Tag Archives: wishbone ash

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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73. MARTIN TURNER “Written In The Stars” (2015)

Front cover (Pic: MT)

W.I.T.S.: The excellent front cover (Pic: MT)

At last! The long awaited new album from Martin Turner is here! Its been a long while in the making; but my God it was worth waiting for! Personally I think that this is the best thing that MT has put his name to since his classic magnum opus, Argus back in ’72 – and he has certainly given us plenty of good music in between over the years. Yes, I know that is a big call – and I’m not saying its going to attain the almost Holy status of Argus – but I honestly think that this is a truly wonderful album.

The title, Written In The Stars, suggests that it is perhaps a concept album (a description that is often inaccurately said of Argus too). Although many of the tracks on this work do share the common theme of fate and destiny, a few seem to be unconnected; so I suppose its a semi-concept. From my interview with MT last year (See  my article #25), I learnt that he is convinced that the universe is pre-ordained. He is also interested in things as diverse as re-incarnation  and the science of astronomy. These things have undeniably inspired the quite remarkable songs that have emerged from his prolific pen in the past; but it has all come together in the new album, which is a show-case of MT at his best – and in collaboration with his band and others too.

It is a collection of eleven original tracks (three of them instrumentals); and all excellent. Guitarist Danny Willson described it very succinctly (on his Face Book page) as: ‘Its sorta rocky / bluesy / proggy / folky / poppy and very guitary!’ A more accurate description could not be made, I think.   It took a year to record (From July ’14 to July ’15). This is because ‘Martin is a perfectionist’ ex-guitarist Ray Hatfield told me at his last gig with the band (See my review #56). Well MT and his boys have certainly produced something approaching perfection, I must say.

The band on these recordings consist of the man himself on Bass and vocals; Tim Brown (Drums); Danny Willson (Guitars/vocals); and Ray Hatfield (Guitars/vocals). But Ray recently left the band and was replaced by new boy Misha Nikolic, who has also contributed some work during the later stages of recording. Some other musos were also drafted in as necessary; and everyone involved has done a fine job indeed. They work well together on stage; and they’ve worked well together in the studio.

The album begins unusually, with two instrumentals: ‘The Big Bang (Overture)’ is a piece that sets the ambience of mystery and awe, appropriate for most of the collection. And this is followed by ‘The Beauty Of Chaos’. Its an excellent piece; with a Marvin-esque themed riff – ‘the Hanky part’ as Ray described it to me – courtesy of Danny. Some excellent slide; muted harmonics; acrobatics with a tremolo arm; atmospheric backing vocals; and some great rattling bass from MT himself, characterise this impressive instrumental. Tim also demonstrates his skills right from the start.

The title track ‘Written In The Stars’ follows. I was there when this song was first aired at MTWA’s excellent gig at Touchline Live Music in Essex last October  (See my review #25). Lyrically, its this song more than any other that describes MT’s beliefs.  Its a good quality Heavy-Rock number with a Progressive leaning; and contains all that you’d expect from an MT tune; with impressive vocal harmonies, and superb axemanship.

MTWA at Touchline Live Music in October 2014 (Photo by JPC)

MTWA at their Touchline Live Music gig in October 2014 (Photo by JPC)

‘Lovers’ goes off piste as regards the Destiny theme; but seems to fit nicely within the collection all the same. Its a lighter pop-rock love song; again with suitable vocal harmonies.

‘Vapour Trail’ I first witnessed at its debut during MTWA’s excellent gig at the Beaverwood Club last April (See my review #44). This studio version begins with a little flourish on a nylon-strung acoustic which gives way to a fine arpeggiated section and a nice motif riff.  This tune is very reminiscent of Mk 1 or Mk 2 Wishbone Ash material (the classic WA period) – we could be back in the ’70s! It has a very tasty solo section. In true concept album style, the song then merges into…

… ‘The Lonely Star’. Its the third and final instrumental in the collection. Instrumentals can be tricky buggers to get right – they have to remain interesting to keep the listeners attention; and as a listener, you have to listen. This piece does not disappoint.  Lengthy solos from the ‘Harmony Twins’; including impressive wah-wah  work, makes this a satisfying track indeed. Again, fade to ….

… ‘For My Lady’.  It is another tune that was first presented to the fans at the Beaverwood gig (see #44). And again deviates from the main theme. It has a kind of off-beat Reggae-style edge to it in the verse; but has a Folky / Mediæval feel about it in the chorus. This gives way to a beautiful quiet section; followed by a great twin lead guitar part. Of all the tracks on this album, it is the one that could most easily be plucked out and inserted into Argus! Quite a remarkable song in construction really.

‘Pretty Little Girls’ is a great fun rocker. There is an excellent driving beat courtesy of Tim; quality vocal harmonies; nice rhythm guitar; great lead guitar from Misha; and that inimitable rattling bass from Mart! A number that will go down well live methinks!

Then comes my favourite track of all: ‘Falling Sands’. (And this is no easy shout among a collection of such wonderful music). In true Wishbone Ash style, it was penned by all four band members (before Ray left).  It is a marvellous song with a melancholy ambience that starts with a lovely themed riff.  Close your eyes and drift away in the beautiful guitar solo!

The penultimate track is the Ray Hatfield penned ‘Mystify Me’. This an excellent song that first appeared on Ray’s second solo album At The Drop Of A Hat in 2013 (See my review #51). It was another song that I was privileged to hear debuted at the band’s Touchline gig in October ’14. (See my review #25). I think this number is entirely compatible with the feel of the album – and with MTWA material (both old and new) in general. It has a legitimate place on this album. I also think it shows how Ray’s writing was influenced by spending ten good years with MT.

‘Interstellar Rockstar’ finishes the album with an awe-inspiring Prog-Rock masterpiece. The multiple textures on this amazing recording are breath-takingly arranged. There is some beautiful Classical Guitar  from Misha; an ethereal backing choir riding under an other-worldly lead vocal melody; some subtle recorder-work; and a sublime guitar section, beginning with Willson superb on slide; and giving way to Hatfield’s wonderful soaring lead guitar solo.

The album was recorded at Liscombe Park Studios in Buckinghamshire, using some classic, vintage valve-based equipment; and this has had a profound effect on the overall finished sound of the work. MT, who describes himself as a ‘Studio Cat’, is an experienced muso who is adept at creating music; and all his skill and knowledge has been channelled into this new magnum opus. The CD version comes in a standard jewel case with a good booklet containing all credits and production / recording info; plus the lyrics of course. The excellent cover illustration is very apt – very concept album, very Proggy, and very 70s; and I love it!

This is an utterly marvellous piece of work in my opinion, and I recommend it highly if you are a fan of Turner; the original Wishbone Ash; Prog-Rock generally; or just excellent guitar music. Its the nearest we are going to get these days, to the original Mk 1 Wishbone Ash, that’s for sure, so its too good to ignore! I’ve heard some bloody good new music this year, and there are still three months to go, but I’ll stick my neck out and call it my album of the year – no question! Enjoy. PTMQ

 Here is a link to Martin Turner’s website… http://www.martinturnermusic.com/

69. SON OF MAN with special guest DEKE LEONARD (+ STEVE KELLY and GAVIN LLOYD-WILSON) at the VILLAGE BLUES CLUB’s 7th Reunion. Dagenham Trades Hall. Saturday, 12th September, 2015. + a few words about the venue.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Empty stage (Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble: Well, its a great shame that the Village Blues Club couldn’t hold its twice-yearly reunion in its traditional home at the Dagenham Roundhouse, due to the venue being completely closed down. I don’t know what is exactly going on with this issue, but I know a lot of people who are very unhappy about it.

Anyway, I went along with my gig-mate, the guitarist Glyn Protheroe. Being a Welshman himself, he was very keen to reacquaint himself with, as he stereotypically said ‘…my Welsh boyos!’; and I met up with him at the venue. We had a pint in the public bar where we also met Darren Wisdom (who is known for his work for Martin Turner), before entering the Music Room.

The Venue: Not to be thwarted by being ousted from their traditional home, the club’s impresario Ken Ansted and his crew were able to book the nearby Dagenham Trades Hall. I’d never been to this venue before; but I was very impressed with it. There is a public bar that has its own stage at the front of the building; but we were booked for the large Music Room at the back. This is a very well designed venue; with a small stage at one end and a bar at the other. There is a good sized dance floor, with seating all around, including a raised seated area.

Support Act: Steve Kelly and Gavin Lloyd-Wilson (Photo: PTMQ)

Support Act: Steve Kelly and Gavin Lloyd-Wilson (Photo: PTMQ)

The Reunions: After very much enjoying the Village Blues Club’s 6th Reunion (featuring Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash, see my review #56), back in May (and still held at The Roundhouse), I was keen to go along for this Son Of Man gig. The bands chosen for the reunions are those that still exist (in some form or other) from those who played at The Roundhouse between 1969-75. For example, Wishbone Ash played there so MTWA were booked last time. Stray played there, so Del Bromham’s Stray have played at an earlier reunion. And of course, Man played, so Son Of Man were booked this time. Scheduled for the 8th jolly-up next May, is John Coughlan’s Quo. JC of course, is the original drummer of Status Quo who played the Roundhouse several times in their earlier days. Son Of Man also played at the 5th Reunion last year – a gig that I unfortunately missed; but which apparently was a great success too.

Support Act:  At the last reunion, support was from singer/song-writer Steve Kelly. He was here again; but this time joined by bassist Gavin Lloyd Wilson.  Steve is an erstwhile regular of The Village Blues Club, and now runs the music venue The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales; which Gavin also frequents. This apparently was only their second gig together as a duet, but they were musically tight. Gavin is an impressive bassist, and used both fretted and fretless bass guitars – both headless. Steve’s playing and vocals were very good too.

Micky Jones' SG (Photo: PTMQ)

Micky Jones’ SG (Photo: PTMQ)

Their set was similar to Steve’s last Reunion appearance, and consisted of a few well known covers: ‘Immigrant Song’; ‘In My Chair’; and ‘Lazy Sunday’. And some of Steve’s own very interesting compositions: ‘Butter No Parsnips’ (‘No matter how you dress it up its still the same old shit!’); ‘Long Way From Home’ (Both metaphorically and realistically, for all the Village Club regulars); ‘Suburban Villa’ (A Ray Davies-esque social observation song about how things have changed since the 50s, and how we recall the good, but block out the bad things); ‘Universal Brain’ (Dedicated to Syd Barrett – a fine line between madness and sanity: ‘Just a flick of the switch and you’ll be barking at the Moon!’); ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ (About our hopelessness in the face of natural events); ‘You Can Never Shine’ (Dedicated to Kevin Ayers. You can’t appreciate the mountains till you’ve been down in the valleys); ‘Oh No No No No’ (A sardonic, sarcastic song bemoaning the lack of protest about political events); and finally, ‘Sights And Sounds’ (A Music Hall style song imagining seaside promenading 100 years ago). A fine set.

Son Of Man:   As their name suggests, Son Of Man are descended from the legendary Welsh Psychedelic / Prog-Rockers, Man. Leading the band is George Jones (son of the much lamented original Man member Micky Jones) on guitar; who for a while played in Man himself with his Dad. He is joined by Bob Richards (one of Man’s many drummers); Glenn Quinn (previously of Tigertailz on guitar, vocals); and three ex-members of fellow Welsh rockers Sassafras: Richie Galloni (Vocals); Marco James (Keys; vocals); and (normally) Ray Jones (Bass; vocals). But unfortunately, Bassist Ray couldn’t make it for this gig due to having a hip op; so Peter Stradling (of George’s other band Scotch Corner) kindly stood in for him. Quite a remarkable line-up, then! The band play their own original material, as well as classics from the parent band’s repertoire, of course.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Son Of Man (Photo: PTMQ)

Deke Leonard:   Special guest for this gig was another founding member of Man, the inimitable Deke Leonard; now aged 70, but still gigging with Son Of Man occasionally. He also founded Iceberg; and has done solo work too. His advertised presence at this gig was eagerly awaited by the Man fans who had bought up all the tickets in advance.

The Son Of Man Set:  After a short interval, Master Of Ceremonies Ken Ansted introduced the headliners, Son Of Man, to great applause. George immediately armed himself with his Dad’s famous Gibson SG, and the band began with the old Man classic ‘Love Your Life’. It was a great, lively start. They followed up with the Bluesy ‘Talk About Morning’. It was clear, even from these two opening numbers that we were privileged to be witnessing this performance. The musicianship from all on the stage was second to none.

The more progressive piece ‘Back Together Again’ followed; and sounded really good. The next song was introduced by George: ‘This is a great song, written by the Dark Lord himself, Deke Leonard …’Hard Way To Die’, he said; and a fine performance it was too; with George playing bottleneck on a 54 year-old Strat (probably his Dad’s too). They gave us a newer song, ‘All Alone / C’mon’ next. This was new to me, but I liked it a lot; especially the Space-Rock vibe of ‘C’mon’. There are long instrumental passages in this, during which all of the band excelled. After receiving great wails of approval, George said: ‘You liked that then!’. Oh yes!

(Photo: PTMQ)

Deke (Photo: PTMQ)

The newish ‘Guiding Hand’ was next. Its another great Bluesy number. The Proggy ‘Otherside’ followed. It has an interesting arpeggiated intro, and great use of heavy reverb. Glenn on lead guitar was superb on this one. ‘Quasimode’ was then dedicated to all the late members of Man. Marco on Hammond was impressive here. With so many ex-members of Sassafras in the band, it would only be right to include one of their songs – ‘Ohio’. I was very glad to hear this again. It was a fine rendition. ‘Call Down The Moon’ was introduced next, with its distinctive wah-wah riff intro and solos. Brilliant!

Deke joins the band:   At this point George introduced the special guest – who else but the inimitable Deke Leonard? He climbed on stage and donned his distinctive SG with its psychedelic circles paint job, to chants of ‘Deke! Deke! Deke!’; and set off with ‘The Ride And The View’ – Deke’s mastery of the bottleneck still apparently sharp. And we fans showed our appreciation when it ended. The mental ’71 71 551′ followed; with three harmonised guitars belting it out. And finally the rousing Blues-Rocker ‘Romain’ finished the main set to raptures from the audience.

Bananas! (Photo: PTMQ)

Bananas! (Photo: PTMQ)

Encore!  There didn’t seem much point in the band leaving the stage as we all knew they’d be required for a well deserved encore! At this point my mate Glyn produced a banana and handed it to George on the stage; who ate it in spite of it having suffered for a few hours in his pocket – well, he said it’d been in his pocket, but who knows! Obviously we all knew which song would be next – the bizarre ‘Bananas’ of course! What a fantastic rendition it was, with a great keyboard solo from Marco. George promised that that the band would be back again next year before they finished with the unique ‘Spunk Rock’.

Aftermath:  What a fantastic show! What with the lights; dry ice; extended abstract solos; and copious use of the Wah-Wah pedal. It was the nearest I’ve been to a 70’s Prog-Rock gig since …well, the 70s! All that was missing was the smell of grass! Without exception, all of the band members were impressive – tight and highly competent. This could be my choice for Best Rock Gig at my end of year review …watch this space! After the show we met some of the band members; and had a nice little chat with Deke and some other people. Thanks to all the very talented musos that we saw on the night; Ken Ansted and all the staff of The Village Blues Club for their hard work and dedication; and to the staff of Trades Hall for a very memorable evening indeed. PTMQ

56. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH (+ STEVE KELLY) at the VILLAGE BLUES CLUB’s 6th Reunion, DAGENHAM ROUNDHOUSE. Saturday, 30th May, 2015 + a few words about the venue.

MTWA: Ray's last gig! (Photo: PTMQ)

MTWA: Ray’s last gig! (Photo: PTMQ)

Well this was a very special gig indeed; but I’ll start by explaining a little about the venue. The Village Blues Club used the Dagenham Roundhouse (in the suburbs just East of London, for those not too familiar with the area), as their venue between 1969 – 75. The list of major British and Irish bands that played there during this time is lengthy; and the status of the club and venue is legendary in SE England: Led Zep; Floyd; Purple; Gallagher; Queen; Genesis; Lizzy; Hawkwind; Heep; Stray; to name but a few, all played there. Unfortunately, due to complaints from residents about the noise (loud music; revving bikes; etc), the local council put a stop to the club in ’75. The Roundhouse is still a pub that holds occasional events; but nothing like the calibre of its legendary past. One of the regulars from those early days, was Ken Ansted; who, in 2008, started the Village Blues Club Nostalgia Group on Face Book. And one of the activities of the group is to hold a members only reunion (originally annually; now twice yearly – in May and September), at the old venue. Among the exalted list of great bands that trod the boards at the Roundhouse in its heyday, was of course, Wishbone Ash.

As you are probably aware, these days there are effectively two Wishbone Ashes – Martin Turner’s and Andy Powell’s. (See my Blog #5 for some info on the split). But for the 6th Reunion, MT had kindly agreed to play with his band. I said above that this was a very special gig – not just because these Village reunions apparently have all been very successful due to the exclusive and friendly nature of the Nostalgia Club – but it was significant in the history of MTWA too. This was because one of MT’s guitarists, Ray Hatfield, was to play his last gig with band after ten years of sterling service; and his recently announced replacement, Misha Nikolic, was due to make a brief debut too.

Support act: Steve Kelly (Photo: PTMQ)

Support act: Steve Kelly (Photo: PTMQ)

I arrived at the venue with my journalist son James by about 8 o’clock. There were several people I knew in the audience including the ubiquitous Dave and Brian from Touchline Live Music with their respective ladies; and the knowledgeable Darren Wisdom on the Merch stall. We had a brief chat with the guv’nor Ken Ansted; and with  the soon to depart, Ray Hatfield;  who is often to be found chatting with the punters before and after gigs. (See my Blog #51 for a review of Ray’s excellent album At The Drop Of A Hat).

The support act was another of the regulars from the old Village Blues Club days, Steve Kelly. He played a solo acoustic set beginning with Led Zep’s ‘Immigrant Song’; followed by Quo’s ‘In My Chair’. The next song was dedicated to the locals whose complaints led to the closure of the club back in ’75 – the Small Faces’ ‘Lazy Sunday’. ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours!’ he aptly sang; and ‘Here we all are sitting in the Roundhouse!’ He also covered ‘It was A Very Good Year’ famously sung by Sinatra. He did some of his own songs too: ‘Butter No Parsnips’; Suburban Villa’; ‘Hash’ (an instrumental which he renamed in honour of the nights special guest ‘Wishbone Hash!’; ‘You Can Never Shine’ (dedicated to Kevin Ayers; ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Sights And Sounds’. A good little set.

Just before 9PM, MTWA emerged from the Green Room and stepped on stage to great applause. Their excellent set list was pretty much that which they played when I saw them six weeks before at The Beaverwood Club. (See my review Blog #44). Suffice to say, that if anything, their performance was even better! Maybe it was the friendly and cosy ambience of this great little venue; or maybe it was the tangible realisation that these four would not play regularly together again. But whatever the reason, all four of these fine musicians (Martin; Ray; Danny Willson; and Tim Brown) gave a superb performance – maybe the best I’ve seen them play.

MTWA: Misha's first appearance (I apologise for the quality of this photo! PTMQ)

MTWA: Misha’s first appearance (I apologise for the quality of this photo! PTMQ)

And I think the rest of the audience probably would have agreed with me. The place was rockin’ –  packed and sweaty! The fans consisted of people of all ages, but mostly middle-aged rockers – like myself! As I looked around, I saw a Johnny Winter look-alike; several blokes who resembled Jesus; and bizarrely, a dead-spit of Andy Powell! All were digging the MTWA vibe! The limited tickets had sold out some while before the gig, so everyone there was up for it. And we weren’t disappointed.

As usual, it was a two-part set, plus encore. They played three songs from their forthcoming album Written In The Stars;  five from the classic Argus album – including an astoundingly good rendition of ‘Sometime World’; and many of the other old WA live favourites. But the encore was especially good – and significant. Starting with ‘The King Will Come’ (which had everyone singing along); the lads then played ‘Doctor’ (from Wishbone Four, 1973). It was to be Ray’s last number for MTWA; and Martin thanked him for the ten years he had put in. Ray has been very popular with the fans, and left the stage to rousing, well deserved applause.  Finally, the new boy Misha was called on stage to do the final number, ‘Jailbait’; borrowing Ray’s guitar. He was warmly welcomed by all; and we’ll be eagerly seeing how he contributes to the band – its a tough act to follow though!

Good luck to Ray as he embarks on new projects – including a third album soon, I hope. Good luck to Misha as he joins one of the best live bands in Britain. A big round of applause for Ken Ansted and his crew for all their hard work in getting this fantastic gig off the ground. And finally, a big thank you to the charming ladies behind the bar who all worked tirelessly, providing beer with a lovely smile! PTMQ

Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry on the Dagenham Roundhouse…. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagenham_Roundhouse

Here is a link to the Official MTWA website… http://www.martinturnermusic.com/

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 …..

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