Daniel Romano – Finally Free – An Album Review


Daniel Romano – Finally Free – New West Records NW5255 – Released 2018

IMG_4102I’m going to be totally honest here, and brutally frank. I don’t know what the fuck this Lp is ‘really‘ about. That fact, in combination with my assertion that it is a work of beauty and genius has got me seriously fucked up and confused, I don’t get that way often. I like it though when I do. I like it when I can’t tuck something into a pigeonhole, when it tells me to get my listening ears on properly. I like it when it is music so obviously and adventurously wonderful. But when records are just pretentiously impenetrable, I lean quickly to placing them into the category ‘shite’ to be ignored, and money recently wasted.

I don’t normally have a hard time working out what an artist is trying to do, writing about, saying, who they sound like or where their influences lay, but that’s not the case with Finally Free. Daniel might feel finally freed by this Lp as if it were some cathartic exercise in musical self assertion, but it’s got me quite possibly ‘finally stumped’ in working out what’s going on with it.

But that’s a GOOD thing. I’m bored with knowing what the hell I’m hearing. In my dotage I need something I’ve not ever heard the like of before too keep my interest. To make me want to review it for instance, in a blog.

Just who the hell is Daniel Romano?

R-7294448-1438207251-8959.jpegI first ‘discovered’ my version of Daniel Romano, isolated and without musical guidance, while trawling YouTube for Alt Country songs, and found a wonderful song, that appears with an alternative title, feel and mix on his Lp. ‘If I’ve Only One Time Askin” but is on YouTube called ‘More Love From A Stranger’. I was immediately struck by his songwriting, playful attitude to wearing revival Nudie style suits with a big hat, and his obvious and only slightly submerged obsession with Hank Williams Jnr. The song was strong. Sounded like a man headed for romantic oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, and had me hooked. Shortly thereafter I bought the frankly disappointing cd album ‘Come Cry With Me’ on import. The songs were nowhere near as strong as his YouTube appearance and I put any further exploration of his music aside for a while.


Then recently while at a record store in Brighton England I took a punt on what is a recent but not latest release by him, Finally Free, the record I’m here to try and review. I bought it partly because Romano’s stuff just doesn’t appear in the UK without a pricey import tariff generally. It’s hard to find, and expensive when you do. The point I’m making is that my experience of his music was not explained or taught by anyone, he’s a rare thing for me a discovery I made. His music is a place I found, not one I was shown to, or recommended. I don’t know his story, I’m in a dark room and it’s as if he keeps his history close to his chest, there isn’t a lot out there about who is, or has been. I think he likes it that way, I think he likes to play with his perceived image. Do you Daniel? Is that what it’s about for you?

IMG_4695I took Finally Free home, listened, loved it, listened again, loved it more, couldn’t get the lyrics at all, found them impenetrable. Were they pretentious as fuck, or heartfelt? Then listened to the Lp over two months lots of times, loving it. But not getting any closer to the centre of it.

I had questions to answer.

The artwork by Daniel on the Lp sleeve and on the reverse of the frankly ugly poster included was it naïve, or just shitty? Was the assertion on the outer sleeve notes that the Lp was mastered on the stolen land of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabek and Huron-Wendat, but produced and mixed on the stolen land of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek just so much pretentious waffle or meant from the heart?

I remain confused and as yet unconvinced of just what he’s trying to do. That’s a good thing, I feel wrong-footed, confused, but loving the sound, the sound, the music, the music which carries all doubt straight through to the second side’s run out groove.

Don’t fuck me around Dan!

Is he just fucking with us, one minute he’s a finger picking singer songwriter (I’m here citing early YouTube videos of his performances), then he’s rhinestone cowboy, a hard drinking’ country star, then he’s alt something, love poet, romantic bard and fine artist who states that the Lp is ‘A Collection Of Poems In The Language Of Love’, and whom refers on the rear of the sleeve to his penmanship on it as ‘Notes From The Author’. Is he playing with us again, this time trying to impart on himself and perhaps the Lp project the perception of a literary milieu.

He's Canadian you know . . .
The first Lp I bought (and not the one I’m reviewing), the disappointing ‘Come Cry With Me’.

The cover, an area previously explored as a thing of artistic potential by Daniel Romano is left filled by ugliness, an ugly 3d photo, and two of the nastiest colours you could pick for anything, even a death warrant, and yet the innards, the guts of the Lp, the music, the production, arrangement, mix of musical happenstance and composition are deftly combined to produce a thing of utter transcendence. Some of the chord progressions are just wondrous, and not one song feels copied, hackneyed or unoriginal.

To all intents it looks like an Lp where the artist is trying way too hard to be noticed, way too hard to impress, to be original, not to quote and re-quote other musical styles and other artists, and yet he manages to do exactly that, to be beautifully original and to prevent the listener being able to catalogue his sound and style. I have my own opinions of course of where some of the sounds hail from, you will have your own when you listen to it (and I hope you do). I can hear strong hints of The Incredible String Band then The Beach Boys, The Byrds (back in 8 Mile High days), Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, Earth Opera, The Velvet Underground, Rocky Horror style Rock Opera shenanigans, Nick Drake, and the sonic 60s excesses of an LSD fuelled musical decade. Like all great music it sounds like you’ve heard it before, but you know you haven’t.

Unlike those Lps of old that used to say in little text long the top edge of the sleeve –  ‘File Under ‘Rock N’ Roll’, you won’t get any such advice from Mr. Romano. It’s going to have to go in a section all of it’s own. ‘Finally Free from category’.

Get it.

© Murphy Feb 2019 ⤄

 

 

 

 

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Nigger Butler – (Too Much Youth) Inna Jailhouse – Record City


A tune a day keep Obeah away. << This is an occasional series of tunes that I think you need to have and to hold, and today I want to let you all know about a tune I keep returning to. A fine roots tune, with a strong version side, in the classic late 70s Roots style.

FullSizeRender 14This record was given to me a long time ago, when I was first setting off on my Jamaican music record collecting, by a dear friend, now gone, Charlie Reggae. It had no title, only a generic label, for the Record City Record label. A label which had very few releases. The first one on that label at that point I had seen. Discogs didn’t exist then and records were bought from mail-order homemade catalogues mailed to you each quarter year and not on eBay or online shops.

For a number of years I had no idea who was singing on it or what the title might be. I always called it, ‘Too Much Youth Inna Jailhouse’ as that is the striking refrain of the song. Because it was strong, and because even though I tried, I couldn’t find any info on it, it held a certain mystique that only an un-identified but quality record can.

Just recently someone identified the singer for me as Nigger Butler, otherwise and perhaps more politically correctly properly known as Rector Butler, who by the sparse information on the label sang on and produced and distributed the tune. A one man stop shop of Reggae production. I’d love to know who the backing band are, as the rhythm is strong and assured, but there is virtually no information about the singer/producer or his cohorts online, or I’d be copying and pasting it here for you to see.

As with a lot of great Jamaican music the only way to know the artist is to own and listen to their tunes, so much of Jamaica’s music was produced in virtual anonymity, particularly in the Golden era of the late 70s. However that’s what makes it ROOTS, music of the people, by the people, and why it has such inherent strength sonically.

Look, it’s not the greatest Reggae tune in the world, but it is a damn fine one, and you should be able to check it out on my next bigmikeydread reggae radio podcast soon. Check the section here on Musical Traces for track-listings. I’d like to share the tune with you here, but no recording of it exists online, yet.

© Murphy (mid Feb) 2019

 

Reggae Fever – The Carlisle Hastings – 17th March


17th March 2019 and yours truly will be appearing by invitation as Bigmikeydread the worst Reggae selector known to man.

Reggae Fever at the Carlisle Hastings.

Saving his blushes and hopefully his musical skin will be Suedehead Sound System’s owner, supremo and selector Rob Wilde of Headshrinkers fame. Both will be spinning classic Roots, Rocksteady, and multifariously genre’d Reggae between 2-6pm in Hastings at the Carlisle located on the town’s seafront here on the Sussex Coast on Sunday 17th March.

And as Nick Saloman once said . . ‘Be there or be somewhere else listening to other people’s music‘.

Mikey

© Murphy 2019

 

How to clean your 78rpm records


Cleaning 78rpm Records the toothbrush way.

So here’s a possible way for you to clean your 78 rpm Shellac Records, it seems a little rough, but they’re tougher than you think. I filmed and put this up on my Instagram account a while back; it seems to me that it may prove useful for someone, if I re-post the link here. You can view it here, without leaving Musical Traces.

Use warm, verging on hot water in a bowl mixed with not too heavy a dash of Fairy Liquid, scrub the shit out of your dirty old tunes with a toothbrush that has seen better days and better teeth, wipe off with as lint a free cloth or rag or towel as you can, rinse under the tap with cold water. Use a white cloth or whatever and look at the grime you pick up. It’s mad crazy Daddy O’s. Repeat if you think necessary. Let ’em dry really good before you play them again.

 

 

Knosti – Disco-Antistat – an unbiased review


The Disco-Antistat Record (Cleaning System?)

An entirely independant review

IMG_4678There’s something a little worrying about the Disco-Antistat cleaner, namely that for something quite so obviously simple, it does the job rather too well.
I’d had one bought for me as a present years ago, used it and then put it to one side, a little concerned that there were rumours that it might leave a residue. One which would fur up the needle, and sit in the grooves for years to come. I had postulated at the time that any level of film left in the grooves of the record could only affect sound quality adversely. But I have never to date had any problems, I have never found any residue from the Lps and singles I washed coming off on the stylus, nor any degradation of the records treated, no reduction in sound quality. However I still don’t quite trust the Cleaner, trust is a hard thing to give when it’s your pride and joy record collection that could be destroyed by some cheap record cleaner system and a few positive online reviews.

 
IMG_4679The ‘System’, if a few bits of plastic can be called a ‘System’ consists of a big bottle of what is surely mainly Isopropyl-Alcohol and something mysterious that cuts down static issues. Then also a bath for the record with brushes welded inside, brushes that when you suspend the record via the handy label protecting spindle adaptor and rotate the record manually, clean said record. Hands get wet with the solution while rotating, it sloshes a bit, you rotate both anti & clock wise, you finish, somewhat awkwardly unscrew label protecting spindle ‘thingy’ and place newly cleaned record to drip and evaporate dry in the handy, ‘this was once tucked in the bottom of the bath section drying rack’, as pictured right.

It feels a little jim crack, but it was time to give it a proper test.

Mystery Cleaner, Mystery Train

So when I was recently given a record that had once belonged to my mother, ‘Mystery Train’ on the HMV label, the re-issued Sun Recording, sold with Elvis’s contract to RCA, and it was in it’s terrible 60 year old uncleaned state, I took this test worthy opportunity to see just what this relatively cheap record cleaning system could really do (again).
Frankly I was floored by it’s performance. With a few manual turns (in both directions) of the record in the cleaning bath, through the brushes and then a short drying time, the improvement was gobsmacking. A lead-in groove which had previously sounded like a commando attack with accompanying light arms fire now only hinted at it’s previous incendiary and crackly state and the record played clean, with a full sonic range and looked shiny and as if it had only just been pressed. It improved the record from unplayable to playing and damn fine in about 10 minutes.

Quite amazing.

Since then I have washed a few further records including some valuable Jamaican singles which were in an unplayable state. All have been massively improved. Rather than leaving them to fester on the shelves, they’re getting played and that’s what it’s all about.

IMG_4680The kit I have as I understand it has been superceeded by a MkII version, and the one I have does suffer from a cheap construction and a rudimentary and manually operated design. The fluid is impossible to pour back into the bottle supplied via the funnel and grime filter without spilling a sizeable ammount every time you use the kit, and it goes everywhere. This is very annoying and poor design is poor design, whether it is cheaply produced or not. The kit retails for under £50, new bottles of fluid are about £10 and to look at the boxed contents of what you get for your buck you would be forgiven for being disappointed; and yet if you considered the results only, you would consider the money it costs, to be VERY well spent.

I’m still reserving some judgement, just in case there proves to be an issue with any residue long term, but currently I’d give it 9 out of 10 for results, considering it’s simple operation and outlay.

This ‘article was written because though rumours abound of residue issues, with some people even just using the bare bones of the machine with distilled water and not the ‘Majic Formula’ to avoid those rumoured problems, no online review existed that directed talked about this head on and I could myself find no information to either confirm or deny the residue rumours with this kit.

I hope this has been helpful to those of you with old grimy Vinyl that needs a gentle scrub.

⍟ Murphy ©2019 ➹

Los Apartamentos – Water Di Garden


Los Apartamentos’ debut Lp – Water Di Garden – Due out April 2019

If you know Mento, you’ll know Count Lasher’s track for Stanley Motta, ‘Water The Garden’, all about a young man who is unhappily exposed, and haffi ‘Reel Out The Hose’ while watering his lady boss’s jardin, and hopefully not a Jardin Publique as I&I French would a say, or things could have got illegal, yah get mi Fam?

FullSizeRender 10

So while mooching about the Mento driven corners of the internet one ‘Winston’ of Mento band Los Apartamentos and I got in touch with one another. I had immediately responded favourably to the tongue in cheek band name, as I’ve always wanted to have a Pan Pipe group called ‘Los Pastillas Urinarios’ (the toilet blocks, you know those rancid chunks of pineapple in the urinals, uh huh .. yep that.. ), and I think Winston could spot a fellow lover of Jamaican Mento music too, as did I.

These boys look interesting I muttered to myself while flicking through Instagram. Winston by then had also hooked up with my radio show bigmikeydread reggae radio, and he showed an obvious love for the Mento I was playing on it, educating me about Calypso in Germany, where the band hails from and which has a long history of interest in Calypso and Mento; as do one or two other northern European countries like the Netherlands and Belgium.

Then a short while ago he posted a video of a tourist postcard which played Mento, one of those old records on cardboard affairs. It took me a while to realise it wasn’t a 50s-60s antique collector’s item, but his band’s promotional item, for an Lp entitled ‘Water Di Garden’ due out on April 19th on Jump Up Records. www.jumpuprecords.com

I expressed an interest and today his ‘promo pack’ landed, the postcard went straight on my turntable, and you can view a video of it spinning below. I do apologise that the sound on my short video is woeful, but it’s such a nice object, I had to show you all.

Lost Apartamentos
German Mento band Los Apartamentos are busy playing Mento, the lost music of Jamaica

Basically the guys came together out of a love of Ska and Jamaican music in the city of Cologne, trading old instruments for new ones, they built a bass lammelophone (Rhumba Box) and off they went. Spreading the music and the joy for a few years before being invited to record an album by Chuck Wren of Jump Up Records.

Rather wonderfully they recorded to one Mic, just as the producers of early Mento had during the balmy night time recording sessions of noisy 1950s Kingston, and that Lp of one take renderings of vintage Mento songs is released in April of 2019. I’ll definitely be checking it out, the small excerpt on the postcard promo sounds pukka, and that’s pukka to the ears of a highly over-critical lover of Mento who would tell you in a trice if it sounded a mockery in any sense.. it doesn’t, it sounds sweet.

Check back here for a review hopefully later this year. I’ll be getting hold of a copy for sure.

©2019 Murphy ☜

Shit Lp Covers No3


tracing musical lines, talking music, recording, album art, rare records, reviewing, discographies and information