Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Friday, 25 November 2011


Welcome back after our brief intermission.
Hope you've had a chance to grab a beer, smoke a reefer and have some wild sex with a stranger you've just met in a bar.
Now its time to get back on your hog and back into the desert that is Hollywood biker movies.
We're going to take you to some pretty far-out places so better drop that acid now - you're gonna need it!

We're into 1969 and the biker craze is still going strong. However, while keeping the drinking, dangerous driving and rampant sex, most bikers are now the bad guys. No longer misunderstood misfits, by the end of the sixties, as the hippie dream started to fade with Altamont (real bikers no less!) and Manson (real sex mad crazies no less!) bikers are now out and out villains.

And what could make the point more starkly than this film?

A really nasty film in which bikers do little else other than rape and kill innocents, while riding through the desert this is probably as close to real exploitation this side of a snuff movie.
Starring, somewhat incredibly Russ Tamblyn from West Side Story this nasty piece of work was allegedly filmed at the Spahn Ranch in Simi Valley at the same time that the Manson Family were living there.
Its another soundtrack with a Mike Curb connection. This time yet another of his cohorts, Harley Hatcher is given the reins and he produces some of the lamest, softest, most pathetic music for any film, much less such a vicious and amoral biker movie.
The Nightriders are credited with some tracks, and Mr Hatcher takes credit for a few as well.
But it is the mysterious Paul Wibier who is the diamond in the rough here. His title theme is so preposterous that it tips over from parody into something truly dark and disturbing.

1969 also saw the release of Hell's Angels 69.
Renowned for starring Angels from the famous Oakland Chapter this film shows us that Sonny Barger, Terry the Tramp, Magoo, Winston and Preacher were better at being bad to the bone than they were at acting. My God, they were probably better at almost anything than acting!

The movie is a surreal mix of the bright lights of Las Vegas circa Fat Elvis and mean long-haired drug-addled Angels - two things that just shouldn't be put together.
The soundtrack by Tony Bruno is quite good.
As usual, I struggle to see Sonny and his mates putting in on the record player but if you like your music funky then there are a couple of cool tracks here.
The best of the bunch are Goofin and Chase of Death.
Needless to say the vocal numbers are very weak - including a track by the wonderfully named Stream of Consciousness.
One to pick up if you see it for cheap.
Here is Chase of Death - a great clip for the bike action as well:

A rather sad coda to the Arrow's involvement in Biker Movie Soundtracks - although not quiet the last fling for Davie Allan.
Its a rather sad shadow of the former Davie Allan glories - just as the film is more like Herschel Gordon Lewis's  She Devil's On Wheels than Wild Angels.
Davie produces an adequate title track and recycles an earlier tune as the Angry Mob.
After that its a very sedate affair.
It would be fun to imagine that Davy Jones and the Dolphins are somehow connected to the Monkees' Davy Jones. But alas no.
Somebody's Chyldren are best avoided.
The back of the sleeve advertises a novel based on the film. Would love to track down a copy!

Also released in 1969 was Run Angel Run.

My wife hates this cover!
The music is by the ever reliable Stu Philips so you can expect some goodies.

The Tammy Wynette title track,however, is confusing on so many levels that I can't really do it justice in words.
We have the usual made up band - this time the Windows
And as usual Phillips provides some slightly off-kilter interesting and funky tracks.
Its not quite what you would call THE funk but it makes for an interesting listen

The music for Wild Wheels is as confused as the movie itself. The film doesn't know if it wants to be a beach movie with dune buggies or a biker film.
The movie attempts an update of some of the beach movie cliches by adding some harder edged biker elements but never really gets away from those very cliches and, for me, remains too close to the beach side of things.
In some ways however, it does show the cross over from one form of exploitation movie to another and perhaps why surf type instrumental music was featured in so may biker films.
Harley Hatcher is again in charge and as usual turns in a very whitebread effort.
Terry Stafford also features and Carole Curb (a relation to Mike?) handles the linears.
There is a tune called Makin' Love which features an uncredited Davie Allan on guitar. It turns up on a number of earlier biker movies under other names but there's something about the innocence of the lyrics that tickles my fancy.

Back to some more hardcore biker fare with Naked Angels and one of the nastiest covers of any biker soundtrack - or possibly any soundtrack.
Jeff Simmons, who would later join the Mothers of Invention, together with Randy Sterling are responsible for this acid rock offering.
With loud drums over rock jams and dirty fuzzy guitars, this feels like the closest music to what bikers might actually listen to.
There's a loose feel to the music that epitomises the devil-may-care biker cliche.
And unlike many biker soundtracks its a pretty good listen all the way through

Angel Unchained was my first biker soundtrack which I picked up for cheap on the basis of the cover alone.
I should have read the linear notes first!
The music is by Randy Sparks (surely not his real name!) who according to  the notes composed to The Littlest Hobo, toured with Bob Hope and wrote for Disney and the Singing Nun. He also likes to sing about conservation and ecology. Oh dear!
And sure enough the music is soft enough to drip through the cracks in the pavement.
Let's just say that this one doesn't get on to the turntable much.

The Angels Die Hard soundtrack features a track by Fever Tree which seems to be why most people are interested in it.
The rest is largely taken up by a band called East-West Pipeline. Although I can't find anything about them they do sound like a real band and not a fictional group.
Their sound is west coast rock with some nice vocal harmonies.
There is also quite a fun version of Sly Stone's I Want to Take You Higher which is so bad is good.
The highlight for me is this track by Rabbit MacKay - again about whom I can find nothing


 CC & Company starred baseball player Joe Namath and Ann-Margret who is a long way from her Elvis days!

For reasons best known to himself, Lenny Stack (a name almost as good as Randy Sparks) chose to produce a big band funky soundtrack to a biker movie.
Sure he added some fuzzy guitar action but if you want some biker rock then look away now!
If however you have a fancy for orchestral funk then this is the record for you!

The wind was beginning to go out of the bike movie sales but the bandwagon had a little way to go before it completely ground to a halt.

Harley Hatcher is back for the Hard Ride and after his previous efforts you have to ask why.
The so-called smash single touted on the front is a sub-Tom Jones bash through the hymn that would embarrass a rural church choir.
As for the rest Harley turns in his usual soft and unremarkable work.
Davie Allan appears, again uncredited, on the Sounds of Harley track and this is the best of the bunch, again showing the links between surf exploitation and biker exploitation.

 The Outlaw Riders came out in 1971 and features music by Simon Stokes and the Nighthawks, apparently taken from his first album, although I've never heard it.
Stokes was a psych blues rock bandleader from LA and his music was actually listened to by bikers.
Its not hard to see why from these tracks. Anguished vocals, driving rhythm and searing guitars, these tracks are dirty and hard and are just what you think should be in a biker film.
Even the tracks that are not by Stokes are pretty good in a hard rocking kinda way.
Judging from the film stills on the back cover the movie was pretty dire but the album has a roughneck charm that I can't quite put my finger on. Good stuff!

A bit like the Sidehackers, On Any Sunday isn't really a biker movie, rather its a movie about people who ride bikes.
Anyway here it is - so sue me!
Funky big band action from Dominic Frontiere that is really great.
The movie, including Steve McQueen showing his Great Escape skills is supposedly a documentary.
The band features some of the LA Wrecking Crew, Larry Bunker, Emil Richards, Tommy Tedecso and Carole Kaye. Needless to say the band is tighter than a pair of concrete underpants.
Highly recommended.

We finish off with two horror biker cross-overs that have been resurrected by two of the best reissue labels in the world - Trunk Records and Finders Keepers.
Both are deep, heavy, Krautrock-esque, bass heavy monsters.
The films are stupid as hell but the music is serious. Track them down if you can.

There you have it. There are some great tracks on these records. Just don't go expecting a great play from begining to end!

There are some biker soundtracks that I haven't yet been able to lay my hands on, notably Cycle Savages and Stone. If/when I pick them up I'll add them in.

There are also loads of biker films that don't seem to have released their soundtracks such as The Mini Skirt Mob, the Black Angels, Devil Rider, Hell's Chosen Few, The Peacekiller, etc. etc.

I have deliberately not included Easy Rider as it is not a film about bikers but rather a film about hippies on bikes.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


I've always had a strange fascination with biker movie soundtracks. Partly because most biker movies are terrible and the music is pretty terrible too.
What did bikers listen to? Whatever it was that was of no interest to the people who made the films or the music.
Most biker soundtracks are pure exploitation. Wrapped in the dangerous mystique of nihilistic outlaws the records promised wild unfettered angry music. Instead what was usually presented was very tame.
Rather like the soundtracks to other exploitation pictures of the day the music was supposed to evoke the feelings of being wild and carefree, of being young and dangerous, of having nothing to loose except your virginity!
However, these records cover a wide range of different musics - jazz, rock, funk, easy, country, surf - sometimes it seems as though anything was worthy of being in a biker film.
Biker soundtracks usually include a title theme which is often the most rocking track. They often have a theme for the main character, which is slower and intended to indicate that he is thoughtful and above the animalistic bikers. They have a theme for the lady of the film, a 'freak-out' track and, weirdly often something with a country element. This may have something to do with bikers being depicted as essentially modern cowboys.
The movies started with bikers as, basically, misunderstood individualists, existential heroes who just wanted to be left alone to do their own thing. However, by the end of the biker fad they had become wild, savage beasts who raped and murdered their way through any unsuspecting squares who were unlucky enough to meet them.

Follow me for a mad dash across the desert of biker soundtracks, picking up some of the best tracks along the way.
It all started with Marlon in the Wild One. To my mind one of the most improbable biker leaders ever, he definitely set the tone for the wilder sixties screen bikers.
For the soundtrack Leith Stevens was brought on board. Stevens had written soundtracks previously, although mainly in television.
It was his use of jazz that was the deciding factor in hiring him. In 1953, jazz was the baddest music around. Rock had yet to take over as outlaw music and jazz still had all the connotations of sex, drugs and even a little bit of race!
The record on the left is a four track 45 EP recorded by Shorty Rogers of the main tracks from the movie.
He's accompanied by other West Coast luminaries such as Bill Perkins and Bud Shank.
For reasons that don't seem very clear, Decca brought out another version of the soundtrack.

This time its credited to the Leith Stevens All Stars. The All Stars included Shorty Rogers (for some reason called Roger Short on the sleeve), Bud Shank, Jim Guiffre, Shelly Mann (or Manny Shell as he is called on the sleeve), Maynard Ferguson and Russ Freeman.
Much less 'wild' than the EP this is great stuff nonetheless.
However, as with the majority of biker soundtracks I struggle to believe that the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club would really have been listening to this kind of thing.
Decca released a further LP with some extra tracks from the soundtrack but I don't have that!

It wouldn't be until 1966 that bikers returned to the screen. This time in the American International Pictures' Wild Angels.
Starring Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra and the amazing Bruce Dern this is one of the classics of the genre.

For the soundtrack AIP supremo Roger Corman turned to Mike Curb. Curb, who would go on to prominence in the Republican party after releasing a slew of cheap records on the world, turned to Davie Allan.
Curb and Allan had worked together previously on a film called Skaterdater - about a skate board gang!
Allan is to exploitation movies what Dashiel Hammett is to hard-boiled detective books. In a word he is the 'boss'.
Coming from the world of surf guitars, Allan would add a ton of wild, crazed fuzz action. It was raw, it was loud, it was the sound of a Harley on the open road.

However, the soundtrack album also introduced all of the other elements to biker soundtrack LPs. On a short LP there is a lot of filler.
As well as Blue's Theme for the Fonda character Heavenly Blues, there was a party/freakout track and there were tracks by imaginary bands. Everything was played by Allan and the Arrows, whatever the names on the back cover said.

Mike Curb was completely unprepared for the success of the Wild Angels.
But not for long! He got Davie Allan back into the studio and before long they had knocked out another 35 minutes.
To be honest, if you've got the original soundtrack there isn't much reason to get Volume II.
By now however, Allan and his Arrows were relegated to a footnote on the record sleeve and Curb took full credit for writing all the music - a situation that would continue much to the detriment of Davie Allan - although he would stick with Curb for quite a while.

Wild Angels had been made for next to nothing and had been a huge box office success. Everyone involved in making it wanted to repeat the magic.
The result was Devil's Angels released in 1967.

 This time though Curb teamed Davie Allan's phenomenal fuzz with the Wrecking Crew, particularly Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye.
It was a winning combination and the music on this record is, to my mind, some of the best the Allan committed to vinyl.
In true exploitation style most of the best tracks reappear on other records, most notably Cycle-delic Sounds. But don't let that put you off finding a copy.
As usual there is a track by a fictional group, in this case Jerry and the Portraits, which is terrible. There is a theme for the main character, Cody and a psych-out number as well.
The Devil's Angels soundtrack is consistent and rocking in a way that few others would be. The rhythm section really pushes Allan to produce some of his best, most freaked out, guitar lines and at little over half and hour it never outstays its welcome.

The onslaught did not let up and in 1967 Born Losers was also released.
This again came from the Corman stable and again featured music by Davie Allan, but this time masquerading as the Sidewalk Sounds (Curb's production company being called Sidewalk Productions).
The film introduced the character Billy Jack who would later star in his own movies and it is a reasonably fun film.
It also featured Jack Starrett who would go on to direct his own B Movies eventually making Ride With The Devil amongst others.
The music is good but repeated the same formula as the other Curb soundtracks.
Overall not as consistent as the earlier efforts, perhaps reflecting the pressure the Allan must have been under to produce the music.
Allan's guitar playing is as superb as always but the quality of some of the songs is not very high.
Also featuring on here is Terry Stafford, another member of the Tower Records roster. His contribution is best described as weak but that didn't stop him cropping up on other Curb soundtracks.

1967 was a very busy year for cinematic bikers as AIP released The Glory Stompers.
Suffering from the same problems as the Born Losers soundtrack there are far too many fillers here.
Max Frost and the Troopers, Eddie and the Stompers and Cassey Kasem all put in below par appearances.
The Sidewalk Sounds (Mr Allan of course) also seem to be sleepwalking through what, by now, had become biker record cliches.
The cover, however, is one of my favourites.

In 1967 Hells Angels of Wheels came out and introduced another name that will be familiar to soundtrack collectors, Stu Phillips.
Phillips was involved in a number of biker films, not all of which saw the release of his music - although some tracks have recently been released on CD.
His music tends to be less rocky and more funky than Allan's as well as more varied.
There are some great tracks on Hells Angles on Wheels, and as its not that hard to track down, I recommend it to everyone.
The only fly in the ointment is the track by the Poor, which is just that - poor.

The Savage Seven Soundtrack makes an effort to include music that real bikers might have listened to.
Cream provide Anyone for Tennis, a typically hard rocking instrumental and Iron Butterfly contribute two tracks, The Iron Butterfly Theme and Unconscious Power, both good examples of West Coast heaviness.
The rest of the record however, is given over to none other the Mike Curb and true to form we have two tracks by Barbara Kelly and the Morning Good - both of which are terrible and some instrumental tracks which sound very much like Davie Allan on an off day.

Released on Tower Records the Angels from Hell soundtrack is a real corker.
This is what biker soundtracks from the sixties should really be all about. For once some real bands were brought on board to provide some original material.
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and the Lollipop Shoppe did better stuff elsewhere but their contributions here are still pretty good examples of West Coast psych.
The rest of the music is from Stu Phillips who mixes some funky tunes with some great faux hippy vibes and some great titles.
If you only get one biker soundtrack, get this one!

Hell's Belles is another great little soundtrack.
Released on Sidewalk records (its Mike Curb again) this is entirely given over to music composed by exotica-master Les Baxter and is surprisingly funky.
Almost every track has great drums pushed up in the mix and it has some wonderful orchestral funk moments.
I have to admit that my copy is the re-issue/boot
Hot Wind is a very funky little number!

I'm cheating slightly by including The Sidehackers soundtrack as its not really a film about bike gangs, more about psychotic people who race bikes with sidecars.
I have no idea who The New Life were although there is a picture of some moody looking guys on the back.
Its another Curb product and this time he's brought his friend Jerry Styner along for help.
As with most Curb productions the majority of the songs are pretty weak.
The exceptions are Ha Lese (Le Di Khanna) and the shockingly titled Psychedelic Rape which is the best freakout track on any biker soundtrack.

Come back for Part II where we'll run through more hairy biker soundtracks such as Satan's Sadists, Hell's Angels 69 and Psychomania.
See you later.

Friday, 11 November 2011


Apologies in advance to anyone who has stumbled upon this page in the hope of finding some cogent discussion on Bird and bop.
I haven't really got anything original to say about Bird's playing, nor about the radical musical innovations he pioneered.
All I can really say is that some sixty years later some of the music sounds as abrasive and hard to comprehend as it must have done to those listening at the time.
I bought this record when I was still at school. It is the first jazz record I ever owned. When I bought it I had no idea that I would find jazz a life-long interest. Nor, indeed that jazz music contained so much variety, interest and intelligence.
I've been trying to remember why I decided I needed a jazz record in my life. I must have been about 15 and I can vividly remember going into Soho with the intention of buying some jazz. As I was young and didn't know much about anything I ended up in the Virgin Megastore which as I write this, is currently a hole in the ground.
If I had known anything, I could have chosen from any number of great record shops, most of which are sadly now closed.
However, I've lost track of the number of times I wished I'd known then what I know now - and sometime wished I know now what I knew then!
So I flicked through the racks of jazz records in the Virgin Megastore. I might as well have been looking at records of ancient Egyptian funeral music for all I knew about the musicians and the type of music that they made.
I've asked myself why I wanted a jazz record. Unfortunately I can't really remember! At the time I was sure that there was a lot more to music than the chart stuff I had been listening to. I liked the Eurythmics well enough but I realised that there had to be more.
At the time I was a voracious reader of comics and many of them had musical references. I bought a copy of Howlin' Wolf's rocking chair album as I'd read about it in an otherwise unremarkable comic called Scout.
Looking back it might have been Hunt Emerson's fault. I had been reading his Comix stuff. If you can find some it you must buy it - totally off the wall, wild and crazy stuff, beautifully drawn and from the mind of a real original. One of his strips is called Max Zillion and is about a permanently put upon jazz saxophonist and his sidekick Alto who is, you've guessed it, an alto sax.
Charlie Parker is, of course, one of the most famous jazz musicians of all time. But why did I not come home with a Coltrane, Davis or Gillespie record?
Parker also stands for rebellion. Not only was he a musical maverick who changed the course of jazz but he also lived a wild, drug fuelled life. My 15 year old self would have given his eye teeth for a little sex and drugs!
In most ways Parker was wilder and more rebellious than any supposedly wild pop star. For a start he was a musical genius but also, for many at the time and later, he wrote the rule book on how to behave if you want to reject the system. He seemed to be playing by his own rules and not by those of the establishment. His life story makes that of someone like Keith Richards seem risible. Not only did Parker suffer at the hands of a racist system that denied he could be a musician of genius simply because he was black, a system that repeatedly locked him up and subjected him to horrific so-called treatments for his addiction, a system that tried to ensure that the majority of the money he made went to white club owners, record label owners or management, he tried to create his own musical world in which the ideas that he had, could flourish and be accepted.  He wasn't just fighting against something but fighting for something and that's what makes his life story (tragic and wasteful as it is) kind of inspiring.
How could I have known any of this what I was 15? Indeed did I have a clue about Parker, about the place of jazz in the history of American culture, about the story of resistance to cultural norms or about the horrors of drug addiction. No, of course not.
I got home and put the record on. It starts with the mellifluous tones of Symphony Sid saying something like 'If you haven't come down to Birdland you haven't lived'. I waited with bated breath for the musical anarchy I knew would follow. However, Bird's playing was so fast, so wild, so difficult and unlike anything I had ever hear before, I took the record off before the first side had finished. Putting it back in its sleeve I breathed a sigh of relief. "If THAT'S jazz, then maybe I don't like jazz," I told myself.
Its rather like trying to read the Wasteland and saying "If that's poetry I don't like poetry".
Every once in a while I would play it and be confirmed that it was too much for me.
But every time I played it some of his music would rub off on me. Something would stick in my mind and start to grow,  like a piece of coral under the skin, and eventually it had taken over and I was a fully fledged jazz fan.
Nowadays there is no need to buy records to find out about music. You can hear almost anything on-line before you buy it and there are countless sources suggesting music to you - if you like X you might like Y.
In that world I would never have found Parker. Sometime, as I've come to understand about Parker and his music, you need to take a chance and explore difference.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Exploito # 11 - John Bunyan's Progressive Pilgrims - Apricot Brandy and Albatross

Times move on, even in the world of exploitation records.
By 1969 Beatles, Stones and soul rip-offs weren't going to cut it anymore (although that didn't stop a lot of records in that vein being released!).
As the title of this group indicated, 'progessive' was where the music was going.
A Whiter Shade of Pale (itself much covered), Beck's Bolero, Rondo and America by the Nice, Soft Machine and Jethro Tull - it was this kind of music that was making the charts.
Organs were becoming more prominent, classical allusions were suddenly acceptable, songs were becoming longer. The kids were 'freaking out'. Although the mop-topped band playing to mini-skirted go-go dancers was a typically 'square' choice of cover image.
And somehow, the guys at Alshire were able to catch some of that on this record.
Against all the odds, this is good, with some really great moments that lift it far above the usual exploito slop. But, compared to any of the bands listed above it suffers from poor production, a certain lack of polish no doubt the result of a lack of money for extra takes, and a strange choice of songs. But when its good, its really good.
There's no point trying to figure out who was in the band. As with the majority of the Alshire catalogue I would guess the identity of the band has been lost. Although if you know,  please tell us! There is part of me that would like this to be a Jerry Cole/ Paul 'Mustang' Griffin collaboration.
Proceedings kick off well with a cover of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross. It stays reasonably close to the original and does nothing to upset.
The same could be said for the cover of Rhinoceros's Apricot Brandy. Is there something about Rhinoceros's success in California that I don't know? Why cover a song that only just made it into the US top 40? Again, if anyone can shed any light I'd be grateful.
Next up we have the Sabre Dance by Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. Its been covered by many rock and jazz bands over the years. I always file it as being slightly in the exotica camp myself, no doubt because of Les Baxter's version. Here it gets the full crazed organ work out which reminds me of The Nice's America. Truly wild stuff, particularly from an exploito record. Cheekily the credits on the record say 'Arr. Al Sherman'. More money in the pocket of exploito king Sherman!
But for the really wild, over the top, in a world of its own, organ mayhem you have to listen to the next track, Mozart's Dilemma. Guaranteed to get your parents hot under the collar, this is exceptional stuff. If I have one criticism it is that the track starts wild, gets wilder and then has nowhere left to go. Great stuff nonetheless. The writing credit on the record for this track attributes it to Martin Huckridge who produced Astro Sounds, as well as a large number of other 101 Strings records.
After that Spaced Out starts in a slightly familiar way. Where have I heard that fazing before? Could it be on the Astro Sounds Beyond the Year 2000 record? I guess Martin brought some of his old tricks with him. This track does just what it says on the tin and sounds like a guitar firing into space.
Side 2 starts of with Hot Shot which is a pedestrian organ, guitar work out which could happily sit alongside any number of early 60s tracks on any number of exploito records, until the guitar solo which is distorted in a wonderfully aggressive way. Shame the backing track isn't better.
Summertime Blues is pretty woeful, so I suggest you don't spend too much time there.
Winter Draws On is a kind of blues thing that, I think, would love to be something along the lines of A Whiter Shade of Pale but just can't. There are some very nice and weird noises in the background, no doubt from Mr Huckridge.
Song Without Words seems familiar somehow. Can anyone help me out?
Finally Peccadillo follows in the footsteps on its predecessor to close the record with some organ guitar bluesy workout action.
As far as exploito records go, this is one of the best and that's not hype!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Exploito # 12 - Crystal Blue Persuasion and Other Sounds of Today with Vocals by the Orange Grove

Welcome back for more recycled budget label cash-in fun.
This time we have ...... well its not really clear who we have as this record doesn't seem to have a band name on it.
Of course the vocals are attributed to the Orange Groove (geddit!). Can we assume that this means that this is the name of the band? Or maybe its the Sounds of the New Generation, or perhaps this is what you listen to if you are part of the new generation?
I'm confused!
And haven't we seen those happy fuggers before somewhere? Of course we have. We've seen them here and here. This will be the last time we meet them. I promise. Unless anyone can point me in the direction of any more covers with them on, and then we might have a reunion party!
Anyway, this is one of the best of this kind of record and if you pass one in your travels I suggest you pick it up. My copy came from the same place as my copy of the Black Diamonds. Initially I didn't even know that his was another Animated Egg record. I was in a for a pleasant surprise.
The record kicks off with the the title track Crystal Blue Persuasion a hit in 1969 for Tommy James and the Shondells. According to Tommy James the song was inspired by the bible but for many in California is seemed to be referring to drugs and I am sure its that angle that our exploito kings at Somerset were hoping innocent record buyers would pick up on.
Not being very familiar with the original version I have to say that I quite like the version on this record. Its quite calming in a folky kind of way.
Next is the amazing A Bad Trip Back to '69 which is from the 101 Strings Astro Sounds record which in turn is a version of Down Down and Gone from the Animated Egg LP but with added strings. I love this song. Here it is from the 101 Strings record. I'm not sure but I think that the version on this record is slightly more fuzzed out!

Next is Can't You See I'm Right . When I first heard this song I that is sounded very much like a real band. There was something about the way it was played, something I couldn't quite really put my finger on that just seemed, for want of a better word 'real'.
I was first made aware that it appears on this record:

Now if this bunch on the sleeve don't look like a fake band then I'm a monkey's uncle, I said to myself. Sure enough Can't You See I'm Right appears unchanged from this record.
It rather a nice, unassuming record in a slightly folk-rock vein.
So, Doctor Marigold's Prescription aren't real?
According to this site they are. click here and read the comments as well
I'm not in the slightest bit surprised to see that there is a Marble Arch connection. After all so many Alshire/Somerset records appeared on Marble Arch as well. I guess that the flow of records went both ways but typically the musicians from Doctor Marigolds Prescription never knew about their record being sold in the US and never received a penny!
Down Home Baby sounds like a Mustang out-take and I am sure that if I spent enough time I could track it down - but life is just too short.
The first side closes with the amazing Street King. I can't imagine where this song came from. Imagine a girl group Spector-ish record but with the girl's voices sped up to Chipmunks levels - its that crazy. Slashing electric guitar and Mo Tucker style drumming back the squeaky voices as they tell a story of unrequited love for a young road racer who "Doesn't take it from no one, yeah". You just know it will end badly. "The Street King talks about far off places" - of course he does! Some off beam harmonies and basic drumming fade out this absolutely remarkable track.
Side opens with Sockerina which we've come across before on the Sock It To Me LP and on the Now Generation record. Recycling at its best. Rinky dink organ noises from our man Paul Griffin. Don't spend too long on this one.
Now we have The Land of Fusan by Dr Marigold's Persuasion. I like this song very much. I reminds me of Cat Stevens circa Tea for the Tillerman. Escape from the horrors of the contemporary world to an imaginary place with beautiful animals - how very hippy. It has a lovely mandolin part which I like very much.
Poppy's to be Picked is a countrified affair that quickly overstays its welcome. Not good.
Troubled Mind is another intriguing song. Funky bass, fuzzy guitar and words about the world being saved by love this is something you can imagine in a movie being played while the heroes dance in an underground night club. Its so funky it seems unlike anything on an exploito record. There's even a cool breakdown. Its helped enormously by the double tracked vocals.
And finally More Than Now. Female singers, perhaps the same as the ones from Street King but this time without the speed-up sing in an almost hymnal way about wanting more. Its lovely stuff and completely unexpected. But then this record is completely unexpected. Every track is unlike its predecessor and not what, even someone like me who's listened to many such record, one expects.
I would like to think that there was a mad genius behind the song selection, someone who had a master plan. Unfortunately I fear that the record's success is as much down to chance than anything else. Which is the beauty of the record.

Friday, 23 September 2011


It's exploito jazz - from Australia! What's not to like?

"One can write a 1,000 page book about an LP of this kind. The only other alternative is to write hardly anything at all. For obvious reasons we have chose the latter approach."
So begins the anonymous writer of the sleeve notes for this 1967. I shall attempt to emulate him.

Let's start with the cover. John, for it is he, shrouded by smoke, perhaps from a jazz woodbine that someone is smoking out of shot, bearded as he was from about 1958 onwards and wearing a 'cool' pair of shades which make him look slightly like a cuddly Hell's Angel, and a black polo neck jumper which can't quite hide his paunch, is playing the drums. He's sporting a handmade badge that says 'GAS' - he's so far out daddio!
Despite every effort Sangster does not look like a cool, hipster. But I don't think he ever did.
What is this cover trying to say? Is it trying to appeal to youngsters who are into the new type of music? Or is it an obvious joke on fashion and style? You choose!

John Sangster has been described as "possibly the most talented of all the musicians who inhabit the jazz world of Australia".
Starting out as a trad-jazz trumpeter with the Graeme Bell band, Sangster first moved over to vibraphone, then percussion and finally into composition.
He wrote one of my all time favourite jazz records, Australia and All That Jazz.

I was going to write about it but I can't do better than never enough rhodes so you'll have to click on the link and go there to find about this magical record.

The Trip was Sangster's first record under his own name, although he had recorded frequently by this stage with most of the best know Australian jazz musicians, most notably as part of the Don Burrows Sextet on their Jazz Sounds record - another must.
In his autobiography (Seeing the Rafters - a great read if you come across a copy, in which he describes his life as a kind of marathon drinking session) he describes it thus:
"The first album I made under my own steam is (like they say) one I'd prefer to forget. Entitled The Trip  it was a multi-percussion thing with me playing everything except the proverbial kitchen sink. It is now, I believe, safely out of print. There was one nice track, a marimba version of 'Spanish Eyes', but then you can't really go far wrong just noodling away at such a pretty little tune."

One can see what he means. In true record company cash-in style the record includes a wide variety of 'hits of the day'. The Beatles get a look in with Michelle, the Rolling Stones with Satisfaction, the Byrds or Bob Dylan with Mr Tambourine Man. That other sixties obsession, James Bond, another much exploited fad in the world of records, is represented by Thunderball and Tom Jones surprisingly gets in again with What's New Pussycat?. However, again in a way that is true of many exploitation  records, there are some 'easy' selections thrown in, Comin' Home Baby, Cast Your Fate to the Wind, I'll Wait for You. Finally a few Latin or bossa tracks round everything off, One Note Samba Spanish Eyes and Black Orpheus Medley.

For anyone who might have bought the record in the mistaken belief that they were getting something to listen to while they took drugs (heaven knows why they might have though that!) there is the inclusion of something called 'abstract music' on What's New Pussycat? which opens the second side. In effect what you get is some tape manipulation that sounds like a moog falling down a flight of stairs. So at odds is it with the Latin-style of the song that I struggle not to laugh whenever I play it.

Sangster plays a wide variety of instruments such as vibes, marimba, castanets, trumpet and guiro and is multi-tracked on most songs. He is assisted by famous Oz jazzers George Golla, whose playing on One Note Samba is lovely, and Sven Libaek whose harpsichord on Michelle is more Windmills of Your Mind than fab-four and is, as a result, absolutely fantastic.

Overall, as Sangster clearly felt, it doesn't quite work. There is inventiveness and musicianship in abundance and every song has something to interest and intrigue. However, Sangster's musical ability strains against the choice of material. Its as though, being supremely talented he can't just give a good version of a song, he has to reinvent it from the inside out and in doing so loses something in the process.

 Download the album here


Sometimes you manage to track down a rare record - capture one of your white whales as it were - only to be grossly disappointed.
The music just isn't as good as you had told yourself it was. That 'killer' track is an anomaly. Or worse after playing it a few times you get board of it and it goes on the shelves to be pulled out now and again to remind  yourself you still have it.

Usually there's a reason that some albums are little known except by collectors - they are just not as good as the well known ubiquitous ones!
But sometime a rare record is so good that you wonder why it isn't a well known classic. Batsumi's first album is one of those.
I wish I could say I found this record in some death-defying record dig but in reality I tracked it down on-line. My copy is slightly crackly in places but the music is so amazingly good that I just don't care!
There doesn't seem to be a lot of information about Batsumi. The ever reliable flatinternational has little to say. Read it here.
Released in 1974 the band comprised Thabang Masemola - Flute, Themba Koyana - Tenor Sax, Buta-Buta Zwane - Vocal and Bongos, Maswaswe Mothopeng - Vocal and Guitar, Sello Mothopeng - Organ, Lekgabe Maleka - Drums, Zulu Bidi - Double Bass.
Their music is a unique blend of African rhythms, European and African jazz and vocals. They don't really sound like anyone else. The closest sound is perhaps another South African jazz band, the Heshoo Beshoo Band, although they are much more jazzy that Batsumi or Malombo, although they are less jazzy!
What always strikes me about this record is how uplifting it is. There is something positive and spiritual about each of the five tracks, something that focusing on the good side of human nature rather than on the terrible things that we can all do.
Each track is described as a different kind of jazz - Zulu African Jazz, Xhosa African Jazz, Sotho African Jazz, Shangaan African Jazz. In South Afica under apharteid your 'tribe' was an important matter and appeared on your identity papers. I was an axiom of apharteid that black South Africans were tribal and that they should be grouped together by tribe and returnto their rural tribal existence when they had stopped working in the cities. Of course the reality of urban life was that it was a mix of all 'tribes'. Indeed most people in the cities had never lived in a rual tribal environment. To mix these supposedly tribal kinds of jazz together could be seen as a refusal to be categoried by the white government and to acknowledge that the mix of people in urban areas such as Soweto was breaking down 'traditional' definitions and creating something new. Batsumi - hunters of "ideas, music, sounds, art, creativity" as the sleeve notes say.

The record opens with Lishonile, which is a statement of intent. The track starts with a small duet between the guitar and the bass, the guitar sounding almost bossa like in places, the bass going down and deep. Then, with some maracas, the bass starts the line which will underpin the rest of this beautiful song and a keening, wailing, sometime over blown flute comes in over the top. At times this is replaced by the cries of a voice, the band using every sources of music at their disposal. The rhythm is unrelenting, but gentle and when the flute, this time with some form of echo on it, comes back you can't help feel that you are taking off into a journey of discovery, flying high over Soweto. Now the sax starts and you continue your journey,flying like a bird over the homes of the musicians, perhaps even flying out of Soweto and away over the mine dumps and factories of Johannesburg, away out towards the fields and forests and mountains. Finally the music fades leaving you slightly stunned to be back in reality.

But just then the 'jewharp' as the sleeves notes describe it, fades in and introduces a drum solo prefiguring a more up-beat driving section of the song with fantastic vocals that seem to be crying out into the night. The flute is again prominent but it is the interplay between the guitar and the drums that gives this section its force.

I wish I knew what they were singing about, seemingly so joyously in Emampondweni. However, it is when the singing stops and the music seems to take a dramatic turn that the true beauty comes out. Again bass and guitar underpin a wonderful sax solo that is uplifting and spiritual. The echo laden flute adds the dream-like quality.

Mamshanyana is, perhaps my favourite song on the album - which is saying something! Opening with the Maswaswe Mothopeng's guitar and Zulu Bidi's bass once more they are joined by Lekgabe Maleka's drums and then a great vocal from Buta-Buta Zwane. His voice is supported by Thabang Masemola's flute and then Themba Koyane's sax. Together they create a wonderfully laid back and relaxed vibe. I cannot fail to feel happy, my head nods, my feet taps and a smile comes over my face. Mamshanyana (or Moshanyana) is a mythical hero who killed a monster thereby releasing the people it had eaten.

Flip the record over and Side 2 opens with the jaw dropping Itumeleng. This sixteen minute track is a thing of rare beauty. It starts with a protracted piano solo from, I assume, Sello Mothopeng who is credited with playing Organ on the sleeve. It is a virtuoso performance in which he switches from jazz to classical and back again. I cannot help but feel he is trying to say "I can play as well as any concert hall pianist". Of course in South Africa in the early seventies black musicians were not accorded the same status as white musicians and jazz was not considered to be a 'reputable' music. In this amazing solo Mothopeng undermines this bias and at the same time shows that something new and fresh is being created.
At the end of the solo Zulu Bidi plays the bass line which will underpin the rest of the track, giving it a lithe, supple feel. Thabang Masemola's flute once again soars high adding a spiritual dimension. Is it intended to have an echo? The piano comes in once more in a piece of restrained, lovely playing and is then replaced by the sax which is, as ever, uplifting.
By the time that they start to sing Itumeleng I'm starting to feel high from the music. They chant Itumeleng as the song starts to shift up a gear, the flute is more instant, the piano a little harsh, but still Zulu Bidi's bass keeps the rhythm and the swing. Itumeleng means joy, which is how I feel when I hear this song.
Finally the song ends as it began, with a lone piano.
Its all just too beautiful!
This YouTube clip is from the Next Stop Soweto Volume 3 compilation which you should go out and buy. It full of amazing music that I doubt any of us will ever see in their original vinyl versions.

The record closes with Anishilabi. Buta-Buta dominates with his vocals and is ably supported by another rock solid bass line from Zulu Bidi. I particularly like the drum break about half way through.

Luckily for lovers of beautiful music Batsumi is going to be reissued by Matsuli Music who did such a great job with the Chapita LP. You can find out about it here. I cannot recommend strongly enough that people should buy this when it becomes available.

Finally, here is a short film about Zulu Bidi. I can't decide whether to feel heart warmed by his ability to overcome adversity, or heartbroken that such great musicians should have been forced to give up music. Watch it and decide for yourselves.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


I love the sleeve for this record. It is so simple and yet so evocative.
The instruments tells you that the music is jazz - three saxophones no less!
The little cut-outs tell you that the music comes from the continent of Africa.
And of course the small writing on the bottom tells you who is making it.

What is missing? A picture of the band perhaps? But as this record was released in 1958 in South Africa it would have been difficult, to say the least, to have had record with black faces on it. Far easier to have a cartoon of the instruments. After all the record buying public would know that band was black.

The sleeve notes are worth quoting in full:
"The Elite Swingsters represent something of a phenomena in the field of African music. Following on their first release — Inch Mama/Amadoda Etshwaleni RCA 148 which record was in the best-seller class — came their sensational RCA 160 Phalafala/Phulaphula which surpasses all existing sales figures for a record of this type.
Apart from being the top-selling group amongst their own folk, the Elites' version of Phalafala has been in demand as a dance number at leading record dealers throughout the country, and this number has recently been taken up by a firm of publishers who have great hopes for it in the international market.
The infectious beat imparted by the Elite Swingsters to all their numbers ensures for this record, a permanent place, not only in the popular field of dance music, but also for the serious collector of Africana."

 "Apart from being the top-selling group amongst their own folk" tells you who this record was aimed at - people who were 'different folk' to the musicians.

Having said that I am glad that this record was put together - or else I would have to try and track down some very hard to find 78s.

The Elite Swingsters are perhaps best know for the work they did in the early 60s with the 'African songbird' Dolly Rathebe. However, they had existed since the mid 50s and were already well known and successful in their own right as a jazz instrumental band.
In some ways this record is at a cross roads for jazz in South Africa. Still firmly in the tradition of big bands playing for dancers The Beat of Africa looks back to the interwar tradition of bands such as the Jazz Maniacs and the Merry Blackbirds. Nowhere can you hear the influence of the jazz that was being played in America in the late 1950s. Indeed its is almost as if bop had never happened.
However, this kind of African jazz would continue to have an influence in South Africa as can be heard on some of Dollar Brands recordings for As-Shams,The Sun, most notably Mannenberg and by other As-Shams records such as Lionel Pillay's Plum (you can read about it here).

I have been trying to think of the best way to disrcibe the amazing music on this record. Perhaps the best way is to let people who are better equipped for the task do it.

"African jazz, when we started, we emulated the Americans, the big bands, but we played African jazz because we took the chord progressions from marabi ... We categorise it as African jazz because when you say jazz, you tend to think of American jazz - and we were using that style as a big band ... Where the saxophone section plays a phrase and the brass section answers, that type of arrangement the Count Basies and so forth were using. But the melody - you can see, feel, it's African .. You can do whatever you like, put in American phrases, but you'll come back to that marabi trend. Its a cultural thing; it won;t die." Ntemi Piliso

"Very broadly speaking, African rhythmic patterns are organised in cycles the succession of which combines repetition and variations in melody and accents. In Xhosa choral music, as in many other South Africa musics, these repetitions and variations are accommodated within a structure of calls and responses which overlap and include pauses that do not coincide, creating an extremely dynamic effect some musicologists have termed 'staggering cycles'... In South African urban popular music, cycles and overlappings have been retained, western chords have replaced traditional scales, and one or several instruments (drums, guitar, keyboards etc.) strongly emphasis the beat." Denis-Constant Martin

"South African music ... tends towards rhythmic complexity of singing voices over a regular beat; its polyrhythms come from the voices, which vary their accentuation relative to the basis rhythm. This is remarkably like jazz, especially in the 1930s and 1940s music of Count Basie and others, who riffed and soloed against a rock-solid four-four beat" John Storm Roberts

Listen to these great tracks here

Apart from Phalafala and Phulaphula I would like to draw your attention to Touch-Touch (surely patta-patta?), the very fine trumpet playing on Dis Swaar Cherry, the great tenor sax on Isikahlo Sika Chooks and I love the sung refrain on Amadoda Etscwaleni.

More about the Elite Swingers at  flatinternational

Friday, 9 September 2011

BOOTLEG JAZZ COMPS - a personal journey

I remember going to Dingwalls and wondering where they found such amazing tracks.
At the time I knew absolutely nothing about jazz (some might say that hasn't changed!) but I knew I liked what I heard.
However, looking though the jazz sections in record stores made me feel very inadequate.
Who were all these people with cool names like McCoy, Hank, Fats, Yusef, Chick or Herbie, and how could I possible know which of them produced stuff I would like?
I suppose I could have taken some up to the counter and asked the staff to play them. If you've ever been in a London record store you might realise how silly that last sentence is. And anyway, I would have been picking stuff up at random. I was then, a long way from being able to stomach anything that couldn't be danced to. No amount of good reviews were going to get me to listen to A Love Supreme - how stupid and young I was!
But in the early nineties, when records were still the common tool of the DJ, almost every market had a record stall. Some were good and I had some amazing luck in finding great stuff. However, most were pretty average. The great thing about them though was that they would happily play the records if you asked nicely and while the stall-holder might not know anything about the record he wouldn't judge you because you wanted to hear it.
And that's how I got to buy Uptight and Outasight, from a record stall in Cambridge. It blew my mind!
I had heard of James Brown and Kool and the Gang but O'Donnell Levi, Barbara Randolph, Chocolate Milk???????? (Click on the picture to enlarge and get the full track list)

I could have bought random jazz records for years and never found these gems.
Of course, if I had been a London jazznick I would have been familiar with the dance classics. But I wasn't.
At my young age it didn't cross my mind to think about the legality of this record. Looking back I must have been very naive. No cover illustration, no credits, sleeve notes, in fact nothing at all except the names of the tracks. To me it was just pure goodness.
So a while later when the bloke on the market stall had Volume 2 I snapped that up as well.
If I'm honest its not as good as Volume 1 but it was still pretty good stuff.
By now I had discovered jazz and funk compilations - most of them legit.
But there was still something I liked about the plain white anonymity of the Uptight comps.

Volume 3 though is a corker. Tuane by Hammer  (which I still want to get to the original of), Chukka by Norman Connors, Andre Previn's Executive Party from the Rollerball Soundtrack (which of course, I didn't know at the time), Bernie Maupin's It Remains To be Seen - amazing tracks one and all.
I still do not know who was behind these illegit comps. I would like to find out and personally thank him, though. Whoever it was put my one a jazz path that I've never truly strayed from.

I was still rather naive and hadn't thought that the performers and composers of these brilliant tracks were being deprived of their rightful payment. All I could think about was how great the music was and how lucky I was that someone had taken some of the best tracks in their record collection and put them on some handy vinyl for me!

My next bootleg comp was this one - Seven Sought After Grooves. Again, I had little idea at that stage who most of the artists were. Gil Scott Heron I knew but I hadn't even heard of Freddie Hubbard - as amazing as that seems to me now.
This record was even more cut rate than the Uptight ones. The compilers hadn't or couldn't even afford sticky labels so the track listing came on a piece of paper. But if I had know how difficult to find the Carvo e Carvela track was I would have been even more delighted with it.
I can't exactly remember where this came from but I have a vague feeling it was somewhere on Portobello Road.
There used to be a guy who had a stall selling cassettes (shows how long ago it was) with some Hammond organ groovers on, as well as stuff from blaxploitation movies and probably a whole lot more. He used to have a sound system cranked up to the max and a tambourine which he's shake and rattle and generally dance around to his own music.
This is an odd one. Again no cover but someone went to a lot of trouble with the label. Blue Funk  - Blue Note - geddit!
Even I had heard of Blue Note by this stage.
But, perhaps typically, not all of the tracks on this are from Blue Note records.
Again some great tracks - God Made Me Funky by the Headhunters (although severely shortened from the original), Hip Drop by the Explosions, 24 Carat Black Theme by 24 Carat Black, Move Your Hand by Lonnie Smith (again cut short from the full length version).
This one looks as though someone tried to make it look legit. Composer credits and song publishers give it the look of a proper compilation. Except it isn't.
But in the nineties equivalent of downloading I just didn't care. In a pre-Internet age, the chances of me finding Lonnie Smith's Move Your Hand LP in a record shop and being able to afford it were slight.

Nuggets! of Funk came from a dire techno record store in Wimbledon where I went after a job interview (unfortunately I got the job - but that's another story).
By this stage I was finding that the quality of these kinds of bootleg comps was deteriorating.
I guess that there was an increasing number of legit comps with great stuff on and some very high quality bootlegs which left less 'uncomped' stuff for the 'white label' bootleggers.
Having said that Cal Tajder's Solar Heat, Lee Morgan's Untitled Boogaloo and Windy C's 100% Pure Poison are amazing.
On a trip to New York I picked up Dealer's Choice - as usual not because I knew any of the tracks but because it looked like Uptight and Outasight and I though it might be cool.
To be honest by this stage I think that compilers were finding it difficult to keep up the quality. Its a similar problem in most other genres. The best 'obscure' stuff makes it on to the earliest compliations, the following ones find some true undiscovered gems, further ones start to look to different countries or different sources but ultimately you can't keep it up forever.
Personally, for me the moment had also passed. I had loved the jazz dance scene and become fascinated but the music and inevitably the musicians. You can't dance all the time so I had started to appreciate music that didn't have a pulsating beat. Eventually I grew slightly tired of the need to find 'dancers' and started to get into some more challenging stuff.
But old habits die hard and a stall on Spitalfields Market divulged this two, final, bootleg jazz comps.
Inevitably by now the jazz elements were somewhat diluted by the funk - and the fact that they were billed as 'breaks, beats and grooves' showed that the focus had shifted.
I can remember being slightly tacken-aback by the presence of Frank Zappa!!!!

Should I have been saving my money and putting in the time to fins the original recordings? Of course I should!

But I'm, glad that I bought these records.
They opened up a whole new world of music to me
that I might never have otherwise discovered and if I had to go back and fill in the gaps in my musical knowledge, well that was all part of the fun.
There were plenty of bootlegs coming out with fancy covers and concepts, Planet of the Breaks, Beyond the Valley of the Super Beats (now THAT's a cover!), The Mood Mosiac and of course Dusty Fingers (although I still not really sure how legit they were).
But I will always have a soft spot for the plain white sleeves and stuck on labels of these bootleg jazz comps.
Anyone else find them as important as me?
And if by any chance you are a complier of one of these and you happen to be reading - let me know so I can say a big thanks~!~

 I must have forgotten about this one - been lurking in the back of the racks - Vintage on Vinyl Part 5.
Can't remember where I bought it from but the Michael Longo - Like a Thief in the Night is great and Wayne Davies - I Like the Things in righeous funk. Of course Cannonball Adderley's Space Spritual is pretty amazing too!


Did I ever mention that I am obsessed with Guy Warren of Ghana?
Maybe at least once!
Anyway, here are a couple of records he did for KPM in 1968.
In 1968 he was in London (of course) and had just recorded Afro Jazz with Don Rendell, Ian Carr and Amancio D'Silva.
He would team up with D'Silva again for The African Soundz which you can read about here.
The money from KPM must have been good to persuade Guy to make these two records. Why else take time from your career to record two albums worth of material? The suspicion, before you've even put the needle on the record, is that he was going through the motions. A chance to earn some money and just exploit the situation.
But of course when you listen to the music and hear the quality of the songs, it is clear that this was not the case.
I must admit that when I first heard these records I was reminded of lots of very worthy 'in the field' recordings of African musicians. You know the stuff - field recordings of so-called 'ethnic' musicians, which come in worthy sleeves with lots of footnotes about the collator of the music, but little about the people who made it or how it fits into local culture.
By 1968 Guy Warren had moved beyond all of that easily categorizeable stuff.
Having played in London with Kenny Graham (another obsession of mine) and in the US with some of the legends of bebop, Warren was international. He had even been a DJ for the BBC World Service for God's sake!
Nevertheless these are his least jazz-influenced recordings. The usual KPM descriptions (click on the pictures to get a larger image) reference, Watusi (or as we say now Tutsi), Uganda, Asafo and Muslim music. They also talk about natives, lions, insects, tribes and witch doctors. I guess the best you can say is that it was 1968!

You can imagine the kind of programme that these tracks were intended to soundtrack. A white man, perhaps in khaki shorts and with a neat beard, drives a beaten up Land Rover across the veld. Perhaps he is accompanied by a faithful retainer, dressed in a mix of Western and local clothes. As they drive along, the camera pans back to show giraffe or elephants. You can hear drum-based music in the background to show that we really are in the deep heart of Africa!

Listening to these records make me wonder about Warren's relationship to Europe and America. Like many African artists he had left Africa to pursue his musical aspirations. How, did he have to compromise to achieve his aims? Did he relish the opportunity of recording these tracks for KPM or was is a distraction from his more jazz-related work? Did he find it easy to be a Ghanaian in London?

As with all things related to Guy Warren of Ghana it is best to let the music do the talking. I have taken my favourite tracks from each record. Apologies if you favourite isn't here.

01. Talking Drums - Dramatic dancing drums. 3 Odono talking drums of various pitches, 1 Master drum
02. Dancing Drums - Small drum, 2 medium Atumpan drums, Master drum, uptempo dance sequence
03. Uganda Drums and Flute - 1 Heavy drum, 1 medium drum and sixteen inch bamboo flute. General atmosphere
04. Witch Doctor - Gong, medium drums and chanting voices, Voodoo (Juju) dance rhythm
05. Asafo Dance (Semi Military) - 2 medium drums, master drum, Ododonpo chanting voices. Builds to climaz. For warlike events
06. African Suspense III - 2 drums and flute. Mysterioso
07. Children At Play - Drums, small bamboo flute, harmonica, children's voices
08. Gyil Dance (African marimba) - Gyil, 2 drums, ground shaker
09. Gyil Solo (African marimba) - Peaceful scene
10. African Pastoral - The open plain, animals at rest. Hells (sic), bamboo flute, cymbals
11. Vehicle Movement - Snare roll joined by precussice "High Life" rhythm
12. African Kwela I - 2 Bamboo flutes, and snare drum
13. Tribal Calling - Native duologue. Native calling in the stillness of the forest
14. Sanza - Light plucked instrument generally called the "thumb piano". Gentle light sounds
15. Hullcinations and Mirages - Dream sequence - droughts - fishing
16. African Flute Solo - Lonely flute solo. Nature at rest

Native Africa - click here

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


During a recent trip to Paris I found this in a dodgy shop on Montmatre. Amidst scratched Blue Notes and overpriceds 80s 'wave', nestled this record.
It had to be mine!
As we all know Pat Prilly was a pseudonym for Jean Jacques Perry.
This music is the sound of the future - or at least the future from the perspective of 1972.
For some reason it reminds me of Zardoz, the film with Sean Connery wearing strange pants. I don't know why, as none of the music was used in the film, but that's just the weird way my mind works.

Here is the track list - and mouthwatering it it too:

Side A
1. Treno Sperimentale
2. Canali Di Marte
3. Misteri Del Cosmo
4. Irrealta
5. Musica Dell'Infinito
6. Vibrazioni Magnetiche
7. Viaggio Nell'Incoscio
8. Cardifonia

Side B
1. Uomo 2000
2. Il Nulla
3. Altitudine
4. Frontiere Dello Sconosciuto
5. Elettrosintesi
6. Mondo Del Futuro
7. Psycho

As the notes on "Questo disco che vi proponiamo non contiene alcuna musica tradizionale ed e stato interamente realizzato con sonorita di orgine elettronica utilzzando uno strumento rivoluzionario: il sintetizzatore Moog."

Listen for yourselves here

Apologies for the odd pops  - but that's what you get with vinyl!