Archive for the ‘Island’ Category

Wally Badarou

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Listen: Theme From Countryman / Wally Badarou
Theme

This single sits front of the 7″ soundtrack section in a wall shelf that I pass everyday of my life, when I’m in town that is. Suddenly it occurred to me, I had no idea what it sounded like. Well that’s all changed. If ‘Theme From Countryman’ had lyrics, I could sing you every last one at this point, that’s how many times it’s been on repeat. One of many lessons learned: never dump a record, you just can not predict know when it may become a cornerstone in your collection.

As an unofficial member of Level 42, Wally Badarou held little interest to me, and his endless studio involvements somehow the same. Boy, was I stupid.

Firstly, his accomplishments are an eye opener: a member of The Compass Point All Stars with Sly & Robbie, Barry Reynolds, Mikey Chung and Sticky Thompson, the in-house recording team of Compass Point Studios responsible for a long series of albums by Grace Jones, Joe Cocker, Black Uhuru, Gwen Guthrie, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Robert Palmer, Marianne Faithfull, Herbie Hancock, M, Talking Heads, Melissa Etheridge, Manu Dibango and Miriam Makeba. Yeah, gasp.

Secondly, a gifted composer of incidental film music, possibly even harder to do well than calculating a Top 40 hit.

The single lead me to pull out the full length COUNTRYMAN double album soundtrack, thereby discovering, upon a typical credit scour, that Kwaku Baah played a big part in the musician lineup. Currently obsessed with his annoyingly under appreciated and extremely scarce TRANCE album from ’77, credited to Kwaku Baah & Ganoua, I rabidly advise finding a copy. And while you’re at it, both the COUNTRYMAN soundtrack and it’s accompanying 7″.

Marianne Faithfull

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Listen: Sister Morphine / Marianne Faithfull
Sister

Seeing Mark Miller Mundy’s name mentioned on a Facebook friend’s page today, combined with the chill of Fall setting into New York’s weather, brought on the idea of a BROKEN ENGLISH listen. Chris Blackwell once mentioned during a company retreat that Marianne Faithfull was the perfect example of an Autumn/Winter artist, siting Toots & The Maytals as being more adapted to Spring/Summer releases. The concept always stuck.

Fact is though, a thick UK 7″ pressing sounds better than any album, any day. Disagree? Don’t even. A/B ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’ or ‘Broken English’ against their album counterparts and see for yourself. Most of humanity probably wouldn’t notice but to me, it’s blatant. So over to the singles shelf I went, and in the process, realized it’d been way long since the Island version of ‘Sister Morphine’, re-recorded during those BROKEN ENGLISH sessions, had made it’s way out my speakers.

Okay, so this clearly didn’t stand up to the rest of that album, despite the obvious logic that it’s subject matter might perfectly fit. When you think about it, the song was always anchored by a clunky blues arrangement. God love The Rolling Stones, but they’re basically boogie woogie to the bone. So whether it be their version or Marianne’s original with them on backing, the songwriting blueprint was hard to shake.

Mark Miller Mundy clearly couldn’t find a way round it either and this was therefore relegated to the outtake mausoleum at the time. Luckily, the scorn in her delivery made it a worthwhile B side not long later, in ’82, when ‘Broken English’ got a UK re-release, thus providing the single with it’s own little corner of history. And the picture perfect sleeve didn’t hurt.

Scratch & The Upsetters

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Listen: Three In One / Scratch & The Upsetters
Three

Went through a pretty intense eBay trolling this Sunday. My Father’s Day present was to do whatever I pleased, with no pressure of attending to weekend chores and such. Therefore I became perfectly content settling into my storage garage, digging through boxes and doing some online record shopping. All the while being treated to a non stop supply of my favorite homemade food. A perfect day.

Except of course for all the stress brought on by hundreds of demos and dj pressings currently engulfing eBay. Several seriously hard to find items ended their auctions today and I was not a frequent winner. Some guy outbid my by one penny, no lie one penny, for the Joyce Bond SOUL AND SKA album. This was an original pink Island beauty. My top bid being £109.99. The bleeding thing sold for £110.00.

The one record that crushed me though was Scratch & The Upsetters’ 7″ of ‘Three In One’ from SUPER APE. You just do not see it on eBay. Not ever. Not until now. I’ve had this particular single on an automatic eBay search for years, and finally today there came a notification alert to my inbox. A copy had just listed with a 99p starting price. Could this moment truly be happening!?!

My world fell down upon clicking through to the listing. Disaster. The record’s center had been punched out. Fewer things can deflate my interest in a UK single more than this. I was devastated. Stared at the page for two or three minutes contemplating and then trying to justify a possible purchase. I’d deem it a starter copy only, which could always go straight to the jukebox. How will I pass this up? But, ultimately I decided against going for it.

Several hours later, when checking on my Lee Perry 7′s, just to make sure they were all safe on the shelf, I realized I had ‘Three In One’ this whole time.

It was like a miracle occurred before my eyes, given there isn’t a molecule of recollection about ever acquiring this copy. No idea where it originated from. Not a clue as to how long it’s been there either. Regardless, with all good stories there comes a happy ending. And this was officially a good story.

As Corinne said about my particular circumstance, “What a mitzvah”.

Blodwyn Pig

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Dear Jill / Blodwyn Pig

Dear Jill / Blodwyn Pig

Listen: Dear Jill / Blodwyn Pig
Dear

Even if you don’t favor late 60′s blues or progressive stuff, you might still appreciate Blodwyn Pig. They were an exception, really quite musical and in fact, still hold up well today.

The band was formed by Jethro Tull’s original guitarist Mick Abrahams, not long after they’d released their debut album, THIS WAS.

Similarly, Blodwyn Pig leaned a bit jazz and like Jethro Tull, were based in more than your standard guitar/bass/drums lineup, with Jack Lancaster on saxes/horns/harmonicas. A particularly strong asset being Mick Abrahams’ effortlessly authentic blues voice. Plus he was a very accomplished acoustic slide player as you can hear.

Pretty amazing to realize this music was written and played by guys in their late teens or at most, early twenties. Saw them once too, along with Chicken Shack, opening for The Kinks. The stellar UK band triple header had me glazing over my school work as I counted down the weeks, then days, then hours until showtime. Man, was it ever worth the agony.

Zap-Pow

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Listen: This Is Reggae Music / Zap-Pow
This

Recorded and originally released in ’73, don’t be surprised if you think ‘This Is Reggae Music’ is blatantly influenced by HELL UP IN HARLEM Blaxploitation soundtrack production. There was a lot of it about. Harry Johnson and Chris Blackwell must have been knee deep in the stuff at the time.

By then, as a result of ‘Shaft’, the worldwide hit single for Isaac Hayes from the film of the same name, the style pretty much became a mainstay at RnB, or Black radio as it was referred to, finding it’s way into everything including reggae apparently.

Lead singer Dwight Pinkney sure does have a voice that later should have been confused for Steve Perry’s from Journey. In fact, that band could have easily pulled off a version of ‘This Is Reggae Music’ had they known and felt a fondness for the genre, which I’m betting the bank they did not.

The other guys in Zap-Pow played on many of Lee Perry’s Black Ark sessions.

Toots & The Maytals

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

TootsA, Toots & The Maytals, Island, Chris Blackwell

Listen: Chatty Chatty / Toots & The Maytals
Chatty

By the time ‘Chatty Chatty’ was released in 1980, reggae seemed mainstream, at least to us collectors. Although the occasional US ska or reggae radio hit of the 60′s had long ended, and it’s resurgence in the 90′s still being a ways off, college stations were playing it pretty heavily. Plus the touring acts would hit all the punk and new wave clubs, drawing primarily the same audiences.

If ‘Chatty Chatty’ sounds similar to Bob Marley & The Wailers’ ‘Could You Be Loved’ it’s not surprising. Chris Blackwell produced both in that same year. On first listen I was convinced Toots & The Maytals had a mainstream smash on their hands, at least in the UK. Wrong. It never charted. None of his singles did. Seems hard to believe.

‘Chatty Chatty’ serves as the perfect springtime single, April 7, 1980 being it’s exact release date. That was something I learned from Chris. He many times saw a song’s first listen as being seasonal. Toots was spring and summer, Marianne Faithfull definitely autumn or winter.

Arrow

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Listen: Groovemaster / Arrow
Groovemaster

The Island offices on 4th Street, right above Tower Records, were a real hubbub of activity back in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Seems a day wouldn’t go by when at least someone from the roster would stop by. Julian Cope, Phranc, Toots Hibbert, Bootsy Collins, Melissa Etheridge, Etta James, Third World, Rakim, Marianne Faithfull, Anthrax. Seriously, there was never a dull moment.

Arrow lived locally, and seemed genuinely thrilled to have a group of friends at the company, all of whom attended his many in Central Park or SOB’s shows. He was forever a happy jolt to any workday.

Seeing him live was a quick trip to carnival, there was no way you could have a bad time. For an hour or so, everyone danced and laughed and got rid of all their troubles. Sounds all very patronizing I’ll agree, but it really did happen that way.

Despite some of the sonic trappings of his Mango releases, like those electronic drums for instance, overall I have the fondest memories of ‘Groovemaster’ and those days when it was a current single. Not being one for Latin music, like truly not at all, ‘Grooovemaster’ just slides by unscathed. Hey, after all, it was World Music. Most importantly, it’s only possible to remember the good times associated with all things Arrow.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Arrow

Patto

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Listen: Mummy / Patto
Mummy

It’s not my ordinary form to write up a B side ahead of the A side, but in this case….

‘Mummy’ is clearly meant as a tasteless joke, and not really representative of Patto’s diverse musicality but it is a riot. It’s so sick, so twisted, I couldn’t help but love the record from first play. I would spin it on my college station constantly and always got nasty calls from mommy’s boys, pining for a home cooked meal and a hug.

When it comes to ‘Mummy’, I felt the same then as I do now. If you don’t completely love this, fine. But indeed if that’s the case, please do leave this blog now and never return. You are not wanted here.

Listen: Singing The Blues On Reds / Patto
Singing

Still reading? Good. Hopefully all the riff raff are gone.

‘Singing The Blues On Reds’ is much closer to the typical Patto groove, although a bit more straight blues rock than usual. I would guess it to be intentional on the band’s part, given the subject matter: tongue in cheek overview of white, drugged up rock band singing blues numbers on tour. Edited down from the 4+ minute album version, someone at Island smartly chopped out the last chorus’s lyric “screwing in hotel beds”. (All the other choruses: “sleeping in hotel beds”).

Didn’t matter, US radio wouldn’t play it anyways. I know you are not surprised. Me neither.

Nonetheless, Patto were brilliant, amazing, whatever the word is, on the American tour with Joe Cocker & The Grease Band / Mark – Almond, to promote ROLL ‘EM, SMOKE ‘EM, PUT ANOTHER LINE OUT, from which both sides of this hideously obscure, US only single came.

Ray Lema

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Listen: Kamulang (Single Edit) / Ray Lema
Kamulang

In the late 80′s, just starting a five year run at Island, I became pretty obsessed with World Music. We never called it that there or then, but the industry termed the genre as such around the time. It was easily a normal expansion of Island’s musical reach, well, normal to those of us in-house at least.

Chris had noticed my love of the genre, and at one point, suggested I leave the pop side of the company to concentrate exclusively on Mango, Island’s World and Reggae imprint. In some ways, I wish I had, but hey, you can’t do everything. At least, I can’t.

During the process though, I made a few trips to the UK and France, where several of the African acts either resided or performed regularly. One such being Ray Lema. His Mango debut, NANGADEEF, was produced by Paul ‘Graucho’ Smykle, infamous in my world for an identical feat on Black Uhuru’s ANTHEM.

Graucho may as well have lived at Island’s 22 St. Peter’s Square office in London, where we became fast friends. And I loved NANGADEEF. Was I ever pleased to see ‘Kamulang’ on the UK’s single release schedule, which in those days meant a 7 as well as a 12.

It was in Paris, during November ’89, that Ray Lema played to a jammed house inside the Virgin Mega Store. The whole freaking day reeked of romantic. Never one to have a soft spot about Paris nor France, I must admit, hanging around, as excited to meet Ray Lema as I had been about The Rolling Stones a decade and more earlier, with the Eiffel Tower in clear view, was pretty memorable. Musicianship, not volume, being the ultimate asset here, and Ray Lema had both. If you know his work, or simply listen to this track, I can verify, the music was flawlessly reproduced live with an added spiritual euphoria.

Despite the period’s sonic trappings, now all rather dated, there was always a streak of The Soft Machine in there instrumentally. What’s not to like about that?

Nowadays, ‘Kamulang’ holds up just fine for me. Regardless of if I can stretch my World 7″ collection to 50 plus or not, this will always be Top 5.

Lux Interior / The Cramps

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

How Come You Do Me / The Cramps

Listen: How Come You Do Me / The Cramps
Listen: How Come You Do Me / The Cramps

Lux being Lux. (Photo: Dan Blackstone)

Above: Lux being Lux (The Academy, NYC, 11/25/94) (Photo: Dan Blackstone)

The Cramps, Toad's Place, New Haven, CN. 1998 (Photo: Duane Sherwood)

Above: The Cramps, Toad’s Place, New Haven, CN. 1998 (Photo: Duane Sherwood)

Below: A postcard from John Peel in response to receiving The Cramps FLAMEJOB package.

A postcard from John Peel in response to receiving The Cramps FLAMEJOB package.

It took a bit of coaxing to get me to my first Cramps show. They played a club in my college town of Rochester, N.Y., and I wasn’t particularly into their first album, which they were touring at the time. The argument putting me over the edge was based on logic. There wasn’t really anything else to do that night, a typical problem. Coincidentally, we had mutual friends in Eric and Mel Mache from New York City. Eric recommended we go along, see them and say hello. So why not? Thank you Eric. It changed my life. I’ve never been the same.

Why did any band other than The Ramones even bother to get out of bed in the morning to compete? The truly informed didn’t. The Cramps created a sound and a theater that scared off all the competition. It would indeed be silly to imply any part was bigger than the sum, but these parts were bigger than anyone else’s and hence the sum was historical, seminal, other worldly, untouchable. Like Ivy, Lux was a one off. Many have and are professing him to be the greatest front man ever. I agree. His perfect combination of spontaneity, teetering on the edge but never losing control has gone unmatched.

Did you ever see Lux do or say the same thing twice? No.

Did you struggle to watch his every move yet still need to watch Ivy, Kid, Bryan, Candy or Slim? Yes.

Did you relive every show in your mind for days and even years after? Yes. And we all still will.

If you never saw The Cramps, you will forever live in B.C. I am deeply sorry for you.

I was lucky enough to begin a long personal journey with them after that first show. It floored us all, and we were only too happy to say hello and invite them back to our apartments (another friend lived on the same floor) for some food and record playing.

The first of endless and unique Cramps experiences happened that very night. There was a strange noise in our bedroom where Corinne was trying to sleep, having an early wake up call the next day. She came out to the living room where the band and a few friends were gathered, saying something was making a flapping noise, it was giving her the creeps and could we investigate.

Lux and I went in to check it out. It was a bat. How did a bat get into the bedroom? To this day, we have no idea. At the time, The Cramps image was very graveyard/skull & crossbones/old Hollywood’s dark side. The bat seemed strangely relevant as that aura was rumored to follow them around.

Lux segued into an involuntary mode, capturing it in a glass casserole dish. We all had a look, then he set it free out the kitchen window. This actually tells you everything about him. He was instinctive, logical, fearless, strategic, courteous, kind and gentle all at once, truly a person beyond the beyond. We had ordered two pizzas, they never came, it was a quiet city in the late 70′s. Nothing was open, so The Cramps retreated to their hotel hungry, but content and pleasant.

They came back through town again a year or so later, summer ’81, this time to promote PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE. Kid Congo was now in the band, it was one of their classic lineups. Duane Sherwood, a friend like myself from their first time through, and I met up with them prior to the show. We were beyond ecstatic at the mere thought of seeing The Cramps that night, not to mention spending some time together. We went to the venue in the late afternoon. It was a gorgeous June day. The equipment was there but the band had wandered off looking for food, so we waited. Soon, edging their way over the hill leading down to the club were, initially, three spiked/halos of hair, two black and one orange, immediately materializing into the full bodies of Lux, Kid and Ivy. Nick followed, sans the big hair. Even when not trying to make an entrance, The Cramps always would.

They seemed pleased to see us, and did some catching up, even though we didn’t really know them that well. Welcomed into the dressing room as they got ready, Lux and Kid were using industrial strength spray from a case they’d brought along to put their hair in order for the show.

This time, the set was even more jaw dropping than the year before. Nothing was compromised, didn’t matter that they were in a small town, the power was unstoppable. Lux was now on stage and his uncontainable gift was unleashed. The ceiling tiles were dismantled, he sliced himself with glass, removed pretty much every stitch of clothing, this was just how it was, nothing fake, pure raw uncensored Lux.

The Cramps were still at their beginning stages then, not playing big venues, often not working with responsible and respectful professional promoters every night. This show was no exception. A local amateur had brought them in this time, offering transportation from New York, then on to Cleveland to begin the originally scheduled tour itinerary. This was a last minute fill in date. Despite selling out the club, and honoring exactly what they been contracted to do, he chose not to be upstanding and return his professional responsibility, therefore unreachable the next day.

The Cramps were stranded with no credit cards or vehicle to get them on to Cleveland. My phone rang around 11 AM. It was Ivy. She said “Kevin, we’re in trouble. Will you help us?” After a quick update from her, I put the phone down, rang Duane and we high tailed it over to their hotel, each in our separate cars to pick them up and figure out the next move. We all came back to my house. I had an American Express card and literally $110 in the bank. I offered them the use of my credit card to rent a vehicle, the look of relief on Ivy’s face will never ever be forgotten. She promised they would pay for the car in cash once they got to Cleveland and hooked up with their crew. I trusted them. And they didn’t go back on their word, I never for a second thought they would. Our friendship was sealed. Little did that promoter know, he did the band and I the biggest favor ever via his unprofessionalism. He did not have the last laugh.

The whole day was not terrible though. Duane took Lux, Ivy and Nick junk shopping. Kid and I stayed back taping the new Siouxsie & The Banshees album. Kid was thrilled that I owned it, as it had just been released. When they returned, Lux spent some time going through my records, trading obscure anecdotes about many of the singles, seeing the sparkle in each other’s eyes as we drooled over the vinyl. His knowledge was frighteningly deep. He was not a fake. The band treated us to a late lunch before heading out of town. We saw them off, and still relive it to this day.

I would travel to New York and Toronto religiously to catch shows over the next few years. Never did this most important band, the true kings and queens of rock and roll, make me or any of their fans feel uncomfortable, or like second class citizens. By ’84 I had relocated to New York, working A&R at Elektra, then Island. I always wanted to sign them, but could never get the green light.

Then in ’92 I started my own imprint, The Medicine Label, through Warner Brothers. Timing is everything and things happen for a reason, it’s true. This was no exception. Had I been able to do a deal with them prior to Medicine, I would have always been struggling to get them the deserved attention within the label. Now I was in charge of the budgets, and could call some shots. The timing was right. Lux and Ivy agreed and we got into business together. It was one of the greatest periods of my professional and personal life. I knew they were all things good and honorable, but to experience their integrity, self respect, flawless instincts, dedication to their art, confidence in their self image, protection of their musical accomplishments, all done with great dignity, taught me much about business and life. Lux and Ivy included myself and Duane, who came to New York to work with me at Medicine, on the making of the eventual FLAMEJOB album. They had never shared this process with anyone before. I am forever honored.

Lux would spill brilliance at every turn, the littlest things had his mark all over them. He once sent along some works in progress on cassette, labeling it ‘The Cramps On Drugs’, crossing out ‘Drugs’ and writing in ‘Medicine’ above it. One of hundreds and hundreds of brilliant ideas constantly flowing from him. Lyrically, his mind was of a higher form of life.

From DRUG TRAIN: “You put one foot up, you put another foot up, you put another foot up, and you’re on board the drug train.”

From INSIDE OUT AND UPSIDE DOWN WITH YOU: “From your bottom to your top, you’re sure some lollipop.”

When the album was finally finished, Lux and Ivy had me over to their house in Los Angeles to hear it. The three of us sat in their meticulously clean and fantastically furnished home, and listened to FLAMEJOB together. They glowed with pride and they deserved to, having made their best album yet, full of all the fire it’s title accurately describes.

The Cramps were never afforded national TV or any radio play of substance. We released ‘Ultra Twist’ as a first single, and when it entered the alternative charts, the band would actually hear themselves on the radio in some cities. Either Lux or Ivy would be sure we knew. And when our publicist Lisa Barbaris, got them on Conan O’Brien, Lux was over the moon. His band was finally going to be on television, a medium he’d been so influenced by as a teenager. Warmed our hearts to deliver this for them, and they always were thankful. He asked if he should tone it down for the broadcast, “God no, go over the top”. Which he did. But to ask first, again proved his respect for others and his responsibility to those he worked with.

It’s impossible to forget the many, many pulverizing moments of Lux on stage, and also realistically impossible to chronicle them all, but here are three:

1 – Playing The Ritz in New York during the LOOK MOM NO HEAD tour, Lux was hit dead center by a hurled high top sneaker. Seamlessly strutting over to it in very high black heels and what was left of a tattered and stage weary matching pair of synthetic pants, he picked it up, filled it with red wine, drank every drop and returned it deep into the shocked audience without flinching or missing a beat.

2 – At Trenton’s City Gardens, where the stage was accessed via a walk from the dressing room through the crowd, usually along the right wall, Lux began the show in a two piece jungle red, thin rubber ensemble, with matching spikes and a string of pearls. As the mayhem progresses, he eventually breaks a bottle of wine, using the glass to slice up his outfit. First of all, the tight rubber pants, although red, had a skin-like implication, so that as he sliced, the unsettling illusion of tearing his own flesh aghast the crowd. As the pants retreated from the damage, Lux was suddenly wearing a few fringes of rubber, much like popped balloons, shamelessly revealing all. Once the sonic annihilation of encore, ‘Surfin’ Bird’, was complete, the band needed to get back to the dressing room. A bit tricky when you’ve now decimated your clothing. Not a problem for The Cramps though. A spotlight suddenly flashes onto that side wall. Lux leads the band through the now parting sea of a crowd, wearing what’s left: the heels and the pearls, and flawlessly returns to the dressing room, Ivy, Slim and Harry, equally beautiful, following behind.

3 – A real feat was accomplished by Lux over a two night engagement in ’97 at London’s Astoria. The second night being the greatest theater I have ever seen by a band in my entire life. And the first night started the process. Lux then slyly began a slow but steady loosening of the stage floor boards near the drum kit via his legendary mic stand iron works. That second night, he continued the process. Even the sight of a shirtless and joyous John Peel being body surfed atop the mosh pit could not top Lux. By the time of the final encore, ‘Surfin Bird’, Lux had chewed up one of Ivy’s boots, teething it puppy style. He picked Ivy’s strings with his teeth, as she lay on her back, arching herself in a yoga stance with Lux between her legs separated only by the guitar, simulating the most erotic oral sex imaginable, all set to a soundtrack of screeching feedback. He had now abandoned all but his g string and heels along the way. Once that sonic crescendo of white noise feedback had been reached, whereby Ivy, Slim and Harry have left the stage, Lux scales the top of the right PA, partial mic stand and 2 bottles of half drank wine in tow. He proceeds to guzzle one, then the other, pitching both onto the stage’s center, where he began the evening. Of course they smash into shards. He then dives from the PA onto the broken glass, microphone in mouth, howling as you would know him to have coined, lands front torso onto the glass, slithers himself snake-like towards the loosened floor, and with mic stand now doubling as a crow bar, proceeds to undo enough of the remaining bits to make his exit into the darkness of his self made floor cave. No one was ready for this. The roar of those 3000 people still makes me tingle. It has to be the ultimate rock and roll moment of civilization, past, present and future. Backstage after the show, Lux is sitting quietly picking bits of glass from himself, and asks humbly, “How was it tonight?”

Lux knew he was an untouchable performer, but he never used his knowledge of this talent arrogantly. He was just the most amazing spirit and always will be.

Womack & Womack

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Listen: Celebrate The World (Radio Edit) / Womack & Womack
Celebrate The World (Radio Edit) / Womack & Womack

I’m a huge fan of Sirius radio here in the US. Certainly compared to our totally tuckered terrestrial stations, it’s an oasis in a very dry desert. You see, Sirius, via it’s many channels, provides endless variety, with easily one hundred or so to pick from. But put the whole lot up against the UK’s BBC Radio 2, and even collectively, they can’t compete.

Not sure why or how, but every last presenter on BBC’s various stations pack more excitement and personality into their on-air style than many of those from Sirius in America. Here, there’s this persistent problem of a time warp delivery rut. Well, funny enough, not Bob Dylan. Nor most of Little Steven’s crew. And yes, Sirius does have Andrew Loog Oldham, but he kind of counts as English to me, clearly weened on UK radio.

Basically, my preference and the opinions above boil down to one thing. Variety. Not necessarily variety over that one hundred or so channel options, each with a narrow genre to offer, but as in programming variety within each show throughout the day.

Yes, Radio 2 has dedicated programs: Sounds Of The Sixties, Sounds Of The Seventies, specialty country or blues shows and such. But otherwise, each host and their producer pick a wide range of genres to mix within their respective daily time slots.

My absolute favorite being Janice Long. Having started with the BBC in ’82, it was on 6 Music that I first found a real affinity to her via The Dream Ticket, whereby she chose a deep, multi decade variety of live sessions from the station’s library, assembling them into a…dream ticket. In essence, a concert lineup one could only dream of.

Joining Radio 2 a few years back, there’s rarely a week goes by when I don’t listen to her most recent shows on demand, all archived for up to seven days. Never a dull moment and always a surprise or ten musically. Do yourself a favor.

Today, I did some Janice Long catching up, and once again, shook my head in happy disbelief. From The Honeybus, Ivor Culter, Alexis Korner and The Maytals, amongst many, to Womack & Womack, all in the span of a few programs from last week.

And not ‘Teardrops’ by Womack & Womack either. Instead ‘Celebrate The World’, closing track and fourth UK single from their flawless CONSCIENCE album. In England, this 7″ release made it to #14 in ’89, and was a perfect live performance finale, whereby the entire Womack clan would pile onstage for an extended ramp with the audience. Wow, those shows back in the day were so good.

Working for Island at the time, like most of the US staff, I found great frustration by the lack of radio and/or media support here for such a worthy album. Back in the UK, where it went platinum, this was not the case.

Well Janice Long gave ‘Celebrate The World’ a play on one of those shows I soundtracked my afternoon with today, and let me tell you, it sounded superb.

John Mayall

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Listen: Walking On Sunset (Mono) / John Mayall
Walking

I recall vividly awaiting each new album from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers during their vast and frequent output of the late 60′s. There was something very British about it all. Seemingly via coincidental osmosis, to me, this band personified the damp, cold and grimy UK club circuit. Photos of their decidedly uncomfortable, barely heated van imply a situation closer to say, a jail sentence than an accommodating overnight transportation mode. And that’s just the travel bit.

So by the release of the BLUES FROM LAURAL CANYON album, summer ’68, it was well fun to hear a bright, almost happy version of blues rock. In this case, documenting what must have been like the world changing from black and white to color, for an English band usually grinding through the drizzly UK and then suddenly ending up in Southern California performing a week of shows at Los Angeles’ Whisky A Go Go.

John Mayall himself returned, or maybe stayed on for a week or two, and hence the resulting documentation of the trip. References to The Mothers Of Invention, Canned Heat and The GTO’s make for fun musical name checks. But it’s the almost pop-like songs that entertain the most.

‘Walking On Sunset’ was always a favorite, along with ’2401′, a UK 7″. Again, having the promos of these means owning the scarce mono versions, as posted above.

‘Walking On Sunset’, to this day, can still invite you along for the stroll, envisioning what it must have been like, mid century architecture overloading one’s senses from all directions, and a list of upcoming club shows in the vicinity that could rival London’s Marquee with heart stopping effect.

Years later, having morphed from fan to A&R, I signed John Mayall and he made his terrific comeback album for Island, A SENSE OF PLACE. One of the nicest, most dependable, problem free guys you’d ever want to work with quite frankly.

Only a few years back, I ran into he and his family as we both waited for outbound flights at LAX. We sat for a good hour and caught up. John, as always, sharing endless details about those days. Love the guy.

Sandy Denny

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Listen: John The Gun / Sandy Denny
John

Never made any bones about my fussy 7″ preferences: US and UK pressings only. Preferably promo, dj or demo copies.

Admittedly the runner up: Holland. In the 60′s, that lovely country’s record labels, particularly Dutch Decca, issued all their 45′s in picture sleeves. No exception. The Decca family singles took the cake, each one released in identically laid out designs, changing only the one or two color print frame parameters, logically swapping in titles, artists and matching black and white photos of the act specific to that particular release.

Said picture sleeve tradition spilled over into the 70′s too. As a result, Sandy Denny’s scheduled, but later cancelled, UK 7″ of ‘Like An Old Fashioned Waltz’ made it’s way to market in the land of great bakeries and hash brownie coffee bars.

Fast forward to the twentieth century. I end up assisting Dutch band Kane put together an album, and as a result, make brotherly bonds with group leaders Dennis and Dinand, not to mention their superior, and prettier, better halves, Karen and Lucy. Life’s journey can be a wonderful thing.

So on a recent trip, Dennis drives me on his bike, seriously, I’m the passenger on the back seat of his fucking bicycle, whisking through the streets of Amsterdam. I can be strong about things like this, but I’m not Hercules. Hence, it was a bit like ROBOCOP or something. Well suddenly, my eye catches a record/junk shop, so I insist he stops for a quick look. I could feel the place calling my name.

Five minutes later, I emerge with the above record, just stoked beyond belief at my discovery of it’s existence and the acquisition. Hey, I was in a state, and I gladly paid like 2 million guilders or some such amount for it, which probably boils down to $5 dollars, hopefully.

Never did I think I’d have a copy of ‘John The Gun’ from her much earlier, and debut, solo album, THE NORTH STAR GRASSMAN AND THE RAVENS’ on a 7. Like all Sandy Denny fans, I drooled in anticipation at the re-recording she had done with Fotheringay for their second, but shelved, album. This was a partial, and temporary band aid.

I suppose by now, that redone version has been scrapped from the bowels of unreleased tracks to contribute towards that nineteen cd Sandy Denny box set issued recently. God knows, who can afford both the cost and time for it. Me, I have no cd’s, no player, not even a computer with a disc drive. So Universal could have just issued it on a hula hoop, would have done me about as much good as the promo copy I got in the mail.

But I do love my 7″, complete with it’s near edible, luxurious pink inner sleeve.

Marianne Faithfull

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Listen: Losing / Marianne Faithfull
Losing

Only in France and Germany did they have the sense to release ‘Losing’ as a single, and on 7″. Well oddly enough, in Spain and Austria too.

If the world were a fair place, and work wasn’t so dirty, ‘Losing’ would have broken all previous watermarks for weeks at #1.

Duane and Howard introduced me to the orchestration and arrangements of producer Angelo Badalamenti via TWIN PEAKS, a television program I hadn’t followed. Immediately taken, I suggested to Marianne they should meet, with the possibility of writing together. She was instinctively in. Angelo had the same response.

Off they went for a few weeks, and in no time, returned with one of her milestone works, A SECRET LIFE.

I’ll never forget that phone call, saying she and Angelo were ready to play me the album. Next day, the three of us sat together in his studio, listening in it’s entirety. The two of them, confidant but humble. Me, near speechless.

If you think this is one powerful track, you’d best fucking duck when she performs it live. The entire room sat frozen, silent and in religious awe a few weeks back here in New York during it.

I was ready, but had an identical reaction. I will never forget it.

The 45 King / Chad Jackson

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Listen: The 900 Number (Single Edit) / The 45 King
The

DJ Mark The 45 King immediately intrigued me. I wanted to be the 45 king, but Mark grabbed the title in ’87. I had just started working for Island, and spent extended time in London. Part of each day meant scouring the record shops for the newest releases. By the way, this was not fluffing off. The job entailed hearing all the latest product, especially the independently released records that may have needed a bigger, stronger partner.

The crew at Island UK were insatiable for US hip hop. When you live in the midst of any form of music, it’s not a big deal, but when you’re three thousand miles away, it is. So we’d hit the shops together, I would grab everything, always on 7″ as opposed to the then politically correct 12″. Everyone laughed. Fine. Now having these 7′s is a big deal, and I love them.

‘The 900 Number’ featured a looping baritone sax solo from Marva Whitney’s ‘Unwind Yourself’. I was rather surprised all those British soul experts didn’t pick up on that bit, and apparently neither did Dance Trax, the label who issued it.

Listen: Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked) / Chad Jackson
Hear

Nor did Chad Jackson, who went on to sample The 45 Kings’ single for his massive 1990 chart hit, ‘Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked)’, which peaked at #3 in Britain. I guess lawsuits flew round everywhere at that point. But, not my problem. I loved this record to death.

Positive K

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

 I Got A Man / Positive K

Listen: I Got A Man / Positive K
I

If you have a novelty hit in rap, you are d.o.n.e. Even when it’s as good as ‘I Got A Man’. Positive K does both the male and female voices on this call and response. I never switched this off, ever. Now just try hearing it anywhere. The video is a riot too.

Someone named Blosette signed him to Island, and sat in the office next to mine. Well, for the few months she seemed to be around. Like Positive K, they both kind of came and went fast. Shame really.

Whatever happened to Tone Loc, while we’re on the subjects of both novelty rap and the revolving door at Island?

Justin Hines & The Dominoes

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

JustinHinesCarryUKA, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesCarryUK, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesCarryUS, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Carry Go, Bring Come / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Carry

Back in ’76, when Howard Thompson was still a junior A&R scout at Island UK, we struck up a quick friendship. Well it happened quick but it’s still going today and as strong a friendship as one can have. The first package he sent over, and a big one at that, included the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). His accompanying note implored me to listen, citing the ‘almost psychedelic’ nature of the songs and their production. More accurate words have never been written. That sampler changed my life.

I couldn’t get down the phone fast enough to him. The call was quickly followed by a box, a fucking box, jammed with full length LP’s from just about every act on that comp: Aswad, Jah Lion, Burning Spear, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo & The Upsetters and Justin Hines & The Dominoes’ JEZEBEL – plus a slew of 7 and 12″ singles from all the above and more (Lee Perry, Fay Bennett, The Skatalites, Leroy Smart, Rico, Lord Creator, Millie, Dillinger, Augustus Pablo) each with that vital dub B side. A treasure trove if ever, ever, ever there was one. I’ll never forget ripping that one open. Can you imagine how it blew my mind and my friend’s minds too? Well it did.

There were a couple of singles in there from Justin Hines & The Dominoes. A then current reggae remake of his very own decade old Jamaican ska hit (then listed as Justin Hinds & The Dominoes) ‘Carry Go, Bring Come’. This newer version being my preferred choice.

JustinHinesJezebelUKB, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesJezebelUK, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesJezebelUS, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Jezebel / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Jezebel

It’s flip, ‘Jezebel,’ a confusingly titled non-LP track from the JEZEBEL album, stay with me here, is actually a very nice dub of the A side ‘Carry Go, Bring Come’. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

To my knowledge, it’s never appeared on a reissue of any sort.

JustinHinesFireUKA, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Fire / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Fire

‘Fire’ still reminds me vividly of that summer ’76 when Corinne worked the night shift and I had the place to myself, with not a responsibility in the world between semesters but doing a bunch of play whatever you want radio shows. So I’d spend all night spinning records and drinking tea, then sleeping the morning away once she got back home. Ah the joys of being young.

‘Fire’ in particular was the well worn 7″, a perfect song to overlay onto the backdrop of an alarmingly silent city, all asleep, not even a mouse was creeping on the deserted streets – quite eerie. Jack Ruby, the record’s producer, was indeed known for just such a haunting production quality. I still prefer to think of him as Reggae’s Joe Meek. We’d listen to it at least a few times, religiously, every morning before passing out.

JustinHinesNatty, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Natty Take Over / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Natty

There’s not a bad track on that JEZEBEL album, yet there is a favorite: ‘Natty Take Over’. A most obvious A side to me, yet relegated as a B, I was just happy it was on a 7″ at all.

It fit in perfectly with the Island promo shirts announcing these reggae releases. The shirts came in many colors. I preferred the purple one with sky blue lettering that said quite simply, REGGAE on the front, with that palm tree Island logo on it’s sleeve. What better thing to wear almost daily during a nice hot summer. I still have that shirt.

The Charlatans

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Listen: Love Is The Key / The Charlatans
Love

7″ singles became less desirable as a format for radio through the 90′s, and by the new millennium, few were available as promo only pressings. Well, not so much in the UK luckily. Possibly driven by guilt, the vinyl conscience music industry still pressed limited copies for radio and jukebox, often with zero packaging. Seemingly an insult at the time, and very disposable, fast forward ten years and I’m well happy to have saved every last one.

Such is the case with The Charlatans’ ‘Love Is The Key’. Being an early possessed band follower, my attraction to their 45′s waned as time progressed, but given those first few gems, I always would give a listen to each new release, and usually winced with disappointment. The more than basic, information only sleeve above, which looks rather nice a decade later, didn’t help.

Unexpectedly, a revelation greeted me: ‘Love Is Te Key’ wiped clean the band’s by then dodgy slate of single releases, each one more dull than it’s predecessor. This record sounded hot on first listen. A return to form, as others have said way too many times. Despite the buried vocals, and Tim Burgess’s much publicized move to LA, this still sounded very British, especially it’s amusing faux funk, which only The Stone Roses had managed to master previously.

Jay Dee Bryant

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Listen: Standing Ovation For Love / Jay Dee Bryant
Standing

Swamp Dogg has been a sign of dependable endorsement for years now, to these ears that is. Coincidentally, as time passes, I found a solid handful of Jay Dee Bryant singles had moved into the house uninvited. Glad they did though.

During ’74, Jerry Williams aka Swamp Dogg was doing his usual co-writes and productions for others. In this case, ‘Standing Ovation For Love’ was born. Thank you sweet Lord.

‘Standing Ovation For Love’ was picked up by Island UK, and issued on their short lived USA series, identified by it’s own prefix (USA) and numbers, and given unique label art. Well sort of issued that is. Reading the press release above, the company manufactured copies to test the waters. Not having seen a stock copy ever, my guess is it never got issued commercially. Plus given there were four other USA prefixed releases, all of which I do have retail copies of, it’s hard to verify.

Come ’76, another DJ run was pressed up as you can see above. Again, never saw a stock. Plus, I can’t find anyone from Island during either period that remembers. Therefore, no idea what happened, but can tell you something for sure. I play this constantly.

Grace Jones

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Listen: She’s Lost Control (Single Edit) / Grace Jones
GraceJonesControl.mp3

Somebody, somewhere knew how to pick terrific material for Grace Jones. Possibly it was she herself. For my two cents, this is absolutely one her all time best vocal interpretations. Ever.

I do know the early 80′s musical patch during which Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’, a B side only, was recorded by Alex Sadkin and The Compass Point Allstars, coincided with Jean-Paul Goude’s image reinvention. As a result of that intense visual makeover, Chris Blackwell hung the already completed WARM LEATHERETTE cover art in the studio as the album’s sessions were begun, instructing the entire team to make a record that sounded like the photo looked. He told me this himself.

Eventually released in an extended club version, complete with dub, it’s this original B side ‘She’s Lost Control’ that is most valuable as a 7″. Despite all the other versions finding their way onto bottom of the barrel scraping compilation cds, this single edit has only ever appeared where it originally was issued, on a 7″.