Sunday, April 23, 2017

And then there were none

We had to have our one remaining cat – Jazz – put to sleep last weekend.

Our house has been home for 30 years now. This is the first time in all those years we have not shared it with at least one cat.

Not too long ago we had four cats roaming around the place. Two that were ours and two more that had moved in and become ours. Jazz was one of them. As far as I remember the children called her Jazz. She had been known in the area for some time although nobody seemed to know to whom she belonged, and all the children in the area called her Jazz. Of course it could have been Jas, short for Jasmine. But for us, once she became a fixture, it was always Jazz.

Jazz was a lady, a little aloof, never hurried. She never really made a sound. That was until she became the only cat in our house, and in the last couple of years she had become increasingly vocal. An easy purrer, she had also perfected a howl that sounded like a baby crying. She had become almost deaf in her final years we think and would howl if she thought she was on her own and wanted some attention.

During the last few months she had developed a tumour in her left ear which wasn’t very pleasant for her and we decided over the weekend that it was just no fun for her anymore.

When she moved in on us all those years ago we took her to the vet to see if she was chipped (she wasn’t). At the time the vet estimated her to be between 5 and 6 years old; based on that she had reached the ripe old age of 21, so she had a good life.

As we were driving to the vet last weekend Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions was playing on the radio. Not something you usually here on the radio and I can’t remember the last time I had heard it across the airwaves. So it seems appropriate to play it here. We like to think Jazz will be expanding her mind in cat heaven now.

RIP Jazz.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mary, Mary, quite contrary?

As promised, some reggae from my good start to the car boot season. As I picked out these 45s, and a couple of UK releases, from the little stack in a box on the ground the lady they belonged to noticed they were all reggae. “I love reggae”, she said. “So do I”, I replied. The lady was probably in her sixties, well spoken and as English as me. In fact on first impression I might have thought she would be more likely a fan of opera. But then why should I be surprised of her love of reggae? As someone of a certain age she would have probably been in her teens or early twenties when these records were released – the early 70s – and it was a genre of music that was beginning to enjoy its golden age.

Mary (she has her name written on most of the records I bought from her) told me she bought these particular 45s when she was in Jamaica. Apparently her brother was living there at the time and she used to visit for holidays. So, provenance! It is always great to have a back story to the records I pick up, and when I have one I always cherish the records a little bit more. With her name written on the labels I will now always think of Mary and also know these records are not more recent UK pressings but did start life in Jamaica, where Mary probably danced to them all those years ago.

(“Buttercup” like you have probably never heard it pronounced before! Winston was reputedly U Roy's brother-in-law and was toasting before it really came fully into vogue).   

Friday, April 07, 2017

Winter blues dissipate with tales of The Big Bamboo and green spot

Blimey, the writing mojo is back with a vengeance – that must be the longest blog title ever here!

There is one car boot in our area that carries on throughout the winter. I do pay it the occasional visit but for the last two winters it has by and large been a fruitless exercise.

Last Sunday morning though I jumped in the car with slightly heightened enthusiasm as the car boot season proper started last weekend in our neck of the woods with at least one of the summer ones starting up again. I qualified my enthusiasm because generally over the last couple of years trawling the car boots (and charity shops, come to that) has been an increasingly miserable experience, with vinyl of any interest extremely difficult to come across. So the question is will this year continue the trend? And with all this talk of vinyl being back will that spur on people selling their, or their relations’, collections to hike the asking price?

Start times meant I could visit the “winter” one first and then go on to the “summer” one after. The first port of call was predictably disappointing yet again, but not a complete waste of time for a change. For the princely sum of 10p each I picked up five albums in sparkling condition all dating back to the 60s. I guess you could bracket them all as easy listening but I cast my net wide nowadays. I was very pleased with one of them in particular. Called “The Big
Bamboo” it contains 12 charming calypso tinged tracks performed by Roy Shurland and his Orchestra (with Little Sparrow on the Steel Pan) recorded live at the Big Bamboo club in Nassau, Bahamas in 1961. I love coincidences, and finding this record is one of them as our son is off to Nassau next week to start a five week jaunt around the Caribbean, mostly in a boat (it is part and parcel of his PhD course). The record has been duly copied and is now in Dropbox ready for him to pick up and listen to to get him in the mood.

I got a bit carried away chatting to some of the regular vinyl hunters so by the time I got to the next venue I had missed the initial stampede by about 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is often crucial, early birds will hoover up any vinyl worth having in the first few minutes. But as it turned out other serious vinyl hunters seemed not to be around (this possibly was because this particular booter had only just started up again after a year off), and this appeared to be borne out by the fact I managed to amass a small haul of records I am very pleased with all in all. A right old mixed bag too: a handful of jazz albums, three 78s, some reggae 45s (yes, reggae! Very rarely come across any nowadays), and several 45s from a little box that contained quite a strange mix of genres (these were in front of two boxes of dance/techno/house 12 inchers – surely the new landfill. Mantovani and Val Doonican has competition!).

I’ll share a bit of the reggae, and jazz too possibly, in subsequent posts, but today will focus on the small batch of singles I bought that were perfectly representative of the strange mixed box. There was just some really random stuff in this box. By way of example I found some household names (think Lennon, Springsteen, Dylan), a few pic sleeved 45s from the outskirts of punk (TRB, Roogalator), some that just had interesting titles (Housewife's Choice, and Christine/S-E-X, this one sung by Miss X who turns out to be Lionel Blair's sister).... and some kiddie soul. “How much?”, I asked. “50p or £1”, was the reply. There was nothing obvious to determine which of these 45s commanded the dizzy heights of a £1 asking price. I made my selection and handed them over requesting a price.

It turned out two of the singles in my hand commanded the £1 price. And how was this determined? They had a small green spot sticker on the sleeves. Now I'm left puzzled as to why someone would go to such lengths to try and squeeze out an extra 50p on just a few of these records? Of course I'm equally puzzled as to why I decided to put the Dylan one back when I was told that one was a green spotter! I know, I don't like Dylan, but I'm sure I could have still made a small profit on flipping it. I don't like Springsteen either, but I bought that one for the same reason.

Anyway, kiddie soul? Yes, that's what I said. As far as I remember now there were just two big holers (i.e. US singles) in this little box. I always get excited when I find US 45s, and I recognised the labels. Soul! So I bagged them. I knew The Eight Minutes were a kiddie group – following the Jackson Five template, except there were eight of them – but I didn't know until I got home and playd this record and did a bit of research that Leonard 'Lil Man' Kaigler was also a child singer – and he sounds almost uncannily like a young MJ. The 'Lil Man' commanded a green spot. I have no idea why. Neither record is highly prized but The Eight Minutes seems to have a slightly higher price on Discogs.

Here are both. Do you think the green spot was justified? On first hearing I said no, but now I'm not so sure. Perhaps the title, which is rather unfortunate, tips the balance. Hang on, now I'm obsessing over green spots, this is stupid!

PS. I only noticed when I copied these that they both have the same release number – 533. What were the chances? 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Magical powers

We were searching through one of our kitchen drawers earlier this week looking for spare dollars and euros for our son who will be travelling a bit over the next few months. Alas, no such currency was found although many other interesting things were because it was one of those drawers. You know the type, we all have at least one I'm sure, it's the drawer that just seems to accumulate various random stuff. Stuff that was once useful, but has now fallen into disuse; stuff that maybe might come in useful one day, just maybe; stuff that just had to be stuffed somewhere. In this drawer for example there were out of date passports, a tuning pipe thingy, old sunglasses, lots of coins of various currency (except dollars and euros), an old Xbox connector, an old sellotape dispenser, etc etc.

There was also my old Ipod Shuffle, the first one I had owned (and I apologise for the apparently very grubby appearance of the lanyard!). I reckon it had been put in the drawer five or six years ago after I got a new larger capacity one. I thought it would be interesting to bring it out of retirement and see what was on it. So I charged it and yesterday listened to it while I cycled to and from work.

I was impressed with the music it offered up on my journey to work in the morning. A good mix of mostly Sixties obscure soul (of course), none of which I had probably heard since I had last worn this ipod.

However, I was truly amazed by what this ipod gave me on my pedal home later in the day. As usual I was day dreaming as I cycled home – I switch off from work instantly nowadays. Probably jogged by all this great music I was hearing and the fact that when I had put this particular mix of tracks on this ipod I would no doubt have been actively looking for and buying various similar 45s from the USA back when postage costs and exchange rates would have not been prohibitive, my thoughts had turned to a possible digging trip to the USA - one can dream. I then asked myself what would be a record at the top of my wants list on such a trip. I thought of Ella Brown's two 45s on Adams. Then I thought I want one of them more than the other but I couldn't remember which one. Just as I concluded this thought process a track I had been listening to ended and, after a brief silence, the next track started.
It was Ella Brown singing Right Or Wrong (I Love Him). My old ipod had answered me!!

I kid you not, that was exactly how it happened. Very spooky.

Can I offer up an explanation? Subconsciously maybe the selection of tracks I had heard on this ipod after all these years had triggered a memory which caused me to think of Ella Brown because my momory knew an Ella Brown track was coming sooner or later? Or maybe it was because some of the tracks on this ipod may well have been downloaded from Ana-B's old site The Singing Bones, and it was Ana-B who had outbid me on a copy of this Ella Brown record about six years ago? Who knows? I will just carry on thinking this old ipod has magical powers and answered my question.

You can now find Ella Brown's Right Or Wrong on YouTube.

Ella released four singles. Two on Adams and two on Lanor. The two on Lanor are quite easy to come by and I have both. Here is the B side of one of them.

Ella Brown – Touch Me  1972   

PS: This magical event also seems to have had an effect on my writing mojo, which is showing signs of life again.   

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Changing times

Yesterday turned into a beautiful early Spring day. All the more beautiful because I had the day off work. This is the second week running I have taken a Friday off and made it a long weekend (last weekend that long weekend was taken in a bracing, but thankfully dry, Cornwall). Fridays off are a current experiment with a view to reducing my working hours and making it a fixture. A much better work – life balance and gradual wind down to retirement is my thinking.

Taking advantage of the weather Mrs Darce and I took a sunny stroll to a new favourite local watering hole. There, spurred on by some successful DIYing earlier in the day that entailed putting our fridge freezer back on an even keel (we think a leak of some description had caused a floorboard to rot), conversation turned to the subject of more general house maintenance and room makeovers. By the end of the pub visit we had a plan. Oh dear! DIY and decorating have not been on the agenda for some years.

So it seems changes are afoot.

I guess it is thoughts of approaching retirement (which have been occupying my mind a lot recently), but I have been feeling nostalgic this past week or so, and in particular nostalgic for my 70s disco days.

With changes in the air it made me think of Brass Construction. They were a go to band for me in the mid 70s. The band originally formed in the late 60s, with Randy Muller the 'leader', but in their early years only had only one record release, a 45 in 1970 on Jeff Lane's DOCC label Two Timin' Lady / Take It Easy. It can be found on YouTube (what can't!?) and it is noticeable that their brass sound was immediately fully fledged, and somewhat ahead of its time I think. However, it was another five years before they committed to vinyl again. Their debut album, released in 1975, stood out from the crowd. The brass was prominent, the guitars were insistent, and a novel string sound had been added to the mix. BT Express had featured a similar string sound a year earlier? Yes but that had also been the brainchild of Jeff Lane and Randy Muller. A Wax Poetics article from 2004 is an excellent in depth appreciation of the group and also adds some interesting detail on how the string sound came to be. They go on to feature a number of tracks that feature Randy Muller's involvement. It is interesting to note I hve nearly all of them. 

Kool & The Gang and the Fatback Band had been dancefloor fixtures with their feel good funk vibe for a while but Brass Construction's sound, although anchored in funk, seemed to mark an entry point into a new, more sophisticated, disco sound and also lay down some early markers for the jazz-funk scene.

Pulling out my copy of Brass Construction for the first time in years I was puzzled by the Virgin price sticker on the front cover. I thought I had bought this album on its initial release, but the price sticker suggests it was a few years later. Perhaps until then I had been surviving with the singles that this album spawned, or maybe I lost my original copy and bought a replacement? It's all too hazy now. Scary, I'm sure only a few years ago my memory would have been sharp enough to have had this puzzle nailed.

The whole album sounds really fresh I think after all these years. Every track is a winner.

At risk of blowing my Box download bandwidth again (be sure to tell me when that happens) her is another track. This one was overshadowed by a few of the other tracks at the time but it it's finally got some well deserved love from me now.

Monday, March 13, 2017


This blog is eleven today. Oh dear, I am having trouble with my mojo, I almost missed it!

Only 40 minutes of this auspicious day ( :)  ) left as I type and this is, in truth, the first opportunity I have had to put fingers to keys today. Of course, presented with a similar situation in years past I would have prepared something in advance and scheduled the post. Where is that damn elusive mojo?

It struck me that in those eleven years I have not featured one of my favourite singers nearly enough. So in an attempt to put that right here are two tracks - both B sides - from Johnnie Taylor.

I have been feeling both of these recently.   

Johnnie Taylor - A Fool Like Me  1970

Johnnie Taylor - Hold On This Time  1969

PS: As is customary on this day, the 13th March, birthday greetings go out to Candi Staton.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dori has me hooked

While I think of something more substantial to say I will offer up both sides of this Dori Grayson 45.

I was going post this last Friday following storm Doris as a vaguely topical post, but once again my mojo was/is proving hard to pin down. Vaguely topical simply because Dori – Doris. Yes, tenuous I know, and of course Dori may not be short for Doris at all. (Doris Day would have been the obvious one but didn't seem appropriate here somehow).

Dori's recording career lasted just three 45s  and so was over almost as soon as it had started, rather like storm Doris.

When one hasn't much to say the topic of Dori Grayson is helpful. Why? Because I know almost nothing about her! In fact everything I do know can be found at Deep Soul Heaven as documented by the ever reliable Sir Shambling.

I wasn't aware of Dori Grayson until I stumbled across this 45 on an ebay listing recently. I like the simple production on these songs and find them both insanely catchy.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A collective R.I.P.

Feeling sad at the moment.

We have kept rabbits for at least 15 years now. Pets for the children initially, but always family pets in reality; and it is we, not our children who have elected to keep having a couple of rabbits around. Until this week. We have always put them out in a run on the back lawn during the day. On Wednesday Mrs Darce arrived home and found an empty run. At first, it wasn't clear what had happened, we wondered if a person might have taken them. There was evidence something had lifted the wire at one end but the hole there didn't seem big enough to be relevant. But Whisper and Hector were nowhere to be seen. We looked around but found nothing. Later that night I was restless and went out with the torch to have another look around the garden, and it was then I found both of them – buried separately. A fox must have got them (at least we assume it was a fox). It seems foxes will do this, kill and then bury in a cache, possibly to return later. I retrieved them and we gave them a proper burial yesterday. Rabbits do not like to be alone. Whisper was an old lady and after her old partner died last year we got a new mate for her. Hector was only young. Anyway, they are together again now.

It is strange, the rabbits we have kept have never been house rabbits but right now the house seems so empty and quiet . This is the end of an era for us, we have decided there will be no more rabbits.

I learnt this week of the death of two jazz artists – Al Jarreau and Barbara Carroll R.I.P. I originally became aware of them as a result of my love of jazz-funk in the late Seventies . It prompted me to play the albums you see above for the first time in quite a few years, and make me wonder why I've ignored them for so long. The names from our youth continue to fall.

For Whisper and Hector R.I.P.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Something stirs

Hello, I'm still here. Offline for quite a while there.  As well as hello, I suppose I should also wish you belated Season's Greetings and a Happy New Year! 

In case you were wondering, nothing in particular caused the silence, just a number of little things that resulted in me losing my blogging mojo for a while. I think it's coming back now, although not enough yet that I feel moved to unleash any of my extended ramblings on you :)  

But music you shall have, today brought to you by those extra special Moments. 

Sweet, intensely so I think you will agree.

Moments - What's Your Name  1974