See No Evil (7") - The Cherry Bluestorms

The Cherry Bluestorms are back, this time with a helping of Psych/Blues for our listening pleasure. This new track may not be too far removed from The Zombies, but nonetheless they still manage to retain their own originality as always. Who else could have managed to slip “Symphonie Fantastique” into their lyrics?

This is mostly down to the wistful voice of Deborah Gee, although the engaging keyboards on “See No Evil” point to a slight change of direction that works perfectly for them. Great harmonies, and Glen’s guitar work make this track possibly their finest yet.

Glen takes lead vocals on the Cherry Bluestorms version of the Beatles, “Dear Prudence,” with Deborah supplying the perfect accompaniment most of the way through. It’s not the first Beatles song they’ve covered, and this is one we’re looking forward to hearing live too. 

Feel My Heartbeat by Dean Ford

Up there with the very best 60’s and 70’s bands when it came to harmonies, stood one band head and shoulders above all the others. Leading them from the front vocally, and hailing from Coatbridge, a town in the industrial heartlands of Lanarkshire, Scotland, was Dean Ford. After his name change from Thomas McAleese, Dean Ford and the Gaylords soon morphed into The Marmalade.

It didn’t take long for the hits to start coming. After his departure from the original band, he left behind behind dozens of classic songs, mostly penned by himself and Junior Campbell, nearly all with Dean at the forefront vocally. Dean released his eponymous first solo album in 1975. A critical success, even if it didn’t hit platinum sales, it’s been a long wait for the follow up.

A world away from the grey skies of Lanarkshire, the sunny climes of Los Angeles has been home to Dean for many years now. A renewed interest in recording and writing once again, found him paired up with Miami born producer, and multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo. The results are really quite dazzling.

There are no tonsil tearing vocals reminiscent of songs like Marmalade’s "Empty Bottles” (an underappreciated gem). What you get here is a classic, laid back album that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Laurel Canyon’s heyday. That’s not to suggest the songs sound dated. Far from it. The songs are written from the perspective of someone who’s now really enjoying life. The most perceptible Muse here would be Dean’s grandson.

No more so than on the delightful opener “Heaven In His Eyes”. Not only lyrically beautiful, but includes a perfectly realised guitar solo from Dean himself. There’s an understandable, but palpable nervousness in the opening vocals on this track, almost as if Dean is worried about opening his heart to the world for the first time in so many years. There really was no need to worry. There’s an honesty that shines through, and you soon realise he still has that great voice.

“Hello Bright Eyes” opens with an accordion, very reminiscent of the time back home when every family had someone who played it at parties back in day. It feels like there's some kind of melancholy connection between the past and the present going on here.

There’s a really clever device Brian Wilson used on the Pet Sounds track, “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), where he used an imaginary heartbeat on the recording, setting the tempo of the song. The album's’ title track, “Feel My Heartbeat” has employed that same technique, probably sub-consciously, but to very great effect. This is a song that genuinely does come from the heart. It works splendidly.

There’s a lot of acoustic guitar throughout this album, with “Room In My Heart” having the added bonus of Fernando dropping in with a gorgeous, relaxed, jazzy electric lead solo.

Other tracks on the album touch on family, and that search for inner peace we all crave. Thankfully for us, Dean seems to have found that now. One thing that does comes across quite evidently, is Dean's delight at being amongst musicians he feels comfortable with, people he can really trust. This seems to have worked not only to his advantage, but has added to the listeners greater enjoyment as well . We have a lot to thank Fernando and Dan Matovina for. 

This “Dean Team,” including constant support from some of Dean's Uber-fans, has made for a quite beautiful album. Dean should be very proud of what he's achieved with this album. The 40 year wait has been well worth it.

phonograph - phonograph vol1

Sometimes good bands come and good bands go without managing to make the break, or get the lucky break needed to reach the audience they deserve.
Then there are times when a band gets a bit of luck when it’s too late. Think of The Zombies and their masterpiece, Odessey and Oracle.

In a way, that’s exactly what we have here.  Recorded in 2000, this collection of songs, newly released by phonograph, is what should be put in one of those capsules sent into space, as an example to future generations, or alien life, as to what perfect Power Pop on planet earth is.

From the Crowded House-like opener “She Knows It,” to the puzzling, atmospheric closing track “Night Living,” the listener is taken on a journey through all that is best in quintessential pop music.

Songwriters Paul Campbell and Terence O'Mahony have delivered here in spades, songs that would grace any Badfinger, Jellyfish, Big Star or Raspberries album. Not bad touchstones to have at all. As well as incisive, dynamic and catchy guitar riffs throughout, they are complimented by wonderfully worked harmonies.

Absorbing the best of the 60’s classic pop, though to 90’s Brit Pop, and hinting at Americana examples like Cotton Mather, what we have here is a genuine album of songs worthy of sitting alongside any landmark album from ANY genre!

If justice is to be done as it was for The Zombies eventually, then this album by phonograph should take its place at the top of the Power Pop table.

Can't wait for volume 2.

Download the album from here

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The Cherry Bluestorms - Bad Penny Opera

Release Date: March 2013

Knowing The Cherry Bluestorms as a great live band, with first and foremost lots of Grade A psychedelic guitar at the foundation of the band, it comes as a surprising ear-opener to hear this sophomore album kicking off with a Kraftwerk like intro on the “Bad Penny Overture”. It’s not long before the inventive guitar licks of Glen Laughlin find their way in though.

The acoustic “By Your Leave” sounds like it could be a long lost Nick Drake song, with Deborah’s plaintive vocal sounding as if she’s actually living the song. The album does have a concept flow about it, and this is the character of Penny leaving home in the north of England to head for pastures new, and the bright lights of the big city down south.

The one cover on the album is a beautifully arranged version of Donovan’s classic “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” from “A Gift From A Flower To A Garden”. This song serves to let us know not just when we are, but where we are as well.

“Sunday Driving South” is filled with a gorgeous string arrangement and a mellotron sound stolen from “Strawberry Fields Forever”. With name-checks to Arnold Layne, Purple Haze and Mr Toad, this is definitely an album high-light.

Glen and Deborah’s vocals work perfectly well together, and this is especially high-lighted on “The Country Man”.

Nearing the end of the album, the dreams, hopes and wishes of Penny seem to have vanished by the time we get to “Start Again”. The lyrics are matched wonderfully by Glen’s brooding guitar riff. Oh, and talking of lyrics, some of Glen’s finest are on the album’s closing number “Bad”. They portray the darkest images you could imagine.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of redemption for Penny in this tale of lost hopes and dreams, but as in a lot of great song-writing, you can take out of it whatever you want. What you DO get is the feeling of the heart and soul of the 60’s planted firmly in the 21st century.

This album is without doubt a giant leap forward in putting this band in the major league. It deserves to be recognised as a classic already.

Elliot Easton's Tiki Gods - Easton Island

Release date : Feb 18th 2013 (download)

Easton Island

I first became aware of the Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods on a Del Fi compilation I picked up, that had their one track standing head and shoulders above all the others on it. Now, let me tell you….. that compilation had Brian Wilson, Insect Surfers and a young Frank Zappa on it. So we’re talking QUALITY here.

Other tracks appeared on the Henry Mancini tribute album “A Shot In The Dark” and various other compilations. Everything I heard, I loved. An added bonus for me was finding out Nick Waluska (Nicky Wonder) was heavily involved alongside Elliot. I jumped with joy at finding out a WHOLE ALBUM was now available. It was downloaded within minutes of being available! I couldn’t wait to get my ears around it, and I wasn’t to be disappointed.

Opening with “Tiki God’s Theme” is like a statement of intent. They are saying, “We like surf guitars and drums!” There’s also a hint of what’s to come later, with tolling bells and chants.

Rarotonga has a shimmering modulated melody with a bright, choppy guitar backing that leaves you weak at the knees when the gorgeous strings sweep in to surprise you.

Some female backing singers that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Sci-Fi soundtrack are juxtaposed with what was hinted at earlier…the tolling bells from A Fistful Of Dollars, hot burning sun, beating down over the chanting Ennio Morricone like “Blue Lava.” Cowboys in space riding surf boards! Now THAT’S a film I want to see.

The Brian Wilson instrumentation admiration is evident on the lugubrious, laid back “Mu Empire.”

“Tabu” has an American West Coast cool, with some great jazz licks Wes Montgomery would have been proud of in 1966. This feel is continued with “Jill’s Theme”, and some of the most beautifully defined guitar runs on the whole album.

We step up a gear with “Sir Surfalot”, and the pounding drums are back with what could be a TV opening title tune to a 70’s long lost cop show.

The best piece of music Burt Bacharach DIDN’T write is here on “Sydney’s Samba.” It’s a wonderful, dreamy, acoustic guitar led work of sublime artistry.

Remember those spy movies from the 60’s, when there was always a white open topped sports car, with the hero driving the gorgeous girl with the long blond hair around the hills of Monte Carlo? Well “Sabotagia (I Say Sabotage)” would fit perfectly there.

There’s an array of guitars chasing each other around the soundscape that is “Isle Of Canopic”, before the fine mixture of twang and acoustic on “Ballad Of Cowboyardee” are joined once again by the Space Girls.

This is such a great album from start to finish. To end with what can only be described as “musical erotica,” is a master-stroke. “Nocturnia” has a vibe of something dangerous lurking in the background. The danger comes in a mysterious wind, that seems to take the most wonderful 38 minutes of music I have heard in YEARS away with it.

The album isn’t a sound-a-like tribute to various musical favourites of Elliot Easton.. It’s jam-packed with original and exciting slices of music that can fire your imagination with surf, exotica, lounge, AND erotica, all mixed together for your listening pleasure

Wherever Easton’s Island is….. I want to be there.

Norman Kelsey - On The Rebound

Release date: 2nd October 2012

We were lucky enough to catch Norman Kelsey live at Liverpool’s IPO Festival, when he played with just an acoustic guitar. He was certainly different from the Power Pop you expect at this fixture in our calendar, but he did a great job in keeping the crowd’s attention with the songs he played.

The first song on this new album,” So Sophisticated”, opens with a Robert Cray style bluesy riff played by the producer, Adam Marsland, before the horns take you on a funk trip. The title “So Sophisticated” sets the tone for the album, because that’s just what the album is. A sophisticated and well-structured slice of soul, funk and lush vocals throughout.

The title track tips the hat to an obvious appreciation of Prince, which is evident elsewhere on the album.  This is no bad thing, especially since Norman has a really warm and soulful falsetto that’s difficult to tire of.

“Our Love Is Known By Name” opens with a stunning Bee Gees at their best type harmony…and then gets better! Having Evie Sands helping out on vocals guarantees greatness of course.

There’s a lot going on lyrically too, none more so than in “Supermodels With Gatling Guns,” which manages name-check R2D2 and Stella McCartney!

“Airport Kisses” is a real heartbreaker that captures perfectly the sadness of someone who travels from home a lot and misses the love that's been left behind.

Throughout this album great credit has to go to Adam Marsland for his outstanding production work and musical contributions. He’s done an amazing job, and he should be very proud of the result. 

The bottom line though, is that Norman Kelsey’s great songs can stand strong with just his voice and that little acoustic guitar, as witnessed in Liverpool earlier this year.

This is an outstanding album from a truly sophisticated vocalist.

The Popdogs "Cool Cats For Pop Dogs"

Our Verdict: A Fine Pedigree

Do you remember when “Pop”… as in “Popular Music” meant something you and friends could actually enjoy openly?
This would be way before Simon Cowell destroyed the meaning of the words.  Well prepare to have your faith restored in this particular genre.  Because the debut album from The Popdogs, “Cool Cats For Pop Dogs” will do just that.
Clocking in at not much more than 30 minutes, the ten songs on the album will be the soundtrack to the quickest 30 minutes of your life!
From the power pop opening of KELLY’S ON till the harmony laden closer DANCIN ‘ AGAIN, via an almost surf  guitar instrumental in MILD MANNERED J, we are treated to reminders of just exactly what pop songs are meant to be… two and a half minutes of aural ecstasy.
Of course singer/songwriter James Styring is no stranger to great songs as anyone who had the good fortune to see or hear his last band, Postcards From Places That Don’t Exist can testify. His teaming up with guitarist Tim McKeating though, has added a definite radio friendliness to the instantly recognisable vocals provided by James.
Jangly guitars, great hooks and choruses, plus the added benefit of a unique and distinctive vocalist. What more can you look for in a classic POP album? Ten sparkling gems, highly recommended for anyone looking to have that faith in POPULAR MUSIC restored.