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Blues For Mother Earth / Freak Knowledge

the Harvey Steel show

Sell Out! Music

Arriving in the form of two albums, yet packaged as a single release, are the brand-new offerings from the Harvey Steel show. Leading the way from Norway when it comes to raising awareness of social, political and environmental issues via their brand of DIY psychedelic folk art rock or whatever label one deems fit to apply to the band’s musical creations, the Harvey Steel show continue their musical exploration with a vinyl edition presented as a double A-side showcasing ‘Blues For Mother Earth’ and ‘Freak Knowledge’. Running first with ‘Blues For Mother Earth’, this side of the album reveals contents lighter in textures of folk, jazz and acoustic rock that eventually make their way to its centre masterpiece, and that being the album’s title track. Unfolding in 14 minutes, ‘Blues For Mother’ (track) goes through musical transitions involving folk and near gospel, to orchestrated jazz and breaks of psychedelic rock that remain under control nearing its conclusion. Lyrically, the song is worth adhering to if the present stranglehold of environmental pollution is ever going to be resolved. “Snap, snap, snap,” goes the flipside ‘Freak Knowledge’ that maintains the same A-sided status as ‘Blues For Mother Earth’ yet is the more aggressive sibling of the two. That’s not to say that we’re entering post-punk territory here, far from it, more that ‘Freak Knowledge’ is a little rougher around its edges as it pays its respects to those free spirits of this world prepared to open their minds and buck the norm of following trends. The Harvey Steel show certainly open their DIY box of creativity where blues, jazz and garage rock are on the menu. Former single, ‘Honey Voodoo’ is one such candidate that fits such a description as everything but the kitchen sink gets tossed in where, for example, you’ll hear more than one set of drums, distorted bass, harmonica, keys, saxophones, strings, vocal harmonies and an overload of guitars. Compelling chaos in other words. Less is also more here, with songs more concise as the short-sharp stabbing rhythm of ‘Artsy Crocodile’ with its protest-sounding vocals and bluesy harmonica are a match made in heaven, and one that would make PJ Harvey proud. There is only one way for the Harvey Steel show to go, and that is to continue pursuing their own musical destiny because this double A-side long player is a triumph.


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Popcorn Blues Party Vol. 2

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Beginning a new series on Koko Mojo is ‘Popcorn Blues Party’. With volume two arriving fresh for review, the numerous artists featured are handpicked by the Mojo Man himself (aka Little Victor) and with all tracks receiving the remastering treatment, there’s much care and attention to detail given. Originating from the land of Belgium, the Popcorn genre as it is known blends traditional rhythm and blues with pop songs of the 50s and 60s and performed in a slow to midtempo and often in a minor key. Therefore what the listener can expect with the current album in this brand new series are such atmospheric slow burners as ‘My Baby’ performed by Nappy Brown, to infectious grooves with a slightly higher tempo as Bo Diddley’s ‘I Can Tell’, ‘Had You Told It Like It Was’ (Albert King) and ‘Icy Groove’ via Albert Collins. In fact, the entire long player is an eclectic mix of styles where one moment songs are pounding out rhythms via bongos and blues harmonica (‘Made It Up In Your Mind’) and the next slinking along to a forceful rhythm and blues beat and largely aided by convincing vocals from Piney Brown during ‘Sugar In My Tea (Cream In My Coffee). It’s the slower tempo songs that appeal most, especially when both music and vocal deliveries equally match one another, but that’s taking nothing away from what is an interesting and very engaging compilation of a genre that has much to offer.


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Blink Before Christmas

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Arriving just in time for Christmas is the compilation ‘Blink Before Christmas’ from Koko Mojo. With a series of songs based on the usual and not so usual yuletide themes, and backed with traditional rhythm and blues, the thirty tracks selected offer much choice. From happy beginnings via James “Sugar Boy” Crawford and ‘White Christmas’, to humorous tale of an inebriated ‘Santa Claus Came Home Drunk’ by Clyde Lasley, ‘Blink Before Christmas’ immediately suggests not only a carefully selected playlist but one that will deviate from the norm to provide a different perspective of the Christmas festivities. With big names offering their musical wares such as B.B. King (‘Christmas Celebration’), Louis Armstrong (‘Zat You, Santa Claus?’), to superbly told narratives involving ‘Santa’s Secret’ (Johnny & Slam) and a rockin’ Santa Claus as featured by The Voices’ ‘Santa Claus Boogie’ and Babs Gonzales ‘Rock and Roll Santa Claus’. However, the main present arrives during delightful talkie that is the album’s title track, compellingly told by Phil Moore, making this a truly wonderful Christmas present for any record collection.


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The Twelve Rockin’ Days Of Christmas

Various Artists

Atomicat

Labelled ‘The Grown-Up Christmas’, ‘The Twelve Rockin’ Days Of Christmas’ is an apt description considering the period of the music selected that’s not going to appeal to your average teenager in the current scheme of things. The millennials loss is the “grown-ups” gain as ‘The Twelve Rockin’ Days Of Christmas’ unveils a combination of rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues just in time for the festive season. Take your pick from such rockin’ delights featuring The Sabers’ ‘A Cool, Cool Christmas’ that is a cool swinging rhythm and blues sound, ditto Otis Williams and His Charms ‘Little Turtle Dove’, to the blues guitars of The Jive-A-Tones’ ‘Wild Bird’ and perky ‘Reindeer Rock’ via The Sportsmen. A smooth compelling tone arrives via Big Joe Turner with ‘Christmas Date Boogie’, and Tiny Topsy’s ‘Ring Around My Finger’ sounds larger than the performer behind it. A different version of ‘Rocking Goose’ arrives by Steve Stannard but, unfortunately, it’s the song rather than any artist behind it that grates, with the same fate falling to Bobby Helms’ ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’. Fortunately, there’s much to feel merry about with this compilation with a string of country influenced songs from Hank Snow ‘Reindeer Boogie’, Reece Shipley & The Rainbow Valley Boys’ ‘Milk Bucket Boogie’, before flicking the switch back to normal service of stonking rhythm and blues from Jack Hammer and ‘Girl, Girl, Girl’.


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When The Clock Chimes Twelve

Various Artists

Atomicat

Making early preparations for the festivities that lie in wait is the new compilation from Atomicat ‘When The Clock Chimes Twelve’. Featuring various artists from the 50s such as Sonny Burgess, Etta James and Ray Charles among others, the celebratory feel of the music is what you’d expect this time of year but there’s plenty to suggest that it’s far from predictable. With the likes of Link Ray & His Wraymen’s compelling yet far from high on celebrations ‘Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby’, to Bob And Lucille’s emotionally distraught ‘Demon Lover’, and further enhanced by Big Mama Thornton’s roaring vocals during ‘I Smell A Rat’, this compilation is definitely for a party with a difference! Engaging from start to finish, ‘When The Clock Chimes Twelve’ offers so much choice and variation while remaining loyal to the genres of rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues and providing some real gems from previously mentioned Sonny Burgess (‘Ain’t Got A Thing’), Red Smiley & The Vel-Tones featuring Clint West and track, ‘Take A Ride’. If you want true celebration, then look no further than ‘Hand Clappin’ Time’ supplied by Gino with Johnny Greek. For those looking for a soundtrack with a difference to fuel a party with a difference, ‘When The Clock Chimes Twelve’ is worth obtaining.


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Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.5

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Helping to spread the gospel when it comes to traditional blues and rhythm and blues is the latest edition of ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.5’. Stretching out its creative offerings with twenty-eight tracks, volume five opens its account with a sure-fire winner by Little Junior Parker & His Blue Flames and ‘My Baby’. The setlist continues to impress and largely with familiar pickings from Bo Diddley and super raucous ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’, to lovely skeletal delivery from Rufus Thomas and ‘Bear Cat’. Then it’s a toss of a coin, not as a means of deciding where, if any, the strengths and weaknesses lie, more in terms of the lesser known artists rubbing shoulders with the more established. The quality in music never deteriorates as a result of this where Wolf Call Boogie provides the diamond in the pack in a compelling style of rambling blues, vocals and words via ‘Hot Shot Love’, to what sounds like it’s coming from a tiny transistor radio from Snooky Pryor with ‘Boogie Twist’, and then delivering on all levels with quality offerings from Sam Cooke (‘Mary, Mary Lou’), Otis Rush (‘Satisfied’) and B.B. King ‘Bim Bam’. Another volume and another successful formula of blues and rhythm and blues as far as ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.5’ goes.


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Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.4

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Lining up for round four of the so far impressive series is ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol. 4’. With a massive twenty-eight tracks to contend with, volume four of this series others a mixture of established names who graced these genres as well as those lost to obscurity. Tending to shuffle the pack when listening to such compilations, instant fixes soon arrive via the excellent rhythm and blues of Little Johnny Jones And The Chicago Hound Dogs with ‘I May Be Wrong’, to the harmonica-filled ‘Shake -A- My Hand’ and more than qualified Doctor Ross. Other delights springing from the grooves of this long player can be found via impatient and punchy rhythm of Magic Sam’s ‘Love Me With A Feeling’, and then solid ‘Built For Comfort’ by Willie Dixon who also applies a touch of class during ‘Slim’s Thing’ that’s peppered with jazz influences. There’s room for the female artists as well with Betty Everett providing fine vocals on ‘My Love’, to an altogether different yet equally stunning vocal delivery from Howlin’ Wolf that sounds dipped in a combined pot of treacle and bourbon and coming up with ‘Wang-Dang-Doodle’ for example. There’s not a dud track to be had here as the various artists selected for ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.4’ maintain a high level of quality via a mixture of blues and rhythm and blues.


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Dirty Thirty

B. B. & The Blues Shacks

Rhythm Bomb

A three-disc deluxe digipack arriving from prolific blues masters B.B. & The Blues Shacks. With a career spanning thirty years, hence the ‘Thirty’ of its title, the material selected features two of the band’s previous albums – ‘Come Along’ (2012) and Businessmen (2014) – and a third album, ‘Dirty Thirty’, consisting of entirely new songs. Since the band’s inception (1989), there’s every reason to celebrate considering B.B. & The Blues Shacks popularity and dominance throughout Europe when it comes to the blues market. With both ‘Come Along’ and Business Men receiving a fresh lick of paint by way of remastering, there’s every reason to celebrate this 30th anniversary whether enjoying the breezy, blues-rock ‘True Love In Vain’, reflective ballad ‘If I Should Ever Lose Your Love’, last chance saloon ambience of ‘Get My Stuff Together’, expertly portrayed in the vocals department, and not forgetting the sizable impression the likes of ‘Pardon Me’, ‘Rain All Down My Way’, ‘It Was A Dream’ make after only one sitting! There’s really no reason for any complaints here. The inclusion of new material suggests B.B. & The Blues Shacks has no intention of giving up the blues, and why should they when there’s much quality to be heard from the likes of the downright raw and dirty blues of ‘Rambling Kind’ that continues its tumbling slide into ‘Three Handed Woman’, before finally gaining composure with sophisticated jazzy-blues stroll ‘I Run For You’.  B.B. & The Blues Shacks celebrate in serious style with ‘Dirty Thirty’ and suggest, on more than one occasion, there’s plenty of mileage to go before the next anniversary.


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Black Halloween – Bo Diddley Is A Zombie!

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

It’s that time of year again when the ghosts, ghoulies, skeletons and zombies have finished their laundry and ready themselves for the annual celebration that is Halloween. Arriving just in time for the ghoulish festivities is a new compilation to shakedown those dancing limbs from Koko Mojo. With a track list providing a new slant on this rockin’ theme with black artists from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. One aspect worth celebrating here, apart from the exciting music on offer, is the focus on less obvious tracks to celebrate this time of year. With no time for the obligatory Screamin’ Jay Hawkins ‘I Put A Spell On You’, what the listener receives instead is the same artist but with equally compelling ‘Frenzy’, complete with cartoon vocal expressions setting up this compilation for more great expectations. ‘Black Halloween: Bo Didley Is A Zombie’ certainly delivers with more measured, yet equally thrilling performances by the likes of Lord Luther and ‘(I Was A) Teenage Creature, The Hollywood Flames’ ‘Frankenstein’s Den’, and wonderfully bluesy-trippy version of ‘The Shadow Knows’ from The Coasters. With Johnny Fuller assuming a plucky stance in relation to ‘Haunted House’, to soulful numbers from Ike Turner, The Cadillacs and The Naturals, not to mention more predictable entry from Bo Diddley (‘Who Do You Love?’) who manages to bag the front cover despite appearances looking a tad unhealthy. Of course, no rockin’ Halloween album is complete without its eccentricities and this arrives upon its conclusion with intriguing Philly Joe Jones’ ‘Blues For Dracula’. Clearly, it’s not only the living who are rockin’ because there’s enough evidence to suggest the dead are enjoying the dance via ‘Black Halloween: Bo Didley Is A Zombie’.


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Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Arriving straight on the heels of volume one is the second compilation album, ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’. Being compiled once more by Little Victor Mac, volume two follows in the same footsteps with songs about cars and relationships set to a rockin’ backdrop. It’s a wild collection with the familiar names of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Didley and Jackie Brenston making appearances, but there’s something a little different with more of an “edge” to some of the songs where the horrors of driving are relayed in pileups, traffic jams and additional highways than the usual Route 66. In fact, it’s all here as volume two provides a few leftfield moments, offering fascinating insights of motoring during this particular era with, for example, such futuristic slants as ‘Your Car Machine’ (Guitar Tommy Moore) or tales retold of ‘Drunk Driver’s Coming’ by Richard Bros. Add the emotionally charged ‘Car Crash’ (The Cadets) and mischievous ‘Radar’ (Mr. Bear and his Bearcats) to the list, and it’s safe to suggest that such themes and imaginative performances are sadly a thing of the past. No matter as ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’ will help to relive those former “golden” glories.


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Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Compiling numerous artists from the golden age of American music, with a hefty slice of rhythm and blues, comes ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’. With The Mojo Man (aka Little Victor Mac) overseeing the track selection and dedicating the first instalment to Victor Hugo Green, who was responsible for producing The Green Book, which served as a travel guide to African Americans during an era of racial segregation in the United States. With America in the 50s enjoying a burgeoning car industry, not to mention a developing music scene that was equally as exciting and wild as the designs of the cars, ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’ provides a history lesson and reminder of this period. It doesn’t take any real searching to discover a whole host of established names and tracks with the likes of Chuck Berry (‘Maybellene’), Jackie Brenston (‘Rocket “88”’), Lightnin’ Hopkins (‘Big Black Cadillac’), Bo Didley (‘Cadillac’) and Smiley Lewis (‘Too Many Drivers’). The inclusion of The Medallions charismatic delivery of ’59 Volvo’ is a worthy companion for any journey, with a return trip booked consisting of Wynonie Harris’s absorbing commentary during ‘Fishtail Blues’, followed by neat and tidy rhythm of Oscar McLollie’s ‘Roll Hot Rod Roll’. It’s a blast from start to finish with tales of new and exciting car designs, intertwined with tales of relationships set to an enthralling combination of rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Off to a great start, ‘Motorvatin’: 28 Songs From The Green Book Era’ is a worthy addition to anyone’s music collection.


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Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.3

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Coming back for round three is ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.3’. With a whole host of names ranging from Willie Dixon to Bo Diddley, you can expect to hear some familiarity with this current volume in this excellent series. There are, however, some artists making appearances that may be less known, with the intriguing moniker Smokey Smothers and superb raw blues ‘I’ve Been Drinking Muddy Water’ that suggests great hardships of the time. Elsewhere, Little Johnny Jones’ ‘Hoy Hoy’ contains a finger clicking rhythm that is a balance of rough and smooth edges and a vocal that sounds effortless such is its alluring power. Dusting down the blues further, and living up to his namesake, is Dusty Brown, who provides a compelling turn with near primitive ‘Hurry Home’ complete with harmonica. Simplicity is given a push during The Earthworms’ (Little Milton and Oliver Sain) ‘Fishtail’ that is fuller sounding and offers an instrumental track. By providing a good balance between the previously mentioned established artists with quieter profiles, ‘Southern Bred: Mississippi R&B Rockers Vol.3’ continues where its preceding volumes left off, by offering more quality blues tracks.



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