Monday, December 13, 2021

Phillip Goodhand-Tait - Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday

After spending some time in the 60‘s as a member of The Stormsville Shakers (later known as Circus for a short while) and also writing several songs for the band Love Affair, including “Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday”, the flipside to their number one song “Everlasting Love”, Phillip Goodhand-Tait signed on with DJM Records, a label that released his first four albums, that along with numerous bonus tracks pulled from 7“ singles and the soundtrack to the film Univeral Soldier, make up the four cd box set Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday.  While this box only covers those first four solo releases, it should also be noted that Goodhand-Tait has had an illustrious career that has found his songs being recorded by the likes of Gene Pitney and Roger Daltrey and he has also produced a diverse array of artists including  Magnum, Venom, Climax Blues Band, The Lords Of The New Church and Kid Creole And The Coconuts.

First up is his debut solo release Rehearsal.  As I made my way through this really enjoyable set of songs highlighted by Goodhand-Tait’s rich, soulful vocals, elements of artists like Randy Newman, Joe Cocker and a little Harry Nilsson frequently came to mind.   While there is a definite cohesiveness to the album there is also a sense of diversity.  Alongside tunes like the the soulful “Lean On Me”, which has a bit of a Cocker sound and “One Road” and “Run See The Sun”, a couple of beautiful ballads with outstanding string arrangements, there is the country blues flavored “Children Of The Last War” with it’s driving honky tonk piano and fiddle, “Climb Aboard My Bus”, which has a really cool jazzy intro before heading into a Randy Newman-esque sound complete with horns, and the banjo and horns of the jazzy “(Heaven Help) Belinda”. The aformentioned string arrangements are also of note as they are the work Robert Kirby, who was the musical director and arranger on the album and also contributed string arrangements for the likes of Elton John and Nick Drake amongst others.  Other highlights include the piano driven “Tramp", the fun, bouncy upbeat “One I Thought” and the stunning laid-back “Jeannie”.  Closing out the first disc are seven inch bonus tracks “Only Too Pleased To Help” and “Love Has Got Hold Of Me”, a couple of pretty straightforward, radio friendly tunes, the latter of which he wrote for the band Love Affair, but he ended up recording himself when vocalist Steve Ellis left that band before it could be recorded (he has noted that he ended up recording it exactly as they were supposed to).

Goodhand-Tait has said that when he was recording Rehearsal that he had no experience singing and playing piano at the same time and that when he went in to record the follow up I Think I’ll Write A Song he had mastered that by keeping the piano playing simple.  He had also now been performing live with his band and changed his songwriting to take into account the immense talent of guitarist Andy Lattimer, who later went on to cofound the band Camel.  This change in direction was also further enhanced with the production of Rodger Bain, who was known for producing heavier bands like Budgie and Black Sabbath.  The results of all these changes are an album that is overall much heavier with alot of emphasis on Lattimer’s guitar work and none of the string arrangements that were all over the debut.  Without a doubt the standout tracks are “Silverwing”, a killer song with an epic classic rock ballad sound, powerful emotive vocals and beautiful guitar-work, “Medicine Man”, a straight-ahead barnstormer of a rock tune reminiscent of The Faces with some great Jerry Lee Lewis styled piano and “In The Old Country”, with it’s laid-back, bluesy country groove not so unlike The Band.  Other highlights include the title track, “Who Laid Your Living Down”, “Oh Rosanna”, a bluesy tune with some great honky tonk piano work, and “Cold Night”, a slow, stripped down bluesy song with harmonica courtesy Ian Duck from the band Hookfoot (Duck also contributed harmonica to a couple cuts on the album Tumbleweed Connection from Elton John, Goodhand-Tait’s labelmate at DJM).  Rounding out disc two are six bonus tracks.  Most notable of these are three songs from the previously unissued soundtrack for the 1971 George Lazenby film Universal Soldier - the rollicking “Oh Ryker”, the funk-tinged, blues rocker “Motorways and Parking Boys” and the instrumental version of the Rehearsal track “Cold Night”.  

With his third album, Songfall, the heavier sounding band from the previous album was gone and he shifted towards a more intimate sound once again.  This is evident immediately with the opening ballad “Moon”, a really nice laid-back track comprised primarily of gentle piano, acoustic guitar and vocals.  Almost everything here is very stripped down allowing his vocals and piano to really shine.  The absolute standout is “Leon”, a gorgeous, very heartfelt song about meeting up with an old friend only to have him die not long after the meeting.  Some of the other highlights include "Not Really Here Right Now", "New Moon Tonight", which has a bit of a rock undercurrent and "When That Day Comes", which has some really nice piano work.  There are also a few interesting cuts that move in a bit of a different direction once again with the laid-back island groove of "Blue Day", the folk country sound of "Country Green Ahead" and the really interesting protest song "Processed", complete with steel drums and tuba (per Phillip this is probably his only protest song).  He also delves into a couple of covers with slower reinterpretations of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” and The Every Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved”.  Also of note on Songfall are guest appearances from Rick wakeman, Davey Johnstone and Ray Cooper. Disc three is rounded out by the bonus track “City Streets”.

Rounding out the box set is Phillip’s eponymous fourth album and last for DJM Records.  Because of the success of labelmate Elton John, the recording budget this time around was much bigger with the album being recorded in 24 track and production being handled by Robin Geoffrey Cable.  While at their core most of the songs aren’t that different from alot of his previous work, the production here takes them to a different level along with the string arrangements like he used on his debut.  This is most evident on "Reach Out For Each Other", a gorgeous song with a Phil Spector like production utilizing the strings and multiple layered pianos to full effect, and "You Are", which has a bit of a psychedelic vibe to it.  As always, there are also a few tracks that set themselves apart from the rest of the album.  There’s the quirky country of "One More Rodeo", with accordion leading the way along with some horns, and "Emile", a reggae tune recorded with a reggae band that is definitely a new direction for him, and the hypnotic jazzy blues groove of "Sugar Train".  He also takes a step back into the past with the 50‘s doo wop of "Teenage Canteen" and the 60‘s sounds of "Forever Kind Of Love", a song he says is a nod to Love Affair’s “Everlasting Love”.  Rounding out disc four and the box set are three more bonus tracks with the highlight being the soulful “Almost Killed A Man”.  Also included is a nice 20 page CD booklet with notes from Phillip on the albums and his career at this time, but unfortunately without alot of details on the contributors to the albums.  This is an outstanding collection that I would highly recommend.  

(Lemon Recordings)

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Interview with Asteroid Blues

After forming in late 2019, but then having to deal with the inevitable delays of covid, Sydney, Australia's Asteroid Blues have finally released their eponymous debut EP.  I recently had the chance to do an email interview with guitarist Keegan where we discussed the band and their new EP, the impact of covid, what's on the horizon for the band and more. 

Can you give me a bit of a band history?

Tristan and I had a rippa night and woke up the next morning and just thought it would be fun to start a band, so we wrote a status asking if anyone wanted to join a band and sure enough we got some hands. We picked up lemon on bass and Corey on vox. We all grew up around the same parts so we were all already mates or mates of mates. We all just clicked and got along. Ewan on drums joined a bit later down the track, he fit in well and here we are. It’s definitely more than just a band these days, we’ve had the ups and downs but at the end of the day we are good bunch of pals that enjoy what we do and power on through.

“Blackstar” is a great psychedelic rocker, but then it also shifts into some reggae influenced passages here and there.  How did that come about? 

Thanks man! "Blackstar" was actually the first tune we completed as a band!  I think when we wrote it we weren’t too sure what sound we were headed for, so we kind of just did whatever the hell came to us. We all came from different music backgrounds at the time and I guess we were still looking for a foundation or common ground. Could say there’s a lot of different influences inside "Blackstar." Turned out pre sweet but 

I love the slow build of “Hallucination Bay”.  It starts off with a simple acoustic guitar and vocal and then builds and builds, but also kind of ebbs and flows at the same time.  Can you tell me a little about that song? 

The acoustic intro idea came to us whilst in the process of recording the ep. the bloke that recorded us Isaac Lewis suggested the idea and we all jumped on board. 

The foundation of the song came from our ex drummer Dylan Watson, absolutely talented man on all instruments. At the time we were all dwelling deeper into the sound we wanted to create. And when we heard the jazz and groove influence it has we knuckled down, still incorporating the heavy hitter sections we all loved.

Most of your songs have alot of dynamics with the tempo shifting at some point.  Is that something you consciously try to do or does it just happen? 

Absolutely not something we do consciously! We didn’t even realize until we tried playing the songs to a click. All the fellas are super passionate, and really feel and anticipate what's coming next, so I think we all just feel when something needs to slow down or speed up and do exactly that. We are all definitely conscious of it now and considered keeping things the same tempo when recording. but thought, hey screw it this is how we play it, and it just feels right. 

Were you able to work together to record the EP or was it done with you working remotely? 

We were lucky enough to be able to record it all together. Was the first time we went through the recording process together so we are very lucky to have been able to experience it together!

Alot of your songs have some sections that sound like they would really enable you to expand on them when you play them live.  Has that been the case?

It’s something we’ve always considered. For a lot of us Asteroid Blues has been our first band, and the first time we’ve played in front of people, performed in general, so I think we’ve never gone for it just because we are just focusing on perfecting the songs live as they are. But these days we have all grown as musicians and performers so I dare say some live improv is on the way.

The band has been together for a few years, so it’s taken some time for this debut EP to be released.  I heard the new song “Fools Company” through a stream on Orbital Radio there in Sydney.  Do you have alot more songs ready and if so do you think we will be hearing them sooner than later?

Oh man, we’ve got a couple of songs up our sleeves that we are super keen to get out. Everyone’s knuckled down and worked hard on their instruments since the EP, and the chemistry is peaking now. We are super proud of the songs we’ve previously written, so we are gonna push to release new music as soon as we can! 

Has covid had a lot of impact on the band?

Yeah, it definitely kicked us in the knee, it’s half the reason we sat on the first EP songs for so long. I’m pretty sure the first wave hit after like our third gig together. We were all loving life and working hard and then bam, as soon as the ball got rolling it got stopped by that damn covid-19 

You recently had an album release show.  What other plans do you have for promoting the new EP? 

Hopefully just more gigs dude! We are super keen to get rolling and play as many as we can!

Are any of you involved in any other bands or musical projects? 

Nah man, we are all super open minded, and very versatile with our music taste and have tried other things here and there. but AB through and through baby

Anything else you would like to share with readers?

Hope everyone out there is kicking ass, and being great. If you are down with it, Expect more from us soon! Have a good one.

(Asteroid Blues - Facebook)

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Howard Jones - at the BBC

I’ll be the first to admit that when I read about a five CD box set of BBC Sessions and live concert performance broadcasts from Howard Jones, all recorded between 1983 and 1987, I was a bit skeptical.  While I always enjoyed his hit singles and I’m pretty sure I have a few albums amongst my collection, I was never a die hard fan and five CD's from a five year span seemed like alot.  Having said that I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this box set is, not to mention I didn’t realize how many of his songs are so ingrained in my brain after all these years.  

Starting things off are a couple of sessions from The Kid Jensen Show On BBC Radio 1 from March and May 1983.  It should be noted that this was before music was so accessible through the internet, and the BBC was very vital to artists being heard and discovered in the UK.  At the time of this first show, his debut album Human’s Lib was over a year away from being released, so this was the first time many people had heard him.  While the March appearance was a live performance in the studio, for the show in May they played Howard’s “White Tape" demo cassette.  Most of these don’t differ too drastically from their later versions, but they are a a fascinating look at the inception of many of these songs. Most notable is the version of “What Is Love” (titled “Love” at this time) as it is much slower than the album version from the next year.  Interestingly a couple of the songs on these first two sessions, “What Can I Say” and “Don’t Put These Curses On Me”, never showed up as an album track before finally making their appearance on his 2003 Best Of album.  Closing out disc one is a performance on the Janice Long Show on BBC Radio One in January 1995 focusing on tracks from his sophomore release Dream Into Action.  

Another performance on the Janice Long Show opens disc 2.  While as a whole the majority of songs throughout this box have really stood up very well over the years, a few of the songs on this set like “The Balance Of Love” and “Don’t Want To Fight Anymore” sound a bit dated today, but they are definitely the exception to the rule.  Also of note is the closing track from this performance, which is a great cover of Donald Fagen’s “I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World)”.  Closing out the second disc is the first of three concert performances that were recorded for the In Concert Radio Programme on BBC Radio One.  Recorded in October of 1983, a few months before his debut was released, the six song set is a fantastic, high energy performance where you can literally hear the enthusiasm of the young performer as well as the crowd, and is the must hear performance in this box set.  

The next two discs contain the other In Concert performances, the first from May 1984 and the second from April 1985.  Even though you can hear his performances getting more and more professional and a little of that energy found on the first set is gone, these shows are still outstanding.  While the first show, with the exception of a couple tracks, are from his debut album, almost half of the second show highlights songs from his second album Dream After Dream, which was still a few months away from being released when the show was recorded, so you can really hear him trying things out with these songs in a live setting.  

The final disc here contains all the songs from The Oxford Road Show, a performance that was simulcast live on BBC TV and Radio in March of 1985.  Several of these recordings were released as B-sides, but this is the first time that they have all been released, including four songs that were not broadcast during the simulcast and have never been released before now.  This show does a great job of highlighting Jones’ career up to this point with a set full of hits from the two albums he had released and shows just how tight the band’s performances were.  

Complemented with a sixteen page booklet highlighted by a conversation with Jones about these shows and this time in his career, at the BBC is an outstanding box set that makes for a really enjoyable listen and even though many of the songs show up multiple times it never gets repetitive.  

(Cherry Red Records)