Friday, 12 November 2021

How to eat an afternoon tea and the perils of bad strategy

Having employed the wrong strategy at an expensive afternoon cream tea, I hope to help any reader to avoid the recent pitfalls I fell into.

1     Eat only a small breakfast.  My mistake was ordering a bacon sandwich that was so dry it felt like chewing an asbestos sheet.  It needed several cups of tea to wash it down and my waistline was already beginning its inevitable expansion.

2    Avoid any establishment that puts a time limit on your experience.  Demolishing three tiers of food takes longer than one hour, if regurgitation is to be avoided.

3    Take full advantage of extra tea fill-ups.  You will need them to balance the top tier of sugar-ladened goodies.

4    Know your limits. Grazers beware - you will never complete the task.

5    Consider an exit strategy.  Sandwiches or scones are easier to shovel into a carry-out box than the top tier items which can run through your fingers leaving you looking like a chimp.  Sandwiches can easily be eaten the next day if refrigerated.

6    Get the establishment to build the box.  You only get one chance of victory over wafer thin cardboard tabs.  Swinging your prized contents nonchalantly over a fellow diner may be easily avoided.

Good Luck with yours!


Monday, 25 October 2021

Fifteen Years

 Fifteen Years

At seventeen X was still a boy. An assailant with a knife had held a knife to his ribs, bound for an unknown destination on the Tube. As the door began to close at a busy station, he pushed his attacker away from him and sprang through the gap, spinning onto the platform but springing to his feet immediately and ran.

Days later he flew to California to join his father for an extended holiday.  Unhappy with academia and at a crossroads in his education, on the very last day he chose to stay, fifteen years ago.

Hearts had been wounded but the black clouds had silver linings. A career in media, still in its ascendancy, began as a cameraman, travelling he says, on a pittance, all over the world, yet unaware of the places he visited. Several promotions later his position now involves choosing the stories and preparing the news for one of the top four media giants in the States.

X wanted to meet up with his uncle.  Short notice meant it was going to be an expensive journey, but family is something else.  Normal terms of engagement didn’t apply.  My rail ticket was B65 yet the highest seat number was B64.  Was this a Harry Potter situation now moving from hidden platforms to hidden seats?  Did I have to tap B64 three times before B65 magically appeared? My closest fellow passengers eyed me warily.  I didn’t try to justify my appearing/reappearing act as I checked the next carriage, merely a dining car, or a folding seat tucked away, somewhere.

The train was delayed around Luton for about ten minutes.  Fifteen years and ten minutes now.  I was excited.  Delays wouldn’t affect a seasoned traveller such as X, I reasoned.  I sent him a message telepathically.  Not for us a cinematic rendezvous at a suitable statue but the ugly event of a mobile communication.  “Kirk to Enterprise…, Kirk to Enterprise” I imagined as I switched on my phone and voicemails flashed instead.  I’ve never answered one and probably never will.  I did however send a message of reassurance, “The Eagle has Landed.” We called each other back at the same time so I tried again and relayed my exact location.

Undercover police questioned X as he appeared “lost” they said. If he had done a forward roll or slipped into Michael Jackson’s moonwalk which he used to be good at, he may have avoided the incident.  Carrying a large backpack into a station wasn’t the best idea.  My father was a senior policeman and security and these times of ours are alas, the norm. They were merely doing their job well and I’d wished I’d been alongside, but only so I also knew the contents of the now damned bag.

It didn’t matter where we went, I had reasoned, but my first choice (I will save for a rainy day) was vetoed when X replied he had sunk his coffee already.  Missing a morning coffee is a huge crime and my craving sought a swift natural justice.

We fell into an impressive looking restaurant.  With the delay and the walk, we were into brunch territory and judging from the bill, confirmed cowboy country.  Were they also charging by the hour?  My hackles were raised as I was asked if we had a reservation – “Good God, no!”, I almost replied.  The sun suddenly showed its face and we decided to sit outside in October, my nephew electing to place me in direct sunlight, maybe to force the truth from my lips as we continued our eight hours catch up. Ordering the Full English Breakfast plus toast, the missed coffee and a beer seemed the most natural thing in the world. As did the next. We were uncertain if the restaurant had Greek origins or if the staff were merely slow to react to sudden strong winds that shattered plates, three, four and five times!

I offered to share the bill but was promptly dismissed but I saw the final sum as the imitation leather bill snapped shut. Bright neon “WTF”s radiated around me for at least fifteen minutes after we left the premises.

Another walk, another conversation, family members past and present were talked about, knowledge gaps were plugged, music interests were shared, bands discussed.  It was thirsty work and mochas were ordered at the next expedient coffee bar to alleviate the dry throats.

A Free Exhibition loomed on one side.  We were asked if we were human beings, forced to leave a phone number, not mine, as I still don’t know it. X’s international number was fine by me.  We were led to a holding area as a school party exited.  We entered and discovered it wasn’t an art installation nor a gallery, but an exhibition of cancer survivors’ triumphs and medical advances called Outwitting Cancer.   We moved through at a respectful pace and avoided eye contact as we exited.  I re-read the banner that should also have said “read the small print”.

It was time to play a trump card and we moved to the British Library to see Treasures of the British Library.  Civilisations across the centuries, Illuminated manuscripts, maps, and bibles from every world religion became the next weighty subject we tackled together.  A museum attendant followed us around.  Perhaps the size of the damned backpack was suspicious.  Under the weight of the Gutenberg Bible, or most of the exhibits, it would have been the slowest getaway in history.

Our Walk-Talk Tour 2021 continued, and X pointed out a drab, featureless inn that only visitors to our shores could select.  I returned his earlier veto and spotted my target – large, quiet, wood-panelling, good selection of ales, ticks x 4.  I ordered the drinks and, lo and behold, the damned backpack was opened to reveal two birthday cards from my Mum and sister and rather a large book about marathon running for his upcoming marathon. I couldn’t see anything else in the backpack’s black chasm that even a local drinker on the next table certainly feared might consume him, like an earthly black hole.  

The passage of time marched on and we had to march our way back to the train station with X requiring a return ticket.  We said our goodbyes quickly and I ascended the escalator but to my horror this wasn’t my departure area. I hastily descended and was studying the platform signs, possibly in a blind panic with four minutes to go, before my train would leave.  Our telepathy finally connected with precision as X reappeared at my side pointing my way ahead.  I unfurled my wings, the crowd parted, as the Eagle glided to the departure point with seconds to spare.


Monday, 4 October 2021

Horror in Wales

Horror of Wales

Shock and revulsion drained the colour from Louise's face as she pointed and silently screamed, her eyes betraying the truth of her horror. The black spider, as big as a horse she spat, drummed its front legs on the folds of the white duvet. I passed over my mug of water in our well-drilled routine and she returned it empty , now our shield against the dragon-spider.  The vessel was too tiny, too ineffectual for the speed and size of our adversary. It evaded my lunge and it galloped across the expanse of the bed and dropped like a stone and slid to safety under the bed. Louise drew her mobile phone torch swiftly, in an instant and the shadow of the beast, retreated to the skirting board below our pillows. She passed the torch to me and I knelt at each corner of the bed, checking and hoping for a solution. Suddenly the creature charged across the dark floorboards with a lance towards Louise. She grabbed her bedside reading and yelled as she faced her fears and her foe and passed the result to me, possibly as a hint of her valour or triumph. I carried it to the bathroom, at arms length in case the beast was merely feigning death, and flushed him into the pot.
I returned the book and lied when she asked had I wiped it.  She gingerly advanced towards me, the weapon still in hand. I took a step back as the weapon was raised again. I flinched as I followed the arc of attack, only to see it slam into the wall and despatch a mosquito, the spiders' winged brethren. I surrendered an optical wipe to placate my fearless wife. Burning lamps were placed as lookout sentries in case of further disruption and we fell into uneasy slumbers and fitful dreams. We awoke and broke through the cobweb intended as our cocoon, to start our next day of adventure, steeled with a cuppa.


Sunday, 2 August 2020

Ball "Like You Are - I Once was - Like I am - You Will Never Be"

Like You Are - I Once was - Like I am - You Will Never Be
Horny Records

Ball is a Swedish power trio choosing to take their surname as their brand.  Whilst the artwork, lyrics and beliefs may not be blessed by bishops, the free-flowing heavy metal music leaves a greater impression.

Vocally, band leader Syrek Ball presents a similar gravelly resonance and rebelliousness as Lee Brilleaux, Lemmy and Steve Gibbons, and musically the hypnotic bass lines reinforce that it's not only The Stone Roses or Red Hot Chili Peppers that can make people move against their will. In fact, Ball pull their inspiration from an earlier era.  Satan's Wish is just as compulsive listening as Sabbath's Paranoid but with keyboard textures and even Hendrix-like wah-guitar added to the mix. 

Black Magic sustains the riff-laden pace and it's the string-bending and the beat  throughout this eight track , 33 minutes-long album without any fillers, that delights with its self-assured frenetic energy.   It's an album I can recommend to any rock fan - with parental advise for those under 18.

Sacred Snow with its haunting, seventies sounding lead guitar will be the single from the forthcoming album due for release in August / September 2020 and if like me, you have been spending too much during this worldwide lockdown especially online, then make sure you save enough currency to get your hands on this year's jaw-dropping rock album of a rare originality.


Monday, 20 April 2020



We are dealing with a pandemic.  Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones.  I admire any person who is facing the daily threat of infection to help others in need and there are many others too who are playing their own part well, such as delivery drivers, rubbish collectors, and supermarket workers. 

Whilst this government has provided stability during the initial stages, daily platitudes are simply not enough.  Action was taken too late despite the warnings from other nations. There has been a failure to provide adequate PPE for front line staff.  There has been a failure to set up a testing and tracing regime that has been established successfully in other countries.

We need an emergency government that contains the best people for the task.  It should be at the least, a coalition government. However, I think we can go further and say we should be employing the very people who are trained to deliver in emergencies.  We are overlooking our best assets - our Armed Forces, Our Emergency Services and our Charities, who would bring a healthy dose of reality and can articulate an organised mobilisation to this crisis especially in terms of procuring PPE (there are many British businesses who are anxious to help) and in the distribution of food to ensure any sector of our population does not go without.

This country is not alone and a worldwide response is necessary to stabilise, and eradicate this pandemic and regrow the global economy.  Nations need assistance in their time of need and a worldwide fund must be established.

A suitable percentage of GDP from every country would be the fairest beginning but every commercial venture above a threshold, including major football clubs and major sports such as motor racing should also pay the same percentage.  Stocks and Shares transactions, and transfer fees should also attract the levy.

If, after an unbiased investigation, China is proved to have hidden the truth from the rest of the world, then they too can pay their reparation into the fund.  Only then can we all be in this together.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Revenge of the Razor

Tired of the time it takes to shave with a cheap razor, Neil asked his wife Louise, for a state of the art, 5-bladed samurai sword razor for his birthday.
It had pride of place in the bathroom and all who saw it, marvelled at the technical wizardry on show.
He made a huge mistake. He didn't dispense with the cheap and nasty tempered two -blade razor.
It had feelings and seeing Neil's hand blunder into his basket, his home, he turned 180  degrees and sliced deeply across the exposed fleshy pad of the thumb leaving a gaping flap that covered the sink in a river of blood.
Neil, still suffering from a bout of flu, despite a brave vaccination, wanted to shout "medic!", But the only sounds that came out were "Aaaargh, Aaaargh!" whilst  hanging precariously onto the sink.
Louise, his long suffering wife, wondered what nonsense her husband was up to now! Still suffering from a prolapsed disc, she hauled herself inch by inch up the tortuous winding staircase to reach the bathroom of horror, only to slip in the carnage of blood and water, whilst casually remarking water was for burns , not cuts!
Nine rolls of loo paper later, the flow was staunched. His hand looked like a boxing glove and for added security, it was sealed in a plastic bag as the duvet had just been changed earlier in the day and red would spoil the colour scheme.
As the spasms of pain subsided, Paracetamol put in another appearance to bring the temperature under control.
Dressing changes were prepared for emergency use and both the patient and doctor drifted off into fitful sleeps.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Nick Waterhouse - Nick Waterhouse

Nick Waterhouse
Nick Waterhouse
Innovative Leisure

Los Angeles-based Nick Waterhouse is my kind of artist.  He worked in record stores (remember where you could lose almost half a day?), built up his own collection of 45’s, met Ray Charles and Nat King Cole and then nonchalantly started making rhythm and Blues with a preference for recording in analogue.

Nick Waterhouse is his fourth album and whilst it’s easy to call it retro or throwback it is something much better. Each track has the power and the possibility of a hit single with catchy guitar, piano, horns, saxophone solos, staccato girl-group harmonies and his own Van Morrison-influenced delivery.

There’s no blood in his veins just rhythm.  “I’ve been strolling on the Strasse, strolling on the boulevard” he growls on Black Glass and I can’t help swaying like Ray Charles as I’m driving.  The music is crystal-clear as if the band is right in front of you.  You don’t just hear the walking bass on Which Was Writ, you feel it.  It’s impossible to keep still to this album until Nick’s voice softens and slows for the emotional depth of the ballad Thought and Act.

The instrumental El Viv is as catchy as Tequila (the Champs) - with an extra shot, before Wherever She Goes with its girl harmonies, completes an enjoyable recording offering plenty of variation on the rhythm and unpredictability in the vocal.


Thursday, 23 May 2019

Phantom Voices - Peace by Peace

Phantom Voices
Peace by Peace
Wyre Records

Imagine a time of days gone by when news, song, novelty and stores were eagerly awaited by an expectant audience.  Phantom Voices are the modern day spiritual equivalent of the minstrel and Peace by Peace contains some of the best stories you’ll ever hear.

Many may delight in the mirth of the first of only two traditional numbers on the album.  Lovely Joan triumphs over the “fine young man” offering his golden ring in exchange for his wicked way.  She accepts his ring and he makes his way to the hay but side-steps him like rugby legend Jason Robinson in his heyday, leaps onto his horse and thwarts the try. The electric guitar solo by Daz Rice contrasts with the folk feel of the track and instantly distinguishes the band for their self-belief.

The title track is reminiscent of Prefab Sprout or Deacon Blue, especially in the harmonies and is about vocalist Mike Rolland’s discovery of a British map of Northern France in the closing days of WW1 and who may have held it in their hands.  He sings “But time and time again they killed us, and we killed them, so whoever said war was something anyone could win “ which restates the hollowness of war.

The Red Falcon encapsulates the essence of Phantom Voices.  It blends the darkness of the lyrics with rays of light through the music and vocals.  Acoustic guitar and fiddle set the scene for this four-verse, four perspectives of the mid-December 1959 loss of the Fleetwood Trawler with all its 19 crew, on its return from Icelandic fishing grounds.  Joanna Byrne as The Wife in the second verse makes the listener feel the agony of the waiting, worried families.  The joint male/female vocals in the last verse at the inquest segue wistfully into bars of Silent Night.  It is possibly the best song I’ve ever heard and a lasting tribute to the lost.

Old Ned is about being the hangman of Lancaster who although convicted to hang for horse theft continued in the role of hangman instead for his sins. The Thomas Salto tells of a reluctant Russian gymnast who suffers paralysis whilst undertaking a dangerous manoeuvre during the floor exercise.

Three lead vocalists, an adventurous rhythm section, acoustic guitar and violin potency, and contemporary songs of real substance make Peace by Peace an essential listening experience.


Sunday, 19 May 2019

Queen - Every album, every song (On Track)

Queen  Every Album, every Song (On Track)
Andrew Wild

I haven’t seen the film Bohemian Rhapsody yet despite several recommendations, yet when this slim 140-page volume dropped through my letterbox I beamed.  Sheer Heart Attack is one of my favourite albums and I bought the single Crazy Little thing Called Love but only Andrew Wild could explain to me why.  He calls it “a retro boogie rockabilly juggernaut" and this precision made the reading of this book as joyful a surprise as seeing a kaleidoscope for the first time.

With a critical eye, an abundance of facts (who knew there was a stylophone on Seven Seas of Rhye?) and opinions, he explains Queen’s appeal and simultaneously develops each character of the band through their songs, attributed quotations, and access to the original 24-track master tapes.  There isn’t any place to hide for the author – every generation knows their music and Andrew Wild revels in this type of challenge as he’s also written about Pink Floyd and The Beatles in the same series.

The early years show that Queen were professional in their attitude right from the start spending day and nights on their harmonies. Their first album  was a “Beautifully cut jewel…ready to go” - Electra boss Jac Holzman 1973. Even so, Brian May was self-critical the band  “sometimes fell into the trap of over-arrangement”.  The opinions of the author and comparisons to other bands are mind-expanding and make the book not just for Queen fans but for all music fans.

Wild describes the sound of Queen on Queen II coalesces into three styles, rocker, the ballad, and the anthem.  His detailed analysis of the album track by track has made me put this album onto my wish list.  I hadn’t linked A Night at the Opera and A Day At The Races ( which Wild argues are very similar in content) with the Marx Brothers films of the same name either.

The author also substantiates the similarity of All The Young Dudes (Mott The Hoople) and In The Lap of The Gods by explaining that Queen actually toured with Mott the Hoople.  He also compares Another One Bites The Dust  with Good Times by Chic especially in the driving bass line.  He suggests that Queen weren’t always as original as their singles suggest but doesn’t denigrate the artist but leaves it up to the reader if they agree.  Queen may have taken inspiration from Led Zeppelin , Rolling Stones ,Deep Purple ,Black Sabbath, Abba, Rush, Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry but they could hardly be successful in their own right if they were mere plagiarists of all these acts.  It also discounts the music-hall style of a number of songs like Bring Back Leroy Brown, Lazing on A Sunday Afternoon and Seaside Rendezvous. which allowed Freddie Mercury to fully express his charisma in performance.

The book is respectful of the artist and praises them for their intelligent lyrics, harmonies, shifting dynamics, multiple guitar work and recording techniques.  I would have preferred the album artwork alongside the commentary rather than the centre pages to break the book into more digestible pieces but no doubt in common with many factual books, this allows the publication costs to be kept down.

One Glorious Day - Live Aid (13 July,1985) in four pages refreshes the reader why Queen were so revered (they always delivered), why they gained a new set of fans and propels the reader through the second half of the book.

Wild reveals the diagnosis of Mercury with AIDS in April 1987.  His account of the work Queen put in on the tracks that would make up their final three albums before Freddie passed away, gives the reader a fresh appreciation of their music and the personalities of this national treasure.


Monday, 6 May 2019

The Jackets - Queen of the Pill

The Jackets
Queen of the Pill
Voodoo Rhythm Records

Swiss garage punk trio, The Jackets, express themselves with a hypnotic energy and charisma for their second release for Voodoo Rhythm, due out in June 2019. Drawing their inspiration from New Wave, their raw 3-minute songs pack a punch of vitality sadly missing for far too long in popular music.

The album opens with a blistering quartet of tracks that includes Dreamer, the single which was released in mid April.  It has the drive of punk and an air of psychedelia.  They have a confident stage presence especially in the vocals of Jackie Brutsche and have caught the attention of Alice Cooper on his USA radio show "because they just go out there and rock".  Unusually for the genre, it's not nihilistic nonsense but rather an honest creativity with retro experimentation.

The Jackets give rock a good name again.  The music and songs combine as spectacularly as the best of British or American New Wave bands.  Even the slower numbers Steam Queen and Floating Alice display a determination to be different.  Queen of the Pill is a rejuvenating tonic and should be their breakthrough album.

Hearty thanks to Shattered Platter for sharing the music.


Thursday, 28 March 2019

Soen - Lykaia Revisited

Lykaia Revisited
Silver Lining Music

Music press can get right up my nose.  Instead of celebrating another great Swedish rock band who have already acknowledged their influences and whose drummer once played for another band, they jump upon one journalist’s comment of “sounding like..” and write only paragraphs to back that up.  It’s the same lazy claptrap that the motoring press said of my car’s ability to undertake motorway travel which has now gone beyond 135,000 miles.

Soen create memorable atmosphere and play a heavy progressive rock/metal.  They offer intricate music with a welcome return to rock with a more commercial appeal in the clean,  melancholic vocals from Joel Ekelöf,  yet balanced perfectly with their own metal riffs that to my ears don't sound like anyone else.

Each track displays catchy song craft, passages that ebb and flow with subtlety from thundering walls of sound to ringing guitars.  Short memorable riffs augment the quality lead guitar work.

You will gather that Lykaia Revisited is a re-mastered version of Lykaia which came out in 2017.  The sound is marginally better and there’s 2/3 extra live tracks depending upon your preference for digital or CD. It’s a shame this re-mastered version didn’t come with a separate full live album leaving the original intact, even if the final price reflected this.  Be assured, both albums are worth your plastic folding stuff,  but the original version finishes perfectly with the eight-minute God’s Acre that fades out to cap the original release.  Drummer Martin Lopez says however, that all the band felt that Lykaia could greatly benefit from being re-mastered whilst also sealing  the Lykaia era perfectly.

Concentrate on the fine music and not the comparisons made by others of this band.   May I thank reviews editor - Lee Vickers, for his personal copy of the 2017 version for comparison and for the opportunity to review and enjoy this updated version of perfection.


Sunday, 17 March 2019

Korpiklaani - Kulkija

Nuclear Blast

Neito (Maiden) , the first track from Korpiklaani's tenth studio album is a compelling trailer to a thriller.  Guitar, drums, and atmosphere, demonstrate a determination that they want to be known for more than folk or speed metal drinking songs and the snarled vocals are unambiguous.

Korpikuusen kyynel also has a ferocity but as in each of the fourteen tracks there is also a subtlety and depth whether provided by the accordion, fiddle, or the singing of Jonne Järvelä. He even uses a softer vocal on Aallon alla (Under the Wave) but against an even harder rock palate.  Harmaja is a slow restrained ballad with almost spoken word and tells of a bird that can't fly south due to a broken wing which yearns to return to its homeland.

Kotikonnut (Homestead) is an anthemic track with the accordion of Sami Perttula taking the role of lead guitar.  Kallon malja (Chalice of the Skull) is a ten minute magnus opus that will appeal to prog fans by featuring changes in pace from slow accordion to bass driven rock, to demonic fiddle.  Sillanrakentaja (Bridge Builder) begins with a memorable riff to rival Smoke on The Water, sounds like Maiden or Saxon, cheekily gets their own children to sound better than those in Another Brick in the Wall, and yet still possesses its own aura.

Kuin korpi nukkuva (Like a Sleeping Forest) begins with plucked fiddle, accordion and then morphs into a rocker before seamlessly becoming a tango at the outro.  Seven minute Tuttu on tie (The Road is Familiar) wraps up to show that Korpiklaani have cleverly added the theatre of nostalgia, lament and emotion to their blend of folklore in a beguiling rock release.


Saturday, 9 March 2019

Lucas & King

Lucas & King

Lucas & King


This eponymous debut from the UK's South Coast duo of Bo Lucas and Hayleigh King could have been a hit in any decade since the fifties.  Influenced by the melodies of the past, they are talented Americana co-writers and confident performers who have played Cambridge and Glastonbury, picked up Fender's Undiscovered Artist of 2018 award and have supported Ray Davies on tour.

Assimilating the genre-spanning appeal of Lana Del Rey with the heart of Richard Hawley, they fashion fresh music that will gather new converts through their flair and originality.

They combine timeless pop with an unfashionable country reverb . The close chemistry allows each other the space to explore their own music (Bo on acoustic and vocals, Hayleigh on her Stratocaster) and results in a warm and irresistible debut which will make their dreams of success an outright certainty.


Monday, 18 February 2019

The Frank Burkitt Band - Raconteur

The Frank Burkitt Band
Frank Burkitt Music

Versatility in music style and instrumentation is the distinguishing feature of The Frank Burkitt Band who are based in New Zealand.  I was awestruck by the command of blues, jazz, Americana, folk and swing they serve up on their third album Raconteur.  I’ve not heard such effective variety on one album since Elton’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. 

Frank Burkitt, vocalist and guitarist, also writes as well as Bernie Taupin.  On bluesy opener Work So Hard with banjo and Hammond setting the scene, he drops the grenade “If you’re happy with a little, you don’t need to work so hard”.  The jazz-suffused Simple with double bass and cello is about the difficulties of living with an opposite and features the vocals of partner Kara Filbey who also plays the flute on several songs.

Title track Raconteur reveals slow Rhodes piano, acoustic guitar and trumpet while Frank sings as confidently as James Taylor or Glen Campbell, “You always held the room, in the palm of your hand.”

Paint the Town is just as much fun as Paolo Nuttini’s Pencil Full of Lead and if given the same airplay as the current infuriating Baby Shark, it would smack it right out of the water! (I’ve never taken to novelty, sorry).

The song Albert Woodfox tells the true story of 43 years of solitary confinement for murder despite no physical evidence and a discredited witness testimony.  Mourning cello and flute accompany Frank’s tenor voice - “Who did you talk to 23 hours of 24, you staring at a closed door.”

The Gypsy Barber features Django Reinhardt-style guitar and clarinet with its clever lyrics set to swing – “He’s been known to cure disease and broker peace in The Middle East. The Gypsy Barber every week tries harder to make a living going from town to town.”

Folk-fringed Walkin’ Right could have been penned by fellow Scot, Bert Jansch and the a cappella of My Heart Waits completes this album of breadth, depth and talent.  Put me down for their next, please!


Sunday, 10 February 2019

Andy Susemihl - Elevation

Andy Susemihl


SM Noise records

German born guitarist Andy Susemihl cut his teeth with German band Accept and
U.D.O. and success led to the supporting of Guns N' Roses on their Appetite for
Destruction tour. Unsurprisingly he knows how to get the best out of his guitars and
now prefers the freedom to play axeman, bluesman or entertainer, on his own terms.
What surprises the listener on fifth album Elevation however, is the top quality vocals
where every word can be heard.

The album has the vibe of LA. It's classic album-orientated, radio-friendly rock with a melodic vocal. The crisp audio quality is reminiscent of the tunes Paul Gambaccini
played during his eleven year tenure of presenting The Billboard US Top 30 Singles
Chart Show on a Saturday afternoon. He needs remembering for being the BBC's
wheat amongst the chaff of broadcasters.

Elevation takes me back in time to a break from an English Literature essay and
reaching for the badminton racquet (Air guitar was for beginners!), I'd bend the
strings like a pro to Van Halen, Foreigner, Aerosmith,Toto, Journey and Steely Dan.
Susemihl has extracted this DNA of mainstream American rock to write and produce a satisfying upbeat long player which ends delightfully with his own version of Personal Jesus.


Saturday, 29 December 2018

Nosound - Allow Yourself

Allow Yourself

Nosound may not be your first choice to select for your workout at the gym.  They are rather more known for their melancholy and introspection and so are better suited for making an impression on your sofa.

Giancarlo Erra’s graceful post-rock songs and articulately pronounced vocals will appeal to fans of Radiohead and Pink Floyd yet Allow Yourself shines as bright as any crazy diamond with a street spirit of its own creativity.  What distinguishes them from their influencers is the interplay of band.  The percussion of Ciro Lavorne from an almost drum n bass persuasion on the single Don’t You Dare to the piano-led My Drug punctuates the ambient keyboarding of Marco Berni.  Judicious use of jangly guitar, cello and violin add to the soundscapes whilst the percussion, vocals and pop-song length tracks (even the longest Weights is five minutes) leaves the listener craving for more.

In defiance of their name, Nosound have worked hard to produce an exceptionally imaginative symphony with a fit and lean running time of 38:44 minutes.


Saturday, 8 December 2018

Vesper Sky - Stewart Henderson, Yvonne Lyon and Carol Henderson

Vesper Sky
Stewart Henderson, Yvonne Lyon and Carol Henderson

For those who lament the dumbing down of some media evidenced by TV shows such as what passes for love island, we don’t have any talent and the questionable factor (no capitals deserved), this album is a glorious antidote of songs, poems, songs with spoken word and poems with music.

Singer/songwriter Yvonne Lyon, who has played with Beth Nielsen and supported Eddi Reader, opens with two strong songs including the title track Vesper Sky which has the cadences of the best that Simon and Garfunkel ever produced.

Carol Henderson who has a background in theatre, film and BBC Radio 4 drama, opens her account with a reading of How Clatter the World against an ambient beat Brian Eno would certainly approve of.

Stewart Henderson, who writes much of the material follows next with the poem Eyes Down, a lament and appeal to the wired generation to “look up and consider this has been entrusted to you so that you do not look down”.

Breakages read by Carol is about forced intrusions into our lives and our own wrecking ball yet offers hope where emotion can find an outlet in word and song.
Humour is introduced at precisely the middle of the recording with Stewart and the jaunty Perfect Fit about not fitting in, expresses gratitude for finding a fit with his partner.

Somewhere in The Library cleverly reveals the nation’s most loved books in rhyme. Yvonne Lyon returns in song with December Coast of Galloway where soft vocals effortlessly blend with piano, flugelhorn and trumpet.  Half a dozen of the twenty tracks threaten to bring tears with the tales of real life laid bare, but the delivery and the humour and the songs, evenly balances the scales.

Poetry doesn’t have to be painful.   It doesn’t have to be learned by heart for analysis only for examinations.  To quote the last song of the album it’s to Enjoy Not Endure.  It’s first use was to remember and convey human history and the brain searches and finds the meaning not only through the sounds of the words but also through the silences.

All You Need Is Love, The Beatles proclaimed. What the World Needs Now Is Love, Hal David recommended, but I’d also advance that words and music especially of the calibre of Vesper Sky, are equally as essential to the human psyche.


Monday, 8 October 2018

Circle of Crows - Everything Comes After Zero

Circle of Crows
Everything Comes after Zero
SaN Ltd

It's been difficult to put pen to paper for this debut from Cornish trio Circle of Crows.  Each time I play its six tracks I drop my pen and wield my air guitar instead.  It also has the charisma that will make them a household name.  How a trio can deliver such a convincing and confident sound on their first recording is remarkable.  It took Sir Paul McCartney, four albums after the split of The Beatles to hit his stride again with Band on The Run.

Everything Comes After Zero has imagination, riffs and solos, and a confident vitality of bands like Audioslave, The Datsuns, The Libertines and The Darkness.  Kyle Gormley sings of themes that resonate across the generations.  "Life goes on, Try saying that when you've lost as much as me" he opens on How to Wait For Nothing.   "I've forgotten how to dream because I've spent so long in the dark" he starts on the slower Into The Sun are anthems that will gather and hold fans like a magnet passed over iron filings.


Tim Hunter - Blue Sky Moments

Tim Hunter
Blue Sky Moments
Northern Soundscape

Behemoths of Rock won't feel threatened by this softly lilting instrumental album inspired by the North Yorkshire coastline from composer Tim Hunter.  Yet on the hottest night in the UK for years, I was grateful to be taken from sweltering bedroom to the cooler space of North Yorkshire by the expressive restrained guitars and synth work, with a rhythm similar to that of Toto's Africa.  

It's an album that could accompany the concept of slow-eating and large family gatherings,  as it lulls and  charms any listener.  Tim's clean guitar playing has echoes of the fluidity of Mark Knopfler especially on my favourite track Fossil Fantasy. 

I relaxed to the pleasant atmosphere provided by Blue Sky Moments, found plenty to admire in his melodies and played it back-to-back the very next day whilst stuck in sticky Friday afternoon traffic jams. 


Sunday, 2 September 2018

Working Life

Shaken from our shallow slumbers
by an unwanted electronic alarm of intrusion.
Peering through puffy eyes at our partner
over breakfast muesli
or toast if there's time.

Despatched from one another with packed lunches
and teas made with love stirrings to
long journeys, sometimes only of delays.
Hard work separated by weekends and holidays
pull at our tethered humanity.

We return home after one hundred and fifty miles
to our island bursting with
love and our belongings bought together.
Our nights of  tv, books and
sofa leanings bring a
deeper love and understanding
through our minds' fusion.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Orions Belte - Mint

Orions Belte
Jansen Records

Take the plunge and immerse yourself into a retro cascade of Norwegian glacial cool with the debut album from Orions Belte. Hazy, heavy on the reverb guitar, keys not unlike a Wurlitzer organ and a pedal steel predominate the nine tracks on offer. 

The shoulders relax to the laid back lounge rhythms and I have the strange desire to bounce down the road on a space-hopper, to buy  a fondue set (so expensive now!)
and  cover half a potato in foil for that culinary delight of cheese and  pineapple chunks!

Delmonte combines the sound of the Stone Roses with Fela Kuti for an afrobeat endeavour that disappointingly fades after 1:30 but the next song Joe Frazier, 
compensates with the addition of vocals from bassist Chris Holm and slow guitar licks for over five minutes from Oyvind Blomstrom.

Moving Back Again and Le Mans, hint of the glamour and the froth of casinos and Camparis, whilst  Picturephone Blues returns to the afrobeat theme, with a droning bass and an almost psychedelic lead.  Seven-minute standout track Atlantic Surfingis a timeless trippy affair that shows the band can also change up a gear when the fancy takes them.

Alnitak returns the pace to a Purple Rain patter and neatly closes Mint.


How to eat an afternoon tea and the perils of bad strategy

Having employed the wrong strategy at an expensive afternoon cream tea, I hope to help any reader to avoid the recent pitfalls I fell into. ...