Monday, 18 December 2017

Great review of Closer to You at Point of Departure

Trevor Watts Amalgam
Closer to You
Hi4Head Records HFHCD019
Recorded in May, 1978, this reissue of Closer to You features saxophonist Trevor Watts, electric bassist Colin McKenzie, and drummer Liam Genockey in a set marked by a dynamic mix of free-wheeling raucous energy and a more somber, almost mournful atmosphere. Watts’ Amalgam gets out of the gate like a rocket ship on the opener, “De Dublin Thing.” His careening, wild alto saxophone is a vehicle of nearly unbridled spirit, and while his overblowing may not be for everybody, it does add to the urgency and immediacy of his playing. Genockey gets all over his kit, and McKenzie propels the trio while setting up his drummer for a number of hits and fills. “South of Nowhere” begins in a quieter mode that’s free of time, with Watts’ lamentations giving way to a groove. After a decrescendo that ends in near silence, McKenzie jumpstarts a whimsical march that sets the foundation for Watts’ playful Braxtonish excursions.
The album’s centerpiece is the nearly twenty-minute “Dear Roland” – ostensibly for Roland Kirk, given his death a year earlier and Watts’ simultaneous playing of alto and soprano. As on “South of Nowhere” the trio begins in a soft, sparse, and darker mood which is occasionally interrupted and augmented by alto/soprano screeches, gongs, and tom rumbles. Watts plays a three note motive that McKenzie immediately echoes and transforms into the basis for a groove, which the trio explores for several minutes before fading and returning to the opening framework. The piece’s narrative arc and varied sonic textures make for an engaging conclusion to the original album.
This reissue also includes five previously unreleased bonus tracks. As before, Watts, McKenzie, and Genockey absolutely get after it. “Albert Like” has a weird, almost funky r&b feel over which Watts blows a series of catchy earworm hooks – that is until the cut abruptly ends, as if the tape ran out. The freely improvised “Bottle Alley” – which doesn’t quite have as much purpose as the other selections – has an audible tape hiss. And while the rocking, uptempo burner “Mad” scintillates, the intensity of the album’s original four tracks make what comes after almost too much. Bonus tracks or no, this new version of Closer to You – even in its quieter moments – hits fast and hits hard.
—Chris Robinson

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Heath Common on Drystone Radio, The Writers Bookshelf.

Heath Common will be appearing on The Writers Bookshelf on Drystone Radio (103.5FM) on the evening of 26/9, talking about music, poetry & life in general!

Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston & Mark French's Cafe Oto film in St Leonards 22/9!

FRIDAY 22nd SEP 2017. KINO in St Leonards. Free event. Mark French film "Dialogues with Strings" featuring Watts/Blunt/Marshall & Weston "live" at CAFE OTO, then "live" performance of Trevor & Veryan's QUANTUM ILLUSION PROJECT. It will be a full house. See you there.

Excellent review of Closer to You by Trevor Watts' Amalgam in RnR by Andrew Darlington

At first glance, co-producer Keith Beal's dripping, dribbling cover art is a messy colourful abstraction, until, the more you look, the more it assumes human form and expression.
Amalgam is a similar concoction. Alto-man Trevor Watts was a vital ingredient in free-jazz Spontaneous Music Ensemble, collectively exploring the outer limits of improvisation with John Stevens.
Long-time Melody Maker favourites, the various line-ups of his more accessible side-project, Amalgam, also produced a series of fine albums, led by Prayer for Peace in 1969. By the time of this 1978 set, originally issued on cult Ogun label, they'd pared down to a power trio.
From the dizzying blizzard that Trevor's staccato sax soars and dances across the sharp attacking jazz-fusion rhythm interactions of bassist Colin McKenzie and Liam Genockey's precise drum-pulse, on opener 'De Dublin Ting', we're into the slower, more considered, three way conversation 'South of Nowhere', before nodding to Roland Kirk on the full-eerie, almost-twenty-minute original vinyl second side.
Although abstract in its compressed flaring fold-ins, overlapping telepathic trick-trips, internal squiggles and wrangling dynamics, repeated playing reveals its intensely human form and expression. Now, the four original tracks' playing-time is near-doubled by a wealth of archive bonus cuts.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Superb five star review of Heath Common & the Lincoln 72s by Nick Toczek in RnR July/Aug 2017

Over several CDs, Bill Byford, lyricist and frontman of Heath Common, has been mining his past. The songs, each of which forms a succinct chapter of what's becoming a fragmentary sung autobiography, form an unique record of life in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Latest addition, Heath Common, offering five episodes each from his childhood in early-60s Halifax and his later years in late-60s and 70s Notting Hill Gate, is the best yet, featuring a far fuller sound employing an impressive array of musicians and singers.
Of the five Halifax songs, the standout 'Spirit of Ogden' encapsulates his vivid, almost filmic, evocations, while 'Mixenden I'm coming Home' shows touching affection.
By way of contrast, the more objective London quintet recalls Beat culture, starting with the upbeat and celebratory 'Satori in the Sky'. This is followed by his paen - set in the early 80s - to seminal artists 'Basquiat and Warhol', the former then in tragic drug-addled decline. 'Still Howling' recalls the mid-60s Poetry Olympics at the Royal Albert Hall, organised by Michael Horovitz and featuring, among many others, Beat icon Allen Ginsberg. Suffused with healthy tongue-in-cheek cynicism, Byford's detailed audio-pictures are so much more than mere rose-tinted nostalgia. Strongly recommended!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Brilliant five star review of Closer to You by Trevor Watts' Amalgam by Philip Clark in Jazzwise 220!

It's good to have this one back. Originally released by Ogun Records in 1979, Closer to You features the trio incarnation of Trevor Watts' Amalgam born after table-top guitarist Keith Rowe left the group following the release of their mighty albums Over the Rainbow and Wipe Out.
Sans Rowe, the textures and structural manoeuvres are cleaner and more directly etched. 'De Dublin Ting' - take no notice of the decidedly Father Ted-like title - is a rollicking piece of badass harmolodic funk in which Watts plays Russian roulette with displaced beats, while 'Keep Right' develops as a stately blues-immersed ritual. Amalgam had always been the place where Watts ran with compositional ideas that would have felt alien to the work he was pursuing with John Stevens in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and the extended 'South of Nowhere (With Quiet Beginnings)'has an air of composerly architecture as those quiet, whispered beginnings evolve into granite sounds. The 20-minute 'Dear Roland' (Kirk presumably) slowly develops into a stark, relentless procession, led by saxophone multiphonics that grind against and are illuminated by, resonant metallic percussion. This reissue comes supplemented by five previously unheard tracks from the same session - sketches for what finally emerged.

Heath Common poetry reading in Paris 19/9

As part of the European Beat Studies Network Festival, Heath Common will be reading at Berkeley Books, at 8 Rue Casimir, Delavigne, Paris on the evening of September 19th.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

HyperViolet by Johnny Butler - excellent review at Jazzchill Blogspot

HyperViolet is a space. It is a destination. HyperViolet is the hollowness behind aching, arching light glancing off half-hidden spires and metallic mountaintops. In HyperViolet, Brooklyn-based saxophonist and electronicist Johnny Butler has found his perfect medium, his perfect space within the sound of his own life. Combining pop sensibilities with avant-garde yearnings, Butler has created a world within a world, and it is a glorious place within which to get lost.

"It is its own little eco-system, a forest of its own, growing with its own organic rules," explains Butler. "I hate when music is in its box and that's it. I hate conservative creative behavior. The album has an electronic angle but I want it to sound real too though. I want real people playing organic music."

The result is a forty-four minute, hard-hitting tour-de-force that explores the depths of depression, the ravages of creativity, the brilliance of overexertion, and the final serenity of embracing closure. Whirling through myriad musical environments, Butler and his band (bassist Michael Feinberg, guitarist Jeff Miles, drummer Bram Kincheloe, alto saxophonist JJ Byars, and keyboardist Dov Manski -- along with special guests including Kassa Overall, Raycee Jones, Tecla, Sister Sparrow, Todd Reynolds, and Jackson Kincheloe, and mastering from Daddy Kev) paint in strokes that cut deep, leaving the listener hanging over a precipice of musical motion, waiting for the cliff edge to crumble.

That mastery of time and timbre is no accident for the Seattle-born Butler, who as a young man found himself drawn to the tension and passion of seemingly unconnected genres of music. "Even though I grew up in the jazz world, I used to judge the quality of any band based on how many people were moshing," recollects Butler of those wild, early days. "If some band was playing and no one was moshing, I would just walk out. Maybe I'm in the wrong community, now. But at the right kind of gig I still get the occasional guy going buck wild." That wildness lies at the heart of everything Butler does. And now, after years giving himself to other people's projects -- including being a founding member of the Brooklyn-based soul rock band Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, plus accruing writing and arranging credits for such artists as Beyoncé, on the Grammy Award winning Love on Top -- Butler is ready to take his biggest step yet in bringing his unique, bridge-like ideas and songs into the world.

"I have this crazy creative energy that if it is not getting used, it sort of turns inward and becomes a self-destructive feeling. I was channeling all of this emotional energy into all these songs and creating something out of it rather than having it turned inward. I have to be doing this," Butler says with a smile. "After committing myself to this music, to my own vision, I had this crazy writing period where I was writing a ton of music. I wrote, like, five hundred songs. Things for myself, chamber pieces, pieces for other people, beats, remixes..."

Butler was on a hot streak and began enlisting as many friends as he could to play and collaborate on his overflow of ideas, which culminated in HyperViolet being recorded in stages, with each musician adding their own special touch to Butler's initial vision. "It's sort of like each person came in and spilled their guts. Everyone was so honest and vulnerable. It made the record come to life in a way I'd never imagined."

"Crossing the River" and "Jump" both feature rapper Kassa Overall. The former uses immense space to support Overall's syrupy flow. Incidental chatter and Todd Reynolds' ethereal violin push and pull the listener through the former's hazy reality while the latter digs even deeper into the hip-hop realm. "I think Kassa is exploring a lot of ideas that have to do with staying and going. Don't stay or don't leave. It's all about trying to control the situation," says Butler. "He thought he knew what he was writing but there is so much more depth that I don't think he initially saw what had formed. You can hear the process very clearly. You can hear Kassa drinking. I wanted that to be part of it. That kind of stuff is my favorite: the seams of the music where you see the canvas a little bit like Monet in his old age where you can see the brushstrokes."

If there's a tune on this album that can fill the dance floor it is "What It Deserves." Butler uses beats and the charms of vocalist Tecla to provide a forum to both riff and cut loose over a rising storm of percussion. "Crake's Dream" is a pensive build-up of beeping keyboards behind the intricate twists and turns of vocalist Bridget Davis' tightly harmonized lead. The title is derived from Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel Oryx and Crake. "Flipper Wants Out" was one of Butler's first tunes for the record and features his former band-mates from Sister Sparrow. Jackson Kinechole's wheezing harmonica appears to emanate from a Martian juke joint before vocalist Arleigh Kinechole snarls a firm request for a little personal space. Butler's horns swirl with downtown attitude, chomping at the air in tight formation.

HyperViolet is an eclectic debut riddled with creative insights and original horn work with Butler hanging in the back as often as he is in the spotlight. Each pluck of a string and tap of a pad is given its own room to breathe in a space that can be brimming with ideas. Butler knows that the all encompassing vibe only makes him stronger so he is happy to share, soloing when it feels right and laying back with an embracing pillow of thick harmonies and unexpected beats for friends and band-mates.

With his roots in the Pacific Northwest, his feet firmly planted in Brooklyn, his mind turned towards strangely swirling lands, and his saxophone unsheathed and ready to slay, Johnny Butler has -- with the release of HyperViolet -- announced himself as a true force in this musical landscape.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Trevor Watts Amalgam - Closer to You reviewed by Tim Owen at Dalston Sound

Trevor Watts formed the first Amalgam in 1967 during time out from the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, which he’d co-founded earlier that same decade. After recording the first Amalgam album he turned his focus back to the SME until the mid-1970s before re-forming Amalgam, initially with a shifting lineup.
Drummer Liam Genockey first joined for the fourth Amalgam album, Another Time (1976). Bassist Colin McKenzie came on board for 1977’s Samanna. The same year’s Mad was their first outing trio outing, with Closer To You being recorded the following year.
Guitarist Keith Rowe later made up a quartet for Over the Rainbow and Wipe Out (both 1979), which Thurston Moore has cited as influential on the nascent Sonic Youth. Watts, however, subsequently took a more rhythmic direction, fusing jazz, African percussion and elements of Reichian minimalism with his various Moiré Music groups, only lately returning to freer music in partnership with pianist Veryan Weston.
This is the first reissue of Closer To You in any format since its initial release on Ogun, and Hi4Head have expanded it, adding five previously unreleased titles to the original four.
As the 1979 liner notes say, nothing here is slack. “The mood, feel and structure, as well as the themes” were all predetermined, so: “Precise timing is the essence … the musicians are always conscious of the pulse and know exactly where they have to lay down their lines in relation to it.”
‘De Dublin Ting’ makes for an urgent opening salvo. It’s a compact performance, and more uptempo than much of what follows. Watts’ impassioned sax sounds tart against McKenzie’s ruggedly pliant bass work as the trio twist and turn through knotty exchanges and tempo shifts.
For its first four minutes, ‘South of Nowhere (With Quiet Beginnings)’ (10:20) is a bluesy, twilight number, but then it restarts, propelled urgently along a bubbling electric bass line.
The album sounds pretty good for its age, but these uptempo passages expose a thin, boxy sound that particularly affects Genockey’s drums. Otherwise the sound is vividly immediate, and Watts has done a good job of re-mastering.
Amalgam never sound like straight fusion in the sense that, say, Ian Carr’s Nucleus did; yet though their sound has a distinctly modern jazzy, almost Harmolodic edge, it also evidences Watts’ feel for African rhythms and the rhythm section’s grounding in progressive rock and R&B.
Genockey had a prog background. Within months of recording this album he’d be recruited by ex Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan into the first incarnation of Gillan, and he’s been a member of Steeleye Span since 1989. McKenzie’s work as a session player in the 80s and 90s would see him backing the likes of Billy Ocean and Ruby Turner. But the Amalgam trio’s relationship was evidently tight, and for over a decade from the early 90s McKenzie and Genockey provided the bedrock of the Ghanaian rhythm-influenced Moiré Music Drum Orchestra.
The foundations are laid here, with the three musician’s parts interlocking, independent but not bound. That allows them to keep a track like ‘Keep Right’ (4:40) simple, Watts wrapping licks around the rhythmists’ mid-tempo rocking ebb-and-flow.
The original album’s concluding opus is something else. ‘Dear Roland’ (19:37) moves from a near silence studded by metallic percussion, vibrations tapped out on detuned bass strings, and raspy multi-phonic sax licks (which sound lie they’re played live á la Rahsaan Roland Kirk than overdubbed) to only slightly more concentrated intensities. While Genockey moves from snare to lightly malleted toms, McKenzie sets up a constant shimmer of overlapping tones, making his bass reverberate like a prepared piano harp.
Only in its final third does the piece slip into a firmer but still somnolent groove, as Watts moves from a simple melody etched in circular breaths – sounding overtly like Kirk now, so no doubts as to the dedication – to a firmer line souring in tone as the backing dissolves in peak abstraction, then finding new melancholia in an almost solo coda.
‘Dear Roland’ is a remarkable piece that prefigures an approach to sound and texture that’s only recently gained wider currency in contemporary improvised music.
The five ‘bonus’ cuts – four of which are around four minutes long – return us to the terrain of jazz-rock-fusion. The urgency of ‘Mad’ prefigures post-bop in a post-Zorn universe, particularly given its abrupt segue into the louche noir of ‘Seaside Blues’. Watts dredges up some steamy blues licks here, occasionally pushing into the red with loud, piercing cries.
‘Albert Like’ chugs along in gutbucket blues style, keeping closer to the groove than anything on its dedicatee Albert Ayler’s New Grass. There are more sudden transitions here, and some tape hiss that (pleasingly) evokes intimacy with the source tapes.
‘Bottle Alley’ (7:49) sounds like an open-ended improvisation, but its tamped-down tensions are subtly and creatively modulated and expertly released – Watts wailing hoarsely against relatively restrained backing, which is an Amalgam speciality – making it perhaps my favourite cut after ‘Dear Roland’.
The rousing ‘Latino Flo’ is the album’s shortest, tightest and funkiest cut, with McKenzie thumb-popping bass notes to nail the groove.
The extra cuts here do more than pad the album out. They flesh out the scope of the session. I wouldn’t argue with the initial track selection, but the expanded Hi4Head reissue adds real meat to what is anyways a significant item in Watts’ criminally under-appreciated discography.
Trevor Watts – alto and soprano saxophones; Colin McKenzie – bass guitar; Liam Genockey drums.

Closer to You by Trevor Watts Amalgam reviewed by Stewart Smith in The Wire 401

Reissued for the first time, 1979's Closer to You finds Trevor Watts blowing over superbad grooves and slinky blues riffs. 'De Dublin Ting' is a tight bit of free funk, with drummer Liam Genockey racing through Clyde Stubblefield-meets-Rashied Ali grooves. Colin McKenzie's in the pocket bass guitar provides an anchor, but can be a little stodgy, lagging behind Genockey's tearaway drumming. 'South of Nowhere' opens with McKenzie playing John McLaughlin-esque harmonics under Watts's soulful alto, before an angular groove heralds a leap into freedom. A 19 minute tribute to Roland Kirk, 'Dear Roland' begins with Watts playing two horns over understated bass throbs, resonant gongs and rumbling toms. With shades of Miles Davis's 'He loved him Madly' it's the album's clear highlight, with gorgeously mournful playing from Watts.

Heath Common & the Lincoln 72s - review at With

Kerouac-songwriter and former Melody Maker journalist Heath Common returns to his roots with new album ‘Heath Common And The Lincoln 72s’ – out via Hi4head Records on June 26th.
Heath Common has always been on the move. From birth, he and his family began a life of constant traveling, from place-to-place, throughout Britain, never staying in any one area for too long. Despite this somewhat ‘rootless’ existence certain spots have made a lasting impression on Heath’s creative formation, in particular, Halifax, West Yorkshire and Notting Hill Gate, West London.
Born in Normanton, West Yorkshire, Heath Common began a fabled musical career after relocating to the infamous All Saints Road, Notting Hill. From there, he soon found himself touring in New York City – performing with the legendary Robert Lockwood and Johnny Shines – the stepson and close friend, of seminal blues musician, Robert Johnson.
After becoming immersed in the ‘Art Rock’ scene of the 1980s and early 1990s, Heath formed a partnership with kindred spirit Christopher Halliwell. The duo went to work with a number of diverse musicians, ranging from guitarist John Fahey to the British indie act The Rhythm Sisters. Still exploring life, the former Melody Maker journalist, published poet and now a recognised authority of the era, Heath Common continues to work closely with many of the surviving figures from the original Beat Movement.
The songs on latest release ‘Heath Common And The Lincoln 72s’ document the stories and characters emerging from those times. From West Yorkshire to the East Village, it’s an album designed to celebrate a lost world featuring, amongst others, a psychotic bouncer, a faded beauty queen and an out-of-time beat. Rooted in the past whilst sounding out a future – hey, maybe it’s finally time to trust a hippy!

Heath Common & The Lincoln 72s - Review by Mike Davies at Roots & Branches

A survivor from the art rock scene of the 80s, he’s documented the times in his latest album, inspired by and spanning stories and characters from Halifax in West Yorkshire to Notting Hill, the first up being Halifax Gala Queen, about a faded beauty queen who also happened to be his babysitter in the 60s. It begins with a spoken passage before blossoming into an initially acoustic Bowiesque feel circa Space Oddity and, from there, building into electric Floydian swells. Halifax is also home to Jack Brown, a notorious bouncer from the Mixenden estate, a fractured track of discordant piano, spoken lines, clattering drums, beeps and whistles and layered vocals. A lush Godley-Creme styled strings-backed 70s ballad with echoey vocals, Room At The Top is about the Woolshops, a deprived area of Halifax that was home to the town’s Irish community, while Spirit of Ogden, about a reservoir that was a popular local camping spot, is more prog with its spoken lines, strings, swelling harmonies and big anthemic guitars.
The Halifax set ends with the reflective and emotionally yearning Mixenden I’m Coming Home, a simple acoustic guitar, strings and piano ballad that again opens with a spoken passage about the Wheatley and St Malachy communities of his childhood that gives way to a choral title refrain. Then it’s off to Notting Hill with Satori In The Sky, the musical mood switching to a rowdy 70s art rock rock swagger before the appropriately Bowiesque Basquiat and Warhol which, with spoken passages interspersing the sung lines to a steady slow march beat, documents the New York exhibition organised by a friend from Notting Hill.
Accompanied by gypsy accordion, the spoken memoir Still Howling reflects on The Poetry Olympics of 1965 while, backed by piano, The Busking Bodhisatta looks back on trying to keep body and soul together on the streets of Notting Hill Gate. Finally, it closes with the swaying cabaret, mazurka-styled Anita Pallenberg, a tribute to the Italian actress who starred in Performance and was a former girlfriend of Keith Richards. The sleeve notes rather unfortunately mention that she can still be seen biking round the area, Pallenberg having died on June 13, after the CD went to press. Common’s an acquired and perhaps rather limited taste, but anyone with shared memories of the period or a fondness for the Bowie and Velvets sounds of the area will appreciate this.
Mike Davies

Heath Common & the Lincoln 72s - review in Local Sound Focus by Frank Roper

When I was offered the chance of reviewing this album I didn’t have the slightest idea who Heath Common was beyond the fact that he was born in West Yorkshire and appears to now live in or near Scarborough. I took up the review purely on the basis of some music I found on the internet. This is risky – the album could have been completely different or just ‘not good’.
I have to be honest that part of the reason I ultimately said yes to the review is that it annoyed me that Heath appears to have completely slipped past me, and it was a chance to fill that gap in my knowledge.
The material on this album is inspired by two places that made an impression on Heath – Halifax and Notting Hill; not only the places but the people in them. If you should buy the physical CD – and I suggest you do – this comes with a booklet that tells you what each of the songs is about. I’d suggest that although you could listen to the songs and not have that information you’ll not get the best from them. You won’t know, for example, that ‘Jack Brown’ is about a bouncer from Mixenden. Knowing this immediately makes sense of the song.
So now onto the music. You’ll going to be slightly mislead – at least at first – by the spoken intro to the Halifax set. You’ll going to be thinking what have I got myself into here. So the actual first track ‘Halifax Gala Queen’ is going to come as a slight surprise. It’s like a Syd Barrett Pink Floyd song lyrically but with big post-Barrett Floyd music- you know acoustic guitar building up into a big electric chorus. The lyrics are great by the way. And that first big swell, well it’s going to get you.
‘Jack Brown’ barrels along, Heath is throwing all sorts of stuff at this, layered vocals, shouted vocals, strange spoken bits. It’s a huge smile inducing thing.
Suddenly we’re in a 70s’ ballad, ‘Room At The Top’ is actually about the Woolshops area of Halifax (once an area inhabited by Irish immigrants). But Heath chooses to tell the story backed by lush strings. It really shouldn’t work but it does. ‘Spirit of Ogden’ is slightly more ‘out there’ but that’s OK I’m into this now. Spoken bits, crashing guitars, swelling strings.
‘Mixenden I’m Coming Home’ ends the Halifax set and what an end. It starts with a prose poem over music and then we’re into it. It’s a simple touching ballad. Hugely effective and moving.
I found the transition to the Notting Hill set rather jarring if I’m honest. If this was on vinyl you’d have that pause while you flipped it over but on CD it crashes in. The first track of this section ‘Satori in the Sky’ is one of those big post-Sgt. Pepper psychedelic pop things, You know the sort of thing – throw everything at it. It did bring a smile to my face, I loved the lyrics which just about manage to include everything hippy-period London. It’s a celebration.
Ah now – and taking a side-trip to New York – ‘Basquiat and Warhol’, this is genuinely strange, weird, freaky. From the spoken narration to the strangely stilted vocals (sort of Bowie-esque) going on in the background. You can listen to this time and time ago and find something new going on. I was reminded – in a good way – of one of those John Cale Velvet Underground tracks.
I’ve tried all sorts of things to attempt to describe ‘Still Howling’ – the closest I can come is warped and twisted Ivor Cutler with hints of later period Leonard Cohen. Is is a song? is it a poem with music? Who knows but I like it, I like it a lot.
For me ‘The Busking Bodhisatta’ is another of the highlights. A simple story about trying to stay alive on the streets of Notting Hill Gate. The words are moving, the music is simply effective. Lovely.
The final rack ‘Anita Pallenburg’ has that off-kilter ‘Alabama Song’ feel to it. I’ve listened to it many times but I still can’t work out quite what I feel about it. It’s mostly good. It might have worked better after ‘Still Howling’. I have tried this out, running the Notting Hill set with this after ‘Still Howling’ and ‘The Busking Bodhisatta’ as the final track and for me that works. You may disagree.
So how do I sum this up? This is a set of songs that have everything – both musically and lyrically. They do need work to fully appreciate them – unless you know who or where the songs are about you’ll not get the full benefit. Some of the songs had me reaching for Google – I had a vague idea who Basquiat was but I needed to check. But this is the thing with genuinely autobiographical songs you need to know the context. And this makes them songs you’ll really need to listen to properly, this is not in any shape or form background music.
I’m not sorry I said yes to this review. I just wish I’d come across Heath years ago.

Heath Common & the Lincoln 72s - review by Mike Ainscoe in Louder than War

Tales of a young life in Halifax and Notting Hill Gate lends an autobiographical nature to ten songs that function as commentaries  from the psyche of Heath Common.
Heath Common – google him and following the  possibility of a  brief diversion  via a West Sussex settlement or a  Wakefield park, you’ll find the Beat-ish writer and irreverent chronicler of the ordinary and extraordinary. And cricket lover.
In some eyes, one of our underground treasures, but unquestionably the epitome of a cult hero. Possessed of Jarvis Cocker inflections, the droll Yorkshire wit based on observation it’s topped off  on occasions with what you might term a  slightly manic Roger Waters style delivery.
The new one is a record of two halves that sets to account two of the significant and influential periods of a nomadic lifestyle. It’s such that we find ourselves regaled with tales of gala queens who met  The Beatles, psychotic (but fair) bouncers, deprived sixties housing and a theme that follows the  essence of what it was like to exist  in a community packed with character and characters, the likes of which we rarely encounter  in contemporary times.
Musically, tablas and Irish pipes and the sporadic vocal of Patrick Wise adding a vocal contrast sit alongside the usual culprits as we’re opened up to a monochromatic Halifax of days gone by.  Previous offenders will know what to expect; Room At The Top’s smooth Top Of The Seventies Pops vibe gets punctuated by a touching cum comical spoken word passage and then he defies the odds to write a gorgeous song about a reservoir – or at least one that evokes the warmth of the memories the location evokes. All very arty but with without pretention and more than a dash of realism.
Four fifths of the Notting Hill Gate songs already appeared on the 2015 Beatsbox EP but the album closes out with Anita Pallenberg, which now becomes a strangely poignant goodbye – he talks of often seeing the queen of the underground  biking around Notting Hill Gate. Now  a misty eyed tribute to another of the Sixties generation and an apt way to see out the Heath Common book of growing up

Heath Common & the Lincoln 72s - Review by Peter Jachimiak in Vive le Rock 47

These boots were made for walking.....

Born in Normanton, West Yorkshire, Heath Common has led a nomadic life. Drifting from Halifax to West London (and with this CD's A & B sides reflecting this north-south divide), it is no surprise that this new album documents tales about, and individuals encountered during, that wandering existence.
Hence, on this record, we meet 'Jack Brown', 'The Busking Bodhisattva' and others.
Moreover, the roaming nature of this life/work is reflected in both the songs' spirited musical arrangements and playful lyrics.
Heath Common has been touted as a present day version of Kevin Ayers, Syd Barrett, et al., but his press photographs portray him - amid rather bleak post-industrial landscapes - as a suited'n'booted , flat-topped bruiser, man-handling a decorated acoustic guitar. A sort of semi-psychedelic Billy Bragg. So here's to the next great leap forward for Heath Common.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Heath Common and the Lincoln 72s - Excellent review in Music Republic Magazine by Simon Redley

A quirky, acquired taste release which takes a few spins to “get”. The 10 cuts trace the life of one Heath Common, dating back to the 60s, 70s and 80s. Poet, songwriter, performance artist and multi-instrumentalist, former music writer, headteacher and scaffolder, pal of Stone Roses’ Ian Brown. NOT the settlement in the Horsham District of West Sussex.
His third solo album,  this record offers up five tales from his childhood in Halifax in the early 1960s, and then another five from his days in Notting Hill Gate, London, going into the 70s.
He is joined by some very talented players, that’s a dozen; on drums, percussion, piano, keyboards, accordion, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, banjo, table, temple bells, Damaris Nakrah, cello, Irish pipes and backing vocals/harmony vocals.
Produced by Heath, who does a lot of spoken word on the record, and plays various instruments across the album. All songs written by Heath Common and his band The Lincoln 72s, except “Basquiat and Warhol” by Common, Mark Hoyle and Patrick Wise, and “Anita Pallenberg”, by Common and Chris Halliwell.
The CD cover and the booklet features some superb artwork by Patrick Wise, which sets the tone and mood of the record; an off-the-wall, creative journey with unexpected twists and turns. There’s a moody black and white photo of Mr Common, in dark overcoat looking like ‘Cracker’ aka Robbie Coltrane or a burly bailiff.
His is a life well lived and a memory etched full of the myriad of larger than life characters he’s met and had dealings with along the way, brought to life in his songs.  A born poet and story teller, for me, in the same kind of way as the late and great Ian Dury, but without as much humour perhaps. This stuff is more gritty, mainly spoken word set to music than songs in the accepted sense, but it has a certain something and it works well.
The likes of Viv Stanshall, author and poet Alan Moore, John Cooper Clarke, my late and great friend Tom Hall and even Sir John Betjeman, all spring to mind on hearing this unique collection.
The album opens with recollection of “Halifax Gala Queen”, of 1964 who was Heath’s babysitter and regaled him with tales of having tea with The Beatles at a hotel in Halifax when they stayed in the town.  The cut kicks off in a gentle way and then turns into a bombastic rock opera thing. “Jack Brown” is a frantic cacophony, with a repetitive mantra about a notorious bouncer in Halifax who was “feared but fair”.
An etehral Pink Floyd ambience to “Room At The Top”, based upon memories of the deprived area of “Woolshops” in Halifax, back in the 1960s, where the large Irish community was housed. Now a shopping centre. “Spirit Of Ogden” weights in at 5.47, and at circa four minutes in, the strings and ensemble harmonies kick in, spoken word on top and it creates a glorious moment on the record.  “Satori In The Sky” refers to Heath’s young life among the Notting Hill Gate/Bramshill communities; a jolly cut which conjures up a kind of Stranglers/Squeeze mood.
There are several voices on the vocals, and the credits do not attribute the main lead vocal to anyone. I suspect Heath does the mainly spoken stuff and perhaps Patrick Wise takes the “Bowie-esque” lead vocal parts. Whoever it is, he has a superb voice and is a great fit on this stuff, giving it light and shade between the spoken stuff and the more musical aspect.
It’ll be very much a Marmite moment for many, this album. It’s really Heath’s memoirs to music. Heath’s diary. Heath’s autobiography. Unashamedly self-indulgent and as far removed from commercial or mainstream as you can get. Chris Evans on Radio 2’s breakfast show, and the annoying children broadcasting on Radio 1 would hate it. I like to think had John Peel still been with us; he’d have been be all over this on his radio show. I can imagine Heath collaborating with Mark E. Smith…
In these days of streaming and downloading odd tracks from albums, and rarely does an album get heard in its entirety, this is a record one should hear track by track and in its correct order in one sitting, to fully appreciate it. Sticking out like a sore thumb in that respect, not at all “on trend”. That’s a positive.
Mr Common should sit himself down and write a musical, now. Think Willy Russell’s “Blood Brothers”. Common has that Stan Barstow / Keith Waterhouse realism and spirit that I love in a writer. You feel you know the characters as well as your kin. Even if his aim is just to have it staged in Halifax or Notting Hill – or Scarborough, where I understand he resides now – to an audience of family, friends and perhaps those mentioned in the story and the songs.
He clearly has the imagination and the talent to pull it off. I’d pay to see it; but I’d want to sit between Anita Pallenberg and the Halifax Gala Queen of 1964. Jack Brown can make sure we are not disturbed!

By Simon Redley

HyperViolet by Johnny Butler - Brilliant Review by Brian Morton in The Wire 404

Saxophonist Johnny Butler comes from a planet (well, Seattle) where genre is unknown and the inhabitants groove happily to a mash-up of jazz, dance and ecstatic pop. He's a bit of a utopian, who knows that dreams of conflict-free living usually have to play out against a background of devastation, and 'Crake's Dream' is one of the most thoughtful cuts on this slow-evolving debut.
The title comes from Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, not so much a dystopian novel as one that searches the wreckage for saving graces. Butler's imagination is like that of a survivalist after the apocalypse, picking up useable bits and pieces of sound, making chance encounters with fellow survivors. They include rapper Kassa Overall, violinist Todd Reynolds and singers Tecla and Bridget Davis, together with old bandmates Jackson and Arleigh Kincheloe from Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds. I don't remember any Butler credits on SS&DB joints, but 'Flipper Wants Out' here could easily have fitted into their book.
The album took some time to come together, but sounds deceptively relaxed and unfussed, with bits and pieces of verite - like vocalist Tecla drinking olive oil out of a liquor bottle - that somehow remind me of Scott Walker waiting for exactly the right sound before the song's complete. There are moments though when the provenance drifts closer to PM Dawn or 1970s soul jazz. Butler's saxophone sound - slow, processed, spiralling - certainly comes out of the latter and Dov Manski's keyboard sometimes recalls Joe Zawinul's overdriven Rhodes sound on the first Weather Report record. The main group with Jeff Miles on guitar, JJ Byars on alto and drummer Bram Kincheloe, along with Manski sound just fine, but it's Daddy Kev's mastering that pulls the sound together.
Butler might come from Seattle, but this could be Brooklyn music: self-starting, a little apart without being antagonistic, a melting pot without the melting pot rhetoric.
Butler's the real deal - he arranged for Beyoncé for God's sake - and HyperViolet is just about the freshest thing you'll hear all year.