Album Reviews- The Bristol Reggae Explosion


Various Artists -‘The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983’ (Bristol Archive Records)


Various Artists -‘The Bristol Reggae Explosion 2 ‘The 80’s’ ‘ (Bristol Archive Records)

Even before you listen to a note from this excellent pair of a compilations, they throw up some interesting points. Firstly, just how London-centric the UK music industry remains and has been for decades. This has meant that with the radio, TV and most national print media being based there, it has been necessary to break London to make a National Impact and to give the impression of having ‘made it.’

Also that British Reggae has siffered from being viewed as not quite as good as that which originated from Jamaica, in as much as (Pre-Grime) UK Hip-Hop was seen as beinginferior to the US Variety. But just as names from the late 80s such as Derek B, The Wee Papa Girl Rappers made an imopact but have still to truly get their historical due, so British Reggae has also suffered. Leaving UB40 out of it, the late 70s saw the likes of Aswad, Janet Kay, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Steel Pulse, to name but four. The two-tone movement in Coventry of the era may also be seen to have been a first or secondary cousin. And as well as all this, there was the Bristol Scene.

In purely simplistic terms, it could be said that these compilations do what is said on the tin. But that would be to underplay just how much wonderful music is on these two albums. Reggae , like pretty much every other genre, has its’ own sub-genres, and much of what is on offer here is Roots or Dub. But you will also find the gorgeous lovers rock of Sharon Bengamin’s ‘Mr. Guy’ and Volume 2 closes with Ran Ratchet and Teknika’s ‘Ragamuffin Girl’ which has more of a dancehall vibe, sounding lighter and far removed from the Roots on offer.

It may be that many of the names on here are unknown to many (this writer included). The reason for this is not just the inclusion of some previously unreleased tracks but the scareceness of some of the tracks in the first place. As the press release explains, most of these records were pressed in very small quantities and sold directly to fans at gigs. These two compilations are therefore very much a labour of love for the appropriately titled Bristol Archive Records who have licensed and gathered together these tracks.

There’s hardely a duff track on here, though if I had to single out some tracks that have really stood out for me, they would include Zapp Stereo’s ‘Way OUt West’ the appropriately named ‘Bristol Rock’ by Black Roots and the scarce as anything ‘Robin Hoods Of The Ghetto’ by Cool Runnings.

Reggae would continue to make its presence felt furing the nineties in two forms that owed a debt to the sounds on here. First of all, when hardcore dance hit 168 bpm it was twice the speed of the 84bpm reggae records which played off each other (or indeed together) lead to the style that became known as Drum’n’bass. And in Bristol, The Trip Hopmobement clearly had their roots in the reggae scene as much as rave culture, if not more so. Some of the most improtant records of the nineties in any genre from the likes of Tricky (Maxinquaye), Portishead (Dummy, Portishead), Massive Attack (Blue Lines, Protection)
and Ronnie Size and Reprazent (Newforms) came not only out of the region but a mere degree or two removed from these records.

These compilations are more than just historically interesting; they help provide the DNA of much of the best British music of the last twenty years and shed light on an unfairly overlooked scene.


The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983 and The Bristol Reggae Explosion 2 ‘The 80’s’ are out now on Bristol Archive Records

Album Review – Birdengine


Birdengine -‘The Crooked Mile’ (Bleeding Heart Recordings)

Birdengine is the name that one Lawry Joseph Tilbury works under. Having previously released two EPs for the highly regarded (and now defunct) Scottish label Benbecula, he now releases his debut album on Bleeding Heart Recordings.

It’s now mid-October, and at this point in the year, I’ve heard getting onto three hundred new releases this year. And let me say, that with all sincerity, this is up there in the top 5 of the best I have heard this year.

Tilbury’s style is, right from the first listen, conducive to producing an album which is dark, exploratory and intrguing, right from the off. Puzzled by the first two tracks on the first play, by the third ‘No arms and no friends’ I was getting swept into it. By the end of the album, I had to go back and play it a couple more times because it had bewitched me, in the best possible sense.

Blessed with a strangely soothing bass-baritone voice, this debut might well come under the ‘freak folktronica’ if that’s the label you want to bandy about. Personally, it’s just great to hear a record that’s acoustic fight off cliche and produce something that genuinely stands alone.

Get your hands on a copy of this album. Because I won’t be letting go of my copy. And you won’t want to lose your copy either, if you have any sense.


The Crooked Mile is released on Bleeding Heart Recordings on October 2011.

Album Review – Blueflint


Blueflint -‘Maudy Tree’ (Johnny Rock Records)

Two years since their excellent debut album, High Bright Morning, and the Edinburgh bluegrass act have returned with their sophomore album. It’s definitely been worth the wait.

To these ears, it’s darker in places than High Bright Morning, but there’s also a hint of black humour as well. Opener ‘Light In THe Window’ is as warm an entry as ‘Takes More Than A Little Time’ was on their debut, but there’s a hint -just a hint – of things being darker this time round. ‘P45’ is reposte to a former lover, and getting revenge on them, perhaps via karma. ‘I’ll be the P in your P45/the dogshit on your shoe/the suicidial song that’s playing when you’ve got the blues.’

It’s always the hope that an act will advance on their soiphomore album, and the fact that the line up has now expanded to include Hugh Kelly on double-bass and Roddy Neilson of Peatbog Faeries fame on fiddle and vocals as well as the fearsome double-act of Deborah Arnott and Clare Neilson is an indication of how they have grown. Neilson takes lead vocals on ‘Bottlebank’ adding another dimension to the record.

If you still haven’t bought their debut, shame on you. Make sure you get this one as well.


Maudy Tree is out now on Johnny Rock Records

Lightinthewindow by Blueflint

Maudy Tree by Blueflint

The best double A-side ever?


There’s a common belief that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen was the first music video ever. The reality is that promotional films had ben getting made for music since back in the forties, and there’s sections of musical films which would probably have been able to be used.

This wasn’t the Beatles’ first double A-side (‘Eleanor Rigby’/’Yellow Submarine’ in the UK) and even though I still hold Revolver up as my favourite album ever, I think those two tracks were probably the weakest on it – though I obviously understand why Parlophone might have baulked at putting out ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’/’Love You To’ as a single, had it been discussed.

This was the first Beatles single in several years not to get to no.1 (held off by Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Please Release Me – oh the indignity!) yet it was one of their strongest singles, pulling together two of their best songs together ‘Strawberry Fields Ever’ and ‘Penny Lane.’ Both of them had ‘promotional films’ made for them – and this well over a decade before MTV launched in the US! NB I suspect the sleeve at the top was not the UK one – but can you guess why?

Oh and call it what you want, but this is a flippin’ well-iconic music video/film clip/promotional video.

From D.A. Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back

Finally, another early example of a promo video. This is the Rolling Stones doing ‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I like It)’ in 1974. Years ago, I met bassist Bill Wyman (he was doing a signing in the bookshop where I worked at the tiome, Ottakar’s on George St, now gone). He told me that they’d each been insured for £1,000,000 for this video. Not surprising when you get to about three and a half minutes in…

Album Review – Next Stop: Horizon


Next Stop: Horizon ‘We Know Where We’re Going’ (Tapete Records)

Next Stop: Horizon is the name of a duo from Gothenburg, Sweden, consisting of Par Hagstrpm and Jenny Roos. Quite surprisingly, for a record that sounds both so modern and utterly archaic (like, at least sixty years old in parts) it is their debut.

The album mixes pop with a type of jazz that evokes both Kurt Weill andTom Waits (minus the forty full-strenth Marlboro vocal stylings of the latter). The end result is an album that manages to be experimental and yet utterly listenable; quirky without being irritatingly kooky.

Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say I fell in love with this album, it is very definitely a joy to listen to all the different aspects of this record meshing together and creating something hugely different from the vast majority of the music I have heard this year. Definitely worth hearing.


We Know Where We’re Going is out now on Tapete Records

Next Stop: Horizon – Iron Train by Tapete Records

The return of French Wives


I’ve written about Glasgow’s French Wives before on this site; they are shortly to release a new single.

They’ve called it ‘Numbers’, and it’s going to be the first single from their new album produced by Tony Doogan. It’s coming out on October 24th and they’re having a launch night for it at Mono in Glasgow on Thursday the 20th with support from Blochestra and Endor, the latter doing an acoutsic set. They’re doing a presale for it on their new website.

It will be released on Electric Honey, who have given the world early releases from the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Snow Patrol, and Biffy Clyro; not to mention albums from the likes of 17 Seconds faves Wake The President and White Heath.

So awesome are they that Scott from the band actually got in touch to say he was happy for 17 Seconds to post the mp3, of this, their fourth single.

French Wives -‘Numbers.’ mp3

Presenting…The Foxes


A self-described independent, self-managed band from London Town, The Foxes will release their debut album Last Of Many on December 5.

This is the rather brilliant video to their fine, fine tune ‘No Reply.’ Make the time not just to listen but to watch this video:

The video to ‘The Sad Thing’ is different – not animated but unusual. And the sort of thing that gives Health & Safety folk nightmares.

They will be making videos for every song on their album, recorded at the Sawmills Studio in Cornwall, England (where one of my favourite ever albums Thunder and Consolation by New Model Army was made!), and produced by John Cornfield, who has also worked with the likes of Muse, Razorlight, Supergrass and Oasis.

Enjoy, folks!

Rod Jones – Idlewild guitarist steps into the spotlight


Rod Jones of Idlewild has been a busy man over the last decade and a half. Having formed the band in Edinburgh in 1995, the following years have seen seven studio albums, a lot of gigs and general awesomeness. The band are on hgiatus, but Rod has never been a man to let the grass grow under his feet.

Having released his first solo album A Sentimental Education in 2009, and been involved in the Scottish mental Health Music Like A Vitamin Shows, he is now fronting a new band called The Birthday Suit. They are about to tour and release their debut album.

Their album The Eleventh Hour is available from the band’s website now (price £5) and generally released on November 11.

1. Do You Ever? (scroll down the page for a free download!)
2. Hope Me Home
3. They Say I Love You
4. On My Own
5. Sell It All
6. World Gone By
7. Are You Ok?
8. A Nation
9. Don’t Look Down
10. The Eleventh Hour
11. Talking Over You

Those tour dates:

UPDATE: Tour postponed; will let you know when rescheduled…

The Birthday Suit – Do You Ever? by abadgeoffriendship

There are also two Scottish Mental Health Foundation gigs coming up in Scotland:

Rod Jones, James Yorkston and Withered Hand mentored some young musicians, helping them with writing and recording, culminating in a live gig at Nobles Bar, Leith, on Thursday 20th Oct, 7pm (

Composer Malcolm Lindsay wrote some music with some local kids, which will be performed by a classical string quartet for the first time at Platform, Glasgow, on Monday 24th Oct at 12.30pm ( They used special music software which helps people write music using colours/shapes rather than traditional notation. The project was commissioned by his pal/music programmer at Platform, Alun Woodward (Chemikal Underground/Delgados).

(As someone who has battled with depression I feel pretty strongly about supporting events like this)

Gig Review – Benjamin Francis Leftwich


Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Edinburgh Cabaret Voltaire, October 10 2011

There are no shortage of singer-songwriters of either sex in 2011 (actually, that could probably have been said in 1971 as well). Yet with his debut album Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm having gone top 40, the 22-year old Yorkshireman is going places and managing to shine brightly in a field that’s often bursting at the seams.

It’s no mean feat to hold an audience’s attention, armed just with an acoustic guitar; effectively not much more than your average street busker. And yet, there is something bewitching about BFL. The Cab is full to busting, but people listen rapt and respectfully for the most part. ‘I’ve never been to Edinburgh before, ‘ he tells us just before ‘Pictures. ‘It’s a very beautiful city.’ Well, a bit of flattery always goes a long way, and we’d have him back like a shot, and mainly because of his charm. Slightly self-effacing without being full-on self-deprecating, he tells us that he considered taking a full band on this tour, and that nights like tonight show it is viable to do. He seems genuinely grateful for the response he gets.

The set is largely drawn from his debut album, and songs like ‘Butterfly Culture’ ‘Snowship’ and particularly ‘Maps’ get a large cheer. He also straps on his electric guitar for a fantastic cover of his favourite song, Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’ (from Nebraska), which is simply brilliant. And we get a rather lovely new song called ‘Break the Day Open.’

I don’t know how he does it – but there’s magic at work here. There’s a million singer-songwriters out there, but Benjamin Francis Leftwich is right out in front.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Pictures by Mud Hut Digital

Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Shine by Dirty Hit

Whilst on this subject, I bought a friend who was in a wheelchair to this gig. Both staff and fellow punters were really helpful and patient about making sure she got to the front to see him. Thank you.

Many thanks to Muriel Masson for the photo

Two albums from Kate Bush in one year? Yes!


So, you wait years for a Kate Bush album, and then two arrive in the space of a year? It’s like 1978 all over again!*

November 21 will see a new Kate Bush album, entitled 50 Words For Snow. Her first studio album since 2005’s Aerial (The Director’s Cut released this year was comprised of previously released material yet in a radically altered way so it pretty much was a new album in it’s own right).

According to her website the album is 65 minutes long and seven songs ‘set against the backdrop of falling snow’:

Lake Tahoe
Wild Man
Snowed In At Wheeler Street
50 Words For Snow
Among Angels

In terms of special guests who appear on the album, Andy Fairweather Low appears on ‘Wild Man’, Elton John appears on ‘Snowed In At Wheeler Street,’ and Stephen Fry appears on the song ’50 Words For Snow.’

‘Wild Man’ has been released as a single – the version below is the radio edit; however the single also includes the full seven minute long version.

*Yes, because she released both The Kick Inside and Lionheart that year. QED…