Hard-to-find

D’Ye Copy?

A few years after Mick Ronson went down on Bowie on Top Of The Pops and the Bolan Boogie bongoed its way into the nation’s collective consciousness, a new breed of idol was born. Hot on the scuffed heels of post-punk, Adam Ant became the first popstar to enter my orbit and land on my record player. Well! Leapfrog the dog and brush me, daddy-o, if this wasn’t exactly what I was missing in my life! To a thumping double drummer Burundi beat, Adam and his Ants, all lip curl and collapsed Gene Vincent DAs, chanted and charmed their way through Dog Eat Dog, the rubbery electric twang almost too much for my 10 year old mind to take in. I really liked The Specials and Madness and the whole gang mentality that their music spawned in the school playground, but Adam, for me, brought on a whole new level of excitement. It was the pirate costume that swung it. That and the white nose stripe, of course. He looked liked a skeleton on the telly, all cheekbones and hollowed eyes, and while he danced his hoppy, arm swingin’, finger clickin’ jive, he stared down the barrel of the camera, directly into my living room, directly to me.

Adam And The AntsDog Eat Dog

By the Saturday morning I had availed myself of £3.99 worth of smash, splashed it on the counter of Walker’s at Irvine Cross in exchange for Kings Of The Wild Frontier and ran, ran! all the way home, desperate to get the first album I’d own spinning as soon as possible. I can still smell it now, freshly minted black vinyl, as it slid out of the sleeve and was transferred very carefully to the record player. I can still see the orange and yellow CBS logo spinning hypnotically. And when that Burundi beat fades in, I’m straight back to my living room in 1980, cross-legged on the floor, a bowl of Rice Krispies turning soggy while my attention was elsewhere for a couple of minutes. Life-changing stuff.

Kings Of the Wild Frontier was played so often I can still call it down from my brain and hear it whenever I fancy. I rarely need to play the actual music, it’s up there (points, taps head), burned indelibly forever. I know every adlib, every double-tracked chorus, every whistle, every solo…..every bit of it. I think my mum might too, as not long after buying it, my dad returned from work one day with a rare present – a copy of Adam’s previous album Dirk Wears White Sox. He’d bought it in Makro, of all places, on a work-related trip to the cash and carry and I’m sure it was bought partly to vary the soundtrack that my mum was exposed to from the minute I got in from school to the minute I’d gone to bed.

What none of us was prepared for was how different it sounded to Kings… The clues were there on the cover; a blurry black and white shot featuring a woman, back turned to the camera, standing under a streetlight. It looked like something from a 1940’s spy movie that my Gran might’ve enjoyed at the weekend. Within the grooves, there was nary a Burundi beat and a complete lack of pirate-themed potential. It was jerky, awkward and, to these 10 year old ears, a massive disappointment. It was still a record though, I had two albums now, and one that, even at that early age, I knew I’d ‘get’ at some point. I might even have done so too, had Adam not let out the ‘f’ word on one of the tracks and my mum, doing her best Mary Whitehouse impression, instructed me to turn it off and give it to her. With an awkward sense of shame and annoyance, I handed the album back to her, my collection reduced to one album once more. I never saw it again. Years later I found out that she’d made my poor dad take it back to Makro. God knows what he told them.

Zerox is still the killer track from the album I still don’t own. One of the Ants’ earliest singles, it’s held together by a tight ‘n taut see-sawing guitar riff that the 1992 version of Blur (Popscene! Alright!) would’ve given their right arm for.

Adam And The AntsZerox

Epoch-defining – ask a teenager today what a zerox machine is and see what sort of response that elicits – Zerox is punk manifesto set to music. We’ll copy your riffs, it says. “I’m never bored, I’ll steal your chords.” Unlike yer actual zerox machine, Zerox the song is timeless, an undeniable influence on all those angular guitar bands from a few years back.

Shortly after discovering Adam, I should say, my inner-self experienced a whole new thang when Debbie Harry popped up quite unexpectedly on Top Of The Pops with Blondie doing The Tide Is High. It was, I’d shortly discover, the worst single in the Blondie catalogue, as another sprint to Walker’s and back saw me add The Best Of Blondie to my thin collection, free Debbie Harry poster ‘n all. Suddenly Adam was relegated to second-best. To my dad’s relief, the Adam in full-on Prince Charming teapot pose poster was replaced by Debbie, pouting from the wall with tousled hair and an ‘Andy Warhol’s Bad’ t-shirt. Andy Warhol? Who’s that, I wondered…

Alternative Version, demo, Hard-to-find

In Search Of The La’s

In 2003, MW Macefield wrote a book called ‘In Search Of The La’s‘. Subtitled A Secret Liverpool, the author donned his best Inspector Clouseau raincoat, popped an oversized magnifying glass into the top pocket and hopped on the train to Lime Street in the hope of tracking down Lee Mavers, the wayward genius responsible for steering the good ship La’s aground. Despite reforming for a short, badly-received tour a couple of years after the book hit the shelves, and an even less successful venture a few years after that, I’ve now come to accept that The La’s are back residing in the ‘where are they now?’ category.

A good La’s detective will tell you that this promo pic of the band does not relate to the line-up that played on the tunes below.

Mavers’ legend continues to grow by the day and in the smallest corners of the internet he’s regarded as our generation’s version of Syd Barrett or Peter Green; the band leader with (way) out there ideas that were too far gone for even the most open and creative of minds in his band.

Lee tuned his guitars to the hum of his fridge.

In order to baptise his recordings with the relevant credentials, he demanded the Abbey Road desks he’d procured remain covered in their original 60s dust.

Despite at least a dozen goes of recording an album, he said nothing came close to the demo they’d recorded themselves of non-album b-side Over. Over, as you may well know, was recorded live. To 4 track. In a stable. There’s a Jesus pun to be had here, but Mavers is not the messiah, he’s just a very haughty boy.

The small but (im)perfect body of work he’s given us rattles and rolls and chimes and chirps with effervescent Scouse enthusiasm and a scrubbed, scuffed, skirl. Alongside the actual album, you’ll find all manner of demos and outtakes if you look hard enough. The La’s album was given the Deluxe treatment about a decade ago and the inclusion of the extra tracks shone a light on just how many producers they worked with in their vain search to nail the perfect version. The 4 CD box set that appeared afterwards only goes to confirm this. Dig deep and you’ll uncover new things in old tracks. My sister a few weeks ago gave me a copy of the BBC Sessions album. Playing the record is much more La’s than sticking on a CD as you go about your business, and I’ve been re-listening with open ears and open mouth. Some of these session tracks knock the released album versions for six.

One of the oldest La’s songs, the version of Doledrum from the band’s 1987 Janice Long session is the perfect example;

The La’sDoledrum (Janice Long session, 2.9.87)

Those percussive Magic Bus off-beats are magic! Maver’s vocal is strong, his rhythm playing an excellent counterpoint to the skifflish back-beat. Paul Hemmings sprightly solo in the middle is mightily whistleable. but it’s John Power’s high falsetto backing vocal that’s the song’s secret weapon, carrying the whole thing to the perfect multi-vocalled end. Like so much of The La’s material, there’s so much going on in such a simple song. Listen to it. Listen again. And again. I guarantee you’ll spot something new each time.

Possibly even more upbeat is the long-shelved version recorded with John Leckie;

The La’sDoledrum (John Leckie version)

Faster and with less emphasis on the percussive off-beats, the Leckie version features elongated Mavers’ harmonies and a lovely, subtle Power aah-aah-aah sigh where the solo should be. Mavers would probably tell you that this version is unfinished, or is lacking the requisite magic or doesn’t have enough 60s dust sprinkled atop. For what it’s worth, it would have been a worthy addition to that one and only album. The version that made the final cut is positively lethargic by comparison. Indeed, visit the forum on thelas.org and you’ll find plenty of discussion around the tracklist of the perfect La’s album; the Leckie mix here, the Bob Harris mix there, the Mike Hedges mix for this, the John Porter take for that. It’s a happy minefield when you get going.

I’m off to Liverpool this coming week with an itinerary packed full of Beatle-ish activities, Tate visits and a trip to Anfield. While I’ll forever be in search of The La’s, or at least Mavers, I’ll most definitely not find the proud Evertonian anywhere near the home of Liverpool FC, and I can’t imagine he’ll be propping up the bar in the darkest corner of The Cavern Club, but, y’know, y’never know. I like to think that I’ll pass him on Matthew Street, that he’ll recognise me (we were holiday pals for a week in 1993) and he’ll punch me playfully on the arm before we step into the nearest pub for a chinwag and a gin pomade, “kiddo.”

 

Alternative Version, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Live!

Fly Moves And Resurrected Grooves

No-one other than the main protagonist himself will know exactly what sounds John Squire was listening to on the day the music for I Am The Resurrection tumbled forth from his fingertips, liquid mercury floating atop a bedrock carved from the groovier elements of prime-time Hendrix, but even the most lenient of high court judges would be hard-pushed not to blurt out “Take him down!” whilst pushing forward a battered copy of Tim Buckley‘s Happy Sad LP as Exhibit A in the case against the Stone Roses’ super-flash riff meister.

Buzzin’ Fly, the second song on side 1 tumbles in on a riff that ‘Roses fans should recognise instantly. Indeed, if, by the 3rd second in, flares don’t start flappin’ in time to lolloping limbs, I’ll eat my well-worn Pollocked bucket hat and give up this blogging lark forever.

Tim Buckley Buzzin’ Fly

It’s the 18 carat gold signature riff to I Am the Resurrection, innit?! The missing link between Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Tim Buckley’s ethereal 12 string carries the tune whilst Lee Underwood’s mercurial, fluid electric lead meanders happily hither and thither, yet it’s undeniably the riff wot elevated Stone Roses from mere 60s-influenced day trippers to full-on, arrogant true believers (with messiah desires thrown in for good measure).

If you were being particularly scrutinous, you might also point out the similarities between its laid-back, free-spirited guitar interplay and the shuffling backing on Stone Roses’ Bye Bye Badman and Shoot you Down. Indeed, there’s maybe even a case for considering the guitar playing on Buzzin’ Fly to be the very genesis of that entire Stone Roses album. It’s clearly an influence, any cloth-eared fool can hear that.

Back in 1989, I had no idea at all that such a tune could tumble from the fingers of anyone but the expertly-coiffed Squire. Many an hour was spent mangling my fingers into shapes previously uncharted in the forlorn hope that I might replicate even 10 seconds of the heaven-sent instrumental passage that closed Stone Roses’ debut album. From street-suss rock riffing to full-on Starsky & Hutch funk, this was a new kinda guitar hero, from roughly the same area as Johnny Marr too, but a million miles way from his crystalline jangle. Nowadays, muscle memory has enabled me to jam along faithfully to I Am The Resurrection and my ham-fisted attempts might even border on being nearly right, but back then, continual stomping on my cheap fuzz box was the only answer I had when fingers were suddenly required to travel further up the fretboard than ever before.

(Dennis Morris, Glasgow Green)

No such worries for the guitarist in the spotlight, though. Here he is carrying the tune for upwards of 10 groovetastic minutes at the original Glasgow Green show in June 1990, 29 years ago yesterday, as coincidence would have it. With the sweat dripping from the ceiling of the massive circus tent and the anonymous rave music blaring like a beacon to the demented before the band appeared and then the punch full in the face from the wee random ned as I Wanna Be Adored rumbled through its opening gears, I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Stone Roses – Elizabeth My Dear/I Am The Resurrection (live, Glasgow Green, 9th June 1990, bootleg)

Lee Underwood – remember him?! – it would appear, went no further than the 9 albums he recorded as Tim Buckley’s right hand man, but what an important element to Buckley’s sound he turned out to be. Worth investigating, is Buckley Snr.

(Photo by Kevin Cummins/Getty Images)

Worth reinvestigating also is that Stone Roses album.

I remember reading a Gruff Rhys interview where he said that he’d played the works of The Velvet Underground so much in his youth that the music was now embedded in the virtual mp3 player in his brain, just waiting to be called down wherever and whenever it took his fancy.

I daresay the Stone Roses debut is similarly lodged in my cerebellum, but nothing beats getting out the real thing once or twice a year, placing it on the turntable and waiting (im)patiently for the low creeping bass that introduces the band one by one; bass then drums then guitar then vocals – the perfect intro. By the end of side 2, I’ve usually picked up the ol’ Fender and, capo on the 2nd fret (important that – those whippersnapper YouTubers seem to dispose of such essentials) teleported myself back to May ’89 when anything beyond the 5th fret was like a foreign language. It still is, I suppose, but I can speak a wee bit of it nowadays.

Stone RosesI Am The Resurrection

Hard-to-find, Sampled

Hopping In A Barrel Is A Barrel Of Fun

Hall & Oates seem to be on a wee bit of a renaissance just now. In recent months the hip-to-the-jive stadium announcer at Rugby Park has started playing You Make My Dreams Come True at the end of every game. Plastic soul for a plastic pitch, it’s a positive nod to Kilmarnock FC’s lofty league position, where they currently occupy the European spot with one game left to play. The duo has just played the Hydro (terrible sound, by all accounts) and are currently winding their way around the larger arenas of the UK and beyond to generally sold out (and affluent) crowds. Did you see the price of the tickets? I can’t go for that, no can do, ‘n all that.

While their best songs endure as shiny FM pop/soul hits – Maneater, Out Of Touch, the just-mentioned I Can’t Go For That, they were always a bit too slick for me; it was the moustaches ‘n mullets ‘n multitude of sleeveless t-shirts that failed to engage me. The nadir was their appearance on American Live Aid. It was a forgettable performance by and large, but the images of vests and leather trousers and blow-dried Lady Diana bouffants are as burned to the retina as those of Bono clambering into the Wembley pit and Freddie Mercury leading that mass clap along during Radio Ga Ga.

De La Soul famously copped I Can’t Go For That’s “you want my body now you want my soul” chorus refrain and used it to great effect on their own Say No Go. Hippy and trippy rather than tough and bluff, in radical, revolutionary fashion, De La Soul ripped up the accepted rules of rap and rewrote them over the course of their terrific catch-all, sampleadelic debut 3 Feet High And Rising. Out went standard outsider braggadocio about guns ‘n girls built around James Brown drum breaks and in came all-inclusive, socially-conscious, self-proclaimed Daisy Age rap constructed from all corners of the trio’s parents’ record collection; The Turtles sit happily (together) next to snippets of Sly Stone and Steely Dan, slowed down Johnny Cash vocals, sped up Detroit Emeralds guitar riffs, George Clinton keyboard parts and even Liberace adlibs.

Eclecticism runs through the grooves like the lettering in a stick of Blackpool rock. Bo Diddley maraca shakes jigsaw into Lee Dorsey drum breaks….. the hits of a sky high Michael Jackson are pushed aside by bits of a superfly Run DMC… Richard Prior skits give way to Wilson Pickett hits…. Sewn together by an inter-track gameshow, it’s an album that’s as cartoonish and day-glo and fun as the sleeve it comes (w)rapped in suggests.

3 Feet High And Rising is terrifically, brilliantly all over the place. Its carefree abandon to copyright are both a lawyer’s nightmare and dream, and a spin of the album today throws up new things still. There are websites upon websites breaking down the samples used, but as my own taste becomes increasingly catholic with each passing year, it’s much more fun to play spot the sample without over-reliance on Dr Google.

With my fairly decent knowledge of music, I could argue the case for the group renaming themselves De La Stole, but then, the sticky-fingered pilfering is what makes the album so enduring. No one, least of all the band themselves would dare dream of taking such a cavalier approach to record making again, especially when the lion’s share of all future royalties go straight to the original songwriters, ie anywhere other than the people who put it all together. It’s no surprise that since the album’s release, hip hop producers such as Dre and Pharrell have steered clear of sampling and instead created their own sounds via keyboards and computers and alchemic wizardry.

De La SoulSay No Go

Say No Go is the album in miniature. Constructed from half a dozen or so samples it manages to be hip hop and high pop, as boxfresh as a new pair of Nikes on Thanksgiving. Crashing in on the horn part from Sly Stone’s Crossword Puzzle, creating a hook by playing Detroit Emeralds’ Baby Let Me Take You In My Arms at 45 rather than 33 and employing a beat mishmashed from both Hall & Oates’ Say No Go and The Turtles’ I’m Chief Kamanawanalea (to be honest, I Googled that one), De La Soul manufactured one of their most enduring tracks.

Sly StoneCrossword Puzzle

Detroit Emeralds – Baby Let Me Take You In My Arms

Hall & Oates Say No Go

 

The vocal sample that lends the track its name is the icing on a cake packed full of interesting ingredients; blink-and-you-miss-‘em parts of The Emotions’ Best Of My Love jostle for ear space alongside the Dragnet theme and the Funky 4 + 1’s That’s The Joint. The sprinkle on top of the icing, the lyric is a terrific stream of (social) conscience that addresses the issues of inner city drug abuse:

Now let’s get right on down to the skit

A baby is brought into a world of pits

And if it could’ve talked that soon in the delivery room

It would’ve asked the nurse for a hit

Undoubtedly political but undeniably populist, the finished track (unwittingly, perhaps) manages to be influenced by James Brown, although not in the usual cut ‘n paste manner favoured by hip hop artists: De La Soul realign that hybrid HallnOates/Turtles’ beat so that the track kicks off ‘on the one’, lending it that driving, forward-seeking groove. It’s propulsive and insistent and downright funky. I could listen to it for ages.

Hard-to-find

Six Of The Best – James Yorkston

Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…

Number 30 in a series:

James Yorkston has been quietly making records for around 20 years. Since 2002’s Mercury-nominated Moving Up Country he’s released a dozen or so albums that draw you in and leave you breathless. Current album The Route To The Harmonium is his most ambitious and most rewarding collection of songs so far.

Championed early-on by Johns Peel and Martyn, James’ quiet way with a melody and unusual arrangement found favour with Domino, the label who continues to release his records today. A cog in the wheel of the Fence Collective, James has made his base in the East Neuk of Fife, choosing to write and record in the tiny village of Cellardyke, just up the road from the famous port of Anstruther yet close enough to smell the fish frying in the famous fish and chip shop.

It’s this environment that sets Yorkston apart from others. Unpretentious yet uncompromising, James has worked with an array of interesting names that help add colour and flavour to his songs; his debut album was produced by both Simon Raymonde (late of Cocteau Twins, now head honcho at Bella Union Records) and Fence friend Kenny Anderson, better known in music as King Creosote. Further excursions in music have found him utilising the skills of Four Tet and 6 Music favourite Jon Hopkins. Currently, there is a Vince Clarke remix of …Harmonium track Sorrow doing the rounds. Had someone such as Thom Yorke or (heaven forbid) Noel Gallagher collaborated with producers and musicians as varied and interesting as those above, it’d be hailed as brave, revolutionary and groundbreaking. James Yorkston, it would appear, has been quietly just that for years.

Often lazily labelled ‘folk’, Yorkston is arguably to that genre what The Beatles were to ‘pop’. Listen with an open mind and you’ll discover there’s far more going on than first meets the ear. It’s perhaps not immediate though, but James’ music is very investible. It takes time to get to know it, to uncover the hidden layers. If you’re looking for a quick fix, you probably won’t find it but the rewards are rich for all who bide their time. When the songs reveal themselves, they appear fully formed, melodies blown in from long ago and plucked from the ether. Add a splash of jangling Swedish nyckelharpa, wheezing harmonium, bouzouki, banjo or battered acoustic and you have a unique and individual sound.

Kick out the Jams. James Yorkston with Pictish Trail and Withered Hand at the HAC, Irvine, January 2016.

Photo (C) Paul Camlin

I’ve been following James’ career on and off since hearing Moving Up Country whilst keeping myself busy behind the Our Price counter one afternoon in its week of release. Left to my own devices, the album rotated on repeat for two or three times, worming its way into my brain, over time becoming one of my go-to records. These days I’m able to call it down from the embedded music section of my brain like an old friend. I only need reminding of the opening notes of Tender To The Blues and I’m whisked back to that empty shop, just me leaning on the counter and James Yorkston filling the silence. James’ songs endure. Since losing my dad to cancer, I can barely listen to 2104’s fragile Broken Wave, a sparse, death rattling eulogy to Doogie Paul, one of The Athletes that accompanied Yorkston on that debut album. My Life Ain’t No Bible, lead-off single from current album The Route To The Harmonium appears to be the Yorkston track of the moment, the one I’ll happily return to again and again. It features a terrific spoken-word rant atop a jangling military two step backing track, a kinda demented take on Van Morrison’s Coney Island as played by the Velvets. But more of that later…

As he begins a UK tour, James spoke to Plain Or Pan and told us the 6 things he’s most proud of having his name to. I say ‘things’ rather than ‘songs’ or ‘records’ because, well, you’ll discover as you read.

Here, then, is James Yorkston‘s Six Of The Best:

 

Woozy with Cider (The Year of the Leopard, 2006)

This was my first spoken word piece. I’d written it for a super limited Fence Collective album, but I liked it so much I nabbed it for my next album proper. Domino ended up getting a whole load of remixes made for it, including a beautiful piano based reworking that Jon Hopkins did.

It still gets requested, this song, so it makes the occasional live appearance still. It’s fun to do, like revisiting an old friend.

The Lang Toun (single, 2002)

 

We made this without any hint of record company interest, just myself and a few pals, taking our time, adding small pipes, concertina. It was the last thing on our minds that a London record company would hear it and we’d end up in Abbey Road getting it mastered.

I very seldom play this live nowadays. It’s ten minutes long, so I can hardly be blamed…

 

My Mouth Ain’t No Bible (The Route to the Harmonium, 2019)

This album was quite a relaxed build. I was tinkering away with it in the background whilst touring with Yorkston Thorne Khan, writing some books, running my club…

This particular song took a long while to finish. It’s based on an improvised jam I recorded with my old band The Athletes, back in 2006, then I overdubbed all sorts:, autoharp, nyckelharpa, duclitone. It was surprisingly easy, tho’. It was obvious when things were working and when they weren’t and then, finally, one day it was finished.

It’s a great tribute to my record label, Domino Records, that they released it as the first single from the album – it’s a seven minute Krautrock rant, it ain’t no pop song.

 

Little Black Buzzer (Yorkston Thorne Khan, Everything Sacred 2016)

I love this. It’s the Ivor Cutler song, of course, but cut in with the great Irish singer Lisa O’Neill, Suhail’s sarangi playing, and finally Suhail doing some tabla mouth music.

Meeting Suhail has led to a very interesting part of my musical life. Touring India is very different from touring the UK, but every aspect of his life has been different to mine – he began learning his instrument, the sarangi, at the age of two, at his grandfather’s feet. His grandfather, Ustad Sabri Khan was a huge name in Indian classical music and Suhail’s knowledge is incredible.

Put us two together with an incredible jazz bass player, Jon Thorne and there’s this weird bond between us all. It’s not an East meets West thing, though, we’re just three pals making music.

 

Three Craws (Book. Freight Press, 2016)

I love this wee book. It came out, very briefly, on Freight Books, but almost immediately after publication, Freight went bust and Three Craws sank with it. I value it as highly, career wise, as any one of my albums. It’s a marker of where I am. Any more books to come? I’d certainly hope so… Watch this space etc.

Oh Choices, Wide Rivers (Unreleased)

I was over in Sweden recently and ended up in the studio with a Swedish band. We recorded half a dozen new songs and this particular one has been stuck in my head ever since. It feels good to be moving on, to keep on creating.

That moving and creating is so important. Not one to be held back by past glories, James’ trail blazes brightest when he’s collaborating with others. When will those new songs recorded in Sweden see the light of day? Under which moniker will they appear? Keep an eye out.

James Yorkston is currently on tour. Go and see him if he’s near you.

Hard-to-find

Dubby Gillespie

It’s no surprise that Primal Scream made a dub album. Back in the day, the core of musicians that constituted the band genre-hopped happily from subculture to subculture as freely as Bobby’s bob grew from curtains to bowl to boho banker and back again.

From tambourine-bashing Velvet-apers (in style, sound and subject matter) to strung-out and wrung-out Stooges/MC5/Dolls copyists, they alighted at the kaleidoscopic, stadium indie of Screamadelica within 3 albums in just over as many years. It barely needs pointing out that Bobby Gillespie and co have always worn their influences proudly on their sleeves, but point out we must. Whether those sleeves are made of denim or leather or silk or rhinestone and patterned in polkas or paisley is neither here nor there.

Today on this program you will hear gospel and rhythm ‘n blues and jazz,’ goes the sampled-from-Wattstax Jesse Jackson on the album version of Come Together. ‘All those are just labels. We know that music is music.’ Primal Scream merrily adopted that motto more than most.

Betwixt the hiccup of the Stonesy-yet-flat Give Out But Don’t Give Up and the big beat boutique of XTRMNTR came Vanishing Point and its companion piece, Echo Dek.

 

Vanishing Point is where you’ll find the singles; Burning Wheel, Kowlaksi, If They Move Kill ‘Em and Star, all terrific artistic statements in their own right; other-worldly, socially-conscious, sample-happy and interesting from every angle, but Echo Dek is where you’ll hear the album tracks let off the lead, allowed to wander and take whichever turn they fancy.

Stoned immaculate, it’s an ear-opening collection of tracks, a filling-loosening window rattler put together via the combined sonic mastery of Brendan Lynch and Adrian Sherwood, who between them produce and remix 8 of Vanishing Point’s tracks to create 9 fresh cuts. VP track Stuka is on the receiving end of 2 remixes, each of which closes a side on the vinyl version.

Primal Scream Revolutionary

Taking their cue from the masters of the genre, cave-like bass guitars boom, snare drums crack away like pistol duels at dawn and modern whooshes and blips and bleeps assault the senses with refreshing regularity. Yer actual Augustus Pablo has his melodica mangled into oblivion on Revolutionary, the remix of Star, while Prince Far I’s vocals filter through the gaps in Wise Blood. Last Train, the band’s contribution to the Trainspotting soundtrack rides in on a bed of sweet Philly guitars and wacked-out dub – more melting melodicas, police sirens, a very Weatherall underbeat – and takes even longer to arrive at its tripped-out destination.

Primal ScreamLast Train

The whole album suggests long sessions at the mixing desk under the creative fug of some chemical or other. It’s long-form music, as expansive and wide as the average Primal Scream fan’s waistline 20 years down the line (sweeping generalisation notwithstanding) and simply epic to listen to. These days it may well be my favourite Scream LP.

It’s no wonder Echo Dek confused the majority of Primal Scream’s audience, waiting hopelessly in vain for Screamadelica part 2. The band would further wrong-foot their diminishing fan base by next releasing Evil Heat, an album that features guest vocals from Jim Reid and Kate Moss, deconstructs songs made famous by Lee Hazelwood and Felt and adopts another uber-cool genre to hang its hat on. “There’s always been a Krautrock influence to our music,” lied bare-faced Bobby at the time. Autobahn 66 (I mean, come on!) is a cracking track though, but one for another day.

Hard-to-find

Easter Everywhere

This is beautiful. Halfway between a Lynchian take on Disney melancholy and a string-soaked Salvation Army-sponsored wake, it’s the sound of hope over despair, of light at the end of a long, lonely tunnel, of redemption and resignation, reflection and retreat.

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me YetGavin Bryars featuring Tom Waits

It’s an extraordinary recording, originally put to tape in 1971, and although at that point Tom Waits wasn’t involved, serendipity certainly was. The track was created to soundtrack a documentary being made about the homeless people who lived around Waterloo Station and it’s built around the melody of a homeless man, captured Alan Lomax-style singing the titular line over and over again.

As fate would have it, when Bryars played it back in the studio he noticed that the unknown man’s voice was pitch perfect with his piano. Not only that, but his entire vocal lasted 13 bars, Bryar’s preferred length for his planned piece of music. 

The first version lasted 25 minutes, the entire side of an LP. With the popularity of cassette tape, later versions grew to 60 minutes. The granddaddy of them all though is the 74 minute version from 1993, the version that includes Tom Waits’ sympathetic and entirely perfect co-vocal, the go-to guy if you’re looking for a wine-soaked hobo to enhance your recording. The first version of the track I heard, the recording won Bryars a Mercury nomination and a new fan in me.

It’s astonishing. The sighing strings and elongated brass lines leave just enough space for the empty sadness to seep through, church organs weaving in and out of the wholly holy swill. Uplifting melancholy in excelsis, Jesus’ blood is of course both religious and metaphorical.

You wouldn’t need to travel far from wherever you’re sitting just now to find a homeless person, an embarrassing and shocking state of affairs in a world where multi millions have been pledged to save the roof of some old church or other in Paris. A quick drop of Jesus’ blood won’t fix things in this day and age, despite what the big man upstairs might have you believe.