James Elkington – Ever-Roving Eye

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Deep in Betjeman’s Metro-land lies the village of Chorleywood, a well-heeled Chiltern retreat on the edge of the Orbital interzone. It’s where James Elkington spent his younger years; the guitarist even pays tribute to one of its streets, Rendlesham Way, in the name of the lone instrumental, as rolling as those chalk ridges, on his second solo album, Ever-Roving Eye.

“Chorleywood is a small town surrounded by woods,” Elkington tells Uncut, “with a high density of pubs. Rendlesham Way’s a steep, treacherous hill that we had to climb as teenagers to get to our favourite of those…”

It’s common for musicians to look back to their adolescence for inspiration, but Elkington is gazing back from further away than most: for the past 20 years this Home Counties boy has lived in Chicago, Illinois. He didn’t move to the US in order to ‘make it’, but rather to become part of the post-rock musical community that he admired throughout the ’90s. Once he arrived in the early 2000s, he led an indie-rock band, The Zincs, before putting his own musical ambitions on hold to collaborate with friends such as Joan Shelley, Nathan Salsburg, Steve Gunn and Jeff Tweedy, and heroes like Richard Thompson and Michael Chapman.

His resulting solo career has happened somewhat by accident. While acting as a hired gun (as well as utilising his guitar and multi-instrumental chops, he even co-produced Joan Shelley’s Like The River Loves The Sea last year), he found himself working on some “doodles” that became songs and finally 2017’s Wintres Woma, his first record under his own name. It introduced a new acoustic, folky mode, recalling Nick Drake on the tumbling opener, “Make It Up”, Michael Chapman on the sparky country-blues of “Grief Is Not Coming For You” and Greenwich Village folk on the strummed “Sister Of Mine”. It was a fine introduction, but the closing, Roy Harper-esque “Any Afternoon”, its picked acoustics drifting across a bed of Ebow drone and Mellotron, suggested that Elkington was capable of more.

Ever-Roving Eye, then, is the triumph that Wintres Woma hinted at. It finds Elkington shedding most of his American influences for an increasingly British sound: perhaps being away from one’s country of birth for so long allows a songwriter to better distil its essence, à la other perennial ex-pats Thompson and Robyn Hitchcock; or perhaps it’s just a result of Elkington’s time spent with Shelley and Salsburg, themselves no strangers to Celtic styles.

What immediately sets the record apart from many of its counterparts, even from Elkington’s debut, is its swing. Ever since American Primitive emerged from the shadows in the 1990s to heavily influence 21st-century acoustic guitar, there’s been a gradual stiffening, a straightening, of playing; Elkington, a dedicated jazz fan, reverses this, loosening his fingerpicking to a rolling canter on “Rendlesham Way” and to a jazzy sashay on “Late Jim’s Lament”. With its busy double-bass from Nick Macri and light-fingered drums from Spencer Tweedy – MVPs throughout the LP – “…Lament” strongly resembles Pentangle, and boasts a stunning modal guitar solo that perhaps only Davy Graham would have been brave enough to attempt. “Moon Tempering”, meanwhile, is full of courtly twists and turns, recalling John Renbourn’s solo work and Bert Jansch’s eerie “I Have No Time”. The spangled, restless electric solo on the opening “Nowhere Time” betrays Elkington’s early years attempting to master bluegrass banjo, as well as the influence of Richard Thompson’s quicksilver lead work.

As on the propulsive “Carousel”, the music can be as austere as its gloomy cover – modelled on The Watersons’ 1965 LP, Frost And Fire: A Calendar Of Ceremonial Folk Songs – yet the more one listens to Ever-Roving Eye, the more details emerge to elevate it from a mid-’60s tribute to something wholly rooted in the present, and far stranger. The tender “Leopards Lay Down”, for instance, dissolves into an ambient haze of woodwind and strings that suggests Penguin Café Orchestra, while the title track is driven by sleigh bells like a spiritual jazz epic, before it collapses into a thicket of electric guitar drones. The closing “Much Master” unfolds with clarinet and pedal steel that nod to Jim O’Rourke’s Bad Timing (a favourite album of Jeff Tweedy’s, of course), and even the retro “Late Jim’s Lament” is peppered with subtle aurorae of feedback. Here and there, too, are blankets of backing vocals from The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman, a fellow Paradise Of Bachelors artist, sounding especially spectral.

If Elkington’s guitar playing is indebted to his ’60s heroes, his husky, hushed baritone instead recalls his indie favourites of the ’80s, from the droll delivery of Lloyd Cole to the half-smirking cool of Robert Forster. Lyrically too, he consistently delivers arresting imagery far from folk or singer-songwriter cliché: “…that pen-poisoned child/So bracken-haired and wild,” he muses on “Nowhere Time”. “No gilded pigeon wings are gonna fly.” There’s a surreal edge at play as well: Cologne is “the cathouse of kings”, according to “Much Master”, while “Sleeping Me Awake” finds Elkington conjuring lines that would suit Cate Le Bon: “I’m a seaside of legs/I’m a malamute and a dinner plate of dregs…”

If “everyone’s archive weighs them down”, as he laments on “Moon Tempering”, then Elkington, closing in on 50, has managed to channel the weight of his own messy history into his richest, most complete effort yet. Ever-Roving Eye has, in many ways, been decades in the making: there are threads here that can be traced to all of Elkington’s endeavours, from his early banjo playing and his noisier work with The Zincs, to his time as right-hand man for Tweedy, Thompson, Shelley and others; and songs that are rooted in both America and England. One might reasonably conclude that the sound of Ever-Roving Eye has been brewing organically beneath the surface of Elkington’s everyday for years, and that this unforced, natural feel is what gives the record its power.

Due to his responsibilities as a father of two young children, Elkington isn’t going to be touring intensely this year, and he tells Uncut that he’s resisting the temptation immediately to begin work on another record. “I guess the title of this album is partly a reminder to myself to enjoy what I’m doing,” he says, “and not be constantly looking towards the next thing. You don’t have to be pursuing a career.”

For now, then, Ever-Roving Eye – an outstanding record from a humble collaborator, a leisurely developer, a man forever caught somewhere between Chorleywood and Chicago – is more than enough.

The magic of Skip Spence: “He was like a neon sign”

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The latest issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to order online by clicking here – includes a deep dive into the troubled life and brilliant music of the ultimate outsider hero, Skip Spence, and his psychedelic masterpiece Oar. During his time in Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape, Spence was “a triple Aries, full-blast, pedal-to-the-metal guy”, according to one eyewitness. Then everything changed, as Rob Hughes discovers…

David Rubinson wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he pitched up at Bellevue in late November 1968. The CBS producer was there to collect Skip Spence, one of his more unpredictable charges. Spence had spent the past five-and-a-half months in the psychiatric wing of the Manhattan hospital, diagnosed as schizophrenic after threatening a bandmate with a fire axe.

“I’d managed to get him a lawyer and put up his bail,” Rubinson recalls. “When I went to get him, Skip was still wearing blue pyjamas that said ‘Bellevue prison ward’. He was really in bad shape.”

Rubinson stocked up on food, bought him some clothes and checked into the Regency on Park Avenue. There, Spence began talking about some new songs he’d written. “We sat in the hotel room and he started singing me these snippets,” says Rubinson. “He didn’t have a guitar, but I realised that he’d been composing this body of music in Bellevue. The next day, I went to the record company and said, ‘This guy really needs to record, he’s got these fantastic songs.’ They gave me $10,000.”

Spence immediately bought a motorbike with the advance and roared off towards Nashville, nearly 900 miles away. Arriving in the first week of December, he entered the Columbia Recording Studios on 16th Avenue South. Over the course of the next 10 days, Spence recorded 28 pieces of music that spanned folk, blues, psychedelia and beyond, a concentrated outpour in which he sang, played, arranged and produced everything himself. The album, Oar, is an extraordinarily intimate document of one man’s tortured psyche, full of lucid observations and raw confessions – candid, droll, playful, dark and often heartbreakingly sad.

“Skip was a complex person,” reckons guitarist and ex-Jefferson Airplane colleague Jorma Kaukonen, who’d visited Spence in Bellevue. “Whatever unresolved emotional issues he had, he was able to explain his way of looking at the world to us. Oar is a fantastic album, not the work of a quote-unquote lunatic.”

“Before he turned into this dark character, Skippy was so positive and full of energy,” recalls former Moby Grape bandmate Peter Lewis. “He just had this power.”

“Skip was a triple Aries, full-blast, pedal-to-the-metal guy,” marvels Grape guitarist Jerry Miller. “Never a second thought about anything, just go-go-go. And one hell of a frontman.”

Kaukonen remembers Spence as “somewhat mercurial. I guess today that he might be diagnosed as bipolar on some levels, but everyone in Jefferson Airplane always thought he was so cool. A ray of sunshine. And immensely talented.” Moby Grape drummer Don Stevenson agrees. “I just thought Skip was amazing,” he says. “He was like a neon sign.”

You can read much more about Skip Spence in the latest issue of Uncut, on sale now with Prince on the cover.

Legendary drummer Tony Allen has died, aged 79

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Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen has died, aged 79. The legendary drummer passed away yesterday (April 30) at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris, having suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The Lagos-born Allen was credited as the co-creator of Afrobeat, having developed the style over numerous albums throughout the 1970s with Fela Kuti & Africa ’70. Kuti himself famously stated that, “without Tony Allen there would be no Afrobeat.”

Allen relocated to Europe in the 1980s, and in recent years had become increasingly prolific. He was a member of Damon Albarn’s supergroups The Good, The Bad & The Queen and Rocket Juice & The Moon, and played with Grace Jones, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Angélique Kidjo and Jeff Mills. Earlier this year he released Rejoice, a collaborative album with late jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela (read Uncut’s review here).

Brian Eno once described Allen as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived”.

Writing on Twitter, Flea – who played with Allen in Rocket Juice & The Moon – wrote “the greatest drummer on earth has left us. What a wildman with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove. Fela Kuti did not invent afrobeat, Fela and Tony birthed it…”

Nigel Godrich called Allen “a pioneer who’s vibrations changed popular music forever.. and quite the character too..”

Watch Lucy Dacus cover Yo La Tengo’s “Tom Courtenay”

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The latest album to get a deluxe vinyl reissue as part of Matador’s Revisionist History series is Yo La Tengo’s Electr-o-pura, which is 25 years old on May 2.

The album has been pressed on to double vinyl for the first time and is available to order from here. The reissue also comes with an essay from fellow Matador artist Lucy Dacus who amazingly was born on May 2, 1995 – the day that Electr-o-pura came out.

“Fourteen years later, I started high school and made a new friend who wore a leather jacket and boots, who expressed confident opinions about music that I had never heard,” she writes. “One day my friend brought me a stack of CDs, all Yo La Tengo, and told me to take them home, listen to them, burn them, and return them. I did what I was told. I liked those records from the start, and more with every listen.”

“‘Tom Courtenay’ was the first Yo La Tengo song I learned on guitar. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew who Julie Christie was and loved the line, ‘As the music swells somehow stronger from adversity / our hero finds his inner peace.’ I didn’t know what the needle had to do with anything, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was like any good poem, leaving space for me, between images.”

Watch Lucy Dacus’s cover of “Tom Courtenay” below:

Record Store Day 2020 postponed again

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Record Store Day has been postponed again, with organisers conceding that the rescheduled date of June 20 is too soon for the event to go ahead safely.

Instead, they have announced that the titles on 2020’s Record Store Day list will be available from independent record shops on one of the three following “RSD drop dates”: Saturday August 29, Saturday September 26 and Saturday October 24. A new version of the list will be launched on June 1, revealing which titles will be released on which dates.

A statement on the official Record Store Day site reads: “This current RSD 2020 plan to spread the spotlight and the support over three months, was made with as much available information as possible, and gives the largest number of stores a chance to participate globally in the strangest Record Store Day ever. RSD will be using the guidance of government and scientific experts to ensure these RSD Drop dates are as socially responsible and safe for all involved as possible. Don’t necessarily expect all the normal in-store celebrations and events as these changes have been made to allow customers to get the RSD product safely in a socially distanced world. Our RSD online rules will be adapted in due course in line with retail developments.”

However, the plans have already caused confusion among consumers and retailers alike. “Bonkers roll out,” wrote Drift Records on Twitter. “We do not know which of the releases will be on which of the days. It is worth noting that lots of them will become available direct from artists between now and then anyway.”

More details as we have them…

Watch Nick Cave cover T.Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer”

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A new Marc Bolan tribute album will be released by BMG on September 4, featuring T.Rex (and Tyrannosaurus Rex) songs covered by the likes of Nick Cave, Lucinda Williams, U2 with Elton John, Devendra Banhart, Father John Misty, Beth Orton, Marc Almond, Joan Jett, Todd Rundgren, Peaches and many more.

AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs Of Marc Bolan And T.Rex
is the final work of producer Hal Willner, who died earlier this month of Covid-19.

Watch Nick Cave play his version of “Cosmic Dancer” below:

Peruse the full tracklisting for AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs Of Marc Bolan And T.Rex below:

1. Children Of The Revolution – Kesha
2. Cosmic Dancer – Nick Cave
3. Jeepster – Joan Jett
4. Scenescof – Devendra Banhart
5. Life’s A Gas – Lucinda Williams
6. Solid Gold, Easy Action – Peaches
7. Dawn Storm – Børns
8. Hippy Gumbo – Beth Orton
9. I Love To Boogie – King Khan
10. Beltane Walk – Gaby Moreno
11. Bang A Gong (Get It On) – U2 feat. Elton John
12. Diamond Meadows – John Cameron Mitchell
13. Ballrooms Of Mars – Emily Haines
14. Main Man – Father John Misty
15. Rock On – Perry Farrell
16. The Street and Babe Shadow – Elysian Fields
17. The Leopards – Gavin Friday
18. Metal Guru – Nena
19. Teenage Dream – Marc Almond
20. Organ Blues – Helga Davis
21. Planet Queen – Todd Rundgren
22. Great Horse – Jessie Harris
23. Mambo Sun – Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl
24. Pilgrim’s Tale – Victoria Williams with Julian Lennon
25. Bang A Gong (Get It On) Reprise – David Johansen
26. She Was Born To Be My Unicorn / Ride A White Swan – Maria McKee

Khruangbin announce new album, Mordechai

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Texan trio Khruangbin have announced that their new album Mordechai will be released by Dead Oceans in association with Night Time Stories on June 26.

Watch a video for lead single “Time (You and I)”, starring British comedian Stephen K Amos, below:

As with most tracks on the new album, “Time (You and I)” features vocals from the band’s Laura Lee Ochoa, in contrast to their previous largely instrumental output. Check out the cover below:

EOB – Earth

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Witnessing the members of Radiohead disperse to explore various solo endeavours has been, in some sense, like watching an unboxing video: each component of the machine dismantled, momentarily held aloft, examinable and revealing. It’s helped develop a more holistic vision of exactly who contributes what to this most enigmatic organism. They’ve been laying clues, of course, for some time now: with Thom Yorke, from 2006’s The Eraser to last year’s Anima, via Atoms For Peace; Jonny Greenwood’s early soundtrack work for There Will Be Blood to Junun, his collaboration with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur and now his own contemporary classical music label; Philip Selway’s two fine solo records, and movie score; even the unassuming Colin Greenwood collaborated with Belgian-Egyptian singer Tamino in 2018.

Founding guitarist Ed O’Brien, by his own admission, has been reluctant to add to the non-Radiohead noise. Eventually something stirred in him, activated by a family relocation to Brazil after The King Of Limbs. That was eight years ago. After the inspiration of that South American sojourn, O’Brien enjoyed a spell writing in Cumbria a year later. Then it was on the back burner as Radiohead reassembled to record and tour A Moon Shaped Pool. It wasn’t until late 2017 that O’Brien convened a trio of his favourite musicians in Wales – The Invisible’s guitarist David Okumu, bassist Nathan East and drummer Omar Hakim – to apply flesh to the bones of his ideas. A further 12 months of scattered embellishment with producer Flood (Foals, U2, PJ Harvey) followed back in London. It’s fair to say it’s taken some time to arrive at Earth.  “I don’t come from a place where I necessarily back myself,” he tells Uncut. “I spent a bit of energy wondering if I could actually do it. By the end of the record I realised, yes I can.”

Given the gestation period, and indeed the title, it’s no surprise that Earth seems to contain Ed O’Brien’s reflections on humanity itself, from macro to micro. The album’s working title was ‘The Pale Blue Dot’, after Carl Sagan’s poignant words about existence, accompanied by a photograph of our planet from six billion kilometres away. It also channels the most local of emotions – family grief, small joys and debilitating depression. It’s as if O’Brien had both the long-lens telescope and the personal microscope out for the making of this one; and perhaps unlike other Radiohead-affiliated projects, these songs aren’t riddles to be deciphered – they’re direct, transparent and open-hearted.

Sonically, there are two camps. First, there are the chunky, dance-indebted rock tunes (O’Brien’s blueprint inspiration was Screamadelica) like opener “Shangri-La” – all shakers, handclaps and grubby guitar, underpinned by propulsive bass played by Colin Greenwood. “Olympik” is similarly epic: a twisty, mesmeric eight-minute jam that vividly recalls mid-’90s Zooropa and Pop-era U2 (minus the glitterball lemon) with Omar Hakim’s enthralling groove and O’Brien’s falsetto vocal. It’s almost a club tune. Then there are the sincere, acoustic folk numbers: “Deep Days”, an ambling song about dependency, solitude and love; “Sail On”, a short, affecting meditation on the death of O’Brien’s cousin; and “Long Time Coming”, which it’s easy to imagine Robert Plant’s husky tones delivering. Best of these mellower moments, though, is “Cloak Of The Night”, the album’s closing statement depicting two lovers in a storm, featuring the distinctive contribution of Laura Marling.

Two tracks break off from those ranks. “Mass” is a Sigur Rós-esque mood-piece, inspired by the 2010 NASA documentary Hubble, which atmospherically conjures the beauty and isolation of space travel (O’Brien’s astronaut friend Michael Massimo heard the song and cried at a recent live show). “Banksters” is the album’s most overtly political moment, an unambiguous critique of the economic collapse – “Where did all the money go?” he rasps – and the most Radiohead-like track here with its scratchy riffs and Hail To The Thief drum machine. One song ties all these strands together: “Brasil”, which mutates from gentle acoustics to vibrant, throbbing, carnival celebration. A spiritual transportation: from the Welsh countryside to the Brazilian metropolis.

In all, it’s hard to see Earth as anything but a triumph for O’Brien – important proof to himself, and others, that he has something significant to offer on his own. It also, perhaps, clarifies just what the guitarist contributes to Radiohead: namely, their bold and unashamedly anthemic elements, stemming from his love of combining collective euphoria in music and earnest folk storytelling. As a result, maybe Earth isn’t packed with abstract intricacies to pore over like most of the other records he’s been involved with, but it is fundamentally honest to its creator: a proud family man, a humanitarian and – finally – a solo songwriter.

Music Venue Trust launches #saveourvenues campaign

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The Music Venue Trust has today launched a #saveourvenues campaign to help 556 UK grassroots music venues it has identified as being at risk of permanent closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Artists will be performing ‘at home’ gigs in support of their local venues. Each venue will have their own fundraising page with a clear target of the funds it needs to raise to stay afloat throughout this difficult period. Once a target is reached any excess revenue will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grassroots music venue community.

Find your local venue’s individual page or donate to the national fund here. Details of shows will be added to the events page here.

Collaborate with Belle & Sebastian on their lockdown song

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Belle & Sebastian are collaborating with fans on the composition of new lockdown song, “Protecting The Hive”.

Having assembled the lyrics from previous submissions, the band have now written a demo of the song and are asking for help to complete it.

A message on the Belle & Sebastian website reads: “Download the bones of the song, take it away, add a bass line, a trumpet, a voice, whatever you like and create your own version of ‘Protecting The Hive’.

“You may want to download the stems from this Soundcloud playlist [below] and import to Garageband if you have it but if you’re feeling lo-fi why not just download the full instrumental version and film yourself playing your instrument or singing over the top?”

Belle & Sebastian will share completed versions of the song in due course.

Dion’s new album features Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Van Morrison and more

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Dion has announced that his new album Blues With Friends will be released on June 5 through Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping The Blues Alive Records.

Joining Dion on this set of 12 original blues numbers is a fairly staggering array of guests, including Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer, Sonny Landreth, Samantha Fish, Steven Van Zandt, Patti Scialfa and more.

Hear the first single “Blues Comin’ On”, featuring Joe Bonamassa, below:

“Dion knows how to sing, and he knows just the right way to craft these songs, these blues songs,” writes none other than Bob Dylan, in the album’s liner notes. “He’s got some friends here to help him out, some true luminaries. But in the end, it’s Dion by himself alone, and that masterful voice of his that will keep you returning to share these blues songs with him.”

The album is available to pre-order here. 10% of all profits will be donated back to the Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation for promoting music education to students and schools in need.

Kenney Jones on the Faces: “We were unmanageable!”

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Faces, the latest issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to buy online by clicking here – features an exclusive first-person account by the band’s drummer Kenney Jones, taking us inside the band’s tentative first steps, their rowdy peak and beyond. Rob Hughes hears revelations about the band’s first recording session, an encounter with Muhammad Ali in a hotel lobby and high times at the Goose Lake Festival. For now, here’s a taster…

“We made it in America before we made it back home. Which was very strange, because usually it’s the other way around. We discovered that the general feeling here was: ‘OK, entertain us then.’ So we kept on until people really got to know us. But people only really started to sit up and start listening after we’d broken in America.

“People said we were unmanageable. Some of the mischief was due to boredom creeping in on the road, because we were often away for three months at a time. Homesickness came into it, too. We had to live with each other a lot. I mean, we really got to know one another.

“The second album, Long Player [February 1971], is a reflection of how comfortable we all felt with one another. We didn’t get to the studio until around two in the afternoon for the recording sessions. Ronnie Lane would turn up about four, Woody at six, Mac about 6.30. By that time Rod and I, who’d already been there for a few hours, would be like [wearily], ‘Fucking hell.’ So to kill time we’d end up going down the pub, which meant that it would always be late when we finally got around to recording in the studio.

“It was very frustrating sometimes, when we went in to record, because I feel that we were working things out as we went along. We’d do a riff then see if we could make it work, rather than go in with a finished song. A few of them we’d already pre-written – like “Sweet Lady Mary” – but mostly they were done as we started playing. Musically, I think we could have done a lot better had we been more sober.

“As well as having a reputation as drinkers, we all shared the same humour. We were a bunch of piss-takers. [Manager] Billy Gaff was Irish, a lovely guy. But he could never have a serious group meeting with the Faces, as we’d be putting things on his head and throwing stuff. It meant he could never discuss anything. How he ever made any decisions, I’ll never know. Tony Toon was our publicist. We used to treat him the same way. I remember one of our group meetings round at Billy Gaff’s, who lived at the back of Shepherd Market. There was a club at the bottom and we all fancied a drink. It must’ve been around Christmas as there was a party on, with loads of streamers and music playing. We were all on brandy and Coke and it didn’t take too long for us to start dancing. Tony Toon was really getting into it, so we grabbed these streamers and threw them all over him. He was covered head to foot. As we were all dancing I went behind him, took out my lighter and lit the streamers. They went up like a candle: ‘Whoosh!’ All I remember is Tony running around going, ‘I’m on fire! I’m on fire!’

John Peel was another who became one of us, in a sense. We did a lot of BBC sessions for him. He was great fun, he just loved the Faces. We loved him, we’d do anything for John. You could take the piss out of him and he would do the same.”

You can read much more from Kenney Jones – and some words from Rod too – in the new issue of Uncut, out now with Prince on the cover.

Hear The Rolling Stones’ new song, “Living In A Ghost Town”

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Following their starring role in the One World: Together At Home charity broadcast over the weekend, The Rolling Stones have today released a brand new song.

Listen to “Living In A Ghost Town” below:

The song features the current Stones line-up of Mick Jagger (vocals/harmonica/guitar/backing vocals), Keith Richards (guitar/backing vocals), Charlie Watts (drums) and Ronnie Wood (guitar/backing vocals) with Darryl Jones (bass) and Matt Clifford (keyboards, french horn, sax, flugelhorn).

“The Stones were in the studio recording some new material before the lockdown and there was one song we thought would resonate through the times that we’re living in right now,” explains Jagger. “We’ve worked on it in isolation. And here it is… I hope you like it.”

“So, let’s cut a long story short,” adds Richards. “We cut this track well over a year ago in LA for part of a new album, an ongoing thing, and then shit hit the fan Mick and I decided this one really needed to go to work right now and so here you have it. Stay safe!”

An accompanying video will be released later today, watch a trailer for it below:

Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela – Rejoice

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When Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela first met in Lagos in 1973, both were still in their early thirties but were already giants in their field. As Fela Kuti’s drummer, band leader and co-conspirator, the Nigerian-born Allen drove the mighty groove we now know as Afrobeat. Masekela, meanwhile, was the premier ambassador of black South African music, his trumpet-playing instantly recognisable for its jazzy virtuosity and indestructible township groove. Forced into exile by apartheid, he found pop success in America, playing the burnished trumpet solo on The Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock’N’Roll Star” and enjoying a No 1 of his own with the exuberant instrumental “Grazing In The Grass”.

It was soon after this initial meeting that the pair first discussed making an album together, but little did they know that it would take almost half a century to bring the project to fruition. The result is a triumphant collaboration between two colossi of African music that fully merits its celebratory title: and yet Rejoice is also tinged with a deep poignancy, for Masekela’s death from cancer in 2018 left Allen and producer Nick Gold to add the finishing touches without him. They’ve done Bra Hugh’s memory proud, though, on a joyous set of ambidextrous jazz rhythms, skittering Afrobeat grooves and swinging township jive that brings together the combined experience of more than a century of stellar music-making.

The original sessions took place in London over a weekend in 2010; the previous year, Allen had been recording his solo album, Secret Agent, with Gold and mentioned the idea of making an album with Masekela. Gold agreed to midwife the project and booked the two of them into his studio for a weekend the next year, the only gap in their schedules.

With none of the material pre-written, the recording process was “direct and spontaneous”, Allen commencing each track with a drum pattern and Masekela picking up on the rhythm to add a melody on his horn, plus some jive-laden vocal chants on a handful of tracks. By the end of the two days they had an album’s worth of material vibrant with an intuitive alchemy that made it far more than just a jam.

The plan was to reconvene at a later date to ‘top-out’ the album, but schedules continued to clash and then Masekela fell ill. The tapes were still languishing untouched in the vault when he died, but Allen told Gold it was their duty to finish the album as a tribute to their fallen comrade.

Assisted by young musicians from London’s fertile contemporary jazz scene, the album was finished in 2019, with subtle splashes of sax, keyboard and vibes to add light and shade, but with the dialogue between Allen’s drums and Masekela’s trumpet still at the centre.

Allen’s extraordinary syncopation is the most immediately striking element: there’s no four-to-the-floor backbeat here but a set of complex polyrhythms in which Art Blakey meets African tribal tradition. Masekela blows exuberantly over Allen’s groove and almost imperceptible minimalist nuances of double bass and keyboards on opener “Robbers, Thugs and Muggers (O’Galajani)”, while Steve Williamson’s tenor sax is further to the fore on “Agbada Bougou”, riffing off Masekela’s elegant trumpet lines as Allen’s slow-burning rhythm builds to a crescendo.

“Coconut Jam” sounds as if Allen is playing a different rhythm with each of his four limbs, evoking a hot Lagos night in Fela Kuti’s Shrine club, while “Slow Bones” recalls Afrobeat’s jazz roots in the style of Kuti’s earlier 1960s jazz/highlife band Koola Lobitos, topped by some exquisite jazz phrasing from Masekela. Elsewhere Allen’s groove is at its most skittering on “Obama Shuffle Strut Blues”, a title that reminds us that the world was a rather different place when Masekela gave the tune its optimistic title a decade ago.

Although Rejoice is essentially an instrumental set, Masekela chants fiery tributes to Fela on “Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same)” and to Allen on “Jabulani (Rejoice, Here Comes Tony)”, one of the album’s highlights, not least for a wonderful coda from Lewis Wright’s vibraphone. Finally, Allen contributes his only vocal, a deep and inscrutable semi-spoken message to the next generation on “We’ve Landed”.

Warm, uplifting and fizzing with both passion and virtuosity, Rejoice is not only a fitting last will and testament from Masekela, but a glorious affirmation of music at its most potent and universal.

Watch Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa’s stay-at-home session

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Bruce Springsteen performed two songs with his wife Patti Scialfa for yesterday’s Jersey 4 Jersey telethon, in aid of the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.

“We’re here tonight dedicated to our healthcare workers and all of those who’ve lost loved ones, and who are suffering and dying with this terrible disease, right here right now in our beloved state,” said Springsteen, before playing “Land Of Hope And Dreams”.

Later, the duo returned to play Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl”. Watch both performances below:

Hear Jackson Browne’s new single, “Downhill From Everywhere”

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Jackson Browne has released a new single to coincide with the consciousness raising around today’s Earth Day.

Hear “Downhill From Everywhere” below:

The song will be included on Browne’s upcoming studio album, due out on October 9.

It also features in the trailer for a documentary, The Story Of Plastic, premiering today on the Discovery Channel. Browne himself is a member of the Executive Advisory Board of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, an alliance that strives for a future free of single-use plastic.

Watch the trailer below:

Black Deer festival rescheduled for June 2021

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June’s Black Deer festival has become the latest event to reschedule for next year as a result of coronavirus concerns.

It will now take place on June 18-20, 2021, at the same venue – Eridge Park in Kent – with most of the same acts, including headliners Wilco, The Waterboys and Saving Grace featuring Robert Plant.

Current ticket holders will have the opportunity to roll over their ticket to 2021 and receive an exclusive limited-edition Black Deer T-shirt, transfer their ticket to a keyworker, or apply for a ticket refund. All ticket holders will be contacted directly by Black Deer’s ticket agency partners via email within the next three days to confirm how to activate their preferred option.

In addition, the festival will donate 1500 tickets to NHS staff and key workers.

For full details of the adjusted line-up, visit the official site here.

See Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics for “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

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Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyric sheet for epochal 1964 song “The Times They Are A-Changin'” is currently being offered for sale by autograph dealers Moments In Time for a cool $2.2m.

If the asking price is met, it will break the record for rock lyrics, currently held by another Dylan song – the handwritten lyrics to “Like A Rolling Stone” fetched $2 million when they were sold at auction by Sotheby’s in New York in 2014.

The sheet of lyrics for “The Times They Are A-Changin'” was once owned by Dylan’s manager Jeff Rosen, and is now being sold by an anonymous private collector. It shows an entire discarded verse, as well as number of cryptic notes such as “Carter Family Tune” and “42nd Street Photo Booth”. See it below:

Credit: momentsintime.com

Moments In Time are also selling the handwritten lyrics for two other Dylan songs: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” for $1.2 million and “Lady Lady Lay” for $650,000.

Hear The Psychedelic Furs’ new song, “No-One”

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A new release date has been announced for The Psychedelic Furs’ long-awaited comeback album, Made Of Rain. It is now scheduled to come out on July 31 via Cooking Vinyl.

In the meantime you can hear another track from it, “No-One”, below:

Along with previous singles “Don’t Believe” and “You’ll Be Mine”, “No-One” can be streamed and downloaded immediately when you preorder the album from here.

You can read about the making of Made Of Rain – along with every other Psychedelic Furs album – in an extensive ‘album by album’ feature with the band in the new issue of Uncut. Order it now by clicking here.

Send us your questions for Hank Marvin

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Talk about foundational UK rock guitarists and it pretty much all comes back to Hank Marvin. After all, he was the first Briton to wield a Fender Stratocaster, imported at great expense back in 1959.

The unmistakable sound he wrung from it, with innovative use of the tremolo arm, was like a clarion call for a whole generation of future rock stars, including George Harrison, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Brian May and many more.

Marvin was just 16 when Cliff Richard recruited him for a UK tour, soon adding his guitar to No. 1s like “Living Doll” and “Please Don’t Tease”. 1960’s towering “Apache” established The Shadows as a hit-making machine in their own right, racking up no less than 14 Top 10 singles until their thunder was stolen somewhat by another gang of handsome young fellas with guitars. Undoubtedly, however, The Shadows had set the template for The Beatles and all British bands to follow.

While The Shadows have successfully reformed several times over the years – coming second in 1975’s Eurovision song contest, packing out Wembley with Cliff in 1989, a huge farewell tour in 2009/10 – Marvin has plenty of other strings to his guitar, playing with everyone from Roger Daltrey to Jean Michel Jarre and Dire Straits to Duane Eddy. More recently, he’s been concentrating on performing and releasing with his Gypsy Jazz Trio.

So what do you want to ask an original guitar master? Send your questions to audiencewith@uncut.co.uk by Wednesday April 22 and Hank will answer the best ones in a future issue of Uncut.