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Category Archives: Blues

Pick me ups

As the weather isn’t turning sunny side up until tomorrow, let’s have a few blazing tunes to perk up the weekend lunchtime.


Raymond Scott is a bona fide genius. His jazz sweeps through you with supreme verve, the crackly warm tone of past production surely bringing a smile to your face.

Where did I first hear Raymond Scott? At the highly entertaining Perhaps Contraption’s recent gig at Rich Mix no less. Catch this fantastic London band when you can!

Vocal bliss is very much the driving force behind Amsterdam’s Floatmonki, but the underlying ‘polyrhythmic trip-jazz’ music is exceedingly fluent, seeking out those endorphins of yours. Long live Donna Van Dijck……..

They’ve shed two key members, and lost their more alternative style of writing, but White Denim can still pump out a fun time, bluesy psychedelic tune when needed. Catch them at the Roundhouse in October.

Have a lovely Saturday whatever you do!


I’m feeling lucky

The ‘Shuffle Songs’ option on an iPod: a feat of genius or annoying in its predictably random choices? An essential tool or a pointless addition? Either way, it has highlighted songs I own but might never listen have listened to in my lifetime, and for that I thank it.


How have I not heard this song until now!? As I sat in my chair, I could not help but lie further and further back as the music went on……and then the strings came in at 1.11. Then 2.45 happens. Thank you Cut Chemist for The Garden (taken from album The Audience’s Listening).

From soothing to boisterous, Hungarian fraudster Sarolta Zalatnay’s Oh Ha Millimos Lennek is a bollocking rollicker. Belting vocals drenched in reverb? Please.

Having had a troubled relationship with this outfit previously, it was nice for the tiny hard drive’s brain to pull out a corking Animal Collective track.  What Would I Want? Sky, taken from EP Fall Be Kind, draws you in with a lengthy, hypnotic introduction; the layered vocal melodies dropping in at 3.10 swirling round your head. ‘Tis lovely.

Getting your head around this one takes some going, but that’s the very nature of The Books. Tricky fret work, inventive sampling and bizarre speech excerpts marry into one unique musical mesh – Tokyo is taken from album The Lemon of Pink.

And finally, I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing when my iPod plumped this on. The layering and note choice of the backing track is so detailed and brilliantly laid out, a completely dark and freaky beat, fittingly backed up by a mad lyrical story………A Life In The Day Of Benjamin Andre (Incomplete) by Outkast, taken from the album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.


A very English party

As my new found friend Mr. Hayes has rightly pointed out to me, this band are pretty goooooood.

God knows I like a group that produce music from all weird angles, and Hot Head Show can count themselves highly on that list.


Think Mr. Bungle, but drastically anglicized, replacing heavy with rockabilly country, weirdness with silliness and adding an exceedingly big dose of blues to the mix. There’s ska, bizarre lyrical story telling and drum roll after drum roll, getting faster all the time………it’s a potent mixture of rambunctious music.

Perfect, their second album released in  2013, has a few forgettable songs, but for the most part it is a joyous ride. Kansas, the opening track, is one such world music tinged blues fest. Invest your ears and make sense of it.


The man who inspired my fervent appetite for a 335

As some of you may know, I recently acquired a guitar that I have pined after for many a year – the Gibson ES-335. It does not fail to disappoint, with incredible tone, build and looks. Yikes.

What compelled me to yearn for such a thing of beauty? Was it the well-known Back To The Future scene? Chuck Berry duck walking around like a loon? BB King making his ES-335 purr with his trademark blues licks?

No! It was one man only – the now sadly deceased Alvin Lee.

Man had good tone.

Man had good tone.

At one point the fastest guitarist on the planet, Alvin Lee and his band Ten Years After played the blues at an electrifying speed and volume, equally at home with the softer and more soulful touch as they were with all out rock and roll.

In fact, the below song inspired me to learn to play the guitar, with the tone that Lee wrangles out of his ES-335 firmly imprinted upon my brain from a young age. Pilfered from my father’s record collection as a teenager, I’m Going Home (taken from the album Recorded Live) will tear through your ears and inject adrenaline straight into your backbone.

The whirlwind introduction gives way to Lee throwing out some great blues playing and singing with a gurgling bass. The real moment of magic though is at 4.03 until 4.50. A flurry of notes with fantastic spacing followed by some of the earliest shredding on record, it literally propelled me to pick up the stringed slab of wood. Bridge pickup, just enough bite and the perfect amount of overdrive sent me into a music induced coma of joy.

Picking up again at 6.04 with tuneful organ backing, it is topped off by phenomenal playing between 8.08 and 8.41. It is what the guitar was designed for. The entire Recorded Live album is well worth a listen, as it is a fantastic, energetic live album by any standard showcasing one of Britain’s greatest unsung guitar heroes.

Click here for the famous live video of the song recorded live when Ten Years After took to the stage at Woodstock Festival in 1969.

Now, back to the latest addition of ma famille……

Live alive!

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of watching Empirical at the Purcell Room on Southbank, a performance which quite literally blew my mind. A phenomenally talented group snappily dressed, beautifully crafted music and a good rapport with the audience left me feeling that I had perhaps witnessed one of my favourite ever live performances.

The emotion one can experience if particularly struck by a performance of art is incomparable, especially in the context of music that is highly charged and energetic.

The Who Performing in Concert

Therefore, after last night’s gig, I have felt the need to share some personal favourites when it comes to live performance. Although unfortunately, most have been restricted to recordings and film rather than first hand.

The best blues lead guitar playing ever? Jimi Hendrix’s version of Red House at 1969’s Woodstock, for me, has to be very close. Though the festival slot was more renowned for Hendrix’s version of Star Spangled Banner and most of the band are completely lost in the mix, the feeling, speed, choice of note and shifting tone of Hendrix’s guitar playing is perfect. The licks at 1.20, 3.04 and 4.19 never fail to send a shiver down my spine.

It’s that man again. Punky’s Whips by Frank Zappa, this version taken from the Baby Snakes concert, will want to make you play drums, simple fact. One handed drumming while singing at 6.27? All in a day’s work for Terry Bozzio. With the band in its peak form, the enjoyment that Zappa’s music provides for other musicians is showcased here.

The only group out of this list I have had the privilege of seeing, Hot Club of Cowtown are no-nonsense hot swing jazz with boundless energy. Orange Blossom Special (the first track taken from this Later…With Jools Holland edition) perfectly encapsulates the irrepressible joy that this sort of music, and indeed the trio, brings.

Finally, we come to a video that must be deemed as a Youtube ‘classic’, in that when browsing drunkenly with friends, it is bound to come up. Performed for NBC, Hocus Pocus by Dutch band Focus revolves around that riff, but is comedic as well intensely impressive in the energy captured. Though the guitar work of Jan Akkerman is a sight to behold, it is mainly due to the efforts of pianist Thijs van Leer that sets this performance apart. With an incredible range in his voice and the ability to pull out a flute from nowhere (see 3.02), each break is more zany than the one before. A must watch video.