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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.


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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.


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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



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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.


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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.


/p>


You can listen to and buy the album here.


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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.


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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.

Apologies for the slight delay this week. Normal service is now resumed.


The Armoires - Incognito (Big Stir Records 2021)      $13




Incognito”is a unique collection of the singles the band has secretly released under fictional identities over the past six months The album may be viewed as a collection of singles, an experimental but giddy pop album in its own right, or a sequential journal of a band reinventing itself for its own time and the days to come. All presented in a terrific, well-designed package!


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Coke Belda - 5: A Tribute To The Bee Gees Vol. 2 (Kool Kat Musik  2021)      $15




NEW RELEASE ON THE KOOL KAT MUSIK LABEL.  The follow up to his critically acclaimed first Bee Gees tribute effort – “3G’s”- that once again serves as a reminder of how great the brothers Gibb were as songwriters!  Coke’s arranging skills, combined with his sincere, interpretive vocals, assure a lovely listening experience for all.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Billy Bremner’s Rockfiles - Waiting For A Following Wind (Ball & Chain Records Sweden 2021)  $17




The follow up to “Billy Bremner For President” has just arrived and like its predecessor, it is another glowing tribute to Billy’s days playing alongside Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds in Rockpile.  Songs either written by Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, songs that the band featured in their live shows and songs that Billy played on as a session guitarist. Billy and the band have autographed the front cover of each CD!


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link

 

Ex Norwegian & Friends- Sing Jimmy Campbell (Beyond Before Records  2021)      $12




An inspired and eclectic tribute to the songs of Liverpool's Jimmy Campbell from Ex Norwegian. Featuring an array of guest artists to help create these amazing renditions of some of Jimmy's best  work. Campbell should be a name recognized alongside the greatest poets and songwriters to ever emerge from England. Gone now but never forgotten, Jimmy's magic continues to shine around the globe as more and more musicians pick up on his often-vulnerable confessions. It isn't often that a release is so close to my heart. Jimmy Campbell is one of the great lost songwriters, a musician who could move from pop to psych with ease.  Speaking of moving from Pop to Psych, Ex Norwegian are a band who do that also.  Roger Houdaille is a massive fan of Jimmy's, so his idea to have his band collaborate with 14 artists from around the world to cover the great man's songs made my eyes light up.  When you listen to these songs/interpretations, it will be as though you’re hearing them for the first time, and for many, it will be.”


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Kaleidoscope & Fairfield Parlour - Sky Children :The Best Of (Beyond Before Records 2021) CD+DVD      $20




First US compilation for this much beloved, yet often overlooked, UK group capturing highlights from their entire recorded legacy. Emerging from the British 1967 psychedelic scene, Kaleidoscope released two fine albums (“Tangerine Dream”, “Faintly Blowing”) and several non-LP singles with Fontana before switching to Vertigo and evolving into the more folkier and progressive Fairfield Parlour in 1970.  This newly remastered collection is a wonderful homage to one of the more interesting UK psychedelic bands.


Kool Kat Link


You Tube


Lolas - All The Potion In The World (You Are The Cosmos Records 2021)      $22




VINYL-ONLY RELEASE!!  “When Tim Boykin formed the Lolas in 1998, the Birmingham, AL based singer songwriter and guitarist knew exactly what direction he wanted the band to travel in.  Although the band has encountered a run of personnel changes over the years, Tim has retained the role of ringleader and remained remarkably true to his initial vision.  Considering the wealth of great songs they a produce it must have been quite a challenge picking what goodies to include on this eagerly-awaited sonic summary.  Power Pop at its very best.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


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Thursday, 1 April 2021

The Stan Laurels - There Is No Light Without The Dark

 


The Stan Laurels last album, Maybe, was in the IDHAS Top 100 Albums of 2018, so I looked forward immensely to the follow up and here it is. You can read the review of Maybe here and although There Is No Light Without The Dark isn't a major departure, there are changes in emphasis.

This is very much a more riff orientated album, mainly at the expense of keys, although there are two lovely short keyboard themes in Emotions, that provide an interlude to all that more than welcome guitar. Emotions II is dream like.



John Lathrop rocks you gently with his wonderful laid back vocal and that voice allows the riffs to work you over. On this album though it is the solos that catch you be surprise, particularly on the likes of Love Wine And Song and the Jangle fest that is Tomorrow. 

Comparisons with The Explorers Club have been made and where as Red-Handed Puppet and the splendid backing vocals could be aimed that way, this very different. John Lathrop is too good a guitarist with too many licks and runs to reside in that West Coast Sun.



At its heart, this is a Power Pop album, a really really great one. It is incredibly melodic, laid back, but knowing when to break out. Lathrop is never going to raise his voice, he doesn't need to. Why shout when you can captivate calmly?

Mateo's Song is almost lounge and November borders on Yacht Rock, but the most enjoyable moments are the break out ones. This Is Your Life has a hard hitting Intro that gives way to a synth led affair. The likes of Lost And Found and Florida Man reveal how great Power Pop can be, if it is allowed to survive without all the fall outs. This is a top notch album, but I knew it would be. 




You can listen to and buy the album here and on the Big Stir site here.


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Vukovar - The Colossalist

 


I'm a little late with the Vukovar album with its November 2020 release. Having written a requested review for a Magazine, it wasn't published and there in lies part of the problem with the UK Scene. Vukovar are a band of immense talent, but how do they get coverage?

The UK, like everywhere worldwide, is dominated by the algorithm. In the States, local artists are covered by local radio and local papers. Not here! The local paper here makes the odd nod towards music amongst the cat stuck up a tree stuff. But, like the local Facebook Music Group, that entails someone murdering the latest version of Rise.

Liverpool, the home of so musical history and new talent has a newspaper that no longer has a Music Correspondent. With the city in Lockdown, the Liverpool Echo is unable to cover which C List Celebrity is out on the town, yet still ignores music. So if Liverpool can't get coverage, what hope is there for the towns in a music industry that is more and more London centric?



Don't get me wrong. Vukovar aren't purveyors of the easiest accessible music, They write Pop songs, but the hooks are drenched in a lo-fi Kraut Pop-ish vibe and experimentation. Albums take a while to hit home, but when they do, they don't let go. 

The material mixes Pop with Dark Wave. There is at times a wonderful Scott Walker like vocal that can place material a little in the more experimental vogue of the Eighties. But these songs bristle with talent and are a credit to all involved.



The wonderful Silent Envoy is very Soft Cell and In A Year Of 13 Moons, very David Sylvian. Hearing Voices is reminiscent of early Wah! Here At Lions is John Foxx to a tee. The whole album works its way into your soul.

Regular readers shouldn't expect any Jangling Pop Guitar. This is Pensive Dark Pop, challenging you to think. I can only name a few bands who would take you down this path. Vukovar sell themselves short at times and surround themselves in mystery too much. Everyone should know about them.



You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Monday, 29 March 2021

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.


Chris Church - Game Dirt (Big Stir Records 2021)      $12



Chris's new album (and Big Stir label debut) “Game Dirt” is once again something different and new, even by the standards of his exploratory career, reflecting a looser, more straight ahead rock and roll element, adding a pinch of alt-country and 90’s indie styles in with his pop rock sensibilities. As the record unfolds, it’s perfectly clear that, musically, the only rule is that there are no rules. 


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


The Lost Doves - Set Your Sights Towards The Sun (Green Tea Records UK 2020)      $14




The Lost Doves are UK singer songwriters Ian Bailey and Charlotte Newman who have collaborated to bring a retrospective album of gorgeous, poignant song writing, chiming guitars, melody and harmonies. Makes for a great late Saturday evening/Sunday morning listen!! 


Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


Tommy Ray - Handful Of Hits (Kool Kat Musik 2021)      $14




NEW RELEASE ON THE KOOL KAT MUSIK LABEL – APRIL 2 – ACCEPTING ORDERS NOW!!  Tommy Ray came into his own between 2011 and 2018 as the primary songwriter and front man for power-pop heroes The CRY!  With the band on indefinite hiatus, he released “First Hits Free” (his 2020 Kool Kat label debut) and now, with the band STILL on hiatus, “Handful of Hits”!  The record continues his flair for merging 50's melodies, the jangle of 60's pop hooks, 70's glam-rock, and honest gritty street-level lyrics.  


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link

 

The Summer Wardrobe - Cajun Prairie Fire (Sauspop Records 2009)      $11




On their 2009 second album, The Summer Wardrobe play music that evades easy categorization, though overall it's Texan in character with a blend of swampy roots rock and retro psychedelia. It's no accident that they cover Roky Erickson's "Mine Mine Mind" on this CD, not only because Erickson is also part of this strain of Texas rock (albeit with a far more frightening wacky edge), but also because they have actually toured with Erickson as his backing band. Fans of Beachwood Sparks, their various spin-offs and solo outings will certainly dig this!


Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


Diesel Park West - A House Divided (Live @ The Borderline 10/29/99) Self Released 2021      $16




THIS IS AN OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED CDR ISSUE AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY FROM KOOL KAT! Diesel Park West's main influences come from the West Coast sound of 1960s bands such as Moby Grape, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Love. Adult Jangly Rock at its finest.


Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


 K7s - Mondo Bizarro (Kool Kat Musik  2021)      $14




NEW RELEASE ON THE KOOL KAT MUSIK LABEL.  “Mondo Bizarro” is a mis-spelled version of "Mondo Bizzarro," meaning "Weird World" in Italian.  Spain’s K7s (fronted by Kurt Baker) have delivered a front-to-back tribute to “Mondo Bizarro”, the twelfth album by The Ramones.  Recording this album was an idea that had been in Luis Sánchez’s mind for years. Working with Kurt Baker, Jose Andrés Albertos and Raúl Artana, the songs of “Mondo Bizarro” were covered and polished.  Lave put into it, they make an album like this a “must”. 


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Star Collector - Game Day (Clockwise Records Canada 2020)      $14




In 2017, Vic Wayne and his bandmates began writing new material again, resulting in “Game Day”, the fifth album (and first in 15 years!) by Canada’s Star Collector. Built around the superbly multitalented Vic Wayne, the band is also blessed with one hell of a guitarist in Steve Monteith who brings that same special joyful blazing and inventive magic to the band sound as Whit Williams does to Cotton Mather!” The record packs a real wallop. The guitars are big, the production dynamic and the arrangements engaging.  


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Various - Flowers In My Garden : Sunshine, Soft & Studio Pop 1966-70 (Teensville Records 2021) $16 



The seventh instalment examining the forgotten and neglected sounds of the late 60’s.  Compiled to give the listener an 80-minute frown-upside-down trip. The package includes a 24 page booklet containing pictures, annotations and a 5,000+ word essay.  


Kool Kat Link


Soundcloud Link


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Friday, 26 March 2021

Chris Church - Game Dirt (Updated)

 


Chris Church has never stood still. His adventures bear similarity with my record collection, essentially Pop Rock but going off in all directions. Prog, Metal, AOR, name your genre! Church as outstanding appreciation of music, first and foremost he is a fan, something too many in this business are not.

You are never gonna get anything that's samey and that is pretty much concurred by the opener here. Learn is Dave Edmunds with Rockpile and the rest of the album is not. After the Power Pop excellence of Limitations Of Source Tape, Church moved on to 80's Guitar Rock on Backwards Compatible. Both superb, but very different albums.

Game Dirt is Chris Church does IRS and More. It is a very "Indie" album, very varied, very intelligent. It hasn't got as many hooks as the previous two, but it is actually a better album. Church stretches himself across a set of unobvious selections. 



The album has been compared to early REM and I see that, but that doesn't give credit to all that's here. Church is no Stipe wannabe, his voice and parts of the album just remind you of Sir Michael. The truly admirable thing is that he moves on in a way that makes you move on and I cannot give the album any bigger compliment than that. 

The album may not get you fully on the first or second listen, but trust me it does as all the best albums do. Repeated listens reveal this to probably be the best thing that he has done. So where do I start? Well let's start at the end. Sunrise is a closing ballad of the highest order. Different to what's gone before, but everything here is. 



Know starts with a delightful Mandolin and morphs into a Stones like riff,  Lost is all aching country tinged Americana and Gravity is so so Stipe like in its melancholy. Hang just speeds along venomously with a Guitar Hero Rock solo.

Falderal is probably my favourite here, unusual for something that's slower. but trust me it revs up and Down is the only nod to Matthew Sweet, a too often comparison on previous albums. Smile could be The Outlaws, it is so Country Rock.



You can see the Indie intention in the one word song titles. but the centrepiece is the magnificent sprawling six minutes that is Trying. It not only centres the album, it provides the crossroads. It is three songs in one, chopping and changing direction at will. Almost but not quite Neil Young And Crazy Horse. 

As I stated, Game Dirt will take more than one listen. There are less Guitar histrionics and that is its charm. The Guitar is heavily present, its just not in your face. Want to impress your friends, tell them all about this and watch your reputation grow. Gobsmacking Stuff!



You can listen to and buy the album on Bandcamp here. It is also available from the Big Stir Site here


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Thursday, 25 March 2021

Mick Dillingham Interviews : Rich Arithmetic


Looking back its astonishing to realise just how many classic albums were released in the Nineties, a veritable mountain of brilliant records like a deluge of creative wonder that just kept coming and coming and coming…truly a great time to be into music. It was a golden age of abundant seemingly unending riches to be adored and cherished. 

In the middle of that memorable decade came the modest release of Sleep In A Wigwam by one man band Rich Arithmetic a beautifully crafted affair, part XTC, part Beatles, but mostly the unmistakable talent of the man behind the curtain, Seattle based Rich Horton. Great guitar pop songs, masterfully delivered and dressed up in a delightful daisy bright psychedelic production, the release had it all. It was an album that even with everything else going on at the time became one you would return to again and again and sigh with delight as it charmed and beguiled you once more. 

Then we waited in vain for the next album that sadly never came.  Finally, now, Rich Arithmetic returns with the release of the very excellent Shiftingears on Kool Kat and the promise of more to come. Let us sit down with the excellent fellow and see how it all adds up. 


What are your earliest memories of first getting into music?

"I was immersed in music from Day One. My father was an accomplished classical and Southern Gospel pianist and he had an eclectic record collection that I was exposed to as a child. Additionally, as a Methodist minister, my father made sure that my siblings and I all took piano lessons and sang in the youth choirs of the church he pastored."


Which music artists first made you sit up and take notice?

"Far too many to mention, but it always comes back to The Beatles. I’ve always likened the first time I saw them on TV as a religious experience and they influenced me more than all the other bands and genres that I have loved over the years. Of course, there are also a lot of “second place” artists & genres that have caught my devotions and obsessions over the years since then – The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Zombies, psychedelia & flower pop, sunshine pop, folk rock. Even jazz-influenced bands like early Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago because of their attempts to attach the adventurousness of jazz aesthetics to pop and rock music. 

Unfortunately, Chicago became a lame ballad band and BS&T never could keep a set line-up and they began lacking the top-tier material that had marked their first three albums. I was into masterful pop tunesmiths like Billy Joel, James Taylor, and Brian Protheroe. Country rockers like Poco. And for a long period in the Seventies I immersed myself in Prog because of the ways Genesis and Yes as well as ELP expanded the pop & rock vocabulary. 

Yes and Genesis were my two go-to progressive bands. Foxtrot is my favourite ever prog album, though Selling England is close. For me, the band lost its vision when Peter Gabriel left, I also totally dug The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge – all three of which I continue to play with regularity. But with Relayer, despite some excellent sections and Topographic Oceans, which I considered musical masturbation, I began falling off the boat.

The bands I played in reflected an amalgamation of those influences. I was also totally obsessed with Steely Dan, too. They incorporated jazz better into their sound & identity than most of the fusion bands. It was so smooth how they sucked you into it. In the late Seventies my brother and I had a band called "Harbor" that was a largely failed attempt to be a "Yes-meets-Steely Dan" kind of hybrid prog/jazz-pop group. 

Unfortunately, we didn't have the chops to pull it off -- at that point, our song ideas outstripped our abilities to play them. Though we had some loyal fans, I think the majority of folks who came out to hear us were puzzled by what we were trying to do. In retrospect, I don't blame them.

But it was in the late Seventies & early Eighties that I found a fork in the road that changed my course as a musician when I stumbled on the new wave and power pop bands that returned my attention to what I’d loved about Sixties pop in the first place.  Driving guitar-based bands with pop hooks and compelling harmonies, The dB’s, Squeeze, XTC, The Records, Joe Jackson, Split Enz, Nick Lowe, REM and on and on. 

Back in the late '70s I remember reading an article that said XTC was the future of progressive rock. I hadn't heard them, yet, so you can imagine my surprise when I finally did! I love XTC. But prog? And Supertramp and 10cc?  Not quite prog. More like Art Pop, maybe. All of these bands and artists are part of the Pop Stew that is the music of Rich Arithmetic."



When did you start playing an instrument?

"I started taking piano lessons on my eighth birthday, which in addition to teaching me notes and scales, also provided me with a vital foundation in music theory that allowed me to teach myself how to play guitar when I became a teenager."


When did you start writing songs and why?

"Actually, that’s kind of a funny story. When my father, the Methodist minister, bought me my first guitar, he made me promise that I wouldn’t play rock ‘n’ roll on it. But I side-stepped him by experimenting with writing my own primitive tunes, which I figured could not be strictly classified as “rock ‘n’ roll” since I’d composed them on an acoustic guitar. 

I didn’t move to Seattle until I was in my early thirties. Before that, I grew up in the small college town of McPherson, Kansas, which, though small, had exciting music programs in the public schools and churches and, seemingly, a garage band on every corner. Several people from that small town went on to careers in pop, rock, and jazz circles. The older brother of a friend played in The Four Seasons, the million-selling popular band of the ‘60s and’70s. A guy on my Little League baseball team played with jazzman Stan Kent and the hit-making jazz-rock band, Chase in the ‘70s. A lot of my high school classmates played in nationally known touring bands and groups. 

Our town may have been small, but it provided an abundantly rich atmosphere for kids who wanted to pursue music. In college I majored in Journalism, but except for a short stint working for an underground newspaper, The Hollywood Free Paper, I never had any career in "journalism," per se, though over the years I did write occasionally for blogs and music papers/zines here in the States."


When did you first meet Lance Morgan?

"I’m glad you asked about Lance. Some of your readers may know Lance Morgan as the nineties indie-pop recording artist “Monsters Under the Bed.” I met Lance in 1986, about a year after I’d moved to Seattle and he answered an ad I’d run in a local paper looking for someone to start a band with. Alone among the several people who answered my ad, Lance immediately and instinctively added a harmony voice to any song I threw at him; it was if we’d been singing together for years. 

Within weeks we started the band HI-FI (later known as Point No Point) and played all around Seattle for the next two to three years. We recorded one full-length album called “Point No Point” before we broke up in 1989. After that Lance and I each began pursuing our own solo recording projects – me as Rich Arithmetic and Lance as Monsters Under the Bed, with each of us playing & singing on recordings by the other. To this day Lance & I continue to play an occasional unplugged gig as a duo we call The Arithmetic Monsters."


Tell us about Optional Art, the label you ran. 

"In the early eighties my brother and I bought one of the early PortaStudio 4-track cassette recorders and started recording our own songs. When we began giving them to our friends and prospective booking agents and trading them with other home-tapers, we slapped the name “Optional Art” on our tapes. The idea being that “Optional Art” was meant to imply that we were trying optimize the accessibility potential of our songs while also trying to realize the option of making it as creative and artistic as we could. 

For the first several of those Cassette Culture years, that was all Optional Art was. But in 1985, after I went into a “real” studio to record my first solo venture, “Hi-Fi Limbo” by Richard H, I decided to make Optional Art an actual record label. Following that first formal Optional Art release, virtually all of our releases were recorded in “real” studios, but were released on cassette simply because we could not afford to press vinyl in those pre-CD years."



And then came your debut album “Sleep in a Wigwam”  

"As I mentioned, with few exceptions in the early days of Optional Art, almost everything we released was in the form of a cassette, including the first version of “Neighborhood Of Reality” in 1993. This began changing a bit, however, between 1991-1993, when we also released three vinyl 45’s, including my first single as Rich Arithmetic, a single by Monsters Under the Bed and a single by the band Edgar Schwartz – all of whom subsequently had full-length CD’s.  

My idea at that point was that in addition to my own recordings, I wanted to use Optional Art to promote other DIY/indie artists whose music I believed in, regardless of how it fit with existing genres. For example, although I arranged a lot of the material on Lance Morgan’s Monsters Under the Bed album “Neighborhood Of Reality” to appeal to the indie-pop crowd, I recognized that, at bottom, he was primarily a singer-songwriter with a strong folk bent, who also had a few hooks in his songs.  Edgar Schwartz was more an avant-garde type of pop act. Their songs were very quirky, but were overlaid with lush harmonies. I wanted to use Optional Art to promote that kind of creativity.

Although I had an on-and-off acoustic trio during the late Nineties and up until about 2013, my last true band Point No Point broke up on the cusp of 1990, which was when I decided to quit playing live and become a studio only solo artist. So the early Nineties was all about teaching myself to be a one-man band, which culminated in the recordings that became my album "Sleep In A Wigwam." Despite my intentions of being a one-man band, with only two or three exceptions, the songs on "Sleep In a Wigwam" had been written for my band, but we'd learned only a few of them before we broke up.

Unlike some artists, I almost never start recording until I have a song pretty much in place, both music and lyrics. As for how I record, the first two things I always lay down are a click track to set the song's tempo and then a guide instrument (either an acoustic guitar or a piano) which may or may not be included in the final mix, but can keep the basic rhythm & tempo and steer the arrangement of the song.  

Once the click track & guide tracks are solid, I may record a guide lead vocal but just as often I'll play bass in order to provide a "basement" for the house of the song I'm building. After that, I have no set order to what instruments or vocals I next play/record. It all depends on the nature of the song and which musical ideas I intend to emphasize most. But one thing that is invariably true is that I leave recording the drums until the very end so that I can ensure the fills and riffs don't get in the way of the other aspects of the song. 

Generally speaking, the vocal harmonies don't get recorded until near the end of the recording process. I like having a large backlog of songs to choose from when recording, so I can choose not only the best ones, but also the ones that seem to fit with a particular recording project. For example, back in the mid-'90s, my label Optional Art was going to release a Christmas album, which allowed me to dig into my box of songs and find several that fit the project. It was actually quite rewarding because I'd particularly wanted to record them but never had had a place for them to fit until then.

"In 1994-95 when we released “Sleep In A Wigwam,” my first full-length album as Rich Arithmetic, it came out on both CD and cassette, which were identical, in terms of material. Although Monster Under the Bed’s “Neighborhood Of Reality” album initially was released in 1993, when we decided to release it as a CD four years later in 1997, we decided to delete several songs from the initial cassette release and I had Lance record a handful of new songs for the CD release.

"It’s funny. I’ve never considered myself as Power Pop artist, per se, but I seemingly became a viable presence in the indie-pop and power pop community in the Nineties with the success of “Sleep In a Wigwam. “Hartbeat” Magazine listed it as one of its Top 100 Best Power Pop albums of all time. Audities Magazine, which was the power pop “bible” of the Nineties included it as Number 7 on its “Best Power Pop Albums of 1995” list and many other fanzines and indie-pop media embraced it with enthusiasm. 

Even though Rich Arithmetic and Optional Art did not fit neatly within many more purist power pop definitions, those good receptions helped give Optional Art a certainly kind of credibility when we released the second version of “Neighborhood Of Reality” by Monsters Under the Bed, “Milk & Cookies” by Edgar Schwartz” and “Cool Yule” and “Burnt Marshmallows and Teeny Bikinis,” both of which were holiday-themed compilation CD’s with a variety of indie-pop and power pop artists."


And then you kinda disappeared… 

"In the late Nineties I actually started recording material for what was intended to be another album, but then life happened – both good & great things, as well as some very hard and stressful things. My children were still very young and needed a father who wasn’t gallivanting around trying to be a pop star,and I loved being present for them. 

But then the health of my elderly parents took a downturn, and that required my intense concentration for the better part of seven years. In the midst of that, I developed cancer (I’m cancer-free now) and also got a divorce. Certainly, I continued to write music, but I just didn’t have the emotional bandwidth or time to run a record label or record new music and I just closed the doors for the next twenty years."



Now tell us all about the excellent new album. What brought about your welcome return. 

"I’m glad to report that about four years ago I was able to recover my energy and enthusiasm for recording again. As you know, the album is called Shiftingears, which is intentionally ambiguous as it can be read as either Shiftin Gears or Shifting Ears – the point being is that it represents a shift from what I did with “Sleep In A Wigwam.”  

For myself, it represents a shifting of gears in that my palette has broadened, but it may require a shifting of ears for fans to go along for the ride. I try to write the kinds of songs I'd want to listen to (although my listening interests go far beyond the kinds of things I write, admittedly).

Whereas the songs on “Wigwam” were intended to sound like something a four-piece guitar-centric band might have sang and played live, the new album is much more about who I am as a solo musician. I am a musician who is interested in the varieties of directions a pop song can take and several songs feature a guest lead singer or somewhat different instrumentation. There’s more variety in the song writing style, as well. 

For instance, “One Thing,” a song I co-wrote with my producer Jim Nicholson, features the vocals of the fabulous Maura Kennedy of the award-winning coffee-house pop group The Kennedys singing lead with my former colleague from my little-known acoustic group Cool Blue, Colleen Anderson on harmonies. That song starts out in somewhat moody fashion, but ultimately transforms itself into a bouncy affair with interweaving sunshine pop harmonies. The song “Always” features a groove-oriented verse and a longish seventies styled guitar solo but keeps a catchy chorus and a Beach Boys-inspired bridge central to its pop intents. 

There’s also a song called “A-Girl’s Reply,” which is ostensibly the musings of the Ipanema Girl and punctuated by jazz chords, a surf guitar solo, a marimba and sultry voice of Diane Leigh, who is a wonderful R&B singer in my town. Another tune, “Make Me Over,” tries to be a pop song disguised in bar band clothes, featuring Charlie Malizsweski, the harpist & lead singer for the blues-rockers, The Legendary Chucklenuts.

There’s an Andy Partridge-meets-Paul McCartney piano-based tune, “He’s a Good Man,” which my pal Chris Zajkowski (aka Squires Of The Subterrain), co-wrote with me. I even attempt Baroque Pop on “Before the First Slice,” which was inspired by four chords Ray Carmen from the Librarians With Hickeys “gave” to me and that I supplemented with voice, piano, and a 4-piece string arrangement. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t abandoned my guitar-pop style altogether. For example, “In Our Time” a song I wrote as an ode to the Sixties cult-pop group The E-Type, which features a dueling Strat & 12-string theme that recurs throughout the song and is interspersed with intricate vocal harmonies that interweave and answer each other. On that note: I even cover an old E-Types single, “She Moves Me,” which is a garage rock tune featuring a glistening guitar, an insistent riff and great three-part harmonies. 

All in all, it will be evident that The Beatles and XTC are big influences on my music, but my influences also extend beyond them and I think the way I’ve combined the variety of those influences in my music comes off as unique. Some of my music is Power Pop, to be sure, but for the most part, as one of my friends says: “It’s Rich Arithmetic music.”

Fortunately, I have been writing songs ever since I was thirteen, which covers a lot of eras and a lot of genres in pop music. So I do not feel constricted by needing to record only the latest handful of songs I’ve written. I also go back and retrieve songs that I have written in the past, songs that I feel shouldn’t be left behind just because I wrote them ten, twenty, thirty years ago or so. For example, the most recent song on Shiftingears was written less than a year ago and the oldest was written in 1979 (and I won’t tell you which ones!)."



Are you slow or prolific?

"Oh, man. I am such a slow writer. Once I dedicate myself to an idea, it undergoes revision after revision before I feel satisfied with it. Even then, I continue to tinker with the lyrics or a chord progression or something else."


The production is crucial and all important…its obvious you feel the same and what a beautiful listening pleasure your stuff  is…full of superbly crafted sonic adventure…tell me about how you approach it

"Thank you for saying that. These days, I record everything in my home studio, but I do not consider myself a technical wizard at all. For that, I have to give credit to my co-producer, Jim Nicholson. After I record all my tracks here in Bellingham, Washington, I send them to Jim’s studio in Fayetteville, Arkansas which is almost 2200 miles from me. He gets under the hood and adjusts the spark plugs and jiggles the valves and often adds some cool effects and sounds. 

He is the most awesome collaborator I could ever have and we have the greatest conversations while he is mixing and mastering my recordings. We're in constant contact regarding the various mixes. It's a delightfully collaborative process, because Jim often comes up with sonic ideas that I haven't thought of, which benefit the song."


What does psychedelia mean to you?

"I’m quite surprised that you asked!  “Psychedelia” informs almost all of my production decisions!  Even though I would not consider myself a psychedelic artist in any real sense. I continue to be influenced by how records were produced in the mid-late Sixties – the echoes on the voices, the effects on the guitars, the baroque approach to arrangements, etc. Without question, it was a period when record production grew in leaps and bounds and I continue to embrace it."


How’s the feedback to the album been so far? 

"Initial reviews have been positive for the most part, but some reviewers have mentioned that it’s not a “Power Pop album,” and one mentioned that I was an “oddity” even back in the days when my stuff appeared in the catalog of Not Lame Records, which was the “home” of Power Pop in the Nineties.

I don’t particularly quibble with that response to my work. It’s true – I am not a Power Pop artist if that means that every song features crunchy guitars and anthemic choruses. As I continue to mention, I’ve always been inspired by The Beatles and XTC, artists who never felt constrained by any particular genre boundaries, even while remaining eminently tuneful. That’s kind of how I view my M.O., as well.

I find the endless debates on some of the indie Facebook pages about what is and what is not "power pop" a bit wearisome. Frankly, I much prefer the days when tastes seemed broader, If you liked something, that was reason enough to dig it and not have to justify whether it "fit" into some preconceived genre. Although, of course, I do remember being embarrassed when I was in my "rock snob" era about enjoying The Monkees. Ha. 

Frankly, I don't think the fracturing and sub-fracturing of rock & pop into so many sub-genres has been very healthy, in terms of giving fair shrift to all the great stuff that's out there! I think the last time I felt labels were meaningful was when "new wave"and "alternative" were used almost exclusively to designate almost anything that was different from the mainstream commercial music of the time. 

Thus, Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Cars, REM, The Ramones, Squeeze, The dB's, Oingo Boingo, The Selectors, even Dire Straits and The Police, etc. -- it was ALL New Wave or Alternative because it was a"new way" of expressing pop and rock music of the Seventies. And I liked almost all of it.

As a musician I have always struggled with labels. In the early eighties, a prospective manager told my brother and me: "You guys are far too alternative for the pop crowd, but far too pop for the alternative crowd and the rock audience will hate you either way."



And so it has been ever since.

"At long last, I have finished cleaning up my studio a bit. It got rather disheveled during the Christmas season when I was also using it as a gift-wrapping area and all my notebooks & lyrics pages got scattered across the floor along with endless loops of cords and mic stands.  

For me, this is good news because I'm hoping to start recording a new song tomorrow, which is intended to be a bit of a collaboration with Marvin Hunt, an old-time friend from the Kansas City area whose bands over the years have been awesome. He was the producer of my very first solo record "Hi-Fi Limbo" by Richard H back in '85. The nature of our collaboration is that each of us would write a Nick Lowe-styled song and that we'd take turns adding things to each other's recording of their own song. 

Trouble is, Nick Lowe has written so many styles of music that almost anything could qualify as a Nick Lowe-styled song, right? The song I've just finished writing for our collaboration is called "You Are Always Right" and I've had the chorus for the song floating around since the late 1980's, but the impetus for this project led me to finally finish writing it.

A few weeks ago I woke up one morning with a song running through my head that I'd written way back in 1978, "Reignburst," a song that was one of my attempts to write a Yes-meets-Steely Dan thing. It's funny. I hadn't heard that song, or even thought about it, in twenty years or more. But I went and dug out a live recording of my old band Harbor playing the song in 1980 and I was surprised that we'd played it as well as we had. 

It certainly had no Yes or Steely Dan influences in it, but it did include some jazz chords and some prog influences while being neither genre particularly; however, I shocked myself because it was a fairly decent song, after all. I've been considering maybe brushing it off and recording it … all eight minutes of it! Ha.

As to the future, I’m not quite sure. I’ve got a whole lot of songs on the table right now and trying to decide which ones should be given priority, in terms of which to record next. But continuing to write music and record it is something I plan to continue to do."



You can listen to and buy Shiftingears here. You can buy CDs of Shiftinggears at Kool Kat here and of 

Sleep In A Wigwam here.


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Dunkie - The Vanishing and Other Stories

 


I really must apologise for not telling you about Dunkie earlier, entirely my fault. Working To Design was in the I Don't Hear A Single Top 100 albums of last year and this new EP deserves even further recognition, it is a beautiful listen.

Anthony Price with Wayne Bassett are effectively the band, as well as being the songwriters, but the whole project is a collaboration of like minded individuals. As well as adding variety to the material, these collaborators add to and expand the appeal.

Over these five songs, there are treks into Folk and Country, but overall the vibe is more Modern Prog and definitely Pop Rock. I'm thinking of the Alan Parsons Project or Renaissance. The quality of the song writing shines through and the arrangements complement Price's wonderful delicately fragile voice.



There is a real laid back feel to the album, maybe it's a South Wales effect, which allows the songs into your soul. The poppiest thing here is Shadows On The Sun, a song built around an hypnotic riff. This and the moodier The Vanishing are a perfect showcase for that precious voice. The latter has far more packed into it than the former. I kept thinking of Beth Orton's Roll The Dice at times.

Deep Dark Heart is essentially a folk duet with vocals from Mark Purnell and Sarah Birch, but that is only part of the story. The blend of their voices is a tad prime time Fleetwood Mac, but the arrangement is superb. Stunning Violin from Terry Payne with a tinge of Americana adding to the mix. 

Mali Davies takes lead vocals on Choke and the melancholy rings out, aided again by Terry Payne's Flute, as well as Violin.  Choke is amazing in that it is played by seven musicians, but still sounds so splendidly sparse. 



Lauren Coates is lead vocalist on the closer, The Vanishing Shadow, bringing a more modern feel to proceedings. Hopefully, the people who will like this EP will also add the Working To Design album to their collections. 

Another thought occurred. If only a collaboration like The Prog Collective could come up with something as special as this. Providing an intelligent rounded beautifully arranged album instead of revealing how well they could play their instruments. This EP is exceptional.



You can listen to and buy the album here. The EP is only 50p, I mean 50p! Bandcamp buyers also get a bonus track, an alternative stripped down version of The Vanishing recorded at the same sessions.


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