The Graham Bond Organisation Play “Wade In The Water”

The_Sound_of_'65Listen to this track  by British R&B soul-jazz gurus The Graham Bond Organisation. It’s “Wade In The Water” a version of a traditional song that appears on their second, and final, album The Sound Of ’65, released that very year in March. The band consists of Bond on organ and alto saxophone, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor saxophone, Jack Bruce on bass, and Ginger Baker on the kit.

Along with Alexis Corner’s Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation (misspeling of Oxford English “orginisation” is deliberate, everyone …) was a very well-respected unit on the R&B scene in London from the early to mid 1960s. If the Beatles and the Stones were the bands that the record buying public loved, then Graham Bond and his compatriots were just as beloved by their musician peers on the London club scene. For a time, even future jazz-fusion innovator John McLaughlin was a part of the band on guitar. For those looking for pure chops and blues authenticity that was so sought after at the time, then these guys were it.

As short-lived as this band was, they helped to sow the seeds of the progressive rock and jazz-rock movements in Britain that would flourish by the end of the sixties and into the seventies. As influential as they were, there was much trouble at the root for these guys when it came to personal demons. Read more

The Fierce & The Dead Play “666…6”

Here’s a clip of British post-rock instrumentalist four piece. It’s their track “666…6”, a feature off of their most recent EP, On VHS,  the first release to feature the four-sided version of the band; Matt Stevens (guitar), Stuart Marshall (drums), Kev Feazey (bass), and newcomer (but, old friend) Steven Cleaton on second guitar, keyboards, and “fx”.

The Fierce & The Dead (from right); Steve Cleaton, Matt Stevens, Stuart Marshall, Kev Feazey

The track reveals the range of influences, particularly those of guitarist Matt Stevens, with this track, and others, originally intended for his next solo record. Radiohead, Mogwai, Robert Fripp, and Celtic Frost (and others besides) all make up the band’s approach, marrying melodic, ambient, and hard-edged facets of progressive instrumental rock music that is gaining attention in prog circles, and beyond. These efforts were helped along by the recent Fierce & The Dead record If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe. This EP is a chaser to that record, turning up the intensity.

As a solo artist, and as a part of the band, Stevens has been a major proponent in putting his music across via a dedicated online fanbase, as well as generating a following offline as well, particularly in the last year when the band have been especially active as a live act. This video was created with a YouTube audience primarily in mind, featuring some pretty odd imagery that also helps to highlight the dynamism of each player.

This track in particular demonstrates how much varied textures are important to the band, with thundering riffs set next to more delicate fingerpicking, atmospheric electronic flourishes, crisp and dextrous drumming, and bald and brawny bass lines each taking center stage.

I personally appreciate the value of tightly arranged playing that still lets you hear the moving parts at the same time. It’s not an easy thing to pull off. And that’s what stands out for me on this track.

On VHS  is available for download right now. So, you should.

For more information, you should also investigate the official Fierce & The Dead website.

Also, check out this candid video interview with Matt and Kev of The Fierce & The Dead about their humble beginnings as blossoming musicians among other things, including the making of the new EP.


Steve Hackett Plays ‘Ace of Wands’

voyage-of-the-acolyte-steve-hackettListen to this track by progressive rock guitarist, composer, and one-time Genesis member Steve Hackett. It’s “Ace of Wands”, the lead track from Hackett’s debut solo album, 1975’s The Voyage of the Acolyte. This is an album he recorded and released while still a member of Genesis, and with the help of two of his bandmates; Phil Collins plays drums and sings lead on a number of tracks, and Michael Rutherford plays bass, and second 12-string guitar.

What can be gleaned from this track is just how important Hackett’s playing is to the classic Genesis sound; angular, yet lyrical, and evocative of a certain spirit of the time that actually pulls the whole genre into focus. Hackett takes his influences of rock and classical music, and synthesizes an approach to both, making the music on the record extremely evocative of a something that suggests a wordless narrative unfolding, like a soundtrack to a film that the listener makes up as the music plays.  That’s what prog always strives for, after all!
Read more

The Shadows Featuring Brian Bennett Perform “Little ‘B'”

220px-out_of_the_shadowsListen to this track, a drum-centric workout from pre-Beatles British instrumental rock titans The Shadows.  It’s “Little ‘B'”, which was originally released on the group’s second album, 1962’s Out of the Shadows. It should be said that drum solos bore me to tears. But, not this one. Not this one.

The Shadows were an important band on the international pop music scene in the late 50s and early 60s, in that they achieved a significant level of fame before the British Invasion was even thought of.  They were a British band, initially a backing group for Cliff Richard, arguably the biggest and most credible British pop star at the end of the 1950s.  But, the Shadows’ echoey, tremolo-heavy instrumental rock music had tremendous influence on emerging British guitar bands by the early 60s, including a certain band out of Liverpool.  And of course, with American counterparts like the Ventures, the Shads were well positioned for that 60s surf ‘n’ spy sound.

The most visible and recognized member of the band was bespectacled and cheery lead guitarist Hank Marvin, an early guitar hero for upcoming British players. But, it’s drummer Brian Bennett who shines on this particular cut, establishing himself as more than a simple timekeeper for melodic guitar lines laid down by his fellows. Bennett brings in jazz flourishes, rock attack, and syncopated latin rhythms into this piece of his own composition, with a melody that foresees (to my ears) the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” by about 20 years. The melody serves as something of an intro to the main course of the tune – Bennett’s formidable chops on the skins.

As I mentioned, I don’t generally like drum solos. This is perhaps because they are generally in place to show off the athleticism of the drummer.  I suppose this is something of a double standard.  After all, I like some guitar solos which I don’t necessarily connect with the idea of athleticism, but achieve an impressive level of dexterity that appeals to me .  Maybe that’s a topic for discussion for another time. But needless to say, 20-minutes of “Moby Dick” just isn’t my thing. Yet this solo is different.  Where “Little ‘B'” is a showcase of Bennett’s talent, it feels like a tour of the drum kit, as hosted by someone who knows his way around it.  As such, it feels not so much like a ‘look what I can do, and you can’t’, it’s more like a ‘welcome to my enthusiasm about drums. Come on in and get comfortable’.

The Shadows was a long-standing group, with a number of line-ups stretching from the 50s to the 2000s. Once Bennett replaced former Shads drummer Tony Meehan, he remained with them in lineups from the early 60s into this century. All the while, Bennett also got into production and arranging, and furthering his compositional talents in soundtrack work for film and television.  His foray into orchestral conducting is perhaps an indication that many of the world’s best drummers are also self-contained conductors themselves, keeping each piece of the kit locked into grooves and patterns that hold their own kinds of melodic brilliance.

For more information, check out Brian Bennett’s official website.  And for more information about the Shadows, investigate the Shadows on Wikipedia.


Mogwai Performs ‘Friend of The Night’

Mogwai emerged in the late 90s from Glasgow, gaining attention in particular with their second LP Come On Die Young, on which they were something of a poster band for what was being referred to as ‘post-rock’. The term is pretty presumptuous of course, given that rock music is certainly very much a living form. Yet, the idea of taking guitars, bass, and drums and using them as textures, rather than as instruments to present traditional rock songs is certainly a challenge to those who feel that guitar bands must follow a specific path to creating albums and playing live shows.

Listen to this track by post-rock powerhouse Mogwai.  It’s “Friend of The Night”, a highpoint of the excellent Mr. Beast from 2006.  This track reveals something of the lyrical side of the band, in addition to their propensity for layering guitar parts into dense walls of sound.

Rock guitar playing in the last forty years has been, to a certain extent, an exercise in reacting to virtuoso playing of Hendrix, Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and others. Either you’re for ’em or against ’em. Yet, with this band, there is a different approach to playing a guitar loudly, yet also reaching for something other than guitar heroics.

Mogwai don’t hold back on wattage, choosing to create interlaced melody lines instead of individual soloing. The efforts of combined parts into a larger whole, often building up the melodies and counter-melodies bit by bit into a crescendo, creates a unique kind of tension.  And as such, the idea that guitar playing must be flashy and immediate to be powerful is revealed to be nonsense.

This song in particular is a perfect example of mood, melody, and monster volume.  Despite the lack of lyrics, there is a powerful emotional undercurrent implied here.  Actually, it may be because there are no lyrics that this is the case; the listener’s ear is encouraged to fill in the gaps.  And so, what this song, and others, may be ‘about’ is entirely subjective, yet in many ways with a greater potential to strike an emotional chord.

For more information about Mogwai, check out