Tag Archives: blue bishops

25. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hullbridge, Essex. Friday, 17th October, 2014; plus, a few words with MT back-stage beforehand.

TURNER AND ME: Pre-show back-stage chin-wag! (Photo by JPC)

TURNER AND ME: Pre-show back-stage chin-wag! (Photo by JPC)

It was very  good of  MARTIN TURNER to invite me round for  a chat before  his gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hullbridge, Essex; and of DAVE KITTERIDGE of the club for sorting it all out. My boy James and I turned up early at the venue; and after  promoter Dave greeted us; we soon got chatting with a couple of fans in the bar, while we waited for the nod from MT for an interview. We also had a chat with the very informative DARREN WISDOM on the merch desk too; and I bought MT’s new album The Garden Party. As we waited, we  had a few words with long-term MTWA guitarist RAY HATFIELD who was on stage making some fine adjustments to his FX set-up. We talked about his solo albums, and he said he’d written a song that was to be played by MTWA tonight – ‘Mystify Me’. No, its not a cover of the old RONNIE WOOD song, but a totally original piece. This led us to talk of ROLLING STONES guitarists; and Ray said he was a big fan of MICK TAYLOR, a most underrated musician – and I must agree with that.

Before long, we got the invite back-stage where we were greeted by MT and his other long-serving axe-man, DANNY WILLSON. Martin was relaxed and we were soon speaking about his friends in the band BLUE BISHOPS (see my blog entry #21), who he jams with at times.   I wasn’t sure if he would want to speak about the recent controversy between himself and ANDY POWELL (see my blog entry #5), but he did so very freely. However, those issues are outside the scope of this review – suffice to say that the whole unfortunate business still rankles  him deeply; and I’m not surprised. He was, shall we say, less than complimentary about AP! Enough said.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that my favourite album of all time, is the Wishbone epic, Argus; and it has been since I first heard it back in the 70s. So inevitably I brought up the subject. MT avidly discussed the themes of the album in some length and detail (it being, after all, his magnum opus), but his comments on this deserve to be the subject of a dedicated future article on my blog. (Watch this space). He also told the story of his lost Rickenbacker 4001 Bass guitar, which he used on the album.

MTWA (Photo by JPC)

MTWA (Photo by JPC)

I asked also, about new material. MT said that four tracks have been recorded; with another two – possibly four – in the pipeline. The whole band apparently, are currently collaborating in the song-writing; and ‘Mystify Me’ (a song by Ray Hatfield – as stated above) being one of two newbies planned for that night. Then my son James (who is actually a sports journalist) asked Martin if there is a theme to the new album. This was a good question, as it led our host to wax philosophical. The new song ‘Written In The Stars’ (due to be the opening number at the gig) apparently encompasses his view of a pre-ordained Universe. He believes in re-incarnation, and I asked if he was a Buddhist. No, he’s not; but he is interested in the Hindu religion; and feels that he has, in the past, fallen foul of the goddess Kali. Now you may, or may not believe this; but you cannot deny that it influences his admirable song-writing. James also asked if his new music has branched out. Martin thought so. He mentioned his love for various musical genres other than rock and blues – classical; jazz; and Hindu music, which he says ‘are bound to’ influence him. Of course.

Now, I know the official name of the band has recently been changed to MARTIN TURNER PLAYS THE MUSIC OF WISHBONE ASH (actually, to me it will always be MTWA!); but what I wanted to know was, who will the new album be credited to? It can’t be labelled as MT PLAYS THE MUSIC OF WA, because WA never played it in the first place. MT says that this is undecided at the moment; but that the artist’s name will probably include the name ‘WA’ in it  somehow – as long as it doesn’t contravene the recent court ruling which found in favour of Andy Powell’s use of the name. I also asked why a simple MARTIN TURNER BAND, or similar wasn’t used.  He answered that WA would be incorporated in the advertising for gigs etc anyway, so why not include it in the title? Fair enough.

MR. TURNER - master of the Thunderbird! (Photo: PTMQ)

MR. TURNER – master of the Thunderbird! (Photo: PTMQ)

By the time we returned to the auditorium, it was packed with MTWA fans eagerly awaiting the show. We didn’t have to wait long before Master Of Ceremonies BRIAN SANGWIN introduced the band. Soon the lads were on-stage belting out the new tune that we’d just discussed back-stage: ‘Written In The Stars’. Its a great song and proved to be a good opener. Old Argus favourite ‘Warrior’ followed; and was performed in an exemplary fashion. Its as near as you will ever get these days to the original album version. As on the album, this was immediately followed – and counter-balanced – by ‘Throw Down The Sword’. Again, we were transported back to ’72! We witnessed a  beautiful harmonised twin solo from Hatfield and Willson; with MT as usual, faultless on his Gibson Thunderbird bass.

Another of my WA favourites followed: ‘Goodbye Baby, Hello Friend’, originally penned by ex-WA guitarist LAURIE WISEFIELD for the ’77 album, Front Page News. MT quipped that Ray H would sing it – as he was the one who most resembled Laurie! The instrumental ‘Lullaby’ from Pilgrimage followed; with Danny W,  highly competent  on 12-string.  The progressive and bluesy ‘Persephone’ was up next. The whole band impressing with their musicality. Heavy rocker ‘Living Proof’ hit us without further ado; new drummer TIM BROWN impressing us with his skin-beating.

Martin then announced that the band would have a short break after one more song.  At this point I was most surprised to hear the iconic Argus track ‘Blowin’ Free’; as it is usually reserved for the encore. But then why not? It was a superb rendition as you’d expect; and ended the first half of the set on a high.

After the break (involving beer and chat!); Martin and his boys returned to the stage and began Part Two with another Argus classic: ‘Some-Time World’. I love this song. Its strummed, vocalised intro soon gives way to Turner’s iconic, busy bass-line – in fact, a busier bassist you’ll not see outside of the jazz world! Hatfield and Willson did a fantastic job on it too; as did Tim on the skins.

'Thank you, Hullbridge, and good night! (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Thank you, Hullbridge, and good night! (Photo: PTMQ)

Next was the eagerly anticipated, Hatfield penned, ‘Mystify Me’. It did not disappoint. It is highly compatible with classic WA material. It went down well with the crowd. I liked it a lot. And I’d like to hear the studio version (along with the other new one; the opener ‘Written In The Stars’). Another old favourite ‘Lorelei’ (from New England, ’76), was played next; followed by TED TURNER’s song  ‘Keeper Of The Light’ ably sung by Danny W.

Another instrumental, ‘Outward Bound’ (also from New England)  was followed  by an impromptu joke, told by MT in his stand-up comedian mode! It was about astronauts and Red Indians. A more serious theme was explored in the lyric of  ‘Lifeline’. Then Martin said they’d do a song from the very first WA album ‘..that was 1907’ he quipped! It was of course the old fans favourite, ‘Phoenix’ (1970). And thus ended the main set to rapturous applause.

The question now was: Did we want them back for encore? ‘Let’s here it for Martin and the band with no name!’ called Brian Sangwin. And we cheered loudly until ‘the band with no name’ returned. After a few bars of the ancient song ‘Greensleeves’, they  launched themselves into the unmistakable intro of ‘The King Will Come’. It was the fifth song from Argus, and another sublime rendition! The wah-wah solo from Ray was excellent. Rocker ‘Blind Eye’ followed, and ended with MT teasing his fans by coining the phrase ‘Zimmer-Rock!’ The finale – if not ‘Blowin’ Free’ – had to be,  of course, the live favourite: ‘Jailbait’. (Martin had talked to us earlier about the inspiration for this song). Then he thanked the band who each did their solo; and all staff – both his and the club’s; before exiting the stage to wails of approval.

It was one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year. Thanks to Martin and the band for a fantastic show; and taking the time to talk to James and myself.  And to Dave Kitteridge and his Mrs; and all the staff at the Touchline for all their hard work in making a memorable evening. Cheers, PTMQ

21. BLUE BISHOPS “In The Red” (Cyclone Music, 2010)

BLUE BISHOPS: "in The Red" (Photo: PTMQ)

BLUE BISHOPS: “in The Red” (Photo: PTMQ)

I first became aware of THE BLUE BISHOPS a few years ago now; but after reading MARTIN TURNER’s excellent autobiography ‘No Easy Road’ about 18 months ago (Turner being an occasional memer of the band), I was reminded of them again.   On the strength of that, I down-loaded a few tracks from the highly rated “Deep” album (Speegra, 2002), and these were very good indeed.

However, after having been approached by the Bishops’ guitarist and founder member, SIMON BURRETT recently, I decided that some words about the band were long over-due. They are not known too widely, which is a shame because they are actually a very good band. So hopefully I can help to spread the word about them a little, by reviewing their last album “In The Red” (Cyclone Music, 2010).

The band currently consist of: the afore-mentioned founder member Simon Burrett (guitar, slide, and vocals); GEOFF GRANGE (vocals, guitar, and harp); JIM RODFORD (bass); and JUSTIN HILDRETH (drums). These core members are supplemented by JOHN BUNDRICK (keys); STUART EPPS (percussion); and none other than veteran keyboard maestro ROD ARGENT.

First track on the album is ‘Walking In A Hurricane’ – the old JOHN FOGERTY song. Now, anyone that knows me, knows that I like a cover – but I don’t like slavish covers; I like fresh interpretations of originals.  I got that with this version; and its a good choice for an opener. What struck me most of all on this track though (and throughout the album), was Geoff Grange’s excellent vocal style, which reminded me of the late, great DAVID BYRON; and a little of IAN GILLAN. Good solos from both axe-men on this track too. A great start!

Next up is ‘Screw’. Penned by Grange (as most of the songs are), this song has a good synchronised riff between guitar and harmonica. As the song ended, I thought I heard my mobile ring – but no, it was the third song ‘Wake-up Call’ beginning with a ring tone! Good heavy chord sequence on this one; supplemented by melodic lead.

‘Place In Time’ has a bluesy intro which soon develops into a more progressve sequence with a simple but effective descending bass run. This gives way to a lighter chorus. I think this is one of the best tracks on the album. Next track, ‘Life On The Line’ is a good rocker with a chorus that reminds me of good quality pop-rock song from the early 70s (that’s not a criticism – I love it!)

That 70s vibe continues with ‘Credit Card’. With words by Grange, and music by Burrett;  it  has an amusing lyric and great slide and harp solos. This is followed by ‘Blues Stand In Line’ which sounds to me like it could almost be a Mk2 Deep Purple creation; and wouldn’t be out of place on “Machine Head”! Fantastic keyboard work from Argent.

‘The Sea Will Rise’ is an ecologically aware song – again a collaboration between Grange and Burrett. BERNIE MARSDEN and WALTER TROUT have handled such green issues before, so why not? Its a good song – again, a bit Purple-esque – and the first of two with a serious subject matter amongst this collection. Argent stands out again here.

Time for two more covers now: in the form of Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup’s staple song ‘That’s Alright Mama’ (great slide and harp on this one again); followed by The Everly Brothers classic ‘Price Of Love’  (suitably rocked-up) and no doubt these are both popular live numbers.

The bluesy ‘The End Is Listless’ by Burrett, is the only instrumental on the album. (Clever play on words for the title, I must say!). You have to be careful with instrumentals – to keep them interesting, you have to know when to end them; and this is just about right length-wise. Nice axemanship and harp work here once again.

The second song with a more serious lyric is ‘The Black Diamond’. It laments the hard life of a traditional coal-mining community. Its a Prog-Rock piece and is really rather good, if sombre. Lovely lead guitar tone on this one.  The final offering is ‘These Things Take Time’. A foot tapping folky, acoustically driven number; again with fine-sounding guitar work throughout.

The cover (for those of us who still like to buy a CD!) is very good too. All the basic info that you need about the band and the songs – including lyrics – is included. The centre-fold, with its collage of band pics, reminds me of Purple’s “Machine Head” (1972); QUO’s “On The Level” (’75); and HEART’s “Dreamboat Annie (’76). Now I’m in danger of lamenting the demise of vinyl, and gate-fold sleeves! (Showing my age again!)

I’ve not seen The Blue Bishops live (and this is a situation I hope is rectified soon), but I should imagine that they’re a lively band to see on-stage; and I’d guess they have a lot of fun performing too. Producer JOHN LECKIE has set out deliberately to capture the live performance of the band on the album – in fact some tracks were actually recorded live in the studio; demonstrating the tightness; experience; and confidence of the band. It works; and I highly recommend this album. Let’s hope that the Blue Bishops start getting the more widespread recognition that they deserve.

The Blue Bishops website details band profiles; samples; and gigs etc  – link below:

http://bluebishops.co.uk/

Great album, lads!  PTMQ