July Morning is a 1971 song by English hard rock band Uriah Heep. Written by the band’s keyboard player, Ken Hensley, and vocalist David Byron with its distinctive organ sounds it has remained a significant highlight of the band’s live set. In most places the song is taken at face value for what it is – a classic slice of early 70s hard rock with lyrics celebrating the beauty of an early morning sunrise. In Bulgaria, however, the song has taken on a significance all of its own.
Every year on 1st July thousands flock to the Black Sea coast before dawn for their own ‘July Morning’ celebrations built around that 1971 song by Uriah Heep.
in 2012 some 12,000 people were said to have greeted the sunrise at Kamen Bryag where July Morning was performed live by former Uriah Heep singer John Lawton and his band.
Here is a July Morning celebration from 2015.
It is said that the song grew in popularity during the 1980s and became a feature of impromptu summer gatherings of young rock fans. Although formal protests were banned under the Communist regime, the gatherings and by extension the song, were seen as a subtle way of expressing one’s defiance towards the authoritarian regime and celebrating life and freedom.
Bulgarian communism may have collapsed in 1989 but there is no sign of a collapse in the popularity of the song – or indeed of the dawn gatherings which have remained an important part of the summer calendar each year.
Now the song has never enjoyed anything like this degree of significance in the country where it was actually created. It’s loved as a great rock song in Britain but that’s as far as it goes.
How appropriate, however, if this July 1st Uriah Heep where to actually play the song at a dawn gathering here Britain – celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the song and paying tribute to the life of of one of its creators, Ken Hensley, who sadly died last November.
Uriah Heep – let’s do it – we can even have the gig socially-distanced if need be!
Ken Hensley 1945-2020
Ken Hensley image by Paul Hasselblatt
Sunset header image: July morning over the Black Sea by Boby Dimitrov
Personal, amusing, heart-breaking, making a point, performances from the duo Milton Hide have always been memorable, strong in melody and full of hooks. Storytellers at heart, many of their songs are grounded in traditional English song, whilst others are rooted in other folk traditions, such as Appalachian, Klezmer and popular music. Emerging out of the East Sussex open mic and folk club circuit five years ago, the acoustic duo picked up many plaudits for their debut EP, Little Fish, released in 2018.
Now husband and wife duo, Jim and Josie Tipler, are set to release their first full-length album: Temperature’s Rising. All the songs on the album are self-penned originals that Milton Hide have performed live over the past few years.
Josie Tipler: “The name of the album and title track, Temperature’s Rising, seemed very appropriate when we started to work on the album. Greta Thunberg was making news and climate activists were very prominent in the media. Also, there was a lot of protesting going on – anger over US elections and Brexit. Added to which I was in the midst of menopause and suffering frequent hot flushes. All in all, the temperature was metaphorically and actually rising. Little did we know it was going to be even more appropriate as the global pandemic took hold.”
The line-up of musicians appearing on the album are all people the duo have met through playing live. Being unable to come into the studio because of Covid-19 restrictions, the guest musicians all provided their parts to producer, John Fowler, which he then weaved into the songs utilising his incredible editing skills.
Jim Tipler:“We perform as an acoustic duo but, as with our previous EP release, we made the decision to simply present each song in the way we feel best suits it. For some, this is pretty much as we perform it live, for others, we have given it a full band treatment.”
“We asked John Fowler to record and produce it as we had previously worked well with him on a single, Say It All The Time. We knew John would not be afraid to add instrumentation where required and can also play really well. The advantage of working with other musicians is that they pick up on things in your music that you sometimes don’t notice yourself. We love John’s enthusiasm and amazing attention to detail. It was a great symbiosis and a lot of fun! That said, we had to complete the album, using social distancing – spacing ourselves out in the studio as well as doing some recording ourselves in our home studio.”
Milton Hide are:
Jim Tipler – guitars, vocals and piano
Josie Tipler – vocals, clarinet, cajon and xylophone
The full line-up of album guests is:
John Fowler from Dandelion Charm – engineer/producer and multi-instrumentalist: guitars, bass, keyboards and drums
Clare Fowler from Dandelion Charm – backing vocals
Bruce Knapp from Moltenamba – guitars
Fred Gregory from Hatful of Rain – mandolin
Phil Jones from Hatful of Rain – string bass
Ian McIlroy from Rough Chowder – accordion
Simon Yapp from Ian Roland Subtown Set – Fiddle
Artwork for the album was created by Hastings artist Helen Bryant who uses bright inks and watercolours with pen outlines to produce unique striking imagery.
1. ‘Temperature’s Rising’ – with a full band this is a rock track that was inspired by the first Women’s March after the inauguration of President Trump and the marches against Brexit, with the popular slogan “Bridges, not walls”
2. ‘A Little Piece Of Mind’ – is an ode to menopause and mid-life crisis.
3. ‘Littlefield’ – was the first single released from the album, late 2020. Whilst walking the dog one dreary depressing evening, Jim spotted a light in the window of a house that had been empty for many months. It cheered him up.
4. ‘Riding The Whale’ – describes Jim’s childhood memories of playing games on the beach with his dad
5. ‘Making Progress’ – a bit of a rant about stresses of the modern world – work, capitalism, the media and politics.
6. ‘Buckle Up’ – inspired by the true story of Sergeant Paul Meyer USAF, who ‘borrowed’ a C130 transport aircraft to fly from England back to his newly-wed wife in Virginia. A tale of extreme love and homesickness.
7. ‘Turnaround’ – the band often get lost and we now see this as a metaphor for our life. You can always change the road you’re on if you think you’re getting nowhere.
8. ‘Something You Don’t See Everyday’ – A social comment on the irony of becoming desensitised to daily horrors served up to us by modern media platforms. (contains a swearword – radio edit available)
9. ‘Spacetime’ – Professor Brian Cox explained the theory of spacetime on a documentary that Jim watched late one night. It made perfect sense after a large glass of Irish whiskey. This is Jim’s memory of the explanation.
10. ‘Say It All The Time’ – describes a black mood walk on the South Downs. Previously released as a single and re-mixed and mastered for the album.
11. ‘The Ghosts Of Milton Hide’ – written as a retrospective warning to our own children to avoid the woods after dark.
12. ‘Took To Wing (Nightingale)’ – an original modern fable about a woman seeking refuge from abuse and finding freedom in the forest. A finale to the album.
Milton Hide – what they say:
“…A superior folk-club act with a great deal of potential.” Rock’n’Reel magazine
“…high in melodic quality, perfectly-matched voices and rich with storytelling…” Folk Words
“Lovely stuff”Mike Harding
“This is a surprisingly enchanting EP” Northern Sky Magazine
“This is one of those mini-albums which goes straight onto my playlists in its entirety, with its thought-provoking lyrics and catchy tunes.” Trevor Oxborrow – The Folk Show
Swedish singer-songwriter-instrumentalist, Peter Danielsson, had spent time on the road performing in a variety of different outfits. Around a decade ago he felt it was time to go solo and that a change in musical direction was in order. He bought himself a banjo, taught himself to play clawhammer (the distinctive banjo playing style common to a lot of old-time American music) and reinvented himself as bluegrass performer, John Edwin.
As well as old-time standards he also began introducing more of his own material into his live act and, over time, he’d picked up a group of collaborators and reinvented himself once more, now as frontman of John Edwin & the Banjodasha Hillbillies playing a new country/folk sound based on fretless banjo and electric guitar.
Divine Life of Punarvasu is the outfit’s debut album, showcasing eleven original songs written by John Edwin (Peter Danielsson). Irresistibly catchy melodies, pleasing vocals and that distinctive trademark blend of fretless banjo and electric guitar serve to make this and instantly likeable album and one worthy of repeat playing.
Lyrically, the album explores decidedly the non-redneck themes of Vedic astrology and yoga philosophy but are delivered with a sincerity and down-at-home ease that effortlessly rolls with the music whatever your spiritual (or non-spiritual) leanings.
A highly enjoyable debut.
John Edwin & the Banjodasha Hillbillies are:
John Edwin alias Peter Danielsson: five string banjo, fretless banjo, vocals & acoustic guitar Kenneth Bakkelund – electric guitars Pedro Blom – Ukuele bass Jörgen Andersson – snare drums
New studio album scheduled for release this summer
Former Rainbow vocalist, Graham Bonnet, has announced that his forthcoming album will feature ex-bandmate Don Airey. The two who performed together on the classic Down To Earth album back in 1979 will appear on a new album Graham Bonnet solo album. Bonnet is currently recording with bandmates Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass), Conrad Pesinato (guitar) and Mark Zonder (drums). In addition to the core band and the legendary Rainbow and Deep Purple keyboardist, more special guests will be announced in the coming weeks.
Bonnet says: “Similar to the first two albums with my band, it will reflect different eras of my career, but with a contemporary twist. Also, we have some heavy hitting guests including Don Airey and others yet to be announced. I’m very excited to be playing on an album again with Don. Aside from being my longtime friend and former bandmate, he is one of the most incredible musicians I have ever had the pleasure to play with, he’s a ‘real’ keyboard player and a classically trained pianist. “
He adds: “I’m also delighted to be playing with the original members of the Graham Bonnet Band: Beth-Ami Heavenstone, who has been my constant partner on and off stage since meeting back in 2012; guitarist Conrado Pesinato, whose innate musical style elicits some of my best songwriting, and the iconic Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) on drums.”
The album is anticipated to be released in summer 2021 and will be Bonnet’s third release with Frontiers Music – following the Graham Bonnet Band albums The Book and Meanwhile, Back In The Garage.
That early January post-seasonal lull can be a bit of a downer at the best of times. With a Covid second wave biting hard and restrictions on normal life set to continue for the foreseeable people could be forgiven for not feeling too optimistic. However, folk rockers Merry Hell always seem to have that knack of turning out a suitably uplifting anthem when the occasion requires it. And just as many of us are taking the decorations down, preparing for a return to work and wondering what these next few months are going to be like up pop Merry Hell with a brand new anthem.
‘When We Meet Again’ is the latest single from Merry Hell and the lead track on a newly released three-track EP.
“When We Meet Again is a song of hope for 2021 and beyond. Written by John and Bob during the second lockdown period of 2020, it is born of our strange and difficult times but looks forward to the pleasures of being with the people whose company we enjoy, whether it be spending time with friends and family, or simply getting back to gigs and festivals and sharing our music and joy with audiences.”
“In addition to the band, the song reflects its theme of togetherness by featuring the combined voices of our 300 strong Social Isolation Choir. All the members recorded their parts individually and submitted them remotely to the band. Our production maestro John Kettle, assembled everyone into a harmonious whole. The single also includes two tracks from our album Emergency Lullabies – both also featuring the choir.”
Both rousing and poignant ‘When We Meet Again’ is a celebration of optimism and hope and togetherness and recording it remotely has clearly not diminished the band’s ability to come together to deliver another of their memorable anthems. You can bet that when the opportunity does finally come to start performing it live it’s going to be one hell of a crowd sing-along.
The other two tracks on the EP are ‘We Are Different, We Are One’ and ‘Beyond The Call’ – both taken from the excellent Emergency Lullabies album released last November.
Some sad news to start off 2021 was waking up on New Year’s Day and finding out, via social media, that Mick Bolton, the talented pianist who played with Mott The Hoople in the 70s and Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the 80s, has passed away.
Following the departure of Verden Allen and his eventual replacement by Morgan Fisher, Mick ended up touring with Mott The Hoople throughout the second half of 1973 and can be heard on the much-celebrated ‘Mott The Hoople Live’ album.
Reflecting on his introduction to the world of Mott, Mick wrote on his website:
“In May 1973 I auditioned for Mott The Hoople as piano player. They had a huge hit in 1972 with David Bowie’s song All The Young Dudes and, following the release of their 1973 album Mott and the departure of organist Verden Allen, they were about to take on a piano-player and a Hammond organist to promote their new album. I didn’t get the piano job – it quite rightly went to Morgan Fisher. But a couple of days later Stan Tippins the band’s manager phoned to ask if I could play Hammond organ. When I answered yes I was told I had got the job.”
“The US and UK tours were virtual sell outs and we played some memorable concerts with some great support acts.”
Former Mott The Hoople colleague, Morgan Fisher, paid tribute on social media, writing:
“RIP Mick Bolton. My organ buddy in Mott the Hoople, 1973. One of the sweetest of men, and a fine musician.”
I met Mick at several Mott The Hoople related events over the years, where he was always happy to discuss his time with Mott and his fond memories of touring with the band.
However, when I moved to Hastings in 2016, where Mick and his wife also lived, I would see quite a bit more of him. He was a much in-demand performer on the local music scene around Hastings and Rye. Indeed, the first ever gig I attended as a Hastings resident, as opposed to occasional seaside visitor, was seeing Mick perform at a local bar. You can read my write-up here.
I’d often see Mick and his wife Carol out and about, walking along the seafront in St Leonards or enjoying gigs from a plethora of visiting bands at the De La Warr and other local venues, spanning everything from classic rock to folk.
A talented pianist and a warm-hearted man his passing is a real loss to music and to the local community here in Hastings.
I wish everyone a happy New Year. My special thanks go to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2020. Weirdly, although I originally started this blog nearly seven years ago mainly to cover live gig reviews, I’ve had far more visits to my site this year than any previous year. This is in spite of all the gigs (and the gig reviews!) stopping in March.
Anyway, as we look back over the year here are my ten most popular blog posts from 2020. Although I’ve covered the usual eclectic range of metal, folk, Americana, brit pop, rock n roll and glam rock this year, it seems that people were particularly seeking out my glam content this year. Glam ended up pulling in eight of the ten top slots. Here they are in order of popularity…
1. Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade
When Don Powell announced he had been sacked from Dave Hill’s continuing version of Slade it came as a shock to many, eventually being covered extensively in the music press and the tabloids. I posted the sad news up on my blog within minutes of it being announced on Don Powell’s Facebook page – I was first to report it and for the first 24 hours pretty much the only one to report it. My post went viral and was shared all around the world.
2. Glitter, glam and Blackpool rock: interview with glam rock legend John Rossall
Following the release of his highly acclaimed new album ‘The Last Glam In Town’ I talk to former Glitter Band legend, John Rossall. Our chat covers glam rock, show bands, growing up in Blackpool and, of course, John’s new album and the prospect of touring again post-Covid.
3. Sweet launch video to promote new single ‘Still Got The Rock’ and forthcoming album ‘Isolation Boulevard’
Sweet’s ‘Still Got The Rock’ single was released in digital format in December followed by the digital release of new album Isolation Boulevard. The single is reworking of a song that first appeared as a newly-recorded bonus track on the 2015 Sweet compilation album Action: The Ultimate Story, by the band’s previous line-up. The new version features the current line-up of Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland, Lee Small and Paul Manzi.
4. Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet
When glam rock burst into the UK pop charts in the early 1970s the genre may have appeared all shiny and new and suitably outrageous but many of its lead players had been trying to make their all-important breakthrough in the previous decade. Five of the acts we look at here all released their debut singles in the mid to late 60s.
5. Slade legend Jim Lea releases video footage in bid to locate recently stolen guitar
Founder members of Slade were not having much luck at the start of the year. Jim Lea’s cherished Fender Stratocaster was stolen in central London on 31st January. He released a video in the hope that it will prompt members of the public in helping reunite him with his guitar.
6. Live review: Supergrass at Alexandra Palace 6/3/20
The only live review to make the top ten this year, this Ally Pally gig from the Supergrass reunion tour was actually my penultimate live gig before lockdown. (I managed Glen Matlock at the 100 Club the night after). Without a doubt, for me, the greatest band of the Britpop era, I was at the Brixton Academy on the Supergrass farewell tour in 2010 and ten years later I was excited to be their for the their first of two nights at Alexandra Palace on the long-awaited reunion tour.
Steve Priest, bass-player with the Sweet and an icon of 70s glam rock sadly passed away in June following an illness that had hospitalised him. In an emotional post on his band’s Facebook page, former band-mate Andy Scott paid tribute to the best bassist he ever worked with. A phenomenal bass-player whose harmony vocals were an essential part of the band’s classic sound Steve Priest we salute you – a true glam rock icon.
8. Slade at No. 8 in the UK albums chart – their highest position since 1974!
I was well chuffed to see Slade’s new greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz go straight in at No. 8 in the UK’s album charts back in October. This was the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974. Even during the days of the band’s early 80s comeback, a decade after glam, Slade albums were still struggling to make it to the Top 40, even when they had a second run of hit singles.
The run of bad luck for Slade icons in the early part of the year continued. Don Powell, suffered a stroke on Saturday 29th February at his home in Denmark. Fortunately, his step-daughter Emilie, a doctor, was with him when it happened and was able to act swiftly to call an ambulance and get him to hospital. His wife Hanne released a statement and Jim Lea and Andy Scott both sent their best wishes.
10. ‘Confess’ by Rob Halford – a gay heavy metal fan reviews the Metal God’s autobiography
As someone who became a Judas Priest fan not long after my dad brought home a newly-released copy of ‘British Steel’ back when I was a young teenager, and as someone who has known they were gay from around that same time I was particularly keen to read Halford’s memoir. There is a fair bit of revelatory gossip and down to earth black country humour but there are many segments that are deeply, deeply moving, too. One of the best rock biogs in ages.
Traditional musician, singer, dancer and researcher, Mossy Christian won plaudits for his album of fiddle duets with Jim Eldon a year ago and now releases his debut solo album. Come Nobles and Heroes is an album that primarily focuses on tunes and songs from Christian’s home county of Lincolnshire. His frames of reference are very much source singers like Joseph Taylor, Harry Cox and Walter Pardon along with those of the early post-war revival
As a writer and researcher, Christian has published numerous papers exploring the folk tradition, on subjects such as ‘The Midwinter Traditions of Lincolnshire’, ‘The Musical Pennock Family of Goathland’, and the folk-song collectors Frank and Ethel Kidson. What it means is that as a singer and musician Christian brings passion and knowledge to his interpretations that is perhaps unrivalled on the folk scene, certainly in a performer so young. And what a performer he is.
From the sprightly tune-set of the opening track, combining two tunes sourced from a manuscript compiled in the 1820s by Lincolnshire papermaker Joshua Gibbons, to the poignant ‘The Way Through the Wood’ a Rudyard Kipling poem originally set to music by Peter Bellamy, to the final rousing song celebrating the music hall comedian and champion clog dancer Dan Leno, Christian takes us on an exhilarating journey through eighteenth and nineteenth century life.
This is not an album for those who insist on their folk being packaged with a contemporary twist. The only concession to modernity is the clarity of the modern recording equipment which allows the talented singer and player, his equally talented supporting musicians and, importantly, the wonderful material to take centre-stage. In addition to Christian (fiddle, vocals, concertina, melodeon) the album features Tim Walker (percussion, cornet), Gina Le Faux (mandolin), Johnny Adams (trombone), Jon Loomes (guitar, hurdy gurdy), Edwin Beasant (bass bugle) and Ruth Bibby (clog dancing).
Assembled with love and meticulous attention to detail and performed with verve and vitality Come Nobles and Heroes is a fine collection of songs and tunes and an impressive solo debut from Mossy Christian.
Waiting On You Tonight is the latest album from Texas-based singer-songwriter Beth Lee and the follow-up to her 2016 album Keep Your Mouth Shut released in the name of her roots rock ‘n’ roll band Beth Lee & The Breakups. This time it’s a solo album recorded not in Texas but in California.
Having toured with the support of Texas blues guitarist Chris Duarte over recent years, for her latest album Lee consciously set out to explore other avenues of her song-writing abilities. While the Americana influences that characterised previous releases are still very much alive and present, here she gives voice to a much wider set of musical influences. These range from her nineties love of the ethereal vocals of Hope Sandoval, to the pop-friendly melodies of sixties girl groups, to the southern soul of Stax Records to contemporary Americana artists like Nicole Atkins.
Lee’s soulful, heartfelt vocals and evident song-writing abilities are equally well-served by a top-class team of musicians in Julie Wolf, Vincent Rodriguez, James DePrato – the latter two being drummer and guitarist respectively for Chuck Prophet. Rodriguez also produced the album.
With Waiting On You Tonight, Beth Lee effortlessly distils generations of musical influences, from country to blues to soul to 60s pop to rock n roll, to deliver this gorgeous set of original songs that captures so much of what’s great about American music in its most golden age.
The Chair are an eight-piece folk band from Orkney. Formed in 2004, Orkney Monster is the band’s third album. Based around twin fiddles, banjo, accordion, guitar, drums and bass and this album, although recorded in the studio, aims to capture some of the energy and exhilaration of their live performances and promises their unique brand of ‘Orkney Stomp’.
Do they pull it off? Certainly. In Orkney Monster the band deliver an album that’s full of zest and joie de vivre while digging deep into their island heritage. There’s reels and jigs aplenty, with a slew of original compositions from band members as well as a handful by contemporary Scottish writers and a few traditional tunes, too.
As an eight-strong outfit the band are able to really go some on those infectiously rollicking reels and the interplay between the musicians is a wonder. But there is a more sensitive side to the band, too, as we hear on tunes like the wonderfully poignant ‘Wee Davie’ written by the band’s guitarist, Gavin Firth.
Mostly instrumental, the album does also include a couple of songs. There’s a lively take on ‘Walk Beside Me’, written by bluegrass and country artist, Tim O’Brien, that the band make truly their own as well as a beautifully mellow cover of Tom Waits’ ‘Shiver Me Timbers’.
Superb playing, beautiful tunes and buzzing with energy, Orkney Monster is simply a delightful album.
Released: 4th December 2020 by Folky Gibbon Records