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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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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 ➹

Earth A Run Red – Richie Spice


A completely essential single to have and to hold.

So this is the first of a new ‘series’ of ‘tunes’ that I in my infinite pretentiosity consider essential to have and to hold, to own, to rest easy ‘pon the record shelving.

It won’t just be Reggae music, but anything that I include, but anything that is pure essential listening, but more than that essential to have, to hold, to be physical with (let’s get physical, physical, let me hear your body talk…), none of that Spotify or iTunes shit, none of that ‘I got a collection of 20,000 tune dem, only to find out that .. Im’ got 20,000 Mp3 deh!! .. pure fuckery .. chaw….

This is/was a pure and strong new Roots anthem, ethereal lyrics, solid, meant and  meaningful, forward moving, a pleading anthem against violence and the culture of black on black crime. More so though, just a beautiful almost acapella from a smoke laden larynx, pure genius  ++ lyrically, this is one to stop the dance but still kill the sound ++ spiritually.

lyric selection, without objection…

I hear a next youth dead yeah

Hey watch the places you walk and mind
The way you talk
Watch out fi the vampire who will sneak up in the dark
Watch out for the big time thief who claim sey that them smart
Stop bringing the crack and the gun to mash up the youth dem heart
Earth a run red
Songwriters: Richell Bonner / F. Pitter / L. Corniffe
Earth a Run Red lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
Heretical Heartfelt Article
Murphy © Musical Traces 2019
Respect.

THE BEST OF IAN AND SYLVIA


The Best of Ian & Sylvia – une Lp excellent… ?
img_4546

So, for years my Mum, or should I say Mom, for she is the true American of the family, an Alabama gal, would talk of Ian and Sylvia with a wry smile and a hidden laugh in her voice. I never understood the lilt to her voice as she recounted this folkladymanduo quite and yearned to understand.

Was she remembering the heady days of a Southern education at Auburn, records dropping on to the portable record player like pancakes on a Tuscaloosa griddle? Was she recalling a life unhindered by musical taste or by the demands of her new life as wife to Barry Michael and mother to her two boys Michael Cullen and Barry Christopher? Was she revisiting the strains of Ian and the mysterious Sylvia drifting upon the long corridors of her young ladies only dormitory as friend Sarah berated her for stealing yet another letter from ever missing boyfriend ‘Phillip’ to the soundtrack of a giant weather balloon being woman-handled along those same now time dusted halls of residence?

Such is the un-folk of Ian and Sylvia.

I always got the impression that Mom had once thought them rather fabulous, in an early 60’s preppy U.S.A. folksie way; that they were artistes akin to those used to base ‘A Mighty Wind’, the comic feature film mockumentary outing about Frat-Folk that Spinal Tap’s creator Christopher Guest had made, and I had seen. And they are.

I also postulated that my Dad who was a folk dedicate and hardcore lover had ‘re-educated’ her tastes somewhat with a bigoted bias against all folk second handers … people like Ian & Sylvia would not have impressed my old man, a man taught Banjo by Peggy Seeger and taught musket shootin’ by Doc Watson.

I’m going to tell you about a fantastic tune on this Lp in a moment, but first I need to tell you that the Lp, the Stereo version of the Lp on Vanguard VSD-76269 is a hotch-potch of confused versions of trad folk music, chanson and pop moozack and as such it’s much more Peter, Paul and John Denver, than Clarence Ashley and Bob Dylwot, and much more Wanksy than Planxty.

However there is a tune on here… a bona fide tune, a tune to drop, a tune to impress the rest, a tune to test the best.

Catfish got der Blues?

On side two and in an Velvet Underground-ish stylistic triumph is a rendition of Catfish Blues, where the session guys groove out and Sylvia rocks the mic. The guitarist takes a drug riddled ride on the riff and though Sylvia is obviously sober, it sounds like the session players were out late last night and may possibly have dropped an Owsley.

So you got to check it, the Lp is probably worth all of 25 cents, but this tune, overlooked as it obviously has been (fuck you should see how little it goes for on Discogs), is worth all of that 25 cents on it’s own.

You heard it here first… Catfish Blues here on their collection of ‘The Best’, originally on their Lp. So Much For Dreaming on VSD-79241 (Stereo). So lick it from the top, to the very last drop, .. well track 4 side 2 anyway.

Final credit goes to Uncle Jack Brown for sending this Lp to me in the U.K., such is my international renown as record collector and musically fuelled auteur or as that Joe Boyd might say, musical ‘Eminence Grise‘,  . . . the toss pot.

Murphy

Blue Monday – Fats Domino and the lost dawn of Rock n’ Roll – Book Review


Blue Monday – Fats Domino and the lost dawn of Rock n’ Roll – Rick Coleman

FATSI’m part of a Facebook group called ‘The Record Den’ where like-minded sad O.C.D. suffering record collectors and enthusiasts of a superior popular musical past share their likes; in this case mainly Rhythm and Blues from the 40s and 50s, Soul from the 60s and Progressive Rock Lps from the 70s (yes there’s always at least one truly sad Chemistry Teacher who clings to his Yes and Rush Lps with a sweaty desperation and requires public validation for his self-imposed disability).

A short while ago and whilst suffering from a lack of reading material I asked for suggestions for my next book and bedtime indulgence. I focussed my fellow collectors on what I felt I required. A book that would illuminate the popular 40s and 50s world of Rhythm and Blues music. And ‘Blue Monday’ was suggested to me, in amongst a few others as befitting my requirements. My fellow record junkies were flowing in their praise of Rick Coleman’s book.

I was shocked to discover that it is the ONLY biography of a man who was essential to the world of Rhythm and Blues and centrally important and present in the operating theatre at the birth of Rock n’ Roll. ‘It’s a boy, and he’s got a D.A. and a white T-Shirt on, with 20 soft pack Marlboro already tucked into the short sleeve, Mr. Domino, you must be very proud…’

The book

The book rather wonderfully features as a first step a map of New Orleans, detailing the various districts and locating for all to see important and key features of the city’s music-scape and Fats Domino’s present and historic placement in that geography. Before even beginning to read I found myself wandering the streets, and linking the locations of his various family homes with photographs in the book, shortly thereafter going on Google Earth to street view the various locations as they appear now. Sadly one or two destroyed entirely by Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans City Governments fraudulent re-claiming of unattended and un-mended land left behind by people too poor to return to it in the stringent allotted time-frame. As you can see, I was fully engaged with this book within seconds of opening it. No mean feat, as I generally don’t get past the first half chapter of books that are poorly conceived or poorly written or both, as is more normally the case.

Rick Coleman takes the reader through Fat’s history, his childhood, his background, placing it strongly and forcefully within the context of New Orleans as a city formed from the sweat and blood of the African diaspora, Catholicism and the indivisible early French settlement of Louisiana. I found the section that revolved around Congo Square, an area established as a location of Black African cultural expression from the city’s earliest days, incredibly interesting and engaging.

Rick Coleman uses the location as a cypher for the changing role and social mobility of a multi-layered Black city culture that shifts and moves with changes in the religion of the region and the political upheaval of Civil War America and ingress of Protestantism. All the time keeping the reader in touch with the music soil of the place, that same substrate that gave rise to a crop of musicians, singers, writers and producers, that included Fats Domino.

The book touches on Fat’s links with other musicians of the era, his long and fruitful if sometime difficult relationship with Dave Bartholomew his writing partner, arranger and frequent band leader. We hear about other movers and shakers of the City at the time; Smiley Lewis and Professor Longhair feature amongst fellow New Orleans musicians and the shifting line up of Fats Domino’s own touring band and the individuals mini stories are well told. We learn about his rise to fame, his signing to and early career with Imperial Records, and movement onwards to other labels, the never-ending tour schedule and the tragic loss of band members to the musicians seeming drug of choice at the time, Heroin and the tragedy of car wrecks reaped through too many miles on the road.

In short the book is well-formed and paced, tells the tales well, fills one in on just who Fats Domino was, what and where gave birth to him and in turn Rock n’ Roll. It’s a real lesson and a Rockin’ Good read. Heartily recommended. If I have one minor criticism it is that the last decades of an artist no longer truly central are skimmed over and compressed in a way that leaves the finish of the book underperforming like a damp firework. A pity as the rest of the book is an explosion of images, information, sights, smells and a vivid retelling of one of the greatest and least lauded artists of the Rhythm and Blues and Rock N’ Roll era.

DO NOT SELL AT ANY PRICE – Amanda Petrusich – Independant Book Review


Do not sell at any price by Amanda Petrusich – a book review

Do not sell at any price, available in lots of places..
Do not sell at any price, available in lots of places..

Let’s all get this straight from the start, I bought this book, I was not invited to give my opinion on it, but in the true tradition of peevishness, pugnacity and of irascibility I shall.. so nah!

I shall speak in perpetuum of the interminably un-ending indulgence of this writer’s fondant fancy froufrou, this lady’s lace work of metaphor and of the hyperbole of hype. The replacement of anything corporeal with the mere sweaty glaze of insignificancy.

There is something bothersome about the way in which this stripling (yes I’m downwardly ageist) seeks to engage with the very real world of the record collector. Seeking as she does to share in its glories and it’s potholed routes to discovery. Yawningly. In the terminating pages making reference to the fashionistas disposition for the veracity of the ancient and actual, as opposed to the fraudulent and counterfeit age of the binary digit, she I believe exposes herself for what, perhaps she is, a being lost in the porridge of ‘Bang on Trend’.

Simply Put

There is nothing to this book, it is smoke and mirrors, vapour lifts off it like the fog on page 192. There is no substance, no grit, no spunk (to coin a truly American use of  nomenclature). It’s all chit-chat between occasional highlights of actuality, of record rooms and real people. The distance the writer takes to travel between these moments of joy are as tedious to me as no doubt the miles she assures us she travelled in pursuit of the substance of this padded pillow of a book were, to her.

Takes One To Know One

As you get into the real thing, real collecting and you just are, simply, a real record collector, you see lots of odd shit. People think you’re cool, people aspire to be like you, you see middle-aged guys wearing T-Shirts with Record Deck representations on, but who don’t own an actual player, and who have placed their platters in the attic. In short you learn how to recognise others that really truly and honestly share your interest. Amanda Petrusich claims on a number of occasions within the book that she is thrilled by the acquisition of an item or two, and of missing out on some Charlie Patton tunes on Paramount and other … stuff. I’m sorry, I know it’s churlish, I know it’s bad of me, un-generous and I feel like a schmuck saying it, but I don’t buy it, it doesn’t ring true. She’s a dabbler, and a dabbler can’t have the kind of insight into record collecting that it requires to write something a record collector should read about record collecting.

It’s notable that all the endorsements on the rear of the dust jacket are by other writers, not one is visible from a collector of tunes.

Are there any redeeming features?

Not really. She writes well, it’s just that this was in essence a short article for a magazine of momentary dabblers, not a book for people who want a serious insight. It doesn’t give that, it just scrapes a bit of dust off the surface of the record (metaphor alert) and plays the first bar, before removing it from the turntable; instead of cleaning it thoroughly, playing it, inverting and then re-equalizing the RIAA curve to something akin to the original mastering, playing it through filters to remove as much top end hiss and low-end background as possible, reading on its history, digitizing it and finally cataloguing it by matrices.

It feels like a quick fix, a soundbite, and thusly a product of the present generation. No wonder they struggle to comprehend the depth of the ‘groove’. I can’t help but see with sadness the writer’s work as representative of this present generations’ struggle towards a clear vision of the ‘real’ and of the past as obscured by the ongoing Tsunami of phone Aps, social networking, online content and data management.

It was great reading about Bussard et al though.

Review – Singing From The Floor – J.P. Bean


singingfromthefloorOn and off I’ve been part of the U.K. ‘Folk Scene’. I have both performed as a dancer and played and sung in a number of local clubs and I was interested to get a deeper insight into the clubs and players and singers who frequented them in the past.

If you take a passing interest you are going to be informed by the book and it features everyone living you could possibly expect to be in it, talking about their experiences; Ewan McColl, Peggy Seeger, Martin Carthy, Ian Campbell, The Watersons, the list goes on.

It is a collection of their views, little more than a vox pops, or transcriptions of their memories and opinions, spoken directly. Unfortunately I think it suffers from this and becomes repetitive and rather pointless. The book in and of itself doesn’t interpret, it makes no assumptions, there is no larger discussion. No digest of the interviewees views. Page after page of text doesn’t really tell you anything new. You knew McColl was controlling, you knew that folk music was linked wholeheartedly with the C.N.D. and with left-wing politics, there is very little of revelation in it.

Possibly the closest I got to a joyful discovery was that Ian Campbell’s sons are the leading lights of UB40, a predominantly white U.K. Reggae ‘supergroup’.

It only confirms the frustration I have always felt with the Folk scene; where traditionalists were only ever sold a different version of the same old story, the same sell, the same hype. Yet pompously they then defended it as immoveable God blessed historically accurate tradition and refused to be swayed by those who wished to create a living breathing self-sustaining musical world. The book confirms one thing, it was folk music that killed off folk music and there is more music of the people and by the people in one Beatles melody than 50 verses of some snoring dirge from the Outer Hebrides.

And yet I feel I’m being overly harsh, for those that were there or those that have surfed dangerously on the edges of folkdom it can be a rather cozy and self satisfying read. As a participant you may have met and talked to those in the book. When they speak you are standing listening; to Martin Carthy, Liza, Martin Simpson, and Ralph Rinzler in my case.

I don’t think the book would attract a newcomer, but it would comfort a past participant and perhaps it did. Maybe I’m just a little too close to the reality of enduring Tina’s performance of her ode to marine mammals ‘seal seal, how does it feel to be a seal‘ to ever fully recover an open mind when it comes to ‘folk music’. I have great difficulty even using the term. To me it’s redolent of homespun sheep’s wool pullovers, real ale, nice people being nice to one another, dishonest suppressions of performers egos, quiet one upmanship, corn dollys and cold nights of tented sleeping next to human repositories of beery methane.

I was kind of hoping that the book might persuade me that I’ve always been a bit wrong, a bit ugly and a bit cynical about the world of Folk, but in the end..

It’s just one of those books you read to the end because you think you should rather than because you really wanted to.