From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Plastic Bamboo (1978)

12 Jan 2020  |  <1 min read

A little over four decades ago the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra released his debut solo album Thousand Knives Of Ryuichi Sakamoto. It was at the time – but perhaps sounds a little less so today, vocoder is a bit passé – an innovative and ground-breaking collection of half a dozen pieces on multiple synthesisers (and some traditional... > Read more

James Blood Ulmer: Are You Glad To Be In America (1980)

11 Jan 2020  |  <1 min read

For many of the open-eared among jazz listeners -- those who had grown up on rock guitarists and heard in Hendrix the vanguard of a fusion, followed Miles Davis through Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson, had albums by John McLaughlin and understood jazz-funk -- it seemed as if guitarist-singer James Blood Ulmer was going to deliver them from mediocrity. His pedigree was impeccable: anointed by... > Read more

The Vagrants: I Can't Make a Friend (1966)

6 Jan 2020  |  <1 min read

There are any number of bands called the Vagrants, but there is only one Vagrants and it was this garage-band out of Long Island who appeared on the original Nuggets compilation with their version of Otis Redding's Respect. Those few who heard their quite remarkable version loved it, but it was swamped when Aretha's seminal version was released at the same time. This second single has... > Read more

The Beatles: Yes It Is, demos (1965)

27 Nov 2019  |  1 min read

When the Beatles came together to record their innovative Ticket to Ride single (check the huge bass, McCartney was really getting on top of his game) they needed a b-side. Lennon's Yes It Is was but a working drawing at the time, and not that far from This Boy in its melodic construction. But Harrison was experimenting with a tone pedal... > Read more

Yes It Is, take 5

Jeff Daniels: Switch Blade Sam (1959)

11 Nov 2019  |  <1 min read

Rock'n'roll might have celebrated cars, dating, high school, the dance and other teenage concerns, but it also celebrated itself. Chief among those cheerleaders was Chuck Berry with songs like School Days (“hail hail rock'n'roll, deliver me from the days of old”), Roll Over Beethoven (“and dig these rhythm'n'blues”), Rock and Roll Music (“it's got a backbeat... > Read more

Oasis: Cum on Feel the Noize (1996)

21 Oct 2019  |  <1 min read

In their heyday, Oasis didn't just borrow from the Beatles, a Coke ad ("I'd like to teach the world to sing/buy the world a Coke") and glam but they would cover the Stones' Sympathy for the Devil and understood their cigarettes'n'alcohol audience's taste for a good noisy night out. Hence this cover of Slade's jukebox and live classic Cum Feel the Noize from the Seventies which had... > Read more

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Sorrow Tears and Blood (1970)

14 Oct 2019  |  1 min read

Not many years after this extraordinary piece came out – somehow on vinyl which is in our collection -- Elsewhere was in contact with what what called the Africa Information Centre in Wellington, New Zealand. It was an organisation, the purpose of which was to disseminate black African culture and politics from across the continent into a (white Western) world largely deaf and... > Read more

Pixie Williams: Maori Land (1949)

7 Oct 2019  |  1 min read  |  1

If Pixie Williams had done nothing else, she would still be in the history books for what happened on October 3, 1948 when she turned up at a makeshift recording studio in Wellington, New Zealand, still wearing her hockey uniform. On that day she sang with the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette on Ruru's Blue Smoke, the first song to be written, recorded and pressed on a local record label (TANZA)... > Read more

Cream: Pressed Rat and Warthog (1968)

5 Oct 2019  |  1 min read  |  1

At the time of this writing the drummer Ginger Baker has just died. He was 80 and, if you know anything about his life, you might be amazed that he lived so long. In the obituaries or fan comments, some will hail hm as the greatest drummer in rock . . . but that's always going to be a debatable point. That he could play different but interlocking rhythms on all four limbs simultaneously... > Read more

Listening: Stoned Is (1968)

23 Sep 2019  |  <1 min read

You don't have to be too smart to figure out from the first 30 seconds that this track was recorded in '68. The surprise might be is the band didn't come from San Francisco but were out of Boston. The band only recorded one album for Vanguard – all tracks written by singer/organist Michael Tschudin, this one sharing a co-credit with one Gilbert Moses – but they... > Read more

The Cambodian Space Project: Whiskey Cambodia (2014)

2 Sep 2019  |  <1 min read

No, and thanks for pointing it out: We didn't go too deeply into the vaults for this one. It came out about five years ago on the album of the same name by this group which sometimes covers classic rock songs (Creedence's Proud Mary, House of the Rising Sun etc) in its own idiosyncratic style with Srey Thy singing in her native language. That's the gimmicky end of this group which was... > Read more

Hello: New York Groove (1975)

26 Aug 2019  |  1 min read

Interesting story here in that UK/European and US audiences probably know very different versions of this song which took short-lived (but inevitably resurrected) British glam-rockers Hello into the top 10 in Britain. The song, which is pretty simple, was written by Russ Ballard, formerly the guitarist in Argent (former Zombie-man Rod Argent's band). He'd previously provided Hello with... > Read more

Reuben Bell and the Casanovas: It's Not That Easy (1960)

12 Aug 2019  |  <1 min read

Recently we posted a fine but obscure track by Jimmy Conwell lifted from the recent compilation This is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970 (Ace through Border in New Zealand). That 24 song collection of mostly achingly sad and soulful black music as favoured by those in the lowrider car culture of Hispanic California is full of great songs by singers and groups who – aside from William Bell,... > Read more

Jimmy Conwell: Second Hand Happiness (1967)

5 Aug 2019  |  1 min read

Once a compilation was simply a collection of hits (and many misses) by a particular artist/group or a pulling together of songs in genre (Nuggets), a year or a series like Now That's What I Call Music! (today up to Vol 103). These days compilations are much more diverse: location (be it Portland or Manchester or the neo-psychedelic scene around Dunedin), genre (Southern country-soul,... > Read more

Steve Marcus: Half a Heart (1968)

29 Jul 2019  |  1 min read  |  1

There are so many urban myths surrounding the distinctive saxophone solo by Raphael Ravenscroft on Gerry Rafferty's global hit Baker Street we should get them out of the way . . . before picking up this slightly more interesting thread. It has long been said that session musician Ravenscroft (who died in 2014) got just a nominal payment for the riff which made the song so distinctive. In... > Read more

Gil Scott-Heron: Whitey on the Moon (1970)

18 Jul 2019  |  1 min read

Not everyone was ecstatic when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon in July 1969, 50 years ago as we write. The superb Apollo 11 doco is very much worth seeing for the visceral thrill of the event, an admiration for those who developed the technology and the courage of the men who went in that tiny capsule which was flung across deep space. Back on Earth of course life went... > Read more

Dion: Sisters of Mercy (1968)

15 Jul 2019  |  1 min read  |  1

Two parallel stories of birth here. Sisters of Mercy was on Leonard Cohen's debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen and thus was his birth – at 33 – as a recording artist. For Dion however, who'd had a lengthy career on the pop charts and was something of a teen idol, it was a rebirth when, at almost 30, he looked to songwriters like Dylan, Fred Neil, Joni Mitchell, Hendrix... > Read more

Walter Robertson: Sputterin' Blues (1955)

8 Jul 2019  |  <1 min read

When Roger Daltrey of the Who deliberately stuttered in My Generation it was in some sense to capture the frustration of youth, and also to add piquancy to what might come next when he sang "Why don't you all f-f-f-f ...." Bluesman Walter Robertson (sometimes Robinson) probably had no such intention on this song which is borderline tasteless and something of a novelty item.... > Read more

The Roadrunners: LSD (1967)

20 May 2019  |  <1 min read

With British r'n'b rock legends the Pretty Things scheduled for a New Zealand concert (see interview with Dick Taylor here) in December 2012, it seemed timely to ressurect this obscurity from the vaults, a band from Lower Hutt just north of Wellington who named themselves after one of the Pretty Things' biggest hits and who here cover their '66 song, the ambiguously titled LSD (see clip below).... > Read more

Little Eva: The Trouble With Boys (1963)

13 May 2019  |  1 min read

When Little Eva died in 2003, most obituaries got in the story that she had been Gerry Goffin and Carole King's babysitter and, inspired by her odd dancing style, they penned The Locomotion for her, which was a massive hit in 1962. Little Eva -- born Eva Narcissus Boyd -- was 16 at the time.  That story seems unlikely or exaggerated, but it is true that Goffin-King also wrote... > Read more