Sunday, 19 March 2017

MARK & THE CLOUDS - CUMULUS (Mega Dodo LP, CD, 2 x CD, D/L).

Mark & The Clouds are another of the fantastic British Neo-Psych bands that are totally seeped in the sounds of the UK 60s Beat/Psychedelic scene ………….. If there was ever a band that was a perfect fit for the psychedelically inclined label Mega Dodo, then this band is it. Cumulus, the band’s second album for Mega Dodo, is a total trip that has been influenced by classic British Psych/Beat groups such as The Beatles, The Small Faces and the Kinks etc…..you would spend a lot of time trying to find anything stunningly original here, but that’s not the point………the album is a blend of timeless, catchy and powerful Psych Pop that 60s RetroHeads will really dig.

Evoking sweaty nights at the Marquee circa 1966 and the more bucolic psychedelia of the following year, Cumulus sees Mark & The Clouds treading the same path as the classic 60s bands……………Brutal, maximum R&B/Freakbeat morphing into more trippy tunes as the band mix up Pretty Things rave ups with more gentle Beatle-esque jangle. The stand out tracks are the Beatles Revolver era influenced ‘On Her Bike’ and ‘Another Grey Morning’ and the harder R&B influenced ‘You’re So Cold’ and ‘Baby, You’re Just A Liar’…………………..it’s a album of great 60s influenced songs with both bite and subtlety from London’s premier Psych revivalists. Well worth a listen.

Out now on Mega Dodo records, Cumulus is available on limited edition LP, CD (with bonus tracks) and 2 x CD with a bonus disc of Mark & The Clouds set at last years Games For May festival at the Half Moon in Putney. Get your copy direct from the Mega Dodo webstore or their Bandcamp page here…………………………


Saturday, 18 March 2017

THE BLACK ANGELS - DEATH SONG (Partisan Records 2 x LP, CD, D/L).

Arguably the most important Neo-Psych band of this decade, The Black Angels return with their first full-length release in four years and their debut for Partisan Records. After a short hiatus, the prime-movers behind the world renowned Levitation Festival are back with a brand new album, Death Song, who’s title acknowledges one of the band’s early influences and from where they took their name…….. ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’ from the first Velvet’s LP. Death Song is an 11-track collection of new songs that offers a sharply honed elaboration on their signature sound…….menacing fuzz guitar and cutting wordplay, steeped in a murky hallucinatory dream. Perfectly comfortable with who they are, The Black Angels feel no need to radically alter their sound to chase a bigger audience and the new album is a natural successor to the Indigo Meadow album from 2013 and the Clear Lake Forest EP from a year later, with a more expansive sound evolving organically. Recorded between Seattle and Austin, ‘Death Song’ features production from Phil Eck (Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes, The Shins) and is a real tilt at crossing over from being a cult band to more mainstream success without sacrificing any of the elements that made The Black Angels such a great band in the first place.

Written and recorded in large part during the recent U.S. election cycle, the music on Death Song serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease. ‘Currency’, a strong contender for the heaviest song the band has ever put to wax, meditates on the governing role the monetary system plays in our lives, while slow-building Psychedelic earworm ‘Half Believing’ questions the nature and confusing realities of devotion. Elsewhere, there is the obligatory nod to the band’s Austin Psych forefathers, the mighty 13th Floor Elevators, on ‘I’d Kill For Her’ (c’mon, it’s a Black Angels album……it’s expected!!), fuzzed up Psychedelic swirl outs ( ‘Comanche Moon’, ‘Hunt Me Down’ and the mind melting ‘Grab As Much (As You Can)’), the twisted disco of ‘Medicine’ and pulsing motrik grooves of the tripped out ‘I Dreamt’ and ‘Death March’. Closing with lysegic reverie of ‘Life Song’, the new Black Angels album is a total triumph from the moment the needle is dropped on track one, side one until it hits the run out grooves on the flip. Possibly the band’s best album to date and the one to suck the Indie Kids and Alt-Rock Dads into The Black Angels weird and wonderful Psychedelic Universe.

Due for release on the 21st of April, the album will be available on 2 x vinyl LP and CD and is available to pre-order now either from the Partisan Records store or direct from the band at http://theblackangels.com/ where the album is available in various bundles with a ton of other band merch. Check it out People.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

THE GREEK THEATRE - BROKEN CIRCLE (Sugerbush Records LP, D/L).

Broken Circle is the second and long awaited-album by Sweden’s premier West Coast Psych act The Greek Theatre. The first album, Lost Out At Sea, was a gem of an LP and took many people by surprise such is its quality. This brand new album is the sequel of sorts but goes much deeper into full-on Psychedelia yet retains…….and even improves on…….their excellent songwriting from the first album. Sounding like a long lost recording from the vaults, Broken Circle evokes the hazy daze of Stillwater, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Moby Grape and Love, with nine tracks of shimmering, sunkissed Psychedelia, this is one of the most beautifully mellow albums we have heard for quite a while……..we doubt if you will hear anything more tripped out and blessed this year.

While a lot of modern Psych bands adhere to trance like Floydian Space Rock, it is a rare thing to find an album of song based Psychedelia, which is what this album gives you………..and then some. The Greek Theatre channel the golden vibes of S.F circa 67/68 to create a mini masterpiece of grade A quality. The absolutely gorgeous ‘Fat Apple (At About Noon)’ which opens the album is a deep, rich track that evokes the swirling pop smarts of the Holy Mackerel blended with the laconic West Coast vibes of the early line up of the Steve Miller Band. The Greek Theatre add to their sonic palette West Coast Acid Folk and classic 60s Folk Rock troubadour elements with the beautifully evocative ‘Still Lost At Sea’ and the impressive ‘Stray Dog Blues’. There is a delicate gossamar fragility about The Greek Theatre’s songs which at times is heartbreaking and at others completely life affirming…….there is certainly echoes of Nick Drake at his best here. The album’s title track is The Free Design jamming with Airplane in a liquid light swirl out down at the Matrix while ‘Kings Of Old’ shows off the band’s West Coast Psychedelic Rock influences with six minutes of spiraling Acid Rock guitars as The Greek Theatre party like it’s 1969.The Greek Theatre’s “sound” may not be totally original, but they have skillfully pulled together all of their impeccable influences in order to record a record that is quite simply spellbinding. Closing the album is The Greek Theatre’s very own “Teenage Symphony To God”……’Now Is The Time’ is a distant relative to Forever Changes beautifully constructed with the complexity of Smile era Beach Boys……………totally stunning. Broken Circle is the first album of 2017 to totally blow our minds. Seriously recommended!!!!!!.

Broken Circle is out now on vinyl via Sugarbush records……………be quick getting your hands on this record as it is limited to a run of only 300 copies. You can buy the download/stream it to find out how fucking great this record is for yourself from The Greek Theatre’s Bandcamp page here…………………… https://thegreektheatre1.bandcamp.com/album/broken-circle


SONIC JESUS - GRACE (Fuzz Club Records deluxe LP, LP, CD, DL).

Strange things are happening People………….the Psychedelic Gothik 80s are back…….in full force. Channelling the proto-Goth and dark psychedelia of the decade for their enthralling second LP, Grace, shows Sonic Jesus take on an insatiable new form, ditching their industrial and hypnotic psych-rock for an expansive synth-driven Post-Punk sound that falls somewhere between Interpol, Joy Division and Cold Cave. In keeping with the more recent releases from Fuzz Club, the new Sonic Jesus LP takes the 80s Psych/Goth Rock model of low slung rumbling bass and thunderous drums underpinning dense guitars and sweeping synths, retooling the sound for a modern Psych Rock audience. There’s still the hypnotic Sonic Jesus darkness ebbing beneath the noise but these new tracks show the band reverberating around a new-found pop sensibility. Don’t be fooled though, this is no bubblegum pop; it is dark, complex, introspective and often heart-breaking. Using brooding synths not too dissimilar from Marty Rev’s Clouds of Glory, Grace is an album that truly gets under your skin.

Opening with the totally euphoric ‘I’m In Grace’, Sonic Jesus have fully embraced the richness of massive sounding 80s/90s widescreen production………..melodically it is utterly anthemic, yet Tiziano Veronese’s vocals sound as if he is being crushed by the weight of the world. This is a striking juxtaposition that continues throughout the album. ‘No Hope’ is propelled deep rumbling bass; the chorus is a majestic crescendo driven by euphoric synths. Tiziano's vocals are drowning amongst a dark ethereal haze, distorted and adding to the mystery and depth of this release. ’No Way’ has an 80s electro feel; it's utterly euphoric, soaring with clipped wings whilst ’Space Heels’ is seeped in a fragile melancholy. It’s clear Sonic Jesus have embraced pop with open arms but they’ve done it on their own terms – the edge, drone and passion are still pumping through its veins. Fans of the Sisters Of Mercy are going to love this record………..it’s dark and brooding while also being euphoric and uplifting, it’s Floodland for a new generation of outsiders with a soul. Maybe not one for the Psych Rock purists, however Sonic Jesus are pushing at boundaries of the genre and have created a epic record that transcends mere labels and defies expectations.

Grace is out NOW on Fuzz Club Records and is available on deluxe vinyl, standard vinyl and CD……………..Deluxe vinyl comes on 180g ultra clear vinyl with a tip-on gatefold sleeve limited to 300 copies (only 250 available online). Standard vinyl comes on 180g white vinyl limited to 700 copies. Available from the Fuzz Club online shop and all the best record stores…………………….the digital download is available to buy from the label’s Bandcamp page here…… https://fuzzclub.bandcamp.com/album/grace where you can also stream the album. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

HEAT EXCHANGE - REMINISCENCE (Out-Sider Records LP, CD, D/L).

From those dedicated crate diggers and archive explorers, the musical archaeologists at the Catalonia based reissue record label group Guerssen Records comes an album of really great Post-Psychedelic heavy Prog and hard Rock from little known Canadian outfit Heat Exchange. Influenced by the early 70s British Progressive bands Heat Exchange played a blend of jazzy Prog Rock and Bluesy Hard Rock that was popular in the Rock Clubs and University venues around the UK at the time. Heat Exchange had the chops and a whole bunch of well constructed songs with powerful vocals, sax, flute, wah- wah, organ and a seriously solid rhythm section that bring to mind the Island/Vertigo/Harvest etc. bands such as King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Samurai, Human Beast, Deep Purple, If, Colosseum and Blodwyn Pig. During their brief existence Heat Exchange recorded an album of which only four tracks were released as singles for the legendary Yorkville label…………..however for the first time ever the complete Heat Exchange studio recordings, including their 45s plus the previously unreleased recordings they did for their never released LP in 1972 are collected together, remastered from original reel-to-reel tapes and 45s and have been newly released by the Guerssen imprint Out-Sider Records complete with detailed liner notes and photos, including an introduction by Rich Sheppard (After The Sabbath). 

For fans of classic 70s Progressive Rock, Guerssen have unearthed a rough diamond………….although Heat Exchange would not have won any points for originality, Reminiscence is a solid, absorbing Post-Psych/Prog Rock album and there is lots to love here. We think that the technical term is “all over the place” as Heat Exchange pull in influences from the whole early 70s Prog Rock spectrum……….The opening track ‘For Those Who Listen’ is a Folk/Prog Arthurian romp with flute and harpsichord, while ‘Inferno’ and ‘Philosophy’ are heavy on the Hammond hard rock squalls. There is FM Radio rock (‘Scorpio Lady’) and far out Psychedelic Jazz (‘Scat’) all mixed together in Heat Exchange’s strange brew. The 10 minute closing track ‘Four To Open The Door’ is a tripped out Psych Rock wig out which twists and turns around a central flute riff and gives the band the chance to jam………..it’s Jethro Tull on hard drugs. Elsewhere there are some really cool, accessible tunes………. ‘Stopwatch’ is a lost Prog classic with piano, sax and guitar combining beautifully and ‘She Made Me All Alone’ is a sax driven heavy Blues has the feel of Traffic when they rocked out. This gem is one to check out for all you classic 60s/70s ProgHeads, not arf!!!!!.

Out NOW on Out-Sider Records, Reminiscence by Heat Exchange is available on vinyl and CD from all groovy record stores, the Guerssen on-line store and the Guerssen Bandcamp page here.......................
https://guerssenrecords.bandcamp.com/album/reminiscence where you can also buy the download.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

CHILLI WILLI AND THE RED HOT PEPPERS - REAL SHARP (Proper Records 2 x CD).

From the early 70s Camden freak scene wing of Pub Rock, Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers had a short career that closely mirrors that of Pub Rock legends Brinsley Schwarz………………both bands played unfashionable, unpretentious Country Rock in a Britian dominated by Prog and post psychedelic heavy Rock, retreating to the pubs to find an audience, both hardworking and hardgigging racking up the miles and the amount of shows played and both bands having a direct connection to the formation of Stiff Records. However, while the Brinsley’s now have cult status as a massively influential band, the Chilli’s have been near forgotten and are a mere footnote in the history of 70s British music. Originally a duo of guitarist Martin Stone and multi-instrumentalist Phil “Snakefinger” Lithman, who both had an impressive Psychedelic Rock pedigree……………….Stone had been a member of 60s Freakbeat/Psych Pop band The Action who morphed into the acid fried, couldda been contenders, Mighty Baby while Lithman had relocated to San Francisco in the early 70s and became part of The Residents inner-circle, later becoming a more permanent member following the demise of the Chilli’s………The band expanded to a five piece for live work bringing on board Paul “Diceman” Bailey (banjo, sax, guitar), Paul “Bassman” Riley (….errr….bass) and forthcoming Attractions drummer Pete Thomas. What they may of lacked in the Brinsley’s ear for a tune and the songwriting smarts of Ian Gomm/Nick Lowe, Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers made up for it in spades with sheer musical ability and could comfortably go toe to toe with the best American Cosmic Country bands of the era. By 1975 it was all over…….following the Naughty Rhythms package tour which made stars of Dr. Feelgood and also included one of the finest British Funk/Soul bands of the 70s, Kokomo, the Chilli’s split and in the 40 years since slowly faded into obscurity. It’s about time that this great band are brought to a wider audience………….Proper Records have put together Real Sharp, a beautifully packaged anthology on 2 CDs which has included most of the Chilli’s recordings that they made in their short three year lifespan. Both their studio albums, Kings Of The Robot Rhythm and Bongos Over Balham, have been remastered by Paul Riley and are included with demos, live tracks and aborted studio sessions with Mike Nesmith at the controls along with a booklet with full liner notes and the artwork the legendary inkmeister Barney Bubbles provided for posters, merch and album covers.

Released in 1972 by the tiny Revelation label, Kings Of The Robot Rhythm is a predominantly an acoustic album recorded by Stone and Lithman aided and abetted by Nick Lowe, Billy Rankin and Bob Andrews from Brinsley Schwarz on a few of the tracks. Totally out of sync with the rest of the London rock scene at the time it’s a album recorded by a couple of stoner freaks who really dig Cosmic Country Music. Sourced directly from the original master tapes for the very first time it has an authentic lo-fi vibe of the best immaculately stoned late 60s Country Rock. Heavily influenced by rootsy Americana and the gentle vibes of the West Coast it’s a throwback to the stoner hippie Country Rock of bands like Mad River and Gram Parsons/The Byrds/Grateful Dead’s traditional Bluegrass ‘n’ Blues explorations relocated in Camden Town mixing reworked traditional songs with original material. Sparse and evocative, Kings Of The Robot Rhythm features mesmerizing guitar interplay between Stone and Lithman, tracks such as ‘Astrella From The Astral Planet’ and ‘The Ballad Of Chilli Willi’ are straight outta S.F. circa 69 while elsewhere they take a affectionate dig at the Country Rock cliches with ‘Drunken Sunken Red Neck Blues’ and ‘Nashville Rag’. The strongest song on the album is the stripped back original version of ‘I’ll Be Home’, a live favourite that appears again in a much fuller form as one of the out-takes from the fractious Mike Nesmith sessions for Bongos Over Balham. The rest of CD1 is taken up with demos recorded by the expanded line up of Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers at the Chalk Farm Studio with many tracks appearing on Bongos Over Balham……….raw and vibrant these tracks are the sound of a band insanely tight from relentless gigging. With a taught, groovy sound not unlike the fantastic 1968/69 line up of The Byrds featuring Clarence White on guitar, the Chilli’s play Country music with Psychedelic flourishes on outstanding tunes such as ‘Friday Song’, ‘Goodbye Nashville (Hello Camden Town)’, ‘Truck Drivin’ Girl’. Two real killer tracks from these sessions are the Quicksilver Messenger Service gone Country ‘Desert Island Girl’ and the bluesy Van Morrison-esque ‘Jungle Song’. The band had also expanded their musical palette and included Trad. Jazz, Doo-Wop and Blues influence on songs such as the classic cover of ‘Choo Choo Ch’Boogie’ and a Chilli’s original ‘I Wanna Love Her So Bad’. These songs were eventually released by Proper records in the mid 90s on the I’ll Be Home album with collected up all the previously unreleased Chilli’s material which is also on this anthology.

CD2 opens with Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers “difficult” second album, the wonderfully titled Bongos Over Balham, that was released by Mooncrest Records in 1974. After starting the album sessions with Mike Nesmith, the album was finally completed by producer Ron Nevison who had previously engineered albums for Led Zeppelin, Bad Company and Thin Lizzy and was in no doubt under instruction from the suits at the label to “make ‘em sound like Brinsley Schwarz”. Full of great songs, mainly from the Chalk Farm Studio sessions, but with the rough edges that made the the tracks so thrilling in the demo recordings smoothed off.........it’s a solid, workmanlike record but ultimately  a little disappointing and was a poor seller. On reflection, this was the same for all of the Pub Rock bands who built their reputation on their live performances……………..non of the bands who put records out saw much success as it was difficult to replicate the live dynamics on album (only Dr. Feelgood ever managed this…….with the live album Stupidity). It was live where the Chilli’s were at their best………….In 1974, Zig Zag editor Andy Childs wrote "The number of English bands who are currently performing and perfecting the many eclectic styles of American music can be counted on the thumb of one hand... they are Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers. To see them live is an experience. Their music melts your heart, invites you to dance and sing along, and when it’s all over, you feel a rush of energy and exhilaration pulsing through your blood…like you don’t quite believe what you’ve heard or seen, so come back and shout for more and you come back and see them again and again." The remaining tracks on the disc are mostly live recordings, some from The Amazing Zig Zag Concert at the Roundhouse in 1974 that celebrated the fifth anniversary of the magazine and a great dirty blooze workout of “Walkin Blues”, featuring Will Stallibrass on harmonica, taken from a Capital Radio session. For fans of late 60s/early 70s tripped out Country Rock such as the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons and The Fallen Angels, The Dead, Mad River and the other freaks that went looking for the roots of Cosmic Americana..........and of course Brinsley Schwarz.............. 

It was short, but it was sweet and Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers stuck around long enough to record enough quality tracks to fill two CDs with great music. After the band's breakup, Thomas became the drummer for Elvis Costello's backing band, The Attractions; Riley played with Graham Parker; Bailey formed Bontemps Roulez and Stone played with the Pink Fairies before concentrating on his book business, sadly losing his battle with cancer last year while Lithman moved back to San Francisco where he began to work with his former associates, The Residents, under the name Snakefinger before passing away in 1987 aged only 38. Dedicated to the memory of Martin Stone, Phil Lithman and the late great Barney Bubbles, Real Sharp is out NOW on 2 x CD from all good record shops, on line and directly from Proper Records…………………and still only for the price of a pint and a packet of fags.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

BRINSLEY SCHWARZ - IT’S ALL OVER NOW (Mega Dodo LP, CD, Cassette, D/L).

Originally scheduled for release in 1975, It’s All Over Now  was supposed to be Pub Rock legends Brinsley Schwarz’s commercial breakthrough………….Rescuing their career after the infamous “Brinsley Schwarz Hype” PR disaster, the band had retreated to London’s pubs where they built a solid reputation as one of the best live bands on the circuit playing a mix of good time, self-effacing Rock & Roll, Soul and Country Rock, releasing a handful of well received but commercially disastrous LPs. Despite strong reviews and a dedicated fan base, the Brinsleys never managed to escape cult status, yet they influenced a legion of other artists, creating an underground, back-to-basics movement that laid the foundation for Punk Rock. By 1975, there was a seismic change in the air………….the Pub Rock bands were soon to be swept away by Punk bands and there is sense that Brinsley Schwarz knew a change was coming. The band split up not long after the recording sessions and before the record was due for release, seeing the album binned by United Artists (the album almost made the shops in the 80s but was withdrawn just before release) and it has remained  officially unreleased ever since. The archive diggers at Mega Dodo have rescued this gem of a record, given it a good dusting down and will be releasing the album on vinyl as originally intended with copies also available on CD and, for that proper retro vibe, on cassette.

For fans of the band, It’s All Over Now is an essential purchase……………….the record was recorded with Brinsley Schwarz cohort Dave Edmunds in the producer’s chair and a eye on the American market. The album contains several strong Nick Lowe/Ian Gomm penned songs (including the original version of ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ which was to be a massive hit for Lowe a few years later), a studio version of the live favourite William Bell's ‘Private Number, a groovy instrumental Soul stomper ‘Do The Cod’ and a Reggae version of the Bobby Womack song/Stones big hit ‘It’s All Over Now’………hey, it was 1975 and everybody was doing at least one Reggae influenced cut on their records. The album is effectively Pub Rock’s last stand and harks back to a time in the 70s when rootsy Americana, cod Reggae and blue eyed Soul side to side on the same record was not deemed strange…………………Dr Feelgood had made such a impact on the scene and as Nick Lowe said about the era “When the Pub Rock scene started going downhill, largely due to Dr Feelgood, who were so great they spawned many duff copyists, it was time to move on”. It’s All Over Now is a record of it’s time, how it would have fared if it had been released back in 1975 is anyone guess………………being a Brinsley’s record it would have no doubt died on it’s arse……but it has aged well for being near 40 years old. One to check out for fans of Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and the ton of bands Brinsley Schwarz’s classy blend of no nonsense Rock, Roots and Soul have influenced.

Due for release on 28/04/2017, the album will be available in limited edition orange vinyl (150 copies), black vinyl (350 copies), cassette (50 copies) and CD and should be available from all good record stores……………………check the Mega Dodo website and the usual clued up online stores for info about pre-release orders.