Friday 29 March 2019

Badbea by Edwyn Collins

Welcome back Edwyn Collins, it has been a while, 6-years to be precise since Understated his last LP was released. Edwyn's December show at Mono in Glasgow that year was an absolute joy. We then had the beautiful documentary The Possibilities Are Endless with accompanying soundtrack which was released in 2014.

Since then Edwyn has moved to Helmsdale on the North East coast of Scotland, building his Clashnarrow Studio from scratch and recording with bands ranging from Hooton Tennis Club to Teenage Fanclub.

It's great to have Edwyn back with his new album Badbea. I was too young for Orange Juice and it was only from Edwyn's Home Again album that was released in 2007 that I really started to form a bond with one of Scotland's greatest songwriters, digging his new stuff and digging back into his discography.

Home Again was followed by the excellent Losing Sleep which featured a string of guests including members from The Cribs, Franz Ferdinand, Magic Numbers, The Drums and Roddy Frame. The title track and the superb In Your Eyes are real favourites of mine. And then there was the aforementioned Understated.

On to Badbea. Edwyn's love of northern soul shines through, as does his humour and his wonderful ability to reflect so eloquently and poetically. There are times Edwyn reflects with a bite that goes straight to the point, and at others with beautiful melancholy. At the heart of everything there is love and hope.

Pounding drums and electric guitar usher in the opening It's All About You and Edwyn croons about the sky, the mood, the sea and the summer before leading to the chorus that you can sing on first listen. The song progresses to include horns, Chic style guitar and develop into a real groove - off to a flyer.

In The Morning is a rip roaring northern soul influenced monster containing responsive backing vocals, horns, a soaring guitar solo and Edwyn singing about his uncertainty in the morning, in the evening and in the twilight. The song has a great feel to it and flows superbly with Edwyn's vocals rising with the music as it drives to conclusion.

The reflective I Guess We Were Young is another belter, the chorus has a beautiful melody with Edwyn's band mates harmonising beautifully.

It All Makes Sense To Me slows the pace, a gorgeous acoustic number beginning with the sound of birds singing merrily as Edwyn reflects on a magical day in his life as he walks, dreams and thinks and everything makes sense. The instrumental section is lovely and Edwyn comes back in gently to repeatedly sing it all makes sense to me, it's beautiful, perfect.

The pace quickens dramatically on the punk garage guitar charged Outside with Edwyn simply stating at one point now I'm old, I don't care. Then we change direction with a bass synth, drums and handclaps starting off Glasgow to London with Edwyn singing I must admit I could not give a fuck.

Edwyn is on the train, Glasgow to London, but it's in the past. It sounds like a reflective piece on his move to Helmsdale, he was moving away from going back to reality, back to the grind. But then he sings repeatedly it's in the past, it's in the past and the song gets into a real groove.

Tensions Rising kicks in with what sounds like a nod to The Temptations Get Ready, there is a cool bass groove underpinning the song and fuzz guitar cuts loose.

Beauty is very aptly named, I played it 3 times on first listen. It is gorgeous, a slow acoustic ballad and a Collins vocal that melts the heart.

Carry on, do your thing
Look ahead, don't give in
Don't give in, don't give in

I Want You finds a psych groove that is darker than the rest of the album, I'm OK Jack is much lighter in comparison sounding almost McCartney-esque at times, while Sparks the Spark has more outstanding guitar work from Collins band which includes long term friends Carwyn Ellis and James Walbourne.

Badbea is named after a village near to Helmsdale that was built and then abandoned by crofters. The closing title track is beautifully dreamy, it has a Brian Wilson feel to it at times with Collins singing of a ruined monument to life and death.

Collins is in good form and it is fantastic to have him back. Edwyn will be playing a short set and signing his album at Mono on Tuesday 9th April while the night before sees him play Saint Lukes as part of a BBC Quay Session. I hope to make both and you can order limited signed copies from Monorail.

Photo by John Maher - blog on his Edwyn photos for the album HERE

Thursday 21 March 2019

Witchi Tai To

Cover version of the month #44

BMX Bandits cover Witchi Tai To

BMX Bandits are not the only band to have covered Everything Is Everything's 1969 single Witchi Tai To, but it was through the Bandits that I first heard the song and a recent tweet via Bandits leader Duglas T Stewart, relating to his love of the Harpers Bizarre version, caused me to revisit the song.

Back in 1993 I bought the Little Hands 4-track CD single/EP by BMX Bandits and track 3 was a beautiful home recording of a song called Witchi Tai To. It was quite beautiful, very different from anything else, I really fell for the song and it has always been a special treat when BMX Bandits played it live.

On the recorded version there is a chugging acoustic guitar and Duglas and Bandits from the time harmonise tenderly with real care before an electric guitar and beats come in. It flows beautifully, becoming like a mantra, lasting 5-minutes but I wish it was even longer.

Duglas kindly answered a few questions on BMX Bandits recording and his love of the song. I hope you enjoy the Bandits version (above) and the Harpers Bizarre one that Duglas fell for and also the original by Everything is Everything. Both feature below.

EF - Do you remember the first time you heard the song Witchi Tai To?

DTS - I was in Japan touring with BMX Bandits, I think it was 1990 and there was so many great albums available there on CD reissue that you couldn't get easily in the UK. I was particularly interested in a genre of late sixties American pop that the Japanese called Soft Rock (it means something very different here).

I met a girl called Midori who was still in her teens but seemed to know so much about this kind of music and what were the best groups and albums. She turned me on to Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends, The Millenium Sagittarius, The Innocence and recommended the reissues of Harpers Bizarre's albums.

I already knew their hit version of Simon and Garfunkel's 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) and their version of Cole Porter's Anything Goes and loved both, so I was keen to hear more. I really loved the stuff I got by them, especially the second and third albums. Anything Goes and The Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre. The fourth album Harpers Bizarre 4 was good but weaker than the others. But it contained the track that I loved most, Witchi Tai To.

The song on the surface was very simple, it went around in a circle but there was something so unique and a spiritual feeling about it. I had no idea what most of the lyrics meant but music is an international language that goes deeper for me than words. The music, not the lyrics, is the part of songs that communicates straight with the heart and bypasses the intellect.

The recording was so beautiful, the bass line, the instrumental hook line, the harmonies. I became obsessed by it and would listen to only it on repeat over and over for hours on end. I turned Norman on to it when I got home. I can't remember if Francis and Joe also bought that album on the same trip to Japan but they also certainly loved it.

Harper Bizarre - Witchi Tai To

EF - You covered the song back in 1993 and the recording is pretty special, very tender and caring? What are your memories of recording it? It is described as a home recording - was it your home?

DTS - I'm pretty sure we recorded it at least a couple of years before it was released. I am glad you say you like the recording but it wasn't done with that much care. Francis, Norman and I were all at Norman's Gran's house in Bellshill. Norman lived there at that time and BMX Bandits had often rehearsed there. One day because we were all still enthusing about the song and the structure and that bass line, we decided to just do a version with the three of us. I'm pretty sure it only took an hour or two. We used a simple drum machine and I think we thought that it didn't compete with the Harpers Bizarre version but we enjoyed doing it. People still say how much they love our recording of it and I'm sort of surprised but I think it's because for lots of people that was what they first heard and we pretty much stuck to the Harpers Bizarre's template.

Duglas T Stewart 

EF - It flows so beautifully as a song, what is it like to play live?

DTS - I always love playing it live. I think playing it live, with Francis or Stuart or Jamie on drums and more developed harmony parts and dynamics, it's much better than our home recording version. We have often thought about doing a proper recorded version but have never got round to it.

EF - Has your appreciation grown over the years? What do you think about the song now?

DTS - Over the years I've got to know more about the song and heard other versions, some good, some less to my taste. There's a version by Brewer and Shipley which I think was a sort of hit in the U.S. but I really hate that version and I'm glad it wasn't the version I first heard or I probably wouldn't have fallen in love with the song. The song was written by a native American musician called Jim Pepper and was based on a tribal spiritual song. The original version was by his group Everything is Everything and I think that's also a really great version. Just avoid the Brewer and Shipley 'hippy sh*t' version.

I have a theory the song might have been an inspiration on two songs by Wire, Outdoor Miner and Kidney Bingos. Both songs certainly seem to contain elements of Witchi Tai To in them. Outdoor Miner is a masterpiece so if they did borrow from Witchi Tai To, I'm glad that they did.

My appreciation and love of the song has never diminished and even now I will still put on the Harpers Bizarre version on repeat for 30 minutes or an hour.

I ended up marrying Midori, who introduced me to so much great music and encouraged me to be unafraid of taking our music into new directions. We've not been together for many years now but I will always be grateful to her.

Thanks to Duglas for sharing his love for a beautiful song and for the memories of discovering and recording it.

Let's end with the original, written by Jim Pepper and recorded with his band Everything Is Everything, Witchi Tai To was derived from a peyote song of the Native American Church which he had learned from his grandfather.

I hope you enjoy the 3 wonderful versions of this song.

Previous covers of the month

Tuesday 12 March 2019

One Dove

Way back in 1993 I fell for a Scottish band called One Dove who released a string of impeccable singles and an album Morning Dove White consisting of electro pop so pure that it can lift you high.

And, I have to admit, I totally fell for their gorgeous singer Dot Allison who just seemed effortlessly cool. Girls like this didn't seem to exist in the Lanarkshire backwater of Carluke, only 25-miles from Glasgow, but at times it seemed like a million miles away. Especially if you got the last bus home from the Garage on a Saturday night.

The album is essentially a collection of the singles, flowing like a club mix with different versions of songs included. It works brilliantly.

Fallen, produced by Andy Weatherall, opens the album, it's buzzy synths, cowbells and a breathless Allison proclaiming she doesn't know why she is telling anyone this and asking for forgiveness. When the beat kicks in you are fully immersed in the world of One Dove, it has that purity I mentioned before and it just flows superbly.

There is a glorious breakdown when the beats and bass stop and it really is like you are falling and floating with the song and Allison - beautiful.

We then receive a blast of guitar to interrupt the purity and the flow with the Guitar Paradise Mix of White Love. The radio mix features later on the album and it was my first introduction to One Dove when it was released in the summer of 1993 when I was 17. This is simply sublime, the chorus just makes me smile, it just keeps running, flowing, feeling really euphoric.

Want to keep hold of this for you

The Guitar Paradise Mix is stretched out to over 10-minutes and the beats kick in with more breathless and sexy Allison vocals, kicking in just before the 3-minute mark. The bass is superb, it's a trippy mix by Andrew Weatherall, it has echoes of Screamadelica all over it.

White love, this love
This powerful, this pure

We then have the Cellophone Boat Mix of Breakdown, another single that was lifted from the album. There is beautiful piano/keys over big beats before everything comes together at around 1 minute 20 and One Dove find that pure flow that made me fall for them. The mix chops things up a little, coming in and out of the pureness I love.

The radio mix of Breakdown, still 5 minutes 30 seconds, comes later in the album (not on the original vinyl) and it just sensational. Allison croons about the moonlight, shadows, clouds and despair, how the small hours are hard to bear, leading to a chorus that can't help but be uplifting despite the lyrics.

Breakdown and cry (I cry for you)
Breakdown and cry (cry)
Breakdown and cry 
Cry (I do)

The last verse has the brilliant line I remember the night you left me, the moon was full, I felt empty

The mix and the album continue with There Goes The Cure, this is blissful and another song about lost love. This is super chilled until 4 minutes 30 and then cries, extra synth strings and beats come in, Allison can only repeatedly sing he's gone, this really is lush, a little cousin to I'm Comin' Down from Primal Scream's Screamadelica LP.

The clubby vibes through the album continues with Sirens, funky dub bass, hammond, handclaps, beats and Allison sounding like a siren. The feel of this song and the invention it contains is stunning, it contains so many gems, especially when you listen on headphones. The arrangement and production are incredible.

Allison is incredible on this album, she should have been a total star, sadly band and label conflicts prevented a follow up. My Friend is dub and clubby with Allison's vocals whispery and echo-y repeatedly singing about a fever.

This remarkable record continues with synth strings over the sound of a heartbeat. Transient Truth, stretches to over 9-minutes and it is super trippy, leading into the utterly glorious Why Don't You Take Me? Allison pours her heart out over music that probably wouldn't sound out of place on a Massive Attack record from this era.

Oh baby when I sit and cry
The skies cry with me

Why don't you take me
Straight to your heart
Yeah I'm asking you please

I need you now, need you, need you now

Then we have the piano reprise of White Love, Allison singing over only house/gospel style piano, she sounds like an angel. It's only 1-minute long and you wish it was longer.

And that concludes the original vinyl version of the album, although the CD and digital versions (thankfully) have the radio mixes of White Love and Breakdown.

I say thankfully as they are absolutely stunning and, at least for me, the album wouldn't be complete without them and they add to the clubby feel as DJ's would (and still do) cut back to songs they had previously played in the mix.

The writing, singing, arrangements, playing, mix and production are just sublime from start to finish, this really is an album that takes the listener on a journey. Allison is not afraid to sing about a broken heart and her band mates Ian Carmichael and Jim McKinven are not short of ideas.

Morning Dove White is a gem of an album and I really hope anyone reading this blog either revisits it or checks it out. A vinyl reissue would surely be welcomingly received?

Saturday 9 March 2019

Never Ending Mixtape Part 33

Artwork by Brian Cannon, a Microdot production

As the Never Ending Mixtape flies through the 900 song mark, this month has some stunning songs, including 5 from the latest Lemonheads album, stunning electro pop from Robyn, gems from the soundtrack to Netflix show Russian Dolls, a beautiful psychedelic acoustic number from The Verve's often overlooked debut A Storm In Heaven, the epic Sprawl II by Arcade Fire, super cool stuff by The Avalanches, the still mind blowing Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles, pure pop from Marshall Crenshaw and this must be the only mixtape where The Pastels sit next to Womack and Womack.

There is much, much more to enjoy. Search for Everything Flows Never Ending Mixtape on Spotify and you'll need to scroll way down to find these songs, or dig in from the start, press shuffle orzo what you choose.

I hope you find some songs you'd forgotten about or some songs you've never heard that you fall for. Read on for the full list of the latest additions.

Missing U - Robyn
Girls - Death In Vegas
Tears - Stone Roses
Settled Down Like Rain - The Lemonheads
Speed of The Sound of Loneliness - The Lemonheads
Magnet - The Lemonheads
Round Here - The Lemonheads
Things - The Lemonheads
Reflections - Diana Ross and The Supremes
If You're Ready (Come Go With Me) - The Staple Singers
Do It Again - The Beach Boys
Reach Out, I'll Be There - Four Tops
Gotta Get Up - Harry Nilsson
Dreams-Come-True-Girl - Cass McCombs
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire
Love Is In The Air - John Paul Young
See You In The Next One (Have A Good Time) - The Verve
Tomorrow Never Knows - The Beatles
In My Life - The Beatles
Waiting for the Sun - Sister John
Sky Is All We Had - J Mascis
If I Was A Folkstar - The Avalanches
Truck Train Tractor - The Pastels
Teardrops - Womack and Womack
Gepetto - Belly
It's A Hit - Rilo Kiley
Bad Weather - The Supremes
You're My Favourite Waste of Time - Marshall Crenshaw