Sunday, 23 April 2017

DANIEL ROMANO - 'WHEN I LEARNED YOUR NAME' (2017)


It’s difficult to keep up with Daniel Romano. Every few months he’s shifted style and image.

Romano’s latest album (following two last year alone), Modern Pressure, is released on 19 May and promises to be a long way from his country phase. New wave new single ‘When I Learned Your Name’ channels late 70s Costello/Lowe mixed with a Shot of Love Dylan. Like almost everything Romano touches, it’s fantastic.

Previous single ‘Roya’ is slower burner but even better and the live track, the unreleased ‘You’d Think, I’d Think, I Had Enough But Something Keeps Me Coming Back For More’, was probably something Daniel cooked up for breakfast that morning.

These three only touch the surface from a prolific period; check out also the pedal steel treatment given to his punk phase 'I Wanna Put My Tears Back In' and the super stylish video for 'I Had To Hide Your Poem (In A Song)' filmed on the Queen Mary II.  

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

STAN FIRM INNA INGLAN: BLACK DIASPORA IN LONDON, 1960-1970s at TATE BRITAIN


Photographs by Neil Kenlock
One of the rewarding things about having a mooch around Tate Britain – apart from having a gander at the various pieces by Bacon, Blake, Tilson, Riley and the rest - is it throws up unexpected temporary mini-exhibitions tucked away within the more permanent works.

A case in point is the current BP Spotlight sponsored Stan Firm inna Inglan: Black Diaspora in London, 1960-1970s, its title taken from the poem ‘'It Dread inna Inglan' by Linton Kwesi Johnson, which selects work by eight photographers who documented black communities in London during those years.

Neil Kenlock, along with Linton Kwesi Johnson and Darcus Howe, who died this month, was a member of the British Black Panthers, loosely modelled on their more illustrious American counterparts. These London Panthers existed between 1968 and 1972 and Kenlock adopted the role of official photographer, documenting their meetings, marches and members as well as the hostility faced by new immigrants in the UK as exemplified in his ‘Keep Britain White’ Graffiti, Balham image. 

When Saffiyah Khan calmly smiled in the ugly faces of the EDL last Saturday while wearing a Specials t-shirt, an image since 'gone viral', it recalled the Rock Against Racism campaign of the late 70s. Syd Shelton documented that fight against the National Front via demonstrations, carnivals and gigs and, by chance, a fertile period in youth movements with rude boys, skinheads, punks and mods embroiled in Britain’s political turmoil.

Colin Jones is best known around these parts for his 60s photos of The Who but his series The Black House, commissioned by The Sunday Times, features the conditions of Islington Council’s project Harambee, a halfway house for vulnerable young people. Despite daubing ‘Black Power’ on the outside of the property these people, according to Jones, “weren’t interested in politics – it was the black middle class who tried to get them involved in black power – they were too busy trying to survive from day to day.” Even with that struggle it’s impossible to miss how visually striking they were, as Jones told Time Out in 2007, “Style came naturally to them. They would look good in anything. The women loved clothes and all borrowed each other’s dresses, although they were too proud to accept hand-me-downs – especially from white people. They liked being photographed as it gave them a feeling of importance and broke up the monotony of the day.”

Dennis Morris captures Hackney and Dalston when they were still desolate areas, a far cry from their recent gentrification. Less overtly political, James Barnor’s portraits for Ghana’s Drum magazine show African culture embracing Swinging London (psychedelic fabrics, red pillar boxes, pigeons in Leicester Square); Raphael Albert depicts beauty contests and the glamour of everyday folk; Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi photographs include integrated couples enjoying the hospitality of a Whitechapel nightclub; and Al Vandenberg scoured the streets looking for interesting people to photograph.

Stan Firm Inna Inglan: Black Diaspora In London, 1960-1970s is at Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RQ until 19 November 2017, admission free.
Top left & right by Syd Shelton
Bottom left & right by Raphael Albert
Photo by Colin Jones

Monday, 3 April 2017

THE SUNSHINE MAKERS (2017)


The names Timothy Scully and Nicholas Sand might not be at the tip of your tongue but if you’d taken acid in the late 60s then their brand, Orange Sunshine, possibly would’ve been.

Cosmo Feilding-Mellen’s documentary (and with a name like that I’m guessing Cosmo’s parents were no strangers to recreational drugs) tells how the pair attempted to change the world via lysergic acid diethylamide. Scully and Sand possessed a heady mix of idealism and ambition believing if they, as patriotic American citizens, “could turn on everyone in the world then maybe we could have a new world of peace and love”.

Having served as apprentices under Timothy Leary and Owsley Stanley, when LSD became illegal in California in ’66, Scully and Sand set up their own factory in Denver and proceeded to manufacture 3-4 million doses of their market leader, Orange Sunshine. As they witnessed a psychedelic nation expanding around them they estimated – based on little more than intuition - three-quarters of a billion people would be willing to take a trip and it might take a couple of years to reach them.

Their distribution network was run by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the so-called hippie mafia, who according their leader, Mike Randall, ruled by love rather than fear. These previous stickup men allegedly turned in their guns to instead smuggle mind altering substances throughout America, Europe, India, Afghanistan and beyond. Randall, who even now you'd be wary of accepting a glass of water from, looking back says, “You have to break some eggs to make an omelette; you’re gonna have to break some laws to make a revolution”.

The real stars though are Tim Scully and Nick Sand – both thankfully still alive to tell their story – who make an odd partnership. Scully is a shy, bookish, nerdy, scientific genius with a touch of Asperger’s, who lived for 30 years on a diet of white spaghetti and white cheese until medically unsafe to continue while Sand is all New York hustle, bold and bullish, a stirrer of the pot, a ‘madman psychedelic commando’ who wanted to become The King of LSD and is happy to let it all hang out and practice yoga, naked, in front of the camera.

They weren’t driven by financial profit but by the sheer idealism. Scully wanted to give all their product away for free; Sand was less keen although his main motivation wasn’t money either, saying he heard a voice while tripping, “Your job on this planet is to make psychedelics and turn on the world”.

Centred around new interviews with Scully, Sand, plus their former girlfriends, associates and even the drug cops looking to bust their sorry asses for the degradation of mankind, The Sunshine Makers is a well-made and engaging film with a cracking soundtrack (Charles Sheffield, Slim Harpo, Cymande, Joubert Singers etc). With the protagonists now able to view their escapades with a mixture of mild embarrassment (Scully) and pride (Sand) this is a look at a different innocent age.

Running a huge scale drug production factory is morally open for debate but these outlaw chemists, with charming 60s naivety, genuinely believed they could change the consciousness of the world in a positive way, create a revolution of the mind, that people would become gentler and the planet would not be destroyed through recklessness and war. You’ve got to admire that.

The Sunshine Makers is available on Netflix.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

MARCH PLAYLIST



1.  Chuck Jackson – ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ (1962)
So many versions – far too many for me to trawl through – but Chuck’s smoky, late night cabaret effort must be among the best.

2.  Link Wray and the Ray Men – ‘Girl From The North Country’ (1965)
Chain rattling, looping, woozy harp version of the Dylan song. Bob, for his part, adopted the melody after hearing Martin Carthy’s arrangement of (pre-Paul Simon) ‘Scarborough Fair’ and releases 30 new covers this Friday on his Triplicate triple album.

3.  The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One – ‘The Monkey Time’ (1965)
The Curtis Mayfield's Major Lance song given a swinging party feel and driven along by the vibes of Joe De Aguero and piano of Bill Henderson. Think Ramsey Lewis, Young-Holt Unlimited or even, a bit, MJQ.

4.  Angelica Maria – ‘Cansada De Esperar’ (1965)
Mexican ‘Tired of Waiting’. Sounds like it was recorded in a kitchen. If, like me, you’ve never heard of Angelica Maria she’s apparently such a humongous star of stage, screen and music that when she married Venezuelan singer/comedian Raúl Vale in 1975 it was the first wedding to be televised in Mexico. They divorced in 1988. None of this is relevant. Enjoy the song.

5.  The Soul Mates – ‘Too Late To Say You’re Sorry’ (1965)
Not a cover but as Darlene Love cut a version around the same time it sounds like one. When released on Chicago’s Marina Records the label proudly boasted ‘Recorded in Great Britain’ and ‘With Orchestra Conducted by Norman Smith’, he later of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn fame. It’s all very British, very Dusty Springfield and very good.

6.  Joe Williams – ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’ (1966)
As his early albums show Marvin Gaye always fancied himself as a jazz crooner so I can imagine he’d have approved of the big band treatment afforded here on Presenting Joe Williams and Thad Jones with the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. ‘Woman’s Got Soul’, ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’ and ‘Get Out My Life Woman’ and more also tackled the same way.

7.  Downliners Sect – ‘Glendora’ (1966)
The Sect brutalise poor old Perry Como behind the lingerie department. That said, I do love Como’s original and it’s even more bizarre hearing him sing about falling in love with a shop mannequin. Check out also the Billy Young version which came between these two.

8.  Eddie Jefferson – ‘Filthy McNasty’ (1968)
It’s been hammered in clubs so much over the years I’d happily never listen to ‘Psychedelic Sally’ again. The rest of Jefferson’s Body and Soul is more than worth investigating as he adds his elasticated vocalese to numbers better known as instrumentals, including ‘So What’ and this Horace Silver classic given a humorous makeover.

9.  Lloyd Price – ‘Feeling Good’ (1969)
Lloyd goes for a funky calypso tinged version of the Nina Simone standard.

10.  Terry Callier – ‘And I Love Her’ (2004)
So intimate it feels like intruding just listening. Breath-taking.

Monday, 20 March 2017

THE WHO'S MY GENERATION painted by EDDIE ARGOS (2017)


Eddie Argos sings in the mildly popular punk-beat combo Art Brut. Ed does other stuff too, like writing and painting, which is fortunate as the last Brut album, Brilliant! Tragic!, came out in 2011.

Late last year, Eddie started to accept commissions to paint peoples’ favourite album sleeves. Anything they wanted – even the Stone Roses or REM - he’d do and listen to the album whilst working on it. Once completed, Ed would write his thoughts on the record.

I requested The Who’s 1965 debut My Generation. Not only is it one of my favourite albums but also one of my favourite sleeves. That was in November. Today it arrived and I’m chuffed to bits.

Not only am I delighted with the art, which means there's now an Argos hanging in four rooms of Monkey Mansions, but with Eddie’s response to the album as it – and The Who in general – was something he’d never previously taken an interest in. Here’s what he had to say.

“Wow! What a great album. I’ve never really thought about the lyrics to My Generation before they are punk as fuck, ditto for The Kids Are Alright. I’d just sort of filed The Who away as ‘classic rock’ and not investigated it properly. This is much harder and sexier than I imagined. I’d always seen Daltrey as a pretty boy with no charisma, the only band where the lead singer is the least interesting member, but here he sounds awesome and like someone I’d like to get drunk and hang about with. I never realised that The Who were an awesome punk rock Nuggets style garage band. I feel like an idiot. THIS IS GREAT.

I played it over and over even after I’d finished the painting, I’ve tried really hard but still can’t imagine Roger Daltrey being that cool. So I imagine a totally different person being the front man. Makes it easier.

I can totally see this becoming one of my favourite albums too. Thanks for introducing me to it.

Eddie Argos x”

Find out more at The Eddie Argos Resource. or @EddieArgos on Twitter. And if you've not listened to Art Brut start with their debut Bang Bang Rock & Roll and work through.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

HELP THE LUCID DREAM RECOVER FROM PARISIAN NIGHTMARE

This week was shaping up nicely for Cumbrian psychedelic pioneers The Lucid Dream. On Wednesday, they played to a full and appreciative London audience at the Victoria in Dalston before heading to Paris the following night. After the Paris gig (pre-match photo above), the next morning the band posted an emotional message on their social media accounts.

"Our van was broken into in Paris through the night. Every last piece of equipment has been stolen. We are sorry for those travelling from Britain for the shows but we have nothing. We are in bits and may be the last you see of us. We've lost equipment we've had since 14 years old. For us it is irreplaceable. We are fucking devastated. Anybody that knows us knows we are a hard-working, grounded band, who self-finance everything.”

Since 2012 I've regularly championed the band here, interviewing them in October, and they’ve always struck me as a straight-ahead bunch so, like many others, was absolutely gutted for them. Some bright spark quickly set up a Crowdfunder page to help them get back on the feet and keep making music. “As everyone knows music is what we live for and it breaks our hearts to think of letting the band suffer because of the act of some ignorant thieves.”

If you wish to donate anything at all I’m sure the band will be extremely grateful. Compulsion Songs was one the albums of 2016 and the Lucid Dream’s gigs go from strength to strength. They can’t stop now. Good luck.

The Lucid Dream: Crowdfunder account

Sunday, 26 February 2017

FEBRUARY PLAYLIST


1.  The Sinceres – ‘Please Don’t Cheat On Me’ (1961)
Prolonged exposure to doowop can make me feel like I’m trapped in an episode of Happy Days with only Ralph and Potsie as company but it’s worth slinging a dime in Arnold’s jukebox occasionally. 

2.  The Emperor’s – ‘I Want My Woman’ (1965)
The Emperor’s what? Sore throat? This growling garage prototype stalks menacingly for two and half minutes while said woman presumably hides in a cave.

3.  The Grass Roots – ‘Heaven Knows’ (1969)
Difficult to not sing parts of the Box Tops’ ‘Soul Deep’ through this equally infectious ray of sunshine.

4.  Manfred Mann Chapter Three – ‘One Way Glass’ (1969)
Anyone encountering Manfred Mann Chapter Three on a night out expecting to hear ‘Pretty Flamingo’ would’ve been in a rude awakening. Mann and Mike Hugg led this line-up down a progressive jazz route and there are plenty of freaky, squalling moments on their eponymous debut LP. The trippy, horn laden ‘One Way Glass’ isn’t at the extreme end and makes for an ideal psych club tune. Both their albums worth investigating.

5.  Grant Green – ‘Jan Jan’ (1971)
Blue Note had so many Grant Green recordings they ended up with a backlog of stuff that either never got released or had to wait many years, as in the case of Live At Club Mozambique. Recorded in January 1971, but only issued in 2006, Houston Person (tenor), Clarence Thomas (tenor/soprano), Ronnie Foster (organ) and Idris Muhammad (drums) join guitarist Green (pictured above) for a thrilling club set.

6. Richard Caiton – ‘I Like To Get Near You’ (1969)
Sweeping soul out of New Orleans from local lad Caiton.

7.  Frederick Hymes III – ‘Time Ain’t Gonna Do Me No Favor’ (1970)
Only available from Hymes at his gigs this super-collectable 45 is a gem. ‘Tighten Up’ style guitars, funky drumming, punchy horns and a fantastic vocal.

8.  El Michels Affair featuring The Shacks – ‘Strange Boy’ (2016)
Wow! Love this collaboration between two acts on New York’s Big Crown Records: the instrumental funk band El Michels Affair and the breathy boy-girl duo The Shacks. Absolutely gorgeous and more than a touch of Camera Obscura about it.

9.  Paul Orwell – ‘Loaded Street Syrup’ (2017)
I presume the four tracks on Paul Orwell Presents Hard Shakes were leftovers from Paul’s Organized Blues phase. Like the tracks on that LP these are short, in-your-face, fuzz and Farfisa instrumental nibbles. All good fun but merely a tasty snack before the more substantial offerings of Paul’s The Shoots project – coming soon - and his second ‘proper’ solo album. Trust me, I’ve had sneaky preview, these are gonna be the real deal.

10.  Pasapogas Hammond Quartet – ‘Modern Hall’ (2017)
Pasapogas Hammond Quartet are Ángel Soriano - Hammond Organ, Jero Colomina - guitar, Santiago Vilella - drums, Riard Chumillas - tenor sax and flute, J.M. Maldo – percussion, and what these Spaniards lack in arithmetic they make up for in slick soul-jazz. With three very stylish EPs to their name (check the artwork), Modern Hall the lead track from their latest. Fans of JTQ and even early Style Council form a queue.