Nothing Complicated at the Southgate

Two birds, one Sunday afternoon stone. Motivate myself out of hibernation, pre-dinner time, to step over the threshold of The Southgate Inn, something long overdue. Also, the perfect opportunity to catch It’s Complicated, who, after a fundraiser in Easterton Saturday night came to the longboat of love to show us how they do it. And now, after mentioning and mentioning this Devizes based band, I finally confirm, they do it very well indeed.

Self-described as “not your standard covers band,” (otherwise they would’ve named themselves “It’s Easy,”) is nothing but exact, as vocalist and keyboardist Jacqueline Sherlock rings out an inimitable cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean while I’m propping up the bar. I take a sip, this is what they promise, it’s what they delivered, with baubles on.

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It’s Complicated with Dereck Head on sax

This place is not Devizes’ answer to an O2 arena, functionally it’s awkward, spacious it’s not, but working with what they’ve got, The Southgate is immediately hospitable, snug and convivial; I’d have expected nothing less. Reason why musicians and bands are queuing up to July to cram themselves in here falls upon Deborah and Dave’s nonchalant and welcoming attitude. If they’ve created a monster with The Southgate, it’s a knobbly-knees and turned-out toes type monster akin to The Gruffalo, rather than anything Dr Frankenstein may’ve stuck electrodes on.

It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s bustling, what they’ve spared not following the grain and converting the Southgate into the standard ostentatious vulgarity of contemporary neon public houses they’ve savoured on atmosphere and a non-stop musical line-up which celebrates everything positive about the local live music scene I’m so often bashing on about. Where other pubs sporadically host live music, you can guarantee Saturday night at the Southgate, Fridays and Sundays following a close second place. Darn it, if even Wednesday night isn’t a family-like acoustic jam down here.

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Tamsin joins in, with seasonal hats

So, this Sunday it’s the turn of It’s Complicated, a band formed a couple of years ago, detached from function band, Friday Feeling. Like a cat at the front door of your new home upon your arrival, they’ve been rehearsing in the Southgate’s skittle alley prior to the new landlords, where they’ve created a unique approach to an assemblage of fantastic cover songs. With flexibly of styles, and wealth of experience, the experimentation has paid off.

 
Jacqueline sublimely singing Etta James, the band taking a reggae twist to the stark modern Gotye anthem, “Someone that I used to Know,” ongoing ambient rock instrumentals akin to Dire Straits, accompanying Dereck Head through jazzy saxophone splendour, and returning after a break to acutely perform a country tune, I think proves this diversity tenfold.

 

But as well as stamping their mark on the covers, drummer and vocalist Tim Watts, vocalist and keyboardist Jacqueline Sherlock, guitarist Tom Evans and bass player Stephen Barron work on their own original material. Acknowledging the homegrown nature of the gig, they played Imber, the tribute to Imber Blacksmith Albie Nash, who doctors diagnosed “a broken heart,” when he passed away, chained to his anvil after the army forced the residents to leave the village.

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Vince Bell with It’s Complicated

And locally rousing this gig was. In the spirit of the scene, the return from a break guested pre-familiarised Vince Bell, who acoustically sang his chef-d’oeuvre, Ship of Fools, and followed it by a humorous attack on the allure of Devizes, with Tim on Cajon. A few more songs from It’s Complicated and another guest, our heroine Tamsin Quin, joined them for a few of her own tunes from Gypsy Blood, an album of which its launch party called in the help of It’s Complicated to replicate the session band from the studio. Not forgetting her sing-along Jungle Book favourite and seasonal Santa Baby.

Being traditionally bands are often of a similar age, a quick chat with Tim I felt it necessary to inquire if guitarist Tom, was any of the band’s progenies, being an age difference between him and the others. “No,” Tim confirmed there was no family connections, “That’s why we’re complicated.” Had to shrug this off, as it never matters, passion for music doesn’t barrier by age, all that counts are the harmonies and there’s nothing complicated there, it worked, and worked fantastic; what an enjoyable afternoon!

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Adding some Colour in The Sky to an otherwise bleak day, with Jon Amor…

I’ll come clean, resisting the urge to write a piece for Devizine for the past few days, being toothache is depressing me and fear if I do start writing I’m going to take my stress out on the subject. Had some awesome new music to review recently from our local heroes, been so positive, because it’s been thoroughly deserved. Much as I’d like to break that chain, yearn to be overly critical and lambast some poor soul for little reason, I unwittingly refrained. If you’ve nothing nice to say Worrow; no sorry, doesn’t wash with me.

 
Then, Devizes numero uno and worldwide blues legend, Jon Amor, only goes and pings over the highly anticipated album, Colour in the Sky. Released digitally tomorrow (28th Nov) on his website, and he hopes on iTunes, Jon signs off his message: “good luck at the dentist!” Grrr, I’m gonna listen to this right now! Oh…. why can’t teeth be more like Mr Amor; there’s zilch to be critical about here, and certainly no pain inflicted?

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From blast off, Colour in the Sky confirms what all local musicians state; he’s Captain Numero Uno alright. Though opening tune, Faith Reborn is a rocket, it’s quite what I expected, definitive frenetic electric blues. However, the missile proceeds into something else, something which scales Mount Marvellous and shoots high into the orangey glow of tremendous troposphere, and the pain killers haven’t even kicked in yet.

 
Diversity ensues, while Elephant slides equably into the room, up-tempo Illuminous Girl reminds me of the catchy, amusing teaser we had of this album last month, with Elvis-Costello-fashioned, Red Telephone, which, chronologically, you’ll wait until closer to the end for, but this is funkier, even more potent.

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The rocket blasts over Andalusia, with a flamenco, Latino track, reminiscent of Santana at his coolest, across the Southern States with rolling rhythm and blues, to New Orleans, with a smooth, big band jazz number to make Nina Simone blush, and crash-lands up my path, banging on my front door. I’m left gobsmacked by track seven, only halfway through this twelve-track musical marathon, darn it’s uplifting; toothache, what toothache?

 
When The Weather Turns Cold, (as it has) has a stirring country riff, February Tree mellows agreeably, aforementioned Red Telephone is quirky pop-rock, Scandinavia stalwarts fans, and the finale Sentiels is lovably sentimental, concluding my pondering; even the toughest-to-please Jon Amor fan will be blown off their feet with Colour in the Sky.


So, short of time, as it’s released tomorrow, I’ve taken a long scan over this album, and it’s expectedly a keeper. Some months ago I was standing outside the Devizes Sports Club my first unofficial meeting with Jon, when he supported Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse, he promised me a preview of this and I’ve admit I’ve hyped it up in my mind since; it does not disappoint.

 
I just hope the dentist tomorrow is equally professional, but I doubt it.

 

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Soul Sucker

I am a bit, yeah, but I’m talking more about the debut EP from George’s band, Wilding…

 

Images by Nick Padmore

 

It was all going swimmingly in the wee hours of this morning, until I backed the milk float into a ditch. Wedged firmly in the bracken which now resembled a milk bottle tree, wheel-spinning, I sat slanted at the helm like a scene from the sixties Batman series with my head in my hands, soul in the dark; what a sucker.

 
Prior I was bobbing along, minding my own and all was fine and dandy. To add to my general satisfaction I’d Soul Sucker, the debut EP from George Wilding’s band Wilding ringing proficient vibes through my headphones and blessing my ears with its unique and curious composition.

 
Out today, I confirm it’s a foursome of awesome you’d expect from Mr Wilding, yet perhaps too fresh in my mind to make an exhaustive analysis; but here’s my best attempt; better, one hopes, then my reversing skills today.

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Everything about it detonates with George Wilding; his exclusive angle and unusual enchanting bearing, yet rings competent backing and expertise meticulousness the like we’ve been building to with Lunatic and Being Ragdolian. With a rearward melody at the introduction, Mouth Wide Open instigated pondering of post-punk, Siouxsie and the Banshees, but with a smoothed contemporary Velvet Underground developing and moving into a riff distinctly Stereophonics in fashion, with its everyday references to smoking at the bus stop, yet always, unquestionably, George Wilding.

 
The Other Side of Fence, dramatically and wittily lounges through like that Lazy, Lazy River with drunken swagger. Like Jim Morrison sliding over to the next Whiskey Bar, or finger-snappy, easy listening curve of Paul’s When I’m Sixty-Four while surrounded in Sgt Pepper’s psychedelic twirls and soundscapes, it’s equally refreshing and boldly different; blinkin’ marvellous.

 

Though maybe less experimental and free flowing then it’s previous neighbouring tracks, Slip Away is archetypical Wilding on form, current but nodding at nostalgia with the potential to plod into becoming a sozzled man-bonding, swaying-in-the-pub type anthem.

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A delicate acoustic guitar riff, under ambient soundscape introduces the mellowed finale, Dirty Dream Balloon polishes this EP with a dreamy porcelain-doll-ballad, and, as is the rest, an experience beyond confines of “local music,” and into its own autonomous realm; in a word; it’s gorgeous.

 
It’s if Lou Reed could hold a note, its if psychedelia met Britpop, it’s a crumbly Flake chocolate bar spreading across your beatnik mum’s Meerabai sofa throw, no matter how much you try brush it off with unsteady hand, you cannot escape that its visible; this timeless EP will stain your music collection forevermore with a benchmark of creative genius.

 

Out today across all platforms: Bandcamp —– Spofity —– Amazon

 

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A Night At The Opera!

 

The White Horse Opera’s Magic Flute, Reviewed by Andy Fawthrop

 

No – not a night with the Marx Brothers or a Queen concert, but an actual night at the opera! And in Devizes too – well it was Lavington School actually (no passport required) – to see the wonderful White Horse Opera’s 2018 production of Mozart’s most-loved opera The Magic Flute.

 
This two-act opera is a classic tale of good and evil, of love and loss, serpents, fairies, magical queens, spirits, sorcerers, castles, magic flutes and….well, you get the picture. Just the normal, classic stuff of your average opera.

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And this production was bang on. Well sung, well acted and well (musically) played by a dedicated (and very talented) company of amateurs, this was an extremely enjoyable night. By singing in English, using modern dress and a minimalist set, the team made the story accessible and easy to follow for a non-opera buff like myself. Mozart’s music, as ever, is light and lyrical. The libretto is straight-forward, eschewing the usual long miserable and repetitive arias so favoured by some composers, so things move along quite briskly.

 
Particular shout-outs last night:

 
• to Matthew Bawden who, playing the lead role of Tamino, had only taken up and rehearsed the role within the last ten days or so when his predecessor had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances. He sang and acted well, betraying no sign whatsoever of being short of practice;

 
• to Barbara Gompels, playing the Queen of the Night, (not for the first time in her career) for her pitch-perfect delivery of some of Mozart’s most demanding soprano parts;
• to Chrissie Higgs for not only shuffling around the stage playing a shambling old lady in one of the chorus parts (frighteningly convincing!) but for the fact that she directed the whole production;

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But, to be honest, I didn’t spot any weak links at all – either in the cast or in the orchestra. A fine all-round production.

 
White Horse Opera is based in Devizes and was founded back in 1990. It produces both static and touring versions of many classic operas. It’s supported through sponsorship, fund-raising events and by ‘Friends’ of the Company. It’s all done on a voluntary, amateur basis – which makes it worthy of everyone’s support. It’s yet another jewel in Devizes’ crown.

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This production has its last two performances tomorrow (Friday) and on Saturday, for which there are still just a few tickets left. So, if you haven’t already done so, make plans to get yourself out to Lavington and have yourself a great night out! And – reviewer’s tip here – get yourself one of the padded seats!

 

White Horse Opera Website

 

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The Return of the Female of the Speices

Wow, 11th September 2017 this article dates back to: “Female of the Species, boil ska, soul and blues influences to simmer Melksham for the Air Ambulance.” In Devizine terms that’s ancient and a gentle reminder we’ve nearly reached our first birthday.

 
Being one of our first pieces it has to be said, not only is it of far better quality than the type of rubbish I’m now putting out, but it had an inspiring theme! The reason I bring it up, because the local, all-girl supergroup The Female of the Species, which was its subject, are at it again, and tickets for their gig at the Melksham Assembly Rooms are now on sale.

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Tackily pasted from last year’s event, I wrote: “Nicky Davis from People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, form the supergroup for Live on the Night, at the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday 30th September.” So, other then being pushed back a day, I asked Nicky if anything else has changed?

 
“Claire (Big Mama) no longer performs with the Misfitz,” noted Nicky, “instead she’s now with ‘Big Mama’s Banned.” Jules added, “The girls are delighted to announce that joining us as part of our band line up this year, on sax, is my fellow ‘Train to Skaville’ band-mate, the awesome Miss Karen Potter.” So other than this it’s much the same and on target to rock the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday the 29th September.

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Karen Potter

This year’s event is subtitled “Raising Money Through Music,” and is in aid of Young Melksham, a registered charity which “work as a community to provide all children and young people with opportunities to thrive, develop and participate.” Young Melksham really makes a huge difference to the lives of youth in our area, by hosting more events than I can list here, including The Melksham Young People’s Awards.

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Click for more info on Young Melksham

They make trips to shows locally, hold a variety of regular weeknight “youth club styled” workshops and events from their Canberra Club, from cookery to sports. They even run a shuttlebus to get kids there safely. The policy of Young Melksham is: “advancing in life and helping children and young people by developing their skills, capacities and capabilities to enable them to participate in society as independent, mature and responsible individuals; advancing education, providing recreational and leisure time activities in the interest of social welfare designed to improve their conditions of life.” They even have fully-trained counsellor and listening support workers when youth need a friendly face and a listening ear.

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Supporting the supergroup this year will be young songstress with that oh so soulful voice, Laura Jayne Burt, Melksham’s guitar/soloist Sarah Deer and batting for the boys, Bath’s acoustic duo Ben & Tim. This is one unmissable annual extravaganza which takes the best elements of all these local groups and combines them into a blend of reggae and ska, soul and Motown, blues and rock. It can only guarantee too ooze with local talent and blow the roof of the Assembly Rooms, for just a tenner a ticket, with ALL proceeds going to this fantastic charity-based community project…..and it’s full of gorgeous ladies; what’s not to like?!

 

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Lightly Toasted at Hillworth Park with Fantasy Radio

Images used with permission of Ruth Wordly of MoongypZy Music Photography

 

Turn me over, I’m lightly toasted on this side by the mid-afternoon sun in Hillworth Park. A young Evie Smith steps up to the navy blue marquee and though nervous, for despite being active on our local theatre scene with MACs, I’m sure this is her first solo singing performances on air, she rings out an acoustic version of the Alan Walker electronica tune “Faded” with conviction and passion. In good hands though, as proficient Devizes singer/songwriter Vince Bell comfortably accompanies her on guitar.

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There’s a scattering of attendees across the vast lawn, picnicking, sunbathing, watching, or all three. There’s children and a few dogs playing too; a peaceful ambience and a typical Sunday scene in Hillworth Park, Devizes, where it’s nice on an average day, let alone when our own Fantasy Radio has set up to record a live mini-concert. The first of July marks the first in a series of their live music events at the park, subsequently followed by one each Sunday for the duration of the month.

 
Since 2pm Fantasy have switched over live to the event, and between playing their emblematic songs and usual gentle banter, they’ve introduced the first act, Tamsin Quin, who needs no introduction really. For this is archetypal Devizes, Tamsin illustrating my point by arriving on her bicycle. Our cosy town’s acoustic scene bursts through its seams with talent. You know Tamsin is the shining example; keen, entertaining, heck I’ve told you this enough times on Devizine already; summed it up just the other day by creating a hashtag: #tamsinquinfanclub!

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So allow me to mention her comrade here today, the accomplished acoustic performer Vince Bell. Taking it in turns, both Tamsin and Vince played two songs each until the five o’clock target. Modest about his ability, Vince is a true hero of our acoustic scene and through word-of-mouth recommendations, one I’ve been meaning to catch the opportunity to see live. He did not disappoint, rather expert guitar-strumming fingers fused with emotionally delivered covers and inspiring originals, proved that Vince is the genuine article.

 
He kicked off with “We Come in Again,” a track taken from his forthcoming album, owned a version of Damien Rice’s “Cannonball,” and paid homage to his love with the beautifully executed “You Still Look Amazing.” But the most poignant was his chef-d’oeuvre, “Ship of Fools,” articulating a sublimely written song in an expressive, archaic fashion and lounging under sunhat afterwards to allow Tamsin to take over with one of her early outsets “Silver Smile.”

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I was surprised upon catching up with Phil Dawson, Fantasy’s big chief, to hear they’ve been hosting the Month of Sundays at Hillworth for six years, and felt slightly ashamed not to have heard about it. Good reason to have started Devizine, it’s a learning curve for me too! So, with full intentions of making up for lost time, I intend to shake any Sunday blues away and drag myself down to Hillworth Park for each Sunday I can.

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I can’t give you the line-up for each week as I really haven’t been told. I’m unsure if it’s all a secret, although I’m told it’s not, I’m still none the wiser! Perhaps though, the details for later weekends have yet to be ironed, but this coming Sunday, the 8th July, is the turn of our wonderfully original cover band People Like Us, who just have that knack of self-styling classic and contemporary songs which charm, and Trowbridge legend Mr Phil Cooper, the porkpie hat perfectionist we’ve mentioned plentifully here on Devizine.

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This one will be interesting to see if Phil decides to duplicate the formula of a couple of songs each, as while Tamsin’s and Vince’s music amalgamates, Phil and PLUS may not so. But whatsoever the outcome, these mini-concerts are a blessing to this sun kissed month in Devizes, a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon. Sun hats off to the Fantasy Radio team, for showcasing local talent, and generally being around, as a small town like the Vizes should be proud to have this esteemed media outlet.

 
It’s not like you’ll even miss it if you cannot make it down the park, just tune in to 97FM or listen online, but to witness first-hand Vince’s finale of the David Gray classic “Babylon,” was bountiful good reason alone; here’s to the Month of Sundays.

 

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My Top 30 Dance Albums of the Nineties: Part 1

When I was sauntering through early morning mist, wearing the half-demented-smirk-half-gurn of a madman on a day out of the funny farm, a dreadlocked ragamuffin lounging at the wheel-arch of his van, perpetually waving one hand from fist to flat palm, appeared like magic through the haze. He greeted me with a wide smile, asked me how it was going. Between concentrating on my breathing, I told him it was going very well, save I’d mislaid my “posse.”

 
I complemented him for his wheels, a high-sided second-hand post office van, as I circled it for further investigation. I found at the rear a ladder and asked if I may climb it, in order to get my bearings. He nodded his approval and so I scaled.

 
On top of the van I could see above the low lying mist to the beautiful sunrise, below it the hats and scraggly ponytails of ravers bobbing like buoys on a temperate ocean. Overcome with the desire to dance, I shouted down, “can I have a little dance up here?!” and again the crusty was only too kind to permit my request.

 
I was at a disused airfield near Enstone in Oxfordshire, dancing adolescent cares away on top of a total stranger’s van. Other grounded ravers, pointed and joined the dance, until one of the congregation visible attempted to climb the ladder. The owner stood and I suspected he wouldn’t wish for this to become a trend, so I took the opportunity to decend before the girl could reach the top, stating we shouldn’t all clamber on the guy’s home. She agreed and we gathered in a circle, dancing, smiling and trading chewing gum for water.

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Free Party, 1991, Cassington Nr Oxford

In today’s age you’d be forgiven for suggesting I made this up, but really, this is just another insignificant happening from 1991, when rave was in its infancy and everyone partied together in peace, illegally. I guess you’d have to have been there to understand, but we danced, we danced harder, faster and a heck of a lot longer than any previous generation.

 
We danced in fields, in warehouses, on boats, beaches, service station carparks, and even the occasional nightclub. So much so, if you had to label the decade under one united musical genre, “dance” would be most apt. Dancing wasn’t compulsory, more essential; you’d only chew your bottom lip off if you didn’t boogie.

 
Musically it was pioneering, the first not to lend itself to individual artists and bands, rather a DJ culture where a mesh of tastes merged into melting pot. An era when a child could gather a TV cartoon sample, slam a breakbeat loop over it and make a record twenty-thousand tranced nutters would dance all night to. Almost punk in nature, skill caved into creative urge, like rock it experimented until it developed into a million branches, but like folk music, it was the united music of a people, an epoch.

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Easygroove on the ones and twos

Despite not having a “king,” as reggae had Marley and rock had Elvis, though many tried, the concentration of record sales, and creating albums thwarted; a “white label” more sought than a picture disc.

 
The hit factories exhausted albums in the previous decade, now compilations of hits, rather than the “concept album” of the seventies. As the underground surged into mainstream, and everyman and his dog took up white gloves, plastic horns and whistles to join a burgeoning revolution, albums battled “rave tapes,” to find a home again.

 
Despite this, albums did quite rightly resurface, many influencing the next decade. This then is my definitive top thirty dance albums of the nineties, let the arguments commence. I complied this list from fond but fragile memories, rather than online researched, so it was personal. Feel free to comment with ones I missed, which in your judgement needed to appear.

 
But why, I hear you cry, why now; you crazy old sausage?

 
I theorise trends return in blocks of twenty years, whence the youth inspire their offspring. Think about it, since pop music begun, in the 1950s, when it was supposed to be wild, rock n roll, there was more jazz than the 1930s. The 1960s we accept as the time of mods, merging into flower power, great experiments in music abound, but listen to the charts back then, full of crooners akin to the 1940s.

 
Ah, but when rock came of age in the 1970s, it stretched to new avenues, glam and punk. Yeah but no but, the 1970s was also jammed with teddy boys; caricatured rock n rollers from the 1950’s with bands like Matchbox, Darts and Showaddywaddy for crying out loud!

 
The 1980s, again a golden age of musical experimentation, with electronics. But hear the charts, note classic soul from the sixties blessed by adverts for jeans, and rock n roll merged into one excruciating “megamix” by a cartoon rabbit who should’ve been shot at birth and boiled in a stew.

 
So through all eras we seem to hark back twenty years, the nineties may have been my age of dance, but as the hardcore chilled into clubs, house and garage tunes lent themselves to the disco of the seventies, and indie kids revitalised seventies rock, well, they were just indie kids and ravers were having too much fun to pick them up on their radar. The noughties, if they were naughty at all, rather a cultureless of bombardment of naff, so-called R&B; cliché musical technology found solace in the sounds of electronic eighties, and the fashion matched too.

 
So, by my reckoning, before this decade is through we’re due a flashback to the rave scene, and with the Tory government treating working class like vermin, it’s not so hard to foresee something major slapping them in the face with a Vic’s Vapour-rub smeared dust-mask and blowing a whistle in their ears; least I cross my fingers and hope.

 

30- Monkey Mafia – Shoot the Boss (Heavenly Records 1998)

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If you thought Damon Albarn was pushing limits with The Gorillaz at the turn of the millennium, or if you thought Death in Vegas made blended cutthroat techno, Jon Carter’s Monkey Mafia outdated and outstripped them both. This is funk, punk-reggae, ragga and sparse beats fused into a frenzy of techno. It’s a dark, nasty and rambunctious clatter which wobbles the mind. It now lives on my CD rack dusty, too scared to dip into again.

 

29- Black Star Liner – Bengali Bantam Youth Experience! (Warner Music – 1999)

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If you missed this one, it’s never too late; it’s timeless. Imagine Massive Attack making an album for Indian restaurants, fuse it with haunting epic movie themes and you’re partly the way to the dub/Bhaṅgṛā sublime crossover experience of the Black Star Liner. This is so gorgeous I couldn’t swallow it, not even with mango chutney. Savour tracks like Swimmer on the tip of your tongue, as the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

 

28- Moby – Play (Mute – 1999)

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Play signifies an end to the most mental decade ever, the fact advertisers, TV producers and filmmakers flocked to acquire every track meant the masses were taking heed of what we knew ten years previous, electronic was music’s destiny. Moby, mild-mannered for an American (he didn’t write a book about his dick,) and modest of his creative output, had been known to us since the word, or track “Go,” something we never thought he’d surpass; if I only could’ve heard “Porcelain,” in 1991.

 

27- Morcheeba – Who Can You Trust? (Indochina 1996)

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A hefty night’s clubbing saw us washed up on Brighton beach. My mate hopped over to the little chill-out café to ask what the tune was that they were playing; been a Morcheeba fan since. Breezy trip-hop, sublime vocals, it mellows the soul. There seemed to be a plethora of similar styled artists arise to chart after Big Calm, their second album; Dido for instance, M People et-al, while Morcheeba remained in the underground, like an old raver’s secret.

 

26- Jamiroquai – Emergency on Planet Earth (Columbia 1993)

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With the Criminal Justice Act taking hold, the free rave scene lay wounded, and I was open to new avenues. Imagine today, recording stuff off the radio to cassette! I was recording the SoundCity on Radio 1 in 1993 when I heard something awesome, something which bent my conceptions of dance and blistered it with unadulterated retrospective funk. I imagined the vocals were supplied via a large afro-Caribbean lady, visualise my surprise when I saw a skinny honky smaller than his hat, the super-cool Jay K. By the following year I’d seen him perform at Glastonbury, bought a gaudy cap and submerged myself in acid jazz. My peers didn’t favour this move as much as I; popularity of the genre remained exclusive. While Jamiroquai made it through to mainstream, groups like Corduroy, JTQ and Children of Judah went on to produce a few too many albums of similar formula and the movement was short lived. Still, this debut album was earthy-jazz with a conscious and a didgeridoo, and never surpassed by Jay-K.

 

25 – Photex – Modus Operandi – (EMI 1997)

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Well-worn by 97, drum n bass for me had seen better days. But where Goldie and LTJ Bukem’s pioneering albums wasn’t without their flaws, Modus, with peerless Photek drums colluded with the superior jazzy atmospherics of a thriller movie, and melded dystopian synth arrangements, to make it quite simply, perfection. It was a drum n bass awakening for rural techno-heads too, who so far had considered the genre too urban for their tastes. I recall listening to it on the way our first rain-drenched Glastonbury, prior years being clement; it felt apt as we took shelter wherever we could, and wrapped our feet in plastic bags before our putting boots back on.

24 – The Orb – UF Orb – (Mercury Records 1992)

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Glastonbury, 1992, maybe, scampering like crafty felons through a maze of tents in the dark, deciphering guide-ropes from hallucinogenic wavy lines and somehow magically avoiding tripping, over the guide ropes I mean. There was a noise, it was not music, it was waves, a soundscape dangling in the air; The Orb were on stage some distance away. Ambient house has no place today, face it, but at the time it wowed. It broke all the rules, hardly strokes of melody, more drifts of resonances and echoes of bass. It was the sort of music to either be awake or asleep to, or drift between them blissfully. While the KLF pioneered this from an ice cream van, the mysterious Orb championed it and their second album UF-Orb was the masterpiece of its genre. There were tracks forty minutes long, which would take twenty five of those minutes before a beat came in. Imagine having to cut Blue Room to three minutes for Top of the Pops!

 

23 – Deee-Lite World Clique – (Elektra Records 1990)

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I bought this on cassette, why you cry, when you had vinyl? Convenience is the simple answer. Witness the confused expression on a millennium kid’s face when you show him a “tape,” but it was the digital download of the era, you could share easier than vinyl. Plus, the American funky sounds of Deee-Lite, which would accompany me on bus journeys to art college, would’ve been viewed as second place during the early “hardcore,” section of the dance revolution. Who’d have imagined in only a few years, DJs like Sasha would take the helm and garage and funky house would be at the forefront. But as we matured it did, for us; the hardcore split into “jungle” and “happy hardcore,” as younger, fresher faces adopted it.

 
So back in 1990, Deee-Lite was a refreshing break, it was psychedelic enough to satisfy, and Lady Miss Kier had legs which went on forever, should you be lucky enough to climb those platform shoes to the beanstalks of tie-dye leggings. I think, however, the timing wasn’t quite there, and in the UK they never made it far past “Groove is in the Heart.” That said, it’s still a floor-filler today.

 

22 – Daft Punk – Homework – (Parlophone 1997)

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Unsure why on earth anyone would call an album this, the last thing you want to be thinking about when partying full force, but that’s the French for you. Also unusual for a video to attract me to a song, but when I saw that guy with the dog’s head, wandering the streets considered obnoxious for not turning down the volume on his beatbox, well, I rode right into that enormous plodding bassline and figured here was something solid and timeless. I was right, for though my journey into French house was short-lived, Étienne de Crécy’s Super Discount and Air’s Moon Safari coming close to inclusion on this list, Daft Punk are still strong today and still pushing the boundaries of the genre.

 

21- Rebel MC – Black Meaning Good (Desire 1991)

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Over the oceans, and apparently, over the seas, you know when we come it’s just reality. This “jungle” antecedent wasn’t originally on my list, but when it suddenly sprang to mind I wondered how I could’ve missed it out. I replaced The Ragga Twins’ Reggae Owes Me Money album for it, because in reality, it surely worked the other way around for both the Ragga Twins and Rebel MC; they owed reggae money.

 

Rebel MC though gave credit, even cameos to his reggae influences, and while he may have been aiming for commercial success in the 1980s, when he fired back with Black Meaning Good, he had a powerful message of which hadn’t been tackled from this angle in hip hop previously.

 
“No,’ some say, ‘that’s not the way, Chat like that, your tracks won’t get played, Stick to the formula ya had before, Fame and money and a whole lot more’, Cha! Wheel out ah dat, seh dat can’t be, I gotta true-speak intelligently, Maybe for that I might sacrifice sales, but I’ll put more weight on the justice scales.”

 
Plus he done it in a breakbeat style which whipped ravers into a frenzy; sounds a bit dated now, but a pioneering album the drum n bass scene wouldn’t be the same without; nuff said.

 

20 – Eat Static – Implant (Planet Dog 1995)

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Frome’s space-rock the Ozric Tentacles were always a popular band, but once the crusty techno scene took hold, their new outfit was sublime trance, and was the West Country answer to Orbital and Underworld. Oh, attire me with glowsticks and take me back to The Berkely Suite of Longleat, when the whole Universe was compressed into a much smaller Tribal Gathering and despite stern thumps protruding, the crowd were amalgamated, approachable, and hardcore.

 
This third album from Eat Static was, for me, their pinnacle, but although times were a changin’ in 1995, clubland getting wise, it couldn’t replace getting down and dirty in a forest where police helicopter search lights scanning through trees were treated as visual effects far beyond a nightclub’s glitter ball!

 

Oh, I’m going to have to leave it there for now, and return next week with 19-11; anyone got any Veras?

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