Thursday, 5 December 2019

Taylor Made

Made in the Shade was one of the Rolling Stones' first attempts at putting out a Best Of; though in all honesty it was more of a So Far - the Stones in a holding pattern; condensing Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St., Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, it drew a line under the Mick Taylor era, giving the band time to woo his replacement, Ronnie Wood. Taylor, as I've said here numerous times, was way too good for Mick and Keith. And, anyway, leaving the band probably saved his life: he wasn't as tough as Keef, yet still tried to take as many illegal substances as his indestructible employer.

The origin of the album's artwork has always ben shrouded in mystery. However, the cover of the Laid in the Shade bootleg kinda gives the game away.

The Rolling Stones - Wild Horses (1971)

Monday, 2 December 2019

In the Can

I've been chronicled. It was all very painless, I can assure you. Let me explain - over the last couple of years filmmaker Steve Oliver has been chronicling local musicians for an online series of short films he puts up on Youtube under the banner The Random Sessions. Shot in one of Nottingham's finest watering holes the format couldn't be simpler: three tunes (two originals and a cover), a couple of beers and a bit of inter-song chit chat and, hey, before you know it, Episode 89 was in the can. A big thank you to Steve - it was great fun to do.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Don't Believe a Word

When Thin Lizzy were recording their 1976 album Johnny the Fox, their head honcho Phil Lynott had been working on a new song: it was a stripped down, bluesy affair that spoke of broken hearts and romantic deceit. The tempo of the song suggested it was probably best heard at three in the morning wafting from a smokey subterranean speakeasy.
However, Brian Robertson, the band's young hotshot lead guitarist at the time, heard it and told Lynott in no uncertain terms he thought it was shite. Lynott was crushed and left the sessions, not returning till a several days later. In which time Robertson had written a new riff to it and speeded it up by a factor of 3X.

still prefer the original arrangement - featured here with Gary Moore, it's from a 1979 episode of the Whistle Test and Moore's instrument looks it's about to be read its last rites. No matter, even with the five remaining strings he gives the rest of the band* a guitar masterclass.

Gary Moore - Don't Believe a Word 

* Billed as Gary Moore and Friends, of the five musicians on stage only two of them are on the right side of the grass

Gary Moore (1952-2011)
Phil Lynott (1949-1986)
Cozy Powell** (1947-1998)
Scott Gorham (1951-)
Don Airey (1949-)

** Until today I was blissfully unaware that Cozy Powell's real name was Colin Tevor Flooks

Thursday, 28 November 2019

You Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow

There's a kid* from Scotland who is getting very much under my skin at the moment; in a good way, I hasten to add. I shan't go into the whys and wherefores as to how Gerry Cinnamon appeared on my radar, but his 2017 debut album Erratic Cinematic has been on constant rotation at Medd Towers for the last two weeks straight.
Cinnamon's lyrics, sung in his native Glaswegian, combine a toxic tenement past with hope for a better (independent?) future. All backed by his rudimentary acoustic guitar and a couple of loop pedals. Oh, and whistling. A whole heap of whistling. Not since the halcyon days of Roger Whittaker has their been so much whistling on one album. But it's OK, it works. Give it a a spin; give a little whistle.

Gerry Cinnamon - Diamonds in the Mud (2017)

* He's younger than me. He's a kid; a wain, if you will.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Sing it Again, Ray

It's back. Swedey McSwedeface - the series I nicked shamelessly from my good friend The Swede - makes a welcome return. And who better to kick things off than Raymond Murray. Ray is my older (and, some would say, wiser) cousin who, among many other life skills, has been known to drink a pint of Guinness in less than two gulps whilst simultaneously whistling Danny Boy. Added to which, his chart knowledge covering the period 1971 to 1975 is simply unparalleled. Quite apt then that the first album Ray bought with his own corn was released slap bang in the middle of the above mentioned 'golden era'. In your own words, Ray...

The title immediately reveals my first album purchase as a compilation. That was a tactic of mine in the cash strapped, limited pocket money era of the 1970s. Splashing out the best part of two quid needed a guaranteed return. In 1973 none of us could have imagined just how often and for how long Rod would indeed sing it again.
Mandolin Wind, Reason to Believe, and Handbags and Gladrags contribute to a magnificent Side 1, with Bernie Taupin's Country Comfort a worthwhile addition. But my generation just can't get away from Maggie May as quintessential Rod - superb lyrically and an early challenger for Song of the 70s.
Side 2 was almost obliged to be less spectacular, and so it proved. All things considered though I reckon it was £1.99 well spent.

Rod Stewart (with Ronnie Wood) - Mandolin Wind

Monday, 25 November 2019


Albuquerque is the most populated city in New Mexico; though not the capital - that accolade belongs to Santa Fe. You probably know it as the backdrop for Breaking Bad and its spin-off Better Call Saul. Or, if hot air ballooning is your thing, you'll be aware that the International Balloon Fiesta is held in ABQ every year. No? Then maybe, just maybe, if you're of a certain vintage, you might know it as the title of the best Neil Diamond song Neil Diamond neither wrote, nor sung.

Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque was written by jobbing songwriter Tony Romeo (1938-1995) who gave this slice of seventies musical chutzpah to Keith Partridge and his mother, aka David Cassidy and Shirley Jones for their monster hit TV show. Come on, get happy. That's an order.

The Partridge Family: (Point Me in the Direction of) Albuquerque - 1972

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Off the Peg

On the back of my last two posts featuring Bob James and Joe Sample, I thought it would be remiss of me not to mention Larry Carlton. Carlton was, and still is, the go to guitarist for any discerning jazz musician. Indeed, when Sample hired him for his band the Crusaders in the 70s it wouldn't be long before they were the biggest thing in jazz fusion; no small accolade when you consider the stiff competition knocking around at the time. Likewise, Bob James signed him up in the 90s when his pick-up group, Fourplay, were in the market for a new guitar maestro.

Larry Carlton has played with everyone. His CV reads like a Who's Who of musical greats - he's worked with Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jnr., Michael Jackson, Andy Williams and Dolly Parton to name but a few. He even lent his guitar sound to one of the defining American TV series of the 1980s.

In 1977, like Joe Sample, he got a call from Donald Fagen to come and play on Steely Dan's latest long-player (Carlton had previously given them a dig out on both Katy Lied and The Royal Scam). Aja would go on to become the Dan's Sergeant Pepper, or even Abbey Road, take your pick. In fact Larry liked it so much he even 'borrowed' one of its tunes for his next solo album. No prizes for guessing which one.

Room 335 came out in 1978. The original is a thing of wonder, but, then again, so is this version recorded live nearly 30 years later.

Larry Carlton (with the SWR Big Band) - Room 335 (2017)

Tuesday, 12 November 2019


Regrets; I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention. Alright, here's one: I never got to see Joe Sample (see this from yesterday). Although I did catch the Jazz Crusaders live with Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder in the early 90s (I remember they were introduced on stage by George Melly), neither Sample or original Crusaders drummer Stix Hooper were part of the lineup at the time. And with Sample, Henderson and Felder now all the wrong side of the grass - any thoughts of a Crusaders reunion obviously died with them.

Sample had a varied musical life outside of the Crusaders and played with the great and the good; not least Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell - you'll find him on both Aja and The Hissing of Summer Lawns. I can think of worse albums to have on your resumé.

Today, however, I've gone for a nailed on jazz classic he put out in the mid-90s. It's textbook Sample. Fill yer boots.

Joe Sample - Hippies on a Corner (1996)

Joseph Leslie Sample (1939-2014)

Monday, 11 November 2019


As lists go, it's pretty short. As lists go, it's also very niche; in fact, as lists go it probably can't even be described as a list. Let me explain. The list to which I refer is headed up "Smooth Jazz Keyboard Players I Need to See Live Before I/They Die". The 'list' used to have two names on it: Joe Sample. And Bob James. But as Joe Sample bowed out in September 2014, the list (hell, it doesn't even warrant a scrap of notepaper in my wallet) now bears but one name.
So imagine my delight when I saw that Robert McElhiney James was playing a two night residency at London's Pizza Express on December 1st & 2nd (a couple of weeks before the maestro's 80th birthday -on Christmas Day). So far so smooth. However, such is the interest in the man who's best known for this, it's SOLD OUT! Bloody lists.

I don't know what tunes he'll be playing to the Soho pizza eating fraternity next month, but if I was in the room I'd be baying for these two, that much I do know.

Bob James - Touchdown (1978)

Bob James - Take Me There (1999)

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Big Boys Don't Cry

I can honestly say I've never been billed as a special guest before. Ever. But Special Guest is, seemingly, what I am for this upcoming shindig on Sunday. I think a greatest hits set is called for; so that would be the one about the woman with the dogs, and the one I nicked off Neil Young. I might even do my version (vershion) of I'm Not in Love. There never were such times.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Someone to Hear Your Prayers

Jesus - this time it's personal
Sex. And religion. A heady mix; this year marks the 30th anniversary of Personal Jesus - Depeche Mode's crossover hit single released at the arse end of the 1980s. Since then it's been covered by all and sundry, not least Johnny Cash and Marilyn Manson.
I love the way the song carries itself. It's got a groove that lends itself to any genre - hence Cash and Manson queuing up to record it. However, my Personal Jesus is the one covered a bunch of lads from south Yorkshire who, back in the 70s, had cut their teeth on Mott the Hoople, David Bowie, and the Faces. They eye up the dots and proceed to give it a right seeing to.

Def Leppard - Personal Jesus (2018)

Sunday, 27 October 2019

I Believe

"I believe in seeds; I believe in water; I believe in ideas" 

So said Mick Jones in 'A National Anthem' - a song he and Tony James wrote together for their (truly wonderful) band Carbon Silicon who were knocking around just after the turn of the millennium. Some bright spark, it may have been Alan McGee, said, when trying to describe them: "Imagine the Rolling Stones jamming with a laptop." He wasn't far wrong. This version, which leans heavily on Marvin Gaye's Heard it Thru the Grapevine, is, I think, far superior to the heavily sanitised recording that appeared much later on their 2007 release The Last Post (by which time, possibly fearing a plagiarism lawsuit, they'd dropped the Grapevine motif).

01 A National Anthem.mp301 A National Anthem.mp3

Saturday, 26 October 2019

You're Joking

I so need to see this film. Not least because Rock & Roll Part 2 is, allegedly, the glue that binds the movie together. I may, of course, be exaggerating, but from the reviews I've read (and the clip/trailer I've seen - below) it would lead me to believe that this defining glam anthem penned by Mike Leander and Paul Gadd (Gary G**tter) in 1972 is, again, finding a new audience. I've name-checked the song (and the singer too, for that matter) here before: long story short, we need to separate the art from the artist. People get prissy about the Leader (and rightly so), but banning his music from being played on national radio isn't the way forward. If we continue down that road then it's only a matter of time before Led Zeppelin suffer a similar fate; read Hammer of the Gods if you want a flavour of just how young Jimmy Page liked his groupies. 

Joker - 2019