Where do I start with this one? Five stars would be a good place, I suppose. It’s not even five stars that needs a lot of thought. It’s not an album that needs to grow on you; it’s all there instantly first time around. David Olney already has a fabulous legacy, but this is a pretty impressive final piece in the jigsaw. If you absolutely must have a label for it, you would probably go with Americana but there’s a spectacular range of influences and references here, pushing the boundaries in all directions to create a rich and incredibly satisfying album.  The album’s credited to David & Anana Kaye (his protégés, for want of a better word), it’s a trio effort with writing and playing credits going to David, Anana, and her partner, Irakli Gabriel. To stretch the Americana boundaries a little further, Anana and Irakli are from Georgia, the one that Paul McCartney sung about, rather than Ray Charles.

Maybe it’s hindsight, with the knowledge of David Olney’s death last year, but ”Whispers and Sighs” has valedictory undertones, particularly the album’s closing song, “The Great Manzini (Disappearing Act)”, looking at life through the eyes of a worn-out and weary entertainer. It sounds resigned and laconic rather than cynical because of the warmth of David Olney’s smooth baritone delivery, the layered a cappella Anana Kaye intro, and the bowed cello and pizzicato violins. It’s the perfect end to the album.

The ideas and influences (musical and lyrical) are varied and you can expect a surprise around every corner, whether it’s the melancholy string fragments that open and bisect the album, “The Station” (Prelude)” and “Sideview (Interlude)”, the layered Anana Kaye celestial choirs or Rolling Stones-influenced dystopian rocker “Last Days of Rome” kicking in like “Start Me Up” and morphing into “Sticky Fingers” era Stones with Bobby Keys-style sax, a raw David Olney vocal and lyrics that obliquely reference the Trump administration.

And that’s just the start, before we get into the Shakespeare references. The title song is influenced by “Romeo and Juliet” and features Anana’s layered choral vocals and a string quartet, while the busy and angry uptempo “Lie to Me Angel” ends with David declaiming King Lear’s ‘blasted heath’ speech to end the piece as the manic backing fades out. Coming straight out of “Lie to Me Angel”, almost without a gap, is “Thank You Note”. It’s a song with a sinister feel, a tango overlaid with Eastern European strings and lyrics hinting at supernatural histories. You could imagine this song soundtracking a vampire movie.

“Whispers and Sighs” is a classic album, seamlessly pulling together a huge variety of musical references to create a work that surprises at every musical turn and is packed with subtle and thought-provoking lyrics that encourage the listener to think, rather than hammering a message home. As well as the classic country themes of longing and regret, you’ll find anger, mystery and history in my favourite album of the year so far.

This album is a fitting memory to David Olney as the flame passes on to Anana and Irakli.

“Whispers and Sighs” is released in the UK on Friday March 19th on Schoolkids Records (SMR-067).

Here’s a sneak preview with the video of “My Favourite Goodbye”:

Graeme Wheatley’s a bit of a veteran of the High Fives thing; his first contribution was in 2015 and his band has had three names since then. They’re now ColorColour and the line-up really works; Amanda (drums), Iago (guitar) and Dre (vocals) fit together perfectly and the latest album “Strange Ways” (under the band’s previous name of Deep Blue Sea) is packed with great songs built around interesting subjects. How does a song about the Cable Street anti-Fascist protests sound? It works for us. Like all musicians, Graeme’s been incredibly frustrated by the COVID restrictions and, like most, he’s tried to find the positives:

 

When Allan McKay asked me if I’d like to write a High Five for 2020 my head spun! What could I do to find 5 high points of 2020? Had there been as many as 5?

Normally, 5 great gigs or 5 fun moments at gigs, or 5 silly things at gigs, or 5 weird things at gigs, at gigs, at gigs, at gigs……

Last year, I think I selected 5 cover versions of songs that were better than the originals. While I was doing that, I also selected 5 cover versions that should never have been recorded. Things like Paul Young’s version of Love Will Tear Us Apart. Of course, this year, the list is blown out of the water by William (The Shat) Shatner’s new album – every track of which is a travesty. Which I think maybe just about sums up 2020. But I can’t add to the woe. It’s got to be high 5 not low. Not this year.

So, I’ve not been to a gig since March at the 100 Club. Our band, ColorColour, has not been together in a studio, bar, venue or anywhere other than online since then. We’ve written songs, tried recording over the interweb, even made some clips of new songs and old songs and bits and bobs and Dre and Iago have been able to do some solo broadcasts and recordings and Amanda and I have recorded some drum and bass things but really the band has been in suspended inanimation “Another year over, and what have we done?”  

So, wracking the old grey stuff for 5 high points from this mother of all “anus horribluses” (intentional mis-spelling) – I stumble on something in the gloom. 5 things to look forward to in 2021?

 

  1. The vaccine – I am not going to listen to conspiracy theories – if you stand next to a 5G mast after having the vaccine you turn into a werewolf – whatever – I’m a big Warren Zevon fan – gimme the shot Doc – soon as you can – but not before anyone who needs it more than me gets it. I can wait in line behind the Keys – the people who have kept us going – the people who deserve a whole lot more than a clap – pay these people what they deserve you snivelling toads. Meantime, I’ll listen to some music and dream of the day we all go out to play.

Here’s my choice of music while I’m waiting for my shot.

I’m waiting for the man

 

  1. Standing in a crowded venue with loads of people watching a great band blasting out some rock and roll – nuthin fancy – nuthin too clever – all together – good times. Pushing to the bar, getting a couple of cold ones, standing, eyes closed, rocking back and forward, can’t get that smile of my face – it’s only rock and roll – but I like it. Start me up. I’ll be jumping like Jack, we can spend the night together. Remember, it’s just a shot away.

Gimme Shelter

 

  1. There will be parties. Dancing in the street. It’s not like we had to go to war to win this one – but people have done great things – small things and big things. And I know there will still be more tears. But someday, there will be tears of joy mixed with the tears of sad remembrance. And I want to focus on 5 good things coming down the line. So, yeah, sure Brexit will screw us up even further and prices will probably go up even more and my lovely band of gypsies from round the world will find it harder to go play in places where we wanna play but we will find a way and even if they charge us £20.00, we’re gonna party like it’s £19.99

 

  1. So, the last film I saw at the Peckhamplex (best cinema in London, or at least Peckham) sometime in February 2020 was JoJo Rabbit. We went twice. And bought the DVD. I always loved this song off The Vindicator album but in this film it became even better. Pointless to say it was my favourite cinema outing of 2020 cos it was probably my only cinema outing – so I’ll say it is one of my favourite films of all time – I don’t have to wait another 10 years to decide. It’s up there with another few hundred that make me laugh and cry and feel the human condition open and revealed. If you haven’t seen JoJo Rabbit, you need to. Now. I’m not saying it’s a Christmas movie, but it will work at Christmas just as well as any time. Give yourself a treat, we can all do with another yippie ky-aye.

Everybody’s gotta live

 

  1. Now you can say I’m a dreamer – but I’m not crazy – I know we aren’t going to get back to Woodstock. Those times are gone – and to be honest – I’m going to stick my neck out here and say – I’m guessing the toilets were pretty basic – and the whole concept of washing hands while singing Happy Birthday is probably not compatible with the 60s festival thang but:

 

someday

not too far away

we will stand in a field

there will come a time

the sun will shine

there will be wine

and chills down the spine

and upon a sign

standing in line

hands waving, yours and mine

some perfect day

not too far away

 

So, till we meet again, may you stay forever young, and if by chance you don’t know the band, let a little ColorColour into your life right here www.colorcolourband.com

No, there’s no sign of a cover of The Cascades’ 1962 hit here; it’s all very much contemporary Americana. Amelia White’s style is very distinctive, and this is emphasised by the spontaneous feel of “Rhythm of the Rain”, which was made in four days at a very  turbulent time in Amelia’s life. When she growls ‘Don’t think too much, people’ at the beginning of the title song, you can take a literal interpretation or a sarcastic one. Either works, it just depends wahich song you’re listening to. It’s certainly never going to be described a bundle of laughs, with “Yuma” and “Sugar Baby” dealing with addiction and “Sinking Sun” staring into depression.

The musical stylings are pretty diverse, ranging from the adult-oriented-rock feel of “Sinking Sun” and “True or Not” to the laid-back Crazy Horse feel of “Supernova”. The album has a more raw, rockier edge than last year’s “Home Sweet Hotel”; although “Sugar Baby” opens with a menacing, ”Deliverance”-style banjo and eventually moves through the gears to “Sticky Fingers”-era Stones. Then there’s the title song, with a backbeat, swampy texture, and a sense of oppression and foreboding contrasted with the folky string band styling of the album’s closer which is enhanced by some nice Hammond organ.

There’s one song that stands out, even on an album packed with powerful songs and performances, and it’s a co-write with Lorne Entress and Lori McKenna. The skittering rhythms of “Said It Like a King” make the song feel like it’s rushing uncontrollably towards an unpleasant revelation; I may be looking for examples of this everywhere at the moment, but this song does sound like it might have been partly inspired by the leader of the free world. It’s about bullying and pulls together vignettes featuring a bully on the school bus, a hellfire preacher and a general delivering unpalatable messages which are accepted because each one “Said it like a king”. It’s a very clever lyrical idea, but the kicker comes in the final verse. No spoilers, you have to listen for yourself.

“Rhythm of the Rain” is an intense experience; even the opening song “Little Cloud Over Little Rock”, peeping into the lives of smalltown Americans having their Friday night fling to a soundtrack of Merle Haggard and George Jones is underpinned by the quiet desperation of the line ‘his friends are coming to drink their unemployment down.’ Is the album downbeat? Yep. Fraught? Sure. Compelling? Utterly.

“Rhythm of the Rain” is released in the UK on White-Wolf Records on Friday October 27th.

Amelia will be touring the UK in November. Check out the dates here.

Somewhat Damaged ScrollerAnother Saturday, another venue to tick off the list. The Unicorn on Camden Road seems incongruous in this area; you think it should maybe be a mile down the road with all the vibey places in Camden Town. But maybe it works because of the distance. Anyway, the reason for this excursion from the well-travelled path is to check out a pub that’s daring to put on live music six nights a week; tonight’s offering was the “Somewhat Damaged” night offering four very different live sets. It wasn’t packed to the rafters, but it was reasonably busy, with an enthusiastic audience.

So, first up was a solo set from Adam Lightspeed playing acoustic versions of some new songs and some from his band Starscream’s debut album. It was a valiant attempt, but the album versions lean heavily on big productions and the songs weren’t the same in the stripped-down format. Full marks for effort; it can be a lonely place on stage solo when the room’s nowhere near full. The album “Sexploitation” is definitely worth a listen though.

Next up, Loose Joints were from the badlands of south-east Essex, mashing up funky rhythms with riff-driven rockers and generally getting the audience off their seats on their feet. They even threw in their own take on the James Bond theme. Great tunes, inventive arrangements and loads of fun. I’m sure I’ll be seeing Loose Joints again.

So, what about Sister Witch? The songs are the work of David Ryder Prangley and Lux Lyall, guitarist and singer respectively and they were joined on stage by Belle Star and Anna Christina (drums and bass) from Lilygun and another two guitarists to create a very seventies-style line-up; three guitars, indeed. There’s more than a nod to seventies iconography as well, with DRP’s low-slung guitar and the routine of sharing Lux’s vocal mic à la Bowie and Ronson. And the glam references don’t stop there, some of the riffs could be T Rex at their noisiest and they’re interspersed some classic Stones-style interwoven guitars. And that’s before we get on to the studied ennui of Lux, sitting down to read a Zelda Fitzgerald biography mid-song. A bit theatrical maybe, but it’s all part of the show, and she really can sing, so it’s not just a distraction; it never harmed Bowie or the New York Dolls to introduce a bit of performance art. On a crowded stage there was always something interesting to watch; no way you’re going to ignore Sister Witch. Style yes: substance definitely.

As for Black Sixteen, well, not for me really. Two guitars, bass and drums knocking out muscular riffs and a singer who didn’t quite have the voice to compete. Maybe not helped by the minimal soundcheck, but they just weren’t doing it for me. Nice venue, but one little whinge on behalf of the photographers. Red stage lighting; just say no.

Have a look at some of the photos from the gig here and here.

My Black Arts TitleSo, here’s an interesting one; “My Black Arts” is the second album from The Dream Logic. The core of the band is singer and guitarist Charles Compo, bass player Jerry Brooks and drummer Camille Gainer but the album also features cameos from guitarists Eric Krasno (Soulive) and Vernon Reid (Living Colour). As far as trying to pin a genre on the band, I’m sticking to guitar-based at the moment.

The first track, “My Red Heart”, opens with some guitar and percussion noodling before dropping into a groove that echoes “Gaucho”-era Steely Dan (right down to a sprinkling of atonality in the guitar solo) with clean guitars and keys under Charles Compo’s very distinctive vocal, which has more than a hint of Sweet Pea Atkinson (more about that later). From here on in, the band takes on a variety of different disguises, as it tackles a range of musical styles.

“Cisco Kid” and “When I Go” have a bluesy feel, the first funky, and the second a slow blues with very clean picking in the style of Albert Collins before a coda which shifts to mid-tempo before a paint-stripping guitar solo. Drums and bass are fairly funky throughout and the songs “”Just Can’t Quit It”, “The Way That I Want It” and “Think I’ll Stay” stick fairly closely to a funk template.

“It’s Murder”, with its driving bassline, “I Hope It’s Real”, with a catchy guitar hook and guitar fills in the verses, the Southern swamp boogie of the single “Drunken Monkey” and the all-out driving tempo of “Headlights Into the Darkness” (with a hint of pastiche in the backing vocals) all help to establish the band’s rock credentials while “Don’t Judge” has slow 70s style soul arrangement with nice laid-back, almost jazz, guitar.

The remaining three tracks are the seasoning which gives the album its unique flavour. “Biznasty” (with a lyric about a music business sleazeball) is propelled along by Stones-style intertwined guitar parts with an added sitar to give the song its individual style. And then things get weird. “Trying to be a Buddha”, a slow piece which evokes 80s-era Prince meeting Tom Verlaine is almost a mantra, while the closing (and title) track, “My Black Arts” is a loose jam which perhaps made a lot more sense in the studio than it does here.

On the positive side, the playing is superb throughout, particularly when the arrangement is for two guitars. There’s a lot of variation; it’s never boring because you just don’t know what’s coming next and the band sounds fairly convincing across all of the genres they tackle. The negatives are that there’s probably too much material here (14 songs) and the title track, “My Black Arts”, comes over as a bit self-indulgent and aimed at the band rather than the listener. The band is obviously influenced by a tremendous variety of styles and the finished product here feels mostly like Steely Dan interpreted by Don and David Was (who also had a penchant for including half-finished jams and other bits of weirdness on their albums) with hints of many other styles. It’s not a bad album at all; it’s a good album which might have been even better with a tighter focus.

 

Get it while you canI’ve been hearing a lot about Rosco Levee over the last six months, so I was pretty chuffed when this review copy arrived a few weeks ago.  “Get it while you can” is the second album from Rosco Levee and the Southern Slide, following 2012’s “Final Approach to Home”.  Coming straight out of the heart of the Medway Delta, Rosco, with Andy Hayes (guitars), David Tettmar (drums), Simon Gardiner (bass) and Lee Wilson (keyboards) play a joyous blend of blues, rock and country with a healthy dose of 1970s southern American rock, but more about that later.

If you want great blues and blues/rock guitar players we seem to have dozens of them at the moment (here and across the pond) but, personally, I’m really fed up of hearing about the new Clapton, the keeper of the faith and the guardian of the flame. There’s no denying that Rosco Levee is influenced by the Allman Brothers and the Rolling Stones (and a few more), but there’s such variety on this album that it stands way above the work of the purists and the one-trick ponies.  More importantly, it sounds like the musicians are having a great time.

Before getting really stuck in to this one, I have to say that, on the first listen, I wasn’t too keen on Rosco’s vocals; maybe it was too early in the day.  There’s a lesson here; never review anything that you’ve only listened to once because you’ve almost certainly missed something.  After a few more plays, the lead vocals became original and distinctive with a hint of Freddie Mercury on early Queen albums or perhaps Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook.

So the album starts the way great albums do, with a statement of intent in the blistering “Some Angels Fall”, which throws in everything from a big dirty guitar intro to a huge chorus with a horn section and a couple of kitchen sinks thrown in for good measure.  The next two songs are similarly uptempo, the shuffle beat, keyboard-driven “Gambling Man” followed by “Howitzer Eyes”, powered by a bass riff and twin lead guitars before the first hint of a change of tempo.

The next three songs feature Rosco’s acoustic guitar work, “Back to the Banks” adds a bit of piano and has a strong feel of the Stones’ “You Can’t Always get what you want”, “Whiskey Blues Goodnight” starts with acoustic slide and builds into a blues stomper while “My Gospel” has a strong feel of Rory Gallagher’s acoustic sets; the structure of the song’s very simple and it relies on great guitar and vocal performances.

“When the Band Starts to Play” is a slow blues with an impassioned vocal building up to a huge finish with loads of backing vocals, while “I Got my Own Plan” is pure swamp rock.  The final three songs, “Redemption Calls”, “Look Out Moses” and “Southern Belle” run through country, spaghetti western themes, Mexican brass arrangements, call and response, tempo changes and varied dynamics.

This album quite clearly displays its influences, but it never feels derivative.  The arrangements are hugely varied, from vocal and acoustic guitar to full band with keyboards and horn section, and it all works.  It was even recorded direct to analogue tape in the studio by a bunch of people who just want to make great music.  So what’s not to like?

Released January 27 2014 on Red Train Records UK (Cat 427002).

Federal Charm coverThe first time I saw Federal Charm, they were supporting Southside Johnny (I know, you’re shocked that I was at a Southside Johnny gig) in Bury St Edmunds six months ago.  I was gobsmacked on that night by their playing and confidence but I wanted to see the band play live again before writing a review.  Since then, the band have released their first album (and very good it is too) and they’ve been playing shows across the UK.  The current tour is a blues/rock package with Laurence Jones and Mitch Laddie.  I’d love to tell you about Laurence and Mitch, but I could only stay for the Federal Charm set; next time, guys.

Federal Charm are Nick Bowden (vocals/guitar), Paul Bowe (guitar), L D Morawski (bass) and Danny Rigg (drums) and they’re from Stockport.  It’s pretty much the standard rock band line-up with the added bonus that the quality of Nick Bowden’s playing allows the band to drop in a bit of twin lead guitar work to the mix.  The relatively short set focuses mainly on the album, ripping through the big riffs of “I’m not Gonna Beg”, “There’s a Light”, “No Money Down”, and “Tell your Friends” before slowing things down with their stunning version of “Reconsider”, giving Paul Bowe the chance to let rip with blues, rock, and funk/rock solos.

So how do you follow the big showpiece song?  You speed things up and get some audience participation as well, and if they don’t know your songs well enough then you play something that they do know, the Golden Earring classic, “Radar Love” and it works perfectly as a lead-in to the dirty riff of “Reaction”.  Throw in a couple of non-album songs as well and you’ve got a perfectly-paced set of twenty-first century blues rock.

Federal Charm have been together less than three years, but they play with the assurance of seasoned and honed rockers.  The rhythm section is rock solid as the band move through changes in tempo and style within songs (particularly “Reconsider”) and Nick Bowden and Paul Bowe are charismatic and energetic frontmen.  The two guitars are used together in different ways ranging from straightforward rhythm or riff and lead guitar to more complicated twin guitar stylings with nods to The Stones and Thin Lizzy.  It’s not difficult to pick out the influences, but they’re put together with such style that the end result is something that’s pure Federal Charm.

As the opening band in a three band package in London on a Tuesday night, you might expect to struggle, but Federal Charm ripped into their set as if they were playing a sellout gig at the O2, and that attitude made them a lot of friends on the night.  There are a couple of things that make this band stand out. The first is that Paul Bowe is a very, very good player and he always looks like he’s having the best time ever.  The other is that when you watch Nick Bowden sing, you have to ask where that incredible rock voice comes from, and he doesn’t even make it look difficult.

If you’re into blues, rock, great guitar playing, great singing or any combination of the above, you really should get out and see these guys at any of these gigs.

Federal CharmI have one rule of reviewing that I never break.  I never read a review of something I’m about to review myself.  It’s a good discipline because I know that I’m not being influenced by anyone else’s opinion.  It’s been really difficult with this album because the press releases and Facebook posts I’ve seen have all made me realise that it needs hard work to do this justice because all of the obvious comparisons have already been made and I’m not going to repeat them.

This is a very, very good debut album from a band who have everything in the locker; strong songs, great playing and outstanding vocals all combine to create a very listenable and accessible funky rock album from this Manchester band.  Federal Charm are Nick Bowden (vocals and guitar), Paul Bowe (guitar), Danny Rigg (drums) and L.D. Morawsk (bass), they’ve been together for about two years and this, their first album, features eleven original songs plus a cover of the Lowell Fulson classic “Reconsider Baby” (listed here as “Reconsider”).

The band draw their inspiration from the classic British blues-rock period of the early 70s and play with the assurance and verve of a much more seasoned outfit.  There are obvious influences which I won’t bore you with, but you can also hear touches of Wishbone Ash, Thin Lizzy and the Stones in their twin guitar arrangements, which are under-pinned by powerful drumming and basslines which are more melodic than you might expect from a rock band.  Throw in an occasional touch of Hammond or piano, and you’ve got a classic rock cocktail.  And then there’s the vocals; Nick Bowden has a superb rock voice and he’s equally at ease with the all-out rockers and the slow bluesier material.

The album kicks off with two riff-driven rockers (“I Gotta Give it Up” and “I’m Not Gonna Beg”) before slinking into a funkier groove with “No Money Down” and the slow blues of “Somebody Help Me”.  “Reaction” takes the pedal back to the metal before a keyboard swell eases into the brooding menace of “The Stray”.  “There’s a Light” and “Tell Your Friends” are funky strutting riff-rockers leading to another tempo change for the superb rendition of “Reconsider Baby”.  It’s a brave choice given the list of blues players who have already covered the song (Eric Clapton and Joe Bonamassa off the top of my head) but it works because it’s played at a slower tempo and the emphasis is on the vocal rather than the guitars.  “Come on Down” is powered by another funky riff, while the final two songs “Any Other Day” and “Too Blind to See” nod in the direction of the Stones, particularly the intros.

As a debut album, this is a great snapshot of Federal Charm.  They wear their influences proudly and they move effortlessly from slow blues to balls-out rockers.  The track sequence works perfectly as the album starts and finishes on big rock songs and the slower songs create a contrast to the more raucous rockers.  It’s full of melodic invention and great playing from all four members and the quality of the songs is excellent from start to finish.

While I thoroughly recommend the album, I have to say that you really should make the effort to see the band live to get maximum bang for your buck; they play with a self-assurance that never steps over the line into arrogance and Nick Bowden’s voice is superb live.  They’re playing all over the country in next few months to promote the album, so get yourself out there and see them.

Out on Monday July 1 on Mystic Records (MYSCD213).

Oh no, it’s that time of the year again; Christmas, and I hate it.  No sooner do we get Halloween out of the way than the compilation CD ads start to appear everywhere.  It’s bad enough that we have to listen to the usual festive dross without watching the unsavoury annual spectacle of music business grave robbery; it makes Burke and Hare look like Ant and Dec.  And who do you think is so potless this Christmas that they need to release a compilation to raise a couple of quid so they can enjoy the festivities properly this year?  Only the Rolling Stones, that’s who.

Do you know when the first Rolling Stones greatest hits package was released?  46 years ago in November 1966, just in time for Christmas market.  You won’t be gobsmacked to hear that every track on that album, “Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)” , except “Lady Jane” (more about that one later) features on the new 3 CD set “Grrr”.  Now, I like to do my research, but I’m on a deadline here, so I’m going to say that the number of UK Stones hits packages must be in double figures by now, so how many copies of “Jumping Jack Flash” does anyone need?  As for “Lady Jane”, it is possible to get it on “Grrr” if you buy the 4 CD set, which is a bargain at about £100.  You do want Mick and Keith to get those deluxe mince pies, don’t you? Grrr indeed.

But, let’s be honest, the Stones aren’t the only offenders.  If you take a look at the most expensive box sets available from a well-known online and high street music retailer (see, research again), you can find Neil Young very near the top with an eye-opening (or watering) £230 for 4 vinyl albums.  If you’re buying that package I’m willing to bet you’ve already got them on the original vinyl, CD and probably a remastered CD.  What a great piece of marketing that is (please don’t tell me that you also paid to download them on iTunes as well), making the punter pay 3 or 4 times over for the same album.  Did you know you can get a 21 CD box set of Manfred Mann’s Earthband?  Can you name me 5 Earthband singles (not the Manfred Mann 60s stuff)?  No, thought not, and this is 200 or so tracks we’re talking about; how many Dylan and Springsteen covers can you possibly scrape together?

 How much quality control do you sacrifice to stretch out Rufus Wainwright’s work to 13 CDs?  Simple really, you bulk it out with live CDs, previously unreleased material (generally unreleased for very good reasons) and a CD of covers by other artists; all for the cost of a reasonably good guitar.  Who buys in to this nonsense?

And just to stray into unfamiliar contemporary territory, what about “Born to Die”?  It was originally released in standard and deluxe editions, but now Lana’s decided we need the “Paradise Edition” which will be released 2 weeks before Christmas.  It’s a great album but it’s gone beyond a joke now.  Instead of encouraging the media companies in their barrel-scraping, why don’t you go out and watch some live music instead; there’s loads of it out there and most of it affordable without selling any internal organs (unless you want to see the Rolling Stones).

Ok, I know the music business is changing by the millisecond these days and artists have to be increasingly creative to make sure their talent and hard graft actually generates some proper wonga for them rather than their tracks being illegally downloaded by some pimply pre-pubescent in Manchester.  And don’t accuse me of being anti-Manc, I’m just showing an interest in current affairs.  There’s no chance of landing a six-figure advance these days to invest in the Colombian economy before getting your mate to record your magnum opus over a slow weekend in his lock-up.  So everyone’s desperately looking for new ways to actually make a living from music.

There’s a whole new industry which has appeared from nowhere while our backs were turned.  It’s so new that it can’t even spell its own name yet, so I don’t know if it’s syncing or synching but I’m sure it’ll soon sort out that little identity crisis.  When I was a lad (before digital and mobile phones and that worldwide net thing), it was the ultimate sellout to allow your creative masterworks to be used in an advert.  Neil Young got so upset about an approach from Pepsi that he wrote “This Note’s For You” about it.  So who made it ok to sell your soul to Bartle Bogle Hegarty (come on, it’s so much funnier than BBH, isn’t it)?

It was Apple and the Archangel Bono, that’s who.  When “Vertigo” was used on the iPod ad, the trickle of high-profile bands chasing the advertising money turned into a deluge.  Everyone’s at it now.  I mean, did the Stones really need the extra dosh from “Start Me Up” on the Omega ad this summer?  I don’t mind anyone trying to get their music out there and get the rewards they deserve; far from it.  The sync(h)ing industry helps get good new music into films, TV series and ads that generate a buzz (and a fee) for the artists and you would have to have a hard heart to complain about that.

I really have a problem with musicians who should know better endorsing totally inappropriate products.  Where do I start? Is that too many rhetorical questions?  Ok, Iggy Pop selling insurance, then.  Iggy (or Jimmy to his friends) has to be the risk-taker supreme of the 70s; drugs, physical self-harm and more drugs followed by even more drugs and then he appears on TV advertising insurance.  No insurance is as good as being the luckiest man alive, and you can’t buy or sell that commodity.  Chumbawamba, 80s anarcho-punks and agit-proppers (they were so anti-establishment they threw a jug of water over John Prescott) could surely be relied on to resist the temptation of selling out to the establishment.  No chance; “Tubthumping” is featured on an ad for that great anarchist enterprise of ambulance-chasing.

But the best one of the lot has to be John Lydon/Rotten for his splendid work endorsing dairy products.  From the most hated man in Britain to selling butter on TV; it’s a bit of a comedown from the brilliant “World Destruction” with Afrika Bambaataa.  A feature in one of the inkies a few weeks ago described our Johnny as a pantomime villain, but he’s such a caricature now that pantomime dame’s probably closer to the mark.