Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Embrooks "We Who Are" New LP & State Records Launch Party with Les Grys Grys and The Dirty Contacts at The Lexington January 5th

The Embrooks - "We Who Are" LP cover
The Embrooks celebrated the release of their brand new LP "We Who Are" with a cracking value for money State Records showcase and launch party at The Lexington featuring special guests Les Grys Grys and The Dirty Contacts. Of course Mole and Lois of The Embrooks are the brains behind the fabulous State Records who have recently completed work on their very own recording studio North Down Sound in the grounds of their HQ in Folkestone, which is certainly paying dividends.

The Dirty Contacts at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Dirty Contacts at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
Opening the show after an excellent selection of songs from DJ Suzy ScreamCheese, the Hastings based Dirty Contacts were also celebrating a new release. Their debut single "The World's End" was recorded at North Down Sound and is out now as a heavyweight gatefold sleeved 7" vinyl single. They played a great set of scuzzy Garage Punk with some promising original songs rubbing shoulders with some familiar cover versions such as Wimple Winch’s "Save My Soul" and a superb take on The Wailers "Out of Our Tree". I recognised the Fratcave and Beatwave weekender organisers Ian Greensmith from The Dentists on drums and Justin from The Sine Waves on keyboards. In fact, Justin's futuristic keyboards add another dimension to their sound and give The Dirty Contacts a welcome and original angle that sets them apart from many of their contemporaries.

Les Grys Grys at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
Les Grys Grys at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
The fantastic Les Grys Grys have been over from Montpellier to visit North Down Sound to continue work on their forthcoming album. They took time out between recording sessions to headline a riotous New Year show at Weirdsville which featured crowd-surfing, PA climbing, Go-Go dancing full-on mayhem. Tonight they put in a rather more sedate performance that is as tight and rocking as the Weirdsville show was chaotic. They really are one of the best live acts on the circuit and tonight’s set promises that the new LP will be a sure-fire classic, can't wait to hear it.

The Embrooks at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Embrooks take the stage and tonight, with his striped trousers and tasselled hat, frontman Mole reminds me of the Psychedelic shopkeeper in the Mr Ben cartoon, promising us a fantastical adventure ahead. Indeed, there is an element of the unknown to come as Mole announces that they will only be playing songs from their brand new release “We Who Are". I thought it was a brave move by the band to play the album in sequence from side one, track one, however, it all worked out perfectly in the end. This was mainly down to the fact that “We Who Are” is expertly sequenced with each song capable of being released as a stand-alone single in its own right. In fact, I found myself singing along to numbers as though I'd listened to them for years rather than just a couple of weeks. I noticed there were a fair number of people around me doing likewise. You see, “We Who Are” is one of those rare albums where everything just clicks. From the beautifully packaged limited edition 180-gram vinyl LP with its lavish gatefold sleeve and accompanying CD, right through to the production and the sheer quality of the song writing, it’s all here.

The Embrooks at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
Only one song breaks the three and a half minute barrier but they still manage to cram in loads of intriguing twists and turns into each number, which gives the album a thoroughly satisfying depth. Drummer Lois kicks things off with the snake hipped groove of “Going But Not Gone” and Mole's elastic bass riff is bubbling away nicely underneath. The previously released State Records single "Nightmare" was the only familiar song in the main set and it has a great stinging guitar riff intro from Alex. "Don't Look At Me" is one of my highlights on the album, it starts off as a Garage Punk stomper before shooting off at an unexpectedly pastoral tangent with some wicked flute played brilliantly on the album and at the gig by Tom Hodges. Suddenly a mighty bass riff slaps us back on track and then it all goes off with a crunching guitar riff and the flute going haywire.

The Embrooks at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
For me the album's centrepiece is the magnificent "Human Living Vampire" and on this track in particular, you really get the feeling that the band are definitely utilising their own studio to its full potential as the multi-layered guitar work from Alex blew my mind. It starts with a beautifully intricate twelve-string motif and then in comes some furiously strummed, almost flamenco styled acoustic. There is so much going on that your ears won't know which way to turn. “We Who Are” certainly distils all of The Embrooks many and varied influences perfectly. From the quintessentially British 60’s Freakbeat era of bands such as The Sorrows and The Attack, they cross the Atlantic to embark on a mammoth Psychedelic road-trip. The journey takes in the dirty waters of the East Coast Garage Punk scene to the Texan Psych of the 13th Floor Elevators and then onto California and the sun-kissed harmonies of The Byrds and "Mr Soul" period Buffalo Springfield.

The Embrooks at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
There’s some superb Fuzz guitar on "I'm Coming Home" with a melody reminiscent of The Brian Jonestown Massacre's classic "Not If You Were The Last Dandy..." Next up it's "Baby From The South" which has a nice upbeat rhythm and a touch of The Equals Rock'n'Soul about it. A cover of The Lost Souls "Peace of Mind" based on a hypnotic slightly sinister riff, fits in seamlessly among the original material. The excellent "Hang Up" features some classic stabbing organ chords and a great guitar break. "You Can If You Want" closes the album and the main set with Kevin CK Smith joining the band to play some astounding harmonica. I remember seeing Kevin's very first appearance in London when he guested with The Dustaphonics to play harmonica and he blew everyone away. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, joining The Baron Four and The Voo-Dooms as well as DJ’ing.

The Embrooks with CK Smith at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Embrooks encore with a couple of oldies including a vicious version of “Jack” which goes down a storm and then it's over way too soon. The only downside of the Lexington show is that for some reason they omit their superb cover of The Hollies "Have You Ever Loved Somebody" which was a shame as they managed to transform it into the embodiment of a perfect Embrooks song on the album. To be honest, I don’t think they did themselves any favours by officially releasing the album just before Xmas as it was too late in the year to feature in many of the “Best of 2018” lists. Anyway, I'm going to cheat and consider the LP was released on the day of the Lexington launch party as that was the first time I nabbed my very own copy and in that case, this is already a nailed-on “Best LP of 2019”. Now, I know it’s only January but I really can't imagine a better album will be released this year. If it is, I am very much looking forward to hearing it as it's going to have to be something pretty damn special to beat “We Who Are”!



For more photos of the night please check out the album in the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and you'll find videos of all three bands at our YouTube channel here. Please click on the highlighted links above to access more info on the bands. Finally, "We Who Are" and The Dirty Contacts new single can be ordered from State Records here along with many more of their releases.


Monday, 14 January 2019

The Downliners Sect - Photos by Paul Slattery of the 60's R'n'B Legends Recording a Marc Riley BBC Radio Session

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
My Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast colleague the Rock Photographer, Paul Slattery was recently invited to the BBC studios in Maida Vale to witness The Downliners Sect recording a session for Marc Riley. He went along with fellow Sect fan Rob Symmons, once of Subway Sect and now The Fallen Leaves and kindly filed the following report and photos: "When you get a phone call from one of this country’s most singular guitar players then you know it’s important, and that guitarist happens to be Rob Symmons of the Fallen Leaves. I’ve been going to see the 'Leaves for some years now - they just get better and better. Their mantra is "Punk Rock for gentlemen" and, as I am of course a gent, their gigs are always absolutely perfect. Rob wanted to know if I was interested in going over to the BBC Maida Vale Studios to see a live recording by the doyens of the English 60's R'n'B music scene The Downliners Sect for a Marc Riley 6Music session. I’d only been there once before and was keen to go over and see this cavernous space again. It started life as an ice rink but the BBC took it over in 1933/34 and converted it into the studio that still exists today. 

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
Some of the studios are massive and are big enough to accomodate a complete orchestra. It’s like an iceberg as three quarters of the space is below ground but all the studios have natural light. Rob and I headed for Studio MV3 where we found the band getting in some rehearsal time before their live session on Mark Riley’s show on Radio 6. There is a plaque here commemorating Bing Crosby’s last recording session on 11 October 1977. MV3 had a fairly regular Peel session on Sundays and Peel kept this studio and the next door studio MV4 busy with live sessions for more than thirty years. I’ve always been fond of "Hatful of Hollow" by the Smiths which is mostly a Peel session recording, plus it does use my photo of The Smiths on the gatefold sleeve! 

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
You can’t help feeling the music history walking into this place and The Downliners Sect, contemporaries of The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things are one of those bands who started the English Rock scene back in the early sixties. In this country though we have scant regard for such notables, in France such musicians would be lauded, have a state pension and be heroes of the Republic. I’d seen the band play at the 100 Club a couple of years before and was enthralled. 

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
It’s great chatting to Don and Keith, Don’s a West London lad like myself so there’s a common bond with the West London Rock scene and Eel Pie Island. This is a really class band, and while they are doing their live set they let me wander round and take photos in the studio. Their three numbers "Soup In A Basket", "Escape From Hong Kong" and "Let It Rock" are British Blues at its finest. I was brought up on this kind of music and it’s great to see it being played live. 

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
Tireless drumming by Mark Freeman and fluent bass and vocals from Keith Grant anchor the set while Don’s vocals and guitar give us the soul. Del Dwyer adds more clever guitar and John O’Leary's harp is superb. This is a truly great band, one of the originators of British rock music and I'd recommend that you go see them play at the earliest opportunity."

Rob Symmons of The Fallen Leaves with The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale by Paul Slattery
Thanks to Paul Slattery for the report and photographs, to see Paul's pics of The Downliners Sect live at The 100 Club please check the feature in the Blog archive here. For more information on The Downliners Sect you can check out their official web-site here. The excellent Eel Pie Island Museum in Twickenham has a superb collection of display material on the history of the local music scene revolving around the Eel Pie Island Hotel. From the initial Jazz, Mod and Blues scene through to the raw R'n'B sound of the early Rolling Stones, The Others, The Pretty Things and of course The Downliners Sect. You can check out the archive for the feature on the pop-up British Beat Explosion exhibition that preceeded the opening of the Eel Pie Island Museum here. The Eel Pie Club at The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham puts on regular live events featuring some of the legends of the scene such as The Pretty Things and Geno Washington, check out their site here for information.

Photo Retro Man Blog


Monday, 7 January 2019

The Fay Hallam Group + King Mojo + DJ Lee Grimshaw - Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney Sat Feb 9th


Following the success of October's show for Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children, I'm very pleased to announce the next Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney will be on Saturday February 9th and features The Fay Hallam Group with special guests King Mojo and DJ Lee Grimshaw from the Spinout Show. Advance tickets are now available from the Half Moon at the link below. Fay Hallam is a hugely respected Hammond organist, singer and songwriter, with over 10 albums to her credit. She first came to prominence in Wolverhampton Mod-popsters, Makin' Time, in the early 1980's, along with a pre-Charlatans Martin Blunt. Fay and Martin, along with drummer John Brookes and ex-Prisoners frontman, Graham Day, then went on to form The Gift Horses, which were the embryonic beginnings of The Charlatans.

Fay Hallam at The 100 Club - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Fay then joined Graham Day again, along with Prisoners bassist Allan Crockford and fellow Medway stalwart and ex-Daggermen drummer Simon (Wolf) Howard, to form The Prime Movers. This took on a rockier more progressive sound, including the 'Earth Church' LP, which was hailed by Sounds Music Weekly, as LP of the year Afer this, Fay went on to make over 10 albums as Phaze, The Fay Hallam Trinity and then as a solo artist initially on the Blow Up label, with her 2015 album release "Corona". Her second solo album release, "House Of Now" was released on Well Suspect Records in October 2016, received rave reviews, and gained airplay on BBC 6 Music and BBC London. Always with one eye on keeping things fresh, and developing her ever-evolving sound, Fay's current incarnation, The Fay Hallam Group, comprising of Paul Weller collaborator Andy Lewis on bass, her son Josh Day on piano, Kieran McAleer on drums, Jim Bishop on guitar, and the brand new brass section of Angus Law on sax and Kenneth Yarham on trumpet, have just completed their latest album, "Propeller", which is due for release in Spring 2019. Fay's current live set features songs from her entire back-catalogue, from classic Makin' Time favourites, right up to the present day.



For more info on The Fay Hallam Group please keep an eye on their recently updated official web-site here, or you can check out their Facebook page here. You can read our feature on Fay's excellent gig at the 100 Club which featured special guests French Boutik and Magnus Carlson in the Blog archive here. There are also some videos from the show at the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel which you can find in the archive here.

You can book your tickets in advance from the Half Moon Putney event page here.  


Thanks to Steve Rowland from Frank Phantom Design for the poster.