= June 2022 =  
Kimberley Rew & Lee Cave Berry
Dope Purple
Wes Buckley
Rose City Band
Will Beeley
Weathers & Pedigo
Taras Bulba
Hot Tuna
Alex Rex
(LP from Bandcamp  and Feeding Tube Records)

When exploratory Philly-busters Kohoutek played Terrascope’s Woolf II gathering a couple of years ago, the strictures of festival time slots meant that they were allotted a meagre 40-ish minutes. Something of an imposition on our part, possibly, as they are known for their Dead-like marathons where you go in fresh faced and come out with full beard (I shudder to think what the effect on men might be). Jurad, amazingly only their fourth vinyl LP release, clocks in at around that time - ok so it’s not the Woolf set, but in its absence this studio concoction of mostly improvised material will do very nicely indeed, thank you.

Here be three very different, occasionally challenging and thoroughly rewarding cuts. ‘Tidal Disruption’ is the side-long glance that coughs and splutters to a midpoint where it eases into a blissful state somewhere in the same galaxy as ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ or other post-Barrett/pre-preposterous Floydian state of grace, a rasping synth playing below and around the delightful central motif, preventing it from sounding too lacquered.  Flip side duties are shared by ‘Cosmic Grease’ and ‘Double Star, the former belches out sparks of Morse code guitar, before spitting into abundant life, gradually underpinned by a steady, rhythmic combustion which reduces the greasy trucking to a concentrated cosmic jam. But really, has there ever been a more oblique ending? Either these guys were unerringly on cue or cruelly cut off in their prime, as god knows where this might have led. The longer ‘Double Star’ is way less astringent, pitched somewhere between Eternal Tapestry at their most fluid, and an ethereal, mid ‘70s Popol Vuh, making it a cerebral and celestial treat for these ears and, I’m willing to bet, yours. So treat yourselves.

(Ian Fraser)




KL Recordings KL016 CD)

As my good mate Mr Saward just observed, ‘life always seems so much better with a new Rew CD on the player’.

He’s bang on the button there! I’m sure there isn’t a Terrascope reader who isn’t familiar with at least some of Kimberley’s back catalogue and if you haven’t heard the wonderful early 00s triptych of albums, Tunnel into Summer, Grand Central Revisited and Essex Hideaway, what are you waiting for? Go online and buy ‘em immediately - three of the most gloriously English as tuppence recordings of the new century!

Hot on the heels of last year’s best of compilation, Sunshine Walkers comes Purple Kittens. In cahoots with his long-time musical partner and wife, bassist/singer Lee Cave Berry, this is Kim’s 16th album release over the past two decades. Blimey!

The new waxing kicks off with a vintage Rew ditty, ‘Penny the Ragman’ – an eloquent ode that draws on that rich Village Green Preservation Society tradition, Ray Davies & co left behind them years ago. As the great man comments: ‘My late cousin Penny, was a ragman – the person who looks after the uniforms for a side of Morris dancers. After Penny’s funeral, everyone went back to the pub in her village. We asked permission to sit at the only remaining spaces at a big table; the chat soon revealed we had landed among the Women’s Institute – Penny was a mainstay, and she’d also written and staged a play in the village. This was the engine room of English social life. The lyrics wrote themselves’.

Long-time followers will immediately light upon track 4. I’ll hold my hand up here and say along with ‘Rock and Roll Toilet, ‘Kingdom of Love’ has always ranked as one of my least favourite Soft Boys tunes. A live set perennial, usually included when it coincides with a Soft Boys’ anniversary, Kim and Lee don’t exactly improve on the original but their take does fit seamlessly in with the other songs on offer here. And its refrain remains as irritatingly catchy as it did back in 1980 – it’ll have you whistling and singing along in no time!

One tune that has immediately wormed its way into my heart is the Rew’s upbeat, tongue-in-cheek ‘Growing Up Song’, a captivating great grandchild of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Younger Generation’ but with melody that might put you in mind of one of Cat Stevens’s 1970 Island releases and with a social message t’boot. Lovely stuff.

Not to be outdone by her prolific husband, Lee chips in with a couple of her own equally fine compositions, the highly humorous ‘Unsatisfactory Cats’ about unpredictable feline pets, and better still the sultry, sassy ‘I Can Be Any Woman’, apparently inspired by a pilot episode (‘The Cage’) of the first series of Star Trek, in which the leading lady, Vina is presented in various guises by an alien race to entice Captain Pike.

The lyrics throughout the album are as sharp and intelligent as you might expect from this master songwriter, the 12 tracks chock full of unexpected changes and twists and Kimberley’s guitar playing is as potent and exciting as on previous outings. As his old boss observed when talking about the Soft Boys’ sophomore set, ‘Kimberley sounds like Jimi Hendrix in sulphuric acid. He could get sustain out of a cricket bat’.

To use an old cliché, the pair exude good vibrations and this latest outing is just the tonic, a perfect pick-me-up for the times we live in. To paraphrase the title of one of the tunes they sing here, you can always rely on Kim and Lee!

(Nigel Cross)


DOPE PURPLE – GRATEFUL END (LP on Riot Season Records)

Anyone who knows me will tell you I like a good play on words and for that reason alone a band called Dope Purple will always grab my attention. Thankfully the band are more than just a name and ‘Grateful End’ is both a fine listening experience and a long way from simply being shades of Deep Purple. The album itself is essentially a remastered version of a very limited CD and cassette release from 2019 and the music generated by this quintet fits happily into the space inhabited by the likes of Acid Mothers Temple, Hibushibire and Mainliner but also nods respectfully at times to the more extreme noise generated by more freeform bands such as Hijokaidan.

The themes contained in this record are very much of a dark night of the soul nature, questioning what comes next and when things will end, very much on the mind of many living through the pandemic but contained in a record that was put together beforehand. Philosophical thoughts aside ‘My Evilness’ is a mix of the savage and serene, beginning as a sparse melancholic instrumental where deep cosmic vibes, deconstructed spaghetti western melodies and lonesome unearthly wails create a dark, introspective but not foreboding canvas from which elegant flights of melodic bliss and screaming distortion emerge wrapped around ever more intense and agonised voices akin to Munch’s ‘The Scream’ coming to life in music. ‘Cosmic Rock Is Not Dead’ is of course very good news and follows more of a traditional spacey psychedelic rock trajectory with pounding, insistent drums, intense and deep Eastern tinged riffs and a violent blizzard of heavily distorted guitar wailing, teetering on the edge of chaos, which gathers into a high octane rush as it gathers its stormy energy into a final ear splitting surge. ‘The Last Day of Humanity/Good Night & Good Death’ is a cheery little title and here things come down from the brutality of the previous track into a kind of blissful cosmic exotica which is part Albatross and part Kosmiche wanderings. The echo laden vocals that start to puncture the mood add a disturbing edge to the atmosphere and act as a break point after which the guitars become more frazzled with a little paint stripper added to the screaming flurry of space bound notes and the general intensity once more ratchets up several notches where guitars scream, riffs become hard and dense and the drummer puts the pedal to the floor, burning rubber. It almost comes off the road into a free jamming mess at times but thrillingly keeps things pointing at the stars. After this epic trip, ‘New Man’ concludes with an escape of the band’s inner Stooges and early heavy psych Japanese underground influences where aggressive garage punk energy and wild vocals deliver a satisfyingly metallic and generally unhinged KO indeed.

This is a great record full of breathtaking energy and noisy thrills but also some inventive and mellow pleasures. As Deep Purple might say, come taste the band.

(Francis Comyn)





(LP/CD/Blu-Ray on Giant Rock Records (US) and Heavy Psych Sounds (Europe))


Among the interesting attributes of pandemic recordings, music scholars will one day no doubt write about 2020-2021’s mass of simple, lo-fi bedroom recordings; zen-like ambience in the cause of wellness; and cobbled together band pieces from disparate locations.  However, another interesting sub-genre that is picking up steam is the live desert album.  Inspired by Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii, the concept is (deceptively) simple:  a loud, hairy band congregates in a desert scene in the middle of nowhere, plugs into generators, cranks it to 11, and lets fly.  Following the 2020 success of Yawning Man’s ‘Live at Giant Rock,’ the California Desert Wizards Association took note and offered up an ambitious project, the Live in the Mojave Desert series.  The collection features sets by five bands – Nebula, Spirit Mother, Mountain Tamer, Stöner (a new group featuring Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri of Kyuss), and Earthless.  All performances are/were live-streamed, and planned for release on LP, CD and Blu-Ray.  (As a footnote, Levitation has been putting out their own brand with the Levitation Sessions series; while not performed in the desert, their live performances by the likes of Osees and Ty Segall are an excellent cousin of the genre.)


First out of the gate is this thrilling set from the mighty San Diego psychedelic juggernaut Earthless.  You can instantly tell that for Isaiah Mitchell (guitar), Mike Eginton (bass), and Mario Rubalcaba (drums), this ain’t their first rodeo (been around for 20 years, actually).  Their professionalism is impeccable.  Three extended cuts originating from their first three studio albums will melt the paint off your car.  “Violence of the Red Sea” starts off with a deceiving mellow warm-up, before Earthless launches you into another galaxy for the next æon.


Mike Eginton and Mario Rubalcaba on rhythm are about as solid bedrock as the Flintstones for Earthless’s flights of fancy.  And Isaiah Mitchell is in a category all his own as a guitarist.  More on him in a minute.  The Blu-Ray disk hasn’t been released yet as of this writing, but the teaser available on youtube from second track “Sonic Prayer” looks like the Blu-Ray is essential.  Filmed at night, the phenomenal backdrop by the Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show projects imagery, morphing and changing continuously, something like a tropical reef on the rocks behind the band.  Isaiah Mitchell, blasting away impossible riffs in the nighttime desert breeze with a gold Les Paul, is the very image of epic badassery.


I’m reminded of a quote a few years ago by a town’s Top 40 pop tunes reviewer somehow dispatched to cover a festival performance by, I believe, Earthless, who, suffering from a state of shock and clearly out of his zone, said, and I paraphrase, “they take out all the verses, choruses and bridges from the song and leave nothing but the guitar solos – you can’t do that!  Well, do that they do, and it’s just fine, thank you.  Actually, some of Earthless’s more recent records have vocals by Mitchell, but for this performance they dispensed with the microphones and just let ‘er rip.


Epic 39-minute closer (yes, 39-minutes) “Lost in the Cold Sun” continues the onslaught from Mitchell and Co.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you a cliché like you don’t notice the time going by.  But Earthless packs some variation by a front and back-end that’s a bit more meditative, together with some eastern tonalities.  The concluding section slows things down (maybe Mitchell’s fingers said “enough!”) for the return to terra firma.


Interestingly, Mitchell told Distorted Sound there were logistical challenges, such as the fact that there’s no cell phone coverage out there, and the band had to get there via GPS coordinates.  Also, they had to wrap up by 10 pm due to a sound curfew!  Finally, it got so chilly at night in the desert, Mitchell said he was fighting to get his hands do what he wanted.  Interesting, because you don’t hear any difficulties in his playing, not even close.


It'll be interesting to hear (and see) the other volumes in the series.  But what a kick-off by Earthless!  Brilliant.


(Mark Feingold)



(Belltower/Half A Million Records  Limited vinyl/DL)

This is the debut album by Wes Buckley, a singer-songwriter from western Massachusetts. Wes backs himself on these songs playing acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, occasional fiddle and in one instance saxophone, but mostly they are presented in an unadorned and fairly stark manner, which makes his lyrics standout. Wes has also previously released a split single with fellow quirky singer- songwriter Michael Hurley, with whom he would appear to share a similar world view.

The album opens up with ‘Sleeping Like A Deer’, which immediately highlights his primitive American style of acoustic guitar playing and sounds not unlike the type of stuff put out in the 70’s by labels such as Flying Fish. He follows this with ‘The Sacred Way’ a sort of nature inspired spiritual, which again highlights his prowess on the acoustic guitar; it has a touch of slide and a few licks of fiddle. After a few listens through I would probably pick ‘Going Up In Smoke’ as my favourite, embellished with some fine baritone, electric guitar, curling around his lyrics like smoke trails. ‘This/That’, even has a bit of electric lead guitar and a few stabs of organ underpinning its delicate structure. ‘People Like Energy’, shows off Wes’s quirky style of song writing to fine effect. Side A ends with ‘The Big Show’, a soft, slow song in waltz time.

Side B opens with ‘Time In the World’ a cool, bluesy song about the passing of time. He follows this with ‘I was Going To Leave The House Today’, which he decorates with mandolin, it’s a gently humorous song on which he lists various reasons not too, after all love is just a click away! It is the ultimate protagonist’s song and another favourite. ‘We Take Our Share’, presents a slightly fuller sound, with double tracked vocals and electric guitar stabs, here’s a sample of its lyrics “Complaints upon a stone twirling in the void, might as well be praying for the big asteroid”. Shaker and Weissenborn slide guitar adorn ‘Out Below The Field’, which is almost instrumental just a few wordless vocals. ‘Antimatters’, shimmers and glistens and appears to be about truth. The album ends with ‘Down On The Ground’, a playful song which sees Wes dusting off his little green canoe for a trip down the river. 

(Andrew Young)




(All formats from https://www.thrilljockey.com/)

Ripley Johnson is something of a talismanic poster boy for us grey beards. Aside from wearing the look so well, as the founder and front man of new psych pioneers, Wooden Shjips; the more commercially astute Moon Duo and now the down home, semi-acoustic Rose City Band he demonstrates such deft shapeshifting that even our present government might marvel at his audacity.

Essentially a home-recorded solo effort, Rose City Band is Johnson’s Grateful Dead/Byrds statement of stripping back the pine and getting it together in the country. However the talented Mr Ripley is very much a Head of his time, despite his obvious influences. While ‘Silver Roses’ sounds, superficially at least, like it could be about a certain town in North Ontario with no doubt unwitting nods to ‘Green Lights’ by the Edgar Broughton Band, it’s all interpreted with a modern twist that may put The Listener in mind of Kurt Vile. That’s all good to these ears and a charmingly understated album introduction, complete with what proves to be a trademark sound of deliciously languid pedal steel guitar.

Moving up half a gear, ‘In The Rain’ chucks in hints of plaintive harmonica and some undeniably pleasant guitar melodies. If it seems rather overlong at over 7 minutes it’s probably due to a lack of variation in tone and tempo, but for pop songs that skip along pleasantly, dial ‘World Is Turning’. It’s the sort of mid tempo summer tune that has you tapping the roof of the car while hopefully still gripping the steering wheel with the other, the tinkling keys add to the list of aural ingredients. ‘Ramblin With The Day’ has that bumpkin-cousin look of, yes, ‘Ramblin’ Man’, and while it moves along at an impressive Radio FM crowd pleasing clip, does nothin’ for my growin’ aversion to g-droppin’ song titles (in fact, I blame Whitesnake more than our American cousins. There, international incident averted).

The agreeably soporific ‘Feel Of Love’ is an absolute belter and one of a clutch of airy-sounding numbers here, including ‘Rabbit’ and the afore-checked opener, ‘Silver Roses’ that lifts Earth Trip safely clear of the so-so soup of soft-rock/alt-country-by-numbers.  Best of this not-so wild bunch, though is the transcendental, oh-so lightly psychedelic ‘Dream Patrol’, with stunning guitar work straight out of Laurel Canyon back in the day, and for all the world the best David Crosby track not to have made it onto Deja Vu or, for that matter, anywhere else. At over 9 minutes there is no danger of this one outstaying its welcome. Au contraire, it’s to die for, but not before you’ve filled yer boots, not to mention ears, with heavy rotation. If you listen to just one song this month, then make it this one

Conversely, should there be but one nagging feature then it is Johnson’s voice, which is a little lacking in character and sounds a trifle thin and exposed when carrying a whole album of material largely unadorned with studio trickery. Otherwise, this takes me back to my lad-rover discovery years when I cut my teeth on all manner of cosmic country rock creations, some essential, others forgettable and so doubtless forgotten. Earth Trip inhabits a wide-open prairie somewhere twixt the twain and which makes for intriguing and worthwhile exploration. Happy trails, indeed.

Ian Fraser


(Tompkins Square Records)


Tompkins Square has unearthed another real find with Will Beeley’s previously unheard ‘1970 Sessions.’  You can be forgiven if Beeley’s name doesn’t ring a bell.  He was a Texas troubadour in the orbit of Townes Van Zandt, Michael Murphey, Guy Clark and company.  His songs are insightful, tender and observant of the world around him, his voice warm and gentle, and his guitar picking accomplished, but not flamboyant.


His 1971 debut, ‘Gallivantin’ was put out by a private press label in only 200 copies.  Recorded in San Antonio, it was a glimmer of an embryonic Texas music scene that would one day catch fire.  He was picked up by the small Malaco label, which would eventually issue his second album, the more accomplished and well-appointed ‘Passing Dream’ in 1979.  But they were predominantly an R&B label and on the whole were hesitant to put out his recordings, preferring to use him as a songwriter, for which they unfortunately didn’t land his songs anywhere.  When Passing Dream didn’t set the world afire, Beeley did some hard soul-searching, and after stints at a small club and owning a record store, he finally hung up his guitar and traded his picks for the keys to a long-haul trucking job.  With his wife by his side, he’s spent the past several years hauling cryogenics – not things like Walt Disney’s body, but liquid nitrogen, liquid helium, natural gas and oxygen.  After finally finding a job that’s satisfying to him and pays the bills, he plans to retire very soon.


Tompkins Square owner Josh Rosenthal reached out to Beeley and re-released his two albums in 2018.  The reception was warm, and the label convinced him to go back into the studio to record a new album, which he gladly did, ‘Highways and Heart Attacks,’ released in 2019.  That, too, was well received.  Which brings us to this release, which returns us full circle almost all the way back to the beginning.


‘1970 Sessions’ wasn’t really an album, more a collection of demos intended to entice record labels (he eventually signed with Malaco, mentioned above).  But it has very much the professionalism of an album, sounding almost complete in its production, and more importantly, delightful songs.  Written and recorded mere months before the singer-songwriter big bang was about to combust, it slots in very well with the works of Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, and Carole King of the day – not the platinum sellers, but the stripped-down ones that came just before, like Mona Bone Jakon, etc.  It’s just Beeley on vocals and guitar, accompanied by Richard Silen on second guitar, occasional harmony vocals and harmonica.  The audio setup is simple – Beeley in one channel and Silen in the other, which is very noticeable in headphones.


His songs are direct, no-nonsense, and mostly autobiographical.  Beeley sings of love, found and lost, as on “Maybe It Happened for the Best.”  On “A Highway’s Not a Home,” co-written with Silen, he sings of wanderlust and life on the road as an escape from being stuck in poverty and a life going nowhere.  (This is ironic considering his ultimate full-time gig as a long-haul trucker).   “Singer of Songs” is self-explanatory.  “Passing Dream” would finally find release nine years later as the title track of his second album.  It’s a song laden with wisdom, and Beeley and Siren combine their guitars beautifully.  Melodically, it reminds me vaguely of fellow Texan Michael Nesmith’s sublime, underrated “While I Cry” from the year before’s ‘Instant Replay’ Monkees album.


There are a couple of songs not written or co-written by Beeley.  Jimmy Driftwood’s “What is the Color of the Soul of a Man” is a plea for racial understanding, that we’re all the same underneath.  “No Song That I Could Ever Sing” is written and sung by Richard Silen, which is a bit confounding on a demo record meant to nab Beeley a recording contract.  But that said, it’s actually a delightful love song.  I wonder what became of Silen.


“Open Your Window” and closer “Verse One” are Dylan-influenced, which was inescapable with this generation’s crop of songwriters.  The upbeat “Won’t You Come Again” is the most country-influenced on the album.


Beeley, who looks very Neil Youngian on the cover, has hinted there might be more on the shelf, from some 1973 sessions he feels went well.  Hopefully they’ll see daylight soon for this man whose music deserved far better success than it initially garnered.


(Mark Feingold)


(CD, Digital on Debacle Records)


Here’s a real under-the-radar album by two fine, intrepid musicians from the Lone Star State.  The album is a brief, 35-minute delight of instrumental music of the many type stringed variety.  Both Andrew Weathers and Hayden Pedigo are multi-instrumentalists, specializing in acoustic and electric guitar, but adding banjo, synthesizers, and in Pedigo’s case, piano.


It reminds me of several other wonderful artists, including Lake Mary & The Ranch Family Band (Chaz Prymek), who we really like around here.  The best tracks on the album, such as the first two, “High Tide on the Land Ocean” and “Dry Country Ramble,” are all aswirl in chiming guitar strings, pedal steel, and atmospheric synths.  The more instruments the two slather on, the greater the beauty.  They put the tone in the glistening summer haze dancing on a now verdant, pastoral scene.


Final track “Windham Hill Summer Bangers” is aptly named.  I’ll grant you there is a bit of Windham Hill here, but I’ll give Weathers & Pedigo even more credit.  I think they go beyond the sometimes dry scope of Windham Hill and fill their album’s music with more hues and textures.


The past year or so has seen so many exceptional releases of ambient music emblazoned with pedal steel either as its defining instrument or as the special sauce on top of the acoustic guitars, by such artists as North Americans, Luke Schneider, and Nashville Ambient Ensemble to name a few, and I put this album up there with any of them.


Big Tex, Here We Come is sure to brighten any day, or as a soundtrack to watch fireflies scurry by night.


(Mark Feingold)


SENDELICA – AND MAN CREATED GOD (LP on Regal Crabomophone Records. Other formats available through http://www.sendelica.bandcamp.com )

Following on from the impressive Cromlech Chronicles series, Sendelica have focused their sights on new musical horizons starting with ‘And Man Created God’, based in part around faith and belief through human history and the resultant positives and negatives that ensue. It’s a compact band recording with the core trio of Pete Bingham, Lee Relfe and Glenda Pescado bolstered by Colin Consterdine bringing beats and electronic sounds and on one track, a gorgeous vocal performance from regular collaborator Elfin Bow. Over 9 tracks, Sendelica, as has been the case over much of their recorded output to date, mix their psych tinged space rock with some unexpected detours into new territory often tested and developed in their parallel universe laboratory project ‘The Fellowship of Hallucinatory Voyagers’.

‘Aeolian Sunrise’ sets things off in a swirl of cosmic noise where bliss and dissonance collide before guitar and synthesizer harmonise and settle into a kosmische imbued and filmic melody, gently carried by electronic beats. It slowly takes on a more dramatic grandeur becoming a swelling wave of progressive, almost orchestral sound as perhaps the title demands. ‘Exodus From Ur’ is a motorik boogie with undertones of Vangelis style space transmissions laced with sax and guitar which becomes a more pronounced and urgent Hawkwind style guitar and sax interplay as it hurtles forward. ‘Deuterosophia’ begins with a delicate kosmische vibe coloured by breathy, atmospheric sax and a variety of keyboard and electronic textures before simple beats, stirring strings and elegant, spacious fretwork with touches of Gilmour create an ever growing dramatic, cinematic climax that surely deserves some quality end credits to roll straight afterwards. ‘MMT’ has a progressive feel to begin with that soon takes on a Crazy Horse drive and Pete Bingham’s inner Neil Young emerges in a fine ‘Like A Hurricane’ style melody and solo. ‘The title ‘Tainted Goat’ had me wanting to sing it to a Soft Cell melody but that desire was soon dispelled by a brooding yet dance inflected and quite exploratory space rock groove with soaring guitars, fizzing rhythms, moments of almost ambient sax cool, and a solid upbeat rhythm. If Sparks wrote space rock, it might sound like this. ‘The Seekers’ takes elegant repeating guitar melodies like signals to or from space into a dramatic and stately Kosmiche setting before a stark change of direction where ‘Illuminated Skies’ adds a dose of prog pop catchiness to a bustling space rocker. ‘Seren Golawr’ features the natural and electronically treated vocals of Elfin Bow within a song that has a lovely Cocteau Twins feel in its vocal harmonies and layers and the hazy, dreamy 4AD musical ambience wrapped around it. ‘Epilogue Sunset’ is the final piece with a pulsing, slightly chilled ambient dance electronic backdrop over which soaring guitar notes bring things to a suitably atmospheric ending.

This is another fine outing from Sendelica and friends which takes their ideas to date and uses them to push the envelope just that little bit further, delivering reassuring sounds for existing fans and something new for the curious explorer. It deserves your attention and wallet and as with most Sendelica releases is available in a wide range of packages if you hurry.


 (Francis Comyn)


This is the third outing for Taras Bulba since the retirement of Earthling Society. As with many recordings of late this is home recorded by Fred Laird and it is fundamentally a solo record where Fred plays everything with the exception of some sax courtesy of Mike Blatchford (via phone) and vocals from Daisy Atkinson. It’s also a change in feel from the previous two releases which took an eclectic collection of sonic and cultural ingredients from around the world to create a mesmerising and often dizzyingly inventive cross pollination of genres and eras. Here the sound is a kind of gothic, psych infused rhythm and blues and elegant dreamscapes, both exploring the many moods of the night which is no less gripping and captivating. 

‘The Green Eyes Of The Dragon’ is a stirring opening track reminiscent of the Bad Seeds in their widescreen gothic pomp. It has a lurking intensity, brooding in its own dark and mysterious world and rolling on with mid paced relentlessness. ‘Orphee’ features the voice of Daisy Atkinson and is a dedication to Jean Cocteau. Like Cocteau’s film of the same name there is a dreamlike almost nocturnal quality to the vocals which float on deep cushions of sound not unlike the Cocteau Twins in its shimmering beauty and elegance. It’s a swooningly lovely thing.  From the blissful to the blistered we next get ‘From the Grave’ with its red raw guitars and organ sounds like a nightmarish Link Wray twanging blues on a ride to hell in a cement mixer – and that’s a compliment to its stark primal and indeed trashy garage beauty. This could be a lost early sixties lo-fi recording of a ripe for rediscovery punk blues track. ‘Night Train To Drug Town’ adds an extra gothic twist like an out of control fairground ride with its prominent and dizzyingly insistent organ melody playing over a murky swamp of sound full of mystery and dread. It’s an otherworldly, funereal waltz somewhere between the night and the grave where the dead can dance. ‘One More Lonely Angel’ has an elegant, melancholic core around which warped blues piano and wild shards of guitar spray create dissonant colours. The title track follows and again returns to the sumptuous 4AD-esque elegant soundworld and feather light vocals of ‘Orphee’ albeit combined with a more reflective folk rock style. I am also reminded of Sigur Ros in the cavernous, lonesome, almost glacial ambience in the latter part of the song. ‘The Sound of Waves’ includes that very sound and a strong choppy riff overlain by eastern influenced melodies that give the sense of drama, majesty and power of the sea. ‘The Big Duvall’ is another dedication, this time to Andy Duvall of Carlton Melton and it is indeed a big organ and guitar led bluesy beast with a touch of swing, a coating of Bad Seeds carnival grandeur, a blast of wailing sax and sheets of guitar, synth and percussion that raises the intensity levels nicely. It’s a bit of a steamroller for sure. ‘House In The Snow’ completes the record with a piano led reflection over a simple beat that slowly incorporates sax, guitars and washes of synth. It’s an atmospheric and rather lovely conclusion to a diverse and engaging record.

The word that always comes back to me about this record is nocturnal but not simply dark and moody. It’s a collection of moods, dreams, nightmares and twilight world party classics that will entertain you greatly. This is another wonderful release, made all the more impressive as it is largely the work of Fred Laird in his home studio. Do yourself a favour and delve into the moonlit and sometimes dark world of Taras Bulba, you won’t be disappointed.

(Francis Comyn)


(Floating World 3-CD set)

You’re probably wondering why bother to review a repackage of old albums already out in various forms since the advent of the compact disc, notably that nice In A Can five album set back in ’96 that quite literally preserved Hot Tuna, First Pull Up, Burgers, America’s Choice and Hoppkorv in an actual tin!  And you have a right to wonder just how much more mileage reissue labels can milk of what is left of the baby boom generation’s interest in music of this kind.

Cynicism aside, I’ve always had a real soft for Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, the perennial beating heart of the Tuna. Let’s face it, apart from Barry Melton and Jerry Miller (and leaving Steve Miller out of the equation), there are now no more practitioners of that late 60s San Francisco acid rock sound still alive. We therefore have to cherish and support, the handful still out there capable of blowing our minds.

Hot Tuna need no intro. Legend has it, they were originally called Hot Shit (sadly, they couldn’t even get away with that moniker in the liberated 60s!). Jorma and Jack had seen the light at a Cream show at the Fillmore West and for a moment it looked like the engine room of their band, The Jefferson Airplane would crash out mid-flight. In the end, they stuck with it till the acrimonious final tour in 72 by which time the Tuna was a fully-fledged, full-time unit with a handful of fine albums behind them, anyway.

Given that the original plan was a power trio (check out the live June 69 Before We Were Them, Bear’s Sonic Journals album for further reference), it was always a surprise that their 1970, eponymous debut LP (first up here) was more or less an acoustic affair consisting mainly of original tunes and blues material (by the likes of Rev Gary Davis and Jelly Roll Morton), which Jorma had been playing since his teens, augmented by the splendid harmonica playing of Will Scarlet. Unusual too in that it was a recorded live. And Jack’s usually rampaging bass style, that gave the Airplane so much character, is here toned down to a very mellow level indeed. This re-package, by the way boasts the fiveextra cuts that have cropped up on most CD reissues since.

By the time they released the sophomore set, another live album, First Pull UP Then Pull Down in 1971, they were heading towards a more conventional rock and roll set-up.The mixture of acoustic and more electric material (always a sucker for ‘Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and A Burning’) with Sammy Piazza’s energetic drumming and Hopalong Casady’s grunting bass on occasion powering the trio into the stratosphere, giving Jorma plenty of space to roll out his pungent, head-crunching licks. What a player! The aforementioned Mr Scarlet appears again and making his debut, Papa John Creach, veteran violinist soon to become a Tuna regular and part of the greater Jefferson family throughout the 70s.

Not quite sure why Floating World chose to combine these two early releases with 1978’s Double Dose, possibly because HT were at their zenith in concert?  Produced by Felix Pappalardi, after it came out, Jorma finally went solo and Jack joined SVT, which included some time Tuna member, Nick Buck on keyboards. Side 1 is actually just Kaukonen on acoustic guitar and vocals (and includes the still-astonishing ‘Genesis’, a highlight of Jorma’s first solo record Quah, about a man cheating on his wife), before he is joined by Jack and arguably the trio’s longest serving drummer,powerhouse extraordinaire Bob Steeler for a romp through a variety of numbers from the Tuna back catalogue. This was their L-O-U-D era! Interesting to note Pappalardi had Jorma redo his vocals for the band sides at Wally Heider Studios.

Hot Tuna reconvened in ’83 and have played regularly ever since, and it’s great to see them still at it, with Kaukonen having finally kicked his drug habits. Incidentally his weekly online solo sets from his Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio have been joy to witness throughout the pandemic.

Leaving the all-time classic Phosphorescent Rat LP to one side, (what, you don’t have a copy?!?), this reissue is as good a place as any to start discovering the joys of this enduring combo, which has always embraced the spirit of that long-gone San Francisco ballroom era.

(Nigel Cross)

(All formats from Neolithic Recordings) 

Alex Neilson and his regular first lieutenant, Rory Haye, return with Rex’s fourth long-form outing, this time abetted by Marco Rea and, rejoice, Neilson’s former fellow Trembling Bell(e) Lavinia Blackwall. Mercifully, any fears that yer man’s impish musical mojo may have been laid low by seemingly interminable languorous lockdowns are dispelled from word go. From the opening bars of the skipping lounge jazz and country gospel of ‘Low Life’, it’s clear that Neilson’s adoptive Glaswegian gargle, so at odds with his fresh-faced Yorkshire countenance, is on sparkling form. And despite statements such as “I don’t think I was born evil” and “I can’t stand what I’ve become” portending yet more confessional soul bearing, Paradise actually sounds more confident, relaxed and playful than its predecessors, as if the long dark night of the soul actually could be a bit of fun on the town after all.

‘The Dark Inside The Shadow’ is hymnal in the evangelical sense of belting it out there and seeing where it lands. It has a familiar ring to it. It could be that Rex may already have been touting this back in 2019 when last heard sniffing around the impolite company of live audiences. Or perhaps it’s because it has a trail of breadcrumbs back to 2020’s wonderful Andromeda, with which much of Paradise rents common ground, musically if not always emotionally. Folksy yet gritty, the Neilson/Blackwell voiced ‘Scandalise The Birds’ is, aptly enough, the closest we get to the Trembling Bells template of yore, neatly riveted with some searing guitar work (Haye is on top form throughout). It’s something of an early pace setter, while the cod-western themed ‘Dancing Flame’ is hugely pleasurable too. Picture The Sadies playing Morricone, arranged by Trad.Arr and your compass won’t be too far adrift.

Rascally outsider ‘What’s Shouted In The Dark (The Dark Shouts Back)’ fills the boots of ‘Postcards From A Dream’ off the first album - atypically up-tempo, verging on the pop-tastic, bursting with ideas, brimful with infectious hooks and incisor-sharp lyrics, and which really ought to have “Play List A” stamped all over it. However you cut, dice and snort it, this is primo grade gear, in a way that channels the essence of Nick Cave’s rock n’ roll preacher-ah, all drenched in dark matter, and with a cheeky lyrical nod to one Nick Lowe. I mean who doesn’t love the sound of breaking dreams?

The rest is more typical though no less quality assured Rex-fare, the bleakly gorgeous ‘Funeral Bouquet’ and the riff tinged ‘Ida’ worthy of particular mention in despatches, as is ‘Black Peonies’, another of those mischievous country-folk send-ups, and on which Neilson duets with the guesting Kacy Lee Anderson. It’s irreverent and, yes, a bit deviant with the opening  lines "I wear the knickers you gave me/when I play football with the boys", from which there’s  no coming back (speaking of which, the naughty pay-off is to be found in the subsequent couplet, missus). It’s delightfully subversive and jolly good fun to boot, eventually melting into Haye’s psych-raga guitar.  The faintly sinister crooning on ‘Man Is a Villain’ hands off to a TV evangelist-style epilogue in the coda as Alex introduces the boys and girl in his congregation choir, while fitting finale ‘Every Wall Is A Wailing Wall’ proves that no Rex is complete without a bit of unaccompanied digging around in the ear canal..

So there we have it, this year’s contender for “the best Rex album yet”, one that inhabits the narrow and precarious strip of no-man’s land separating the twin towns of Bonkers and Genius, It’s already firmly camped near top of the personal go-to list for 2021, setting one dauntingly high bar for everyone else to clear. There’s a tour planned for October. Let’s sincerely hope it goes ahead and that we don’t all end up in Lockdown III (or will it be IV?), reduced to watching The Masked Flower Arranger or some such on Prime Time TV instead.

Ian Fraser