Big Gold Dreams – A Story Of Independent Scottish Music: 1977 -1989

Due for release on February 22nd on the Cherry Red Records label is a 5 CD box set of the best of Scottish music released on independent record labels from for first stages of punk in 1977, through to the modern mainstream in 1989.

It’s an impressive and extensive list of acts to come out of such a small country, and a number of them go on to find major commercial success – none more successful than “our” Simple Minds – then not quite fully formed and under the original moniker of Johnny And The Self Abusers. The song that features is Dead Vandals (of the two songs that JATSA commercially produced, this is the one I prefer – even though Saints And Sinners by its pace adheres more to the punk ethos).

Below is a review in the most recent issue of Record Collector magazine. The review is very good. At the end of the post, you find a “taster” playlist on Spotify as to what’s to come on the box set.

You’ll also find a documentary, well, more a multi-interview piece about the music scene in Scotland during this thriving and almost creatively saturated period – with contributions from industury insiders, DJs and presenters and musicians.

Review: John Grant – Cambridge Corn Exchange – Feb 7th, 2019

Again, support was from E.B. The Younger, performing tracks from his upcoming release, To Each His Own. Songs performed included lead single from the album, Used To Be. Also performed were Out Of The Woods, On An Island, and Don’t Forget Me.

The harmonies that Pulido and Creamer have together are rather wonderful. Pulido says on his website that Harry Nilsson is a major musical influence, and it is certainly evident in Pulido’s own sound.

I will give the album a few listens on release, and will probably invest in a copy. I have enjoyed watching both of his performances. Below is a clip of him and Dan performing When The Time Comes. Also captured is Pulido’s banter and engagement with the crowd. He likes a natter, and that’s a cool thing in my eyes.

Once again, the crew went quickly into action to have John out on stage promptly at 8.45pm.

The first thing I have to say about the venue, Cambridge Corn Exchange, is it has great acoustics! And whoever is doing JGs sound gets it absolutely spot on, no matter what venue he’s at. Outdoors at festivals, indoors in mid-sized capacity theatres, or in more intimate places like Union Chapel in London – I am always impressed by the sound quality and volume.

The lighting on this tour has also been superb.

The show started with (possibly my favourite track on Love Is Magic – I grapple with either this or Metamorphosis being my fave track on the album) Tempest. Again, we were treated to all bar the complete Love Is Magic album (the only track off the album not performed was The Common Snipe), interspersed with tracks from his previous three albums. Tracks included Grey Tickles, Black Pressure – Pale Green Ghosts – Sensitive New Age Guy – Global Warming – Glacier – Sigourney Weaver – Fireflies – Outer Space – JC Hates Faggots – Queen Of Denmark – Black Belt – GMF – and the most beautiful version of TC And Honeybear…I was in a flood of tears. I find it just the most heart-wrenching beautiful song.

It’s an extensive set and was much appreciated by the crowd in Cambridge. And John was feeling the love too. I thought Glasgow was amazing last week, but everything was just somehow taken up a notch again at Cambridge.

I could watch John perform every single night for the rest of my life and be in raptures. He’s both funny and humble, can take the piss out of himself, throw shapes about the stage and look like a dancefloor mega god, and then sit at his keyboard and deliver songs with such elegance and poignancy. The man is absolutely amazing.

Review: John Grant at Celtic Connections – King’s Theatre, Glasgow – Feb 1st, 2019

Support was by E.B. the Younger – the moniker of Midlake vocalist Eric Pulido, soon to release his solo debut. Now THERE’S the connection – John, of course, working with Midlake for his Queen Of Denmark debut.

Eric was joined on stage by keyboardist Dan. The pair of them have great vocal harmonies. He performed songs from his new album set for release in early March.

His music is quite easy going and he established a good rapport with the audience and was even piggybacked off stage by Dan at the end of the set. I look forward to seeing him again on Thursday night.

The stage crew set to work very quickly to get things set up for John. Only a short break was endured before he arrived on stage with regular, established band members, including the incomparable Budgie on drums. The more I watch him, the more I fall in love with his style and realise what a truly incredible drummer he is.

All was flowing well. I have to confess, once inside the King’s, it did seem a little strange a venue for what is essentially a rock gig but the crowd were into it and we were enjoying ourselves.

About the fifth song in they started to play album opener, Metamorphosis, and there was a technical problem. The song was halted, crew rushed on stage to sort it out, and while the problem was being rectified, John sat is his still fully functioning (and unaffected by the fault) keyboard to perform TC And Honeybear – which is just the most stunning and beautiful song. I wasn’t expecting him to perform too many of his older tunes, so it was a real treat. Was almost thankful for the technical hiccup!

By the time TC And Honeybear was through, the problem had been sorted and off we went with Metamorphosis again.

Others in the set included Preppy Boy, Smug Cunt, He’s Got His Mother’s Hips, Tempest, Love Is Magic, Is He Strange, Touch And Go – pretty much the whole album bar The Common Snipe (at least I think he did Diet Gum as well).

Those in the set not on Love Is Magic performed were Grey Tickles-Black Pressure, Pale Green Ghosts, Global Warming, Queen Of Denmark, JC Hates Faggots, Sensitive New Age Guy, GMF, Black Belt, Glacier, Fireflies, Caramel and Sigourney Weaver.

The surprise…or perhaps disappointment…of the night was that he DIDN’T perform Marz! I was okay with that, but I’m sure other fans would have been disappointed. If they were, it didn’t show in the crowd’s reception. Standing ovations towards the end of the set and after every song performed as an encore.

The crowd loved it. You could feel it. And apart from the technical fault at the start of Metamorphosis, the acoustics and sound levels were great.

I get taken to another place at a JG gig. I just lose myself, esp. on the more emotional tracks. Glacier was beautiful and epic, as was Queen Of Denmark. And…Budgie has me in awe. I love that man!

Top class, as always. I don’t think JG could ever do a shit gig. Well, I’ve never seen one.

Bring on Thursday and Cambridge!

Review: The Bard’s Tale IV – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow – January 31st, 2019

I wasn’t sure when the gig was meant to start, despite a 7.30pm time on the FB page. There was a support act which I sadly missed.

I also missed the opportunity to get a good photo, at least to show where I was sitting – but it’s all about the music, right?

And, well…what music! Ged walked out on stage looking rather dapper in a nice tartan suit and gave us a little intro and background to how The Bard’s Tale IV soundtrack came about and how he got to be involved in it.

A few minutes later the gig was under way. There was a large screen projecting video montages of the game and its landscape. Some eight Gaelic singers were involved, including the angelic voiced Eilidh Cormack and Kim Carnie, Fiona Hunter and Kathleen MacInnes – male voices too, Gregor Philp and it was fabulous to see young Donald Barker providing male Gaelic vocals and featuring as the main vocalist on one song. Wonderful harmonies from all the singers when group vocals took place.

Beautiful musically. Wonderful melodies and traditional instruments used. Harp, bodhran, harmonium, low whistle, pipes as well on some tunes.

In between tunes were spoken passages delivered by “The Bard” himself, the actor who provides the protagonists voice in the game, John Buick. At one point he was to deliver a drunken rant about how, although there had been a battle won, there was one deserter in the pack…and that role for Mr Buick (as a focal point) fell to me. I suppose that is what one gets when they sit in the front row! It made for an interesting bit of theatre, esp. for yours truly! It was both thrilling and a little unnerving, but fun.

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The tunes have depth of emotion as you would imagine from such a beautiful language – so harmonious. Poignancy, joy – not all the tunes are ballads, and not every song is in Gaelic. Gregor Philp performed songs in English – Snow In Summer and Across The Seven Realms – as did Fiona Hunter – A Hardworking Hand. But to hear the sounds of traditional folk music and Gaelic language vocals was a very moving experience. And you don’t need to understand the language to be moved by it and be swept up in…to sense its emotion and get an understanding of its heart and joy.

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The show as a whole flowed really well. Sometimes the bits of video footage from the game could be a distraction, but the screen was not used constantly. The main point of the concert was to deliver the music and have that come across…the importance of the Gaelic language and how intrinsic it should be in Scottish culture. Something that needs to be retained for fear of it becoming lost for good.

The musicianship on display on Thursday night was incredible. And such amazing talent from all involved. Ged should be full to bursting with pride of the show he put on on Thursday night. It was a wonderful experience, as I’d had every belief it would be from the moment I bought my ticket.

Photo one by Lily Warring.

Other photos by Gordon Machray.

Review: Massive Attack – SSE Hydro, Glasgow – Jan 28th, 2019

First gig of the year could not have been more epic and compelling.

Due on stage at 8.30pm but fashionably late – the lights in the Hydro switched off about 8.45. The crowd went nuts… but they made us wait just a bit longer.

Incredible from the get go. You’d have thought someone just put the CD on over the speaker system… but no. Apart from some parts (loops, etc) that I assume are a backing track… it was all live. Two drummers! Love it!

Horace Andy performed tracks. And for a 67 year old man, he’s sounding great and still got the moves.

Several songs in, and out comes the Indie/New Wave Queen of Grangemouth… ladies and gentlemen, Ms Elizabeth Frazer. Of course she got a huge, rapturous welcome.

She performed Black Milk and the crowd went nuts after.

I’m not overly familiar with Mezzanine as an album… but they were performing tracks in a mixed up order.

A small pause after about 75 minutes on stage, and back they come with Horace Andy to perform a stonking version of Angel. And then the roof gets blown off the Hydro as Liz comes back out on stage and the opening chords to Teardrop start.

I’ve never heard a reaction like it after the song was done. I’m surprised it wasn’t a standing ovation, frankly.

A stunning gig. Great visuals. Some not easy to take. Text on screen. Thought-provoking messages. Almost like being at a live Adam Curtis screening.

I loved every second of it. And I definitely want to see them again.

I was a bit of the way up, so I don’t have the best pics, but here are a couple. I grabbed video footage of Angel but will have to share that when I’m back home, I think.

What an opener to the year!

Gigs Of The Year – 2018 – My Top 3

I have never seen so much live music in a single year. In fact, I saw more live music in 2018 than I have seen previously in all my adult life.

The year started with a album launch “all ages” show by Franz Ferdinand in Kingston-upon-Thames in early February, and was quickly followed by FOUR Simple Minds Walk Between Worlds showcase gigs, and continued on through the year, traversing the length and breadth of the UK and hopping across the English Channel into mainland europe and ending in Northampton seeing Blancmange. From Glasgow and Newcastle, to Leeds, Manchester and westwards to the Brecon Beacons, back over to Bristol, and many trips to London. A trip to Paris and the French Alps via Switzerland. I even managed a local gig! Luton isn’t usually known for its amazing live music scene, it has to be said.

I have no idea how many miles I’ve covered in all this crisscrossing of countries and continents. Thousands, I’m sure! And…I don’t want to think about what it did to the purse strings…but budgeting and shoestring travel makes it doable – trust me! You don’t have to be lavish to do this. Winning free weekend tickets for a festival also helps! 😁

And all absolutely worth it for some of the best live music the UK and the world has to offer.

Now, before I award my Top 3 gigs of 2018, let me recap (and try to remember!) just who and what I saw this year.

February: Franz Ferdinand and Simple Minds x4
March: Art Of Noise and Ruts DC
May: Warm Digits and Vessels, Simple Minds
June: Warm Digits x2, Manic Street Preachers and The Anchoress at Meldown Festival
July: Muilac Festival, Aix-Les-Bains. Caezar x2
August: Thumpasaurus, Green Man Festival, Simple Minds x3
September: Franz Fedinand
October: John Grant
November: Blancmange

All the acts I saw were fabulous…part of the reason I wanted to see them all. There were also a few standout support acts too.

Some worthy contenders for gig of the year, then? Manic Street Preachers…that was a real “love for the fans” gig. The guys were great and the crowd loved them. Franz Ferdinand – at both shows – just great. Make it look so effortless and Alex Kapranos is one of my favourite frontmen, currently. Ruts DC – don’t underestimate the power of ska/punk to be making an impact some 40 years down the road. These guys are great live. The Lemon Twigs – my live music find of 2018 – all thanks to winning a free weekend camping pass to the Green Man festival in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Another act very worthy of note – Caezar. Joe Donnelly and JJ Gilmour have released one of the standouts of 2018, for me. And JJ is a phenomenal singer. An amazing voice. I hope to catch them again this coming February at Oran Mor in Glasgow.

At three: Art Of Noise – British Library – March 9th
An unusual setting for a gig – inside the library entrance, on the mezzanine. It made for a great atmosphere. I’m not an uber fan of theirs, but I just really enjoyed the atmosphere of the gig – there was a great rapport between the group and the fans. The acoutics were great and, yeah…can’t really pinpoint it…I just really enjoyed it a lot.

At two: John Grant – Green Man Festival – August 18th
John was the headline act on day three (Saturday) of the festival and he was just fabulous, and brought me to tears. It was a beautiful night and a wonderful setting.

At one: (who else but!) Simple Minds – Manchester Albert Hall – February 14th
For some it’ll be other shows. It SHOULD be Barrowland Ballroom – and it would be, if my choice was based beyond sheer performance. But I have seen SM nine times this year…and I could choose others. The Leeds grandslam gig was amazing. All three of the grandslam gigs were. But for majesty and sheer performance and for the concept of it, it goes to their Manchester WbW showcase gig. Whereas I thought palpable nerves at Barrowland led to some performance…inconsistancies. The next night at Manchester, they truly had it licked and were PHENOMINAL! They were just FLAWLESS by comparison to the night before. Amazing. absolutely amazing gig. Of the February WbW gigs, it was by far my favourite. It also wins out amongst the rest of the SM gigs I saw this year, purely for that full set of the complete Walk Between Worlds album performed live. Any band wanting to do that – to showcase a complete new package like that has the absolute courage of their convictions.

Congrats to Jim, Charlie, Gordy, Ged, Sarah and Cherisse (and to Catherine AD) for executing a truly amazing showcase of new matieral and killer setlist of hits. You guys f***ing rock the world…my world…the whole world! Thank you!