JFK (also known confusingly as JFK Blues] is a London /Surrey five piece band that has been playing their rock ‘n’ rolling blues — spiced with jazzy manouche touches — for about a year or so.
If John Etheridge met Ray Davies at Le QuecumBar and they discussed a rhythm and blues project — this is probably how it would have turned out…
The band is composed of some very experienced musicians — PAUL BLOUNT on keys who once lived in L.A. and worked with Jeff Beck, SOL EZRA on drums [an early member of Talk Talk] gypsy-rock guitarist IAGO BANET ; LES ‘LEO’ VICTOR on bass [he played with the Blockheads] and the youngest member of the outfit — lead vocalist/guitar CHRIS ELLIOTT who they found busking at Covent Garden Tube and invited along for the ride.
We attended the “Rough Round The Edges” album launch show at the legendary 100 Club in London’s West End this week.
We enjoyed JFK’s beautifully crafted self-penned songs that began with “St Joseph” and had mellow, mid-tempo beats and instantly catchy melodies.
Chris Elliott’s poignant and cheery R&B voice on songs like “Shadowlands” reached clear trebles without too much difficulty — and this talent helped to take the sounds from blues origins and into pop-rock territory whilst still retaining the genre’s emotional content.
If we really had to designate their brand we would say the JFK sound is similar to that of the Alexis Korner band — in other words, they bring blues, jazz, pop and boogie to the people…
“We’re not really a blues band…” Chris shouted to a passionate audience… directly before the band embarked on yet another raw-blues number — this one adorned with flinty peaks of guitar and a boogie underbelly.
We enjoyed the really excited rhythmic patterns and the cleverly woven guitar songs, such as “Having a Real Good Time.”
Often these songs had insistent backwoods blues-vibes that took us directly to those all-night parties down on 18th and Vine.
This was a poetic and vibrant show delivered by a pack of musicians who have clearly spent a lifetime entertaining their audiences.
It’s Lent so we decided to get “churched up” this week.
We headed to the excellent Wilde Theatre, at South Hill Park to see the Eagle House [ School in Sandhurst] present their GODSPELL.
The 1971 show with music by Grammy award winningStephen Schwartz [Enchanted ] and a loose script based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew ( originally re-envisioned by playwright John-Michael Tebelak) is a popular show for touring companies and has enjoyed many revivals.
The structure of the musical is a series of parables interspersed by rock arias that have been inspired by the Book of Psalms.
The original London production starred characters like Julie Covington, David Essex, Jeremy Irons and Marti Webb. We were fortunate enough to have seen the original West End Wyndhams production back in 1972. But we love to see new productions and were excited to see the Eagle House show.
In the Seventies the stage show was a fluid and conceptual performance. It borrowed elements from dance, music and circus to tell the story of “Christ’s Passion”.
In the early days of the stage-show the figure of Christ was dressed as a clown. His “tribe” were portrayed as a group of irresponsible, long-haired hippies.
Now the hippie clothing is gone, because today’s youth movements tend to be associated more with athletic trainers and sportswear. The younger elements of the Eagle House Godspell Team wore printed t-shirts with the hash-tagged “Godspell logo” while main cast members wore distinctive tartans.
The magnificent Wilde Theatre is perfect for this kind of innovative, unpretentious presentation. At Godspell the audience was seated on all four sides of the staging.
After the exultant sound of a brass shofar the audience and cast “Prepared” for the “Way of the Lord”. This first song was an exceptionally compelling and enthusiastic number, sung by the whole cast [all five teams] who circled the newly baptised Christ in a spiritual state. Followers were given rubber wristbands to show their affiliation and discipleship.
A characteristic of the earliest shows, and all theatrical productions since, has been topicality.
Once we saw Godspell during the period known as the Three-Day Week, this was in the “power-cut Seventies” and the big joke was that it didn’t matter how dark things got because the audience was “The light of the World.”
Similarly, during the storytelling from Eagle House we had mentions of Facebook, Premier Inn, Justin Bieber and Fake News.
And of course the big, rich baddie (before “All for the Best” ) was Donald Trump.
Ben Trunck, perhaps shorter in stature than we expected, played a fascinating Jesus character — full of vivid personality. While Mark Dickin interpreted Judas skulking presence perfectly.
Each year group of Eagle House wanted to stage their own parable and musical number — so this meant the show was a wonderful consolidation of excellent sketches — each interconnected with the next.
The overall experience, from the perspective of the audience, was a feeling of “loving community” that encompassed everything.
“Day By Day” always was — and still is — the most memorable song from the show and in Basingstoke the number was handled intelligently and with sympathy.
“All Good Gifts” was brilliantly choreographed and elegantly efficient. Also, at one point, after “Save the People” we had an army of scary zombies grabbing at souls…
There was humour, movement, excitement and tenderness throughout the show — with great dramatic use of simple objects, like the coloured blocks.
Our favourite song was “On The Willows” — it came after the Last Supper scene. Psalm 137 — from which the song is taken — has been set to music by several composers over the years and the lament found in Godspell is possibly the best of all of them. The Eagle House vocalists performed the difficult harmonies with distinction.
This was an excellent production.
All 128 cast members [ages 9 to 13] should be congratulated, as well as their staff at Eagle House and the committed parents who made it all possible.
This Sunday we visited CLAYGATE — at the tail-end of their superbly organised MUSIC FESTIVAL week — to see the pioneering British progressive rock group CURVED AIR play live in concert at the Claygate Village Hall.
Their “Air Conditioning” album (1970) is still considered “essential listening” by the prog-rock crowd.
It was exciting to see a band — so famous — in what amounted to a village hall.
And the band have a strong Surrey heritage too [forerunner Sisyphus played one of their first performances at the Leith Hill Place Ballroom, Surrey] — so they were made very welcome.
After an extended instrumental introduction, the original “Hair” girl Sonja Kristina emerged onstage in a swirl of boho gypsy waftiness to get the crowd clapping along before the start of her distinctive low-dark, sexy vocal styling.
One of the first songs performed was “Stay Human” from the most recent album “North Star”  with the “I am still your lover...” line.
This has strong riffs and thriving violin work from the “Sideshow Bob” lookalike Paul Sax on violin
(Fiddle-wizard Paul was one of the first participants at the Yehudi Menuhin School… and it shows.)
“Screw” began with a two-tone riff played by the elfin “Legolas” Robert Norton on keyboards.
With clashing cymbals from original drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa and unfolding vocal drama.
This number sounded like an avenging angel — on the prowl and dangerous. The alarming shrieks from Paul’s violin added to the sense of urgency and impending doom.
In the Seventies the band were often referred to as “the British Jefferson Airplane” and with songs such as “Marie Antoinette” [from Phantasmagoria, 1972] it is easy to see why.
This number was full of delicious harmonies, expert twiddles, and a lot of punches and trills.
However, it was a protest song at heart, although misted in historical imagery. Back in the 1970’s the worlds of fantasy, psychedelia and new-age shininess could all be packed-together in one gorgeous song. And they still made social comment. How cool is that?
Sonja took an acoustic guitar for the popular folk-song “Melinda (More or Less)” [also from Phantasmagoria.]
This beauty is a fan favorite and shows the hippie principles of the band as well as their eternal affection for the folk-star Donovan.
Unfortunately the second half of the show was bugged by a very loud and completely unpleasant feedback squeal.
“We need to find that pesky mouse….” Sonja told the crowd.
The problem was temporarily fixed — but it didn’t stop a lot of people from wandering off into the night.
The show ended with the fantastic “Back Street Luv.”
This super-hit demonstrated Sonja’s slow vocal style, which still reaches those husky tenor lows where she seems happiest, though she breaks into expressive contralto register at times.
Original Birdman ALI MACKENZIE with his renegade pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll talent — Strawbs drummer Richard Hudson, Glitter Band bassist Bill Phillips, and Renaissance guitarist Simon Bishop — form the ALI MAC BAND.
They play good-time rhythm and blues, replete with soul-thumping harmonies and the tightest musicianship you are ever likely to witness.
We saw their sold-out show this February 16 at the STAINES RIVERSIDE CLUB.
Their perfectly handled recreations included many favorites from the American soft-jazz songbook ( like Little Feat’s “Weed, whites and wine…” flavoured ‘Willin‘ ) and teasing blues pieces like Willie Dixon’s provocative “Hoochie Coochie Man” or intelligently voiced soul-hits such as Eddie Floyd & Steve Cropper’s “Knock on Wood.”
In the mid sixties THE BIRDS were the biggest rhythm and blues act in London.
They appeared on TV’s Ready Steady Go and released four hit singles including the Holland-Dozier-Holland number “Leaving Here.”
That Birds song went onto inspire Lemmy’s Motörhead [Leaving Here was their debut single — 1977.]
Famous for their vocal harmonies and exciting live performances THE BIRDS came close to becoming as big as THE WHO.
They first ventured onto the scene in 1964 as The Thunderbirds but decided to change their band-name to The Birds to avoid confusion with Chris Farlowe’s band.
But when “America’s answer to the Beatles” aka the folk rock band THE BYRDS entered the UK Singles Chart with “Mr. Tambourine Man” (1965) the British BIRDS were forced to take action to defend their “trading” name.
Surrounded by an excited buzz of media coverage, the BIRDS manager began to take legal steps to prevent the American upstarts from using their name. But the court favored the Los Angeles “Byrds” and by 1967 the British band had faded.
Ali McKenzie was the original leader of that particular ensemble (voice and harmonica) along with Ronnie Wood (guitar) Tony Munroe (guitars) Kim Gardner (bass) and Pete McDaniels (drums).
At Staines, Ali Mac’s band — understandably — distanced themselves from the compositions of Dylan and McGuinn. Instead they played some lasting rockabilly hits (such as Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Big Boy Crudup’s “That’s All Right”. )
With Simon’s effervescent guitar playing, Bill’s adventurous and tight bass and Hud’s precise rhythms, it was a night of class entertainment.
Ali’s remarkable vocal work — his mastery of tension and release — and controlled use of vibrato, was truly astonishing. It’s not often we witness vocal skills of this quality.
Another stunning show at Staines…
Support the RIVERSIDE CLUB and keep LIVE MUSIC alive…
Award-winning bluesman PAPA GEORGE and legendary guitarist MICKY MOODY played a live concert at the fabulous STAINES RIVERSIDE CLUB on Thursday night. Rock vocalist and talented composer ALI MAAS joined them onstage as a special guest.
The duo played a selection of blues, rhythm and blues, soul and gospel songs that included some choice cover songs as well as a selection of Papa George’s own first-class numbers.
Songs like Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” had the crowd swaying along with its indolent lurching pace — the lethargic guitars and fervent passion of the lyrics penetrated every moment.
George’s fine picking on “You Can Love Yourself” ( by contemporary Delta blues artist Keb’ Mo’) was praiseworthy. As was the liquid bottleneck slide work from Micky.
Here George’s voice was wood-tar and old brandy seeing him perfectly capable of producing cream-hazelnut highs — husky-textured but sweet, sweet, sweet — from those incredible vocal folds.
“Jesus on the Mainline” ( Ry Cooder) was finely picked.
This gradually evolving Gospel number is a crowd favorite.
Encouraged to sing, the crowd at Staines joined-in enthusiasticall with the good-natured call and response.
“Who likes John Lee Hooker?” cried Papa George. There was a yell of support so the musicians launched into “Crawling King Snake.”
This a delta-blues song from the 1920’s that is almost always identified with Hooker. George’s voice on the piece was curmudgeonly and appropriately raw — but the guitarists had a whole lotta fun with the arrangement when they stumbled upon Muddy Waters’ “You Need Love” [the precursor to “Whole Lotta Love”]
The dynamic interaction and interdependence between these two consummate guitarists — plus their whiskey ‘n’ dry voices, with velvet textures — along with a canny song choice and the highlight ALI MAAS appearance — meant that this was a night to remember.
Since being on the telly [Guitar Star, Sky Arts 2015] the home-crafted bluesman STEVE MORRISON has become a bit of a draw.
We saw him and his band “Blues Abuse” [with Alan Hughes on drums and the legendary Alan Glen on harmonica] playing live at the superior RIVERSIDE CLUB, STAINES last Thursday.
During the first half of the electrifying show we enjoyed “Call Me the Breeze” JJ Cale [Naturally, 1972] which was rewarding, buoyant and appropriately transient.
Steve’s picking technique is impressive … he provides bass notes, chords and twiddles — often simultaneously.
Steve’s own composition titled “Love Has Gone” was gently set.
With baroque influences and a supreme lament-filled sob at the end, given up by Glen.
The sprinkle of finely chosen guitar notes fell like a confetti of anxious teardrops.
Another self-penned number, the “James Bond” theme called “Climbing On Top of the World” (“writing that was at the very top of my to don’t list…” Steve told the Staines audience) seemed crenelated and indented.
A fine blend of thrill, suspense and remarkable release.
In the second half, the happy crowd at the club were enlisted to join in with the choruses “just think of this place as a church… a church that sells beer…” we were told. So we sang as we swayed.
Everyone from Elvis to Beyoncé via Suzi Quatro has covered Little Willie John’s “Fever.”
The Morrison version of this Peggy Lee favourite [penned by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell] had all the ingredients we’d expect from a bigger blues-band – tangy bass line [played by Steve] yummy guitar work, and an awesome voice filled with heart & heat. And the “sax” licks were deliciously handled by Glen.
Full marks to Steve and his buddies for an entertaining live show.
The night had a whole lot of memorable moments (not just virtuoso guitar work, but also great drum solos, some fabulous blues-harp flurries and not to mention many gossipy revelations from Steve’s “telly” work — ) this was just like a traditional British rhythm and blues evening.
Another night of incredible quality musicianship at Staines, brought to us by the highest calibre musicians imaginable.
You didn’t see it. You weren’t there. You can only imagine — You shoulda been there, man…
For those people who still support live music in Staines, last night’s show at the RIVERSIDE CLUB was a treat.
The terrific CASE HARDIN were in town — they are signed to Clubhouse Records, named after a character in Boston Teran’s thriller “God Is A Bullet” and onto their fourth album “Colours Simple.”
This was the standout gig of the year.
We had already seen this band [whose main songwriter Pete Gow has been described by Q magazine as “a songwriter like no other”] at the “Down By The Riverside” blue-grass night. Then we were totally immersed in the Vermilion River muddiness, and the sweetly drooled guitar. We thought their songs “convinced and anointed us...”
We have been looking forwards to the return of these Americana & country rock paragons.
After a rousing start, the band brought us into a private world of feverish imagination — “Fiction Writer” — one of a selection of numbers from the new songbook.
This brushed across the room, soft yet edgy. The lyrics were filled with potential heartache. Every note shook us with emotional upset.
We also enjoyed “First to Know” — the ever-building song from the “Every Dirty Mirror” album that includes the scrabble word “stanchions.” The choppy texture of guitar on this number reminded us of Denny Laine.
After discussing the merits of Scottish gin [Isle of Harris is apparently taken with a slice of pineapple on the Outer Hebrides ] we savoured the hoppy upbeat number “The Streets are Where the Cars Are (The Bars are Where the Girls Will Be.)”
This has super-efficient keyboard work from Roland and schmaltzy lines of guitar from the talented Jim Maving. This band’s sounds are distinctively dry with a peppery aftertaste and gooseberry hints. Maybe HARDIN CASE are the musical equivalent of a sip of gin on the bitter Western Isles…
After the break the band returned to treat us to a selection of acoustic covers. They ventured “into the crowd” — up-close and personal. It was a moving experience. The first song they played was “Carmelita”.
“Warren Zevon is a great inspiration and influence for us.” Said vocalist and frontman Pete Gow. “And if you don’t know who he is — then maybe the last hour has been a complete mystery to you…”
This number was brilliantly performed and properly ardent.In fact, it was the most exciting song of the night. Tim Emery played upright bass [“Cor that’s a big one...” shouted one wisecracker) while Roland Kemp, the band keyboardist played timbrel and provided sweet backing vocals.
If you can imagine something like the poetry of Bob Dylan peformed with the heart of Tom Petty and, perhaps, the merest hint of super-dry Johnny Cash with the fruitful finish of Leonard Cohen, then you might get somewhere near to the angled beauty and detailed instrumentation of CASE HARDIN.
But, in reality, these guys are like nothing else …