Friday 28 April 2017

Pacific Ocean Blue

Pacific Ocean Blue is an album that I return to regularly. It is like a fine wine, getting better with every passing year....and I find more in it every it grows with me. (the Spotify link is at the end of this blog).

Wilson's voice is incredible; beautiful, yet hurt and broken at times, rich and raw but also soulful and soothing. The lyrics pull you in, the guy has loved and lost, he still loves and he wants to tell all. River Song and Rainbows are my favourites, just sublime.

Released in 1977, Pacific Ocean Blue was the debut album by Beach Boy Dennis Wilson (indeed his only album as the follow up Bambu was unfinished at the time of his death in 1983).

Two of the best songs from the sessions for the album were unreleased - the stunning Only With You, one of the best love songs you will ever hear - and the beautiful instrumental Holy Man.

One of the best love songs of all time

Dennis had written Only With You for The Beach Boys Holland album, but the lead vocals were taken by Carl. The rich rawness of Dennis' vocal on the Pacific Ocean Blue album take it to another level.

Incidentally, this was the song that turned me on to Pacific Ocean Blue. Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub recorded it for a tribute album Caroline Now - The Songs of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. That and I think Bobby Gillespie mentioned the album in an interview.

The opening piano riff to River Song that leads to Dennis backed by a gospel choir sends a spine tingling shiver of joy every time I hear it.

Dennis' voice is throaty, raspy and soulful as he talks of being struggling to breath in the city and longing for the river; this leads to a glorious break before a beautiful middle eight (below) before the faded ending that sounds like it could otherwise have gone on forever with Dennis urging You've got to run away, you've got to run away

It breaks my heart to see the city

I wonder why it ain't so pretty
Oh I want to cry, I want to cry
Come on you've got to do it, do it, do it

River Song
is simply stunning, the perfect introduction to Pacific Ocean Blue, but over too soon at 3 minutes 38 seconds. You just have to go back and listen again - it is that good. And just to check Dennis really does pack all those changes and soul into that short space of time?

Pacific Ocean Blue has so much to offer. Wilson has the blues (bad!), losing himself in music and singing of it in songs like Dreamer. Just wait for the break to

Oooh let the wind carry your blues away
That's all we're trying to say
How about a better day
Fall in love

Be warned, your heart may ache and break. Moonshine will move you and just wait for the incredible lyric; It was you who said there won't be tomorrow, you said you love me now in another way

Thoughts Of You will break your heart. Just listen to Wilson's soulful voice straining, breaking and sounding so fragile and true over piano right from the off. The melody is absolutely gorgeous.

The thoughts of you fill my heart with joy again
I'm sorry
I miss you

The song then takes off on a psychedelic trip before coming back to the original melody and Wilson's incredible vocal.

Loneliness is a very special place
To forget is something that I've never done
Silently, silently you touch my face

Wilson puts his heart out on Time, talking of being the type of guy who messes around before singing I love you, I really do with incredible feeling and soul. His voice is sensational, the break into the hold on takes things to another dimension and it sounds like Wilson is giving himself advice.

Did I mention heart ache and break? Farewell My Friend will rip your heart out. It was the song played at Wilson's funeral following his death at the age of just 39 following years of alcohol and drug abuse that eventually saw Dennis homeless.

Rainbows is one of my favourite songs, all of a sudden Wilson sounds positive and full of love. The surging melody and build to And I want you to know, I love you, I love you so leads into the glorious second verse with the backing vocals just lifting things higher.

The album finishes with the appropriately named End Of The Show. Just listen to Wilson's voice in the thank you very much section. Pure emotion, pure soul.

Here we are
With our dreams in the sky
We all have our dreams
It's wonderful to know we're alive
At the end
It's over

Rather incredibly, the album sold less than 5,000 copies upon release in 1977, quickly becoming out of print and a cult album. The 2008 deluxe double edition CD of Pacific Ocean Blue and Dennis' unreleased follow up Bambu shone a light on a remarkable album and that light deserves to shine.

The 3 additional songs added to the Pacific Ocean Blue CD were Tug Of Love, the aforementioned Only With You and the truly stunning instrumental masterpiece Holy Man. Wilson had recorded vocals but deleted them as he felt he couldn't get the melody quite right. The music stands up on its own.

I'll write a blog on Bambu another time, but for now, please dig in and treasure this masterpiece.

Saturday 22 April 2017

TeenCanteen - Sirens EP

Released on transparent 10-inch blue and red vinyl with white splatters (each one different) on Record Store Day; TeenCanteen's Sirens EP has 4 songs that will lift you up, make you sing, make you dance and quite possibly bring tears to your eyes.

The title track certainly brought tears to mine. So did Millions once I got through the pop and the melodies to the lyrics. Regular readers will know that Carla (singer-songwriter in the band) is my sister. Both songs are about our Dad who died when I was 24 and Carla was only 15.

The piano version of Sirens is heart stopping; it is tears in the eyes, it is memories, heart break, heart ache, thinking what if? It is the sound of someone pouring their heart out, backed only by harmonies and backing vocals by friends at all the right moments, with only sparse Spector-esque reverb heavy piano for company.

I first heard it in early January in La Chunky studio in Finnieston, Glasgow shortly after completion. Carla asked for the studio lights to be turned off and I sat with the band, producer Stephen Watkins and my wife in total darkness other than the computer screen and the lights on the mixing desk.

It is devastatingly beautiful. When I hear Carla pouring her heart out and singing I wish I had time, I wish I had time in a voice crackling with gets me. It may well get you too. Switch your lights off and listen.

The 4 voices combining to sing I want sunshine pouring through my window is just sublime. It gets better, the song flows and rises superbly.

All I've ever wanted was for a bit longer
To be a mans daughter
But some things
Take much more than a 4 leaf clover
To form realities out of dreams
Let the sirens play
Let the sirens play out loud

I wish I had time so I could define
All of the time you've been on my mind
Reminds me of school days and hanging in the park
Remembering to be home before the dark

Sirens is a new version of a song released on Say It All With A Kiss, the debut album that came out in September 2016. The other 3 songs are all brand new. To follow up the album so quickly is testament to the confidence that the band have and the 4 girls each bring something magical to the record.

What You Gonna Do About Me? is an outpouring of emotion, talking of dreaming, stamping feet, spreading roots, seeing friends and confirming independence. All in 2 minutes and 22 seconds!

You make me wanna skip school
Though I don't go to school anymore
What's the point in living for the weekend?
If I wanna see my friends I'll see my friends
Anytime I want to.....

If I want a minute dreaming in my bedroom
I will take a minute dreaming in my bedroom

Can't Go Back (Starry Eyed) is glorious unashamed pop that you could imagine Taylor Swift or Carly Rae Jepsen singing. The breakdown and then rise for the final minute is euphoric.

Millions is the lead single from the EP, picking up airplay on 6Music courtesy of Marc Riley. It's punchy and direct, only 3-minutes long and that includes time for backwards psychedelic guitars and the sound of Sita crying real tears at the end.

You're a million, million, million, million miles away
I still feel you near
Though you've disappeared

Oh come back to me if I call your name

TeenCanteen have a string of dates through the summer months, starting today where they play Monorail Records/Mono Cafe bar at 5pm for free as part of Record Store Day. Keep an eye on their social media for info about Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton, Norway, The Great Escape and more.

Order an amazing 10-inch vinyl via the Last Night From Glasgow shop.

Monday 17 April 2017

Friday Night The Eagles Fly

Introducing The Bar Dogs

L-R: Samuel Joseph Smith (recording/mixing/mastering engineer), Mark Thomson (guest vocals), Robbie Noble (keyboard), Michael Kirkland (guest vocals), John McArthur (lead guitar), Mario Feraud (sax), Scott Duncan McPherson (bass), John Gerard O'Neill (lead vocals), Michael Gahanna (drums/percussion), Tino Macdonald (vocals and guitars)

The Bar Dogs are a young 7-piece rock n roll band who have been tearing around Glasgow since forming in 2015 and this coming weekend they release their debut LP Friday Night The Eagles Fly on Button Up Records.

One of the brilliant things about this record is that it sounds like the band are having real fun, it sounds like they are playing live. It's rock, it's roll, soul, raw, pure and heartfelt. Just look at the picture above, they look like gang that have come together through a love of music....and that really comes across on the LP.

The opening track is ferocious and the pace rarely drops. This is the blue collar rock n roll soul of Springsteen via Glasgow. At under 3-minutes long, Running doesn't hang about, a count of 1-2-3 and the band are flowing from the off with Mario Feraud's saxophone lifting things and John Gerard O'Neill's rasping vocals setting the scene of dead end jobs and dreaming of the weekend. It immediately demanded a second listen as soon as it finished.

I'm going downtown to burn my wage

I'm running but I'm getting nowhere
Hanging round with nothing to do

Things slow down for Dream The Night Away, but the gutsy soul is still there and it is at the heart of every song on the album.

Sorry was a single back in March and it is brilliant rock n roll soul. On this kind of form The Bar Dogs sound like the best bar band in Glasgow and one that should consider upping sticks and heading to New York City (or New Jersey) as soon as they can afford the air fares. Having recently read the epic Springsteen autobiography, I think of scenes he describes, playing bars and wanting to generate a reaction. I apologise if I reference Springsteen a few times in this review, but listen to the album and you'll totally see where I am coming from.

Can you keep up the pace? Cause next out of the traps is Heart Shaped Feeling and the band fly through it at breakneck speed. The piano holds it all together but is also allowed to let rip.

She's got a heart shaped feeling
She's got a heart I'm stealing

If you're gonna love me baby
You better love me all damn night

And they don't let up - Coco is an absolute belter. The band rip and roar through it, the song flows, the drums pound ferociously.  These guys know how to play and John O'Neill sure knows how to sing his heart out.

Glasgow Saturday Night is crying out to be a future single. Sax and piano give this song a beautiful undercurrent but the beat remains as up temp as ever. The break down for all the girls say and all the boys say section is sublime and then it just all goes gloriously crazy.

It's not all 100 mph stuff though, just listen to the gorgeous Want You To Want Me complete with Celtic strings and a stunning piano intro.

Did I say heartfelt earlier? Well The Bar Dogs can also be ultra romantic soppy bastards in a lovely way. Just listen to What A Woman for evidence.

A delicate and gorgeous piano riff ushers in the closing track Freedom. O'Neill contemplates life, love, friends, nights out.....and then the song picks up to the kind of rock n roll pace that you'll have grown accustomed to through the course of the album.

Friday Night The Eagles Fly is gutsy, ballsy, 100 mph rock n roll soul. I don't know of any other Glasgow band that can play like this, write like this or sing like this.

The album is out on Record Store Day and the band then have a launch party at the 13th Note on 6th May. If you want a hot, sweaty, loud rock n roll basement show - this is is going to be the hottest one in town.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Wild Horses

Cover version of the month #24

Wild Horses - The Sundays cover The Rolling Stones

The Sundays were a band I fell for in my early teenage years. Their debut album Reading, Writing and Arithmetic was heralded by the weekly music magazines NME and Melody Maker and the reviews sent me scurrying to buy a copy from Missing Records in Oswald Street in Glasgow. Songs like Here's Where The Story Ends were just gorgeous pop, stunning songwriting. Oh and for a 14/15 year old indie kid, lead singer Harriet Wheeler was the kind of girl you fantasised about when the streets were cold and lonely, dreamy and with a beautiful voice.

I bought The Sundays Goodbye 12-inch single. The b-side was a cover of The Stones Wild Horses, a song I was familiar with through an old battered Stones compilation album owned by my Dad.

The Stones version is a masterpiece in songwriting and delivery. The slow acoustic, Jagger's impeccable vocal (and some of his best lyrics), the beat kicking in, the rise.... it is majestic.

I know I've dreamed you a sin and a lie
I have my freedom but I don't have much time
Faith has been broken tears must be cried
Lets do some living, after we've died

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild, wild horses, we'll ride them some day

The solo is exquisite, no-one else could play like that, it is beautiful and soulful.

Who in their right mind would attempt to cover it?

Well a young indie band from Reading decided to tackle it. And of course, nothing could compare to the Stones, but The Sundays version was one that greatly appealed to the 16-year old me and after rediscovering it over 20-years down the line it still does.

Wheeler's voice aches in a different kind of way to Jagger's, hearing a female lead makes the elder me look at the song in a completely different way, appreciate it even more. Wheeler's voice is dreamy, yet soaked in reality, detached, yet present. It is potentially the boldest cover to date in this series.

Thursday 6 April 2017

2017 Scottish Album of the Year Award - the nominations


The chance to nominate an eligible album for Scottish Album of the Year was open throughout March and the list of nominees is quite incredible; truly highlighting the incredible artistic talent that graces and enhances our small nation. Bands and artists from all kinds of genres are there, we have old bands, brand new bands, DIY releases, major label releases and DIY label releases.

Arguably Scotland's biggest band - Biff Clyro is on the list, old timers enjoying a new lease of life Deacon Blue are there, we have Fatherson, Frightened Rabbit, Amy MacDonald, KT Tunstall, Emeli Sande, the exceptional talent that is King Creosote, the mighty Mogwai, the Mary Chain, personal faves Teenage Fanclub, the effervescent Travis, the returning Trashcan Sinatras and the energetic Twin Atlantic.

Scottish indie/DIY labels (and self releases) are well represented by the likes of Randolphs Leap. Hector Bizerk, TeenCanteen, Ette (Bandcamps number 4 album of 2016), Little Kicks, Machines In Heaven, HQFU, Modern Studies, Mt. Doubt, Rick Redbeard, Sacred Paws.....and much, much more. This is a growing scene and one that offers a real treasure trove of talent.

Scottish hip-hop is represented, folk, country, electronica, classical, avant garde.....there is something for everyone, so much to explore and treasures to discover.

Just 20 albums will make the longlist, that is then whittled down to 10 for the shortlist and they go

through to the SAY Award ceremony in Paisley on 28th June.

The SAY Award has been a welcome and exciting addition to the Scottish music calendar since inception; previous winners are Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat (2012), RM Hubbert (2013), Young Fathers (2014), Kathryn Joseph (2015) and Anna Meredith (2016).

The format of nominees, longlist and shortlist maintains interest and builds excitement and anticipation. The 4-month run from the start of March to the end of June offers music fans around the world ample time to explore Scottish artists from all backgrounds.

However, it is impossible (at least for me) to listen to every single album that has been nominated. That is probably why the SAY Award have 100 judges to start with!

Here is a list of some of the albums I've enjoyed, it will be interesting to see how many make it through to the longlist and the shortlist. Could the winner be among them? Those marked with an * are my own top 10/shortlist, but I look forward to discovering albums as things progress towards the ceremony in Paisley on 28th June.

Barrie James O'Neill - Cold Coffee

* Ette - Homemade Lemonade

Fiona Soe Paing - Alien Lullabies

* HiFi Sean - ___Ft


The Jesus and Mary Chain - Damage and Joy

* King Creosote - Astronaut Meets Appleman

Machines In Heaven - Phenomenology

* Mark W Georgsson - Faces and Places

* Modern Studies - Swell To Great

Mt. Doubt - In Awe Of Nothing

Pictish Trail - Future Echoes

Rick Redbeard - Awake Unto

* Sacred Paws - Strike A Match

* Stephen Solo - Pii

* Teenage Fanclub - Here

* TeenCanteen - Say It All With A Kiss

The Little Kicks - Shake Off Your Troubles

* The Pooches - The Pooches

Trashcan Sinatras - Wild Pendulum

The SAY Award is a prestigious and exciting arts prize produced by the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), with confirmed partners for 2017 including Paisley for UK City of Culture 2021Creative ScotlandTicketWeb and PPL. Boasting a lucrative £20,000 prize for the winner and nine runner up prizes of £1,000 each, the award celebrates, promotes and rewards the most outstanding Scottish albums released each year. Respected by artists and valued by the industry, The SAY Award is responsible for a surge in musical discovery and an explosion of impassioned debate on social media. The SMIA is encouraging artists, labels and the general public to submit eligible albums released between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017. #SAYAward #SAYeligible17

Sunday 2 April 2017

Never Ending Mixtape part 7

This month, I decided to add a few more songs than usual to the Never Ending Mixtape on Spotify, taking the total number of songs up to 100.

It's quite a mix - even if I do so myself!

The Never Ending Mixtape began in October 2016 when I finally discovered Spotify after years of saying I would never use it. Watch The Sunrise by Big Star kicked things off, joined by the Velvets, Spiritualized, Tricky, Massive Attack, Belly, Mazzy Star, The Orb, The Smiths.....all kinds of things.

Each month I make some additions to the Never Ending Mixtape and the blog allows me to either reminisce about old favourites, seeing acts live or where and when I bought/heard the song, or to talk about recent discoveries.

You can check the Never Ending Mixtape below and then read on to find out the latest additions.

Don't Leave Me This Way - Harold Melvin and the Bluenoses
An all time fave, the way this flows and soars and grooves is simply impeccable.  A dancefloor filler.

If You Want Me To Stay - Sly and the Family Stone
Another groover, the vocal is sensational.

Concrete Schoolyard - Jurassic 5
A tune that reminds me of my mate Reddy.

The Message - Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
I've just finished watching the Hip Hop Evolution doc on netflix. Highly recommended.

Temptation - New Order
One of my top 3 songs of all time.

Getting Away With It - Electronic
The perfect pop song for me. Love the lyrics, melody, beats, strings....

No Tears To Cry (Leo Zero remix) - Paul Weller
Sublime, first heard this when Greg Wilson dropped it into one of his mixes.

Miss You - The Rolling Stones
I didn't believe this was the Stones when I first heard it! Jagger is pretty unmistakable though!

Till The End Of The Day - The Kinks

Ogden's Nut Gone Flake - Small Faces
I used to open DJ sets with this instrumental.

Afterglow (Of Your Love) - Small Faces
Listen to Steve Marriott's voice!

Oh Vanity! - The Charlatans
A stomper by one of my all time fave bands.

North Country Boy - The Charlatans
This was my favourite song through the summer of 1997, 20-years ago.

Wide Open - Chemical Brothers featuring Beck
Absolutely gorgeous. They should do an album together.

Brother's Gonna Work It Out - Willie Hutch
First heard this in a Chemical Brothers mix, just wait till the beats and strings come in!

Stoned Love - The Supremes
This will always remind me of the summer of 2012 and seeing the Roses for the first time in Amsterdam and Heaton Park.

Les Fleur - Minnie Ripperton

Memphis Soul Stew - King Curtis
How good is this? Sounds like it was constructed live in the studio, like it is a jam.

Green Onions - Booker T and the MG's