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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Blog Design Updates


The IDHAS appearance is being changed. The background has been Black for a long time and it is felt that it should be lighter like our mood. So you may see changes over the coming week. None of us know what we are doing layout wise, so if you hate any design, let us know in the comments. We can then call you all sorts of horrible names behind your back.

Monday, 12 April 2021

The Armoires - Incognito


Some bands have used the last 12 months to do nothing, others to moan about everything and too many have got their Acoustic Guitars out and added a few Beatles covers to the groaning weight out there. The Armoires turned what was initially a wheeze into one of the best albums that I've heard in a long time, showing that where there is a will, there is a way. Many of you know of my connection with the Big Stir label and I'm delighted to see how big it has become. I can reveal now that I had one regret is that The Armoires previous album, Zibaldone, got lost in all the Big Stir activity. It is a cracking album and hopefully people will discover it with all the attention that this current masterpiece is getting. It was in the IDHAS Top 10 albums of 2019. 

Rex and Christina were so busy with the label that their band took second place to what was happening with Big Stir. Two things happened to change all that. Firstly John Borack joined on Drums and it released a new found vigour in The Armoires. It was as though they began to take recording seriously again. Secondly, I remember the conversations with Rex as Paris 1919 was about to released. The smirks and sniggers were many as the ruse to release Digital Singles under a different pseudonym was planned. What gobsmacked me was what a fantastic job they made of the cover. It went on from there with continued single releases in different genres under different names.

From there on in those singles took on a life of their own. The Big Stir label artists got involved as did other labels. Having recorded three or four covers, the band revisited their archive, discovering songs that they had never finished due to them supposedly not fitting The Armoires' template and then new songs were added. The secret continued and the band decided to reveal that all these way out singles were them by releasing an album on April 1st collating their adventures. I was initially a bit concerned, because I had heard all these as individual singles. The thought of an album didn't necessarily fill me with glee. I thought all of this stuff has already been released. 

It was only listening to the album complete that I realised how wrong I was. The result is unbelievably great. This is a proper album, a revelation. It threads together wonderfully and reveals what a cracking band The Armoires are. This album will be deservedly played for years to come. I deliberately held back my review because I felt a bit too close to it. I wanted to see other opinions and thankfully my thoughts have been endorsed by the wonderful reviews that Incognito is getting. Not only is it a splendid album that is packed with variety, it is also a rare thing. An album that you listen to from start to finish and who would have thought that from a collection of singles. 

The cover of John Cale's Paris 1919 remains my favourite here. Not because it was the thing that started this off, but because it is an absolute joy of a song. So much is packed into its nigh on four minutes. It sets you off for the joy that is to follow. The wondrous Psych Pop of I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit, the doggone Country ache of Shame And Bourbon and the wonderfully inventive confusing brilliance of Ghost Of Fall Singer In Depopulated Griefscape. All very different, all equally great.

Christina goes all Seekers on Magenta Moon and Rex leads on an ace cover of one of my favourite summer songs, Yellow River and Andy Gibb's Words And Music comes over all Abba. Awkward City Limits goes all 80's with a twist of Reggae bursting to escape. The other song that I have to mention is the band's version of The Night I Heard A Scream for the Futureman Records 20/20 Tribute album. Initially released as a single for Halloween, it was an inspired and unusual choice for that album.

Incognito reveals what a special band The Armoires are. They are like few other acts on Big Stir or anywhere else. More than anything else, the album reveals what a varied roster that the label has. But more importantly, how wrong we were to sit The Armoires in a corner. 

You can listen to and buy the album here and here.


Sunday, 11 April 2021

So Guitar Pop Rock Is Dead Eh?


Amazingly, I Don't Hear A Single reaches the five year mark in July and has reached the 600,000 hit mark. This isn't self celebratory nepotism, but an answer to those who constantly denigrate the genre.
This number is wholly due to the quality of the new music that is around. It also shows that New Music does interest and enthuse people.

Lockdown has helped the growth. These last three months have seen record numbers visiting IDHAS. Incidentally, since Brexit, the European following has grown and grown, particularly in France. There seems less and less Blogs covering new music in this genre than five years ago and this has been a tough 12 months for Musicians.

So my request, as always, is if you like it, please buy it. I purposely do not have Spotify or Apple Music, simply because it gives little benefit to musicians, financially or promotion wise. Physical product sales may still be in decline, so please remember that artists still get the bulk of the money when you buy a download. Likes do not pay bills or go towards funding their next release.


Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update

Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release..

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.

The Album Show - Selections From “Cosmo’s Factory” (and more) (Big Radio Records Australia) 2020      $15

After four digital-only releases and performance from various livestreams by the band, here’s the first CD released by The Album Show!  The Album Show (James Van Cooper - lead guitar, vocals, Sophie Jones - rhythm guitar, vocals, Charlie Lee - bass, vocals, and Michael Carpenter - drums, vocals) take on 7 songs from that iconic album, plus a few extra CCR classics that flesh out the record.  Released in July of 1970, “Cosmo’s Factory” was the fifth studio album by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It’s evident the band had a lot of fun doing this as the versions, while pretty much staying true to the originals, are spirited and delivered by four musicians of the highest quality.    

Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link

Badfinger - No Matter What: Revisiting The Hits (Cleopatra Records 2021)      $15

An eclectic line-up of special guest superstars join Joey Molland's Badfinger to create a full-length album of unique twists on the band's all-time favorite hits!  Includes performances by Matthew Sweet, Todd Rundgren, Rick Wakeman, The Legendary Pink Dots, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, Rick Springfield, Terry Reid, Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge), Sonny Landreth, Albert Lee and Carl Giammarese (The Buckingham)!  

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Michael Carpenter and The Banks Brothers - Introducing…  (Big Radio Records Australia) 2021  $15

Longtime fans of Michael Carpenter know that throughout his career, he has worn many hats (solo artist, songwriter for others, producer et al), but here we see him donning a cowboy hat for this country/honky tonk collaboration with The Banks brothers!  The album's twelve tracks move along at a fine pace and you can hear in the voices of all three, who share singing duties. This is a gift to anyone who wants to have their spirits raised.

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link


Jon Flynn - Citrus (Kool Kat Musik 2021)      $14

NEW RELEASE ON THE KOOL KAT MUSIK LABEL AVAILABLE APRIL 16 – ACCEPTING ORDERS NOW!! While Jon Flynn’s group Diamond Hands prepare their fourth record that’s due for release later this year, “Citrus”, John’s solo debut, has arrived (Joel Wall, Jon’s bandmate, also has a solo outing coming soon on Kool Kat)!  

While Diamond Hands records have a decidedly 60’s bent to them, the twelve songs on “Citrus” have an 80’s/90’s laid-back Brit Pop vibe that, despite relatively sparse instrumental backing (keyboards, bass and shimmering guitars), still sounds remarkably lush.   

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Various Artists  - Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave (Big Stir Records 2021      $12

“Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave” continues the documentation of the label’s pandemic-era releases by presenting all of the A and B sides released digitally August 28-October 3, 2020, from artists on the global pop rock scene.  The CD features 23 tracks (many of them exclusive) and liner notes from Mike Lidskin of Woody Radio. The CD continues BSR's commitment to giving a physical media home to the immediate, timely, or between-albums dispatches from vital artists in the UK. Pop Rock is alive and well and in very safe hands. 

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Rebel Rousers – The Best Of The Rebels Vol. 1 (Raving Pop Blast Records UK) 2020      $17

“Rebel Rousers” was conceived and designed with the “Pebbles” and “Nuggets” series of albums in mind, albums that became popular in the 80’s, finding rare and unknown bands from the 60’s who all made records for small labels and never went onto find mainstream success, often leaving behind great pop music, that only a handful of people ever got to hear.  Since then countless bands all over the world have been inspired by these recordings that were re-packaged and issued as compilations and the term Garage Rock or Garage Punk was born. All the (very Medway-inspired) tracks here are exclusive or previously unreleased.

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Strange Creatures – The Best Of The Rebels Vol. 2 (Raving Pop Blast Records 2021)      $17

This is the second in the 'Rebels' compilation album series. A collection of bands, all different, but all with the true spirit of rock and roll racing through their veins.  And, like “Rebel Rouser”, all of the songs present here are exclusive or previously unreleased.  This is a fantastic collection of bands some old, some new, playing great songs  and doing it for a great cause. Profits raised from the sale of this CD will be donated to the R.S.P.C.A.

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link


Friday, 9 April 2021

Iain Hornal - Fly Away Home


It seems like only yesterday that I was singing the praises of Iain Hornal's debut album, The Game Begins With The Lights Out, so I was a bit gobsmacked to discover that it was four years back. You can read the IDHAS Review here and that debut still sounds great.

There were quite a few guests on that album and I mentioned that Hornal would be just as good without them and that gets proven here. Working essentially with Jo Webb, his fellow touring bandmate in Jeff Lynne's ELO and Paul Stewart on drums, this was a lockdown album. But what is most admirable is that it sounds like a studio album despite all involved being in different places.

That enhances the enjoyment and affect because Pop Rock should be big sounding and the past 12 months or so hasn't seen too much melodic pop because of this. Iain Hornal is also in 10CC, being Eric Stewart if you like. On the quieter numbers here, he does have more than a touch of Stewart. 

It'll be no surprise then to hear that Fly Away Home, as an album, occupies the sweet spot between 10CC and ELO. There are some real hooks present that demand the choruses be sang along with. Try A Little Love, for instance, starts all Paul Carrack moodiness only to burst into the catchiest chorus imaginable. You can't get the thing out of your head. 

Fly Away Home has another killer chorus and Everybody Else is wonderful McCartney Pop, very Graham Gouldman-ish with a touch of Philly. How Much It Means is spot on Soft Rock and Find A Home is a beautifully constructed, almost west coast, piano ballad. There's also a co write with Gouldman on I Can't Tell You.

The stand out here though is the opening Wake Me Up, Drop Me Out, a song that contains everything that you would ever need. My one slight criticism is the running order. Hornal does fast or slow equally well, but the album does seem to have too many of the slower songs at the back end of the album. 

It almost becomes a Side Chirpy and Side Cry. The quality of the songs is fantastic, it is just the sequencing that seems a bit out. I really can't recommend this second (definitely NOT saying Sophomore!) album more highly.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Thursday, 8 April 2021

Ken Sharp - Miniatures


Miniatures is Ken Sharp's lockdown album. The album's title explains the concept, 32 songs in 41 minutes and largely acoustic. It is a marked departure from previous Sharp offerings which have been a bit common denominator Power Pop by numbers.

Quite a few of these songs have a gentle Psych Pop, even Baroque feel and that works really well. There are about a dozen songs here that are great and would be even better in expanded form. The front six in particular are splendid, but as soon as you get into them they are over and that's the problem really.

An album like this will potentially suffer from that problem. These are sketches and they don't really work in quantity. I love the Album Format and I am a great defender of it, but this is not the answer. Plus, it looks as though you've just thrown your demos out. 

It can look like you couldn't finish the songs or they end too early or never begin. Towards the end of Miniatures you are thoroughly bored. You definitely wouldn't play it more than once, which means you may not buy it at all. By the end, the ideas have run out and song titles include Girls' names that are easy to rhyme.

It is a real shame really, because a dozen of these songs expanded would make a fine and very different Ken Sharp album that would be highly listenable and heavily lauded. I've not looked at other reviews, so I'm not sure if I'm alone in these thoughts, but they are a honest appraisal of an album that I'd like to like, but all seems a bit pointless. 

The worst thing that you can call an album is boring and this is just that. I admire Sharp for taking chances, but this doesn't seem to work in any way. A band like The Armoires used the lockdown to come up with something hugely creative and wonderful. That should be the template.


You can listen to and buy the album here.


Ex Norwegian And Friends - Sing Jimmy Campbell


Many of you know of my aversion to most Tribute Albums. For most subjects, I just think what's the point? So let's get this straight, this album stands up in its own right. To be honest, most people won't have heard one Jimmy Campbell song, Those that have will be delighted with both the faithful versions and the alternative arrangements. The production, as with all Ex Norwegian albums, is absolutely spot on and brings a slightly more modern feel to the gems.

The musical world is littered with lost talents and Jimmy Campbell is the classic example of such. A magnificent songwriter, lauded by his peers, capable of extraordinary songs with  a depth that always managed a chorus hook. Privately, he shunned promotion and battled with shyness and vulnerability. His music sold little despite being streets ahead of many of his competitors. He also hated the music business with a passion.

So for an artist who was so comfortable moving between Pop Rock and Psych Pop, it seems more than fitting that a similarly modern example of such should take this offering on and who better than Ex Norwegian. The band could easily do this alone, but the inspired idea of adding a different lead singer to each song offers even more variety and impact. It is no surprise that one of the finest albums of all time, Rockin' Horse's Yes It Is, provides 5 of these 14 songs. 

That Billy Kinsley and Jimmy Campbell collaboration always promised gold dust and it delivered. The other nine songs divide easily into the Pop love songs and the storming Psych Pop. Whilst a lot of attention will rightly focus on the Yes It Is title track, The Poppermost's Joe Kane does a fantastic version of it, this is just an example of how commercial Campbell could be. It is possibly his most accessible song, although Don't You Ever Think I Cry comes very close. 

John Ford selects the poptastic Missing Kissing Me, a great if slightly unexpected choice and Edward Rogers goes for the splendid Psych Pop of You'll Break My Heart In Two. Psych Pop can be joyous as proven by The Elms Estate on Stayed Out Late Last Night. But the real masterpiece is Half Baked, my favourite Jimmy Campbell song and Rhys Marsh brings an outstanding version. Our very own Kevin Robertson adds a top notch Loving You Is All I Do. Any of these 14 songs is worthy of mention, but I'll close with two of the more unusual versions.

Coke Belda's Countrified take on Forever Grateful and John Howard very nearly steals the show with a simply stunning Baby Walk Out With Your Darling Man, so daringly beautiful. Choosing three songs to embed is really difficult, so I suggest that you go to Bandcamp and listen to the whole thing and then buy it. The only glaring omission here is Michaelangelo, perhaps Ex Norwegian can offer their version of it in future times Roger! This album may very well be the best thing that I've heard this year, it sounds like a new album.

You can listen to and buy the album here and also buy it here.