Chuck – Chuck Berry (review)

Chuck Berry. The name means so much: rock and roll, some of the finest guitar playing known, inventive and playful songs. 

To think that everyone from Buddy Holly to The Beatles covered his songs is mind-blowing. Without Chuck Berry the world would be a different place. 

I was lucky enough to see Chuck Berry live on one of his later trips to London. Even in old age, he played the guitar like no one else, attacking the strings, duck-walking and bouncing off of the audience reaction. 

I was thrilled to write a review of his last album, Chuck, for Songwriting Magazine. Read it here.

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Bob Dylan: Chronologically 

The other day, I was speaking to someone about Michael Connelly, the fantastic crime writer who has a new book out called The Late Show. 

‘Where should I start?’ they asked, after considering my suggestion. 

This got me thinking. 

Michael Connelly has created a parrel Los Angeles. Often, characters from different books appear in different places: a long forgotten detective can appear in a new book without warning. His most famous creation, Harry Bosch, is now featured in an Amazon Prime show called Bosch

The first Michael Connelly book I read was The Poet, which doesn’t feature Harry Bosch. When it came to reading the Bosch books, I read these out of sequence. 

Ultimately, my answer was ‘start at the beginning.’ (Which was advice I admittedly did not follow). In this case, start with the first of the Harry Bosch book series – The Black Echo. You will then see how the character – and writer – develops. 

So what does this have to do with Bob Dylan?

I’ve been a lifelong Bob Dylan fan. Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad playing Dylan records for me. They formed a part of my childhood, like nursery rhymes, I suppose. However, I’d never listened to Bob Dylan’s albums in chronological order. Maybe this would enable me to see how Bob Dylan develops as a songwriter? 

If you’re a Dylan fan, some of his albums you’ll have listened to reluctantly, or avoided completely. I want to give each of these albums the same amount of time, in the correct order. Maybe I’ll learn something.

I will be listening to studio albums only – which means no Bootleg Series – in order of the UK date of release. 

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Playlist for July 2017

In June, Leigh-on-Sea hosts the UK’s largest free folk festival. On Sunday, I wandered to the Crooked Billet stage to see Martin Carthy. The whole area was packed, which meant I had to stand behind a railing at the side. Carthy played, picking his guitar beautifully, and introduced his songs by revealing some of the deep history behind them.

Halfway through his set, someone squeezed past me with a slight shove. I turned round to see if I could move in and let the gentleman pass. To my surprise, it was Wilko Johnson.

I say it was a surprise because I would have thought the pairing was unlikely. Surely Wilko Johnson with Dr Feelgood was musically the polar opposite to Martin Carthy’s folk leanings. But as I pondered it, they aren’t so dissimilar: both are incredible guitar players; each of their music has a rawness to it; both arguably pushed music into a new direction (Carthy allegedly inspired Bob Dylan’s Girl of the North Country, Dr Feelgood inspired the punk movement). After Carthy’s set, I watched as they both shook hands and chatted. Two men, hugely influential in their own sphere.

As you may know, I wrote about Zoe Howe’s brilliant Lee Brilleaux biography a week or so ago. It’s safe to say that I’m on a Dr Feelgood binge and this playlist would always have been weighed down heavily by R&B songs. But after seeing Martin Carthy, I couldn’t resist putting some of his songs in too, as well as other folk artists.

Here’s the playlist:

  1. She Does It Right – Dr Feelgood
  2. Mother Freedom – Bread
  3. Hangin’ Out – Betty Davis
  4. Wild About My Baby – Slim Harpo
  5. Big Boys – Chuck Berry
  6. Messin’ With The Kid – Junior Wells
  7. Roadrunner – The Pretty Things
  8. Bill Norrie – Martin Carthy
  9. Poison – Bert Jansch
  10. Let The Good Things Come – John Martyn
  11. White Freight Liner (Live) – Townes Van Zandt
  12. Scarborough Fair – Martin Carthy and David Swarbrick
  13. Sally Free And Easy – Oscar Dowling
  14. Wrecking Days – Kitty Macfarlane
  15. The Bedmaking (feat. David Swarbrick) – Martin Carthy and David Swarbrick
  16. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – The Animals
  17. The More I Give – Dr Feelgood
  18. Around and Around – Rolling Stones

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Lee Brilleaux: Rock ‘n’ Roll Gentleman by Zoe Howe

To an extent, I have an affinity with Dr Feelgood. I live within reach of the confines of the Thames Delta. Often, I walk to the bench dedicated to the memory of Lee Brilleaux, gaze over at Canvey Island, with the Coryton Refinery silhouetted on the skyline and imagine the bands exploits.

With this in mind, I have to admit that this review is probably bias. I know the place names referenced. I’ve had a drink in the same pubs which Lee Brilleaux did. I’ve tested his theory of Leigh-on-Sea cockles as a hangover cure. In short, I am a man of the Thames Delta.

Dr Feelgood were the pub-rock stars of the 1970s. If you watch any old footage of the band, your eyes will be drawn to two of the members in particular. Wilko Johnson and Lee Brilleaux.

First you watch the guitarist. On stage, Wilko Johnson is possessed. His eyes, wide, bulging. His guitar slung down, then lifted up, pointed at the audience like a machine gun. Jutting rhythmically on the strings, chopping. Somehow he is strumming the guitar and playing a solo at the same time.

Then, when the singing starts, your eyes flick to Lee Brilleaux. He’s charismatic, wearing a dirty white suit. Moody, aggressive. You wouldn’t mess around with him. He is hunched over the microphone, singing in a beer drenched voice, eyeing up the audience to see if anyone defies him. Occasionally, he dips his hand into his pocket to pull out a harmonica, as Wilko Johnson is blistering around the stage behind him.

Dr Feelgood – this Dr Feelgood, with Wilko Johnson and Lee Brilleaux – are surely unbeatable. Pre-punk, post-blues boom, their music is charged and at the time must have been a much welcomed antidote to the lengthy self-indulgent guitar vomit which was being spewed out from other corners.

Lee Brilleaux: Rock ‘n’ Roll Gentleman is a book that needed to be written. It is clearly well researched and will be the starting point for anyone wanting to find out more about Brilleaux in the future. 

Zoe Howe has done a tremendous job painting a picture of Lee Brilleaux. His stage persona is of course completely different to the man he was: kind, charming and a true rock ‘n’ roll gentleman.

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June Playlist

A lot of new music has come to my attention recently, since I’ve been writing here and at Songwriting Magazine.

I’ve been sent albums, EP’s and singles from musicians all across the musical spectrum, which is great. I’ve reviewed some of these albums and songs. Some of them I haven’t been able to write about yet. I thought it would be a good idea to create a Spotify playlist of my favourite songs from this month.

Here are some of my thoughts on some of these tracks:

  1. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan: My dad has always said that this is the song to test speakers. For that reason, it seemed appropriate to start the playlist with this song. I wrote about the Greil Marcus book, Like a Rolling Stone, on this blog.
  2. Ordinary Daze – Sea Pinks: Dream-pop, guitar-pop. A perfect song for a breezy summers day. Thoughts on Sea Pinks latest here.
  3. Asphalt Outlaw Hero – Lonnie Mack: I haven’t written about Lonnie Mack yet. But I’ve been wearing down his records recently.
  4. Hot Electrolytes – Love Ssega: A manic four minutes, which will raise a smile. Review here.
  5. Cormorant Bird – Fionn Regan: Super song. Appears on Fionn Regan’s long-awaited latest album, which I wrote about here.
  6. All Around The World – Little Willie John
  7. Love Survive – Michael Nau
  8. Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl – Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator was a change in direction for Hurray for the Riff Raff. The rhythmic build up is perfect. I wrote about The Navigator here.
  9. California Stars – Billy Bragg & Wilco
  10. Such a Night (With Clyde McPhatter) – The Drifters: I’ve been on a Clyde McPhatter binge after reading about Money Honey in Greil Marcus’ book Like a Rolling Stone. Marcus gives us a beautiful description about McPhatter’s vocals. I had to listen to the early Drifters songs and rediscover McPhatter.
  11. Soothing – Laura Marling
  12. Mental Cruelty – John Prine and Kacey Musgraves
  13. Far Below – Maria Kelly: Etheral Irish folk. Haunting music from Maria Kelly’s latest EP The Things I Should, which I’ve reviewed.
  14. Et Si Tu n’existais Pas – Iggy Pop
  15. The Best is Yet to Come – Bob Dylan
  16. Babushka-Yai Ya – Fionn Regan: Blisteringly fast. You can almost hear Regan scrawling the lyrics on the back of a cardboard beermat. Read all about it.
  17. Fire and Brimstone – Link Wray

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