Tag Archives: Live Review

PAPA GEORGE BAND — Staines Riverside Show Review

A superior night of musical entertainment was had by all this Thursday at Staines Riverside Club when the PAPA GEORGE BAND came to town to play a magnificent concert to a crowded house.

The award-winning blues-man PAPA GEORGE is one of the leading British live blues artists around and he’s a regular attendee at the Staines club, often appearing in company with MICKY MOODY or friend Alan Glen (the harmonica musician and band leader who was originally with The Yardbirds.) Like Alexis Korner, GEORGE is of Greek Cypriot origin.

Papa George - @neilmach 2020 ©
Papa George – @neilmach 2020 © “razor-sharp guitar-play that feels kinda swampy ‘n’ moist and often impudent in nature…

His numbers almost always come with razor-sharp guitar-play that feels kinda swampy ‘n’ moist and often impudent in nature.

George introduced the others in his power trio quite early on: Peter J. Stroud (on drums, known for his work with The Foundations) and the amazing Pete Rees (the session bassist who is very famous for his work with Gary Moore.)

Their interpretation of “Red House” (Hendrix) was as authentically raw as the original, with lots of inventive guitar and many incredibly tight rhythms.

Papa George photo credit: @neilmach 2020 ©
Papa George photo credit: @neilmach 2020 © His voice is the texture of worn leather with the bitterness of tobacco smoke…


















And there was plenty more waka-waka chung to be enjoyed on the self-penned “Blackjack” — one of the highlights of this top-level show. Of course, as we have said before, George’s voice is a mixture of dark molasses and plum wine, with the texture of worn leather and the bitterness of tobacco smoke. You could drown in his voice of tar and syrup, you really could! But this show was surprising due to the extraordinary electric guitar work that the maestro brought to Staines.

We all knew that George was one of the best blues singers on the circuit, a brilliant composer and a master of the Amistar resonator. What we didn’t know was that, armed with his Fender Strat or Flying Finn, he’d be the Southern Area Champion electric guitarist too! As one keen club-member observed, after a particularly spirited guitar solo: “I guess George is the best guitarist we’ve had in this joint.” I think he could be right!

The evening proceeded with splendid covers of old Elmore James, a Paul Rodgers penned blues paean (Muddy Water Blues ) and an old John Hiatt number (Feels Like Rain — made famous by Buddy Guy.) The concert ended with an ingenious and totally immersive rendition of the funky-soul hit “Superstition” (Stevie Wonder) that had originally been written with Jeff Beck in mind, for his Beck, Bogert & Appice project. At Staines Riverside Club, this song was a hugely enjoyable final piece, full of intelligent rhythms, extraordinary rebound and lots of cheerful energy.

What a show! What a guy!

Words & Pictures: @neilmach 2020 ©

Link: http://www.papageorge.co.uk/papageorge.co.uk


Sentimentality Mixed with Power — THE ALI MAC BAND

THE ALI MAC BAND features vocalist Ali MacKenzie, who was the original singer with the legendary R&B group The Birds.

The Birds were a popular Brit band during the mid-1960s and were famous for having guitarist Ronnie Wood in their line-up. Another famous member of The Birds was Ronnie’s old comrade, the bassist Kim Gardner — who went on to have a success in 1971 with ‘Ashton, Gardner & Dyke‘ and the “Resurrection Shuffle.”

The fall of The Birds came in 1965, when the Los Angeles band — The Byrds — began to dominate the UK Chart. The Birds manager, Leo de Clerck, tried to take legal action to prevent the Americans from using the name. But his action failed. In 1967 the British group disbanded… Ronnie Wood went off to join The Creation with Gardner (1968.)

Now Ali MacKenzie (who reminds us, by the way, of a cross between Leo Sayer and David Essex) has formed his own ‘super-group’ consisting of rock’s most resilient survivors.

We saw the super-group performing at the Staines Riverside Club this week. The line-up includes Strawbs drummer Richard Hudson, Glitter Band bassist Bill Phillips, and Renaissance guitarist Simon Bishop. The band plays a selection of good-time rhythm and blues, with generous handfuls of soul and rock ‘n’ roll.

Ali MacKenzie (vocals) with Richard Hudson (drums) at Staines Riverside Club - "Heartfelt soul and eloquence..."
Ali MacKenzie (vocals) with Richard Hudson (drums) at Staines Riverside Club – “Heartfelt soul and eloquence…”















Just a Little Bit‘ the Rosco Gordon R&B classic (1959) — but probably better known as an Animals (and, later, Slade ) hit — was the first song in the Ali Mac repertoire that really showed-off the true nature of the band… it revealed their emotional commitment. This song was filled with soul and eloquence right from the start — with some fine guitar-play by the extraordinarily creative Simon, plus a stirring reverberation in Ali’s voice that sent chill-waves through our hearts.

Another cover that made us sit-up-and-take-notice was the famous Little Feat number ‘Willin‘ (Lowell George) which had the perfect chemistry — sentimentality mixed with power. This song had some excellent guitar, wonderful percussion and a dramatic and intelligent voice.

The band’s renditions tended to be inventive and creative, not sticking to established formats — so even old & familiar songs became fresh and unpredictable.

The second half of their show was not as strong as the first (in our opinion). Maybe it was concern about an imminent fire that caused a lack of concentration. “I smell smoke …” Announced Ali. And we waited, temporarily (and sensibly) while all the amplifiers were checked.

The band’s on fire…” Yelled out one helpful punter!

The second half of the show had some curious choices (for a four-piece band that do not have resources such as rhythm guitar or keyboards) so covers of Little Richard and Lynyrd Skynyrd songs seemed thin and scattered.

We preferred the easy-smooth soul numbers that the band performed so eloquently in the first half. Those numbers seemed more consistent. Far more suitable.

No matter, this was another tip-top evening of high quality music, lovingly crafted by consummate professionals — and held at this precious Staines music venue.

Words & Images: @neilmach 2015 ©
Come and Check Out Steve Morrison & Alan Glen with BLUES ABUSE on Thursday 17th December. Not to be missed!

The Good Old Boys Staines Riverside Club

If you love classic rock ‘n‘ roll and a smattering of authentic blues,  then it simply does not get any better than this … another wonderful night in the company of world-class musicians at The Staines Riverside Club.

The Good Old Boys are about as close to rock royalty as you can possibly imagine. Formed as a vehicle to play good ole’ live rock ‘n’ roll whenever the members were free from touring with their own bands, this amazing supergroup combines the talents of bassist Nick Simper (Deep Purple), lead vocalist Alan Barratt (Jo Jo Gunne), drummer Richard Hudson (Strawbs) and twin lead guitars Peter Parks (Warhorse and Fandango) and Simon Bishop (Renaissance.)

An evening with the Good Old Boys is always a life-affirming pleasure – and one not to be missed. To witness the union of these five great musicians is a joy and a privilege.

S0580381The two guitars work off of each with amazing speed and dexterity. The percussion is flawless – yet fast and exciting. And Alan still has the capacity to delight and amaze the audience with the quality of his supremely nuanced, gravel-laden voice.

We were treated to some familiar vintage sounds – Eddie Cochrane covers etc. But there were a lot of surprises in the set-list – enough to brush away any pre-conceptions about this veteran band. For instance,  Hudson-Ford’s “Pick Up The Pieces” (1973) show-cased the exquisite voice of Richard Hudson.  He still hits those high-notes with precision and clarity.   Alan said, “That one was from way back … when he still had some hair…”   But that was quickly denied by all the band (and most of the audience.)

I was pleased to hear Johnny Kidd’s 1960 number one hit “Shakin’ All Over.”  It is such a great song, even though it may bring back painful memories for Nick. ‘The Good Old Boys’ did it great justice … playing the song with amazing gusto and maximum precision.

They introduce all their numbers with the proviso “This is our take on …”   This means that they have worked hard to come up with their own interpretations and arrangements. Some of these guys have been in the business for over 50 years … for heaven’s sake.  And yet they’re still working hard trying to entertain the audience with new ideas and new approaches to old songs. That is true professionalism.

Hush’ is a crowd pleaser (first performed by Deep Purple in 1968.) It starts with that low insistent bass that’s pronged and prodded by Nick… then we get a highly infectious clap-along rhythm coordinated by Hud. After this the whole band bursts into song. And they can all handle the harmonies.  Amazing ! This number is a jamboree of colour and boundless energy.

Did I say boundless?  Well, it certainly seems as if these ‘Good Old Boys’ have no limits!  “Did you enjoy yourselves tonight?” Asked Alan.  The crowd showed their warm appreciation with a roar of approval. “Because you can’t do any of this when you’re dead...”   He added.

S0620441The finale was a rousing version of Peter Green’sOh Well” first recorded by Fleetwood Mac in 1969. “We are still into drugs … after all these years …” said Alan cheerfully.  “But we would prefer a cup of tea!

Thanks to the organizers at the fabulous Staines Riverside Club for another unforgettable night.

And thanks to ‘The Good Old Boys‘ for all the joy that you bring.   We look forward to seeing you again. For many years to come.

– © Neil_Mach November 2013 –




Stacey Cronin and Asylum Affair at Staines Riverside Club

The amazing quality and superlative musicianship brought to The Staines Riverside Club by ‘Stacey Cronin and Asylum Affair‘ this week made me realize that really good ‘covers’ bands should make you think.  We all know that these bands are here to entertain us.   But – from time to time – it’s nice to be challenged. And ‘Asylum Affair’ put so much effort into bringing you their passionately performed ‘forgotten classics’  that you tend to feel delightfully exhausted when it’s time to go home. They are a power-house of talent and energy.

It’s also refreshing to have some 80’s power ballads for a change. Sometimes ‘covers bands’ do not offer enough fresh ideas to an audience. Party bands should try to entertain and delight – of course – but they should also surprise their audience – perhaps revealing long hidden memories or replaying some cherished old favourites.

So we had “Alone” – the ‘Heart’ hit song –  written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. (They also wrote the Madonna hit “Like a Virgin” and The Bangles “Eternal Flame”.) This  piece showed off the remarkable talent of Stacey.  She is a gutsy, powerful and passionate lady. And we also had the incredible “Love Is a Battlefield” (Pat Benatar) which was released in 1983 in the United States. This song was written by Holly Knight with Mike Chapman (half of the brand “Chinnichap.”) Stacey says that this is her favourite number to perform and we could see why. She brought drama, remorse and extraordinary strength to each word of the song.  And the tune has being going around in my head every since!


But although the focus was on ‘The Eighties’ it does not mean that the band did not play some enjoyable hits from other decades. “Handbags and Gladrags” is normally associated with the Stereophonics or with the theme tune of  ‘The Office’. But it was actually written in 1967 by Mike d’Abo (vocalist with Manfred Mann) before being offered to Chris Farlowe as a single. Dave Greenslade played the piano riff on that original version. Asylum Affair’s interpretation had everything that we expected from this much loved song. Pathos, the sense of loss and  the overpowering nostalgia. It was all there.  Ahh! Those bittersweet memories. It was an excellent cover.

The Boss” was also covered. “Born to Run” (1975) was sung with the same vigorous hard-working energy that you would expect from  Bruce Springsteen himself. The ‘Clarence Clemons’ sax piece was expertly executed by Mark ‘Wilko’ Wilkinson, who swapped keyboards for the saxophone. Later we also had “Because the Night” – one of my favourite songs of all time –  it was written by Bruce Springsteen for his ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ album in 1978.  And it is still Patti  Smith’s most popular  number.

Stacey Cronin’s voice is often compared favourably with Bonnie Tyler. But I think that her voice has more in common with Steve Nicks than with Tyler. It has that high quality husk – for sure – but it is not so acidic or sand papery.  The voice  is light, fluorescent and powdery.

So, when the band played their songs from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ album, we enjoyed the full range of delicate expressionism – easily spliced with powerful zest and gusto. For these songs,  the boys also came to the microphones to provide some beautiful harmonic backing vocals. And the Fleetwood Mac numbers provided an opportunity for John Lawrence (lead guitar) to produce an abundance of perfectly pitched and lavishly adorned solo work.

During one number – the ‘Prince’ odyssey  that is “Purple Rain” (1984) –  the excellent ‘Giant of the BassColin Payne moved so far from the stage  – (using his wireless kit) – that he more-or-less left the building. John then focussed on the blooms and contortions of that famously extended guitar solo. It was moving stuff!

The Staines Riverside Club has brought some incredible music to Staines over the years. And they can be justifiably proud of hunting down Stacey Cronin and Asylum Affair. This is every bit a high quality music act.

So please don’t miss them next time they come around. And support live music locally.

– © Neil Mach May 2013 –



Check http://www.ents24.com/staines-events/staines-riverside-club for the next gig at the Riverside Club

Stacey Cronin and Asylum Affair

Norrie Snakebite Burnett live at Staines Riverside Club

Veteran blues shouter Norrie “Snakebite” Burnett has been active on the blues circuit for over 50 years. Blues shouters must project their voices over drums and guitars – orginally this was done without amplification. Blues shouting is considered to be the opening pathway which led jazz music to ascend into rock and roll. Norrie is generally considered to be one of the finest blues shouters in Britain.

Norrie fronted up his band of seasoned pros at the excellent Staines Riverside Club on 26 January,  playing an exciting assortment of blissful rhythm and blues classics – delivered like a howitzer with that astonishing voice of his, with vocals of sustained and unimaginable power and yet subtly controlled – each note held with skillful precision.

Norrie treated us to several gutsy, glorious covers – many taken from the Willie Dixon back-catalogue  (widely acknowledged as the founder of the Chicago blues sound.) This means that most of the pieces had a rock and roll feel to them rather than being purely traditional blues numbers.

Joining Norrie on stage for many of his musical sojourns was the sensationally talented blues-harp player Dave Raphael, who conjured up some startling harmonica solos.

Norrie is tall, good looking and fairly imposing. He wore a crisply pressed dress shirt and smart trousers over a lean body,  and he is blessed with a full mop of silvery hair. It seems nigh on  impossible to believe that Norrie started his singing career way-way back (as he reminded us) in a skiffle group. This was long before the British rock and roll scene started to take off.

As he sang, his delivery reminded me of Big Joe Turner –  you could detect that glint in Norrie’s eye, as he surveyed the room, confident that each word had hit it’s mark. On target.  Each song was carefully crafted and delivered with courage, each piece richly decorated by guitar, bass and percussion from his efficient supporting musicians – or occasionally coloured by a tantalizing contribution from Dave Raphael on harmonica.

This was a rare spectacle and a significant show for the Staines Riverside Club  – and we all felt privileged to be there and to witness the magic of this seasoned performer and his friends playing for us in an intimate setting.

© Neil_Mach January 2012

Halloween Rockgoblin – 29th October 2011 – Hob, Staines

The Hallowe’en Rock Goblin Staines is now a firm fixture on the Staines social calendar – and a very highly anticipated event. Last year’s party was simply superb… so the 2011 Hallowe’en Rock Goblin had a lot to live up to.

With six incredible musical artists covering a night-full of spooky fun and magical events, the beautiful & intelligent people of Staines crowded into the Hobgoblin in their fineries. Costumes included spectral brides, ghoulish minnies, a throng of pirates and enough zombies, vampires and monsters to coagulate the blood and give permanent nightmares!  The fun-house was decorated in a suitably gothic fashion and the party started early and went on till well past the witching hour.

First up was ‘Ravi K’ with his solo (acoustic) ‘Timber-Tones’ set. His warm and passionate vocals and honeyed guitar work went down stunningly well with the Staines in-crowd. Kicking off with the fizzy ‘My Lonely Heart’ and featuring some reflective but none-the-less jaunty numbers like ‘For the Moment’ and ‘Talk of Tonight’ it was a highly accomplished and satisfying demo of how good the ‘Timber-Tones’ ought to be. We cannot wait for more!

‘Sian Sanderson’ is a soulful and bluesy singer/songwriter with an extraordinary voice, full of innuendo and silkily suffocating anguish. Songs like ‘Long Way Home’ are passionately personal- she counts Bill Withers & Otis Redding as influences- and you can hear the results with those tense vocals wrapped around relaxed tempos and gently rippling arrangements. Sian’s songs are tucked neatly into the smooth side of the genre and reminded me of the easy listening acts of the eighties.

Next up was Swindon band ‘Nudy Bronque’ with their lavish guitar based fireworks and their post punk Britpop aspirations. Flaming hot tunes like ‘I Don’t Want Your Problems’ were pumped out to the spirited Hobgoblin crowd. With searing guitar solos and piping hot percussion, this band made a statement of intent. Juicy, crisp and tight songs … a lot of punk attitude and a formidable style and flair is all part of the ‘Nudy Bronque’ experience. Ska-sounding beat-bound chirpy clap-clap tunes (like ‘Movement’) were bright, brisk and breezy- and brought  the Staines crowd to the boil with pin-point accuracy.

Those busy bees ‘Fear No Fish’ are already Hobgoblin stalwarts and firm favourites of the Staines music aficionados . This loveable rocking trio is the  ‘Ransome’ brothers (Chris on guitar and Mike on bass) with Rob Walker on drums. Their sound has been compared to The Who & The Jam. And it’s a constant wonder how so much rich sound can be created by such a small group.  With heaps of latent and seething drum-work, songs like ‘Stay’ with those magnificent vocals from Chris and Mike, complex plots and hauntingly beautiful compositions, are inspiring and illustrious  Or take the sturdy sounds of tunes like  ‘Paint By Numbers’ with those chunks of flying metallic guitar chords and the flourishes of percussion… numbers like these, with their grungy feel and wide-screen aspect, make you realise that ‘Fear No Fish’ are musical monsters in a pond full of tiddlers. Powerful and revelatory.

Reggae-pop outfit  ‘Tree. House. Fire.’ are also Hob regulars. These Guildford boys (dressed up as swarthy pirates)  fired up the dancing demons at the Hallowe’en ball with their imaginative ska-shaped sounds and their mashed up energetic show. Songs like ‘Suburban Gangster’ have enough pliant licorice flavoured rubbery beats to  keep heads rocking, knees bouncing and neighbours complaining,  deep into the night . And those irreverent lyrics with their ‘thumbs up’ vocals are playful enough to inspire raucous choruses, and to illicit frantic applause. Brilliant.

To complete a gigantic evening  we had the legendary Brighton party band ‘Floors And Walls’ giving us their amazing brew of melodic guitars and grimy vocals with those (almost) folky compositions. Pounding vibes and ‘Vincent Price’ vocals (by  Alex Adams ) seemed the perfect ending for a truly magnificent Hallowe’en feast.

A blissful night of rock sounds and invincible party-time antics. Bloody Fang-Tastic!

© Neil_Mach 28 October 2011







Brightlight City – Live at Hobgoblin, Staines

Epsom band ‘Brightlight City’, formed together holistically in 2010, following long time friendships and brotherhood (the Giarraputo brothers- Jamie on vocals and Justin on guitar). We were pleased that we managed to catch up with this band and their photogenic jamboree of musical fun at the best live music venue in Middlesex, the Hob, Staines.

Their debut single ‘Pressure’ was self released at the end of 2010 and can be heard on the cult British film ‘Jack Falls’. And their new single ‘The Others’ is a bombastic frothily beating heart bop song. Very ‘Duran Duran’ in places with but with their customary slice of acetic growl and snarl adding garnish later. And it’s even reminiscent of ‘The Jam.’

The band played an appetizing show at the Hobgoblin, featuring some excellent song structures and fine vocal imagery, expertly veneered to perfection. Songs like ‘You Shone’ which has diamond sharp lyrics and chirpily relentless vocals (with a dove-like coo-coo-coo). Shot through with cleanly etched guitars that rise and fall like demented moths around the candle-wax. Sumptuous harmonies add a luxurious quality and an impressive extra dimension.

Other catchy tunes include ‘Shortcuts’ – this travels with ease along a jagged path, yet at a light-footed pace. With short, sharp shots of guitar from Jono and Justin, and unhesitating percussion and eloquent bass from Joe and Dan. A cleverly planned chorus means this number sticks around in your brainbox long after the show.

‘Set Sail’ has an irregular rhythm guitar pattern and a sparkling pace. This song brings to mind ‘The Cure’ even with  those bruised and smeared ‘Robert Smith’ sounding vocals and an insistent chorus that drills into your skull and finds a neat place to curl up and slumber- bursting out later to surprise you!

Brightlight City are full of shine. This band, by rights, should have a profitable future.

© Neil_Mach October 2011



Avondale45 – live at Staines 06 Oct 2011

Fearless balls. That’s what this band has got. Within 30 seconds of their first number, guitarist and frontman Al had already broken two strings. This is not only unfortunate, it is a freak of nature. A once in a lifetime event. But it didn’t stop the show. Or even put the band off kilter. Onwards they climbed. Against all odds they soldier on to make a living.

And a lot of punk bands are let down by their ‘hunt the tune’ issues, but this certainly ain’t the case with the three-piece south coast punksters Avondale45.
Yep, these lads are holding more than a fistful of grubby tunes in their sweaty hands – and they are here to delight the audience with their fresh and shiny stage package.

Full of beans and raring to go, these over achieving underdogs smashed into a set at The Hob, Staines with an array of belting numbers that included their seventies time-traveller “suspect device” along with coverage of the ‘Caesars’ “Jerk It Out” the ‘Vandals’ “Oi to the World” and their own “Bonkers” – “Save My Life”.

Some radical guitar-work from Al and glossy bass play from Colin matched with expressive drumming from Joe (“Do you still need Phil Collins?”) added to the coherent quality of the insatiable rhythms and restless punchiness of the songs.  Each number incorporated swiftly told lyrics held crisply within jaunty arrangements. And their neat party trick at the end (Al and Colin swapping instruments ‘mid flight’ without pause) and the self depreciating jokes “We have got all sizes of T shirt available – as you can see…”  just added to the fun and expectations.

Armed with songs that actually stick around for a bit, and a humorous stage presence with a zinging vibe, these lads are set to be the next high achievers in the class.

© Neil_Mach October 2011



Lucky Toppers – The Black Hats – Live Review – Staines Hobgoblin

Take three Elvis Costello types. Give them some twanging bass. Crank up the volume so loud it sends a thermic lance up your tender-loins.  Tighten up  the sounds with a heavy gauge torque-wrench. And you have yourselves ‘The Black Hats’. As dangerous as a night out in Hackney. Swift as a switchblade in steady hands. And as formidable as a home-made zip-gun. This band takes no prisoners in a bloody relentless surge for power.  

Oxford’s most articulate pop punksters played a successful show at the Staines Hobgoblin during the summer. They may look like yobs in “Proclaimers” specs or the remnants of a twisted “Freddy and the Dreamers” lookalikey party, but they play garrulously energetic punk at high pitch, high dose levels. And they sprinkle their sounds with seasonings of ska, dub and reggae. In this sense, they are our ‘most post’ protopunk pop-star popinjays. Increasingly recognized and well received throughout their home territory, they now seem to be branching out along the Thames Valley- and they are already creating quite a stir on radio. And they are just out of the studio, having recorded with Mercury-nominated producer Sam Williams (Supergrass, Plan B, The Go Team!)

A rattling & rolling gig at The Hob got all the good people in the audience moshing and prancing and, generally, yelling to the aggregate sounds. This band look like a bunch of rock-hard ‘leave-well-alone’ nut-case bruisers with psychopathic intent. But their songs and intelligent musicianship elevates them to a higher level. Yes, they may be a bunch of amoral, discontented antisocial misfits – wearing ‘Two Ronnies’ glasses -but they are also talented, effervescent with energy and almost academic in their production.

Their big number ‘Tunnels’ rushes & crashes-  it barely hangs onto the tracks- like some kind of out-of-control cattle car upon a flimsy trackway . Driven by a Liam Gallagher-style vocal from Nick Breakspear, the jaggedly highly-wrought guitar-work adds radiating spirals of sound to the bumpy rhythms laid down by Ian Budd on bass, and the generally rickety percussion from Mark Franklin on drums.

Other Black Hats numbers like ‘Magnets’ are creatures that can trace their lineage back to ‘The Jam’ and ‘The Cure’ via ‘Simple Minds’. Bippperty beats, slide around rhythms and cutie-pie slip ups, underpin the smiling yet ultra-cynical vocals and those acid laden vitriolic lyrics. Silvery guitars slice up the atmosphere and a catchy chorus adds to the joy of the frivolous, yet desirable, songs. Yes, indeed ‘We’re all magnets … don’t you know?”

And ‘Just Fall’ helps you feel your way along it’s twisting path with a reassuringly jammy sound. But the angular motifs and progressive bass notes create hazards and unseen footfalls in the dangerous architectural sub-terrain.  Two-for-one chug-a-chug chords get toes tapping. And echoing sweetly, lofty vocals from Nick remind me of Sting at his best (Reggatta de Blanc) and now, come to think of it, his reggae guitar tones also sound a lot like Andy Summers.

Crikey, there is a lot here to be thankful for here. The Black Hats are set to top-off and rise. This is spruced up defiant and infallible punk.

© Neil_Mach
September 2011


Cow live at Bed Bar, Woking – July 2011

“Cow” are an acoustic 4-piece soul and pop band with a California sound and a kinda sixties-style kookiness concealing a modish edge, flavoring both their sound and their image. This band would not seem out of place supporting The Mamas & the Papas  on the Ready Steady Go! show circa 1966…

The band has already ably supported the Woking ‘Modfather’ Paul Weller and has created quite a lot of buzz and excitement on the music scene. I went to see the band as they launched their superbly packaged “Sunrise” E.P at the sumptuous Bed Bar in Woking.

The band is seated in a half-circle and play acoustically, without drums. Female vocalist and guitarist – Maxine  – is located in the centre of the group, looking relaxed and regal. She provides the warmth and depth to vocals, but Mark and Ben (on guitars) provide some interesting harmonies and generally descanted sounds. Michael is twanging the bass guitar. They reminded me of the kind of band that would be warmly appreciated on the Val Doonican show! But their insightful lyrics and creative compositions, and the constant intertwining, reminded me more of songs by  Loves  Lee Arthur in Los Angeles in the 60’s … together with the delicate air of mystery that lies beyond every song, and the vaguely uncomfortable feeling you get when you realize that you are being  taken up the-garden-path by the lyrical sub-texts and the arrangements.

“Sunrise” the ‘Side A’ on Cow’s new E.P. is like a sixties fruit-cup of love. Not unlike anything by the Mamas & the Papas in aspirations or moodiness. At first glance, this could be put down as a light pop song, but by rubbing its delicate surface, it reveals darker secrets. There is a flourishing yet controlled burst of chukka-chukka rhythms set amongst a profusion of squelchy guitars, but the flamenco style beats and the pervasive chords get heads nodding and feet tapping.

“New Day” ( this song went town well at Wembley Arena when Cow supported Paul Weller) is a foam-wrapped eerily haunting song, shrouded in mysterious folksy froth. And ‘One in B’ sounded like a less funky ‘Long Train Runnin’ (‘Dooble Brothers’).  This song evoked (for me) memories of joss sticks, turtle-necks and snuggling up in your Afghan, on quilted cushions, listening to Jefferson Airplane.

“Get To Luv You” sounds every bit as dippy and preppy as anything by the Partridge Family – a saccharine sweet and high-pitched jaunt. If the haunting emotions bring a tear to your eye and a slight ache to your heart, never mind, because the songs are joyful and  tender enough to lighten your mood and put a shake in your hipsters. Perhaps I could have done with some keyboards to ‘flesh the sound out’ – it felt a little like a watercolor wash at times. But, nonetheless, enjoyable.

“Fragile Foundations” has lustrous autumn gold vocals from Maxine against mellow chords and feel good bass lines.  ‘leaving ain’t no good when you’re misunderstood‘ she sings, while lofty harmonies provided by Ben tend to lift you to a higher place.
Gentle ‘Donovan’ style sweet sixties vibrations linger long after in your mind, even once the sweet chorus finishes…

Passionate, inspiring, folksy, Amercican style sixties soul – from this intimate and creative group. For your gentler side!

© Neil_Mach
July 2011