Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Record Review - Raphael Saadiq

Raphael Saadiq
Stone Rollin’

Hot damn!  Check this out cats and kittens, set yr bangs and grab yr bubblegum, prepare yourselves to worship and fawn, what a dreamboat, Raphael Saadiq we love you, yr tunes are new and alive, this hasn’t been done before, where have we been?  Where have you been?  Screams and screeching from the girls, cool adulation from the boys, what is this black music that we’ve heard so much about but have been warned off of by our parents, respectable white middle-class people that they are?  More screaming and rending of garments, damn!

The desperation in the vocal delivery, it paints vivid pictures of the sex barely concealed beneath the smooth rhythm and blues grooves, oh the primal spirit being unleashed before our very eyes, it liberates and frees you, it’s like nothing that you’ve ever experienced before – makes yr breath come in short gasps, doesn’t it?  Make yr very loins tingle, those teenage loins before barely used and yet pondered upon almost religiously, the possibility and the intrigue, the danger and the naughty taboo of it all, all fired just from these songs, these songs about how he loves (he’s talking about you, you know that right?), how he can’t live without you, how he needs and wants you – and it is about you, yr loins are telling you so.

Oh man, the feeling rising within, you can barely contain yourself, you don’t know how to react to the bluesy bounce, to the soul and the velvet smoothness of the whole thing – this is NEW.  When yr parents were out dancing at your age, they didn’t have THIS.  This has NEVER been done before and so be prepared for the radio to be awash with these sounds, with Saadiq’s mystique, with this INNOVATION and these SONGS… oh man, yr swooning, I can see it happening, how have you ever lived WITHOUT this music?

Samuel J. Fell

Stone Rollin' is available now through Sony.

Rise Of The Falcon

Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons

It seems odd to be writing about a band like Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons in this languid year of our lord, Twenty-Eleven, as people have taken to calling it.  It almost, almost, seems a little perverse.  Behind the 8-ball?  No, but still a little out of the comfort zone, but relevant, no?  In this instance, yes, 35 years since the almost accidental formation of the band, and so a reformation show must be had, that crucial line-up coming together once more, just for the one show, ARIA Hall Of Famers all, the Falcon is back.  Still seems a little out of place though.

Frontman Joe Camilleri, perhaps, thinks so too, as he doesn’t really talk much about Zep & the Falcon, focusing more on his ‘other’ band, The Black Sorrows, and what music is in this day and age, what’s it all about, how different is this?  He’s in Perth, sitting in his car on the side of the road, but you can feel the vibrations over here on the east coast and we pass the time wondering things and throwing up ideas and we don’t really accomplish much, although we’d like to say otherwise.  I would, particularly.

“Yeah, still with the Sorrows, we’re about to release our – well, I dunno – probably our twentieth album or something like that,” Camilleri muses firstly.  “That’ll come out in September, Crooked Little Thoughts, so we’re looking forward to that, make us feel like we’re part of the landscape.”  It’d actually be hard to imagine the Australian musical landscape without the Black Sorrows methinks.  “Well that’s right, we’ve been going since ’83 and we haven’t stopped and the only thing that’s changed is you get different people coming and going.”

People coming and going is a feature that also defined the Falcons back in their day, although not to the extent of the Sorrows (who, according to that bastion of fact and knowledge, Wikipedia, has had 23 Past Members), but that is hardly the point and is perhaps no more than a lazy attempt at a segue.  However, this is no ordinary situation and so we talk about the changing nature of the music industry, and there aren’t many people more qualified to comment on this than Camilleri, who co-founded the Falcons back in 1975 at the behest of Daddy Cool’s Ross Wilson, along with other Cools, Gary Young and Wayne Burt – he’s been around the block, it’s fair to say, of this there is no doubt.

After we’ve done this for a while then, we begin to run very short of time and so we must talk about the Falcons, who are as mentioned, reuniting for a one-off show to celebrate 35 years since they formed, and this is surely an exciting prospect one would think.  “Well I am [excited], I haven’t seen those guys for a little while,” Camilleri states.  “I just hope they have a heartbeat, you know?  Because my motto is I come to play, I don’t just come to muck around, lets do the job, and I’m sure they come with that feeling too.

“So I’m really looking forward to, not just playing some of those songs – I play some of those songs in the Sorrows – but there’s a kind of love affair that you have with those people,” he muses.  “You don’t live in their pockets anymore and you hated them when you were breaking up, but whatever it was when you were making the music, still lives, you know?”  Jo Jo Zep disbanded in 1981, reforming for a tour and a record, Ricochet, in the early 2000s and then were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in ’07 and so have established their bona fides and even though the members (who for this one-off will include Camilleri, Wilbur Wilde, Gary Young, Jeff Burstin, John Power and Tony Faehse) are off on different tangents, the music does still live, even 35 years down the track.

Samuel J. Fell

All Grown Up

The Adults

Both interview and music are addled and strange, full of things you can’t quite comprehend, whether it be because of a lousy connection or because of what was running through Jon Toogood’s mind at the time – again, both during the interview, and the making of this strange, unusual record, the first from a New Zealand collective calling themselves, The Adults.  Toogood’s mind is a complicated beast and it moves in many different ways at one time; he slaps his head and things fall from within, his words scatter across international phone lines and his music bumps and grinds and slithers, digitally, and meshes and moans.  What does it mean?

I don’t know and I’m still undecided as to whether or not I like this record, its hodge-podge fodder for full-blown derision and scorn, and yet it seems to go a lot deeper than that, it’s more visceral than that, it bristles with something, and I don’t know if I’ve yet identified what that something is… does Jon Toogood know?  Do any of the myriad collaborators on this record know?  Fuck it, who cares?  This is music, the most primal of languages, of beings and states of mind, and so as it grew and morphed and postulated and cringed and whatever the hell else it did, it became music and ended up here, the baby of Shihad frontman, Jon Toogood – never, might I add, as you’ve seen nor heard him before.

“Oh, without a doubt,” he enthuses, for Jon Toogood never does anything unenthusiastically, whether it be writing his music, performing his music or talking about his music; this is a man you can certainly not accuse of being blasé.  “I mean, the whole thing is an experiment of throwing people together into different situations and music that they wouldn’t usually do.” 

The Adults, through the vehicle that is the collective’s eponymous debut, have created something that is, to put it lightly, not of the norm.  Amongst the kiwi luminaries Toogood has rounded up are the legendary Shayne Carter (Straightjacket Fits, Dimmer), all ‘round musical extraordinaire Tiki Taane (Salmonella Dub, Shapeshifter), hip hop soulster Ladi6 and Julia Deans (Fur Patrol) and yet you won’t find any deep dub on here, you won’t find any art rock, you won’t find any reggae or hip hop or metal or rock ‘n’ roll.  Although, and herein lies the hidden kicker, perhaps you’ll find them all, rolled into one ball of sonic sludge which has then been lovingly and abstractly re-moulded into something different.  Something electronic.  Something fuckin’ tectonic in its unstable condition which may or may not cause catastrophic results upstairs.

And, as do most things that raise eyebrows and cause heated discussion, it began as something quite different to how it ended up.  “Originally the idea was that I just had a surplus of music that I’d been writing by myself and I thought some of it would be good,” Toogood explains, “and I [originally] just wanted to get some of my friends to jam on it and see where it would go.  But I quickly discovered that writing something from scratch with these people – because they’re all smart as – was actually way more interesting.  So I don’t think I used one single thing that I’d written.

Samuel J. Fell

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

School Of Blues

Jimmy D. Lane learnt from the source - now he's giving back.

It’s a universal truth that education is important, it’s paramount, it’s what sets you up for life and informs all your decisions from the moment you become educated, until the moment you die.  Along the way you pick up life experience of course, and this adds to your education and so you become wise and you become enlightened and you fill yourself with knowledge, and as even the most out of touch individual will tell you, knowledge is Power.  You can do a lot with Power, just ask Richard Nixon, although he abused his power and it almost seemed, in the hazy aftermath, that he might not have had the education he thought he did.

My education was simple and, so I like to tell myself after the last dregs have been drunk and there’s no more tobacco left, effective.  I’m here, aren’t I?  That’s the truth, that’s the knowledge in fact.  My musical education was also simple, and it’s an ongoing thing, and I think it’s fair to say that it goes a bit deeper than your run-of-the-mill schooling, although perhaps my parents wouldn’t be wont to agree, but this is my business now, and so it’s an education that keeps on growing.  It’s also an education which feeds my emotions and my feelings and my moods, and so I’m becoming wise and enlightened and as for abuse of this Power, well, only for good.

My musical education though, as much as it informs what I do now, is a different kettle of fish to others’.  Indeed, it’s small fry compared to some others’ and whilst it’s important to me, it’s not anything out of the ordinary really and what other people go through in terms of a musical education is deeper and more intrinsic than mine was – I don’t play professionally for example, and neither do I aspire to.  Others though, damn man, they do play, and some of them?  Well, not only did they receive an education on the matter, but they were most likely born with it, before they even emerged from the womb, they were dripping with it.  And then, they expanded, because as you know, knowledge is Power.  And in music, that’s a damn powerful thing indeed.

I spoke to Jimmy D. Lane last month.  In an email post-interview, he called me a “very well informed gentleman”, and I’ll take that one to the bank.  Now, Jimmy D. most likely isn’t a man you’ll hear too much of around the blues traps, and this is a shame really.  You’ll know his father though, one Jimmy Rogers, a man who could sling a guitar with the best of them, and in fact, he was one of the best of them, he played with everyone from A to Z, and he was the man.  He’s probably most known for playing with Mr. Muddy Waters through the ‘50s, and it’s through him, Mr. Rogers, that his son’s musical education began.

“One of his songs that really stands out in my mind – well, there’s actually a couple – is ‘Walkin’ By Myself’, you never tire of hearing that song,” Lane tells, almost dreamily, from his front porch, where he’s been “having a smoke and waiting for this call”.  “And at his funeral service, Kim Wilson from the Fabulous Thunderbirds and myself, we performed ‘The Last Time’, which was another of his songs, that’s always been a favourite of mine.  He’s had quite a few songs that musicians migrate towards, you know?  Especially guitar players, they’re drawn to that rhythm he played, he was a fantastic rhythm player, he and Muddy complimented each other very well, so those are two of my picks of his songs.”

Samuel J. Fell

(except - published in September issue of 

Monday, 1 August 2011

The View From Room 8

After a few years in the wilderness, sometimes literally, Jordie Lane comes back with sublime new record, Blood Thinner.

Cover pic by Andrew Kidman
European autumn 2009, and I’m standing outside the Hotel Ibis at 49 Stationsplein in Amsterdam, just down from bustling Central Station.  Three days ago I’d been in France for the wedding of a friend, but had since hopped a fast train to the ‘Dam, the City of Excess, where good men go to die and the rest of us stagger out sated and full.

The reason I’m loitering outside a plush hotel instead of seeking the myriad sin this city produces in spades however, is because a few days before leaving France I’d been tipped off that Jordie Lane would be in Amsterdam this same week.  Given we go back a ways, I’d shot him an email and we’d arranged to meet, to hang out for a day or two, sample some of the local brew and generally shoot the breeze.  Our initial contact that week was actually through the Instant Messaging aspect of Gmail; “Mr. Lane,” I wrote.  “Word on the street is yr gonna be in Amsterdam this week... me too. Playing anywhere?”

His reply came back forthwith.  “Really??? I am there right nowNo, I ain't got gigs, trying to have a holiday.  But feel a bit lost not playing, I must say.”

To those who know Jordie Lane, whether personally or through his finely crafted, Americana-tinged music, the idea of him not playing is indeed quite odd.  He’s well known on the Melbourne scene (and increasingly, the national scene), as an artist of the utmost veracity and doggedness when it comes to playing, writing, or anything to do with his craft.  What makes this situation even more peculiar as well, is that as I waited for him outside the hotel, it was barely even three months since he’d released, in Australia, his debut long-player, Sleeping Patterns

This was a record that was long overdue by anyone’s standards, it was a record which when finally released (as it had been the June just gone), garnered almost instant critical acclaim.  It was a record which heralded the arrival of, as has been noted in the press, “one of this country’s brightest new roots music stars.”  It dropped, and then Jordie Lane fled overseas after the briefest of promotional tours.

I’ve been lucky enough to track him down though, and as I lean against that hotel wall, having waited for fifteen minutes or so, I hear a whistle and looking up I see a be-hatted head amongst the sea of bikes chained up outside the station, the man himself strolling nonchalantly towards me, guitar case in one hand, bag in the other, Jordie Lane, loose in Europe, seemingly without a care in the world.
We head straight for Dam Square where we sit in the sun and drink large mugs of Heineken and he seems happy and I’m happy to see him but underneath, under the smile and the idle chat, I realise that despite all this, he’s basically dropped everything, and is hiding.  Hiding from the release of an album he laboured for years to make.


I was really fucked up,” Lane comments with a goofy laugh when I remind him of that time.  We’re talking in the beer garden at The Park, the pub in Suffolk Park, just down the road from Byron Bay, a good two years almost, after our time together in Amsterdam.  “I don’t know why I was, but I was in a very confused, post-high kind of phase, because finally the record did come out and it got a really good response, we did some great shows on the tour and that was really exciting.

Jordie Lane pic by SJF
“And then I left the country for Europe, didn’t know why I was going there, I can’t even remember what the original purpose for me to go to Europe was,” he goes on.  “As far as my musical headspace though, I was not keen on anything at that time, it was a bit of a bad spot for me.  I know I had the guitar with me, but I was too scared to play it to people… it’s true, I was petrified, I don’t know why.”

The reason we’re talking now, amidst the bustle of The Park’s lunch rush, is because Jordie Lane has recorded (and by the time you read this, released) the follow-up to Sleeping Patterns, the sublime and strange and elegant Blood Thinner.  We talk for about an hour, and the strongest thing I take away from the interview is the stark juxtaposition of how he was then, to how he is now.  Then, he was covering for something, something he hadn’t yet come to grips with.  Today, he’s genuinely happy, he’s ebullient, he’s a man who’s climbed the mountain, planted his flag at the summit, and made his way back down.  He’s conquered.  Although it certainly wasn’t an easy experience.

Samuel J. Fell

Excerpt - published in August issue of 
(Cover Feature)

Bombay Explosion

The Bombay Royale Get In Deep

Rock ‘n’ roll has become black and white, it has no edge and it isn’t dangerous anymore.  The kids clamour for something bigger and more ungainly but they get the same over and again, recycled and reused and regurgitated by wannabes and hypocrites and sonic pimps with nothing better to do than steal ideas and pass them off as their own.

Where is the flash and the colour and the noise and the pump, the exotic glamour and the sweaty dance that swells from deep within and explodes all over your face like a technicolour money-shot?  Back in the ‘60s was when it was real, mainly because it was new, and this is rock ‘n’ roll but we know about rock ‘n’ roll, all too much, and so we’ll switch continents and immerse ourselves in Hindi cinema, known colloquially as Bollywood, and the music that went with it.  Not the more contemporary modern strand of the music, but the left-of-centre ‘60s versions that filled your head with visions of pelvic-thrusting beats and shimmers, as is so eloquently re-crafted this very day by Melbourne’s own, The Bombay Royale.

“The ‘60s and ‘70s thing is a different kettle of fish to the contemporary stuff, it’s more the Punjabi style,” concurs bandleader Andy Williamson, aka The Skipper, and also known to Australian audiences through the Public Opinion Afro Orchestra.  “The pocket of stuff we’re interested in, it mixes in all sorts of stuff.”  It must be noted that what the 11-piece Bombay Royale is doing isn’t a tired reconstruction of a tried and true formula, it’s the reintroduction of a form of music and visual expression that sadly doesn’t see too much light in this day and age, and it’s hitting chords, which is really no surprise given how hungry people are for something that challenges them, in every sense of the word.

“Yeah, it’s been very enthusiastically picked up,” Williamson notes, an understatement when you realise the group, formed only last April, has already played Port Fairy Folk Festival, Bellingen Global Carnival, St Kilda festival and the Australasian World Music Expo, not to mention a recent appearance on Spicks And Specks plus decent radio exposure.  “The AWME gig in particular was good for us, that got us to a festival on Reunion Island, just off the coast of Africa recently… that was really well received and it looks like there’ll be action in Europe for us and maybe South Africa arising out of that.”

Not only scoring points in their home country, but overseas as well, and in such a short time, highlighting once more the urgent need people seem to have to take in something different.  Williamson mentioned earlier in the piece that the pocket of Bollywood music The Bombay Royale are re-exploring is a mix of styles, which is certainly not a lie – surf guitar, disco, western cinema, funk, it’s a heady brew, one this troupe have down pat.

“There are actually areas of the ‘60s and ‘70s music that we don’t use, the folk and more classically oriented styles, we stick more to the funk and the spaghetti western styles,” Williamson explains.  “Live, the main focus is the music of course, and we’ve introduced a small amount of a costume thing going on.  I mean, the focus of the project has always been the music, but at the same time there’s an expectation (because the cinema is so much a part of it) that there’ll be a visual part of it.  So as things have gone on, the show has gotten a little more animated and theatrical, people have taken on characters, but it’s always about the music, it doesn’t get into the theatre.”

What it does get into is your head, deep within to parts hitherto thought barren, something new and exciting and certainly not black and white but bursting with colour and verve, something set to shake you up and break you down, which is just what the people want.

Samuel J. Fell

Published in Inpress Magazine, 
3rd August 2011