Gwyn Ashton
White Swan, Aylesbury – (10th January 2014)

Review by Peter Brockwell

Gwyn Ashton returns to Aylesbury for the third time in just over two weeks to play at The White Swan (a far cry from Wembley Arena where I first came across the antipodean blues guitarist supporting Status Quo on their 1999 European tour), a more musician friendly venue than The Green Man where the previous two gigs had taken place. With Gwyn looking like a Mississippi Delta one man band with bass drum, harmonica, guitar, pedals and two microphones tonight’s session gets off to a blistering start with a demonstration of Gwyn’s modern take on traditional blues with a high paced track which mixes national steel guitar with the modern twist of pedal loops. Next up the more familiar sounds of Muddy Waters starts to pull the crowd in from the front bar and by the end of the second song the crowd are completely behind the Aussie shredder. Original ‘Ain’t Got Time For That Stuff’ slows things down a little before the set continues with a New Orleans blues version of ‘Prohibition’ the title track from Mr Ashton’s fourth album. A change of guitar to full on electric is accompanied by the question “I hope you don’t mind the blues coz that’s all you’re gonna get” as he continues with Jimmy Reed’s ‘Baby, What You Want Me to Do’. The dancing starts with a great version of ‘I Just Wanna Make Love to You’ from Gwyn’s latest full length album ‘Radiogram’ with the audience enthusiastically clapping all the way through the solo which brings the first set to a close.

The second set sees the crowd drawing in closer to the stage (if you can call it that … more a performance area) and kicks off with slide guitar on two more originals ‘Too Late’ and ‘Ain’t My Style’ before another change of instrument as the acoustic comes out for a lengthy tuning blamed on the guitar having “four G-strings”. The longer second set continues with a mix of traditional blues standards from Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson etc. which join with Ashton originals from the seven CD’s that he is promoting tonight along with stories of the road such as the introduction to ‘Fortunate Kind’ (again from ‘Radiogram’), about being on the road and written on a train to Hamburg to visit friends. ‘Two Man Acoustic Army’s ‘Mad Dog closes the second set but the crowd are not ready to go home yet so the night continues with an unorthodox version of ‘Purple Haze’ played on national steel and guitar loops generated by the array of pedals at his feet. But the crowd still want more and after asking the audience to think of him the following week when he will be flying out to LA to hang out with Marc Ford (former member of The Black Crowes) he obliges with a second encore of the slow blues number ‘Someone Like You’ and finally, from his latest ‘Fistful Of Blues EP’ ‘Waiting For The Day’.

Whether playing at Wembley or in your local hostelry Gwyn Ashton always give 100% so if blues is your thang or if you just like a great night of blues/rock keep an eye out for further appearances from one of the countries hardest working live acts over the coming months. Keep tabs at for return performances at both The Green Man and The White Swan.

John Young / Fro Beedle / Nick Beggs

Review by Peter Brockwell

So this is what happens when John Young (Bonnie Tyler Band/Scorpions), Nick Beggs (Kagagoogoo), Martin Beedle (Cutting Crew) & sound engineer Steve Rispin (Uriah Heep/Virgil & The Accelerators) get to spend some time together. Not obviously a formula for a progressive rock master class but when you look deeper into their history you'll find links to Asia, John Wetton, Greenslade, Fish, The Skys & Steven Wilson. Add to this a list of special guests reading Robin Boult (Fish/Howard Jones), Thijs van Leer (Focus), Jakko Jakszyk (King Crimson) & Steve Hackett (Genesis) and you get what is an absolute gem not only for those with prog at heart but anyone who enjoys quality rock music.

Five songs in 54 minutes (not really long enough guys) with the shortest song 'At the End of The World' coming in at 8:23. As writer of the project John Young's keyboards & vocals are the obvious force behind this release and fans of his previous work ('Significance', 'JYB Live' & 'Life Underground') should not be scared off by the prog label as there are many sections of this release which will be familiar to them but although Nick Beggs (whose opening bass riff to 'Fridge Full Of Stars' is an absolute classic) & Martin 'Frosty' Beedle play a major role in creating the ambience of the music contained here the silent star is sound engineer Steve Rispin who gives the songs a depth & texture that make it a modern classic and that is before you add three great guitar performances and the legend that is Thijs Van Leer on flute.

‘Lighthouse’ openings with a moody keyboard intro a jumble of strange sounds until JY’s keyboards pull the song together. From the outset the keyboards & vocals dominate with the rhythm section of Frosty Beedle & Nick Beggs pushing the song on through varying moods. Steve Hackett features on guitar but it is Robin Boult (Howard Jones Band) who supplies the killer soloing which draws the track to its conclusion with a mighty clap of thunder supplied by the God’s of prog. ‘Lighthouse’ invites you in to take a ticket for the journey which is ‘Lifesigns’.

Next up ‘Telephone’. It’s intro dominated by Mr Beggs rolling bass riff. JY’s clear vocals are soon joined by Nick’s high harmonies which add to the tracks Yes like quality. Jakko’s guitar work links the section of the song which returns to the strong bass line for its close. ‘Fridge Full of Stars’ must be the proggiest name for a song in history. Once again it is lead off by Nick Beggs driving bass. Steve Hackett supplies the main guitar throughout the track. The early part of the song is piano based but the mood soon changes when Thijs Van Leer’s flute is heard weaving between the guitar before the keyboards return this time with a kicking drum beat before the song returns to its opening mood and the Jon Anderson like vocal harmonies which take the track to the fade out.

Soft tribal rhythms introduce ‘At the End of The World’. Both vocally & in overall mood probably the closest song to JY’s ‘Insignificance’ album. Once again this starts off driven by piano until the ‘What do we know’ section when the pace picks up and takes you to the ‘end of the world ‘ section which sounds a little like It Bites have joined the party for the outro. Most people would end an album on this track as it rises to its triumphant conclusion but not ‘Lifesigns’. Final track ‘Carousel’ is the icing on the cake. It climbs quickly to the first verse with Nick Beggs supplying the chapman stick intro. This is surely prog heaven with not only Thijs returning as the flute master, mad fairground keys, manic drumming & more pace changes than the heart rate of a marathon runner in cardiac arrest but JY’s astounding Peter Gabriel like vocal on the ‘I feel the wind’ refrains.

Flute jumps in again during the second half as the bass & keyboard elevate the whole band before dropping to a second Gabriel slot and then chaos returns as all the players’ race towards the close only interrupted by JY’s light keyboard outro which leaves you wanting more … but there is none. Whether you go for the Limited Edition (250) Vinyl edition or the standard CD, followers of Genesis, Yes, Marillion, It Bites, Focus, King Crimson, Jethro Tull & IQ will find instant pleasure here but for any lover of good solid rock music should give this a try. Quoting Nick Beggs previous outfit don't be 'Too Shy', join the ride…!!!

Pearl Handled Revolver

Semi acoustic versions of some old favourites by PHR recorded live in the studio.

Kicking off with God Won’t Let My Baby In Tonight, Ouroboros delivers right from the start. Acoustic guitar riffs underpinned by subtle, brushed drums with organ chords floating above, neatly complementing Lee Vernon’s growling vocals and incisive blues harp interjections. Bring It All Home starts off with some nice acoustic slide guitar with a real country Blues/Beggar’s Banquet vibe. Electric piano dances round Lee’s vocal and there’s another powerful blast of blues harp, full of guts and grit. Walk On By has a soulful, reverby, electric piano and understated bass and electric guitar making it the most funky, driving track so far. Closing number Going Down follows Never Liked You Anyway’s melancholy gospel with some soulful urban blues with a dynamic descending bass line, more cool brushed snare and an acoustic guitar solo that totally captures what the whole genre is about.

With its well loved songs given a fresh and understated approach, Ouroboros is a quiet triumph. Similar but crucially different it gives a whole new perspective on a great band.

Pete & Rob’s Musical Whimsey (Robin Boult / Pete Trewavas)
Acoustic Industry

Described as ‘A collection of instrumental tunes we consider to be a work in progress’ Acoustic Industry is more than just the kind of random jottings and half formed ideas often passed off under such titles. ’An explosion of thoughts’ is probably a more accurate description.

Opening track, Lazybones’ acoustic guitars hit an attractive, folky groove backed by an understated rhythm track leading into Suburb, heralded by electronic percussion, where acoustic guitar and bass warily circle each other in a slightly ominous way while electric keyboards add further low key unease. Serious Stupid has a great ‘White Album’ vibe while Waiting is a moody slide guitar exploration. Closing track, Django is a homage to a uniquely gifted musician who showed the way for guitarists everywhere. Close your eyes and you could be riding down a long, straight, sunny, tree lined road in a 2CV with the roof down.

Acoustic Industry successfully pulls off the difficult trick of managing to be both experimental and entertaining. If this is a work in progress this writer can’t wait to hear some ‘Finished Product’. In the meantime, enjoy the journey.

Rew, Play, Fwd

Palahniuk’s new EP comes across as a consolidation of all their existing virtues. Its cool assured pop/rock marks them out as true stylists who have fully grasped the importance of what’s left out as well as what gets played.

Retribution is full of raw power with no frills. Stripped down fuzzy guitar meets quirky vocals with an instant chorus and really effective instrumental drop out for an acapella close.

Second track Flying has a flangy guitar and an irresistible La La chorus and motors like a demon.

The best way this writer can describe Rew, Play, Fwd is that it’s full of brains, brevity and balls. What more do you need?

The Enid

Less prog, more choral, Invicta is a brave tilt at a classical/faith based concept piece.

Starting off with what sounds like a sample of the Big Bang there is a rapid change to a more pastoral and then classical vibe with a gentle drift into prog folk during Who Created Me? The Pitchforks come out for Execution Mob and Witch Hunt’s sharp elbowed asymmetries while Heaven’s Gate creates music of the spheres and some general Gustav Holst undertones with some operatic vocals and rather lovely piano. The Whispering’s peerless harmonies bring things to a peaceful close.

Invicta makes for interesting, challenging and at times uneasy listening. Not for the faint hearted but well worth checking out.

Death Pop
The Siege Of Sebastopol

Announcing its arrival with a squall of bad tempered feedback and Lora Logical sax, The Siege Of Sebastopol documents a thirty year journey into the heart of the swamplands.

Candyman has an aura of crawling menace thanks in no small measure to Jim Fry’s scary vocals which also deliver in spades on the vertiginous The Man With The Smile. Debut single Roger’s Gone Mad has a manic 60’s TV theme vibe while The Fire Of Love is beautifully raw, as is everything here, and shows off the formidable power of the Jon Dathen/Kent Davis rhythm section. Strange Fruit is a cool post punk genre fusion followed by the new wave rush of Black Christ. Closing in the huge wash of darkness which is Picture Of You, Siege Of Sebastopol leaves you in the best way possible, simply wanting more, which will hopefully come sooner rather than later.

Special mention should also go to Vic Doyle for some fearsome guitar throughout and to Saraan Platt who can make a sax sound downright sinister in the best Bowie/Mackay tradition.

Release The Bats
Nighty Night

Some heavy driving rock from namesakes of one of the Birthday Party’s most iconic songs. First track ’Make You My Baby’ zooms along a little like ‘White Wedding’ with an axe and some really bad attitude. Big crash chords and nasty, vindictive guitars abound. ‘Spooky Julie’ gives us more of the same with even more scary, stalker ejaculatory vocals and hardcore lyrics. Don’t play this one to your Granny, (or your Mum for that matter). ‘To Find You’ has an impressive vocal performance and a more reflective, melodic feel, interspersed with killer guitar breaks. Altogether a great use of dynamics here. Final track ‘Spinning In A Lover’ contains more crashing guitars and great vocals. A real object lesson in intensity. With their big, fierce, dark sound, Release The Bats continue the Gothic Rock tradition into the 21st century with a bang.

Jonny Alford
Escape From The Requiem

A nice piece of acoustic introspection from Jonny Alford. Full of dextrously fingerpicked acoustic guitars worthy of Nick Drake’s approval in many places, Escape From The Requiem is an understated pleasure. There’s the country vibe of I Can’t Close My Eyes and Wainbody Avenue featuring some attractive multi tracked slide guitars. Then there’s All That You’ve Got with its programmed percussion and Syd Barrett guitars buried miles back in the mix, Gone which has an almost Glen Campbell feel to it in places and the rather lovely Smile. With its warm vocal harmonies and laid back lead vocals Escape From The Requiem contains songs full of charm and individuality. Personal but never confessional it is well worth checking out.

The Beachcomber

Lost souls and big music abound on Jump’s latest offering, driven along by stinging, bluesy guitars fit to garner the approval of David Gilmour or John Perry and some stunningly fluid bass. Opening track Down Three Times is a huge slab of misty, folk inflected Celtic prog featuring John Dexter Jones coming on like a 21st century Samuel Taylor Coleridge charting the course of an Ancient Mariner who seems more than capable of holding his own in one of Captain Cat’s midnight chats with the Drowned. This bleak reverse side to Fisherman’s Blues leaves the listener breathless, washed up on a tide of thunderous, monumental imagery. More lost souls appear in drug ballad, Rosetta Stoned, the relationship meltdown of Kingston Corner Blues and in the shape of the crazy woman on the bus in No-one Spoke. Closing track Forgive Me My Sins charts one soul’s slow passage to redemption through change and a break with history, bringing the album to a cautiously optimistic close. Elsewhere some fairly accurate swipes are taken at religion and the generally poor state of the human condition but it’s the sympathy and humanity of the ‘People Songs’, for want of a better name, which really grabs the attention and is The Beachcomber’s greatest strength.

Katie Buckhaven
The Girl In The White Dress

Some seductively melodic songs from Katie Buckhaven. This record gives an impression of spaces. From wide open ones as suggested by the production and the big sky arcing guitars of Running Blind to vast distances as intimated by the country steel guitar and resigned romanticism of Slip Away, crossing over to the anglicised reggae inflections of of Heroes by way of the almost Coral vibe of I Told A Lie with its diverse ethnicity of Latin rhythms colliding with Gypsy violin and lonesome trumpet. On the way there are also the keening guitars, pure vocals, aquatic cymbal splashes and attractive melody of Boat Song followed by more resigned romanticism in Not Your Type. Urban loneliness and isolation are emphasised with ominous slide guitars and backing vocals on Devil Song while mystic musings are covered effectively on closing track Far Away. With its melodic, immaculately vocalised late night feel, The Girl In The White Dress politely but firmly demands your attention. .

Pearl Handled Revolver

Colossus by name and nature, this is a trip into hard blues/ rock territory by a band at the top of their game. Ferocious, stabbing organ solos, which would have the young Jon Lord sitting up and taking notice, luminous guitars pushing out insistent, compulsive riffs and some truly feral blues harp can be found in abundance. All underpinned by the bass and drums of Oli Carter and Chris Thatcher who are rapidly developing into an unstoppable rhythm machine. Then, there’s the voice of Lee Vernon who reinforces his blues credentials here to the Nth degree, nailing them firmly to the masthead throughout. Opening track Stone Thrower demonstrates the above amply, as does the slow, heavy blues of Woman Made A Man Out Of Me. Acoustic ballad Resonate eases the tension while riding the cusp of the 60s/70s with floating organ chords, brushed snare and melodic bass. Stop Me Dead begins as a gutsy blues/funk workout crossing over into gospel territory by way of some lovely, churchy organ where Simon Rinaldo invokes the spirit of Tommy Eyre, reinforced by soulful backing vocals courtesy of Sophia Ripley. Meanwhile White Lines roars along with the energy and momentum a runaway truck, its high, new wavey backing vocals contrasting nicely with Lee’s growl. I Will Rise is reflective, epic and magnificent and illustrates what a subtle and creative guitarist PHR have in Andy Paris. Title track Colossus is a massive, cinematic full screen epic. Foreboding keyboards dominate while a huge fuzzy bass threatens in the background and delicate slide guitar skates across the surface. Full of cavernous depths and sonic ambition it slowly develops into something mighty, free and other worldly. Like I said at the beginning, Colossus by name and nature, it’s out there now towering over all contenders. But don’t just take my word for it, give it a listen and prepare to be blown away. .

Sian Cross
Leap Year

Classic old style pop/rock from Sian Cross with more hooks than you’re ever likely to find at the butchers. Immaculately played and arranged with a polished Abbey Road studio sheen to its production and Sian’s strong and soulful vocals, Leap Year takes the listener back to a more gentle time. I Nearly Love You and What If Maybe both feature a contagiously strong chorus. Then there’s room for some pensive soul balladry on Lady Ansel and Four Weeks. The rocky side of the equation is covered ably on Escape and the cautionary Alcohol. Relaxed, chilled and easy on the ear. File under ‘Late night listening’.

Gemma Aguilar
It's My Life

Five tracks from Leighton Buzzard based chanteuse. From the opening title track with its programmed percussion, slippery bass and cool melodic vocals to the foreboding vibe of final track, ‘Stranded’, Gemma covers a range of emotions. In between there’s the sweet summery pop and triumphantly contagious chorus of ‘Sunshine’ , ‘Why’s trawl through romantic ruins and ‘Object Of Defeat’s Suzanne Vega style lyric over a sympathetic backing with more electronic percussion. With its abundance of electronic instrumentation, It’s My Life ably demonstrates Gemma’s ability to take the traditional singer/songwriter style into new more modern dimensions. Well worth your time and attention. .


Essex born Jadylu is Runway Music’s latest discovery. Defenceless, her debut single, is a country flavoured confection with an electronic pulse. Pure, perfect, pop with a slice of r&b slipped into the mix it’s an ideal vehicle for displaying Jadylu’s undeniable vocal talents. One to watch out for.

The Red Bullets Rockfield Early Mixes

The Red Bullets have given the New Roxette a preview of two tracks recently recorded at Rockfield Studios. These are early mixes, but give a good indication of the general sound and direction that the band are pursuing.

Never Alabama is a slow number with nice overdubbed keyboard swirls, banjo well back in the mix and some very tasteful slide guitar embellishments which zoom through the track like a squadron of angels ascending to the firmament. The rhythm section is absolutely, uncannily, spot on and Pete’s vocals are as near perfect as makes no difference. 

Black Dog appears to explore Nick Drake, dark night of the soul territory and is the rockier of the two tracks. Driven on by some excellent, funky rhythm guitar and more perfectly precise bass and drums the track again features angelic slide guitars and in addition, a genuine, old fashioned, synthesizer break.

On the evidence of these two tracks the Bullets still have a load of fire in their bellies and are clearly determined to keep moving forward. Their headline slot at HOTC is going to be something to look forward to that’s for sure…

Craig Hudson

A set of diamonds in the rough from multi-instrumentalist Craig Hudson. Craig plays all instruments on this album which is bursting with fragile, home made acoustic charm. There’s the cheery skiffle putdown of Waste Of Time, the scratchy percussion of Politics Party, the lo-fi semi-acoustic punk of Wait, and that’s just the first three tracks...

Further investigation will lead you to the rocking Now’s The Time, the romantic musings of One Last Day and the big sound and Lennon ‘bathroom’ vocal effects on Bad Cocaine.
Mixing confidence and vulnerability with consummate skill, bringing a contemporary feel to an early ‘70s Harvest/Dandelion vibe, introspective but never up itself, Craig’s music deserves a wide audience and wider recognition.

According to his myspace page, Craig is recruiting a live band for shows over the summer. This is someone you miss at your peril!  Hear the album and catch him live.

Aylesbury Festival
Saturday 17th July.

By 11.00 a large number of people had gathered in a chilly Kingsbury for day one of the Festival. Opening act TR8R just seem to get better and better every time they appear. Theirs was a faultless performance of high energy punky rock that got the day off to a sparkling start.

Thinking For Tuesday, continued the trio of female fronted bands opening Saturday with a set of hard melodic rock songs expertly played and sung. Third band, Evaney gave us songs in a folk rock vibe with the emphasis leaning firmly towards the rock end of the spectrum with fiery guitars dominating. Acoustic artist Martyn Drabik played an accomplished solo set featuring a cover of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight which suited his vocal style uncannily.

Michael Lee brought a full band with him who took his songs through dense experimental arrangements full of jazzy/prog piano flourishes. He also appeared solo performing Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror to moving effect.Old Country Union and the sun arrived at more or less the same time and both warmed the audience into a rapturous reception. With their set of semi acoustic covers, Frank Walsh and friends surfed a wave of genuine enthusiasm.

Mike Carroll’s Groov8 were missing some of their usual firepower with a seriously depleted brass section. Bob Cronin and Tony Bevan deserve much credit for creating a far fuller sound than a Trombone and Sax could normally be expected to achieve. Nice one fellas!

Sunday 18th July.

Sunday Morning in a slightly warmer Kingsbury where Glyn Devey and band treated the growing crowd to some impressive guitar pyrotechnics followed immediately by Palanhiuk and their irresistible brand of new wave rock, with some definite undertones of The Undertones.

Bommerillo proved to be another highlight of the day, with their superior brand of country rock, in places referencing the Violent Femmes, scoring a bull’s-eye with the crowd.Pearl Handled Revolver gave Aylesbury its first but hopefully not last taste of their brand of dirty blues. From the uneasy melodies of Robin’s Garden through to the strident Going Down they won hearts and minds everywhere. Seriously cool. Less cool but seriously entertaining, acoustic guitar and bouzouki wizard Wilber picked his way through a varied set and introduced us to David Marshall, a song presenting the inoffensive Oxfordshire town of Thame as a veritable fornicatorium. Given a level of exposure this song could do wonders for the local tourist trade…Gravity Blue followed with their joyous ringing pop rock confections. The twin Telecaster attack combined with Alex’s clear, high vocals create something to cherish. A rare jewel indeed.

Lost Minute treated the crowd to more of their imposing songs. With big choruses and sky touching guitars they are creating an instantly identifiable sound. Although dogged by technical problems Stone Cold Diva still managed to deliver a tight, professional set of covers with a four piece brass section helping to make their soul numbers really ignite.

So that was the end of this year’s festival, yet again demonstrating the enormous breadth of talent found locally. Here’s looking forward to next year and further discoveries.

My Preserver
Revolutions In The Head

Big, bold and brash, Revolutions In The Head announces its presence unequivocally. A supercharged rhythm section with seismic bass and massive drums provides a gigantic platform for some hyperthyroid guitar, referencing Matt Bellamy and Daniel Ash in places and strong, assertive vocals and keys.

Hints of inspiration from the likes of Muse and the Chilli Peppers weave their way through the fabric of King Jesus and Loose Change’s mighty riffing. Puzzles with subtle guitar and flute like John Paul Jones keyboards builds into a huge ‘lighter waving’ number before closing as quietly as it began. Terrorist with its cool keys/percussion intro and Dancing With Bricks’ looping, recurrent Zep style riff both merit notice as well.

Ashley, Tom, Marcus and Jonathon, ably assisted by producer Premen have created some big music with teeth and attitude here. Enjoy!

Gravity Blue

Full of sharp, melodic, post punk mod pop, with reminders of Joy Division, Comsat Angels and early Manics, Breakthrough kicks off with Darker Side Of Me. This is an impressive start, moody and menacing, a little like Day Of The Lords if covered by Fingerprintz. The darkness is nicely offset by Alex Toye’s clear, pure vocals. Alex is ably assisted throughout by Andy Kyle, Jeff Cooper and Ren Mignogna through the excellent, chunky, feelgood pop of Best Thing to the string synths and almost folky vibe of Pale Blue.

Breakthrough is full of clean, resonant, precisely picked guitars and great choruses. Always catchy and accessible but never descending into the banal. Breakthrough is due to be released in May and is a likely contender for sound of the summer round at our house and hopefully yours…

Pearl Handled Revolver
Bedford Esquires – 16 April 2010

Lost in Bedford once again! This time a group of kindly women, dressed for clubbing, take pity on us and draw a map. As it is we arrive with time for a leisurely drink downstairs before we head in for the first band.

The Rumour are clearly suffering from nerves. Timing and tuning issues abound until they relax about five songs into the set. Thereon in things come sharply into focus and we get a pleasant trad rock show. Given a little more time things should get a whole lot better.

Next on are Mandala. The guitarist wears his instrument very high, Nick Heywood style, but there all similarities end. The music is crushing Mathcore with fluid guitar, drums like Animal from the Muppets meets Topper Headon at Keith Moon’s house and bass that not only drives like something out of Vanishing Point but runs you over in the process. There are no vocals just sharp contrasts of dark/light, clinical/feral, melody/discord. The music blasts through you and round you and away, bound for interstellar space.

Few bands could walk on stage after such a spacestorm with the style and confidence of Baedeker who still carry the madness and mayhem of the late lamented Swamis in their collective psyche. Electric guitars, drums, some bass, shared lead vocals and harmonies of an almost cinematic width mix with fabulous tunes and lyrics. Dan struggles with a recalcitrant guitar towards the end of the set but this does nothing to lessen the impact of a perfect, riveting performance. Punk/Psych in the most positive, experimental sense of the word, full of ideas and innovations, Baedeker truly are a thing of wonder.

If the theory of constant evolution ever needed illustration, Pearl Handled Revolver would be an icon. They bestride the night like a true colossus, masters of their instruments, songs and stagecraft. If they ever set up a school for charismatic band fronting, Lee Vernon should be giving regular master classes. Tonight they present the full range of their beguiling skills, from the dirty blues of Going Down, through the spooky, ‘Twin Peaks’ guitar of Robin’s Garden to the blissful psych of Rainbow. Special mention should, of course, go to the fabulous Morricone coloured wild western Today Was The Day. Like I said, constant evolution, it just gets better and better. Total stars to a man!

Pearl Handled Revolver

Second episode of a trilogy, this EP allows us to experience further sonic dimensions from PHR’s repertoire.

Opening track Today Was The Day comes galloping in from the high plains in real Morricone style and believe me these cats gallop with conviction. With evocative, bassy backing vocals and staccato drums driven along by organ and guitars, this would have Sergio Leone reaching for his chequebook.

The Robin’s Garden is full of brooding, bass heavy music with tense guitar and growling vocals. A more reflective side is on show here as the song builds uneasily.
Peace By Piece with its psychedelic melotron intro builds into heavy acid blues/rock with atmospheric guitar, bass and drums which keep things rolling forward nicely. Hoarse, urgent vocals teamed with sustained guitar howlings worthy of Kim Simmonds allow this track to stretch out and jam before going through a passage of difficult time signatures before a final rave up. Dirty, full of energy, that’s the way we like it!
Final track God Won’t Let My Baby In Tonight is another lengthy blues workout. Starting with an uneasy bass line and reverby keyboards it builds a brooding vibe before fading with driving bass and wailing Harmonica.

Once again Pearl Handled Revolver have achieved the difficult feat of reproducing their live energy in the studio and have achieved it with style. Catch them at the Aylesbury Festival this summer!!

The Young Punx.
Mashpop and Punkstep.

Second album by electropranksters from the Friars Management stable.

Tempted in by a man sounding not unlike ‘Mr Paul Caruso’ from the opening track of Axis: Bold As Love, assisted by attractive guitars and angelic voices, unwary listeners will find themselves carried off on a rich and strange transport of delights. This trip has many wondrous sounds and experiences. Thrill to encounters with rappers on Ready For The Fight and Like Dat. There’s skewed, slewed, loopy disco on Never Die, not to mention a brief interlude with Puccini by way of Burn, Burn, Burn, a dangerous liaison with some guys who sound like they may have been hanging with Army Of Lovers. Then there’s some punky new wavers on Simple Pleasures with its Rezillos style backing vocals and Rock Star with its futurist rock soundscapes.

Full of humour, playfulness and sheer exuberant joie de vivre, Mashpop and Punkstep manages the difficult feat of looking forwards, backwards and upwards simultaneously and does it with enviable cool. The future begins today! Dive in, the water’s lovely!!

Howard Jones
Ordinary Heroes

Howard swaps synths for Steinway and strings.

Howard Jones always came across as a far more multi faceted character than some of his contemporaries back in the 80s. At the time this made his songs stand out from the competition and it has stood him in good stead over the intervening years. With its piano and Celtic/Philly Soul strings, ably backed by Robin Boult, Martin Cohen and Jonathan Atkinson, Ordinary Heroes is a move into different territory for Howard. In places, full of a deeply introspective style of singer/songwriter composition covering the enormous topic of everyday humanity’s trials and tribulations, this move is an ambitious and happily successful one.

Some standouts are Fight On, which is reminiscent of Sixty Years On from Elton John’s debut album and has a perfect, sympathetic string arrangement, Someone You Need where the piano and strings again work together to sublime effect and Soon You’ll Go with its marvellously arranged Welsh male voice choir. Ordinary Heroes ably demonstrates that H.J. still demands and deserves our fullest attention.

Uncovered EP.

Lecarla Rock. M.K. residents Lizzy, Nikki, Hannah, Joe and Steve kick off with Where Do We Go? which fades up into a full on intensity fest filled with fuzzed out riffage. Following track Silent Drive Home maintains the pressure relentlessly.

Uncovered insinuates its way in, building slowly with high vocals almost submerged in the mix and deep drum interjections before hitting a total onslaught followed by quiet multi vocal verse/immense, thunderous chorus moments and more mindblowing flights of intensity, closing on a final, end of the world, massive chord. Like I said, Lecarla Rock.

Eponymous electrofuturist sounds from Young Punx associate.

Phonat has created a crazy confection of uneasy avant gardening, funky, futurist electro dance/rock. Rhythms and distorted guitars jolt and explode in every direction while vocals slide in and out of focus like and aural Burroughsian cut up. At the same time dramatic trancey bits and occasional cheery little sounds periodically burst out of the mix.

A Warm Welcome has a chopped fragmented almost Revolution No 9 with a sense of rhythm feel in places, while Ghetto Burnin’ is full of distorted savage metallic sounds and relentless beats. There’s frantic futurist rock riffing on The Big Deal, sinisterly cinematic sounds on Zombie Army and It’s For You is melodic in a rather beautiful way.

Final track London seems to sum up the overall vibe of the album (and elements of the capital) with its heavy metal through a mincer sound accompanied by lightening guitar and sweary dialogue. Phonat is, in turn, fabulous, challenging and contrary. File under: Storming the future of multiple genres.

SubRosa 5
The Hellfire Raves

Something of a gem from Wycombe’s subterranean punsters.

Opening track, Malevolence starts quietly with strange, disturbing off key guitar noises and rapidly settles into a Hook/Morris style groove with cool, throwaway, detached vocals building to a powerful wah driven chorus. A great start.

The quality continues throughout with Confessions Of A Justified Sinner featuring pub piano and late 60s early 70s vibe, Cold Not Dying, full of icy guitars lifting off into a sonic blizzard or the organ driven Days Dreams And Dust with its pop vibe and great vocals. The Tower which starts with a solitary acoustic guitar has the rest of the band rapidly crowding in. This is another organ driven song with a chorus full of unsettling vibes reminiscent of some of Arthur Lee’s darker moments.

Final track, Spiritual Stars is a slow burning triumph full of primitively psychedelic guitars in the best Reed/Morrison tradition. Shades of David J’s early work drift through the picture while the bass and drums lock beautifully behind buried backing vocals. All you need is John Cale on viola and we’d be heaven bound.

Jon, Tony, Doug, Jim, Neil and Martin have created something brilliant here which benefits from a few listens, grows and continues to impress and intrigue, infinitely…

Tramp Etiquette
Face For The Radio

A New CD from Tring’s Finest Export.

For a suitably manic start, things kick off with Vibrations, driven along by Tom Rhodes’ funky bass and some guitar which would make Andy Partridge proud in places. Things calm down slightly for Blind which opens with subtle guitar swells and cymbals and a more reflective overall feel, building into something bigger with passionate vocals by Joe Payne. The studio recordings are rounded off by Radioface which is again driven along by fierce guitars and bass and features a cool, cynical lyric.

Three live (most likely in studio) recordings make up the rest of the EP. PMA is raw and intense, full of clashing, gnashing guitars followed by a ferocious live rendition of We Dance from the previous EP. Things are drawn to a close by an even more attacking version of opening track Vibrations.

With their intense, aggressive arrangements Tramp Etiquette can really rip things up. Couple this with a sound that is very much their own, serious musicianship that is never used to the cost of their intrinsic rawness and you have a class act both live and on record.

Source Of Power

Hard rock with a mediaeval/gothic spin.

Opening track Flesh Is So Easily Torn with its plainsong intro runs headlong into hard straight-ahead rock full of big keyboards and even larger guitar, broken up in the chorus with sparsely instrumented organ and drum almost reminiscent of parts of Desertshore or The Marble Index.

Starting with sinister, echoed laughter, The Crazy Clown Song is full of skewed, scary, fairground vibes and weird off kilter keyboards. More huge guitar sounds and some deep waltzing bass haunt this track.

Moving on, Killer Instinct with its classically inspired keyboards and Reason with its long instrumental intro filled with flute, quietly picked guitars and nice bass interjections, rock out seriously.

Final track Sweet Mistress has a Celtic vibe and some ominous synthesized weather noises to go with its pure, keening vocals and scary occultist spoken-word bit.

Penultimate track, The Battle seems to sum up the Vrillion sound perfectly in that it’s hard, driving, big and serious and none the worse for it!

Kid Creole & The Coconuts, China Crisis

The final Friars Christmas Party featured two much loved and well remembered bands from the 80’s.

China Crisis played a gently paced set of melodic 80’s poptones, full of smooth rhythms and attractive chorusy guitars, to a keenly receptive audience, before receiving a much deserved ‘Friars Heroes’ award.

After such a low key start, Kid Creole And The Coconuts appeared even more spectacularly theatrical. After a lengthy introductory rap by MC Bongo Eddie (Percussion and Serious suit) The Kid himself, August Darnell appeared zooted and booted like a 21st Century Cab Calloway and led us, willingly, into his wonderful world. The hits came thick and fast, Stool Pigeon, I’m a Wonderful Thing Baby, Annie I’m Not Your Daddy all driven along by one of the most sublimely funky big bands it has been Aylesbury’s privilege to witness. Marc Anthony Johnson with his Hendrix meets Nile Rodgers at the altar of funk guitar was a revelation, as were the bass and drums courtesy of Oroh Angiana and Dave Imby. Their godlike genius provided a mighty raft for Darnell’s musical vision to cruise the tides and exotic shores of his personal ocean to its heart’s content. Not forgetting the Coconuts who’s backing vocals and humorous undermining of the Kid and Eddie’s theatrical macho posturing have always been an integral part of the show. Finally there was the almost angelic brass section.

The only possible description for tonight’s show is magnificent. A fabulous performance with a rapturous reaction from the audience and all rounded off with the presentation of their own ‘Friars Heroes’ award. Talking of heroes DJ Kris Needs provided a great set between the bands, again skilfully evoking the spirit of the times.

Once again the Friars magic was well in evidence at this, possibly the best of the three 40th anniversary shows. Superlatives simply can’t do justice to this particular night. All I can do is offer my heartfelt condolences to everyone who was not there, and hope that we’ll see maybe one or two more Friars Aylesbury shows in 2010…. Watch this space!

The Violet Hour
The Fire Sermon

Re-release of Prog, Folk/Celtic rockers The Violet Hour’s CBS Album from the early 90s.

Opening track Dream Of Me ushers in the album with sea sounds and whale song and with it strong Celtic influences and mournful flageolet playing, sets the tone of things to come.

The Spell has a feel of Kate Bush in some of her rockier moments with an Alice in Wonderland theme and phased drums while the Piano led Offertory Song is redolent of the musty scent of empty, semi abandoned Churches, which bursts into a heavier chorus.

Falling opens what would have been side two of the original vinyl release with a poppier piano driven feel.

Ill Wind Blowing rocks out menacingly with a tale of Nighttown violence while The House is a ballad full of lyrical references to psychedelia and the death and decay of the 60s dream.

Better Be Good deals with heavy childhood topics of lousy, manipulative parenting with a chance of escape into the outside world.

The Fire Sermon is a very interesting and long unavailable document of the times, sensitively but assertively sung and played by, Doris Brendel, Marcus Waite, Martyn Wilson, Andrew Fox and Sean Holborn.

In the intervening years Doris Brendel has been involved in many recording projects in various musical genres featuring such luminaries as Alvin Lee and Joe Brown. These have all now been re-released.

Friars 40th Anniversary Gig
23 October 2009

Friars returned to Aylesbury again on October 23rd, moving on from 60s psychedelia to late 70s punk rock explosion. All the bands playing had strong connections with Friars during that crucial period of the club’s history.

Legendary locals The Disco Students were the opening act. Full of swirling Magazine style keyboard washes and a strongly melodic post punk vibe they managed to be very much of that time but still startlingly relevant. Fronted by their one constant factor, Simon Cheetham, (vocals and excellent shirt) they were no easy act to follow. It’s a real pity they were on so early as many people missed their quirky, intelligent set.

Penetration had last played Friars almost thirty years ago to the day, on their final tour and it was almost like they’d never been away. That powerful two guitar attack is still there and they are still fascinating, individualistic and totally their own people. All in all very much what punk was meant to be about before all those stupid rules came in. Total originals and you have no idea how good it was to hear Don’t Dictate again. Lovely people too!

Age has not withered, wearied or slowed down Stiff Little Fingers. Their songs are still delivered with the same fire and passion despite throat infections and the passage of time. This band has held an important place in Friars’ history for the last thirty years and they received a rapturous reception from a sold out venue. The hall was filled with pogoing punks of all ages, colliding and clashing with little regard for life or limb. Just brilliant! Simple as that…

This was another night of mainly total highs which should serve to remind us why Friars has been so loved and so missed over the intervening years.

Kris Needs returned to play period DJ sets in between the bands and captured the essence of the time perfectly. Friars Hero awards were again presented to the artistes with this writer’s personal high points of the night being Pauline Murray’s total, unbridled delight on receiving Penetration’s award and Mike O’Connor’s well deserved presentation for his dedication and artistry in creating developing and running the Official Friars web site…

David Saw
Broken Down Figure

Former local musician David Saw has created an album with an attractive, laid back feel to it. Recorded in London and various locations in America, this is an album full, for the most part, of gently reflective singer-songwriter material with a strong American East Coast feel to the sound and arrangements.

Don’t Call with its quiet, introspective, acoustic vibe and the title track which is backed with a subtle, sparse string quartet arrangement give a general feel of the album. The exceptions are Buy My Record which changes the mood to a more vintage rock/skiffle feel and the Donovan/Mellow Yellow rhythmed vibe of Someone’s Going To Love You.

Personal Highlights appear in the shape of All At Sea with its delicate, solo finger picked acoustic guitar and Come Down with its excellent harmony vocals.

David Saw has a great voice which showcases his songs with true class. Praise should also go to Patrick Warren for his sympathetic string arrangements and to Ben Taylor for his backing vocals on an album redolent of late nights and long lazy summer days.

Linda Watkins
Emily’s Rainbow

A melodic, acoustic release from singer songwriter Linda Watkins.

The album is full of excellent guitar interplay courtesy of Linda and producer Mike Silver who also provides sympathetic harmony/backing vocals which are well illustrated on Winding Sheet. Credit and mention should go to Kate Riaz for her sonorous cello particularly on Delicate Kind and Held In Trust where she opens and develops further dimensions to the songs and also to Snake Davis for his understated sax on Sometimes We Don’t See and whistle on Bugeillo’r Gwenith Gwyn. Engineer Mick Dolan deserves credit for his bass and electric guitar throughout essay on human veniality, Gold.

Linda’s vocals carry elements of Joni Mitchell and at times the vulnerability of Bridget St John, which makes for interesting and rewarding listening. Well thought out, diary style lyric writing abounds giving an overall feeling of intimacy and introspection to this album.

Pearl Handled Revolver
One EP

Killer tracks from purveyors of ‘Dirty Blues’ Pearl Handled Revolver.

Things kick off massively with ‘Walk On By’ featuring raw vocals by Lee Vernon. So raw in fact, that it sounds like he’s been raised on a diet of flint chips and bathtub vodka with the Blues looming behind him with a huge aesthetic capital B. ‘Bring It All Home’ gives us more of the same, but with a massive funk injection. Slide guitars zoom and howl across the landscape. There’s wailing harmonica and stabbing, keening organ all driven along by a rhythm section that takes no prisoners. ‘Sunrays Through My Windshield’ is lighter, more acoustic driven with a subtle, sunshiny pop feel to it. Final track ‘Going Down’ is full of attacking guitars, funky organ and electric piano and soulful vocals and harmonica.
‘One’, is a fabulous artefact from a brilliant live band who have effortlessly transcended the gig to studio divide without losing the energy and excitement of their sound. The only downside is the absence of ‘Today Was The Day’ which is a massive personal favourite.
Try to see them live and buy this EP (which is the first of a planned series of three). Neither will let you down!

Lost Minute
Anymore/Decisions (Acoustic) - 13.07.09

With debut single ‘Anymore’, Lost Minute have created a brooding almost folk rock vibe. With its emotional lead vocal, fluid guitar, (referencing Mark Knopfler in places), the relaxed but precise rhythm section and mood enhancing string samples; this is a subtle but intense offering.

‘Decision (Acoustic)’ features a full sounding nicely toned acoustic guitar, to complement the vocals which are supported by high harmonies and unobtrusive strings.
Tastefully arranged, well recorded and produced Lost Minute have come up with an interesting radio-friendly single, indicating that they are well worth further investigation.

Benjamin Weston
It’s 7am Somewhere

Hard rock in a new wave style from Benjamin Weston. Catchy choruses and big guitars, some fuzzy, some strident, abound on this release. The title track has all the aforementioned virtues and the whole album could be described as full of short, snappy new wave guitar pop in the best tradition of The Knack or Holly’s Italians.

Mould breakers like Good Time Waster with its organ and country rock vibe or more surprisingly Anchored which fades in and out electronically with a very 80s big sound add further interest, as does Another Day with its semi acoustic feel with just guitar and drums for most of its length giving off a rough hewn almost demo vibe. Kindred Spirit should also be noted for its driving with the radio on, summer overtones.

With excellent vocals and instrumentation It’s 7am Somewhere is well worth checking out.

Hearts In Pencil
Hannibal Ad Portas/Bigger Games Better Days

Hannibal Ad Portas the press release informs us…”is Latin for ‘Hannibal at the Gates’, it was an ancient roman expression of fear or dread and is still in use today”. This is psychedelia with fangs, fading in with strange sounds this is serious art rock with spiky guitars, intense vocals and string samples. Big, fierce and angry sounding, roaring into thrashy episodes the listener is taken up on a frantic trip out with the wild hunt to be finally left frazzled and changed at the end of its six minute duration.

Bigger Games/Better Days charts the breakdown of a relationship with male and female vocals telling separate versions of the same story, clashing rather than harmonising and increasing the general effect of desolation. Semi acoustic with some nice backwards guitar the song finally rocks desperately to its conclusion.

Hearts In Pencil (Loz, Skae, James and Sam) have created something unusual and memorable here. If you like your music psychedelic, awkward and downright individual this could well be your thing.

Newton Faulkner
2 June 2009

Newton Faulkner played solo to a sold-out Aylesbury Civic Centre on Tuesday night demonstrating an easy rapport with the audience and a stunning ability as an acoustic guitarist.

Comparisons stink, so this writer will try to avoid them. Suffice to say Newton Faulkner is part of a grand tradition without a great deal of the ‘troubled artist’ baggage which has dogged many of his predecessors and is dragging said tradition into the 21st century with style.

At times using a battery of pedals, several guitars and something resembling a Ukulele, Newton’s two hour set never dragged. Minimal but excellent lighting went from tasteful ambience through Disco Ball to something resembling an abstract painting, all the while there’s an intimate atmosphere which turned the Civic into a large living room.

Stand out songs were the excellent adaptation of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ with huge bass pedals, the fear of flying song with its sliding chords and the fluffed but cool ‘Ageing Superhero’ with its aura of burned out melancholy. ‘Lipstick Jungle’ with its almost African picking deserves a mention as well.

The night finished with Newton singing and playing off mike to pin dropping silence followed by thunderous applause.

What a class act!!

Friars 40th Anniversary Gig
1 June 2009

40 years on almost to the day and after a 25 year break, Friars returned to Aylesbury. Featuring three ‘phase-one’ bands and the presentation of a record six Friars Heroes awards by Mike O’Connor of the Friars Aylesbury Compendium, it was one of those occasions where, as David Stopps once said “You were either there, or you weren’t”!

First on stage were The Groundhogs. Tony McPhee has never attained the level of guitar-hero status he deserves. Perhaps his sonic explorations went ahead at the expense of more widespread commercial recognition. Tonight he was impressively fast and fluid, creating an acid blues freak-out on opening number ‘Eccentric Man’ and following on with some superb slide guitar extemporisations, trips into deep space and finally some serious pyrotechnics through ‘Natchez Burning’ and ‘Cherry Red’.

The Edgar Broughton Band still contains the three original members augmented by guitar and keyboards. They created epic songs with diverse influences running from Captain Beefheart to English folk, making a hard driving roar interlaced with subtle psychedelia. ‘Call Me A Liar’ with its big synths and Roy Harper referencing wah guitar was a standout along with ‘Out Demons Out’ which allowed the band to really let their Freak Flag fly. Edgar’s opening rap ably demonstrated that sadly, little has changed since ‘Demons’ first appeared. Accompanied by some serious leaping about by a man who resembled Gerry Garcia (possibly the legendary Dave The Rave from Leaper’s Corner) the Broughtons may not have levitated the Pentagon, but they certainly shook its foundations.

Arriving on stage after a high speed dash from an earlier gig at the O2 Arena, The Pretty Things treated us to a career spanning set taking in 60’s r’n b, blues and psychedelia. Opening with contemporary number ‘Beat Goes On’ with its hard rock vibe, the Pretties then re-visited the past with ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ and quickly moved on to selections from psychedelic masterpiece ‘S F Sorrow’, bringing the title character into the building with ‘S F Sorrow Is Born’ with Dick Taylor coaxing fabulous tones from his guitar. ‘She Says Good Morning’ explored more psychedelic guitar territory while ‘Baron Saturday’ featured Dick’s sinister vocals and an all band percussion break.

After a short blues jam the wonderful Arthur Brown was brought on to join fellow legend Phil May for vocal sparring on ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’. Arthur departed and the band roared through ‘Roadrunner’, ‘Come See Me’ and ‘Buzz The Jerk’ leading up to lost classic ‘Alexander’ from their Electric Banana alter ego period. ‘I Wish You Wouldwas followed by ‘Old Man Going’ featuring more psychedelic guitar and indicating that Sorrow had finally left the building. From there it was 60’s standard, ‘Route 66’ followed by ‘Rosalyn’ with the Pretties joined on stage by Arthur Brown and The Broughtons closing a magnificent night of great music.

Special mention should also go to the mighty Kris Needs and his superb 1969 DJ sets before and between the bands, the wonderful Friars Aylesbury atmosphere which carried on throughout the evening and the appearance on stage of the founding fathers of Friars, Jerry Slater, Terry Harms, Adrian Roach, Robin Pike and David Stopps. Robin concisely summed up the Friars ethos with his comment ‘If you believe in something, go out and do it’.

Friars Hero Awards were presented to all three bands playing that night and also to Mike Cooper and Mandrake Paddle Steamer who played the first Friars on June 2nd 1969. Mike Cooper received his award by satellite in Rome while Mandrake Paddle Steamer’s was presented to band member Paul Riordan on stage. The sixth award was presented to the estimable David Stopps without whom…

Slashed Seat Affair
No More Lies

With ‘No More Lies’ Slashed Seat Affair have created a driving new wave feel with all the guts as you would expect, but with a gleaming modern-day production which enables it to look both forwards and back. Ellie Mules is an accomplished vocalist in the classic style which places her in good company, and praise is due to the rest of the band for their contribution. Noel Martin creates a marvellous and very full guitar sound while the solid, assertive rhythm section drives on, courtesy of Darren Michael (bass) and Rob Meehan (drums). A great piece of pop rock!
‘No More Lies’ is released on 4 May on Fill The Void Records.

Here She Comes-a-Tumblin’

Packed in lose feathers, this album from ‘Dark Cabaret’ artistes Birdeatsbaby refines said darkness into a marvellous Weimar On Sea confection while never falling into the trap of archly camp (Who He? Ed.).

Full of doomed love and polkas, lurching waltz times and piano, bass and strings colliding lasciviously and sometimes angrily, it’s easy to imagine Auden cruising their venue or Isherwood sitting in a corner taking notes.

It’s hard to pick out individual songs when standards are so high but Miserable with its rubber, leather, SM fetish and alcohol abuse sticks in the mind as does Jim, a Dear John (or perhaps Dear Jim) number, which manages to cram onanism, television and Keira (Knightley, one assumes) into the first line alone. Letter To Charlie with its gentle acoustic guitar and harmony vocals closes the show.

Mishkin Mullaly and the rest of the band have created something worth its weight in rubies here. Take a copy into your heart and your home. It’s guaranteed to behave abominably but you’ll just love it all the more.

“Tie me down Charlie Brown, wrap me up in a hospital gown”.

The Wishing Tree
Tring - 16th March 2009
By Peter Brockwel

Many will be familiar with Steve Rothery in his role of guitarist for local band Marillion but his side project The Wishing Tree are not so high profile.

The Wishing Tree chose The Court Theatre, Pendley Manor, Tring to launch their new CD titled 'Ostara' on the world. In the making for 12 years this is only their second album (following 1996's Carnival of Souls) which demonstrates the pit falls of Hannah (Stobart - Vocals) and Steve's Transatlantic musical relationship.

Support tonight is supplied by Pete Trawavas (Marillion/Kino) and Robin Boult (Howard Jones/John Young Band) in the guise of 'Pete and Rob's Experimental Whimsy.

The name sums up the nature of their set which travels from ragtime acoustic workouts to Jeff Beck style electric virtuosity and every point between.
With a little more time this could build into a very interesting partnership.

After a short break we are onto the main event as The Wishing Tree take to the stage for one of their very rare live performances to rapturous applause from the partisan audience. As this is the launch party for 'Ostara' we get seven of the albums eight tracks (only final track 'Soldier' is omitted).

Despite some initial problems with the vocal levels the audience's request for "more vocals" following the first song helps the sound in the intimate venue with Rothery's guitar staying high in the mix.

The running order rearranges the songs to allow the set list to start with the traditionally slower Wishing Tree prog-meets-folk sound of songs like 'Seventh Sign' and 'Easy' and build to the hookier/harder climax of 'Kingfisher' and the title track. The nights only non-album track appears during the encore in the form of an impromptu cover of Mazzy Star's 'Fade Into You'.

Despite the seven-piece band only having a day and a half to rehearse for the show they replicate the recorded sound well due to the quality of musicians such as Pete Salmon (ex-Jadis), Jo Rothery and Pete Trawavas (again!). The loyal audience stayed sympathetic throughout despite a few 'technical problems' and abrupt conclusions to songs which normally fade out in their recorded form.

Following the gig, a meet and greet provides the chance for the adoring throng to thank the band and grab an autograph or two before heading home. Altogether a special night and who knows what this band could achieve in the current climate (The Reasoning, Panic Room, Mostly Autumn etc) given more exposure.
Here's wishing….


A six track CD of clever electronica from Bim.
Electric percussion clicks and rattles quietly in the background while gentle synths wash through the mix like a soothing, incoming tide. Breathy female vocals from Rebecca Rosier with slightly more edgy accompanying voice from Tim Davis add colour to the overall picture which has its spectrum widened and deepened by touches of electric guitar here and there.
Despite the rather chilled musical ambience found here, Rebecca and Tim are able to build a surprising level of intensity without ever becoming loud or shouty (e.g. Call It A Monday).
Final track The Magic Of Us finds the pair harmonising over an unadorned acoustic piano backdrop which is all the more effective for its simplicity.
So there it is. Six tracks of cool Electro pop which resolutely refuse to insult your intelligence.

Claire Batchelor

Singer, writer and multi instrumentalist, Claire has produced a rare jewel here. Her songs are performed with sensitivity, craft and care enhanced by Steph Shepherd’s resonant cello which lends real gravitas to the material. The tracks fade in and out of each other giving the impression of a song cycle and lending a kind of organic wholeness to proceedings.
Opening the album with sounds of water and backwards guitar, Weak features peerless vocal harmonies, cello and acoustic guitar. Grow and Time both featuring drums by Mike Hawkins continue with the harmonic beauty.
Instrumental track Candlewax uses electric percussion but keeps a folky chilled out aura and displays Claire’s flute and piano skills.
Final track Free combines cello and celestial harmonies with some ominous distorted guitar in the background.
There is a really strong, early ‘Island Records’ feel about the album reminiscent of some of Joe Boyd’s best work as a producer. Full of beauty and mystery I can’t recommend this highly enough.

I Am An Antagonist/Narcolepsy

Serious, strong stuff on 1877’s debut release. Antagonist begins with electronic percussion and keyboards before the guitars come in backing submerged Curtis inflected vocals. Cold and powerfully arranged the instruments mesh and splinter menacingly.
B side Narcolepsy is, if possible, even more intense. Guitar and Bass drive relentlessly reminding the reviewer of Sumner and Hook on Interzone. True to its title, the track carries a bleak Burroughsian menace which has gone unheard in music for far too long.
Chris Stanley in The-Mag wrote, “They carry a genuine menace and intensity”. I can only, totally, wholeheartedly agree. Excellent!

Ben Sem
Western Lights

Big music with a Celtic vibe from Ben Sem.
This record has a huge, cavernous sound with impassioned vocals and rhythm guitar from Craig Semmens, while big electric guitars rock out courtesy of Pete Rawbone. This is best demonstrated on rockier numbers, such as Free, Sunshine and Apathy. Quieter aspects are explored on string driven ballads like Why I Cry and Constant Dream. Credit should also go to Adrian Jones on bass and drummer Kevin Cook who make up a gutsy, effective rhythm section.
So if you like your music large, intense and straining heavenwards, dive in and enjoy.

Pippa Drysdale
Fire In The Snow

Pippa Drysdale continues the singer/songwriter tradition with some aplomb.
Fire In The Snow is beautifully played and tastefully arranged with excellent production and musicianship by Michael Carpenter and Matt Fell.
Exotic and ancient keyboards such as the Mellotron, Chamberlain and Marxphone, rarely used since “Farewell Aldebaran” or the odd Sparklehorse song, are featured and lend a touch of mystery to some of the delicate folky ballads. Paper Aeroplane benefits from strange whispered background effects while Fade Away and Stupid Angel are nicely understated folk/rock in the style of Suzanne Vega’s work with Mitchell Froom. Lassoo has a feel of one of those Triffids songs propelled by keyboards, carrying impressions of the huge spaces between Perth and the rest of the world.
Whatever influences pervade, however, Pippa has her own voice and identity and her music is well worth checking out.

Reason 6
Amersham EP

These guys made quite an impression last year at the Kings Head supporting Fluid Lines. Their live sound was big and confident with multiple guitars and The Amersham EP delivers more of the same.
Over My Head has a country rock feel to it with a full, multiple guitar sound, raw vocals and an almost hinted backing vocal.
Days One starts with flanged guitar introducing a huge, cavernous lead guitar, understated, subtle rhythm section and interesting, portentous lyrics.
This band is well worth checking out, live or on CD.

The Red Bullets
The Echo Sessions EP

A new release and another step forward for the Bullets. Recorded almost live by Jamie Masters, the Echo Sessions really succeeds in capturing the Bullets’ live vibe on disc. It’s hard to single out individual contributions as the standards are all so high but Kyle’s growing confidence in his playing is beginning to reveal a prodigious talent which is really allowed to shine here, particularly on live favourite Shrink Wrap and the 21st century Hendrix Experience feel of Ragged Shoes’ introduction.
A brief conversation before the last Aylesbury gig revealed that the band are more than happy with the EP and one listen should tell you that they are fully justified in feeling this way. Buy one today and keep it off the streets!

The Cantells
'Come Get Served'

This three track CD from acoustic rockers The Cantells follows a long seam mined by the likes of The Violent Femmes and The Bad Livers, but unlike the Femmes’ punky thrash and the Livers’ more rootsy approach they apply a more English spin to the template.

Guitars are strummed, picked and slide with conviction, weaving around each other in interesting patterns on Age Of Reason, while Beauty Queens goes in for a more country reggae vibe, with clattering percussion and the ever present, huge, thumping acoustic bass. Final track, Workingmans Arms is a folky strumalong with most of the already mentioned attributes firmly in view.

This excellent, if brief trip in to the world of the Cantells is topped off with some superb vocal harmonies and a set of interesting lyrics worth the price of admission on their own. So remember. If you’re looking for something different, planet Cantell may well be the place to visit.

Highly recommended!

The Powders

‘Warm’, The Powders second album tackles big topics with big sounds, highlighting questions about the human condition while avoiding the obvious pitfalls of negativity and cheap cynicism.

Opening with the massive Still Falling Down, with its almost Steve Kilbey vocals and arrangement with chiming guitars and solid bass and drums, the album has high production values which are maintained throughout.

Running from the Hard rock of You, No, Nothing to the folky inflexions of Zeros and Ones, Warm contains good vocals and instrumentation and well constructed songs several of which cover such universal topics as wasted time, lives and opportunities and incisive critiques of lives and relationships.

File under ‘serious subjects handled with grace, dignity and maturity’.

Fluid Lines
'The Lightning Season EP'

Bobby Gillespie once said that any band worth listening to must strive for magnificence above all else, and these writers are not inclined to disagree with him.

The six tracks on the Fluid Lines EP certainly indicate that they are heading in the right direction. Huge cavernous guitars prowl and stalk around Calum Wood’s impassioned vocals. Calum and Jimmy Wright have arranged and sculpted their respective guitars into something bigger and wilder than two ordinary instruments could usually hope to achieve.

All this is underpinned and driven forward with passion and expertise by Bruce Miller and Ben McKelvey on bass and drums. Songs like Don’t You Dare Move, Fire, and Fingerprints stay with you for a long time in the way that all the best songs do and the wonderful shouty, Dickensian backing vocals deserve a special mention as well.

To return to the thoughts of Bobby, it’s really all about the aspiration and the journey. Fluid Lines have the aspiration in spades and if every great journey begins with one step, then they’re already streets ahead of the competition.

‘Control EP’

Kicking off with a great rush of punky power pop chords, Pause deliver some seriously hard rock. Guitars lash each other into a frenzy of fuzz tones following through to great washes of distortion. Title track Control starts with some cool bass and quirky vocals tell interesting stories throughout the four tracks found here. A tough rocky rhythm section drives everything along with conviction. Intense and interesting!

The Swamis
Bedford Esquires

Four bands on the bill tonight… so a mad dash over to Bedford for an early start.

First on are The Delaneys who are young, full of ideas and not afraid to use them. Clashing guitars mix with surprise tempo changes in a cool combination of 60’s vibes filtered through an early 80’s sensibility, laced with some of the fragility of a Lawrence or a Phil Wilson.

Following fast come The Red Bullets. After a summer of outside gigs this is the first time these writers have seen the band indoors. Four walls and a good sound seems to concentrate the music into a more punchy and visceral incarnation of its already razor sharp self, honed by constant gigging. This seems to push the band to even greater heights, coming across as darker and harder and lending a gritty muscularity to their performance.

After a short changeover, Pearl Handled Revolver stroll onstage and proceed to wipe us all out with their soulful organ, funky guitars and rhythms, gravely vocals and wailing harmonica. Their bluesy groove is punctuated by the occasional gallop off into Ennio Morricone territory or a sideways trip into blissful woozy psychedelia. Strong and daring to be different, they shine through a rather opaque and unforgiving sound mix.

Headliners, The Swamis continue the vibe of difference with a line up of two acoustic guitars and a drum kit. This could cause confusion to the uninitiated and manages the tightrope trick of looking so wrong and so totally right at the same time. Rules are made to be broken and The Swamis tear up the book with awesome style. With the guitars plugged in they create a huge gutsy sound with massive energy, strong vocals and the guitars filling all frequencies. All this is underpinned by ferocious and precise drumming interwoven with passages of delicate acoustic subtlety.

A real winner. Excellent tattoos as well!!!