Archive for the ‘Hard-to-find’ Category

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Dorissey

April 14, 2015

Question: What is this record? Is it groovy jazz funk, a long-forgotten off-cut from a Blaxploitation soundtrack that never was? Is it late 60s wig-out psychedelic rock/pop, a remnant of the days when guitar solos were almost as expansive as the lead singer’s flares? Is it fuzz guitar-led, musique concrète strangeness that coulda come straight outta 1972 West Germany?

Answer: It’s all of the above!

The record in question is You Never Come Closer by Doris, from her Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby album, released with no fanfare to total indifference in 1970.

doris

Doris Svensson was an insignificant Swedish pop singer in the 60s. Along the way she teamed up with respected Scandinavian big band composer Berndt Egerbladh and, from Aberdeen, a Scottish cellist/jazz guitarist/lyricist called Francis Cowan who’d found himself playing on cruise ships where he met his Swedish wife.

This mis-matched trio of musicians put together Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby, an eclectic soup of funk, rock, jazz and cutting edge electronica. It’s a staggering listen, uncomfortable in places, yet totally pop. Forward thinking retro-revivalists such as Portishead, St Etienne and Massive Attack likely own original first pressings – some of the tunes are a sampler’s delight, packed full of weird strings, breakbeats and fruggable fuzz bass. You can buy reissued CDs of the album from all the usual places. It’s definitely worth further investigation.

candie payne

 

You Never Come Closer reminds me an awful lot of the long-forgotten post-millennium tracks produced for Candie Payne by Edgar Jones and Simon Dine. Edgar has his fingers in many a musical pie; from the r ‘n b stomp of The Stairs via the be bop-isms of his Soothing Music For Cool Cats album, to playing on stage with Lee Mavers and Johnny Marr – a real non-stop, hard-working musician.

Simon Dine, in his guise as Noonday Underground has taken the weirdest, wonkiest bits of 60s pop music and sampled and looped them into something terrific. His production is all over the last 3 Paul Weller LPs – those electronic rushes and synthesised strings are all his doing. You knew that already though, aye?

Candie PayneI Wish I Could Have Loved You More

Candie PayneAll I Need To Hear

Anyway, my guess is that both Edgar Jones and Simon Dine also have first pressings of Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby. The feel of that album more than permeates the work they did with Candie Payne. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

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Good Felas

April 2, 2015

What a shitty few weeks. The previous post below will fill you in if you’re an infrequent visitor. Thanks for taking the time to leave your comments. I read them all, even if I couldn’t face replying. Truly, thanks.

Anyway, what better way to get back on track than by digging out some slick Nigerian Afrobeat from 1977?

fela kuti

Fela Kuti is a real musicians’ musician. A multi-instrumentalist, equally at home on sax, keys, trumpet, drums….you name it, between 1960 and his death in 1997 he was responsible for around 60 LP releases. Perhaps only The Fall would appear to be able to top that. Much like The Fall, many of his albums are live affairs. A few are also dubious-looking compilations of indeterminate origin. Amongst the regular studio recordings, there are whole LPs of collaborations with other musicians (‘Stratavarious‘ with Ginger Baker, ‘Music Of Many Colours‘ with Roy Ayers.)  All Fela’s albums are tight and taut, superbly played and full of meandering grooves underneath the politicised lyrics.

In the 70s, Fela changed his middle name. Ransome, he said, was a slave name.  And Fela was nobody’s slave. He was a folk singer. The Nigerian equivalent of Woody Guthrie, singing the songs of the ordinary man.  He took to singing in his own unique pidgin English as a way of ensuring Africans throughout the continent would understand his message – they all spoke in their own native tongue, but they also all understood basic English. He sang of the barbaric Nigerian Government and had a smash hit (‘Zombie‘) on the back of it. This resulted in him barely surviving with his life after a severe beating from government flunkies whilst his studio was burned to the ground. More than just a fly in the ointment, Fela galvanised his fellow countrymen into action, a real anti-establishment hero.

fela kuti 2

Fela’s music is terrific. There’s a real discipline to the playing. Much of it is simple and  repetitive. The musicians could easily break out and rattle off a little lick or two, and sometimes they do. His brass section in particular (sometimes just Fela) are fond of the odd up-the-garden-path solo. But mostly to Fela, the rhythm is King. It’s a bit like Can at their grooviest – hypnotic, shamanistic, designed to subconsciously affect the limbs. Feet will tap. Hips will sway. Heads will bob. Before you know it you’ll be on your feet and wondering how you got there.

1977’s Sorrow, Tears and Blood LP is typical of his work at the time. The title track formed the entire first side, a relentless guitar ‘n sax-led tour de force, all polyrhythms and funk bass, lightly toasted with electric piano.

Fela KutiSorrow, Tears And Blood

Atop the non-stop one chord groove is a lyric worthy of Joe Strummer at his authority-baiting best;

Everybody run….Police they come….Army they come….confusion everywhere…..someone nearly died….Police don’t go away….Army don’t disappear….them leave sorrow, tears and blood….

Fela’s work is absolutely ripe for sampling and reinterpretation. Mr Mendel has done this excellent remix of Sorrow, Tears And Blood:

Fela KutiSorrow, Tears And Blood (Mr Mendel mix)

fe la soul

….and a couple of years ago, someone came up with the brilliant concept of Fe La Soul, where they took the Daisy Agers raps and placed them on top of Fela’s funkiest fills. There are whole albums of the stuff if you look in all the right places. Here‘s one of my favourites;

Fe La SoulItsoweezee

….and no doubt inspired by the relentless, driving grooves of Fela, during the sessions for 1980’s Remain In Light, Talking Heads recorded Fela’s Riff, a terrific piece of instrumental New York, new wave funk. I really need to do a Talking Heads feature at some point…

t heads

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Now That We’ve Grown Up Together

March 11, 2015

My longest and best pal died on Monday.

He was a day short of his 46th birthday.

It’s hit me hard. Sledgehammer hard. Far harder than I ever could have imagined. I’ve had grand parents die when I was 9, 10, something like that. But never a friend of the same age. I am in pieces.

The fact that he died abroad on holiday makes it extra difficult. For a man from the West of Scotland, he had been in reasonably decent health.  There were no clues. He complained of feeling unwell at dinner time on Sunday, went to his bed and didn’t wake up. Just like that.

His poor kids were at home with their grandparents. His poor wife has had to fly home alone, the authorities not yet giving permission for his body to be repatriated. It could be another week, they say. Tragic.

We’d been friends since age 4. Gone through primary and secondary school together. Bought records, played sport, fashioned our hair into popstars together – he favoured the Bono mullet whilst I teased my hair into a James Grant quiff. We had our first pints together. Did daft, drunk, teenage boy stuff together; Clambered legless out of lofts. Played heady tennis with an unopened can of Tennents until Lager Lovely Sheena was buried 4 inches underneath the Bono do. Unsuccessfully chased a pair of beautiful-looking German girls around Ibiza for a week. Occasionally we’d fall out. One time there was a bloody nose (mine, not his) outside a kebab shop at 2 in the morning. But we remained friends. Best of friends.

I saw him more regularly than I see my own brother and sister.

For the past umpteen years we’ve shared a car and taken our sons to Kilmarnock games near and far, the odd trip to Hampden being the icing on a lopsided and inconsistent cake. Since the club redeveloped Rugby Park in 1995, we’ve sat together in the East Stand in the same seats for almost 20 years. Not always season ticket holders, but always the same seats. When our boys started going, his first, mine a few years later, we budged along a bit, proud that they were adopting the noble tradition of their fathers by supporting their local team and not one of the ugly sisters from the city just up the M77.

This Saturday we’d have had a quick phone call – “I don’t know if I can stand any more of this,” he’d always say. “We’ll do well to get any kind of draw today.” And then I’d pick him up at the same time and drive to the game, talking the same rubbish as the last time, listening to Richard Gordon give out the team news on Sportsound and park in the same space near Rugby Park before walking to the ground, buying my boy’s programme from the same seller and following our familiar pre-match ritual of a pre-match pee before going up and into our seats.

This weekend he won’t be there. “Where’s your brother the day?” the man next to me will ask. For years, he’s always thought we were brothers. “Is the big yin no’ coming?” the woman behind us will say. Her and her husband have a laugh every week at his expense when he shouts out badly-pronounced versions of the names of the players on show. English was never his strong point at school. And I’ll have to tell them that he’s not coming today. Or next week. Or ever again.

At 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon his seat will remain empty.

Here’s True Faith, his favourite record.

We both bought the 12″ of this on holiday on the Isle of Man. He bought the more straightforward (and better) version, whilst I bought the remix version; the one in the white sleeve with lots of falling leaves on the cover.

When we got home from our holiday, we played the records non-stop. In his room we put all the versions of True Faith onto one side of a C45. I still have it somewhere. The next time I’m in my loft I’m gonna have to try and dig it out.

 

 

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Readers And Writers

January 24, 2015

It’s the 25th January. If you’re an Ayrshire man or woman, that date is indelibly stamped on you subconscious. It’s a date that’s as easily remembered as Guy Fawkes Day, Christmas Day and your own birthday. The 25th January. Robert Burns’ birthday.

burns

If Rabbie was alive today he’d be 256 years young. His poems and songs are read and recited at Burns Suppers the world over. This weekend alone, an estimated 150,000 Burns Suppers will take place in countries as far afield as Russia, Japan, India and the United States. You might even be attending one yourself.

Not everyone attending those suppers will know exactly what’s taking place – weird rituals involving knives and haggis. The bagpipes, fiddles and occasional kilts – not something worn in Burns’ time, but now seemingly the de-rigueur dress code for the event. People talking in a strange language. People singing while holding hands in an unusual manner – by the way, it’s Auld Land Syne, as in ‘sign‘, not ‘zine‘. Only English folk, Americans in movies and Brian Wilson pronounce it with a zed.

A Burns Supper is a very Scottish thing, yet the content of Burns’ work is universal – he was a nationalist yet is loved internationally. He could paint a picture with the words he wrote. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Moscow, Russia or Moscow, Ayrshire, we all understand the thoughts and feelings in the words he writes; whether it’s the feeling of love for someone dear or the feeling of despair at man’s attack on nature or simply complaining about a bad dose of the toothache. Burns was both a romantic and a realist, something that even the most hardened of Calvinist Scots are at some times in their lives.

His songs can be a strange breed. In the best traditions of folk music, the tunes were passed down from his mother, and once learned, he added his own poetic twists and melodic turns to them. Organic and ever changing, he’d probably be horrified at the more traditional readings of his songs. Burns Suppers can be awfy stuffy affairs. Don’t sing the song in the ‘right’ way, and a thousand sniffy noses turn upwards in disgust.

Two folk who’ve kept the tradition alive while remaining true to themselves are Michael Marra and Eddi Reader.

michael marra

As is often the way, Michael Marra is probably now more appreciated in death than he was when he was with us. That’s certainly the case in my house. I am ashamed at how little attention I paid to him when he was a jobbing, gigging musician. I now think of him as the Scottish Tom Waits – uncompromising, totally unique and each song a little rough diamond packed full of soul. Why was I wasting my time with the latest Primal Scream album when I coulda been discovering Michael Marra? He’d often turn up to play Irvine Folk Club with an old ironing board taking the place of his keyboard stand. The sparse audience would be warmly welcomed into his Dundonian world sung in that coarse voice of his. Like Burns, Michael Marra could be romantic one minute, unbelievably sad the next and ridiculously funny when you least expected it.

Michael MarraHamish

His song Hamish, named after Dundee United’s goalie Hamish McAlpine and written about the time Princess Grace of Monaco turned up to watch a European game at Tannadice between United and Monaco is typical of his work.

Gus Foy pointed to the side of the goal and said

‘There’s Grace Kelly by ‘Taylor Brothers’ Coal’

Michael MarraGreen Grow The Rashes

Green Grow The Rashes is almost standard fare at a Burns Supper. One of Burns’ most popular songs, it’s been sung by many people in many ways. Michael’s version comes from the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow a few years back. Pin-drop quiet, he hammers out the tune on a grand piano and sings it superbly. Not an ironing board in sight. The thunderous applause at the end tells you all you need to know.

One singer one song? Not quite…

eddi and john

Oor ain Eddi Reader, Ayrshire by way of Glasgow, does a terrific version of Green Grow The Rashes.

 Eddi ReaderGreen Grow The Rashes

Fronting an assembled stellar cast of folkies that includes John McCusker, Phil Cunningham, Heidi Talbot and Mr Eddi Reader, John ‘Trashcans’ Douglas, this live version of Green Grow The Rashes fairly skips along, the band playing the sort of arrangement that wouldn’t sound out of place on Led Zep III while Eddi’s voice floats above the melody like a bird on a breeze.

A bit like haggis, I know she can be a bit of an acquired taste for some, but give this a listen. Then go and catch yourself one of our wee furry friends and have your own Burns Supper to yourself.

haggis

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Beta Blockers

January 14, 2015

Please the press in Belgium“, once sang Morrissey at his most withering, in such a way as to suggest the Flemish outpost was the last place on Earth you’d want to be trying to please the staff of Snoecks Magazine. Belgium isn’t a country high on the cool-o-meter when it comes to pop. It’s given the world Poirot and a seriously strong lager that induces the propensity to batter one’s spouse, neither of which are much to do with music at all. Plastique Bertrand would appear to be the jewel in their flimsy crown.  “Ca plane pour moi, moi, moi, moi, moi!” Instant cool points ‘n all that, but then, that’s about it. Almost…

wallace collection

Wallace Collection were a late 60s/early 70s smooth vocal group, seemingly formed in order that the words ‘easy‘ and ‘listening‘ could be glued together with a dollop of saccharine-sweet syrupy gloop to create a brand new genre. By comparison, they make The Carpenters sound like Motorhead. Look at them – you might never have heard them, but you know how they sound. Wallace Collection’s musical arrangements featured lots of strings, lots of flutes and lots of whispered, half-spoken vocals.

Their track Daydream is their best known track.

Gently descending (and owing a large debt to Isaac Hayes’ Ike’s Mood), with a chanting choral refrain, it proved to be ripe for samplers. Hip hop acts such as The Pharcyde stole the bassline and turned it inside out and back to front on their own records. If you’ve been playing it as you read, no doubt you’ll recognise it.

Somewhat freakishly, two acts sampled the track and released respective records built upon it almost on the same day.

i monster

I MonsterDaydream In Blue

In June 2001, Sheffield’s I Monster put out Daydream In Blue, a record that jigsawed the vocal refrain and descending strings from the original onto a contemporary vocodered piece of what the style press had probably stopped calling trip-hop by that point in time. Mid paced and slightly plodding, you can’t have escaped hearing this record at the time. It was everywhere. I have a memory of hearing it wafting out of Iain Beale’s cafe on the Eastenders omnibus one hungover Sunday afternoon. It’s held the test of time quite well, although I much prefer The Beta Band’s ‘version’.

beta band

The Beta BandSquares

Initially named Daydream (I have a promo single so named) it was to be the lead single and first track on the band’s follow up to their first LP proper, but as the band were pressing Hot Shots II, I Monster’s track was on its way to the shops and onto the radio. By the time the first versions of Hot Shots II had been boxed and ready to go, The Beta Band were coming to the realisation that the hottest new track on the radio was a track featuring the self-same obscure sample that they were about to unleash on the world. More than a wee bit ticked off, the initial copies of the LP were withdrawn, plans to release the single were shelved and the album came out with the first track re-named Squares. The track was released as a single after I Monster’s track had disappeared off the radar, but the potential ‘hit’ impact for The Beta Band’s single was no more.

There’s a promo-only version of Squares that features *Don ‘Magic’ Juan, a former pimp, preacher and hip-hop personality. It‘s kinda bizarre…

The Beta BandSquares (Bloah Remix)

I must do a proper Beta Band piece one day – one of the great under-appreciated bands.

*I think. There are quite a few Don Juans in the world of underground rap.

 

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Under The Influence

January 4, 2015

It’s 1987 in San Francisco. Or maybe L.A. Bono, atop a building, perhaps a hotel, it doesn’t really matter, his arms outstretched in messianic fashion, has just informed the crowd of unwitting gatherers below that “Rock ‘n roll stops the traffic!” If I was on my morning commute, I’d be mightily pissed off at this uncalled-for inconvenience. The traffic is indeed stopped. Lights change from red to green and back again, but the procession of buses, cabs and sedans is gridlocked. A huge crowd swells, folk in suits and ties, briefcase-carrying urban professionals, crane their necks and squint in the morning sunshine at the spectacle above them. “OK Hedge, play the blues!”

u2 roof

The Hedge, so-named because of that thick thatch of collar-baiting pony-tailed hair, thinning rapidly on top but hidden underneath a carefully perched cowboy hat rattles off one of his trademark ticka-ticka-ticka-ticka guitar riffs, and the most unbluesy guitar solo ever echoes out across California. “All you need is three chords and the truth!” spouts Bono, who by this time is halfway up a water tower and totally unaware of the long arm of the mirror-shaded law lurking behind Larry Mullen Jnr’s drum kit. It’s U2’s Saville Row moment, just one more example of them (literally) elevating themselves into rock’s lofty position as premier league players. The nitwits that they had just become.

I don’t know about the truth, but all you need is indeed just three chords. You don’t need me to tell you that. The foundations of rock ‘n roll were formed on such base ideals. Silly old Bono dressed the fact up in grandiose, wankery fashion. Punk bible, Sniffin’ Glue said it best;

sniffin glue chordsMany a band was formed with the guitarist having an arsenal of two chords, with that tricky third still in production.

eddie cochraneKing of the Swingers

Eddie Cochran was there at rock ‘n roll’s birth. If Ike Turner was pushing and grunting for all he was worth, Eddie was there at the end of the bed, holding the towels and hot water. Or more likely, he was fighting off Little Richard for mirror space as he greased his hair into that spectacular D.A. of his.

Eddie only knew three chords. “There are three steps to heaven,” he sang.

Step 1, you play a C. Step 2, you play that tricky F. Step 3, you play a G. And that sure sounds like heaven to me.

Eddie CochranThree Steps To Heaven

Actually, Eddie knew far more than just three chords. A quick listen to a couple of his records will tell you that. But he was an economical guitar player, never frilly, never flashy. He played what his songs demanded. A minor chord here perhaps, a 7th there, all rhythmically skirling toe-tappers. And his songs sound more honest, more soulful than the entire output of Bono and his rooftop singers.

bowie beeb

When David Bowie ditched the theatrics, the miming and the long, long hair on the road to Ziggy‘s straight-ahead guitar boogie, the spirit of Eddie Cochran loomed large.

David BowieQueen Bitch

Queen Bitch from Hunky Dory is Three Steps To Heaven in a funky jump suit with added sneer and a good dollop of Les Paul courtesy of Mick Ronson. Listen carefully. The moaning and groaning you hear in the background is the sound of Ziggy being conceived.

Broncho“We’ve played some right toilets in our time…”

New (wave) kids on the block Broncho know a thing or two about the simplicity of the three chord song. Their own What sounds like a glammed-up mix of Queen Bitch and Lou Reed’s Vicious, as sung by Marc Bolan. And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that;

BronchoWhat

Taken from their Just Enough Hip To Be A Woman LP, it’s an album that escaped my attention earlier last year, but one that could do with further investigation.

Rock ‘n roll – it’s dead easy, isn’t it?

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P.O.P. B.O. ’14

December 31, 2014

Somehow, this is the end of the 8th year of this blog. 8 years! I never for a minute thought I’d be down this road for so long, but here I am, slowing down slightly, but still writing whenever the muse takes me. In the past, I used to write loads over the Christmas period and store it all up like a squirrel hiding nuts in trees, so that when I was busy with my real work I could drip-feed my wee articles online at regular intervals when time was of the essence. These days, holidays mean holidays. For the past week or so I’ve done sweet F.A. apart from sit around in my underwear eating cheese until 3 in the afternoon. Occasionally I’ve tidied up a bit, but that’s only after the Applewood smoked or Wensleydale and cranberry has run out.

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It’ll be good to get back to the old routine in January and, along with work, get back to writing about music on a (hopefully) more regular basis. Until then, here’s the annual end of December post.

Around this time of year I employ a team of stat monkeys to sift through everything published on Plain Or Pan over the last 12 months. Numbers are fed into a specially-constructed silver machine, crunched and spat back out. Amongst the stainless steel saliva lie the 25 most listened to and/or downloaded tracks of the year.

Below is that list, a CD-length collection of covers, curios and hard-to-find classics. Download the rar file, sequence as you please and burn away.

 

pop8

Baby HueyListen To Me

The Lovin’ SpoonfulDo You Believe In Magic?

French FriesDanse a la Musique

Oscar BrownThe Snake

Al BrownHere I Am Baby

RadioheadThese Are My Twisted Words

Bob DylanBoots Of Spanish Leather

Ian Dury & the BlockheadsHit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

Michael MarraHamish

Paul WellerFlame-Out

Bo DiddleyShe’s Fine, She’s Mine

Barbara & the BrownsYou Don’t Love Me

Tommy James & the ShondellsCrimson & Clover

LightshipsDo Your Thing

The BeatlesIt’s All Too Much (Much Too Much bootleg version)

Les Negresses VertesZobi la Mouche

Trash Can SinatrasGhosts Of American Astronauts (Live at Fez, NYC 2004)

Eddie FloydI’ve Never Found A Girl

The SmithsThere Is A Light That Never Goes Out (demo)

Curtis Liggins IndicationsWhat It Is

ThemI Can Only Give You Everything

Kim Fowley Bubblegum

A CampBoys Keep Swinging

The SlitsI Heard It Through The Grapevine (demo)

Madness Un Paso Adelante

 

And here’s to health, wealth and happiness to you all for 2015. All the best!

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