Monthly Archives: October 2015

Smog – A River Ain’t Too Much To Love – Drag City Records/Domino – 2005

Here we go again. I thought I can’t do all vinyl because that would be too ‘vinyl snobby’ so I stand in front of the CD shelves close my eyes and go right in pick out Million Mile Club by The Paladins, got half way through, abandoned ship and thought I need something easier to feel passionate about. The Paladins were great Rock ‘n’ Roll but nothing I can get my teeth into. So I looked around quickly and picked out Smog’s A River Ain’t Too Much To Love.

This barely qualifies for Thrift Store Disco as I actually spent full price pretty near its time of release. Still, no ones looking and you’ve gotta love Bill Callahan.

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Smog was Bill Callahan before he was Bill Callahan and everything about this record will tell you that this is Bill Callahan. It is perhaps the start of present day Bill Callahan. It isn’t my favourite Bill Callahan album but is the album that introduced me and so is very special to me. I completely missed Smog prior to this and first heard it on the amazing RTR FM radio station in Perth, Western Australia. The Smog back catalogue and Bill Callahan’s albums are all worth checking out especially the magisterial ‘Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle’.

This album is a lonesome sparsely instrumented organic record from nature. Bill Callahan has often been sparse and pretty low-fi, for goodness sake checkout ‘Apocalypse’ if you want proof. Bill has a fixation with nature spread throughout many of his albums. Look at the cover of ‘Dream River’ and ‘Sometimes I wish….’ if you want to know where Bill comes from. He comes from the woods, from the river, he flies with the birds. My daughter and I also have this feeling about Midlake. They are always tramping through the woods in winter and appear to be from long ago. Bill does the same but seems to do it today not in the eighteenth century. He also comes across a lot of bramble. He has a fair old crew with him too. Joanna Newsome plays piano on ‘Rock Bottom Riser’. I believe they were dating at the time. Thor Harris from the Swans plays hammered dulcimer on ‘I Feel Like The Mother of the World’. Jim White from The Dirty Three plays drums throughout. Not than anyone much plays much of anything. The instruments are always played simply and just enough. Jim White is particularly subtle.

The record commences with a guitar from a lonesome cowboy on Palimpsest (a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing). God knows what Bill means but he immediately introduces one of his favoured subjects, birds. ‘A southern bird that stayed North too long’. Next he sings about rebirth on Say Valley Maker ‘Bury me in fire and I’m gonna phoenix’. The Well sees Bill discovering a well in the ….er…. woods of course, shouting down it ‘Everyone’s got their own thing to shout down a well’ and then having a drip fall on his neck. Imagine….!. Next he speak of his family’s support for him in Rock Bottom Riser followed by, what is for me the album highlight I Feel like the Mother of the world’ made all the more special by the sound of Thor’s dulcimer beating. It almost makes it other worldly. In the Pines is a gentle country stomp…er in the woods naturally and Drinking at the Dam evokes childhood memories of teenage misbehaviour. He then waltzes off into the country with Running the Loping and dreams of rural life ‘Oh to be in the country, With a chicken….and those other things’! What other things Bill? Goats, Geese, Sheep…He gently fades away with more and more quiet reflection in the final songs like a small baby falling asleep.

Its strange that. We have a friend who would play Bill Callahan to his little lad when he was a bit fractious and it worked every time. he was forever know as uncle Bill from the time.

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Here’s some pictures of a very dapper Bill (my wife thought him very handsome) and a gorgeous green strat live in 2014

Matthew E White – Fresh Blood – Domino Records – 2015

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I start this review knowing it actually will be read.

My daughter came home for the weekend. I told her about blog. Said I might like her to get involved and any requests and quick as a flash she said Matthew E White and Fresh Blood. One of our favourites from this year and one that I was given for my birthday this year from my wife advised fairly and squarely by my daughter. I am hoping she will also comment. The more voices and opinions the better. Its only 34 years later than my last post.

The first thing to say about this record is that this is smooth. Oh yes, it’s smooth and silky in every aspect. Just look at Matthew in his elegant house and his beautiful flowers. This tells us that Matthew loves things in order; clean, and organised. This record reflects that. Look how gorgeous the packaging is. There is a letter from the desk of Matthew that oozes class and tells us that some of these tales on the record are terrifyingly personal stories. There is a lyric sheet in pink print. The vinyl is heavyweight and well pressed. Impressive Matthew. Impressive Domino

Matthew E White is a resident of Richmond Virginia and this is his second record following 2012’s Big Inner. He founded a collective of musicians under the name Spacebomb who he uses throughout this record.

This is a white boy soul record over all. Matthew whispers to us seductively on many of the tracks. He is super cool and relaxed. At times he is kind of Barry White telling us how much he cares for his baby (is he a relative), he does hint at Barry’s sexy content too as he sings ‘I’m pumping fresh blood for you’. He also has his very own Love Unlimited Orchestra in the Spacebomb strings and brass ably punctuating his vocal stroking whilst elegant chorus are added from sensual female voices.

We saw him this year at the Greenman festival and he didn’t have all the Spacebomb strings, brass and chorus. Instead he appeared to have kidnapped the entire Deep Throat Choir (about 15 women) and had them doing the Ya ya ya chorus on ‘Feeling Good is Good Enough’. His more rockin’ tunes on this album ‘Rock and Roll s Cold’ and ‘Feeling good….’suited the festival better than his half whispered lerve tracks which are probably better in an intimate club. Songs like Tranquility, Holy Moly show his ability to build a tune and maintain emotion and Circle Round the Sun appears to reflect a gospel upbringing. Perhaps his most appropriate festival song is fruit tree, ‘You and Me in the middle of a field’.

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 and here is Matthew and the Deep Throat Orchestra  them and us in the middle of a field. We were worried his hair might snag in his strings

Girls At Our Best – Pleasure – Happy Birthday Records – 1981

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My first record was  chosen this evening after a day not listening to anything. For some reason I just listened to the radio in the car to and from work and so I came home thinking I have to choose a decent one for my first record. I went for a record that I am truly in love with every aspect of. One of my ‘perfect’ records. Having said that this record remained on tape for years where I had nabbed it years ago and then lost it to the ravages of tape degeneration from years of stretching. As was quite usual around its time of release I couldn’t afford many records and finally bought an original copy off Ebay about 3 years ago. As usual I went for a very reasonably priced version unfortunately without the splendid pleasure bag that came with the original.

Girls At Our Best were formed in Leeds in 1979 and consisted of Judy Evans on vocals, James Alan on Guitar, Gerard Swift on bass and an this album D Carl Harper on drums. A great favourite of John Peel, I first heard them on his show and faithfully taped some of their sessions. You can find out all sorts of facts about GAOB here  http://www.girlsatourbest.com/. And you can listen to the CD version of the record here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZx3sZR0XqE. The record runs from track 6 to 16. Plenty of other delicious morsels here too.

In Pleasure we have a glistening, shiny, guitar pop tower of a record. It is a tune menagerie; catchy as velcro and bright as a pin. It also has a lovely homemade feel and has some really odd instrumentation which I find irresistible (check out the keyboards on ‘She Flipped’ , the chugging pub pianner on ‘Too Big for Your Boots’ and the appearance of a clarinet on ‘Fun City Teenagers’!

Judy Evans, who no one appears to have heard from for years and years was a seriously lovely looking woman but played down this aspect entirely. She had a voice like a lungful of helium and pronounces her ‘t’s like Jenny Agutter in  The Railway Children.

In China Blue she sings ‘Oh why I am I so beautiful’. I have no idea Judy but you surely are. On side 1 also had a song called ‘I’m Beautiful Now’ which I always got a bit confused about in earlier times with a pirate tape with swiftly scribed scrawl on the insert. My copy now has a girt great scratch right in the middle of ‘Beautiful Now’ which actually needs a stylus shove so these days there is no confusion.

Oddly I also got confused similarly at Pleasure –  ‘1,2 go to Pleasure City Avenue’ and China Blue –  ‘Come to China for the day where you only have to pay Such a little for your pleasure at the open shop or take away’. Lots of pleasure and this album is full of it.

£600000 at the end of side 1 has a great touch as it wanders into the out groove there is a little tom tom run that would play forever if you didn’t take it off

Album Highlights

I don’t think there is a duff track on this

Waterbed Babies has the rousing chorus ‘Water babies in the sea, Watermelons are for tea, Waterbeds are made for me, They make my mouth water’. Utter nonsense about water chutes and other watery pass times but coming from Judy’s air laden vocal chords it sounds gorgeous.

Fast Boyfriends is my very very favourite track about falling in and out of love as quickly as you can play a track ‘last four minutes then thrown away’

All in all this is charming record that you should buy because it is ridiculously cheap to get hols of and so gorgeous. That is of course if you like the jingly jangly C86 sound as these are that scenes very roots. Descendants of this genre include Betty and the Werewolves, Bearsuit, Veronica Falls, Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund; all well worth checking out

They reissued ‘Pleasure’ last year on a 2 disc yellow splatter effect vinyl which looks really nice. Hey, but its content not looks that keeps you listening. A bit like our Judy

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