Monday, June 27, 2022

Girls At Our Best! - Pleasure (Deluxe Edition)

Even though they only released one album and four singles in their short, three year career, Leeds band Girls At Our Best! were one of the more influential bands coming out of the post-punk era in the late seventies and early eighties. On this outstanding new three CD reissue of that sole album, Pleasure, Cherry Red has included a plethora of bonus material including the A and B sides of their singles, two 1981 concerts, BBC sessions for Richard Skinner and John Peel (Peel was a huge supporter of the band), a previously unreleased 1977 demo from the pre GAOB band The Butterflies and demo from their final recording session.

The box set kicks off with the eleven track Pleasure, which is largely a collection of raw, quirky, upbeat, anything goes pop with an adventurous and experimental side, but almost always overflowing with hooks and topped with Judy Evans infectious high-pitched vocals.  The album opens with a one, two, three punch of pop glory with “Pleasure”, “Too Big For Your Boots”, which actually almost sounds like a fast-paced kids tune, and “I’m Beautiful Now”, with its quirky lo-fi blasts of bass guitar.  “Waterbed Babies” has them moving into a bit of a more rock direction with some great angular guitars, while “Fun-City Teenagers” is a very bouncy pop track that sounds like it could have been an inspiration for The Housemartins’ “Happy Hour” and is enhanced gloriously with clarinet.  The experimentation kicks into high gear on “£600,000”, which has a bit of a punk edge and some tribal drumming and continues with “Heaven”, a bouncy, upbeat tune that opens with a combination of angular guitars and keys and as you listen has a bit of a disco vibe buried in it. “China Blue”, “Fast Boyfriends” and “She Flipped” find them shifting back to super catchy pop, always with a little twist, be it a military beat or some short keyboard blasts, before closing things out with more angular guitars and a punkier drive with “Goodbye To That Jazz”.  Disc one also contains thirteen bonus songs starting with their four singles.  First up is their debut single comprised of “Getting Nowhere Fast”, a pure blast of punk energy full of razor sharp guitars (this was covered by Wedding Present a few years later) and “Warm Girls”, a punkier track once again, but with a darker, early Siouxsie and the Banshees vibe.  Single number two found them moving closer to the direction of the album.  “Politics!” starts off like a bubbly pop tune, but then about halfway through jabbing guitar licks come into play followed by some aggressive lyrics and vocals, while “It’s Fashion” is more of their distorted take on synth pop.  Their third and fourth singles were “Go For Gold”, a song that interestingly added a funkier groove to the mix and a fantastic cover of the traditional American gospel tune “This Train” (these were backed by album tracks “I’m Beautiful Now” and “Fast Boyfriends”). The final seven bonus tracks on disc one are their BBC sessions with Skinner and Peel, both recorded in February of 1981.  Although not too far removed from the album versions these make a nice addition to the collection, especially “Getting Beautiful Warm Gold Fast From Nowhere” from the Peel Session, which is an interesting medley of their singles. 

Disc two opens with the first of the two previously unreleased concerts.  Recorded at Edinburgh University on November 2, 1981 the sound here is really good quality and may be a soundboard recording.  It’s definitely interesting to hear them in a live setting and they often come across a little punkier and the bass is a little more prominent than on the studio recordings, but the vocals are at times a bit off-key and the instruments sometimes sound a little out of tune.  Also included here are two bonus tracks, the previously unreleased “Atribute” from The Butterflies, who evolved into Girls At Our Best!, and “Boys At Their Best!”, which came from their last studio session before they broke up.  The recording from The Butterflies is a little rough but doesn’t really sound too far removed from their work as GAOB!, while the other is an instrumental track that is a little chaotic and has a lot going on.  It’s a shame that the vocals were never included, because it sounds like the potential is there for another great track, but definitely sounds incomplete without them.  

The second live show, which is on disc three, was recorded at New York City’s The Peppermint Lounge on November 6, 1981, just six days after the other one.  Except for one less song, the set list here is exactly the same, but since this is a bootleg audience recording the sound quality isn’t very good.  This is really quite unfortunate, because the actual performance and vocals are much better this time around.  Closing out the disc is an entertaining radio interview the band did in New York on same day the played The Peppermint Lounge that gives a great background on the band.  The box set also contains an outstanding booklet loaded with tons of sleeve cover reproductions and pictures along with an essay on the band. Another highly recommended release from the folks at Cherry Red.

(Cherry Red Records)

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Godley & Creme - Frabjous Days | The Secret World Of Godley & Creme 1967-1969

In 1969, long before Godley & Creme, 10CC and even before Hotlegs, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme recorded a previously unreleased album for Marmalade Records under the name Frabjoy And Runcible Spoon.  Now, fifty-three years later, and without a couple of still missing songs, a reconstructed version of Frabjous Days has finally seen the light.  In addition to the seven songs from the “Marmalade Sessions” that comprise that album, this outstanding new release from Grapefruit Records contains six more tracks from those sessions and six more that were recorded between 1967 and 1969.  Before we get to the music here’s a quick rundown on why the album was never released before now.  In mid-1969 Giorgio Gomelsky, manager for The Rolling Stones and Yardbirds, signed the duo to his new label Marmalade, but after they released a single and a track on a label sampler (Godley also contributed backing vocals on a sampler track from future 10CC bandmate Graham Gouldman), Gomelsky took the money and ran and therefore the album was never released. 

When Gomelsky signed the duo he wanted them to be the British version of Simon and Garfunkel, and while there are some definite hints of that as you make your way through the album, there is a lot more to their sound as well as definite signs of where they would be headed.  The duo didn’t waste any time showing what they were capable of with their single.  While “I’m Beside Myself” is a really strong, largely acoustic, country/folk track that even has some banjo and pedal steel, “Animal Song” on the flipside is a gorgeous, laid-back tune that really showcases Godley’s vocals and has an almost orchestrated sound full of great harmonies.  The last song released by the duo before Gomelsky spent all the money and disappeared was the compilation track “To Fly Away”, a gorgeous tune with stunning vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar, organ and flute (the compilation also included Gouldman’s “The Late Mr. Late”, a catchy pop tune with some flute laden psychedelic vibes that featured Godley on backing vocals). 

Kicking off the tracks that would have comprised the ill-fated album is the album version of “I’m Beside Myself”, which is pretty close to the single, but a little less raw and more polished (a slightly different version of “To Fly Away”, titled “Fly Away”, also appears as an album version and was also released by their next band Hotlegs, who evolved into 10CC).  Next up is “Chaplin House”, a gorgeous, acoustic based psychedelic track with very captivating lyrics (a version by Dave Berry and backed by Kevin and Lol was released the following year).  They pick up the pace on the next song, “Cowboys and Indians”, a rocker with a bit of a late Sixties West Coast vibe (especially in the harmonies).  “It’s The Best Seaside In The World”, a bouncy pop tune with a bit of a psychedelic Beatles influence, was originally written and recorded in 1967, but sadly that version, along with the recording of a song “Bull In A China Shop” have disappeared.   The final two tracks that were to be on the album also ended up being re-recorded by Hotlegs.  “Take Me Back” is an epic track, starting as a hypnotic folk rocker highlighted by their vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar, then about halfway in it evolves into a bluesy rock tune before winding back down at the end, and “Today” is a psychedelic tinged ballad that to me has some faint hints of early Pink Floyd. 

Rounding out the release are a variety of bonus tracks recorded between 1967 and 1969.   First up are a couple of previously unreleased songs taken from an unreleased acetate that were written by Graham Gouldman and performed by Godley and Creme for possible inclusion on the album.  “Hot Sun” is a harder edged psychedelic rocker that is a bit different from their other songs (this song ended up being reworkded by 10CC as an instrumental called “Hot Sun Rock”), while “Virgin Soldiers” is a bit of a syrupy Sixties pop tune that is one of the weaker cuts here.  In early 1968 the duo released a single on CBS that was credited to a five piece known as Yellow Bellow Boom Room.  The story is that due to the fact they were still away at art college their manager created a fake band and had a fake press photo taken.   The single didn’t sell well, but the songs (both included here), “Seeing Things Green” and “Easy Life” are a couple of psychedelic pop gems.   The next tracks are also previously unreleased songs taken from an unreleased acetate, this one recorded in mid 1968.  While they sound like they were cheaply recorded, they are two very strong cuts that find them branching out a bit.  “One and One Make Love” is a really catchy pop tune, but with some nice horn arrangements, and “Over and Above My Head” is more of a soul song.  Closing out the release are two songs taken from a single that were recorded to promote a Manchester club called Blinkers.  “Hello Blinkers” is a catchy, upbeat dancy tune perfect for getting the night started, while “Goodnight Blinkers” is a more laid-back pop tune for winding down and heading home.  Rounded out with a twenty-eight page booklet full of photos, memorabilia and a very imformative essay, this is not only an absolute must have for 10CC / Godley & Creme fans, but for anyone who just appreciates good music.   


Monday, June 20, 2022

Interview with Durcel Haze

Comprised of two Austrians, a German and a Hungarian, Durcel Haze formed not too long before the pandemic and have now hit the shelves with their great debut release Down The Rabbit Hole.  I recently talked to the band about the new album, recording during the pandemic and more.  

Can you give me a little history on how the band got together?

Edi and Woif knew each other from the local music scene for a long time, Edi and Klaus play ice hockey together. When Woif's former band dissolved in 2019, they founded the new project, but at first without a singer and bass player. Edi has a very extraordinary monthly event in Kufstein, an open stage jam session called LIVEheit, where Janos started to join the stage from time to time, so Edi asked him out for a beer. It was a love at first sight, so the band looked for a rehearsal room and started to work together. One of the first common investments was a fridge for the beer, that operates and supports the band since 2019. (

What kind of impact did covid have on the band?  Also, were you able to record the album together or did you have to do that remotely due to the pandemic?

There was a major impact. From one day to another we were not allowed to meet anymore. This triggered the band to go for a level up. Woif came up with the idea to found a company from the band, as according to the measures, work was an excuse to meet. This way with regular testing we could meet.

The preproduction of our first Album went offline. We recorded our demos at home, sent it to Reini, our producer. The main production was possible to record together, however, we paid attention to keep the least number of the people in the studio, so that the risk of getting sick stays low. The post production went also remote, as it was tricky to cross the border at that time.

However it was one of the most productive times of the band and we are very proud of the result.

Two of you are from countries that speak German and the other two are from Hungary where it’s Hungarian, but then the lyrics are in English.  Was it difficult working that out when you were writing the songs?

So Edi and Wolf are from Tyrol, Klausi is Bavarian, so they have a kind of a common language. Janos moved to Tyrol on carrier reasons and his German is very basic, therefore the communication turned to mainly English. There were no challenges on the communication, as everybody speaks the international language of music and beer. It was more challenging to find the common style we would like to present Durcel Haze, which ended up in a quite diverse debut album. At the end we believe the diversity holds the speciality of the record.

How does your songwriting process tend to work?

Well, there are many ways. It can happen, that one person comes with an idea which is almost complete. This could be a full instrumental demo, or even including vocals and additional harmonies.

We also have the luxury of 2 rehearsal rooms, one is for demo recording, the cellar, the other is where we prepare for the stage. When we get together in the cellar, it also can happen that one arrives and he had an amazing idea at lunch break.  We start to directly record it and capture all the additional ideas which comes up in the meantime. Then the lego adventure is starting to try different combinations of the recorded parts.

The final steps are happening in the live rehearsal room, when we arrange the songs in a way that we can imagine them on stage too. Then for the album we sent it to Reini, in other cases, we try to play it on stage and check out the reaction of the audience. When it works the song will stay in the repertoire.

I really like “Unleashed Confusion” a lot.  It’s a little more aggressive than most of the other songs and to me at times has an almost Bad Religion punk vibe. Can you tell me about that track?

Thank you very much, we are happy to hear that. The main riff came from a lunch break idea, most probably after a stressful meeting... First we arranged the instrumental parts, and then the song was resting, until we got to the situation that due to the main production timelines we had to finalize many songs in a very fast, and the measures did not let us meet. We have distributed the work in between us.

The lyrics came from the situations when loneliness leads to the point of self reflection and digging down in your mind and in your memories. This is the source of the confusion. You cannot always justify whymyou make certain decisions, but re-thinking those will help you to learn and improve yourself. This way you can reach a more conscious status. We also love it.

“Stand Together” really stands out from the rest of the songs.  It has a hint of a Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys vibe at the beginning.  Can you tell me about that song?

You are completely right with the vibe of the song. Actually the name Durcel Haze was chosen on a trip we had visiting Dublin to a Foo Fighters show, and I also think it is not a secret that all the band members are a fan of the Irish culture including all the food and beverages. This way it made sense to add a song to the album which shows a different side of the band and talks about belonging and unity. The song just brings up very sweet memories every times we have the chance to play it.

The bass on quite a few of the songs is more prominent than is the norm for most bands.  Was that something you consciously tried to do?

Shaping the main sound of the record was influenced by the passion on bass and distortion. Also on the guitar recordings we used additional octavers and fuzz effects. The interference of these frequencies ended up in an even bassier sound, which has been controlled in the post production. Anyways, it was an intention to give a strong garage taste to the record as we wanted to provide something special to our listeners.

The lyrics to “Nighthawk” are dark, but unfortunately a reality for some in the world we live in.  Can you tell me a little about that?

It is a bit embarrassing, as when the song has been written there was no news about the Ukranian-Russian conflict and the song was meant to be an anti-war song recalling an imaginary scene of an airbattle. In this battle the main focus was to be on the pilot who turns into a soulless killer due to the fear. However we are just simply very sorry about the current situation, it is still unbelievable that it is happening.

Are the lyrics to “Deadbeat” biographical or did the inspiration come from somewhere else?

The inspiration for the "Deadbeat" lyrics came from a rough meeting with a client during a Workday.

In the evening Edi was having dinner with a bunch of friends in our hometown Kufstein. There was lots of good food, beer and just having a good time. Then – Two tables away – Edi spotted his client which was really rude to him that day – sitting there and having dinner all alone. Thats the Story.

The lyrics to “Agnus Die” tell more of a story and are a bit different than the other songs.  What was the inspiration there?

The lyrics are a kind of a remake of the story from the bible. The main character is a young girl, who incarnates as the lamb of god. She faces all the sins, sacrifices herself and summons the four horsemen to clean-up the mess. For us it made sense to group it with the other songs, as to be honest most of our lyrics are rather pessimistic, but still transferring a message which can be motivating.

There’s a live show on Youtube that was recorded last April, and amongst the songs you played were three, “Fukusumi Tittnipple High”, “Raise Your Fist” and “Come Get Ready”, that aren’t on the album.  Do you think we may be seeing those released sometime in the future?

We really hope that we will have the chance to record them, but currently it is not on the schedule. You have to join the concerts to hear such songs as we have more than just the songs on the album. We are also in a song writing period currently and those songs are more in the focus.

You have a Donnie Darko looking rabbit that has been on all your single covers and now is on your album cover.  What can you tell me about that?

We wanted to bring our “Durcel Haze” to life. If you like you can it imagine like “Captain Planet”. When all four of us are coming together to play music something arises which is bigger than us and it can do things no one of us can. So everytime we team up – Durcel Haze rises.

I know most of you, if not all, were in other bands prior to Durcel Haze.  Are any of you currently in other bands or is it strictly this band?

We have only Durcel Haze on everybody's desk at the moment. The other bands are not active unfortunately.

I usually don’t ask this, but is there a story behind the band name?

“Durcel Haze” is a Modification of the German “Duracell Hase” which means the Duracell Rabbit you may know from the Battery commercials. As Klaus and Edi play a lot of ice hockey in their free time, one day it happened in a locker room that there was a Hockey Magazine lying around. One of the Team started reading it and there was written something like “player XY is running like a young Durcel Haze”. So the Teammate got a bit confused because he didn't knew a famous hockey player with the name “Durcel Haze”.  After a while another player took over the magazine and it turned out that it just was a mistake.

The original text was “player XY is running like a young Duracell Hase”. But we liked the sound of Durcel Haze and put it on the list of potential Band Names. The Rest is History. Also the connection to our rabbit on the artworks comes from there.

Have you been able to get back out there and do live shows again and if so how has that been going?

Happily we have had many shows. We could play in Innsbruck, Wörgl, Salzburg and Vienna too. We are planning shows in Rosenheim and also in our hometown Kufstein too. We are also looking for further opportunities. Currently it is quite challenging to get shows as all the bands which were incubated during the pandemic are back again, the scene is very competitive.

What kind of plans do you have for promoting the album?

The most important way for us is also the classic one: gigs, gigs and gigs.

As mentioned earlier, it's difficult at the moment, because the scene has to consolidate again first, and many bands are pushing onto the stages.

Therefore, we are working on social media to get more exposure, but all bands do the same.

However, advertising is part of the music business, because everyone does that, too. It is not the best part of playing music, but you do not have a good chance without proper promotion.

Anyways, we always try to stay natural, honest and true and do not use artificial tricks (e.g. bots) to create a fake image.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

By now, we have a strong presence on the internet, so visit us on Youtube, Spotify, Instagram or on any other platform of your choice. We also released three music videos, which we managed with limited budget and ended up with a decent quality. You will find some entertaining content, so it is worth following. We are also actively answering on the social media channels, so when you are interested in which beer is our favorite from the region, or how was the screaming guitar solo of ‘Dream Dark’ created, or just want to get a CD or T-shirt send us a message!

(Hicktown Records / Durcel Haze)


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Peter Bardens - Long Ago, Far Away

Throughout the Sixties keyboardist Peter Bardens participated in what’s become known as the “British Blues Boom”.  During that time he found himself working with the likes of Ray Davies, Mick Fleetwood, Van Morrison, Peter Green and Rod Stewart along with many others.  In 1969 Bardens headed into the studio and the following year released the first of two solo albums that were released prior to him joining Camel.  Long Ago, Far Away contains both of these albums, originally released on Transatlantic Records, along with five bonus tracks.   

With a band that included bassist Bruce Thomas, later of The Attractions, drummer Reg Isidore, who went on to play with Robin Trower, and guitarist Andy Gee, The Answer is often rooted in the bluesier sounds of his prior work, but expands in a variety of directions.  The disc starts off with the title track, a catchy tune with a bit of a mystical vibe, merging a laid-back, soulful blues jam with prog elements and some hints of psychedelia.  “Don’t Goof With A Spook” finds them slowing things down a little, and is a bluesy, psychedelic rocker that really showcases his keyboard work and has some Hendrix-like guitar playing.  The ten plus minute “I Can’t Remember” has a laid-back, soulful psychedelic groove that at times has a bit of a Sly and the Family Stone vibe and then evolves into a bluesy, psych jam with Bardens’ organ really taking charge.   The pace picks up a bit on the next two tunes, “I Don’t Want To Go Home”, a bouncy cut complemented by flute, playful percussion, guitar and some really nice backing vocals from Linda Lewis, and “Let’s Get It On”.  Interestingly, both of these songs featured an uncredited Peter Green on lead guitar (he also contributed some guitar to the title track).  Closing the album out is the thirteen plus minute psychedelic prog rock tour de force “Homage To The God Of Light”.  Driven by a propulsive beat and extended jams on guitar and keyboards, this tune had already been a staple in the live shows of his pre-solo band Village and was also a highlight of his solo shows as well as early Camel shows.  Speaking of Village, the first two of three bonus tracks here are the A and B side of the sole single released by that band.  “Man In The Moon” is an organ drenched psychedelic rocker with a bit of an early Pink Floyd vibe at times, while the flip “Long Time Coming” is another organ driven tune, this time a prog instrumental partially based on Mars from Holst’s The Planet Suite.  Closing out disc one is “Long Ago, Far Away” a nine minute instrumental recorded during the sessions for The Answer that has a nice laid-back jazz groove and really allows everyone in the band to show their stuff.  

With what for the most part was a new band, the self-titled follow-up, found here on disc two, is a solid release and contains what is possibly the best song of his solo career in “Write My Name In The Dust”.  Right out the gate things move in a bit of a different direction with “North End Road”, a jaunty instrumental with a ragtime vibe.  The aforementioned “Write My Name In Dust” is next and is a gorgeous, laid-back bluesy tune that is complemented by Bardens’ organ and is often reminiscent of the Small Faces.  “Down So Long” and “Simple Song” are a couple of tracks that find the band branching out a little.  The former is an unusually heavy track meshing doomy guitars and organ that at times brings to mind early Alice Cooper and even has a little “Schools Out” like riff at one point.  The latter strips things down to vocals and whistling with a little acoustic guitar, some bare bones percussion and keys and reminds me of some of the quirky, more novelty Beatles’ songs.  Amongst the other highlights are “My House”, a laid-back easygoing blues instrumental with some prog elements and “Feeling High”, a mellower, soulful psychedelic tune.  Closing out disc two are a couple of bonus tracks - "Homage To The God of Light" Part One and Two, which is basically an edited version of that song split in two for a French single.  Just a few months after the album's release, Bardens answered an ad in Melody Maker to join what became Camel, and as a member of that band recorded six albums over the next six years before leaving to play on one album with Van Morrison, his former Them bandmate, and then further pursue a solo career before passing away in 2002. Another highly recommended release from Esoteric once again giving a largely lesser known artist some deserved recognition.  

(Esoteric Recordings)