Rolling Stones: Hackney Diamonds
This new album in 2023 is an unexpected pleasure. It’s like meeting up with a collection of war-ravaged old mates in a boozer in Hackney. It is very much an amalgam of essences from nearly every Stones’ song. It’s instantly recognisable as the Stones with lots of, yes, Hackney-ed riffs, snarls, whines, catchy tunes and part-tunes. It even sports two tracks featuring Charlie Watts on drums, and one with Bill Wyman on bass too. And an almost Sex Pistols-like number, ‘Bite My Head off’ which has some really rather spiffing, buzzing bass lines, courtesy of Paul McCartney, and includes the line: “I’m fucking with your brain”. Less successfully in my view are small cameos from Elton John and Stevie Wonder, but Lady Gaga conjures up a storm of soulful sounds, trading vocals with Mick, on the seven minute long track, ‘Sweet Sounds of Heaven’ which soars in walls and crescendos of gospel sounds and ends in a cappella quietness with Lady Gaga trilling alone. A lot of the ‘feel’ of many tracks is reminiscent of ‘You can’t always get what you want’, which is not a bad thing at all.
There’s slow blues and subdued guitar licks on ‘Dreamy Skies’, but overall it’s still very much the Stones’ take on Rock ‘n’ Roll. And then it ends on track 13, with ‘Rolling Stone Blues’, which is actually a homage version of Muddy Waters’ ‘Catfish Blues’. Reverential, stripped-back guitar, bass, harmonica, drums… “Oh well, oh well, I got a boy child coming…He’s gonna be a rolling stone.”
It’s a good album and nearly up there with the greatest ones from the old bad boys of rock.
Clips of Mick, Lady Gaga and the boys from the album launch in the USA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3E_V4eB3e0
Paul Lush: Six Ways From Sunday
Paul was born in Australia, but is a part of the UK’s burgeoning Americana scene. It’s the sort of album you’d be likely to buy after a live Paul Lush gig. There are shades of Dylan and even Rod Stewart’s ‘Mandolin Wind’. Plenty of quality songs, especially the ones with strong narrative story-lines. The most powerful songs are steeped in loss, break-ups and sorrowful moments. And lots of intelligent lines of observation such as, “No-one comes out of this looking good.”
Paul Lush has been on lots of other albums including ones as part of Danny and The Champions of the World. And he released his own album ‘And there it is’ in 2021 with Angela Gannon from the Magic Numbers on vocals. But this album has allowed him to take the lead and step into the spotlight. There’s a nice mix of musical styles including some incendiary guitar solos. As a whole, the LP is a bit like an album from Australia’s Joe Camilleri from The Black Sorrows. Lots of variety, some catchy musical hooks, lush arrangements (sorry, I couldn’t help adding that!) and plenty of soulful meanderings.
Anoushka Shankar: Chapter 1: Forever, For Now
An ep (a mini LP) of much beauty. Tranquillity, sitar blending with piano on ‘Daydreaming’, the opening track featuring Nils Frahm tinkling the keys. It’s apparently based on a Karnatic lullaby. I witnessed Anoushka live with her sitar and electronic dance ‘set’ at the Boom Festival in Portugal and that is one of the very special musical moments in my life. The music on this release is at times reminiscent of George Harrison’s use of sitar on tracks like ‘Within you, Without you’ – strangely transcendental. Floating, haunting, bewitching sounds.
Here’s what Anoushka says about the mini-album, which is the first in a planned set of at least three:
“…and one day last summer, while I was in the garden with my two sons and my sitar, I was strumming when one of my sons got tired and lay down in my lap. As I started finding this melody from my childhood, he fell asleep, and I remember trying to savour the beauty of the moment. This song is a snapshot of afternoon sun through leaves, roses in bloom, a child dozing on his mother’s lap, the preciousness of a single moment fully lived and witnessed. This whole chapter, in fact, is about that feeling, being completely in the fullness and transience of a single moment, coming to forever – for now.”
Mabe Fratti: Se ve desde aqui (It is seen from here)
This Guatamalan born, Mexican-based artist had passed me by. She’s a cellist and synth player armed with an experimental musical palette. And she has brought together some kindred musical talents in a multi-layered set of soundscapes abetted with much electronica and violin, drums and saxophone. It seems to me, part modern classical, and part free-jazz. Tonal and atonal patterns, atmospherics, oft-times unnerving, which Mabe calls her, “…abrasive barbed wire cacophony.” In fact, it is almost impossible to categorise, at times a little austere – a daunting and challenging liminal portal into dissonance. If ethereal vocals and acoustic bass sounds are your bag – then this is well worth a musical visit. It’s complex, experimental and is something akin to a collection of sound experiments. I sensed an affinity of sorts with Jan Garbarek in his sax playing along the fiords of Norway with Ralph Towner and Terje Rypdal, alongside perhaps, a voyage into the way out, far reaches into outer space that Arthur Russell utilised. It can be a cold an icy landscape.
Here is Mabe Fratti live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTskdzJ1VCE
Speed of The Stars (Steve Kilbey and Frank Kearns)
This album from Speed of The Stars has had a strange birth and gestation it seems. It was apparently started way back in 1998, was finished in 2016, then has been re-released with additional tracks in 2023. Kearns is a member of the Irish alt-rockers, Cactus World News, and Kilbey is best known for his role in psychedelic outfit, The Church. It’s very wordy and at times it comes over like a missing selection of tracks from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’.
They describe it as, “…progressive gossamer alt-pop, high on…dreamy atmospherics.” I’d agree.
There are waves of warm textures on tracks like ‘Autumn Daze’, and ‘Stupid Dream’ which could easily be entitled, ‘The Shimmering’. Sometimes it gets a bit samey, but it’s classy stuff, albeit a tad pretentious (or sublime, depending on your viewpoint) as on ‘Heliotropic’.
Ari Satlin/Zman8: [Chill Space Mix Series 124] Digital Nomads – Takin’ A Cab To Gab
The blurb says it all, more or less. “Digital Nomads is a psychedelic chill project of East Coast Electronics and Zman8. They have crafted a mix featuring the best of Gabriel Le Mar and Saafi Brothers.” Ambient, floating sounds. Spacey and uplifting. A nice way to work to, and for rest and play too. Ari keeps in touch with me from his new abode in the USA, in New York.
Peter Green: The End of the Game
Intense. Adventurous and even, at times, frightening. This extended 50th Anniversary version of Peter Green’s last great album from his early career (recorded in 1970), and was re-released in 2020 by Cherry Red Records. It’s essentially a jam, but rather scary! Zoot Money was one of Green’s musical collaborators on the recording session. He remembers, “(Peter) asked if I would come down to the studio that very night and we’d just play together and see what came out…”
If you only remember ‘Albatross’ and his blues playing with the original Fleetwood Mac, this may come as something of a musical surprise. It was quite an experience for the five participants, who had never played collectively together before. It’s loose, unstructured and the original vinyl album version, which I still have, has been augmented by both sides of Peter Green’s two singles, ‘Heavy Heart/No Way Out’ (1971) and ‘Beasts of Burden/Uganda Woman’ (1972).
Hear some of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoVspJ3Mq90
Robb Johnson and the Xmas Irregulars: Murder at The Grange
This is a completely eccentric oddity. It’s receiving a special festive release for Christmas 2023. It’s a recording of a musical ‘entertainment’ – a show, a live event which was performed by Robb with members of his ‘Irregulars’. It’s an old-fashioned sort of affair. A mix and match of whimsy, jazz, scat singing, double-bass, piano, trumpet, sax, violin and viola, plus oodles of pastoral musical theatre. Lots of vocal word-play. It’s absolutely Christmas-themed. A playful, novelty item that is a throwback to the 1950s/early 1960s, as it says in the promotional literature: “50s jazz, Father Christmas, mistletoe, sprouts etc.” Or, as they sing: “Wotcha gonna do with your brussel sprouts? Hallelujah! Oh be joyful!”