Archives for January 2008

Gotta Hear This, #6

Stuart Bailie | 14:03 UK time, Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgIf you wanted to hear your reggae music in the ’70s, then it was John Peel or nothing. The guy seemed to pick up on the best of it, as we heard these wonderful tunes, anthems from the government yards in Trenchtown.

This was the prime time for the vocal groups, who had based their harmonies on soul acts like The Impressions, but who took it to another spiritual place. Many of the lyrics were informed by The Bible, particularly the Book of Exodus and the exile in Babylon. To the poor guys in the shanty towns of Jamaica, this was some kind of deliverance and it was woven into their Rastafarian creed.

And so the pained music of the sufferah made its way east. Early Bob Marley was full of it. Culture released the impeccable ‘Two Sevens Clash’, The Congos may have bested it with ‘The Heart And Soul Of The Congos’. And Burning Spear mused intensely like a flinty old prophet.

naturalites2.jpgThe era seemed to have passed by 1985, but somehow it took seed in Nottingham. And act called The Naturalites came up with an amazing song called ‘Picture On The Wall’, which Peel and his listeners adored. The production wasn’t as exotic as their West Indian peers, but the mood was reverential, the horns were wonderful and artless while the harmonies ruled. Ossie Samms, Percy 'JP' McLeod and Neil Foster were emphatically in the zone.

Essentially, it’s a song about having an image of of Haile Selassie , the late Ethiopian leader, above the mantlepiece. But in Rasta terms, Haile lives, the inspiration endures and the pure hope of The Naturalites is that you might ultimately get back to where you once belonged.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Playlist, 25.01.08

Stuart Bailie | 21:16 UK time, Sunday, 27 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgA big old mix of tunes last Friday. I'm enjoying the Lightspeed Champion album and the new Cat Power covers album, 'Jukebox'. Some shows are painful and even tense, but last week was entirely pleasant. You can listen back via the Radio Ulster website until next Saturday.

Sam Cooke – Shake (RCA)
Clarence Frogman Henry – Standing In The Need Of Love (Chess)
lightspeed.jpgLightspeed Champion – Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk (Domino)
Adele – Best For Last (XL)
Vashti Bunyan – Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind (Fatcat)
Kate Bush – Why Should I Love you (EMI)
Foy Vance – Homebird (Wurdamouth)
Cat Power – Silver Stallion (Matador)
Kris Kristofferson – The Junkie and the Juicehead (Columbia)
Jaymay – Gray Or Blue (Heavenly)
Gary Lightbody, Lisa Hannigan – Some Surprise (Oxfam)
Amiina – Rugla (Ever)
Adele – Make You Feel My Love (XL)
The Infomatics – Wake Up (QNISS)

Simon And Garfunkel – Leaves That Are Green (CBS)
Duffy - Mercy (A&M)
Dr Feelgood – I Don’t Mind (Grand)
Ida Maria - Stella (RCA)
Matt McGinn –Double Bed (white)
Chris Bell – Look Up (Ryko)
Adele – Hometown Glory (XL)
Brian Eno – Needle In The Camel’s Eyes (Virgin)
Martina Topley Bird – Carnies (Independiente)
Ian Dury – What a Waste (Stiff)
Sons And Daughters – This Gift (Domino)
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Down On The Corner (Fantasy)
Prefuse 73 – The Class Of 73 Bells (Warp)

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

'19', Not Out

Stuart Bailie | 11:23 UK time, Friday, 25 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgI’ve spent the morning listening to the new Adele album, thinking that I’ll never have this kind of intimacy with the record again. As from Monday, ‘19’ is in the public domain and for the rest of the year you’ll hear it ceaselessly in bars and markets, on beaches and wine bars and ringtones.

adele250.jpgInevitably you will grow tired of it. It will be the record that people who don’t normally buy records say they like. The swooning refrains will be used in bad TV documentaries – at the very point when the premature baby is taken off the ventilator to die. And before long, these songs will become the staple of talent show auditions, as hopeless stage brats warble and Simon Cowell’s eyebrows go skywards.

But is that Adele’s fault? Not really. She’s got a bit of style and soul and she sings like she means it. Her songs reference the kind of sentiments we’ve all felt. That track 'Hometown Glory' is rather exceptional. And there’s nothing jarring on the record. That’s why it will be perfect for dinner parties.

I guess the hope is that Adele has a satisfying year, that she doesn’t go mad with the workload and the publicity. The ultimate hope is that albums two and three are a bit more dangerous and a little less Sade.

Listen to tonight’s radio show at 10pm to preview some of the tracks.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Mass Lysteria

Stuart Bailie | 20:20 UK time, Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgIn your younger days, you wanted to be Billy Bremner, scoring against Chelsea in the cup final after extra time. You could do all the moves, all the faces. Then you discovered youth culture and decided that you’d rather be Joe Strummer, saving the world against evil capitalists and Jeff Lynne fans. You even dabbled with a bit of James Dean and Eddie Cochran, trying to get the hair and the pose right.

egg250.jpgLater, you were pleased enough if someone reckoned you looked like Van Heflin, or even Gene Hackman. So long as they didn’t mention Clive James. By now, your ego is busted, your expectations are supine in the looks department. And then one of your kids improvises a portrait of the father, using an upturned, empty egg shell. There it is, jeering at you from the kitchen table.

Life: is this all it’s cracked up to be?

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

We Saw The Sea

Stuart Bailie | 22:37 UK time, Sunday, 20 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgCongrats to British Sea Power, who splashed into the top 10 of the albums chart today. I do hope that they celebrated quietly and that their tour is proceeding without any great danger to life.

britishsea250.jpgI say this because when the band played their Spring & Airbrake in Belfast last Thursday, they were on some kind of terrifying mission. A band member hurled himself into the audience with a tuba. The lady with the violin was dressed as a woodland creature, possibly a badger. There were marionettes hanging from the ceiling, maybe of a Weimar provenance. And of course the band were wearing that strange gear; Enid Blyton adventurers meet early Spandau Ballet. I hope it never catches on.

Songs from the peppy new album ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ were well aired. By encore time, there was a proper frenzy in the house and Noble had grown tired of clambering over PA stacks and lighting struts. His last gesture was to go charging off the stage, high into the air and to catch a support pillar in the middle of the crowd. We heard the clunk of flesh and bone connecting to a solid chunk of architecture. And while he managed to clamber back on stage, we saw the look on his face. The guy was in pain. We felt for him, man.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Sam, The Man

Stuart Bailie | 18:05 UK time, Saturday, 19 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgI’m listening to an old recording of Just Five singing ‘Well Don’t That Beat Them All’ and it’s just about perfect. It has the rough and tumble rhythm that young men with scruffy hair made around 1964. It is one of the rare artefacts that we have to remember the Maritime scene in Belfast. And most importantly, it’s proof that Sam Mahood had a voice that really was hard to beat.

just5.jpgComing from a later generation, I never saw Sam live on stage. And while I always hoped that I’d meet him some day and I’d hear some of those great old stories, that’s not going to happen now. Sam passed away on December 23, another piece of our cultural history that’s not been celebrated like it should.

According to his peers, Sam was a classic soul belter, arguably better than some of our more famous sons. Terri Hooley likes to talk about the theatre of Sam shows. Mahood would use a lot of those James Brown moves, falling on the stage, feigning exhaustion, demanding that the audience cheer all the harder to revive him. With his wavy red hair, his buckle shoes and a woman’s furry jacket, he must have surprised Belfast, never mind his hometown of Ballymena.

sam180.jpgThere will be a musical celebration for Sam at the King’s Head, Belfast on Sunday, January 27. The likes of Ronnie Greer, Rab McCullough, Terri Hooley and Lee Hedley will feature, and some of the old Just Five heads will also be involved. It starts at 3pm.

I’m not sure how many Just Five tracks are commercially available, but ‘Don’t That Beat Them All’ and ‘I Will Have You’ are included on the excellent CD, ‘Belfast Beat, Maritime Blues’, compiled by Roger Armstrong, with sleevenotes by Owen McFadden. The CD booklet uses an old Just Five image from City Week / City Beat, the local publication which covered the local music scene so passionately. I’d love to know where the paper’s old photo archive has gone. It’s another part of our story that needs to be preserved, to be valued.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Let's Do Panama

Stuart Bailie | 12:23 UK time, Thursday, 17 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgTonight I’m planning on a trip to the Limelight in Belfast to see the Panama Kings. Despite the exotic name, they have some kind of connection to Ballymoney. Their tunes are sparky and strange and singer Niall has an aura of rampant cool.

panama250.jpgThey have a track called ‘Your Children Are Screaming’ which has possessed my mind for the past few days. It stomps and fulminates and says alarming things that I can’t quite explain. It’s pretty clear that they enjoy their Flaming Lips, and the slashing guitars are true to the spirit of Gang of Four. Anyway, when I saw them in November at Auntie Annie’s, they were tremendous.

Tonight’s gig is presented by the Two Step organisation and also features Fighting With Wire plus contenders A Plastic Rose. I will be the old guy with the earplugs and I trust, a happy face.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Eeee Emmm Ayeee!

Stuart Bailie | 09:12 UK time, Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgBack in 1999 I was making a documentary on the British music industry on behalf of the Foreign Office. Over the space of six months, we made repeated visits to the EMI building to watch the UK’s most prestigious record company in action.

emi.gifThe Brook Green offices were lined with memorabilia from The Beatles, Cliff Richard, Queen, Pink Floyd and the Pet Shop Boys. We met with the top executives who talked us through the company stories, how people with good ears and stubborn characters had made the place resound. Acts such as Kate Bush and Radiohead had been nurtured over long periods of time, allowing them to become artists in a deluge of commodity.

We watched the label prepare Jamelia in the same way, taking her from a fairly liberal development deal to a sustained sell. She seemed happy with her position and surrounded by fairly decent people. And we heard how Robbie Williams had been carried over the dark years of cocaine, paranoia and the delusion that he was the equal of Liam Gallagher. Fascinating stuff.

We even broached the story of how EMI had ditched the Sex Pistols, nervous that the band’s infamy would have dented the great institution. The Pistols took their revenge by wiring a nasty tune called ‘EMI’ while the company seemed to have missed out on a cultural moment.

Today, EMI bosses are expected to announce as many as 2 000 job cuts. The papers have been full of speculation and stories about the apparent dissatisfaction of artists on the roster. Other record companies have been suffering too, as the digital age has thrown their authority into doubt.

The old days are essentially gone, but I trust that the creative engine that is UK music will continue to throb. The alternative is just about unthinkable.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Nice Day For A Scouse Wedding

Stuart Bailie | 10:49 UK time, Monday, 14 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgLast night I watched coverage of Ringo Starr in his hometown, bashing out ‘A Little Help From My Friends’. Most of the Brookside cast joined in on the chorus, the famous Ringo voice was mostly in tune and Liverpool was officially the European Capital of Culture.

liverpool.jpgThe run-up to the launch may have been tense and the image of the “Scouse wedding” gave some idea of the politics involved. But for one night at least, the city looked like a unified, positive location, even if the pay-off was letting Dave Stewart on stage.

ringo4.gifI’m also rather found of Ringo’s new single, ‘Liverpool 8’, which traces the Starr history, from maritime adventures to Rory Storm And The Hurricanes, Butlins and the The Beatles. The narrative spins off to Hamburg and Shea Stadium and leaves us with a lusty chorus and much sentimentality.

So how would things have evolved if Belfast had won the culture bid? With the greatest of respect, I don’t think it would have been adequate. The city is definitely on its uppers and the horizon looks increasingly cool. But the pressures of putting on a massive display may have caused actual harm to our prospects.

Remember, Belfast didn’t even make the shortlist. That was the moment when the cute consensus was trashed. True, there had been a kind of peace, and a sliver of political agreement. But the city’s amenities were basic, the arts infrastructure was strained and there was little investment in culture. Being rejected so flatly was an important moment, and from that time on, the rebuild has been modest but sincere. Some day, we may have our recognition before all of Europe, but the real pay-off is more culture for our citizens, better art on show and the occasional sight of a tourist, miles away from a bad mural.

So while Liverpool currently has its moment, Belfast is getting better, all the time.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

All Pop, No Fizz

Stuart Bailie | 10:12 UK time, Thursday, 10 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgThe value of great pop music is that it transcends the music industry, the sneering critic and the envious classical bod. A three minute song that registers in your soul and excites your intellect is rare. And I’m not sure how many examples were in last night’s BBC Four programme. ‘How Pop Songs Work’.

charleshazlewood.jpgThe presenter Charles Hazlewood seems like a decent enough chap, with his orchestral credentials and blokish demeanour. I just get nervous of those people rummaging around in our territory, and making glib comparisons between The Beatles and Schubert. In the past, we’ve been patronised by tweed-wearing academics who will blether for money about Doric modes and Georgic interludes. They don’t rate the music, but they think they can explain the forensics of structure and style. Yes, but does it rock your heart?

The best lesson I ever got about pop music was when a girl sang me the Hot Chocolate song, ‘You Win Again’. She made it sound like the most powerful statement in the universe. A few days later, and I was in a disco when her burly ex-boyfriend broke down in tears. The DJ was playing that song. And the boyfriend had lost, again. Take it away, Errol Brown...

amywinehouse.jpgAnyway, Charles Hazlewood played a bit of Abba and made the case for Amy Winehouse. He wibbled about the Arctic Monkeys and connected Jamie T to the operatic tradition. Sorry, but I wasn’t buying this, and additional quotes from the grinning Professor Of Pop just seemed silly. Also, anyone who compares that buffoon Wyclef Jean to Bob Marley just isn’t listening properly.

And I’ll not be lectured to about ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. The song stinks. Forever. I’m thinking instead about the Molière play, The Bourgeois Gentleman, when the central character is royally confused by the academics with their posturing and arcane references.

A Hot Chocolate tune is the better investment.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Astral Weeks, Wondrous Days

Stuart Bailie | 10:50 UK time, Monday, 7 January 2008

Stuart Bailie.jpgOn Saturday night I watched Duke Special with 23 members of the Inishowen Gospel Choir, with harp and keyboards, xylophone and sundry folk blowing notes across bottlenecks, jug-band style. The song in question was Ballerina by Van Morrison and the aim was to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album Astral Weeks.

dukeastral3.jpgAs hoped, the Duke was in imperial form. He located the pain in the song, letting us know that the dancer can barely deliver the gig. But he also found the deliverance, the idea that great art can rise above commonplace problems. A pivotal lyric, "the show must go on", becomes the theme for the evening, as short-term difficulties are fixed and a genuine sense of wonder is despatched from the stage.

Eight different acts have accepted the challenge of taking a track from the Morrison classic. Brian Houston had opened with ˜Astral Weeks itself, inviting us into the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dreams. Cara Robinson had teased out the soul-jazz dimension of Beside You'™ while Brendan and Declan from The 4 Of Us were wowing over Sweet Thing'™.

At very short notice, Matt McGinn walked in and played Cyprus Avenue'™. We were transfixed by the vision, with the leaves falling one by one and the girl radiant with the rainbow ribbons in her hair. Between songs I was sketching out the history of the record, celebrating the references to Belfast and the amazing cultural confidence that had led a 23 year old artist to write this colossal work.

ursula.jpgThe Winding Stair
seemed at ease with ˜The Way Young Lovers Do™, and those odd time signatures were smartly accomplished. Perhaps the most daunting gig of the night was ˜Madame George, that whirling homage to a figure that plays dominoes in drag. It was Ursula Burns who had accepted the mission and she sat with her harp and realised that child-like vision. Perfect. Finally, it was time for Tom McShane and the fragile adieu of ˜Slim Slow Slider'™.

˜Astral Weeks Revisited™ was a collaboration between the Out To Lunch festival and the Oh Yeah project. There's a gallery of images by Phil O' Kane here. It was an education to hear the different acts responding to the music in their individual ways. It was a pleasure to see the audience so lit up by the idea. And if you don'™t own Astral Weeks by now, you really ought to catch up.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

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