Capsule reviews for people who love music but have short attention spans.
New releases from Anton Barbeau, Crowded House, Gary Louris, Gary Numan, I See Hawks In LA, Lannie Flowers and Wolfgang Van Halen.
We Talk To Kimberley Rew (Soft Boys, Katrina & The Waves) And Lee Cave-Berry About Their Smashing New Album Purple Kittens, Song By Song!
One recurring complaint that I see on social media, from [aging] friends and strangers alike, is that no one makes good music anymore. Today's music is often referred to as soulless, too technology driven, vacuous garbage, disposable and just plain annoying. The fact is, though, that there are gobs of people out there, making fantastic music, that thrills, touches, and takes you back to our youthful days of discovery. This music is no longer served up to us by deejays like Jim Ladd and Bob Coburn in the US, and Tony Blackburn and John Peel in the UK, we have to go looking for it.
Two people that are still making sensational music are Kimberley Rew, formerly the founder of and principle songwriter for Katrina and the Waves, as well as lead guitarist for the seminal post punk, neo-psychedelic band The Soft Boys, and his wife, bassist, nonpareil, and singer Lee Cave-Berry.
After taking a pause last year to look back on twenty plus years of wonderful music with Sunshine Walkers: The Best of Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry, Kim and Lee are ready to unleash the first of two new albums of original material, Purple Kittens.
Purple Kittens is an analog tour de force of songwriting and expert musicianship, delivered in numerous styles encompassing 50s, 60s and 70s rock and roll, folk and even jazz. Every song is an infectious ear worm that will compete for space in your cranium. When you get to the end, you'll play it again.
I recently spoke with Kim and Lee about each delightful song on the album and here its is, with links to some of the songs so you can sample for yourself how well these charming folks are clicking. We also manage to digress into Dylan at the end, so read on!
All photos courtesy of Lee Cave-Berry
Purple Kittens, Song By Song with Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry
Gear Note: On all tracks, Lee Cave-Berry plays the 1972 sunburst Fender Precision bass that Vince de la Cruz used on the Katrina and the Waves evergreen "Walking On Sunshine."
Gearheads, anoraks and trainspotters: a complete rundown of Kim & Lee's gear — guitars, amps, knob positions, pedals and studio craft, detailed by Kimberley Rew himself, follows this article, or you can link directly to it here.
1. Penny The Ragman (Rew)
Guitar used: 1985 Black Squier Telecaster fit with Texas Special pickups
Eric Sandberg: This song has a strong Kinks, Village Green vibe and the guitar solo at the end would make Dave Davies look up from his Twitter account.
Kimberley Rew: "It's interesting you mention that because Village Green is an album about characters and Penny is a real character. Penny The Ragman is my late my cousin. She lived in a village and was a ragman. A ragman is a person who looks after the uniforms for a team of Morris dancers, actually called a side of Morris dancers, a traditional dance we have here in England. There is no female equivalent for the term ragman that I've been able to find."
Lee Cave-Berry: "I had never heard of one before we went to her funeral, and I found it interesting to learn a little bit about our history."
KR: "It's kind of poignant. Sometimes you don't take much notice of people although they've been there all your life — she's about my age — and then they die and you go to their wake and talk to their friends and you realize how much they've done with their lives."
2. You Can Rely On Me (Rew, Cave-Berry)
Guitar used: Gibson 1968 Les Paul Gold Top
ES: This song just choogles and chugs and gets your blood going and your foot tapping.
KR: "In our old house in Cambridge I would kind of bash away on the top floor and the noise would filter down through the house — BeROW BAT BAT BeROW BAT BAT BeROW BAT BAT-BAT — for a long time, and this would be inflicted on Lee. Later, I'd come down the stairs and she'd say "All over the attic, there's a brand new rhythm!" [Lee, laughing in the background) so, there you go!"
LC: "I don't even remember that!"
KR: "I changed it to "All over the twenties it's a brand new rhythm because I wrote it in 2020." I thought it would be a good time for a new start for humanity."
LC: "Kim will give me a credit on a song when I throw a line at him, like the song "She's Still Got It."
KR: That was more of an even split. I was driving the car and shouted "She's still got it!" and Lee would sing..."
LC: "...and he still gets it!" [laughter]
ES: Like Paul would sing "It's getting better all the time," and John would chip in "It couldn't get much worse."
3. I Can Be Any Woman (Cave-Berry)
Guitars used: Kimberley — Guild acoustic F50 Ranjan Vesudevan — Gibson SG Custom
ES: This siren song has a sinewy, phrygian mode acoustic guitar groove and some extra sultry, 'come hither' singing by Lee.
LC: "The funny thing about this track is, I wrote it a long time ago, about twenty years, when we first got together, actually, and it just languished away there. I didn't think I could take it any further than the original demo I recorded. A couple of years ago I was sorting out my old demos and thought 'actually, that doesn't sound too bad.' I played it for Kimberley and he said " I like that one, let's put it on the next album."
When we took it into the studio, that's actually when it came along. You get three people playing it together and, suddenly, it's something else.After we recorded it, I realized that it must have come from that Star Trek episode "The Menagerie," with the green woman who kept changing herself into different types of women to find one that would please Captain Pike."
KR: "Ranjan Vasudevan played those swooping single string runs in the Carnatic scale."
4: Kingdom Of Love (Hitchcock)
Guitar used: 1985 Black Squier Telecaster fit with Texas Special pickups
ES: An excellent, pulsing, cover of the Soft Boys classic. Correct me if I'm wrong but, where Matthew Seligman [late Soft Boys bassist] seemed to bounce just slightly behind the beat on the original, it feels like Lee is slightly pushing the proceedings, lending a new sense of urgency to the song.
LC: "Matthew and I both had Andy Fraser as our hero [Free bassist] and I have, on occasion, been accused of being slightly behind the beat. It is, actually very unusual for me to be a pushy bass player. I have quite a lot of difficulty pushing. It is possible because we did that one with Liam [Liam Gray, the drummer on Purple Kittens]. Liam and I are completely on the same wavelength. I've not had another drummer that I am so completely at one with. I work very well with other drummers like Tony Hill and my mate Christine Kitching but, with Liam, it's like we share the same soul, and when we play together we just lock in.
"I Can Be Any Woman" came alive with Liam. He's just got that feel. You don't have to explain anything to him. If I'm pushing the beat slightly on "Kingdom Of Love" it's because I'm locked in with Liam."
KR: "This is the song we would do if it was Robyn's birthday or someone in the crowd was shouting for a Soft Boys song."
5. Too Much Love (Rew)
Guitar used: Guild acoustic F50
ES: This is a gorgeous, gentle, pop ballad with a simple and hopeful message.
LC: "I love that. We were on holiday in the Isle of Wight when he wrote that. He just had the chorus and I thought what a fantastic idea that is. The very first time he played that chorus, I melted. So beautiful...love it! It's very sweet...very loving...kind."
6. The Wrong Song (Rew)
Guitar used: 1985 Black Squier Telecaster fit with Texas Special pickups
ES: This track is the centerpiece of the album for me. It's funky, loaded with attitude, and features some old school jazz flute from Myke Clifford.
KR: "We are big fans of Myke Clifford. You know those Venn diagrams, with the intersecting circles? Kim and Lee are in one circle and Myke is in the other one. We don't have a big intersection but we like to intersect when we can. It was time for some jazzy flute, just to kind of float across that song. One of the big positive points about the Wednesday Session [A weekly live show/internet broadcast hosted by Johnny Wright] is we get the chance to rotate a few good people and we get to see what they can contribute to the right song."
LC: That's the great thing about the Wednesday Session. If you're a working musician, you don't get to see other musicians very often because you're too busy working yourself. We met Liam at a Wednesday Session, we met Ranjan at a Wednesday Session. The first time I saw Myke Clifford I thought 'what a useful bloke to have in a band!' He plays saxophone, flute, percussion, and he's a really great singer and front man."
ES: Lee, I particularly love your harmony vocals on this song. They've got this sneery twang to them that suits the attitude of the song perfectly.
LC: "It's such a feel thing, I probably didn't even know I was doing it. The song is quite jazzy for us, we don't usually play in that style, so you just go with it, don't you."
ES: In fact, this album features lot more of the two of you blending your voices together with a quite satisfying result.
KR: "That is what we're aiming for. We think we've got a sound and we haven't made the most of it. We like to do that when it's right for the song, you get those two voices fairly close together."
LC: "A couple of times, when we're in the studio, we've actually sung into the same microphone. When we sing together live, it is more obvious that our voices blend — the sound waves blend together. When you record vocals on a record, those sound waves aren't interacting in quite the same way as when we sing it live."
KR: "A lot of the records I like have more than one person singing into the same microphone. Any photos you see of the Beatles recording vocals, they're nearly always all around one microphone, or two on one and one on another. The Everly Brothers were always on one microphone. You've got to be pretty good to make that work. What we did on Purple Kittens is to have two microphones and sang together live, facing each other. That way we kind of got the best of both worlds because we could see each other and interact."
7. Unsatisfactory Cats (Cave-Berry)
Guitar used: 1985 Black Squier Telecaster fit with Texas Special pickups
ES: This charming bit of English whimsy is perfect change of gear after "The Wrong Song" has gotten everyone hot and bothered. The track sequencing is quite perfect really.
LC: "We've actually recorded enough tracks for two different albums. They were recorded at different times and two different places. We left it to our PR guy Joe Cushley to sort out what tracks would be on Purple Kittens and sequence them as well. He did a great job.
It was my grandma that used to complain about her cats being "unsatisfactory" because they didn't do the things that cats should do. We took two cats in that were behaving unsatisfactorily which led me to write the song. We ended up splitting the cats up and the one we still have has been quite satisfactory ever since."
8. Black Ribbon (Jonah Smith and Reuben Smith)
Guitar used: 1985 Black Squier Telecaster fit with Texas Special pickups
ES: This 50s style slab of rock and roll was not written by either of you but I can't seem to find out anything about the song or the writers on the internet. Where does it come from?
LC: "For about sixteen years Kim and I played in a band called Jack. It was a local covers band and we would play all around the Cambridge area with this lovely chap called Roger Smith. Roger ran the band and got all the gigs. He was genial and a good singer. He was just a lovely chap and I could talk to him for hours. Unfortunately, at the beginning of Covid, he got it and died from it. Covid changed my whole life because Roger died. Nothing will ever be the same.
"Black Ribbon" was actually written by Roger's six and eight year old grandsons. Roger's daughter-in-law recorded them singing it and I heard it and thought 'wow, what a great song!" It captures Roger completely — that is Roger. So we worked up a nice backing track for it and recorded it!" We're actually meeting with some people next week to get Jonah and Reuben set up with the PRS [Performing Rights Society].
KR: "We took the "Oh baby!" bit from "Chantilly Lace" which we used to perform with Jack."
9. Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream (Rew)
Guitar used: Gibson 1968 Les Paul Gold Top
ES: This track just seems to be using the idea of raspberry ripple ice cream as an excuse to blow the roof off with an instrumental.
KR: "That was the objective."
LC: [To Kimberley] "I think it was Tequila you were thinking of?"
KR: "Tequila" by the Champs and also "Mashed Potatoes" by James Brown and "Salt Peanuts" by Charlie Parker, where the lyrics are just occasionally someone yelling out the punchline of the song, which is something to eat...or drink — that was the pretext."
10. Growing Up Song (Rew)
Guitar used: Guild acoustic F50
ES: This lovely message to the next generation was written by Kim for Lee to sing. As the lead single and video for Purple Kittens it appears to be getting a lot airplay on various radio shows and has hit your highest position on the Heritage Chart to date.
LC: "It's been amazing to get onto the Heritage chart. When we did the last album [Sunshine Walkers: The Best of Kimberley Rew & Lee Cave-Berry] we got some promotion people in to help us. Lisa Davies, from our first promo team, led us to Mike Read who was quite interested in Kimberley. We asked him what song on the album would he pick for a single and he chose that one and he's been playing it three times a week on his program and it's got to thirteen on the chart.
It's been great for me as well, as a singer, because I'm a bass player who can sing rather than a singer. To see a song that I've sung on the chart next to people I grew up with like Suzi Quatro, The Sweet and Gary Numan — these are all people I really admired when I was younger — has been exciting for me."
11. Voyager (Rew)
Guitar used: 1985 Black Squier Telecaster fit with Texas Special pickups
ES: Voyager seems to be about the different ways we communicate as well as relishing the idea that Chuck Berry has made it to the rim of space and time.
KR: "I like the idea that Voyager has been traveling now for forty-four years and it's now the furthest man-made object from Earth and has reached beyond the edge of our galaxy, I think. It just shows how far away that is because it's taken this long to get there. I think there is a picture of the Sun from Voyager 1 that shows our sun as a tiny dot. It's kind of shocking."
12. Daytime Night Time (Rew)
Guitar used: Gibson 1968 Les Paul Gold Top
ES: This song sound like it's about being caught up in the daily grind, going from one day/night to the next, and you don't know what you're doing or why you're doing it.
LC: "It might just be about how fast life goes, particularly when you're older."
Note: After wrapping up our discussion of Purple Kittens, our conversation turned to our mutual friend Emma Swift's pending tour of Australia supporting her acclaimed Dylan covers album Blonde On The Tracks, and the fact that Bob is turning eighty this month.
LC: "I know it's sacrilege, but I'm not that much of a Bob Dylan fan. I mean, I love his songs but not when he's singing them." We saw him in London and he would only talk to his band, not the audience."
KR: "I think he does that defensively to avoid requests and people shouting rude things like Judas! at him. "It's quite sad, actually, Bob Dylan has had to act defensively for fifty-five years. He went electric when he was twenty-four. He was on an upward trajectory for twenty-four years and he's had to fight a sort of rear guard action against his own fans for fifty-five years. I thinks that's maybe a criticism of the audience."
LC: "I still feel a bit sorry for him coming to England with an electric guitar and getting booed."
KR: It's not one our prouder moments."
Purple Kittens is released worldwide on June 18 and can be ordered at the link below, or click on the purple kitty at the top of this article.
Kim & Lee perform live most Wednesdays at the Plough in Shepreth with Johnny Wright on the Wednesday Session aired live on Facebook starting at 8:30 PM (UK) 3:30 PM (EDT) and 12:30 PM (PDT)
Check out Kim & Lee's YouTube channel Crunching The Catalog, where they answer questions and play a different request from their deep catalog.
Kimberley Rew (Soft Boys, Katrina & The Waves) Gear Rundown!Guitars, Amps, Pedals, knob twiddles...It's All Here!
By Kimberley Rew (Edited by Eric Sandberg)
What gear did we use on Purple Kittens? To answer this I should go back a stage. In 2019 we recorded an album’s worth of songs at Remote Farm [outside Cambridge, UK], the old Katrina and the Waves studio, with sound man Steve Stewart.
Meanwhile the order came from on high that we should put out a compilation album, which became Sunshine Walkers- The Best of Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry. This meant that, with an album ‘in the can’, we recorded another album in 2020. It was now the pandemic, and Steve was self isolating, so we transferred to Bookmatch studio [also outside Cambridge, UK], with owner operator Tim Bond.
Lee and I had a growing feeling that the three instruments, guitar, bass and drums, should do more equal amounts of work to paint the sound picture, if you will, rather than guitar, plus overdubs, backed up by bass and drums.
Inevitably the Purple Kittens album ended up being, itself, a compilation of these two sessions, so it is [part one] of a mixture of songs from two different sessions, in two studios, each with a different sound man.
By the time we got to Bookmatch, the concept of guitar overdubs was fading out of our philosophy.This turned out to be a happy accident, as the studio is tiny, and there’s nowhere to put a guitar amp so that you could overdub while listening to the basic track and the overdub on the studio speakers as you play. You’d never hear it above the sound from your amp! Later on, on a session adding a guitar to Robyn Hitchcock recording, we solved this by using a speaker simulator. I’ve got four electric guitars and two acoustics, and I try not to leave any unplayed, which seems disrespectful to the guitars.
*A 1969 Gibson SG Special, my first decent guitar, so one I did much learning on, which means there are a few things I can play on it that I can’t play on any other guitar!
*A 1968 Gibson Les Paul gold top, which I bought in 1986 for £600.
*A beautiful 1980s white Fender Stratocaster, which I inherited from Katrina and the Waves. Lee replaced the pickups with Fender Custom Shop Texas Specials (she’s a whizz with the soldering iron!)
*A black Squier Telecaster, which I bought new in 2005. It also has Texas Specials, which means the pickups are worth more than the guitar. It's my ‘go anywhere’ guitar — you can play just about anything on it, with any combination of other musicians, tune it quickly, change strings quickly etc.
*A 1961 Gibson J45 which I bought in 1986 for £500. Useful for streaming sessions from the spare room, during lockdowns. It’s very quiet, and our voices are very quiet, so you can balance the sound into a single microphone.
*A Gibson Blues King- the ‘go anywhere’ acoustic- robust, positive sound, not too delicate.
Remote Farm studio also comes with a Guild acoustic- I think it's an F50? Early 1970s? You can get loads of bangs for your buck 'on tape’ with this one. It’s on "I Can Be Any Woman," "Too Much Love" and "Growing Up Song." On the last two tracks, the instrumental sections are double tracked.
I should also mention that throughout, Lee plays a 1972 sunburst Fender Precision bass. She usually prefers a medium scale bass, but this Precision, once again, seems to deliver more bangs per buck ‘onto tape’. You can also hear it on "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves.
I should also also mention pedals. I like echo on guitars. Live, it’s a safety net, too. You forget to switch the thing off, and it becomes a sort of reassuring halo round any sloppy bits of playing. I have a maroon Boss echo pedal — it sounds the least ‘digital’ of any I’ve tried. You have a sound, you turn on the echo, then you have a sound plus echo which adds up to the total amount of sound you had before. So the echo’s using up some of your basic sound.
In the studio, you can have the sound man add echo. Then you still have all of your basic sound, plus the echo, so I avoid using the echo pedal in the studio. Live, I find it easier to switch on a boost pedal, currently a black MXR with one knob, for a solo, than to turn up the volume knob on the guitar, then finish the solo, turn the guitar knob again, and start singing again! But this means you’re artificially boosting the sound going into the amp, and you don’t get that on the old records, which I like and try to emulate. So, again, I try to avoid the boost pedal in the studio.
Now turning to amps. When the Fender Blues Junior came out about twenty years ago, I bought a black one, and it was the first proper, decently made, amp I owned that wasn’t deafeningly loud. I used this until it became increasingly unreliable — a conundrum.
On the records I like, guitarists were using new gear, particularly amps, which were perceived as developing and improving all the time. Now things are moving much more slowly — there are no new sounds — and we are more conservative. So how long is your amp supposed to last? Probably not that long. Then you buy a new one, which I did, in tweed this time. But, because these things are mass produced now, it doesn’t sound the same.
When the Marshall Origin amps came out in I think 2018, I bought one. Again, it’s the first proper sounding Marshall which isn’t deafeningly loud. Live, it has that Marshall gift, if you can get it working to the right percentage of its power — filling the room with a single note. But even that’s getting hard to achieve these days of quiet gigs in pub gardens with neighbors twitching the their curtains, poised to complain.
So the earlier tracks from Remote Farm, "Kingdom of Love," "Wrong Song," "Unsatisfactory Cats" and "Daytime Night Time," have the old black Blues Junior, in the big room with the drums, and the later tracks, "Penny the Ragman," "You Can Rely On Me," "Black Ribbon," "Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream" and "Voyager" have the Marshall, set up in the very small store room, with the drums in the main, but still fairly small, room at Bookmatch, with probably some guitar spilling on the drums.
I should also mention that we started with a theory that, on a song where I do lead vocal and acoustic guitar, the best sound is to go for both at the same time. So "Too Much Love" has this, where the sounds of the lead vocal and acoustic guitar interact.
Here are the nine tracks with electric guitar, including the toggle settings and amps used:
Penny the Ragman — Telecaster/Marshall, middle position, turn up the knob for the solo.
You Can Rely On Me — Les Paul/Marshall, neck position. Clean sound thruout — you could mistake it for the Telecaster.
Kingdom of Love — Telecaster/Blues Junior, bridge position, turn up the knob for the solo.
Wrong Song — Stratocaster/Blues Junior, neck position — turn up the knob for the solo.It gets quite distorted in a classic Strat sort of a way.
Black Ribbon — Telecaster/Marshall, bridge position, turn up the knob for the solo- there are gaps before and after the solo which make it a bit easier to do this! I wanted this to sound like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.
Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream — Les Paul/Marshall- bridge position, switch on the boost for the solo and leave it on! I wanted this to sound like Spoonful by Cream- of course it didn’t, but they’re both in E.
Voyager — Telecaster/Marshall- middle position, clean sound throughout.
Daytime Night Time — Les Paul/Blues Junior- bridge position. It’s got an overdubbed solo, also on the Les Paul. I wanted this to sound like Status Quo.
Finally, there’s an overdubbed electric guitar on I Can Be Any Woman. It’s played by Ranjan Vasudevan, on a Gibson SG Custom, mostly swooping runs on a single string, in what I believe is the Carnatic style, or scale.
Book Review By Eric Sandberg
From Aesop and Scheherazade to the Brothers Grimm, stories for children were meant to entertain as well as to educate young people about the dangers they might face out in the real world. Over the centuries these tales have been neutered and de-clawed as the world has ostensibly become more civilized, while parents' instincts to protect their children have adapted to content filtering.
As a youngster I eschewed books aimed at my ilk, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and Scholastic fair, in favor of Marvel Comics, Doc Savage and Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks, and even Winston Graham's Poldark saga. I was never interested in the offerings at the book fair.
The phenomenally successful Harry Potter series began from a grim premise — a baby is scarred and orphaned by a murderous dark wizard and forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs by his disdainful relatives. These events are in the past and there is plenty of hi jinks to distract from them, but as the series continued and the protagonists grew older it became increasingly darker in tone, culminating in the murder of a student at the hands of a revitalized dark lord with the long suffering Harry ultimately exacting a lethal revenge.
It could be argued that the massive success of the Harry Potter franchise in books, films and on the stage, has opened the door for authors to challenge young readers with a bit more than a puppy who has temporarily wandered off, only to be found later in the shed.
Enter Fleur Hitchcock, who The Times has proclaimed to have "...cornered the market in hard-boiled crime novels for beginners." The prolific Hitchcock has ten novels under her belt for British publisher Nosy Crow [including four volumes of the Clifftoppers adventure series aimed at seven year olds, though their parents and grandparents also read them]. In her first published novel Dear Scarlett the title character must solve the mystery of her late father, a notorious jewel thief — or was he?
In the follow up Saving Sophia a frumpy girl gravitates to a mysterious new girl in her class who leads her to abandon her safe but lonely life and plunge headlong into a dangerous journey. With Murder In Midwinter Hitchcock really hits her stride, crafting a story of murder and international intrigue, all starting with a young student who inadvertently captures what might be a murder on her camera as she snaps crowd pictures through a bus window. Murder At Twilight involves the kidnapping of a young lord of the manor with the protagonist's mother held as the chief suspect.
"I was desperate to read this kind of thing when I was younger so I wrote it for myself," Fleur Hitchcock writes to me from her home near Bath, England. "I used to read lots of really inappropriate things because stuff just wasn't written for my age. Murder just wasn't thought to be an appropriate subject, certainly not in a contemporary setting."
I was walking my dog in the park recently and as my mind wandered I started to replay in my head an exciting scene from a movie I must have watched with my daughter. I could see in my mind's eye the daring escape from a second story hole in a brick wall and a chase through a marsh. I was racking my brain trying to recall the movie when I realized it wasn't from a movie at all, it was a scene from Hitchcock's most exciting and cinematic novel The Boy Who Flew.
Set in an alternate world, A young boy discovers the body of his mentor who has been murdered for his secrets. But Mr. Chen's secrets were also Athan's as together they were building a machine that could fly! Athan's mission is to prevent the killers from finding the flying machine and keep himself alive in the process.
Hitchcock was raised in a creative family. Her father Raymond was an acclaimed novelist and painter who is notorious for penning the surreal novel Percy, about England's first recipient of an...er...Percy transplant. The book was later adapted into a film starring Denholm Elliot and Elke Sommer and featured a soundtrack by The Kinks. Her sister Lal is a sculptor and a psychotherapist, while her brother Robyn is a musician and songwriter who often paints his own album covers and includes whimsical short stories in his liner notes.
"I have always written, ever since I was a child, but with more and more intensity and was actually finishing manuscripts by the time i joined an MA course at Bath Spa University. I looked for a program for adult writing but, to my surprise, found there was one specifically for writing for children. It paved the way for me to start writing seriously. I was alongside some really good writers so I had to be good myself. Two years later, I had an agent and my first book contract, but it wasn't plain sailing. I had an awful lot of rejections and had to write a second book. The first one died on it's feet. It actually didn't though — it was published ten years later as The Boy Who Flew."
In 2017 Hitchcock was awarded the Leeds Children's Book Award, followed by the Salford Book Award in 2018 and continues to be shortlisted for other prestigious awards including the Oxford.
Hitchcock's latest novel for young readers is Waiting For Murder and it is a tension building slow burn of a mystery which suddenly accelerates to a gushing [literally] and satisfying conclusion. As a reservoir in the English countryside recedes during a period of murderously hot weather, and archeologists dig for some historically significant bones, a sunken car gradually becomes exposed. Are there more recent bones in there? Only two young, fast, friends Dan and Florence see the clues that lead to stolen gold, a series of life threatening "accidents"...and murder.
The book recalls my long hot summers away from home for my family's seasonal business, quickly making friends with tourist kids passing through. No mysteries or murders, but lot's of reading. As much as I loved Doc Savage and Edgar Rice Burroughs I'm sure I would have enjoyed a few Hitchcock mysteries if they were available then, as much as I do now as an adult.
Fleur Hitchcock doesn't just write books, she promotes reading by touring area schools and giving readings. She actively promotes books by her peers in the thriving UK young reader genre through social media and is a prominent voice in the fight to keep libraries in the UK open and funded.
Pub Rock Is Alive And Thriving (On Record, Anyway) — Bob Collum and the Welfare Mothers — This Heart Will Self Destruct
Album Review By Eric Sandberg
The UK has always had a strong tradition of producing bands that promised pub patrons a night to remember [depending on how much they had to drink]. These bands varied in style — ranging from the sloppy blooze of Faces, to honky tonk country, to tightly played power pop.
Bands like Bees Make Honey, Clancy, Ace [who, to this day, can be heard almost hourly in any CVS, performing "How Long"), Eddie and The Hot Rods, Ducks Deluxe, Mickey Jupp, Brinsley Schwarz [a band that spawned the careers of Nick Lowe and, tangentially, Graham Parker] and even an American ex-pat outfit called Eggs Over Easy, once unloaded their vans at pubs all over the UK.
Keeping the tradition alive is Tulsa troubadour Bob Collum who, instead of going west to make his fortune, moved east and didn't stop until he got to Essex. Bob tapped the local talent and put together The Welfare Mothers, currently made up of drummer Paul Quarry, Mags Layton on fiddle and vocals and bass plucker Martin Cutmore, cutting a handful of albums and an EP over the past several years.
Released today is Collum and the Mother's latest album This Heart Will Self Destuct, a record that shows Collum poised for stardom. The album is a flawless collection of smartly written, expertly played and infectiously danceable country-style tunes, all but one being Collum originals with Lieber and Stoller's "Saved" as the lone [perfect] choice for a cover.
L-R: Mags Layton, Paul Quarry, Collum, Martin Cutmore's ear
Collum's appealing voice delivers poetic songs about the vagaries of relationships and the toll they take while the band delivers one foot stomping performance after another with a little help from The Dbs' Peter Holsapple guesting on swirling Hammond organ.
The album's centerpiece, however is the gorgeous, aching ballad "From Birmingham" [Alabama or the West Midlands? You decide!].
This Heart Will Self Destruct is a pure delight and I'm sure Bob Collum and the Welfare Mothers are itching to play it live at the Star & Garter as soon as the coast is clear.
This Heart Will Self Destruct Fretsore Records
3. Tall Glass of Muddy Water
5. From Birmingham
6. This Heart Will Self Destruct
7. Giving Up
8. Shake It Loose
9. Second Fiddle
10. Garbage In, Garbage Out
I first heard The Crushing Violets after encountering a link to their single, "Sugar Cookie Sunday," which is a musical confection that more than delivers what its name promises. So of course I was pleased when Antanina Brooks, lead singer, shared with me an advance copy of their EP, A Dream Without Color, since released on January 8, 2021. This family band from Long Island can be proud of packing some of the tastiest music you'd ever want to hear in 21 minutes of tight, melodic pop rock.
The first thing you notice when you hear The Crushing Violets is Antanina's voice -- a slightly husky, rich alto that to me suggests a bit of Chrissie Hynde and a bit more of Patti Smith but that is distinctly her own. It's warm but not really sweet and gives everything she sings a pleasant edge. I was also pleased by the attention to detail the band applies to their somewhat retro sound. As soon as I heard the organ kick in on "Sugar Cookie Sunday" I knew I was going to like their sound. Credit the band and co-producer Mick Hargreaves with knowing how to acknowledge your influences while still creating an original sound.
A Dream Without Color delivers on the promise of "Sugar Cookie..." and takes it in multiple pleasing directions. The variety of styles and sounds is enjoyable, and no song is longer than it needs to be, although I have to say when "Spirit Box" finishes up in a spare 2 minutes and 13 seconds, I was thinking that I wanted to hear more of BP Brooks heavy guitar and the locked in drum/bass sound they bring to that number.
For me, the emotional highlight of the album is "3 Days", which really showcases the strength of Antanina's vocals. When she belts "3 Days, no pain", you believe this is a woman who knows what pain is about. It's a remarkable song and deserves lots of ears. The song also features some fine guitar work from BP and a guitar/organ break that wouldn't have been out of place on a Deep Purple or Allman Brothers record. The ballad "Day After You" is another highlight for me -- BP's lead vocal blends beautifully with Antanina's harmonies, a combination I'd love to hear more of.
The excellent song writing by husband and wife Antanina and BP Brooks, joined in a couple of cases by their bass-playing son Conner, doesn't lag through the six originals, and Eric Tonyes provides solid support on the sticks. The final song, a cover of the Mindbenders "Groovy Kind of Love," both nods to their pop influences as well as giving them the opportunity to make it their own, with Antanina's distinctive vocal and a little wah pedal; a solid conclusion to a thoroughly enjoyable album. You can hear it all the usual places -- but why not pop over to their Bandcamp site and give them a few coins to show some love?
Album review by Eric Sandberg — McCartney 3
People who have known me for long time know that I can be somewhat jaded and sarcastic at times. I've done my best to rein this in over the past few years [I think it's called growing up]. One subject that has often been a target of my jade tipped spear is what I call the Paul McCartney "Bubble of Adulation."
This bubble is, of course, made up of his most rabid fans and God bless 'em, they're entitled. But the bubble is also carefully cultivated by McCartney's own press machine, with it's syrupy praise of 'ol Macca's every bowel movement. Take these excerpts from liner notes to the single of 1989's "Put It There."
It was the Parisians who started it — back in October of '89.
At first you thought "What the hell are THEY doing" as down in the floor of the Palais Omnisports, Berey, the girls were grabbing partners and bopping to "Put It There."
This was a new one on a bunch of us.
Up until Paris, The European fans had kind of swayed their heads
and tapped their feet a bit.
But not danced.
So they're thinking, these French, you're thinking,
they're thinking it's a disco song. But it ain't, is it?
Maybe it is: they thought so in Madrid and Milan and Rome.
They danced to it there, too...
...Anyway, I've seen the song bopped to now. I've seen it choke Paul on stage as he remembers his dear old dad. I've seen grown men in
Chicago clasp their young sons to them to them as Paul sings it, rocking them tenderly. It's a dance song.
It's a love song. For young boppers. For fathers.
And for sons. And It'll get you. In the end.
Glomp! Don't get me wrong, "Put It There" is a nice little ditty, but when he played it at the Sports arena in Los Angeles, I was escorting my young son to the bathroom.
The promotion barrage that accompanied the release of Paul's last studio album Egypt Station conjured the idea that Paul could pop up anywhere at any time, like The Virgin Mary in a corn field. From playing his crummy new songs in front of a group of unsuspecting pensioners lunching in a Liverpool pub, to riding up and down the elevator at 30 Rock with Jimmy Fallon, capturing ten floors of dropped jaws and shrieks every time the doors slid open, Paul was just like us — you might even run into him browsing for boxer shorts at Target.
Egypt Station was bad. You know it and I know it. We tried to like it. We tried to believe Paul had succeeded in being modern and cool. We even sucked it up and gave it one more listen in anticipation of McCartney 3, but we couldn't make it all the way through it again, could we?
And now, after a particularly shitty year comes to a close, we find out that the amazing Paul has been busy during his "rockdown." While I was playing Klondike on my phone and re-bagging my Hellboy comics, Paul wrote, played, recorded and produced an entire new album of songs, all by his lonesome. What's even more astounding is that he did it all left-handed.
So the Macca media sycophancy machine has revved up once more, this time flooding social media with interviews, appearances, videos and people tweeting their excitement and praise. I will now add my voice. I've listened to McCartney 3 half a dozen times so far and I appreciate it more with each listen.
It is the work of a master craftsman who, through the relative adversity of forced isolation has managed to reestablish a narrow thread of communication with his muse to create music worthy of his reputation.
McCartney 3 opens with a pounding five minute instrumental workout "Long Tailed Winter Bird" which could have gone on for another five minutes as far as I'm concerned. The first single "Find My Way" chugs along nicely with McCartney double tracking his fine wine low and falsetto voices to great effect.
The acoustic reflection of "Pretty Boys" and the piano driven advice column "Woman and Wives" leads us to a new addition to Paul's oeuvre of character songs, the rocking "Lavatory Lil." The album's centerpiece is the nearly 8 1/2 minute "Deep Deep Feeling" which has a way of percolating while also being laconic in that Bryan Ferry sort of way.
Side Two opens with "Slidin'' a balls out rocker in the tradition of Wings, while the acoustic "The Kiss of Venus" would have fit nicely on the White Album. "Seize The Day" is a full-on production of piano and overdubbed guitars that sounds [dare I say it] suspiciously like Revolver era Beatles.
The grooving "Deep Down" is maybe the one throw away track on the album. Not bad considering that McCartney 2 was almost all throwaway songs. Oddly, "Deep Down" sounds like almost every song on the last three Waterboys albums.
The final track "Winter Bird/When Winter Comes" begins with the acoustic riff from the opening instrumental and is one of the finest ballads Paul has ever conjured. Fittingly, it would sound right at home on the first McCartney album.
It becomes clear after a few listens that sides one and two mirror each other stylistically, working forward and then backward, like a musical version of Tenet. I haven't enjoyed a Paul McCartney album this much since Driving Rain, which I believe to contain, until now, his last great spark of unforced creativity.
My good friend Manny once told me "You should stop ragging on Paul McCartney and just enjoy him, because he's gonna be gone one day." Manny is right. I no longer have a problem with Paul McCartney's adulation bubble, I've let it go. I'll be spending a lot of time with McCartney 3 as well as Macca's back catalog during the upcoming holiday break.
I draw the line at collecting all the different colored covers, though.
Paul McCartney — McCartney 3
1. Long Tailed Winter Bird
2. Find My Way
3. Pretty Boys
4. Women And Wives
5. Lavatory Lil
6. Deep Deep Feeling
2. The Kiss of Venus
3. Seize The Day
4. Deep Down
5. Winter Bird/When Winter Comes
By Eric Sandberg
2020 has sucked jingle balls. We've had covid Easter, covid Mother's & Father's Days, covid graduations, covid Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, christenings and confirmations. Most people by now have had their covid birthday. We just staggered through covid Thanksgiving and now we are closing out this annus horibilus with covid Christmas [and Hanukkah, not to mention kovid Kwanza).
Henning Ohlenbusch "Coming Home Alone On Christmas Eve"
Sublime Massachusetts based indie singer/songwriter Henning Ohlenbusch's bittersweet letter to a loved one who couldn't be there. Warning: A banjo is involved.
Phoebe Bridgers "If We Make It Through December"
Bridgers cannily utilizes this Merle Haggard classic to acknowledge what so many folks are going through this year. Subtle but powerful. The EP includes a lovely version of "Silent Night" purposely marred by audio of a newscaster reading the news of the day. Not quite as subtle here.
Liv Greene feat. Jobi Riccio "I Guess There's Always Next Year"
The immensely talented Liv Greene wrote this song from the point of view of someone who thought this would be her year but, sadly, has thrown in the towel. Achingly beautiful and available to purchase on Bandcamp. Well, what are you waiting for?
Kimberley Rew & Lee Cave-Berry "All I Want Is You For Christmas"
It's not all doom and gloom on the 2020 Christmas song front. Kimberley Rew [Katrina & The Waves/The Soft Boys] and his lady wife, bassist Lee Cave-Berry, have been cooped up together in Cambridge for the better part of the year. They have each other this Christmas and this wonderful, cheerful and catchy slice of rock and roll captures their undaunted spirits nicely. The video features drawings by Rew.
Available on CD & download on the Big Stir Singles compilation
or as part of a digital EP
Todd Rundgren "Flappie"
Leave it to our weird Uncle Todd to resurrect a forty-two year old Dutch Christmas novelty song written by a comedian named Youp van 't Hek. Christmas is here and a young boy can't find his pet rabbit Flappie. Never fear, Flappie does turn up...at dinner time.
Daveed Diggs "Puppy For Hanukkah"
Alas, my search for 2020 Hanukkah songs yielded just one result. It speaks for itself, really.
Blue Öyster Cult co-founder Albert Bouchard moved on to an inspiring second act as a teacher after his arena rock days. Now he has retooled his musical magnum opus with Re Imaginos
Interview and overview by Eric Sandberg
The history of Imaginos is lengthy and twisty, both as a narrative concept and a recording project. Lyrically, Imaginos was the brainchild of the late poet and manager/co-producer of Blue Öyster Cult, Sandy Pearlman. Listeners got their first inklings of the myth as early as the band's debut album with "Before The Kiss, A Redcap," which introduces the character of Susie, the arcane "Workshop Of The Telescopes" and the album's final track "Redeemed."
These lyrics came from a lyric folder sitting in the band's communal home which also included material from Richard Meltzer, Dave Roter, Helen Wheels and Patti Smith. More Pearlman lyrics surfaced on their follow up Tyranny And Mutation and by BÖC's third album Secret Treaties the as yet unnamed mythos took center stage with the songs "Astronomy," "ME 262" and even the Patti Smith penned lyric for their first single "Career Of Evil" which fit the narrative nicely.
The idea that these songs formed a larger tapestry was hinted at by a footnote, presumably from some massive historical tome, that appears on the album's inner sleeve.
"Rossignol's curious, albeit simply titled book, the Origins of a World War, spoke in terms of secret treaties, drawn up between the Ambassadors from Plutonia and Desdinova the foreign minister. These treaties founded a secret science from the stars. Astronomy, the career of evil."
Band members Albert Bouchard, his brother Joe, Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser and Eric Bloom all had a hand in setting these lyrics to some intense music. By their breakthrough fourth album only one Pearlman lyric made the cut with "E.T.I (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" and this intriguing mythos went on the back burner in the quest for another hit to match the massive success of Dharma's "Don't Fear The Reaper."
BÖC L to R: Allen Lanier, Eric Bloom, Albert Bouchard, Joe Bouchard, Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser
After a few more albums with different producers, and varying degrees of success, the band was at a crossroads. Buck Dharma, who is not a prolific songwriter, but has a radio friendly voice and a knack for writing hooks, wanted to persevere in pursuit of the next big one, while Albert Bouchard, the band's most credited composer, wanted to return to Blue Öyster Cult's roots by reviving Pearlman's myth for which there were many more unused lyrics set to paper.
This and other disagreements, now long forgiven and forgotten, led to Albert Bouchard's exit from the band. With Pearlman's guidance and encouragement Bouchard began composing and recording Imaginos, the first of three correspondent albums meant to launch his solo career.
As Imaginos [featuring an array of talented musicians and singers including Aldo Nova, Jack Rigg, Joe Satriani, Robbie Krieger, Kenny Aaronson and many others] was just about complete, irony stepped in. Blue Öyster Cult owed Columbia Records one more album, but with Albert gone, followed one album later by Joe Bouchard and Allen Lanier, the band didn't have any songs. The outside writers employed for much of their prior album Club Ninja didn't have a feel for the band's mystique, which had now largely evaporated anyway. Pearlman, managing both Blue Öyster Cult and Albert Bouchard, saw a solution.
After all of the hard work put in by Albert along with his project director and co-arranger Tom Morrongiello, Pearlman convinced Albert to allow a truncated version of the album to become what, for a time, would be the final "Blue Öyster Cult" album.
To make it kosher, Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma's voices replaced the original singers on a few songs. All the founding members of Blue Öyster Cult are afforded front and center credit for the album but this information is dubious. The guitars are definitely not Buck Dharma and there are at least three other unfamiliar voices singing lead. Joe Bouchard says he played some keyboards on the project but doesn't believe any of his work appears on the final album, though Albert is sure he hears Joe singing backup on a couple of tracks.
It is by far the band's heaviest effort. Albert's familiar compositional style, and Pearlman's brooding, mysterious lyrics give the album a strong air of Cult-ness going some ways toward restoring the band's original mystique. The question remains — why did Albert agree to this? The answer is simple and a tale as old as the music business.
"Sandy lied to me!"
Albert tells me over Zoom from his Airstream trailer outside his home somewhere in New York State. "He told me that part of the deal was that I was back in the band." As Blue Öyster Cult prepared to embark on a European tour Albert called Buck Dharma to hash out some details only to discover that Buck had no idea about what Pearlman had promised Albert. For years after that Blue Öyster Cult was a sore subject. He moved on, forming The Brain Surgeons and largely ignoring his musical past.
"We only played our new material on stage and didn't play any Blue Öyster Cult stuff."
Albert also decided to return to college and finish the degree he had abandoned to become a professional musician. He worked as a teacher's aid at Reynold's West Side High School in Manhattan, a unique learning environment for students who have trouble fitting in at their previous schools. As he continued his own education, Albert became a full-fledged music teacher, eventually working his way up to Vice Principal.
"I got the Vice Principal job because I was the only person in the school everybody liked." Albert earned his Masters Degree and even filled in as acting Principal of the school for a time.
"I had just completed a $20,000 Principal licensing program when the new Principal informed me that she wanted to bring her friend over from another school, that had shut down, to be the Vice Principal. I was mad about spending the money on the principal's licence but I realized quickly that it was actually great to be the full time music teacher."
As a teacher, Albert inspired countless students while mostly funding the school's music program out of his own pocket. He retired from teaching in 2016. That same year he was honored at the White House as one of the "Great Educators" by the National Association of Music Educators.
"I got to meet President Obama at the White House and even performed on Fox News with some of my more talented students."
One of Albert's "more talented" students, guitarist RJ Ronquilo, has gone on to have quite the career — boasting 100,000 subscribers on his YouTube page and playing with Santana, Judith Hill [The Blossoms, 20 Feet From Stardom] and the band Chelsea Smiles with Danzig's Karl Rosqvist.
The teacher watches one of his students perform.
Albert led a dual life throughout this period, continuing to record and perform with The Brain Surgeons, The Bouchard Brothers, Blue Coupe [featuring Joe Bouchard, Alice Cooper's Dennis Dunaway and Albert on drums], and also writing and recording his first proper solo album, Incantations in 2014.
"It's a challenge being in a band with a big star," Albert says of Blue Coupe with only a slightly detectable amount of cheek. "Dennis is always in demand and running off on world tours with Alice, but we're just now signing a new record deal."
A year after retiring from teaching, Albert released his second solo album Surrealist, but something else had been brewing over the years. Albert's relationship with Buck Dharma ["Don"] and Eric Bloom, the two remaining founding members of Blue Öyster Cult, had tentatively begun to thaw.
"I started going to their shows whenever they played around New York. After a while I said to Don, 'I'm here, you guys leave a pass for me, the audience knows I'm here, maybe you should acknowledge that.' At first Don would tell me, 'we're not quite ready for that yet."
Relations continued to improve until the seemingly impossible happened in 2012. To celebrate Blue Öyster Cult's 40th anniversary, The band released a CD box set containing their entire Columbia catalog, remastered. The release was kicked off with a one off live concert reuniting all five original members on stage for the first time since since the Cultösaurus Erectus tour of 1980-81.
Sadly, ultra cool founding keyboardist/guitarist Alan Lanier, who was rarely seen without a cigarette dangling from his lower lip, passed away ten months later. At the urging of Albert, the band and invited friends staged a tribute show for Allen in 2016 where they performed all of the songs Lanier wrote for the band.
"I was the one who kept telling them that we had to do this before too much time had passed," Albert says.
The renewed relationship between Albert and his old band continued to blossom as, later that year, Blue Öyster Cult performed a 40th anniversary live television broadcast of their breakthrough album Agents of Fortune accompanied by a mini-tour that hit New York, Los Angeles, London and Dublin. Albert had written and sung a significant chunk of the album so he was invited to guest on vocals and guitar on his songs and, of course, he couldn't resist playing a mean cowbell on "Don't Fear The Reaper." Albert also participated in a taped interview along with Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom which can be seen on the subsequent Blu-ray release of the show.
Albert even makes a cameo appearance on the lead track from BÖC's first new studio album since 2001 The Symbol Remains [released last week]. Albert sings backing vocals, and can be seen hammering on a cowbell in the video for "That Was Me." All of this goodwill led Albert to start reconsidering the Imaginos material.
"I started pulling those songs out one by one and working up fresh arrangements for them. My approach has been to recapture the vibe of Love's Forever Changes, an album no one gets tired of hearing. The songs are anchored by me playing a Taylor 8-string baritone acoustic that my brother Jim [folk musician Jim Bouchard] introduced me to. The album's got piano, trumpet [played by Joe Bouchard with a tone worthy of Herb Alpert] and violin but also has a healthy dose of electric guitar on the solos."
The exceptionally tasty electric guitar work comes courtesy of old friends Ross "The Boss" Friedman [founding guitarist of the Dictators and Manowar], Jack Rigg and others.
The resulting album Re Imaginos is quieter than the original album but no less powerful than its predecessor. The baritone guitar gives the basic tracks plenty of heft and the arrangements are rich and satisfying. Albert Bouchard has crafted an album worthy of it's inspiration Forever Changes. He's never had a top 40 voice, but his singing was an integral part of many great Blue Öyster Cult songs and his voice has only deepened and taken on more character with age. Albert's confidence and expressiveness as a singer gets stronger as each song unfurls.
Albert alters the original running order of the album and adds three songs "The Girl That Love Made Blind," "Gil Blanco County," which dates back to BÖC precursor Stalk-Forrest Group's unreleased Elektra Records album, and the first video "Black Telescope," a percolating rework of "Workshop of the Telescopes" from the first BÖC album. All three of these new additions are highlights among an album of highlights. The gorgeous "The Girl That Love Made Blind" also doubles as a fresh new Christmas song you can listen to during the holidays in place of "Wonderful Christmastime."
Albert also put a lot of thought into his new version of the title track which he admits was the weakest song on the original Imaginos album. "I think this new version works much better." This writer agrees.
Artful DIY video for Black Telescope, lead track from Re Imaginos
So what is Imaginos all about? I really have no idea. The songs that have surfaced thus far allude to an epic saga that spans continents, eternity, the stars, the sea, dreams and the power of imagination. Lengthy speculative treatises have been written about Imaginos by fans with too much time on their hands but Albert summed it up for me with one sentence.
"There's this black mirror discovered by the Spaniards, whose power exerts an influence on world events throughout the centuries."
I for one don't need to understand the whole story. The combination of compelling music and evocative poetry serves to fuel my own imagination quite nicely. Albert explains that he would like to be able to complete the original proposed trilogy of albums.
"The title of part two is Bombs Over Germany and part three is The Mutant Reformation. "Redeemed" will be the final song of the trilogy. It really all depends on how well this first album does."
Albert guest performing on stage with Blue Öyster Cult. Photo by R.J. Carroll
As a side note, they say never meet your heroes, because they'll disappointment you. My interview with Albert Bouchard was the first I've done on Zoom where I was virtually face to face with one of my heroes. Albert Bouchard is the warmest, most honest, humble, intelligent, thoughtful and friendliest rock star I've ever spoken with. he gave me nearly three times the usual allotted time for an interview and even whipped out a badly out of tune guitar to show me how to play one of his solo songs that I was interested in learning. Even though I was probably a gushing fanboy at times he made me feel like an old friend. This quality is clearly part of what made him such an excellent teacher.
Re Imaginos is released November 6, 2020 see pre-order information below.
1) I Am the One You Warned Me Of
2) Del Rio's Song
3) In the Presence of Another World
4) The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle at Weisseria
5) The Girl That Love Made Blind
8) Gil Blanco County
9) Blue Öyster Cult
10) Black Telescope
11) Magna of Illusion
12) Les Invisibles
Complete your October, 2020 Blue Öyster Cult hat trick with these other fine new releases
Album review by Eric Sandberg
Eliza Jaye's powerful, expressive voice cannot be ignored. Her tremendous ear and sense of melody cannot be ignored. Her mastery of multiple stringed instruments and lyrical beauty cannot be ignored. Her voice rivals, and even surpasses Adele's in range and versatility and if she had been plucked from obscurity by some Svengali producer and ground through the major label A&R machine she would doubtless be a superstar.
But then, we wouldn't have an album like Middle Child, a record I would snatch up [along with my dog and cat] if my house were on fire. The Australian native spent years driving up, down and all around the UK in her tour van/recording studio, thrilling audiences with live performances while writing and recording songs on the fly.
Her self-released first album The Seed was appeared in 2013. The album wears its Chrissie Hynde influences on its sleeve but also contains hints of what was to come on Middle Child with the song "Marmalade" [see video below]
Middle Child starts off with two tracks that serve as a nod to her punky power pop past and show off the strength and quality of her voice. After this solid albeit perfunctory start, the album, without signalling, makes a sharp left turn into ethereal genius boulevard. By the time you've heard "Tenderness," "Deja Vu," "My Sunrise" and "Tigers" you'll be going "Wait...whut!?"
Jaye was a child prodigy, learning classical violin without sheet music, mastering everything swiftly by ear. On Middle Child she is her own session musician, playing guitar and violin. The song "Tenderness," built around a beautiful melody played on harp by Elin Lloyd and accompanied by a theremin, is mesmerizing, while the soft, crashing waves of "Deja Vu" would give David Lynch a full on chubby.
"My Sunrise" brings a more sophisticated guitar sound and recalls the late Jeff Buckley with it's sweeping arrangement and powerful vocals. Whoever is in charge of the 007 franchise needs to create a villain called Le Tigre and make a movie so "Tigers" can be the theme song. Sadly, there are currently no videos available to post featuring samples from the new album but below is a clip of Eliza performing "Crimson Lipstick" from her first album.
There is not a bad song on Middle Child. They're all great and encompass many different styles but the album retains a cohesiveness of vision that makes it a spellbinding listen. My greatest fear is that very few will get to hear it.
Tragically, Eliza Jaye is no longer with us. She succumbed to cancer this past February and isn't here to see the release of this wonderful musical statement. My only hope is that, like the aforementioned Jeff Buckley, she will become a posthumous legend. Buy this album. "Take The Time" to listen to it. See purchase and streaming information below.
Eliza Jaye Middle Child
1. Sugar Cane
2. Run Like The Nile
4. Déjà Vu
5. My Sunrise
8. I Do
10. This Desert
11. Take The Time
Preorder the CD released September 18, 2020
Pre-save on Spotify, Apple Music or download on iTunes
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.