Saturday, 19 May 2018

Atomic Rooster - On Air Live At The BBC And Other Transmissions, album review

Hello Sailors

I think this is a great live collection, Atomic Rooster a truly heavy prog-rock band, the Hammond organ of Vince Crane providing the dynamic, pulsing core around which the generally thundering riffs swirled and rose. There’s plenty of wah-wah too, and if heavy rock clich├ęs are your thing, this is it. I do like it best when Chris Farlowe was lead vocalist, his voluminous growl and power a greatest part of the completest power of the band, though classic numbers like Tomorrow Night, here from Live at Beat Club, 1971, sans Farlowe and one of the all-time far-out riffs, does still pack its memorable punch.

Chris Farlowe is his funny self [read here] introducing Stand by Me, Live at the BBC, 1972, with what seems an hilariously dated right on; out of sight; blow your mind, but then comically bathetic – if it can be after those hippie chestnuts – hello sailors!


Eye Music 25

Friday, 18 May 2018

Nat Steele at The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club, Exeter, 17th May, 2018

From Nat's web site - too far back to get a pic last night

Jazz Education

I feel like I am running out of ways to vary but sustain the high praise for the Blue Vanguard Jazz Club house band of Craig Milverton – Keys, Al Swainger – Bass, and Coach York – Drums, and their monthly guests – last night, vibraphone player Nat Steele – though simply excellent every time should suffice.

That said, never one to give up the search for a reviewer’s inroad/ruse: as a GCSE English Literature senior examiner I will be attending my standardising meeting imminently where we review and agree grades to set the standard for all examiners. It struck me that the band and guest last night, playing all jazz standards, undertake their own similar process – theirs the intuition of feel and expertise when getting together without rehearsals to play brilliantly as if a long-standing group, setting the highest standards of un-standardising the music in improvised solos and a tightness of interchange that is seamlessly superb.

Do you see what I did?

Like a freight train, was it?

Excellent every time it is then. And it was last night, again enjoyed by a full house. I will be honest in declaring I have never been a vibes fan in particular, for no clear reason, and lean to saxophone and horn as obvious instruments of choice, but Nat Steele quite genuinely introduced me to its merits, perhaps a mellower though nonetheless lively instrument, especially played in his talented hands. Though that talent was quite enough to convince, it helped that he came across as such a warm and humble person, clearly steeped in jazz knowledge and appreciation, not least his deep love of jazz standards and the finesse with which he brings his vibes to interpret this.

Those standards were [most, but I didn’t get all] and played in this order: April in Paris, Vernon Duke; It’s You or No One, Cahn/Styne; No One Else But Me, Jerome Kerne [‘all the harmonic tricks’]; Stablemates, Benny Golson [read my Golson reviews here]; Autumn in New York, Vernon Duke, a sweet ballad; Poor Butterfly, Raymond Hubbell; Bird Feathers, Charlie Parker; Woody ‘N’ You, Dizzy Gillespie; The Cylinder, Milt Jackson, a beautiful bluesy vibes number with descending notes, and So Do It, Wes Montgomery.

Because of Nat’s fine playing, and as a closing aside, I am as I write listening to Sandra’s Blues by Milt Jackson playing with Coleman Hawkins, swung to the beauty of the vibraphone and furthering my jazz educations so ably and entertainingly delivered each month at The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club.

No Face Music 5

Ryley Walker - Deafman Glance, album review


The ‘folk’ of John Martyn and Bert Jansch and similar has not disappeared, nor those echoing tropes, and in opener In Castle Dome, the slow dirge is graced by flutes that could have been backing for any of the names named and implied in this opening line.

So apologies as Walker rightly wants to and has moved away somewhat from those echoes, tired no doubt [though not unappreciative] of the reviewers’ referenced touchstones. What remains/what is new? The vocal is distinctive; certain melodic signatures continue. In In Castle Dome, the flute and guitar merge in slight dissonances, electronics are burgeoning in the background, and some swirls are whipped up here. But this is ultimately a pretty song, and what we are used to.

22 Days is immediately a jazzier rhythm, electric guitar in quick bursts, then drums march and the apparent instrumental breaks along a pacy bass line. When the vocal begins, this is less melodic in focus – I am being very literal here – and more in the lyrical carrying. Yet the voice is still beautiful in various rises, even in I’ve been chicken scratched and you can’t sell the same shit back. The song’s closing moves to a jazzed and heavier outburst. Next Accommodations begins with the most obvious/accentuated shift, stroked piano chords, it seems, electronic and other interjections, a walked up and down vocal, then wilder electronic sounds: here Walker has broken free from that folk hold – though I am being literal, again, and perhaps overs-stating, especially as the flutes enter and harmonise again, but he has said I was under a lot of stress because I was trying to make an anti-folk record and I was having trouble doing it. I wanted to make something deep-fried and more me-sounding. I didn’t want to be jammy acoustic guy anymore. I just wanted to make something weird and far-out that came from the heart finally.

Photo by Evan Jenkins

And in most respects this delineation is no longer necessary. What matters is it is still recognisably the work of this fine young artist. If you’ve seen him play live, as I have twice, the jazzier and jamming side is a given, especially for me his second gig at Exeter [read reviews of both and of his other albums here]. So Can’t Ask Why combines the pace of folk with the grinding rhythms of a rockier side; Opposite Middle highlights the vocal signature amongst more sweet flute and then guitar riffs and west coast lead, and Telluride Speed re-delivers a walking up and down melodic line like Accommodations.

Rock on Rainbow is perhaps the alliterative encapsulation of the whole, though this acoustic, finger-plucked ditty is just that, and would reside in any of the folk touchstones Ryley has rightly earned and will always be one kind of his ‘me-sounding’. Closer Spoil with the Rest reasserts the jazzier move – the talking vocal, pace in the drum and bass and guitar, electric guitar too: a fine musical ensemble.

Another great album, whatever its trajectory. I'm so looking forward to my vinyl copy.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Patrick Sweany - Ancient Noise, album review

It's The Blues

This is down and dirty and growling blues, like Up and Down, and [tautology alert] plaintive blues like Country Loving, so maybe a bit of [platitude alert] country blues, and funky blues like No Way No How, and some swamp blues like Outcast Blues.

It is as always with Patrick Sweany damn fine blues. I think it is refined too – I won’t say for the blues, though of course it applies – but simply in the overall musicality, because with songs like Get Along and Play Around I hear a little of the blue-eyed soul of Boz Scaggs, and that makes me feel refined in a genuinely complimentary way.

An excellent album of the broadest blues.