Thursday 31 May 2012


The other day when I interviewed the massively talented Erik Norlander about his Galactic Collective projects I found - almost by chance - that we had more in common than I had originally imagined.He, like me, is a Science Fiction buff. So I decided to dig further. I put Erik on the spot. What were his favourite Sci-Fi books? And how many of them had inspired his magnificent compositions.

5. Neuromancer - William Gibson
William Gibson will go down in history as the man who invited the cyberpunk genre. He invented the term cyberspace in 1982 and a few years later wrote this his debut novel which tells the story of a low-level hustler called Henry Chase living in the distopian underworld of Chiba City in Japan. He falls foul of his rather dodgy employers and gets involved with a shadowy mercenary underground. My son-in-law Gavin is particularly fond of this book, as is Erik Norlander, who says:

"Neuromancer, I haven't written anything based exactly on this book, but my oft-played instrumental, "Neurosaur," also originally from my 1997 Threshold album, borrows a bit from the title, of course. I think "Neuro-anything" must at least make a slight bow from the waist in the direction of Mr. Gibson".

4. Foundation - Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov is usually considered to be one of the ‘big three’ science fiction authors, together with Arthur C. Clarke and my personal favourite Robert Heinlein. Possibly his greatest series, and certainly my favourite, are the the Foundation Stories; seven novels published between the 1940s and the 1990s, which tell the story of Professor Hari Seldon who formulated a new discipline called psychohistory which used the statistics of human behaviour over the massive canvas of the entire galaxy to predict the future. These are marvellous books, and it is not surprising that they have been influential within rock music. Paul McCartney claims that the second version of Venus and Mars from the eponymous album is based in part on reading the Foundation Series. Also very much inspired was Erik Norlander:

"Foundation, of course links to the song, "Trantor Station," on The Galactic Collective DVDs. This song first appeared on my Threshold album in 1997. In 2003 I released a super deluxe special edition version of the album called "Threshold - Special Edition" where the original album was thoroughly remastered and many bonus tracks added. One of the bonus tracks is called "Return to the Ruins of Trantor" and is based on a story later on in the Foundation series."

3. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag - Robert Heinlein
Now we come to my personal favourite author, and surprisingly Erik chose quite an obscure book from Robert Heinlein’s remarkable canon of work. Quite a few people ( including me and – believe it or not – Charles Manson) have written songs based on his 1963 visionary novel Stranger in a Strange Land. However what Erik has done is – as far as I’m aware – a first:

“The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, there is a wonderful short story therein called "And He Built a Crooked House" where a forward-thinking architect builds a 4-dimensional tesseract house in the Los Angeles suburb of Laurel Canyon (very close to where I grew up, actually). I wrote a song for Rocket Scientists in 1995 called "Brutal Architecture" based on that short story, and that is also the album title. We reissued a re-mastered version of Brutal Architecture in 2007 on a 5-disc set called Rocket Scientists - Looking Backward. The 20-minute epic, "The Dark Water," that appears on The Galactic Collective DVDs (along with the "even more epic" 24-minute "The Darker Water" ;-) began on the Brutal Architecture album as the Berlin School atmosphere pieces, "Dark Water Part One" and "Dark Water Part Two" ... and having absolutely nothing to do with the Robert Heinlein story that inspired the "Brutal Architecture" song and album title.”

2. Dune - Frank Herbert
Dune by Frank Herbert is described by Wikipedia as being the world’s best selling science fiction novel and like the Foundation Series – it is set more than 20,000 years in the future when humanity has settled upon countless habitable planets. The most valuable substance in the galaxy is a spice called melange which is only found on the desert planet Arrakis which is covered in a hostile desert populated by ferocious fighters and giant sand worms. If you want to know more, buy the book.

Unsurprisingly, there are many links with rock music. Alejandro Jodorowasky, the man behind the immensely wonderful ‘El Topo’ planned a version of the film in the mid-70s. This would have featured Pink Floyd, Magma, H R Geiger (the dude who designed the cover for Brain Salad Surgery) and Salvador Dali amongst others. Sadly it was never made. However, some years later it was eventually made featuring Sting.

It has inspired songs by Iron Maiden and Dream Theatre amongst others, and unsurprisingly, Erik Norlander has also gone in on the act:

"Dune, I've written two songs based on this novel, or rather series of novels to be perfectly accurate. The first one was "Forever Nights" on the Rocket Scientists - Revolution Road album from 2006, co-written with guitarist / vocalist, Mark McCrite. The second was "Jessica" from the Lana Lane - Red Planet Boulevard album in 2007. And then in a very odd turn of events, in 2008 I was asked to write and produce a progressive rock album with latter-day Dune co-author, Kevin J. Anderson. The album was not about the Dune universe at all, but instead based on a new series of novels Kevin was writing called "Terra Incognita." The album that I worked on was called "Roswell Six - Beyond the Horizon." It has nothing to with Roswell, New Mexico, but I came up with "Roswell Six" as the working title of the project for a variety of then relevant and humorous reasons -- never intending for a moment that the name would be permanent -- but the others on the project loved the name so much that I was overruled, and that became the project name."

1. The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
I have to admit that I have never heard of this man, but his 1953 The Demolished Man is a police thriller set in a future world in which telepathy is relatively common. Just reading the synopsis on Wikipedia has inspired me to go out and get a copy.

Erik writes:

"The Demolished Man ... I haven't published anything based on this one yet, but one day I just might!"

The books are all available on and (often remarkably cheaply).


Current 93 cover Diana by Comus

What do you mean, you haven't heard the original?

Keyboard Legend Rick Wakeman Releases Archival Concert From 2003 On CDRead More

5/30/2012 - London, UK - For the last forty years Rick Wakeman has immersed himself in music. Leaving the Royal College of Music Rick has worked with some of the biggest names in rock and pop music playing on some of the biggest hits by artists as diverse as Cat Stevens, Marc Bolan and David Bowie. Likewise he has played with one of the biggest rock bands in the world; As a member of YES Rick played some of the biggest arenas in the world and released massively successful albums including 'Fragile', 'Close To the Edge' and the live album 'Yessongs'. In 1973 he released his first proper solo album 'The Six Wives of Henry the VIII' following that album up in the seventies and eighties with other hugely popular and successful albums. In the eighties Rick also recorded albums in the then popular genre entitled “New Age”, releasing such popular albums as The Aspirant Series of recordings ('Aspirant Sunrise', 'Aspirant Sunset' and 'Aspirant Sunshadows').

After leaving YES following a world tour in 2004, Rick concentrated on his solo career and collaborated with Jon Anderson on a number of projects including tours of the UK and US and a studio and live album. The latest release from Rick Wakeman is an archive live album titled 'In The Nick Of Time', which was recorded in 2003. The album was recorded during the tour to promote the then current studio album 'Out There'. Rick performed with the “New English Rock Ensemble” which featured Rick alongside old hands Ashley Holt, Tony Fernandez and new boys Ant Glynne and Lee Pomeroy. Tracks featured include: "Out There", "Catherine Parr", "No Earthly Connection", "White Rock" and "Wurm". The album has been much anticipated by the large and dedicated Rick Wakeman audience and this release will be the first time this album has been commercially released.

1. Catherine Parr 2. Out There 3. No Earthly Connection 4. Dance of a Thousand Lights 5. The Cathedral In The Sky 6. White Rock 7. Wurm

For more information visit Rick Wakeman's official website

LINK: Great Troy Donockley review

Gonzo 2011
Celtic pied piper calls his tunes and leads us to reason and realms of heavenly beauty.
His discography credits abound, Troy Donockley's most merited stripes are for making Uilleann pipes a rock instrument. In Donockley's hands, its melodious drones run from English folk avatar Maddy Prior through Roy Harper and STATUS QUO to Finnish metallers NIGHTWISH, but in between the many sessions the master cut three highly rated solo albums the best moments of which are gathered here. Their span is fantastic in both scope and delivery. If a new, previously unreleased cut "For Him Who Will Never Return" sees his weapons, two sets of pipes actually, sing a heartbreaking traditional dirge largely on their own, "Finlandia", a string quartet-elevated Sibelius piece from 1998 debut "The Unseen Stream", shows Troy's deft skills as arranger. Yet the genuine depth is revealed in Joanne Hogg-led choral of "Fragment", as well as in another freshly sculpted swell, "Dunmail Rising", where the solemn vocalise paves the road for the electronically shimmering dance of pipes and fiddle.
All of the strains combine in immaculate way for "Orkahaugr" off 2009's "The Madness of Crowds" in which Troy weaves a lace with his acoustic guitars and strikes it with whistles before the epic unfurls all its cinematic vistas and welcomes heavy guitar riffs into its ever-expanding fold. And while the trance-like folksy moment jitters in the light of "Tunnels", it's in the title track of 2003's "The Pursuit of Illusion" that Donockley's soft voice joins Hogg's crystalline flight to soar on a transparent orchestral cloud to celestial heights and bring the paradise closer to the crowds.

LINK: New Wally album dissected

Wally: Montpellier

Review by G. W. Hill
The most likely candidates for comparison here are Pink Floyd and David Bowie. That said, there are other influences heard, too. In addition, the blend of sounds is really quite unique. However you slice it, this is a cool disc.

Track by Track Review


There’s a pretty and sedate introductory section. Then it shifts to a piano based ballad approach. It builds out from there with sort of a David Bowie meets Pink Floyd kind of texture. This is melodic and powerful with some great harmonic vocals. It powers out around the two minute mark into a soaring number that is very much classic progressive rock. Eventually it drops back down from there. There’s an even harder rocking iteration of the more powerful section after that. The continuing cycle of mellower movement followed by more powered up stays with the song through the end, with some minor changes.

Sister Moon
This cut starts rather tentatively and works out to a melodic number that’s fairly basic in terms of song construction, but also quite accessible and rather catchy. It does a great job of combining a progressive rock element with a psychedelic rock and classic rock styling. There’s some smoking hot guitar soloing on the top of this and the vocal arrangement is great.

Thrill is Gone
This one’s really not all that prog-like. It’s got a great classic rock riff driving it and some smoking hot bluesy guitar soloing. There’s a little bridge section that brings some prog to the proceedings, but overall this doesn’t really fit well in that heading. There’s also a cool climbing guitar based jam later that’s more like Pink Floyd meets Led Zeppelin.

A rather bizarre song, in a lot of ways this is probably closest to the poet era of David Bowie. The vocals, often spoken, certainly call that to mind. Musically this powers up to some more energized rock at times, but also includes some stripped down percussive-dominated mellow music and even has some world music in the mix. It’s a cool tune that’s a bit of a change, but it’s perhaps less progressive rock (at least in a direct way) than a lot of the stuff here. That said, there is a cool proggy instrumental section midtrack that includes some killer guitar work and some nicely odd changes. There is also a violin solo in the midst of that segment. After some time back in the song proper mode, it works out to some spacey weirdness that, with some modifications, takes this out.

In the Night
Starting tentatively, there’s some bluesy guitar sound early and then keyboards come over the top in a killer retro fashion. It gives way to a mellow, rather Pink Floyd like sound for the first vocals and builds from there. While mellow and progressive rock oriented, there’s definitely a groove to this. When it powers out later there’s even a soulful air to it. From there we get treated to a smoking hot guitar solo that definitely calls to mind David Gilmour. The song follows a pretty standard pattern of verse and chorus alternating with another instrumental movement, but it’s decidedly AOR progressive rock.

Coming in with mellow, melodic bits of muted guitar, the first vocals are spoken and again call to mind Bowie. This cut gets build out into a harder rocking, but still melodic motif and continues by alternating between the basic musical concepts. It has some passionate vocal work and really has a lot of classic rock in the arrangement. It works out to more of that melodic muted guitar sounds in a spacey pattern at the end.

She Said
Combining a classic rock singer/songwriter style with some country and even a little Pink Floyd, this song follows a pretty standard musical concept. It’s got some rocking motifs and some interesting soloing. It also has some nice female vocals as icing on the cake. The keyboard sounds are nice, too.

That country element is present on this track, too. It’s mellow and ballad-like with hints of dream pop. Of course, there’s also plenty of classic rock in the mix, too. There’s a fairly intense instrumental section later that brings more progressive rock to the table and a symphonic treatment takes it out.


Yesterday teatime Corinna went to the shops and came back with this month's copy of Mojo (which - by the way - features an interview with Gonzo's very own Tony Palmer). It also had an ad in it for an autumn tour by Gong, and as Gong are the reason that Rob and I became friends in the first place, it would be very silly indeed not to feature it here.

So, this morning, I went poking about online, and found the following text on their website:

In the manner of Dr Who Gong has gone through one of it's periodic 're-generations' and now takes the form of daevid allen, Gilli Smyth, Orlando Allen (drums), Fabio Golfetti (guitar), Dave Sturt (bass) and Ian East (sax'n'flute). This is the line-up that will be touring the UK and Europe this Autumn.

The November UK gigs are now confirmed and listed in the gig section, as are the European dates in France, The Netherlands and Germany. More gigs may be added over the few next weeks so keep checking to stay abreast of the developing situation.

Accomplished drummer/producer Orlando is of course Gilli and Daevid's younger son. They have for years been keen to include him as member of Gong and see now as THE time. Fabio Golfetti, leading light of the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet (Brazil), is a very polished guitarist in smooth Gilmouresque prog mode and of course a glissando guitar practitioner of long standing. And many of you will have experienced the entertaining, expert musicianship of Ian East and Dave Sturt on respectively, wind instruments and bass, on the 2009-10 Gong tours and know that those chairs within the band are in more than capable hands.

Yes indeed things do change but Gong's mission statement remains rampantly and receptively what it always has been - that is, just whatever you perceive it to
What will we get? What will you divine? A Colin Baker/Sylvester McCoy or a Patrick Troughton/William Hartnell? The choice as always is yours.

Their website is
Check out the following artist pages at Gonzo:

And proably more. But those will do for a start

LINK: CoolGrrrls interview with MimI Page

By Betty Davenport

Mimi Page is an eclectic singer/songwriter and producer. Her unique style blends ethereal dreamy soundscapes with melodic, thought provoking vocals and has been compared to the likes of Portishead, Enya and Fiona Apple. After self-releasing several EPs, her single “This Fire” went viral after debuting on MTV’s The Real World charting #1 on and #11 on iTunes’ electronic charts. Mimi has also collaborated with and been remixed by some of the top producers in electronic music including Bassnectar, Bare, Phrenik, Minnesota, Omega, Skytree and Shotgun Radio. Mimi is actively scoring independent films along with licensing original songs to film and television. Her debut full length album “Breathe Me In” featuring co-producer Warren Huart (The Fray, Aerosmith) released February 14th on UK label Hunter Records.

Betty: When did you first start singing and writing songs and tell us a little about your background.

Mimi: I first learned the piano at five. My grandmother was a concert pianist and she taught me piano. Ever since I learned the piano I was writing music. Music is just a gift for me. I always wrote minor keys which is kind of funny because when I look back on my recordings at six and seven it was very dark and moody. It was in high school that I got into electronic music. I went to a specialized music academy in Los Angeles. I had an electronic music class which taught me how to record myself. I never really thought I had a good voice. The musical theater department in my high school was kind of big on Broadway belting and my voice was very soft so I kept to myself. I had a passion for singing though so started recording myself and made some demos. My final project in high school was an album so I decided to put my music up on MySpace. I slowly started gaining a following with those first recordings I did in high school.

Read on...

Check out Mimi's Artist page at Gonxo.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

REVIEW: Something has been happening, but none of us know what it is, do we Mr Downes?

Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Omnibus Press (14 May 2012)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1780385463
ISBN-13: 978-1780385464
David Dalton is largely responsible for me being a rock music journalist. Back in 1976, when I was 17, and an unhappy pupil at a particularly crappy boarding school, somehow I got hold of Dalton’s anthology about the Rolling Stones. I was entranced. I liked books. I like rock music, but until then I hadn’t realised that anybody could produce quality examples of the latter about the former.

Sure, I had read rock biographies; cut and paste jobs of George Tremlett had first come my way three or four years earlier, but even then I realised that although they were great fun to read and an invaluable source of information about these strange, hirsute characters who lived in a world completely divorced from the one where I lived in North Devon, Tremlett’s writing was not art. Nor did it pretend to be.

That’s why I was so blown away by Dalton. He was writing about the baddest boys of the lot; veritable barbarians who despite having been to the London School of Economics, were prosecuted for pissing in a petrol station forecourt, took drugs to a Herculean extent, and did things they shouldn’t have done with Mars Bars. Yes, David Dalton wrote about all these things, but he did it with an immense literary style. I lost the paperback many years ago, but still remember his descriptions of how the young Jagger and Richards travelled around the south-east of England by rail, taking much the same routes as Holmes and Watson had a seventy-years before on their “furtive excursions”. I loved that turn of phrase then and still love it now. It was possible to piss off one’s parents, whilst still producing good literature.

So, 35 years later, I am 52, living in the same North Devon cottage from whence I would be dispatched to boarding school three times a year (until they kicked me out) and I received a copy of a new David Dalton book courtesy of those jolly nice people, Omnibus Press.

I am not going to insult either Dalton, Omnibus Press, or indeed the book (or its subject) by asking the question is it any good? Of course it is. There would be something particularly awry if a writer of Dalton’s calibre tackled a subject of Bob Dylan’s calibre and screwed it up. It’s an excellent book, but almost inevitably it doesn’t deliver quite what one had hoped.


Basically, Bob Dylan is such an enigmatic old bastard that it is practically an impossible job for any author, even Dalton, who admits himself that when dealing with a subject who for over half a century has been self-mythologising to a level which makes Walter Mitty look like John Major, it is probably impossible to ever get to the definitive truth. This book is probably as close as it gets.

Yes, I’ll admit that I am anally compulsive enough to want lists of dates, facts and names, and that although this book gives us some there are probably not enough of them for me to satisfy my inner nerd. However, this book delivers much more – it is in many ways a personal journey through Bob Dylan’s life by Dalton, and, I think, reveals more about the author than any of the other books of his that I have read.

One of the big problems of Bob Dylan is that it is hard to be subjective. Bob Dylan once described ‘A Hard Rain’s Going to Fall’ as containing many different songs. Apparently each line was the beginning, or could have been the beginning, of another masterpiece. I would go further than that; I think the vast majority of Dylan’s songs as being multi-faceted crystals in which each observer sees his or her own reflection distorted by a synergistic mix of their own life experiences distorted by Dylan’s sublime wordsmithery.

Of course, all songs are like this to a certain extent. The Beatles’ 'Who Loves You', for example will mean different things for each person who hears it, usually because of which part of their life the song was a soundtrack to. However, it is still – in the end – a song about someone telling an unnamed bloke that an unnamed chick loves him (yeah, yeah, yeah). Dylan’s songs, even the early ones, are completely different. I am sure that – to pick my favourite Bob Dylan album - John Wesley Harding (1967) means something completely different to each of you than it does to me. For example, although the eponymous landlord of ‘Dear Landlord’ is often considered to be the Creator, and the song is interpreted as Dylan entering into a dialogue with God, to me it has a completely different meaning, and furthermore one which I have no intention of discussing in this or any other forum for fear it will incriminate me. And ‘The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest’ which is my favourite song on the album continues to mystify me. Thirty-five years after I first heard it, I still have absolutely no idea what it is about.

Herein you see both the strength and the innate weakness of this book. Because it is impossible to be subjective when it comes to analysing Dylan’s work, then any analysis is – perforce – likely to be completely different to that which you would come up with. This is not a criticism, just a fact, and on the whole I agree with enough of what Dalton said, and was stimulated and entertained by the rest, for it not really to matter.

However, I was disappointed that whereas all his albums throughout the ‘60s and most of the 1970s were analysed and described in depth, when it came to Street Legal (1978) which is another one of my favourite of his albums, the analysis disappeared never to recur.

Yes, we are all aware that the three born gain Christian albums of the late ‘70s early ‘80s polarised his fan base. But I would like to have seen more discussion about why, and how.

Yes, we know that many of the 1980s and ‘90s albums are pretty terrible (although, probably predictably, I don’t agree with Dalton on every bit of censure, and would probably have been kinder about albums like Shot of Love and Knocked Out Loaded, and am not as impressed as he was with the one produced by Daniel Lanois and containing ‘Man in the Long, Black Coat’.

Like the vast majority of rock music biographies far more time is spent detailing and analysing the subject’s rise to fame, and their glory years. I always want to know more about the times when things started to fall apart. The story about Apple Records and the dissolution of the The Beatles is – to me – far more interesting than the story of four mop tops who conquer the world. I am more interested in stories of the fat, mad Elvis in Las Vegas than I am tales of the hillbilly hep-cat. So I would have liked some more background and analysis of the Never Ending Tour and the events surrounding Dylan’s monumental cock-up at Live Aid.

However, I don’t want to appear churlish. This is the best Dylan biography that I have ever read, and it kicks most of the others into a cocked hat. David Dalton is – as always – up to his usual standards of penmanship, and the real tragedy is that if I am honest about it the book that I want to read about Bob Dylan would be absolutely bloody impossible for anyone to write.

It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.

EXCLUSIVE: Hawkwind 2012 Bridport review (The First Night of the UK Tour)

I first saw Hawkwind when I was 18, and I'm now in my 50s, and the surprising thing is that I still remember a lot of my gigs! At my first-ever Hawkwind event (1976) I remember thinking it sounded almost nothing like the few bits of albums that friends had lent me. That gig was a thunderous assault of blanga, and I couldn't make out a single word to any of the songs.

Hawkwind don't play quite so loud, these days, and stage PA gear has vastly improved in quality, so I was able to enjoy listening to elements of the music, rather than just spark up a spliff and mentally surf those waves of blanga. That was the old days.

So, Bridport. The opening night of the Hawkwind tour... and I'd taken up what's become a favourite spot of mine - at the front and close to the right-hand speaker stack. And (to quote from their latest album): Systems ready for inspection!

Support was ex-Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton. Always a favourite with the crowd, he's an unlikely-looking performer. Frail and untogether (he forgot a song name, for instance, but reassured us that it would come back to him) he noneless did the biz. It was a solo acoustic set but some of us were surprised when Dave Brock joined in on one number. Being Hawkwind fans, though, we just took it in our stride and carried on enjoying the show!

There was a hugely long interval before Hawkwind (well, it seemed that way to me) but since there was a long wait at the tiny bar, that was just as bloody well, as it turned out.

Making my way back down to the front, I was in time for the start of the Hawkwind show.

The initial sounds and also the lighting scheme strongly resembled the start of the 2008 shows but Mr Dibs' electric cello added an extra dimension... after which he started narrating the space poem "The Awakening". This dates from the earliest few years of Hawkwind and I felt a tingle up my arms, which developed into a full-blown shiver as this, my favourite narrative, progressed.

That's a VERY good sign as, believe me, my goose-pimples are fussy bastards and they don't accept just any old Hawkwind gig. It takes something special to wake them up.

Mr Dibs bow-scraped while he narrated, and then the band launched into "You'd Better Believe It" and the lightshow intensified, and, well, Hawkwind are in town again!

Stuff from the new album "Onward" and tracks like "Southern Cross" took up the next 20 minutes. There were no dancers at the Bridport show but Hawkwind had one guest: Dead Fred (ex ICU and member of Krankschaft) who lurked behind Tim Blake over on the left, and I'm sorry to say I didn't spot him playing keyboards at all, from where I was - over on the right and headswirling and drinking lager. I only found out afterwards.

The next number was their "big bass" sound and which they like to call "Assassins of Allah". Old buggers like me still call it "Hassan i Sahba" but never mind.... it's the one with the chorus-line "hashish..hashish..hashish..hashish", and that possibly tells you all you need to know about that number!

Hawkwind have dropped "Angels of Death" from their set, and "Hassan i Sahba" seems to be the replacement, the one that seeks to thrash the audience with bass frequencies and swooshes and theramin. Fine by me.

By way of contrast, a Brock ballad from the mid-1990s, "Love in Space", made a welcome return to the setlist, and Dave Brock sang the vocals on this one.

Sonic Attack!

I wonder if, when sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock penned "Sonic Attack" for Hawkwind over 40 years ago, he realised they'd still be performing it at gigs in 2012?

Originally performed as a Robert Calvert apocalyptic narrative, this track has gone through more changes than almost any other Hawkwind track. In 1981 it had a malevolently-leaden beat and a thunderous assault of other instruments over it; the 1990s renditions used sirens and swooshes as background; it's even been done as a ballad (2007); and on this tour the strangely-dressed Mr Dibs, wearing kinky boots and a skirt, provides the main effects on his electric cello while Richard Chadwick did the percussion.

The dark stage and the 'zap' visuals just add to the sense of power on this one... and it also hid the kinky boots from sight, so there.

(I stole the above screenshot from a youtube video of Hawkwind doing Sonic Attack in Cork a couple of nights later. To atone for my sins, I'll tell you the link to the video clip is here.)

It runs into a thoroughly excellent instrumental which I gather is called "Cities" and has more blanga per square metre than anything they've done in a long time. It's grungy heads-down-and-shake Hawkwind of the oldest of old space rock schools, and it gave me my second tingle of the night...

Anyone wondering how Hawkwind could follow that soon found out, when we had the "Assault and Battery" / "Golden Void" / "Where are they Now" sequence. I'd had to go off for a pee during "Prometheus" and I found the aisle blocked on my return, so I watched the performance of this "Warrior on the Edge of Time" classic from near the back of the hall, rather than barge through people who were swaying and drifting to one of my most fav fav tracks.

I do sometimes enjoy the view from the back, because one can see the whole stage and the lightshow. But on this occasion I did scurry forwards as soon as I decently felt I could, and was just in time for "Damnation Alley" as I arrived back at the speaker stack area. (Cheers to Julie for keeping my place!)

This track was a hot version, with Nial Hone using effects pedals - and maybe I can comment at this stage that Dave Brock seems not to use any effects pedals at all, these days. I could see his and Nial's feet all through the show and it was Nial that did all the fancy footwork. And here we had some nice wah-wah effects during this blanga thrash with Mr Dibs on vocals and Tim Blake doing some keytar runs, and that song ended the main show 10 minutes later.

Big cheers from the audience, and some of the traditional foot-stamp, and then the band were back for Dave Brock to tell us (via his loud guitar intro) that this was "Psychedelic Warlords". Damn, it's good to hear Brock's guitar loud. Some gigs in the past, it's been mixed really low!

Anyway, it was over all too soon (isn't it always, at a good HW gig) and I'm getting ready for their Southampton show, in a few days!

Anyone who though Hawkwind had lost their way a few years back, and who thought they were easing off the gas pedal and settling down for a graceful drift into retirement had better think again. The sonic warriors still kick ass - and now they're doing a superb job of it. I'm not going to descend into hyperbole and say they're as good now as they have ever been - but I did feel that, at times, they were strongly tilting that way.

LINK: Insightful Auburn review

Auburn: Indian Summer (Scarlet)

Despite being out of the loop for almost 10 years and titling their latest after a great English cliche, Auburn have a lot of style.

Fronted by a tremendous vocalist in Liz Lenten, whose influence bears hallmarks of some of the great dream pop singers but with a more singer-songwriter approach, the group create mature, heartfelt melodies for a new generation.

Too Far From Home features the great folk fiddler Eliza Carthy - who seems to be everywhere these days - while Day Dreamin' is a dub mix, indicative of not only the variety that Indian Summer has to offer but also their open-minded approach.

Although certain moments are pure whimsical indulgence such as the overly soft and gentle This Is The Life, the rich instrumentation throughout also ensures that the chamber pop-esque ensemble create surprises at every corner and have no shortage of opportunity to reinvent themselves.

LINK: Martin Stephenson and the Daintees – “California Star” – Album Review

Martin Stephenson and the Daintees – “California Star” – Album Review

Martin Stephenson and the Daintees are described as British Rock/Folk/Pop Band. I try not to be critical of musicians, but there is a genre of music I’m not a big fan of, and that genre features artists such as Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews, John Mayer etc. While listening to Martin Stephenson and the Daintees new album “California Stars” I can’t help but say to the artists mentioned above that this is what your music is supposed to sound like.

“California Star” and the music of the Daintees is not my preferred genre of music, but “California Star” was a pleasant listening experience. I’d definitely add the album to my iTunes catalog so that I could rediscover some of this music over time. There wasn’t one song on the album that left me bored, but I must admit that I’m kind of partial to “Streets of San Sebastian.” As a fan of movies, that song fits right in with any Quentin Tarantino film or Spaghetti Western.

If you’re into the singer songwriter thing, but like music that has a lot of atmosphere…it’s almost visual, then I think you should give Martin Stephenson and the Daintees a listen. If you’re a filmmaker, well known or otherwise, you must check out the Daintees, because I think there is a good shot you could find a place for their music in your movie.

BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow

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EXCLUSIVE: Pictures from the first night of the Hawkwind UK Tour

Hawkwind's photo submission for 'Rear of the Year'

Hawkwind's photo submission for 'Rear of the Year'
Space rockers do a few ass-wiggles in Bridport. Well, why not? Place needs livening up a bit, lol.....

L-R: Dibbs, Brock, Hone, during the opening night of their Onward tour to show us bits of their bum, sorry, album.

Hawkwind @ Bridport, 2012

Dave Brock does the biz (centre) with what I think is his Westone guitar, but correct me if I'm wrong, eh. Nial Hone on his left and Mr Dibbs is the one with the knees...

This was about half an hour into their set at the Electric Palace, Bridport. Nial looks like he's enjoying a joke, eh

Hawkwind 2012 May 25 - Bridport, while I tweak EV

Hawkwind 2012 May 25 - Bridport, while I tweak EV
Tim Blake, Mr Dibbs, Dave Brock.

Mr Dibbs isn't the first Hawkwind guy to show a bit of leg, as I gather Simon House once did some of that. Not often we see anyone in kinky boots, though. Sorry the picture's such crap quality, but I was at the Electric Palace primarily for the Hawkwind music!

However, I did a few tests with the EV and the ISO settings - in the end, I just banged the ISO (ASA) all the way up to 1600 and then just hoped for the best while tweaking EV. I've no other control over exposure time, so what more can I do?

LINK: Chris Thompson review

Chris Thompson once was the singer with Manfred Mann's Earth Band for many years; he was credited as being the best-known vocalist of this band, but he also had a solo career. In the past ten years as a solo artist, Chris was accompanied by The Mads Eriksen Band both for his live performances and his studio work. With this Norwegian band he recently released the CD/DVD Berlin Live & Live At The Colos-Saal. The band consist of Mads Eriksen(guitar), Frank Hovland (bass, backing vocals) and Gunnar Bjelland (keyboards). On the DVD the drums are played by Steinar Krokstad and on the Berlin CD by Szolt Meszaros.

Due to a major problem with the digital sound the concert at Colos-Saal was almost ruined. Only seven songs were good enough to be reproduced on DVD. First thought was to do the recording again some other time, but after all the effort it seems fair to release these seven songs in combination with a live concert recorded for CD in Berlin. Unfortunately we only get a glimpse of all the musical styles Chris Thompson participated in. However, this video captures the heart of one of his live concerts. Thompson is a pureblood entertainer; he easily connects to the audience and his enthusiasm on stage is inimitable. Some younger artists could learn a lot from this experienced performer.

Logically, the majority of the songs on both CD and DVD are connected to Manfred Mann's Earth Band, because all famous songs were sung by Thompson. We get excellent versions of some of the well-known songs in a progressive or classic rock style like Blinded By The Light, Questions, Martha's Madman, You Angel You, Redemption Songand true classics as For You, Mighty Quinn and Davy's On The Road Again. The absolute highlight during a Chris Thompson-concert is You're The Voice. Although Thompson wrote this song, the Australian singer John Farnham(ex- Little River Band) made it a world hit. Where the original songs were drenched in Manfred Mann's keyboards, the main focus on this double-CD/DVD is on the outstanding combination of the excellent vocals with a rough edge, and the incredible guitar play of Mads Eriksen, who plays perfectly, never missing a note. On Piece For The Wickedwe get the chance to hear him play a solo piece on the acoustic guitar. He truly is a stunning guitarist, who recorded a number of partly instrumental solo albums as well as a great one together with Thompson.

Although the guitar play is emphasized on this album that doesn't mean that no keyboards can be heard. Gunnar Bjelland is very capable to reproduce all of Mann's sounds and he adds something of his own to the music as well. Drums and bass are kept very basic, but effective with an occasional short bass or drum fill. I've seen several concerts of this line-up, and I think this album represents how a Chris Thompson-concert really is: honest, a hard working band on stage and what stands out most is the pleasure these musicians have in doing what they like the best: playing great music.

**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)

Check out his Gonzo Artist Page:


Dates: 12/09/2012 to 12/09/2012 Performance: N/A Venue: Civic Theatre Prices: £20 - £22

Mention the name Rick Wakeman to 50 different people and ask them what he does, and you are likely to get 50 different answers!

50 million record sales around the world, including more than 150 record and CD releases, more than 50 DVDs, soundtracks for more than 25 films, his own award-winning radio show on Radio Nova, regular slots on Just a Minute and The News Quiz plus his weekly rant on Watchdog - as well as numerous other high-profile television appearances including Countdown, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Top Gear, Songs of Praise, Masterchef, Through the Keyhole, Have I Got News For You , Call My Bluff and of course Grumpy Old Men - no wonder Rick has achieved the rare accomplishment of endearing himself to all ages!

Tuesday 29 May 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Stills from new Mimi Page video

Mimi Page just sent us this - two exclusive stills from a video they are putting together of her live with Bassnectar last Sunday at The Lightning in a Bottle Festival, Silverado, California. We can't wait to see the video.

Picture credits: Lia Holland (top) Jason Robbins (bottom)

Monday 28 May 2012

MICHAEL DES BARRES: Great new Onstage pic

I love stealing photographs from Michael's Facebook page, because he always has such an eye for a great image.

This stage shot is just monumentally cool. I would like to know more about it. So, does anyone know where it was shot? When? Why?

Didier Chevalier is a true artist (a bit like Michael then)

AUBURN: A cool review (actually its a hot review but you know what I mean)
Auburn-Indian Summer
It would seem somewhat apt to be reviewing an album entitled Indian Summer as I’m sat here with the sun beating through the window and the temperature outside hitting a balmy 23 degrees (in May!!).

Auburn first formed back in the summer 1999, they performed their first gig to a packed house at Madame Jo Jo’s and since then have racked up plaudits from just about everyone from the mainstream radio to Classic Rock Society via The Evening Standard. The band formed and fronted by Liz Lenten released their debut album back in 2003 and toured Europe and the UK with Sophie Ellis Bexter in front of over 40,000, in 2005 Auburn hit top 5 in the UK indie video charts with Cry, afterwards the group decided to take a break.

Now a good few years later the band return with a stunning new album that see’s the band take in a number of musical influences to create a warm, intimate blend of stripped-down electro-acoustic pop.

The album opens with a gorgeous statement of intent, Shame On You, a song that instantly sets the mood with it’s blend of strummed acoustic guitars, groovy patted percussion, lush harmonies, Liz’s passionate smoky lead-vocal and the tracks infectious vocal hook, instantly hooking the listener from the opening few seconds. Auburn follow up the upbeat opener with the beautifully mature ballad, Strong, subtle beats, cello and delicate guitars combine to create a fragile slice of aching pop, whilst the lead vocal is a vulnerable heartfelt croon that wrenches at the heart strings.

From there highlights continue to come thick and fast from the languid, summery jazz of the title track to the bouncy pop vibe of Day Dreamin’ via the homely country-folk tinged, Eliza Carthy assisted Too Far From Home. Liz and the lads create an album that’s nothing short of mesmeric and even the album’s curve ball, closing number, Day Dreamin’ (Dub Mix) does nothing to dampen a wondrous collection of mellow grooves and sensitive laments, actually the bubbling remix showcases a new territory that the band could perhaps visit in the future.

Indian Summer is a lovely album from start to finish of intriguing laid back instrumentation, high spirited vocals and spine tingling harmonies, Auburn seem to serenade the listener, with Liz Lentern equally lulling and seducing from the outset. If your looking for a collection of mature melody infused pop look no further than Indian Summer.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 8

GALAHAD - Dutch Interview

Many thanks to André Steijns and those jolly nice people at for letting us repost this smashing Galahad interview.

Check it out dudes and dudettes:

WALLY: More OGWT 1974

Yesterday's post of Wally from 1974 OGWT was so succesful, that here's some more...

HAWKWIND: The opening night of their UK Tour

GRAHAM: This is a taste of the Bridport show, the opening night of the Hawkwind 2012 tour. Song: Damnation Alley. Nial Hone played all the wah-wah (see video for more) and we can see DB taking it easy in parts of the number, as others are doing the biz.

Sorry about the iffy sound but, as I've said before, my camera can't cope with being near the Hawkwind speaker stack! Either I move further back, or you guys listen to someone else's clips, haha. When I see them in Southampton later this month, I'll probably shove my camera in my pocket and have a good headbang.


What a band! I really cannot make up my mind whether I prefer the original albums, or the new one. You decide. Check out the Gronzo Artist Page for Wally

Sunday 27 May 2012

MICHAEL DES BARRES: A blast from the past

As regular readers of this blog will know I have a rich and varied postbag, both snail mail and electronic. Each day in my capacity as Director of The Centre for Fortean Zoology I have various emails about mystery animal sightings from around the world. So, this morning, when I received an e-mail from a mate of mine in New Zealand, who has a particular interest in the possible survival of the Greater Short Tailed Bat which is/was as far as I am aware the only bat species that was not only dark blue in colour and habitually lives/lived on the ground, I was hoping for a breakthrough in his research. **

Instead there was a link to the following video, and a brief note: "Isn't this your mate?"

Yes, it is, indeed. I haven't actually seen this clip of Michael Des Barres fronting the surprisingly hefty Duran Duran spin-off band The Power Station since I watched Live Aid as it happened all those years ago.

I feel surprisingly young again.

** The Lesser Short Tailed batis also largely terrestrial, but not blue.


GUEST BLOGGERS ROB AND HUNTER AYLING: Its a warm day for a cold war.

Growing up in the 80's in the fear of living in the nuclear shadow from Moscow, Regan on the news, another dead Russian President puppet, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Tube, nothing quite sums up the cold war technology race between the US and the USSR than the US Airforces' aeronautical triumph than the - Blackbird.

The first of the so called "Stealth" planes. It was / is a majestic beast of the skies or reality almost space it flew so high. The pilot and co-pilot were suited up like astronaut's afterall due to its operational altitude.

Each mission had to have the highest possible clearance, maybe even Presidential before been allowed to fly.

As many as 75 people worked on just one mission.

Due to the speeds it flew at the body of the plane would become so hot, caused by the friction from the air. When landed the Blackbird had to cool down which took at least 30 mins, before the pilots could even leave the aircraft. (Let's hope they didn't the loo).

Interesting enough the fuel was that volatile it could even spontaneously combust in air.

When the air was drawn into the jet engines it when the plane was travelling a supersonic speed it had to be slowed down to be used efficiently. That is why if you look at the engines they had the very distinctive cones on them to do just that.

What is amazing about this aircraft is that it is amazing, but it is also several decades old and semi declassified (it started its operations in 1968 and stopped in 1997). Given that I am even looking at the plane, let alone photographing it gives us some idea how obsolete the technology is.

So what replaced it ? The "flying wing", "stealth bomber", the fabled "Aurora" with only one civilian siting from an oil rig in the north sea over a decade ago.

Keep watching the skies !!!!!! The truth is on this blog or maybe not.

Rob and Hunter Ayling. 27 May 2012.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Tony Palmer's new film on Fugard to air on Sky Arts

Tony Palmer's new film on Fugard to air on Sky Arts


Staff Reporter

15 May 2012

This June, Sky Arts will broadcast a new film by director Tony Palmer on the life and times of Athol Fugard, in honour of the playwright’s 80th birthday.

The 139-minute film Falls the Shadow: The Life and Times of Athol Fugard has been commissioned by Portobello Films and for Sky by Siobhan Mulholland. It is produced by David Elstein and Eric Abraham.

The documentary is the first ever full-length profile of Fugard which explores his past, his influences, his artistic development and his continuing themes. At the centre of the film is an extensive interview with Fugard.

The film features unprecedented access to some of the world’s most remarkable performers and associates who are most familiar with his craft including ex-Presidents Nelson Mandela and F.W de Klerk, Alan Rickman, James Earl Jones, Dame Janet Suzman, Nadine Gordimer, Sir Ben Kingsley, Sir Antony Sher, and Pieter-Dirk Uys.

Read on...


Regular readers will know that I am a massive fan of Eric Burdon, and will use any excuse to bring an Eric Burdon story onto these hallowed pages. This time I don't need an excuse. Cop a load of this:

A preview of his new album due in september which is nothing at all to do with us. However, if youcan't wait until then check out his Gonzo Artist Page. Also check out All my Loving on DVD. You know it makes sense.


Forgive me if I am being more peculiar than usual, but... it just me or does this picture of Captain Beefheart look a lot like Terry Scott?

Everything that you could possibly want to know about The Third Ear Band

I love enthusiasm, and I particularly love people who are enthusiastic about things which other people largely ignore. One of the bands from those halcyon days of the late 1960s and early 1970s (when I was just a nipper who was more interested in fishing and model aircraft than sex, drugs or rock and roll) that I discovered many years after the fact, and of whom I am rather fond is The Third Ear Band. There is one DVD out on Gonzo, featuring this illustrious ensemble (find it here) and I have been vaguely planning a feature on it/them.

Now, look what I found:

Everything that you could possibly want to know about The Third Ear Band - in fact, probably more than one sane individual could ever want to know about The Third Ear Band but - hey - when did I ever claim to be sane?

EXCLUSIVE: Panoramic composite of Hawkwind, Bridport, Friday night...

Panoramic composite of Hawkwind, 2012

Many cameras can take panoramics by stitching together 3 successive photos in-camera. Not many people would try that at the front of a rock gig after several beers, though!

The result is odd, but not wholly awful. (L-R: Blake, Dibbs, Brock, Chadwick [drums], Hone, security guard's ear.)

For those who like techie info, I feel one important aspect is to pre-cue the three pix on the same initial area each time (ie, half-press the shutter) and then there's a fair chance exposure will be consistent across the whole of the composite. Incidently, the metadata shows I used Photoshop but that was just for cropping and file-size changes. I do that for ALL my photos.

LINK: "Insanely Romantic" - Another great Mimi Page review

Mimi Page: Breathe Me In

Reviewed By: Lisa Torem
Label: Hunter Records
Format: CD

After working on several EPs, and watching her single ‘This Fire’ zoom to # 1 on, the singer-songwriter and pianist, Mimi Page, co-produced her first full length debut with Warren Huart (The Fray, Aerosmith.)

Besides that, she continues to score independent films and has collaborated with such electronic heavies as Bassnectar, Omega and Skytree. She has also reinterpreted covers of ‘Secunda’ and ‘Sons of Skyrim’ for the game 'Skyrim', which are uniquely haunting.

'Breathe Me In' combines her chilling/fragile lyrics with her gentle, ethereal vocals and distinct piano playing, which bridges the wide gap between the thunderous tones of Fiona Apple and the shimmering minimalism of Tori Amos.

There is no track on the album, which does not fully engage the senses. Page’s images are exceedingly direct, yet poetic. Her angelic range is astonishing and as her emotions bleed, her gorgeous voice echoes the joy, pain and confusion. Her piano playing includes skeletal voicings that dust lightly every utterance.

The title song is perhaps the most colossal; drenched in desperate longing, it truly transports the listener to another ambient world, but without contrived bleeps. Page creates her own brand of ambience with a steadfast troupe of beats and delicate sounds, which climb in subtly between the spaces, and, while doing so, she conveys gripping and poignant revelations.

The first half of the album includes ‘Black Valentine’, about a relationship on the skids, the nostalgic ‘Colorblind’, and the vividly passionate ode to “burning jealousy”, ‘Gravity’.

One of the best, the aforementioned ‘This Fire’ roars with great streaks of bluish-orange ferocity. Page expertly inspires goosebumps. Using fire again as a convincing metaphor, she sings, on ‘The Starving Artist’, “These are the flames of my soft spoken fire.”

‘Come What May’ is more discordant, but so rich, and so human: “But the world has yet to throw away/The girl that’s standing here today/Cause when my heart is aching/I’m barely even breaking…”

‘Phenomenon’ is another venture into the soul of a questioning being: “I can’t see it, but I feel it there /And when it moves it soothes me like the air.” ‘Jigsaw’ is incredibly moving, and drawn from an old childrens’ chant: “Sticks and stones broke my bones and I’m a puzzled piece, rigid and alone.”–

The closer, ‘Breathe Me In’ is insanely romantic: “Something in that gaze of yours holds me down. Hypnotized, I’m drawn to you,” she sings, in a style that pulls you gracefully into her dream state.

MICHAEL DES BARRES: Another sneak peek at the new album

I took most of the day off today. It is something that I don't usually do, but I spent most of the day doing as little as I possibly could. It has been a long and difficult week, and both Corinna and I are far more tired than we would usually like to admit. I spent most of the day dozing with the orange cat or reading David Dalton's magnificent new Bob Dylan biography. However, this evening I was pootling about online (as is my wont) when I came across this video. Jesus it is magnificent.

I defy anyone to watch it without wanting to punch the air, or at least give a broad grin of empathy. Towards the end of the song Michael claims to be an anti-depressant. Too damn right!

Jon Anderson Announces London Solo Show Jon Anderson Announces London Solo Show

Former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson has announced a special one-off London show for later this year. He will appear at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre on August 8.

Read on...

EXCLUSIVE PICS: First date of the Hawkwind Tour

Graham got back to the ranch late last night. He has pictures and even a little video of the show in Bridport last night, and these (as well as his review of the gig, which - by the way - sounds like a stonker) will be out on Gonzo Daily over the next few days.

If anyone is reading this who wants to cover the other dates on the tour for us (Graham will also be at Southampton, for the last night of the tour) please email me your pics and words on

But these images aren't of Hawkwind, or at least not the 2012 incarnation, I hear you all rant from the safety of your silver machines. Nope, its the mighty Huw Lloyd-Langton, who was the support act...

Huw gives it some acoustic wellie

Huw Lloyd-Langton @ Bridport 2012

Bridport 2012: Huw Lloyd-Langton


ANTHONY PHILLIPS on BBC Radio Scotland - Classics Unwrapped, Kevin, Gillian and Amore

In case you did not hear it, here’s the link to BBC Radio Scotland Classics Unwrapped.

Credo in Cantus played.

Duration: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Jamie MacDougall is serenaded live in the studio by opera stars Amore, plus organ festival supremo Kevin Bowyer talks pipes and Gillian Maitland dazzles with Bach on the marimba.
Check out the Gonzo page for the album

Friday 25 May 2012


Earlier this week, Rob caught up with Dan Wooding the author at Heathrow.

As well as chatting about how well the Rick Wakeman book is going. They also, spoke about several up and coming projects including Dan's book about Terry Dene. Rob said "Dan is always fun to hang out with, he has such great stories to tell".

JUDGE SMITH: 'Curly's Airships' - bloody magnificent!

The other evening I finally got around to listening to Curly’s Airships by Judge Smith.

Before I go any further, I would explain why I use the term “finally got around”. I receive a lot of books, records, and DVDs to review, both as a rock music historian/journalist, the editor of a UFO magazine, a keen naturalist, and a director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology. At any one time, I might have twenty of each awaiting my perusal.

Some of these, without any disrespect at all to the artists or authors concerned, can be combined. I can listen to instrumental music whilst reading a rock biography or a book on freshwater biology, but when it comes to a DVD, or a project like Curly‘s Airships which demands that you not only concentrate on the words and the story, but – if you are me – have to refer intermittently to the libretto and liner notes, then it is an undertaking which requires 100% of your attention.

When, like Curly’s Airships, it is a massively complex, two CD set lasting the best part of two and a half hours, and your life is as complicated as mine is half of the time, it is difficult to find a couple of hours where you can just sit down and grok something as complex and as demanding as this.

I often have a houseful of people; friends, relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, and people that I have met on line that sound interesting, and once again – the presence of these folk delightful as they are all – precludes quite a lot of reviewing of this type. There are few people to whom one can say, “um, do you mind if I put on a two and a half hour concept album by various members and ex-members of Van der Graaf Generator about airships, which ends up with the main protagonists being burnt alive? And, by the way, I have an ear infection in one ear and I’m going deaf in the other so I will have to play it loud!” You see what I mean.

But, finally the other night, I got around to it. And golly, was it worth the wait.

I seem to have come at my investigation of Judge Smith all backsy’vore as they say in Devon. He has recorded three song stories to date, Curly’s Airships (2000), The Climber (2010), and Orfeas (2011) and – me being me – I seem to have listened to them in reverse order. Curly’s Airships is the heaviest of the three projects, and I use the term both musically and within its socio-cultural turn of phrase within hippy argot. It is the longest, it is the most complex, it has the most guests, it is the only one that can really be described as pure 'rock' music, and is the nearest to what you would originally think of as a solo project from an ex-member of Van der Graaf Generator.

Here it should probably be said that Judge left the band quite amicably after the first single, and has remained friends with the people involved (most of whom appear on Curly’s Airships) ever since.

Musically the main instrumentation comes from Hugh Banton’s collection of organs, which include the organ of St Agnes Church , Liverpool which he built himself in 1996. He also plays three electric organs and three other church instruments, one built as long ago as 1827. The whole thing is underpinned by drums and bass provided by Judge himself, most of which, I gather, are electronic.

On top of this, there are guest appearances from David Jackson and Peter Hammill of Van der Graaf Generator, one of my favourite guitarists John Ellis (The Vibrators, Peter Gabriel Band, The Stranglers, and The K Group) and lots of guest vocalists including two of my all time favourite singers Arthur and Pete Brown (as far as I know no relation at all). The libretto tells the story of Curly McLeod, a junior officer in the Imperial Airship Service, caught up in the British Governmental SNAFU that was the Imperial Airship Scheme. Curly is fictional, most of the rest isn’t. The story traces the social, governmental and political shenanigans and intrigues leading up to the 1930 R101 disaster and features such supporting cast as Barnes Wallace, the dude who invented the bouncing bomb made famous by the Dambusters in that movie where they are not allowed to mention the name of Guy Gibson’s dog.

Both lyrically and musically, this opus is magnificently complex and works on a number on a number of different layers. I am not even going to pretend that on a quite intense listening the other night I took in more than a fraction. To me, at least, this has more in common with The Fall of the House of Usher project started by Judge with Peter Hammill in around 1973 and finally finished in 1991 (with the whole project being re-worked in 1999) than it does with the two subsequent song stories. This is fantastic stuff. (Not that the other two aren’t, they are just completely different to this).

Ever since pop musicians realised that they were no longer constrained to a rigid verse/chorus/verse/middle eight format and a song length of two and a half minutes (in about 1965) artists within the rock music idiom have been attempting long form projects, some have been more successful than others. Some of the ones which the rock music establishment on the whole have considered to be a success I disliked intensely, and others which (like Deep Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra) that most people have relegated to the dustbin of history, I thought were rather good. But there is no ambiguity whatsoever about my attitude towards Curly’s Airships. It is magnificent. And what makes it even better is the lavish packaging, including a full libretto, working notes about the musical structure, and even a nicely written and rather scholarly history of the Imperial Airship Scheme complete with full bibliography. I cannot think of another project within rock music that is so intelligently and eruditely presented. In fact, I can’t think of another project within rock music that is so intelligent and erudite.

One of the things that is so impressive is how, within a relatively simple harmonic and instrumental structure of drums, bass and organ, he manages to evoke so many emotional responses, and conjur up so many moods. However he did the same thing on The Climber with just a string bass and a bunch of dudes singing, so I guess that I shouldn't be surprised.

This is a bloody fantastic record, and I will be talking to Judge about it in the weeks that follow. But I need to listen to it again once or twice.

Watch this space.

Check out Judge's atrist page at Gonzo:

COMUS: Out of the coma

The history of rock music is full of stories of tragedy and remarkable come-backs wherein a luckless protagonist appears to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and make a noteworthy come-back years after he or she was written off.

Perhaps the two most notable of these involve the same person; Brian Wilson. The story of how the Beach Boys leader went spectacularly insane in the mid-60s and spent the next 20 years in the wilderness before controversial psychoanalyst Eugene Landy saved him/bullied him into submission (whichever version of the story you wish to believe), is a well-known one.

The way that Wilson’s lost masterpiece Smile was resurrected, re-recorded and finally released thanks to the administrations of a bunch of Wilson fanboys called The Wondermints is equally well-known. I was listening to their version of Smile this morning; it is a beautiful summers’ day and it provided the perfect soundtrack. Whatever the relation of the precise relationship between Wilson and the band, the album is a masterpiece, and I am happy that they did it.

Other lost souls didn’t make it. The death of Syd Barrett six years ago, only confirmed what we knew anyway – he was never coming back, and I’m sure that I’m not the only Beatles fan who, on hearing the dreadful news in December 1980, felt guilty that one of his first thoughts was that Lennon’s death meant that the Beatles would never reform.

However, there are other success stories apart from that of Brian Wilson. Comus were formed in the early 1970s, around the peculiar visions of Roger Wootton. Their debut album First Utterance was one of the most gloriously unsettling pieces of acoustic folk/prog that one could ever imagine. Think what The Waterboys with Gollum on the vocals would sound like if they had been produced by Genesis P. Orridge. Then you might have some minor inkling. Their song 'Diana' is one of which I am particularly fond and I have stolen it several times over the years to use in my own neo-Fortean film projects.

A few years later came the second album To Keep from Crying which had some pretty good moments, but was nowhere near as impressive as the debut. The band split up and was forgotten by everybody apart from the likes of yours truly.

About three years ago I had a ‘phone call from an old friend of mine. I wasn’t going to believe what he had to say, he said. Comus are back, and furthermore unlike certain bands we could mention who “reform” with a bunch of session musicians who weren’t even born when the band was first conceived, and one of the old guitar roadies joining the original drummer, they had the original line-up from First Utterance.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was sitting in my favourite chair with the orange cat on my knee, and I was reading The Word. I saw a piece of news that made me nearly jump out of my seat in glee, prompting the orange cat to give me the sort of nasty stare that I usually only get form my wife when I have done something particularly opprobrious, or my youngest step daughter when I say something that she considers points to me being just a tedious old hippy who is somewhat of a social embarrassment. Not only were Comus back on the live circuit, but there was a new album. So I wrote to those jolly nice fellows at Coptic Cat Records (which I think is something to do with David Tibet) and a few days later a stylishly packaged compact disc arrived through my letter box.

With some trepidation I put it on my hi-fi. I would be very disappointed if it turned out to be as bad as I was afraid that it was going to. Some band should not be allowed to reform (The Velvet Underground, 20 years ago, were a perfect example of this).

Is it any good? Well duh!

In the liner notes, Roger Wootton writes, “It was felt by the whole band that we needed to show that we were not fossilised and that Comus was still a creative act.

I wanted to find ideas that fitted with 'First Utterance' as a continuity. It was developing on from The Prisoner that gave me the idea of coming out of a coma. This seemed to match our circumstances. So many people asked what we had been doing for the last 45 years, that it seemed apt to compare the new form with a rousing from a coma into Comus consciousness again.

The sacrifice also seemed an ideal subject – a Pagan sacrifice of a virgin for the harvest felt like something that had been left off First Utterance.”

From the moment you pick up the CD you are back in Comusworld again. The unsettling but undeniably organic cover by Wootton himself encapsulates the concept of the album. There are actually only three new tracks ‘Out of the Coma’, ‘The Sacrifice’, and ‘The Return’, all three doing exactly what it says on the tin, and following exactly template described in Wootton’s manifesto that I quote above.

Okay none of the songs are as good as 'Diana', but they are all in the same twisted prog/folk idiom, and - after all – Brian Wilson only wrote 'Caroline No' once in his career. The three songs, and Wootton’s manifesto feel like a gauntlet laid down on the ground; a challenge to the omniverse laying out their stall and stating that the boys (and girl) are back in town.

But there is more. Between the first two Comus albums was planned to be another album called The Malgaard Suite. It was long thought to have been lost, but Roger Wootton introduces 15 minutes of it, recorded live in 1972, which are all that remain. Some of the descriptions of this on the internet have made it sound as if it was disgustingly poor quality. It’s not. It just gives a tantalising glimpse of what might have been.

It is almost like this package operates on some sort of a quantum level; three songs from 2012 which may be a renaissance in the band’s fortunes alongside a fragment of a lost masterpiece which – had it been released – would have changed the history of the band entirely. What’s going to happen next? I can’t wait to find out.



I feel quite considerably better today; not quite firing on all four cylinders, but certainly - to a greater or lesser degree - functional.

A big `thank you` again to everyone in the Gonzo family who sent kind messages of support, especially Billy Ant-Bee, Michael Des Barres and Peter McAdam.

And talking of Peter McAdam, look what arrived in today's postbag...

The proof copy of his first book, the massively funny and completely peculiar 'The Nine Henrys', and also a DVD of Rick Wakeman, poerforming 'The Classical Wakeman' Live in Lugano, Switzerland.


HAWKWIND: Graham's on the road again (wearing the same old clothes again)

Our roving reporter Graham Inglis is off to Bridport this afternoon to catch the opening night of Hawkwind's UK Tour.

Depending on the size of his hangover, there will be pictures, words and possibly even video over the weekend.

I would like to be able to say that they will be rushed onto the Gonzo Daily in the morning, but he and my nephew David are driving to Exeter tomorrow morning to fix the boiler in my step-daughter's house.

That is (I am afraid) the way that the universe seems to work. By the way apologies to Chris Thompson for the headline, but I couldn't resist it..

Thursday 24 May 2012

LINK: 'Life is change' for Jefferson Starship founder

THREE OAKS - Paul Kantner was so inspired by "The Chrysalids," a 1955 science fiction novel written by John Wyndham, that he lifted lines from the text to use as lyrics for the title song of the 1968 Jefferson Airplane album, "Crown of Creation."

"All artists steal," Kantner says by telephone from his home in San Francisco. "That's how we learn. We take stuff that moves us, and we try to bend it into our own particular fashion, and it comes out as something else, which is a great value to most artists and musicians. The ones that do it well move it enough so that it's not just an imitation of what moves them. It is an imitation and a progression on that path. You create something that hopefully moves you, as well as somebody else."

One example of lyrics taken almost word for word from the book is the line, "Life is change/How it differs from the rock." The philosophy that nothing in life is certain except change is one that Kantner can easily understand throughout his 47-year musical career.
Read on...

LINK: Legendary Monck has new project

Chip Monck was there when music history was being made.

Chip served as the Ringmaster for Woodstock. It was his voice you heard in all of the announcements. He then worked for the Rolling Stones from 1969 – 1972.

He has worked on the Newport Folk Festival, the Monterey Pop Festival, with Crosby, Stills and Nash and concert guru Bill Graham.

For the past 20 something years Chip Monck has been living in Melbourne, Australia and at the ripe old age of 72 is about to embark on his next adventure, One Great Night On Earth.

One Great Night On Earth is a fundraiser to help Australian’s devastated by natural disasters like bushfire, floods and drought.

Read more:
What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.