Category Archives: Rock music

Rock bands and music

Live review: The Manfreds at Congress Theatre, Eastbourne 26/10/21

Given they had most of their hits before I was born or not long afterwards, Manfred Mann were never part of my youth – unlike the vast majority of tonight’s audience. However, I’ve long had a soft spot for many of their hits, not least the iconic theme tune they created for Ready Steady Go – again not part of my youth but I’ve seen enough clips to get a warm glow of nostalgia. A short trip along the coast to Eastbourne’s cavernous Congress Theatre then was therefore in order.

They can’t use the name Manfred Mann any more because the actual Manfred Mann has been happily ensconced in the world of prog since the collapse of the original band at the end of the 60s. But the lineage of this modern-day version, who have been gigging since the 90s, is impeccable. It includes Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness from the original band and not one but both original frontmen, Paul Jones who was lead singer from 1962 to 1966 and Mike D’Abo who replaced him as lead singer from 1966 to 1969. Added into the mix are Jones’ long-time Blues Band colleague, Rob Townsend, on drums, bass-player Marcus Cliffe and saxophonist Simon Currie.

I had high hopes, especially after witnessing a highly-enjoyable gig by Paul Jones’ other main outfit The Blues Band a few years ago. It all seems to start off a little stilted, however, as they rattle through a number of hits – the two lead singers taking it in turns depending upon who was on the original single. Jones explained that a gash to the forehead had taken him off to Eastbourne A & E that afternoon so maybe that had something to do with it – but even D’Abo’s voice seemed to be a little under strain and he was shouting rather than singing the main refrain from ‘Ha Ha Said The Clown’. I don’t like giving bad reviews, especially for such an esteemed institution of  British pop as the Manfreds – but it all seemed to be a little lacking in energy. Then Jones announced that they would be finishing the first half with a blues classic that was the very first track on their very first album – and the band launched into an absolutely stunning – and smoking – version of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Smokestack Lightning’. The Manfreds seem to move into a completely different gear for this and I was optimistic for the second half.

The second set did not disappoint at all. We got more hits like ‘Semi Detached Suburban Mr James’, ‘Pretty Flamingo’ and ‘Fox On The Run’ but also some numbers, while not Manfred Mann hits were certainly part of the family tree: Paul Jones’ solo hit ‘I’ve Been a Bad Bad Boy’ and the McGuinness-Flint classic ‘When I’m Dead and Gone’.

Always an important component of the original band’s persona there was also far more of a jazz vibe to the second set, which really saw the band getting into the grove musically. The advertised special guest, Georgie Fame, could not make it due to illness and so in his stead the band brought out Zoot Money who entertained the crowds with a few numbers and self-deprecatingly referred to his one and only hit single. He proved a worthy last-minute replacement and was hugely entertaining.

After finishing the main set on a high with a sing-along version of ‘The Mighty Quinn’ the band were back for an encore with a final song that was a surprise to no-one – giving us all a blast and a communal sing-along of ‘Doo Wah Diddy’.

While it seemed to take a little while to get going this ended up being a great concert from some great icons of the 60s.

https://www.themanfreds.com/

Related post:

The Blues Band at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings

Live review: King King at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 19/10/21

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

After numerous attempts at rescheduling during the Covid crisis, King King’s tour in support of their 2020 album finally gets under way. Venue availability, as a myriad of bands all attempt to simultaneously reschedule gigs that have been postponed over the last eighteen months, has meant that the King King tour has ended up in two parts – with half of the dates being played this month and the rest being performed in February of next year. Bexhill is the fourth night of this first leg of the tour.

Supporting King King on this tour are husband-and-wife blues duo When Rivers Meet. Other than quickly skimming their bio on the seven-minute train journey from St Leonards to Bexhill I confess to knowing little about When Rivers Meet in advance of seeing them. When you think of a duo it can conjure up thoughts of some, mellow, semi-acoustic folky-type blues act. But nothing could be further from the truth. As soon as they walk on stage Grace and Aaron Bond deliver loud, raunchy, rocked-up blues with bags of noise and bags of power. “This is the biggest venue we’ve ever played in,” they confide to the Bexhill crowd. They had no need to worry. Their sound is big enough to fill the venue many times over and the De La Warr audience respond enthusiastically to the pair’s six-song set. There is certainly plenty that will appeal to both hard rock and blues fans in terms of this duo’s highly original output. They embark on their own headline tour next April (supported by the redoubtable Troy Redfern) and are well worth checking out.

While When Rivers Meet give us gritty, raucous raunch, King King, meanwhile, take us straight into a world of polished, soulful, big production virtuoso blues rock, instantly evoking the spirit of the genre’s early 70s golden age. While the support act may have been new to me the headliners are certainly not. My late father was a huge follower of vocalist/lead guitarist, Alan Nimmo’s previous outfit: the Nimmo Brothers. Indeed, so great was his dedication that we even had one of their songs played at his funeral. Paradoxically, Alan Nimmo is now reunited with his brother Steve who joined King King on rhythm guitar just in time to contribute to 2020’s Maverick album. There’s clearly a long-standing dynamic on stage between the two brothers and Alan Nimmo relates how one of tonight’s songs ‘You Stopped The Rain’ is written in tribute to his older brother.

Perhaps the most important relationship on stage tonight, however, is the interplay between lead guitarist Alan Nimmo and keyboard player Jonny Dyke. The stunning virtuosity on display between guitarist and organist and the seemingly effortless way the two interact to conjure up such a delicious cornucopia of lush, soulful and emotionally-laden licks is one of the real high points of this band.

Set-wise the songs are drawn from the recent Maverick album (now at long last the band finally having the opportunity to perform these songs live on stage in front of a live audience) interspersed with older material like ‘Long History of Love’ – one of the ever-green crowd-pleasers tonight.

For an encore, King King return sans drummer and bass-player for an uncharacteristically melancholic ‘When My Winter Comes’ – another track from the new album, before the full band return to ensure the audience are sent away with a spring in their step courtesy of stunning renditions of ‘Stranger to Love’ and ‘Let Love In’.

Joyful, life-affirming and exuding polish and class, as I ease myself back into the world of regular gig-going once more King King are just the thing to remind me exactly what I’ve been missing these past eighteen months.

Set-list – King King

She Don’t Gimme No Lovin
Fire In My Soul
One World
Waking Up
Rush Hour
Coming Home
A Long History Of Love
You Stopped The Rain
Never Give In
Whatever It Takes
I Will Not Fall
Encore:
When My Winter Comes
Stranger To Love
Let Love In

https://www.kingking.co.uk/

Photos credits: Bruce Biege

Related reviews:

King King at Hastings 2018

Album review: King King – Maverick

This week’s featured artist: singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Matera – new single features Slade’s Don Powell

Darren’s music blog gets a ton of email traffic about artists flagging up new releases. There are not hours in the day to follow every single one up. This one was about to slip through the net but singer-songwriter Joe Matera was a little more persistent and kindly sent me a follow-up email a week later. What’s more he was flagging up that none other than legendary drummer Don Powell of Slade is performing on his new single. That immediately sent it to the top of the my ‘things-worth-checking-out-pile’ – but first a little more about Joe…

Also a prolific and respected music journalist, Joe has played in a number of rock outfits in his native Australia. He was founding lead guitarist for classic rock band Double Vision and before that played in a popular local band On The Prowl. As a guitarist Joe has also collaborated with a number of artists and his original guitar instrumental compositions have appeared on various film soundtracks. In 2012 he performed with Steve Harley for a series of live acoustic performances for radio and TV on Harley’s first ever promo tour of Australia.

Official Promo, 2019 – Photo: Anders E. Skånberg

Joe has continued to tour and record as a solo artist, releasing several albums and EPs of original material as well as providing support for artists as diverse as Peter Kriss (ex-Kiss), Canned Heat and the Bay City Rollers. In early 2018, he joined Swedish based rock band Rough Rockers as permanent member on guitar.

His latest solo single ‘Inside Looking Out’ is released towards the end of this month. It’s a song that starts off deceptively mellow until the aforementioned Mr Powell’s unmistakeable drumming kicks in and we are served up an infectiously jaunty slice of contemporary pop-rock with a blistering guitar solo to boot.

Because of lockdown restrictions the track was recorded remotely across three countries, Don Powell (drums) in Denmark, Janne Borgh (bass) in Sweden and Joe (vocals, guitars and keyboards) in Australia.

Don Powell: “I was really honoured when Joe asked me to play drums on his track. I had SO much fun in the studio recording my drums for him…I can also speak for my engineer Torben Lehmann, we both really got off listening to Joe’s track as I was recording my drums. Can’t wait to do more together.”

Inside Looking Out’ is released via Mercury Fire Music on October 29th on all digital platforms

https://www.joematera.com/

Related posts:

Interview with Don Powell

Album review – Don Powell’s Occasional Flames ‘Just My Cup of Tea’

Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade

Interview with former Slade legend Jim Lea

Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the story of the greatest Christmas record ever made

Slade at Donnington 1981

Header photo credit: Sofia Rewert-Strasser

Live review: Big River at The Carlisle, Hastings 9/10/21

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.

https://www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

Related posts:

Single review – Big River – Don’t Hold Out

Album review – Big River – Redemption

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 2016

Reviews roundup: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ – a huge thank you!

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!

You can read the full Goldmine review here

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:

UK

You can order ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ direct from the publishers via the Burning Shed on line shop here

It’s available from a number of other UK retailers including: WH SmithWaterstones, and Bookshop.org

You can order from Amazon UK here

US

You can order via Walmart and Amazon.com

Sweden

You can order via Adlibris 

Tribute to John Rossall: Glitter Band founder passes away peacefully following cancer battle

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.

The world just got that bit less glam.

Album review: Rossall – The Last Glam In Town

Glitter, glam and Blackpool rock: interview with glam rock legend John Rossall

Metal: album review – KK’s Priest ‘Sermons of the Sinner’

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.

Released: 1st October 2021 by EX1 Records

https://www.kkspriest.com/

KK’s PRIEST – Jul 16, 2021. Photo credit: George Chin

Related posts:

First single from KK’s Priest out this week

Album review : Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

Live review: Judas Priest at Brixton Academy 2015

Live review: Les Binks’ Priesthood at Minehead 2020

Book review: ‘Confess’ by Rob Halford

Maniac Squat: after 25 years Colchester’s favourite art punks return with experimental concept album

Released: 23rd September 2021

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

Who’s who:

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.

Special Guests:

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.

Website: http://maniacsquat.com/

April 16TH: Story of an 80s heavy metal band – new CD out ‘Epitaph’

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 at the Marquee

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.”

APRIL 16TH meet Lemmy

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.”

The Cherry Jam tape cover

 “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.”

The Sleepwalking vinyl album

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

And join their Facebook group here

News: Progressive duo Across The Sea unveil much-anticipated second album

Released: 1st October 2021

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:

Track listing:

I

1. Prologue

2. Awakening

3. Nightfall in the Labyrinth

II

4. Of Mist, Mountain and Sea

5. Utopia

6. Conjure the Tempest

III

7. Serenity and Chaos

8. Light the World with Wisdom’s Flame

9. Swansong

Credits:

Vocals – Hannah Katy Lewis

Guitar – Pete Ferguson

Written, recorded & performed by Across The Sea

Recorded at Humber Studios & The Mothership, August – October 2020

Mixed by Pete Ferguson

Mastered by Augmented Sounds

Soundscapes/Effects – Pete Ferguson

Artwork – Angelina Andreas

Layout – Hannah Katy Lewis

Logo Design – Cynthia Renn

Website: www.acrosstheseauk.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/acrosstheseauk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/acrosstheseauk

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/acrosstheseauk/