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


sweet

The first single I ever bought was ‘Co Co’ by The Sweet, back in 1971. The second was ‘Alexander Graham Bell,’ by The Sweet. Over the years I gathered five of the band’s albums on vinyl and several compilations on CD.

You see, despite the stick I took at school, I was and am, proud to be called a Sweet fan. I guess I enjoyed being different.

Back in the early Seventies, my protestations that they were not simply a bubblegum pop band, and could rock it out with the best of them, fell on the deaf ears of Clapton and Zeppelin supporters. (Clapton fans must have been deaf, in my opinion, but that’s for another article!)

Bearing in mind Sweet have been around for over fifty-one years (with a couple years hiatus in the early ’80s) various line-up changes have been inevitable, not least due to the ill health and subsequent passing of Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker.

For a while two versions of the band existed; Andy Scott’s here in UK and Steve Priest’s in USA. Sadly, only Andy now remains of the original line-up – but he continues to uphold the ‘classic’ line-up’s legacy of of all those years ago.

Now though, with the very experienced touring musicians in Lee Small (bass) Bruce Bisland (drums) and Paul Manzi (lead vocals) Sweet have settled once again as a four-piece and continue to perform in front of sell-out crowds across Europe. In fact, their Covid-delayed ‘Hellraiser’ UK tour due to kick off towards the end of November.

In the spring of 2021, the new line-up released their ‘Isolation Boulevard‘ album – a re-recording of hits from the classic era of the band, together with an inventive cover of Hello‘s ‘New York Groove,’ and the December 2020 single, ‘Still Got The Rock.’ This is a really interesting album – all the songs are indeed very familiar, not straying too far from the original versions which is what you’d want to hear if going to a show. Yet is IS different. There is a deeper resonance, perhaps down to more advanced recording techniques but emphasized by Paul’s vocal delivery.

Naturally, many of the old hits will feature in the upcoming ‘Hellraiser’ UK tour and it was while rehearsing songs for the shows, that Andy decided what should become the new / current single.

During the rehearsals for Sweet’s forthcoming ‘Hellraiser’ tour in November and December 2021, we were trying out various songs from our back catalogue that could be added to the set list. As soon as I heard Paul Manzi and Lee Small’s vocals on the song ‘Everything,’ I knew that we needed to get it down and record it as our new single.” 

The song ‘Everything 2021′ is a totally new recording. It was originally featured on the album ‘Sweetlife‘ released back in 2002. “I think the new version is a far superior production,” says Andy. “It’s much closer to how I envisaged it when I co-wrote the song back in the day.”

Andy Scott
(Photo: Darren Griffiths)
Paul Manzi
(Photo: Darren Griffiths)

I agree. This new version has more ‘oomph.’ More ‘balls.’ Also, in Paul Manzi, Sweet have a specialist and focused singer. The earlier, 2002 version, was recorded with bass player Jeff Brown doubling up on vocals when then frontman Chad Brown unexpectedly left the band mid tour due to ill health.

The track has a kind of European / German rock sound to it, which is perhaps not so surprising considering the band seem to have spent so much time touring in that area over the years.

So, yeah – once a Sweet fan, always a Sweet fan. The musical landscape has shifted enormously during their life-span. They have seen disco, punk, post punk, grunge, indie, baggy, and many more genres emerge, overtake, then fade.

I’ve grown up with Sweet and while change is good and inevitable, life is sometimes even better for the comfort of constants.

The Glam may have faded ... but the Rock lives on!

(Just for old time’s sake! )

memory of a melody

I remember writing about San Antonio, TX band, Memory of a Melody in an earlier incarnation of Loud Horizon. I was pretty glowing in my review of their release at that time, and I’m not going to be any different this time around.

I have a feeling that the new single ‘Rise Up,’ may come from the same three song ‘Burn Alive‘ EP as did the excellent ‘Mary Go Round,‘ which is posted at the end of this piece.

‘Rise Up,’ is a fast and furious anthemic song of positivity. It’s the type of song that’s sure to get things kicking off big time down in the mosh pit!

Once again, we’re presented with melodic metal of the highest order. Gruff, abrasive vocals are surrounded by boisterous gang harmonies, pounding drums and screaming guitar. Not all ‘metal’ songs could be termed ‘melodic,’ but I guess this is in part at least, where the band’s name derives. ‘Rise Up,‘ is actually catchy as hell!

I like also the nod to punk / Oi! music with the ‘Hey! Hey!’ chants that intersperse the verses.

Yeah – my mosh pit days may be well behind me now, but if MoaM ever head over to Glasgow, you’ll definitely find me tapping my feet at the side of the stage!

Love it.

**********

(Just in time for Halloween, here’s a sinister sounding song to set you on edge…. earlier single release, ‘Mary Go Round.’)

mayfield’s mule

If I’ve been puzzled when writing previous posts as to how and why certain albums from the Sixties and Seventies achieved ‘cult’ status, then I’m completely flummoxed as to why THIS, recorded in 1970, has NEVER been released in UK.

Had it not been for me re-reading the sleeve notes to my Sweet albums, I would never have stumbled across this one. You see, I noted Sweet guitarist Andy Scott had previously played with this band. He didn’t actually play on the album, joining after its recording, and his stay was short-lived as the group disbanded not too long after.

It’s amazing though, how a little bit digging around reveals gems like this.

From North Wales, Mayfield’s Mule was formed by guitarist Chris Mayfield in 1969. Chris had previously played with several notable bands of the Sixties, including (the original) Nirvana and Ian Hunter. However, becoming a bit disillusioned at how his music career was panning out, he joined Amen Corner as a roadie.

It was when that band’s sax player, Mike Smith was presented with a few demos of Chris’s own work, that fortunes changed, leading eventually to a record deal. Gathering around him Pete Saunders (keyboards), Steve Bradley (bass) and Sean Jenkins (drums) Mayfield’s Mule was born.

The new band quickly recorded three singles on Parlophone, which between A and B sides swing from heavy rock to blues and country. Over the winter of 1969 / 1970, an album was cut at Abbey Road studios. All tracks were written by Chris himself, and the album covered many bases. Laced liberally with Hammond organ, I guess I’d sum the eponymous album as a blend of Creedence Clearwater Revival meets Canned Heat, meets Mungo Jerry, meets Deep Purple. It depends really what track you listen to!

P.P. Arnold contributes backing vocals on the album which was engineered by Alan Parsons. Mike Smith was also on co-production duties and he’d later join the band himself. So, some ‘big hitters’ were involved with the band at this stage.

Amazingly, for whatever reason, EMI decided against releasing the album in the UK. It did, though, secure a release in Uruguay of all places. Apparently the band had no input or indeed any notion that this was happening!

Not long after this, Andy Scott, who had played with drummer Sean Jenkins in The Elastic Band, joined …. which is where we came in.

(The album has subsequently been released – 2007 -in CD format by the Italian label, Night Wing, but that’s about as far as it goes. Any takers here in the UK?)

MAYFIELD’S MULE
Chris Mayfield – Guitar / Vocals
Steve Bradley – Bass / Backing Vocals
Sean Jenkins – Drums
Pete Saunders – Keyboards
+
‘Moxie’ Gowland – Harmonica / Flute
Andy Scott – Guitar
Mike Smith – Saxophone / Tambourine

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
(Drinking My) Moonshine 7″ single1969Parlophone
We Go Rollin’7″ single1970Parlophone
I See A River7″ single1970Parlophone
Mayfields Mule LP1970OdeonOnly released in Uruguay.

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