A Drop Of The Hard Stuff From Fergal (Best of 2014)

Stepping up to the plate is Fergal Corscadden, lead guitar grappler of The Gatefolds, a man with undoubted taste in music & questionable taste in football clubs. Fergal has been our psychedelic correspondent for some time now. He has turned us on & tuned us in to some fine music. I’m sure that Fergal will be spending a quiet holiday period with his family, saving his energy for the 3rd of January when the Gatefolds launch their new single “Smokin’ Pockets” with a gig at Sandinos in Derry. A guaranteed good resolution-breaking night. He has elected, in the tradition of the Miss World contest, to announce his results in reverse order. Crazy !

3. Thurston Moore – “The Best Day” (October). 

OK, first up and 3rd, kicking Papir’s 4th album (“IIII”) into 4th, Thurston Moore needs no introduction. For his first song collection since the break up of his group & his marriage he has assembled a tidy bunch of musician friends including bassist Debbie Googe (My Bloody Valentine) & guitarist James Sedwards (Nought/Chrome Hoof). Drummer Steve Shelley abides from Sonic Youth & if you’re a fan of that band, which I am, you get the same sound and vibes (man). Track 1, “Speak To the Wild” will set you right. In 2013  Lee Ranaldo and the Dust’s “The Last Night On Earth” had some decent sounds on it too, retaining a   SonicYouth(iness). The same cannot be said of the massively experimental ‘Coming Apart’, the debut album from Body/Head, aka Kim Gordon and Bill Nace, which is interesting but not as immediate as Moore nor Ronaldo. I look forward to a post-Sonic Youth jam playing all 3 artists at the same time, just for the craic. In fact I’ve just done that on the Y-Tube.

 

 

2. Fugazi – “First Demo” (November)
Fugazi make the number 2 slot. I’ve loved everything about this band and their music since the early 1990’s, and they haven’t released anything in 13 years (album-wise) so I was pleasantly surprised to say the least by the news of this one. Ah, band demos… the real stuff. A chance to listen to the similarities in sounds carried through and those they’ve enhanced over the years. There are a lot of differences here and the obvious similarities (mainly in song structure, minimal effects in this release as a difference), compared to the eventual, much tighter, studio recorded versions that we as fans have since and continue to enjoy. But the best thing about this is that it sounds decades better than a whole lot of 2014 material that is supposed to be ‘contemporary’ and in this genre, whatever that might be.

 

 

1. SWANS – “To Be Kind” (June).

 Ok, next up is another 80’s band and I’m a latecomer to SWANS. Having never listened to any of their massive discography, until a couple of years ago I’m a huge fan. They’re not everybody’s Cuppa Charlie, but I get them/it and I like it a lot. It has taken me a good few spins but I got there with this, their 13th record, too. The band have had a lot of changes line-up wise mainly in the rhythm section but this hasn’t affected their sound…but who gives a fook…jeeze The Fall hi!…consistency however in terms of band members and sound, depth and breadth of sound since reforming in 2010, make this album ‘To Be Kind’ a much listened to 2014 release.

Other notable shouts out for Hookworms & Mogwai (Top 3 F, that’s 6 now, one a triple LP !). Lots of listening to do, Merry Christmas etc.

Whoo- Hoo ! Does Gladys Knight Have Pips ?

By the time Gladys Knight & the Pips signed for Tamla Motown in 1966 the family group were an established live attraction with 2 US Top 20 hits to their name. Gladys had 2 small children, her husband was the group’s MD. They were ready to take care of their own business &  independence was not always a good fit with Berry Gordy’s Motown manifesto. A case can be made that they did not always get a fair shake at the Detroit label. The Pips were never at the front of the queue for the sure-fire hit songs from the Holland-Dozier-Holland production line, their records were released on the label’s Soul subsidiary. They knew what worked & worked what came their way. Their breakthrough hit, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, in 1967 was TM’s biggest selling 45 to date. Their last hit for the label in 1973, the Grammy award winning “Neither One of Us” made #2. In between they made some music which sits comfortably alongside the headline acts on any Motown anthology.

 

 

This clip is, despite the sound quality, pretty special. Shot in 1970 on a hospital ward for soldiers wounded in Vietnam, Gladys looks stunning & sings wonderfully. The Pips, brother Merald, cousins William & Edward, look sharp & dance up a storm. There’s a rocking band over in the corner so let’s do the show right here. The healing power of music. I feel better watching a film of it over 40 years later.

Of course “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” is Marvin Gaye’s song now. Producer  Norman Whitfield had co-written it with Barrett Strong then recorded versions with Smokey Robinson & Marvin which didn’t pass Motown’s weekly quality control meetings.(Must have been a good week !). It was a faster, more urgent take on the song by Gladys Knight & the Pips that was released & became a hit. This was the style favoured for their singles, in fact an earlier song, “Take Me In Your Arms & Love Me, a hit in the UK, was edited for a US LP because it was too darned hot ! Motown were moving to the West Coast, busy making Diana Ross a movie star & bigging up the Jackson 5. The label missed that Gladys & the Pips’ smooth take on songs with a country feel,  Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” & the hit “Neither One…”  was bubbling up & breaking through.

 

 

Leaving Motown was the best thing that ever happened to the group. At Buddah there was better promotion, a greater freedom to choose their own material, a growing maturity & sophistication & Gladys blossomed as a singer & as a star.”The Empress of Soul” led her group to a run of Top 5 singles & gold record sales for their LPs. “Neither One Of Us” had been written by country songwriter Jim Weatherly & “Imagination”, the first post-Motown LP employed 5 more of his songs. This music was not the earthy country soul of Muscle Shoals & the Southern USA, it was the Sound of Young America growing up with its audience. An audience that had always liked Gladys Knight & the Pips.

On one of Weatherley’s songs “Midnight Train To Georgia” (originally “Midnight Plane To Houston”) Gladys’ swelling vocal is complemented by perfectly arranged backing vocals from the Pips. This is the group’s signature song & while I like to stray from the beaten path on these things I know a classic when I hear one. “Midnight Train…” has got to be included here. The group was riding high. At the 1975 Grammy awards they were impressive & charming when they sang the nominees for Song of the Year. “And the Pips” appeared on the short-lived Richard Pryor TV show performing backing vocals with an empty microphone stage left.

 

 

In 1974 they recorded a soundtrack LP for the film “Claudine” with the great Curtis Mayfield. The film starred Darth Vader & Diahann Carroll (oh my !). Carroll hooked a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role as a welfare mother of 6 children. It was not a typical blaxploitation movie. No superfly, black private dick risking his life for fellow man across 110th St. For the soundtrack Gladys & the Pips’ smooth assurance meets Curtis’ Chicago funk & lyrical social commentary to create, in my opinion, the best LP of a long career. Over on “Soul Train” they know that they have got it going on with “On & On”, the Pips getting down with their bad selves & no-one to edit beautiful Gladys now. Even the normally self-absorbed dancers know that they are in the land of the good groove. Fantastic.

At the time these records were made I liked more ham-hock in my cornflakes when it came to African American music, some funk in the trunk. Now I watch the clips & they make me smile. A class act at a time when Soul music was moving towards disco & the mainstream. Gladys went on to continued success with the Pips & as a solo artist. That’s a lot of music to sort through. A good start would be to compare those 7 years at Motown with the hits in the 3 years after 1973. You may not be able to decide which you prefer but you will have a damn good time trying.

Joe Brown Puts You On It (Best Of 2014)

In 2012 Joe Brown became the first guest contributor to loosehandlebars when he kindly replied to my request for his favourite records of that year. Joe sends me new music which is always worth listening to & sometimes it is music he & his mates in The Gatefolds have made themselves. A couple of months ago I was delighted to receive an advance copy of the new single by Derry’s favourite garage band. Now the snap, crackle & post-punk pop of “Smokin’ Pockets” can be on your playlist as it available as a free download here on the group’s own little bit of Bandcamp

 

Just enter “0” in the “name your price” box & 2 striking shots of sonic spirit are yours gratis …win, win. If you are lucky enough to be in Derry over the New Year The Gatefolds are launching their single at Sandinos on the 3rd of January 2015. Good times guaranteed, now over to Joe.

 

 

Beck – Morning Phase. The versatile, often ambitious Beck Hansen released his first LP for 6 years in 2014. After the funky electronic singles of 2013 “Morning Phase” stands as a companion piece to the outstanding, stripped down “Sea Change” (2002). It has the same shimmering, crystal clear production, several of the same musicians have returned. “Sea Change” is a break-up album, the emotions raw & tormented. 12 years on Beck is in his 40s, older then, younger than that now. “Morning Phase” is lyrically more subtle & optimistic. The songs take their time to reveal their qualities & reward repeated listening. “Country Down” is a perfect example of how effective loping country rock has always been. It’s good that Beck knows how to do this.

 

 

Wand – Ganglion Reef. A 4-piece from Los Angeles, Wand’s debut LP is the best psychedelic surf music you will hear this year. The guitar barrage of serious riffage is lightened by frontman Cory Thomas Hanson’s breathy vocals, any pause for breath filled with a synthesiser wash. The stunning “Flying Golem” comes with an imaginative animated video too. In 2012 Tame Impala carried the swing, last year it was Wooden Shjips. There’s some great modern psychedelic rock around & Wand are ones to watch.

 

 

 

 Goat – Commune. Goat’s fantastic new LP opens with the drone-rock of “Talk To God”, as if Tinariwen had been spiked. This Swedish band’s take on non-Western forms of music is experimental with the emphasis on mental ! The video for the groovy “Hide From The Sun” is an example of their Scandi voodoo craziness. If an eccentric blend of wild percussion, psych & Black Sabbath’s 1st LP does not sound like your kind of thing then you will be surprised. I am not the only on who has stumbled upon Goat & found them to be to be fresh & invigorating. This music should be heard more.

 

A final shout to our brothers The Everlasting Yeah who done better than good with “Anima Rising”. Also a glass raised to Wilko Johnson, an inspiration as a musician & a man & who’s clean bill of health is a reason to celebrate in 2014. Cheers.

 

 

 

Caught In The Legend Caught In The Mood (A Week In Santorini)

I didn’t travel to Santorini by mistake but there was a touch of “How did I get here ?” about my journey there. I had arrived in Athens after 3 days on a not-so magic bus from London (no, never again). My travelling companions included 2 young American men & 2 Australian sisters box fresh & wide-eyed on their first international adventure. It seemed wrong to abandon these puppies to the bustle & hustlers of Omonoia Square. Instead of saying good luck & goodbye I suggested that they could follow me in search of somewhere to hang their backpacks. It was more  luck than judgement that only 10 minutes later found us checked into just the kind of cheap & friendly hostel we were looking for. When we were offered the flat roof space I bit off their hand. That first warm night, under a clear starlit sky they (& I) were excited to be where they were. That guy who had walked it like he talked it, that would be me then.

During the days I pointed them in the right directions for  the Acropolis, the National Archaeological Museum, tourist sites maybe but world-class sights & memories. I went off to revisit favourite cafes, that place in Monastiraki with the stacks of old film stills, ill-lit, dusty basements where you could probably buy a Gremlin. In the evenings we joined the cosmopolitan Athenian street-life, hit bars where the simple trick of being able to say in Greek  “Hi, good evening. I’m good & how are you ? Good, I would like 5 beers please” got you off the tourist tariff & paying local prices. At the end of the week my new friends asked if I would join them on their trip to Santorini. I was here for the summer, the plan was that there was no plan & these good people were insistent  so, why not ? Let go into the mystery.

 

Santorini (Thera) is a volcanic outcrop in the Aegean Sea. 4,000 years ago, while we were still banging rocks together, they had got it going on as part of the Minoan civilisation based in Crete. Ideally placed between Greece, Egypt, Turkey & Palestine these traders were doing very well until one of the largest eruptions in history blasted much of the place to the sea bed & covered what remained in 200 feet of ash. The mythical submerged city of Atlantis, first mentioned by Plato, well, this must be the place. After a night ferry from Piraeus, low sleep, hi-jinks, we waited in the morning sunlight to enter the harbour. I listened to Van Morrison’s “Poetic Champions Compose”, his positive, calming collection from 1987. Now I’m not the world’s most spiritual man but there could not have been a better soundtrack to this moment. “I saw the light of Ancient Greece towards the One. I saw us standing within reach of the sun. Let go into the mystery of life”. Just as soon as I get off this boat.

We headed for Perissa, a black sand beach on the Eastern side of the island. When I joined my friends for the evening they had hooked up with 4 Italian men so obviously our table was the loudest at the beachside taverna. It was an enjoyable night, I have always found the food on the islands to be better than in Athens. Good company too, the US college boys were a little thrown by the brashness of these guys, their talk of sex, drugs, rock & roll, football & Ferraris. I liked their liveliness. They said that tomorrow night was a full moon (don’t ask me) & that we should return to this friendly place to celebrate it. I guess that I could re-organise my diary for that.

 

To help my summer along I had brought along a small bag of magic mushrooms. Hey, no TV for 3 months, a man’s got to have something to look at. I liked the Italians & the next night offered around the “funghi magici” as a digestivo after our meal. 30 minutes later we were either hovering above or rolling around on the beach, shouting & laughing fit to bust, the speakers rocking to REM’s “Reckoning”, another record I really could not be without for the summer. Was that the night we made it to a noisy bar ? I don’t remember too good (but I think John Lennon was in it !). I lost the ragazzi & spent the last hours of the trip back on the beach happily breathing in synch with the sand, the sea, the cliffs & the moon. A sunrise would have been the perfect finale but I passed out before then…another time yeah. The others must have enjoyed themselves. When I caught up with them the next afternoon they stood & applauded my arrival on the beach ! Y’know that could happen a little more often.

It was a good week but… I had not come to these beautiful islands to party.  I had seen Mykonos & Ios, true party islands back then. Santorini’s Eurotrash seemed  provincial, even a little desperate. The hedonism in London was more to my taste. It was time to leave, find a smaller island, a little bit of Greek peace. I said goodbye to the young Aussies & Americans & thanked them for their company. I exchanged addresses with the Milanese, a football game at the San Siro as part of a weekend away could be a good time. My final day on Santorini was spent checking beautiful frescoes & late-Cycladic ceramics preserved by the volcanic dust then a meal at a cliff-top taverna with the greatest sea view. You should go.

 

I was back at the port at Athinios, away from the town, my ticket for the ferry to Folegandros, an island I knew nothing about but I liked the name, in my pocket. I had intended to travel alone for a couple of months, had gone with the flow of other people & now I could get right down to the real nitty gritty. Time for a cold beer (or three) & another shot of Van the Man. Oh my, “If my heart could do my thinking & my head begin to feel. I would look upon the world anew & know what’s truly real”. I loved living in London, loved my friends there. Taking time away from the city, time by myself in such peaceful & vibrant surroundings was a re-charge, an opportunity to get things straight so that I was ready for whatever came my way.

From the bar I saw a familiar figure walking past about 30 yards away. It was Luca, one of the men from Milan, he was supposed to be on the other side of the island. I ran over to him & asked about his business. “I’m coming with you” was his surprising reply. “Well…you’re gonna need a ticket for the ferry” , what a practical fellow I am ! “I’ve got it” he said. OK…I honestly never thought that it would have been nice if he had asked, nor that it was odd that he would leave his friends on Santorini. He was a good guy, as good as any to share adventures & experiences with. Whatever came my way eh ? The lone traveller, what ? Come on Luca, I’ll buy you a beer & let’s see what the night has in store for us both.

 

 

 

Take Me To The Dance And Hold Me Tight (Richard and Linda Thompson Part One)

Richard Thompson’s teenage band had ambitions to be a British Jefferson Airplane. In a tumultuous 1969 Fairport Convention underwent line up changes, a terrible fatal car accident & released 3 LPs. A growing maturity & a move away from American West Coast influences led to if not the invention of British folk rock then the best that blend of traditional & modernity was ever going to get. There was not a group anywhere that would not be diminished by the loss of Sandy Denny, a vocalist of unrivalled purity. “Full House” (1970) saw Thompson collaborate successfully with fiddle player Dave Swarbrick. The live show became an exciting showdown of the pair’s virtuosity but, I think, at the expense of the nuance, the subtlety of the earlier line up. Soon after the release of the record Richard Thompson left the group that he seemed to be leading to make his own records.

“Henry the Human Fly” (1972) contains many of the elements & themes which abide throughout Richard Thompson’s career. This debut solo LP, 12 self-written, often mournful songs of tinkers, painted ladies & ditching boys, challenges the folk-rock orthodoxy. The arrangements  feature traditional instruments as he refused to play up to his reputation as the genre’s guitar hero. Lyrically he attempts  a modern, class conscious, contribution to the canon . “Don’t expect the words to fall too sweetly on your ear.” he sings in “Roll Over Vaughan Williams”. Williams, the classical composer, had been an eminent curator of English folk songs. The folk audience were becoming more conservative & “Henry…” broke too many Fairport conventions. While Steeleye Span & other easier on the ear singer-songwriters sold well the record  was not well received at the time. Listening back from now to then it’s a little beauty.

Buddy Holly, Elvis & Chuck Berry were as influential for Richard as his father’s Celtic folk records. In 1972 he was part of an ad hoc folk supergroup (though with no current Fairports), The Bunch, which released “Rock On”, a one-off LP, their own moondog matinee of rock & roll covers. The Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” became a duet between Sandy Denny & Linda Peters, another outstanding singer. Richard & Linda got hitched &, over the next decade, Mr & Mrs Thompson pursued & perfected their contemporary take on an established national idiom. With the title track of their first LP they stepped out of the crease & hit the bowler over his head for six. (That’s a cricket thing…like a home run only with more style).

“I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” (1974) is a classic British LP, folk, rock, whatever. At Sound Techniques studio in Chelsea producers Joe Boyd & John Wood were overseeing some enduring, beautiful music. Nick Drake, John Martyn & the Thompsons were hardly ripping up the charts but their records were built to last. The release of “Bright Lights” was delayed for a year either as a consequence of a vinyl shortage (Ah, those 1970s, the 3-day week, you won’t get me I’m part of the union…good times ) or because Island Records were not too sure just who would buy such a distinctive, individual LP.

Richard Thompson’s pursuit of a folk music less grounded in an agrarian tradition references religion, fairs, the circus, even beggars. It’s a landscape of past times, of the newly industrial Britain, times when pubs were still called taverns. The emotional honesty of the songs means it really doesn’t matter whether he is writing about 1850, 1950 or 2014. Today, in the Friday night bright lights of British towns & cities there may not be “a silver band just marching up and down” but “the big boys are all spoiling for a fight” & hard-earned money is being spent. Richard’s lyrics are often categorised as brooding, melancholic, other stygian adjectives (“there’s  nothing at the end of the rainbow”). In Linda he has the perfect foil, a singer who confirms the beauty & the humour in this wonderful set of songs while Richard’s guitar floats like a butterfly, stings like…you get me ?

I could include any of the songs from the record. The epic “The Calvary Cross”, the dark “End of the Rainbow”, any of them. It is “Down Where the Drunkards Roll” that always does it for me. Now I’m a man with a heart of gold, the ways of a gentleman I’ve been told but I did used to be fond of an ale or two. There may not have been kegs of wine in some of the dives I frequented but you could “get the real thing, it will only cost a pound” (those were the days eh !). I miss all day sessions in the alcohol-fuelled company of strangers where  “You can be a gambler who never drew a hand. You can be a sailor who never left dry land. You can be Lord Jesus all the world will understand”. I’ve met those people, listened to their stories & their lies. There have been times when the storyteller has been me. Perfect.

“I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight” is now recognised for it’s undoubted quality. This was not the case in 1974 & there are no contemporary clips of Richard & Linda performing these songs. There are Y-tube clips from the 1980s when the title song was almost a “greatest hit” but a lot had changed for the couple by that time. They made at least 4 records together that would grace any collection but the other 3 deserve just as much consideration as these outstanding songs so, another time for those. If you are not familiar with the music of Richard & Linda Thompson then their debut LP is a fine introduction to some time well spent.

When It Hits You Feel No Pain (Best of 2014)

 

Two years ago I spent a memorable evening watching the Wilko Johnson Band do that thing that only they do. Wilko & I were friends from back then, the Dr Feelgood days. Seeing those 4 good guys move from pub gigs to Top of the Pops was a very pleasant experience. I went backstage to see Wilko for the first time in a long time. We were both happy to see each other, hugged, spoke of then & now (while my nephew waited to ask about “Game of Thrones”). Just weeks later Wilko was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was told he had 9 or 10 months to live…so it goes. He refused chemotherapy & set off on a farewell tour. I was distressed by the news but pleased that there had been one more good memory of him. The appreciation for his music & the support for his bravery was unanimous. His adoption as a National Treasure ? Well, it should not have been a matter of his mortality, Wilko had been one for a long time.

In March 2014 Wilko released an LP with Roger Daltrey off of the ‘Oo, “the last thing  I ever did” he thought. A surgeon friend, Charlie Chan, surprised that Wilko was still standing, organised extensive tests & in April he underwent radical surgery. Now Wilko is cancer-free, planning a future that he didn’t think he had & still doing that thing that only he does. “Going Back Home”, 10 of Wilko’s songs & a great cover of Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window”, is an LP that should not have happened but praise Jah that it did. It stands as testament to the indomitability of a fine man and to the good news story of 2014.

 

 

“Beauty & Ruin” – Bob Mould. 2014 saw the release of “Workbook 25”, the expanded silver anniversary edition of Bob’s debut solo LP after the break up of Hüsker Dü. I’ve sometimes lost touch with Bob Mould’s music but “Beauty & Ruin”, along with 2012’s “Silver Age”, returns to the power trio, the scything chords that he does better than anyone. This record is like a visit from an old friend. There’s some new news & it’s still told with the passion, the authority which attracted you all those years ago. There is a sense of familiarity but another episode of Bob’s glorious, melodic headlong charge is OK by me. Play Loud !

 

 

“The Man Upstairs” – Robyn Hitchcock. Way, way back in 1991 Robyn Hitchcock made the best pop record of the year. “So You Think You’re In Love” was from a shiny LP “Perspex Island”, a bid for mainstream attention lacking some of the randomness & individuality which had attracted a devoted following. Since then Hitchcock has followed his own path, combining a dry wit with melodic psychedelia (If Syd Barrett had joined the Beatles…now there’s a thought). His LPs with the Venus 3 are good things.

This year, in collaboration with veteran producer Joe Boyd, he has made his folk LP, a “Judy Collins record”. Half of the songs are covers, including the Doors, Roxy Music & this effective version of the Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost In You”. The LP is an atmospheric piece, his best, I think, since 2006’s “Ole Tarantula”. For decades, my Sunday mornings began with a Nick Drake record, a beautiful suffusion to settle the morning after the night before. Currently “The Man Upstairs” is setting up the day of rest just right.

Danny Says We Gotta Go (Best of 2014)

The second of our friends to select his 3 favourites of 2014 is noted Greenock playwright Danny McCahon. Danny’s 30 minute radio drama, “Going Spare” was broadcast in September by Radio Scotland. It’s a slice of modern social realism in the tradition of “Cathy Come Home” & is being repeated on Boxing Day. That’s Radio Scotland, check the BBC website & their iPlayer it’s well worth a listen. Danny used to pick the half-time music at his beloved Celtic F.C. now that’s my kind of job…

I am rubbish at lists and have great admiration for people who can remember in December what they were listening to in January or February. This year, for me, that listening was mainly what loosehandlebars was recommending. I reckon I only bought nine new music albums this year and one of those was released in 2013. So a top ten is beyond me.

Giving it proper thought, most of my musical highlights in 2014 have been live moments. I’ve reached an age where listening to a good band with a pint in my hand is the height of contented bliss. Doffing my cap to James King and the Lonewolves and The Everlasting Yeah who will be on many people’s lists, here goes . . .

Veloninos. A mate of mine, Shug, is pretty much the go-to bassman in the west of Scotland for bands of a certain flavour. For months I was bumping into him on my street every Sunday afternoon. His guardedness about where he’d been pricked my suspicions enough for me to stop asking. Finally, on a drive home from watching him play with David Ritchie’s Debris Rose, Shug came clean: “I’ve been rehearsing with Davie, Laurie and Kenny and we’ve got a gig coming up.” Davie and Kenny are two-thirds of eighties reeferbilly rebels The Shakin’ Pyramids and Laurie is the guitar hero from Cuban Heels.

I bought tickets and got more than my money’s worth. Veloninos won’t remain unsigned for long. In this clip, three quarters of the band give an acoustic taster. Wait till you hear them when Laurie’s got his tremoloed Gretsch plugged in.

Lola In Slacks. Built around the deep, gallic-tinged, Nico-flavoured vocals of Lou Reid (yep, that’s her real name) and the guitar soundscapes of Brian McFie, this Glasgow outfit unleashed a collection of well-honed songs on Facebook early in the year and played their first live gig at Glasgow’s Glad Café in February. I was among a crowd that loved them.

For a toe in the water, I have selected “Trocchi’s Canal”, there’s more of this good stuff on the band’s Soundcloud page. I hope this time next year there’s a Lola in Slacks album to make the lists.

Steve Jones. Despite my lack of skills with lists, I do have anorak blood and when a new (to me) musician catches my attention I get a bit Google-obsessed. When the same name appeared on two albums I am fond of that came out late in the year, this guitarist sent me a-searching. He shares a name with a guitarist that made my ears happy in my youth, but that and a Gibson logo appear to be about all he shares with the Sex Pistol.

Steve Jones is one of ten guitarists credited on Bryan Ferry’s “Avonmore” – nine of them contributing to one track – and plays on 15 of the 17 tunes on Craig Armstrong’s “It’s Nearly Tomorrow” including  the luxurious, luxuriant “Desole”.Google tells me he’s a software/app genius, does soundtracks and has his own band, Ramshackle Crow.

There’s always new music out there. It’s not always in the NME

Well, the Lola In Slacks track needs another listen, that’s great. I know that Mr McCahon listens to music made outside Scotland (there’s just not enough Scottish reggae ), hopefully he will share more of his new & old favourites with us in 2015.

Steve Pitts Picks The Hits (Best Of 2014)

Throughout December friends of the blog will be selecting their 3 favourite records of 2014 (OK, I will be doing it too). Steve Pittaway joined loosehandlebars back in August for a review of The Everlasting Yeah’s gig at the Dirty Water Club in that London. As Steve was the first of the invitees to get his act together & reply. He has first dibs on an LP that many people I know would want to include in the records of the year.

1. Anima Rising” – The Everlasting Yeah. The Event of the Year. Purveyors of great taste put all their influences into the mix and come out with the LP of their careers. The songs have more hooks than is surely legal for one band to have. It has everything from Krautrock to Glam, from Punk to Funk, yet somehow breathes a fresh perspective on it all. Hell it was only 21 years in the making, lets hope it’s not another 21 year wait to the next.

2. .“Way Out Weather – Steve Gunn. Steve Gunn is a man who knows his way around a guitar. That isn’t to say he is one of those flash git’s like Steve Vai. This man writes good tunes around complex guitar melodies. Most people cite Television and The Grateful Dead as his influences, they are in there, for sure but so too is Steve’s spin on it all. He came to play in my hometown last month & seeing him  live he was a wonder to watch as his fingers effortlessly made there way around the neck of the guitar and never once did he look down at his fingers! The LP is a joy from start to finish and not one track is filler, not many LP’s you can say that about.


3. .“Invisible Hour” – Joe Henry. If you know Joe Henry at all it will because of either his production duties on the likes of Solomon Burke, Billy Bragg or Hugh Laurie’s LPs or the fact that he is Madonna’s brother in law. He has been releasing LP’s in his own right since 1986 .He has drifted through a number of styles but, with the last few LP’s has really hit his stride. Using a very small band it is the strength of the song and the lyrics that grab your attention. I suppose he inhabits a style somewhere between Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Whilst he has a background in what is termed these days as Americana he manages to mix in jazzy touches that delightfully embellish the songs. “Invisible Hour” is an LP that I have found myself lost in whilst on my constitutionals with our faithful hound, little realising what time has passed.

I know that Joe Henry record, I hope that Steve’s dog knows the way home, the music is certainly reverie inducing stuff. Mr Pittaway keeps his discerning eye out for some tasty gigs & I will be on his case to share his evenings out with us in 2015.

A Good Night Out In Glasgow (The Everlasting Yeah Live)

Last Thursday the Everlasting Yeah were back on the road (well, the rails) making the 800 mile round trip from London to Glasgow to play their first gig as a band with an album, the magnetic “Anima Rising” to promote. Loosehandlebars has  friends in Scottish places, all of them at double rainbow excitement to be making the scene. We asked one of those good folk, Peter Lamont, a connoisseur of 1960s footballers & 1970s German rock bands, to tell us how it was….

The weekend came early and started with the old tale of four Derrymen walking into a Glasgow bar , only this time the tale has a new spin . We gathered at our subterranean venue, the lower floor of the Stereo cafe bar in Glasgow on Thursday 27th November,  witness how the Everlasting Yeah’s dazzling album, “Anima Rising” would translate live , like there could have been any doubts.

It’s probably impossible at this early stage not to mention the band’s earlier incarnation That Petrol Emotion, a band peerless in their day who left behind a body of work too monumental to be discounted , culminating in a live document , “Final Flame” which stands comparison with any guitar-oriented live album . The flame was not so final however and has flared again not from ashes but still-glowing embers. The Everlasting Yeah’s four members comprise 80% of TPE’S former line up but this is a new band. New rules , new songs. No heritage act this.

From the moment Ciaran McLaughlin’s drums shuffle in with Brendan Kelly’s picked bass notes of the set-opening (Whatever Happened to the) Hoodlum Angels , you’re bouncing on your heels . It’s not possible to stand still to funk this masterful. The lead vocal is sung at an upper register but Raymond Gorman delivers with ease .Sound man Dino Galasso’s good work is appreciable from the outset and throughout. What becomes apparent is how much of the album went down in the studio under live conditions. Onstage the band reproduce this but imbued with a life no studio can give – that said , “Anima Rising” on a decent system cranked to a good level gives the impression of the band in the room with you .

The Everlasting Yeah pitch their first Glasgow show perfectly , this is, to all intents, an album launch and “Anima Rising”, a record with no fat on it , not a wasted minute , is wonderfully showcased here . We cannot help but think of the comments by a jaded Time Out (how appropriate) hack . Basing his spiteful and ill-conceived observation (anonymously) on one or two sound bytes from the mobile handsets of those desperate to take a little of a great band home , he spoke of “middle aged men pursuing their Clash fantasies”, or some such. This is so spectacularly wide of the mark as to be perfectly ridiculous, demonstrating the truth of the old axiom that a very little knowledge is a dangerous thing .

Back at the gig , “ A Little bit of Uh-Huh…” is affecting , effective and infectious with its Stonesy/Ronson riffage and four part vocal harmonies – no one misses , missus . The band dance around . This is a joyful thing to watch, their enjoyment in what they do is palpable. The record is the sound of a band confident of what they’ve got and having a blast getting it on tape .

“New Beat on Shakin’ Street “ with its titular nod to the MC5 , gets the same treatment and has a nice restrained swagger before the pace is upped even further with the driving (pun intended) “ Taking That Damn Again “ . Live, we don’t get the great sax of the record but the pulsating delivery of the rhythm section and terrific vocal harmonies force you to submit – let’s not forget the chiming , chopping guitars – this is just thrilling .

It almost comes as relief when the band ease into the ravishingly pretty “Everything’s Beautiful”. The lyric is sincere, the melody enchanting and the live delivery immaculate. “All Around the World” is perhaps Damian O’Neill’s showcase with his Johnny Thunders inflections and (dare we say , out-blurring Graham Coxon?)

Best to last? Yes, very possibly with album and set closer, “The Grind” . The habit of the three/four minute song rarely broken by the band of old, is rested here with this twelve minute-plus wig-out .

The song has, in the words of Holger Czukay and the late,great Miki Karoli , “ a Can attitude .” It has the insanely exciting pace of say, “Father Cannot Yell” by that band . As with so many tracks built on the kosmische tradition (refuse to say “krautrock”), this is economical , takes nothing from Anglo-American rock and is rhythm driven . Again Brendan and even more so Ciaran are high in the mix. The term applied to this ferocious, metronomic beat , “motorik” is vastly overused so perhaps Iggy’s description from his discussing Neu! /Klaus Dinger better applies when he spoke of a “pastoral psychedelicism”. In any case, the recorded track stuns and the live rendition is mesmeric.

Two unrecorded songs wind up our evening, “Say Nothing”(?) and “Hurricane Nation” , these augur well for a second Yeah release in the year ahead and we like as not will have to wait for that to hear anything as potent as the classic “Anima Rising” .

To summate, The Everlasting Yeah were devastating in Glasgow, each man and the sum of the parts.

Do they wanna be famous? Do they wanna be heard and loved by everyone ? They should be.

A great night then. The show was filmed by Maggie Davis & we have lifted these clips, the best yet of the band, from the Y-tube where you can find the rest of the performance. “Anima Rising” will, hopefully, be getting a wider distribution soon. Hit The Everlasting Yeah’s F-book page for news on how to get the record & for news of further gigs. Thanks to Peter for a great job & welcome to the blog mate. I know you have plenty to say about plenty so why not say it here.