Making a name for herself fronting roots rock ‘n’ roll band Beth Lee & The Breakups, Texas-based singer-songwriter Beth Lee dips deep into a much broader range of musical influences for her latest album. These span her nineties love 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.
Waiting On You Tonight puts Lee’s soulful, heartfelt vocals and her evident song-writing abilities centre-stage. She 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.
Canterbury-based singer-songwriter Luke Jackson has scooped up numerous awards since first being nominated for the BBC’s Young Folk Awards back in 2013.
As a folk and roots-based artist he’s tapped into a school of song-writing that goes back many generations yet his songs always seem so effortlessly contemporary, topical and relevant.
This latest seven-track EP ‘Of The Time’ is no exception. Written during lockdown these songs take us on a powerful journey, not only of Luke Jackson’s own thoughts at various times over the months between March and November 2020, but feelings that many, many of us will immediately empathise with:
“The man in charge looks troubled on the TV. Doesn’t have a single thing to say” he sings on opening track ‘I Am Not Okay With This’.
The subjects are often bleak but the songs are never bleak, testimony to Jackson’s power as a songwriter and warmth as a performer. And he can be passionate and outspoken and uncompromising but avoids that temptation to get ranty – a trap that some singer-songwriters dealing with contemporary subject matter can sometimes fall into. Again, it’s a mark of his gift as a songwriter and the pure poetry of his lyrics.
The production nicely captures that mood, too.
“The songs lend themselves to a more sparse, acoustic production so the obvious person to do these recordings with was Elliott Norris at his ‘Good Neighbour Records’ studio,” he tells us.
I first saw Luke Jackson at Cecil Sharp House five years ago and was hugely impressed. His ‘This Family Tree’ album that I picked up that evening has frequently been on my stereo ever since – but it has been a treat to get fully up to date with Luke Jackson’s more recent output and familiarise myself with his wonderful 2019 album ‘Journals’ as well as this year’s brand new EP. As soon as I heard it I had no hesitation in making him this week’s featured artist.
Based in Hailsham in East Sussex, Tim Izzard is a musician who has worked across a variety of musical genres but Starlight Rendezvous, released last month, is his debut rock album. Taking glam-era Bowie as its starting point the album makes nods in the direction of pop, prog, rock and garage, and delivers something that is both creative and original yet unashamedly wears its influences as unselfconsciously as Mick Ronson in his golden Starman costume.
Izzard tells us: “It’s a play-it-loud, 40 mins concept album (remember them!) where the time is 632 AF, we are in a Brave New World and ‘The Visitor’, Thomas Jerome Newton, is still alive and still waiting to find his way home after nearly 200 years.”
Izzard adds: “I wanted to write an album that sounded like what first and still excites me musically and that I’d want to listen to once finished. So back to Bowie playing Starman on TOTP and the album, Ziggy. Roxy Music’s first two albums, Transformer/Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Bowie’s live Beeb version of Waiting For The Man still does it for me.“
“The chords and melody for Man Who Fell To Earth came easily to me one day, and just sounded immediately like it should be a tribute. So the title Man Who Fell To Earth I chose as he appeared like an alien on TOTP and left us so dramatically two days after Blackstar, almost as if his mission had been accomplished. The lyrics name-check his songs but also the impact they had on me ‘listening in my room’.“
That self-penned Bowie tribute, the excellent ‘Man Who Fell To Earth’ has already been picking up airplay including here on BBC Radio Sussex and in the US on glam rock internet station Dandy’s Stardust Dive.
Tim Izzard’s album Starlight Rendezvous is available on Bandcamp here:
Steve Tyler is a renowned hurdy gurdy player and from early music to traditional folk to industrial electronica he is at home playing within a variety of genres. He currently performs as a duo with Katy Marchant, as well as in the medieval-inspired trad folk band Woodwose (again with Marchant) and as part of the cross-cultural outfit Meridianum Ensemble.
The Enduring and the Ephemeral, however, is Tyler’s first album comprised fully of his own original material. The unique, utterly mesmerising sound of the hurdy gurdy takes centre-stage in this album of rich, layered, experimental prog-folk subtitled ‘Hurdy gurdy based multitrack music for the end of time’.
“The intention was merely to render in sonic form some patterns from the imagination, rather than following any particular theme or genre. However, as many of the pieces arose from contemplation of the passage of time and the juxtaposition of different chronological perspectives, a theme of sorts has arisen.”
Tyler’s main creative drive is his interest in patterns and rhythms and the resulting interweaving of different components into a sonic structure. Tyler’s infectiously hypnotic hurdy gurdy playing is thus textured by his use of numerous other instruments, namely cittern, reed organ, psaltery, guitar, bass guitar, hammered dulcimer, gothic harp and percussion. However, the album also features guest musicians: Katy Marchant who plays, variously, bagpipes, recorder, shawm and vocal on several tracks) and Jane Harbour, from the Bristol-based band Spiro, whose vocal and violin-playing can be heard on the final track ‘Lullaby’.
A lovely touch, particularly for ELO fans, is the inclusion of the late Mike Edwards – the cellist from the original line-up of Electric Light Orchestra who was tragically killed in 2010. Tyler had previously worked with Edwards and an unaccompanied improvisational sample of his was located and, by chance, fitted perfectly into the dark, haunting piece on the album entitled ‘Tethys’.
A rich, fascinating and uniquely other-worldly album, Tyler creates some utterly compelling sonic textures and fans of experimental music, prog and folk will all find much to draw them in here.
Hot on the heels of Lancashire-based folk-rockers, Merry Hell, who released their eco-themed Emergency Lullabies album last November comes Temperature’s Rising, another environmentally-conscious album title from another act immersed in the UK folk scene: East Sussex’s Milton Hide.
I’ve much enjoyed seeing this husband-and-wife acoustic duo, Jim and Josie Tipler, out on the live scene here in East Sussex on a number of occasions. Their thought-provoking, observational and often humorous self-written songs were always a treat to witness and it was a delight, therefore, to get my hands on their debut album.
While their acoustic-driven melodies are at the heart of Temperature’s Rising there’s plenty more to the album besides. The dozen songs here are all ones that the duo have performed live over the years. However, a cast of guest musicians, their contributions all recorded separately and expertly weaved into the album within the necessary constraints imposed by life in lockdown, add rich texture to the duo’s melodies.
Bruce Knapp from Moltenamba provides some deliciously Americana-flavoured guitar on several tracks, Fred Gregory and Phil Jones from Hatful of Rain come in on mandolin and string bass respectively, while Ian McIlroy from Rough Chowder plays accordion and Simon Yapp from Ian Roland Subtown Set adds some distinctive fiddle-playing. The whole album is produced and engineered by John Fowler of Dandelion Charm who also utilises his multi-instrumental talents on guitars, bass, keyboards and drums while Clare Fowler, the other half of Dandelion Charm, adds some backing vocals.
The title track ‘Temperature’s Rising’ utilises the full band set-up to deliver a rousing modern-day folk-rock anthem. Josie Tipler: “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. “
Meanwhile, ‘A Little Piece Of Mind’ sees Jim and Josie in classic acoustic duo mode. With a more than a nod to the melody of Elizabeth Cotton’s evergreen skiffle favourite ‘Freight Train’ the lyrics here similarly utilise train metaphors but the song is actually Josie’s ode to the menopause and mid-life crisis.
The poignant ‘Littlefield’, inspired by Jim spotting a welcoming light in the window of a house that had been empty for many months, channels the spirit some of those classic English folk-inspired singer-songwriters in the vein of Sandy Denny et al and is beautifully sung by Josie.
‘Say It All The Time’ is another highlight. Quite unlike anything else on the album, the song was initially prompted by a bleak mood that came over Jim during a walk on the South Downs one day and the subsequent death of a musician friend who had tragically taken his own life. It was originally released as a charity single back in 2019 to raise awareness of suicide prevention. Remixed for the album the spiky, slightly eighties, slightly goth-sounding keyboards from producer and multi-instrumentalist, John Fowler, really make this track and perfectly capture the mood of the song.
Mention should also be made of the beautiful packaging including fold-out lyric sheet featuring original artwork by Hastings artist Helen Bryant.
Anyone who is already familiar with Milton Hide’s live act will want to buy this album but hopefully ‘Temperature’s Rising’ will also help bring the duo’s unique talents as songwriters, singers and musicians to a much wider audience. A very welcome full-length debut from Milton Hide with some superb musical guests.
Cult US glam-influenced band The Hollywood Stars, who reunited back in 2018 after four decades apart, have a new single coming out, a live recording of the original band composition ‘Escape’ which was later made famous by Alice Cooper. ‘Escape’ (Live) is released on 15th February.
Formed in 1973 and becoming a regular draw at the legendary Whisky A Go Go club the band’s live shows attracted the the likes of John Lennon, Angie Bowie and Iggy Pop.
“I didn’t used to like The Hollywood Stars, I used to like The New York Dolls. Then I heard The Hollywood Stars play Satisfaction. Now I wanna fuck ‘em.” – Iggy Pop
An album was recorded for Columbia in 1974 but record company politics meant it ended up being scrapped.
“It was a really depressing time,” recalls lead guitarist Ruben De Fuentes. “The sessions were going great and we were so close to finishing the record. Then it all just went away.”
It would take 39 years for the scrapped Columbia album to finally see the light of day. Shine Like a Radio: The Great Lost 1974 Album was released by Last Summer/Light in the Attic in 2013.
However, two of the songs recorded for the scrapped album, both co-written by the band’s lead singer/guitarist Mark Anthony and pop Svengali Kim Fowley, went on to enjoy success with two mega US acts. ‘King of the Night Time World’ would be recorded by Kiss on their Destroyer album released in 1976 and on their Alive II album released in 1977. Another song ‘Escape’, meanwhile, was recorded by Alice Cooper on his 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare.
The Hollywood Stars split in 1974 but (with a change in line-up) picked things up again in 1976 and kept gigging through until 1978, opening for such diverse legends as rock pioneer Bo Diddley, disco star Sylvester, and punk royalty Ramones.
Forty years after the dissolution of the 1978 line-up, The Hollywood Stars reconvened for a one-off benefit concert in November 2018 at The Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles. The line-up included founding members Phares, De Fuentes and Rae, alongside the bassist from the band’s second line-up, Michael Rummans, and new guitarist, Chezz Monroe.
The revived Hollywood Stars released a live version of ‘King Of The Night Time World’ last December and are now set to release a new version of ‘Escape’ as a single on 15th February. Recorded live in 2019 when the reunited band returned to their old haunt the Whisky A Go Go this is the Hollywood Stars’ own version of the song made famous by Alice Cooper.
The Hollywood Stars current line-up is:
Ruben De Fuentes — Lead guitar
Scott Phares — Lead vocals
Terry Rae — Drums, vocals
Chezz Monroe — Second guitar
John Schayer — Bass guitar, vocals
‘Escape’ (Live) released 15th February 2021 on Golden Robot Records
I’ve been following Bristol-based acapella group The Longest Johns since they sent me their first album to review back in 2016. Following the tiktok sea shanty viral sensation that is ‘Wellerman’, however, they now find themselves in the Top 40 – with a lovely rather dumbstruck announcement on their Facebook page giving their reaction as follows: “BY POSEIDONS BEARD! It’s only gone top 40! We did it everybody, thank-you to all our families, the mod’s and the fantastic discord community, Thank-you to Anna for singing it with us and thank-you to EVERYONE who bought Wellerman and got a (Can’t believe i’m typing this) SEA SHANTY IN THE CHARTS. Ohhhh!!”
2020 was looking like a terrible year for glam veterans, Slade. Guitarist Dave Hill sacked drummer Don Powell from the continuing (ie: post- Jim and Noddy) version of the band. Bass-player Jim Lea had his prized guitar stolen and Noddy Holder exchanged a few sharp words about his former song-writing partner Jim in press interviews. All that was put to one side, however, as all four original members expressed their joy at their greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz going straight in at No. 8 in the UK 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!
Only a few short years ago the wheels well and truly seemed to be finally coming off the AC/DC machine. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had tragically passed away, drummer Phil Rudd was sentenced to home detention after an unedifying case involving drugs and threatening behaviour, vocalist Brian Johnson ended up being replaced by Axl Rose following major hearing problems and bass-player Cliff Williams saw the writing on the wall and decided he, too, had had enough. However, with Stevie Young replacing his late uncle, Malcolm, the classic post-Bon Scott AC/DC line-up (or as near as humanly possible to it anyway) was resurrected and a brand new album Power Up ended up reaching No. 1 in twenty-one countries.
Glitter Band founder member, John Rossall, released a wonderfully menacing twenty-first century reboot of classic 70s glam rock with his The Last Glam In Town album. Released back in October last year, it picked up favourable reviews everywhere. All tribal beats, honking brass, fuzzed-up guitar, sing-along choruses and enough handclaps and chants of ‘Hey’ to last you a lifetime, The Last Glam In Town is a modern masterpiece of the genre. “It’s like I’ve written them myself almost!” he told me when I interviewed him late last year. “It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.”
While there has been no big Charlatans comeback (their most recent album was back in 2017), Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties have been one of the bright spots throughout the pandemic. The idea was a simple one: an album and a time would be chosen and fans would converge on social media to exchange their memories, reactions and appreciation of said album. Soon there was a queue of artists eager to get involved and, for me, one of the highlights was when they featured the album by Heavy Load, a band which was composed of people with and without learning disabilities, of which my current boss was the former bass-player. You can find out more about Heavy Load, the award-winning film of the same name that was made about them and the charity that they inspired here.
Asking us to imagine what the offspring of the White Stripes and Radiohead might sound like, Kent-based alternative rock band The Fools Horses have recently released their debut single ‘Drifting Away’.
The Fools Horses are Noah Kemp (guitar and lead vocals) and Tommy Pearce (drums). Both just 16, and from the Faversham/Whitstable area, the duo met in school – bonding over similar musical tastes and drawing on influences from bands such as Muse and Royal Blood.
The duo say they explore many styles in their music but for their first single they have gone for that mellow, melancholic alt-rock vibe that Radiohead set the bar for on OK Computer. I love it. Not only have they captured a mood that so many of us must be feeling right now but with this original piece of song-writing they’ve also demonstrated they can turn in a pretty decent melody, too.
Talking about the song Noah Kemp says: “Drifting Away was written in lockdown about losing someone you love and has multiple meanings. On a personal level it’s about a breakup. However, it also relates to lockdown, and how people you used to talk to every day at school or something, are slowly drifting away as you lose contact. I wrote the lyrics by writing down exactly what I was feeling at the time and then sort of arranging them into cohesive lyrics.”
Like many bands who have had to schedule and reschedule tour dates a number of times over recent months, folk rock legends Lindisfarne have announced that they hope to have their live shows up and running again from August onwards.
Founder member, Rod Clements, comments: “While the earlier dates we had for 2021 are now looking unlikely to happen due to the protraction of the pandemic we are hoping to reinstate our concerts for August onwards.”
The band expect to play Shrewsbury, Milton Keynes, Shoreham, Bradford, Kinross, Carlisle amongst other key UK towns including their popular Christmas show in home city Newcastle-upon-Tyne in December.
“We’re really hoping that the country will be in a better place by August to enable concerts and festivals to happen,” says Clements. “We all need to blow away the cobwebs!”
You can read my interview with Rod Clements ahead of the band’s sadly aborted 2020 Spring tour – where he discusses the current line-up, what fans can expect on stage and how they originally came up with the name – here
Meanwhile, the Lindisfarne legacy continues to appeal to emerging artists with outstanding covers of the band’s best known songs by emerging talents Sam Fender (“Winter Song”) and Elizabeth Liddle (“Meet Me On The Corner”) – catch Liddle’s rendition here:
Rod Clements’s solo back catalogue dating back to the 1980s has also been re-released by Singsong Music. The releases complement the band’s extensive catalogue with takes on classics as well as new compositions and blues covers.
As most rock fans know, Deep Purple’s most famous song ‘Smoke On The Water’ was based on an actual real life event. In December 1971 the band were planning to record their forthcoming album Machine Head at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. Used for live concerts throughout the year, Frank Zappa’s performance on 4th December was to be the last of the season, after which Deep Purple would be able to have the run of the place to themselves and the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio would be parked up outside to capture everything on tape.
Unfortunately, as we all know, it didn’t quite work out that way. As the song goes:
Frank Zappa and the Mothers Were at the best place around But some stupid with a flare gun Burned the place to the ground
But who was the “Stupid with a flare gun” who burned the place to the ground?
Step forward one Zdenek Spicka, a Czechoslovakian national living in Switzerland at the time. According to a local newspaper article published later that month Spicka is alleged to have fired some capsules and then a small flare into the ceiling of the venue that started the fire and cause the entire place to have burnt down. Spicka fled the scene immediately afterwards and although a police ‘Wanted’ operation was mounted he was never located.
The above cutting was tracked down and posted to a Spanish Deep Purple blog back in 2009. It was subsequently translated into English by another Deep Purple fan as follows:
“Here is the release concerning the Montreux Casino fire. As previously already stated in the press, a fire completely ravaged the Montreux Casino on Saturday, 4 December, 1971, at the end of the afternoon where a pop concert had attracted some 2000 listeners. By exceptional luck, this accident did not claim a victim. On the other hand, the damage in numbers was between 12 and 15 million francs. The investigation performed by the police can identify the perpetrator of the act that caused this catastrophe. It was one Spicka Zdenek, born 4 November 1949, Czech refugee, previously of Epalinages, currently on the run (see photo). He was placed under arrest by the [local judge] in Vevey.
The matter is that Spicka fired a flare gun in the [concert] hall, first some [capsules] and then a small flare that lodged into the ceiling which set it on fire. The cause of the accident is therefore clearly established. Although his details had been widely circulated in police bulletins, no trace of Spicka has been found in Switzerland. It has been suggested that he shaved off his beard and mustache. Anyone who can give information regarding Spicka should contact the police…
It is practically certain today that Zdenek Spicka, who had elected to live in a small commune established in a villa located near Epalignes, took flight the same night of the fire. According to his Czech compatriots, he left as soon as possible because he was afraid of being lynched by the crowd–understandably afraid of the consequences of his actions–even if he had not had the intention of starting the fire. Intentional fire can bring 20 years confinement with a minimum of three years, whereas fire due to negligence can bring a maximum of three years.
Regarding the pistol, it is a firearm that one can obtain without authorization in large stores, for example. It was an Italian-made device which could be adapted to flares used to signal distress.“
Such an incredibly dangerous, foolhardy and unbelievably selfish thing to do at a packed gig, it was a miracle that no-one was killed.
However, the incident did, at least, leave the world with an unforgettable song and an immortal riff.