Sunday, 19 April 2015

How to fail at Record Store Day

Did you know that the year's biggest rare soul reissue came out on Record Store Day? Probably not, because Sandra Wright's Wounded Woman got buried in an event that Girls Names have described as setting "a record for [the] most amount of dog shit releases in one single day".

I'm not faulting anything about Soul Brother's reissue of Wounded Woman apart from the timing. Oh, and the price, but if it's on RSD then £22 must be ok.

About 18 months ago I saw a copy of Wounded Woman in a second-hand record shop in London. It had just gone up that morning. I wouldn't stretch to £100. Someone else did, though. Strode in, paid in cash, walked out again. Chat among the regulars was that the buyer ran a shop and label. Fair enough, I thought, Wounded Woman will get reissued soon.

Its reissue would get a lot of attention on any day of the year that isn't RSD or Christmas Day. It's an otherwise massive event in the soul calendar that's been sacrificed to a bigger event in the music industry calendar.

The day before RSD I bought the reissue of Raising Hell by Norma Jean and Ray J - superior funky New Orleans soul, 1974 vintage - from Honest Jon's. There are 1,000 copies of this Japanese pressing; it cost £18. Word is spreading. It'll sell out, no problem.

The more expensive Wounded Woman is in a run of 750, and is pressed in advance of a general CD release. It'll have no trouble selling 750 copies on vinyl even at £22. Press more, release it at a different time and watch the press coverage and sales mount up. And forget the CD release. "I'll have that rare soul record reissue on CD, please," said no-one ever.




Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Grant McLennan tribute gig, May 3 2015


Let's get in the mood for this year's Grant McLennan tribute gig by listening to him play Easy Come Easy Go with Robert Forster on the piano. This was recorded in 1999 for the German radio station BR2.

Come to the Lexington on Sunday May 3, 2015 to watch David Westlake, The Popguns and Bill Botting pay tribute to Grant. The live music starts at 3pm. The gig is free. Children are welcome. There's a facebook event.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Point Being - Degustation and Troppo

Ah, the beautiful violence of Sydney basement rock. Sure, they've heard the first 3 Wire albums a lot of times, but this superb debut 7" shares contemporary sonic space with the nagged raggedness of Unity Floors and Royal Headache's direct punch.

They're calling this a 'double b-side' which speaks not of self-deprecation but of a love for The Doublehappys, surely their closest touchstone, who did the same thing.

The riffs just build and build and build. And then stop. Because the cumulative effect of noise and tension is a goal in itself. One day these riffs will hypnotise teenagers who will rightly worship them.


Friday, 10 April 2015

Cherry Boop & The Sound Makers: No Answer (Andy Lewis mix)

Cherry B's debut single I Want To Give You My Everything made some of the right noises 2 years ago. The Delfonics' William Hart contributed vocals and Philly soul legend Bobby Eli produced it. But quite weirdly it was promoted as a cover of the Carl Douglas song.

That Carl Douglas song is itself a cover of Newby & Johnson's minor mid-tempo Chicago gem. Maybe Carl Douglas was referenced because he's famous; however, the cynic in me suggests that as Cherry B's cover is too close in style to Newby & Johnson's original, the promotional machine didn't want attention drawn to it.

Last year's The Way I Am album is good - some of it's very good - without being in any way exceptional. It's a pleasant journey from supper club soul to candyfloss pop and back again. What it really needs is some excitement, some oomph and a kick up the arse.

And that's exactly what Andy Lewis (him out of Spearmint to me, but maybe better known as out of Paul Weller's band) has done to No Answer. He's heightened the drama and upped the tension to create a few minutes of magic filed under northern soul floater. It's on 7". Of course it is. It has to be.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Jonathan Richman new singles

These have been a long time coming. You’ll know Keith and They Showed Me The Door To Bohemia from gigs in the past 5 years – Keith is that pagan tribute to Keef Richards. Jonathan has fun rhyming “Rolling Stones” with “looks like skin and bones” and “since the days of Brian Jones”.

There’s not quite the love for Keith (“Not exactly the blues because it’s sorta European too”) that JoJo shows for the Velvet Undergound (“Twangy sounds of the cheapest kind/Like ‘Guitar sale $29.99’") but then Sterling Morrison did say “if the Velvet Underground has a protege, it would be Jonathan”.

As if to prove the point, They Showed Me The Door To Bohemia does that VU thing of ‘playing less notes to leave more space, staying kind of still, looking kinda shy’. This is a song about being 16 in New York and finding the light. Its brightness and candour, reflected after almost half a century, are undiminished.

O Sun crosses the borders into a snappy Latin American rhythm. He’s been there before and you know what you’re getting (good things and good times). Wait Wait on the other side is an absolute pop peach that’s as fresh as new paint. Jonathan is “like a kid distracted” once again seeing the world for the first time through newly opened eyes. Underneath the spare guitar riff there’s even a hint of those garage rock organ riffs from the Longbranch Saloon.

You can buy these excellent singles from the nice people at Blue Arrow (I did, and they were nice).

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Sulk: Dog Swamp

This 7" ep was recorded in Perth's southern winter of 1995 and released a year later with no fanfare or fuss. It holds up today just as well as it did at the time (very well indeed).

There's Edwyn, a hymn to Edwyn Collins' sexy monkeyness, there's Stubblerash, a song about kissing augmented by a cheap organ (children! stop your sniggering at the back) and, best of all, there's Wish I Couldn't, a mini chamber pop masterpiece reeling from the after-effects of love's big soft punch.

You can find bands pretty much like this now - mostly in Melbourne. Maybe Ciggie Witch, Smile and Haircut will all sound great 19 years from now. I hope they all make more records and get some gold discs. Dog Swamp was the start and end for Sulk. Its 5 tracks are quite a legacy.

Turns out that I've met most of Sulk over the years. The one I've met the most, Bill, has stayed at my London flat a few times in the same room as this record. He never once mentioned he was involved. If I'd had a hand in making this record I'd have told everyone.

Good luck finding a copy. It's under the radar and never sells for more than a few quid. If you're digitally inclined, you can download the songs from Chapter.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Clare Grogan interview

This is from the excellent Big Muff fanzine, 1990. Clare Grogan is touring with her band Universal Love School. They don't have a record deal; they'd recorded an album for London which was shelved.

What is credibility? Who can afford it? I think it's silly not to try to get across to as many people as possible. It's just snobbishness not to.

If you write anything bad about me I'll cry. That's guaranteed. It's up to you.