=  April 2010  =

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The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree

Simon Lewis (Editor)

The Child of a Creek

Phil McMullen

Gnod / White Hills

Jeff Penczak

Ian Fraser Psychedelic Disaster Whirl Comp
  Steppin Through and Empty Time comps
  The Hills Have Riffs
  JPT Scare Band
The Second Hand
  Shifting Sands compilation
    Jack Bruce book
    The Abstract Truth


(2 x CD on Deadslacking Records  www.desertedvillage.com )


This offering from the curiously named The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree features folk music in a rather more traditionally accepted sense to, say, The Hills Have Riffs (see below), but with a twist that occasionally has you looking out the window to make sure someone isn’t building a wicker man in the garden.


Not to be mistaken for the similarly titled children’s book by Enid Blyton, the Magickal Folk appear to something of a mysterious bunch, an impression given weight by the fact that this arrived without any press, so a digging I did go.


The band’s roots are in Ireland (although they now live in different parts of the World) and are, or were, part of the Deserted Village Collective and one of DVCs mainstay (and Terrastock veteran!) Dave Colhoun’s many fingers in the collaborative musical pie. Their mixture of traditional acoustic music and plainsong spans a double CD comprising 28 songs sung in English. Gaelic and French, and is in fact a compilation of their two out of print CDs “The Mildew Leaf” and “The Cat’s Melodeon”, and a CD of new releases, some dating back to 2005. I like traditional folk music especially when interpreted in such a way as this but it was with no little trepidation that I approached the prospect of wading through a “doubler” in one sitting. I needn’t have worried though as the Magickal ones handle both well known and lesser covered material with a deftness of touch underscored by simple but often beautiful acoustic arrangements. There is a melancholy and haunting, “dawn and twilight” feel in much of this collection, which the band’s mostly male but occasional, wraith-like female vocals and stripped down, lo-fi delivery only serve to emphasise.


The first CD features the two out of print CDs and is packed with highlights, including the unaccompanied “Spencer the Rover” (about as far removed as the John Martyn version as you can imagine), the astonishingly beautiful and haunting “Le Bon Marain”, “The Blackthorn Tree”, Cornish rebel song “Trelawney” and the more upbeat sing-along disc closer, “Here’s A Health To All True Lovers”


The second CD is none too shabby either. It is perhaps more of a grower, but grow it does. “An Bhanaltra” gets things off to harmonious start, “Locks and Bolts” skips along nicely with signature flute, guitars and banjo. Other notable offerings include the wistful (or is that rueful) “She Was A Rum One”, the laid back songcraft of “The Summer Will Come” and “Going To Mass Last Sunday” and the utterly scandalous drinking song “Up to the Rigs” (surely a party-piece for the next work’s “do” after imbibing one over the eight).


“The Soup and the Shilling” is an enchanting collection and one that is sure to delight anyone with a soft spot for obscure acid-folk classics, those “Gather In The Mushrooms” and “Early Morning Hush” compilations, and, erm, barbecues that look like wicker men.


(Ian Fraser)





(CD www.thechildofacreek.it )


Stellar folk with a haunted Gothic touch. The Italians have always done this kind of thing gloriously well – long-time readers will no doubt remember Stefano Giaccone’s Howth Castle (from around 1993). This is the first time I’ve had a chance to hear The Child of a Creek, but his Terrascopic references are impeccable, having gigged with Marissa Nadler, toured with Sharron Kraus and had a song featured on a Silber Records compilation; and his discography is fairly expansive as well, including the CDs ‘Once Upon a Time the Light through the Trees’ from 2005 and ‘Unicorns Still Make Me Feel Fine’ from 2008.


A talented one-man multi-instrumentalist, The Child of a Creek’s latest album ‘Find Shelter Along the Path’ is the musical diary of a day spent in the mountains, evoking the sensation of the cold, snow-laden winds blowing across exposed skin, the views of the distant peaks and the sight of frost-whitened trees.


The album opens with the beautifully evocative ‘Winterland’. I was immediately reminded on hearing it of the early work of Nigel Mazlyn Jones, which is no bad thing. It was an impression, although no more, which was to carry on throughout the album. ‘Where the Cold Wind Blows’, my personal favourite cut on here – and also the longest, at a little over 5 minutes - features layers of echo-laden guitars. ‘The Golden Light’ follows behind seamlessly, with lyrics that speak volumes of that day on a mountainside. The jaunty instrumental ‘The Silent Valley’ introduces some zither and balalaika, and the closing ‘Secret Passages’ shows the acoustic and semi-acoustic guitar interplay off at its best.


I really like this album and sincerely wish I’d heard his / their work before. It’s never too late to catch up though, and I’ll definitely be following The Child of a Creek's future travels with considerable interest. (Phil McMullen)






White Hills are becoming quite the kings of collaboration following their “Collisions” double-billing with Bristol’s the Heads – a “Godzilla meets the Tinnitus Monster” feature if ever there was one – and now this two-up, to be released in May.


The latest extension of the international hand of friendship pitches our favourite New Yorkers with Manchester space rangers Gnod on 8 tracks grouped into 4 phases.


Deceptively quiet opener “Bits” soon gives way to what will become a trademark groove on “Run-A Round”. There’s a word for this type of repetitive, hypnotic beat music, it begins with “K” and it’s overused to the point where it transcends laziness, so let’s call it “stoner trance”. Hell, call it what you want, this is plain magnificent from end to end. “Spaced Man” is a 13 minute test of both one’s stamina and sanity. To put it plainly, the first 8 minutes or so are delightfully moronic. Pedestrian, yes, predictable, certainly and quite possibly turgid and it works wonderfully, complete with the Hawkwind-style oscillators (and I’m nothing if not a sucker for oscillators). The last 5 minutes dispense with the drums and the Neanderthal riffing and what you are left with is the basic track, a harmonious wash of sound to hold your hand through the comedown. “Well Hang” is a bit on an odd man out whereon The Exorcist meets a mad bongo tapper on a journey to the outer limits. “Drop Out” pitches us back into a righteous Hawkwind groove circa “In Search of Space” (spookily, as I heard this for the first time in the car I was being sent down a diversion due to road works which took me along an unfamiliar lane and past a bungalow with the house name “Hawkwind”. Sometimes you really can’t script this stuff). “Per Sempre” winds things up beautifully – it’s like the first few guitar notes of “The End” by the Doors played on an endless loop but as it progresses it becomes subtly more intricate until what you end up with is a mesmerising and compelling 15 minute meditation.


I really can’t rate this too highly. With a General Election coming up and the scraps being fought over by an increasingly bereft and moribund looking bunch I’d give my vote to whoever is prepared to insist that this be played at all morning school assemblies and broadcast forcibly over the contents of Glee, Plop Idol, X Factor or whatever else happens to be poisoning our collective cultural psyche at the time.


Vote White Hills and in Gnod we trust. Gear!  (Ian Fraser)




(CD www.superfolk.org )


I have, if I’m honest with myself, not the slightest idea what’s going on here. One moment there’s a glorious cacophony of sound, everything happening at once like a dust-devil whipping up a prairie stampede; the next moment effervescent folk melodies trickle forth like pioneers sat round a camp fire. There’s miscellaneous field recordings thrown into the mix, found Lord knows where. There’s sound-scapes and mighty sonic sculptures. There’s all manner of lo-fi trickery going on, the likes of which the blessed Strapping Fieldhands would once have been proud of. Sometimes it sounds painfully amateurish, and the next thing you find yourself wondering if it’s the contrivance of a master. All I know for sure is that it’s vital, visceral, communal - and fantastic.


The facts, such as they are, are that there’s 18 short tracks, the vast majority of them entirely instrumental. Some, such as ‘The Resonant Frequency of Love’ and ‘The Bridge of Now’ seem to form centrepieces around which the other numbers slowly dance. The album was recorded somewhere called ‘The Orchard’ and is dedicated to the memory of Jim Carroll, which is a Good Thing. God knows he deserves it.  I have no idea who was involved, beyond the fact that they are called Superfolk – and super folk they are too. I love this album so much I’m going to knit it a pair of socks to keep it warm as the desert nights can be cold this time of year I hear. (Phil McMullen)



(CD on Past & Present)


Continuing their latest round of reissues of hopelessly rare and out-of-print psych compilations, P&P offer the CD debut of this limited edition (400) vinyl rarity from 1986. Culled from the prime garage era of 1966-68, these 16 fuzzfests feature early efforts from future members of Savage Resurrection, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band, and Neil Young’s future producer, Dave Briggs, who twiddle the knobs on Perpetual Motion Workshop’s Seeds-like snarler, ‘Won’t Come Down’ and its braindraining flip, ‘Infiltrate your Mind.’  Toronto’s Quiet Jungle are known in collector circles for their anonymous LP of Monkees’ covers (released when they were called The Secrets) and their Quiet Jungle debut, a collection of Christmas tunes centered around Charles Schultz’ Snoopy character! ‘Everything’ is considered one of the finest slices of ’ 60s Canadian psych. The Human Expression were one of California’s best garage outfits and it’s easy to see why based on the strength of their haunting ‘Optical Sound,’ complete with weird guitar effects.

            Thee Sixpence release a handful of 45s before merging with members of Waterfyrd Traene and changing their name to Strawberry Alarm Clock. ‘In the Building’ is typical garage paranoia and nothing like the mellow psychedelia that followed. Connecticut’s Children of The Night only released one single, but what a corker – crude, frantic, and exciting, ‘World of Tears’ deserved wider distribution, as did Twentieth Century Zoo’s hard rocking slab of psychedelic blues, ‘You Don’t Remember.’ And for anyone who wants to know what £1700 sounds like, dig Scorpio Tube’s maniacal ‘Yellow Listen,’ featuring one of the wildest piano solos ever to leak out of the garage! But it’s the fuzz lunacy that’s best on display here, from The Starlites’ ‘I Can’t See You’ and The Strange Fate’s ‘Hold Me Baby’ to ‘Cry With Me,’ an early scorcher from New Jersey’s Story Tellers, who featured future country rocker, the late Bill Chinnock and future Sprinsteen alum, the late Danny Federici. And the whole mindwarping experience wraps up with The Boy Blues’ ‘Coming Down To You,’ which grafts dazzling fuzz guitar from future Savage Resurrection-ist John Palmer onto the riff from ‘Batman’! (Jeff Penczak)





(CD from Psychic Circle)

Rumour has it that this, their 35th release, may be the last compilation that Nick Saloman assembles for Psychic Circle, as the parent company concentrates on their ongoing reissue series of similar material via the Past & Present imprint (see above for their latest). If that’s the case, Psychic Circle is certainly going out on a high note with this fifth volume in their Fairytales Can Come True series. Once again, Mr Saloman has curated an incredibly varied, international collection, subtitled ’20 Slices of British & European Pop Psych Confection.’  Sleepy kick things off with the raucous invitation to join them at ‘Mrs. Bailey’s Barbecue & Grill.’ If the Bonzos wrote ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ it might’ve sounded like this! Belgium’s Mec Op Singers include some groovy electronic sci-fi fx in the Yardbirdsy ‘Stop The machine’ and the backward guitar loop that opens The Rokes’ ‘Ride On’ is just one example of why these Harrow rockers became one of Italy’s top psych bands after relocating their in 1963. This one is the flip to their version of ‘Let’s Live For Today’ that Saloman freaks will recognise from his ‘Bevis Goes Italian’ EP! The Pattersons were one of Ireland (via Donegal)’s top folk outfits, but ‘I Can Fly’ finds them tripping out with a headswirling arrangement that makes one wish they’d frequented these waters more often. And dig that organ grinding mod stomper (‘Stay With Me’) from Belgium’s Dorian & The Mackensies!

            Stones completists will certainly dig The Love Affair’s faithful rendition of the mournful ‘She Smiled Sweetly,’ although I don’t know what they’ll make of Hamburg’s Rattles, whose double-sided, orchestrated prog epic, ‘Mister’ c/w ‘Keep Your Hands Off My Sister,’ shamelessly rip off ‘Satisfaction’! Holland’s Spacetrack gives us the comp’s heavy, prog-psych title track, and then there’s the elaborate-yet-poppy pocket symphony, ‘Continental Hesitation’ from the little known supergroup Rifkin. Their family tree would give Pete Frame nightmares, featuring as it does, ex-Cheynes vocalist, Ed Lynch (former member of The Ingoes with future Blossom Toes’ Brians, Godding and Belshaw), alongside a rhythm section featuring  bassist Dee Murray (Mirage, Plastic Penny, Elton John) and future Fairport drummer, Dave Mattacks. Whew! The track’s a right corker, with my favourite lyric: “So much hipper than the acid or STP/So much cooler than an English cuppa tea”!

Elsewhere, there’s psychotic guitar solos from Katch 22 (‘Baby Love’), Wishful Thinking (‘She Belongs To The Night’),  and the female (Ina Arnold)-fronted, Rotterdam rockers, Crown’s Clan, whose ‘No Place For Our Minds’ sounds like Hendrix jamming with Shocking Blue. World-renowned painter Marc Chagal’s son hides behind the pseudonym David McNeil for the incredible, navelgazing, Nick Drake soundalike, ‘My Love’ and I challenge anyone to keep a dry eye during Malcolm Holland’s ‘Dawning Of The Day,’ which sounds like Bowie fronting Procol Harum during his Anthony Newley period! Another in a long line of fine comps from Saloman and Psychic Circle that, taken together, form one of the finest overviews of rare British and European beat, prog, mod, soul, and psych from the ’60s and ’70s. Here’s hoping those rumours are laid to rest with the next release! (Jeff Penczak)




(CD EP on Noisestar  www.noisestar.co.uk )


More Hills (see White Hills, above), then but contrary to billing not as many riffs as you’d think. This may come as a surprise to anyone familiar with post-rockers Cove, as their front man DCW Briggs is in essence “HHR”, ably aided and abetted here by producer Alexander Tucker. And Mr Briggs delivers up the goods.


This 6 tracks EP features a fairly sparse arrangement comprising of guitars and effects, a haunting cello (courtesy of Tucker) and Briggs’ zombie-like vocal delivery which lends the CD its doom-folk tag. Bad-acid folk (the hyphen is all important here people, and in the right place) might be a better description, although it is folk music only in that it is largely restrained and semi-acoustic. In fact you sense that anyone capable of producing such a work ought to be manifestly incapable of finding their ear with their finger. This is actually a melding of shoegaze, acid-drenched psychedelia and, just beneath the surface, some proto-metal guitar workouts. The result is a most impressive and highly atmospheric slice of narcotic, semi-pastoral nod-out music. The proceedings are bookended by Parts 1 and 2 of the title track but these are but the bread in the sandwich, holding the more interesting bits in place. “Willow Woman”, “I Lay Eiderdown” and “Gybson Embryo” are all exquisite and trippy lo-fi little gems, whilst the scary-Syd Barrett sounding “You Are Strange to Me” builds up to a degree of menace on which guitar phasers are set to stun.


“The Countryside Has Escaped” is a thoroughly diverting 25 minute slice of left field introspection and one which I would recommend to anyone with a passing interest in the more lysergic- inspired end of the music spectrum. It is also the first of three EPs to be released by Briggs under The Hills Have Riffs banner and on this evidence the next two can’t come soon enough.


(Ian Fraser)



(CD on Kung Bomar Records www.jptscareband.com )


JPT are Jeff Littrell on drums, Paul Grigsby on bass/vocals and Terry Swope on guitar and vocals and hail from Kansas USA. Hell, on a good day with a brisk westerly and the windows open you’d be able to hear them all the way across the Big Pond from Kansas USA.


Their latest offering, “Rumdum Daddy”, is graced by 7 longish cuts clocking in at just under the hour mark and is essentially a showcase for Swope’s blistering guitar work. Opener “You Don’t Want to Know” is strongly reminiscent of the Outlaws in one of their less ‘yee-ha’ moments, perhaps because Swope’s vocals bring to mind not only Joe Walsh but the Outlaws’ more understated Billy Jones. Whatever, it’s a fine if comparatively restrained and in that sense atypical six and a half minutes. Still you get a whiff of the trademark finger work and the slightly convoluted, expectant Neil Young style song-endings. You hope you know what you’re going to get with song the title of “Rat Poison for the Soul” and thankfully the Scare Band don’t disappoint. This is the sort of classic rock that makes you wish you could still fit into the old 28 inch waist loons, still have the sort of TV advert hair to shake with abandon and a tennis racket to play in front of the wardrobe mirror (I don’t think this regression therapy is really such a good idea, do you?). But seriously folks, it’s a primo grade, A1 throwback James Gang-style classic with strains of Ian Gillan vocals in the chorus that cries out to be played as loud as a bomb on a pub juke box, in the car or wherever. Anthemic in the true sense of the word! The title track is up next, a notch or three down the pace and volume scale from the mighty “Rat…” but a very well crafted slice of melodic rock with another righteous, fuck-off solo in the middle (honestly you’d need to nail this guy’s fingers to the bedpost to stop him and then pray that he couldn’t play using his feet).


Next up is, for me, the only marginal disappointment here, an overblown 14 minute instrumental which sails a bit too close to the Sea of Wankfest on occasions. It all starts off well enough if a bit Dazed and Confused before going on to explore outer space (rock), but then after about 7 minutes begins to disappear up a dark and dangerous place for a bit before crawling its way back out again. Much like those trees and shrubs in my garden not killed off by the snow and frost this winter this would have benefited from some judicious pruning at some point.


“I’ve Been Waiting” is the last vocal track on the album, again that Gillan-watered-down-with-Walsh delivery, this time to Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf if you can imagine it with a decent chorus. And of course the slight refrain of some barely audible acoustic guitar (have you been paying attention thus far?). Definitely one of the album highlights, if slightly undermined by of all things a fade ending - where’s Neil when you need him? The last two tracks are both instrumentals, the brain-melting head-rush magnificence of “Bit Of A Minor Jam” and the Scare Band’s Highway Song, “Bookends Jam”, after which you could really do with a stiff drink, a lie down and, once you realise you’ve no hope of playing like Swope, a spade with which to bury your guitars.


Bring ‘em over here now! (Ian Fraser)


(Addendum: The JPT Scare Band are old friends of the Terrascope from way back. Theyhailed initially from Kansas City, living, as Jeff Littrell rather vividly told me, "in decaying splendor in the old mansion that was located on the wrong side of the racial dividing line, one of those magnificent old upscale neighborhoods that had long ago slipped into the urban wasteland then politely referred to as the 'Inner City.' Gunfire and the sounds and searchlights of the Police Helicopter searching for God knows whom 0or what punctuated every night." A privately pressed LP from 1994 on Monster Records entitled 'Acid Acetate Excursion' with a stencilled cover that rounded up tracks from the band's earliest (1974-76) period was my introduction, and it's an album which has remained somewhere amongst my ten favourite guitar RAWK!! records of all time ever since.


Great then to see that it's now been newly reissued on CD by Kung Bomar Records as 'Sleeping Sickness', which was originally the opening song on Side One of the LP ('Acid Acetate Excusion' was originally the comparatively short, seven minute, filler track on side 1). The urgent, menacing and utterly brilliant 'King Rat', which predates Wipers by some years and in some ways out-Gregs the legendary Mr. Sage at his own game, forms the centrepiece of what was Side 2, and there's some lengthy guitar jams to pad the collection out to CD length. Trust me, you NEED this! Not sure who's stocking this stuff over here, so drop a line to the band at jptsb{at}jptscareband.com and I'm sure they'll gladlysort you out (Phil McMullen)





(Rune Grammofon)

            Norway’s finest power trio (and double Terrastock veterans) return with a half-dozen skullcrushers, including progy, meandering guitar explorations (‘Starhammer’), some jazzy, soulful jamming featuring Mathias Eick’s serpentine trumpet fills (‘X-3 (Knuckleheads In Space)’), thunderous, Sabbathian guitar wankoffs (‘W.B.A.T.’), freeform psychedelic freakouts with soaring, CSNY-meets-Yes harmonies (‘The Bombproof Roll and Beyond’), and even a tender ballad (‘Close Your Eyes’).


            But none of the foregoing fully prepares you for the hellbent-for-leather, supersonic maelstrom that is the sidelong, four-part, 20-minute mindfuck, ‘Gullible’s Travails.’ The highlight of their 20-year career, it features elements of everything that’s preceded it (a little pop, some melodic rock, gorgeous harmonies, etc.) and is one of the finest sides in their two-dozen-plus discography. Mellower than a lot of their earlier recordings, each part builds on the preceding riff towards its headshattering conclusion, but along the way there are brilliant fragments of guitar tomfoolery, Moog and mellotron chicanery (kudos to Kåre Chr Vestrheim), and toetapping, headnodding Bachanallian outbursts to satisfy all corners of their vast cultdom of fans. (Jeff Penczak)



(CDs from  Sunbeam)

The second album from these South London teenagers was actually the soundtrack to a 50-minute underground film that had one of its few (only?) airings at the 1969 Edinburgh Film Festival. Two years on, producer Vic Keary formed his own label (Mushroom) to release it – in two versions, no less: the first 1000 (featuring a different opening track, ‘Funeral,’  that saw the band backing Paul Greedus on a demo recorded at the same studio and which is included as a bonus track on this reissue) sold out and 2000 more were quickly printed with the title track tacked on instead. No matter, as neither version sold. The reason may be the strange noises lurking within – part progressive exploration, part Mothers-inspired lunacy, the lads can play but their arrangements are so difficult and scattershot that it’s nigh impossible for the listener to get his head around what’s happening. ‘Hanging On An Eyelid’ combines an Easy Listening groove with jazzy, Steely Dan-ish whimsy and an exciting vibes solo from composer/keyboardist Ken Elliott, but the nonsensical lyrics to tracks like ‘Lucifer And The Egg’ (and Rob Elliott’s strangulated, frankly quite horrible vocals) alienate anyone not willing to look past the surface into the storming musical backdrop, all driven by Ken’s occasional jawdropping dexterity behind the organ.  With better tunes and a vocalist, these guys could’ve been up there with EL&P or Yes. Maybe the visuals would’ve helped, but this unfortunately comes off as experimental for its own sake and parts of it remind me of David Vorhaus/White Noise’s Electric Storm album, early Soft Machine or Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, which was released the year this was originally recorded. Of the bonus tracks, ‘Baby RU Anudder Monster?’ sounds like a demented Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show outtake, but it does appear that the lads are having fun.

            Following its release, the band decided to supplement the lineup with a guitarist (original guitarist Bob Gibbons from the debut quit due to the strain of being a musician on the road and personal issues back home that sadly led to his suicide in 1977), so they held auditions at the studio, which engineer Mike Craig recorded. One of Keary’s French distributors informed him he could make a killing if he could fabricate a band and just release their jam sessions. Recognising an opportunity, Keary cobbled together the tapes of soon-to-be guitarist Tony McGill’s audition, gave it a title (‘Brain Strain’), had the boys pad the material with improvisational noises (including the double-tracked sounds of drummer Kieran O’Connor sleeping), and with a made-up name and band pseudonyms, voila! - an album was born.

            Introduced by a bunch of nutters from a local medical school doing their best Monty Python impressions, side one  consists of 22 minutes from that audition tape (the aforementioned ‘Brain Strain’) and side two consists of more aural masturbation with titles like ‘Too Many Bananas’ (an O’Connor drum solo) and ‘Yes! We Have No Pajamas’ (actually a pretty intense organ-based jam), and, er, well, if you dug anarchic Krautmaniacs Amon Düül (I and II) or their Scandinavian brethren in Baby Grandmothers or Pärson Sound,   or dug Sunbeam’s rehearsal tapes of Paul Kossoff (Paul’s Blues), then this might light a fire in your heart. The bonus track ‘Celebration’ is archetypal Yes and ELP and might’ve lifted the album into the spotlight if it had been included.


            As expected, the stuff ‘n’ nonsense of Chillum met with shrugs and silence from the none-too-amused public and the band(s) dissolved the following year. (Jeff Penczak)




            These “20 Treasures From The Heyday Of Underground Folk” (as this set  is subtitled) is Sunbeam’s first compilation and a closer examination reveals that it is comprised solely of selections from some of the label’s previous releases, so it can also be enjoyed as a sampler/introduction to one of our finest reissue labels. From the fuzzy folk of Fresh Maggots’ ‘Dole Song’ to Wizz Jones’ gently rolling bit of minstral whimsy ‘Turtle Dove’ (from his rare Lazy Farmer project – solo Wizz from The Legenday Me is also included for comparison) to Moonkyte’s  psychedelic headswirling sitar-drenched ‘Way Out Hermit,’ the album contains some of the rarest and finest folk music you’ve never heard. All corners of that glorious spectrum are covered, including banjo-driven toetappers from Lazy Farmer, Clive Palmer’s post-Incredible String Band project, COB (‘Summer’s Night’), and little known Jaki Whitren (whose album was recorded with various members of Fotheringay and Matthews Southern Comfort), traditional efforts like the angelic, lilting soprano of Edinburgh’s Mary-Anne Paterson (‘The Water Is Wide’), and dreamy, Donovanesque floaters from Montreal’s Roger Rodier (‘My Spirit’s Calling’), Mark Fry (‘Song for Wilde’ from his classic Dreaming With Alice), and Gordon Jackson (whose ‘My Ship, My Star’ boasted backing from members of Traffic, Blossom Toes, and Family). Toss in “the Welsh Bob Dylan,” Meic Stevens, more headswirling sitars from  Norway (Oriental Sunshine), stoner country rock from  Scottish experimentalist G.F. Fitz-Gerald (‘Country Mouse’), and soft female harmonics courtesy Justine – a band, not a person – and New Yorkers, Lily & Maria and you’re in for one of the year’s finest treats. It’s amazing how much great music fell through the cracks, but thanks to Sunbeam, you can discover it anew. And while a companion “sampler” spotlighting  the heavier, rock sounds of Sunbeam’s catalogue would also be welcome, this is highly recommended to fans of wyrdfolk in general and Kissing Spell’s similar label samplers of rare folk in particular. (Jeff Penczak)



[Book from Jawbone)


Shapiro’s definitive, authorised biography traces the life of this fiery, egotistical Glaswegian from his birth to card-carrying Communists (who instilled a left-wing political stance that’s stuck with him throughout his life) to the much-heralded Cream reunion in 2005, leaving no stone unturned in the process. From the beginning, he inherited his controlling behaviour from his mum that led to his perfectionism that drives his work to this day. By the time he was 18, he had mastered the bass and was earning more than his dad and was playing in a band on a US Air Force base in Italy. A drunken accident sent him back home after he nearly burned his arm off! There, a chance meeting/sit-in with Dick Heckstall-Smith and Ginger Baker in Manchester, 1962 led to his gig in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and a lifelong a love-hate relationship with Baker. Shapiro masterfully paints the scene at the Ealing Club where we hang around with the likes of Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Erics Burden and Clapton, not to mention Long John Baldry and Graham Bond, whose Organisation led to his first extended gig and earliest recordings.

            The formative years with Korner, Bond, and Baker are detailed with amusing anecdotes, like the time Alexis, “the world’s scariest driver,” fell asleep at the wheel, nearly killing Jack and Ginger, or the time John McLaughlin, during his brief stint in the GBO in April, 1963 got so stoned at a gig at the Leofric Hotel in Coventry that he fell off the stage in a catatonic fit! We also learn that Ginger actually fired Jack from GBO, after which he jumped into John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for a dozen gigs or so following John McVie’s sacking for drinking. It was here he enjoyed his first time on stage with Clapton, although he would soon quit for a more lucrative gig as Manfred Mann’s bassist before eventually forming Cream. We also learn the importance that the Bee Gees had in Jack’s career, both in Cream’s signing to Atlantic and his future dealings with Robert Stigwood.

            The book’s a virtual encyclopaedia of information, gruesomely detailing the heroin addictions that threatened the careers and lives of Jack and so many of the musicians, producers, and engineers he played with, including both of the superstar trios and a world famous producer. In fact, Jack once saved Baker’s life after he OD’d following a Top of The Pops taping in 1967. While the book thankfully does not focus on the Cream years, which are nevertheless adequately covered, there are a few tidbits that fans may enjoy, such as the reason they didn’t play at Monterey, their fateful meeting with Hendrix where he sat in at a Cream concert, and the stories behind all the classics, from ‘I Feel Free’ and ‘White Room,’ to ‘Strange Brew’ and ‘Sunshine of Your Love.’ We’ll even discover the source of the album title Disraeli Gears and learn that the lads were stoned on LSD when the cover was shot over in Scotland! Shapiro’s detailed account of the band’s horrendous touring schedule in the US gives great insight into life on the road, including the gig in Boston on the night after Martin Luther King died (while James Brown was playing his infamous gig across town), the time they played in Detroit on the night of the race riots, and their run-ins in Chicago with Mayor Daley’s police mob. You’ll even learn “the weirdest gig Jack ever played”!

            Shapiro clearly unravels the internecine trail of Jack’s musical collaborations through all his post-Cream projects, including the offers to join Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills, and Nash that he turned down. Then there’s the synergistic writing relationship with Pete Brown, the importance of jazz to his playing and composing skills, as well as the reason he delayed his solo debut (and the mysterious surprise guest who sat in, along with the famous session guitarist who got his start on 1969’s Songs for A Tailor; we also learn the inspiration behind the title). In fact, Shapiro also unearths the meanings or inspirations behind almost all the songs and album titles throughout Jack’s career.

            We also cringe at the details behind the drug-induced disaster that was West, Bruce & Laing, that led to Jacks’ downward spiral into a 15-year drug haze. This chapter on Jack’s drug problems also helpfully puts the contemporary British and US drug scene into perspective, while also explaining how heroin hijacked the Out of the Storm recording sessions. His description of how they were rescued will have you scurrying back for a relisten. And the sordid tale behind ‘Madhouse’ (from 1976’s How’s Tricks) is one of the most bizarre and frightening in Jack’s life and almost worth the price of admission. Even the story of Jack’s legal hassles with RSO (Robert Stigwood Organisation) that nearly led to his suicide are handled with sensitivity, honesty, and explanatory information that makes one wonder why anyone would want to make a career out of music!

            Finally, we share Jack’s devastation over the death of his eldest son, Jo, which “drove him to the brink of insanity,” resulting in his abandonment of music for two years, and the frightening news about his cirrhosis of the liver which led to a life-saving liver transplant (during which he was conscious throughout in a state of “anaesthesia awareness”!) The much-heralded reunion is also explained in detail, including the reasons why they did it, the differences between the UK and US gigs, and why it will never happen again. There’s even an Appendix for gearheads that details all of Jack’s basses and equipment and his reasons for using each.

            So, yes, the book is certainly excruciatingly detailed, but it’s not all muckraking, gossip-mongering drivel. Shapiro took the time to track down the important players in Jack’s life, including the most important person of all, Jack Bruce himself. And with Bob Elliott’s extremely detailed and authoritative 30 page disc/gig-ography, one need look no further to discover the true account of one of the world’s best (and best-loved) bassists. A classic job well done and one of the best rock bios you’ll ever read. (Jeff Penczak)




This Turkish hard rock/progressive band had their roots in Erkin Koray’s garage band, Yeralti Dörtlüsü (Underground 4), and released two LPs (sung in their native tongue) on the Öncü label in the early 80s, of which this (roughly translated as How? When?) was their debut.  Opener ‘Bir Yagmur Masali’ sets the stage for their guitar-based rock, courtesy songwriter/singer/guitarist ?ükrü Yüksel. Guest keyboardist Özkan Turgay is the other ace in the hole, with his dreamy synth fills adding a light touch to the proceedings, particularlay on tracks like the gentle ‘Unuttum’ and the playful, ear-friendly ‘Sen Gittin Diye’, which surely was destined for radio airplay.

The title track boasts some dreamy guitar passages woven around Turgay’s sinewy synth fills, while ‘Zor’ and closer ‘Gece Vakti’ may be the album’s best tracks, with each boasting swaying, countryish grooves with excellent vocals and guitarwork. The band released a second album in 1982 before disbanding and heading abroad. Several members reunited in the late ’90s/early ’00s, but drummer Sedat Avci sadly passed about five years ago. Recommended to fans of Turkish rock – an interesting bridge between Eastern and Western styles, with, dreamy passages of progressive rock bolstered by emotional vocals and excellent guitar and synth solos. The booklet also features numerous period photos and Turkish newspaper articles, which suggest the band were popular in their day. (Jeff Penczak)






This South African quartet shared drummers with fellow Durban act The Third Eye (he used to rush off to his Third Eye gig after the Abstract Truth’s 5-7 cocktail hour gig!) Abstract Truth’s debut was one of two albums they released in 1970 (this one on EMI’s South African subsidiary, Uptight), and is comprised mostly of covers of Donovan, Dylan, and Gershwin (!) tunes. As such, it’s a laidback combination of folk and jazz, highlighted by the stellar flute work of Sean Bergin. ‘Jersey Thursday’ (also released as a single) starts things off in a mellow groove that is only enhanced by the dreamy, jazzy take of the Herbie Mann instrumental ‘Coming Home Babe’, while Dylan’s ‘Oxford Town’ is nowhere near as vitriolic as the original. (And, considering the segregated society into which it was released, it’s a wonder the state didn’t ban it – probably didn’t know what it was about!)

            Jefferson Airplane fans will dig the similar arrangement the band offers of Donovan’s ‘Fat Angel’, although Bergin’s sax and Ken E. Henson’s searing guitar solo stretches it into another realm, aided by the segue into Cannonball Adderly’s ‘Work Song’. Mose Allison’s jaunty ‘Parchman Farm’ makes strange bedfellows with Mingus’ ‘Moaning’, but lifts the mood above the purple haze and the band fall back into the heavy-lidded nod with Gershwin’s ‘Ain’t Necessarily So’ and Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ (a jawdropping sax/guitar duet) before achieving nirvana on the album’s lone original composition, the Eastern-flavoured, sitar-drenched title track, ‘Total Totum (Acid Raga)’.

            Heady, dreamy, with a touch of jazz, prog, and wyrdfolky, acid psych, this may be one of the finest recordings ever  come out of South Africa and belongs in everyone’s collection.

            The second album this South African quartet released in 1970 came out on Parlophone and eschews the focus on cover tunes for nine self-penned tracks. The band’s revolving line-up at the time also brought two new members into the studio (drummer Robbie Pavid left to concentrate on his work with The Third Eye full time). Both newbies are credited with flute, thus adding a lighter touch to the album. Mainstays Henson and Bergin ensure the album retains its dreamy, flowing qualities (although two-thirds of the tracks were penned by newcomers Peter Measroch and George Wolfaardt), with guitar and sax interweaving seamlessly with intricate keyboards and lovely, omnipresent flute.

            While ‘Original Man’ certainly has a Jethro Tull vibe about it, the title track has more of a jazzy, avant garde groove running through its lengthy 8½ minutes, giving the members a chance to stretch out and show off their chops, via extended guitar, organ, bass, flute, and sax solos. The instrumental ‘In A Space’ boasts more fancy fretwork from Henson, while his mates chug along behind him with a head nodding, jazzy counterpoint. Measroch’s harpsichord adds a baroque, English country garden aroma, and ‘Blue Wednesday Speaks’ is another jazzy headswirler. Overall, more jazz than wistful folk, but recommended nonetheless. (Jeff Penczak)