Alan’s New & Old Music Summer (wot summer?) musical round-up

from Alan Dearling

Roger Waters – The Lockdown Sessions

Floyd Man’s re-workings/reinterpretations of six numbers. Roger  says: “The Encores…yeah, it has a nice ring to it. I started thinking it could make an interesting album.”  Then Covid came along and Roger phoned, or contacted on-line, a selection of his touring mates from the three years of the ‘Us and Them’ tour. Similar ideas were being explored by musos around the world. Put a basic track together, then share it with friends, and select from their overdubs and contributions.

So, this is the result. It’s not exactly outstandingly original, but for Floyd completists (and Roger Waters’ fans) it provides different enough versions of old faves. ‘Mother’ is still heart-rending and played acoustic, it is powerful and evocative. “Mother, do you think they’ll like this song?”  Roger does get a bit doomy. War, bombs, holocausts, guns and death are served up hot and cold as the main courses. There is some searing guitar in evidence, probably from Jonathan Wilson and fine female vocals, especially from Shanay Johnson.


And, as befits ‘Encores’ – we have a new version of crowd favourite, ‘Comfortably Numb’.  All a bit intense, but classy bombast.

Clark – Sus Dog

Not surprisingly since it features Thom Yorke, ‘Medicine’ from the new Clark album, is another missing link in the Radiohead story.

Clark is full of complex, complicated all-over-the shop moods and sounds. Words escape into sometimes uncomfortable soundscapes. Partially at least, it is the territory of David Vorhaus/Delia Derbyshire and White Noise.  It’s right out-there music. Filmic. Epic. But also sometimes more melodic, like on ‘Over Empty Streets’. ‘Forest’ even sound like melodic Beach Boys or Fleet Foxes. ‘Bully’ might even be an escapee from a lost Floyd-ian soundscape. But more often there’s a bleakness, and an underwater sensory perception of brain-mangling intensity. ‘Ladder’ ends the ‘Sus Dog’ experience, a lost dream of Kubrick’s ‘2001’. Strangely disturbing. Abnormal Service is resumed!

Challenging, but rewarding, is probably my verdict. 

Mesmeric video for ‘Medicine’:

Shirley Collins – Archangel Hill

Shirley probably doesn’t want to be perceived as the Grand Old Dame of Traditional English folk music. But that’s also a testament to her longevity and importance in the genre. She’s now 87. This might be her last album, though never say never. Her voice is now often husky and at times uncertain. This sets the tone with ‘Fare thee well, my dearest dear’. The album is indeed a kind of musical ‘fare thee well’…

It’s full of lost love, lovelorn tales of young girls and ‘stories’ of rural idylls and ship-wrecks. Maypoles of traditional rural lives, with simple arrangements and instrumentation.

I grew up in Sussex and the title track, ‘Archangel Hill’, is a musical poem by her dad. It evokes my youth around the South Downs and farms of the fifties and early sixties, pub folk clubs and sing-a-rounds in smoky bars. A nostalgic slice of musical tradition. There’s one add-on track of Shirley singing ‘Hand and Heart’ at a live gig in Sydney from way back when in 1980, when her voice was more perfectly pitched.

The simply arranged ‘Archangel Hill’ is hauntingly beautiful:

Shaw’s Trailer Park – Swamp Song

Wasn’t sure about the opening track, which is an energetic, buzzy kind of rock: ‘Don’t do That’. But it then seems to change gear and is a really rather lovely, up-beat, psychedelic tapestry. ‘Crash Landing’ leads the musical charge and it made my menial, manual tasks in my art studio much more pleasurable. A trailer park full of Americana; though actually from the South Coast of England.  It reminds me a bit of the darkness and light of the early Stranglers. Insistent riffing and catchy ear-worm tunes… Even a bit of Wilko Johnson in there, perhaps! There’s a lot of musicality and interplay between the band members. They are just so obviously having fun together. Exploring musical possibilities.

Video of ‘Crash Landing’:

Easily reminiscent of the Byrds. A fair compliment, methinks.

The back-story of the recording is worth repeating. The band members had yet to play a gig. They recorded nine songs and there was no plan to release the material, but then, as they said, “They’d captured something special…Something more than just five members combined. It was a true ‘lightning in the bottle’ moment.”

Tim Sampher seems to be enjoying being Brighton-based and this is solid and exciting stuff. I’ve had my appetite whetted – I’d like to catch them live. Kozmik, trippy and all the better for it! Some lovely walls of sound – Old Skool and New Skools collide right up to the end of the album with the search for the twisting, squirming, ‘Snakegirl’.

John Armstrong and friends

An International – indeed world-wide musical odyssey. John has pieced together something rather special…melding together tracks from his travelling life. Different genres, cultures, countries. Blues, folk, jigs, reggae – broadly a potpourri of World Music from Bali, Tibet, France, India, Brazil and beyond, together with contributions from his friends in Yorkshire and Lancashire, which is his basecamp in between more exotic adventures in Thailand, Cambodia, Egypt and elsewhere.

There are no weak tracks and the rich diversity makes the musical time pass swiftly and enjoyably. John is sometimes centre-stage and also in the background jamming with his cross-cultural friends such as Mahendra Singh and Lhamo. There’s a lovely seamless blend to the mix and mash-up of styles from trance to chants, from dance to growling strains of folk-blues. Released initially at Bandcamp, the 13 track album is about to be pressed on CD.

I especially loved the segued ‘Sometimes and Around the World’ which is the final track.

But as they say, why not begin at the beginning with John and the Cultivators and ‘A New Day’. Multi-national reggae and dub “Recycle, recycle…” Worth checking out.

Bob Dylan- Shadow Kingdom

This is almost a tribute album. A tribute by Bob celebrating ‘himself’ through new interpretations of some of his favourite song-picks.

Weirdly, I thought, there are no muso credits on the CD version of the album. It’s garnered a Mexican flavour from the recording at a supposedly live gig at the mythical Bon-Bon Club. He’s really in pretty good voice and seemingly enjoying his jolly side. He’s lively, exuberant, sometimes accompanied by  accordion, harmonica and pedal-steel guitar.

It’s a deconstruction of the Early Songs of Bob Dylan. There’s a shuffle or two and a howling at the Moon in ‘Just like tom Thumb’s Blues’. The spoken word version of ‘Tombstone Blues’ almost takes Bob into Tom Waits’ territory. At times he sounds like a piratical imp! A naughty coyote or fox on the night-time prowl.

Then there’s a hint of darkness in ‘What was it you wanted?’ from the ‘Oh Mercy’ album that makes it seem more like an out-take from ‘Time Out of Mind’ sessions. It’s really rather great…yet not so well remembered as much of the Bob-ness song-book…and it segues beautifully into ‘Forever Young’. A version that comes over as a gentle lament, a little sad rendition of “May you stay Forever Young”.

Video from Shadow Kingdom:

Cult Figures – Between us and heaven

Video perhaps from the Hope and Anchor pub in Islington, but maybe not!:

I’m really uncertain as to what to make of this album. The CD is artistically created with some quirky artwork. The album starts off lively and poppy. It sounds like a missing album from a few decades ago. At times melodic and full of enough hum-along tunes to appeal to an older-type of audience. I can imagine the Cult figures on the pub circuit, being popular, but perhaps not individual enough to cut through the rest of the musical pack.

By the end of listening to the whole album a couple of times, there’s an additional uncertainty in my mind. What are they trying to be? A post-Wire Art School band? There’s even a surreal drunken choir featured in ‘Battle of the Beefcakes’. A mix of ballads, pop songs, poetry and some jangling guitars. I might understand it more as a live performance, but it seems a bit of a muddle…”Give me a booster cos I need a future”…”Waiting at your table, just as long as I am able,”  Rocket ships – microwave marriage – “Fish can talk – Trees can walk”…”And Hammersmith Bridge is falling down”.  Ho hum…confused…exit stage left…

This entry was posted on in homepage and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.