the steve brown band

If ever there’s a record in my collection that could be termed a ‘grower,’ then this is it!.

The Steve Brown Band were a progressive rock unit from Newcastle who injected a jazz feel into their music to create something quite unique. They gigged extensively between 1971 and 1975, cultivating a huge and enthusiastic local following in the North East of England,

They would also make lengthy trips to London where they would often headline The Marquee Club.

They thought their efforts had been rewarded when offered an album deal by Transatlantic Records, but for whatever reason, the album never saw the light of day.

Now, over fifty years later, the excellent Seelie Court Records have dug out and released the band’s debut album, ‘Soul Full of Sin.

They did record and release one single, ‘Street Fighter,‘ on Petal Records in 1977, but my understanding is they were edged towards this more basic rock sound by a new management team, and decided to call it a day at that. (I actually like it, I have to say.)

The album itself comprises six tracks, which though kind of laid back in nature, with saxophone and I think, flute switching the feel between prog and jazz, still gently rocks along with some warm vocals and a tight rhythm section. At times, the electric piano reminds me of Also Sprach Zarathustra, at times the guitar reminds me of Man.

Told you it was a quite unique sound!

Unfortunately, you’ll just have to take my word for that, because I can find no recordings on the internet that I could share here with you.

The best I can manage is this link to Juno Records, who I’m sure will be more than pleased to supply you with a copy in exchange for pounds sterling. (Only brief samples of the tracks are available – my favourite being the third track on the first side, ‘Shine a Light.’

One thing I can find though, is a shed load of positive comment about both the band and this album. It took me a few listens, I have to say, – but I am now of the mind that The Steve Brown Band are definitely the best band you never heard of – and will be up there with those you have.

There is an extensive and really interesting history, of The Steve Brown Band as detailed from the reproduced scrap book entries of drummer Jeff Barak – here.

THE STEVE BROWN BAND

Steve Brown – Guitar / Lead Vocal
John Farmer – Bass / Vocal
Jeff Barak – Drums / Vocal
Gowan Turnbull – Saxophone / Vocal
Charlie Gordon – Electric Piano / Keyboards / Vocal

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Street Fighter ‎7″ Single1977Petal Records
Soul Full Of SinLP2021Seelie Court Recorded between 1971 & 1973

cothel

I’ve been writing about new music in blog and magazine form, for a long while now … from back in the days when Artrocker was a fortnightly paper magazine – remember them? Actually, Loud Horizon even predates that (@ 2004) so as you can imagine, a lot of good music has crossed my desk.

On occasion, though, some bands and artists stand out even above the ‘good’ music. It’s hard to define, but some just have that extra ‘something.’

This Liverpool based, psychedelic rock band may have only released two tracks to date, but I’ll stick my neck out right now and predict you’ll hear a lot more of Cothel.

With band members from California, Mexico, Korea, and Norway and a sound tech guy from England, there’s a lot of diverse influences being brought to bear in their music – and it seems to be working a treat.

Their second, and current release, ‘When You’re Insanely High‘ is an eclectic mix of rock riffs and funky beats, delivered with spiky, punk attitude. Think along the lines of a heavier version of Adequate 7 from the early noughties, and you’ve got it.

This track though highlights the versatility of Cothel, contrasting with the sneering vocal delivery and more grunge feel of their first release, ‘That Feeling You Get.’ I say ‘grunge’ but there’s more – there’s also a manic sixties, psychedelic sound to this. It’s like a swirling nightmare … in a good way of course.

The band have planned two more singles in the new year, before releasing their debut album around April.

There’s not much else I can say about a band so early in their development, but you read it here first – watch out for Cothel in 2022. I’m certain I won’t be the only one singing their praises.

Cothel are:

Aaron Stafford (USA): Guitar / Vocals
Emiliano Del Toro (Mexico): Lead Guitar
Lee Jaeyeuk (aka Jerry) (Korea): Bass
Gurkirat Singh (Norway): Drums
+
Rob King (England): Sound tech

empiires

Empiires are a four-piece hard rock band, playing out of Dallas, Texas. Like many bands, they put their enforced pandemic lockdown time to good use and, unable to play live, they focused on releasing a couple of new tracks.

The latest is ‘Stronger‘ which pretty much typifies their style – big, chunky, crunching guitar riffs, strong, bold lead vocals with growled backing and loud, melodic, catchy choruses. Factor in short, snappy, searing guitar solos and a pounding rhythm section and ….. well, what’s not to like?

I know it’s been difficult for all bands these past eighteen months, but I do feel that now is the time for Empiires to match their music with their presence. I can find very little info about them out in the ether, and with a few well produced ‘singles’ behind them now, I’d like to see them doing a little more shouting about it! Why keep your light under a bushel?

As you’ll see, each of the song videos available are of the ‘lyric’ nature. Tied in with my point above, I’d love to see the band feature more in them. In fact, if I’m totally honest, especially with reference to the new song ‘Stronger‘ I think the song sounds ‘stronger’ when listened to without the video as it is.

This is not a criticism, just an observation. The band have the perfect image of a hard rocking band – why not let it help them grow their music?

Just sayin’.

Anyway – back to the music. They guys kick serious ass, so hopefully their enforced additional rehearsal / recording time will pay them due dividend in the months to come now that are back out on the road.

(From April 2021)
(First single, December 2020)

guilty

Boasting members from both South America and Europe, alt-rockers, Guilty have a truly international appeal. Having met and formed the band in 2019 they have since been based in Romania, home country of the rhythm section, drummer Cristi Diaconu and bass player Silviu Ruta.

Augmented by Renan Santos from Brazil on guitar and led by singer-songwriter Rubén Villanueva from Peru, they have become an established act within the Romanian rock scene.

The band have just released their fourth single of 2021, keeping themselves busy at a time of country / world wide Covid restrictions.

Leave It and Rewind,‘ differs from those tracks that have preceded it this year. Whereas the others have been more uptempo and rocking, this one is much more subtle. The song deals with the issue of social media and the adverse impact it can have on users, so it’s perhaps not surprising the general mood is more sombre. Dark even.

However, there’s an air of positivity in the title and lyrics which is reflected in the melody of the catchy and memorable chorus. It has a quite anthemic feel about it.

‘Leave it and Rewind,’ is available across all streaming platforms now.

(By way of illustrating the strength of Guilty, here’s the video that accompanied their release of a few months back, ‘Never Call My Name Again.’)

martin gordon

He played bass on Sparks‘ debut album, ‘Kimono My House,’ which included the two hit singles, ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ and ‘Amateur Hour;‘ he was bass player with Jet, hailed as Glam’s first supergroup; he formed personal favourites of mine, Radio Stars ; he even played bass with The Rolling Stones (oh, yes he did!) … and this was all before teatime. Well, before the Seventies were up.

Since then Martin Gordon has played as session musician with some of pop music’s  brightest, and apparently not so bright, stars.

He’s toured the world, collaborating with ‘world music’ stars across the continents and is now settled in Berlin, where the creative spirit of that fine city continues to guide his way.

A look at his excellent website highlights both his work over the years and his deadpan, self-deprecating and sardonic humour. In his more recent releases, he targets conspiracy theorists (and one in particular) and people who believe they have ‘superior jeans.’

It is this clever / pointed / fun writing style that drew me to Radio Stars back in the Seventies. There is, however, generally a point to what Martin writes / sings about.

However, just to throw us a little curveball, his new release has no words. It is though, like his recent songs, a celebration of current affairs. Well, maybe ‘celebration’ is a bit strong – it references the Cop26 conference on climate change.

Martin’s interpretation of what lies ‘over the rainbow’ conflicts somewhat with what young Dorothy expected, this version part doom laden, part painfully sad, bleak and downbeat. It’s a typically pragmatic view from Martin, I have to say.

And who, really, can argue?

In his own words, here’s what inspired Martin, if indeed ‘inspired’ s the correct word.

Marking the gathering of the great and the good, the besuited and the bedraggled, the lobbyists and the lobbied in Glasgow to perform the by-now traditional COP26 knees-up, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ is a new single by Martin Gordon. As the planet prepares to expel its inhabitants, why not mark the occasion with this rendering of Dorothy’s favourite showstopper in Eb, well known to be the second-saddest of all keys? This instrumental version has a Rickenbacker bass as a main voice – what’s not to like? After all, Xmas dinner will be served in a tin, with lashings of delicious Spam for afters, and then there’ll be live bombing of France on the telly after the Queen’s speech.

‘Arlen and Yarburg’s melancholy tune has been reworked, rearranged and made available to all, whether demented conspiracy theorist, hysterical populist or regular ol’ human being, although there are less of these than earlier thought.

(Released across all platforms on 8th November 2021)

chris kelly

As lead singer / guitarist of Cardiff indie rockers, The Scooters, Chris Kelly tasted success in the form of touring USA (twice) and collaborated with The New Radicals. For their 2002 tour, they were subject of an ITV documentary and followed around by a film crew.

That was then. This is now.

Chris has made a name for himself as an Americana inspired singer / songwriter, accumulating a burgeoning fanbase, especially across his native south Wales.

His latest single, ‘Your Day Begins Again‘ is released at the end of November (26th.) It’s easy-going, swaying, melodic verses blend into more rousing choruses, guaranteed to have you singing along even on first hearing.

No doubt Chris’s experience of leading an indie-pop band at the turn of the century still have some bearing, as the final minute run-out features some lovely, dreamy, shuffling psychedelic sounds reflecting the music of many bands at that time.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this – you can make your own mind up. Here it is!

(For what it’s worth, love it.)

smoking pistols

Smoking Pistols are a four-piece, post punk band from the Drôme region of south-east France. Formed during 2020, they recently released their second EP, ‘Sip It For Free,‘ via Bandcamp.

The five tracks are a loud and raucous mix of abrasive sounding garage punk, a little in the vein of Idles, I’d suggest. The strong EP opener and title track ‘Sip It For Free’ is shouty and angry … and hooky and catchy at the same time. It may take more than the initial listen, but you’ll get there. I’d say there were even shades of Foo Fighters peeking through towards the end.

‘I’m Just Not Good At It,‘ again has that Foo Fighters feel. Maybe it’s the rasping vocals and pounding drums, but I’m definitely getting that kind of vibe. There’s some nice discordant guitar going on as well. It’s a real fist pumper of a track, bound to go down well in a live performance.

‘Isolation,’ features more spoken styled lyrics and a buzzing guitar sound. It doesn’t have the sort of anthemic feel of the previous tracks, but is more of a ‘grower.’ Clocking in at almost seven minutes length, it sounds like a story of anguish and frustration been given some air.

Glass of Patience’ again features more chanted vocals over occasionally discordant guitar, building into a resounding chorus.

Then the closer, ‘Cut Me Some Slack’ veers away from Foo Fighters towards a more Talking Heads and Devo feel, with a little bit Rolling Stones ‘Woo Hoos,’ added towards the end. Which is all OK by me.

Though the lyrics focus very much on introspection, weird manipulations within human relationships, and self-destruction, the EP is pleasantly upbeat and boisterous.

All in all, this is a very positive sounding EP and well worth checking out.

(From the band’s eponymous debut EP. )

hellmet

Leviathan were a respected psychedelic rock band from Brighton who, being one of the first British bands to be signed to the Elektra label, recorded three singles in 1969. They also recorded and album, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t released.

In autumn of that year, they split, and drummer Gary Murphy, perhaps a bit disillusioned at the non-release of the album, decided to take a break from the music business.

He was initially adamant, but having been approached by two very persistent ex-members of another Brighton band, The Motion, he eventually relented and agreed to play a jam session …. an that was it! He was hooked.

Hellmet were born.

A month or two later, while on a train journey and discussing just what direction their music should follow, they were overheard by one John Tobler, a respected music reviewer of the time and editor of the underground, Zig Zag magazine.

He took the band under his wing and wrote their first review, in his magazine. He also arranged gigs supporting likes of Groundhogs and Blodwyn Pig, and secured them a slot at the famed Marquee Club venue. All good, high exposure.

As a result of their gigging and growing reputation, they were then approached later in 1970 by local Brighton business who wanted to diversify and break into music management. It was they who financed the recording session at Orange Studios.

An album’s worth of tracks were laid down, but despite the master tapes being hawked around various record labels, no offer of a deal was forthcoming. The acetate, having passed through so many hands, was subsequently lost, and as with his previous band, Leviathan, drummer Gary Murphy had nothing to show for his commitment. The band folded.

(Lucky white heather, eh?)

As seems to happen with surprising regularity, the ‘masters’ somehow turned up fifty years later, and now the album has been made available by Seelie Court.

Musically, the five tracks cover several rock bases: ‘Hazy Shady Lady’ is a blues infused hard rocker; ‘Trust,’ has a Black Sabbath type riff and passes through a few mood and tempo changes, like all good prog tracks are require to do! At times, I’m reminded also of Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused.’ That type of song. ‘Judgement Day (Honest Religion)‘ is a rather sad melodic song about heroin addiction.

‘Sweet Bitch‘ is the first of only two tracks on side two. It’s another standard hard rocker, It’s fast and angry and I’d say my favourite on the album. Album closer ‘What is The Point (Of it All?) is another in the heavy rock mould, but with a jazzy interlude.

I have to say, I’m a bit confused though. The band name, album cover and especially the six paintings of Lucifer that adorn the inside of the gatefold sleeve, seem to contradict the image of the band (see above) and the music they produced.

Overall though, it’s been met with some excitement from collectors of prog rock albums and it’s great to see bands from all these years ago finally get recognition for their creativity.

HELLMET

Terry Aitken – Vocals
Stephen Day – Guitar
Ray Mellors -Bass
Gary Murphy – Drums

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Judgement DayLP1970*Seelie Court* Recorded in 1970 but only released in 2021 by Seelie Court.

girls in the garage #1

In the early to mid-Sixties, as Rock’n’Roll gripped the western world, it wasn’t just the boys who were kicking up a wild noise in the schools and clubs of their neighbourhood. The ‘Girls’ were at it too!

All female vocal harmony groups had of course been integral parts of the scene for a while, but all female garage bands? Girls with guitars? Drums?

You bet!

While it’s now widely known that record producers on both sides of the Atlantic would frequently employ the services of session musicians for the recordings, leaving the girls to present the ‘image,’ there were some bands that refused to comply.

The excellent ‘Girls in the Garage’ series of compilations highlights many of these groups, giving them, somewhat belatedly, a wider audience appreciation.

This first post celebrating ‘girls with guitars’ showcases a couple of my personal favourites.

THE CONTINENTAL CO-ETS

(The Continental Co-ets.)

Formed in 1963 in Fulda, Minnesota, The Continental Co-ets helped pave the way for many female bands in their city to follow. All teenagers at the time, they were headed by Carolyn Behr on guitar, together with Nancy Hoffman (bass) Carol Goins (guitar) and Vicki Steinman (drums.) Nancy’s sister Mary Jo would later join on keyboards.

Their ‘big break’ came when in 1964, they were challenged by local counterparts, The Vultures, to a ‘battle of the sexes.’ The girls won out and gained invaluable exposure. More importantly, they won financial backing from David Edwards, whose investment paid off when tours around the mid-West and Canada secured them a record deal with the IGL (Iowa Great Lakes ) label.

They managed to release just the one 7″ single, ‘I Don’t Love You No More’ / ‘Medley of Junk’ with a run of 1,000 copies being released. Two subsequent recordings ‘Let’s Live For The Present‘ and ‘Ebb Tide‘ were not backed by their label and in 1967 the band decided to call it a day.

THE GLASS OPENING

The Glass Opening were another female band coming out of Minneapolis. I don’t actually have much information on them, other than they released two singles in 1969.

Their debut, ‘All Those Lies‘ was on the Dondee label, a split 7″ with the band Major Six, which didn’t sell well at all. The follow-up though, this time on the Neworld label, ‘I’m On Your Prey‘ was miles better!

However, it too failed to sell and the band split.

I have to say, I feel this one deserved so much more. It even has a contemporary feel some fifty plus years later.

THE INTERPRETERS

Again, there’s not by way of background information to this band, but I love this single they recorded for the Gemini label in 1965. Band members Sylvia and Beate were originally from Frankfurt in Germany and had a couple of U.S. labels fighting over their signature. Gemini won, obviously, and scored a minor hit with this, the other side being ‘Stop That Man,’ an equally catchy little tune!





grannie

Phil Newton & Jan Chandler

From the age of fifteen and while travelling to and from work in central London, guitarist Phil Newton was writing song lyrics. He played in his own little band at that time, rehearsing in his Mum’s front room

Fast froward four years to 1969, and Phil was by now an accomplished Blues player. After befriending Dave ‘H’ Holland, who played bass, the two would often be asked to jam with Powerpack, resident band at the Bridge House, Canning Town.

Phil Newton
Dave ‘H’ Holland

Buoyed by the complimentary remarks on his guitar skills, Phil decided to again form a band. Dave, naturally came on board as bass player, and having played with them in a previous band, Dave recruited the talents of Ray Curtis on drums and Fred Lilley on vocals. For his part, Phil persuaded Jan Chandler to join up on flute and Mellotron (one of the first to be used by a band, I believe.)

Nobody seems to recollect exactly how the band name came about other than Phil suggested it, and the rest went with it! For a while, they played mainly covers of blues standards in local, London East End pubs.

Phil and Dave soon became drawn more to the progressive sounds of King Crimson, Yes and Led Zeppelin and Phil again took to writing his own songs, reflecting this new sound. These were gradually worked into the live sets, and went down well with the punters.

It was now 1971, drummer Ray Curtis had moved on, replaced by John Clarke and Grannie had become an established band in the capital. The next step in their progression, then, was to get their songs down on vinyl. An advert spotted in Melody Maker to record an album for £100 offered the ideal opportunity. and so the five-piece, joined by John Stevenson, who would play organ on the album’s nine-minute long closer, ‘Coloured Armageddon,’ booked their session at SRT Studios in Herfordshire.

None of the band had previous studio experience, and with a mere eight hours available, the tracks were all recorded ‘live,’ with no over dubs or double tracking.

The result was six tracks of mainly guitar driven progressive rock, encompassing a melodic and ‘psychedelic’ feel at times but also with a nod to the heavier side of rock music.

For their £100 investment, the band were presented with ninety-nine copies of the album, the plan being to use them more or less as demos, and hawk them around various labels in search of a record deal. Some would also be sold at live shows.

No deal was forthcoming however, but the band played on! Vocalist Fred Lilley left to be replaced by Steve Betts, and Grannie’s reputation continued to grow. They supported the likes of Uriah Heep, Groundhogs, Gnidrolog and Arrrival, playing iconic venues like The Roundhouse and Marquee, eventually securing a residency at the famous Speakeasy Club in West London. There they’d often play in front of stars in their own right such as, David Bowie, Elton John and Pete Townsend.

Drummer John Clarke left around this time, his place being taken by Graham Guthrie, but things were going well for the band. Until …

Having loaded all their gear into a transit van following a rehearsal at the Club, they discovered the next morning it had all been stolen from where it had been parked up overnight outside the house of the Club manager. Everything was gone, including Jan’s expensive mellotron. Much of the equipment was still being paid up an so with no means of replacing it, the band folded.

Over the ensuing years, collectors of this type of music clamoued for one of the ninety-nine original copies in existence. I don’t see any having been sold via Discogs, however, Vernon Joynson’s ‘Tapestry of Delights’ tome describes them as ‘very few exist and are very sought after,’ indicating a fetching price of between £1000 and £2000!

Of course, the increase in awareness and popularity has resulted in several limited re-pressings over the years, with the latest of these worth around £30.

**(Sadly, Phil Newton died alone at age fifty-one in 2001, before fulfilling his dream of fame that he’d held for many years.) **

GRANNIE

Phil Newton – Lead Guitar / Vocals
Dave ‘H’ Holland – Bass / Vocals
Jan Chandler – Flute / Mellotron / Vocals
John Clarke – Drums
Fred Lilley – Lead Vocals
+
John Stevenson – Organ

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Grannie LP1971SRT Prouctions


Reviews & Comment: Punk,, Psychedelic, Psych, Rock, Reggae, 60s Garage, Mod, Blues & Freakbeat.