135. ANGE HARDY’s Christmas singles.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

Ange Hardy releasing an annual seasonal single has become something of a Christmas tradition in itself over the last three years; and I always look forward to receiving the latest one. Her prolific pen can always be relied upon to come up with a couple of new songs that sound both familiar, yet fresh at the same time – and always of high quality.

This year’s offering (2016) is a two-track single entitled ‘The Quantock Carol’. It is a song written whilst contemplating the uncertainty of the modern world, and hoping that the future promises the peace that she feels when viewing the Quantock Hills from her home. It is backed by the ‘B-side’ (if that’s the right term to use these days!), ‘Mary’s Robin’, which is based on a Gaelic legend of how the little bird came by its red breast. Both are purely unaccompanied vocal pieces and sung with Ange’s characteristically crystal-clear voice and delightful multi-layered harmony arrangements, skillfully woven into a whole.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

The CD came in a card slip case with a simple, yet charming design, and lyrics printed on the reverse. Typical of Ange – and something I do like on any CD case – she has written a paragraph to explain each song. Also typical of the lady, it arrived in a specially printed envelope, which also contained a personalised Christmas card matching the single’s cover.

2015’s single was a three-track EP featuring the A-Side ‘When Christmas Day Is Near’. It is a song that Ange tells us she tried… ‘to write a song that captures the joy, hope and unity of Christmas’. It is backed up by the excellent ‘William Frend’ (a track taken from her album Esteesee – see my review #72); and ‘Solidarity’, a song ‘written the day after the 2015 Paris attacks at the Bataclan, with heavy heart and hopeful soul’ she says.

(Pic: A.Hardy)

(Pic: A.Hardy)

This too arrived with a Christmas greetings card matching the CD slip-case, contained in a specially printed envelope. And again had useful explanations.

2014’s offering was another EP: ‘The Little Holly Tree’; backed by ‘The Wanting Wife’ (taken from her album The Lament Of The Black Sheep – see my review #32); and the traditional and beautiful 12th Century Irish hymn ‘The Wexford Carol’.

The singles (and in fact all of Ange’s back catalogue of work) are available from her website. Samples of her songs can be heard there too. Merry Christmas to you. PTMQ

134. STORM IN A TEACUP. Digital album “MMXVI” (2016)

(Pic: C.Rhodes)

(Pic: C.Rhodes)

I was contacted recently by song-writer Colin Rhodes, who asked me what I thought of his band Storm In A Teacup’s album MMXVI (which of course is Latin for 2016).  Its a band I’d not heard of before. It is a song-writing collaboration between Colin himself and guitarist Marco Meljohn; plus vocals by an anonymous and mysterious lady with the amusing pseudonym of Ella V’Storm. (Who can this really be I wonder? Knowledgeable Rock fans may like to hazard a guess?)

MMXVI is an impressive ten-track collection of well-crafted melodic Rock songs. A lot of good work has been put into this album. Each song has been carefully thought out by the writers and each holds the attention from start to finish. There are a variety well-known Rock styles represented in the collection – from out and out Heavy-Rockers like ‘Pink Champagne’; through catchy Pop-Rock tunes like ‘Bad Bad Girl’; and the Proggy ‘Desert Rose’; to emotional power ballads like ‘If’ and ‘Talking About Love’. These songs often have an 80s feel about them (not a criticism), but they also sound fresh and exciting. Lyrically its very good too. (No lyrics are available to read, but vocals are clear enough of course). I found it very difficult to pick out favourites, so I won’t try – its all excellent!

Axemanship from Marco is very impressive indeed; reminding me of such luminaries as Steve Vai; Joe Satriani; and at times Eddie Van Halen. Nice use of FX; and fine Spanish guitar on ‘Desert Rose’.

Vocals from ‘Ella’ (if you know who she is) are typically superb; versatile, highly suited to every track; and a joy to hear. All in all an excellent choice for singer. She is in fact my favourite female vocalist in the Rock genre at the moment, and i never seem to tire of the emotional range and the sassiness in her voice and vocal delivery! Miss. V’Storm isn’t available for gigging due to other commitments at the moment, so the band are currently looking for a replacement female vocalist.

Storm In A Teacup are currently writing and demo-ing more material, but need to sell a few more downloads to make the follow-up album a reality. MMXVI is available to listen to on Spotyfy; and for download from Amazon. Finances do not permit a CD or vinyl version just yet; but its well worth having a listen.  I like the whole collection a lot. A wonderful album actually; only marred by the unskipable sodding adverts that Spotify constantly shove down your throat between the songs! Highly recommended.  PTMQ

Follow Storm In A Teacup on FaceBook and Twitter.

PS: Not guessed ‘Ella V’Storm’s true identity yet?  Hint: If you are leaving Earth’s atmosphere in a lift, you’ll find a lady of noble birth on vocals!

133. NICHOLAS BARRETT’s “Michaelmas Term: Or – Why Is That Boy Naked?” (2016)

(Pic: N.Barratt)

(Pic: N.Barrett)

Its a bit of a departure for me to review a subject that is not strictly musical; although author Nick Barrett (not to be confused with his namesake in Prog-Rockers Pendragon), is a bit of a muso himself (he was round my place the other day strumming through some old Rush songs on my acoustic), and he did once bash the skins for a certain well-known Canadian Blues-Rock guitarist, as well as other groups, so I guess that loosely qualifies his book’s inclusion here!

I have known Nick for some time. Michaelmas Term: Or – Why Is That Boy Naked? is his debut novel, and is, he told me, 70% based on his own experiences at school – so it is semi-autobiographical. It tells the story of Nicky, an eleven year old who wins a scholarship to the posh St Onan’s Academy… and yes, the book is a comedy! But to say that is an understatement… it is hilarious! I began reading it the day that Nick handed me an autographed copy, and I couldn’t put it down – except to periodically laugh aloud!

The book’s characters – all based on real people – are as large as life, and described so well. Look out for the ageing alcoholic teacher Mr. Matthews-elah; the haunted theology master, the Rev. Felchingham; the modern artist Mr.Japsai; and magnificently named art master, Mr. Bell-Enderby (I’m sure we all know a few blokes with that sobriquet?) A real-life mutual friend of Nick and myself and fellow writer Steve ‘Loopy’ Newhouse (see my review #131) is also immortalised in the book as the school’s music teacher. We are told that the pupils of this ancient seat of learning – the Onanists – have been ‘buffing their helmets’ since the Middle Ages; and that the school hymn proclaims that ‘Onanists will take themselves in hand’! (To get most pleasure out of this for oneself, you need to know what onanism is!)

It is not primarily of a musical theme; but there are however, numerous musical references within the pages. For example, in his first latin lesson at St Onan’s, Nicky learns that pro bono is not the singer of U2! And in his first history class, that El Dorado is not a song by The Eagles! This may give you a taste of the humour within; but I’ll say no more.

This book is a seriously good read. It is bizarre, irreverent – and a bloody good laugh! I’m recommending it highly. Nick has a sequel ready for publishing, and two further volumes in the pipeline – as well as a thriller in the making. If this debut is a sample of his work, he has an illustrious future ahead of him. He has already been favourably compared to Terry Pratchett and Tom Sharp. If you like clever word-play; subtly hidden innuendos; or just a damn good laugh, then buy it! Definitely one for the Christmas stocking. It is available from Amazon. PTMQ.

132. YAEL BEBB (+ Open Floor) at ROMFORD FOLK CLUB, in The Sun PH. Tuesday, 22nd November, 2016.

Yael Bebb at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

Yael Bebb at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

Recently, Garry Walker of RFC told me he had booked Yael Bebb for a feature session at the club, and recommended that I come along. I was intrigued as I knew nothing about the lady or her music. He had met and seen her play at Rochester and Dartford earlier this year, and was impressed enough to invite her to the club. I met and had a chat with Yael before the evening’s proceedings began. She has apparently recently moved from Kent to Essex, and plays a lot around her new county home; and is involved in the Dengie Folk Music Sessions around the East Essex area. She also performed (and went down well by all accounts) at the Leigh Folk Festival this summer. She had arrived with a group of friends (some of whom would join her shortly for part of her set); but let’s leave them sitting at their table for a while….

As is usual with these feature sessions at RFC, the night begins with an Open Floor spot where anyone who so desires can perform a couple of songs. And as usual, a wide range of styles and abilities is represented; all admirable in their way. Master of Ceremonies for the night was Smolowik who got the ball rolling with a couple of good songs. Notable among those present were club boss Garry who sang two fine trad songs; Rod Standen who has recently released an album called Poetic Force. (See my review #109); singer Jo Gregory who sang a beautiful rendition of ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ and will perform a feature set at RFC next February; a gentleman called Keith who played an oud (a remarkable instrument of Middle-Eastern origin related to the lute); and a lady called Jan who recited an impressive Shakespearean sonnet that she’d written. I played David Coverdale’s ‘Soldier Of Fortune’ and my own song ‘The Boys Of The Old 83rd’… but I offer no critique of my own performance!

Ken, Yael, and Janice (Photo: Garry Walker)

Ken, Yael, and Janice (Photo: Garry Walker)

After a short break it was time for this week’s feature spot. Accordion in hand, Yael seated herself in the performance area and began her short but eclectic, and internationally flavoured set, which included French, Scottish, and English tunes; and the African-American Spiritual ‘Wade In The Water’, for which the audience joined in. I particularly enjoyed her version of Fairport’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’. At one point Yael invited two friends to join her – regulars from the Dengie Sessions. These were Janice Higgins on recorder; and Ken Saunders on accordion. They played well together as a unit and are obviously well-practiced. A thing that I like when seeing musicians play live is a little explanation before each song; and Yael did not disappoint in this. I quite enjoyed her set, and so did everyone present – as evidenced by a demand for encore. I’d recommend seeing her and her friends if you are into Folk music and live in the Essex area. Thanks to Garry of RFC. PTMQ.

Link to the Dengie Folk Sessions FaceBook page

131. STEVE ‘LOOPY’ NEWHOUSE’s “LOOPYWORLD: THE IRON MAIDEN YEARS” (2016). + A trip down Memory Lane for The Quill.

Loopy's book coverBook review.  When Steve ‘Loopy’ Newhouse told me he was writing a book about his time as a roadie for Heavy Metal maestros, Iron Maiden; I was very keen to have a read. So he sent me a pre-publication PDF of his work, Loopyworld: The Iron Maiden Years, from which I could write a review. I was keen because I was a big fan of Maiden long before they had achieved their international mega success; and I saw them innumerable times – mostly at The Ruskin Arms PH in East London, throughout 1979.

I know Loopy; so when I read the book, I could hear him narrating it in my head. It is written really well and flows easily, like a mate telling you a long but fascinating series of anecdotes down the pub! Its an easy read. He writes just as he speaks – in a relaxed London / Cockney accent. Fine for me because I’m of the same stock; but English speakers outside the UK may have a bit of a problem with some of the colloquialisms contained in it. At the end of the day though, its a book about a Rock band from the East End of London, so what could be a more appropriate lingo to use?

The book sets out Loopy’s time with Iron Maiden from September ’78 to July ’84 – with a break of two years in the middle when he got sacked, then later reinstated. The band were of course one of the leading lights of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM); a serious back-lash against the New Wave/Punk aberration of the mid-70s. By using his old diaries, Loopy describes the highs and lows of his career as a roadie/drum tech for Maiden (and other bands). It is not just a memoir, but a valuable history of Maiden in their earliest years; and an eye-opener for life on the road. He is refreshingly honest, and undoubtedly accurate; and has brought to light many anecdotes and observations about Maiden – and the Rock scene in general – that may have otherwise been long forgotten. It is a fascinating read.

(Pic: Loopy)

Loopy with his magnum opus!(Photo: Loopy)

The book comes as a paperback of 200+ pages. It has a very clear format and typesetting. It contains some great photos, although unfortunately without captions which I think would have been very useful (but that’s the only, minor, complaint that I’ve already mentioned to Loopy). The flyers, ads and posters shown from the time are interesting too; as they mention other artists that I’d seen and forgotten (For example: Zaine Griff, who I saw at Reading ’79; and Lea Hart, supporting Judas Priest at Hammersmith in October ’78).

The cover illustration is by none other than Derek Riggs – the man responsible for bringing ‘Eddie’ to life on numerous Maiden album covers. Loopy also tells me that there is a secret code contained in the book – but I’ve yet to suss it out! The book is out now and is available from Loopy’s website. If you’re a Maiden / NWOBHM fan; or you were a London gig-goer in the late ’70s; it is definitely a must have. Put it on your Christmas stocking list! Highly recommended. PTMQ

Link to Loopy’s website where you can order a copy of the book

Link to Loopy’s Facebook page

(Photo: PTMQ)

Loopy kindly signed the book for me. (Photo: PTMQ)

My own memories of Iron Maiden.  Reading Loopy’s book initiated a trip down Memory Lane for me. I found the earlier chapters particularly interesting because Loopy mentions many of my old haunts: The Ruskin Arms, East Ham of course (which is now an hotel); The Rabbits, Manor Park (now a chemist); The Green Gate, Newbury Park (now a MacDonalds); The Green Man, Leytonstone (now an Irish theme bar); and The Red Lion, Leytonstone (still a pub!). All good Rock venues of the time. He even talks about Bonzers Farm, where I used to go to pick up bags of spuds for my Mum – precariously strapping them on the pillion seat of my motor bike!

Apart from the dozens of times I saw Maiden at the Ruskins, I also saw them in other places that Loopy mentions: I was at Neal Kay’s Bandwagon HM Soundhouse, a Rock club in Kingsbury, North London a couple of times; at the Reading Rock Festival (August 1980); the long gone Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park where Maiden played as part of that venue’s anniversary celebrations (With Praying Mantis support, June ’80); at The Music Machine, Camden Town (also August ’79; supported by Angel Witch and Toad The Wet Sprocket); their famous charity gig at the Ruskins (April ’80) – which is the only time I remember having to buy a ticket in advance for the venue (and boy it was packed that night!); and their gig at Hammersmith Odeon supporting Judas Priest (March ’80).

(Pic: PTMQ)

Some old IM tickets I sold on Ebay a few years ago. Top: Music Machine, Aug 79. Middle: Ruskin Arms, April 80. Bottom: Rainbow Theatre, June 80.  (Pic: PTMQ)

But it was the Ruskin Arms that will be forever synonymous with Maiden. I first saw them in April ’79, and I must have been present at almost every gig they played there throughout the rest of that year. A couple of mates and I would always be seen doing the ‘Transylvania Boogie’ (as we called it) at the front of the low stage. Occasionally we’d help shift the band’s gear too. I seem to remember they played three consecutive nights there at Easter, and I went to all three. Before and after these gigs, we would have a chat to the band and got to know them quite well – especially Steve HarrisDave Murray and Paul Di’Anno I also remember being pulled up and searched by the Old Bill on the way home from a Maiden gig at the Ruskins – I remember because it was my birthday in January ’80! But the last time I spoke to any of them was at a Radio Caroline Roadshow in April ’80 when I bumped into singer Paul (I mentioned this in an earlier article #41).

There was one particularly good gig at the Ruskins, when the band (and I think I’m right in saying this, not having kept a diary like Loopy!) debuted ‘Running Free’, and it went down a storm. Then it was ‘Remember Tomorrow’s debut, and after rapturous applause, I recall Steve Harris saying from the stage with a big grin on his face, that he didn’t know how the crowd would like it – he needn’t have worried; because for my mates and I it was the best thing we’d heard Maiden do! It may have been at this same gig that the band played a blinding cover of Van Halen‘s ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ as a second encore.

I’d say I’m not so much a Maiden fan these days, although I have a great deal of respect and affection for them, and always keep an eye on what they’re up to. They are certainly responsible for providing me with a great deal of good memories, and I met lots of interesting people at their gigs. Back in ’79 I always said they’d hit the big time. It was obvious right from the start – although I don’t think anyone (even the band themselves) were prepared for just how far and how quickly their career took off. Long may they continue! Cheers Loopy! PTMQ

130. THE GEORGIA SHACKLETON TRIO “The Dog Who Would Not Be Washed”

(Pic: Georgia Shakleton Trio)

(Pic: Georgia Shakleton Trio)

At Headstock music and beer festival in Norfolk recently (see my review #125), I was lucky enough to see The Georgia Shackleton Trio. I liked their set. I had a chat with Georgia afterwards, and she kindly gave me a copy of The Dog Who Would Not Be Washed for review.

The band consist of Georgia Shackleton herself on fiddle and vocals; Aaren Bennett on guitar and vocals; and Nic Zuppardi on mando. These three are augmented by Adam Clark on banjo. They describe themselves as ‘… a blend of folk, Americana, and self-penned material’. Musicianship is impressive; vocals clear; and the recording is good.

It is an eclectic collection of twelve songs; several written by Georgia; some traditional; and a few covers. Georgia’s songs cover an interesting array of subject matter. ‘Lonesome George’ is about a tortoise – the last of his kind. ‘Endurance’ tells the story of Earnest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica; and ‘Black Sluice’ about a man and his dog being swallowed up by a drain! I like good lyrics and I wasn’t disappointed by Georgia’s pen-work on this album, but I’d like to have seen the lyrics printed on the sleeve, but still, she sings with lovely diction and the words are clear throughout.

The CD comes in a card gate-fold sleeve with the CD impressed on the right inner side. It has an interesting design and good basic information is included. It is available from the  band’s website. A great Folk album. PTMQ

129. KAREN WARBIS ‘Step Back To The Sixties’

(Pic: K.Warbis)

(Pic: K.Warbis)

Singer Karen Warbis is the wife of guitarist Steve Forward – a name featured on my website twice rercently. She is a multi-skilled lady, being a vocal coach; guitar tutor; sound engineer; and beauty specialist – yet still found time to record her own 60s covers album! I met her at one of her husband’s gigs recently (see my review #127), and she handed me a copy of Step Back To The Sixties and I said I’d review it for her.

It is a collection of ten well known Pop/Soul hits from that most remarkable of musical decades; mostly originally recorded by female vocalists from across both sides of the pond. Tracks include ‘Downtown’; California Dreamin’; ‘My Guy’ etc. And its very good. Karen’s voice is very clear and pleasant to hear. I quite enjoyed listening to it… even my Missus liked it; and that’s a hard test to pass indeed!

The CD comes in a standard Jewel Case but with very little info on the cover, so I don’t know anything about the musicians on the recording. Everyone involved has done a splendid job though. The album is available from Karen’s website. PTMQ