Tag Archives: Touchline Live Music

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/

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47. MONDAY BLUES AT PEGGY SUE’S. 20th April, 2015. Host: MARTIN McNEILL; special guest: ROY METTE.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Mette and McNeill (Photo: PTMQ)

When the Essex Bluesman Martin McNeill first invited me to Monday Blues At Peggy Sue’s, back in January, he pointed out that every session is very different, depending on the special guest invited for each particular week. So my first visit in March  (See my blog entry #38), although excellent, may not have been typical. I can’t get there every Monday, but on this occasion I was not only available, but keen to see this week’s special guest, the inimitable guitarist, Roy Mette.

Now, I’ve been aware of Roy for some time, but occasionally I astound myself with just how ignorant I am! It was only when I looked at Roy’s website recently, that I realised that he’d once been a member of the NWOBHM band Warrior, who I’m sure I  saw at least a couple of times at the Ruskin Arms, East Ham; c.1979. So Roy’s been plying his trade for more than three and a half decades (I’m sure he won’t mind me pointing that out!) These days of course, he is both a Blues-Rock man and a bit of a Folkie too; and these styles influence his playing of the Blues. Normally he’s accompanied by his own band, but he’s equally at home playing acoustic – with or without an accomplice. And that is the guise in which we found him on this occasion – as special guest of Martin McNeill at Peggy Sue’s Music Bar, Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. (For a description of the venue, see my blog #38).

I arrived at the venue early enough, and Martin introduced me to Roy – who was tuning-up a fine-looking Gibson electro-acoustic. I’d never met him before. Like most musicians, he’s an approachable and friendly bloke; and seemed to be looking forward to the gig. Present in the audience were Dave and Brian of Touchline Live Music along with their better halves; and Kathy P with her husband, hoping to shoot some footage of the set. The bar was more full up than on my previous visit; and maybe that was a reflection of Roy’s presence at the venue; as he is well known locally. And so, we were ready to begin….

(Photo: PTMQ)

Roy Mette: Acoustic Blues Warrior! (Photo: PTMQ)

Martin warmed us up with three songs – including ‘Ramblin’ On My Mind’ – demonstrating his mastery of the bottleneck slide technique, for which he is renown. Without his Blues Harp sidekick West Weston present, Martin also showed that he is more than a fair harmonica player too.  It was a short warm-up, and Roy was soon up for his solo set.

Gibson in hand, he began with the Jazzy ‘Lady Sings The Blues’. And followed it with a variety of Bluesy / Blues-based numbers; showing a very good understanding of the genre in many of its forms. Among others, this solo set included a fantastic cover of ‘All Along The Watchtower’; the down-home style ‘Black Mountain’; a heart-felt version of ‘I Still Miss You So’; the laid-back ’12 Bars And The Blues’; a wonderful rendition of the classic ‘Wayfaring Stranger’; and finishing with ‘Train Train’.  At all times, Roy’s guitar playing was impressive; and complimented by his superb vocals. All in all, I couldn’t fault it – a bloody good set!

After a short break, both Roy and Martin returned for a duet.  With two guitars of course, there is far more scope for solos; and neither of our Bluesmen failed to impress. Taking it in turns to sing, they began with ‘Long Tall Shorty’; and then proceeded to play many a classic number; including a unique version of ‘All Shook Up’; a fine laid-back cover of the staple ‘Crossroads’; the coal-mining song ‘Sixteen Tons’ (I hadn’t heard this for yonks!); the ubiquitous classic ‘As The Years Go Passing By’; and finishing with a hybrid of ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Red House’, in which Martin’s slide-work excelled; and Roy’s vocals at times could have passed for  Chester Burnett!  It was another damn fine set. Both host and guest in fine form, and working nicely together. There was also some amusing banter between the performers and the audience – something you can only get in a small intimate place like this.

Once again a great night at Peggy Sue’s; and I’d recommend a visit if you love acoustic Blues. Many thanks to Martin, Dave, Lorraine, Johnny, and all present at the music bar for another Bluesy start to the week! PTMQ

Here is a link to Roy’s website…. http://roymette.co.uk/index.asp?mid=64

Here is a link to Martin’s website….. http://www.martinmcneill.co.uk/

Here is a link to Peggy Sue’s Facebook page… https://www.facebook.com/peggysueslivemusic

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 …..

31. A REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2014

A couple of my friends have recently asked if I planned to do a review of 2014. I’d like to; but time as always is against me! So I just thought I’d say a few words about the year with respect to my blog. Its been quite a remarkable 11 months since I kicked off with a review of the STRAWBS gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC here in Essex. At first, I thought no one would be interested, but I was glad to see that’s not the case. Right from the off, I had quite a few followers. That first Strawbs review has remained one of the most popular too.

I’ve met a lot of helpful and interesting people during the course of the year – not just musicians; but promoters; writers; photographers; or just knowledgeable music lovers.  Some of those musos I have been a fan of since my teens  – MICKY MOODY and MARTIN TURNER to name but two especially. Its also very flattering when some of these musicians have personally invited me to gigs and sent CDs for me to review as well.

Anyway, here are just a few thoughts and facts on my blog’s year….

MOST POPULAR BLOG was #25, MTWA at Touchline Live Music. Second was The Move at the Boom Boom Club (#15). In third place was MTWA again (blog #5); and fourth. The Micky Moody Band at Coolham (#23). I’m glad to say that these entries are still attracting new readers through search engines too.

BEST ROCK ALBUM must go to VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS for their superb second studio album Army Of Three. It was very flattering to be put on the Guest List by Virgil, and to meet and interview the band before their gig at the Touchline. (Blog #26). Looking forward to seeing what VATA will be up to in the new year.

BEST ROCK GIG for me was a difficult choice. I saw fabulous performances from THE MOVE; VATA;  and the THE STRAWBS. But I’d say MTWA at The Touchline just wins by a whisker (Blog #25). Nice of Martin Turner to agree to an interview beforehand too. This coming year, so far, I plan to see FOCUS and the PINK FAIRIES.

BEST BLUES-ROCK ALBUM. Difficult! Could be LARRY MILLER’s Soldier Of The Line;  BERNIE MARSDEN’s Shine; or  LAURENCE JONES’ Temptation; but I’d choose DEBORAH BONHAM’s Spirit I think. I was hoping for an interview with her too, but she unfortunately had to cancel her gig at the Touchline due to a chest infection.

BEST BLUES ALBUM: I enjoyed JAMES ANTHONY’s Some People Get It, which he sent from Canada for me to review. (Blog #24); and MILTON ‘n’ FARROW’s Skiffleodeon – also given to me by the band to review (Blog #22). RUBY TIGER’s Vistas was excellent as was MATT ANDERSEN’s Coal Mining Blues; but I took a shine to DANA GILLESPIE’s Cat’s Meow the most.

BEST BLUES GIG is another tough choice. Great shows by COCO MONTOYA (Blog #14); MICKY MOODY BAND (Blog #23); and RUBY AND THE REVELATORS (Blog #16); but the best for me, was the very special show put on for the BOOM BOOM CLUB’s 1,000th gig; which included superb performances from OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; LAURENCE JONES and THE VOODOO SHEIKHS among others (Blog #30). In 2015 I’d like to see RED BUTLER and LARRY MILLER if I can.

BEST FOLK GIG  I attended during the year was OXJAM MUSIC FESTIVAL in Exeter. A great selection of West Country folk acts in one afternoon. I was invited by my good friends in DEVONBIRD who played a wonderful little set – as did every artist present. (Blog entry #28).

BEST FOLK ALBUM in my opinion was ANGE HARDY’s The Lament Of The Black Sheep. I’m hoping to review soon (see Blog #32).  Also in 2014, I heard ADRIAN NATION’s second album Fall Or Fly, which is excellent. As for 2015, I’m looking forward to the second DEVONBIRD album which should be released in the spring – they are recording as I write. For info on Devonbird, see Blog #4.

DOWNSIDES. I had a couple of negative comments made to me during the course of the year – one due to a misreading of my blog; and one due to a certain curmudgeonly singer-songwriter who wrote unpleasant and untrue things about me – even after I gave him a good review!  I never intend to cause offence – in fact, I’ve been criticised for liking everything! Well, I do seem to! (I suppose if I didn’t like something, I wouldn’t write about it). Anyway, the vast majority of those I’ve written about; and my readers too, have been very complimentary and supportive indeed; so I didn’t loose any kip over it!

REGRETS: ‘…..I have few, but then again, too few to mention’! These surround missed gigs. I was particularly peeved at missing LARRY MILLER; and TERRY REID because I couldn’t get time off work; and DEBORAH BONHAM’s gig at the Touchline was cancelled (as I said above) due to the fact that the poor lady had a chest infection.  I hope she’s well now and will play there soon.

FUTURE PROJECTS include a review of Ange Hardy’s Black Sheep album; an article on my friend, the song-writer TONY PARTIS; and continuing to go and see as many and as varied gigs as possible. I also plan to get into the studio myself to try to record some of my own songs (for what they’re worth!). And I shall continue to support and promote my friends’ projects too.

A SAD FAREWELL to those musicians who sadly passed away in 2014:  JOHNNY WINTER (See my blog #17); JACK BRUCE; JOE COCKER; PHIL EVERLY; ACKER BILK; PETE SEEGER; BOBBY WOMACK; TOMMY RAMONE; ALVIN STARDUST; and LYNSEY DE PAUL. These luminaries will be sadly missed; but leave us a fine legacy in their work which their fans will cherish for all time. R.I.P. (My apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone).

THANKS to all those who have supported; encouraged; offered constructive criticism; advice; photos; and other pics; and generally taken the time to read my blog. Those people are too numerous to mention but they know who they are; so thank you one and all! Here’s looking forward to more of the same in 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! PTMQ

27. STEVE HACKETT Genesis Extended Tour (+ Bryan and Livvy from MOSTLY AUTUMN) at CLIFF’S PAVILION, Essex. Tuesday, 28th October, 2014

Originally, I  was due to go to this gig with my friend Birdseye, who is a big GENESIS fan, but the poor old sod had an ear infection, so he had to cry-off sick at the last minute! Luckily, another friend put his hand up for the ticket at short notice. This was guitarist GLYN PROTHEROE – another self-confessed Genesis nut, and ex-member of the Genesis tribute band REGENESIS (You may have seen him – he played the PETER GABRIEL part from ’94 to ’98).

Bryan and Livvy of Mostly Autumn (Photo by PTMQ - and I apologise for the quality!)

Bryan and Livvy of Mostly Autumn (Photo by PTMQ – and I apologise for the quality!)

We were a little late entering the auditorium, and consequently didn’t get seated until near the end of the first song by the support act. This was BRYAN JOSH and OLIVIA SPARNENN of MOSTLY AUTUMN doing a short acoustic duet. I was very much looking forward to their set, so I was disappointed to miss the first song which I think was from their Passengers album. All was not lost however, as next up was the beautiful ‘Evergreen’ from my favourite Mostly Autumn album, (their 3rd) The Last Bright Light (2001). This was a fine acoustic arrangement of one of their classic songs. Bryan’s guitar work with Livvy’s vocals and flute-playing were a joy to hear.

Their next offering ‘The House On The Hill’, was from their new concept album Dressed In Voices. Which Livvy described as ‘…quite a dark concept, but…. surprisingly uplifting’. I quite enjoyed it. This was eclipsed for me, however, by another great MA favourite of mine ‘Heroes Never Die’; from their remarkable debut album For All We Shared (1998). I love this song. Again, it was an interesting conversion for an acoustic duet; that didn’t lose any of the emotion of the original. A privilege to listen to; and I thank the couple for performing it. The final choice of this micro-set, was the title track of the new album; and a fine song it is too.

All in all, Bryan and Livvy performed an excellent little set – personally, I think I could have sat through a couple of hours of MA unplugged if this was a sample of it!  My only disappointment is that I’d have liked to have heard ‘Shrinking Violet’ too; but time was obviously limited.  Fine acoustic guitar, vocals and harmonies throughout. At the break, Glyn and I had a little chat with the couple, and I bought the new album. We had a longer conversation with them later – after the Hackett set – and we found them to be very friendly and talkative. A pleasure to meet them both.

Mr.Hackett and band (Photo by PTMQ)

Mr.Hackett and band (Photo by PTMQ)

Back in the auditorium, we eagarly awaited the entrance of the headline act. They appeared on stage after a short wait – our host centre stage; Gibson Les Paul Gold-Top in hand. The band consists of STEVE HACKETT, of course, on guitars (who rquires no introduction from me); ROGER KING, Keyboards (who’s worked with numerous musos, including the late GARY MOORE); GARY O’TOOLE, Drums and Vocals (another veteran rock/blues/pop artist); ROB TOWNSEND, Wind and Percussion (a well-known Jazz musician and score-writer); NICK BEGGS, Bass and Guitar (ex-IONA, and among others on his CV, ’80s pop group Kajagoogoo); and the remarkable NAD SYLVAN, vocals (who, having a voice that sonds like both Gabriel and Collins at once, is entirely suited to the task in hand!) All in all, a fine looking line-up.

In the brief silence before the start, one fan immediately called out for ‘Spectral Mornings’! Hackett thanked him, and smiling, explained that as this was his Genesis Extended Tour, he’d only be playing material from the parent band, and unfortunately not his solo work. That clarified, the band launched into two tracks from A Trick Of The Tail (1976); namely, ‘Dance On A Volcano’ and ‘Squonk’. It was good to hear these old classics once again after all these years; and performed so close to the originals too. And it was clear from the off that we were in for a grand show; with the band in superb form – and Sylvan obviously being the right man for the vocals. The audience gave up rapturous applause. A rousing start.

Next was a particular favourite of mine: ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’, from Selling England By The Pound (1973). Again this was very well performed by the lads, and sung by Sylvan (this time in Gabriel mode), and as near as you will get to the original Genesis front-man. From The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974), it was then time for ‘Fly On A Windshield’. Drummer Gary did a fine job on vocals for this one; and Nick was remarkable with a stick-bass too.

Nursery Cryme’s ‘Return Of The Giant Hogweed’; ‘The Fountain Of Salmacis’; and ‘Musical Box’ were then performed; with a quality to which we’d already been accustomed to at this gig. And following these live favourites, the original band’s nearest thing to a hit single, ‘I Know What I Like’ (Selling Englnd…) was then presented to us. A great solo from Rod on this one.

After a short break, we found Steve alone on stage with a nylon-strung acoustic, ready to give us his brief, but beautiful, ‘Horizons’ (from Foxtrot, ’72). It was a sublime rendition – a pleasure to see and hear. Changing back to his Gold-Top, and with the band returning to the stage, we witnessed ‘Firth Of Fifth’ (Selling England…) with its classically inspired piano intro and its odd time-signatures. Good solos from Steve and Rob; and Nick did a fine job with his twin-necked bass/12-string (every bit a Prog-Rock instrument!)

And the old classics kept coming: ‘Lilly-White Lilith’ (The Lamb…) was the next song; with Nick playing a Chapman Stick – again, good solos from Steve and Rob. Our final piece of the main set was the lengthy ‘Supper’s Ready’ (Foxtrot). This was a fantastic rendition, with excellent 12-string sound; and went down very well.

The well-deserved encore consisted of another Foxtrot track: ‘Watcher Of The Skies’; which was followed aptly by  ‘Los Endos’. Rapturous applause ensued from the auditorium, full of Genesis aficionados. All in all, a well chosen set, I thought. My only slight disappointment was the omission of ‘Ripples’; but that’s a minor complaint!

Back down in the foyer, we awaited the appearance of Mr.Hackett to meet his fans. While we waited, we chatted again with Bryan and Livvy of Mostly Autumn. And who should I bump into but the ubiquitous Dave Kitteridge and his wife Trudie of Touchline Live Music. If this lovely couple are not hosting an excellent gig at their club, then they’re in the audience at someone else’s show – not a bad life at all! Well, we waited ages but SH didn’t show up. Glyn was still keen to see him though, so we went and found the stage door, and there he was just about to leave. We only had time for a quick hand-shake and to offer our congrats to him on a fine show before he was off.

My thanks to all the staff at the Cliffs Pavilion for their hard work; and to Glyn Protheroe for putting the info straight on a few points; and commiserations to Birdseye for missing the gig!  PTMQ.

 

26. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hullbridge, Essex. Friday, 24th October, 2014; plus chatting with the band pre-show.

Virgil talks about his favourite Stat (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil talks about his favourite Stat  (Photo: PTMQ)

I’ve been aware of VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS (VATA) for a couple of years or more now; but never seen them live before. Their album The Radium is a brilliant debut; and their second, Army Of Three which has recently been released, (to paraphrase one of their songs) ‘takes them higher’.  I’ve been listening to both albums a lot lately; and enjoying them. So I was honoured when VATA’s guitarist VIRGIL McMAHON said he’d put me on the Guest List for their gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, in Hullbridge, Essex.

My sports journalist son, James and I, turned up at the venue nice and early; and were warmly welcomed by club proprietor DAVE KITTRIDGE and his wife Trudy. Virgil himself soon appeared and invited us back to the Green Room to meet the other two members of the band – younger brother and drummer, GABRIEL McMAHON; and bassist JACK ALEXANDER TIMMIS. And three more welcoming, friendly and articulate young musicians you couldn’t imagine. (They are 22; 21; and 25 years old, respectively). An immediate comparison of Virgil and Gabriel with the guitarist and drummer Eddie and Alex  VAN HALEN is obvious. (And even the band’s ‘VA’ logo is reminiscent of Van Halen’s famous ‘VH’ symbol, I noticed).

As the brothers originally hailed from South Africa (although living for some years now, in Wales, and more lately, Birmingham), we started the interview by asking Virgil about the music scene in their homeland. Apart from traditional tribal; or Afrikaans Boeremusiek, there is apparently little in the way of a home-grown blues or rock scene – guitarist DAN PATLANSKY  being a rare exception.

James with VATA (Photo by PTMQ)

James with VATA (Photo by PTMQ)

What then, you may ask, are their influences? No doubt their first was their father HENDRY McMAHON, who introduced the brothers to blues-orientated rock music from a very early age; encouraging them to learn to play instruments, and sit in on his gigs. Consequently the boys have a fantastic knowledge of rock music that was old, long before they were born. And listening to their conversation – and of course, their two excellent albums – this becomes very clear. And for an old rocker like me, its nice to see! For example, when Virgil saw my Twitter moniker (Phil The Music Quill@ptmq2112) on my calling card, he immediately recognised the 2112 as a RUSH album title from ’76 – not many people get that these days! Away from the band, each member listens to a wide variety of sounds too – not just Rock or Blues. Personally, when I listen to the band, I hear bits that remind me of all sorts of other artists; and James hears other things too. This may be coincidence of direct influence; but at all times, VATA’s music has its own style and vibe to it.

An observation I made to them, having listened to their work, is their (sometimes) similarity to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) which emerged from late ’78 onwards. For those not familiar with it; this was the inevitable back-lash against the Punk/New Wave aberration of the mid-70s; where young rock bands influenced by late-60s / early-70s rock bands, suddenly took off – led by such luminaries as my old mates IRON MAIDEN; and SAXON. With VATA being influenced by some of that same earlier music, I’m hearing a similar fresh and exciting interpretation of the old vibe, with an energy, enthusiasm, and sound, reminiscent of the NWOBHM. VATA also have the added advantage of  35 extra years of Rock since the NWOBHM to draw upon now too.

VATA looking unimpressed by my playing of  Virgil's Black Beauty! (Photo by JPC)

VATA looking unimpressed by my playing of Virgil’s Black Beauty! (Photo by JPC)

Like those earlier bands, their music has a Blues base, of course, but VATA are feeling more comfortable as an out and out Rock unit. James asked if they thought their style was changing. They confirmed this. The second album has certainly moved away from Blues to a large extent. This is something they think has evolved rather than been designed: ‘It wasn’t intentional – its just how it came out…’ Virgil explained, ‘…we always liked the heavier side of Blues anyway’. They feel that Rock gives them more scope to experiment  – as Jack pointed out ‘I think all three of us want to get away from the Blues world….. there’s only so much you can do with a 12-Bar Blues’. Saying that though, they all have a great deal of respect for the Blues genre. And they are not too concerned with what other young Blues-Rock bands are up to – as Virgil said ‘All we’re focused on is The Accelerators’.

Virgil and Gabe’s Dad Hendry in fact, was the founder of the Accelerators; and brought his sons into the band one at a time; before departing himself, and leaving the group in their precocious, and highly capable hands. So from 2006 the group was called Virgil And The Accelerators. Brummie bassist Jack joined later to complete the band in its current form. At first they were, of course, just playing pubs on Friday and Saturday nights ‘for a couple of quid, and a bit of fun’. But once they met manager MARTIN LEWIS (at the ROBIN 2 in Brum), things started to take off.  Since then, they haven’t looked back; and have supported veteran bands like URIAH HEEP and CHICKEN SHACK among others. In fact, they are at pains to point out how much they owe to Martin and his wife Kate; believing that they’d be nowhere without their guidance – ‘Guardian Angels’ is how Gabe describes them. These days the brothers even lodge with the couple at their house  in Brum; which is in a good central position in the UK for gigging.

New material is usually written by the group collectively from jams in their converted garage at home, where they can play in as near concert conditions as possible; bouncing ideas off each other.  This arrangement is not only conducive to the development of new material, but also facilitates the revision of their earlier stuff too: ‘We try not to carry on playing the older songs the same way for any extended period of time’ says Virgil. Therefore their songs are constantly evolving. They are a kind of tri-partite democracy that refer to themselves, as  ‘VATA Band’ Gabe explains. Its a great dynamic that works very well indeed.

Virgil's geetars: 2 Stats; 2 Les Pauls; and a Firebird. (Photo by  PTMQ)

Virgil’s geetars: 2 Stats; 2 Les Pauls; and a Firebird. (Photo by PTMQ)

Inevitably, with both James and myself being guitarists (although not in Virgil’s league, of course!), we asked about the small collection of geetars that he’d brought with him to the gig. It soon became clear that he has a comprehensive knowledge of the instrument in general; and specifically of his own.  He brought with him: a GIBSON FIREBIRD 7 (limited edition);  two GIBSON LES PAULS (a JOE BONAMASSA signature edition Gold Top with ‘relicked’ finish;  and a Black Beauty known as ‘The Preacher’. Two distressed FENDER STRATOCASTERS  were also present: one a ’62 Custom-Shop model,  signed by PHILIP SAYCE and known as ‘Alice’.

I asked the band if there was anything they’d like me to say (or not say) when I wrote up the interview. They merely wished me to thank all those who have come to their gigs and bought their albums. Interview completed, it was time for the lads to get ready for their performance; so James and I decamped back to the auditorium in anticipation of a great show. In fact, my friend and fellow music-writer NIGEL FOSTER had seen the band the week before at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton; and described how they’d ‘blown the bleedin’ roof off!’  So we were expecting something good. Most of the audience were twice the age of the band – rock fans who’d have loved VATA at any time in the last 30 or 40 years; and still appreciative of good music.

Before long, Virgil And The Accelerators climbed on-stage to great applause – Virgil armed with the Gold Top –  and immediately launched into the opening number from the new Army Of Three album, ‘Take Me Higher’, with its  reverb’ed arpeggiated intro. It was a great start, and a mere taste of what was to come. The aptly named ‘Blow To The Head’ followed, hitting hard as the name suggests!  Its also from the new album, and is a great head-banger (reminiscent of Maiden) with fine solos and  good use of the wah-wah pedal.  Changing to his Firebird, Virgil continued to lead the assault with my favourite track from the first album: ‘Backstabber’. An excellent rendition it was too. A guitar change was again required (this time to his Black Beauty, aka ‘The Preacher’ with capo on the 3rd fret) for ‘Give It Up’ – again from the latest collection.

Virgil with Gold Top (Photo by JPC)

Virgil with Gold Top (Photo by JPC)

‘Racing With Life’ from The Radium was next up. With ‘The Preacher’ still in hand, Virgil used this song as a show-case for his astounding axemanship. A lengthy solo section has been added to this piece to facilitate this. With a jazzy bass-line from Jack; and tight drumming from Gabe; Virgil launched into a lead solo that was at times Bluesy; at times almost psychedelic; but at all times sublime, with a beautiful tone; and executed with consummate ease. Now there are some who call this type of thing self-indulgence, but personally I love to see it;  and so did everyone else as far as I could see – that’s why we were there!

The scope of VATA’s song-writing was evident in the next track: the thoughtful ‘Through The Night’. After the first five rockers, it was a fine contrast. It is a melodic rock song that has had an interesting reverb’ed intro added to the original. Unfortunately the FX pedal died soon into the tune, forcing the band to start again – but that’s Rock’n’Roll for you! Problem solved, the piece continued. I particularly enjoyed the quiet Bluesy solo section.

From the first album, they then played ’88’ which included an interesting Stones motif; and ‘Low Down And Dirty’ which always puts me in mind of BLACK SABBATH, and which also included a nod to ERIC CLAPTON  in the form of a few bars of the classic ‘Layla’ riff, during another very lengthy – but excellent – solo section. Good volume-swell technique on this one too. What struck me on this song too, was how tight the band are as a unit – completely in unison at all times during some complex rhythm changes.

Virgil then asked the audience to show their appreciation of Gabriel and Jack’s work. Surprisingly, neither did a solo themselves. Changing axe once again back to the Firebird, Virgil and the boys gave us a final song in the main set: ‘Free’ – another new one. To me this has something of the ambience of a Southern-Rock song; reminding me of MOLLY HATCHETT; and a little of some of JEFF HEALEY’s work too.  It included an ALLMAN BROS ‘Jessica’ motif nicely worked in to it too.  Its another melodic rocker, and went down a storm. The band left the stage to rapturous applause.

Virgil with Firebird 7 (Photo by JPC)

Virgil with Firebird 7 (Photo by JPC)

The only question now was: Would encore be required? Well, what do you think? The lads returned to the stage (Virgil armed with one of his Strats) for a final offering: an excellent cover of the classic  JIMI HENDRIX song ‘Are You Experienced?’ Phew! Only eight songs in over two hours unbroken; shows not only the length of some of the songs, but the remarkable energy of these fine young musicians. I was knackered just watching! I glanced at the roof – it was still there but  was showing serious signs of distress!

Virgil himself is a consummate axe-master. Not since I saw a young EDDIE VAN HALEN at the old RAINBOW THEATRE in London back in ’78, have I personally witnessed such a gob-smackingly remarkable string-smith at close-range.  It is clear that when Virgil plays solo, the  fret-board becomes an extension of his mind. Eyes closed, he is in another world – and as the audience witnessing his performance, we are privileged to see, and be privy to part of that world!  And he’s still only 22!

Skin-beater Gabriel was barely visible behind his kit, which was half surrounded by Perspex. This is to protect the ears – ‘My big Ride Cymbal is a real beast…’ he explained. The Perspex is  ‘… just there to improve sound on and off stage, and to offer a little protection to people’s ears’. Well, we may not have been able to see Gabe at work; but we sure as Hell knew he was there! He’s a powerhouse of precision percussion – reliable and unwavering in intensity for over two hours!

In my previous blog entry (#25), I said of Martin Turner, that ‘a busier bassist you’ll not see outside the Jazz world’. Well I take that back! Jack Alexander Timmis was exceptionally busy on his LAKLAND 5-string bass. I always admire bassists in 3-piece bands – the poor sods have to work really hard; especially when the guitarist switches from rhythm to lead. But JAT showed us that he was far more than equal to the task; performing his bass chops with confidence and precision; always there as a reliable back-bone for Virgil’s inventive, lengthy solos to refer back to.

As we’ve seen, each of the band members is highly proficient in their own chosen instrument; yet together they are more than the sum of their parts. On stage they are musically so tight that they become as one – highly practiced, and seemingly telepathic in anticipation of each-other’s next move.  They are not so much three musicians in the same group; rather, they are more like three facets of the same being: that entity is ‘VATA Band’ – an ‘Army Of Three’ about to conquer the Rock World!

My only disappointment was that they didn’t play ‘Silver-giver’; but that is an, oh so minor complaint! As James and I left the venue, we saw the band having a smoke outside the stage door. We offered our congratulations and after another brief chat, said our farewells. I understand that roof repairs are currently being carried out at Touchline Live Music, Hullbridge; and at the Boom Boom Club, Sutton. And that roof reinforcement works are taking place at every venue where VATA are due to play next! Go and see this band if you get a chance – if you love guitar-based rock, you’ll love it!  Once again, thanks to Dave K and his Mrs; and all the staff at the Touchline who made this evening possible. PTMQ

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