I’ve now been out to several live gigs since lockdown restrictions eased but it’s still feeling a bit of a novelty and there’s a definitely buzz from the novelty of being in a live music venue. This weekend was the first time I’d been out to my local rock pub, The Carlisle on Hastings seafront, in almost eighteen months, where I had the pleasure of seeing Kent-based blues rock sensations Big River. While little about the Carlisle seems to have changed in the past year-and-a-half (and why on earth would it) there have certainly been big changes afoot in the Big River camp.
Former lead singer Adam Bartholomew has departed and in his place comes another Adam – Adam Barron. While I’ve been following the career of Big River with interest these past few years, indeed ever since the band was formed back in 2016 when guitarist Damo Fawsett quit another Kent-based rock band – Slam Cartel. Similarly, I’ve also been a real fan of Adam Barron, ever since I first saw him fronting Mick Ralphs’ Blues Band at a Butlins Giants of Rock weekend back in 2015.
To say I’m delighted by these two joining forces is a massive understatement. Barron, hugely influenced by Paul Rodgers with a vocal every bit as rich and soulful and emotive as his hero, has an absolutely incredible voice. It’s not difficult to see why a bonafide rock giant like Mick Ralphs snapped him up prior to the former Bad Company guitarist’s sadly debilitating stroke put him out of action. For anyone with a love of classic-era blues rock Barron and Big River is literally a match made in heaven.
At the Carlisle tonight the new line-up certainly did not disappoint. Barron has effortlessly eased himself into the new frontman position, bringing to it both those incredible vocal performances as well as an immediate emotional connection with the audience. The band are in tremendous musical shape, as well. Guitarist Damo Fawsett delivers some stunning solos – his bluesy, soulful playing the perfect match for Barron’s vocals, together with great driving rhythm from bassist Ant Wellman and drummer Joe Martin.
The set-list is a mixture of Big River’s first album (written and recorded prior to Barron’s arrival) a couple of new songs (including the excellent recent single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ – where Barron brings out his ukulele, not something the Carlisle audience are used to seeing on a Saturday night) and a handful of blues and blues rock courtesy of Robert Johnson and Free.
The whole thing is executed with such style and panache I have to keep reminding myself I’m standing in a pub in Hastings rather than a 2,000-seat arena and an £80 hole in my bank balance somewhere. Big River were always a great blues rock band. Now, however, they are undeniably one of the absolute best. It will be fascinating seeing where Big River go from here. They are almost certainly going to be bigger concern than they were previously and I await their next release with eager anticipation.
Since my book ‘The Sweet In the 1970s’ was published in the summer, not only have I been bowled over by sales (the first print-run sold out even prior to publication date) I’ve been hugely encouraged by the reviews, too.
Jason Ritchie at Get Ready To Rock was first to review:
“An excellent overview of The Sweet, appraising the band’s 70s output and tracking the band’s ups and downs during that decade. Well researched and referenced too, with the final part of the book giving a whistle stop tour of what the band did from 1980 to the present day.”
You can read the full Get Ready To Rock review here
Then over in the US, Dave Thompson gave the following review in Goldmine magazine:
“Certainly this is not the first Sweet biography to appear in recent years, but it’s sharp, it’s concise, and it doesn’t spend half its time moping around the not-happened-yet sixties and the oh-dear-are-they-still-going beyond. Well, not much. We skip the first ten pages, covering the “early years,” and the last ten detailing “what happened next.” Don’t care. But there’s close to a hundred pages between those bookends that are just non-stop blockbusting, hell raising, teenage rampaging little willying, with every album and single spotlighted for special examination, key quotes highlighted and individual song titles telling their own stories, too. Throughout, author Darrell Johnson (sic) captures the excitement of the great records; can usually find something nice to say about the less great ones, and doesn’t try to kid us that Cut Up Above the Rest was even remotely well-titled. It’s a book for fans, then, but one for the curious, too. Nicely done.”
Dave Thompson produced his own well-written Sweet biography a decade ago, of course, so I was particularly pleased to get his endorsement. I’ll even forgive him getting my name slightly wrong!
Back on to the British magazine racks, Mick Gafney at Powerplay magazine also had some very nice things to say:
“What comes across in spades in this book is the author’s unwavering love and passion for the band, and whilst it might not be the weightiest of tomes, Johnson still manages to fill it with plenty of well-researched facts and insightful opinion.”
You can read the full review here:
And Steve Swift at Fireworks magazine also gave it the thumbs up:
“Johnson clearly loves the band and the tone is warm and welcoming; Johnson does something simple but lovely…”
You can read the full review here:
Over on Amazon it’s been picking up some very encouraging customer reviews, too:
“The Sweet In The 1970s is an excellent and concise book about rock’s most underrated band who transformed from ‘bubblegum’ to ‘glam rock’ to ‘hard rock’ to something a little more progressive throughout the aforementioned decade. It also reminds the reader how Sweet managed to ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory’ on many occasions.”
“Fabulous book. It does what it says on the cover it tells the Sweet story in the 70s. That doesn’t mean that the 60s and 80s are totally ignored.”
“Whether you a big Sweet fan or not this is a really interesting story written and presented very well. I’ve learnt a lot!”
“Draws together from many sources it borders on the academic, yet reads easily. Clearly a fan, our author is not blind to the weaknesses of the band and is never modest on their behalf either. I learnt quite a bit and it’s a great reference book for the material recorded by the band.”
At one point it made it to number three on Amazon’s UK best sellers list for music history and criticism, as well number ten in its popular music books and number fourteen in its rock music books.
When I first began writing the book I never dreamed it would do so well and writing for Sonicbond Publishing had been an extremely positive experience.
You can read how I first came to write the book here
Better, still you can read the book!
‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ is available from the following outlets:
You can order ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ direct from the publishers via the Burning Shed on line shop here
Owen Moore is an Irish-born singer songwriter based in Dorset. Over the past ten years or so he’s put out a staggering ten solo albums of original songs, not to mention a handful live albums too. In fact, my delay in reviewing Fireside Songs since he kindly sent it to me back in the summer has meant he’s had time to put another album since – albeit a compilation of highlights from his previous ten albums.
While Owen tells me he’s had a lifetime of playing countless small gigs behind him, he’s keen to stress that his driving passion in recent years has been his song-writing.
There’s certainly plenty of evidence of quality writing on Fireside Songs. Owen Moore’s lyrics are highly personal, his warm and gentle vocals are consistently engaging and he has a real ear for a catchy melody that will leave you humming along, long after the album has finished.
His style falls into that well-trodden path between folk and Americana, and his songs are captivating and original enough to have plenty of appeal for fans of both. From the Byrds-like ‘Every Once In a While’ to the irresistibly catchy ‘It’s All About You’ to the more traditional big country ballad feel of ‘Diamond Ring’ the album is packed full of songs you want to play again and again. The album ends with ‘The Town of Tralee’, originally released as a single at the back end of 2020,which is the Limerick-born singer’s affectionate paean to the Kerry town of Tralee where he spent time as a young man.
An engaging singer-songwriter and a fine guitarist if you enjoy the folky-ish and the country-ish it’s well worth checking out Owen Moore’s Fireside Songs as well as other albums in his prolific back catalogue.
In a moving post on his Facebook page, John Rossall’s partner, Julia, confirmed that the Glitter Band founder member sadly passed away on Saturday (2nd October) following a cancer diagnosis earlier in the year. John Rossall played on all the early Glitter Band hits before leaving to pursue a solo career. A popular figure at festivals and gigs on the 70s live music circuit for many years, he stunned both fans and critics alike with a hugely well-received comeback album The Last Glam in Town released in Autumn 2020.
Julia’s Facebook tribute thanked fans for their support as she shared the news:
“To all John’s loyal friends and fans, this is the worst news I can ever imagine bringing you all. My John passed away Saturday morning. As you all know, he had been bravely fighting cancer since April. The months we have spent together since his diagnosis have served to remind we what a true gentleman John was.
His thoughts and fears had always been primarily for me and his family, he was not some-one who would ever put himself first. He was the kindest, gentlest man I have ever known, and, I simply cannot imagine a world without John in it. His wished were to die at home and myself and John’s family enabled that to happen. At the end he was peaceful.“
As well as gifting us those early hits in the Glitter Band’s heyday, as I said in my review last Autumn John’s 2020 solo album was genuinely the first great glam rock album since the 1970s.
“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.”
When I interviewed John last year he was immensely touched by the swathes of positive reviews: “It’s like I’ve written them myself almost! It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.”
Thank you John Rossall for being one of the key architects of the unforgettable glam rock sound of the early 1970s, for leaving us a string of classic hits and a critically-acclaimed and stunningly good comeback album.
My review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here
Fans of the perennial metal gods Judas Priest have been lucky on the albums front in recent years. First we had two killer albums from Priest itself. Both 2014’s Redeemer of Souls (recorded after the departure of founding guitarist K.K. Downing with new boy Richie Faulkner) and its follow-up, 2018’s Firepower, stand up against some of the best of the band’s albums from its classic era. And now we have the debut album from Downing’s own iteration of Priest.
After performing a one-off gig in November 2019 it was announced that three former member of Judas Priest, guitarist K.K. Downing, vocalist Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and drummer Les Binks, would be working together more permanently under the moniker K.K.’s Priest. Unfortunately, Binks suffered a wrist injury that put him out of action and his place in the studio and planned tour is taken by Sean Elg (Death Riders/Cage). Joining Downing, Owens and Elg are Tony Newton (Voodoo Six) on bass and A.J. Mills (Hostile) on guitar. It is still hoped Binks will make special guest appearances when the band tours.
Having been immediately impressed with the mighty ‘Hellfire Thunderbolt’ when it was first released as a single back in May, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Sermons of the Sinner ever since. I have certainly not been disappointed. Sermons of the Sinner is just utterly, devastatingly, jaw-droppingly brilliant. This is not just some disgruntled ex-member throwing together a pastiche of his former band to hit the classic rock nostalgia circuit. This is a serious metal band with a ton of exciting and inspired new material. Every riff, every yell, every beat, every second of the album encapsulates the spirit of Priest and is executed with power, panache and pure class.
To really pass the Priest test though my question would always be this: are there ready-made metal classics here that I can happily go away and hum along to myself in the shower after only one or two listens? The answer to that is a firm yes. From the uncompromising title track to the aforementioned lead single to the anthemic ‘Raise You Fists’ to the dramatic gothic-inspired splendour of ‘Metal Through and Through’ there’s slice after slice of Priest-inspired metal classics here. The album concludes in dramatic fashion with the nearly nine-minute epic ‘The Return Of The Sentinel’ – presented here as a sequel to the classic track from Judas Priest’s 1984 album Defenders Of The Faith.
How this album will be received in the actual Judas Priest camp is anyone’s guess. The two bands are under no obligation to love one another or even to like each other but we, the fans, can happily love both of them. Neither Judas Priest nor K.K.’s Priest are going to be around forever. Let’s treasure them both while we’ve got them.
Derek Piotr is a US-based folklorist, performer and composer from New England. His work focuses primarily on the human voice and covers genres as diverse as folk, leftfield pop, classical, and dance but he has a particular interest in Appalachian versions of traditional ballads. He has collaborated with a number of different artists including Thomas Brinkmann, Scott Solter, and Bradford Reed across various disciplines. Derek was nominated by the jury for Prix Ars Electronica in 2012, and has featured on UbuWeb and the BBC.
Derek Piotr’s CV includes an impressive ten solo albums to date in spite of only just hitting his 30s this year. I ask him about the latest Making and Then Unmaking which was released back in May.
Derek Piotr:“My tenth album, Making and Then Unmaking, is an extension of the folkloric work I’ve done in Western North Carolina, with a heavy emphasis on Appalachian ballad singing and folk and country instrumentation. Originally I was meant to work on this album in a studio in North Carolina, but due to Covid, I ended up recording 90% of the album remotely and putting the performances together via filesharing. Making and Then Unmaking features a much broader instrumental palette because of this workflow, with instruments appearing including bagpipes, clavichord, saxophone, harp, pedal steel guitar, viol da gamba, autoharp and dulcimer.”
Of particular interest to British folk enthusiasts who follow this blog is that Derek has been working in the UK all through the summer, carrying out fieldwork.
Derek Piotr: “My fieldwork in the UK has predominantly focused on collecting recordings of ‘non-singers’ in North Yorkshire. This is a direct continuity of my work in North Carolina documenting non-singers, in other words, informants who have no formal background in vocal performance but nevertheless have living knowledge of traditional song and can still sing or recite these ballads from memory. One of the informants I’ve met on my UK journey was 102…it has been a rich and valuable experience for me to collect ballads from their origin source; most of Child’s ballads were collected in Northumberland and Scotland.”
Mel Biggs, who has recorded several albums as part of acclaimed trio Moirai, is one of the UK’s leading diatonic accordion players. She releases From Darkness Comes Light her debut solo album on 1st October. Over twelve stunningly inventive instrumental tracks, Mel Biggs takes us on a journey through the seasonal changes, both natural and cultural over the course of the year. Accompanied by fiddle, mandolin, piano accordion, guitar and cittern she invites us to join her on this deeply personal and evocative journey.
I ask Mel how the album came about:
This album has taken over a decade to be made. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the physical album, which took 9-ish months in lockdown, but the mental health journey I’ve been on since my early 20s. The darkness of living with anxiety and depression, a binge eating disorder, and menstrual health issues brought forth the light that is my music and composition. Further to this, and rather poignantly, the album’s completion earlier this year coincided with me being diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. Knowing this has given me the missing pieces on my past diagnoses and, well, literally everything in my life! Especially my sensory crossovers which influence my creativity so much.
The diatonic accordion (or melodeon) became my closest friend and confidante early on when Iwasn’t able to understand and process the difficult emotions I experienced. It gave me a way to escape and meditate on the natural world around me. The healing power of the great outdoors is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. A sunny day in spring watching washing dry on the line brought forth Shivelight In Spring. Being high up in the Norwegian mountains breezed Oppland Upland into my brain. Zoning out of a difficult day whilst viewing winter’s golden light in the garden gave me Silver Linings. Meditating on the heat haze obscuring the view out the back of my house shone Shimmer into my life. Let me travel the world with my accordion and I’d write and write and be very content!
Mel fills us in on the themes that emerged for the album:
When it came to making the album, I looked at what material I had and realised the running theme was light states in nature through the seasons. Each piece relates to a different point in my personal discovery journey. From Darkness Comes Light is a symbiosis of seasons, nature, and light and their combined effect on mood and mental health recovery. It’s also become a statement to myself of never giving up on finding those missing pieces to understanding and accepting yourself for exactly who you are. Feels like a pretty big thing to say about an album of instrumental folk music, but I prefer using sounds to words any day!
From Darkness Comes Light released 1st October 2021 by Talking Cat Recordings
Maniac Squat were the art punk band from Colchester who had a cult hit with ‘F**k Off’ in the mid-90s – a record which secured them the coveted single of the week slot in Kerrang! no less. Performing over two hundred gigs, including support slots for Babes in Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp as well as tours of mainland Europe, Maniac Squat made their last record in 1996 and promptly split. Now they are back, with three members of the original line-up reconvening to record a stunning concept album of experimental art-rock. The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary, which also leans heavily towards jazz, has been inspired by the work of eighteenth-century Christian mystic, author and philosopher, Karl von Eckhartshausen.
For The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary the band have teamed up with an all-star ensemble of guest musicians headed up by legendary Bowie/Iggy Pop sideman, Kevin Armstrong, who also produced the album. Joining Kevin – and the original Maniac Squat alumni of Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto – are Iggy Pop’s drummer, Mat Hector; PJ Harvey’s sax player, Terry Edwards; and rising star Manchester-based rapper, El Zeeko. The release is accompanied by an equally stunning video seventeen-minute video by art director/film producer, Robert Russell, whose vibrant, other-worldly imagery deftly captures the intensity of emotions that the band delve into via their experimental soundscapes.
Original Maniac Squat frontman, Tom Wilcox, says: “Plato observed that ‘we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’
“Our wilderness years were spent stumbling horny from one fix to the next. In the course of trying to repair our complex and multi-faceted personal relationships, Scott, Michael and I were profoundly affected by both the teachings of Karl von Eckartshausen and the key change rubrics of Gustav Mahler. These inspirations provoked us into composing separate elements of a larger piece of music. We gradually brought the disparate movements together to make one work. There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
Producer and guest musician, Kevin Armstrong, adds:“I have had many twists and turns in my nearly 50-year career in music but the things I will carry with me to my deathbed are those moments of fearless invention that do not yield to any commercial constraint nor any fear of ridicule. The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is one such moment. When I was presented with the opportunity to help realize the revival of Maniac Squat little did I imagine that our efforts would produce such a savage and desolate beauty.”
About Maniac Squat:
Forming in Colchester, Essex, Maniac Squat pursued their own brand of art punk for five years between 1991 and 1996. They first played at Colchester Arts Centre in 1992 and were immediately banned for using an industrial grinder in their performance and for making a hole in the stage while smashing up a guitar. Maniac Squat persevered and went on to notch up the much coveted ‘Single of the Week’ accolade from Kerrang! magazine for their single ‘F**k Off’. They played over 200 gigs in their career – including tours of Germany and the Czech Republic – also releasing two singles and an album and being the go-to local support act for bands such as Babes In Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp when their tour itinerary took them to Colchester. After splitting in 1996, Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto would later re-appear in the mid-2000s as part of The Chavs, with several of their tracks used as MTV theme tunes, including ‘Nuclear War’.
The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is released on 23rd September on all the main digital platforms and in a limited-edition vinyl format, too. It will be available via: http://maniacsquat.com/
The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary – release information:
Written by Michael Giaquinto/Scott Pearce/Tom Wilcox/El Zeeko
Lyrics adapted from A Cloud Upon the Sanctuary by Karl Von Eckartshausen
A side: The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary (Giaquinto/Pearce/Wilcox/El Zeeko)
B side: Overbevisende Mareritt (Giaquinto/Pearce/Wilcox/El Zeeko)
Tom Wilcox – vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, percussion
Scott Pearce – guitars, keyboards, percussion
Michael Giaquinto – bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion
Featuring special guests:
El Zeeko – rap vocals
Kevin Armstrong – guitars, bass
Terry Edwards – baritone Sax
Alan Newcombe – tenor Sax
Mat Hector – drums
Produced by Kevin Armstrong
Engineered by Kevin Armstrong and Mat Hector. Mastered by Ed Woods
Video by Robert Russell
Maniac Squat are:
Tom Wilcox was the front man of Maniac Squat finding notoriety with their 1995 ‘hit’ ‘F**k Off’. Tom has since produced albums for Gillian Glover and Lisa Ronson; the latter, co-produced with Paul Cuddeford, receiving a 4-star review in Mojo and widespread recognition. As a songwriter Tom has provided material for many bands including Lover, Jesse Smith and Florence Sabeva. More recently, Tom has been the producer and singer with London based art rock band Last Day Sect.
Michael Giaquinto wasbass player with Maniac Squat in the 90s and also played bass with punk legends Vice Squad, touring extensively throughout the US and Europe. He then spent several years in Brazil, where he played in Marca Diabo, the resident house band at the infamous cultural centre Casa Amarela, backing performing artists of all types, from contortionists to beat poets. Returning to the UK with an increased appetite for experimentalism, he became involved with London’s improvised music scene and has played with some its well-known figures, including Eddie Prévost, John Russell, and Steve Beresford. He has worked as a bassist for hire in a number of bands, has a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and works in music education.
Scott Pearce – (aka Arsepiece) was the guitarist in 90’s DIY punk band Maniac Squat and later in The Chavs who created the soundtrack of MTV/Viacom’s TV series ‘Blaggers’. Scott moved into music supervision and publishing for TV and Films. He now runs his own independent soundtrack label, The Nerve, and has produced over 250 albums sound tracking networks such as BBC, ITV, HBO, C4, Discovery, Viacom/CBS and ABC. He gave up drugs in 2014 which he now deeply regrets, only binge drinks at weekends but still very much enjoys amorality – if only as a keen spectator which, regrettably, makes him a somewhat duller version of his earlier self.
El Zeeko was raised in a crosshair between Old Trafford and Stretford and enters the music scene with a south Manchester confidence and 90’s hip-hop energy. With exceptional wordplay reflective of his love for English language, El Zeeko graces us with a humble yet raw and honest account of his love life, brotherhood, survival and the road code in his first biblical self-titled EP project as an artist titled 25:17. Starting out as a producer at 13 inspired by his brother’s rap group Manchester’s notorious blueprint to Grime RAW-T, he learned the art and craft of production leading him to be signed to a deal with Universal as a teenager. Working both as an artist and a producer, El Zeeko continues to work with homegrown soul duo Children of Zeus, Tyler Daley, Sleazy F Baby and more due to his musical ear in the Neo-Soul and Hip-Hop space in Manchester.
Kevin Armstrong began his musical life with his own band Local Heroes SW9. After two albums, his career began thriving as a writer, producer, bandleader and guitarist. Most notably, Kevin met David Bowie in late 1984, and worked with him on various projects including putting together his band and performing at the legendary Live Aid in 1985. Bowie introduced Kevin to Iggy Pop as guitarist on the 1986 album Blah Blah Blah and Kevin became Iggy’s bandleader in 86/87. He put together Iggy’s touring band again from 2014 until 2019. He has worked with Morrissey, Grace Jones, Sinéad O’Connor, Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby, Transvision Vamp Brian Eno, Paul McCartney, Sandie Shaw, Gil Evans, Alien Sex Fiend, Keziah Jones and many more.
Mat Hector has become widely known for his hard-hitting groove and stylistic adaptability as drummer in Iggy Pop’s band. In addition to working with Iggy, Mat has worked with Razorlight, Thomas Dolby, Marc Almond and legendary Bowie pianist Mike Garson.
Terry Edwards is an acclaimed and much in-demand session musician, playing the saxophone, trumpet, guitar, keyboard and the flute. He’s worked with artists as diverse as Nick Cave, Ronnie Spector, PJ Harvey, Eric Mingus, Madness, Gallon Drunk, Tindersticks, Jimi Tenor, Mike Garson, Glen Matlock, The Blockheads, Siouxsie Sioux, Hot Chip, Robyn Hitchcock and Rhoda Dakar.
Alan Newcombe is interested in producing combinations of sound on a saxophone mainly using alternative fingerings, flutter tongue and so on. He also plays desiccated bebop and 32 bar standards. He appears with numerous ad hoc improv groups and workshops in London and does a daily show for his neighbours.
Robert Russell created the ground-breaking video for The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary and is a multidisciplinary graphic designer and art director whose design, branding and communications work includes projects for the likes of Virgin and Liverpool Everyman. He is passionate about music, performing, writing and producing for both personal and commercial projects.
Playing their first gig in April 1985, the band April 16TH were late to the party in terms of the UK’s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene. By then many of the bands that had started up in the late 70s and early 80s had either packed up, moved on or dramatically changed their style – bringing in keyboard flourishes and, with an eye on the more lucrative American market, a more commercial sheen. April 16TH resolutely didn’t go down this route, opting for a gutsy raw feel reminiscent of the likes of early Tygers of Pan Tang et al.
April 16TH were John Fisher (drums), Chris Harris (guitar), Lawrence Mills (lead guitar), Eric Puffett bass) and Dave Russell (vocals) – and unlike many bands of the era their line-up remained stabled throughout their entire tenure 1985-91.
“Musically APRIL 16TH always preferred a raw guitar base sound to that of the cleaner and ‘less real’ sound afforded by keyboards. The bands rough edge was further enhanced by the use of a single vocalist instead of the more traditional backing vocals set up,” states the band’s retrospective biog.
“Philosophically the band truly believed in the power of rock music as a form of expression. Their stage presentation was a totally unpretentious and honest, yet powerful and exciting experience. “APRIL 16TH” despised the use of stage clothing and over-hyped theatrical performances with larger-than-life egos. At gigs you could find and could talk to the band at the bar or the pub next door, not locked away in the dressing room.”
Gigging extensively around the south east the band’s early recordings began generating interest from regional radio stations and bookings started to come from further afield. An album Sleepwalking followed in January 1989 which led to further exposure for the band. Radio One invited April 16TH to record a session for the Tommy Vance Rock Show and there was also a slot for London Weekend Television. Sadly, however, financial woes put paid to any future success, bankruptcy forced their departure from the music scene and April 16TH played their last ever gig at the Cartoon in Croydon on Saturday 13th July 1991.
The story doesn’t quite end thee however and thirty years later we now have a newly released CD chronicling all of the band’s studio recordings.
Why now? I asked guitarist, Chris Harris, who kindly sent me the CD.
Chris: “During our ‘career’ we produced two audio products. The first was a C60 cassette recorded at Cherry Studios in Croydon that we called the Cherry Jam tape. The second was a vinyl LP also recorded at Cherry Studios entitled Sleepwalking. The Cherry Jam tape was essentially a gig getting Demo tape but the Sleepwalking album was a ‘FOR SALE’ LP released by our record company – High Dragon Records of Paris. After the band went bankrupt it was always my intention to self-release a CD containing all the tracks that appeared on both the C60 and the LP. But this dream did not become a reality until July 2021.”
“I don’t like the word compilation,” adds Chris. “The title Epitaph was chosen to reflect the sombre memory of our demise and to present all the (recorded) material that the band had available. And so Epitaph was compiled by using the original 1986/87 master tapes. The CD is an exact duplication of the original sound of the band and was not enhanced or re-mixed in any way.”
Although not one of the big names of the era Epitaph is a hugely enjoyable compendium of April 16TH’s recorded output and should be of interest to anyone with a love for the NWOBHM scene and in particular those who enjoy those bands who went for the hard, rootsy, gutsy approach and weren’t like the proverbial kids in a sweetshop when they got inside a recording studio but stuck to the basics.
Visit April the band’s Facebook page at April 16TH
After eighteen months of meticulous crafting, Across The Sea are set to unveil their much-anticipated second album The Wayfarer Triptych, scheduled for release on 1st October. A nine-track concept piece, the album narrates an original story penned by the band themselves, marrying fantasy and folklore, fairytale and philosophy, to present a stirring tale of drama, adventure and mystery.
An artistic endeavour near-cinematic in its scope and ambition, The Wayfarer Triptych sees the genre-defying progressive duo push every aspect of their signature sound to the extreme in order to create an immense work of astonishing musicality, vivid storytelling, dizzying virtuosity, and staggering emotional resonance.
Hailing from Worthing on the West Sussex coast in the south of England, Across The Sea sound unlike any act you’ve heard before. Evocative, otherworldly, and utterly captivating, they defy categorisation, inhabiting a place where the boundlessness of the imagination transcends genre limitations and conventions. A breathtaking synthesis of the haunting, siren-like vocals of classically trained soprano Hannah Katy Lewis and the dynamic, unorthodox and experimental guitar style of Pete Ferguson, their mesmerisingly unique sound is wildly eclectic, fiercely inventive and singularly distinctive.
Their critically-acclaimed first album Infinite Worlds was released in December 2018, featuring on HMV Brighton’s recommended list and being lauded by a diverse range of outlets as a startlingly original debut. The June 2019 stand-alone single Behind the Looking Glass gained further recognition for the duo, picking up considerable airplay in the UK and internationally.
Playing over 150 shows since their inception, the pair have earned a reputation as one of the most tirelessly active and genuinely innovative acts on the live circuit, whose immersive and theatrical performances have enchanted audiences at venues throughout the south and – as part of a successful 2019 summer tour – festivals such as Victorious, Wickham and Rhythmtree.
So, prepare to join Across The Sea on their enthralling musical odyssey The Wayfarer Triptych, as a girl, inspired by her discovery of an extraordinary and beguiling triptych painting, embarks on an epic journey through the remains of a broken world in search of hope, purpose, and a forgotten truth…
The Wayfarer Triptych will be available from Across The Sea’s online store on CD and a variety of digital formats www.acrosstheseauk.com
Across The Sea – what they say:
“Early Joni Mitchell meets Hawkwind in this Space-Rock-fuelled, Folk fusion journey. Set the controls for a far-flung flight of fantasy to a distant galaxy where Space Rock, Folk and Opera are one. Brimming with complex musical ideas and literary concepts, Across the Sea will challenge you to consider where one genre ends, and another begins.” – Alistair Goodwin, Music Producer & Events Organiser, Wickham Festival
“A unique musical act that is virtually impossible to pigeonhole genre-wise, combining amazing vocals with breath-taking guitar work.” – Ivan Roberts, Riff Taff Music Networking
“Something to get drawn into and swept away with.” – Metal Meyhem Radio
“…uncompromising, dark, ethereal beauty…the extreme juxtaposition of Hannah’s exquisitely pure vocal and Pete’s deep and intricate guitar playing is extraordinary and compelling.” – Clare and John Fowler, Dandelion Charm
“Combined they’re a 2 piece that sound like a 10 piece.” – Headlights and White Lines
“Hannah Katy Lewis’ vocal is startlingly good, ranging from Kate Bush theatricals to Middle-Eastern chanting…” – Listen With Monger
“Wow! I’ve never heard anything so intense. This is the best I’ve heard Hannah’s vocal – absolutely stunning! Brilliant guitar work by Pete too.” – Mike Five, New Music Saturday (discussing recent single ‘Nightfall in the Labyrinth’)
The Wayfarer Triptych – release information:
3. Nightfall in the Labyrinth
4. Of Mist, Mountain and Sea
6. Conjure the Tempest
7. Serenity and Chaos
8. Light the World with Wisdom’s Flame
Vocals – Hannah Katy Lewis
Guitar – Pete Ferguson
Written, recorded & performed by Across The Sea
Recorded at Humber Studios & The Mothership, August – October 2020