=  November 2010  =

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Zig Zag boxed set
  Portobello Shuffle

Written by:




Simon Lewis (Editor)

Sean Tyla

Jeff Penczak

Phil McMullen Hildur Gudnadóttir
Colin Hill Pete Brown
Nigel Cross  


(5 CD set from Road Goes On Forever records )


These recordings represent a vitallyimportant document in the overall scheme of things, and it’s criminal to my mind that the concert’s remained virtually unheard until now – although it’s fair to say that audience and even soundboard tapes of some of the proceedings have been doing the rounds for years. Not all of it though; and in nothing like the clarity of the remastered glory which the excellent Mr. Tony Poole (of Starry Eyed & Laughing) has brought to proceedings.


For those who aren’t aware, Zig Zag was not only the Ptolemaic Terrascope’s spiritual foster-father, but also predated and inspired every other rock magazine that Britain has ever produced. Launched in April 1969, it struggled along on a hand-to-mouth basis for issue after issue, many of them written and produced on the kitchen table in rural surroundings (just as we were a decade or so later). Along the way it featured, interviewed and shone the spotlight on everyone who was anyone, from superstar to busker, in both British and American rock circles – the line-up of acts they covered is even today both breathtaking and enviable. Eventually the magazine was bailed out by Tony Stratton Smith, the owner of Charisma Records, who freed them up from their financial and administrative burden - and helped to underwrite a concert to mark the magazine’s 5th anniversary.


The then core team of Zig Zag writers, Pete Frame, Andy Childs, John Tobler and Connor McKnight drew up a list of acts; the Charisma booking agency turned the fantasy into reality by taking care of the bookings and work permits, and even managed to hire the historic Roundhouse in London’s Chalk Farm – a former train-shed which had been rescued from dereliction in 1966 and subsequently became the underground movement’s cathedral of dreams.


Much like the Terrastock festivals, which I unashamedly admit were directly influenced and inspired by the now legendary Zig Zag Benefit Concert which took place at the Roundhouse in London on April 28th, 1974, it was in Pete Frame’s words “A day trip to utopia, a celebration of our treasure trove corner off rock culture. It sounds very hippie-dippy [now] but we thought the readers and the musicians were our brothers. We loved them all.”


The artists involved on the day – and featured in all their glory on this beautifully presented 5 CD boxed set – were three of Zig Zag’s favourite UK bands of the day, Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers, Starry Eyed and Laughing and Help Yourself; and two revered American acts: Michael Nesmith (together with his pedal-steel player Red Rhodes) and John Stewart, plus his bass player Arnie Moore.


It’s fair to say that if you’re not a fan of country-rock then this album’s probably not for you (though obviously, you should still buy copies for all of your loved-ones). It was 1974, remember, and that’s what we did back then – or rather, that’s what they did, since it’s to my eternal regret and chagrin that I was just 15 at the time and unable to get there under my own steam or indeed convince any of my older friends to attend. The fact that this album represents one of the greatest accounts of early 1970s singer-songwriterly, country-rock material you’ll ever get to hear only makes that all the more painful.


It’s as always the exception though that proves the rule. Anyone who knows me will know that the highlight for me was and always would be Help Yourself, a band I adore with a reverence akin to worship, and yet never actually got to see play. To be fair, neither did too many other people: as Nigel Cross notes in his fabulous liner-notes to this boxed set, he himself had once gone to see them play support to Family in Blackpool only for the famously hapless Elves to turn up a week early for the gig and, unable to face the long trek north again, not actually appear on the night! They finally broke up shortly after their final album ‘The Return of Ken Whaley’ in 1973 (their partly recorded fifth album remained unreleased until 2004) but reformed for the Zig Zag concert, by which time Malcolm Morley, Ken Whaley and Deke Leonard were all in the Man band. As Nigel says, “Their set that evening remains one of my favourite, most emotional rock ‘n’ roll memories of all time. Despite almost no rehearsal, they played beautifully [bringing] a much appreciated blast of fabulous acid rock to the afternoon’s proceedings.”


The Helps were followed on the day by the headline act, Michael ‘Papa’ Nesmith. Nesmith’s utterly compelling set of country-rock interspersed with surrealist stage banter, philosophy and memoirs is a masterclass in both how to perform and how to deliver; wonderful too is the instant rapport between him and the audience, an audience so utterly respectful and quiet that at one point you can hear well beyond them to the chatter of the girls in the distant food-servery! The late, great John Stewart is touchingly moved that his songs are both known and appreciated in England, and likewise turns in a mesmerising set (including his own ‘Daydream Believer’, which of course Nesmith once covered with the Monkees).


The day’s proceedings had been opened by layered harmonies and plenty of jangly guitar from Starry Eyed and Laughing, a young and emerging Byrds-influenced rock outfit led by the aforementioned Tony Poole. They went on to release two LPs on CBS but never managed to break through – a classic example of a band being before their time, unfortunately: this was fully ten years before the Long Ryders, Miracle Legion and Green on Red trod very similar paths.


The act that linked together the country rock of Starry Eyed, John Stewart and Mike Nesmith and the psychedelic wahoo of Help Yourself on the day was of course Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers. Delivering a high energy set typical of the very best of British pub rock, the Willies, as they inevitably became known, complete with drummer Pete Thomas (who would later join Elvis Costello’s Attractions, and on the day drummed for John Stewart as well), and legendary Mighty Baby guitarist Martin Stone – yes, THE Martin Stone – delivered a tremendous set of Phil Lithman originals coupled with songs by Doug Kershaw, the Burritos, Carl Perkins and Jesse Winchester. It’s as good a representation of British country, rock and blues as has even been laid down, and if you are only familiar with the band through their to my mind disappointing ‘Bongoes over Balham’ LP, you’d be well advised to reacquaint yourself with them now. It doesn’t get any better than this.


I was going to sign off with a pithy overview, a snappy one-liner perhaps – but having thought about it, “It doesn’t get any better than this” says it all, really. (Phil McMullen)



(CD from Easy Action c/o Cargo Records catalogue number Catalogue Number: EARSBOSS001)


I’ve always thought of tribute albums as a bit of a mixed bag. Well, when I say “always”, ever since the mid-1980s when I took a hand in helping one-time betting shop manager and future Porcupine Tree lyricist Alan Duffy launch a series of ground-breaking tribute LPs on his Imaginary Records label (mine was in point of fact a very very small part - I pointed him towards a few bands, and wrote some sleeve-notes for the second, a tribute to the music of Captain Beefheart). It was a brilliant idea, and Alan’s execution and choice of artists - both covering, and being paid tribute to - was exemplary; however it’s a measure of my unease perhaps about the whole idea of one artist covering the music of another that bands being invited to contribute to Terrascope compilations over the course of the following 20 years or so were invariably encouraged to contribute something original. There were of course exceptions – but generally speaking, I thought it better that a band which few people were familiar with (and to be fair, the very nature of the magazine’s cover discs were such that many of the artists featured were at the time either overlooked or just starting out) would be doing themselves more favours if they showed off their own originality rather than demonstrate their prowess at performing someone else’s material.


‘Portobello Shuffle’ is an entirely different kettle of fish though - in so very many ways. To begin with, it’s far, far more than a tribute to the music of the Deviants and Pink Fairies, as deserving as those two legendary outfits of the British underground scene are of all the accolades going. The sub-title ‘A testimonial to Boss Goodman’ reveals the importance of this release: and what says it all is the stellar line-up of artists who have freely given of their time, and talent, to help raise both spirits and funds for the bands’ now ailing former road manager, sound-man and booking agent Dave ‘Boss’ Goodman, a man who was generally regarded as the fourth, fifth or even sixth Pink Fairy depending on which line-up you care to shake a stick at. Dave was also a key figure within the London music scene for many years: DJ and booking manager at Dingwalls Dancehall in Camden Lock from 1973 until the mid ’80s (I remember meeting him there when Michio Kurihara's White Heaven played their one-off UK gig, attended by around 20 people, most of whom knew each other by name!), subsequently working at The Town and Country Club in Kentish Town and the 100 Club.


Now I definitely recall a time when Pink Fairies “reunions” were considered almost risible because they took place so often. After the 1973 release of ‘Kings of Oblivion’ the band toured, faltered, broke up and then reformed again countless times. Eventually in 1975 Ted Carroll (of Chiswick Records) organised a “one off reunion” of all five previous members at the Roundhouse, a record of which eventually came out in 1982. Numerous farewell tours once again followed. Something similar happened in 1987 when Jake Riviera of Demon Records got remnants of the band together to record ‘Kill ‘Em & Eat ‘Em’ (the title of which Mick Farren explains in his as-ever entertaining sleeve-notes to this release). Astonishingly though, it’s now been over thirty years since Paul Rudolph, Russ Hunter and Duncan ‘Sandy’ Sanderson spent time in the studio together – and it took Rich Deakin, fan extraordinaire and documenter of all things Pink via numerous magazines and eventually a highly recommended book entitled ‘Keep It Together! Cosmic Boogie with the Deviants and the Pink Fairies’ (www.headpress.com) to pull it off.


Or to be fair to the man in question, it took Dave “Boss” Goodman to pull it off. Their contribution, a version of the old Pink fairies classic entitled ‘Do It! (Again) ‘09’ is both startlingly contemporary and also a bit of a conundrum, in that since when did bands actually contribute to their own tribute album? And that’s what I mean when I say this collection is actually more properly termed a testimonial.


The line-up of acts involved looks like a Ptolemaic Terrascope hall of fame at first glance, so forgive me if I don’t spend too much time explaining who they all are: a passing familiarity with each is at the very least is expected of those reading this review. Most interesting of all to my mind is the version of the Deviants’ ‘Rambling B(l)ack Transit Blues’  by the mighty Clark Hutchinson, recorded at Mick Hutchinson’s place in Eastbourne with Andy Clark on vocals and keyboards and Del Coverley on drums (plus of course the unstoppable, incomparable Mick Hutchinson himself on guitars - I still maintain he's one of THE finest guitar players Britain has ever produced!). Back when we interviewed Mick for the Terrascope in the ‘90s the guys hadn’t even seen each other for decades, so to hear them together again quite honestly drove me close to tears. That’s what you get for loving a band I suppose.


Other notables include “Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout” by Europe’s premier, possibly only, extant Pink Fairies covers band Pink FA with guest Nik Turner; John Perry, Adrian Shaw and Rod Goodway covering “Half Price Drinks”, Captain Sensible proving yet again what a singularly great guitarist he is with his version of “Say You Love Me” – erstwhile colleagues Scabies & James do a great version of “Teenage Rebel” as well; “Baby Pink” by Terrastock veterans Mick Farren, Colquhoun and Taylor – and possibly my favourite interpretation of the whole album, The Deviants’ “Metamorphosis Exploration on Deviation Street Jam” by Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.


Altogether, this is a fabulous album done for all the right reasons and I implore you not to download the bloody thing but to get out there, buy it and not only enjoy the music but at the same time help support one of the British underground’s last true gentlemen. (Phil McMullen)




(CD from Fonal)

Merja Kokkonen (aka Islaja)’s fourth solo release, the title of which roughly translates as “Ceramic Head”, finds her stepping further afield from her work with Finnish acid freak folkies, Kamialliset Ystävät and Avarus into an eerie world of electronic transmissions with occasional classical flourishes. ‘Suzy Sudenkita’ [‘Suzy Wolfmouth’] frightens us with a tale of a woman whose self-imposed isolation has transformed her into a lonely vampire, while ‘Dadahuulet’ [‘Dada Lips’] forges an antiseptic electronic landscape with monotonic vocals reminiscent of Yoko Ono’s seminal solo work.

The syncopated chanting and rustic, percussive backbeat of ‘Rakkauden Palvelija/14.Käsky’ [‘Servant of Love/The 14th Rule’] wouldn’t be out of place on a Talking Heads comeback album, but some of the tracks are a little too aloof, particularly the aimless wandering of ‘Ihmispuku’ [’The Human Suit’]. Still, the closing tracks create haunting, emotional atmospherics that capture an impending doom not unlike early Cure albums such as Seventeen Seconds and Faith. KY and Avarus fans may be looking for something closer to their oeuvre, but adventurous fans of icy Scandinavian experimentalists like Bjork or Múm will find a lot to like, and the Finnish lyrics are helpfully translated into English so you can follow along and envelope yourself in Islaja’s bleak despair. (Jeff Penczak)




(Limited Edition 10” vinyl on Shagrat Records)


Quite literally where Moby Grape meets Kaleidoscope, The Darrow Mosley Band was a short-lived ensemble where the family trees of those two extraordinary bands  interlocked for a few short months in 1973. Until recently however, virtually nothing was known about the ephemeral musical alliance between Bob Mosley (bass player/ vocalist from The Grape) and Chris Darrow (multi-instrumentalist/vocalist from  Kaleidoscope).  In fact, no photographs appear to exist and they reportedly only ever actually played one gig (a fund-raiser for the presidential campaign of Democrat George McGovern in Beverly Hills).  However, when the indefatigable Nigel Cross discovered the existence of an unissued three song demo for Warner Bros, he was determined that not only should Shagrat, the world’s most idiosyncratic record label, finally make this music available, in homage to two of his all-time favourite bands he would make it his most extravagant project thus far.  Well, old pal, this is definitely mission accomplished – and some.


Backtrack to ‘67.  Two bands bursting at the seams with creativity (nay, genius), technical expertise and an insatiable thirst for innovation.   San Francisco’s golden boys, The Grape: razor sharp songwriting, elegant harmonies, breathtaking triple-guitar cross-talk, and occasional atonal guitar forays into the dark magic of freeform lysergic experiment.  Kaleidoscope: authentic psychedelic gypsies from Southern California: an eclectic mix of influences (‘world music’ before the term existed), a vast array of exotic percussive and stringed instruments, and a pulsating tripped-out middle-eastern cajun blues intergalactic flamenco vibe.  They shared a (mother) record company, Columbia, and their paths crossed in psychedelic ballrooms, at tribal gatherings and at Columbia Studios on Sunset Boulevard.  By the end of the decade, however, both bands had lost key members and some of their creative spark, returning (as did many of their contemporaries) to less complex musical themes. 


By 1973, and sharing the management and production expertise of Michael O’Connor, Darrow and Mosley had long left their respective trailblazing outfits behind and had realised relatively low-key and under-appreciated solo projects.  Both missed being in a band so O’Connor suggested they pool their talents to form “a great American rock and roll band”.  For the project Darrow enlisted his favourite guitar-player, Frank Reckard, a jamming friend of Moby Grape’s Jerry Miller from Santa Cruz.  Known as "Fast Farm" due to his speedy fret skills, he was a progressive country player in the style of Clarence White, and even had a B-string bender on his Gibson TV that gave him a pedal steel sound.  Frank recommended drummer Johnny Craviotto (later to loom large in the amazing story of The Ducks, where he and Mose hook up with Jeff Blackburn and Neil Young) while Darrow added pianist Loren Newkirk who had played on his 1972 Fantasy LP ‘Artist Proof’.  O’Connor also managed Claudia Lennear who’d been part of Joe Cocker & Leon Russell’s space gypsy entourage, Mad Dogs & Englishmen (she is often cited as inspiration for The Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar") and both she and Jennifer Warnes provided background vocals for the DMB, as they had done on Darrow’s earlier album.  Overall, a band of red-hot musicians at the peak of their game.


OK, there might only be three songs on this fab slab of 10 inch vinyl but they are all absolute crackers.  I reckon those of you already familiar with Darrow’s ‘Albuquerque Rainbow’ via the mellow opening cut of his 1973 eponymous album, will be knocked sideways by the Exile-era Stones swagger and skirmish of the Darrow Mosley Band’s blistering, fully-formed take.  If O’Connor’s vision was Gram and Keef, baked by the sun, sharing a peyote-sprinkled red hot burrito with Crazy Horse and Nicky Hopkins out on a sweltering dusty New Mexico bajada, they nailed perfectly.  Topped off by Darrow’s sublime impassioned vocals and fuelled by Mosley’s pounding bass-line, Darrow and Reckard pull out searing back-to-back solos as the band  roar relentlessly on with all the precision and drive of a gleaming 12 cylinder Peterbilt roadtrain tearing up the desert highway.


The song itself is a gem.   Albuquerque lies in a rain shadow and a wet day in the city is about as rare as a dry one in Capel Curig.  A love triangle, a lonely drive home, the narrator asks “Did you want to stay with him or would you come home?”  A sudden thunderstorm and the rare appearance of a rainbow is seen as a harbinger:


“Albuquerque Rainbow, shining in my eyes,

the colors form a bridge up above.

Albuquerque Rainbow, shining in my eyes,

seems to say go on back to the one you love.

I turned the car around, and headed back to town……..”


Turn the record over and you’ll find a continuation of the meteorological theme and, as Bob Mosley steps onto centre stage, discover that the trip back to town ends in heartbreak.


As a long-term Grape nut, just hearing a ‘new’ vocal from one of the most expressive and distinctive voices in rock music was likely to be a emotional experience and this cover of the Temptations’ classic tale of despair, ‘I wish it would rain’, really tugs at the heart-strings as it pulls out the very best of Mose’s hocked soul.  The opening sequence of delicate chords and tumbling bass bears the stamp of classic sad-song Moby Grape with Reckard’s curling Clarence White B-bender licks adding to the air of melancholy.  The band stumble in as the story begins:


“Sunshine, blue skies, please go away,
My girl has found another, and gone away
With her went my future, my life is filled with gloom,
So day after day, I stay locked up in my room.
I know to you it might sound strange,
but I wish it would rain”


There’s fabulous use of light and shade as the layers gradually build into a dense throbbing soul stew, each player coming up for air and letting rip, with the classy backing-vocals of Warnes and Lennear helping Mose pour out his grief:


“Day in day out, my tear stained face
pressed against my window pane,
I search the skies desperately for rain
’cause rain drops will hide my teardrops
and no one will ever know
that I'm crying, crying,
 when I go outside”


The history of this song is filled with sadness too as the lyrics were written by Tamla Mowtown staff write Roger Penzabene after he discovered his wife had been cheating on him and, unable to deal with the pain, he took his life on New Year’s Eve 1967, a week after the Temptations single was released.


The final song, Bob Mosley’s “Beautiful Day”, will be familiar to many as it was one of the highlights of the under-rated ‘Moby

Grape ‘69’ album.  A gorgeous melody then and a gorgeous melody still, this version is slower and may not have the rich rippling reefer-fuelled San Francisco vibe (not to mention the whistling!) of the original but the way Reckard’s wispy dobro-like guitar and Newkirk’s elegant piano patterns blend give it an even more laidback bucolic feel.  Truly a thing of beauty; innocence and simplicity is the key:

“From dawn to dawn a lifetime,
the birds sing and day is begun,
the heavens shine from dawn to dusk,
with golden rays of sun.
 People on their way,
beginning a brand new day,
I love hearing people say
It's a beautiful day today”.


The song gently fades and The Darrow Mosley Band is gone. Musicianship of the highest quality, elegant, and eclectic, sadly it’s futile to muse on what might have been. This, folks, is definitely all there is. Everything IS everything. 


We have Nigel’s determination, energy, and vision to thank not only making these wonderful long-lost recordings available but also for persuading the legendary John Hurford to contribute his spectacular psychedelic art to the package (both sides of the sleeve, the insert and two different labels!). John’s work regularly adorned the covers and pages of the UK Underground press (Oz, IT, Gandalf’s Garden, etc) in the sixties and he continues to produce incredibly beautiful and intricate art.  Sunrise Press of Exeter published a fantastic hard-back collection of his work, “Johnny”, in 2006 while I suggest you also feast your eyes on his website: www.johnhurford.co.uk


Shagrat has set the bar high with this near-perfect archive release, passionately and stylishly pulling together so many vital reference points on the Pyg Track chart. It has encouraged me to dust off my early Chris Darrow solo albums and re-discover the many delights therein.  Oh yeah, and the fact that in places it sizzles like a Martian hog-roast is an added bonus! (Colin Hill)



 (Soundcheck Books, paperback, £14.99, isbn: 9780956642004)


Like his former co-conspirator in the Force, Deke Leonard, ever since Sean Tyla loomed on my horizon for the first time back in '72, I always figured Tyla should have been up there with the best of them - a real household name. But it was never to be. Though he eventually earned gold record in Germany, the old reprobate suddenly disappeared for 20 odd years till his recent return with a solo album and a rash of new Ducks recordings. And now he's decided to unleash his autobiography on an unsuspecting world.


Like his Welsh contemporary Mr Leonard, Tyla has always had a way with words and this tome is an emminently easy and entertaining read, not quite as witty as i had expected but brimming with the kind of anecdotes and incidents that make rock’n’roll such an irresistable phenomenon!


If you discount the Brinslies (who like the Helps) had their roots in the counter culture that preceded it , Ducks Deluxe for me were the absolute epitomy of the pub rock movement and those two original albums (especially that debut) are ones i still regularly return to. Sean wrote a bunch of classics for that first waxing.‘Coast to Coast, ‘Fireball’ and ‘The West Texas Trucking Board’ which all still stand the test of time with remarkable resilience.


Ducks Deluxe alone would have guaranteed his place in the rock'n'roll hall of fame but lest we forget his next outfit, the Tyla gang had the honour of releasing the second-ever single on Stiff Records - and what a cracker it was - 'Styrofoam' and 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Boogie'  The Tyla gang eventually got signed to the Beserkely label (home to the likes of Earthquake and Jonathan Richman) and released a number of excellent albums and singles.


It's all chronicled here, informed by Sean's ribald humour, from his first steps as a songwriter under the tutelage of Lionel Bart right through to his top 10 German hit, 'Breakfast in Marin'. There's tons of side-splitting, often sad stories inbetween that fill in a lot of the gaps in the story of pub and later punk rock. If for example you ever wanted to know why the Tyla Gang’s second album was called Moonproof, you'll find the answer here.


I would have liked to have read more about his short involvement with Help Yourself after all, Tyla was responsible for two of their most memorable numbers,  ‘American Mother’(which he co-wrote with Malcolm Morley) and the infamous ‘Eating Duneburgers Again'. Sadly neither get a mention here.


But there are some glorious stories from the Headly Grange era – nice to see in print for the first time, the tale of the Helps' first foray down the local pub and how they ended up jamming with Fleetwood Mac – and what all right guys McVie and Fleetwood were back then. And the anecdote about Sinbad the labrador which inspired Led Zep’s infamous ‘Black Dog’ number is worth the price of admission alone. There’s also a wonderfully lurid account of the Helps’ gig at Middlesborough Town Hall where they were joined onstage by the legendary All Electric Fur Trapper.


It's great that after such a lengthy absence, Tyla is back treading the boards - apparently he spent a decade or so giving cricket tuition - well it's sport's loss and our gain - recent Ducks gigs have been a blast and their late afternoon appearance at the 2009 Rhythm Festival was a joyous experience, which had a crowd of ageing rockers boogieing like 15 year olds . Jumpin' in the Fire has that long gone whiff of true rock'n'roll spirit about it, stained with stale cigarette smoke, BO, and light ale. It's a treat for all long-time fans and for those who weren't there first time around, a fascinating peak into an era that is still misunderstood and still undervalued. (Nigel Cross)



(EP from Ocean)

‘Until The Light Comes’ opens this French multi-instrumentalist’s debut EP with the sound of a scratchy record, over which early morning sounds of awakening birds and owls mix with a gentle, evocative flute/clarinet before Lidwine’s little girl voice (think Bjork-meets-Kate Bush) floats into the room with a fairy tale of a sleeping princess…a lovely introduction to her romantic take on feminine angst. Tales of loneliness, yearning, reassurance, and hope are woven around quirky percussives, bubbling electronics, and her soothing harmonium to paint a picture of a young girl in love with life, seeking the perfect companion to share her “strange behaviour and weird sense of humour” (to quote ‘In The Half-Light’, a personal favourite).
The harmonium backing and treated vocal pyrotechnics on the eerie ‘Animosity’ recall the best of Ms. Bush, and the entire EP emits beckoning warmth that suggests Lidwine has more tricks up her sleeves. Hopefully a full-length is in the offing soon; in the meantime, fans of Kate Bush and Bjork will do well to seek this out. (Jeff Penczak)



(CD from Touch)

Remastered edition of Gudnadóttir’s debut album, originally released in 2006 on 12 Tónar under her Lost In Hildurness moniker. The multi-instrumentalist created all the sounds herself, using her main instrument, the cello as a skeleton upon which she overdubbed multiple layers of zither, viola da gamba, moran khuur, vibraphone, and gamelan. The result is a series of eerie, atmospheric instrumentals that are neither classical nor rock in substance. Imagine taking all the slower pieces from Sigur Ros, A Silver Mt Zion, Mogwai, and Godspeed You Black Emperor and stringing them together into an organic whole and you’ll have an inkling of the incredible beauty this emotional music imparts.

Occasionally, Gudnadóttir hones in on a minimalist drone a la Steven Reich, LaMont Young, or Tony Conrad (‘Shadowed’ and ‘Earbraces’ is particularly evocative of their work), but other tracks like ‘Self’ are simple, introspective observations whose stark arrangements and sparse instrumentation solicit wave after wave of emotional outpouring – this is almost liturgical in its emptiness and funereal in its execution, encouraging the listener to contemplate past and future lives. ‘Growth’ and ‘In Gray’, on the other hand sounds closer to traditional classical music, albeit akin to Samuel Barber’s sombre, ‘Adagio for Strings.’ This minimalist aura also carries over to the song titles – all but one of the 11 tracks is a single word – and the stunningly gorgeous closer, ‘You’ suggests that Gudnadóttir is a worthy candidate for an upcoming release in Darla’s Bliss Out series.

The perfect soundtrack for quiet evenings alone with a warm bath and a fine wine or to reflect upon a lost loved one, Mount A is one of the year’s finest and most welcome reissues and is highly recommended to fans of ambient atmospherics from the likes of Aarktica, Stars of The Lid, Windy & Carl, or the above-mentioned artists.  (Jeff Penczak)




(JR Books, hardback, £18.99, isbn: 978 1 906779 20 7)
(Proper Records CD)


I’ve always had a soft spot for Pete Brown – indeed his song (recorded with his then backing band Piblokto!) ‘High Flying Electric Bird’ is an all-time favourite. And whilst I wouldn’t say I was his most ardent fan, I have followed Pete Brown’s career with interest since I first came across his name on the sleeve of Disraeli Gears back in 1967 as lyricist for Cream. As a bandleader, percussionist, poet and musician Pete Brown’s contribution to the development of British rock can not be underestimated.


So it was with great anticipation that I opened the first page of this just-published autobiography, Sadly some 300 pages later I was rather underwhelmed by what I had just read. Everything you’d expect is here, but ultimately this is little more than a very well written rock biog – the kind that gets published all the time, peppered with  the inevitable anecdotes of who he shagged and who he hung out with. The book’s subtitle ‘on the road with Ginsberg, writing for Clapton and Cream’ rather gives the game away. Sure I devoured with gusto the account of Brown’s pre-rock activities especially his association with the aforementioned beat king Ginsberg and the legendary Albert Hall poetry event in the summer of 1965 that signalled the beginning of the ‘British underground’. It was also interesting to note that whilst Brown admired Allen, and describes him as ‘as a powerful performer like a very hip rabbi ‘, Brown was more influnced by  fellow beat-sters, Gregory Corso and  Robert Creeley. There is some fascinating stuff in here particularly the chapters that chronicle his early life and his journey from poet with his roots in the jazz scene to full blown rocker but given his expertise with words, I had expected something a bit less orthodox, a bit more insightful and original.


After all Pete Brown is one of the few true British beat poets – and his song lyrics have always been outstanding up there with the best by Ray Davies and Pete Townsend. Indeed the title of this autobiography is taken from two of his best collaborations with Jack Bruce, ‘White Room’ from Wheels of Fire and ‘Theme from an Imaginary Western’ taken from Bruce’s post-Cream, 1969 debut solo outing Songs for A Taylor but the superb evocative lyricism and bite of his best songs is not to be found in the pages of his autobiog and that’s a drag.


The autobiography appears at the same time as a new album, the first since his 2002 record with the Interoceters.


I had first come across Road of Cobras as the title of an aborted solo LP Phil Ryan had started after the demise of the Neutrons back in 1975 – well this new outing by Brown and Ryan has little to do with those long-lost recordings other than plucking such a great [and very Benny Hill-esque! Ed.] name from the vaults of obscurity to recycle as the title of this new waxing – and why not indeed?


Despite the presence of keyboard wizz and long-time collaborator, the ever dependable Phil Ryan (whose sizzling work is livening up the current line up of the Man band even as we speak), Road of Cobras very quickly descends into a slick groove that’s rather redolent of 70s white funk maestros, the Average White Band – and I have to say that’s not much to my taste. Maybe one or two in this vein such as the breezy opener, ‘Flag A Ride’ (spookily like late period Quicksilver) or the delightfully agile ‘Scroll On’ ( with a nod to the ‘Rawhide’ theme in the chorus?) are more than OK but a whole album leaves me wishing for a bit of variety and unpredictability – not even the presence of guitarists Clem Clempson and Mick Taylor can lift proceedings to the next plane.


The good news is that Pete has never sung better on any record – his voice was always one that was an acquired taste, rather thin and reedy but his vocals here are a real treat - strong, expressive, characterful, tuneful, everything you’d want. And his lyrics are as sharp and engaging as ever – humorous, witty, surreal, emotional. Give me them any day over the oft times pedestrian prose of the above-mentioned biography.


I’m sure that in a live context the Road of Cobras material would catch fire and hope Brown and Ryan might take the show on the road following the launch gig back in September, I’d certainly be there. As a whole the album is well played, well crafted and it’s great to see Maggie Bell still in action, but at this stage i can’t really see it winning him many new fans – and anyone reading this who isn’t familiar with  his body of work, should immediately go back and check out those classic recordings he did for Harvest in the late 60s/early 70s where the man worked with the likes of the Battered Ornaments, Piblokto! and the late Graham Bond, and then you’ll begin to grasp why he is considered the key figure, as he is by so many. (Nigel Cross)