dinsdag 11 december 2018

Guide Me Back Home. City and Colour

Is there something like too much of a good thing? Having given Guide Me Back Home a thorough listen my conclusion is yes, there is.

City and Colour (singer-songwriter Dallas Green) came into my life with its two album LP, 'If I Should Go Before You' (read on here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2015/10/if-i-should-go-before-you-city-and.html), an album that made it into my album of the year 2015 list effortlessly. Even contending for a spot in the list of the decade.

20 Songs in a solo or modest band setting is a long haul. The audience is quiet as a mouse and obviously enraptured, as it should be with an intimate show like this. City and Colour sets the mood it is looking for successfully. The sound is so soft and modest. The atmosphere not exactly upbeat. Dallas Green is not an optimistic man; at least not in his work.

Anybody listening to Guide Me Back Home can not imagine this singer and acoustic guitar player once played in a posthardcore band (Alexisonfire). Except for the fact that this music is usually made with anger and frustration as driving forces, which stem from unhappiness with past and/or present situations and experiences, it has nothing in common with City and Colour. This band is the epitome of the softest and most delicate singer-songwriter music one can find.

And yes, it is beautiful, but 20 songs? I just can not sit through this album in one session. It is as simple as that. For that, the mood is too much on the same level and some of the songs not good enough, not exceptional. That will most likely go for almost all artists, so it comes down to variation and presence. And that is what is lacking in this live set (on record), but is not on the last studio album of the band, as mentioned above. It may well be, if present in situ, I had been thoroughly delighted by Dallas Green C.S.. I do not count that out. Now however I am not, but yes Guide Me Back Home does have its moments.

So in conclusion, I definitely look forward to a new studio album by City and Colour but Mr. Green will not find me anytime soon at one of his upcoming shows. But, by all means try the album out for yourself first as the audiences on tape were audibly very enthusiastic.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Guide Me Back Home here:

https://cityandcolour.bandcamp.com/album/guide-me-back-home-live


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

maandag 10 december 2018

15 Years Snowstar Records: The party. Tivoli/Vredenburg, Utrecht

Cedric Muyes by Wo.
On 20 December 2003 Snowstar Records released its first record. It's on Spotify and listening to it I fully understand that the label has its roots in punk(rock). 'Picture Beautiful' of the band Go Ape! is as 'Dookie' as Green Days come in life. In fact I like what I'm hearing. 15 years is a good a reason to party as any, Cedric Muyes, who started the label 15 years ago, said and what better reason to showcase a few of the label's bands along the way?

The fact that most members of the band Go Ape!, that must have gone out of existence long ago, were present attests to the family feeling surrounding Snowstar. Members from a band that fills the Johan Cruyff Arena to bands so obscure 99.99% of the Dutch population may and never will have heard of were present to enjoy the music and the party. Even Dave von Raven walked in with a lp case in his hands, but was part of the disco set afterwards. From the NPO 2 studios in the afternoon with The Kik to Utrecht at night is a small step for a musician.

The more surprising is the direction the label took since, specialising in music that is softer than soft pop. Many bands on Snowstar have a signature signing quiet, inverted, dreams, contemplation, soul and life searching, just to mention a few character traits. As I have written on that last week announcing the party, I'll continue here with the evening itself.

Donna Blue by Wo.
Three Snowstar Records acts played a showcase for the audience. The evening started with the label's latest signing Donna Blue. A huge suitcase with red lettering spelling Donna Blue filled a part of the stage in Cloud Nine, the gravity defying venue in TiVre on the top floor. The duo has added a drummer and bass player for the live shows. The reverb drenched pop music, influenced by ages long gone, is escapism at its best. Emotions only fly in the music, the singing is as devoid of as imaginable for a person who, at least outwardly, can not be touched by anything or anybody.

It took me a few months to get used to the music of Donna Blue but after the penny dropped there's been no holding back. Live the band is even better than on record. So many of the little details in the music came across even more sharply on stage. The addition of a live drummer and bass player gave the sound extra depth, making it come alive even more. The sharp percussive sounds could all be heard. The four released songs were played and a few not released. From what I heard things will be good in 2019 and beyond. The band I really wanted to see, delivered fully. The melodies can hold me spellbound, the perfect mix heightens the experience.

Unfortunately for Kim Janssen I am not a fan, so I'll refrain from commentary, except for sharing something I heard someone say that I agree with. "How is it possible that there are so many musicians on stage, yet so little variation in the melodies within songs?" When the drummer and bass player are the most exciting to listen to, my observation, it gives pause. But in all fairness, it was far from a punishment to listen to the show. All played very well and with obvious love for the music. Kim Janssen's show was a good one, but just not my music.

I Am Oak by Wo.
I Am Oak also is not an expert in variation on melody, yet so different. The band has a lead guitarist who is always on the look out for a melody, providing the much needed variation and light. I Am Oak mostly plays songs that are dead serious, moody, perhaps even dark, yet rays of light are let in at times, creating a mix that to me is attractive. Thijs Kuijken is a somewhat hesitant frontman, but seemed far more at ease on stage than circa three years ago in Haarlem, when I saw the band for the first time. Musically the band knows exactly what it wants and does just that. I Am Oak is what I would call the typical Snowstar Records band. At heart as soft as silk but when it growls the origins of the label come out to give the audience a sonic ear wash. From a purring kitten in your lap to a roaring, devouring lion in one song. It all happened at the 15 year Snowstar Records party.

Without a doubt things remained in full swing in Cloud Nine but sometimes things get in the way like trains to catch and stuff. With the 7" of Donna Blue and the 'Owls' cd by Luik, perhaps the most Snowstar of Snowstar releases of all, in my bag it was time to go home.

15 Years Snowstar Records. With a new 7" by Donna Blue and the new I Am Oak and who knows what more underway for 2019, the party is far from over yet. Thank you again, Cedric and Sander for a great evening and until next time around!

Wo.

You can find and buy all the releases of the label here:

https://snowstar.bandcamp.com/


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

Generation Y. Vagina Lips

Another release from Inner Ear Records in Greece and another one that instantly struck a chord with me. The band name? Okay, let me pass that one by, yet it does create expectations. I had expected to hear one huge crate filled with unnuanced punk or hardcore and mad shouting by a singer spending his vocal chords in the fast lane. Instead Generation Y presents me with deliciously nervy new wave in the best The Cure tradition mixed a more modern directness. Those looking at the promo photo below do not have to think too hard what more modern influences of this band are.

It is here that Vagina Lips delivers fully. Hard times shine through in the dark mood that settled itself over all the songs. The singer obviously listened to Ian Curtis and the other dark princes of the post-punk era. Yet, if the band had stuck with this part of the musical pantheon I would not have been writing as enthusiastically about Generation Y. The mood, tempo and outlook totally change during the album, showing a contagious side to its music.

Vagina Lips is guitarist/singer/songwriter Jimmy Polioudis, a.k.a Jimmy Lips in Thessaloniki, his home town. Having started in 2015 as a duo, with Konstatinos Iosifidis on drums and vocals. Together they have released several DYI records and tapes. This is the first release through more conventional lanes. Nowadays Konstantinos or 'Lostinthe' is Vagina Lips' producer. Guitar, bass, drums and some extra layers of guitars is what is on offer and together with a synth here and there that's enough. Either the depri voice or the more upbeat voice of Polioudis accompanies the music and sets part of the mood.

The album kicks of with a huge riff with a higher pitched drone moving through it. A big, fat bass joins in as do pounding drums. "I know, it's the good life"; musically the observation could not be more true. The lyrics continue "my whole heart is black". All things considered I'm inclined to stick with the former. An artist at times suffers for his or her audience to enjoy the musical outcomes of this suffering. And, boy, do I enjoy the outcome here.

Promo photo: Leah Miza
The Cure sets in on the second song. The fast paced song sets a great mood and puts the album at a higher level after a great first song. 'Boy June' is hectic, all is fast. The guitar solo riff is classic The Cure and comes off great here. Vagina Lips can not be accused of originality but most certainly knows how to use its influences to the best of its advantage. There are not many songs by Robert Smith c.s. that I appreciate as much as I do 'Boy June'.

The good thing about Generation Y is that the level of music continues. The tempo may come down in 'Destroy Me' the quality does not. Especially when the mood changes to a little more upbeat and up tempo songs, I am enjoying myself more and more. 'Lo-Fi, Hatred And Dinosaurs' is anything but a song I'd identify as lo-fi. A full band sound, a great riff on a keyboard, the drums pounding on and on. Intriguing title. What has it all to do with one another? The lyrics are all about unrequited love and ensuing heartaches.

When Jimmy Lips sings with a softer tone in his voice like in 'Like Fire' it takes nothing away from the whole. The mood is slightly changed, while the music does what it is supposed to do on this album: exhume an 80s vibe and rock like the end of our days are nigh. Which may be more true than we can comprehend and manage to care for on a daily basis. So, for all who are deeply concerned about climate change, the extinction of insects, the rise of the sea level, etc., there are worse soundtracks to enjoy during serious worrying. Especially when the light-toned 'Fall In Love Again' comes around.

Would Generation Y have been "a hit" with "The Bats" as we called the dark clad, boots wearing, Robert Smith haired group always huddling together, sulking in the corner of a dance floor circa 1987 until The Cure or Joy Division came on and they took en masse to said dance floor? The songs with the lighter tone? Never. The others? Most certainly.

As I wrote before, until recently I had no idea that Greece produced music like this. It is a privilege to be able to share my recent discoveries with you. Vagina Lips is one to watch.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Generation Y here:

https://vaginalips-innerear.bandcamp.com/album/generation-y


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

zondag 9 december 2018

Broken Politics. Neneh Cherry

Haar meest verkochte plaat maakte Neneh Cherry bijna 30 jaar gelden, haar (voorlopig) beste plaat maakt ze nu.

Het is al weer bijna 30 jaar geleden dat Neneh Cherry een handvol hits scoorde met haar debuut Raw Like Sushi, maar in artistiek opzicht verkeert ze met name het afgelopen decennium in topvorm. Het komt allemaal samen op Broken Politics dat ingrediënten bevat van alle platen die de Zweedse muzikante tot dusver maakte. Het levert een geheel op dat in eerste instantie soms behoorlijk ongrijpbaar en experimenteel is, maar als de schoonheid en de kracht van de songs eenmaal aan de oppervlakte komt, ben je direct verkocht. Jaarlijstjesplaat! 

Bij de naam Neneh Cherry denk ook ik in eerste instantie aan de serie hits die ze scoorde met haar debuutalbum Raw Like Sushi, dat komende lente al weer dertig jaar oud is.

De in Zweden geboren Neneh Mariann Karlssson, die later de achternaam van haar stiefvader en jazz trompettist Don Cherry zou overnemen, heeft echter meer wapenfeiten op haar inmiddels zeer indrukwekkende CV staan.

Ze maakte deel uit van de postpunk/funk band Rip Rig + Panic, maakte een briljante plaat met haar band cirKus en maakte natuurlijk ook meer soloplaten dan het in commercieel opzicht waarschijnlijk voor altijd onaantastbare Raw Like Sushi.

Neneh Cherry is al lang niet meer de popprinses die ze ooit was en maakt met name het afgelopen decennium indruk met platen waarop ze nadrukkelijk het experiment zoekt. Dat resulteerde in 2012 in het verrassende The Cherry Thing, waarop Neneh Cherry samen met de avontuurlijk Zweedse jazz band The Thing in de voetsporen van stiefvader Don trad. De plaat werd in 2014 gevolgd door Blank Project, waarop Neneh Cherry samenwerkte met Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, die de bij vlagen behoorlijk experimentele plaat voorzag van een spannend klankentapijt.

Deze week verscheen de opvolger van Blank Project en ook op Broken Politics werkt Neneh Cherry samen met Kieran Hebden. Ik heb Broken Politics inmiddels een aantal weken in mijn bezit en vind het een fascinerende plaat, die steeds weer nieuwe dingen laat horen. Het is een plaat waarop alles uit het verleden van Neneh Cherry samen komt. In haar zang hoor je af en toe nog de jeugdige onbezonnenheid en de aanstekelijkheid van Raw Like Sushi, maar Broken Politics is ook een experimentele plaat die aansluit bij zowel The Cherry Thing als Blank Project.

Het is een plaat die in eerste instantie aanvoelt als een vat vol tegenstrijdigheden. De instrumentatie bestaat uit subtiele en zweverige elektronica, bijzondere en vaak wat jazzy ritmes en organisch aandoende klanken (feitelijk loops van harp samples) die zo lijken weggelopen uit de New Age. Het zijn drie lagen die in eerste instantie ieder hun eigen weg lijken te gaan, wat zorgt voor iets ongrijpbaars.

Het wordt versterkt door de vocalen van Neneh Cherry, die zich zeker bij eerste beluistering niets aan lijken te trekken van de instrumentatie en hun eigen ding doen. Wanneer je vaker naar Broken Politics luistert, grijpen alle lagen echter steeds fascinerender in elkaar en openbaren zich songs van grote schoonheid.

Neneh Cherry zoekt op Broken Politics nadrukkelijk het experiment, maar verrast toch ook weer met passages die je onmiddellijk wilt omarmen en nooit meer wilt vergeten. Faster Than The Truth schaar ik nu alvast onder mijn favoriete tracks van het jaar en zo staan er nog veel meer op de nieuwe plaat van Neneh Cherry. De een is net wat tegendraadser en ongrijpbaarder dan de ander, maar uiteindelijk grijpen ze je allemaal bij de strot.

Als een verrassing komt het natuurlijk niet na prachtplaten als The Cherry Thing en Blank Project, maar Broken Politics schat ik persoonlijk nog een stuk hoger in en is wat mij betreft de voorlopige kroon op het werk van Neneh Cherry. Broken Politics gaat aan de haal met zeer uiteenlopende genres en integreert het allemaal in een geluid dat fascineert, maar dat ook genadeloos kan verleiden.

In de lente van 2019 mag Neneh Cherry de dertigste verjaardag vieren van het debuut dat haar een zorgeloze oude dag garandeerde, maar haar creatieve piek is op dat moment pas een half jaar oud. Wat een wereldplaat is Broken Politics.

Erwin Zijleman

Wo.

Je kunt hier naar Broken Politics luisteren en het album kopen:

https://nenehcherry.bandcamp.com/album/broken-politics


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

zaterdag 8 december 2018

Devil Rockin' Man. Nat Freedberg

"Come to Satan"? Is this coming out of the U.S. of A.? The soulful backing vocals are totally blasphemous, but so much fun.

Devil Rockin' Man is Nat Freedberg's first single. As a solo artist that is, having started his career in 1981 in a band called The Flies, followed by a string of bands that I never heard of. And out of that nowhere comes this single, of course brought to me by that high rocking and a rolling label called Rum Bar Records. It is all precursing an album aptly titled 'Better Late Than Never'.

What the album will be like I can't tell, its first released song is a feast for the ears. With a voice gravelled by years on the road and other causes of wear and tear Freedberg leads us through a song leading the listener straight into the arms of the devil. If tempting music is the work of the devil, count me in. This mid tempo rock song infused with some soul and gospel in the harmonies does a lot if things right.

What makes Devil Rockin' Man so much fun? The melody of course. That what all songs start with. In the intro a fine electric piano sets the mood. Its mood lodged in the strong, firm sound, that can really only come out of the U.S. The oohs are already all over the place. Freedberg joins singing with a slight sneer. He knows himself he is not a real singer, but knowing his limitations he works himself from the church to hell and back. Like my late dad used to say: "If I get to heaven, well I know everything will be fine, if I go to hell, I'll meet all me old mates there". And here is Nat Freedberg seeing someone with a guitar in his taloned hands and he knows he is quite alright. The gospel choir joins in once more and the world is at peace. Right, wrong, it is all in the eye of the beholder where music is concerned. There is no right nor wrong, just taste and here I find myself having a great time. Come to Satan indeed, Mr. Freedberg and most likely you'll be joined in droves in that fire spot.

Wo.

Listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

Restless Soul, Heartless City. Mitch Rivers

Finally, December. It's time to catch up on those releases that I had intended to write on but never got around to. Mitch Rivers' debut album Restless Soul, Heartless City being one of those. The delightfully poppy songs on the album deserve more attention from the average pop music lover.

Mitch Rivers is, belying his name, Dutch. In fact we share the same city for a domicile. That opens options for a living room show in 2019! Reading up on the artist, it is hard to believe that he started out as a punkrock singer in a band called Joe Madman and the Sidewalkers. We all have our transgressions, punkrock could even be a quite excusable one.

As Restless Soul, Heartless City shows not all the fire has gone out of Mitch Rivers. In his soulful pop tracks explosions of sound can take place, delivering a great dynamics to the album. The basis is the same contemplation in music that I have found on City & Colour's latest studio album from 2015, 'If I Should Go Before You'. An acoustic basis that shows the origin of the songs, Rivers at home with his acoustic guitar. This is the starting point of an interesting adventure that takes the listener down many a cliff, slope and ravine.

What endears me to this album is that it convinces in the highs and the lows. When quiet and still, the melody is a bright beacon on the horizon guiding me to the aural explosions and to make me return safely to the starting point of the next adventure. This exploration of Restless Soul, Heartless City's surprises, bright scenes and dark spots, brings all its strongest features to light.

Promo photo
The contrast between the soft, melancholy notes on the pedal steel guitar in 'City Lights' could not contrast more with the huge electric guitar solo in 'Badlands'. Yet, both are the right thing to do. Shining a light on the contrasts in the music on offer. Mitch Rivers is not afraid to show some influences. The Eagles of the Bernie Leadon era come by in 'Love Will Paralize' to be left behind just as easily within the same song, that builds up to a rock climax more and more, before the guitar sets in loudly and predominantly. 'Love Will Paralize' is one of the many songs on Restless Soul, Heartless City, that take a surprising turn, making it a Mitch Rivers song and no one else's.

The 70s are a reference point for most of the album, in a way no one at the time was able to envision. Mitch Rivers has used building blocks from other times and genres to build his own musical universe. From recent times it would be easiest to compare him to Douwe Bob. Another young Dutchman blending times and genres into his own pop universe. Rivers dares to delve deeper, challenging his listener more and in my book that makes him a winner. Where teenage girls are concerned I have my doubts though.

In the final songs the mood unwinds somewhat more. Country rears its head and Rivers' impulse to explode is contained somewhat more. So a little more Douwe Bob anyway, were it not that things are never as clean in sound. 'Good Times' may be a soul song, the guitar definitely is not. It blasts the soft mood to smithereens for a glorious blaze of glory.

Summing up, it is easy to conclude that another Dutch artist has come up with a great album. And where that living room show is concerned, if you're interested, let's make it happen.

Wo.

You can listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

vrijdag 7 december 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody. The Movie

Can I remember hearing Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time? No, not clearly, like I can a few other songs of the time, but I certainly remember the impact. Could I believe my ears? I had to but there was so much to digest. It happened somewhere in the fall of 1975. The world still has not totally dealt with the song as it is the seemingly forever number 1 in the Top 2000, that yearly musical feast on radio of all things. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is Queen's most famous song from its best album, 'A Night At The Opera'.

And of course it is the title of the Freddy Mercury bio pic. What else could it be? The larger than life song symbolising the life of the larger than life entertainer. The film shows the part of the entertainer the world never sees, except for the stragglers and hangers on profiting from his insecurity and inner loneliness. It turns out that Farookh Bulsara was a man like most: "insecure, doubts, looking for love and fronting a mask for the world to see". "Come back when you like yourself", is the most truthful sentence in this movie. Spoken by a man who would turn out to become his true love a few years later, I hope for Freddy.

A nice, subtle touch is the 20th Century Fox tune at the start of the movie. It got a special treatment by the hands of Bryan May.

In the reviews critics gave off on the most likely influence the remaining Queen members had on the moviescript. If true, luckily they did. At least we got to see something of the inner band struggles and how the music got to be and not only doped up gay scene parties of the late 70s and early 80s. The musical part is what makes this movie more interesting. True or not, the few notes played from his bed with then girlfriend Mary, would become Bohemian Rhapsody much later and shows how inspiration can strike at any moment. It is a magical moment shown to us, just like the idea Bryan May had to give the audience their own song, turning into 'We Will Rock You'. It is moments like these that made the movie a success for me.

The final scenes are fantastic. I remember being amazed by Queen at Live Aid. Seeing the audience respond en masse to a song I did not like at the time at all, 'Radio Ga Ga'. The video had inspired a 100.000 people to act along. The power of this band returned to me totally, although I never fully recovered from the switch to pop and disco. 'I Want It All' from 1989, beyond the movie, remains one Queen's best though.

Rami Malek never fully convinced me as Freddie Mercury. A far cry from what Val Kilmer did with Jim Morrison and I fully understand why. Morrison was dead before I could ever have seen him play or saw him "daily" on tv. Freddie Mercury did. He was everywhere and I had seen him play twice in the 70s. Despite having Freddie's moves and all, he remained an actor playing Mercury that I had seen in other movies as well. It was the Brian May and John Deacon characters who convinced me most. Mercury makes a too hard image to beat. Except in the live footage. There it mattered less somehow, as the music took over.

One thing remains. That no one in the audience got the Mike Myers/'Wayne's World' joke is beyond me and I never even got beyond about ten minutes of this terrible movie. It's always strange when you're the only one laughing. I thought it a good one.

So, summing up. Yes, a fair movie, not exceptional like 'The Doors' was (to me), with of course great music being explained in all the right places. And whatever happened to that Tim character from the band Smile? He made some money because of this movie you know. Wrong choices are from all ages. Even in music. For what was to become Queen, it was the best choice ever.

Wo.

Listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

Until The Light Fades. Juanita Stein

Juanita Stein dook een jaar of twaalf geleden op als frontvrouw van de Australische band Howling Bells. De band verkaste al snel naar Londen en maakte uiteindelijk vier platen, die door de critici stuk voor stuk goed werden ontvangen, maar helaas geen heel groot publiek wisten te bereiken.
 
Ik was zelf zeer gecharmeerd van de platen van Howling Bells, al was het maar omdat de band het gat dat Mazzy Star halverwege de jaren 90 had achtergelaten aardig wist op te vullen en bovendien wist te verrijken met net wat meer zonnestralen. Na vier prima platen was de koek echter op voor Howling Bells en begon Juanita Stein aan een solocarrière.
 
Het leverde iets meer dan een jaar geleden het uitstekende America op. Op haar eerste soloplaat liet Juanita Stein zich zeker beïnvloeden door het geluid van haar voormalige band, waardoor ook America associaties opriep met het werk van Mazzy Star, maar de plaat liet ook invloeden uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek horen en maakte bovendien geen geheim van een zwak voor tijdloze popmuziek. Het leverde een aantrekkelijk album op, dat helaas minder aandacht kreeg dan Juanita Stein met haar solodebuut verdiende.

De Australische singer-songwriter is verrassend snel terug met een nieuwe plaat en doet op Until The Lights Fade in grote lijnen wat ze ook deed op America. Ook de tweede soloplaat van Juanita Stein laat echo’s uit haar periode met Howling Bells horen, verwerkt zo nu en dan invloeden uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek en laat zich bovendien nadrukkelijk inspireren door de popmuziek uit het verleden. Until The Lights Fade herinnert meer dan eens aan de popmuziek uit de jaren 60 en 70, maar Juanita Stein is er in geslaagd om al deze invloeden onder te brengen in een geluid dat ook fris en eigentijds klinkt.
 
Juanita Stein klonk in het verleden als het net wat energiekere zusje van Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, maar is inmiddels wat opgeschoven richting zangeressen als Aimee Mann, Lera Lynn en hier en daar zelfs Lana Del Rey (het vleugje Olivia Newton-John dat ik hoor moet ik misschien maar verzwijgen). De warme en krachtige vocalen voorzien de tweede plaat van Juanita Stein wat mij betreft van onderscheidend vermogen.

Until The Lights Fade werd opgenomen in Austin, Texas, en dat hoor je. Niet alleen vanwege het randje rootsmuziek dat opduikt in de muziek van Juanita Stein, maar vooral door het rauwe rockrandje dat makkelijk de kop op steekt op Until The Lights Fade en dat keer op keer onweerstaanbaar lekker gitaarwerk laat horen.
 
De tweede plaat van Juanita Stein werd geproduceerd door Stuart Sikes, die bij mij vooral bekend is als de man achter de knoppen bij The Greatest van Cat Power. Bij Cat Power slaagde deze Stuart Sikes er in om een geluid vol invloeden uit het verleden zowel tijdloos als urgent te laten klinken en hier slaagt hij ook in bij de productie van de tweede plaat van Juanita Stein.
 
Until The Lights Fade is direct bij eerste beluistering een plaat die je al decennia lijkt te kennen, maar luister wat vaker om de songs op de plaat echt te laten groeien. Hopelijk doet de plaat wat meer dan het debuut een jaar geleden, want Juanita Stein is echt heel goed.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt het album hier bestellen:

https://juanitastein.bigcartel.com/



or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

donderdag 6 december 2018

We're Your Friends, Man. The Bevis Frond

The Bevis Frond is around for longer than I can remember, if only because I had never heard of the band until London based Fire Records started to re-release albums from the 80s and 90s by the band. These re-releases let to a few reviews in the past years on this blog. So when I received an alert from London on another release I expected another record re-seeing the light of day in the 10s. I could not be further from the truth: We're Your Friends, Man is a brand new album filled with blistering guitars and fiery rockers.

Recording records under this name since 1986, Neil Saloman has carved out a modest space for himself. There are records under other guises since the late 70s. Is there a place still for this loud (classic) rocker who is not afraid to serve a delicate ballad with Hammond organ, acoustic guitar and all? I would say yes, unequivocally.

The Bevis Frond does not take the easy road by copying Deep Purple or Black Sabbath. For that the element of the 80s rockbands is too highly present. As well as soloing right through it all like on the one hand Neil Young does and on the other Slash. Two guitars battling it out: one in my left ear, the other in my right. One in a deeper register, the other wailing away. Both totally going for it, seemingly oblivious of the other's existence, yet blending perfectly. The duels give several songs on We're Your Friends, Man something exciting as well as a deeper layer of inner tension. So the alternative rock of the Boston bands from circa 1990, Dinosaur Jr. and Buffalo Tom are not far away here either.

Promo photo
The guitarist in me loves what is going on here. Saloman shows hardly any restraint at all and goes full out with layers of guitars. Different sounds, different effects and attack. When listening closely the harmonies in the different guitar parts show up just fine. They compensate for the rather flat voice of Saloman. His voice is competent, not outstanding. It has one register and sticks to it firmly. The contrast with the guitars is rather large. This singer knows his constraints and copes with them adequately.

There is a downside to this album. With 20 songs it is extremely long. Somewhere halfway I am totally served, content and full. It is not the quality of the songs that follow, simply too much to take in one go. Yes, I realise that I'm writing the same comment in two days. Yet this is different. I want to hear more, just not now. With City and Colour's live album I had had my fill after ten songs. So, I simply start We're Your Friends, Man at song 11 next time I play it. Following this adventure further down the road.

The Bevis Frond is an obscure name in the history or rock bands. This new album will most likely not change this position. Yet, if you like alternative rock I would give this album a chance. Chances are you will make a discovery with loads to discover in the back catalogue.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy We're Your Friend, Man here:

https://bevisfrondmusic.bandcamp.com/album/were-your-friends-man


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

woensdag 5 december 2018

Remembering Marty Balin (1942 - 2018)

Marty Balin died on 27 September of this year but I did not find out until the evening of 4 December. It had not made the news or I missed it for some reason. Paul Kantner made the evening news two years ago and even Signe Anderson made the newspapers although she only sang on the first Jefferson Airplane album. Balin apparently did not make the news.

I loved this man's voice once upon a long time ago and still several of his songs remain intimate favourites. Songs like 'Coming Back To Me', 'Today' and most of all 'Miracles', that seven minutes tour de force on Jefferson Starship's 'Red Octopus' album.

Like almost all other people in the Netherlands of a certain age, Jefferson Airplane came into my life with a double single in 1970. 'White Rabbit'/'Somebody To Love' became a hit three years after the original release of the 'Surrealistic Pillow' album. Both Grace Slick songs where Balin's role was marginal. A friend had a Taiwanese copy of the 'Woodstock' album. On it Jefferson Airplane features with a blistering version of 'Volunteers'. The intro spoken by Grace Slick is iconic "You've seen the heavy groups, now you will see morning maniac music, believe me, yeah. It's a new dawn!". Jefferson Airplane really took off there and then, with Marty Balin as the high priest of the anti-Vietnam and all other wars movement.

That made three songs I liked and yet I sort of forgot about the band, that faded away itself before 1973. It took a boat trip to London, my dad was a merchant mariner and coastal trips meant a chance at sailing along, when the third mate played a record in the harbour in the ship's bar. 'Flight Log', a compilation double album by Jefferson Airplane and solo stuff. Once at home I bought the album that was on sale. (Later the mate visited for my birthday party and gave me 25 guilders. That was turned into 'Exile On Main Street', one of the best investments ever. I never saw him again as far as I'm aware. So Dick of you happen to read this, thanks!)

From 'Flight Log' I quickly started to flash out my Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and all kinds of solo stuff, Hot Tuna collection. Although I certainly like the rock side of the Airplane, there soon was a special place for Marty Balin's ballads. In a few of them he seemed to have touched upon some divine inspiration, a source so deep that all became and becomes well. Everything seemed to fit in the universe for a few minutes. Most of all in 'Miracles'. In essence a slick AOR ballad, but one done in a way never done before and never gotten close to by anyone ever again and there's no use trying. The music flows so naturally, like making perfect love with your one and only true love. The miracle of love, the miracle of life and the miracle of joy. Balin captured this all in one song and the band executes it perfectly. The guest saxophone solo by Irv Cox is as perfect as the rest of the song. The climax to the lyrics. 'When I start dancing inside you". Do I need to write more? "If only you believe in miracles, so would I" and off went the sax into the stratosphere and beyond. In its tone and notes, and Balin's voice, the essence of mankind captured in music.

Marty Balin, who was born Martyn Jerel Buchwald in 1942, left Jefferson Starship in the mid 70s and left my musical world with that. The Airplane reunion in 1989 brought once again a few beautiful songs by Balin, 100% nostalgia like 'Summer Of Love', so befitting for the reunion that in my opinion was an artistic success.

Unfortunately I have never seen the band live. It was touring the U.S. in the summer of '89, like I was touring the U.S. as a tourist for the first time, but always in the wrong place. After that I haven't a clue what Balin did musically, until I read that he had died in September accompanied by a photo of an old man with horribly died hair that I would not have recognised if the name had not accompanied the photo.

It is of no consequence. There are a few songs I will keep playing for the rest of my days on this planet, songs that are a part of the most beautiful things man is capable of creating. Marty Balin did just that.

Wo.

You can listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

Kairos 100, November 2018

What is a month on WoNoBlog without a Kairos review? A month Wo. has not emerged himself in the musical choices .No presents him with on his monthly radio show on Concertzender. The numbers add to 100. So a felicitation to .No is in place. 8 1/3 year is a long time in making a radio program. Longer than this blog exists, circa 5 2/3 years and much longer since Wo. decided to write about the show on a circa monthly bases. The oldest review is from August 2014, meaning this is the, and unfortunately coincidences do not exist, 52nd time Wo, shares his inner feelings on things Kairos with the readers. Oh, what would it have been nice if this had been the 50th...

The familiar music and voice sound out, making room for a highish voice against a synth bedding. Familiar?, yes, recognised?, no. It is Low Roar's 'Without You', an album that I haven't played for too long. The delicate voice and music, recorded in Iceland where Ryan Karazija lives or at least lived at the time of recording. The song is of such frailness, that do not touch is a well-heeded advice. Beauty in music does not take huge approaches, the suggested emptiness of 'Without You' is more than enough.

Slowly 'Without You' morphs with something else. More is happening underneath Karazija's voice. It proves to be 'Whooper Swan'. Eric Vloeimans' trumpet takes the lead over a bittersweet whole composed by Sytze Pruiksma. A trumpet bringing the trumpet in Ypres, commemorating Flanders' Fields, to mind immediately. Something so sad flows from the tone and the melody. Like Vloeimans is carrying the whole weight of the world on his shoulders and barely coping. 'Conference Of The Birds' the album is called. If everything on it is as beautiful as 'Whooping Swan' it is a killer album.

As Kairos continues with two fragments of 'Reade Skries'. ,No provides me with a deeper insight into Pruiksma's work, here with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Again this sadness, meandering like a slow moving river. Slow but deliberate, consuming all in front of it. It may be the mood I'm in this afternoon -waiting on others to act before I can continue my share of the work- as this touches me no little.

Pruiksma is a self-taught composer from Friesland. Inspired by nature and birds his work contains a majestic self-control. A restraint that allows it to shine in ways unattainable for others who do not possess this character trait.

A third composition by Pruiksma comes by. Now from the album 'Tracks', containing bird noises. I suppose from the sanderling, like the compositions title. Here .No gets his rocks off as playing 'Sanderling' is not enough. We hear the Estonian lyrics sung by violinist and singer Maarja Nuut from her Ruum collaboration 'Muunduja'. The house next door to mine is being, beyond, renovated. One of the men at work there mixes in some heavy hammering as well. 'Sanderling' is a different piece of cake. More "classic" Kairos. Sounds, soundscapes, not a "real" melody in sight. Something .No appreciates and I for nearly 100% do not. The way Maarja Nuut comes in, is just so well done. Oddly enough there are fragments in the noise Pruiksma builds up, reminding me of U2. Edge can build up to a guitar solo like this (and from next door a drill chimes in).

This year, I Am Oak has released a single and it comes by on Kairos. 'Will I Wake' is a piano based song with strings behind it. Soft, breakable, ever so delicate. The followers of this blog have read about the song before, so I'll refrain here and continue. Always a nice interlude on Kairos this band is though.

Wait a minute, the violins continue into the next song. So are there strings in I Am Oak or is .No at work? 'Will I Wake' is replaced by 'Sattva', a title reminding me of Kula Shakers' 'Tattva', but that is all. Dmitry Evgrafov's 'Sattva' could not be further apart from the neo-hippie song from the 90s. Slowly this composition unfolds itself. Slow notes are played over a bed of strings, mixed deep into the background, then rising to the front, more a mood than a song. The slow notes constitute the melody of which there is more than one. Yes, I like what I'm hearing.

A soft piano takes over. Again the slow boat to China sails over calm, tranquil waters. Annelie takes her time to play her notes. A creaking noise and a woodblock make up the rest of the sound. This composition is s o  s l o w, one could easily fall asleep. True meditation on music, hovering over the thin line between consciousness and unconsciousness. Falling in and out of it. Sleeping and waking in seconds. The mood has got me though, so I'm enjoying every second of 'A World' from her album 'After Midnight'. No J.J. Cale or Eric Clapton to be found here.

Although the end is somewhat faster or maybe because it is, .No takes us away to Jorg Verhoeven. I have heard this before or something like it on Kairos. The dark sounds of the bass clarinet has taken control of Kairos. Again slow played notes, long held, deeply serious. It is as if the whole room reverberates, a faucet drips water, breathing and a sound I can not put a name to. The things on the instrument that are pushed in to create notes, whatever they are called? It may well be and can all be heard on this recording. The recording is so delicate, so all-consuming, everything surrounding the instrument is brought in to create this effect. 'Original Green 8' it is called. Just Verhoeven going at it in front of a microphone. It ends abruptly, yet continues just as sudden. 9 minutes is a bit long, yet the effect is certainly there. Meditation on music is possible with 'Original Green 8'. At the end the percussive effect gets a bit much though. I still haven't a clue what it is I'm actually hearing.

After nine minutes I'm glad Maarja Nuut & Ruum return. The vocal intro matches the percussive effect of Jorg Verhoeven. The high voice singing in the incomprehensible Estonian brings a very modern form of folk music. In essence traditional folk in 2018 presented in a totally modern way. The muted guitar notes add a percussive effect as does the plucked violin. The voice hovers like a ghost in the background, before it slowly fades back in. There's a sound effect in there that makes it all totally estranging. I'm sure it is .No making the ghostlike, ethereal song a little more eerie.

A trumpet? Would Eric Vloeimans be returning to this Kairos? A bird is heard, so chances are Sytze Pruiksma has a fourth contribution to the Kairos. 'Nightingale' is indeed from the first album mentioned above by Pruiksma. The solemness is provided by the HaFaBra Orchestra once again.

When a piano takes over, Annelie is allowed to continue where she remained with 'A World'. In 'Of' the faster notes, accompanied by the bass notes of the left hand are in the front seat. When I write faster, this is relative to the extreme laidbackness of the previous composition. Still no J.J. Cale or Eric Clapton in sight. Although certainly the former artist could be on Kairos one day with one of his laidback songs.

A violin moves in at the exact right pitch. It has nothing to do with Annelie but is there by the will of .No. It is the violin of Maarja Nuut. Another album I was able to point .No to that found its way to the program. There's a full review on this blog. One of those albums taking me out of my comfort zone and dropping me somewhere else in unknown territory. Yes, like this program does each month. 'Muutuja' is instrumental and gets darker and darker while the song progresses. Almost as if a hyped up bass clarinet of Jorg Verhoeven is mixed in and the violin is looped to be looped again and spinning out of control, near totally.

It all ends with a song from another album recently reviewed on these pages. Queen of the Meadow's 'Ashes Adele' comes by. The delicate, there is that word again, singer Helen Ferguson harmonises beautifully with herself accompanied by a piano. Her voice(s) filling my whole head. One of my favourite songs of the album 'A Room To Store Happiness'.

Let me close with declaring 'delicate' the theme of the 100th Kairos and by expressing my personal appreciation: Let's go for the next 100!

Wo.

You can listen to this Kairos here:

https://www.concertzender.nl/programma/kairos_470665/

This is the playlist of November:


00:08  Ryan Karazija. Without You. Low Roar.
Album ‘Once in a long, long while’. Nevado Records 823674059620.
03:02  Sytze Pruiksma. Whooper Swan. Sytze Pruiksma, Eric Vloeimans, HaFaBra Orchestra.
Album ‘Conference of the Birds’. LÂN 3.
06:57  Sytze Pruiksma. Reade Skries (two fragments). Sytze Pruiksma, City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
Album ‘LÂN’. LÂN 1.
12:21  Sytze Pruiksma. Sanderling.
Album ‘Tracks’. LÂN 2.
Combined with three fragments from ‘Une Meeles’ by Maarja Nuut & Ruum.
Album ‘Muunduja’. 130701 Ltd. CD13-30P.
20:31  Thijs Kuijken. Will I Wake. I Am Oak.
Single. Snowstar Records.
22:44  Dmitry Evgrafov. Sattva.
Album ‘Comprehension of Light’. FatCat Records CD13-27P.
27:28  Annelie. A world.
Album ‘After Midnight’. Sony Music Entertainment/DGR.
31:41  Jorg Verhoeven. Original Green 8.
Album ‘Meditation Bass Clarinet’. Self-released.
40:31  Maarja Nuut & Ruum. Kuud Kuulama.
Album ‘Muunduja’. 130701 Ltd. CD13-30P.
44:27  Sytze Pruiksma. Nightingale. Sytze Pruiksma, Eric Vloeimans, HaFaBra Orchestra.
Album ‘Conference of the Birds’. LÂN 3.
46:37  Annelie. Of.
Album ‘After Midnight’. Sony Music Entertainment/DGR.
49:10  Maarja Nuut & Ruum. Muutuja.
Album ‘Muunduja’. 130701 Ltd. CD13-30P.
54:46  Queen of the meadow. Ashes Adele.
Album ‘A Room To Store Happiness. Tiny Room Records TR027.

dinsdag 4 december 2018

15 Jaar Snowstar Records. Aankondiging van een feest






Snowstar Records 15 jaar. Dat is wel reden voor een feestje. In 2003 begonnen en wat een lijstje met parels heeft het label inmiddels op haar naam staan. Sommige namen bereikten mij wel via de Oor recensies, maar tot een echte kennismaking kwam het nooit. Dat veranderde ergens onderweg, nadat dit blog de activiteiten grotendeels had overgenomen van WoNo Magazine. Hoe, ik weet het eigenlijk niet eens precies meer. Wel dat Snowstar Records het eerste label was waarmee wij vriendschappelijke connecties kregen. Tracks van het label werden gespeeld in de maandelijkse radioshow van .No op Concertzender, 'Kairos', en steeds vaker vonden de platen na release hun weg naar de blog.

Wat onderzoek toont aan dat het eerste contact ontstond rondom de release van de plaat 'Ols Songd' van I Am Oak in februari van 2014. Een van die prachtige, verstilde albums, waar Snowstar Records in uit blinkt. Daarom verbaasde het mij zo dat ik las dat de oorsprong van het label in de punk ligt. Daar blijkt weinig meer van in de laatste jaren. Of dat Kensington de eerste single via Snowstar uitbracht, sterker het management daar nog steeds belegd is.

Wat Snowstar Records mij gebracht heeft, is een weelde aan platen van voornamelijk Nederlandse bodem, een enkele uitzondering zoals Ian Fisher daargelaten. I Am Oak, The Fire Harvest, Town of Saints, maar boven alles broeder Dieleman. Alles wat deze band rond Tonnie Dieleman uitbrengt, ligt zo ver van mijn bed, van mijn natuurlijke indie gitaar habitat, maar raakt mij zo diep. Hieruit blijkt dat de oren van de mensen bij Snowstar heel apart staan afgesteld, want wie biedt tegenwoordig zoveel ruimte aan zulk esoterisch materiaal? Muziek met een peilloze diepgang en gevoelslaag.

Tot op heden zijn eigenlijk alle releases die mij hebben bereikt raak. Hoe verschillend ook, ze hebben allemaal een mate van originaliteit die voor mij werkt. Eigenlijk was de laatste plaat van Kim Janssen de uitzondering. Net als bij oude platen van James Taylor, Crosby-Nash, en andere singer-songwriterhelden uit de jaren 70 "hoor ik de melodie niet" in de nummers op 'Cousins'. Dat ligt duidelijk aan de afstelling van mijn oren, want de plaat ontvangt elders niets anders dan zeer positieve recensies.

12,5 jaar. foto: Wo.
2,5 Jaar geleden mocht ik er bij zijn op het feestje in Tivoli en kwam terug met een stapeltje platen die ter plaatse werden verkocht. De 15e verjaardag viert Snowstar zelfs op twee locaties: op zaterdag 8 december in Tivoli in Utrecht en op vrijdag 14 december in Vera te Groningen. De verjaardag wordt gevierd met drie optredens. In Utrecht met I Am Oak, Kim Janssen en Donna Blue, in Groningen met in plaats van Donna Blue, lokale helden Town Of Saints. Dat is drie voor de prijs van één en de gelegenheid de mensen achter de releases de hand te schudden. Dat verdienen de mensen achter het label ook. De liefde voor muziek druipt er van af en tegen alle klippen van de moderne informatiemaatschappij in brengen de mensen van Snowstar Records deze platen de wereld in. Een wereld die duidelijk een stukje mooier is daarna.

En voor hen die dat interessant vinden. Zelfs een meet en greet met ondergetekende is een bijkomstige optie. Enkel in Utrecht, helaas.

Kaartjes kunnen worden gekocht bij de bekende voorverkoopadressen. Zie hieronder voor de link.

Wo.

Tivoli:

https://www.ticketmaster.nl/event/15-jaar-snowstar-records-tickets/223919

Vera:

https://vera.stager.nl/web/tickets/235074

maandag 3 december 2018

Blaudzun live. Patronaat Haarlem, Saturday 1 December 2018

Blaudzun released three albums in one and a half year. Musically and artistically each one can be declared a success. In the fall of 2016 I went to the show following 'Jupiter, part 1' and now following 'Up', which is Jupiter, Part III. Although I still feel Blaudzun set the album apart somewhat.

The same band stood on stage, with the exception of the bass saxophone player. Routine is a word usually seen as something negative, but in the case of Blaudzun it is a compliment. The band executed the songs so well. Made the aural storms rise while also taking care of the most delicate passages possible. All so that the frontman Johannes Sigmund can shine. And he did, with so much ease. Winning the audience over, jumping in during the fourth song, making us all jump on the word 'Up' in the same-titled song and letting us sing along. Simply by assisting most people in the audience to let go. Yes, I'm jumping/singing in public, but who cares?, we're all doing it and to a great song as well. Somehow I had the feeling he was looser than ever before, judging shows since the 'Heavy Flowers' tour. The band took care of it all, because it can play with ease, is master over the songs and the show. The positive kind of routine creating the options to become more than just a good band. Blaudzun is a great band.

Of course this tour lent on 'Up' significantly, songs from all albums came by. If anything, it showed how rich a genre the band has built for itself over the past decade. A genre which sets itself apart from most other bands. The music of Blaudzun hardly knows solos on guitar or keyboards. Songs are a monolith from which sounds escape colouring them in differently. The voice(s) and the individual instrument are, nearly always, a part of the whole. All working on a tight rhythm, from which the voices escape. In theory this sounds extremely boring, in practice it works like a miracle. Whether a few piano notes that escape through the rhythm or guitar notes, the whole defines the outcome, not the soloing bandmember setting him or herself apart.

When the band switches to delicateness, the audience totally quiet waiting for things to happen, just an acoustic guitar is enough to drive a song. A few notes on a xylophone or piano for support. The effect is 100%. 'Elephants' was a beautiful example, just like the final song, that I did not know, from the second album. Blaudzun is a master in bringing the audience through all these different moods and back. The ease with which that happens shows the growth the band has gone through.

One of the first reviews on this blog was called something like "world beware, Blaudzun is coming", after my first Blaudzun show following the 'Heavy Flowers' album. I still believe that could be true. This band is truly good and more people in the world should find out about it to.

One question remains for me. It's on the artwork of the first two Jupiter albums. I feel certain that the two kissing men on the cover are a Piccaso-ish impression of Steven Tyler and Mick Jagger. Can anyone shine some light on this?

(all photo's by) Wo.

You can listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

zondag 2 december 2018

Johan and Scram C Baby live. Patronaat Haarlem, Friday 30 November 2018

Photo: Wo.
After HareD's reporting of two weeks back on the Alkmaar show, it's my turn to write on the glorious return of Johan. The suave start with John Barry's 'The Persuaders Theme' spelled it all out. Johan's returning to the high life, high rollin' and winning, like the tandem Curtis - Moore always did after some fast car driving and fisticuffs.

Nine years is a very long time. "How are you doing"?, asked singer/guitarist Jacob de Greeuw at one point into the show. Well, I answered to my girlfriend and good friend, who were present in Patronaat nine years ago, older, some little pains here and there, certainly greyer and the addition of some extra kilos. "Speak for yourself", answered my friend who still is as thin as when we met in the 80s and not grey at all.

Nine years ago, De Greeuw told the audience somewhat upbeat that Johan was calling it quits, to the obvious chagrin of some of his bandmembers. The result was not the best show I saw Johan play. Although with songs like that it is impossible to fail utterly.

This spring the world was surprised by a new album, 'Pull Up'. Rumours had been flying for some time, but hearing is believing. 'Pull Up' is a darker album containing less upbeat songs, those often bittersweet popgems, than the albums of the past. (Read my review of 'Pull Up' here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2018/04/pull-up-johan.html) Several songs of the album took the pace and the mood down in Patronaat, but also showed how good they are. With 'Anyone Got A Clue' as upper prove to the test. Put in the perspective of a whole career, they took their rightful place to shine.

Nine years is a long time and the tour only really commenced circa a half year after the release. What does that do to a fan base, that used to fill the bigger venues in the country, like Patronaat? Well, that fanbase was ready for the return of Johan. Patronaat was sold out and ready to sing along to their alternative poprock song favourites.

Photo: Wo.
Johan was on a roll. The band played so good, sang so well. The addition of Robin Berlijn, looking like a totally drugged 100 meter runner at the start of the show, eyes bulging, but not missing a single note, gave the band a real guitar hero. Great single notes, weird shit and great solo's spewed from his side of the stage. Strangely enough he seemed to totally relax after he blew up his amp, during a Hendrix like solo, going full out. Smiles came out and somehow total zen. Compliments to him and the guitar assistant dealing with it all.

The addition of Sunday Sun's Jan Teertstra meant having a keyboard, guitar (and bass player) in the band who can sing as well. If I ever seen someone being happy playing in Johan it is Teertstra. One big smile and enthusiasm the whole way.

Nine years later it proved even better to hear my favourites of old than I'd expected up front. Johan is and was so good. Even songs from the first album came by, including that surprising cover of Aphrodite's Child, 'It's Five o'Clock' (yes, people, Demis Roussos was honoured yesterday).

It all ended with what I think was the first single by Johan, 'Everybody Knows', the song that attracted me to the band in the first place, 22 years ago, and was sung along so loud around me, that I knew things were well in the state of Haarlem.

Nine years later and Johan without a single doubt is still the best alternative pop rock band of this country. Hopefully I will not have to wait this long to hear the next album. Because, if De Greeuw asks that question once more, there's no knowing what I have to answer then.

Photo: Wo.
And Scram C Baby? Apart from that the band suffered from a fairly abysmal, drab sound and I did review the band's latest album quite positively, it is best not to write anything more than that on stage the band just does not have what it takes. Let me just stop there, but not before pointing to how good I think 'Give Us A Kiss Baby' is: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2018/11/give-us-kiss-scram-c-baby.html. Read it and then convince yourself.

Wo.


You can listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

zaterdag 1 december 2018

Are We Having Fun? Dan Donnelly

Once again a release by Gentlemen Records from Rotterdam. This time by a man from Belfast in Northern Ireland. Dan Donnelly releases his fifth solo album, although this is his first one since 2011. In the years in between he has toured with The Wonder Stuff, so our own HareD must have seen him play over the years.

The cover art reminds me of poster popular in the early 80s of Thatcher and Reagan in an amorous embrace while the bombs go off around them. The question asked on the cover can't be answered by looking at it. The woman seems slightly disgusted, the man totally fascinated looking through the lens of his camera to photograph the scene as good as possible. Undoubtedly all the filters and lighting settings are perfectly installed to make it a grand one.

The title song 'Time Of Our Lives' holds the title to the album within it. The song is as ambiguous as the title of the album is. "So this is it" the first sentence already shows that not all is well. The singer is in an introspective mood, most likely not liking what he sees. "Is this the time of our lives?". The music reflects the mood. When listening superficially, I am convinced, this song comes over to the listener as one big party. Up tempo, a great guitar run, a violin accompanying an upbeat vocal. Then I listened more closely and noticed the bittersweet element that permeated the whole song. Nothing is really what it seems. Is this it?, is the question not put directly, yet certainly all over the song. Donnelly made this song really, really well. For now he concludes that yes, this is the time of our lives, but listening more closely it seems he can change his mind any time soon if he hasn't already. A great song to open the album with.

This mood is continued throughout Are We Having Fun?. There is more to life than the problems a person faces on a day to day basis. Whether of a personal level or because of (political) developments: "I don't care", is one answer to those.

Although the songs of Dan Donnelly can be labelled bittersweet, they all have the same quality. Somehow they seem to float forward effortlessly. A sign of laborious work of honing the songs right until that moment they reach perfection. Whether a song holds a Dylan or Young folk element or rock away in a modest form of ingrain some pop, they all have that quality of seeming, but deceptive effortlessness.

There is another quality. Several songs hold moments that have me thinking, what is that song? but before I know it the moment is gone. Strangely enough I found myself into the album faster than being distracted as would be normal. It says a lot about the quality of the songs on offer. Nothing spectacular, nothing new, simply very, very well made with the love of music in one hand and the right skills in the other.

With Are We Having Fun Yet? I am introduced to an artist that is recording since the 90s, with me in total oblivion. That has changed and I am the better for it. This is an album containing several small gems. Once I noticed them they never stopped glittering in front of my eyes. So, is that question answered? On my personal level? Oh, yeah!

Wo.

You can buy Are We Having Fun? here:

https://www.gentlemenrecordings.com/product/dan-donnelly-are-we-having-fun/


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g