Diary of a Madman by Derek Oliver

January 18th, 2011
SOMEONE, AND I’m not at liberty to mention who, mentioned that the Rock Candy web site was looking fine and feeling even better but the diary page needed some much needed care and attention. No surprise there I thought but in mitigation I have been a tad busy over the last couple of years what with various half baked get-rich-quick schemes, official Rock Candy business and an obsessive record collecting habit which demands hours spent trawling through eBay listings on almost hourly basis. Time, my friends, is at a premium but, guilt ridden as I am, it’s time to turn on the writing taps again and get down to some serious blogging in a manner befitting the parlance of our times.

Fortunately the last 24 hours has provided a neat launching pad for this diary re-entry. I fielded a call yesterday afternoon from Laurie Mansworth, erstwhile songwriter and guitarist for Airrace, one the UK’s finest 80s melodic rock bands. Laurie and I have been working tirelessly on a new project of late, namely a young band called the Treatment who have signed to Powerage Records, the Classic Rock magazine record label, an operation designed to showcase the best in new talent. They’ve just completed their debut album (due for release in Feb) with Laurie at the production helm as well as being firmly in the management seat. In addition, Laurie together with vocalist Keith Murrell, has recently reactivated Airrace, having cut a new album that will see a June releases on the Italian based Frontiers label. I’ve heard some tracks and can report that if you, like moi, thought their original and only album ‘Shaft Of Light’ was a veritable work of brilliance then you’ll be doing back-flips around the living room to this one. Yes, that good.

Anyway, I digress. Laurie was enquiring as to my availability that evening. I was naturally guarded – one doesn’t like to make sweeping statements of availability and then get landed with a no-get-out invitation to attend a gypsy snooker playing tournament. Fortunately this call was a dream ticket to something that utterly blew my mind. ‘Meet me at the rehearsal room in Park Royal’, he noted. ‘You’ll be pleased as punch’. Dutifully myself and my wife trundled along to the location, which turned out to be a non descript office building just off the Park Royal industrial estate in North West London. A pretty unappetising waste land flanked by a Staples Superstore and a drive through Burger King. It was damp evening but inside I could see the party was in full swing. Oddly, as a man about town, I didn’t recognise anyone in the busy reception, just a number of shifty reprobates quaffing free Champaign and double dipping a generous platter of finger food. No one that is except for man mountain Laurie… and, rather surprisingly, Danny Bowes, formally of powerful beat combo Thunder. Danny was there to ‘film a documentary’ so he told me. It’s odd talking to a masterful vocalist who is no longer being a masterful vocalist – we discussed this at length coming to the conclusion that time waits for no man, so getting on with life is possibly just as fulfilling. Anyway, come 7pm with an official clap of hands, doors flung open leading to a cave of a room. Imagine walking onto the set of a 1970s James Bond Movie – a nuclear submarine silo housing five or six boats flanked by an army of operatives doing things only done by highly trained technicians in white lab coats. It was a huge room alright, made even bigger by the fact that the front of the building gave no indication as to the size of the place. I was about as shocked as a shocked man can be. We were handed disposable 3D glasses and led to a few rows of fold away chairs and told to assume the position… which fortunately turned out to be seated.

Powerful lights dimmed and the entertainment began. Weird and very loud sound effects rumbled out of the PA system – quadraphonic by the way – and then B-O-O-M, the music commenced. It was the Australian Pink Floyd show. An act that I’ve always wanted to secretly observe but never had the guts to actually admit hankering after. More fool me I’m afraid. The band tore through about an hour and a half of brilliantly crafted classic Floyd with all the bells and whistles that you could only dream of. And by bells and whistles I mean a light show that dwarfed the real Floyd’s indoor firework display. I saw the original Floyd three times; 1976 at the then named Wembley Empire Pool on the ‘Animals’ tour, ‘The Wall’ performed in London’s Earl’s Court and finally during the 80’s at Wembley Stadium with the enormous vertical circular lighting rig. I will go on record and say that apart from the ‘Animals’ gig, the APFS (Australian Pink Floyd Show) was even better than the real thing. It was super loud yet crystal clear, and they performed a greatest hit set stretching right across the catalogue from ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ to ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’ and all points in between. The lights were spectacular; the humongous round screen displayed moving 3D images, powerful green lazer beams removing scalps and eyebrows and giant inflatable’s – that’s pigs and Kangaroos! Hats off to the band who played note perfect (as you might expect) and to the three backing vocalists, one of whom cloned Claire Torry’s caterwauling on ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ perfectly. The jaw-dropping guitar work on ‘Comfortably Numb’ making most of us suspect that Gilmour was somewhere in the house with a wireless guitar feed and that infamous stoic heads down gate. It was a triumph of biblical proportions.

Truth be told, I’m so long in the tooth that going to any gig these days is more of an endurance test than a pleasure. Frankly, little truly excites me anymore but this show was beyond critique, brilliantly executed and amazingly arranged. I was on the edge of my seat every moment half expecting to see Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason appear out of copious clouds of dry ice hands clasped and raised skywards in well deserved triumph. Well, if the originals aren’t up for it then I’ll take this version any day. Go see ‘em, you’ll not only be amazed but truly spellbound.

On the way out, Danny Bowes took me aside and asked – knowing full well what the answer would be – what I thought of the show. He smiled, we laughed, then shook hands and it was off into the night. Another victory for entertainment.

December 10th, 2008
Been in email correspondence with a good man who runs a small ‘mom and pop’ record store down in the picturesque seaside town of Whitstable, Kent. Whenever I’m that way or visiting friends in the area I always make a point of stopping off to pay him a visit. The shop is called ‘Rock Bottom’ (no prizes for guessing where that title came from) and its one of the few old style stores around stocking a tasty selection of used vinyl (always dear to my heart of course), CD’s and various bits of memorabilia. More importantly Mike, for it is he, is an extremely knowledgeable AOR-head with an additional love of good neo-prog. He recently turned me onto a band called Frost – a new name to me – but featuring a couple of folk that, as it turns out, I actually knew, namely bassist Jon Jowitt and guitarist/fast rising producer John Mitchell. I met JM a couple of years back whilst looking for a producer to oversee the Lethargy album, and visited his studio in Reading called Outhouse. John is hugely talented – it won’t be long before he produces something that hits the radar big time. He’s already done stuff with Funeral For A Friend and Enter Shikari, amongst many others so keep an eye on him.

Jon Jowitt is also highly accomplished and a former member of IQ no less, a band that I used to knock around with back in the early Kerrang! days. Actually my first encounter with IQ was pretty hostile – I was writing for the Melody Maker and reviewed their debut self financed album ‘Tales From The Lush Attic’ handing it a spectacular pasting. They came around to see me – five angry young middle class prog heads all with decent haircuts. Mike Holmes, the leader also cornered me one Saturday in my favourite record store in Notting Hill Gate, a man with a righteous grudge and a bag full of second hand records threatening to do me over. Thankfully common sense prevailed ie I’m 6’ tall and built like a Russian discuss thrower whilst Mike was somewhat less imposing and keen to avoid physical sparring. By way of an olive branch they asked me to come see a show, something that I dutifully agreed to. At the time there was a widely publicised neo-prog scene erupting out of nowhere spearheaded of course by Marillion with bands like Pallas and Twelfth Night following up from the rear. IQ were right in the thick of it and the show was a glorious celebration of all things prog with the audience contributing as much to the experience as the band. I started to understand what they were all about.

They invited me to a band party at a house in Harlesden, which is a location as far removed from the prog rock ethos as you could possibly imagine. I’m not a party man myself but the rooms were so full of interesting characters and curious associates that I still think it was one of the best evenings that I’ve ever had. It was like stepping into a house commandeered by mad, surreal mentalists like Vivian Stanshall, Keith Moon, Peter Sellers, Salvador Dali, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke. Mike Holmes was madder than the lot – an existentialist par excellence. I enjoyed his company immensely and we forged a good friendship that was rekindled last year with an invite to attend the bands annual Christmas show.

But back to my man in Whitstable…this particular Mike is struggling to keep his operation in full flight. The music retail sector – as they like to say in Music Week, the trade magazine – has been taking a pounding recently resulting in the virtual decimation of every independently owned record store in the UK. Indeed it’s much the same story in the USA where music retail has collapsed – I was in New York a year ago and the great bastion of the US record scene Tower Records closed its doors for good. That sent shock waves around the music business and an arrow through my heart. The little man has no chance but I will continue to patronise Rock Bottom and any other similar set up. I encourage you to do the same and if you are ever in Whitstable, and you should be at least once in your life, then do please pay him a visit.

Had a good conversation this morning with Paul Elliott a long time friend and colleague – he is now a writer for such well-groomed tomes as Classic Rock and Mojo amongst others. He’d ‘lost’ his essay on the making of UFO’s ground breaking double live album ’Strangers In The Night’, a work that I’d commissioned for the recent Rock Candy/EMI CD reissue. Fortunately I still had the text. Paul’s a devoted AOR lover – I caught him a year or so ago with a copy of Desmond Child & Rouge’s debut album tucked under his arm at a Rush show. It was a curious accessory considering the nature of the evening’s entertainment and one made even more unfathomable when he started a fight with some bloke who kept standing up in front of him blocking his view. Blood was, I’m pleased to report, not drawn.

December 9th, 2008
I TOOK myself and my umbrella to the Borderline to see the rarely spotted Dan Reed recently. ALL acoustic performances normally leave me ashen faced and itching to make a dash out of the door as soon as possible, so I wasn’t holding much hope for Dan and his guitar. How wrong I was. The performance was superb with Dan managing to keep the packed crowd riveted to his every word… rarely do you find a performer capable of reaching beyond a certain comfort zone but Dan’s ability to charm and delight without a full-on rock band reached historic proportions. The crowd, every inch a DR fan to a man, lifted his spirits and turned a good performance into a GREAT one. Best bits were when Dan forgot (deliberately on purpose?) some of the lyrics to his best known songs and the audience filled in on cue.

He looked great. Sounded even better and then found time to invite everyone backstage for a nice cup of tea and a chat. Wot-a-bloke! Then a couple of weeks later his manageress emailed to say he was playing another ‘select’ London show at a venue in, of all places, Kensal Rise somewhere called the Blag Club. Funnily enough I knew the area quite well (having been born and bred nearby) – it was located behind the Grand Union Cannel in a large Victorian brick built building opposite a recording studio that I’ve been visiting of late (Kensaltown) for reasons that will become apparent as this blog, not blag, unfolds in a couple of months..

The club itself was sort of odd – more akin to a central London members only affair with big burly bouncers at the door and a receptionist to welcome you and guide you through the maze of corridors. I was ushered into a small well appointed room with arm chairs, a bar and a little stage dead center. It felt peculiar as the audience didn’t much resemble a DR crowd – felt more like a TV/media play pen. Feeling like a lemon, as I always do in such plush surrounds, it was a relief to spot the always affable Toni Metcalf (Dan’s organisational director) who introduced me a gentleman by the name of Rob Hutchison whom I’d not met before but works for a distribution company called Proper. Turns out that Rob was a huge Kerrang! reader back in the day and was delighted to meet me as he still lives and breathes the sort of stuff Rock Candy reissues. No conversation about 80’s rock can be complete without an agreement that Icon’s ‘Night Of The Crime’ is one of the best records of all time – a fact that Rob fully supports, I’m very pleased to say.

Then, with the clap of several hands, the room darkened and Dan took to the stage for a short 30 minute set. Again he played a blinder leaving no stone unturned in his bid to engage the audience with passionate and heartfelt songs of the kind only true greatness can provide. I spoke to Dan after he’d towled down and he was incredibly humbled that so many people had turned up at his recent UK shows and also at the level of support that they had given him – let’s face it, he’s been away for nearly fifteen years and for folk to come back and offer this level of encouragement was truly impressive. He’s got an album in the can – which I think will be ready for a 2009 release at some point but for now the first port of business is a return visit to Europe around May for a comprehensive selection of shows reinforcing the fact that he’s back, taking no prisoners.

November 6th, 2008
Quite a few folk have ridden into town this week looking for companionship and a warm meal. Yesterday I had a pleasant lunch with Derek Shulman the former principle of Atco Records under whose guidance, during the late eighties and early nineties, I studied the now lost art of hands-on A&R.

Raised, but not born, in Portsmouth (one of three brothers) DS, like a million others, was just a kid with a crazy dream. Together with his siblings they formed a pop band (DS being the front man) with an eye on usurping the Beatles but not the Rolling Stones. Simon Dupree & The Big Sound, as they named themselves, undertook enough ground work to score a deal with EMI, eventually making a dent in the pop charts with a classic slice of sixties psychedelia, namely the freak-beat Floydesque sound of ‘Kites’. They were even filmed for a BBC documentary – a tremendous b&w period piece which sadly occasionally appears on YouTube.

By the turn of the seventies the band had morphed into Gentle Giant, an astounding progressive rock band signed to the prestigious and now highly collectable Vertigo label. They issued a phenomenal body of work (at least 10 albums) throughout the decade and became extremely popular in numerous territories including central Europe, Canada and the USA. Sadly the onset of punk rock strangled any larger commercial ambitions forcing them to split up and go their separate ways. Brother Ray eventually became a much in demand producer working with mainly alternative acts whilst DS eased himself behind the desk at PolyGram Records in NYC, initially as a radio promotion exec before switching to A&R where he signed and worked with some choice talent including Bon Jovi, Kingdom Clone, Dan Reed Network, Cinderella, Jeff Paris and World Trade. By the late eighties Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records, asked him to revive the Atco label and that’s where we started working together.

DS initially hired me to run the London office of Atco and then in 1989 asked me to move to New York to join the A&R team, one of whom I already knew reasonably well, namely Steve Gett, a former UK music journalist who had shaped up and shipped out to the Big Apple a few years previous to work for Billboard Magazine. We signed some great acts including Enuff Z Nuff, Electric Boys, the Wildhearts, Pantera, the Rembrandts, Dream Theater and worked closely with a number of existing bands on the roster such as AC/DC, Bad Company and Yes. Sadly, some great signings slipped under the radar including records by the Raindogs (you should really check them out if you can find a copy), Jamie Kyle (a truly brilliant singer/songwriter and a wonderful human being), Bob Halligan, Tangier and cool as cucumber LA rockers Outlaw Blood. They were good years, full of real musical highlights (and some great personal disappointments) but all the artists did get a shot, of sorts, even if they were hamstrung by a mixture of poor management, lack of promotion, consumer apathy or bad luck.

These days DS is back in the saddle again, looking to get in the ring proper by revamping his independent label and setting his sites on signing some killer rock bands. I for one wish him the best of British – you can’t have too much of a good thing when it comes to new music and he’s a proven winner when it comes to finding the good stuff.

At the moment he’s helping Dan Reed out having reconnected with him only recently. Dan’s in the middle of his first visit to the UK for many moons, playing an acoustic series of dates which have been going down extremely well. He has cut a new album showcasing a more, dare I say, mature sound indicating that much water has gone under the bridge since his Network days. Lyrically too, the emphasis is on matters of a more spiritual nature but I guess the Network always hinted at that back in the day. If this tour works out, and already it looks as though it is, he’ll be back early next year for a more comprehensive visit.

November 4th, 2008
The annual Classic Rock Awards dinner was held last night at the swanky Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly. Red carpets and chandeliers graced the entrance lobby in which rockers, young and old, amused themselves quaffing Champaign whilst fiddling with Blackberry’s and leering lasciviously at two hostess’s dressed in figure hugging latex.

I arrived in a whirlpool of excitement, ready and willing to take on all comers and dance the night away in a pool of industrious sweat. Everyone was dressed to the nines. Tuxedo’s, dinner jackets and cocktail dresses were in. Denim and leather was definitely out. Even battle hardened rockers were dressing for success. It made for an uncomfortable environment. There was David Coverdale in a sparkly jacket, Ron Wood shoe-horned into an expensive looking black suit with patent leather shoes and Jack Bruce sporting the same dinky red coat that he wore on stage for the Cream reunion.

Luckily I ran into Geoff Barton who was only too pleased to engage in conversation about three of my favourite topics, namely Trigger, Starcastle and Paul Chapman era UFO. I like Geoff because apart from me he’s the only person I know who fully understands that in the world of Classic Rock it’s a fine line between stupid and clever. Geoff has an encyclopaedic knowledge of obscuro metal and like me derives great pleasure in dredging up nuggets of stunningly desperate trivia. Before long we were fully immersed in a rock ‘n roll version of seventies TV quiz show Call My Bluff; Robert Morley and Frank Muir duelling over wildly exaggerated UFO yarns.

Suddenly there was a bustle in the hedgerow. Two mysterious figures, dressed in back, glided down the stairs escorted by a team of industrial size flunkies. Bypassing the proletariat they were whisked into the ballroom proper. Classic Rock royalty had indeed arrived; Sharon and Ozzy, the prince of darkness and the queen of glitz. They took their place right up front, dead center flanked by Slash, his stovepipe hat and a pair of artificially created eyebrows. In an even more bizarre twist to proceedings a troupe of military drummers made their way onto the stage, banged their drums and then left as smartly as they had arrived.

Geoff went to the lavatory. I continued my dissertation about pomp rock to a gentleman who I’d never met before. Recognising that the conversation was a one way ticket to oblivion I made my excuses and commenced a field search for known associates, the first of which was long-tall Steve Hammonds smartly followed by Steve Beatty, managing director of Plastic Head Distribution. Steve has recently been training for a charity boxing match, an admirable cause by the way, but had to postpone the bout due to injury. I’d like to say that he chipped a finger nail or stubbed his toe but that would be belittling the soreness of a cracked rib. We wish him well when the prize fight is rescheduled.

Herded like cattle into the ballroom we took our places at pre appointed tables. I was pitched on table #5, to the left of Ozzy and Sharon, immediately in front of stadium sized speakers sandwiched between Jaz Coleman of spooky rockers Killing Joke and Mark Palmer, head of Roadrunner Records UK. It was a pleasurable experience alright with Jaz playing perfect host – a far cry from his on stage persona.

The room filled with people who I either recognised or, conversely, didn’t recognise. Alarmingly, for someone who has spent over 25 years in the record business, there were more people that I didn’t recognise. In such circumstances I divide the room into two categories; pre-grunge and post grunge. Pre-grunge represents a safe haven whilst post grunge is mind field of possibilities, not all positive.

Food was served; a three course meal with all the trimmings and by that I mean plenty of liquor. It was a vegetarian’s nightmare; foie gras to start and medallions of beef for mains. Surprisingly, the beef was delicious and nutritious providing a perfect accompaniment to pre-printed quiz sheets on every table. I felt sure our table had it in the bag. Difficult questions, for sure, but with judicious application of superior rock intelligence I rolled through the sheet like a Panzer tank through Prague. Imagine my surprise to find that table 16 had won the magnum of Champaign. How could that be? The shock and shame was further compounded by the fact that Steve Hammonds had been their team leader.

Thank god then for the arrival of the diminutive but perfectly formed Radio DJ Nicky Horne, our host for the evenings awards. The last time I heard Nicky Horne was when I was about 17 on London’s Capital Radio presenting a two hour rock show once or twice a week. He used to play Bob Seger, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent, Bob Dylan and we loved him to death. Then one day in 1976 he lost his mind on air and went into a stark raving mad rant lambasting punk rock and how he would never play it on his show. Natch, we loved him even more. Six months later he was knee high to a grasshopper in the Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, the Clash and Television. Oddly no explanation ever came forth.

Tonight little Nicky was back in full-on classic rock mode. Dressed in black, ala Johnny Cash, he laid down the law with righteous anger tearing through a series of presentations that left us laughing all the way to the back of the hall. The debunking of Gary Glitter was an ever present theme as his smooth delivery kept us enthralled like kids in a chocolate factory. Amongst those invited to the stage to be inducted or to be induced was a veritable litany of main offenders including – but not limited to – Ron Wood, Jeff Beck, Danny Bowes, promoter Harvey Goldsmith, Airbourne, Gary Moore, Wayne Kramer (who was wonderfully sardonic), Slash, Primal Scream, Todd Rundgren and, naturally, Sir Ozzy of Osbourneshire.

That was all very well and good but the real meat of the show in my opinion came via two very distinguished veterans of the psychedelic wars, namely Jack Bruce and Peter Green. Yes, you did read that correctly – the legendary plank spanking Peter Green was actually in attendance and accepted an award to a standing ovation. Even I managed to haul my humongous torso up and offer a full Rock Candy salute to the man that launched a thousand guitarists. Jack Bruce, resplendent in that tailored red coat, delivered an impassioned speech acknowledging his tetchy relationship with Ginger Baker and the overriding encouragement of Ahmet Ertegun, the deceased owner of Atlantic Records. It fair did bring a lump to my throat.

And then, in a flash, the evening was over. Many went on to the after show party – rock ‘n roll glitterati making the scene. I simply made my excuses and shuffled off home for a mug of piping hot cocoa and the words of Jack Bruce ringing in my ears.

October 25th, 2008
They say there’s no rest for the wicked and I suspect they might be correct as I’ve been running around like a blue assed fly this week – putting finishing touches to a few forthcoming RC releases. Sat with designer Curt Evans yesterday finalising the Raging Slab design and stared work on I-Ten and Trillion’s ‘Clear Approach’. It’s all go but the wait and work will be worth while I’m sure.

John Waite’s been in touch regards a trio of possible Babys reissues. Hopefully he’ll be getting involved with the sleeve notes – it’s a bit of a first for John as he’s been notoriously reluctant to make any public statements about his time with the band for various reasons many of which I guess he’ll make clear in the interviews that will hopefully accompany the RC reissues. He also told me that there are plans for him to play Europe shortly – the first gigs in a very long while – and he’ll be bringing over a full band, avoiding the acoustic route so beloved of similar performers. “I want to keep it full-on”, he told me, brimming over with excitement. Can’t wait for those shows – he could sing the telephone book and I’d lap it up.

Early evening I spent time lurking around YouTube ‘researching’ available UFO footage. As you may know – or actually as you may not know – I have been overseeing the ongoing UFO reissues for EMI. The idea is to crown the lot off with a sort of mini box set thing with one disc being a DVD. I don’t know if this will ever happen – the current turmoil at EMI and the economy in general making it prohibitive – but if it does get the green light the results could be spectacular. There’s some great footage floating around – primo seventies stuff with Schenker and also great Chapman performances. It amazes me not that all this is freely available but that folk have managed to unearth it, dust it down and upload it for all of us to enjoy. What a superb invention.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been rooting through a box of demos. They were sent in by a number of acts whose interest has been piqued by the Powerage label. Some interesting stuff in there and once I’ve played them all I’ll report if anything stands out head and shoulders above the majority. Actually, John Richards sent me something the other day that I quite liked, a band called Zero Down from, I think Seattle who sound unbelievably like old school Accept, right down to that growling/angry vocal style of Udo Dirkschneider circa ‘Balls To The Wall’. Sure, it’s full-on Powermetal but even a Gluten free AOR-head like me can vividly remember the exhilarating rush of Udo’s baton and boots stage stomp back in the early 80’s. By the way, I just read the other day that producer Michael Wagener was a member of Accept during their formative years back in the late seventies, a fact that had previously evaded my appetite for microscopic metal trivia.

Tomorrow is movie day. I’m off to see Ricky Gervais in the highly lauded ‘Ghost Town’ and the Coen Brother’s ‘Burn After Reading’. The Coen’s are positively my all time favourite writers/directors – if you’ve not seen the masterful ‘Big Lebowski’ then shame on you; the dialoque, soundtrack and Jeff Bridges performance are all lessons in perfection. Surreal for sure but way, way ahead of everything else.

October 21st, 2008
The weekend passed without incident, unless you count the comedic antics of my wife wrestling with blisters on her toes – the result of a vigorous Thames side walk on Sunday afternoon. She takes no comfort in the notion that a little short term pain will stand her proud in the long run.

Come Monday morning and my thoughts had turned to another matter entirely. A set of emails had been flowing between old friends with a view to a hastily arranged summit. The occasion? The arrival on these shores of Monte Connor, a colleague at Roadrunner Records NYC and, rather surpassingly to those who know him only as a nu-metal provocateur, a lover of all things dad-metal. Dinner was arranged at an exclusive West Kensington eatery – Nandos, Notting Hill Gate – where we were joined by fellow bath-chair bound metal enthusiasts Steve ‘Horsham’ Hammonds, Johnny ‘taff’ Richards and Hugh ‘Headmaster’ Gilmour. A clash of metal titans no less.

The conversation flowed. The clink of Diet Coke glasses rattled around the atrium and chunks of grilled chicken landed in the laps of the gods. Naturally, old war stories were trundled out – some for the umpteenth time – but the mood was uplifting as we remembered the good old days and hung our heads in shame at the rise and rise of shoe gazing emo rock.

I first met Monte back in the early nineties. It was at a glad handing session somewhere in downtown Manhattan and he soon caught on to my penchant for all things seventies. I’ll never forget the moment his little withered hands reached for the stars when I casually mentioned something about Atomic Rooster. Unbeknownst to me he was a John DuCann devotee, perhaps the only one in existence, and from that moment on he bombarded me with cassette tapes (no easy flowing mp3’s or custom CD’s back in those days folks) of ‘rare’ Rooster. Oh how I would groan when more arrived with each passing day. Still, the boy was enthusiastic, I’ll give him that. Seeing that his world, at that time, started and ended with the mighty AR I sent him some music – a sort of counter offence – obscure but GREAT long forgotten hard rock hell from the likes of Leafhound and Toad. He lapped it up like a fat cat with its head stuck in a pot of cream. I felt like I had gained the son I never had.

Steve Hammonds and I go further back than I care to remember. To be honest I don’t quite recall our first meeting but Steve’s remarkable gift for mental recall pin-points the occasion, rather alarmingly, as “in the toilet of the Rainbow Theater, Finsbury Park, London”. The occasion was a Journey concert. The gig I remember extremely well but the meeting less so. Anyway, we became firm friends, trading tapes, writing each other letters (how innocent), planning trips to records shops (remember those?) and meeting up at gigs whenever a visiting US band would come through town. Steve was as big a collector as me – still is – and our record buying escapades became the thing of legend. Having dinner in Notting Hill Gate was an appropriate setting, a chance no less to relive the glory days of pack-hunting in any one of four used record shops in the area. In those days the racks were literally stuffed with used vinyl – quality stuff not the slim pickings of present – and the prices were insanely cheap.

John Richards is a Welsh man but we won’t penalise him for that. He sports tailored facial hair and engages in rapid fire conversation – you have to match the shape of his lips to the sound coming out of them to make any sense of it all but that’s the beauty of John. As soft as a runny egg, he loves the sound of Blue Oyster Cult and other equally beguiling and complex hard rockers such as Max Webster and, er, Molly Hatchet. He worked with ‘Horsham’ Hammonds at Sanctuary Records, overseeing all those terrifically indulgent, yet utterly essential, reissues they used to churn out by the metre. These days he’s knocking Cherry Red Records into user friendly shape as well as building castles in the sand. He’s a national treasure is John, a man who has done more for the advancement of Anglo-welsh relations than Neil Kinnock at the height of old labour devolution.

Sir Hugh of Gilmour exudes a bohemian aura. A sort of jack of all trades – and master of many I might add – he leads a confusing but intriguing existence. As the front man of leading Brit retro rockers Pig Iron (in all seriousness you should really check them out – honestly one of the best bands I’ve heard in the last few years) he wields a mighty stick. He’s also a seriously impressive graphic designer – check out the credits on many of the Rock Candy releases and you’ll find Hugh’s by line – and we’ve recently been enjoying each other’s company working on the latest batch of UFO reissues; that’s the Chapman years, some of the most eagerly awaited releases in the UFO canon. Hugh’s also a college Don of sorts, a man of depth and a man whose complete existence appears to be built mainly upon a string of guilty pleasures. There is no one else that I would like to be sat besides in a moment of extreme panic or indeed civil unrest.

Top of the topics around the ‘round’ table was Monte’s two year battle to launch a proto-metal 2 CD compilation album. In a sort of ‘I have a dream…’ moment he launched into an impassioned speech accompanied by the smell of garlic on his breath soliciting our advice on whether to exclude German heavy progsters Weed and substitute May Blitz in their place. After carefully deliberation we couldn’t come up with an answer, leaving Monte both confused and bemused – his natural state in fact. Somehow between the five of us we can’t seem to get this project into gear but if Monte has his wicked way it will see the light of day and it will contain input from all five of us in some form or another. Stay very tuned.

He’s also a rather committed Grand Funk Railroad fan – the first I’ve ever encountered actually – and will go to extraordinary lengths to slip them into any conversation. That fact that no one seems remotely interested has not derailed his enthusiasm one jot. Somehow I’ve never managed to muster the will power to tell him that I once saw them play at the Wembley Empire Pool (in modern parlance; Wembley Arena) in 1975 – a vastly ambitious event. In an eight thousand capacity hall there must have been about a quarter of that at most… an entirely disastrous evening all round. And then there was the performance, but the least said about that the better methinks. Monte’s glowing cheeks and radiant championing of the ‘Funk’ deserves better.

The table throbbed with conversation. Little spin-off communications erupted like volcanic explosions cross fading into threats of mild violence and cheeky grins. We were like kids in a candy store ‘cept there were no ice cream pies or chocolate sauce to smear on our faces. I leered longingly at the deserts but some things are always better left unsaid.

We broke off to the sound of clinking glasses, hearty back slaps and loud guffaws. This would be a night to remember, or so we thought, as we kicked aside empty beer cans and leered enthusiastically at passing members of the public on our way to the station; a modern day metal militia consisting entirely of five established rockers armed with nothing but fists of vinyl and hearts of gold.

October 16th, 2008
I’ve got too many records – and I’m talking Vinyl here and that’s a F.A.C.T. Been collecting them since 1974. I didn’t have an income back then seeing as I was still at school so it was a slow start but as the unrelenting passage of time progressed, the mountain of vinyl grew. My parents were first to notice that my room was under siege from an ever expanding collection. Mother, in particular, was the most vocal – her main concern was that the wallpaper had started disappearing behind stacks of albums. Always albums by the way; I wasn’t a singles kind of guy.

The music papers at the time were full of adverts, announcing the release of various exotic rock records that I could never hope to own simply because I couldn’t afford more than two a week…that was until I discovered that you could buy second hand albums in used stores. It was that discovery that really increased my consumption. Hitting all the right stores in London meant that – with what amounted to small change – I could afford to acquire the most obscure and exotic music. But the real mind blowing realisation was that, if I didn’t like the music I could then recycle them back to the store for credit notes allowing me to walk away with even more records.

When I found gainful employment, the habit kicked in big-time. Forget Heroin, the lure and desire for collecting music totally dwarfed that sort of addiction. For me, it was all about hearing the latest sounds, scoring records that nobody in my immediate circle had ever heard before or even seen. It felt good. I was the king of my world. It felt like a rocket ride to the stars. Hard rock, heavy metal, pop rock, progressive rock, psych rock, adult orientated rock, soft rock…I wanted it all and I made sure I got an almost permanent fix.

Meanwhile back in the bedroom I had big problems developing. Hastily erected shelving creaked above my head. Posters had to be taken down to make way for further shelf construction. Even the inner workings of the bed-base had been modified to accept a stash of vinyl. My parents organised an intervention of sorts. They sat me down and talked me through the consequences of my ‘habit’. They said it was not only ruining me but that it was destroying them and their house. I had to agree, to a point. They tabled a compromise. Father would purchase and erect a garden shed – a self contained timber outhouse of a size that would comfortably house the collection. This was worrying. Sheds don’t have heating and the weather in London for at least six months of the year, especially back in the seventies, was damp and cold. This could spell disaster but like any dutiful son sitting at the feet of his parents in the midst of a terrible dark expose, I agreed to agree. After all, I had no money (my pitiful savings had long been exhausted buying vinyl) with which to flounce off and build a new life.

The shed was built and the records were transferred to their new home. A low powered torch provided light during dark spells and I spent many a happy evening re categorizing stock; UK prog rock A-Z. Maple Leaf Mayhem bottom row. US hard rock in pride of place – dead center and top. The shed was full from the get-go and it wasn’t long before the bedroom started to accommodate further deposits. Ma and Pa pleaded with me to stop coming home with more records. Like a junkie I started to invent stories of how they came into my possession – a friend had given them to me. I found them in the dumpster. The store was giving them away free. I said all and anything to fend off the constant barrage of guilt.

It then got serious. I planned trips to the record stores based around departure and arrival times of my parents just so that they wouldn’t actually see goods enter the house. I’d hide records in the bush outside and wait for an appropriate moment to sneak out and retrieve them. I even bought a huge ‘Crombie’ style overcoat for the pure and simple reason that it provided excellent concealment with lining unstitched at appropriate places along the seams. The whole charade was doing my head in but I still kept up the pretence that nothing un towards was occurring. Of course they knew differently.

And then, like the great San Francisco earthquake, the inevitable happened…

One day the shed could take the strain no more and one end fell off. Records were strewn all over the lawn. Our cat sat on a copy of ‘Sad Wings Of Destiny’. My father went nuts. My mother had to lie down. It was the Mack Daddy of all catastrophes and it was the moment that convinced me to finally move out and find my own way in life. I salvaged what I could, which was a lot, boxed up and shipped out; me and my record collection at the gates of delirium. Of course it all worked out fine in the end but for one moment I thought my life, as I knew it, was over and out. In a strange way it had only just started…

October 10th, 2008
I’ve been working on Rock Candy booklets today; Autograph and Cobra. Designer Cürt Evans has come up with some nice work using material supplied by both bands. Steve Plunkett (Autographs front man) in particular provided some great shots including stuff from the pre Autograph outfit Wolfgang. Cobra’s Jimi Jamison and Tommy Keiser both searched high and low for stuff – and came through. Also, I received some GREAT photos from Billy Steinberg to accompany the forth coming i-Ten reissue…watch the news page in the next week or so for release date details.

Perhaps this would be a good time to praise all the artists that have been the subject of Rock Candy releases. Most, if not all, have been more than accommodating in our requests for memorabilia and photographic evidence of their quest for gold and glory. In fact I can only think of one artist who was reluctant to get involved with a reissue. I won’t say who, as he eventually came on board and I think a lot of the initial reluctance was due to (bad) advice from a manager keen to flex biceps and talk the talk.

Tracking down some of these folks has proven to be an art in itself and erstwhile music journalist and friend Paul Suter has proven to be extremely helpful in this area. Paul, surprisingly, if you’ve ever experienced his rather relaxed personality, found employment in Los Angeles, until recently, as a Bounty Hunter with access to various interesting track and trace methods…and we don’t just mean a computer and a Google search engine either.

The delicious Karen Lawrence from hard rockers 1994 couldn’t believe our audacity when Paul came a knockin’ about the 1994 reissue (and yes, the second album is on our radar) but proved a real doll providing some great candid shots including rather pulse accelerating leather jump suit shots. Classic Rock’s Geoff Barton nearly choked on his morning cornflakes when they popped trough the Outlook Express mailbox.

Hats off to the boys from Money (the pre NWOBHM late seventies hard rockers) who came down to London from their native Birmingham to reconnect with myself and journalist Malcolm Dome. That album was one of my personal favourite RC reissues – it’s a record that I thought should have done so much more at the time of its original release.

It took a few phone calls and the smell of freshly hung meat but even Ted Nugent got on the blower to spill the beans on his ‘Scream Dream’ and ‘Weekend Warriors’ albums. Diving For Pearls front fella Danny Malone was also super cool – he gave his all in between studying as an art major up in Boston. Danny is married to an English girl and they both came over to London a couple of months back to visit the in laws which provided an excuse for us to get together. We sat for two hours talkin’ turkey, discussing our mutual love of Steve Marriott and Humble Pie together with the why’s, the wherefores and the I-Don’t-Mind-If -I-Do’s of DFP producer David Prater in full-on ‘creative’ mode. David, as talented as he is, is quite a live wire when it comes to twiddling the knobs and we both had marvellous stories to share. Danny is still writing songs but I fear his attention has turned to all things visual and colourful – a renaissance man no less.

Looking back I can’t think of one single artist that put the mockers on any of our releases. Even Lita Ford, once we tracked her down to a remote Caribbean island where she now lives with husband Jim Gillette, was dead keen to provide all the help health and beauty required. Talking of beauty, Romeo’s Daughter front gal Leigh Matty couldn’t have been a more engaging personality, genuinely thrilled about their album being resuscitated and reissued. The voice of rock Glen Hughes took a chunk out of his time to spill the beans on the Hughes/Thrall album (where art H/T ‘II’?) whilst Pat Thrall tweaked and trimmed the two bonus tracks into a fit-for-purpose state. Touch Man Mark Mangold hooked up with me in NYC earlier this year – we are actually long time friends from many years back – so that was a pleasant reconnect. Mark has a great sense of humour – something that I was unaware of until our latest dalliance.

Best of all though was finely connecting with someone from Mother’s Finest. I make no apologies for saying that MF are one of my favourite ever bands – a wonderfully talented unit that coulda and shoulda sold a lot more records first time around. I’d actually met singer Joyce Kennedy in 1989 at the Hollywood Palladium but only briefly – she’s one of my all time favourite singers – but, for some reason that night, I was literally tongue tied. This time around it was ultra cool bassist Wyzard who took our MF reissue project by the reigns. The Wyz, proved to be a super dude, delivering on every count – I even introduced him to the legendary Brian Brinkerhoff who promptly sequestered the Wyz in an LA studio to play bass on a blues album that Brian was making with Guitar Shorty. Apparently they all got on like a house on fire.

More recently, I’ve been working with Raging Slab’s Greg Strzempka who has proven to be something of a real treasure. We kicked around who was going to write the essay for the Slab reissue and it occurred to me that Greg might actually be the best person for the job. He didn’t let us down either…the essay is mind blowingly GREAT. Gregg’s ability to paint pictures with words is beyond comprehension. The story is full of true-grit tales from the front line and it’s astonishingly funny. In fact, I shall trailer some of the parts that didn’t make the cut over the next couple of days to give you a sense of what’s in store in final booklet. I told Gregg that he must stop all this rock ‘n’ roll malarkey immediately and turn his attention to publishing – the boy has one hell of a book in him and I’d be first in line to buy a copy.

The weekend looms. I shall be examining my record collection for any unplayed music and making lists amongst matters of a more domestic nature.

October 9th, 2008
So where were we? Oh yes, on Sunday afternoon June 22nd 1975 you would have found myself and my school chum Brian Farmer, sitting on the steps of the Roundhouse (curiously they went up a flight rather than the current configuration walking down steps into the venue). We were joined by an older cousin of his from Devon who had been packed off to London in an effort to find suitable employment. He had very long hair (presumably the reason why he couldn’t find a job) and was dressed in faded Denim looking very much the part of an early seventies rocker – I suppose he was only about four or five years older than us, but somehow, in our world, he had assumed the role of an elder ‘rock god’ statesman. He didn’t speak much but whatever he did say had an air of chilling finality about it.

Early entry to the Roundhouse was all part of the event. With no seats it was essential that you got a good pitch but that didn’t mean getting to the front of the stage as the floor of the venue was graduated so, like at the cinema, the best place was about a third of the way back. And it was here that Thin Lizzy literally blew my socks clean off. I don’t know if it was this particular gig but they were totally on fire – the twin lead guitar attack of Robertson and Gorham had fully evolved and Lynott was on top of his game – wielding a huge and impressive Rickenbacker Stereo bass, sitting way up high, like a tooth pick.

Most importantly however, they looked like a gang. I’d never seen a band act and sound so unified. They were positively dangerous, though Phil always had a twinkle in his eye and Scott’s user friendly smile never left his face. Robbo, however, was a different kettle of fish altogether. A man on a mission would be a polite way of describing that concentrated look. I think he used to sit a teddy bear on his speaker stack but that would belie the razor blade glances.

The new material was heavier and far more streamlined than the previous time I’d seen them. I can remember ‘Fighting’ and ‘Suicide’ but the rest of the set went by like a blur; a full-on explosion of rage with two Les Paul guitars grinding out riff upon riffs like they had only just been invented. Lynott played a cool-as-cucumber leader, always in control and always holding the reigns of his two henchmen. Brian Downey? There was no better drummer around in those days and you can include Bonzo and Moon in that assessment. Of course, it was a monumental gig and one that sent shockwaves around London several days after. This was definitely the tipping point for the band, the moment when not only their fans realised that they were about to move up to the next level but also the rock press as well.

The Roundhouse gig, as it turned out, was a one-off show pencilled in and played whilst they were in the midst of recording the ‘Fighting album at Olympic studios in Barnes, south west London. Later that same year in September, when the album was released, they headed out on a full UK tour this time bringing their show to a bigger and more prestigious London venue; The New Victoria theatre located across the road from the mainline train station. A plush venue alright, with a balcony seating about 2,000 at a squeeze. I’d been there a couple of times before to see a few bands (the Atlanta Rhythm Section and, I think, Johnny Winter) but this was definitely the most exciting event the venue had ever hosted. John Peel was there too, sporting a duffle coat and looking suitably morose – I said hello to him in the foyer and he nodded back disapprovingly. I felt blessed.

Lizzy fielded two support bands that night; newly signed to Phonogram Birmingham based art rockers City Boy (featuring Mike Slamer) and prog men String Driven Thing. City Boy kicked off proceedings and came across as somewhat pretentious, a rudderless cross between 10cc and pop band Pilot. It was a far cry from the luscious AOR direction that they would later adopt. String Driven Thing had been working the college and university circuit for years but had just revamped their line-up and style switching from hoary old prog rock to a more streamlined hard rock direction. The problem, however, was that they continued to feature an electric violinist, long serving weirdy beardy Graham Smith (think Michael Evis but scarier), thus forever scuppering any chance of escaping the early seventies prog brigade. Amazingly, it must be said, they went down really well before Lizzy came on stage and ripped the place apart. If Lizzy had arrived at the Roundhouse then this show was a rocket ride to the Moon. I can’t tell you how great they were except to say that at this time no one could possibly touch them as a live band. They were that explosive and that impressive.

Of course, this brings us back to the recently released ‘UK Tour 1975’. A fine, if mildly flawed, document of a band on the precipice of greatness. People often point to the ‘Jailbreak’ album as the record that solidified Lizzy’s sound and reputation but I, along with a few other puritans, will always point to the ‘Fighting’ album as the record that really set Lizzy apart from the pack. ‘Fighting My Way Back’, ‘For Those Who Love To Live’, ‘Suicide’, ‘Wild One’ and ‘Rosalie’ are all classics in the Lizzy canon. However, my favourite track, and one never aired live, was ‘Kings Vengeance’, the precursor, if you will, to the swashbuckling style premiered on ‘Jailbreak’.

Tomorrow I go in search of further Rock Candy reissue booty and the next three UFO releases.

Be seeing you.

October 7th, 2008
Been in Manchester for the last few days attending a music conference – In The City. Some interesting characters walking around the hotel lobby including, and I kid you not, Jonathan King, the erstwhile king of penitentiary pop. Also in attendance was Andrew Loog Oldham, the original manager of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles Press Officer and one of the founders of Immediate Records, the late sixties out-a-sight London based record label sporting the Nice and the Small Faces amongst a fair share of obscurities such as Duncan Browne and PP Arnold. Oldham was in fine form; very much a product of his era and sprouting plenty of catchy strap lines – it was like watching a mannicured mash-up of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘If’. Apart from entertaining us with a curious light green tweed jacket he refereed a conversation between label mogul Seymour Stein and record producer Richard Gotterer which was sort of like a scene out of the Odd Couple – highly entertaining and full of great stories from the sixties with Seymour insisting on singing lines from obscure doo-wop tracks.

On a more serious note, Just before leaving for Manchester, I bought the new Thin Lizzy CD ‘UK Tour ‘75’. Much has been made of this release in Thin Lizzy fan forums. Highly anticipated, the hype has been focussed on both sound quality and content so I was gagging to break the seal and stick it into the CD player. To be honest I was pretty disappointed with the recording quality; its quite harsh and treble – in fact, I think the mastering engineer forgot to dial in sufficient bottom end – either that or it wasn’t on the original masters. The song selection however is boss. A killer set list recorded at a crucial moment in the bands development.

I had seen them supporting Bachman Turner Overdrive at Hammersmith Odeon the year before (1974) and then headline the Roundhouse in London’s Camden town during the summer of ’75. The Roundhouse show was a significant development for Lizzy, it was their first prestigious headline gig in the Capitol and I can remember walking to the venue on a Sunday afternoon from my parent’s home – about 4 miles. In those days Sundays at the Roundhouse were extra special – they would open the doors late afternoon and it would always be a three band bill for a relatively cheap price. In fact, Mott The Hoople wrote a song about the venue – their last every single with the newly hired Mick Ronson on guitar titled ‘Saturday Gigs’.

The Roundhoue in those days was a decidedly grubbier venue than the recently re-opened and refurbished building you may have visited in the last couple of years. For a start, the stage was almost at the same level as the audience and the circular interior perimeter housed a number of stalls selling everything from Afghan Coats to second hand vinyl. And there was always a bloke called Jesus who specialised in freak-out idiot dancing whilst handing out pieces of fruit and nuts to anyone at arms length. He actually lived around the corner from my friend Charlie and would always insist, much to chaz’s annoyance, on walking with him to the station draped in bells and magic flute in hand. I still see him around town every now and again but these days I looks less like Jesus and more like Postman Pat. Somehow he used to be at every gig I ever went to in London – a permanent fixture on the scene and the coolest looking dude in the place or so we thought.

One of the support bands that night was an interesting gritty Welsh rock band called Good Habit. I recognised the singer straight away; a guy called Morty who was the same dude who used to play football in Queen Park with me and my friends – we didn’t realise that he was in a band. We all thought he was a tube driver or fish monger but that was indeed him up on stage belting out some pretty lean and mean hardish rock – an amazing voice actually, sort of like Family’s Roger Chapman. Good Habit was a name that we all recognised from the back of the Melody Maker as they seemed to play pub gigs pretty regularly but suddenly they disappeared. I thought they’d packed it in or gone back to Wales until I saw the same band on Top Of The Pops performing their lone hit ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They’. The reason why I thought they’d split up was self evident – they’d changed their name to Racing Cars, signed to Chrysalis Records and cut some quality albums very much in the Streetwalkers/Family vibe. A wonderful group and recently reformed I believe with Morty still on vocals.

As for Lizzy….you’ll have to check in tomorrow for full details. All I will say is, it was one of those life changing moments, a really you should have been there kind of experience.

October 5th, 2008
Strolled down to a rehearsal studio in Shepherds Bush, West London last night to hook up with an interesting band called the Whybirds. A group recommended by Guy Griffin of the Quire Boys. Guy and I have a long history working with a band that he formed during the late 90’s. The legendary Brian Brinkerhoff and I signed Guy’s band Glimmer to our production company and made a fabulous record with him in Los Angeles produced by the wonderfully exuberant Jim Wirt (pre success with Hoobastank and Incubus) in his studio located out in Santa Monica.

Sadly we couldn’t get the record signed to a major label – a sure fire sign of its quality and brilliance! Glimmer’s sound was very much a mash-up of old school early seventies glam, mid nineties Brit rock (think Oasis, the La’s) and prime-time power pop. At the time I remember saying to Brian that it was the proudest thing that I’d ever been involved in – I loved the album and Guy was such a compelling songwriter and front man that it broke our hearts when we encountered zero reaction from A&R folk.

Just when it looked like nothing would pan out an old colleague of mine at Atlantic Records, Frankie LaRocka got wind of the project. Prior to his A&R role at Atlantic, Frankie had a long and illustrious career as a top drummer – check out your collection of AOR albums, he’s all over the credits of several highly praised East Coast recordings including John Waite’s ‘Ignition’ (a Rock Candy Classic). Whilst at Atlantic, Frankie signed and worked with Dirty Looks, Silent Running and Mr Big, amongst many others, but left to join Columbia Records where he signed the Spin Doctors. By the late 90’s he’d set up his own label in NYC. He heard the Glimmer album and flipped out, signing it to his label. Sadly, Frankie’s initial enthusiasm wasn’t enough to overcome the many hurdles of the US music business where money talks and bullshit, well, bullshit walks. The album was lost in the mists of time where only Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott is still left raving about it. Of course Frankie would still be banging on about it to this day if his life wasn’t tragically cut short a couple of years back.

I should write about Frank as he was truly a GREAT character and one of the best A&R people around at the time. We had numerous wild times together in NYC, not wacky shit I might add, just unbelievably funny stuff. One time Frank bought Dirty Looks frontman Henrick to my office telling him that I was actually a journalist who’d ripped his album to shreds, so when he came in I was introduced as ‘Dave’ and Henrik was clearly revved up and ready to go off big time – Frankie had been winding him up about for half an hour beforehand and I could tell Henrick on edge. I kept remonstrating that I wasn’t the journalist but Frankie piled on the agony insisting to Henrik that I was just trying to squirm my way out. Somehow I managed to get Henrik to do a sort of 180 degree dance around the office (with Frankie grinning in the background) so that I was closest to the door, an escape route that I used at the first opportunity. It was such a successful wind up that Frankie couldn’t even convince Henrik that I wasn’t the guy after the whole thing had ended.

But back to the Whybirds. If you are at all interested in Alt-country rock then you’ll love these guys. They have it all; songs, musicianship and a sense of maturity that most acts of this kind can’t even comprehend. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that Q, Uncut or Word magazine has banged on about alt-country artists to hear music that sounds like its been recorded in bathroom by clueless embryonic singer/songwriters. These guys are the real deal – think Flying Burrito Brothers, Tom Petty and The Band (yes, ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ style). Better looking than the early Eagles and every inch as determined, you’ll be hearing more of these guys some time soon.