Album Review – Ohio Players (re-issue)

Ohio Players – The Definitive Collection (Cherry Red)

It is absolutely no reflection on the quality of the music produced, but by and large, Ohio Players are mainly known for three things in the UK. The single ‘Who’d She Coo’ which reached no.43 in 1976, the song ‘Love Rollercoaster’ (which became a top ten hit in Britain for the Red Hot Chili Peppers), and the fact that their song ‘Fopp’ gave the record chain their name. All three tracks are here – but there’s so much more.

This 46-track compilation is pretty comprehensive, divided into three chapters: ‘The Early Years,’ ‘The Golden Years’ and ‘The Later & Solo Years.’ The band were hugely successful in the mid seventies in the US – but even that had been a long time coming.

The first disc starts with the fabulous ‘Here Today and Gone Tomorrow’ (later covered by David Bowie on his Diamond Dogs tour). This track, with its echoes of Smokey Robinson and Sam Cooke, came from the band’s debut album Observations In Time, released in 1969. This was a decade after the group had formed in Dayton, Ohio. A series of singles (not included here were issued throughout the sixties, and over the course of their lifetime the band were signed to a number of labels. Amongst other things they backed Wilson Pickett on ‘I Found A Love.’

Observations was only a regional hit, and it was a couple of label changes later before the band had their first hit single and album Pain. The first disc also includes ‘Funky Worm’ – a big US hit that was later sampled numerous times by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube and Snoop Doggy Dogg, amongst many others.

Dubbing the second disc ‘The Golden Years’ is accurate in terms of both American commercial success and just how essential they’d become – these are tracks that hold their own against the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Funkadelic who were all firing on all creative cylinders at this time. As well as the aforementioned likes of ‘Fire,’ ‘Coo’ and ‘Rollercoaster’ there’s the gorgeous ‘Sweet Sticky Thing’ – taken from the album Honey (but of course!) and ‘O-H-I-O.’

The final disc may sound like it’s preparing you for a let down – but it doesn’t. The band were evolving, even if their commercial fortunes may have been on the wane – and two noteworthy cover versions of Otis Redding-popularised numbers -‘Try A Little Tenderness’ and ‘Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay’ are radically reworked from the way you think you know them.

Though the music on this compilation ends in 1985, the band continue to tour to this day. What this compilation shows is how great the recorded output of the Ohio Players was in these years. Drawing on soul, funk, rock, jazz and disco – and paving the way for hip-hop – it’s time their story was more widely known, not just the edited highlights. If you haven’t heard them before, take this as your starting point – and then go and track down those studio albums.


The Definitive Collection Plus… is out now on Cherry Red



Album Review – Stick In The Wheel

Stick In The Wheel – ‘Follow Them True.’ (From Here)

I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar it meant that you were a protest singer’ sang Morrissey on The Smiths’ 1985 single ‘Shakespeare’s Sister.’ I reference this because it seems that ‘folk music’ is far too often a term used in staggeringly lazy ways. See, Stick In The Wheel do come from a folk tradition – but it’s one that’s very much alive, and has absolutely nothing to do with *insert irritating run of the mill mostly acoustic band of your choice here.*
Hailing from East London, and lead by singer Nicola Kearey and guitarist Ian Carter, this is the second album from Stick In The Wheel. Their debut, 2015’s From Here was a critical success, picking up end of year best of awards. On the strength of this album, it’s likely the same thing is going to happen all over again.
‘The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance’ is a fascinating example of why Stick In The Wheel are so vital. The idea of a ‘dance tune’ is so often tied to EDM – but the point about dance music is that people should be able to like, y’know, be able to dance to it? It originates from the thirteenth century in a Staffordshire village, still being performed every year (you can read more about it here) even in the twenty-first century. Over the course of three and a half minutes, this dance starts off slight before picking up pace and getting more and more urgent. Stick In The Wheel argue that as one of the oldest surviving English dance tunes, people should be aware of this as part of their heritage. If listeners (misguidedly) wonder what relevance this should have to music in the 21st century, it’s because human beings are still human beings, still getting to grips with and being alienated by technology, and dealing with the reality of day to day living.
What it doesn’t have is the voice of Nicola Kearey. On the rest of the album’s tracks she is there, singing unapologetically in her own East London accent. It can be an acquired taste – but well worth acquiring. So whether on the band’s originals like the title track or the stunning opening ‘Over Again,’ the latter sounding both modern and centuries old at the same time, there’s links with the older, traditional material that they visit. One of the standout tracks is ‘The Blind Beggar Of Bethnal Green’ which is routed in the legend of SImon de Montfort from the 13th Century. Like Fairport Convention’s take on ‘Matty Groves’ it’s a song centuries old that becomes itself in this recorded version.
Stick In The Wheel are an astonishingly easy band to love. If you’re a fan already, you know this. If your view of folk music is that it’s worthy but dull stuff for real ale bores in hideous jumpers, let this put you right. Not a ‘hey nonny no in sight (or hearing)’, and delivered with an attitude if not sound that’s far more ‘hey ho let’s go.’
Follow Them True is released on January 26 2018 on From Here

New from Tracey Thorn

Photo credit: Edward Bishop

One of my favourite singers, Tracey Thorn, has announced her first album of new material in seven years.

Entitled Record, the video for the album’s opening track ‘Queen’ can be watched below. In her own words ‘It’s a great opener for the album – driven along by Ewan Pearson’s unashamedly glittering electro-pop production, drums and bass from Warpaint’s Stella and Jenny, it features me playing electric guitar for the first time in a while, and singing my heart out.”

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1.  Queen
2.  Air
3.  Guitar
4.  Smoke
5.  Sister
6.  Go
7.  Babies
8.  Face
9.  Dancefloor

‘Nine feminist bangers!’ she reportedly (well, it’s what the press release says, so you know…) jokes about how the album sounds. It’s released on March 2. Bring it on…

Young Fathers – new song and album!

Young Fathers picture credit: Julia Noni

Long-term 17 Seconds favourites, Young Fathers, have announced their third album.

Entitled Cocoa Sugar, the album will be released on March 9 on Ninja Tune. Following on from ‘Lord’ which was released towards the end of last year, the band have released another track from the album ‘In My View.’

The band will be touring – dates can be found here on their website, including a date at Glasgow’s Barrowlands and theor biggest headline gig to date at London’s Roundhouse.

The album’s tracklisting is as follows:

1. See How

2. Fee Fi

3. In My View.

4. Turn

5. Lord

6. Tremolo.

7. Wow

8. Border Girl

9. Holy Ghost

10. Wire

11. Toy

12. Picking You

…and just for completeness sake:

U.S. Girls: New single, album, tour…

Meg Remy photographed by Colin Medley

Wow…4AD are continuing to keep my inbox very busy indeed. Long may they continue to do so…

Meg Remy, who goes under the name U.S. Girls, is shortly to release her sixth album, In A Poem Unlimited. Her second album for the label, and her sixth in all, she has also unveiled the third track to be released from the album ‘Pearly Gates.’

And wow, are those concepts intriguing. ‘Pearly Gates’ is about a woman attempting to seduce St. Peter in order to get into heaven, with mixed results.  is explained by its creator as follows: “Some years back a story was recounted to me about a man attempting to convince a woman to engage in unprotected sex by saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m really good at pulling out.’ I thought this was a hilariously stupid thing to say and knew one day I would build a song around this line.”  

The other singles so far released from the album include ‘Velvet 4 Sale’ imagining a world where women take up arms against men…

…and the aforementioned ‘Mad As Hell’, which deals with pacifism.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Velvet 4 Sale
2. Rage Of Plastics
3. M.A.H.
4. Why Do I Lose My Voice When I Have Something To Say
5. Rosebud
6. Incidental Boogie
7. L-Over
8. Pearly Gates
9. Poem 
10. Traviata
11. Time

She will be touring later on this year, the European tour dates are as follows:

30 April – AMSTERDAM, Melkweg Theaterzaal
1 May – BRUSSELS, Les Nuits Botanique
3 May – BERLIN, Kantine
4 May – VLIELAND, Here Comes The Summer
6 May – COPENHAGEN, Hotel Cecil
8 May – COLOGNE, Gewoelbe
9 May – ZURICH, Rote Fabrik
10 May – BASEL, Kaserne
11 May – BOLOGNA, Locomotiv Club
14 May – PARIS, Point Ephemere
16 May – LONDON, Scala
17 May – BIRMINGHAM, The Hare and Hounds
18 May – MANCHESTER, Soup Kitchen

Track of the day #51: Justin Levinson

It’s cold in most of the northern hemisphere, and summer feels so far away. It might be a gamble to release a record that sounds so summery – but Justin Levinson has done that and released an absolute gem.

Having released his fourth album Yes Man in 2015, he has released the gorgeous ‘I’ll Make It In Hollywood.’ This is a single that deserves your attention. It’s sure as hell got mine.As in: I like the single, I’ve gone to investigate further.

According to the press release: “I really wanted to release a bright/ beachy summery track at the beginning of the year,” Justin explains. “Like the previous record, we kept a lot of the ’60s pop inspired sound… big vocal arrangements, wurly and mellotron. Though the song may appear to be about a fella who is quite confident he’s going to hit the big time in Hollywood, there is actually a bit of a subtle cynical undertone. I tried to tap into some of the hardship creatives go through in a lighthearted manner.”

Beach Boys meets the Carpenters? Could be. Or Ben olds if he’d been more in thrall to sixties baroque pop but kept his sense of sarcasm. It’s 1965-1975 distilled, beauty and cynicism at the same time, to produce a brilliant pop record that I can’t stop playing.

The Breeders return with new single, tour – and first album in ten years!

Breeders picture credit: Maria Gesualdi

2018 continues to be a great year for aging indie fans (and I definitely count myself in that). Following on from last year’s ‘Get In The Car’ single (which came in very high in the annual Festive Fifty) and tour, the band have indeed announced new single, album and tour.

So first up, that new single:  it’s the title track of their fifth album, All Nerve. You can buy or stream it here by following the link.

I finally saw the band in Glasgow last October – and very good they were, too. This time they’re coming to Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms, you can see tour dates here by following this link.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

  1. Nervous Mary
  2. 2. Wait in the Car
  3. All Nerve
  4. MetaGoth
  5. Spacewoman
  6. Walking with the Killer
  7. Howl at the Summit
  8. Archangel’s Thunderbird
  9. Dawn: Making an Effort
  10. Skinhead #2
  11. Blues at the Acropolis

Recording took place at Candyland, Dayton, Kentucky, with Mike Montgomery; Electrical Audio, Chicago, with Steve Albini and Greg Norman; and with Tom Rastikis at
Fernwood Studios, Dayton, Ohio. The artwork was done by Chris Bigg, who has worked with the Breeders since their first album, Pod.

All Nerve will be released on March 2nd on long-term label 4AD.


Happy New Year…and the return of Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand: photo credit Cara Robbins

Hello folks.

Happy New Year – it’s been quiet for a couple of weeks here, not only because of Christmas and New Year, but also because (fanfare please) I got married just before New Year.

Back to the matter in hand. Franz Ferdinand will release their fifth album, Always Ascending on February 9. It’s their first album since 2013’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. It was recorded at RAK Studios, London and Motorbass in Paris, with the help of French producere Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Phoenix, The Beastie Boys).

Two tracks have been unveiled so far – which you can see below:

The album tracklisting is as follows:

  1.  Always Ascending
  2. Lazy Boy
  3. Paper Cages
  4. Finally
  5. The Academy Award
  6. Lois Lane
  7. Huck And Jim
  8. Glimpse Of Love
  9. Feel The Love Go
  10. Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow

The album can be pre-ordered here and you can also get the details about their pretty massive actually world tour here. It’s really rather great to have them back…