Tag Archives: Pete Feenstra

92. PHIL THE MUSIC QUILL IS TWO YEARS OLD!

I can’t believe that my website is two years old on 1st February 2016! Just out of interest, here are my ten most popular articles; ordered by the amount of ‘hits’ they’ve had….

TOP TEN ARTICLES FROM THE LAST TWO YEARS:

  1. SON OF MAN at VILLAGE BLUES CLUB, DAGENHAM TRADES HALL. Gig review. Sept. 2015 (Review #69)
  2. MARIELLA TIROTTO & THE BLUES FEDERATION Live In Concert album review (#34)
  3. LARRY MILLER at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. July 2015 (#61)
  4. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at VILLAGE BLUES CLUB, DAGENHAM ROUNDHOUSE. Gig review. May 2015. (#56)
  5. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. October 2014 (#25)
  6. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB. Gig review. April 2015 (#44)
  7. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. Nov 2015 (#83)
  8. MARTIN TURNER Written In The Stars album review (#73)
  9. RED BUTLER at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB. Gig and interview. August 2015 (#66)
  10. MALAYA BLUE at DAVE SPARKS ROCKIN’ BLUES NIGHT, ANCHOR, BENFLEET. Gig and interview. Aug 2015 (#64)

 PTMQ

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51. RAY HATFIELD “At The Drop Of A Hat” (2013)

'At The Drop Of A Hat' (Photo: PTMQ)

RAY HATFIELD’s ‘At The Drop Of A Hat’ (Photo: PTMQ)

At the Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash gig at The Beaverwood Club recently (see my review Blog #44), I had a chat to Ray Hatfield – who is, of course, one of MT’s ‘Harmony Twins’. He kindly gave me a copy of his second solo album At The Drop Of A Hat for review. Everyone was telling me that it was a good album – and I must say, they weren’t wrong! I played it on the way home from the gig, and I liked it immediately.

When you hear a solo album from a member of a well-known band, its easy to assume that the music within it will reflect the parent group. I’ve known for many years that this isn’t necessarily the case. Although one of Ray’s songs from this collection (‘Mystify Me’) has been part of the MTWA live set for a few months now (and is scheduled to be included in the forthcoming MTWA album Written In The Stars), the rest of it is quite different from the parent band’s material. This is because Ray’s song-writing has its own influences and originality, and those things have been brought to bear – along with years of experience – in this, his own work.

This is Ray’s second solo album (the first being King Of The West, which, as yet, I haven’t heard). It is a collection of twelve original songs + a bonus track, all written by the man himself (except one penned in collaboration with others). Various family and friends were recruited to help out as necessary: Rob Hewins (drums; rhythm guitar; backing vocals; mixing); Danny Willson  (the other ‘Harmony Twin’ from MTWA – guitar; backing vocals; photos); Keith Buck (pedal steel); Mark Daniels (backing vocals); Holly Hatfield (backing vocals; cover artwork); and Claire Hatfield (photos). Obviously Ray plays most of the guitar parts as well as lead vocals; and as there is no mention of a bassist on the cover, I assume he plays that too. Between them they’ve cooked up something good!

Ray at the MTWA gig at the Beaverwood Club, April 2015. (Photo: PTMQ)

Ray at the MTWA gig at the Beaverwood Club, April 2015. (Photo: PTMQ)

The album kicks off with ‘The Last Star’. Its a good opener, and sets the tone of the whole album really. Its a well constructed song, with nice guitar parts. A good follow up to this is the next track ‘Milky Way’. It continues the same pensive vibe. Again lovely guitar and pedal steel which enhance the Country feel to it.

‘Mystify Me’ is the song to be used by MTWA. It is the closest to the style of the parent band; and therefore highly compatible with their material – both old and new. When I interviewed Martin Turner last October before the band’s gig at Touchline Live Music in Essex (see my Blog #25), he was full of praise and enthusiasm about this song (which was debuted that very evening). Both musically and lyrically he said it was highly suitable for MTWA – and, after all, he should know! So this was the only song that I’d previously heard from the album; having been familiar with the MTWA live version since that Touchline gig last year. It was good to hear Ray’s personal version of it at last.

‘Borderline’ slows things down a bit. Its a thoughtful singer-songwriter type of piece, with a very personal lyric. There is a fantastic solo, full of feeling, on this one too. ‘Devil’s Disguise’ follows. It couldn’t be more different. Its an upbeat song with a funky vibe.

The title track is next. It is a fine, if short, instrumental. I like instrumentals; but they have to be good to keep up the interest – this one certainly does. The next track, ‘The Judgement Of Paris’, is the only one penned in collaboration with others – Willson and Hewins. Its a two-part piece starting with a fine acoustic arpeggiated chord sequence before breaking into the livelier Part Two. (‘Paris’ in this context is the Prince of Troy from Greek Mythology not the French Capital).

‘Wheels’ is a bit of  rocker. Its a damn good motoring song – ‘…I was M1 southward bound…’ sings Ray – with guitar-generated doppler effect police sirens! Next is ‘Here And Now’ – its a nice little song with something of a Soul vibe to it in the verse, and a sweet harmonised guitar solo. ‘Them Pesky McCoys’ is another little instrumental – a quirky Folky / Country thing. In contrast, ‘Three Times Forgiven’ is a mild and thoughtful piece; again with fine harmonised leads –  a la Wishbone Ash!

The last track from the main collection is the beautiful Folk song ‘Corfu Sunset’ – just Ray’s voice and an acoustic guitar.  And finally the bonus track ‘Sinners’, is a strange one. It has a kind of Hip-Hop beat to it accompanied by a folky acoustic guitar and a tasty electric slide.

I was already well aware of Ray’s superb guitar playing, having seen him with MTWA on numerous occasions; but with this album he has demonstrated his song-writing; lyric writing, and vocal skills too. All in all its a fine piece of work indeed – one which I cannot criticise at all. I admire the sheer variety of styles that he covers – and sometimes fuses together – to make a unique and very personal album.

The CD comes in a standard Jewel Case, with basic info and personal thanks; but no lyrics. (Although these are available from Ray’s website – see below). The cover design and photos are good too.

BREAKING NEWS! A few days ago I was surprised to read that Ray would be leaving MTWA shortly. I do not know what his reasons or plans are – I can only assume that he will be forming his own band and hitting the road sometime.  This seems plausible to me, as he is well-known and well thought of in the music business. It is surprising though, as the new MTWA album Written In The Stars is about to be released; and as I have said, Ray has contributed to it; so its a shame he will no longer be involved with it. His last gig with the band will apparently be the Dagenham Roundhouse reunion at the end of May 2015. It is already sold out, but I was lucky enough to get tickets; and I’m looking forward to seeing Ray for the last time with the band (see my Blog for a review shortly after). I’ll wish him good luck when I see him. It will be a great show anyway. I’m looking forward to a third album – and many more – from Ray. PTMQ

Here is a link to Ray’s website…..http://www.rayhatfield.com/

44. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB, Chislehurst, Kent. Thursday, 16th April, 2015

Martin Turner - the old 'Warrior' himself! (Photo by PTMQ)

Martin Turner – the old ‘Warrior’ himself! (Photo: PTMQ)

Arriving at The Beaverwood Club in good time to see Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash; who should we bump into straight away outside, but Ray Hatfield – who is, of course, one of the two exceptional guitarists in the band. I’ve met Ray and the other members of the group several times now – including last October at Touchline Live Music in Essex, where I interviewed Martin Turner himself. (See my blog #25); and its always nice to be remembered by such musicians. Ray is a friendly and modest bloke who always has time for a chat with the punters; and he kindly gave me a CD copy of his second solo album At The Drop Of A Hat, which I shall review as soon as I can. After saying hello to a few other people I knew, we were ready for the show to begin.

Soon the band – consisting of Martin, Ray, Danny Willson, and skin-beater Tim Brown  – climbed on stage to great applause, and immediately launched into the title track of (as MT said) ‘the ever forthcoming album’, Written in The Stars. This is a great song that has been part of the live show for a few months now, and is already a popular favourite. Argus classics ‘Warrior’ and ‘Throw Down The Sword’ followed, in as near as Damn it to the original ’72 versions as you can achieve these days – superb! Then we were privileged to hear the debut of a new tune – ‘Vapour Trail’; again, to be included on the new album. I liked this a lot, and I’m keen to hear the final studio version of it. ‘For My Lady’ followed – another great song with a beautiful gentler section mid-way through, with a fine solo from Ray. Next it was Danny’s turn to shine with a great solo on the classic ‘Persephone’.  ‘Living Proof’ was up next and had the club rockin’; then Part One finished with the ever-present old favourite ‘Blowin’ Free’. It was time for the band to take a short, well-earned break; during which I had a chat with the band’s Darren Wisdom on the Merch desk.

MTWA - 'Living Proof' that they're one of the best live acts around! (Photo: PTMQ)

MTWA – ‘Living Proof’ that they’re the true holders of the torch that keeps the original Wishbone Ash flame burning! (Photo: PTMQ)

The lads returned to the stage for Part Two, and resumed their set with another Argus classic, ‘Sometime World’ – a big favourite of mine. Another tune that has featured in the live set recently, and is also to be included on the new album, is the Ray Hatfield penned ‘Mystify Me’. Its a fine song – very compatible with traditional WA material , and a version of it has already appeared on Ray’s second solo album At The Drop Of A Hat. A very good rendition of ‘Lady Jay’ from There’s The Rub followed. MT then assumed a Texas accent for an amusing preamble to ‘Rock’n’Roll Widow’. With Ray superb on slide, and excellent vocals by Danny, the ‘Widow’ rocked us nicely! A more poignant number, ‘Lifeline’ followed. This is a very personal song for Mart; being about the loss of his Grandmother. Part Two finished with ‘the Bluesy Prog-Rock epic ‘Phoenix’ from the first WA album of 1970 – or ‘1917 or whenever it was!’ quipped MT.

Perhaps encore would be required? Well, what do you think?  The lads returned to the stage for the final time, and began with the traditional ancient English folk song ‘Greensleeves’ which led nicely into the sublime ‘The King Will Come’ – the fifth song from Argus played this evening. And the encore continued with the New England instrumental ‘Outward Bound’. This was followed by ‘Blind Eye’; before the set was finally finished with, of course, the rousing ‘Jailbait’ during which the individual band members were credited. Excellent!

My only disappointments are (1) that I wasn’t able to hang around at the end of the gig to chat with MT and the rest of the band as I would normally do; and (2) that I learnt that the new album won’t be released until late summer / early autumn. (It’ll be worth waiting for though!)  Still it was, as always, a superb performance by MT and his lads; and, again as always, I came away looking forward to the next gig – which for me should be at The Roundhouse, Dagenham in May.

Thanks to Pete Feenstra and his sidekick Eric, and all the hard-working staff at the Beaverwood for hosting the show. PTMQ

Here is a preview of the new MT album Written In The Stars …..

43. THE STEVE EGGS BAND “Hometown Skyline” (2014)

'Hometown Skyline' (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Hometown Skyline’ (Photo: PTMQ)

On the way back from seeing The Steve Eggs Band at the Boom Boom Club, Sutton – where they were supporting Dutch Prog-Rock maestros Focus (see my review on this Blog #40) –  I played their debut album Hometown Skyline that I bought at the gig for a fiver. It was probably the best fiver I’ve spent so far this year, because this is a really good album to say the least; and I played it continually all the way home.

It is a collection of ten good original songs – all, bar one, penned by Steve Eggs himself. Steve is the lead vocalist and plays Rhythm Guitar and  Harmonica. The rest of the band consist of: Jon Kershaw (Lead Guitar, Vocals); Peter Wass (Bass, Vocals); and Mark Taylor (Drums, Vocals). Helping out with Hammond Organ as necessary, is Gavin Kinch.  Having seen them perform live, I know them all to be very good musicians. I must admit that I didn’t know their names previously; but I’m guessing they’ve all been around a while as they obviously all possess plenty of experience and skill.

The band describe themselves as ‘Country/Rock/Pop’. I’d say they are more Rock than Country; and more Country than Pop. I see them as ‘quality Light-Rock with strong Country-Rock influences’ –  but any way you choose to categorise them, they’re bloody good! I’m hearing an eclectic mix of influences when I listen to the album, too numerous to list; or too elusive to put my finger on, but something has come together nicely for this band and this album is a demonstration of it.

The Steve Eggs Band at The Boom Boom Club, March 2015. (Photo: PTMQ)

The Steve Eggs Band at The Boom Boom Club, March 2015. (Photo: PTMQ)

The album kicks off with the excellent ‘Roll Over’; a great opening number, and one of the best tracks in the collection. The band have set the bar high from the start, but they are equal to their own challenge, as every track is a good’n’. Both musically and lyrically these songs are all interesting and palatable; and worthy of multiple plays. I’ve had the CD constantly playing in my car lately (the Pete Wass penned ‘Here Comes The Rain’ seems particularly suitable for driving). In fact, I can’t fault the album;  every aspect of it is very satisfying: Song-writing; musicianship; vocals; recording; everything really.

I normally try to pick a favourite track on my album reviews, but I’m having trouble doing that with this collection because they’re all so very good! ‘Roll Over’; ‘Here Comes The Rain’; ‘The Heartbreaker’ and ‘That’s No Good’  stand out for me, but there are no disappointments. The band have done some earlier recording too, which I haven’t heard, but I’ll look into that ASAP. It will be interesting to see where they take their music to in the future as well.

The album was recorded at Rocket Studios, Croydon; and produced by Gavin Kinch and the band themselves; with mastering done by Pete Maher. The CD cover is of the card gate-fold type. It has good basic info printed in it and a few photos by Steve Dulieu and Sandy Lawson. The original cover artwork is by Alfie Kershaw.

I recommend Hometown Skyline highly; and wish the band every success for the future. PTMQ.

Here is a link to The Steve Eggs Band website…..

http://www.steveeggsband.co.uk/

Here is a vid of The Steve Eggs Band performing the excellent ‘Roll Over’……

42. THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB, Chislehurst. Tuesday, 31st March, 2015

 

BUDDY WHITTINGTON - The 'Six-String Svengali' (Photo: PTMQ)

BUDDY WHITTINGTON – The ‘Six-String Svengali’ himself, with his ‘Deadwood And Wire’ Gibson Les Paul (Photo: PTMQ)

I’ve seen the big Texan Bluesman, Buddy Whittington a number of  times in the past few years; and he’s never failed to impress me; so I’ll always try to see him play live if I can. My son James came with me too as he’s a big fan, and has seen the big man more times than me. This time, Buddy and his band had just returned from a tour of Europe where they’d all unfortunately picked up a cold bug. This gig at the Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst (another of promoter Pete Feenstra’s excellent venues), was booked at fairly short notice upon their return; but no cold virus was going to stop them playing!

We arrived quite early. Buddy was alone on stage tuning up; and then went off to get changed. At about 9pm, he returned with his band and climbed on stage. They consist of fretless bass maestro Peter Stroud (ex Peter Green’s Splinter Group); and well respected skin-beater Darby Todd – both excellent musicians; and always present as Buddy’s UK and European backing band. Tooled up with a Strat, it was a very relaxed Buddy who casually approached the mic  and asked ‘What would you like to hear first – something kinda easy?’  That set the tone for what was to be a very low-key and friendly show throughout. I think that’s Buddy’s style. His gigs are like having a few mates round for an informal jam – and in a place like the Beaverwood, that is entirely feasible. That’s a vibe that I like.

The band began their two-part set with the mellow instrumental: ‘A-Flat Tyre’ (otherwise known as ‘For Crystal Beach’)  – it certainly was ‘kinda easy’; and it was a kinda superb opener too! We were then treated to a fine show of both Buddy’s own compositions; and old classics – but with a unique Whittington twist. Highlights of this first half were:  ‘I Had To Go See Alice’ (the amusing song about Viagra); ‘Pay The Band’ (during which Buddy’s sore throat failed to stop the high notes); ‘Greenwood’ (another fine instrumental, dedicated to one of Buddy’s heroes – Peter Green); and ‘Deadwood And Wire’ (about an experience whilst buying a guitar). The finale of the first part was a phenomenal cover of the classic Freddie King instrumental ‘Hideaway’. This is often covered, of course, but I was quite amazed by this version. It show-cased Buddy’s incredible skills. He took elements of other Blues classics as well as incorporating amusing licks that imitated everything from a clucking hen to a police siren! And at all times, Pete on bass and Darby on drums were tight and reliable. Brilliant!

Part-Two was, if anything, better than Part-One. We were treated to a mixed-bag of covers; Blues classics; and Buddy’s own compositions. These included a blindin’ cover of  ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Back From Baby’s’; a high-calibre take on  Savoy Brown’s ‘Tell mama’ (haven’t heard this one for yonks); and a rousing version of the Bluesbreakers’ ‘All Your Love’. Some Blues classics sublimely covered were: ‘Maydell’; and ‘Help Me Through The Day’ (both featured on the band’s covers album, A Bag Full Of Blues, 2010). Several of these tunes hark back to Buddy’s days with John Mayall. We were treated to more of his own work too; including ‘Texas Trios’ (in which he name-checks every three-piece Blues band from his home state); the splendid ‘Pay The Band’; and finishing (after shouted requests from the crowd) with the amusing ‘Second Banana’.

THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND - 'Second Banana' to none! (Photo:PTMQ)

THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND – ‘Second Banana’ to none! (Photo:PTMQ)

There are a number of things I like about Buddy Whitt. (1) Firstly, his obvious and phenomenal skills at playing the geetar: He plays with a consummate, confident, and relaxed style that makes guitar-playing look effortless; playing some very complex parts with apparent ease. As a bit of a guitarist myself (albeit not a very good one) I sometimes watch famous axe-men and think to myself ‘Yeah, I know what he’s doing, and I know how he’s doing it’ (but I just can’t do it myself!) In Buddy’s case there were a number of times when I didn’t even know how he did what he did – I suppose that’s why he was on the stage and I’m just sitting here writing about it! (2) Song construction: We all know that Blues has its rules; and that those rules can be stretched by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. But Buddy often pushes the Blues boundaries to new limits; taking in some very inventive fresh ground – yet never becomes wild or weird; and still remains firmly within the realms of the Blues. (3) Lyric writing: In subject his songs are often very deep and highly insightful. His skill with the English language produces tongue-twisting lyrics that are clever, meaningful, and at times amusing. And he never seems to sing these complex lines wrong – whilst simultaneously playing some tasty riffs too! And finally (4) Having met the man on a couple of occasions (including half-time at this gig), I know him to be a thoroughly genuine, approachable bloke who always makes a point of meeting and chatting to his fans, before, during and after his show. Top banana!

Thanks to the ‘Chislehurst Trio’ of Buddy, Peter and Darby for another great show; and to Pete Feenstra for making it happen! PTMQ

Here is a video from the gig by Steve Dulieu of Buddy and his boys playing their instrumental tribute to Peter Green, ‘Greenwood’ ….

 

40. FOCUS (+ THE STEVE EGGS BAND) at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton. Friday, 20th March, 2015.

Menno and Thijs watching the support act from the wings! (Photo: PTMQ)

Menno and Thijs of FOCUS, watching the support act from the wings. (Photo: PTMQ)

Anyone who has been reading my Blog since the New Year will soon realise that it has been very much dominated by a variety of Dutch bands of late. First a review of Mariëlla Tirotto’s wonderful new album: Live In Concert (See my Blog #34). Then a review of the excellent debut album by Blueshaker: Handle With Care. (See my Blog #36). Now, I am writing a review of a fantastic gig by – perhaps the most well-known band from The Netherlands – the mighty FOCUS.

One of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve been to in recent years, was Focus at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton, back in October 2013 (just a few months before I started my blog).  That was the tour to promote their tenth album – simply entitled Focus X. Of course, when I heard that these Dutch Prog-Rock veterans were due to play the same venue again this year, I jumped at the chance of seeing them in action once more. This time they were also promoting their Golden Oldies compilation album (see my blog #3: ‘Prog-Rock Revisited’). Cousin Charlie got the tickets sorted with promoter PETE FEENSTRA, and we were ready to go.

Now, I first became aware of Focus as a 13 year-old, back in ’73 when the wonderful instrumental ‘Sylvia’ became a hit single in the UK. A school-mate of mine had the live album Focus At The Rainbow  which I liked straight away; and which introduced me to more of their unique sounds. Sometime after that, another mate lent me Moving Waves – again, a good album. And so since those musically formative teenage years back in the 70s, I’ve considered myself to be something of a Focus fan; so I was very much looking forward to the gig.

As regular readers of my Blog will already know, I like the Boom Boom Club; its one of my favourite venues. Its a fair drive from my home in Essex, and crossing the Thames at Dartford on Friday afternoons can be a pain in the arse; so when I go to this venue I normally set off early and stay with Charlie (who lives just ten minutes walk from the club), and take the opportunity to sink one or three pints – a rare pleasure for me these days as I’m usually driving home from gigs completely sober! We arrived at the venue in good time, and said hello to Pete Feenstra and a couple of others that we knew.

THE STEVE EGGS BAND (Photo: PTMQ)

Support act: THE STEVE EGGS BAND (Photo: PTMQ)

First on the bill was the support act, THE STEVE EGGS BAND – who describe themselves as a ‘Country/Rock/pop’ group. They hail from South London; and were founded in 2011. Charlie had seen them before and said they were good. I’d heard the name, but I’d never seen them; so I was interested to find out all about them. They are a four-piece outfit  led by Mr.Eggs himself (lead vocal/rhythm guitar); and ably assisted by JON KERSHAW (lead guitar/vocals); PETE WASS (bass/vocals); and MARK TAYLOR (drums/vocals).

Now I like a bit of Country-Rock and I was looking forward to it.  This band did not disappoint. They began with their Eagles-esque song ‘Going To California’ – I liked the trans-Atlantic lyric about ‘a London boy’ travelling to the USA in this song.  Good start. They then continued their short set of eight original Rock / Country-Rock songs,  which included: ‘Here Comes The Rain’ penned by bassist Pete; ‘Heartbreaker’ from the new album; ‘Good Intentions’ which reminded me of Molly Hatchet; and the rockin’  ‘Roll Over’.  They are obviously influenced by some of the Rock and Country-Rock greats, yet they do have an originality that clearly shines through. I liked them.

As a musical unit, these boys were tight and competent. Steve, equipped with a Gibson acoustic, strummed a steady rhythm throughout, and sang confidently. Lead guitarist Jon, sporting a red Strat, showed himself to be very useful, very early on; and impressed with his wah-wah pedal. Pete played a Hofner bass guitar (don’t often see them), and made very good use of it, I must say. Drummer Mark looked precarious, parked on the edge of the crowded stage; but produced a fine exhibition of the percussive art.  They’re a good band to watch too; quite lively. They look like they thoroughly enjoy playing their music, and appreciate the applause they are awarded at the end of each song. I got hold of a copy of their latest album Hometown Skyline, and may write a review on this Blog soon.

Here is a link to The Steve Eggs Band website:

http://www.steveeggsband.co.uk/

Focus At The Boom Boom Club! (Photo:PTMQ)

Focus At The Rainbow Boom Boom Club! (Photo:PTMQ)

And now to the main event. The last time I saw Focus, as I’ve said, was in October ’13 at this same venue. That occasion was a mid-week gig, and the club was far from full up (we even sat at tables like a trendy music café – unusual for the Boom Boom). This time though, the punters were rammed in from the stage-front to the exit! As soon as the support act had cleared their kit from the stage, the indifatigable Mr.Feenstra was up there introducing the band we’d all come to see – the  inimitable Prog-Rock legends, Focus.

The line-up that climbed on stage to great applause at the Boom Boom Club have been together since 2011. Yet all of them have had a lengthy association with the group over the years. They currently consist of: THIJS VAN LEER (hammond organ, flute, scat-vocals, yodels); MENNO GOOTJES (guitar); BOBBY JACOBS (bass); and PIERRE VAN DER LINDEN (drums). Excellent musicians, all.

Thijs started the proceedings with a majestic flute intro to the first track from their debut album of 1970 Focus Plays Focus – the self-titled piece, ‘Focus’. What better way to begin? Before the cheers had finished the band were straight into their first European hit single: ‘House Of The King’. Their classic piece ‘Eruption’ followed to great approval. Thijs took centre stage during this for a flute solo – and some remarkable scat-singing! This rendition also show-cased Menno’s guitar skills; showing him to be well worthy of standing in JAN AKKERMAN’s shoes!

Hocus Pocus, its Focus! (Photo: PTMQ)

Hocus Pocus, its Focus! (Photo: PTMQ)

After Thijs reminded us that his Mrs was manning the merch desk, they gave us the iconic ‘Sylvia’ – arguably their most popular work – and a fine execution of the piece it was too. From Focus X they then gave us the manic ‘All Hens On Deck’. The apparently seldom played ‘Peace March’ was played next; followed by the beautiful ‘Focus II’.

From the Hamburger Concerto they then played two pieces, including ‘Harem Scarem’ –  which is about the joys and the dangers of alcohol. This was extended into a sequence of remarkable solos by all the band members in turn. Each excelling in his chosen field. Menno was particularly noticeable in this – his Gibson Les Paul being an extension of his mind! Yet all were exceptional.  Then we were plunged into the finale of the show – it was, of course, the iconic ‘Hocus Pocus’.

After the gig, Charlie and I had a brief chat with Thijs, Bobby and Menno. We complemented them on a remarkable performance. ‘We were in good form’  Jacobs said. They certainly were.

Thanks to Pete F and all the hard workers at the Boom Boom for making this gig happen.

PTMQ

30. AN EVENING FOR WALTER TROUT. Featuring OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; SONJA KRISTINA; LAURENCE JONES; and THE VOODOO SHEIKS. The 1,000th gig at the BOOM BOOM CLUB. Friday, 28th November, 2014

PETE FEENSTRA: Promoter and Master of Ceremonies at the Boom Boom Club (Photo by CGM)

PETE FEENSTRA: Promoter and Master of Ceremonies at the Boom Boom Club (Photo by CGM)

 

This gig was originally billed as AN EVENING FOR WALTER TROUT – with  The Walter Trout Band (without Walter, of course as he is still recovering from illness), but featuring his son, JON TROUT; LAURENCE JONES; ANDREW ELT; and MITCH LADDIE. And many people (including myself) were very much looking forward to it. However, just a few days before the show, we heard that the plug had been pulled on the whole WTB tour – and to be honest, I don’t fully understand why. This was disappointing enough, but left PETE FEENSTRA of the BOOM BOOM CLUB with a double sticky wicket, as not only did he need a gig for the Friday night, but it was also to be a celebration of 1,000 gigs at the venue – a very special milestone in the history of the club indeed! Drastic action was required, sharpish!

Thankfully, ‘The future of British Blues’ Laurence Jones agreed to play anyway (a big plus as he is very well liked at the club); and Pete managed to get together some other very good musicians for the line-up at short notice. As well as LJ; he roped in OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; SONJA KRISTINA (of CURVED AIR); and THE VOODOO SHEIKS. Backing musicians too (of whom, more later) had to be shackled together ASAP.

Now, I like the Boom Boom Club, although its a fair trot from where I live. But if something special at the venue is going down, I’ll drive over and stay with cousin Charlie who is a big music fan and lives locally. This means I can sink a few pints as well! Charlie is also a keen photographer, and often comes along to take photos for me; and this he agreed to do tonight, of course. My son James came too as he’s a great fan of some of the very talented young Blues and Rock guitarists (like Jones)  that seem to have emerged lately (I’m glad to say); and sometimes accompanies me to gigs.

We tres hombres arrived early at the venue to have a chat with a few people I wanted to speak to – not to mention  to take advantage of the free drink that had been offered to the first 100 punters! So, gratis pint of Bombardier in hand, I spoke to the guv’nor Pete Feenstra about a couple of things; and I was also keen to have a word or two with fellow music writer NIGEL FOSTER (who had got an excellent review of this gig on line within a few hours).

VOODOO SHEIKS: A white-knuckle Blues ride! (Photo by CGM)

VOODOO SHEIKS: A white-knuckle Blues ride! (Photo by CGM)

Before long, Pete (in his role as master Of Ceremonies) was on stage welcoming we punters and explaining that all the proceeds from the gig were to go towards Walter Trout’s on-going medical treatment. Then he announced the first act:  the Sussex-based Voodoo Sheiks. I’d heard the name and was keen to see them live. They are a four-piece R’n’B outfit consisting of ‘SLOW-BLOW DAVE’ MAGSON (Vocals & Harp); ADRIAN THOMAS (Guitar & Backing Vocals); ANDY PULLIN (Bass); and JOHN COOMBES (Drums).

There is no messing about with this band: right from the off – with a song called ‘The Thrill Ain’t Gone’ – you know that you’re in for a white-knuckle ride of Blues at the R’n’R end of the spectrum. Before we had time to take a breath, they followed up with ‘Automatic’ featuring ‘Slow-Blow Dave’ on Harmonica. Then they gave us a good new song called ‘Have A Heart’ (from their forthcoming album) – great use of the Wah-Wah from Adrian on this one. Next they covered JOHN LEE HOOKER’s classic ‘Boom Boom’ – and what more appropriate song could be played at this club for this gig?  Excellent.

The band slowed things down a lot then, playing ‘Exit Wound’ – a slow, mellow 12-Bar. I loved it. Nice solo from Adrian.  This was followed by the lively ‘Spirit’ –  an original composition from their Borrowed And New album. ‘Can’t Keep A Good Man Down’ kept us up and rockin’; and their final offering was another from their Borrowed… album, ‘I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog That Way’.

This was a good little set from a very good band indeed. The rhythm section were impressively tight and competent; ‘Sow-Blow’ was great on vocals and harp (and entertainingly animated as a front-man!) But I was most impressed by Adrian’s playing; and guitar sound.  I spoke to him briefly after their set. He played an  ERNIE BALL MUSICMAN SILHOUETTE SPECIAL through a BLACK STAR amp. I must say, this gave a very impressive sound throughout; for both rhythm and lead work.

LAURENCE JONES: Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club! (Photo by CGM)

LAURENCE JONES: Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club! (Photo by CGM)

Next on the Bill was the Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club – the young and very talented Laurence Jones. He was accompanied by his usual Bassist, the incomparable ROGER INNIS; but his drummer MIRI MIETTINEN unfortunately couldn’t make it, and so had to be replaced by IAN PALMER for the night. (Who, incidentally, is the nephew of legendary Prog-Rock drummer, CARL PALMER).

Gold Top in hand, LJ’s set opened with ‘Can’t Keep Living Like This’ from his latest album Temptation.  It was a rousing start; LJ immediately impressing with guitar and vocals. After thanking the fans for their avid applause, he posed the question: ‘Are you ready to hear some Blues?’ Oh yes! And the lively ‘You Wind Me Up’ continued the Heavy Blues vibe. Changing to a Strat, he gave us his moody ‘Southern Breeze’ next; and followed it with his song inspired by his confrontation with a huge ‘dirty rat in my bed’ in Louisiana:  ‘Soul Swamp River’. Standing at the front of the stage he sang confidently without mic for part of the song.

One of LJ’s favourite songs is the iconic, ‘All Along The Watchtower’.  He has made this his own to some extent, and it has become a regular part of his set – and a firm favourite of his fans too. Again standing front of stage, he played a blinding solo right in front of our little party; and we were treated to a master-class in lead guitar at close range. ‘Foolin’ Me’ (the opener from Temptation), followed. Its a great rocker. There was only time for one more number: ‘Fall From The Sky’ finished the set. This a well-constructed melodic rock song; during which we were encouraged to sing along.  All in all, very enjoyable little set.

This was the third time I’d seen LJ live – all three times at the Boom Boom Club – and the third time I’ve been impressed with his performance. (see my blog entry #14). He has noticeably improved yet again in only the six months since I saw him last. He is more confidant; more relaxed; more skilful – and with stubble on his  face, he doesn’t look like a boy any more either! Roger was outstanding with his monstrous 6-string Bass as usual; and there is a good on-stage interaction between the two; both musically and personally. Stand-in drummer Ian Palmer did a very fine job too. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t hear ‘Move On’; but with so much to get through, set-time was obviously limited.

SONJA KRISTINA: Acid-Folk diva! (Photo by CGM)

SONJA KRISTINA: Respected Acid-Folk diva! (Photo by CGM)

It was time for a significant change of pace then, as SONJA KRISTINA (of Progressive Folk-Rock veterans CURVED AIR), took to the stage with only her keyboard player ROBERT NORTON – and a  very distinctive Washburn acoustic in hand. Unannounced, she began her set with the hauntingly beautiful ‘Citadel’ (from her Songs From The Acid Folk album). This was followed by ‘Colder Than A Rose In Snow’, which is from the same collection; and also on Curved Air’s new North Star album. It has the same vibe about it too. She gave us her ‘Melinda More Or Less’ (from Phantsmagoria) next – a classic originally penned in 1967.  She followed this with her cover of Lennon and McCartney’s song ‘Across The Universe’ – a nice version of an old classic. Sonja then said she’d do one more. ‘Back Street Luv’?  I asked from the audience. ‘Yeah’ she replied ‘….a kind of acidy-folky ‘Back Street Luv”. I love the original of this song, and I loved this ‘acidy-folky’ version too. It was nice for me to see it performed live after all this time as well.

I thought it was a good little set. There were a couple of  people around me  who voiced an opinion that perhaps this wasn’t a suitable set for the Bluesy vibe of the evening, but I couldn’t agree – I thought it made for an interesting change of pace in the proceedings; and introduced a little variety.  Having said that, I think I’d rather have listened to it in the laid-back comfort of a sleepy Folk club, but I enjoyed it very much nonetheless. Sonja was in good voice throughout, and Mr.Norton was impressive on the keys.

Could have ben in Chicago - Grand, Jones and Darby (Photo by CGM)

We could have ben in Chicago! Grand, Jones and Darby (Photo by CGM)

The headliners for the night were then introduced by Pete: veteran guitarists  OTIS GRAND and ALAN DARBY; backed by GLYNN EVANS (Bass); MUNCH MOORE (Keys); and Ian Palmer once again (Drums). This was a band hastily coupled together at short notice, and most of them had never played together before. So what we were about to witness was  testament to their professionalism, experience and skill.  As soon as we heard the first few licks, we felt that we’d been spiritually transported to a Blues club in Downtown Chicago! And that vibe stayed put right through the set; as what was to follow was a demonstration of pure Urban Electric Blues at its best.

Darby (tooled up  with beautiful looking Firebird); and Grand (armed with a red Strat sprayed gold – and wearing a remarkable Mexican Mariachi suit) immediately  launched into ‘A Man Like Me’ – the suit entirely appropriate for the Latin-Blues vibe of the number!  Sharing vocals and swapping solos, our two lead guitarists led us into a classy Blues wonderland.  It was an impressive start from a group of musos not at all used to playing together as a unit. And if anything,  the next offering was even better; as they then hit us with a sublime version of ‘There’s Gotta Be Changes Made’ – a laid-back Chicago Blues to close your eyes and drift away to. The two of them duelled solos for a good eleven minutes  – and I loved it!

Welcomed back on stage then was Laurence Jones. He’d already proved that he can hold his own with the old masters – I’d seen him jam impressively with Walter Trout on this very stage 18 months before. This time with a Telecaster, LJ immediately took to the mic for ‘Easy Baby’ – he and the other two, with faces contorted in ecstasy,  jammed in turns; improvising from the heart for another lengthy demonstration of their art. There then followed an up-tempo untitled instrumental shuffle; again show-casing their collective skills.

Feenstra retuned to the stage once again then; introducing the formidable rhythm section of Evans, Moore and Palmer, and emphasising that they’d only met this afternoon and had been ‘…working their socks off here tonight!’. There was time for one more he said. It was ‘Looking Good’ – in both title and performance. Grand and Darby traded licks superlatively; and when they finished, the applause was deafening. Fantastic!

After the gig Otis soon appeared at the bar, and I tackled him. I asked if he remembered the JOHNNY WINTER  gig back in ’92  where the Blues expert RAY TOPPING and myself met him backstage. (See my blog entry #17). He said that he did, so I told him Ray had since passed away; and we spoke of Ray’s famous vinyl collection (God knows what happened to that after he died). Then someone asked about the Mariachi suit. Otis said he bought it from a Mexican who happened to be the same size!  After a couple of photos, and a bit more chat, we left Otis to speak to some others.

At the merch desk we spoke to Laurence Jones, and congratulated him on a fine performance. We spoke of his nomination for the UK Blues Challenge (‘The Battle For Brussels’), which is to be held at the Boom Boom Club on 11th December (which sadly  I cannot now attend).   Unfortunately I didn’t see Alan Darby, or Sonja Kristina; I’d like to have had a word with them too. And I missed the opportunity to speak to the two bassists, Glynn Evans and Roger Inniss. But I did have a little chat with Pete and Nigel again.

Kudos to to Pete, Eric, and all the staff at the Boom Boom Club (including the hard-working ladies behind the bar) for their marvellous efforts in getting this milestone show up and running; and to all the very talented musicians who made this a most memorable experience. Thanks to Charlie for the excellent photos; and Phil Honley for the video.  Looking forward to the next 1,000 gigs at the club! PTMQ

Here’s a Phil Honley video of Grand and Darby playing ‘There’s Gotta Be Changes Made’ . Other videos from Phil from the same show are also on You Tube……