Search Still Got The Fever

Sunday 26 October 2014

Thursday 4 September 2014

Robert Plant : Lullaby and ... The Ceaseless Roar review

Rock giant Robert Plant returns with a new album on Monday - one he has described as “a celebratory record, powerful, gritty, African, trance meets Led Zeppelin”.

And he’s certainly not afraid to explore the avenues of the past without retreading old ground, mixing and matching influences, marrying East and West, and then adding new twists.

There’s much that will delight the faithful who have followed the 66-year-old West Bromwich singer’s career through blues, rock and roll, country and world music, all of which are referenced.

Lullaby And...The Ceaseless Roar finds him in the company of his Sensational Space Shifters, whose eclectic influences enable the band – and it feels very much a collaborative effort – to excel.

Old pal Justin Adams brings bendirs, djembe, guitars and tehardant to the party; John Baggott adds keyboards, loops, moog bass, piano and tabal; Billy Fuller plays bass of all shapes.

Jazz drummer Dave Smith brings busy beats, Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson plucks banjo and guitar, while newcomer Juldeh Camara adds the exotic influence of kologo, ritti and Fulani vocals.

Here’s the track-by-track verdict:  

Little Maggie: Tyson’s banjo ushers in traditional porchfront Americana but just as you’ve settled back in the rocking chair, it heads East instead, with all manner of Camara’s exotic instrumentation. Then, just when you think you’ve figured the itinerary out, it’s underpinned by Baggot’s trance synth. It’ll take a second listen to get hooked by the irresistible rhythm, and then there’s no turning back. *****

Rainbow: An atmospheric song that Bono would surely kill for, it’s driven by softly insistent guitar, with Plant adding post-Orbison vocal swoon. You can already see the pinprick light of mobiles waving in the air. This one’s immediate, a simple song at heart. ****

Pocketful Of Golden: The Eastern influences return – and is that a sly nod to Zeppelin classic Thank You? – for a lovingly layered song boasting rich reverb and a mantra-like vocal delivering lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place on the old band’s albums. ****

Embrace Another Fall: A trance-like song of regret rides in on sandy desert winds until the peace is shattered by the thunderclap of rock guitar power chords that Pete Townshend would be proud of. But the killer is the cameo Celtic folk vocal from Julie Murphy. If Peter Jackson’s still looking for the end credits soundtrack for the third Hobbit movie, he need look no further. *****

Turn It Up: A stripped back but musically muscular track does what it says on the tin, with Plant reprising the banshee wail that conquered the world. Fractured guitar from Adams ups the ante and may have you thinking of David Bowie’s Outside adventures. ***

A Stolen Kiss: Plant has never sung so sweetly as on a bittersweet beauty of a song backed just by echoey piano recorded in St George’s Chapel, Bristol. The lyrics give the album its title, and seem inspired by his painful break-up with Patty Griffin. A late mournful guitar adds to the melancholy mood. *****

Somebody There: The Zeppelin faithful will lap up the reverb-drenched 12-string electric guitar here, recalling a certain double-necked axe used by Jimmy Page on a certain song whose name shall not be mentioned. It’s another gentle song with a classic Plant vocal. ****

Poor Howard: Playful porchfront nostalgia informed by Tyson’s banjo, it’s almost like a skipping song. Nicola Powell adds backing vocals and you can almost see the big grin on an old rocker’s face. ***

House Of Love: Surprisingly straight-forward musically, it’s another song reflecting on loss and although it picks up pace is the album’s onlty lacklustre offering. Every classic album has a weak link. This is it. **

Up On The Hollow Hill: Irresistible guitar riff? Check. Hypnotic rhythm? Check. Eastern atmosphere? Check. Guitar solo? Check. Softly sung, almost ethereal vocal? Check. Okay, you know where we’re going here. *****

Arbaden: Subtitled Maggie’s Babby, it’s a reprise of the opening track but given added Eastern overtones. 

Overall verdict: Robert Plant is never going to escape a glorious past, so the trick here is to dump all the baggage, pretend Zeppelin never flew and imagine that this is the first outing by a new artist you never heard before.
And, d’you know, it’s the best debut you’ll hear all year.

Sunday 22 June 2014

The Eagles : Mobile phone ban is good for you

The Eagles. They're my favourite band of the moment.

Not because of their music, excellent as it may have been over the years.

Not because of the humour and dry wit of their History Of The Eagles tour, which I caught at Birmingham`s LG Arena a few weeks back.

And not because of that Hotel California guitar solo.

No, the reason I have a newfound love of the band is simple.

It's because they BAN mobile phones.

Take a photo, shoot a video, make a call, send a text and odds are a steward will pounce to confiscate your mobile.

That's dreadful, that's outrageous, phone addicts will cry.

No it's not. It's a long overdue breath of fresh air.

Now it may well be a paranoid band of control freaks wary of bootleggers. 

I don`t really care. I just want to say thank you.

I`m sick to the back teeth of craning my neck to get a sightline to the stage through a forest of mobiles held aloft.

I want to punch the bloke standing behind me yelling down his phone: "Can you hear that? They're playing such and such a song."

Consider this. You shell out eighty quid to see your favourite band. You get there early to get down the front if it`s a standing gig.

The band you've waited months to see hit the stage, and what d'you do?

You fiddle with your phone, trying to catch the moment on a blurry, shaky video.

You've missed that moment.

They play your favourite song. You can't clap, yell or dance because it'll spoil the video.

You've missed that moment, too.

Because the moment you get out your phone you're putting distance between yourself and the moment, just like war photographers will tell you.

You're sacrificing emotion, excitement and the sheer bloody joy of being alive.

And for what?

A few minutes of lousy footage to put up on YouTube. For nothing more than bragging rights.

When I started reviewing gigs for a living many years ago I used to take a notebook and copiously detail every song, every moment.

I soon got rid of that notebook, preferring to live the gig. I think the reviews were better for it too.

So that's why I love The Eagles just now.

Well done guys. Take it easy.

Thursday 12 June 2014

For Dad and Mum, dearly departed

Been a long time since I rock and rolled...

The death of first my father, and then my mother, within a few short months put the blog on hold.

So it’s only fitting that I return with something of a personal tribute.

I have a lot to thank my parents for.

From my mum I got a love of reading and writing that has served me well over the years

And thanks to my dad I fell in love...

With music.

As a child I loved the sound, the sight, even the smell of his long-playing records in their cardboard covers.

There was Bert Kaempfert, Buddy Holly, James Last, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash.

Because Maurice loved his music.

When he built his own hi-fi, I was full of wonder.

“What does it do?” I asked.

“You’ll be able to hear the musicians breathe,” he told me.

And, d’you know, he was right.

It was a revelation.

When the time came, he bought me my first album. It was Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Not fashionable these days, but a major release back then.

We listened to every note together, read all the lyrics together.

When I reached the age of 15 I was desperate to go to my first rock concert.

I’d heard The Strawbs were good, so my dad queued up in Manchester to buy tickets.

A few days later we saw them on a TV show called Disco 2.

They strummed their guitars, playing jangly folk rock – and they were bloody awful.

Dad and I looked at each other and said, as one: “Naaaahhh....”

He managed to swap the tickets for a gig by The Byrds.

Roger McGuinn’s Byrds. McGuinn, Clarence White, Skip Battin, Gene Parsons.

Lovers of the bayou.

I wanted to fit in so my dad took me to a shop in Blackpool where I got kitted out.

Yellow flowery shirt, blue flares, a big steel buckled belt, a suede jerkin.

If he raised an eyebrow, I missed it. I thought I looked the bee’s knees.

Truth was, I looked more like a very camp window cleaner.

We got to the Free Trade Hall to find everyone wearing faded T-shirts, denim and greatcoats.

I didn’t care. We loved every minute. 

Eight Miles High stretched out to nigh on half an hour. I was hooked. We both were.

We went to see Sha Na Na, Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Mayall, BB King, Fairport Convention, Santana, Wishbone Ash and many more.

And each time it was a toss-up as to which of us had enjoyed the gig more.

My dad became such a regular visitor to the Free Trade Hall that the security guards recognised him by sight.

Once, I was offered tickets to see a string quartet playing an obscure piece – but I couldn’t go.

Dad and mum went instead,

“Are you sure you’ve come to the right place?” the man on the door asked them.

They sneaked out during the first interval.

“Didn’t reckon you’d last that long,” grinned the doorman.

Our love affair with music never ended.

When I turned 50 a colleague said to me: “You’ll have to stop going to see all those noisy rock bands, get some slippers and listen to The Bachelors.” 

“You should meet my dad,” I replied. “He’s 80 and loves his Creedence. You can hear it down the street!”

In recent years I’d introduced dad to the blues guitar of Joe Bonamassa. He’d introduced me to some Gaelic folk groups.

That’s something I’ll always do. Whenever I hear great music, I’ll still say: “You should hear this one, Dad!”

Because I’m sure he’ll be listening somewhere.

Thank you Dad. I’ll miss you.

Maurice Cole 1924 - 2013

Jean Cole 1931 - 2014

Rest in Peace (or as loud as you want).

Friday 28 February 2014

Crippled Black Phoenix : White Light Generator review

You wait years for a new Pink Floyd album to arrive and then... nothing comes all at once.

Thank God, then, for Crippled Black Phoenix, whose new album White Light Generator is shot through with Floydian flourishes.

Drifty intros? Check

Whispering voices? Check

Gilmourian guitar? Check

Wright-on keyboards? Check

Light and shade? Check

Bursts of aggression? Check

Following their Poznan live double, CBP return with a studio set divided into a black side (rocky) and white side (not so rocky).

But it’s not as black and white as that.

Because after faux intro Sweeter Than You (Seamus, anyone?) the lengthy two-part No! sounds like a Floyd out-take.

No, scrub that. It sounds like Floyd at their best, certainly better than the band’s latter years output.

But then standout Let’s Have An Apocalypse Now is more Sabbath than sonics, and Black Light Generator nods to Hawkwind.

And Parasites is a song Primal Scream would holler for.

There’s an untitled spoken word bridge, then Northern Comfort springs a surprise.

Opening like a leaden old school rock and roll driving song, it takes a turn to the East, picking up exotic scales and key changes.

Wake Me Me When It’s Time To Sleep is back to Pink Floyd.

Caring Breeds Horror and You’ll Be Murdered continue in similar vein before the gentle We Remember You gradually builds musical muscle.

But it’s left to A Brighter Tomorrow to up the ante again, and again it’ll delight frustrated Floyd fans with its neo-Western synth-horns.

Says frontman Justin Greaves: “I wanted to make an album that’s more simple, just good songs which are more about feeling than musical prowess, and with less meddling and manipulation in the production.

“I think it came out well as a result. If you like older, more warm and mushy, less sparkly clean sounds, then maybe you’ll like this.”

Interesting. Could have said the same about Meddle back in the day.

What’s most surprising is that CBP are mostly Brits, a sort of prog-rock co-operative whose members shift and change.

Catch them live on UK tour in May. Here are the dates:

May 23: O2 Islington Academy, London

May 24: Academy 3, Manchester

May 25: Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh

May 27: Robin 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton

A Great Big World : Say Something

New York duo Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino go global with Is There Anybody Out There?

It's a debut album built of finely crafted, quirky, singer-songwriter pop highlighted by single Say Something, featuring a surprisingly subtle guest spot by Christina Aguilera.

She heard the song, pleaded for the chance to join in, then watched as it swept the States after featuring on TV shows including The Voice.

Now released here in the UK, the song will put you in mind of Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter with its emotional punch and melancholic melody.

It's just one of those timeless tracks that will be everywhere.

Take a look at the heartbreaking video...

Neil Young & Crazy Horse announce UK show

Neil Young & Crazy Horse have announced a UK gig.

They’ll be playing the Liverpool Echo Arena on July 13.

Last summer’s shows in support of the Psychedelic Pill album were heralded as some of the greatest live events of 2013.

But a Liverpool date of the tour had to be cancelled after an injury to guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro.

Tickets for the show are available at or by calling 0844 8000 400.

No word yet on whether local hero Ian McNabb will be available for the support slot.

The former Icicle Works frontman had been set for the original date.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – completed by Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot – also recently announced a Barclaycard presents British Summer Time show in London’s Hyde Park on July 12.

The line-up also includes support from artists including The National and Tom Odell.

Thursday 6 February 2014

No Sinner : Colleen Rennison - hot blues in hot pants

“I love the smell of whisky, and I hate the taste of gin, but I’ve always been at home in a place that’s soaked in sin...”

Yep, Colleen Rennison’s back in town. Winter suddenly got warmer.

The 25-year-old Canadian blues belter fronts No Sinner, the band everyone’s talking about since Amazon made Boo Hoo Hoo their free single of the week.

No Sinner? It’s Rennison in reverse. Geddit?

The band’s debut mini-album Boo Hoo Hoo came out towards the end of January in the UK, and it’d be a sin to miss it.

Because Colleen Rennison is a hard-singing, hard-loving, hard-drinking, hard-working throwback to the icons she grew up listening to – Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Big Mama Thornton and Bessie Smith.

“People have told me I sound like Janis Joplin since I was five years old,” says the Canadian songbird, who has a penchant for denim cut-off pants.

“My mom was a little wary of introducing me to Janis’s music at an early age. Maybe she wanted to keep me away from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll as long as possible.”

If that was the case, mom failed miserably because Rennison is inciendiary.

The mini-album finds her in the bad company of guitarist Eric Campbell, drummer Ian Browne and bassist Bradley Ferguson. Back home in Canada, they’re already building a huge reputation.

Boo Hoo Hoo travels from the juke-joint jump blues rockabilly of its title track to the bad-ass blues rock and roll of Devil On My Back, which finds Matt Camirand’s scuzzy bass moonlighting from the Black Mountain day job.

Running is Delta swamp, albeit more Quo than Creedence; Love Is Madness rides a Motown bassline and has a Dusty Springfield “Spooky” vibe; Rise Up is a spiritual for which Rennison smooths out her world-weary vocal.

There’s a cover of Nina Simone’s version of Nat Adderley’s Work Song, but it’s That’d Be The Day that sends shivers down the spine as Rennison duets simply but soulfully with Campbell’s softly overdriven guitar.

No Sinner’s music, says Rennison, is about the clash between the sacred and the profane, the preacher and the devil, the sins of Saturday night at the being washed away on Sunday morning in church.

It’s the contradiction at the very heart of rock’n’roll.

“We need a healthy dose of good and evil in our lives,” says Rennison. “Music is a medium between us and the spiritual world. Our songs express the gamut from sinful to celestial.”

So how did it all start after she heard Janis sing Mercedes Benz.

In her hometown of Vancouver, Rennison started writing songs with Parker Bossley (formerly of Hot Hot Heat) and joined up with future band members Campbell and Browne, for a weekly Thursday night residency at Guilt and Company, a club in Vancouver’s Gastown district.

“I honed my chops, my stage confidence, my style and versatility,” she explains. “I learned to play with other musicians.”

Known for performing in a T-shirt and cut-off jeans, Rennison’s larger-than-life, whiskey-swigging, last of the red hot blues mamas is no act.

“So much of the music I started listening to as a girl came from churches and gatherings where people congregated and sang their blues away,” she says.

“‘It’s a dirty business loving me,” I warn in If Anything,” she grins. “That’s a disclaimer for anyone who wants to get involved with me.

“I’m warning you now.”

Rennison is an old soul, wiser than her years might suggest. “I want to bridge the gap between class and trash,” she says. “I love the idea of these women who very much lived in a man’s world, touring on the road.”

Certainly her performance echoes Maggie Bell’s early days in Stone The Crows, and traces a path all the way through to contemporaries such as Gin Wigmore. It’s old school and proud of it.

“We write whatever comes to us. We’re fans of a variety of different sounds and all kinds of music. We’re inspired by the way bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, early Kings of Leon and the White Stripes brought the blues and rock back to basics.

“We’re into so many different styles of music that we have the liberty to do what we please. We really don’t have a formula.

“We’ve here to make our own mark. Now stop asking questions, and listen to the music...”

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Ted Nugent : Motor City Mayhem & Sweden Rocks review

He’s 65 years old and ornery as hell.

But rock loudmouth, gun nut and all-round guitar star Ted Nugent still ruffles feathers.

In an explosive way. And usually involving hunting dogs.

He has, of course, lambasted Barack Obama; he has hinted he may stand for public office.

Earlier this year, at a Las Vegas hunting and outdoor trade show, the Michigan marauder was recorded stating: “I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America”.

Don’t pull your punches, Ted.

His next tour is going out under the banner of ‘Black Power’.

Don’t ask...

All of which is typical of the larger than life Amboy Duke made good.

But all of which tends to overshadow a fundamental truth.

His studio albums may be patchy (don’t get me started on Damn Yankees) but Ted Nugent’s gigs pack feelgood frenzy.

The re-release of two live albums – Motor City Mayhem and Sweden Rocks, now packaged as a double-CD set – is a timely reminder of what Nugent was placed upon this earth to actually do.

Entertain us.

Recorded in hometown Detroit on Independence Day, Motor City Mayhem originally saw light of day in 2009.

It’s an unashamed crowd-pleaser – Nugent’s 6,000th gig apparently – with Ted given to bellowing “Free-e-e-dom!” in every other song.

All the hallmarks are here, Wango Tango, Wang Dang Sweet Poontang and Free For All served up in inimitable fashion.

There’s a Hendrix-inspired Star Spangled Banner (well, it is July 4) and covers of Bo Diddley and Baby Please Don’t Go. It’s an old-fashioned, old school rock and roll night out. With beer. Plenty of beer.

But it’s the unholy trinity of Stormtroopin’, Cat Scratch Fever and Stranglehold that remind you that, hell, Ted Nugent sure can write a mean riff.

(As he likes to inform the crowd, and at every opportunity).

The Sweden Rocks swet, originally released in 2008, offers pretty much the same songs in different order – plus the likes of Snakeskin Cowboys, Soul Man and Still Raising Hell.

And that, of course, is what the gun-loving political pensioner continues to do.

Pop it in the car player, hit the motorway and crank the volume up to 11.

It ain’t pretty. But you’ll feel a whole lot better for it. Honest.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Bruce Springsteen : High Hopes review

You’ve just stepped off the bus at the end of a marathon world tour, the adrenaline still coursing through your body. Suddenly, you’re at a bit of a loss, time on your hands.

Who you gonna call?

Tom Morello, that’s who.

And the tricksy Rage Against The Machine axeman, now seemingly surgically attached to the E Street Band, is round in a flash. “So whaddya want, Boss?”

For his 18th studio album, Springsteen has plundered the archives once more. It’s a wander down memory lane that worked for Tracks and The Promise, and works again, if with mixed results.

Working with Morello, he’s revisited recent live set staples American Skin (41 Shots) and a turbocharged Ghost Of Tom Joad, the Rage guitarist’s slippery licks turning the sombre solo turn into stadium rock.

The rest of the songs are out-takes, the so close yet so far songs that didn’t make the final cut for his last six albums, dating back to 2002’s The Rising, and have now been given a makeover.

Album opener High Hopes – a Havalinas cover – boasts all the Boss’s recent hallmarks, a singalong holler that combines Celtic tradition with New Orleans swagger, rock and roll with a hint of RATM steel.

The finalĂ© is another cover, of Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream, which doesn’t fare as well, syrupy strings and drum loops replacing the post-punk duo’s gutter drone. Some things are better left alone.

In the crime noir setting of Harry’s Place Morello fires machine gun guitar across throaty sax originally laid down by the late Big Man, Clarence Clemons. And, yes, that’s Danny Federici, who died in 2008, playing organ on moving Vietnam memorial The Wall.

The rest are by the E-Street numbers, although Springsteen’s filler sets faster than most band’s polished product.

Frankie Fell In Love proves an old-fashioned frat-rock riot; Heavens Wall goes gospel; Down In The Hole is one of those reflections on despair that The Boss does so well; Just Like Fire Would as forgettable as the pun intended.

This Is Your Sword, a song originally due to appear on a ‘lost’ gospel album since dropped, should have remained undiscovered. Hunter Of Invisible Game, an acoustic waltz, mines a similar vein but is at least Dylan dusty.

But, let’s face it, you’ll buy the album for The Ghost Of Tom Joad, especially if you saw it live on the Wrecking Ball tour.

And, just for the record, Nils Lofgren’s onstage tour de force beat Morrello’s tricks hands down.

* A limited edition version of High Hopes adds a live concert DVD of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band running through the Born In The USA album live at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park last year.