Archive for March, 2009

BA CISSOKO

26 March 2009

When a chap I work with, Saa, found out that I had been listening to Ali Farka Toure, he got out his USB pen drive and gave me some Vieux Farka Toure and the Ba Cissoko’s album, Sabolan, which was recorded back in 2004.

I was immediately blown away by Mr. Cissoko — what a great album!  Actually I just spent 20 minutes or so writing up this piece, but somehow it vanished as soon as I hit the “publish” button”, so I will try to do it all again — quickly before heading off to bed.  Computers can be a real pest!

The album starts with Dandala which is upbeat, and “sunny”.  It reminded me of Ruth’s pal, Jerry’s band, Zuba — Ruth, Judy, Chris and I used to go along to see Zuba as much as we could at the likes of King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and The  Barrowlands.

The mood calms down for Maïmouna — which starts quite jazzy, with fretless bass.  It soon picks up a skippy beat, and exudes warmth and comforting kora playing — this is a bottled sunset!

Wawata continues, but is definitely after dark, as the groove settles.  Moving on to Kounkouré the night is coming on nicely, this track has superb bass playing, and there is more a tribalism vibe coming through.

Likhirin starts all weird and wistful, chill out that soon turns into a form of Jamaican Reggae! The musicianship, production values, skill and talent is always apparent, but on Yélé, it comes more to the fore — what kora gymnastics! I love that Ba starts singing in the style of George Benson, along with the instrument. Marvellous. Taouyah (which appears a bit later in the album) is also a kind of Reggae.

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Mamaya is a funny thing; it’s kind of Celtic somehow — it reminds me of mod music, or even of trippy folk — possibly more Gentle Giant than Jethro Tull, hard to explain — I even thought of Fripp and King Crimson!  It certainly is a trance track, no bass, no drums, just plucking harp!

Then for a complete contrast, up next pops, the warm morning that is Saï — a gorgeous wee song with a swinging beat. One of my faves.

A serious chillin’ track is Manssani — ECM Jazz, this is dreamy and relaxing. Djeli and Hirdé both start in very similar ways with harp runs. Hirdé, though is slow and sad, chilling and wistful again, morose singing at its most morose! Djeli picks up a bit  and is almost Indian!

The title track, Sabolan, is like Hendrix on kora!  It’s a fuzz box and wah wah lead solo!  It’s fast paced and African, but the track is thoroughly modern.  It manages to blend and forge together weird influences into something new. So a Big Thank You to my mate Saa!

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STEVE HOWE

22 March 2009

STEVE HOWE. It’s not just a name, it’s a question.  The question on all serious guitarists’ lips: Steve — How?

So I played guitar back in ’72 — I even played classical and some ragtime jazz stuff when I was a wee schoolboy.  Rock was pretty easy and blues wasn’t pushing me. Then I got into Yes.  Now there are guitarists that astound you, like Stanley Jordan or Mahavishnu John Mclaughlin, and there are guitarists that you appreciate — like Paco de lucia and Al di Meola or George Benson.  There are guitarists that you recognise as being influential — Page, Hendrix, etc.

But these are generalisms, canonical standards, well recognised axemen and guitar heroes. Blah, Blah, But — there are personal favourites for every guitar student.  Howe is up there for me.

I liked Genesis and someone at school said that I ought to give Yes a go as it was likely I would “get” them.  I did. Big Time.

I loved Yes immensely — although I have always refused to actually figure out the lyrics. For me the concept album is a no-go area; I simply do not need everything to link up as a complete work.  It doesn’t have to be rational or make sense; it’s music!

I noted that in Playboy charts and the like, Pastorius or Stanley Clarke would take first or second place for bass — but third tended to be Chris Squire of Yes — who used a PLECTRUM! *swoon*.  In drum charts, Bruford or White would be up there — and in keyboards, Wakeman or Moraz would be in the top few as well.

Yes was a supergroup — drums, bass, guitar and keyboards were considered by record buyers and muso journalists to be the best in their fields.

I adored Close to The Edge, and even liked Going For the One, but I drew the line with Tormato. I think, ultimately, apart from the live triple album that was Yessongs, the best for me has to be Relayer.

This was all pre-punk — and at a pretty dire time in general.  Yes offered escape — and Howe produced some of the most amazing guitar lines I have ever heard then or since.

Put it this way — I would imagine myself faced with a Yes track, and posed with the task of coming up with some guitar lines — and I would be done-for, flummoxed, bewildered.  But Howe did it — not only did he manage to come up with something, he came up with genius work.

It was so sublime, so wonderful, so complicated, so perfect, so … so… ah!

Words do Howe’s guitar work little justice.  He has been such a real influence on me as a guitarist — from not being afraid to wear the guitar high and angled (properly), to feeling that I could mix up apparently incompatible styles — country hill billy guitar in a pseudo classical piece etc.

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One of the very few guitarists I have actually learned note-by-note — Howe is a legend to me.  I learned Mood for a Day and Clap, but I would hear his sound sometimes when I plugged in — and I would play in his style and his shadow.

Maaan, I love that guy!

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DAVID SHRIGLEY

10 March 2009

Shrigley has always entertained, always managed to make me laugh. Well, that is, ever since I saw an article on him in the Guardian back in 2005 or 2006.

[Picture of Shrigley's Ignore this building SECC Armadillo]He’s got a funny website, funnily enough called www.davidshrigley.com. And funnily enough, he lives and works in Glasgow and declares himself to be a Glasgow Artist, even though he’s fay Macclesfield.

Fair enough; after all he did go to the school of art. He does wee cartoons for the Guardian, and he’s responsible for Jason Mraz’s latest album being called after one of his pieces: “We sing. We Dance. We Steal Things”.

[Picture of David Shrigley Art Please don not return] [Picture of David Shrigley Art - Beach with wee faces]

Sure, you can always argue about “what is art” and “What art ought to be” — and maybe Dave’s stuff is not art.  Maybe it is. Maybe it is called art because there is no better word, or because art is a catchall word for this sort of thing these days.

But for me, whatever Dave does, it is interesting, thought-provoking, unusual, enlightening, mischievous, fun, funny, and very entertaining.  To draw wee faces on pebbles on the beach, or to put up notices may seem childish or affected, but it’s less pretentious then most other art today, and too good to be dismissed as merely childish.  Too mature to be immatute — if you take my meaning.  It’s one level past that at least.

Anyway, enjoy Dave Shrigley (what else can you do with him?).

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JIMMY JOHNSON

4 March 2009

Life’s weird. I love that life’s weird.

A really nice girl from Edinburgh called Annalisa sent me a CD copy of Jimmy Johnson’s “Living The Life” on the Blue Shadow label. She picked it up in person when she was on a road trip across the USA last year. I think it was in Chicago — in a bar owned by Buddy Guy or called Buddy Guy (or both). She actually met Jimmy Johnson — and pointed out that he shared a name with a legendary wee ginger footballer from Glasgow! Apparently, he just looked at Annalisa as if she were mad!

Anyway, she bought his CD and brought it home to Scotland — and now I have a copy!

Jimmy’s on the cover, complete with afro and moustache, clutching a plectrum and wearing a 335. Maybe in his 60s, but still cool. More a guitar player than singer, but hey, he’s authentic!

Here’s the tracklist:

1. I used to be a millionaire (Jimmy Johnson) F min;
2. You don’t have to go (Jimmy Reed) E maj;
3. Drowning on a Dry Land (M. Gregory, A. Jones) B min;
4. Something you got (Chris Kenner) C maj;
5. Livin’ The Life (Jimmy Johnson) G maj;
6. The Sky is Crying (Elmore James, Bobby Robinson) D min;
7. Bring it on Home to Me (Sam Cooke) C maj;
8. Pretty Baby (Herman Parker) E maj;
9. Born Under a Bad Sign (Booker T. Jones, William Bell) D min;
10. Next Time You See Me (Forest, Harvey) Bb maj.

Oh boy, it takes be back — big time! The big surprise was “Born under a Bad Sign” — so funky, great bass and rhythm riffs and completely different from Muddy and Paul Rodgers!

“Bring it Home To me” is pure Sam Cooke; it delivers in a gospel groove that has more to do with the vocal arrangement than anything else! Still made me want to sing along (mental note: get MP3 for the car)! Nice piano — wonder who it is.

My initial impression was of Eric Gale (who I used to adore when I was at school) rather than say, George Benson. It’s definitely NOT London Blues ala Clapton, Beck and Page, but then again it’s not Blind Lemon Jefferson!

It was great to listen to — a real reconnection. I immediately listened to old Page and Rory Gallagher — even some Eric Bell and Gary Moore (of course).

Funnily enough, on listening again, I was impressed by the similarity to Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour — particularly on track 6, the Elmore James one — Bring it on Home.

I finished off my blues revisited night with the wonderful Paul Rodgers and his Muddy Waters Blues Tribute. Ahh! Dem Bloose!

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