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The Fish Police – genre benders

Members of my family occasionally look at me askance when I am tending to my music collection because I can get very frustrated and upset. This is when I am trying to put a genre to a particular album or artist and can’t work out where they go. Yes, I know, this is very nerdy. But when it comes to music, I can be.

So imagine my delight/horror when a band came across my transom described as “neurodiverse electronic music pioneers”. Aieee! A whole new genre!

Well, not really, The band concerned are The Fish Police. They have been around a while and  they are basically Afro Punk. That is, a bit rappy with basic chords and a smattering of Nigeria or the like. The Guardian newspaper nicely noted they give a nod to “everything from MF Doom, Kraftwerk, De La Soul, the Ramones to Grace Jones” (with whom some of the band play). I might add Keziah Jones and Trombone Shorty.

I like the band very much. Check out the video of “Japanese Girl” below.

The “neurodiverse” is interesting, though. It  comes because two of the band — singer, rapper and songwriter Dean Rodney Jr. and guitarist  Matthew Howe — are both autistic/on the autistic spectrum*.  The other two members — Charles Stuart (bass, co-songwriter, background vocals) and Andrew Mclean (live drums) — are not.

The ironic thing, of course, is that the neurodiverse bit means the band stands out in an industry when standing out is about the only way you can get attention unless you are really, really special. It is important in these circumstances, I believe, not to succumb to the “gee whiz” factor.

Luckily, there is not much need in this case. If I hadn’t been told about the autism, I would not have even guessed from listing to the music. The band has enough to offer without it. Indeed, they are off to play at SXSW in the middle of March (where they are billed as electronic Afro Punk, by the way).

Check them out:


*There is a large debate these days about how you express this. For reference I used this article  from the National Autistic Society.


New (360 degree) Steve Martin

As many of you know, there is more to Steve Martin than just a funny man — although he is that. He is also a banjo wizzard.

Here is his latest video. Really interesting that he is using 360, but unfortunately I cannot do justice with it technically.

Gregg Allman: Last blast from the Southern man

IMG_7964 2So close to death was blues rocker Gregg Allman when he was making his final album, the cover photographer did not get to his Savannah, Georgia, house in time.

Instead, “Southern Blood”, Allman’s posthumous paean to his life and music to be released in September, is adorned with a sepia shot of the grounds, a wooden boardwalk heading away under the shade of Spanish Moss.

There probably could not be a more appropriate symbol for Allman, who died from cancer in May, aged 69. From the early days with his late brother Duane onwards, Tennessee-born Allman was the epitome of Southern rock and blues.

“Southern Blood” is not about the South per se for that, skip back an album to the 2011 Grammy-nominated “Low Country Blues”. This one is about Allman.

“(Gregg) was acutely aware that his time was limited,” Allman’s manager and friend Michael Lehman told me when asked about the recording session.

“These compositions, they are all poignant and meaningful and talk about his life’s journey. Everyone of them had meaning (for him).”

For his last hurrah, Allman chose a number of songs written by friends and favorite artists including Jackson Browne, Willie Dixon, Jerry Garcia and Lowell George.

Each song, including those written by Allman himself, touch on something of the man — who led a difficult life with the early death of his brother, six divorces including from his celebrity marriage to Cher, drug addiction, hepatitis C, a liver transplant and, ultimately, cancer.

George’s “Willin'”, for example, is the tale of a hard-times Southwestern truck driver who keeps on the road against all the odds, a hint at Allman’s near continual touring.

Another song — written by Mississippi bluesman Wilie Dixon — needs no explanation:

I Love The Life I Live/ I Live The Life I Love

In a similar vein a lot of the songs are basically goodbyes. One such is Allman’s sweet rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Going, Going, Gone” with it’s starting lyrics:

I’ve just reached a place/Where the willow don’t bend/There’s not much more to be said/It’s the top of the end

Perhaps most poignant of all is the opening track, Allman’s own “My Only True Friend” in which he calls on the people who have followed his music since before 1969, the year the Allman Brothers hit the road, to remember him.

You and I both know this river must surely flow to an end/Keep me in your heart, keep your soul on the mend/I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul, when I’m gone/Please don’t fly away to find a new love

(This is an edited version of a story I wrote for my main employer, Reuters. The photo is mine from when I met him in 2011)

Mr Jagger gets it on Brexit

The Rock Machine (Still) Turns You On


There is a fascinating column in the pages of R2 magazine (the former Rock ‘n’ Reel) called “It started with a disc”. The idea is that the magazine’s contributors write about the record or CD that started their love affair with music. For me it would probably have been Pat Boone’s “Speedy Gonzalez“. But that is another story. This is about an album I had many years later when I was in my teens which helped cement my fanaticism for music. The Rock Machine Turns You On was originally released in 1968 but probably bought by me a year or two later.

The album was remarkable on three levels. First, it only cost 75 pence (around $1) which at the time made it one of the cheapest LPs (long player for the young among you) available. Second. it was arguably the first rock compliation ever made, bringing together…

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Gourd banjo and hambone – great stuff

Markus James (r) and Calvin Jackson (l)

Missa Luba: An old friend rediscovered

Record Store Day 2017 and what should I come across in my local Oxfam bin but a copy of an album I have not heard since the early 1970s — “Missa Luba”, sung by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin.

7630659The singers’ name should give you a hint about this one. Baudouin was king of Belgium in 1958 when this music was first produced and when what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo was a Belgian colony. The music is a Christian mass sung in Congolese style.

The “hit” from this piece of musical joy was “Sanctus”, a Bantu-inspired farewell song that was used in Lindsey Anderson’s magnificent 1968 movie of youth rebellion “If…”. That alone made it cool for my generation. But Wikipedia reminds me of other claims to fame:

The Gloria featured in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)….  The Clash refer to the recording in the lyrics of “Car Jamming” on their 1982 album Combat Rock… The cover of the Troubadours’ album appears briefly in the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange (1971) as Malcolm McDowell’s character, Alex, strolls through a record shop.

Pasolini, If, The Clash,  Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange — say no more.

Listening to it today, I suppose there are some issues for the politically correct. It was put together by a colonial priest, Father Guido Haazen, whose job was presumably to preach Christianity to Africans under European rule. But it is a celebration, nonetheless, of Congolese culture and in an age when World Music is embraced in every bit of its seemingly infinite glory, why not?

The music itself — and this album was produced in 1963 after Congolese independence – is uplifting. It is a series of African folk styles, including rhythmic dance music, accompanied by log drums but following the general course of the Catholic mass.  Have  a taste: