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Little Axe

LITTLE AXE

If You Want Loyalty Buy a Dog

On-U Sound Records ONUCD1019

Genre – Dub / rhythm & blues

Star rating 8/10

Little Axe is Skip ‘Little Axe’ McDonald on vocals and guitar with his band of musos. The album was produced by Skip and notable Dub producer Adrian Sherwood and they have  conjured a wonderfully retro sound – it’s the sound texture of early reggae and Blue-beat – it took some of us away back to the sixties when in our North London streets Jamaican house parties would fill the air with the sound of that original Ska and Blue beat…we also recalled some of the ‘sound-wash’ effect of Daniel Lanois’ productions. Its a crack group of musicians who  include Style Scott a noted drummer who played with Dub Syndicate & Roots Radics, the band also includes Doug Wimbish on bass, Keith LeBlanc on percussion; Alan Glen on harmonica adds a nice earthy blues touch, Bernie Fowler, Ken Booth, Saranella Bell and Tom Cobley on backing vocals.

Skip Mac’s voice draws on several classic styles in his lower range he draws most obviously on Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Willie Johnson, vocally he also uses the upper register quite a bit as well and here he sounds just like…Skip McDonald. He’s got lots of classic Dub and ‘Blue Beat’ vocal touches think of Prince Buster and all the rest, there are fleeting echoes of them all.

 

The overall sound is like a dark bubbling gumbo of Blues / Dub / Reggae grooves – in fact it’s really a groove album – and at times when the vocal comes in you’ll also hear flashes of Tom Waits. There’s a lot to listen to here and throughout the album Alan Glen’s exquisite slide guitar and harmonica voicings remind us of home base one – the blues – the grooves and percussion remind us of home base 2 – Dub / reggae.

 

The themes of the songs are classic blues, quite misogynistic in some of their themes, but there is also an element of spirituality here – the standout track on first listen was ‘Grace, this is in fact the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ which was written by John Newton. We say  first listen because there is so much to hear, in one sense, this is a record to just play in the background and you’ll start to hear all sorts of subtleties; it’s a listening record and a party record – we noted the sound texure of early reggae and Blue-beat Jamaican house parties; and it’s a house party type of record – listening we got a fancy for the weed and the rum-if you get the drift-  in summary this is a dense atmospheric record that will repay repeated listening and provide a great background at a party – real ale, wine, grass and grindin’, wine and chillin’ – this really suits every mood and is highly recommended.

Review Team

NB0 Live

Nine Below Zero

Live in Europe 1992

Floating World Records FLOATM6109

Genre – Rhythm & Blues

Star rating 7.5/10

This is an interesting re-issue; it doesn’t appear to be mentioned on NBZ’s new website- so we wondered if the band actually had much to do with it? Whether they did or not it’s a good and interesting listen – NBZ at their raucous and edgy best, punk tinged British R&B – I recall the fan’s perspective at the time they hit big – ‘Thank God there’s still someone doing real R&B amongst the tide of punk and Indie music’. NBZ was probably one of the few places at that time where you could hear a drummer playing the backbeat and a touch of swing – as punk was encouraging an all round drop in musicianship standards. These boys upheld the standard for R&B and in particular ‘British’ R&B for a long while (along with the Feelgoods of course). All the more surprising then to notice that Alan Glen the harmonica playing supremo is dressed as Napoleon (he’s French you see- Napoleon that is) on all of the artwork – a blues playing Napoleon in dark shades –was a cool image – may have been better to choose Nelson (to dress as, not to play harmonica); We imagine it might have been difficult to explain if Alan had been pulled over by the old Bill – ‘Yes, play in a blues band do we sir…I see…have to dress as Napoleon, eh? – blow into this bag please sir’ Well it wasn’t quite like that according to the man himself (Alan Glen that is, not Napoleon) he was asked to dress like this because otherwise ‘the band looks just like everybody else’. Well it probably worked at the time, but much more importantly it is Glen’s harmonica that really adds a colorful edge to this music – he pops up everywhere on a very lively set that incudes NBZ anthem ‘Riding on the L’ and ‘N’, ‘Watch Yourself’, and a great medley of ‘On the Road Again’, She Gives Me the Shakes, and ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’.

This was the reformed NBZ kicking back into life and they were as good as ever – this is good stuff very ‘90’s, very lively. The line-up of Dennis Greaves on vocals and guitar, .Gerry MacAvoy on bass, Brendan O’Neill on drums, Alan Glen on harmonica really kicked.

 

This album is not to be confused with NBZ’s other live album recorded in 1980 at the Marquee- this 1992 set has a much better sound. So if you like that very lively period of British R&B give this a listen…and if you see anyone out dressed as Napoleon…it might just be Alan Glen…but you probably just drank too much.

Review Team
The sound for a live album is acceptable. The first half of the album is certainly of better sound quality than the closing tracks which are a little muddy, but still manage to capture the excitement of a live Nine Below Zero gig. As with all live albums, if you were at the gig then the album is a must-buy. If you are a Nine Below Zero fan, then you’ll have already snapped up this CD as it’s not an unattractive package and the sleeve notes are very informative, but I can’t see this particular issue making the band any new fans. That’s not to say it isn’t worth a try even if Nine Below Zero are not known to you. If raucous r’n’b is your thing you could do a lot worse than invest in this collection.

Vicky Martin

 

IKE TURNER

Jack Rabbit Blues – The Singles 1958 to 1960

Secret Records – SECSPO041

Ike Turner was one of the seminal figures of classic American rhythm & blues, blues and rock ‘n roll – a superb guitarist & pianist, arranger, bandleader songwriter, producer his contribution is incalculable. His first recording is widely regarded as the first rock ‘n roll record ‘Rocket 88’ with the Kings of Rhythm, his band, credited on the recording as by ‘Jackie Brenston & his Delta Cats. This recording is a companion to the box set ‘That Kat Sure Could Play’ which featured his singles 1951-1957. It includes Annie May Bullock who later became Tina Turner. There are 31 tracks and several gems among them including early tracks by Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. Turner’s reputation was much sullied by his portrayal as Tina Turner’s autobiography and the subsequent film, and his cocaine addiction also undermined his career. Now at a distance these recordings show just what a great contribution he made. If you love American R&B then this record will be for you.

Vicky Martin

Jimmy Vaughan Podcast

"We break all the rules - we don't care what they  think about how you're supposed to do things these days!"   Jimmy Vaughan podcast Listen to it here

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