Tag Archives: featured

CHINA MOON: ‘Sleep Talking’ EP

Manchester three-piece, China Moon, are, I confidently predict, a band you will soon be hearing about on national radio.

Certainly, based on the evidence of the new five-track ‘Sleep Talking‘ EP, they are a perfect fit for Radio 6 Music.

There you go – colours to the mast!

Their music is new to me, but it is such a fresh amalgam of sounds that I was instantly drawn into the first track. ‘Nebula,’ portrays a deep sense of frustration and anger – at least it does to me – with the thumping beat and the vocal delivery in short stanzas. This impression is backed up with the video produced for the track.

The band’s second single release, ‘Lonely Game,’ is also on the new EP. It differs big time from ‘Nebula.‘ It’s perhaps not quite so ‘instant,’ and may appear a bit disjointed on first listen – but stick with it. There’s some lovely little surprises throughout its near four minutes duration.

Next up is ‘She Won’t Go Back To You.’ Again, different.
The song has a more conventional structure than the first two, but the harmonies rise and fall like a fairground carousel; a fairground carousel with slightly demented horses flaring their nostrils, the only mare among them being your nightmare.

Free Fall‘ I’ll be honest, I’m rather unsure about. I’m not convinced. I’m no musician. And I’m no technician either. But I think this could do with a bit of a remix. The vocal delivery doesn’t really work for me.

Final track, ‘Like That,’ is more upbeat and again shows what China Moon are capable of. There would appear to be some Arctic Monkeys echoes in this one.

But overall, China Moon give me the same feeling as did The Savage Nomads (now Artbreak) back in the day. Discordant flashes of guitar; staccato delivery and off kilter drums combine with a light Eastern / Indian style to create something original and exciting.

And hey – maybe you’ll like ‘Free Fall.’ Maybe it’s just a ‘me’ thing.

YIN YIN: ‘The Rabbit That Hunts Tigers.’

“We never had the intention to start a band,” says Yīn Yīn’s Yves Lennertz.  “Our idea was to just release a tape cassette for our friends.”

However, when you land on something as distinct as Yīn Yīn’s sound, it soon becomes an inevitability that more ears are going to be pricked.

The project began life in 2016 with Lennertz teaming up with Kees
Berkers. What was an experimental jam session soon became something more as the Maastricht-based pair were joined by Remy Scheren on bass and Robbert Verwijlen on keys.

I love the mix of musical cultures on this album. The base psyche sounds incorporate distinct Southeast Asia influences, combining at times with the twang of ‘spaghetti western’ soundtracks, at others, with generic funk and disco. Traces of North African Tuareg music also poke through.

The digital version, and some (now sold out) limited edition, coloured vinyl copies of the band’s debut album, ‘The Rabbit That Hunts Tigers,’ has been available via Bandcamp for a few months. But no worries, come April 20th 2020, the excellent Bongo Joe label will see that the album is more widely available, with a general release.

It’s most definitely worth checking out.

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!


I know – the title of the video above may give the impression that the former Nazareth and short-lived Zal Band guitarist is no longer with us…. but he very much is!

Rock fans in particular, and music fans in general, will be excited to see that the former host of 96.3 Rock Radio’s breakfast show has finally gotten around to creating (with a great deal of help) his own website.

Billy – back right.

And what a great read it is. None of your arty-farty, Billy Big Bollocks stuff here.
The content is really well written, in a self deprecating, chatty and humorous fashion and takes readers through Billy’s extraordinary journey (God, I hate that expression) from his time with schoolboy band, Phase .
And unlike so much on the internet these days, readers are encouraged to freely download and copy the content.

There’s plenty of music to download, but even if it’s not what would make your personal playlist, the story of how a young kid from Kirkintilloch makes good in the world of Rock is particularly interesting.

Definitely worth checking out.

Billy’s solo single made #52 in the U.S. Billboard 100 in 1984.


Who remembers these?

I stumbled across these two editions of Disco 45 when searching the loft for old school photos. They date from March and April 1971, so I’d have been just twelve years old when I bought them.

This would have been around the time of my musical awakening, graduating from the Military Bands and Stage Musical LPs of my parents, to my own rebellious choice of, erm, John Kongos.

From the age of around six or seven, I had been an avid reader of comics such as Beano; Dandy; Beezer; TV-21; Victor, Hotspur etc.. Disco 45, though, was the first ‘grown up’ magazine I bought.

Boy, I felt so cool, man.

Disco 45 ran from November 1970 until July 1983, producing a total of 153 issues, including some ‘Specials’ featuring the likes of T. Rex and David Cassidy.

In the main, it featured the lyrics of the hits at the time, though why it felt the readership required help in memorizing the words to Argent’sHold Your Head Up,’ I’m not quite sure ( see opposite.)

*** It puzzled me greatly that this song should figure in a magazine issued in April 1971, when it was not a hit until the following year (March.) It appeared on the band’s third album ‘All Together Now,’ which only came out in 1972.

The world right now is trying to address a climate emergency; the coronavirus is spreading across the planet and every country seems to have a Dad bigger than the next one.

But being a real saddo, the question of Argent’s appearance in a 1971 edition of Disco 45 troubled me more. So I dug around, and found that the band had indeed released an early (non hit) version of the song in 1971.

Want the details? Released on the Epic label (EPC 9135) the three track, 33rpm picture sleeved EP also featured the songs, ‘Closer To Heaven’ and ‘Keep On Rollin’.’ ***

The magazine’s production was an innovative concept at the time. It would be easy to say it reflected such an innocent time in all our lives, and the idea of taking out a ‘small ad,’ seeking to exchange pictures of Roxy Music for Marc Bolan, or David Cassidy for Donny Osmond is quite endearing.

But knowing what we do now, you would have to question the notion of thirteen year old girls seeking boy penpals in the 13 to 15 age bracket (‘must be good looking’) and giving their full names and addresses for replies!

Wouldn’t happen nowadays.

Still, I’m sure I’m not the only person who looks back on these magazines with great fondness and regards them as a step towards adulthood. Or stroppy teenager, at least.

THE MEMBRANES: ‘Nocturnal’ (Kitty Lectro Remix.

See – here’s the thing with remixes: I almost feel kinda guilty if I like one better than the original.

I always think a band wouldn’t have released the version they did if they felt it could be improved upon.

But I obviously tend to overthink things.

Until about ten minute before writing this post, I thought that the track ‘Nocturnal,’ from the Membranes‘ latest album (June 2019) ‘What Nature Gives … Nature Takes Away) was as good as it gets.

But I was wrong. THIS is as good as it gets!

The Kitty Lectro remix is brilliantly dark, broody and moody. It has a retro ‘goth’ feel to it and is almost like a new track entirely.

Both versions merit a play – you decide.

(Featured, header, photo by @rshashamane )

THEATRE ROYAL: ‘Incidental Friend.’

It’s not very often that a band appears on the music scene, one hundred per cent ‘ready.’

Rochester band Theatre Royal are one .

I have been banging about them from virtually day one, and now, ahead of their fifth album release, due early next year, they have confirmed my faith with their excellent new ‘Incidental Friend‘ EP.

The four tracks will be drip-released over the next three weeks, with the title track available from today (1st November.)

Theatre Royal have never really strayed from what they do best – clear, melodic harmonies with hooky choruses and thoughtful lyrics. Their songs have the knack of immediacy, without being in your face, as such. And ‘Incidental Friend’ is no different in that regard.

Although I have said they arrived ‘one hundred percent ready,’ there has always been a natural progression, and this track shows a further maturity. It somehow feel just a little bit more polished; a little bit more relaxed in the delivery – like this is a band who appreciate their strengths and know where they want to sit in whole scheme of things. A band confident in their skin.

Look – it’s not just me. If blokes like Steve Lamaq dig them, then I need say no more.

Go check ’em out.