Reissue of London-based Glam Rockers Rachel Stamps’s debut album that was originally released back in 2000. This edition comes complete with six bonus tracks. Ian Canty writes…
My contact with the band Rachel Stamp before hearing this version of Hymns For Strange Children amounted to nearly seeing them live in the same year as the album was released. Having no previous knowledge of the band apart from the fact they sounded very interesting in the press, we turned up at the venue on the night of the gig. But as the queue stretched way back, in the end we decided to go for a drink somewhere else and try to get in later. We failed make it back for some now forgotten reason. On listening to this LP, I think we can safely say we missed out a bit.
Rachel Stamp formed in 1994 around guitarist Will Crewdson and singing bass player Ryder Prangley. With a strong visual image which set them well apart from the workaday Britpop crowd, they set about carving out a reputation as a colourful, fiery and powerful live act. Their on-stage impact meant that were eventually signed up by WEA, but the label passed on issuing an album by the band after the recording process for it had been completed. By the time Hymns For Strange Children arrived in 2000, Rachel Stamp were on their own label Cruisin’ Records and their line up was bolstered by Robin Guy (who now can be seen playing with the reformed Sham 69 among others) and Shaheena Dax on keys.
Because of legal issues with the material cut but eventually not released by WEA, the album was a necessarily piecemeal construction of three singles, a flipside in Take A Hold Of Yourself and six tracks taken from their 2000 live set. Even so, this LP is a collection which hangs together well and is full of the life and invention of a band that matched elements of Glam Rock with modern technology and came up with a mixture that somehow fit the wasted but not quite washed up London at the dawning of the 21st century like a glove.
Hymns For Strange Children ensues with the catchy synth-driven Monsters Of The New Wave, which was issued as a single a few months after the album came out. The hyperactive, modernised MC5 groove of Brand New Toy follows and the hard-hitting Electro Rock of I Got The Worm completes what is a high energy introduction to the LP.
I Wanna Be Your Doll works the old quite/loud trick as a change of pace, with then an anthemic Ladies + Gents building an impressive head of steam. But perhaps Spank’s subject matter does lean a little towards the self-parody RS seems always close too, though it does benefit from an effective serene section. The piano intro to Didn’t I Break My Heart Over You I could have heard more of before the band crash in, but it does set up some extended guitar soloing that puts it somewhere near Hawkwind’s more HM moments. An anthemic Take Hold Of Yourself is really good and hints again early on that a more restrained Rachel Stamp had a lot of potential.
As we reach the final leg of Hymns For Strange Children, Pink Scab again finds the band in quite Heavy, tense territory, with Dirty Bone’s impressive synths and a cool then urgent My Sweet Rose ending a convincing document. On this edition we also have six bonus tracks, kicking off with the single version of the LP’s final track. A loud and feisty Girl, You’re A Slave To Your Man (well it was 23 years back now) comes next follows and a pared down Black Tambourine has a bit of Marc Bolan’s quixotic charm about it. The CD ends with a couple of live offerings in LP number I Got The Worm and The Pirates’ Please Don’t Touch, which highlights the band’s abilities in this arena.
Following on from this album Rachel Stamp made the Oceans of Venus collection in 2003 and have never officially split, stillplaying the odd gig now and then. Hymns For Strange Children confirms that they were a rare Rock & Roll force for the Noughties and one that, a couple of lyrical moments aside, stand up well today and provide a good serving of frenetic fun.
Huge 5CD set drawn from Joe Meek’s recently discovered Tea Chest Tapes, including Heinz’s sole album Tribute To Eddie and singles, plus a shedload of rare stuff. Ian Canty writes…
After his brief time in the early 1960s limelight, Heinz returned to Eastleigh in Hampshire. This was the area where his family had settled, after moving from Germany to the UK in 1949. I remember him being featured in the local rag’s “Where Are They Now?” round up in the 1980s, which showed him working in the Kipling Bakery less than 10 miles away from where I am typing this. The article depicted him as fairly content with his lot, combining baking with a part time career of still performing on stage, but at a much lower level. The most high profile Heinz appearance post-1960s was already 10 years in the past by then, when he played at the London Rock And Roll Show in 1972 backed by Dr Feelgood.
Still, even that must have been a comedown from that brief period where he reached the UK Top Five With Just Like Eddie, jousting in the listings with a certain band of up and coming Moptops that would eventually spell the end for the type of music Heinz made as a chart force. Going back to the beginning though, Heinz started out with local Eastleigh outfit The Falcons, before being spotted by producer Joe Meek who took a shine to him and restyled his image. He then linked him up with instrumental band The Tornados as bass player, though it appears Heinz’s talent on the instrument was negligible. Meek obviously saw teen heartthrob potential in the young man.
Meek himself was a troubled figure – on one hand, he was a visionary record producer. On the other, he was racked with mental health problems, riddled with fear that his mother would find out about his sexuality and also used different drugs extensively. By all accounts, he was sometimes very difficult to work with and we should not forget that he also killed an innocent person before committing suicide. There are certain parallels to Phil Spector, who Meek accused of ripping him off in a terse phone conversation with the American producer.
Heinz’s tenure with The Tornados coincided with the worldwide hit single Telstar. By 1963 a besotted Meek thought that Heinz would be better off as a solo performer, which is where The White Tornado set comes in. The first two discs concern themselves with the various recordings made for debut and only long player by Heinz, Tribute To Eddie. We start with the album and the title track itself, which is a pleasant enough early 1960s Pop offering with a light harmonica line. the song originally began life as a Buddy Holly homage. Then Hush-A-Bye Baby shapes up as an earthy R&B sound with some neat guitar by one Ritchie Blackmore. This helps it come over as more contemporary to the Beat Music that was in the ascendency at the time.
Given the LP’s title, it isn’t a shock that Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues, Twenty Flight Rock, Three Steps To Heaven and I Remember all get covered. Don’t Keep Picking On Me has Meek’s trademark spooky backing vocals on what otherwise is a decent dance tune and Come On And Dance juggles Rock & Roll with Meek’s one of a kind production techniques well. After a run of sugary pop that includes Look For A Star and My Dreams, the album concludes with the oddly Garage organ sound of Rumble In The Night and the hit single Just Like Eddie. It’s a good collection, record but you can see that it wasn’t really one built to succeed in the much changed circumstances of the Pop world of 1964.
Then the real fun starts for most of those who would go for this set, the Joe Meek obsessives, as we dive deep into the various recordings that ended up not being used on the LP. On the first disc I particularly enjoyed the slightly more raw Hush-A-Bye Baby guitar and vocal session mix and a dejected sounding Heinz says “One day I’ll get a compliment I’m sure” before the various vocal takes of (Sorry) I Ran All The Way Home are pieced together.
Summertime Blues sounds better at its original speed, but the “Beatle wig” quip has a slightly bitter sting to it and after a 1,2,3,4 count in a simple but committed Come On And Dance impresses. Twenty Flight Rock’s odd buzzing effect is underpinned by a clearer rendering, with Meek making the sound on on the vocal session Look For The Star heavenly. Rumble In The Night is stripped of its backing vocals, which helps increase its effectiveness in my view and the third and fourth Just Like Eddie guitar takes clash into each other to end the disc.
To begin disc two we go right back to the sparse guitar and finger clicks of the demo of Tribute To Eddie. A wavering guide vocal and backing track versions follow and studio talk and preparations preface the scat singing of an uncompleted Hush-A-Bye Baby. An acapella fragment of (Sorry) I Ran All The Way Home shows Heinz could certainly sing pretty well on occasion and the instrumental Summertime Blues reveals some inventive guitarwork. A rough strumming demo of Don’t Keep Picking On Me contrast with the upbeat backing track version and Cut Across Shorty in proper speeding up/slowing down form is unpolished, but an improvement on the LP take for me.
The no backing vocals take of Look For A Star really works very well and studio banter introduces My Dreams’ unused third take, with the piano and vocal version of Just Like Eddie being really charming. This is basically Christmas coming early for Meek fans – everything you could want of the LP really, bringing the listener right into the studio and able to clearly note the stages of recording. The second disc finishes with the original version of Tribute To Eddie and a wailing pub singer hymn to another fallen rocker called Bring Me Buddy Holly, plus a Live Medley Rehearsal Take 2 with a false start that harks back to its Buddy roots.
After a brief interview segment with Heinz where he insists his blond hair was natural, disc three’s collection of single sides kicks in with the busy rush of Dreams Do Come True, which is followed by the excellent early take of the no-holds-barred Rock & Roll melody of Been Invited To A Party. The original speed version of third single a side I Get Up In The Morning is a goodie, including two “take it Ritchie” requests to the future Deep Purple/Rainbow guitar maestro and the Country/R&B mixture That Lucky Old Sun was a jaunty and appealing flipside.
45 number four was Live It Up, the theme to the film that starred both David Hemmings and Steve Marriott. It’s an agreeable enough Pop number that unfortunately missed the UK charts. One of the two tracks on its reverse Don’t You Understand is a classic Meek sound in this alternate version, with Country Boy being more in the straight Rock & Roll mode, as is a raspy-voiced Long Tall Jack. The sixth single You Were There threatens to become a moody Beat ballad before a softer touch takes over, which is a shame as it is less interesting this way. But it is still fairly endearing and managed to get Heinz into the Top Thirty for the final time.
The ringing freak guitar sound of Please Little Girl shows how quickly times had changed, though a simple For Loving Me This Way shows Meek’s approach hadn’t altered that much. Heinz’s final chart single Digging My Potatoes is set at its original speed and this standard R&B shuffle is pretty good, if unlikely to challenge The Rolling Stones, The Who or The Small Faces in that department. End Of The World seems to run on a slightly out of tune piano line, with a pre-overdubs cut of the Soul-tinged You Make Me Feel So Good on its flipside a tad better in my view.
Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright was Heinz penultimate single, the relatively simple production style providing a nice change of emphasis. The tricks and sound effects are back on Big Fat Spider (guitar takes 2/3) though, but they work on a raw and convincing offering. David Adams, a member of Heinz backing band The Wild Boys, wrote the final Heinz 45 of the 60s Movin’ In, a roughish Rocker with some good guitar licks.
Going onto disc four, we get a welter of alternate recordings of the single cuts. This ensues with a backing music session for Dreams Do Come True that comes with false starts and studio doodling. Vocal Take 4 of I Get Up In The Morning cuts the mustard as a raw and loose Rock & Roller and Lonely River is the first number of many which gets pared down to the bare bones of drums, bass and guitar. Live It Up benefits from a slightly less formal treatment in its first vocal run through and an instrumental cut of You Were There reveals some elegant and powerful playing.
Joe shows up on this disc with his Gloucester burr audible in places take and some odd radio message are the preamble to the guided voice For Loving Me This Way. Questions I Can’t Answer sounds positively Punky and two contrasting takes of The Beating Of My Heart demonstrate the phases of the song’s development. Heart Full Of Sorrow lurches out convincingly in this form, with a “writing session” version of Don’t Worry Baby exposing the Jazz roots of the song. Some neat keyboard touches, Psych guitar and hoarse vocals enliven Movin’ In and the fifth backing take of I’m Not A Bad Guy ends a disc full of interest for the confirmed Meek buff.
The final disc of The White Tornado if anything goes further into the more obscure corners of Joe Meek’s Tea Chest, rounding up demos and curios. This kicks off with a raucous Been Invited To A Party. The piano Boogie cut of Don’t Worry Baby has Meek wavering in and out of tune on vocals and follows with a leaden For Loving Me This Way. There is a clear Proto-Power Pop feel to the Heart Full Of Sorrow demo that comes next, before another extract from a writing session in a stop/start The Beating Of Your Heart, sung pub singer style by necessity. It is these unguarded moments that for me brings one closest to the creative process and adds real value to this collection.
You Were There uses piano and voice to build drama as ably as if it had been slathered with production tricks, but then zippy guitars pick up the pace on Big Fat Spider, where Joe does his best to Rock out and sounds a little like the singer out of The Residents at some points! He also has a go at Fever with a stripped down backing and gamely attempts Long Tall Jack too, which gets a helium-voiced coda.
A fragment of No Matter What They Say which soon drops out leads us into the second half of this disc and then a false start heralds a fair version of Come On Let’s Go. A vocal third take of Easy To Dream sounds fully formed and Johnny My Johnny, which ended up being used by John Leyton, has Heinz reaching for a dreamy ballad style that he never quite achieves. It doesn’t matter much though. A committed I Got A Woman provides some thrills and Tell Me proceeds in such sweeping fashion that you wonder just why it was never finished. The White Tornado concludes with a breezy Voices In the Wind. This section I found was great deal fun to listen to, even when the sound get a little wonky. Really that is all part of the charm though.
It’s redundant to say The White Tornado is primarily for fans of Meek/Heinz – of course it is. But the key thing is that it has been put together with real love for the artist and the eye for small details that obsessives wish for. I enjoyed it all the more for that. Heinz’s day in the sun was a short one and he sure wasn’t Elvis. Even so, the man could sing and with Meek’s box of tricks behind him, he knocked out some interesting recordings that crop up on The White Tornado, aside from the UK hits. A treasure trove for Meek fans and as a vivid picture of the pre-Beatles UK music scene, you would have to go far to locate a better audio demonstration.
You can pick up Heinz – The White Tornado here if you so wish
Brian Auger & Julie Tippetts – Encore Remastered Edition
Released 26 May 2023
Reissue of the late 1970s reunion album of Brian Auger And Julie Tippetts/Driscoll, featuring songs by Jack Bruce, Al Jarreua and Steve Winwood. Ian Canty writes…
A great deal had changed in UK Music by the time organ whizz Brian Auger and the sublimely talented singer Julie Tippetts nee Driscoll reconvened in 1977 to record the LP remastered and reissued here, Encore. Their last collaboration was on Streetnoise back in 1969, which was a mighty long distance from the Punk/New Wave scene that raged on as they set down these songs on tape. In the interim, Julie had worked extensively with her husband Keith on a range of Jazz based work, while Brian formed a new outfit Oblivion Express which straddled the Jazz Rock divide too.
The pair had remained friends after splitting and a reunion was even mooted back in 1974, something that did not come to fruition due to unfortunate circumstances. However, in 1977 the stars were aligned and Julie came to The United States to finally take up her partnership again with Auger. Among the nine tracks chosen were some 1960s tunes by their Mod/Psych contemporaries and a crack team of musicians and singers were assembled in support. All this surely must have given Julie and Brian most everything they required to slip right back into their groove.
In my view they easily achieved that, with Encore sounding like an entirely logical, stunning follow up and step forward from Streetnoise. But there is a whole lot more to this LP though. Julie had recently become a fan of American singer/songwriter Al Jarreau and his song Spirit provides the opening gambit on the LP. This offering brings the Funk to back up Brian’s laidback and expansive keys and Julie’s clear and pure voice. The power, talent and creativity was in place from the off. Thus it makes for an enticing start that shows the pair hadn’t missed a beat, despite the eight year gap between operations.
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood has been covered many, many times down the years, but seldom has it been totally revitalised with such soul and conviction. The playing and performance is as near perfect as it gets, resulting in something beautifully touching that gets new wrinkles out of a familiar tune. Brian’s own Git Up comes next and clicks along impressively, setting out a Funky and appealing path again with some of the pair’s firm Jazz credentials making their mark too.
The Staple Singers were an influence on Julie’s craft from way back, so it isn’t a surprise that Roebuck Staples’ Gospel-imbued Freedom Highway makes an appearance on Encore. This is a high energy number that makes the most of tasteful backing vocals and a lively rhythm section. The scene set, Julie puts in quite the show-stopping performance, whilst Brian’s accomplished keyboard work drives the number from out front.
A second Brian Auger-penned number Future Pilot comes next, with a floating, louche Jazz feel that gives him just the opportunity to indulge in some prime organ flourishes. In such strong company, the Auger tunes don’t seem out of place, which is greatly to their credit. Jack Bruce And Pete Brown’s Rope Ladder To The Moon then gets a playful, thoroughly adorable outing and the Traffic pairing of Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi supply No Time To Live. Here the pace slows a tad and some tasteful guitar licks provide to the counterpoint to Julie’s wonderfully assured performance that builds up epically and then subsides into organ-led chill with a rare skill indeed.
Brian gets a vocal outing on a motoring Nothing Will Be As It Was and he makes a fine showing of it too. The LP ends with another number from Al Jarreau’s 1975 debut player We Got By in Lock All The Gates. A sparse landscape of piano and vocal begin things, but that does not hamper Julie in reading the song beautifully and the playing is as ever spot on. The belated moment the band kicks in has real resonance and helps provide a climactic, perfect end-piece to a wonderful record that is full of inspiration, flair and verve.
Encore sadly didn’t achieve the success that it undoubtedly deserved. In a way, it is unsurprising that such an elegant, alluring and thoroughly high quality collection didn’t make much headway in the smash and grab of the late 1970s music scene. But as reunion albums go, it really stands out as something that can match Brian Auger and Julie Tippetts’ earlier work and in certain places outdo it. Brian and Julie’s joint canon is relatively spare, so having Encore back in the shops is a boon in itself. Added to that, we can now hear it in all its remastered glory right in 2023, a real peach of a long player that reveals something more with each listen.
Find out more about Brian Auger & Julie Tippetts – Encore Remastered Edition here
Various Artists – Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone?
3CD “Celebration Of Yob Rock” running through the 1970s with appearances from Slade, Eddie And The Hot Rods and Cockney Rejects among others. Ian Canty writes…
Firstly, it is a shame this set doesn’t come with an introductory note to provide listeners with a glimpse into the shadowy world of the 1970s Boot Boy. The term originally came up with reference to a lowly servant doing the menial task of cleaning footwear in a posh house and then became used in the football world, being applied to apprentices who cleaned the first team’s boots. But by the time documented on Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone?, it usually meant trouble.
The Boot Boys might not have been always looking for a row, but one usually found them. As authority figures were always laying the blame for anything at their door anyway, they didn’t really have a lot to lose. Like most teenagers they were certainly few angels amongst their ranks. But they lived in a time when the UK hit the post-Swinging 1960s slump hard and they had to make fun any way they could in the drab environment, with the massed ranks of “the silent majority” lining up to berate them for any infraction.
Coming at it from the youth cult angle, the Boots remain pretty much an undefined quantity, like the closely related Bovver Boys and 70s Mod throwbacks The Smoothies. I was very young back then, but knew the type and I’ll hazard an observation that they were a kind of post-Skinhead working class mob of boys and girls who moved away from Reggae and instead dug the tougher end of Glam and other simple, brutal Rock & Roll that had choruses like anthems for the terraces. Later on, the more streetwise Punk bands clearly found favour too, although as a spikey top you never knew quite which way each Boot Boy would jump (hopefully not on one’s self).
Recently 1970s Australian Sharpie culture has found belated fame and it is easy to see Boot Boys as a kind of UK equivalent of them. In Oz Sharpies had became the mortal enemy of Mods back in the 60s, but in the new decade certain elements of the Skinhead craze were taken on board. Back in Blighty, Boot Boys were less concerned sartorially with knitwear than the Sharps maybe and clustered more around football teams than local areas, but the comparison certainly bears some consideration.
In any case, there was enough raw-boned Rock around to satisfy these kids on the look out for thrills amid the tedium of early 1970s Britain. A good swathe of it can be found on Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone?. The first disc of the set gets underway in 1971 with the down-home Blues of Mungo Jerry’s You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War. Proto-Punk band Third World War’s political stance may have meant little to Boots, but their A Little Bit Of Urban Rock has the right mixture of headlong power and bluster to please and next Redhead come over a little like a Glammed-up Cock Sparrer on We Ran And We Ran.
Rod Stewart and The Faces typified “Lads’ Rock” in the 1970s and their stomper Borstal Boys is a fast shot of pure Rock & Rock mayhem. Ian Hunter’s Mott The Hoople were another crucial band, with a young Mick Jones later of The Clash among their fervent following. Their tune featured here Violence balances Glam camp and a streetwise attitude finely and you can’t really have a comp of this type without Slade, who are represented by lowkey thumping b-side My Town. Later on this disc The Sensational Alex Harvey Band complete the quartet of heavy duty pre-Punks with the very non-PC Gang Bang.
Andover’s own The Troggs may have been well past their 1966 heyday by the time of Strange Movies, but they made some extraordinary recordings in the 1970s including this gem. Hector, also from Hants, had a bizarre image thrust on them which may well have limited their impact, as their speedy Wired Up is first rate Punkish Glam. Hello used the Glitterbeat to achieve hit singles, with their Hooray Hooray having the kind of big chorus that raucous teens were sure to go for and prolific producer Mike Berry was behind Gumbo’s We Don’t Care, which appears to pre-empt The Runaways.
Sick On You is a borderline case for inclusion on this set I would have thought, but as The Hollywood Brats were always fantastic I’ll let it go. Hush are the first indication of the kinship between Boot Boys and Sharpies on this set, as they wowed Australia with rough nuggets like Get Rocked where they come on like a high-speed Black Sabbath. Then the legend that is Jesse Hector’s mighty Hammersmith Gorillas are found on top form on a brilliant Leavin’ ‘Ome.
Hustler’s pastiche of The Small Faces is Get Outa My ‘Ouse, something which has plenty of Cockney wide boy charm and I would guess modern Glam greats Giuda must have heard William Shakespeare’s riffy Feeling Alright! This disc of high energy delights ends with Glam Rockers The Sweet updating The Stones for the 70s on Turn It Down and ex-Easybeats singer Stevie Wright’s fizzing and hyperactive Black Eyed Bruiser.
The unlikely figures of UK chart stars Paper Lace begin the second disc of this set with So What If I Am, a surprising change of emphasis and mindset after Billy Don’t Be A Hero. Kipper were the band from the film Confessions Of A Pop Performer that featured Peter “Please Sir” Cleal and Robin Askwith going on a manic Iggy Pop/Mick Jagger style spree as one of their gigs ended in mayhem, if memory serves me correctly. Kipper the song is a Little Richard Gone Glam-style pearl unbelievably enough, which again I think may have had some influence on Giuda’s work.
Ex-pat Pom Ted Mulry found favour in Australia with the Sharpies and also on the national charts, scoring a few big hit singles. With his backing outfit Gang he give us a Hard/Blues Rocker close to The Faces in spirit called Crazy. Trevor White, ex-Jook (more about them later), is present with Crazy Kids, another Proto-Punk classic before we’re into the latter part of the 1970s with Cock Sparrer’s debut single Runnin’ Riot. Eddie And The Hot Rods high energy live show won over kids from a variety of backgrounds and if they felt usurped by the coming Punk wave, they could beat them at their own game with heavy duty pounders like Ignore Them.
The Pink Fairies’ City Kids gets covered by Motorhead and and the flip of Larry Wallis’ timeless 7″ Police Car On Parole also pops up later on this disc. An explosive Throw Him In Jail comes from ace guitarist John Du Cann’s insane but excellent 1977 album The World’s Not Big Enough. Gary Holton perfected the Punk frontman persona in the early 1970s and his Heavy Metal Kids may have been on their last legs by the time of Delirious, but it still has a winning way about it. Slaughter And The Dogs Boot Boy credentials were sealed with the title track to this set and Sham 69 signalled the return of Skinhead with the “Rock & Roll song about breaking out of prison” Borstal Breakout.
Very late in the day Glam is the order of the day on Scruff’s 1978 single Get Out Of My Way, a band that eventually morphed into 1980s nearly men The Faith Brothers. It is about here the Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone? loses a bit of focus for me. There is still much to enjoy, but the careful eye for detail used up to now seems to be less sharp. It has to be said some of the selections veer from fun kitsch more towards naff from here on. Having said that, no one did a “yob” vocal quite like Johnny Moped, as is well in evidence on Make Trouble.
Jook formed in 1971 and had close ties with Sparks, both being managed at the time by John Hewlett. They styled themselves as “Rudies”, football supporting spikey-headed Skinhead types. But most importantly of all they knocked out Post Glam grimy Punk gems like unissued until 1978 Aggravation Place at will. This number kicks off the third disc of this set. First wave Punks London don’t feel like they really belong here, despite No Time’s powerful attack, but The Lurkers’ Total War is just the type of heads-down mayhem required. Albertos Y Lost Trios Paranoias’ spoof Fuck You again is an untidy fit and as also it crops up again on Keeping Control Manchester set that comes out next week, it could have been easily dropped for something more apt.
There is no doubt though that Sharpie heroes Rose Tattoo had all the qualities for Boot Boy Rock and so it proves on a raw One Of The Boys. The Upstarts and The Rejects strong working class roots also gave them plenty appeal to the terraces tearaways and early singles I’m An Upstart and Police Car both roll back the years easily. After that there is a lull in good stuff until the pure musical might of The Professionals’ Mods, Skins And Punks. Rejected by The Daleks is solid enough Bored Teenagers style Punk and NZ band The Terrorways’ Never Been To Borstal offers scope for similar messy fun.
Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone? neatly fills a hole between Cherry Red’s Glam/early 1970s collections and Captain Oi!’s Punk sets. To me this is a very good two disc set unnecessarily bloated up to three by some strange choices, particularly on the last platter. It has to be stated that a fair few of the numbers featured have been compiled a lot over the years too. Having said all that, there is a good amount to enjoy on the less well-known recordings over the first two discs and this made Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone? for me a worthwhile venture on the whole.
Get an earful of Various Artists – Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone? here
New 3CD set that delves into the hive of Pop Music activity carried out in the Liverpool area between 1962 and 1969. Scene leaders The Beatles aren’t here, but The Searchers, The Swinging Blues Jeans and The Merseys all crop up. Ian Canty writes.
When The Beatles conquered the charts at home and abroad in the early 1960s, they changed the face of UK Pop Music forever. In Britain up to that point the music industry was focussed on London’s Denmark Street, with those based there pretty much dismissive of anything that didn’t spring up within a few miles of that Tin Pan Alley. Soon though the record companies were busy sending their representatives up to the North West with orders to find the next big thing from this previously ignored well of talent.
In fact before the fame kicked in, John, Paul, George and Ringo were just characters on a busy Liverpool music scene that developed away from the eyes of the mainstream. In the buzzing local clubs youngsters devoured Rock & Roll, Blues and the early beginnings of Soul, essayed in their own peculiar way by the groups that were just part of the crowd. These outfits despatched their souped-up Chuck Berry knock-offs and rough interpretations of R&B classics with the kind of frenzied, scattershot vitality that was Punk over a decade before it actually happened. As The Beatles broke through with a sense of civil pride plus a large dose of earthy Scouse wit, all of a sudden London didn’t matter. Merseybeat had taken over.
Let’s Stomp! seeks to corral the unprecedented time when a local scene took over the UK charts and had a marked effect across the globe, then follows it on chronologically right through the 1960s. There are no Beatles recordings here unsurprisingly, but the excitable title track by Lee Curtis And The All-Stars leads the way in and has ex-Fab Pete Best present behind the traps.
The Searchers briefly challenged The Beatles in popularity stakes. Sweets For My Sweet, which crops up later on this disc, reached the top spot on the UK charts, but their lack of an in-built songwriting team soon told. However their version of Farmer John is full of vim and other contenders Gerry And The Pacemakers do justice to Larry Williams’ chestnut Slow Down. Hippy Hippy Shake by The Swinging Blue Jeans was of course a big hit and has been heard a lot over the years, but still comes over as an effervescent and gutsy showing that was a deserved success.
The Big Three were excellent and their jumping What’d I Say comes live and direct from Merseybeat epicentre The Cavern. They also contribute a mean and moody cut of Some Other Guy at this point and the following Lies by Johnny Sandon And The Remo Four is similarly cool. The Chants, featuring Eddy Amoo later of The Real Thing, infuse their self-penned I Don’t Care with some high-pitched vocals and a touch of Soul, with Mersey mainstay Jackie Lomax showing up on The Undertakers’ brill Just A Little Bit.
A shot of Folk seasons the Beat of The Fourmost on I’m In Love and the version of Freddie Starr (yes the comedian) And The Midnighters’ sonorously echoing Peter Gunn Locomotion mash-up comes courtesy of the Joe Meek Tea Chest archive. Somebody’s Always Trying is a neat slice of R&B attitude by Ted “King Size” Taylor, with original UK Rock idol Billy Fury successfully revitalising his attack with some way out guitar licks on Nothin’ Shakin’ (But The Leaves On The Trees). Liverpool-based Londoner Glenda Collins’ I Feel So Good may be a marginal case for inclusion, but it is pretty darn frantic and an unissued at the time House Of Bamboo by Denny Seyton And The Sabres comes complete with some very Garage organ tones.
Sally Go Round The Rose by ex-Vernon Girl Lyn Cornell offers a neat laidback change of pace and The Merseybeats themselves turn up with a yearning Our Day Will Come. This disc ends with four bonus demo cuts. A spirited but strange sounding take of Bony Moronie is versioned here by Earl Preston And The T.T.s and feels somewhere between Ska and Wilko Johnson and Ringo’s pre-Beatles band Rory Storm And The Hurricanes kick up a storm on Lend Me Your Comb. A fuzzy but exciting Web Of Love by Mike (Byrne) & The Thunderbirds end a disc that is virtually all killer material.
Disc two of the set opens up with the pre-Lewis Collins version of The Mojos and their lively smash hit Everything’s Alright. The Liverbirds were advertised in Germany as “The Female Beatles”, which was setting the bar pretty high. But their Chuck Berry cover Talking About You grooves along nicely and a cymbal swishing If You Don’t Come Back by The Undertakers follows, cut under an abbreviated moniker The ‘Takers. Bye Bye Baby by ex-Searcher Tony Jackson & The Vibrations is an impressive Soul/Garage mix and The Searchers themselves come next with their Proto-Power Pop single side of Jackie DeShannon’s When You Walk In the Room.
By this point on Let’s Stomp we’ve reached 1965 and by this time Meserybeat had become passé and had already been truncated to a more all-encompassing “Beat”. Indeed the self-penned I Gotta Woman by The Black Knights has a lot to do with the British R&B boom, which was also strong at the time. Beryl Marsden would later join Shotgun Express with Rod Stewart and her fine offering here Music Talk is big production Rhythm & Blues done just right. Smokey Robinson provided the source material for The Trend’s happy go lucky Soul take of The Way You Do The Things You Do and the fast moving Things Will Never Be The Same by Four Just Men, soon to become Wimple Winch, both deserved better fates on single release.
Jason Eddie, featuring here on the strong garage pulse Come On Baby with a backing band called The Centremen, was actually Billy Fury’s brother Albie and compilers’ favourites The Koobas contribute Somewhere In The Night, a smart Beat Pop crossover. The Eyes on this set have nothing to do with the Ealing Psych/Freakbeat mob, but include Beatles cohort Klaus Voormann on the sunny pop of She. Next Make Up Your Mind by The Connoisseurs has the kind of great sweeping chorus that if they hailed from US would have been retrospectively termed Folk Punk.
After Mark Peters’ piano-enhanced Beat ballad Don’t Cry For Me we have three items from the Liverpool Today “Live At The Cavern” LP, cut in the studio with audience noise added later. Of these, a moody Daddy Rolling Stone by Earl Preston’s Realms probably best represents the energy and excitement that a trip to Merseybeat’s mecca entailed. A trio of demos end the disc. A wistful You Won’t Be Leaving by The Four Originals, a band that feature Dave Williams from late 1950s outfit Dale Roberts And The Jaywalkers and the stomping Tomorrow by Kirkby’s The Newtowns are both very enjoyable.
We complete our Liverpudlian trek through the 1960s on the final disc of Let’s Stomp!. Like elsewhere in the UK, the bands and singers sparked into action by Merseybeat had to now navigate the colossal changes that the music scene had undergone over just a few years. A gutsy Fortune Teller by Tony Jackson And The Vibrations is bristling with Punky attitude and The Kirkbys’ add a wild garage attack to their harmony singing flair on It’s A Crime. They crop up later on this disc under their subsequent moniker The 23rd Turnoff with the rolling Acid Folk of Michael Angelo.
The Koobas return on a strutting A Place I Know and Paddy, Klaus & Gibson, actually a made-over version of disc two act The Eyes, do a very decent take of No Good Without You Baby. Come On Back by Paul And Ritchie And The Crying Shames is an alternate mix of the Freakbeat classic and a speedy rhythm and a shot of Soul is just the right recipe for a great deal of fun on Fresh Out Of Here by obscure act Eddie Cave And The Fyx. Chris Curtis, fresh from leaving The Searchers, follows this sound up with a goodie in Aggravation.
Canadian band The 5 a.m. settled in Liverpool in the hope of some of the Merseybeat glory rubbing off. They may not have been met with much success, but the a cool Garage/Gospel sound in I Wash My Hands In Muddy Water is a good summation of their strengths. Sorrow by The Merseys was famously covered by David Bowie on his Pin-Ups LP and then the Joe Meek-produced effort A Different Drummer offers a tantalising glimpse of unknown quantity The Maracas. Jackie Lomax didn’t kick his heels for long after The Undertakers split up, launching his new aggregation The Lomax Alliance in 1966. They are represented here by a thundering You Better Get Going Now and also a teak-tough Give What You Take.
Wimple Winch had long since shed their Four Just Men name by the time of the epic Rumble On Mersey Square South, which dramatised gangland tension with flashes of Stooges-like power. The feelgood Psych Soul of The Seftons’ I Can See Through You follows and a bewitching Girl On The Corner by Focal Point is enticing too. The Swinging Blue Jeans gamely face the challenges of the late 1960s on a fine Keep Me Warm (‘Til The Sun Shines) and the cool voice of Jean Owen aka Samantha Jones lights up This Is The Real Thing.
The Remo Four had long split from Johnny Sandon by the time of organ-driven Mod Soul beaut Heart Beat and The Merseys’ great version of The Who’s So Sad About Us, sourced for them by Kit Lambert, works really well. It is left to one-time Cavern employee Cilla Black to bring the curtain down on Let’s Stomp!, with her Paul McCartney-written hit Step Inside Love.
As the years have gone by Merseybeat has become a bit of a footnote in the career of The Beatles and looked down on when compared to the later developments of the 1960s. This is a shame and unfair, as in its roots lie the template for virtually every other local scene in the UK and possibly worldwide to follow afterwards and also its “devil may care” energy made it a precursor for Punk.
Disc One of Let’s Stomp! fairly brims over with vitality, freshness and the pure youthful joy of the time and place and is a consistently fabulous collection that spells out just why Merseybeat became such phenomenon. This sets a high standard that the other pair of platters can’t quite reach, but they are more than respectable skims through the scene as it developed with many excellent recordings present. Overall Let’s Stomp! does an admirable job in highlighting a very important but often downplayed part of UK music’s history. Groove to a real treat, the sound of young Liverpool the first time around.
Scoop up a copy of Various – Let’s Stomp! Merseybeat And Beyond here
Reissue of legendary Reggae producer Lee Perry’s 1986 album, along with a whole disc made up of extra cuts. Ian Canty writes.
By 1985 Lee “Scratch” Perry had moved base from Kingston in Jamaica to London after a run of misfortune. His studio The Black Ark was long gone, destroyed either by his own hand on purpose or accidentally when attempting a refurbishment. Lee’s contract with Island Records had also lapsed by then and with mobsters demanding a cut of his earnings, he opted instead to settle in the UK. There he assembled a new backing band of Upsetters around guitarist Mark Downie, who also supplies an in-depth liner note for this set. Bolstered by the enthusiasm of these all-new Upsetters, Lee and the band set about recording material with a view to releasing Perry’s first long player in a few years. Trojan offered to issue the results of these sessions and entitled For Battle Of Armagideon, the album duly arrived in the shops in 1986.
A lot had changed in the Reggae world since Lee’s 1970s heyday, with the digital revolution in full effect by the time Battle Of Armagideon was released. But this album manages to successfully crystallise Lee’s manic musings and position them viably in this new age, with a decent batch of tunes that are sensitively performed providing the backdrop. In a sense Scratch appears to be as at peace with his past as he ever was here, which culminates with him even rejigging his 1960s UK hit single Return To Django on All Things Are Possible a few numbers into the LP.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The album commences with a rambling but thoroughly endearing Introducing Myself, a number that has some choice melodica applied to it. Drum Song then has a harmonica set on a bright rhythm. This plays the main role in jousting with Lee’s double-tracked exclamations about a variety of subjects, including for some reason Long John Silver and Batman and Robin. Third track Grooving is a touch lighter, with some very smartly utilised female backing vocals working well to endow it with a real Soul flavour. After the aforementioned All Things Are Possible, Show Me That River’s meditative drifting comes across as a strange kind of Blues Dub mixture, but is pretty good even so.
The austere sound of of a truncated Time Marches On very briefly emerges, before perhaps the key track on Battle Of Armagideon, I Am A Madman. This offering builds slowly but surely over its length to form something truly epic that screams Lee Perry and all the innovation and craziness he was capable of. The Joker finds him donning another mask, as crashing synth sounds are set to a simple Blue Beat until a “stuck tape” sound sample signals its conclusion.
Happy Birthday is built around an upfront bassline and the LP’s penultimate offering Sexy Lady is bolstered by a shot of primal Funk energy which makes it ripe for the dancefloor. Battle Of Armagideon’s finale is a longer version of Time Marches On. This one is slight in form, expanding gently but well through minimal percussion, voice and bells.
The three bonus items added to this disc are a trio of versions of Happy Birthday, restyled in a seasonal manner as Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. It is a fairly charming item taken individually, but feels a tad too much to cop an earful of all three of them in a row. This is without taking into account the further four alternate takes added to the second disc.
Moving onto the latter disc of this set, we begin with a good if slightly dated sounding extended version of All Things Are Possible. Then Lee covers, in his own inimitable style, Rainy Night In Georgia as Rainy Day In London, which is followed by a couple of hypnotic takes of Time Marches On. The sparseness of the Dubwise cut being the clear winner for me.
Perry then revisits his old calling card/theme tune/brickbat at Coxsone Dodd I Am The Upsetter. It isn’t a bad update at all, but the original remains the definitive cut. A long version of I Am A Madman then branches out towards almost Ambient territory, but the last few tracks are made up of the quartet of Marry Christmas, Happy New Year alternates. Of this, The Perry Christmas Dub is the most fun of the four.
On the whole Battle Of Armagideon was a very positive sign in 1986 that Lee Perry was far from finished, something that appeared a possibility after the fate of The Black Ark and all that went with that. The album could be seen as the point when Lee Perry made the break from the double role of performer/producer of others’ work to in the main concentrating mostly on his own career, but this doesn’t make it an any less enjoyable recording. The extras in this set are good to have, if perhaps not essential, but the on the spot liner notes and the LP itself make this reissue worthwhile to me, with Battle Of Armagideon still sounding good all these years on.
You can buy Lee Scratch Perry – Battle Of Armagideon by clicking here
2CD set subtitled Classic Dancehall Sounds 1979 – 1981 which draws from The Mighty Two archive and includes such artists as Barrington Levy, Cornel Campbell and Eek-A-Mouse. Ian Canty writes.
Dancehall tends to get a bit of raw deal when people look back today on Jamaica’s rich musical history. However, on hearing something like track three of this new set Friday Evening by Joe Tex & U Black, it really brings home to me how fine that original sound was, prior to the digital revolution at least. The drum and bass sparsity of Dub was influential and it also opened up a second golden age of DJ Toasting, especially in a “sing/speak style”. But it must be said that song based material wasn’t totally excluded either – the main aim was to provide music that was cool to hear and good to move to.
Fresh versions of old rhythms were cut and reused to provide a basis for the singers and DJs and a popular rhythm track could result in a string of hit singles. It is a bit obvious to say this, but the results were always built chiefly to enhance the bewitching experience of attending a sound system dance. The best efforts contained here sharply reflect excitement of being present at one of these events in the comfort of one’s own home.
As ever with new developments in music, a fresh band of artists came to prominence. Some older performers successfully made the jump into the future though and of the established producers The Mighty Two of Joe Gibbs and Errol E.T. Thompson were well placed to continue their lengthy run of success with the new format. Their Dubs had been some of the hottest 12″ plates (read more about that here) in the late 1970s and they could call on many top quality singers and DJs to do the honours on the top of these newly recut rhythms.
Singer Cornel Campbell emerged in the early 1960s pre-Ska era and was already an old hand in the music world by the time of Dancehall’s first steps. Even so, his record Boxing Around became a crucial rhythm on the sound systems in Kingston after a limited release in 1979 as a “special” and it is only right and proper that it opens up Joe Gibbs Presents Dancehall Stylee. Cornel’s excellently judged vocal provides just the right touch and next Bam Bam by Kojak & Liza take the same backing track and morph it into an impressive male/female DJ duet. The pair weave a similar magic on the slow, sunny Sky Juice later on this disc.
Then comes the aforementioned and brilliant Friday Evening. Tex & U (Hugh) Black are followed by the prolific Welton Irie’s Nice Up the Dance, a sublime companion piece to its forerunner. After the last couple of DJ efforts, we go back to more song-based material with the delightful Pop Reggae of Yuh Jammin’ So by Osbert Madoo and Wayde aka Wade Brammer’s My Love, which makes the most of some deft Dub moves. Kojak is back for a classy toast in Green Bay Killing , with Lui Lepke successfully mining the same template for Can’t Tek Mi Landlord.
Getting his start with the My Black Girl single in 1977, Barrington Levy’s star rose quickly during the early days of Dancehall. He brings his ice-cool delivery and easy charm to Quick Divorce and later My Woman is a smoothly delivered love song. Kojak & Liza also use the latter’s rhythm for an endearing One Thousand Gal. George Nooks recorded in a DJ style as Prince Mohammed on the excellent Money Man The Girl She Want, with Junior Murvin’s high, sweet voice being ideal for an infectious number in Time Stiff. A duo of Albert Bailey and Clinton Howell recorded under the group name Earth And Stone during the late 1970s and their Ring Craft is both soulful and stylishly accomplished.
Drunken Master by Joseph Jackson’s alter ego Ranking Joe is fun DJ cut that works well to present Dancehall’s core strengths and although Derek Thompson aka Shorty The President had scored way back in 1972 with President Mash Up Resident, his Lover Man Style sounds right up to the task of confronting the new age. Al Campbell’s fine self-penned number No Children Don’t Cry and Tyrone Taylor’s Heavy Waist Line end a disc bursting with exuberance and dancefloor-ready melodies.
Leave Fi Mi Gal Arlene starts disc two of this set and finding Ranking Joe in hot, tongue-twisting form and Errol Scorcher, of Peace Truce fame, gives us the bellowing intro but afterwards mellow toast of DJ Spirit. Prince Jazzbo was another DJ who had been around for a while who got a second wind during Dancehall. The title of his 12 Tribe Possie shows that Roots ideas still retained a presence and some sparklingly organ keys in the mix help it add up to a mighty turn indeed. Cornel Campbell returns on the coolly chiding Two Timer, which confirmed his renaissance and Joe Tex and U Black joust rhymes ably and make it two crackers out of two on Joe Gibbs Presents Dancehall Stylee with Batman And Robin.
Mine Yu Mouth forms a concise explanation of just why Barrington Levy climbed to the top of the Dancehall heap. Combining his assured singing talent with an irresistible, catchy beat was simply dynamite. Long-running six piece Chalice recorded six LPs during the 1980s and they cut the appealing Good To Be There for Gibbs in 1981. Sunny Dread’s Dreadlocks Girls and My Princess are pleasing entries and Danny Mangaroo kicked off his career with a mighty Thousand Things On My Mind (cut atop the Boxing rhythm) and the laidback drift of Lawd Sur.
Echo Minott endows his number Love Problems with an accomplished edge and a skanking Wife And Sweetheart has Barrington Levy impressing yet again. The brisk mover Back Way Mr Landlord by Madoo includes a strong R&B-orientated pulse and tidy Funk touches, with Prince Mohammed helming its DJ cut Back Away straight afterwards. Eek-A-Mouse’s familiar nasal delivery is in full effect on early version of Wa Do Dem entitled Virgin Girl and Lui Lepke’s Tribute To Bob Marley ends another thoroughly enjoyable disc with a moving toast on the same rhythm.
What we have here is an excellent and immensely enjoyable collection of Dancehall done just right. With Errol Thompson in the studio and on the case plus a wide variety of talented performers to draw on, the Joe Gibbs organisation sailed through into the new era with a graceful swagger. As a demonstration of the sound’s appeal you simply can not get much better and the music on Joe Gibbs Presents Dancehall Stylee still more than cuts the mustard all these years on since it was originally taped. One to treasure and listen to again and again.
Pick up a copy of Various – Joe Gibbs Presents Dancehall Stylee by clicking here
Judge Dread – The Skinhead Reggae Albums 1972 – 1976
Released 28 April 2023
The four albums that Reggae DJ Judge Dread put out in the early 1970s, plus bonus tracks. Included are his hit singles Big Six, Big Seven and Christmas In Dreadland. Ian Canty writes.
Looking back on Judge Dread’s extended run of success on the UK singles chart during the 1970s, almost everything about it appears inexplicable. Even this new collection’s title The Skinhead Reggae Albums 1972 – 1976 is a bit of a misnomer, as by 1972 if there were any Skinheads still about they were keeping a very low profile. Dread’s visual image was a big bloke with a beard and bar the Crombie he is wearing on the front of his debut LP and a braces and hitched up trouser combo on the cover Last Of The Skinheads, there is little reference to bootboy fashion. His heyday came at a time when Reggae was pretty much in the doldrums, but somehow JD managed to capture the imagination of a large selection of the record buying public in Britain with his lewd rhyming.
Alexander Hughes from Snodland in Kent grew into an imposing physique, something which came in handy as he pursued employment as a nightclub bouncer and professional wrestler called The Masked Executioner. He became entranced with Jamaican music when lodging in Brixton in the 1960s led to him hear the early rumblings of Ska from the West Indians settled there. Later his security work brought him into contact with many Ska/Rocksteady recording stars. In his spare time he DJed on his own sound system and in 1972 he recorded Big Six cheaply. The tune itself was actually a loose cover of the song Little Boy Blue and picking the Prince Buster connection through song Big Five, Alex became Judge Dread.
Alex/Judge Dread had already come into contact with Trojan whilst working as a debt collector for the company and they released the single to little fanfare. However the BBC in their wisdom chose to ban the record, which surprise surprise worked massively in its favour. The whiff of scandal meant young people in the UK wanted in on this 45 that was so hot the Beeb wouldn’t touch it, with the result that it zoomed up the charts.
Big Six introduced the formula that Judge Dread was to go back to many times over the years, saucy nursery rhymes/limericks set over a tight Reggae rhythm. After a further hit in the similarly themed Big Seven, it was time for the first Judge Dread album All In The Mind, which starts off this set. I suppose that at this point we ought to have a caveat like they do on the radio before classic comedy – something along the lines of “this was recorded in 1972 and reflects attitudes and language of the time” – i.e sexism and homophobia in the lyrics. This may mean you chose to disregard this review, which is of course your prerogative. However, I think we should to take into account a great deal of Popular Music of the 20th century reflected similar notions and because of this give the Judge a fair hearing.
The catchy title track kicks off the LP as a riposte to those who banned Big Six and it is then followed by that song, with it familiar “alright…get ready” hook. Double or often single entendres prevail throughout as one might suspect, but it is rarely nasty. Most of the subject matter isn’t too different from the suggestive songs that formed the finale of The Two Ronnies at the time really, which is ironic given the blanket BBC ban.
A cover of Dr Kitchener’s calypso number Dr. Kitch shows that slackness in Jamaica goes way back and Big Seven slows the rhythm to a sunny Rocksteady meander. A Reggae-fied cover of Chuck Berry’s Ding-A-Ling falls a bit flat, but The Blue Cross Code is that very rare thing, a road safety/sex comedy crossover tune. Dread’s Almanack makes for a fairly witty end-piece to an album that is very much a naughty seaside postcard come to skanking life. The two single flipsides in the form of decent organ instrumentals One Armed Bandit and Dread (Judge Dread Sound) are the bonus items appended to this disc.
It’s All In The Mind didn’t chart and although Big Eight, the speedy lead off track on Dread’s second LP Working Class ‘Ero, was another sizeable hit, JD went through a bit of a lean period at this point. Five of his 45 missed the charts completely, before a cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s Je T’aime (Mon Non Plus) crashed into the UK Top Ten in 1975. Going back to this second LP, Peter Sarstedt’s Take Off Your Clothes is given a straight-ish reading and The Belle Of Snodland Town cropped up on Oi! Oi! That’s Yer Lot in the 80s. I recently saw on TV Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge using the payoff line to this song as part of his act, which I suppose shows Dread’s “under the counter” impact. Among the bonuses on this disc is a DJ version on the same rhythm called Dance Of The Snods.
He dips into Merengue on The Big Five, which is based around the old kids game of leading up to an expletive and then innocently starting the next line. I liked Dread’s Law, where he expounds on a variety of near the knuckle subjects in a pretty likeable way, but you can kind of see why Big Nine failed as a single. Despite use of some primitive synths in an attempt to freshen up the sound, this was a little too much of the same thing. Looking at it from today, George Formby appears an obvious precursor to Judge Dread. It is apt that he covers Grandad’s Flannelette Nightshirt here, even if by abandoning Reggae altogether it seems to sidestep Dread’s appeal completely. The result was unsurprisingly another miss as a 45.
Kung Fu Dat, cashing in on the fascination with the TV show which was big news at the time, is given a neat Reggae backing on a tale of pre-pooper scooper woe. Working Class ‘Ero ends with The Big One, a nice lilting beat and a return to what brought Dread to the dance in the first place. This is an album that lacks the impact of the first and though commendably trying to vary things, doesn’t hit on anything likely to replace the original format.
Mind The Doors opens up the bonuses on this disc and this is an effective and enjoyable semi-instro with a neat echoing refrain. The sweetly sung version of Clancy Eccles’ Molly is nicely assured and was Oxfam’s anthem to their famine appeal. Though having no hint of suggestiveness, the BBC in their wisdom still banned it. The disc ends with both sides of a single cut as J.D. Alex, which again was banned by the BBC for no reason. The Pop Reggae of (Hey There) Lonely Girl is certainly lightweight, but proves Dread could sing a non-blue effort well.
A move to Creole Records in 1975 resulted in his most commercially successful album, Bedtime Stories. This makes up the bulk of disc three of this set. A synthesiser line is added to a tidy rhythm on the opening title track and the one-joke hit version of Je T’aime follows next. The minimalist Rudeness Train actually works pretty well and the slow Blue Beat of The Six Wives Of Dread slams the brakes on the frantic pace nicely. A Little Piece Of Dinkle effectively reworks The Big Five, with Big 10 also dipping into that territory. To end with, Calypso and Patois are given a mighty shove towards Benny Hill-style humour on Trenchtown Billy and Doris Day’s Move Over Darling receives a rude Reggae reworking.
Bonus items on this disc start with a fairly standard Reggae instrumental called Anna, an effort was the flip of a single by DJ Emperor Rosko. Then comes a goodie in the form Look A Pussy, which tones down the JD persona and offers the possibility of a different path that was not followed up on. Rasta Chat uses the backing of The Belle Of Snodland Town again and Dread donned the pseudonym of Jason Sinclair for The End Of The World, which is MOR Reggae much like the J.D. Alex single.
A strange spacey instrumental called the Golden Fleece is diverting and unexpected, but this is followed by another Romantic Reggae outing as Sinclair, a version of 1950s Pop number Tammy. This section comes to a close with Dread’s seasonal offering Christmas In Dreadland, which managed to reach number 14 in the UK singles chart.
On listening to Bring Back The Skins, the nostalgic beginning to the Last Of The Skinheads album, I couldn’t help wondered why Judge Dread didn’t season his usual fare with the odd more serious number regularly. But it is very much a one-off. Dread Rock is George Formby’s My Little Stock Of Blackpool Rock propelled into the 1970s on a Rocksteady beat, but The Winkle Man comes over as unsavoury and mean spirited in a way that his earlier material isn’t. Better is Take It Easy (But Take It), which rejigs the usual JD sound fairly productively and on Fatty Dread you might think a young Doug Trendle aka Buster Bloodvessel was taking notes.
However a version of Y Viva Espana entitled Y Viva Suspenders is highly naff and awful. The reprise of Bring Back The Skins only brings home the fact that it is head and shoulders above most of the rest of what is a very average collection to be honest.
The bonus tracks on this final disc ensue with a good instrumental take of Prince Buster’s Al Capone calling card, credited to The Dreadnaughts. Y Viva Suspenders’ B side Confessions Of A Bouncer isn’t any great shakes, but may have provided some recompense for anyone buying the damn thing and a strings-enhanced Jamaica Jerk (Off) headed up the 5th Anniversary EP that reached the UK Top Thirty. Big Everything, a medley of his hits, was also on this extended play as well as another go at End Of The World and Bring Back The Skins.
1978’s Up With The Cock! (dearie me) is the last hit single included on this set, but even then only scrapped into The Top Fifty. The backing isn’t that far away from what would be heard on the Two Tone scene of 1979, even if the lyric is his usual schtick. Flipside Big Punk was apparently considered for The Great Rock N Roll Swindle, but in truth it is a late in the day cash-in that doesn’t really work. The collection signs off with another couple of recordings by The Dreadnaughts, Swan Lake which Madness would also cover a year or two later and MOR sax showcase Nice Weather For Ducks.
A fair bit of The Skinhead Reggae Albums hasn’t aged that very well to say the least. Judge Dread can seem as emblematic of 1970s Britain as space hoppers, clackers and platform boots, but he was well respected in Jamaica and that was something UK Reggae seldom achieved back then. A big part of this was the backing rhythms were usually on point at the outset. Also Judge Dread had a way with a rhythm and could sing well on occasion too. His loose, conversational style may have had an influence on both Ian Dury and 1979’s Ska revival, Bad Manners in particular. There’s not much difference between some of Judge Dread’s material and The Kilburns’ You’re More Than Fair for instance.
This set is a hit and miss affair and can be heavy going listening in one foul swoop – It’s All In The Mind for me is that best album of the four, what is on it feels fresh in a way that the later albums don’t. Among the bonus tracks there is fun to be had and if the rest of Last Of The Skinheads is iffy, Bring Back The Skins shows what Judge Dread was capable of when he reined in his instinct to go for the jocular. All things considered, Judge Dread remains an enigma from a world much, much different to ours.
Get Judge Dread – The Skinhead Reggae Albums 1972 – 1976 here
Vinyl mini-LP released for Record Store Day 2023 containing the complete 2Tone recordings of the Norwich-based Punk Funk heroes The Higsons. They were fronted by The Fast Show’s Charlie Higson. Ian Canty writes.
In the summer of 1981 The Higsons made immediate waves in the UK Independent sector with their debut single I Don’t Want to Live With Monkeys, released on the Romans In Britain label. The band specialised in an all-action stage show and were led by Charlie “Switch” Higson. A rhythm section of drummer Simon Charterton and Colin Williams on bass, guitarists Dave Cummings and Stuart McGeachin and multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards all featured in the band’s line up.
After the Indie Top Ten success of their first single, they moved over onto Waap Records for three further 45 outings during 1981/82 that also made sizable dents on the Independent listings. I had a copy of their terrific live cassette taken from a gig at the Jacquard Club that was issued by Chaos Tapes in 1982. I remember really enjoying that, playing it until the damn thing snapped. I regarded it a concise summary of the band’s talent and wit and it was very listenable too.
After these encouraging showings it seemed inevitable that The Higsons would be picked up by a major label. But them signing to Jerry Dammers’ 2Tone imprint was a bit of a curveball back then, as they weren’t exactly a Ska act. Nevertheless it was a big step forward for the band and it appeared that success in the Pop charts was within their grasp.
Despite the high expectations, the band’s recordings for 2Tone in the end only amounted to a couple of singles and this is what is presented on the Run Me Down LP, a Record Store Day special release. 2Tone debut Tear The Whole Thing Down was suitably danceable and dramatic, if perhaps a little too too edgy for 1982’s Synth-dominated and soft focus Pop scene. Frantic, percussive flipside Ylang Ylang is certainly very lively too.
The single didn’t make a mark on the UK Top 75, but undeterred The Higsons went all out with Run Me Down, issued in February 1983 on both 7 and 12 inch. An extended Run Me Down ends the first side of this new vinyl release. It also features on side two in original single and instrumental takes and is arresting, wry and subtle in each form. The B side to this 45 was Put The Punk Back Into Funk Pts I & II. This number hurtles along at a fair old speed and lyrically is a neat and scathing attack on the slicker chart-bound sounds that prevailed at the time.
Run Me Down suffered the same fate as Tear The Whole Thing Down and The Higsons returned to Waap for their Push Out the Boat single late in 1983. Upright Records released a cover of Andy Williams’ Easy Listening hit Music To Watch Girls By and The Curse Of The Higsons album in the next year. The band fizzled out and went their separate ways soon after.
Most people know Charlie Higson today through The Fast Show and his books, but before that he was a pretty blooming effective frontman and provided the focus for some smart musicianship and an endearing sense of fun too. Of the rest of the band, Dave Cummings became a comedy writer too and played roles on brill radio series Down The Line and Terry Edwards has ploughed on through a variety of bands and collaborations, including joining up with Simon Charterton in The Near Jazz Experience.
I think it was a real shame The Higsons are only really remembered as a footnote in Charlie’s career. Their early recordings showed great promise and I really enjoyed them at the time. On hearing them again here, they still sound pretty good to my ears today. This Run Me Down LP has the band near their best and rounds up their 2Tone stuff – I suspect if you dig this, you’ll want more, the Waap singles in particular. Maybe that is one for next year?
If you are quick you may be able to get a copy of The Higsons – Run Me Down here
Subtitled The 21st Century Collection, this new 4CD set looks at Jah Wobble’s work with a variety of bands and artists, as well as fronting long-standing backing outfit The Invaders Of The Heart. Ian Canty writes.
Jah Wobble’s pivotal role in the Post Punk years is well-known and I don’t proposed to waste your time by going over old ground yet again here. Suffice to say that he greeted the new millennium newly established in the North West of England and in good form. As ever, he pursued a variety of directions by way of a number of musical fronts.
Dark Luminosity cherry picks Jah’s 21st century activity in chronological order, save the spoken word items that work as intros for each disc and outros for the first two. These work well in setting the scene, as he is an endearingly honest raconteur as his book Memoirs Of A Geezer proved. After one of these observations, the short limerick-like There Was A Young Man With A Bass, the first disc of the set kicks in with the two-part As Night Falls, recorded by Jah and the band Deep Space. The steady pulse of that bass is here ploughing through some fuzz and eastern drones. A marked cinematic feel develops and this makes the first piece compulsive and arresting. An eternal-sounding flute sits alongside grungy guitar and keys on the second part.
Next comes another pairing, this time conducted with The Invaders Of The Heart and titled Lam Tang Way. This duo are both fast moving affairs, with Wobble’s bass providing the structure and a female vocal taking over in the second part. Full On is a tense mood piece that Jah tackles in unison with Evan Parker and a tripped out Shout At The Devil finds Temple Of Sound taking things to trance level. A restful La Citadelle follows in its wake.
Two Fly pieces 3 and 9 have grooves a plenty, with chilled dance the former’s forte and the latter more specialising in thumping beats. A similar percussiveness haunts Fight Scene and then Jeck, Drums, 2 Basses by Deep Space merges into the pretty but vaguely unsettling Singing. After the purposeful forward motion and again some Folk touches on Cannily Cannily, the pithy wisdom of spoken word Plato ends a frequently fascinating disc.
Disc two starts with the cutting observations of Post Modern and modern Folk-tinged cool on Unquiet Grave, which serve contrast Jah’s deadpan delivery on the former with Liz Carter’s clear and pure tones on the latter. The dramatic and unusual instrumental Elevator Music 9 puts the music back in the driving seat and Softwear presents itself as a spry Electro Dance effort. Live cut Four (Edit) gathers strength from the interplay between Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit and Jah’s nimble bass playing, with effects that are delicately applied by Philip Jeck.
A restless Psych Dance groove is the order of the day on Looking Up At The Sky Again and The English Roots band are on hand for a delicate version of Dawn Penn’s No No No that is both touching and bright. The cool breeze of And Some Might Say sounds an ideal partner to the latter, with Solitude introducing The Chinese Dub Orchestra in an arresting and quietly assertive manner. Kokiriko finds the Nippon Dub Ensemble in meditative mood and some enchanting flute/string meanderings on Ma follow on. The galloping drums of Brazil and another short limerick piece called Dub ends this disc.
Air provides the intro to disc three of Ark Luminosity and is packed with the simple wisdom that is a big part of Jah Wobble’s charm as a storyteller. A squelching, breakneck Dance number Blowout comes next, with the familiar warm bass burble and brass of City Meets Country also impressing. Psychic Life comes from the album Jah made with Julie Campbell that also featured the late Keith Levene and it is chilled and smart piece of work. The measured progress of Wealth and Cosmic Blueprint’s Jazz/Funk inflections are joyful too.
Mandala and later Chunk Of Funk are a pair of expansive Dancefloor monsters that show Jah able to compete with the best of modern Funk. But between them the far more laidback and piano-led Sabri = Patience is serene and charming. A Jazz influence emerges on the zesty Cuban Dub and L’autoroute Sans Fin knowingly appears to crib a little Kraftwerk in its opening gambit.
If the first three platters of Dark Luminosity stress the spirit of adventurous Jah Wobble displayed during the 21st century, the start of disc four offers something more in line with the sound of Post Punk experimentalism that he was a big part of in the late 1970s. Sacred begins things by focussing on mankind’s attempts to imbue life with meaning and significance in order to preserve sanity and then Mind In Turmoil wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 1980’s Jah Wobble In Betrayal LP.
The hilariously foul-mouthed and well-observed Humans Are Full Of It made me think of Ian Dury in its rolling frenetic Funk drive that is allied to downbeat delivery, with a fluid creeper by the name of The Perfect Beat being delivered next by Jah and The Invaders alongside ace producer Bill Laswell. The title track comes with an insistent rhythm that harks right back to Careering, but this is an instrumental ride across the city rather than an impassioned vocal rant. A cool Jazz tune in Fly Away has Jah singing well and Nocturne switches midway through from squelchy electronics to a warm but slightly eerie musical setting.
Some trademark deep bass explosions herald Mooching About, where Electronica and delicate horns collide and from 2020’s Ambient Jazz Grooves collection comes flowing Jazz and Funk in the form of Lockdown 7 (Reprise). The last track’s subject matter gets an immediate answer in the End Of Lockdown Dub and the dread dance of Choral Ocean Dub follows next. Hip Hop, Eastern Folk, Pop and Dub are all bundled up on Dim Sum (Edit), where Jah Wobble & Family are credited and then JW shows again how effortlessly he can craft modern Funk stormers on Guangzhou Funk. Finally on Dark Luminosity he pays tribute to his Staffordshire Terrier on Tyson Dub and concocts a deep and potent brew in the process.
Every time I review anything by Jah Wobble it reminds me that I should listen to his work much more – this is a great collection full of variety and imagination. Dark Luminosity acts as a testament to his restless creativity and how, despite a few inevitable glances back, the urge to keep going forward is always likely to be the best policy.
Jah Wobble’s website can be found here here and he is on Facebook here
Find out more about Jah Wobble – Dark Luminosity here