Sunday, May 29, 2011

Johnny Spence & Doctor's Order - Hot And Rockin' - #16

Johnny Spence & Doctor's Order - Hot And Rockin'

Now that I've listened to the CD a couple of times, I can safely say, that this is a very fine release indeed. If you want to know what I have to say about it, please go to my review on my website at I assume, that everyone, who reads this blog, knows about Johnny Spence and Doctor's Order. If not, then this here's for you: Johnny Spence was the bass player and vocalist in the Pirates (Mick Green and Frank Farley) and Doctor's Order are flying the Rock'n'Roll flag from Finland and have released a number of albums over the years.

For the benefit of those, who only check out this blog, let me just point out, that this is a very clean production. Although this is in the Rock'n'Roll lane, it comes through as a very relaxed piece of work, and with relaxed, I don't mean boring. Quite contrary, this is a very interesting CD and is entertainment at its best. Doctor's Order have a run and Johnny Spence is a match they could have only wished for. Excellent vocals, reminding me sometimes of Lee Brilleaux. Yes, let me swing on the gallow for this blasphemy, I won't take it back.
Most of the songs are covers, but they are well chosen, even though, personally I would have waived "Parchman Farm". Not a bad song, no way, but I've heard it a couple of times over my limit, from legions of bands. Compared to the earlier collaboration between Johnny Spence and Doctor's Order, this is, without putting "Full Throttle No Brakes" down, an improvement of sorts. I can't really put my finger to it, but I'd give this release at least an additional half star rating above the earlier album. What with said album already having a top rating, is almost an impossible task. This is heavy rotation stuff and I highly recommend it. Release is on Goofin' Records (GRCD 6169).



Friday, May 27, 2011

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – Smoking In Heaven - #15

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – Smoking In Heaven

This trio (siblings) from the U.K. made quite a splash in 2008, when they released their self titled album. These youngster, at the time of the album, all were well below the age of twenty, did push Rock’n’Roll forward, despite the fact, that it is one of the most retro sounding albums to come my way. At first I did suspect, that the trio was only a front and the musicians had really been seasoned artists, rocking their hearts out in the autumn of their lives. I’m backrowing on this and say, I’m sorry. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis are the real deal.

Excellent music, top class vocals and a good choice of songs (mostly covers) make a very enjoyable album. Actually it was the vocals that had me suspicious. How can someone at the purported age sing like this and not sound way out of their league? Well, they can (sing) and they do (sound like the real McCoy). As far as I know, this family act even includes their mother and father. Now there’s soon a new album out, this one called “Smoking In Heaven”. Release date is May 30, 2011 and it will be available as CD, double LP and 78rpm (on a couple of 10 inches). The last format is, what I call dedication. I’ll go for the vinyl version though, as I cant play 78rpms on my turntable. On the other hand, I should think about buying a future collectable … btw, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis have already released their self titled album in a 78 rpm version.

If you want to hear good retro Rock’n’Roll, that is different yet breathes the spirit of the originals (and is, I’m not afraid to say, in some cases even bettered), have a go at the forthcoming album and get into your rockin’ mood. There are some fine videos on the www, here’s an example of what they are about. Now I’m just waiting for my copy of the album to arrive here.



P.S.: Just after I've finished this text, in came an e-mail, stating that the release of the vinyl is delayed and will be shipped out only about two weeks later. I'm not sure, wether this goes for the other formats as well.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Otomo Yoshihide - #14

Otomo Yoshihide

If one would ask me, who'd I think the musician is, that brought music forward the most during the last two decades, my answer would be, without hesitation, Otomo Yoshihide. The guy is responsible for a quantum leap in music. I believe, I first came across one of his recordings, when "We Insist?" was released in 1992.  At that time, Otomo Yoshihide was a virtually unknown turntablist and guitarist. This has, of course, changed and he is a household name, so to speak. He's partly Noise, equally Avant-garde, he's Rock and he's, of all labels, sometimes mainstream. The latter especially when he writes film music.

I can only recall having seen him live once a solo artist. Must have been in 1995 at the Taktlos festival. Otomo Yoshihide on stage with turntables, digital samples and an electric guitar. And he pulled it through! About an hour of high energy stuff, you were easily forgiven to think, that he was about to break the turntables on stage and smash the guitar to pieces. It didn't happen in the end, but the performance left you standing there, with your mouth open and the realisation, that you just experienced a very energetic artist with a message. The video I chose to illustrate this point, seems to be rather typical of the way he played the instrument. And what I've seen so far on the internet, he's still working the old Technics machines.

Back to "We Insist?". Otomo Yoshihide plays turntables, samples, tapes and guitar and is supported by some of the finest musicians in the genre. You might recognise the names of Yamatsuka Eye, Kato Hideki and John Zorn. The CD is a rollercoaster ride and a very enjoyable one at that. I'm pretty sure, you can't find this as a new CD anymore, but try any auction platform on the internet and the album should be there. As for prices, I can't tell, but really, I don't suppose Otomo Yoshihide is very collectable, so you should get it for a very decent price.

You also might want to check out his band "Ground Zero" (which I've seen live as well). They were at the forefront of the Japanese alternative Jazz/Rock/Avant-garde scene for a while. Their release "Plays Standards" is, what it says, but dont' expect anything like one to one cover versions. The songs are being torn apart, shredded into sometimes unrecognisable pieces and released like badly glued works of art. If you can't stand "Those Were The Days" anymore, here's a chance to listen to the track in a completely different arrangement. There's some rather difficult to listen stuff available, but I'd suggest to start either with the aforementioned "We Insist?" or one of the "Ground Zero" releases. And then work your way into the complete output of Mr. Yoshihide. His latest group is a Jazz one and "Out To Lunch", a cover version of the Eric Dolphy album, has just been released. Let me say, if you have Eric Dolphy's album on your shelf, don't expect a faithfull transcription notewise, but one that's coming from the heart.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Musica Transonic - Same - #13

Musica Transonic - Same

This trio from Japan, consisting of members of High Rise And Ruins, have released this CD in 1995. There are a number of albums available, but this one, their debut, is still the most remarkable piece of plastic they've put up for sale. I'm very much into Free Jazz, Avantgarde, Noise and Japanese Underground. That's how I came by this record. It still has a slot in my Jazz corner. But Jazz it isn't.

This instrumental trio makes such a ruckus here, you'd think they are going to blow their amplifiers any second. It's hard to say when listening to a CD, but this is loud loud music. Some call it Hardrock, they call this Contemporary Improvised Heavy Psychedelic. Whatever, it's certainly not your normal "let's bring the house down" 08/15 Hardrock. There's a tendency to go brutal, when exceeding a limit in Rock. It tends to sound pretty uninteresting like Death Metal or this kindergarden stuff they used to call Grunge. But then, the musicians from High Rise or Ruins come from a totally different angle.

You won't whistle any of these tracks on your way to the supermarket, but the harsh sound, the excellent workmanship on the instruments, the interesting performance and the difference to everything (well most) you heard before, makes you come back to this CD time after time. No, this is a Rock CD, no matter what someone else might say about it. And one to enjoy too. If the old remark of "listen loud" was ever true, then it's certainly for this piece here. The only negative point is its brevity, the thing runs for only about 36 minutes. By this time however, your neighbours will be upon you.

I'm not sure, wether the CD is still available as new stock (PSFD-61), but I did check some online auction platforms and the thing is readily available there as a 2nd hand item (and not very expensive either). If you're the adventurous type, then let go of the few EUROs/Quid/Dollars and do yourself a favour by buying this.



Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shonen Knife - #12

Shonen Knife

Shonen who? Never mind. The band has made a dent in the history of popular music. Not a big one, but nevertheless a dent. And I'm a huge fan of the band. They've started out in their native Japan and it took a while, before their first international release was available. For a time, they were every critic's darlings, but these days, it seems, they're hardly remembered at all. Remembered? What am I talking about? They still are performing and releasing new records. The band had a few ups and downs, namely the accidental death of their then drummer and a lot of line-up changes over the years. There's only one original member left, but the band is still going strong, having lost none of their power.

The songs are mostly very strong material and what you get is singalong tunes, that are so catchy, you have it in a loop in your brain. But make no mistake, this is not of the kindergarden-clap-your-hands variety. This is R-O-C-K music. Sung with a funny accent, but this is a tight fit. Vocals and music are one unit and you wouldn't want to have one without the other. Here's a video ("Top Of The World") that shows very well, what this band is all about. A good time! Unfortunately, I've never seen them live. That's something I must do and if I need to travel to Japan, so be it. Here's their website:



Sunday, May 8, 2011

Those Darlins - Screws Get Loose - #11

Those Darlins - Screws Get Loose

The second release of this band has made it to my place. Im still waiting for the debut album, but I have a faint idea, that I will have to order the CD. Right now, I've two orders for vinyl pending for the album. I don't have much hope, but let's wait and see. The pressing quality of the LP is excellent. Very quiet between the tracks, almost no background noise. Close to zero, as good as it gets with vinyl. The vinyl itself is absolutely flat, as in flat earth. The whole thing comes with a printed innersleeve (picture of the band plus lyrics) and a poster Plus, in this age of digital media, there's a MP3 download code inside. Both poster and code are a nice additional, but first, I doubt that the poster will go up on many walls and I never understood why bands include MP3 downloads with their vinyl releases (well, I do, but I'm not in this game).

All songs are original tracks by the band or rather by one or two of it's members. A surprise there, the drummer gets quite a few credits with regards to songwriting. The whole set-up of the band seemed to me more like a trio of women with a male drummer as the fifth weel (does that make sense?)! Looks like I shouldn't jump to conclusions based purely on video footage. Anyway, with no covers at all on this recording, the band is a step ahead of the competition (at least in my book). You might want to check out the "Be Your Bro" video. I freely admit it, I'm not the type that x-rays lyrics, but this one certainly caught my attention. I think there's an underlying sadness and anger there, that maybe just a woman can understand and bring to words.

There are catchy melodies throughout the album. Putting a band into a genre is more or less difficult and I don't know how they see themselves, but it certainly is no punk (although I've seen them labelled as such). Punk is another beast (but then, I'm on the European side of the pond). To me, Those Darlins are a pretty good band playing Rock music. There's even some Glam in it (just listen to "$"). I mean, they're not a million miles away from other bands fishing in the same waters, but Those Darlins have an advantage in that their songwriting capabilities are a cut above the rest and I'm pretty impressed by the vocals too. It just sounds fresh, giving Rock music a push that is sometimes coming from unexpected directions. I do hope, Those Darlins are here to stay and make some waves.



Friday, May 6, 2011

Music Collector vs. Record Collector - #10

Music Collector vs. Record Collector

Recently, I began asking myself, wether I had turned from a music to a record collector. Well, not recently, I think, the signs were on the wall for a couple of years. The days when I bought a record, came home and put it on the turntable or in the CD-player, and listened to it, they’ve been gone a long time ago. These days it’s more like I come home, the LPs are put in a row and the CDs piled high, for some imaginary day, when I will have all the time in the world, to listen what I have amassed. Of course, not every new record is destined to gather dust, as a few still find their way immediately onto the HiFi. But most don’t and they’re there, to be listened to eventually. It’s always up and down, but my best guess is, that there are somewhere around 150 still sealed CDs waiting to be heard.

And, before I forget it, about 150 brand new LPs as well. And did I mention the nearly 150 7”s? And the music DVDs that have their own place? About 20 of them waiting for me to view them. Of course, every now and then, one of these items makes it to the “heard and filed” section. And new arrivals are coming in weekly, if not almost daily. Music is still very important to me, but sometimes I think the purpose of me buying records has turned to amassing a heap of plastic and cardboard and paper, just so, that the EXCEL list gets longer and longer. One point is, if someone would play me a few tracks from my own collection and not telling me what it was, chances were, that I wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to what was on the turntable/in the CD player. Good music, yes, no doubt. But apart from Dr. Feelgood, Wilko Johnson, Doctor’s Order, some British R&B, early Krautrock, selected Freejazz and the odd record in my collection, I’d be hard pressed to make a decent guess.

On the other hand, it’s quite nice to know, that one has a decent choice of music among the humble collection. You’re in the mood for Bluesrock? What would you like it to be then? Or do you fancy Freejazz? Look, here’s quite a selection to choose from! And the funny thing is, a lot of this music sounds brandnew, just because you can’t remember having heard it the first time around. Sometimes, when I go through my collection, I’m really surprised to find records I didn’t even know existed on my shelves. It’s like having just bought them on the spot. Of course, one can take this as an added bonus. Right now, I think, I’m somewhere between music and record collector, leaning heavily towards the latter. Until a few years ago, there was no question about what I thought about the whole deal. Now, this is not like I mean to complain, it’s just something that has me worried for some time now. But, to be honest, I think it’s too late to make a real correction. I’d have to sell off most of my collection and, with having made a sizeable cut, start anew on a much lower level. I mean, really, who needs hundreds of media by one and the same artist? Who needs to cover a lot of bases that popular music has brought to the masses?

I don’t know, but there’s no solution in this blog here. But I do actually believe, a radical approach would be best. Getting rid of the items and buy myself a pint of Guinness down at the local pub. Anyway, I know I won’t do the selling and still do the buying. Just let me complain  here about the life of a collector and carry on doing what I have done before. Discovering good music, that’s what it all should be about.



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Les Chaussettes Noires - #9

Les Chaussettes Noires

A very interesting niche to collectors of records is the early french Rock’n’Roll scene. If you know what to look for, there’s still lots of vinyl to be had on some auction platforms and they come mostly at a good price to the buyer. Problem is, of course, you should know what to look for, as a lot of these bands are not known outside of their home country. Some of them have even been given the CD treatment. You might want to check out Les Chats Sauvages or Les Pirates and a whole bunch of other excellent Rockers.

One of the most widely known acts are Les Chaussettes Noires. Their lead singer was Eddy Mitchell, who still can be seen performing on TV every now and then. Of course, Mr. Mitchell is a star in France much like Johnny Hallyday. In the early 60s, he was a million miles away from that. I mean, Les Chaussettes Noires must have been big, but closing in on Mr. Hallyday must have been a futile attempt. The Les Chaussettes Noires’ “Le 2 000 000 √®me disque” has recently been reissued on Vinyl on the Polydor label (originally on Barclay). It’s a fine piece of work (LP plus 7” interview disc) and a very good reproduction of the original. But, I don’t understand why this is so expensive. I’ve seen the record in some shops in France and the going price is somewhere between EUR 72.00 and EUR 87.00 per copy. And I’ve even seen it be put up for sale on an auction platform for around EUR 120.00 per copy. These days, it’s going to be cheaper to try and find the original on Barclay (if you can get a mint condition one, that is). That one still goes for somewhat below EUR 60.00, but the pricing is a mistery to me.

Most, if not all of the vocals are sung in french, which is a trademark of a lot of French Rock’n’Roll bands. I believe, the market just demanded, that the songs be sung in their native language. Unlike Germany, where most Rock’n’Roll bands took to the English language, sometimes with rather horrible results (just listen to early Lords or a lot of other 60’s bands). Compared to France, you didn’t get the percentage of songs in the native language. But France seems to have been at the forefront to “protect” their own language for quite a while. These days, one has to be grateful, that French bands have had to use their own language. Wether it’d be because of public demand way back then or other reasons (commercial or otherwise),, this makes for an interesting linstening experience.

It must be said, that a lot of the songs released, were cover versions of U.S. or U.K. tracks, delivered in a way you haven’t heard them before. Here’s a clip featuring Les Chaussettes Noires. Looks like this is from some big screen movie, but  most of the “song only” videos, that I found, are not of outstanding quality. And what’s more, I think the one I’ve chosen is a hilarious way to travel back in time. 



Sunday, May 1, 2011

Honey Aaltonen - Presents "The Ultimate Party Album" - #8

Honey Aaltonen - Presents "The Ultimate Party Album"

The much broader approach to the world of Rock, here in this blog, allows me to introduce you to local scenes far off the mainstream countries like the U.K. or the States, be it Japan, France, Finland, Germany or Switzerland (or whatever else seems to be interesting). Here's a finnish artist, hailing from Helsinki (sometimes I think, they all come from there). I was given the CD as a present when I was up there in 2010. Now, I might have been told, that Honey Aaltonen is a member of Tortilla Flat (, but either my long term memory just doesn't serve me properly anymore or ... . Tortilla Flat, of course, being one of my favourite bands from up North. Unfortunately, there are not many recordings available, in fact, I just have two CDs and one or two 7"s. There's not much more, despite the fact, that the band has been going on for 30+ years. And what's more, they are not exactly unknowns in their native country.

On their own website, they term their music Rhythm'n'Blues. I know, one should never contradict the artist, as the usual stance is, that they know best what they are doing. But let me tell you, if you're in search of Rhythm'n'Blues the like of Dr. Feelgood, you're certainly at the wrong address. R&B it might be, but a different kind of. Tortilla Flat is somehow more sophisticated, even more 60's oriented, more on the Rock'n'Roll track laid out by some bands in the States. While Dr. Feelgood's R&B was mostly an angry kind, Tortilla Flat's is mostly user and party friendly. There's a world between the two bands. Both well worth their money, just not on the same side of the record. Listening to the Dr. Feelgood, there's a certain tension in the air, while Tortilla Flat relaxes you.

Honey Aaltonen is the drummer of Tortilla Flat (I suppose you were beginning to wonder, where this one's going to lead to) and their main songwiter. Last year, he released the "Ultimate Party Album", which is some sort of compilation taking in the years between 1990 and 2010. This is Tortilla Flat but also solo activities by Honey and different bands he seems to have played with. Also there are some unreleased demos and a bonus track, especially recorded for this release. Twentysix slices of finnish R&B/R&R/Rock/Blues and matching the title of this CD perfectly. "The Ultimate Party Album" is no exaggeration (well, maybe just a tiny little bit). You get mostly upbeat songs with a few ballads thrown in. Don't get nervous about these, they come across very well. I just want to point out "Like Lovers Do", that one had me hooked already when it came out on a regular Torilla Flat release.

And a guy who covers Sol Hoopii ("Hula Blues") can be just one of the good ones. Honey Aaltonen must have played with a ton of bands, although I must confess, except Tortilla Flat, I haven't heard of any of the others. Here, on this CD he can be heard with: Honey's 45 (+), Teendreams, Tortilla Flat, Cat Lee & Co., Big Bertha And The Bulldozers, Honey's Tex Mex B-B-Q, U-Bayou, Hawaiian Hula Hoppers, Crossroad and Honey's Bar Room Trio. The CD is available on Bluelight Records Isko 922010. Check it out, a good time is guaranteed. And while you're at it, try to get the two CDs by Tortilla Flat as well, but be careful, there are a lot of bands that call themself Tortilla Flat. I know of a Swiss one as well as a German band. And there seem to be more, and also Tortilla Flats (I believe from the States), I should know, since I have the latter in my collection, having hoped, that this was the finnish band and what did I get? Forget it, Tortilla Flat from Finland, is, what you want.