Kent-based blues rock band, Big River, have been picking up airplay left, right and centre along with a slew of glowing reviews for their latest EP. Deservedly so, Beautiful Trauma is a very classy release. As the band acknowledge, they’ve been on something of a journey since their debut album, Redemption, was released back in 2019.
Bass-player, Ant Wellman, departed recently to be replaced by Simon Gardiner but the biggest change has been the acquisition of front-man, Adam Barron, who replaced original vocalist, Adam Bartholomew, back in 2021. Barron had already made an impact as a contestant on TV’s The Voice, and was snapped up by Mick Ralphs for his own solo band, the Mick Ralphs Blues Band, prior to Ralphs’ debilitating stroke putting an end to that. I’d witnessed Baron in action with Mick Ralphs a couple of times previously, and once with another ex-Bad Company alumni, Dave Bucket Colwell. And I’ve been following the career of Big River with interest ever since they first formed so when the two joined forces it seemed like a match made in heaven to me. And this EP is definite proof of that!
As drummer, Joe Martin, says: “These songs have been performed live and have gone down a storm with all audiences. Through the changes Big River have maintained their thunderous live sound, but it’s that bit sweeter. The future is bright.”
‘Don’t Hold Out’, with its upbeat acoustic passages (courtesy of Barron on ukulele), a blinding guitar solo from Damo Fawsett and its summery vibe opens the four-track EP nicely, showcasing Adam’s Barron’s soulful, bluesy vocals to perfection.
The band then come in hard and heavy for the next track ‘The Long Way’, a great slice of meaty, classic rock which is then followed by another rocker, ‘Slow Burn’, with its striking, jaggedy riff, superb bass and powerful energy. The band then take things down a notch for the final track and the EP’s title rack. With shades of Free and early Whitesnake, ‘Beautiful Trauma’ is everything you could ask for from a classic blues rock song: soulful, emotive, anthemic, with some gorgeous guitar and vocals to die for, not to mention meaningful, relatable lyrics.
Now at a pivotal point in their career trajectory, Big River have delivered an EP of pure class. Anyone with any love of classic-era blues rock is urged to buy Beautiful Trauma right now. You will not be disappointed!
With all the performers originally booked for 2020, then rescheduled for 2021, then rescheduled again for 2022, a lot has happened since this festival line-up was first announced at the back-end of 2019. Festival mainstay, Richard Digance, could no longer make it. He had a booking at the Edinburgh Fringe this year so his Saturday lunchtime set was given over to Seth Lakeman. Matthews Southern Comfort, who had originally been down for the early Saturday evening slot, had now morphed into The Matthews Baartmans Experience, the band having gone their separate ways during their Covid-enforced career interlude leaving just Iain Matthews and BJ Baartmans to fly the flag as a duo. And for myself (who had originally booked tickets for me and my now ex-partner) I would now be accompanied by the lovely Simon (below right) who has stacks and stacks of camping experience but had never been to a musical festival before.
Simon’s verdict:“I couldn’t believe how well-organised it was . It was just like a proper campsite. I was expecting it to be really rowdy and nowhere near as civilised as it was.”
Day One – Thursday:
I’ve been at Cropredy in all sorts of weather conditions, from thunder and lightning to torrential rain to baking hot sun, but it soon became clear that we wouldn’t be able to just sit in the field all day watching pretty much every band that came along. Me and heatwaves don’t mix. I could just about cope with the mid-day sun and the late evenings were exceptionally pleasant once the sun had dipped below the horizon but after downing several pints waiting for Fairport Convention’s twenty-minute opening acoustic set on the Thursday afternoon it soon became abundantly clear that a very different strategy was needed this year.
This was fine as pretty much all of the artists I really, really wanted to see had either early lunchtime slots or later evening slots. It meant I would miss out on the experience of trying out some new bands in the afternoon but even a jam session with the reincarnation Elvis and Jimi Hendrix would not have got me back on that festival field in the afternoon sun.
Following a snooze to recover and then listening to Edward II from the comfort (and shade) of our campsite gazebo, we headed back over for Clannad. A band I’d long wanted to see, their set was absolutely stunning and a fitting finale to their 52-year career. Back in 2020 they had decided to call it a day but the pandemic has meant a two-year delay to the completion of their farewell tour. When Cropredy 2020 was cancelled I treated myself to a copy of their double-disc career retrospective so I was pretty familiar with pretty much all of their set-list (not just the ubiquitous TV theme-song classics) by the time it came to Cropredy. Well worth the wait.
When they last played Cropredy in 2017 The Trevor Horn Band went down an absolute storm. However, not particularly being a fan of either Buggles or 80s-era Yes, back then I decided to take a break for a snooze. I soon realised I’d made a big mistake as we heard Horn and co. churn out hit after hit from the comfort of the campsite. No such snobbery from me this time around and we made sure we were there for a set that encompassed songs from the back catalogues of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 10CC, Tears For Fears, David Bowie, Dire Straits and many more – not to mention the obligatory Yes and Buggles hits. There were numerous guests, including Lol Crème from 10CC, Steve Hogarth from Marillion and the wonderful Toyah Wilcox and Robert Fripp who became those surprise YouTube sensations during lockdown. It was fun, brilliantly-performed and a wonderful party atmosphere, even for me who is generally quite snooty about 80s chart hits.
Day Two – Friday:
Our heatwave survival strategy came into play whereby we would catch a couple of lunchtime acts and then retreat from the afternoon sun until the evening. BBC Young Folk Award 2019 winner, Maddie Morris, finally got to perform and wowed the crowd with her sweet voice, socially-conscious lyrics and powerful advocacy of LGBT rights. Next up was Australian singer-songwriter, Emily Barker, who I’d enjoyed twice before, once doing an in-store performance promoting her wonderfully-soulful Sweet Kind of Blue album (recorded in Memphis) and once on tour with Marry Waterson (daughter of Lal) of the legendary Waterson family. The was no Marry on stage this time but we did get a wonderful rendering of the Watersons’ ‘Bright Phoebus’, alongside Emily Barker’s own unique blend of soulful Americana.
It was then time to escape the sun and also meet a late-comer to our ten-strong Cropredy camping group so I spent some time in one of the marquees at the Cream of The Crop campsite in Field 8 which runs its own parallel small festival alongside the official Fairport one. Anyone with a wristband for the main festival can get in and while I, unfortunately, missed the brilliant Dandelion Charm I did catch some other great music. After showing our new arrival to the camp it was then time to head off to the main stage for Turin Brakes.
Formed at the turn of the millennium their chilled-out and gorgeously-melodic brand of indie rock was just perfect for a summer evening and one of the weekend highlights for me. Playing a mixture of old favourites like their 2005 top five hit, ‘Painkiller (Summer Rain)’ alongside newer material, they certainly looked happy to finally be performing and it was an emotional moment for drummer, Rob Allum, when it was revealed his first visit to Cropredy was as a youngster way back in 1980.
If the previous night ended with the party sing-along atmosphere of the Trevor Horn Band’s set, this was not exactly what Steve Hackett was offering. I can dip in and out of early Genesis but this seemed very much a strictly-for-fans only set, I’m afraid, and after grabbing some pictures of the stunning full moon over the festival crowd we decided to call it a night.
Day Three – Saturday:
Seth Lakeman never disappoints at a festival and although his set is a world away from the entertaining mix of sentimentality and silliness served up by Richard Digance, he was an inspired choice to fill the latter’s regular Saturday lunchtime slot and a big enough name to guarantee that the field would be full by the time he came on stage to open proceedings.
After Seth Lakeman we slipped away, once again, before the afternoon sun really started doing it’s worst but were back at the main stage by early evening.
Early Fairport alumni, Iain Matthews, always seems as comfortable playing solo with just his guitar as he is playing with a full band, so the duo format suits him down to the ground. Playing a mixture of Matthews Southern Comfort and solo material, plus some well-chosen covers (including ‘Reno Nevada’, a regular live fixture from Fairport Convention’s early days) the Matthews Baartmans Experience are nicely timed to start off an evening of Fairport and friends. Richard Thompson (who would be back on shortly for both his own set and Fairport’s) comes on for one song. In a colourful shirt and baggy shorts sans his usual black stage uniform, he joins the duo to perform a crowd-pleasing cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, Matthews Southern Comfort’s biggest and best-known hit.
Then it’s straight into a set from Richard Thompson. With a great mix of old favourites (‘Genesis Hall’, ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’, ‘Beeswing’, ‘Bright Lights’ et al) and newer material (‘Singapore Sadie’, ‘The Rattle Within’), he’s always a star turn any time he’s been at Cropredy and he had the crowd roaring for him from the word go. The voice, that guitar, those songs: this was always going to be a winning combination at Cropredy. And it was. Iain Matthews returned the favour by providing vocals on the wonderful ‘From Galway To Graceland’ and, all in all, it was the perfect prelude to the grand finale.
2020 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Fairport Convention’s first post-Sandy Denny album, the much-celebrated Full House) and two years later they finally get to perform it in full with all of the original line-up from that album, bar Dave Swarbrick (whose place was taken by current member, Chris Leslie, taking on the late Swarb’s fiddle and vocal parts). First, however, the current line-up deliver a handful of old favourites not from that album like ‘Ye Mariners All’ and ‘Fotheringay’, alongside a very hefty dose of songs from the most recent studio album, Shuffle And Go, which was released back in 2020. On their 2022 Winter Tour earlier this year Dave Pegg joked that given they had not had chance to flog them on tour for the last couple of years, there were still stacks of these albums sitting in his garage and so they were making no apologies for heavily pushing it. Clearly, the same rule applied but there are some pretty entertaining songs on the album and the musicianship is never less than excellent.
The moment virtually all of us were waiting for, however, was the start of the Full House segment and it was a really special seeing ex-Fairporters Dave Mattacks and Richard Thompson taking their places alongside Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg and Chris Leslie. Together they captured the drama, intensity and outright weirdness of that classic 1970 album – and some more. All are seasoned players compared to their younger selves and while Dave Swarbrick’s presence was sorely missed, they played and sang with such confidence and swagger that it almost felt better than the original album.
The between-song banter in the early part of the set and the non-negotiability around playing the Full House album in full meant that they had started to run short of time towards the end of the set, where they were up against an equally non-negotiable curfew. ‘Matty Groves’ was unceremoniously dumped but we still got a beautiful rendition of ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ with a lovely video introduction from Sandy Denny’s daughter, Georgia Lucas, as well as the traditional end-of festival emotional sing-along that is ‘Meet On The Ledge’.
I didn’t mind missing ‘Matty Groves’. My only real niggle is that I felt there should have been a proper on-stage tribute to original vocalist, Judy Dyble, who sadly passed away in 2020. I was expecting something to be played from the first album and perhaps an accompanying video tribute. Yes, she was only around for one album but she participated in numerous reunions and was an enthusiastic attendee of the festival each year.
Nevertheless, it was great to be back, it was a spectacular evening courtesy of Fairport and friends and it was an emotional end to the festival. It all comes round again (eventually).
Following publication of my recent book on Suzi Quatro, I was delighted to be interviewed by the force of nature that is Plastic EP. He’s had a huge range of guests from big-name musical stars to dedicated music lovers like myself. We talked Suzi, The Sweet, my love of the 70s glam era and the two books I’ve had published for Sonicbond’s ‘Decades’ series (with a third on the way!)
You can catch the full interview with Plastic EP here:
Among the 800 guests he’s had on so far, Plastic EP has interviewed Suzi, herself, of course. You can catch one of his interviews with Suzi here, where he’s joined by co-host, Sabine Brignell.
Plastic EP and Sabine also interviewed Don Powell recently, which you can catch here:
UK blues rock band, Big River, release their new 4-track EP ‘Beautiful Trauma’ on all platforms for digital download and CD on 19th August 2022.
The track listing for Beautiful Trauma is:
Don’t Hold Out
The Long Way
Formed in 2016, Big River have been on a journey since their first album, Redemption (released in 2019). The band have been developing new material and new ways of writing, performing and collaborating. With a new singer and bass player Big River have now put together a new EP of fresh material which shows this progression.
Big River are: Adam Barron (vocals), Damo Fawsett (guitar), Simon Gardiner (bass), Joe Martin (drums / backing vocals).
Lead vocalist, Adam Barron came to prominence as a contestant on UK TV show The Voice and went on to secure the lead vocalist position fronting Mick Ralphs’ Blues Band. Sadly, that venture came to an end with Ralphs’ debilitating stroke but Adam teamed up with Big River last year. One of the finest blues rock singers around today, he is the perfect fit for Big River as the band move on to new heights.
Announcing the new EP, drummer, Joe Martin, says:“These songs have been performed live and have gone down a storm with all audiences. Through the changes Big River have maintained their thunderous live sound, but it’s that bit sweeter. The future is bright.”
Big River are currently on the road in the UK promoting the EP until the end of the year when they will head back into the studio to start recording a full album.
Beautiful Trauma is released on 19th August on CD and all the main digital platforms.
Art Club of Paintings is the debut album of The Electric Flea Show. Rather than a band, The Electric Flee Show is actually the pseudonym of an otherwise un-named singer-songwriter. “Unidentified, in the spirit of Banksy perhaps – or maybe just some anonymous bloke,” he writes in the accompanying press blurb.
As an album it’s got a slightly indie/experimental, lo-fi acoustic vibe to it but the songs are accessible, the melodies hummable and the lyrics thought-provoking. It’s another of those albums that was seemingly conceived during the lockdown. However, the lyrical themes were “informed but not constrained by lockdown” according to their author: thoughts of love, heartbreak, life, death and dreams for the future fill the album’s ten tracks.
The vocals have that melancholy edge in the best of that ‘sensitive singer-song-writer’ tradition but he’s got a likeable and highly engaging voice that gently draws you in. The vocals and acoustic guitar are occasionally punctuated by some slightly other-worldly special effects, vintage keyboard sounds and drum samples.
A really interesting album. I enjoyed this one. Thanks Electric Flea Show, whoever you are.
Hot on the heels of Peter Checksfield’sprevious Top Of The Pops book (which covered the show from its inception in 1964 through to 1975) comes this second volume taking us from 1976 through to 1986.
Again, it’s a similar format with a rundown of the acts on each episode and various titbits such as brief pen portraits of each artist, chart history and various reminiscences from some of those who performed on the show. It’s a slightly expanded format this time, including stills from each episode broadcast, resulting in a massive telephone directory -sized tome.
Unlike the first volume, where I was either yet to be born or a very young toddler for a good chunk of the episodes covered, this volume covers the entirety of my teenage years where Top Of The Pops went from something being on in the background to something I avidly watched each week.
I was ten in 1976 and vaguely starting to become aware of changes in the musical landscape. This book, however, is a timely reminder that for all of punk’s year zero rhetoric, change was gradual rather than something that happened overnight. Slade, Sweet, Mud and Gary Glitter were all still regulars at this point (even if their chart positions were somewhat lower than previously) sharing the Top Of The Pops weekly chart run-down with the likes of The Jam, The Stranglers and The Sex Pistols.
I was a bit too young to get caught up in punk and new romantic was never really my cup of tea either. But the early 1980s also saw a real renaissance for hard rock and heavy metal, which had been in the doldrums a bit in the second half of the 1970s. At the start of that new decade, bands like Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon became regulars on TOTP – not just making the album charts but making a serious mark on the singles charts, too. The period even saw a big commercial revival for Slade. Their appearance on 29th January 1981 as Checksfield notes, being their first TOTP performance in four years. It was a pivotal moment for me, instantly transforming them from being a group I remembered from my childhood that did that Christmas record to being my number one favourite band.
People will have their own particular highlights but this book, as well as being a useful and well-researched reference work, will trigger many affectionate memories, even though the less we dwell on some of the show’s past presenters the better.
It’s been over thirty years since attending my first and only previous Rolling Stones gig, when I went with my dad to Manchester’s Maine Road back in 1990. My dad’s thinking back then was that if I wanted to see them live then 1990’s Urban Jungle tour might be my last chance.
Thirty-two years later and they are still at it, well Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood anyway. The set opened with a poignant tribute to Charlie Watts up on the huge screens and Jagger dedicating the concert to him.
Opening up with a wonderfully energetic version of ‘Get Off My Cloud’ to get us all instantly in the mood, the hits keep rolling. Timeless classics all, I was particularly moved by a poignant rendition of ‘Angie’ and a beautiful ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, a song we played at my dad’s funeral back in 2007 so it has special meaning for me.
There was quite a lot of banter with the crowd, a playful Jagger welcoming us to the “American Express British Summer Time Covid super-spreader event” at one point. This is the fifth time the Stones have played Hyde Park, the vocalist reminds us. “The first one was free,” he says, recalling that legendary Hyde Park concert back in July 1969 following the tragic death of Brian Jones. “The following ones were not free,” he says with a wry grin, acknowledging the hefty wads of cash that most of us had forked out for the privilege of being here tonight.
Keith Richards is in his element, taking lead vocals for a couple of songs, ‘You Got The Silver’ (from Let It Bleed) and ‘Happy’ (from Exile On Main Street). It also gave Jagger a short rest back stage. But for the rest of the concert he’s bopping and preening and dashing out into the crowd on the famed ‘ego-ramp’, the same as he’s always done in a way that’s just impossible to believe he’s now almost 79.
As Matt, my gig partner for the day points out, it’s not a massive entourage of a backing band. Jagger, Richards and Wood are joined by the ever-present Darryl Jones, who took over from Bill Wyman back in 1994, and Steve Jordan filling in for Charlie Watts since the latter’s shock demise last year. Alongside them are Chuck Leavell and Matt Clifford on keyboards, Bernard Fowler on backing vocals and percussion, Tim Ries and Karl Denson on saxophone, and Sasha Allen on backing vocals. Both the sound and on-stage vibe is perfection.
Jagger’s soon back on stage and the band launch into an extended, super-funked-up version of ‘Miss You’, an opportunity for a mass boogie by the Hyde Park crowd and communal “ooh-ooh ooh-ooh ooh-ooh-ooh” backing vocals before we move straight into a deliciously laid-back ‘Midnight Rambler’, with bags of harmonica from Jagger and Richards and Woods trading country-flavoured guitar licks.
And there’s still time to pack a whole more classics in: ‘Paint It Black’, ‘Start Me Up’, ‘Gimme Shelter’, ‘Jumping Jack Flash’. Another poignant moment comes as the big screens depict an eery tableau of bombed-out buildings during ‘Gimme Shelter’ as the band’s tribute to Ukraine, with backing singer, Sasha Allen, duetting with Jagger on this one and demonstrating what a fantastically soulful voice she’s got as she joins him on the ramp out into the crowd.
Unlike the Eagles last week, who launched straight into their encore set without the hassle of going off stage and coming back on again, we did have to wait a couple minutes for the band to return and conclude with ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and riotous, life-affirming ‘Satisfaction’.
I probably won’t get to see them again, regardless of the band’s future plans as they reach their sixtieth anniversary milestone. But this was special and something I’ll remember forever.
My first BST Hyde Park festival since Blur in 2015, and I’ve not just got one this year, but two. First the Eagles then the Rolling Stones a week later.
Having long been on my bucket-list of must-see artists, I’d somehow managed to avoid seeing the Eagles until now so today was always going to be really special. It was made even more special by the early evening support slot from none other than Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. It’s a superb fit as their lush bluegrass-soaked Americana perfectly complements the laid-back, west coast, country rock of the headliners. Giving us a selection of tracks from their stunning 2007 Raising Sand album and its recent follow-up, Raise The Roof, the pair also manage to chuck in a couple of Zep covers, too – ‘Rock and Roll’ and a majestic version of ‘The Battle of Evermore’, originally a duet between Plant and Sandy Denny.
The sun continued to shine and the Eagles took to the stage on a lovely warm summer evening in Hyde Park. If there’s one band you don’t want to see performing against a backdrop of typically unreliable British weather, it’s got to be the Eagles. But everything is on their side tonight.
Following the sad passing of Glenn Frey back in 2016, the Eagles these days are Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit and new boy, Vince Gill. It’s a masterclass of a performance and the classics just keep rolling: ‘One Of These Nights’, ‘Witchy Woman’, Take It To The Limit’, Lyin’ Eyes’, They just keep coming.
Glenn Frey’s son, Deacon, who was officially part of the line-up for a time following his father’s death, joins as a special guest for a couple of songs, including a stunning ‘Take It Easy’.
Ever the rock star, and never one to really go for the regulation, trade-mark, laid-back Eagles persona, Joe Walsh brings his flamboyance to the performance and gets to do a couple of his solo numbers, too. He’s still in fine voice and his guitar-playing is just a delight. Drummer and founder, Don Henley, also gives us one of his solo numbers, dedicating ‘The Boys of Summer’ to Taylor Hawkins.
Those Eagles classics keep coming though. They’ll be on for two hours by the end. Probably mindful of Westminster City Council’s ultra-strict curfew policy and given that we are now well past 10pm, “We’re not going to do that walk on and walk off thing,” we’re told. Before we know it, it’s ‘Hotel California’ and it just felt magical being in Hyde Park late on a summer evening watching the Eagles perform the song they’ll always be most famous for. We’re not quite finished yet and there’s time to squeeze in ‘Rocky Mountain Way’, ‘Desperado’ and ‘Already Gone’ before the curfew hits.
A truly magical evening and a chance to finally see one of my bucket-list bands. And next week it’s the Stones!
Tony Fox Sales featuring Clem Burke from Blondie – UK tour March 2023
Marking forty-five years since the release of the all-time classic Lust For Life album, esteemed former Iggy Pop and Tin Machine bass-player, Tony Fox Sales, sets out on a rare UK tour next Spring, his first in the UK since 1991. With an all-star line-up, Sales is joined by legendary Blondie drummer, Clem Burke; vocalist, renowned broadcaster and Pet Shop Boys dancer, Katie Puckrik; Iggy Pop and David Bowie guitarist, Kevin Armstrong; guitarist, Luis Correia, who’s toured internationally with Earl Slick; and classical pianist, composer, and touring member of Heaven 17, Florence Sabeva.
Tony Fox Sales will perform the Lust For Life album in full, as well as revisiting songs from across the individual band members’ careers with legendary artists such as Blondie and David Bowie. The eleven-date tour also includes a special one-off date in Dublin.
Announcing the tour, Tony Fox Sales comments: “I look forward, with great anticipation, to returning to England to tour this coming year. The Lust For Life album was the recording highlight of my fifty-eight year career in music for me. It was an amazing experience artistically, and personally. Memories not too soon forgotten. Though, as of now, I have not worked with the entire line-up of players for this tour, I have no doubt, that this will be an ass-kicking event! Lust For Life!”
Katie Puckrik: “I’m a show pony from way back: along with my broadcast career covering pop culture, I performed onstage with The Fall and Michael Clark Company, I toured the world dancing with Pet Shop Boys, and I sang in Sparks’ opera The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, both on the original cast recording and in performance. I have worked with towering icons of music, but taking on the magnificent Iggy Pop’s vocal duties for this Lust for Life re-make/re-model is an electrifying opportunity like no other. Not only do I get to sing anthems like ‘Lust for Life’ and ‘The Passenger’ (as well as my personal fave from the album, ‘Success’), but I’m surrounded by some of Iggy, Bowie and Blondie’s key players, including Tony Sales, Clem Burke and Kevin Armstrong. So strap on your horse tails and join me in celebrating Lust for Life.”
The Tony Fox Sales band members are:
Tony Fox Sales – Bass and Backing Vocals: Growing up in Detroit, bass-player, Tony Fox Sales, and his drummer brother, Hunt, formed their first band in the mid-1960s. As a rhythm section Tony and Hunt would go on to work with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren, Bob Welch, Andy Fraser and many others. After recording a couple of albums with Todd in the early 1970s, the two brothers recorded the Kill City album with Iggy Pop in 1975 followed by Lust for Life in 1977. They both joined Iggy on his subsequent tour, recorded as TV Eye Live 1977 and released the following year. In 1982 Tony joined Chequered Past, which included singer/actor Michael Des Barres (later of Power Station); ex-Sex Pistols guitarist, Steve Jones; Blondie’s drummer, Clem Burke, as well as their bass player, Nigel Harrison. In 1988 Tony then joined forces with David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels and Hunt Sales in Tin Machine. Bowie later acknowledged that it was Tony and Hunt’s contribution to Lust for Life that led him to invite the brothers to join him.
Clem Burke – Drums: Answering an ad in the New York newspaper, Village Voice, for a band seeking a ‘freak energy’ rock drummer, Clem Burke became the drummer of Blondie in the mid-1970s. The band recorded their first album in 1976 and emerged as the great pop icons of New York’s celebrated late 1970s new wave punk scene, achieving huge commercial success with the number one hit singles ‘Atomic’, ‘Heart of Glass’, ‘Sunday Girl’, ‘Call Me’, ‘Rapture’, and ‘The Tide is High’. When Blondie temporarily broke up in 1982, Burke joined Tony Fox Sales in Chequered Past and has also played with a plethora of music legends, including Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop, The Ramones, The Eurythmics and Joan Jett. In 2006, along with the other original members of Blondie, Clem was inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Blondie already having sold over 42 million records.
Katie Puckrik – Vocals: The performer, broadcaster and writer made her TV breakthrough hosting The Word in the 1990s. As a vocalist she sang in Sparks’ opera The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, and her presenting work includes a two-part BBC TV documentary on yacht rock, a four-part BBC radio series on power pop, and her ongoing role as a commentator on Channel 5’s popular Greatest Pop Songs/Videos franchise. Her modern history podcast We Didn’t Start the Fire, based on the Billy Joel hit, was named one of The Observer’s top ten podcasts of 2021. She still considers her favourite career achievement performing with Pet Shop Boys on ‘West End Girls’. “This sexy, sinister lullaby was my ‘I’ve made it!’ anthem when I scored my best job ever: dancing on Pet Shop Boys’ 1991 Performance world tour.”
Kevin Armstrong – Guitar and Musical Director: Kevin 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. Kevin 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.
Luis Correia – Guitar: Luis is a London-based guitarist, producer and songwriter. Originally from Portugal, where he started his career as a session player, Luis moved to the UK over a decade ago and has since performed alongside names like Earl Slick (David Bowie), Bernard Fowler (The Rolling Stones), Erdal Kizilcay (David Bowie), Martin Lister (Alphaville), amongst others. His musicality and soulful playing make Luis a sought after muso on the London scene, where he’s often seen with various bands. He’s currently working on his own music and preparing for a tour with Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet later this year.
Florence Sabeva – Keyboards: a London based pianist, film composer and singer-songwriter, Flo started her career as a session pianist and has played alongside artists like Tom Bailey, Earl Slick (David Bowie) and Bernard Fowler (The Rolling Stones) and currently tours with Heaven 17. Also a very active film composer, she wrote her first score for ‘Wax, We Are The X’ and was then commissioned to write the soundtrack for the Gravity Field Festival in Guildford and to score the German movie ‘Mireille and Angelique’. Flo released her first studio album ‘The London Sessions’ in 2017, featuring eclectic works with European songwriters and artists that reflect her various music influences.
Tom Wilcox – Curator and Producer: Tom was the front man of 90’s art punk band Maniac Squat finding notoriety with their 1995 ‘hit’ F**k Off (Single of the Week in Kerrang!). 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 critical acclaim. As a music curator, Tom’s credits include Blondiefest, Princefest and Iggyfest at the ICA, as well as conceiving and introducing bands/tours such as Tony Visconti’s Holy Holy.
First catching the Julie July Band some five years ago at Warwick Folk Festival and immediately being drawn to their Sandy Denny tribute, I’ve been keeping a keen eye on this band’s progress ever since. Now on to their third album, their first (Who Knows Where The Time Goes) committed the band’s Sandy-themed tribute to disc, while the second (Lady of the First Light) was an album of all-new original material. This latest sees the band writing and performing new material, once more.
The driving duo of Julie July (vocals) and Steve Rezillo (electric guitar/vocals) remain as they have from the very start, with Rezillo also contributing a significant bulk of the songwriting duties. However, there have been a few changes along the way, too. The pair are now joined by Caley Groves (guitar) whose father was Steve Groves, a contemporary of Sandy Denny’s late partner and ex Fotheringay and Fairporter, Trevor Lucas on the Australian folk-rock scene. Also joining them is Dik Cadbury (bass/vocals) who has an impeccable folk-rock pedigree stretching back to his days in Decameron in the 1970s and who has also worked with Steve Hackett. Joining on drums is Mick Candler who began playing in local beat groups in his home city of York back in the early 1960’s, prior to joining the Roll Movement and going on to work with the likes of Decameron, Phil Beer and Steve Knightly. Finally, there is keyboard player and singer-songwriter, Carol Lee Sampson, who contributes keyboards and vocal harmonies on the album.
As with the previous album, all twelve tracks on Wonderland are original songs.
Julie July:“This album is a bit different because the new line-up has five voices so we decided to make more use of these in the songs with harmonies.”
Wonderland represents an evolution of the band in a number of ways. Although the previous album, Lady Of The First Light, was categorically not a Sandy Denny tribute album, her influence was never really very far away. In some ways it felt like a long-lost companion to Sandy Denny’s handful of post-Fotheringay ‘70s solo albums. With Wonderland, however, the band spread their wings further and a more eclectic range of influences are apparent.
It still taps into that rich vein of ‘60s and ‘70s folk rock. But there’s layer upon layer of other influences, too, from prog to blues to polished singer-songwriter to straight-ahead hard rock, and even a hint of Latin here and there. This is a band growing in confidence, reaching into its huge well of collective experience and delivering some fine music, exquisite vocals and harmonies and striking songwriting.
Lyrical themes range from proggy mystical fantasy (‘Labyrinth’), to grappling with the strange realities of human interaction, post-lockdown (’Wonderland’) to the values of a certain former (thankfully) US President (‘Smoke And Mirrors’). It all adds up to a very pleasing third album from the Julie July Band.
Whether performing Sandy Denny’s songs or their own material, this is a band I always enjoy listening to and, after Covid messed up my usual summer festival plans these past couple of years, I now very much look forward to reconnecting with them live again, too.