Monthly Archives: February 2019

Film review: ‘Bachman’ new rock documentary on guitar legend Randy Bachman – released 26 March 2019

If you’ve admired the music of Randy Bachman but you don’t know too much about the man himself beyond “the guy who was in Bachman Turner Overdrive”, “the guy who was in the Guess Who before that”, “Canadian” and, perhaps, “Mormon” – and are keen to find out a little more then this new 78-minute documentary by FilmRise could well be of interest. Scheduled for release in DVD and digital formats on 26th March it tells the story of aspiring young Winnipeg musician through to seventy-something rock legend still out on the road performing.

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Never one for the sex and drugs and rock and roll lifestyle and, in his own words, “not a party animal” there’s certainly none of the how-I-made-it-through-years-of-debauchery-and-came-out-the-other-side-alive narrative nor, given that Bachman is living a very comfortable life and clearly enjoying what he does, is there an Anvil-style struggling-against-the-odds-in-the-face-of-rock-n-roll-adversity tale. Through the interviews with Bachman and his family, as well as rock royalty like Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Alex Lifeson and BTO bandmate Fred Turner, you do start to get a feel for what makes Bachman tick, however. A common thread running through many of the talking head segments is just how driven Bachman was and how focused his life has been on the music. It’s telling that in spite of his having converted to the Mormon faith prior to his first marriage, one of Bachman’s musical associates asserts in the film that his “spirituality is rooted in the guitar” above anything else. And we find out Bachman loves guitars – an awful lot. In one scene the film crew accompany Bachman to a storage facility and we find out just how much he loves guitars as he opens up a seemingly infinite collection of guitar cases and exhibits one instrument after another.

Although Fred Turner appears in the film I was perhaps expecting it to delve a little more deeply into the on-off musical partnership between Bachman and Fred Turner. However, it must be stressed that this is very much a film about Randy Bachman – the man, as opposed to Bachman Turner Overdrive – the band. Nevertheless, it’s a very watchable documentary and, at 75, it’s heartening to see Bachman still performing music and still being driven by it.

“BACHMAN” will be available on DVD, to stream or download on iTunes, Prime Video and Google Play on 26th March 2019.

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Live review: Cara Dillon at the Birley Centre, Eastbourne 21/2/19

From ‘She’s Like The Swallow’ from her very first album released, incredibly, some eighteen years ago through to songs from her 2017 album The Wanderer, folk singer Cara Dillon treats the audience to a beautiful and varied selection of songs tonight.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Dillon performing live several times now, the last occasion being at Hastings’ St Mary In The Castle with a full band. Tonight, however, it’s just Dillon, her voice, a little bit of Irish whistle-playing and her husband and musical partner, Sam Lakeman, accompanying her on piano and acoustic guitar. There’s nothing bare-bones and basic about tonight’s performance, though, nor indeed about the setting. The ultra-modern Birley Centre theatre space at the private Eastbourne College, lavishly equipped with a Steinway grand piano, is clearly a gift for Lakeman to perform at tonight, as he compares the Steinway to some of the more battered instruments he’s had to play on elsewhere on the tour.

Whether it’s her interpretations of traditional songs or her own writing, Dillon’s Irish roots and County Derry upbringing are never far from the surface. ‘The Leaving’ is a song she wrote about the tradition of what was once known as ‘the living wake’, she tells us, where relatives would make merry until the early hours to say their farewells, not to a deceased relative but to one emigrating to America, very often never to be seen again. It’s a beautiful, emotive song but an even more poignant moment comes with her rendition of the Troubles-era song ‘There Were Roses’ about two boys, one catholic one protestant, who were both murdered in tit-for-tat killings back in the 70s. Dillon promises not to go on about Brexit but, as she introduces the song, very movingly talks of the threats to the peace process and the crushing of feelings of hope and optimism amongst young people that the current Irish border issues throw up back in her home town. Inviting the audience to join in the chorus, which we all do in our gentle, quiet, thoughtful way – adds to the poignance.

Another especially moving moment in the evening comes about with Dillon’s rendition of the song ‘Lakeside Swans’ from her latest album The Wanderer, which she was inspired to write as a result of the refugee crisis and seeing those awful images of the drowned little Syrian boy on the beach that appeared on the front pages of every newspaper a few years ago.

Always a mixture of beautiful singing, emotive lyrics and captivating performance an evening with Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman on stage is never less than something very, very special. Eastbourne tonight demonstrates their ability to pull this off once again.

http://www.caradillon.co.uk/

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Related reviews:

Cara Dillon at Cropredy 2014
Cara Dillon at Hastings 2016

Live review: Holy Holy perform The Man Who Sold The World & Ziggy Stardust at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 17/2/19

The Bowie-inspired supergroup Holy Holy, featuring original Spider from Mars Woody Woodmansey and David Bowie collaborator and legendary producer Tony Visconti, first got together in 2014 when they toured Bowie’s groundbreaking The Man Who Sold The World album in full, which both men played on. This was followed with a 2017 tour playing The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars in full. Now, in 2019, Holy Holy are back with another tour performing not one, but both of these legendary albums in full, back-to-back. Bexhill’s De La Warr is absolutely packed out for an evening of Bowie worship. Fronted by Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory, Woodmansey and Visconti are joined by James Stevenson and Paul Cuddeford on guitar, Berenice Scott on keyboards and Jessica Lee Morgan on saxophone, guitar and additional vocals.

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Beginning with The Man Who Sold The World set, the heaviest of Bowie’s early 70s albums, the band don’t hold back on songs like the doom-laden All The Madmen and The Supermen as well as the lighter but no less brooding ‘After All’, not to mention a majestic rendition of the album’s title track. As I observed on a previous tour, Gregory is a powerful singer and great performer who does a nice line in Bowiesque vocals but without ever descending into play-acting or parody. Although the venue is all-seated tonight, many in the crowd don’t need much encouragement at all from Gregory when he says they are welcome to make their way to the front (even if the venue management appear to take a slightly different view).

If the atmosphere for the moody, dark proto-goth vibes of The Man Who Sold The World is reverential when the band switch to performing Ziggy Stardust, however, it’s one of unadulterated, joyous celebration. This is exactly as it should be for one of the truly classic albums of the second-half of the twentieth century. From ‘Five Years’ (track 1 side one on the original vinyl) through to ‘Rock n Roll Suicide’ (track 6, side 2) the classic songs keep rolling one after another, each one greeted with tumultuous, affectionate, thunderous applause.

Yes, those on stage didn’t write these songs and (in the majority of cases) weren’t the ones to originally perform them. Their creator, together with two of his three Spiders From Mars band-mates, is no longer with us. And yet, and yet… this is very much a band, not a disparate collection of musicians and competing egos coming together to reel off a tribute, but a band – one that has genuinely gelled musically, one that works the stage together and one that laps up the love shown by tonight’s audience. Everything about this performance screams out that this is something special, that this is something way beyond the myriad of Bowie tributes that can be found up and down the country.

The encore sees a surprise rendition of Bowie’s 2013 hit ‘Where Are We Now’, something the band only hit on part way through the current tour, Gregory tells us. That’s followed by a triumphant ‘Life On Mars’, a superbly energetic’Changes’ and a gloriously raucous ‘Rebel Rebel’.

Bowie’s music needs to be kept alive and deserves to be kept alive and, really, no-one does that better than Holy Holy.

Set-list:

Width of a Circle
All The Madmen
Black Country Rock
After All
Running Gun Blues
Saviour Machine
She Shook Me Cold
The Man Who Sold The World
The Supermen

Five Years
Soul Love
Moonage Daydream
Starman
It Ain’t Easy

Lady Stardust
Star
Hang On to Yourself
Ziggy Stardust
Suffragette City
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

Where Are We Now
Life On Mars
Changes
Rebel Rebel

http://www.holyholy.co.uk/

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When Darren met Woody…

Related reviews:

Holy Holy at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2017

Mike Garson perfoms Aladdin Sane at Birmingham O2 2017

 

Book review: ‘Look Wot They Dun! – The ultimate guide to UK glam rock on TV in the 70s’ by Peter Checksfield

Rather than another biography giving an overview of the various glam acts of the 1970s ‘Look Wot They Dun’ is basically an encyclopedic directory that methodically lists all the TV appearances of numerous bands associated with the glam era throughout the 70s. Fifty different acts are covered in all, with the appearances for each in turn listed chronologically.

As much as I am fascinated by this era and as much as I will always love bands like Sweet and Slade and T. Rex, I must admit when I first picked up this book I wasn’t sure whether there would be enough in it to sustain my interest across a whopping 286 pages. However, I soon began to get engrossed, reading some of the fascinating little snippets and insights that accompany many of the entries. In one of his earliest TV appearances, Elton John, for example, is wearing “a horrible outfit of faded blue jeans, a long-sleeved orange T-shirt and a sleeveless striped cardigan” prior to the emergence of the flamboyantly-dressed larger-than-life character of later appearances. The Sweet’s Andy Scott had a run of appearances on Opportunity Knocks in late 1966 in an outfit called The Silverstone Set, we learn, several years before finding fame with the glam rockers. And Mud’s first TV appearance, back in 1968, is on the Basil Brush Show while David Essex’s first appears some two years earlier on the Five O’clock Club.

Indeed, although the book is presented in catalogue format and lacks an explicit overarching narrative there are, nevertheless, obvious patterns that begin to emerge across a significant number of bands. First we see tentative appearances on scratchy black and white shows during the 60s beat boom (Marc Bolan and David Bowie/Jones on Ready Steady Go, the aforementioned Andy Scott on Opportunity Knocks etc.) Then we fast-forward a few years and see those same people bedecked in glitter and glam hamming it up on Top Of The Pops in the period 1971-1973. Then by around 1974 we mostly see the glam bands to start putting away the bacofoil and the glitter and opting for a more conventional rock star jeans-and-leather jacket or cool-white-suit look. Then, finally, in many of the cases we see the number of entries for TV appearances steadily declining as the second half of the seventies draws to a close.

Though I would have welcomed a bit more by way of narrative thread, the book nevertheless provides a fascinating insight into how one of the most visual musical genres of the twentieth century projected itself on to our TV screens. And as an invaluable reference tool I’m sure ‘Look Wot They Dun’ will be something I’ll be going back to again and again.

Published: February 2019

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Book review: ‘Uncommon People – The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars’ by David Hepworth

From Little Richard through to Kurt Cobain (taking in the likes of Brian Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks and assorted others along the way) David Hepworth’s book is a fascinating collection of pen portraits of rock stars at key moments in post-war popular culture.

I’m not sure I completely buy his central thesis that the mystique-destroying power of the internet, changing tastes in popular music and a music industry that has transformed beyond recognition means we’ll never have anything approaching the slightly preposterous, larger-than-life, self-obsessed personality of the bona fide rock star ever again. Assuming the future of rock ‘n’ roll is one as a niche genre rather than a mass-market genre, surely we’re still going to see the odd flamboyant, charismatic, guitar-wielding eccentric who craves recognition and manages to make some sort of name for themselves, even if they are no longer driving mythological Rolls Royce’s into swimming pools or chucking TVs out of hotel room windows?

Even if you’re more optimistic about the future of rock ‘n’ roll than the author, there is plenty to keep the rock music fan totally engrossed in this book. Did you know the joys of anal sex provided the original inspiration for the lyrics to Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti or that Dave Clarke of the Dave Clarke Five was the one who was sitting with Freddie Mercury on the day he died? Uncommon People has certainly encouraged me to seek out a few more biographies of some of these exotic creatures we called rock stars.

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Six recently revived rock bands that are turning out to be dynamite

From folk rockers Lindisfarne to new wave of British heavy metallers Rock Goddess to glam punksters Towers of London here are six bands that have reformed in the past few years that we unashamedly welcome back.

1. Atomic Rooster
Originally active: 1969–1975, 1980–1983
Reformed: 2016
Until catching them at Butlins Rock and Blues weekend at Skegness in 2018, Atomic Rooster were, for me, one of those bands that I’d always been aware of but was never really that familiar with. Other than knowing they were formed by the late Vincent Crane (the guy who did the unmistakable keyboard pounding in Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’) before that weekend I could have told you very little about Atomic Rooster. But they were absolutely, out-of-this world, stupendously, brilliantly, amazing. Vincent Crane and the rest of the earliest line-up are sadly no longer with us. But the revived band contains both Pete French on vocals and Steve Bolton on guitar who were both in the band in the early 70s and they have been given the blessing of Crane’s widow to reform under the Atomic Rooster banner. They have the songs, the set-list, the charisma and the sound. Really, this band should have been far, far bigger than they were back in the day. Similarly, the modern-day version should be far, far better known than they are today. Absolutely majestic classic rock that stands proudly against any of the rock giants.

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https://www.atomicroostermusic.com/

2. Lindisfarne
Originally active: 1968-2004
Reformed: 2013
The band had been on hiatus for around a decade but the Lindisfarne name was resurrected in 2013 when founder member, Ray Jackson, began touring with a number of other former members from various eras of the band. There was clearly a huge amount of affection out there for the Tyneside folk-rockers but after a couple of years Jackson stepped back and retired. That was not the end of the reunion, however, as in stepped another founder member with Rod Clements taking Jackson’s place. He’s joined by Dave Hull-Denholm, son-in-law of original front-man the late Alan Hull, on vocals/guitar; Charlie Harcourt, who originally played with the band in the mid 70s, on guitar; Steve Daggett, who toured with the band in the 80s, on keyboards; Ian Thompson who, like Hull-Denholm, has been around since the 90s, on bass; and, finally, former Roxy Music drummer, Paul Thompson, on drums. Denholm-Hull’s voice is surprisingly reminiscent of Alan Hull’s distinctive vocals and he does the band’s legacy, and his late father-in-law proud.

http://www.lindisfarne.com/

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3. Geordie
Originally active: 1971–80, 1982–85
Reformed: 2019
Playing only their second gig in 35 years (the first being at Skegness Butlins the week before) the newly-revived Geordie were one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 Giants of Rock weekend at Minehead Butlins. The band had a handful of hits in the mid-70s but are now best-known as the band that launched Brian Johnson’s career prior to him being tracked down by AC/DC in 1980. Original members Tom Hill (bass) and Brian Gibson (drums) are joined by Steve Dawson (guitar) and Mark Wright (vocals). Powerful, foghorn very Johnson-esque vocals from Wright with a very well-rehearsed band behind him served to breathe new life into some long-neglected songs. It was great to hear the likes of ‘Can You Do It’, ‘Don’t Do That’ and ‘All Because of You’ getting a live airing after all these years. I’ve seen numerous band revivals at weekends like this, sometimes on some really rather tenuous ground. I therefore approached this with a mixture of curiosity and cynicism but they massively, massively exceeded expectations.

https://www.facebook.com/GeordieFanpage/

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4. Satan’s Empire
Originally active: 1981
Reformed: 2016
Satan’s Empire had a breakthrough of sorts in 1981 when their excellent single ‘Soldiers Of War’ appeared on a Neat Records compilation. The band relocated to London, rejigged their lineup slightly and promptly disappeared from view. Thirty-odd years later, the band have now reformed for another shot with the original ‘London’ line up of the band, which includes Paul Lewis (Guitar), Alex McRitchie (Guitar), Wayne Hudson (Bass), Derek Lyons (Vocals) along with drummer Garry ‘Magpie’ Bowler. Live, performance oozes class, stage presence and memorable songs – classic hard n heavy NWOBHM. What’s more they have even succeeded in doing what they never managed first time around – and have released an album. ‘Rising’ contains some great new heavy metal songs, and importantly, a re-recording of the aforementioned ‘Soldiers of War’. The album came out in 2018 to very favourable reviews and it’s good to see the band get a second bite of the cherry. If you loved the new wave of British heavy metal and the much-needed shot in the arm it gave to the rock scene back in the day – you’ll love Satan’s Empire’s ‘Rising’.

https://www.facebook.com/SatansEmpireOfficial/

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5. Rock Goddess
Originally active: 1977–1987
Reformed: 2013
It’s great to see a good number of bands from the late 70s/early 80s NWOBHM era recording and touring once again, even ones that have not been active for a good number of years. The original line-up of Rock Goddess (Jody Turner guitar/vocals, Julie Turner – drums and Tracey Lamb – bass) reformed in 2013 and, over thirty years after they recorded their last album, released a great new EP ‘It’s More Than Rock and Roll’ in 2017 – with a brand new album due out in 2019. Lamb was replaced by new bass Jenny Lane in 2018 but you still have two-thirds of the original, classic line-up. And three decades on they still put on a great live show with bags of energy and some irresistible rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Old crowd favourites like ‘Satisfied Then Crucified’, ‘Heavy Metal Rock ‘n’ Roll’ combining with new songs like ‘It’s More Than Rock and Roll’ and ‘We’re All Metal’. In what was a very male-dominated world, Rock Goddess were a band that showed real promise when they started out and sadly, they disappeared far, far too soon. Three decades on it is great to see them back – even if all-women metal bands appear to be almost as rare today as when Rock Goddess cut their first single.

https://www.facebook.com/Rockgoddessrocks/

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6. Towers of London
Originally active: 2004-09
Reformed: 2015
A decade or so ago glam punk outfit the Towers Of London were steadlily building up a reputation. Tours supporting the likes of the Pogues and the New York Dolls. Festival slots at Reading and Leeds and Download. But then came lead singer Donny Tourette’s appearance on Celebrity Big Brother. Pissed, bratish and annoying, the Sex Pistols with Bill Grundy this was not. It was more like a bad episode of Grange Hill. An equally ill-chosen appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks only made things worse and though the band soldiered on for another couple of years it was pretty much all over. Fast forward a decade, however and they are back. “I’ve been following these guys for a while – they’ve now grown up, sorted their shit out but importantly they still retain their bite.” says former Oasis manager and Creation Records boss, Alan McGee. Yes – the band have, indeed, got their shit together. 2018 single ‘Send In The Roses’ is a superb slice of anthemic, catchy glam-punk meets indie disco. Their new material is sounding great live and, of course, there’s a few songs from their early days, too – raucous punky work-outs like ‘Air Guitar’ and ‘Fuck It Up’ and campy New York Dolls-esque ditties like ‘How Rude She Was’. The world needs a few more bands like this and it’s good to see them back in business.

https://www.facebook.com/towersoflondonband/

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Related:

A renaissance in classic heavy metal: six bands to watch out for

The new wave of classic rock: six more bands to watch out for

Which have been your favourite band reunions?

Blues rock: single review – Big River ‘Blackened Rain’

A consistent presence on the live music scene and and around the south-east these past couple of years, Kent-based blues rockers Big River release their latest single ‘Blackened Rain’. We keep being promised an album but, for now, we’ll have to be tantalised with another single. Following on from ‘Hometown Hustler’ and ‘Blues Blood Baby’ it contains that same blend of meaty guitar, soulful vocals and catchy hooks but this latest offering takes the band into heavier terrain and is an out and out blast of unadulterated hard rock. Think Bad Company with a good dollop of Led Zep blasting out from behind and you’re probably along the right lines.

Vocalist, Adam Bartholomew had decided to take some time out from the band and late 2018 saw the announcement of a new lead singer. However, Bartholomew is back once more, providing both vocals and lyrics here, and the new single has already been picking up considerable airplay.

It seems like these guys have had some ups and downs to contend with of late but ‘Blackened Rain’ is a great slice of hard rock and I look forward to that forthcoming album.

Big River are Adam Bartholomew (vocals), Damo Fawsett (guitar), Ant Wellman (bass) and Joe Martin (drums).

Released: 28th January as download on the Groovy Uncle label

https://www.facebook.com/bigriverblues/

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Related reviews:

Big River – Hometown Hustler

Big River – Blues Blood Baby