We the Collective..

There’s always that extra bit of excitement at the prospect of a new Levellers album dropping through the letterbox – unfortunately for me the postie arrived when I wasn’t in over the bank holiday weekend, so impatient I had to resort to iTunes to have a listen before picking up my goodies this morning.  Reading reactions online has been a bit like those irritating Marmite adverts on TV (for the record, I definitely fall into the hate camp for Marmite) – with fans seemingly either loving it or hating it.

Having not made it so far to the live tour – my postponed date in Milton Keynes has been rescheduled for when I’m at a wedding, sadly – so I’m going to have to peruse the fixtures for another suitable date to check it out.  The new arrangements of familiar songs were a surprise to me, and I’d say a very pleasant surprise!  Recorded in the famous Abbey Road under supervision from John Leckie, and some musical assistance from The wonderful Moulettes and Tobias May this is the familiar (mostly) rendered in a very different way.

I can kind of understand people’s cognitive dissonance – the Levellers music has lived with many of us for years, a comfort blanket replete with meaning both in the merit of their own lyrics and melodies or through life events they provided a soundtrack to (or in mosh pits they’ve been danced to in).  I’ll be honest, I struggled when ‘wrestled with our’ became ‘whispered all our’ fears on the 1998 re-release of One Way.  I still bristle a bit when they still sing it that way now (I wonder if they did on the Levelling the Land anniversary tours?  I’ll have to check on the Live CD!).

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Freeborn Al / 3rd April 2018 / Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Star Botherers are Happy and Angry with a new album!

I’ve been looking forward to Star Botherers releasing their album ever since it was announced it was in progress – and by gosh it doesn’t disappoint.  I think all but one of the generous fourteen songs on here I’ve heard performed live, and there’s a fair few that have appeared on EPs released before.  But these familiar friends have been lovingly caressed and enhanced in the studio so even these songs you think you’ve heard before take on new and interesting dimensions without losing their charm.

The once semi-novelty duo – mixing in originals, cover versions and games of bingo into chaotic sets, have been slowly but surely building their portfolio of songs and once you see them laid out here you realise it’s quite an impressive canon.  They’ve managed to retain their fun and irreverence whilst adding layers and sublime production.  Brad has of course joined often on stage to add more intricate percussion, and we’ve seen both Joel and Ellis add extra stringy things of late – and the album is full of this.

Joel too has been responsible for all the technical wizardry in mixing and mastering the now more complicated audio channels – we know from Black Thorn’s album how adept he is at this, and this will sit alongside that as a fine testament to his technical skill.  This really is an album to be proud of – the songs rollercoaster you from amusement, nostalgia, cutting political observations, meloncholy and at times downright hilarity.  Bart is a very clever lyricist and he’s assembled an expert team to augment his guitar in accompanying the words.

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Freeborn Al / 3rd November 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Who put the crown on the head of the clown?

I do bloody love 3 Daft Monkeys, there’s no denying it.  They’re playful yet poignant, irreverent but relevant, mischievous and mystical – they weave and fuse their modern folk sound with celtic and balkan type influences – they bring smiles, they bring tears.  It was a real honour to be sent a preview copy of their new album – The Year of the Clown.  I’m always touched to be asked to review something somebody has created, it’s a personal thing and I’m only too eager to make sure that I treat it with the respect it deserves.

The CD arrived whilst I was galavanting at Rockstock and Barrel – I excitedly put it in the car when going to take Ella back to Stevenage only to be greeted with the dreaded ‘disc error’ message – oh well, I’ll rip it when I get home, I thought.  And I did – but only nine of the twelve tracks copied successfully… modern technology is great though, a quick email and Tim kindly furnished me with digital copies of the remaining tracks which I’ve spent the last few days getting to know whilst commuting, doing chores and well, basically any time I’ve been listening to music.

Accompanying the disc is a press release – Year of the Clown is a deliberate reference to the frankly terrifying global political stage – it positions the album as being very personal, 3 Daft Monkeys exposing their bare bones and their souls.  It shows in the sound too – in typical style there are powerful observations masked by catchy melodies, mischievous rhyming devices and swirling soaring fiddle journeys.  It’s unmistakably 3 Daft Monkeys, but with a degree of themeatic reinvention we’ve seen in their last few albums – and going another step toward trying to capture their raw live energy on a recording.

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Freeborn Al / 6th April 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Travelling along the (longer) ancient road!

My list of releases to write about never seems to get any shorter!  But that’s no bad thing, and The Silk Road are the next on my list – with a self-titled album to follow up from their EP released in the summer last year.  Back then when I wrote about it I drew parallels with both Levellers and Ferocious Dog in their sound – and that still stands.  As an aside, one of my friends once described FD quite disparagingly I thought at the time as ‘Levelling the Clash’.  To be fair, back then they probably had a few Levs covers in their set.

I’ve subsequently mentally reappropriated the description to be a badge of honour (maybe that’s how it was intended, to be fair!).  So if Ferocious Dog are ‘Levelling the Clash’ then I reckon The Silk Road are more like ‘Levelling the Pistols’.  And much like the former, the latter belies some of the intricacy and individuality on offer – but with the music often tending to the punk end of the folk-punk spectrum (although not always), and Tich’s visceral sneering vocals (although not always) it feels like a suitable pithy description.

All the tracks from the EP are reprised, along with eight companions – here we have a much more polished (without losing the bite) and varied collection of songs.  So whilst I might have suggested that The Silk Road are more punk than folk, there’s plenty of glimpses at their softer underbelly in here too – with traditional energetic instrumentals like Montagu’s Harrier which featured on the EP, and the frankly lovely Elizabeth Rose which almost sounds like it could morph into a McDermott’s 2 Hours song.

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Freeborn Al / 15th March 2017 / Other Bands, Photos

Gaz clearly doesn’t know his place..

I’ve been impatiently waiting for Gaz Brookfield‘s new album to drop only to realise at the eleventh hour I’d not updated my address from the order, so I didn’t get the sneaky day or two bonus time before release to get my teeth into it.  But thankfully the Bandcamp download became active before I had a chance to visit my folks to pick up the CD, giving me the chance to spend the last few days getting acquainted with I Know My Place whilst commuting to and from work.  And quite a bit in between!

From following this album’s progress on Facebook and having a natter with Mr Goodman in Banbury shortly after he’d had a sneak preview it was clear that Gaz had big plans for this production – rather than stick to the mantra of his previous releases and setting off as a solo acoustic guy (maybe with some fiddle from Ben Wain) he enlisted the help of a veritable who’s who of musician friends to add some depth and layers – and packaged it all together in a lovely digipak complete with an awesome piece of cover art by The Famous Artist Birdy Rose.

It’s no secret on these pages the esteem I hold Gaz in as a songwriter and performer (he’s quite a nice chap, too) – so I must admit it was a mixture of excitement and nervousness when I finally got my download onto something I could blast through my loudest speakers.  Would the Gazness of this album be diluted by the influence of all these other talented folk or would it be enhanced with their input?  Mr Goodman was absolutely raving superlatives about it, but well, you can’t always trust a cockney geezer, can you?  But in this case, you most certainly can.

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Freeborn Al / 12th December 2016 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Finally..

a0694865893_16.. the title of the album by Paddy Stratton and Friends, and an apt one for this blog piece too.  I’ve been sat on the CD for a good few weeks now and finally had a chance to have a good listen.  When Simon sent the CD through his name rang a bell, but it wasn’t until reading through the accompanying press release that I realised I’d probably spotted his name in writing credits on Levellers CDs down the years – he co-wrote Believers and contributed All Your Dreams, Sea of Pain and American Airdo to their musical canon.

Getting CDs to listen to and write about still spins me out a bit – I love music, but I’m not musical in any way – but I guess that’s true of a reasonable number if not most music fans out there.  I got the disc just before jetting off on holiday and had a cursory listen and worried it would be one of those occasions that I get something that I don’t get on with, but mentally filed to have a proper go when I got back.  Of course once I was back I’d forgotten until I got a gentle reminder (thanks Simon!) so in between a resurgently busy time of gigging and festivals I’ve now had a chance to get to know it.

My first impressions (pre-holiday) were that whilst I could appreciate the craft of songwriting and quality of the production it was a bit too far down the country and western spectrum for me – however on reappraising I was a bit hasty.  No, very hasty indeed.  It was released back in November 2015 and Paul Fitzgerald shares the writing credit with Paddy – despite enjoying the songs he wrote for the Levellers for many years, he’s never made it onto my radar until now, more’s the pity.

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Freeborn Al / 4th April 2016 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Solo acoustic guy..

IMG_2033It’s no secret on these pages that I’m a huge fan of Gaz Brookfield – his latest recorded offering Solo Acoustic Guy landed on my doormat on the day he played Rock City along with Mad Dog Mcrea and Ferocious Dog providing me with the perfect soundtrack for heading on into Nottingham.  It’s a product of an agile musician – announcing the idea, canvassing Facebook fans to choose tracks, recording, producing and sending within a few weeks.

This CD straddles the divide between a studio and live recording – recorded in a studio, but in a one-take live style.  The promise of mistakes, bum notes or forgotten lyrics being included – a warts and all exposé of an artist clearly not feeling too vulnerable with being able to deliver the goods.  Bearing in mind that by the time this was being laid down he was probably already starting to suffer from the lurgy that rendered a couple of FD’s dates sadly Gazless.

For a mere tenner (or more, if you feel generous) you’re treated to nineteen tracks chosen by frequency of comments on his Facebook page, with enthusiastic levels of suggestions from his back catalogue.  Ella and I made it our mission to get Glass Half Empty on there – even though I reckon we are the only ones who put that one forward we were delighted to see it there nestling on track fifteen amongst the other selections people made.

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Freeborn Al / 2nd December 2015 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

The Splendour of the weekend to come..

Splendour-2015_IndianaWhilst I’ve been still basking a bit in the warm fuzziness of last weekend at Wistful, it will be good to get a bit of full-on Ferocious Dog this weekend at Nottingham’s Splendour Festival.  I’m not generally a huge fan of Splendour, it’s pretty pricey (although I guess if you divide the ticket price by the number of acts you want to see it does work out good value this year).  FD played it last year but an early slot on a small stage so I didn’t indulge, although I did go to it when the Levellers played a couple of years back.

The list of terms and conditions are potentially entertaining too depending on how many Hell Hounds descend for the 5:15 showtime.  We shall see!  Definitely this year I won’t be attempting to smuggle in a litre and a half of rum (successfully) like I did on my previous visit… after consuming that I found myself practically asleep  against the crash barrier for much of the Levellers set.  Mercifully this rendered me unable to ‘appreciate’ the headline act of Dizzee Rascal too so perhaps it wasn’t such a bad plan!

This year though with Roots Manuva, The Specials and James on the bill too there’s more to look forward to than just Ferocious Dog which is always a bonus, and there’s sure to be new acts to discover.  The other drawback to Splendour is the lack of camping option – on account of the potentially vicious deer in the park – although whilst not my current home Nottingham is a place I can find places to stay pretty easily – and I’m sure there’ll be a few folk out and about to make it into a suitably fun party!

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Freeborn Al / 16th July 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands / 0 Comments

New album artwork revealed..

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I’m sure most of you will have spotted on Facebook that Dan has revealed the forthcoming album cover as we’re looking at a slight delay to the release date.  It features two sinisterly feature-limited and thus dehumanised police officers restraining a person – rather roughly judging by the blood splatter on the floor, with a third standing behind smiling at one of his companions.

Those of you who’ve had a chance to absorb some of the new songs at gigs (or had a listen to some of the unmastered recordings) will have already attuned to the underlying disquiet either at specific events or the current political climate – which all hooks into the album title From Without too – the first album just bore the Ferocious Dog logo (and indeed name), whereas now we’re seeing something that draws together the themes from the songs and gives it accompanying imagery and a name, a consistent message.

Exciting times!  The countdown is almost over…

Freeborn Al / 1st July 2015 / Band, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

Glaston-buried, but the fun doesn’t end..

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I think it’s fair to say that Ferocious Dog‘s debut at Glastonbury has been a resounding success – just look at this photo I pinched from Scott!  Certainly the number of search engine hits to this site searching for more information about them has increased since Monday.  The cherry-on-the-cake of some BBC coverage of course never transpired, but with folk uploading photos and videos to Facebook we did at least catch a glimpse of the performance, to the third biggest Avalon crowd of the weekend.  Fantastic. (special shout out to Colin who was uploading stuff as it was happening).

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Freeborn Al / 1st July 2015 / Band, Gigs, Interview, Music, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments