Friday, 16 June 2017

Fools Gold 9.53

Fools Gold was the sound of Stone Roses at their peak, almost 10-minutes of funk groove via bass, beats, wah-wah guitar, samples and the coolest person in the world at the time on whispered vocals about friends searching for gold and ready to steal it off each other.... oh and the Marquis de Sade.

This inspirational tune came beautifully presented in artwork by guitarist John Squire entitled Double Dorsal Doppleganger - everything about this release was perfect.

Although it nearly wasn't; What The World Is Waiting For, a supreme slice of Roses guitar pop was originally intended to be the single, it was then changed to a double-a-side before then to all intents and purposes (and on rerelease) being relegated to the b-side.

The Roses released their legendary eponymous debut album in the spring of 1989, perfect timing for the second summer of love. Prior to this, there was a string of incredible guitar pop singles; Sally Cinnamon, Elephant Stone, Made Of Stone, She Bangs The Drums and Adored with all the glorious b-sides that came with them like Mersey Paradise, Standing Here, Where Angels Play and Going Down - but nothing, not even the album closer I Am The Resurrection, hinted where the Roses were going to go next.

They went off on one, sampling the beat from Bobby Byrd's - Hot Pants (bonus beats) with the bass line from Young MC's Know How, which itself was loosely based around guitar from Isaace Hayes Theme From Shaft.

The bass line is inspired by Young M.C's Know How 
which was a tune we were really vibing off at the time 

Fools Gold was recorded over the summer of 1989 and released in November of that year. If the Roses album had been the soundtrack to pre and post club parties, Fools Gold became the sound of the party - the real indie dance crossover - if there really is such a thing, the Roses would pour scorn on such statements, they simply made the best music they could.

The beat and bass groove are in from the start, it's fresh, it's funky, it sounds like nothing 4 white boys from Manchester should be creating. But then things were changing dramatically in 1989, particularly in Manchester, a city embracing ecstasy and all kinds of music from Detroit to Ibiza - people wanted to dance and expand their horizons - international, continental.

Brown doesn't take long to come in the gold roads sure a long road, winds on through the hill for fifteen days

Things move up a notch for the I'm standing alone ... section and all the time the beat and bass keep grooving while Squire coaxes majestic sounds from his guitar.

By the time Brown whispers his last Foo-oo-oo-ools Gold we still have over 4-minutes left of this incredible tune and we are treated to the magical delight of Reni, Mani and Squire vibing and riffing off each other. They sound in their element. The sounds Squire generates from his guitar sound other worldly, the best and most original guitar sounds from someone in Manchester since Johnny Marr created How Soon Is Now?

The Roses were a band of their time, but so good that they have stood the test of time. Good songs always do, but it was their look, their hair, clothes, style, appearance and attitude that combined with the songs, artwork and dance culture to elevate them way beyond other bands.

Their Top of the Pops appearance where they mime to Fools Gold was a landmark, with fellow Mancunians Happy Mondays playing Hallelujah on the same show - the times they were a changing.

Brown looks immaculate, his hair is super cool, swagger and confidence apparent and he looks like the coolest person in the world. Mani looks like he is partying on stage, swinging his Jackson Pollock-ed bass, flares on and lost in the music, Squire looks like a guitar god with a Beatles mop top and Reni acts all cool and semi interested in miming.

I can't help but think what if? What if they could have recorded an album of groove based trippy material? Something's Burning was another beauty and although Ian Brown has admitted he was never happy with One Love, you think of the album that they could have been working towards. Instead they became embroiled in legal disputes over management and label contracts, moved to different parts of the country and all started taking different drugs.

Decades down the line, if anyone is researching music in 1989 and wants to see the coolest band in the world at that time, I hope they find this film.

Fast forward to Heaton Park in 2012, the Roses huge homecoming shows. I'm there on the Sunday evening, lost in the music and an atmosphere so off the scale that some Manc scallies attempted to bottle it and sell on eBay!

Fools Gold is stretched to nearly 13-minutes; kicking off with a funky jam that I first heard when I saw them in Amsterdam and wondered it if was a new tune, but then the bass riff and beats kick in and Squire matches Mani. The incredible musical trio of Squire, Mani and Reni completely own this extended live version - from 6-minutes on they take the crowd on a psychedelic funk trip like no other, Brown comes back in with one final vocal, before they go off on one.

There is a breakdown to bass and drums before Squire starts to shred his guitar Hendrix style, his rhythm section is so tight that he has time to fiddle with effects, then tease and show off by dropping in riffs like Daytripper by The Beatles, a dash of Zeppelin and even add in Driving South from the Second Coming. It's outrageous, it is the Stone Roses, it is the sound of a band at their peak.....even now.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Mr Tambourine Man

Cover version of the month #26

Hi we're called Teenage Fanclub and this is a song by The Byrds

This is how I was introduced to the legendary Bob Dylan song. I recorded Teenage Fanclub live from Reading off the radio back in 1992. I was immediately hooked on the chiming guitars and flowing lyrics and the imagery of the song, the title too!

The Fanclub version was pretty true to the 2-minutes of pure guitar pop genius that The Byrds produced in homage to Dylan back in April 1965, only a month after Dylan had released his classic Bringing It All Back Home LP. The jingle-jangle mentioned in Dylan's chorus is replicated by beautiful 12-string Rickenbacker in the Byrd's version.

The Byrd's manager had acquired an acetate of Dylan's original recording of the song, ear-marked for Another Side Of Bob Dylan, but the author decided the song was special and he hadn't captured it correctly, so he held it back for his next LP, re-recording it in January 1965. Ironically the month The Byrds recorded their version!

One of Dylan's many masterpieces, Mr Tambourine Man is a flowing psychedelic poem that lasts 5-minutes and 27 seconds, during which time Dylan barely pauses for breath (either singing or playing harmonica) and a guitarist called Bruce Langhorne plays some exquisite lead guitar.

The Byrds cut out most of the verses and in 2 and a half minutes they produce something utterly compelling and vital. The harmonies are glorious, the guitar riff is one that must surely have made kids pick up a guitar. Roger McGuinn's lead vocals are sublime, suiting the dreamy and surreal lyrics penned by Dylan.

 Dylan played around with Mr Tambourine Man a lot, producing a remarkable version on his Live At The Budokan album which was one of the first Dylan albums I bought. Listen to the flute and the incredible organ solo - what a band! You can listen to this version below along with the original, the glorious Byrds cover and also one by Stevie Wonder.

Previous covers of the month

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Never Ending Mixtape Part 9

18 songs are added to the Never Ending Mixtape this month. It all started back in October 2016 when I finally signed up to Spotify after years of saying I never would.

I still buy physical copies of records and cd's, but have to say that I am loving Spotify and the way I can discover music - new and old. And I've always loved making mixtapes, compilations CD's, playlists.....and now I have the never ending playlist with new tunes added monthly.

It's all oldies and goldies this month; indie, pop, motown, electro.....loads to check........ the link to the Spotify playlist is below and the latest tracks are listed below that.

Star - Primal Scream
Blissful from Primal Scream

How Does It Feel To Belong? - Primal Scream
Dreamy psychedelia - stunning b-side that a friend reminded me about.

Juxtaposed With You - Super Furry Animals
One of my favourites from the Welsh wizards of melody and psychedelia

Dry The Rain - The Beta Band
A gem, a true gem. I caught them at their last ever show at the Liquid Room and the crowd just kept singing the refrain after they had finished.

Silent Sigh - Badly Drawn Boy
This guy could pluck a gorgeous melody from a rubber band - beautiful

I Love You - The Bees
I love the feeling and production on this song.

Baby I Need Your Loving - The Four Tops
What a tune! Pleading, emotional and uplifting - soul.

I Second That Emotion - Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
Listen to Smokey's voice - incredible

Jimmy Mack - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
A current fave with the kids in my house, so simple and so clever.

(I'm A) Road Runner - JR Walker and the All Stars
Got to keep on keeping' on!

Just A Little Misunderstanding - The Contours
A fave - love the feel and flow of this.

Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S) - Edwin Starr
Just full of hooks, this will have you singing on first listen

Belfast - Orbital
This once soundtracked the end of many a night out - blissful bubbling and soothing synths.

Pacific State - 808 State

You Wish - Nightmares On Wax
What a groove!

Same As It Ever Was - The Herbaliser
Another brilliant groove

Music Takes Me Up - Mr Scruff and Alice Russell
Mr Scruff is one of the best DJ's I have ever seen, I love his eclectic style and taste and monster sets.

Salvation - Rae and Christian
Was lucky enough to catch a rare show by this Manchester band at King Tuts many years ago. How beautiful this?!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Different Days by The Charlatans

The Charlatans have swiftly followed up their excellent and well received Modern Nature album, which contained some career highlights, with Different Days - the bands 13th studio album. And I am delighted to report it's a cracker! There is a great feel across the whole album, a sense of freedom, of confidence, of fun....the production is fresh and flowing. Co-produced by the band and Jim Spencer at the bands studio in Cheshire.

That sense of confidence and freedom is enhanced by the guests The Charlatans invited to participate - Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, Ian Rankin, Stephen Morris, Pete Salisbury, Anton Newcombe, Sharon Logan, Kurt Wagner and Nik Void.

The Charlatans are the band that keep giving; restless, relentless, innovative and constantly developing. In addition to the 13 studio albums, there have been live albums, remixes, EP's, compilations.... not to mention Tim Burgess' solo efforts. Are they the most prolific British band over the last (near) 30-years?

Tim is singing better than ever and as this blog has mentioned before, he has embraced social media (and the change in the record industry) with an energy and understanding that other artists should look to for inspiration.

The Charlatans launched Different Days with a ..... different day. Taking over Oldham Street in Manchester's super cool Northern Quarter. There was Tim Peaks Coffee, their own beer, items donated to Oxfam, a signing in Piccadilly Records and much, much more. Check this short documentary film.

Fear not, the band return to the traditional promo model with a UK tour at the end of the year, including a date at the O2 Academy on Monday 4th December. Shame it's not the Barrowland, next time!

On to the album;

Bathe in the sunlight
Is everything alright?

Hey Sunrise ushers us into Different Days in a beautiful warm manner; acoustic guitar, piano and a hushed Tim vocal and then it all lifts gloriously in that special Charlatans punch the air, euphoric, feel good style. Written at 5am, hence the hook;

It's beginning to look like it's light
It's beginning to look like it's quite bright

The Charlatans are a band who always look for solutions to challenges, they are glass half full, so Solutions is a great song title for them.  Described by Tim on Twitter as 'Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young meets Neu!'

Always running out of time
Building a dream out of reality

You would expect the title track to be good.....and it is. A Japanese introduction leads to a beautiful melody (vocally and piano).

Future Tense is a clever bridge from Different Days into Plastic Machinery, continuing the melody and with a spoken word by Ian Rankin that leads into a burst of pure Charlatans pop.

Plastic Machinery was the lead single for the album and it was the right choice. The band sound fresh, vital, urgent.... Johnny Marr on guitar.

I too feel part of the machinery
I know it's hard to be accepted
Our life is just like a dream to me
At times it's good to be rejected

So let's just run, even if only in our heads

Not Forgotten sounds like it could have been lifted from The Charlatans eponymous album released over 20-years ago. It has a real groove to it

I know where the past begins
And the future ends
Time is my friend

There Will Be Chances is sunshine romance, with a cracking melody and groove - pure summer. Set to be a Charlatans favourite. Described during the Twitter listening party by Tim as 'super optimistic, giddy euphoria, spacey.'

If you stare into space
You might not find answers
But if you look to find a trace
There will be chances

Over Again is brilliant, Burgess is on fire with his vocal melodies and delivery across the whole album, speeding things up, slowing things down....just sounding like he is having fun. The electronic pulse and percussion driving this tune is great. It's quite New Order - a compliment I'm sure Tim will love. Apparently written for Neneh Cherry to sing, hopefully that will happen sometime.

Write a message in the sky
Anything to get your eye

The sense of fun and freedom that Burgess has across his wide portfolio of artistic endeavours these days really comes across on The Same House - it is pure Talking Heads! Ace! Very different, very cool and just wait for the extra beat and groove to come in - superb.

We can live in the same house
We can all wear matching shoes

Let's Go Together is another beauty, it sounds and feels remarkably fresh, the playing and production across the album are sublime.

The Setting Sun is a brilliant short instrumental (possible entrance music) leading into the stunning finale of Spinning Out, a co-write with long term hero and friend Paul Weller who plays piano and sings backing vocals. This will melt your heart. Tim sounds amazing and there is such a nice feel to this - an emotional one - a good one. Described by Tim as 'Memories of childhood and the ones you make today for your children.'

Different Days is out now - get a physical copy from your local record shop or by visiting or head to Spotify or iTunes.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Teenage Fanclub at CCA Glasgow

On Monday 22nd May I was supposedly having a day of not checking Facebook. Something (possibly addiction) made me log on. The top story on my news feed had been posted a few minutes earlier by my favourite band - they were playing a Primavera warm up show the following week at the the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Art) in Glasgow, tickets were on sale immediately.

The post only had a few likes and comments at that point, I acted quickly, logging on and buying 3 tickets at £20 each. It was only then (selfish I know) that I shared the information on my own Facebook page, on Twitter and on the Teenage Fanclub Fanclub page.

Things went a little crazy, the CCA website went down, their phonelines were engaged, they were receiving tweets and posts from people desperately trying to get tickets. Thankfully a lot of local Teenage Fanclub Fanclub members I know were successful, but others were not.

On to the show itself.

After dinner and some pre show beers my friends and I wandered into the CCA shortly after 8pm to make sure we caught most of the support band Elephant Stone. I wondered if they were Stone Roses fans. That remains unclear, but they are definitely fans of chiming guitars, grooves and psychedelia - they had one song that involved the lead vocalist swapping his guitar for a sitar and sitting cross legged and getting lost in a sensational groove with his band mates. The 4-piece had enough about them to make me want to check them out further and they generated a great response from the crowd - there was no polite applause here, genuine appreciation and curiosity with many craning to find out how they were creating their sounds and grooves.

Elephant Stone were then hot footing it across town to Mono to play their own headline show. They couldn't thank Teenage Fanclub enough for allowing them to support them on home turf and the Fanclub's generosity certainly won them some new fans. Check one of their tunes below;

On to the Fanclub themselves. They hadn't played live for around a couple of months, so this hastily arranged warm-up show had been booked to scrape off any rust ahead of forthcoming festival appearances. Based on the evidence of last night, there was no real need - they were far from rusty, not that anyone was complaining.

The CCA capacity is only 250, so it was a real thrill to see the band in such an intimate venue and an added bonus that we were right down the front to experience it.

There was no need for fancy lights or any kind of intro, this was Teenage Fanclub plugging in and playing - Blake, Love, McGinley, MacDonald and McGowan; 2 guitars, bass, drums and keys. They sounded absolutely sublime.

Start Again got things off to a flyer, but it was Gerry's Sometimes I Don't Need To Believe In Anything that was an early highlight - being so close to the stage meant that you could see, hear and feel everything and it was Francis' drumming that caught the ear and the eye, he was in simply sensational form, all over his kit and knocking seven shades of sh** out of it. Gerry was laid back, creating bass grooves and painting a picture of an autumn sunset.

Norman was his usual cheerful self, talking of his need for a haircut, jet lag and how this was the bands 76th show since November last year, prompting one die hard next to me to say 'yeah but what about the 5-year gap?' It was all good natured, but hopefully it won't be so long before the band record and tour again. Norman's voice gets better every time I hear it - angelic.

The setlist was largely the one that had been used for the majority of the aformentioned tour dates; new songs from the Here album sat easily alongside bonafide Fanclub classics. Hold On, Thin Air, Darkest Part Of The Night, a rip roaring I'm In Love and I Was Beautiful were the chosen ones from the latest LP.

There was one false start, but apart from that this was a cracking Fanclub set in a relaxed and friendly environment; Norman sang like an angel as always, Gerry was laid back cool, Raymond fired off riffs and solos for fun, it was a delight to watch Francis drum up close and Dave McGowan holds and boosts it all whether on keys or guitar.

Don't Look Back received a great reception, one of Gerry's masterpieces; but then messrs Blake, Love and McGinley have so many. From the power pop of About You, to the euphoric chorus of Ain't That Enough, to the blast of pop brilliance that is Sparky's Dream, the Fanclub ticked all the boxes and more last night.

The Concept was particularly glorious, the second section took me somewhere; the guitars chimed and combined and the bands voices sound sublime, it was glorious.

Star Sign and Everything Flows continued in that vein, the guitars sounded rich and true and even in a tightly packed venue there was room for a few of us to pogo down the front.

Teenage Fanclub are a special band, it was great to see them kick up a storm by announcing a show at short notice in such an intimate venue and a genuine pleasure to see and hear them at such close quarters. Their last show is currently scheduled for 21st July - it would be amazing if they could squeeze in another few summer shows.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Into The Light - Medicine Men

The pulsating and hypnotic synth of A La Llum opens Into The Light, the debut album by Medicine Men in captivating fashion. Backwards guitar, just over 70-seconds we are introduced to the melting pot of sounds that Medicine Men can create.

It is a beautiful opener, maybe too short, but you won't be cursing that for too long as it leads straight into the stomper that is Show What You're Made Of. One of the oldest songs on the LP, it leaps off the vinyl with an urgency, flow and style that will hook you on first listen.

Ian Mackinnon's vocals ring true and his band mate Michael McGeoch's keys and synths sound sublime. The two permanent members of Medicine Men clearly have a chemistry - pardon the pun.

Funky bass leads us into Golden Packets and a story of a night out, it becomes increasingly psychedelic and is a live highlight.

On to the showstopper. At least for me. Eggshells is a belter, a beauty, 6 and a half minutes of heartfelt and soulful vocals and lyrics, beautiful playing, building slowly but surely, unrushed, flowing and leading to a little break before building again and allowing Ian and his band to just go for it. The last 2 minutes just turn it up another notch.....and then another before it slows and allows you to catch your breath back. A real favourite of mine.

Medicine Men mix it up on the album and Bruised Peach has an almost industrial experimental edge to it when it comes in. That edge is something that Medicine Men definitely possess live and they've done well to transfer that to vinyl. Where does that edge come from? Well Ian McKinnon definitely has something about him and his plea to fall in love again, fall in love again is unlikely to fall on deaf ears.

Realise Forget is another little beauty, it has a great feel to it, another story about a night out that went a little wrong and running down Sauchiehall Street. This song builds to another psychedelic flow.

When Medicine Men play live they hit all the right notes and Ceiling To Floor was a cracker when they played Stereo back in March. I love what they do with this song, the beat kicks in, there is some real fuzzy bass going on, that urgency to Mackinnon's voice that propels the band along and a beautiful flow that keeps going.

Why are you crying?
Cause it's you that keeps me flying
I wanna see you smiling
In the rain

Talking of the sound and direction of the album, lead singer Ian Mackinnon said; 'We're really big on good grooves with as little drum fills as possible so as not to interrupt. I guess that comes from a love of disco and dance music in general. We got more experimental as the album went on. Tame Impala were definitely an influence, as were LCD Soundsystem. LCD in particular were the first band that made me realise you could make dance music as a conventional band and perform it live too.'

The Balcony is a heartbreaker, written about Ian's Dad who sadly passed away coming on 2-years ago, from the church style organ in the intro through to the outpouring of grief. The guitar solo is beautiful.

I'll be at your side it's not permission to cry
It's just a journey that I would not have liked to make

Did I say Eggshells was a showstopper? Well Out Of The Light is a showstopper and a showtopper. I was blown away when I first heard this, coming on like the Chemicals on a night out with Primal Scream circa XTRMNTR. It has that Mani-esque baseline going on, synths lead the way, Mackinnon sounds like he is in his element. The Star Guitar style breakdown is euphoric.

Out of the light
You give me something just to keep me alive
Keep on dreaming, keep on dreaming

In many ways the opening and closing tracks of this album left me wondering where Medicine Men will go next, I was so impressed with them. Will they go on a more synth/electronic path? But then you have the likes of Show What You're Made Of, Eggshells and Ceiling To The Floor.

I don't know what path they will take but it is one that I would love to go down with them.

The album is available to stream on Spotify, to download via iTunes and available to order on vinyl via Last Night From Glasgow.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

BMX Bandits Forever

BMX Bandits - Forever. Yeah BMX Bandits Forever, too right. 16 new tracks of heart-breaking, heart-aching, warm, reflective pop with contributions from and collaborations with many friends of the Bandits.

Duglas T Stewart, leader and conducted of the Bandits, has been releasing/leaking material from this beautiful album since as far back as 2014. I blogged about opening song My Girl Midge in September of that year, marvelling at the warm home production and stunning vocal delivery from Duglas.

Stewart's vocals are stunning on this album, capturing a moment, a feeling, a thought, a dream.... From speaking to Duglas I know that he favours a maximum of a few takes per song. That comes across in the right way on the album, from vocals, to playing and production.

Forever takes us on a journey; break up, memories, That Lonely Feeling, realisation and dreams in Rust .... and Duglas' heart isn't just on his sleeve, he is pouring it out.

If you come tonight then I won't die
The rust will turn to blood and I will be alive
And if they want to know the reason why
It's my love, my love

Saveoursmiles is a song I heard live back in January and it has that immediacy and simplicity that Stewart has an exceptional talent in finding. Only it's not that simple - just listen to the depth of those lyrics. There is a story and we have reached the point in the story where there is hope that our hero will win his true love back. There is a brilliant organ underpinning the song and the message is clear - lets help each other find our smiles

Tonight I need some you
And I think you need me too

The album takes an unexpected turn with the brilliant Love Me 'Til My Heart Stops, unexpected in that we hear from the other side. The melody and vocals by Chloe Philip are exquisite, as is the guitar playing and driving beat. I played this one a few times in a row. The chorus is delightful and flows superbly.

Forget the pain
Forget the nots
Love me until my heart stops
It's easier to take the blame
Love me until my heart stops

Somewhere is dangerously dark, stark, but absolutely beautiful. Fragile, hopeful (just), the sound of someone clinging on to love, hoping it will all work out somewhere. From the musical West Side Story, this is the sound of a broken heart on record with just a tiny shred of hope that it could be mended. There will not be a dry in the house if this is performed live.

Things take an upbeat turn with three songs recorded in collaboration with Dr Cosmos Tape Lab; Way Of The Wolf is gorgeous and then It's In Her Eyes is just brilliant - guaranteed to bring a smile to your face with it's warm feel, melody and story....from both sides. The way Duglas sings sounds so happy and the melody flows superbly.

It's in her eyes and the way that she smiles
It's in her words and her funny style
When we kiss and start to play
It feels love is meant to be this way....

It's Time begins with an electronic drum machine and a gorgeous glockenspiel melody. Stewart has been through the ringer and now it's time for the two to start again, to love again, to smile again, to live again, time to make a new start. This is pure Beach Boys and pure brilliance.

Next up is another brilliant collaboration, so brilliant that I hope Duglas goes back out to Berlin to record with Anton Newcombe from Brian Jonestown Massacre again. The feel and flow of Razorblades and Honey is sublime. One of the best things Duglas has done in my humble opinion. It's raw, it's rough and it's ready. I love it. The guitar solo is ace, the rhythm section is tight and flowing throughout.

Right now you think you're something
But soon you're gonna be nothing

And then we have The Beach Boys Forever. One of the best songs you are ever likely to hear, especially when you hear it being sung by someone so head over heels in love. It is little wonder that Duglas chose not only to record this song, but also to name the album after it.

I feel so happy loving you

No Matter What You Say starts all quiet before becoming a stomping declaration of love with more stunning vocals from Chloe Philip. One of the beautiful things about this album is hearing from different perspectives - most love albums are only from one.

How Not To Care is a gentle and reflective song with Stewart pouring his heart out again and the chorus is heartfelt and cleverly written.

She doesn't want my love any more
But I don't know how not to care

Life Without You feels strange at the end of the album and weird coming after the likes of Forever. It is short and to the point - Life feels rubbish without you

Then we end with a short reprise of Mais Do Que Valsa (Just A Memory) that is all kinds of dreamy gorgeousness.

Signed copies of BMX Bandits Forever are available at Monorail in Glasgow, or you can order vinyl or CD from the good folks at Elefant Records.