin Zijleman on this blog (read on here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2016/07/no-song-no-spell-no-madrigal-apartments.html?m=0) based on a, already sold out, Dutch release. It was only before Christmas I started listening to it and knew I wanted to write my own review as well.

So this is a band that is around for 40 years with a very modest output. Perhaps everything culminated into this one effort. And what an effort it is. The jazzy pop atmosphere of the album is not of this time and age. Everything spells artists like Black, Sade, the already mentioned The Blue Nile, Talk Talk and other almost forgotten heroes of the mid 80s who played songs with a strong jazz influences and managed to score hits for a fairly short period of time.

What strikes me first listening to No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal with a headset on is how lush the album sounds. The level of fine details the musicians have put into the songs and the fine orchestrations that accompany the songs. There is so much atmosphere put into the songs, it sounds very much like a fairyland the listener is invited to enter. Walsh is far from afraid to let the listener dwell on his own thoughts, to let his mind wonder off to pastures full of relaxation and pleasant dreams. The music is strong enough to let the listener go there and pull him back in to enjoy this music even more.

If The Apartments gets direct, it is with a bass like Air used for its breakthrough album 'Moon Safari', as in 'The House That We Once Lived In'. Only to be replaced by a lush electric guitar and a more direct one. Walsh sings over it with his somewhat hesitating voice. Not young, not old, just very serious with a dreamlike quality. For me this is a song in which all the fine points of the whole album come together. A song to dream to, to meditate to, to listen to ever so intently, but above all a song to tremendously enjoy.

I may seem to suggest that The Apartments sound like the 80s, it is far from the whole picture. For that the production is too 2010s. There is no album of the era with its, then new, recording studios with an endless number of tracks, where artists like Bryan Ferry utterly got lost in, sounding like this album. And that recorded for a small independent record company from Australia and New Zealand in 2015. For that it is simply too spacious, organic in sound and too true to life itself. It is easy to imagine The Apartments playing here in my home. Just by closing my eyes.

French critics voted No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal their album of 2015, as first Australian album ever. I will not go so far (in hindsight). What is easy to underscore is that The Apartments have released a fine album, with several beautiful songs on it. Nothing revolutionary, yet so fine. Every lover of the better kind of pop song ought to get a copy of this album and a further release in this country might just be called for.


You can listen to and order the album here:


zondag 21 januari 2018

Anthropocene. Peter Oren

Ik was zeker niet direct overtuigd van Anthropocene van Peter Oren, maar weet eigenlijk niet precies wat me bij eerste beluistering in de weg zat.
Het tweede album van de singer-songwriter uit Bloomington, Indiana, valt op door vaak ingetogen en altijd zeer stemmige klanken en door een bijzondere stem. Het is een stem waar ik flink aan moest wennen, waarschijnlijk omdat hij anders klinkt dan de meeste andere stemmen in het genre.
Het is ook een stem die het oor streelt wanneer je er eenmaal aan gewend bent; iets dat ik in het verleden ook heb gehad met de stemmen van onder andere Tindersticks zanger Stuart Staples en Bill Callahan (aka Smog), waarbij Peter Oren af en toe in de buurt zit.
De Amerikaan maakt op zijn tweede plaat muziek met vooral invloeden uit de country, blues en folk, maar Anthropocene is geen dertien in een dozijn rootsplaat, al is niet makkelijk uit te leggen waarom dit zo is.
De songs van Peter Oren zijn voornamelijk akoestisch en ingetogen en zijn gebouwd op een basis van akoestische en elektrische gitaren en de al genoemde stem van Peter Oren. Toch is Anthropocene geen hele sobere singer-songwriter plaat.
Producer Ken Coomer, ook bekend als de eerste drummer van Wilco, heeft de akoestische gitaren van Peter Oren aangevuld met hier en daar een pedal steel, een elektrische gitaar, een piano en een viool en heeft verder op subtiele wijze synths en een ritmesectie toegevoegd aan het bijzondere geluid op de plaat. Hij heeft vervolgens de stem van Peter Oren wat naar de achtergrond gemixt en zo nu en dan voorzien van wat galm, wat de muziek op Anthropocene een ruimtelijk effect geeft.
In muzikaal opzicht klinkt het allemaal sober, maar ook prachtig. De akoestische gitaar van Peter Oren zorgt voor een warme basis, terwijl het elektrische gitaarspel en de prachtige pedal steel bijdragen van Laur Joamets (Sturgill Simpson) en Sam Wilson en hier en daar een vrouwenstem bijzonder mooie en trefzekere accenten toevoegen aan het geluid op de plaat. Het is een geluid dat op fraaie wijze verder wordt aangevuld met de genoemde andere instrumenten en uiteindelijk een wat donkere ondertoon heeft. Het is ook een geluid vol dynamiek, want Peter Oren is misschien niet bang voor bijna verstilde klanken, maar schuwt ook de stevigere uithalen op de elektrische gitaar niet.
Het levert in combinatie met zijn stem muziek op die het uitstekend doet op donkere herst- en winteravonden, maar Anthropocene verdient ook aandacht wanneer de zon nog op is. Ik moest op een of andere manier erg wennen aan deze plaat, maar inmiddels hoor ik alleen maar de schoonheid en de intensiteit van de indringende songs van Peter Oren en iedere keer als ik ze opnieuw hoor zijn ze nog wat mooier. Bijzondere plaat dus.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Anthropocene hier beluisteren en kopen:


zaterdag 20 januari 2018

Luit en duidelijk: Stathis Skandalidis Plays Gilbert Isbin

Iedere keer dat ik deze cd draai is het een verrassing wat ik er nú weer in hoor. Ja, luit. Dat is duidelijk! Werkelijk fenomenaal hoe lichtvoetig en transparant deze Griek, Stathis Skandalidis, de luit bestiert. Hoe hij de vele tempowisselingen in deze muziek speels volgt. Hoe hij de snelle loopjes uit de luie luit tovert. Slechts af en toe hoor je dat de luit het net niet bijbeent. Razend knap en wondermooi.

Ik heb begrepen van componisten dat het soms moeilijk is hun werk over te leveren aan uitvoerende musici, die hun werk wellicht niet helemaal begrijpen of bij gebrek aan virtuositeit onvoldoende recht doen. Maar omgekeerd vergt het van een componist heel veel moed om een werk in handen te geven van een virtuoos als Skandalidis. De transparantie van deze gracieuze Griek is namelijk genadeloos. Iedere onvolkomenheid in de compositie zou onmiddellijk ontmaskerd worden. En Isbin speelt zelf ook niet onverdienstelijk gitaar en luit, heb ik begrepen. dus…

Maar hij heeft het aangedurfd, Isbin. Volkomen terecht en met wat een schitterend resultaat!
Gilbert Isbin is een Vlaamse componist, gitarist en luitspeler. In zijn muziek combineert hij allerlei muziekstijlen. Ik hoor barok, middeleeuws, flamenco, hedendaags, neoklassiek, jazz, pop, volksmuziek. En de volgende keer dat ik de cd opzet hoor ik waarschijnlijk weer wat nieuws. Het grappige is dat je bij veel van de nummers kunt kiezen hoe je ze wilt beluisteren. Beluister je het als een rock & roll-nummer en dan hoor je rock & roll met wat verrassende middeleeuwse melodielijnen, jazz-tempowisselingen en barok-fraseringen. Maar beluister je hetzelfde stuk als een volkslied, dan hoor je een volkslied met verrassende wendingen en stijlkenmerken. Enzovoort enzovoort. 

Deze muziek blijft mij iedere keer weer boeien. Ik vind het trouwens wel veel concentratie vergen om er goed naar te luisteren. Het is beslist geen achtergrondmuziek. Maar ja, kan ik de heren een nog groter compliment maken dan dat? Ik vind het in ieder geval een ontdekking! Enneh, oh ja, prachtig opgenomen!


Je kunt hier kijken en luisteren naar een live opname van een liedje van de cd:
In dit geval gaat het om een bewerking van een oud Vlaams volksliedje.

vrijdag 19 januari 2018

Cut The Wire. Tim Knol

What a nice surprise, this new record by Tim Knol. The level of pop is so exquisite it is near impossible to resist.

From the get go of his career Tim Knol was on the radio and tv without that leading to a massive breakthrough in the form of hits. He played every festival for two years in a row. Which seems the 10s normal for artist in the more serious segment of music. I have seen him play twice, but somehow his music never totally convinced me. Too much of trying to be someone else? Perhaps. His third album totally passed me by, as it seems to have been the case for more people. The The Miseries album came totally out of the blue for me. An album so different from all that went before, including a near earsplitting show in Leiden. After that silence. Tim was noted as having become a photographer and traveller.

Come 2018 and a new album in which all seems to come together. His singer-songwriter characteristics blend with the pop part of the The Miseries pop-punk. Tim Knol has no fear to use the most, blatantly obvious choices of notes and chords, including a na na na part to get to the most beautiful result. In that he comes close to the music of Douwe Bob and his former band companion Duyf, now playing with Douwe Bob. Comes close, I write, as Tim Knol is not copying here. This is his own distinct voice and signature, leading to his best album to date. Reading the bio accompanying Cut The Wire shows there is no animosity between the two. Douwe Bob joined the recording process for two days, as did Tangerine (his once support act). Anne Soldaat is, as ever, present as side kick and producer.

Promo photo by Renate Beense
In the music elements of country are infused into the songs via guitar licks and even a pedal steel guitar. Pop shines through the vocals, the acoustic guitar and vintage (sounding) keyboards. Some songs hold The Beatles or The Kinks like vocal melodies, others delve into singer-songswriters of old and Americana from the U.S. The influences on this album range from far and wide.

I'm going to focus on 'Going Places'. A song that has it all as far as I'm concerned. A great pop feel melody, some light behind the shade and a blistering guitar solo, distorted, fierce and fiery. Upsetting the whole apple cart of Cut The Wire. A 30 second plus intro. This is Tim Knol having come of age and showing us who he is and where he stands in life. The pop feel 'Going Places' is of the same quality Maggie Brown plays on its last album 'Another Place'. Knol lets us hear what he wants us to hear, released of all pre-conditions and expectations of others and, yes, that may well be the outcome of the freedoms The Miseries allowed him. Chapeau, Mr. Knol for this song.

In all Cut The Wire is an album that presents a few sounds and textures. Different sides from Tim Knol show through, including a darker, perhaps more doubting one. Like in a song called 'Kickin'', sung with a deeper voice. This is offset by the more poppy and 60s sound of 'Listen Love'. In short there definitely is something for more people in Cut The Wire than in his previous solo recordings that were more one-sided. Whether that is a good thing for Knol's career remains to be seen. In my opinion it is. Change allows for longevity and growth in a career. Cut The Wire is abundant proof of that.


donderdag 18 januari 2018

Lost In Light. Sumie

Lost In Light van de Zweedse singer-songwriter Sumie roept vooralsnog gemengde reacties op, waarbij vooral de uitersten goed zijn vertegenwoordigd.
De een vindt de tweede plaat van het alter ego van Sandra Sumie Nagano (zus van Yukimi Nagano van Little Dragon) van een bijna onwerkelijke schoonheid en intimiteit, de ander vindt de plaat ondraaglijk saai en totaal kleurloos.
Lost In Light is mijn tweede kennismaking met de muziek van de Zweedse singer-songwriter met deels Japanse roots, want precies vier jaar geleden was ik al erg enthousiast over haar titelloze debuut, dat de muziekliefhebber overigens ook al in twee kampen verdeelde. (Lees hier Erwins recensie van 'Sumie': https://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2014/01/sumie-sumie.html?m=0)
Laat ik er niet langer omheen draaien. Ik vind ook Lost In Light weer wonderschoon.
Ook op haar tweede plaat kiest Sumie voor uiterst ingetogen songs vol echo’s uit het verleden. De Zweedse singer-songwriter raakt nog altijd aan de pastorale Amerikaanse en Britse folkies uit de jaren 60 (Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan, Karen Dalton en noem ze maar op), maar schuurt ook stiekem tegen de muziek van het door mij bewonderde Mazzy Star aan en raakt heel af en toe ook aan een Portishead (maar dan wel een totaal gestripte versie van Portishead).
De songs van Sumie worden gedomineerd door haar prachtige stem, die een brug slaat tussen de folkies en psychedelische folkies uit het verleden en de zwoele en zweverige zangeressen uit het heden (onder wie uiteraard Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval en Portishead's Beth Gibbons).
De mooie, indringende en vaak wat pastoraal aandoende zang wordt net als op het debuut spaarzaam begeleid. De akoestische gitaar vormt hierbij de basis, maar laat je niet misleiden door de op het eerste gehoor uiterst sobere klanken op de tweede plaat van Sumie.
Op haar debuut wist de singer-songwriter uit Gothenburg pianist Dustin O’Halloran en muzikant en componist Nils Frahm te strikken voor bijzonder fraaie accenten en dit keer geven niemand minder dan Peter Broderick en een aantal Zweedse muzikanten de songs van Sumie veel meer glans dan je bij oppervlakkige beluistering zult horen en betovert de muziek van Sumie ook met strijkers, piano en hele mooie gitaarklanken.
Het gekke is dat ik Lost In Light na een aantal keren horen helemaal geen hele sobere plaat meer vind. De songs van Sumie zitten vol wonderschone details en worden gedomineerd door ingehouden en onderhuidse spanning.
De stem van Sumie klinkt op het eerste gehoor misschien wat vlak en plechtig, maar hoe vaker ik naar de muziek van de Zweedse singer-songwriter luister, hoe mooier en gevoeliger ik haar stem vind en hoe meer impact haar muziek heeft.
Het debuut van Sumie sneeuwde vier jaar geleden wat onder door een onhandig getimede release in december. Het vorig jaar verschenen Lost In Light moest concurreren met stapels andere releases en komt hierdoor nog maar weinig aan de oppervlakte. Het is doodzonde, want ook de tweede plaat van Sumie is er een die bij voldoende aandacht naar grote hoogten kan stijgen en heel wat kleine of vroege uurtjes op bijzonder fraaie wijze kan inkleuren. Hele mooie en bijzondere plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt het album hier beluisteren en kopen:


woensdag 17 januari 2018

Simple Life. M-Jo

What am I looking at?, I wondered to myself when I looked at the cover of Simple Life for the first time. Charles Bronson as a young man in a rare colour photograph, while he was practising for a just as rare role as a Viking/Mongol drummer? Something like that.

My thoughts on the cover all disappeared like clouds from the sky after the rain when the sun breaks through announcing a warm summer day once I started to listen to the EP M-JO sent me. A nice piece of indie rock with fuzzy distorted guitars with a clean drum mixed in the middle. Layers of guitars fly in and out over and under the basis of bass and drum.

The fuzz gives the music a hint of psychedelia, the basis is a strong sense of rock with indie rock in the details. From the 60s to the 10s. Six decades of rock can be found on Simple Life. The EP does not let itself get caught in a small corner. It branches out in sound and approach, making it much more divers than I would have thought on the basis of the first two songs. For me it is the right approach. I got caught by the more up tempo rocksongs and hooked by the ballads on psych later on. In the last song the circle is completed with fuzzed guitars.

M-JO is Mark de Jonge from Amsterdam on guitar and vocals. He's assisted by Marcus Bruystens (Claw Boys Claw) on drums, Annelies Jonkers (Jonkers & Merlot) vocals, keyboards and tambourine and Auck Boersma (previously of Melanocaster, Seewolf) on bass.

The EP opens with the title song. An enormously poppy opening on keyboards giving 'Simple Life' an 80s feel, that is taken away by the spacy guitars. The singing has a 60s feel to it, like the greatest underground bands from this country. The Outsiders, that sort of thing. So far from virtuoso but in your face and direct. The effect is catchy to say the least. This feeling is heightened by the second song, 'Your Call'. The pop is thrown overboard for a rock approach with loads of guitars all over the place. If I get to pick a favourite of Simple Life this would be it. I love the sound of the bass, of the guitars and the melody is elementary, yet effective. The Kinks of old with distorted guitars.

That band returns to mind when I'm listening to 'The Weekend'. Being a fan for life, it isn't hard to come up with these comparisons, yet they are correct. The influence is 100% in the melody and way of singing. That other influences come in when the solo arrives is just nice.

'Let Her Go' is an acoustic guitar strummer. For a while I'm kept under the impression that it will remain that way, until the band kicks in, with a keyboard in the lead role. Something resembling a mellotron or a real one. The sound is just great. Mark de Jonge's voice reaches for its breaking point, not afraid to sound vulnerable and show another side of the vocalist.

The EP closes with the more comically sounding 'We're Just Looking For A Bar'. Like an outtake from any famous 60s band it rocks out. The members of M-JO are having fun together and sharing some of it with us. It rocks and isn't half bad.

Summing up, Simple Life is a nice introduction to the music of M-JO. Although certainly no barns were stormed, Simple Life contains a nice collection of rock songs that have a feel for the right melodies and can be tough as well as modest and tender. Another nice band to follow.


You can listen to Simple Life and buy it when you like it here:


dinsdag 16 januari 2018

In Search Of The Lost Chord. Moody Blues

Years ago Wo. started a series of reviews on albums he had never heard from bands scoring hits in the year that he discovered Radio Veronica's Top 40. The years before he could afford anything but one or two single 45s a year. This led to introductions to the music of bands and singers like Chicago Transit Authority, Barry Ryan, Donovan, Golden Earrings, etc. Some of them were revelations, others far from. The series had come to a bit of an end with reviews of albums that he had bought since. With the recent death of Ray Thomas another album, that he has heard long ago, came to mind. The one containing the late 1968 hit single 'Ride My See-Saw'.

I am very sure that I knew 'Nights In White Satin' before 'Ride My See-Saw', but how can one be certain almost 50 years after that fact. What I do know is that I started listening to the radio in earnest in the early fall of 1968 after I learned there were things like hits and 'Ride My See-Saw' was in that list and an exciting song at that.

As I wrote recently in a little piece remembering France Gall and Ray Thomas I copied all the Moody Blues album from 1968 to 1972 from a friend, but found them to not really like them. I was happy with the few singles I owned and with 'Days of Future Passed'. We are 30 years plus down the road, so let's see if a reappraisal is in order. (As an aside, the pace in which this band released records...)

On the very first listening session I notice that something must have been wrong with my 20 something ears at the time. In Search Of The Lost Chord is an extremely varied album filled with some fine compositions ranging from psychedelic outings, LSD infused, fine ballads to a great rock song like 'Ride My See-Saw', one of two singles released from this album, although the first single, 'Voices In The Sky', never was a hit over here. The second thing I notice is the number of voices Moody Blues had. It was not just John Lodge and Justin Hayward leading the band, far from. Except for drummer Graeme Edge, all sang lead (Edge does narration of his poems though) and wrote songs solo or together. Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder were full contributors to the band's sound, just not their most famous songs. Within the whole it is clear that they were full members with a specific voice, together making up Moody Blues.

Released in July 1968, just months after 'Days Of Future Passed', In Search Of The Lost Chord' is another extremely well worked out album with so many layers and instruments. This time around all played by the band itself. Wikipedia counts up to 33 instruments used on the album. It is an album that rides the wave of psychedelia just after it started crashing down. The Beatles and The Stones led the way towards a more rock oriented future. The Kinks remained who they had always been and The Who was slowly working its way from a singles band to the rockopera monster it was soon to become. Moody Blues had found its voice as well and moved towards the symphonic rock field as one of the early adaptors. The sound of this album still had the 60s psychedelia and Indian sounds in it. The basics were all there for a career that would lead them to being one of the bigger subtop bands of the late 60s and early 70s, and to remain popular to this day.

A small fun fact around the album is the b-side of 'Ride My See-Saw', 'A Simple Life'. I do not have the single in my possession (yet), so have not been able to lay the connection. The Four Tops, one of the great Tamla Motown vocal groups scored a hit with the song in 1970. Listening to it for the first time on Spotify parts of the Four Tops hit are instantly recognisable. Moody Blues as songwriters for others? Why not. The song fits the Tamla Motown sound perfectly.

In Search Of The Lost Chord starts with a poem, which was normal for Moody Blues at the time, written by drummer Graeme Edge. Brought in a Napoleon XIV kind of way by growing into madness slowly but surely. The madcap laughter morphs into the opening riff of 'Ride My See-Saw' one of the two John Lodge rock hits for Moody Blues. The other one being 'I'm Just A Singer in Rock And Roll Band'. Yes, two of my favourites. The song has a strong rock riff or two, so many different sounding voices, going over the edge and all, and a strong soulful element, creating an irresistible mix that just lurches forward and forward like a train under full steam.

The album starts to surprise me from the moment the unknown (to me) 'Dr. Livingstone, I Presume' is played. Again so much happens within one song in the singing and the instruments used and the way the song develops itself. The voices and the approach do sound familiar to me as I have heard Moody Blues one way or another through the years. It is my ears and brain that seem to have changed and making me appreciate the music so much more. And, who wrote this song? Ray Thomas.

'House Of Four Doors, Part 1' is a mini symphony including a radio suspense show with all creaking doors stuff. The band was not afraid to stop the beautiful music to create a totally different atmosphere adding something to the album that perhaps should not be there. It becomes more than a song without hindering the flow of the whole. A very fine balance the band strikes here.

"Timothy Leary is dead", 'Legend Of A Mind' starts, "No, no, no, no, he's outside looking in", it continuous. The mind is explored, the inside of it that is. Like the lyrics of the whole album is about exploration. Through physical travels, synthetic drug use and transcendental meditation. The lost chord of the lost word isn't 'om' for nothing. It is Ray Thomas who wrote this most spacy of tracks on In Search Of The Lost Chord. In everything a signature Moody Blues sound.

So here I am going to correct myself. Was I wrong writing that Ray Thomas was one of the men in the background of Moody Blues. Despite being the flautist and tambourine player, Ray Thomas made a huge part of what the Moody Blues sound is for me. And for Wikipedia writing Ray Thomas quit Moody Blues in 2002? I just saw a video from 2015 where he is singing his heart out to the single mentioned here several times. So, here you go, ignorance even happens to people who seem to know a lot of and about music.

The quality of In Search Of The Lost Chord remains at this incredibly high level. I will not go into each and every song. Instead what I am going to do is go to the record shop now and see if I can find a nice second hand copy to start playing the record for real, instead of on Spotify.

As Gary, with whom I have e-mail conversations regularly that find their way to this pages, wrote on me discovering this album: "sometimes it takes someone to die before we truly appreciate them". Very true, Gary.

Finally, take one look at the cover art of this album. Very special, isn't it?


You can listen to 'Ride My See-Saw' here:


maandag 15 januari 2018

67 lost songs from the 60s. A discussion

Gary, Mark and Wo. go out on another online musical adventure together, writing to each other by mail on their findings to this message that started off things.

Gary, 12-1
Interesting stream of lesser known 60s releases - 67 'lost songs'.

Below we provide a link that allows you to join in as well, so please do and comment to share your knowledge and feelings on this interesting and nice, if random, collection of more or less obscure songs from the 60s. If you feel like it, that is.


Mark, 13-1

Thanks for this link to a very interesting listing. I'm unfamiliar with most of these records but can comment on a few.

6. I don't know this song but Spooky Tooth were an under-rated early progressive band notable for daring to do a version of "I Am The Walrus"! There are other Beatle linkages: after the band fizzled out, keyboardist Gary Wright played on George's solo albums and Wings guitarist Henry McCollough (most famous for the remarkable solo on "My Love") was a member of this band for a while. I have the cd "best of".

15. Jimmy Page "She Just Satisfies" - I bought this single when it was a Record Store Day release a couple of years ago. It is a very short (smack on 2 minutes: no blistering, long guitar solos!) pacey R'n'B effort complete with brief harmonica solo. He co-wrote and knocked off in the studio (playing most of the instruments) in 1965 when he was doing time as a session musician. Very much in the Them vein but with unremarkable "she's my baby - oh yeah" lyrics....sung by Page himself. He never sang a word with Led Zep and his more successful solo releases relied on others for vocals, rather dubiously at one time on David Coverdale but of course later more credibly on Robert Plant. So that adds to this record's curiosity value. I don't know if Fontana gave it any kind of marketing push but I expect they may have considered it too rough and raucous for it be to be pop chart material. 

27. "I Wish It would Rain...blue skies, please go away!")  was a big Temptations hit. Not being much of a fan of Tamla, I am more familiar with this song courtesy of The Faces who used to do it live (it's on their "Coast to Coast" live album). 

28-49 - big gap....maybe you guys have some comments....?

50. Flying Burrito Brothers "Train Song" was a single recorded after the sessions for the classic "Gilded Palace of Sin" with the great Gram Parsons - and I still haven't got this record! (I'm going on ebay after I finish this e-mail). It may well have been a hit in the US.

54. Fairport Convention's "Meet on the Ledge" is their signature tune - a wonderful, timeless, rousing Richard Thompson song so not at all obscure. Sandy Denny one of the greatest vocalists ever of course who tragically died young. My friend Ko in Rotterdam who gave up on vinyl years ago gave me his Dutch pink Island label copy of this single with picture sleeve (very rare in UK) and a non-album B-side, It had been rightly played to death so not in great condition but is one of the treasures in my singles box. (Ko also gave me his first pressing Satanic Majesties Request with lenticular sleeve and a mono copy of Piper at the Gates of Dawn - both now worth a bob or two!).

58. Jackie Lomax "Sour Milk Sea" - I found this Apple single in a junk box about 30 years ago. I didn't know who he was then but I noted the song-writing credit was "Harrison" but did not know the song. Sure enough this was one George gave away to this mate of the Fabs from the Cavern days and never recorded himself. Below par, it is one of his noisier efforts with awful fuzzy production and an unintelligible lyric about meditation: so not huge chart potential and not helped by the disintegrating Apple organisation's random and chaotic marketing (Lomax soon switched to Warner Brothers but never found success: he died largely unrecognised in 2013)..So this is a Fab 4 collectible curio made all the more notable by the composition of the backing band: George on rhythm guitar, Paul on bass, Ringo on drums and on lead....Eric Clapton. There was also an Apple album with an unhelpful title - "Is this what you want?"  - which was re-mastered about 10 years ago that improved the sound.... but alas is not to be found in any  "1000 albums you must hear before you die" listing.

59. Same situation with this one: you can only attribute the failure as a single of James Taylor's much-covered great song about homesickness, "Carolina In My Mind", to Apple's disorganisation and failure to follow up on the genuine talent that knocked on that famous white door in Savile Row (which is now a clothes shop by the way so you can freely wander around and imagine Lennon shouting down the impressive staircase for more.....tea. You can't access the roof though!) This song is on James Taylor's first eponymous album that Apple released. Taylor was bumming around in Notting Hill in 1968 and had sent a demo tape to Peter Asher - and Paul and George ended up playing on the recording.

60. Still in Fabs territory, "The Iveys" was the previous name of......Badfinger. The history of that group is one of the greatest tragedies in music ending in the penniless suicide of the two guys who wrote one of the biggest hits in music ever - "Without You":  Pete Ham and Tom Evans. This is another great melodic song that compares well with McCartney, Bee Gees.... how could it have failed?. Apple fiasco again.....

61 (I'm on a run here...)  The Stone Poneys were a pop-flavoured folkie trio in the US featuring prominently on vocals of a certain Linda Ronstadt. They were quite successful in the US only I think and this is their most famous song. This is a rather earnest genre of American music that didn't translate easily into the global pop charts and after three albums Linda Ronstadt ditched it and hitched up with the country-rock fraternity notably, Emmylou Harris, Lowell George and The Eagles. This song is off the trio's second album "Evergreen" (having become obsessed on more than one level with Linda Ronstadt about 30 years ago I eagerly sought out these difficult to find now quite collectable albums.... but they don't get played much! Her later career took for me a regrettable turn into the bland mainstream but her collaboration in 2006 with Ann Savoy entitled "Adieu False Heart" was a an impressive return to the kind of authentic country I love, so is highly recommended. She had a wonderful voice tragically now silenced by Parkinson's Disease. 

I think that's it for me: no doubt I've overlooked some gems (I'm very weak on the soul side...and there are some bands I've never heard of like the Five Man Electrical Band and the 23rd Turnoff!) so I would be interested to read your take on this list and any thoughts however random that you may have on the other songs!
Wo., 13-1

It seems we have a start for a new story here, Gary, Mark. I haven't had time to listen yet, but will over the coming days. Currently I'm working on an old Moody Blues album following the demise of Ray Thomas, In Search Of The Lost Chord. It's great what I'm hearing so far, having last listened to it in the 80s and not really liking it at the time.

That aside. I'm curious to what I will find on the link.

Gary, 13-1

Wow, thanks Mark!

You really are a walking encyclopaedia of 60s/70s vinyl! You really should consider writing a book/guide to music in this era (maybe a personal perspective?)… I am sure that others would be very interested in such a tome! For myself, I can’t claim any such authority on the 60s and to be honest, most of the 67 on this list are unknown to me…. I just found them very interesting to hear on Spotify…. So much so, I had an uncontrollable urge to regrow my hair (maybe too late for that?), locate and wear a flowery shirt and flared trousers!

Certainly it would be great to source and purchase some of these as original singles!

It seems to me that you are sitting on a goldmine…. But I would imagine it would be heartbreaking to monetise and part with your collection?
Gary, 13-1

It is sad that we have to wait for the passing of a talented person to finally appreciate just how important they were….. I would imagine that is even more keenly felt by those same people that have put their heart and soul into a work and it is all but forgotten?

As for the list, I found it is like walking down a long corridor with 67 doors that you can open, look in and decide wither you you wish to enter…. Great fun!

Wo., 13-1

Looking at the list, while listening to the number 1, Spanky & Our Gang, I am looking at so much I have never heard from before. Despite having several of the 'Nuggets' albums and the 'Psychedelic States' series albums, until it just became a blur of unknown regional bands, this list brings forth another bunch of songs and artists I have never heard of. (This collection goes way beyond the garage rock psychedelia of 'Nuggets' though.)

Of course not everything is totally unknown. Several of the artists have scored a hit and some more than one around 1970. It is nearly undoable to comment on each individual song, but some comments I will make up front.

#2. Edwin Starr, was a part of the soul artists that scored a few hits in the late 60s and early 70s in NL. 'Twenty Five Miles' was a hit. His most famous hit of course is 'War', covered by many artists including Bruce Springsteen himself.

#3. The Impressions are best know for having Curtis Mayfield in its line up and the song 'People Get Ready' that gospel song between the Lord and politics.

#4. This may be the only song I actually own. In the late 70s I ordered 'Summertime Blues' by Blue Cheer from some post order company. To my surprise another band was on the b-side. I may never have bothered to listen to it. The Blues Magoos was the b-side with this song. Later, listening to the Blue Cheer album that contains 'Summertime Blues', I found out why this company did not bother with another Blue Cheer track. This band was really bad (read on here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2014/05/vincebus-eruptum-blue-cheer.html). The Blues Magoos track, '(We Ain't Got) Nothing Yet)' is fun I notice. It may well be it inspired Deep Purple for the 'Black Night' riff. It comes very close

#6. Spooky Tooth had two hits over here. 'That Was Only Yesterday' and a cover of 'I Am The Walrus, as Mark also commented on. (Oasis did a great version on Jools Hooland's show in the 90s as well.) I really like the band's second album, that I also reviewed in a series on 1968-1969 albums, I am intermittently running on the blog. As soon as I run into the album second hand, I'll buy it. (Read more here:  http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2014/03/spooky-two-spooky-tooth.html).The band's prequel, a band called Art, returns later on this list, I noticed.

#8. It is explained why the song is included in the intro to the music itself, but of course The Beach Boys should not be in this list, but o.k., the story of the miss-listing of the song is nice. The names are a dead give away though.

#11 -15. Nina Simone, Stan Getz, Jan & Dean, Jimmy Page, should I say more on this famous singers/musicians?

@Mark, Online I have found at least two compilation cds full of tracks, some well-known, others totally obscure, that have Jimmy Page on them. Unfortunately the album is spread out per artist in iTunes, so unplayable as a whole. There are quite some gems between them, actually.

#17. I think I have a few The Velvettes tracks on a double soul album filled with hits by Sam & Dave, James Brown and others.

#19. Yes, I'm curious to hear more from The Box Tops, featuring Alex Chilton. Chilton produced his best work when he was aligned to the brilliance of Andy Bell, which lasted far too short. The first album of Black Star is one of the best kept secrets of the early 70s. It should have been a smash, it went absolutely nowhere until in the early 90s bands like The Posies and Teenage Fanclub started to list it as their main influence. The Box Tops have reached immortality through its one hit 'The Letter', the only song I know by them, so yes, I'm curious for this one.

#20. Friends of my parents had one The Cowsills record in their home. Their sons and my friends played it regularly. I distinctly remember the band's rendition of 'Hair', following the original closely. I hated it, owning the version by an Amsterdam based band called Zen. The best ever version. You should look out for this one of hit. The rest of The Cowsills did not interest me at all. That may be different now actually.

#21. Glenn Campbell has scored several hits through the years. This song I do not know of course. I never really liked his music. Last April I was at a show where the singer-songwriter of duty praised 'Whichita Linesman' into heavens. I listen to it once at home, with a predictable outcome. I liked the singer on stage's version better.

#23, I've just finished my piece on 'In Search Of The Lost Chord'. I'm getting that record as soon as I find a vinyl version. This song I have never heard. (It turned out that the shop I went into had all relevant Moody Blues albums second hand.....except this one, so I selected the one after this one for €3,=.)

#25. I should look up my compilation album of Tommy James & The Shondells if I have this one on there. The band scored several hits in NL throughout the second half of the 60s. 'Hanky Panky', Mony Mony' and 'Crimson And Clover' as the best known ones.

#27. Gladys Knight are well-known soul singers, like

#30. Eddie Floyd is super well-known for his 'Knock On Wood'.

#34. The Creation scored a hit with 'Painter Man', covered by Boney M none the less in the 70s.

I can go one with the other half like this, but won't. The three songs that really stand out because they made the charts here are:

# 51. 'Gin House Blues' by Amen Corner. Not its best known song, but a small hit.

#57. Nothing But A Heartache by The Flirtations was one of the hits in 1968 that I remember distinctly from the time, because it was hardly ever played after. Something like 'Captain Of Your Ship' by Reparata & The Delrons of the same days. The Flirtations were a sort of The Supremes is my guess now with only one hitsingle.

#60. Maybe Tomorrow was a minor hit also, in 1969. The Iveys, if I remember correctly later became Badfinger after The Iveys had reached its zenyth with this single. It may be that Apple's oversea partner in NL did a bit better job. Several artists on Apple scored hits here in 1968 and 1969. I remember Mary Hopkin, this one and Billy Preston.

#63. Don Covey sings 'Seesaw'. I am wondering whether this is the same as Aretha's and it is. Covey's version, written with Steve Cropper, you can clearly hear his typical guitar playing here, is the original. Covey had formed a duo once with Don Cherry, who is Neneh's father.

#66. Vashti Bunyan is a U.K. folk singer of legendary proportions who returned with a record after decades fairly recently. If I remember correctly there is a Jimmy Page connection here somewhere as well. I can't get this song to play, but on Wikipedia I just found that it was written by Mick and Keith. She also sang in Twice As Much (that recorded 'Sitting On A Fence').  In the meantime I have found that Page produced the song, formally accredited to Andrew 'Loog' Oldham. So the song must be on that compilation I was writing about earlier. The information I found shared that PAge was the producer in residence at Immediate Records, owned by Oldham.

There is so much to discover here. While writing I have heard about 12 songs. Two of them I thought, I have heard before, but where and by whom? There were some true revelation as well. Starting with the first song right away.

#58. Because I can't seem to stop. Mark has already commented on 'Sour Milk Sea' by Jackie Lomax. I remember the single being advertised on a Top 40 copy. Despite heavy pushing from the side of the Apple representatives, the song went nowhere here.

#47. Let me end with Shorty Long, another one hit wonder here in NL with 'Here Comes The Judge'. Long, who was called Frederic in real life, was another soul singer who recorded mostly in obscurity. 'Devil In A Blue Dress' is just another one of those nice gospel soul songs with an interesting guitar solo in the middle.

#48. Thanks for this, Gary. Really, really enjoyable listening to these doors to obscurity. There's even a cover of 'Evil Ways', Santana's second hit here. Oh, wait, this is the original by Willie Bobo. Such fun!

13-1. Gary

Thanks Wout,

Again, I am impressed with your authoritative and knowledgable report on these singles…. But yes, this was fun!

14-1, Wo.

Coming back to Moody Blues. It turned out that the two record stores I went to yesterday afternoon had all its albums 2nd hand except for the one I had come to buy, In Search Of The Lost Chord. Patience is a nice thing. Instead I came home with Noel Gallagher's last effort. So will know soon enough if Mark is right and let it grow on me. He previous album I truly liked better than most Oasis albums. Also a recent 12# single by Mick Jagger I didn't know existed. So enough to listen to today.

To come back to Ray Thomas. The man wrote scores of Moody Blues songs, was one of the lead vocalists of the band and I hadn't a clue. I always though it was all about the two blond guys up front. Fact is that I have discovered another band to like. My review of the album is on on Tuesday.

Our latest discussion will be on tomorrow (Monday). I take it as a live document as there's still so much more to discover. So we can just add if we like.