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By Garth Cartwright
Running from November 1st -18th Londonās Doc āN Roll film festival offers up 28 music documentaries that range from a study of ‘lost’ Ethiopian jazz of the 1960s through to a scholarly overview of Tunbridge Wellsā pantoā punks, The Anti-Nowhere League. Rich as the pickings are one feature stands out for its cultural resonance ā ‘Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records’. For the first time the little London record label that made a huge impact is getting its documentary due.
Trojan Records was founded in 1968 by two young Jamaicans determined to get the music from āback homeā heard in the UK. Chris Blackwell and Lee Gopthal initially met through Blackwell renting office space in Kilburn from Gopthal in 1962. Blackwell quickly proved himself a music industry tyro, his Island Records scoring hits with The Spencer Davis Group. Gopthal, noting the profits being generated, began distributing Jamaican music and setting up record shops to sell such. In 1968 the two men combined forces as Trojan Records and helped unleash a cultural revolution.
Initially, Trojan licensed recordings from Jamaican record producers for the UKās Afro-Caribbean community. Success meant the label was soon signing reggae artists and mentoring such maverick talents as Desmond Dekker, John Holt and Lee Perry. Very quickly reggae began peppering the UK singles charts and a new youth cult ā the skinheads ā chose Jamaican music as an alternative to hirsute rock bands. 1968 also saw Enoch Powell deliver his infamous Rivers Of Blood speech so firing up anti-immigrant vitriol. Trojan Records found itself a lightning rod for an increasingly divided UK, its vision of music uniting everyone on the dance floor at odds with both racists and a very white, rock oriented music industry. Trojan rose quickly then fell hard ā by 1975 the label was bankrupt ā yet Trojanās since gained legendary status, both its music and Greek helmet emblem being internationally championed.
Trojanās story is celebrated in both Rudeboy and the recently published book ‘The Story Of Trojan Records’ (Eye Books). Laurence Cane-Honeysett, the author of the aforementioned book (and an adviser to the documentary), first fell under reggaeās spell when a schoolboy in the late-1960s and recalls Trojan tunes being spun at Stamford Bridge every Saturday before kick off. When, a decade later, the rise of 2-Tone ā The Specials, Madness, Selecter ā reignited interest, he became the labelās most prominent print champion. As Trojanās masters were horse traded subsequent owners needed an employee who knew what was on the tapes, thus they hired Cane-Honeysett in 1992 and heās overseen Trojanās reissues ever since.
āTrojan crashed in 1975,ā says Cane-Honeysett, āand while that was the end of the label as a creative force there have been all kinds of attempts at reissuing some or all of the thousands of recordings it owns. Trojanās been sold twice since I started working there but, fortunately, the new owners have always kept me on.ā
The current owners are BMG, the German corporation now the worldās fourth largest record label. And it was BMGās determination to ensure Trojanās 50th anniversary was both properly marked – and the label rebranded in the market place as something akin to a āBritish Motownā – that lead to the book and film (and The Trojan Records Box Set: this contains 6 CDs, 4 LPs, 2 45s, a book of album covers, poster, patch etc).
As Cane-Honeysett worked on all three projects its refreshing to note a lack of repetition; where The Story Of Trojan Records is intensely detailed, Rudeboy takes more a big picture approach, suggesting Trojan worked as a conduit for British race relations: DJ Don Letts states in the film, āTrojan planted the seeds of our multicultural society on the dance floor.ā
āRecord companies donāt often get this opportunity to repackage a label,ā says Cane-Honeysett, āso BMG ensured that Trojanās fiftieth anniversary was a unique celebration. Its great that BMG have been able to portray the label as it was. Trojanās legacy, all the things it stood for, is now being recognised.ā
BMG gifted Rudeboy with a lavish budget beyond that of most music documentaries (few other Doc āN Roll features will have enjoyed such largesse). Thus it blends archive footage of London and Jamaica from decades past alongside scenes where actors dramatically recreate incidents at Kingston dances and London recording studios that were never filmed at the time.
British director Nicholas Jack Davies skilfully weaves old and new together, letting both the musicians and fans who experienced Trojanās golden era carry the filmās narrative forward as they reflect on what was, for all, a defining time in their lives. Davies is caucasian and his previous documentary feature focused on Mumford & Sons (a band whose music and background is the polar opposite of Trojanās artists). This makes him, he admits, a somewhat surprising choice to helm such an Afro-Caribbean story.
āI learnt quick by involving the people that were there, taking advice and really listening to people about it,ā says Davies. āI hope that the film appeals and does justice – in itās own small way – to the Afro-Caribbean community who place great value in that period of history and Trojan as a label. I felt it was vitally important to get it as right as possible for that reason alone.
āFor the time we live in, I thought a positive story about the effects of immigration and the power of music and culture to have more effect than politics or religion was the basis of Rudeboy. The music is incredible and still not known enough but the societal impact of Trojan is an amazing thing to try and highlight. And, I feel, makes the story of the music more contemporary and vital in 2018.ā
Indeed, Rudeboy stands as a history lesson of sorts that counters the Conservative governmentās scandalous policy of aggressively deporting Windrush generation Afro-Caribbean citizens. The filmās underlying theme is how people from a former colony came to Britain and shared their culture so enriching the local music and youth culture.
āTrojanās success meant, for the first time, people of Afro-Caribbean heritage were regularly appearing on TV and radio,ā says Cane-Honeysett. āThis not only sent out an extremely positive and inspirational message to black Britons, but also ensured a degree of respect – which up until this time had been largely lacking – from their white counterparts.ā
Trojan enjoyed a great run from 1968 ā 1972 but began to come unstuck after co-founder Chris Blackwell sold his share of the label to concentrate on running Island Records. Lee Gopthal, now sole owner, focused on pumping out 45s (often adding strings to sweeten Jamaican recordings) while Blackwell, having signed former Trojan artist Bob Marley to Island, developed Marley for the album market, thus launching reggaeās first superstar. By 1975 Trojan was consumed by debt and Gopthal lost his label. Post-Trojan he maintained a low profile before dying of a heart attack in 1997.
āItās sad that Leeās not around to see Trojan being celebrated for what it achieved,ā says Cane-Honeysett. āIt introduced reggae to the world, gave so many now famous musicians their first break, helped create contemporary British music and youth culture. Trojan changed everything.ā
Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records has three screenings at Doc āN Roll Festival: November 4th, 10th, 15th.
Originally published in the New European – reproduced with the permission of Garth Cartwright
Van Morrison has recently confirmed that he will release his 40th studio album, āThe Prophet Speaksā, on 7th December on Caroline International. The new album will also feature jazz organist and trumpeter Joey DeFrancesco.
āGot To Go Where the Love Isā is one of six new originals by Morrison that will be featured along with other sides which are covers of Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker and Solomon Burke titles.
āIt was important for me to get back to recording new music as well as doing some blues material that has inspired me from the beginning,ā Morrison said. āWriting songs and making music is what I do, and working with great musicians makes it all the more enjoyable.ā The album also carries a distinctive photo of Van with a ventriloquitās doll ā speculated to be the 1950s radio show āArchie Andrewsā.
This new 14-track release is also his second album released in 2018, following āYouāre Driving Me Crazyā, which was released in April.
It also part of a recent run of back-to-back releases that started with 2017ās āRoll With The Punchesā and delves deep into the musical styles including blues, R&B, soul and jazz that have influenced Morrison throughout his career.
Included in this post is the official video for ‘Got To Go Where The Love Is’, the lead single from the new album.
From October 1959 until sometime in 1974, Paul Oliver and Mack McCormick collaborated on what was to be a definitive history and analysis of the blues in Texas.
Both men were prominent scholars and researchers: Oliver had already established an impressive record of publications; and McCormick was well on his way to building what would eventually become a sprawling collection of primary materials, consisting primarily of field recordings and interviews with blues musicians from all over Texas and the greater South.
But the project eventually fell apart of its own weight, a victim of ongoing disagreements between the two authors.
Despite being eagerly awaited by the blues historians and ethnomusicologists who knew about the Oliver-McCormick collaboration and being openly discussed in various interviews and articles by Oliver, the intended manuscript was never brought to completion and the book was never published.
In 1996, Alan Govenar, a respected ethnomusicologist in his own right, began a conversation with Oliver, whose work he had long admired, about the unfinished book on Texas blues. At Oliver’s request, he arranged a meeting with McCormick, hoping to act as an intermediary, with the goal of aiding the project toward completion. His attempts were unsuccessful.
Subsequently, Oliver invited Govenar to assist him in finishing the work. Much like the site report from an archaeological dig, ‘The Blues Come to Texas: Paul Oliver and Mack McCormick’s Unfinished Book’ provides not only a fascinating view into the results of a massive fieldwork and writing effort that is unlikely to ever be duplicated, but also affords scholars of American roots music a glimpse into the minds and work methods of two giants of blues scholarship.
SCREENING: 17th November 2018 at 16:00
LDN – Picturehouse Central
Dir. Robert Clem, 2017, USA, 87 mins
UK Premiere + Q&A with the director and producer hosted by author Viv Brough
In the decades following the Second World War, the broad reach of radio and record sales helped black gospel quartets spread throughout African-American communities across the US. Using archival performance clips and interviews with pioneers of the genre, ‘How They Got Over’ tells the story not only of how these artists reached audiences, but went through their daily lives in a segregated society…and along the way paved the road to rockānāroll from doo-wop and from R&B to soul and hip-hop.
Docān Roll Film Festival is supported by the BFI using funds from the National Lottery to grow audience appetite and enjoyment for a wide range of independent British and international films.
The Bruce Conforth & Gayle Dean Wardlow biography of Robert Johnson called ‘Up Jumped The Devil’ is to be published early next year by Chicago Review Press. The book has been a longtime in preparation and should be the definitive biography of Johnson.
Interview with Bruce Cornforth on Robert Johnson is well worth listening to!
New 4 CD Rare Blues Set: ‘Tough Enough’ Down Home Blues: New York, Cincinnati & The North Eastern States.
The extensive collection was passed down to his daughter Natalie Perkins, who has theĀ task of selling the collection. To help with this, Perkins called on antiquities expert Dr. Daryl Sparkes to help figure out the worth of the collection.
As of yet, a monetary figure for the whole collection has not been figured out but many of the records, including rare 78s could be worth a a lot of money.
Regarding its pricing, Sparkes said: “You would have to go through each individual album and rate them for quality and also for rareness and then you’d be able to work out a price. There is jazz, blues, surf music, 1950s rock – and not all collectors collect all of that. It would be easier to sell it in sections rather than all in one go.”
When working out the amount of time it would take to listen to the entire collection, the estimate comes out to somewhere at six-and-a-half years.
Ms. Perkins believes the collection has cultural and historic significance and is aiming to find a way to keep the collection together. “Someone at a governmental level needs to take control of this collection as it is a national treasure,” Ms. Perkins said. Ideally the Perkins family would love to see collection kept together and not cherry-picked by different collectors.
All the records are reputed to be in perfect condition.
The collection was Ken Perkins’ life’s work and his daughter said she had no idea how much he spent putting it all together. “Dad was from the UK originally and he was very tight-lipped about things like money,” she said.
“Someone at a governmental level needs to take control of this collection as it is a national treasure.”
Ms. Perkins is currently waiting for a buyer and has set up an Instagram account for the collection called The Ken Perkins Collection.
On March 6th 1963, John Coltrane and his Classic Quartet ā McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones ā recorded an entire studio album at the legendary Van Gelder Studios. This music, which features unheard originals, will finally be released 55 years later. This is, in short, the holy grail of jazz.
Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album will be released on June 29th on Impulse! Records, Coltraneās final and most creative label home.
The first week of March in 1963 was busy for John Coltrane. He was in the midst of a two-week run at Birdland and was gearing up to record the famed John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album, which he did on March 7th. But there was a session the day before that was the stuff of legend, until now.
On Wednesday March 6th, Coltrane and the quartet went to Van Gelder Studios in Englewood, NJ and cut a complete albumās worth of material, including several original compositions that were never recorded elsewhere.Ā They spent the day committing these to tape, taking time with some, rehearsing them two, three times, playing them in different ways and in different configurations.
At the end of the day, Coltrane left Van Gelder Studios with a reference tape and brought it to the home in Queens that he shared with his wife, Naima. These tapes remained untouched for the next 54 years until Impulse! approached the family about finally releasing this lost album. Though the master tape was never foundāRudy Van Gelder wasnāt one for clutterāthe reference tape was discovered to be in excellent condition.
As the legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins so rightly put it, āThis is like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid.ā The musical implications of this album, the original compositions, the arrangements, the band, the year it was recorded, all amount to a rediscovery and re-contextualization of one of the most important musicians of our time.
Danny Bennett, President and CEO of the Verve Label Group and home of Impulse! records, says, āJazz is more relevant today than ever. Itās becoming the alternative music of the 21st century, and no one embodies the boundary-breaking essence of jazz more than John Coltrane. He was a visionary who changed the course of music, and this lost album is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. It gives us insight into his creative process and connects us to his artistry. This album is a cultural moment and the release coincides perfectly with our relaunch of the iconic Impulse! label.ā
On this album, there are two completely unknown and never-before-heard originals. āUntitled Original 11383ā and āUntitled Original 11386,ā both played on soprano sax. ā11383ā features an arco bass solo by Jimmy Garrison, a relative rarity, and ā11386ā marks a significant structural change for the quartet, in that they keep returning to the theme between solos, not typical in the quartetās repertoire.
In addition to the two unheard originals, āOne Up, One Downā ā released previously only on a bootleg recording from Birdland ā is heard here as a studio recording for the first and only time. It contains a fascinating exchange between Elvin Jones and Coltrane.
āImpressions,ā one of Coltraneās most famous and oft-recorded compositions, is played here in a piano-less trio. In fact, McCoy Tyner lays out a number of times during this recording session. Itās one of the more interesting aspects of this session and reflects the harmonic possibilities that Coltrane was known to be discussing regularly with Ornette Coleman around this time.
This studio session also yielded Coltraneās first recording of āNature Boy,ā which he would record again in 1965, and the two versions differ greatly. The one we know is exploratory, meandering. This version is tight, solo-less and clocking in at just over three minutes. The other non-original composition on the album is āVilia,ā from Franz LehĆ”rās operetta āThe Merry Widowā. The soprano version on the Deluxe Edition is the only track from this session to have been previously released.
This incredible, once-in-a-lifetime discovery reveals a number of creative balances at work, like developing original melodies while rethinking familiar standards. Trying out some tunes first on tenor saxophone, then on soprano. Using older techniques like the arpeggio runs of his āsheets of soundā while experimenting with false fingerings and other newer sounds. This session was pivotal, though to call it such overlooks the fact Coltrane was ever on pivot, always pushing the pedal down while still calling on older, tested ideas and devices.
Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album is a major addition to the Coltrane catalogue and the most important jazz discovery in recent memory.
This historic session resulted in 14 tracks in total. On the standard edition, there are 7 takes, chosen by Ravi Coltrane. The rest of the takes exist on the second disc of the deluxe set. There will be a standard CD and LP and a deluxe CD and LP available on June 29th on Impulse! The deluxe edition will exist on all digital streaming platforms as well.
Standard Edition Track List:
1. Untitled Original 11383 (5:41)
2. Nature Boy (3:24)
3. Untitled Original 11386 (8:43)
4. Vilia (5:32)
5. Impressions (4:36)
6. Slow Blues (11:28)
7. One Up, One Down (8:01)
Deluxe Edition Track List:
1. Untitled Original 11383 (Take 1) (5:41)
2. Nature Boy (3:24)
3. Untitled Original 11386 (Take 1) (8:43)
4. Vilia (Take 3) (5:32)
5. Impressions (Take 3) (4:36)
6. Slow Blues (11:28)
7. One Up, One Down (Take 1) (8:01)
1. Vilia (Take 5) (4:37)
2. Impressions (Take 1) (4:06)
3. Impressions (Take 2) (4:37)
4. Impressions (Take 4) (3:40)
5. Untitled Original 11386 (Take 2) (8:41)
6. Untitled Original 11386 (Take 5) (8:23)
7. One Up, One Down (Take 6) (7:17)
Directed by: Leslie Ann Coles and starring: Barrie L Wentzell, Ian Anderson, Eric Burdon, Alan Jones, Sonja Kristina, Peter WhiteheadĀ – behind the scenes peek at all the rock ān roll legends of the 1970s, as director Leslie Ann Coles guides us through the ribald history of the influential British rock magazine Melody Maker, featuring unseen photographs of all the greats by Barrie Wentzell.
This is the true story of the rise and fall of the worldās most influential music publication in history and uncovers an era of tremendous creative freedom.
At the heart of the story is Barrie Wentzell, Chief Contributing Photographer of Melody Maker Magazine (1965-1975) and his iconic photographic archive featuring prominent legendary musicians that emerged during the birth of rock nā roll.
Selected musicians, and Melody Maker journalists, Chris Welch, Chris Charlesworth, Richard Guardian, Alan Lewis, Mick Watts and Allen Jones infuse the film with stories about a unique period when Melody Maker, founded in 1926 as a jazz musicianās trade paper boldly became the first publication to cover popular music seriously in the early 1960ās, setting the stage for publications like Rolling Stone.
Melody Maker captured the attention of the musicians, fans, and the journalists who shared a common passion, the music. Bands were formed from the classified section, a pop culture phenomenon!
This landmark documentary takes a fresh look at the changing landscape of music journalism that lead to the end of Melody Maker Magazine, and a style of music journalism that no longer exists today.
Thanks to Ann Hock for alerting me to this documentary.