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THE ROLLING STONES, AGAIN (2016): Goin' back home to the blues

2 Dec 2016  |  4 min read

The massive screen in the lobby of the cinema complex was screening footage from the Rolling Stones' 2016 concert in Havana, rendering the lines on Keith Richards' face like deep scars on an alien landscape. Many in the crowd shuffling towards the next blow 'em blockbuster stopped and stared, most in silence. And then on the screen a drone flew over the Stones' audience and two... > Read more

Everybody Knows About My Good Thing

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE FALL IN A HOLE ALBUM: Almost stopping the Nun taking flight

1 Dec 2016  |  5 min read

Not many records can claim to bring down a successful record company, but the Fall's live album In a Hole (released in December 1983) can claim to have almost done that. In his memoir In Love With These Times, Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd tells of how a mix of passion, fandom, ignorance of legalities and thoughtless business practice made for hard times when the record came out in... > Read more

No Xmas for John Quays (live, from the original 45, extract only)

THE VOLUME EXHIBITION IN AUCKLAND: Exit through the gift shop

21 Nov 2016  |  3 min read  |  2

Because I was involved in the exhibition Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa currently running at the museum in Auckland – 60 years of popular music from 50s rock'n'roll to Lorde – people sometimes ask what I'm most pleased about. Well, I say, the fact that Volume exists at all is very pleasing . . . But aside from Chris Knox's famous TEAC tape recorder, the huge... > Read more

Jesus I Was Evil, by Darcy Clay

THE TURTLES REVISITED (2016): Sometimes it ain't them babe

21 Nov 2016  |  6 min read

It hasn't been uncommon for musicians or bands to hide behind another name. The Beatles briefly flirted with the idea for an album before they ran out of energy for it (“We're Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band . . .”) and in the early Seventies the late Leon Russell recorded a very credible country album as Hank Wilson. And, although it was obviously Russell, Hank was... > Read more

Grim Reaper of Love

CROWDED HOUSE REISSUED (2016): The lights from a distant son

14 Nov 2016  |  12 min read

When Crowded House play their reunion concerts in Sydney next week (Nov 24 – 26) it will be 30 years since their self-titled debut album and 20 since their famous farewell on the same steps of the Sydney Opera House. It won't be exactly the same Crowded House of course with the suicide of Paul Hester in 2005, and it isn't their first reunion, there was one a decade ago when... > Read more

Don't Dream It's Over (home demo)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . MARNI NIXON: The voice of the famous faces

14 Nov 2016  |  4 min read

When the American singer Marni Nixon died in July 2016, her passing was barely noted in the music press. Major newspapers like the New York Times weighed in with obituaries, but the silence from music press was deafening. Maybe contemporary music writers didn't know who she was, and that would be the irony of her life . . . Even though her music was enjoyed by many millions at the... > Read more

I Could Have Danced All Night (from My Fair Lady)

ENGLISH NOT BE SUNG HERE (2016): Collected pop in unfamiliar tongues

7 Nov 2016  |  4 min read

Here's a thought which rarely occurs to native speakers of English: What does this language sound like to people who don't speak it? It's just a jumble of odd sounding syllables and vowels, most of which have no equivalent in their language. That may account for something like the woman in the clip attempting to sing a song she knows by Mariah Carey. It is written by Pete Ham and... > Read more

Ru Guo Mei You Ni, by Karen Mok

MOSE ALLISON REVISITED (2016): When a young man walked by . . .

4 Nov 2016  |  3 min read  |  1

If you were ever bewildered how music can cross cultures and even oceans then you wouldn't go to the British blues boom of the early Sixties for answers. As the snooty BBC-styled radio host said of r'n'b (“or rock and roll”) in the parody of prog-rock on the National Lampoon album, Goodbye Pop, “Why is this indigenous, crude, powerful, black American music invariably... > Read more

Your Mind is on Vacation

JOHN SIMON INTERVIEWED (2016): Putting on the Waltz

3 Nov 2016  |  6 min read

The first thing you should say to John Simon – on the line from his home near Woodstock in upstate New York – is a sincere thank you. While his name might not be as familiar as many other record producers of the Sixties like Phil Spector, Tom Dowd and George Martin, Simon has a pretty big stake in the ground with songs and albums from that era. His beginnings were... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HARRY KALAPANA: Aloha from Yugoslavia?

31 Oct 2016  |  4 min read

Of all the many hundreds of musical styles across the planet, only one has managed to embed itself in popular, post-Fifties music which exists along the Western axis of London-New York-America's West Coast: reggae. Yes, there are belated flickers and influences (if not downright copying) of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's Afrobeat and some aspects of Sahara blues and Indian music out there. But... > Read more

Hawaiian Lullaby

THE BAND'S LAST WALTZ REISSUED (2016): Another twirl on the dancefloor

31 Oct 2016  |  3 min read

When The Band decided to call it a day in 1976 they did it in style. Not just any group could call in Martin Scorsese to film their farewell concert at the Winterland in San Francisco, or have someone dress the set so elaborately. Billed as The Last Waltz, it was a helluva goodbye and among the guests on stage were Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Dr John, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, the... > Read more

JEANETTE JONES DISCOVERED (2016): Such a sweet mystery

30 Oct 2016  |  3 min read

Sixties r'n'b soul singer Jeanette Jones – if she is still alive – may be confused by the release of her debut album, more than 40 years after she abruptly ended her recording career. She may be even more surprised to learn there was an album at all. Because at the time, in 1969 to be exact, she only ever released one single. And even though there were only 1000 copies... > Read more

What Have You Got To Gain By Losing Me

ROCK'N'ROLL, OVER BEETHOVEN? Where classical music enters pop

29 Oct 2016  |  3 min read

Although most pop and rock listeners might not think it so, many songwriters have drawn on classical music  . . . and not just for inspiration, but sometimes quite directly grabbing at the melodies. We're not talking about Deodata offering his electro-treatment of Strauss' Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Love Sculpture's flat-tack guitar workout on Sabre Dance (by Khachaturian), or... > Read more

Goodbye Cruel World, by James Darren

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . BYUNGKI HWANG: a Korean master musician at home

17 Oct 2016  |  5 min read  |  2

In Seoul, the vibrant capital of South Korea the old and new, the raw and polished, frequently rub together in odd juxtapositions. So a butcher’s shop with pig trotters on the wet floor is perhaps to be expected in the suburban street where the country’s most famous musician lives. Byungki Hwang, at 72 when I visited him in 2008, was still Korea’s leading player of the... > Read more

Byungki Hwang: Sounds of the Night Part 4, from the album Kayagum Masterpieces, 2001

MILES FROM INDIA CONSIDERED (2016): Davis, in a sitar way

8 Oct 2016  |  4 min read

For very many decades there has been a profitable and important cross-cultural engagement between Western musicians and Indian artists. From the moment people heard George Harrison tentatively picking out a few notes on sitar for the Beatles' Norwegian Wood in 1965 – and unwittingly launching a raga-rock phase which dominated the late Sixties – the influence of Indian... > Read more

Miles From India

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE BEVIS FROND (2016): Scuz me while we kiss this guy

6 Oct 2016  |  6 min read

For a man with his name on almost 30 albums in the past three decades, you'd think the name Nick Saloman would be pretty well known. Okay, the albums all come under his band's name, but even that is hardly familiar to most: the Bevis Frond. England's Saloman (confusingly sometimes spelled Salomon in some overseas media) and his fellow travellers – the Bevis Frond has had a few... > Read more

I Can't Cry from Superseeder

NORAH JONES CONSIDERED (2016): Old ways and a new day breaking

3 Oct 2016  |  2 min read

Because her debut album Come Away With Me of '02 sold over 25 million copies, smarter-than-thou folks and cynics wrote it off as polite MOR. But it was actually a canny distillation of country and cool jazz (her two reference points as a jazz pianist who grew up on Willie Nelson) and her forthcoming album Day Break – originals and covers of material by Duke Ellington, Horace... > Read more

FRANK ZAPPA RE-COLLECTED (2016): Dinner with the Don of Freakdom

26 Sep 2016  |  2 min read

Aside from being a composer and performer who crossed, or more correctly ignored, boundaries between musical genres – his catalogue includes everything from doo-wop to classical albums – Frank Zappa could deliver zinging one-liners. At one point in the late 60s when he looked like a typical longhaired flower-child drop-out acid freak, he was once asked, “What are... > Read more

Peaches En Regalia

THE PIXIES CONSIDERED (2016): Clearing the path to Nirvana

23 Sep 2016  |  1 min read

Apparently the man known as Black Francis (and later Frank Black) was obsessed with outer space but in '86 gave up the idea of coming to New Zealand to see Haley's Comet to form a band. Our loss was the world's gain because the band was the Pixies who inspired countless others in their first lifespan. They split in '93, reformed in '04 (although founder member/bassist Kim Deal quit in... > Read more

DAVID BECKER INTERVIEWED (2016): The work and the rewards

19 Sep 2016  |  11 min read

For an interviewer, the worst subject isn't the one who doesn't say much or even anything, because at least that can be turned into a funny story. The worst is the person who just goes on and on and on . . . Two-time Grammy-nominated American guitarist David Becker can certainly talk, but the saving grace is that he's very interesting, has enjoyed a real DIY career in which he... > Read more

That Man is a Legend