Category Archives: Bought Not Streamed

LAUREN NAPIER & VIC RUGGIERO: ‘Duets Vol. 1’

The sign of a good cover is when you’re able to sing along, confident in the lyrics …. but just not quite able to place the song title or original artist.

That’s exactly the case with this new release from Lauren Napier (multi talented vocalist / writer / model – aka Punk Rock Doll) and Slackers front man, Vic Ruggiero.

This five-track EP features covers of two established and popular songs – one a country classic, the other a Rolling Stones favourite. An added bonus are King Tony’s two fantastic dub interpretations of Lauren and Vic’s interpretations, if you see what I mean!

The Patsy Cline song, ‘Walkin’ After Midnight‘ is the one that threw me. The words were familiar, but the presentation was completely alien to me. Country done Reggae works marvelously well here. Lauren’s vocals are given a bit delay / echo and her haunting, dulcet pitch perfectly blends with Vic’s warm tones.

‘Dead Flowers,’ is one of those Stones‘ songs that every fan knows, but maybe is lesser known to the casual listener. I guess the original also has a bit of a Country feel to it, and again, it’s given a real infectuous and jaunty reggae backbeat.

Lauren and Vic work so well together. They play off each other so well on this and the videos I’ve seen. And as with everything I’ve heard Vic do, he sounds so relaxed in his delivery, almost casual-like, and yet there is a playfulness, a smile, behind the vocals that draws the listener in.

Yeah – another excellent one to go check out / buy!

A ‘straight’ version of ‘Walkin’ After Midnight.’ (Not the one on the EP)

SIMON JEFFERIS: ‘Vibrations.’

It would be terribly insensitive to say there’s anything ‘good’ to come from this dreadful situation the world finds itself in right now.
We have to accept that, for the immediate time being at least, Nature holds the upper hand but we need make best of the position we find ourselves in.

In my case, that means Saturday afternoons sat in the house listening to the radio instead of following my local football team. And that has resulted in my experiencing new sounds via the Gilles Peterson show on Radio 6Music.

Which, in turn, when skipping through Bandcamp the other day, I for the first time, checked out a forthcoming album that was portrayed as straddling the ‘jazz fusion,’ ‘hip-hop’ and neo-soul’ categories.

Now, I’m just a beginner when it comes to these genres of music. I’m more of a shallow, in your face, punk / rock kinda guy, but even I can tell ‘Vibrations,’ by SIMON JEFFERIS is pure class.

Brixton based multi-instrumentalist Simon has garnered a burgeoning reputation throughout London hip-hop circles these past few years for not only his music, but also his production skills.

This new album would appear to be his first since the ‘SJ’s Pockets – Vol 1′ EP back in 2017, though there have been several other digital tracks released along the way.

From the four tracks currently available to stream, ‘Vibrations‘ would certainly seem to be worth the wait. ‘White Rabbit,‘ is slow-funky, featuring the warm vocals of Rosie Lowe, while ‘High Grade,‘ is a smooth, slow burner which has the feel of a lovely, deep, chilled pillow for your head to sink into. There’s a lot going on in this track and each listen brings something new to the fore.

Something In The Water,’ makes me think of early Saturday evenings as I listen to Craig Charles’ show on the radio, and groove (in a very inelegant and sort of bad Dad Dancing way) around the kitchen with a couple of beers in hand as I prepare the meal. Like I’ve said, I’m new to this style of music, but this track, reminds me of The Meters and Deodato. (Apologies if I’m way out on this!)

My favourite track though, so far, is ‘Back 2 Ours.’ Featuring the rapped vocals of Abhi the Nomad, this one fuses a laid back jazz groove with hip-hop rhymes and beats.

I know I’m old, and only just about getting my head around accepting the concept of digital music – but THIS album is surely one to be listened to in its physical format. Some music is made for vinyl – this is one.

Oh – and thank you Gilles Peterson / Simon Jefferis for opening my ears to differnt styles of music. I’ll definitely be back for more.

Vibrations’ is released in both vinyl and digital formats via DeepMatter on June 12th 2020)

SAILOR POON: ‘Sailor Poon’s First Album.’

The trouble with finding bands on Bandcamp, is that it can be difficult to find out much about them.

The beauty of finding bands on Bandcamp is that you have no preconceived notion of what to expect; no inflated PR description to influence your thoughts, often leaving you on the distinctly underwhelmed side.

So here’s what I’ve got:
SAILOR POON are a five-piece, all girl group from Austin, Texas. They sound to me like a really interesting, fun and vibrant amalgam of old skool punk, mixed with a growling horror-pop undercurrent.

If doing that really annoying pretentious ‘wine tasting’ thing that not-very-good-music-writers often resort to, I’d say I could hear influences such as X-Ray Spex, The Stooges, The Horrors, The Cramps. And given the excellent and manic use of saxophone at various stages, you’d have to throw into the mix, the likes of The Comet Is Coming. It’s the law, apparently.

SAILOR POON have been around a good few years, initially as all bands do, messing around in their bedrooms and garages, before graduating to the local Austin punk scene.
Not long after, their demo was picked up on by King Khan, who invited the girls to join him on tour.

In 2016, a digital EP was released, (‘Yeast Pigeon‘) and the following year saw the album CD / digital release of ‘B-sides and Rarities.’ No – I’m not sure how that works, either.

I can find no other releases until this year, when February’s ‘Moneysnake Rising‘ digital single was the precursor to the free download of the lead track to this, ‘Sailor Poon’s First Album,’ – ‘Be My Dog.’

The music throughout the album’s thirteen tracks is high energy; frantic. Only the final track, ‘Fly in the Attic,’ tops three minutes in duration, which is just perfect for their spiky delivery. This particular track does hold back slightly on the tempo compared to the others, but does still climb to frenzied peaks with the discordant sax giving a bit of early Roxy Music feel, while the swirling keyboards and pounding drums reflect shades of Inspiral Carpets. There is also still that threatening, gothic growl underpinning the whole thing.

It’s an eclectic mix, for sure, but one that works so well. And as I’m now onto my 4th listen to the album, I’d say it has become my favourite track.

Too Many Boyfriends,’ is the direct antithesis – at only fifty-eight seconds and as fast as it’s furious. ‘Neglect Attraction‘ has a cult comic book feel to it – I think perhaps because the organ and bassline sound remind me a little of the B-52s.

And maybe the comic book reference is not too far from the truth, as the girls obviously have a wicked sense of humour, with a song titles like, ‘She Farts Like A Motorcycle,’ and the fourth track, (thirty-one seconds long) ‘New York’s All Right If You Like Saxophones.’


I’m conscious that throughout this wee piece, I’ve referenced several other bands. This is not something I generally like to do. But I think it fantastically exciting that I have been able to reference some of favourites and write about a band that can meld so many different sounds into something so fresh and vibrant – and importantly, without losing that defined punk sensibility.

SAILOR POON’S FIRST ALBUM – definitely worth checking out!



STONEGRASS: ‘Stonegrass.’

You know what? I actually know very little about the band STONEGRASS, or indeed this, I believe, their debut eponymous album.

See, I was skipping through Bandcamp again today and stumbled upon the pre-order page. Mention was made of ‘psychedelic,’ and ‘acid’ and ‘big bold psyche jams.’ And I guess that’s the importance of keywords, right there kids!

I was hooked and reeled in pretty quickly!

From what I can make out, STONEGRASS are essentially a duo from Toronto, Canada. Comprising bass / guitarist Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn and drummer Jay Anderson, they hooked up again after previously working together on their Spiritual Sky Blues Band project.

As I write, having just bought the album on pre-order, only two tracks of the seven have been made available:
Tea,’ is a thirteen minute long , stoner guitar wig-out; lots of wah-wah underpinned by a prominent bass line and crashing cymbals and drums. This was composed to be played LOUD, that’s for sure.

‘Frozen Dunes‘ to me has more of a desert rock feel to it. It’s certainly more laid back and dreamy / spaced out in its delivery. Jay’s rolling toms and bongos (says the writer with absolutely no musical experience!) lead the track through its seven minute duration, while effects-laden guitars cry and drift over the top.

I don’t think I’d be a million miles away in saying this track reminds me a bit of early Sleepy Sun, from back in the day.

Whatever – these two tracks on their own are well worth shelling out for, and with the other five being made available on release day, 22nd May, what’s not to like?

(The album will also have a limited edition – 300 – vinyl run. If the costs of importing from Canada to Scotland was not so prohibitive, I’d be right in there myself.)

VIC & KEPI: ‘After the Flood.’

Wow!

You know how it is: you’re on coronavirus lockdown, stuck in the house. There are no shops open, which means no record stores to hang out in. But that doesn’t really matter, ’cause you ain’t working and have no money anyway.

Bored out your box, you half heartedly surf through Bandcamp looking for something fresh. But it’s a struggle.

Then, BOOM!

I’ll admit, it was the album’s artwork that first caught my eye. Then the names … VIC RUGGIERO & KEPI GHOULIE. I know these dudes. Well, I know of them – they both already have places in my record and CD collections, courtesy of their history with The Slackers and Groovie Ghoulies respectively. This was gonna be good.

In fact, it was more than’good.’ The next thirty-five minutes or so were spent foot tapping and bouncing around my room to a good, old fashioned, stripped back rhythm & blues vibe.

My first reaction was it reminded me very much of the Rolling Stones album, ‘Stripped‘ from around 1995. I had never really noticed before, but perhaps because of the song content on this album, there is a similarity at times between Vic and Mick’s vocal intonation.

And then, just as I was reveling in this comparison, I reached track four, ‘Bright Lights.’ Of course this is a Jimmy Reed standard, but I recognised it from an ‘unofficial’ Stones album from back in the day when their staple was covering some of the big blues players from USA.

(An old performance of ‘Big Kiss,’ from 2017)

Several songs on ‘After the Flood,’ sound familiar, I have to say, though I really have no idea as to the writing credits. I do know, though, that Vic & Kepi cover the Shangri-las – twice. ‘Big Kiss,‘ at track six is a slowed down version of the Sixties hit. It works really well, though I personally prefer the album-closing version of the track, ‘Great Big Reprise,’ which is a lot more ‘perky’ in its delivery

There’s something really endearing about an acoustic and more organic interpretation of rhythm & blues. Maybe it’s because the bass lines have more room to cut through and add to the bouncy feel; maybe it’s because, as in this case, Vic & Kepi are afforded space to blend their vocals and interaction, or maybe it’s just that good music doesn’t need to be over complicated and cluttered.

Seriously, there’s not one dodgy track on this album. It just feels like the lads are playing a relaxed, fun jam and somebody left the recording switch on accidentally.

Which, actually, if you read the notes to this Bandcamp release …..

RORY GALLAGHER: ‘Check Shirt Wizard.’

It’s sad to say that very often, when our musical heroes pass on, their legacy is somewhat tarnished by the release of substandard recordings.

This is perhaps understandable where more ‘commercial’ artists are involved, their estates and labels seeking to capitalize on the fans’ grief, and milk every last penny from their ‘investment.’

But commercialism was never the aim of the game for Rory Gallagher, and with brother Donal curating the recordings, you just know that whatever is / has been released posthumously will remain true to the ethos of Rory.

Last year saw the release of double (vinyl) album / triple (cd) ‘Blues,‘ and we fans thought it could never get better – all that time (I have been too lazy to add the track lengths up) devoted to Rory’s specialist genre? Pigs in you know what, we were. (Said Yoda. )

But it just has! Gotten better, that is.

Check Shirt Wizard,‘ reverses the format of the previous release and gives us a triple vinyl / double compact disc, which to my immature mind is a lot more sexy.
That said, I still bought both!

I’m conscious that many of Rory’s ever expanding fanbase were not fortunate enough to have seen him play ‘live.’ But this release is a perfect illustration of what it was like to have been at a show, some forty-three years ago. (Forty-three???!!)

Rory was in his prime. He was backed magnificently by Gerry, Rod and Lou – what I’d consider the strongest line-up he ever played with. A concert those days would last the best part of two hours, in often very basic and sweaty surroundings. No frills; no glitz; no glamour; no posing; no pouting. Just blues infused rock ‘n’ roll as God intended.

This 1977 UK tour, promoting the latest album ‘Calling Card,‘ took in twelve shows in sixteen days, an eleven day break, then another six shows in eight days, with a final date at the Royal Albert Hall no less, a further couple of weeks down the line. Touring certainly was a bit of a slog in those days, but if you wanted your music to heard, this is what you had to do.

But Rory loved it – and this was reflected in his shows: full of energy, but with humility and good humour. These three vinyl records (recorded variously at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Brighton Dome, Sheffield City Hall and Newcastle City Hall) totally encompass this.

Everything about ‘Check Shirt Wizard‘ is spot on. The sound quality is top end – a studio quality recording that fuses the electric atmosphere of a live show. The fold-out sleeve and the photographs are beautiful, as is the eight page, colour insert that takes the form of an outsize concert programme. (Remember them?)

Obviously this particular version is not on ‘Check Shirt Wizard,’ but it is from the same year,

The majority of the twenty tracks are upbeat, boogie and riff-laden, and although recorded over the four different venues, they have been compiled in such a manner as to give the feel of one show. This means that in keeping with his live shows, Rory slips in a few more acoustic blues numbers just after the mid point.

In addition to eight of the nine tracks originally on the ‘Calling Card‘ studio album (only ‘I’ll admit You’re Gone‘ is missing) ‘Check Shirt Wizard’ gives us blinding versions of what became ‘standards’ such as ‘Tattoo’d Lady,’ ‘Going To My Hometown,’ and of course, ‘Bullfrog Blues.’ The latter of these three really did make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, especially towards the end when over the top of a heavy boogie riff, Rory thanks the crowd for attending and acknowledges the band members in his own inimitable style: “Lou Martin on keyboards! Lou Martin! Yeah!”

Up till now, I have always held ‘Live in Europe‘ as my favourite album – not just of Rory Gallagher, but ‘favourite album’ full stop. This though, could well replace it. It’s an awesome collection that if time permits, should be listened through track by track to get that full on concert experience.

‘Check Shirt Wizard‘: they don’t make them like you anymore.

*****
I always wished to have been at a gig that was recorded for release as an album at a later date. I wasn’t at any of the four shows that are included here, but I was at the Glasgow show that predated the tour, and was sat (until the bouncers turned away) just two rows back from the ticket stub pictured on the inside back cover of the album insert!
*****

THE CRAMPS: Trash is Neat #5 – The Band that Time Forgot.



This is an ultra limited, though unofficial, repress (Discogs lists it as only 100 copies on purple vinyl) of one of the rarest Cramps albums with 3 additional tracks including a second, little known version of ‘The Band That Time Forgot’ and revised artworks.

The compilation covers the early days of The Cramps around 1976 – 1984 with all of side one featuring the classic line-up of Lux Interior, Poison Ivy Rorschach, Nick Knox and Bryan Gregory.

Most of the songs, all recorded live, have rarely before been committed to vinyl, all coming from tapes that have been traded among bona fide Cramps fans – hence the ‘unofficial’ release description, I guess.

Interspersed with horror B-movie soundbites, this is a truly atmospheric album, though I do have to say that despite the efforts as described on the sleeve notes, the sound quality does leave a bit to be desired.