Parliament – Medicaid Fraud Dogg

Oh, this is momentous. The first Parliament album proper since 1980 and it ain’t crap.

The great thing about Parliament and Funkadelic’s more esoteric groove is that so little was left out, anything could be the Funk. And watching George Clinton and his troupe of sidemen in their 3-hour live show a few years ago, anything was. There is little quality control here, sometimes it gloriously works, sometimes it’s chalked up to experimentation.

And here they are again, after a remix disc on the ‘Delic side, giving us a glut of 23 tracks to find your little light in. It a no surprise to see ‘Medicated Creep’ shimmying with a Shakira – type backing, blasting horns at us and warning with a nasty rap, nor to have Hendrix guitars and a falsetto slowie ‘Psychotropic’ follow it.

It can be more of the same here, the laziness of ‘Insurance Man’, Parliament’s trademarked dreamy vocal line over a click beat and a sweet rap. But who minds when ‘Ya Habit’ uncorks ‘Soul Revue’ horns and a chatty gang feel, the early 80’s cracking beat and squelch of ‘Riddle Me This’ whilst the fruity trumpet of the title track and confused chatting show their unsullied chaotic appeal.

They can present a gorgeous70’s Soul pastiche ‘DaDa’ and tight Princey Funk of the wonderful ‘Oil Jones’ but probably reach the heights of Parliament we remember on the big booty single ‘I’m Gon Make U Sick O’ Me’, jazzy horns going nowhere and a lounge backed Scarface tossed off rap, just glorious.

When they give a song to the rap they flirt with elsewhere, it just seems like one of those rising, sparse tracks we can hear on every US cop drama preview (you see, ‘Mama Told Me?), but the rap is front and centre in ‘Set Trip’ and the loose climbed Jazz backing reclaims it beautifully. Does it work? How dare you ask…

This is a triumph, containing some players from the era of their pomp like horners Fred Wesley and pee Wee Ellis, plus those Clinton has gathered around him over the years; it has too many tracks, it has too much ordinary rap, it has too little direction.

But that’s the point of Parliament, there is so much Funk to go round, they give you it all. It’s a dressing up box, as George says in his ‘Cinderella Theory’, try these on, see if they fit; what a lovely time trying.

They have taken control of your music and will return it when you are funky…

Out On Clinton’s C Kunspyruhzy

Remedy Rating: 5/5 The Dr Is In…

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JCM – Heroes

The backbone of this album is bandleader Jon Hiseman’s ratatattingly wonderful drumming. This is an album is of joy. And now the sadness; Hiseman has a brain tumour and has to undergo emergency surgery. The tour has understandably been cancelled and it will of course overshadow the album.

So I feel it’s right to celebrate this man and his current music whilst absolutely wishing him a full recovery. This is not a supergroup, but it does contain Mark Clarke, of Colosseum and Heep fame on bass and Clem Clempson, also of Colosseum but more famously Humble Pie on guitar and vocals. These 3 know what they’re doing…

If Colosseum’s ‘The Kettle’ is all groovy riffing and free bass, Hiseman’s sharp, jazzy drumming fits superbly and drives this forward, so cool and yet so 60’s in the chorus. And that really hits in the strange little ‘I’m going to a wedding dressed in black’ ‘Weird Of Hermiston’, sweet and sunny with a gorgeous flowing Clempson solo, Jack Bruce surely would enjoy what’s been done here and it may be a lazy comparison, but the creeping bass, busy drums and open riffing of H Pie’s ‘Four Day Creep’ will be the Cream in your coffee; the strut in your roll? Clarke’s bouncy bass in Bruce’s ‘Grease The Wheels’.

They may settle into the seasoned Blues style that might be expected from such venerable musicians and when they do, it’s ho hum (there’s a little yawning in Tempest’s ‘Strangeher’, despite a late 60’s vibe) but ‘Rivers’ could be mawkish but is actually achingly heartfelt. Ending with a gorgeously woozy vocal on a reworking of Larry Coryell’s ‘The Real Great Escape’ is cool too.

Yes, this is s collection of late 60’s and early 70’s tunes/late 60’s and early ’70’s tunesmith songs faithfully done, but it’s a collection not often heard and an ineffable Summer blazing openness which should be enjoyed again. And in these three talents we have the men who can do it. Hiseman’s drumming drives this along just as Ginger Baker would and allows his comrades to do their thing, wonderfully realised.

They can be Heroes, but let’s hope it’s not for one day.

Out On Repertoire Records (UK)

Remedy Rating : 4/5 Great Medicine

James Bay – Electric Light

Doyen of Jools Holland’s show and successful charter with heart, James Bay has spoken about the Funk, even Prince, elements on his awaited 2nd album.

It starts with a breakup chat which isn’t quite, it segues into the dirty Blues that everyone’s doing at the moment, with a falsetto vocal for ‘Wasted On Each Other’, onto the busy but usual bass line led commercial Indie of the single ‘Pink Lemonade’, calms things down with the falsely aching ‘Wild Love’ and compounds the problem with a clapping and piano backing on the chart vocalising ‘Us’.

So far, so ‘meh’.

‘In My Head’? Minimal chart backing until a party feel arrives; it has groove, but an expected one. The party is the best thing so far, though. Especially when a Rick Springfield AOR rocker pops up with the claps and acoustic of ‘Just For Tonight’, effortlessly pleasant and with very nice harmonies. You know that modern Funk with the minimal backing, where it feels head fogged? ‘I Found You’ sadly does that and even if the chorus has some Gospel touches, it’s too late. It’s a different matter on ‘Sugar Drunk High’; he may want to modernise the Funk, but the odd lagging groove is fun, just ignore the anodyne chorus; ‘Fade Out‘s smoothness works pretty well, but we’re back to that oh-so-sincere ache on the sparse closer ‘Slide’.

Yes, this is more of a smouldering Funk album than his straight ahead debut. But just because he’s brought a little Funk, doesn’t mean he’s into it; this just sounds like he’s using it to connect with the charts again. This is all the Funk sounds that are happening now, he doesn’t check back with, say Parliafunkadelic, Isaac Hayes or even Prince himself. God, there are hundreds of places he could have gone.

My concern is that this is not about love of Funk, this is about successful music called Funk at the moment. It may not be, but this has none of those big, fat sounds of that big, fat Funk. This society now likes thin, stretched, taut, rather boring. This tries not to be boring, but the music tends towards the modern Funk; you know what I feel about that.

If you want Prince, there’s loads to choose from. If you want Funk, you won’t go short. If you want Bay, that’s here. But only that.

Out On Universal

Remedy Rating : 3/5 Modern Medicine

Tim Burgess – As I Was Now

Tim Burgess does what he wants. His band flirt with Detroit Soul and Indie notes; solo he’s even more of a personal belief followed leading to effective and strangely excellent music. This album, released to celebrate Music Store Day, was recorded with some mates (more of those later) in 2008 and Burgess had filed it as he thought it was already out. It wasn’t, and I’m so glad it is now.

From the rolling Charlatans simmer of ‘Clutching Insignificance’ to the 60’s Italian film-kissed ‘The Savages (A Table For Their Heads)’, this is wonderfully confounding. Just listen to the urgent mekanik drum machine and Sigue Sigue Sputnik backing of ‘Nik V’, all Goth anticipation and 80’s early Human League desolation or the sweet Pop intention of ‘Another Version Of The Truth’, there is always something that makes you smile.

You see the bass and almost ukele acoustic into a shimmering 60’s Italian film soundtrack St Etienne middle on ‘Not Buying’? That’s what I mean. And that sweet, closing air on times past, ‘Takes Me Places’? Its almost a piece of film music, the trumpets wandering around, the mood calm.

There are lots of guests on this album, alumni from the Horrors, the Klaxons (this was 2008, remember) and Ladyhawke, but its Burgess’ vision which is the important thing. That is more commercial and so odd, it’s wonderful to let him do what he wants.

That was then. This is now. The music remains.

Out On O Genesis

Remedy Rating: 4/5 Old Results, New Strain

The Magic Numbers – Outsiders

It’s been 4 long years. There were concerns they were played out, of course. They came to prominence early and that can sometimes destroy the delicate basis of bands; the last album, ‘Alias’, sometimes provoked shrugs.

So it’s good to report that ‘Outsiders’ has a pleasing Yacht Rock feel; even if opener ‘Shotgun Wedding’ possesses a creeping shuffle and throbbing fuzzed up guitar in the chorus, there’s a definite Fleetwood feel in the doubled male/female vocals, continuing in ‘Ride Against The Wind’, freewill feeling Laurel Canyon Country Rock touching the Flying Burritos and Crosby Stills Nash when they got ornery in its gently ascending horns and piano lead. Then ‘Runaway’ is as soft as a politician’s tongue, it builds from simmering, just as the Mac did.

So why ‘The Great Divide’ stalks around on jagged guitars and organ blasts is their secret, but it adds some grit to the pearl. That pearlescence is revealed later in smoky sax and guitar duels. And you’ll just have to laugh at the ‘Jeepster’ riff on ‘The Keeper’. Trouble with Country and Yacht Rock is that it can lay back until its comatose, but ‘Power Lines’ at least throws in some almost Isaac Hayes bedroom Funk, with trumpets and organ.

Strangely, it all rather peters out on a less than stupendous brace of ‘Lost Children’ and ‘Sing Me A Rebel Song’, rather unremarkable ditties which create a furrowed brow rather than a large grin. This is clearly a programming error, but then the Magic Numbers have seldom been a band for whom marketing was worthwhile; for that, much thanks.

This is a return to, not form, they never really followed that book, but to heartfelt, affecting and danceable music with a bit of a naughty wink.

Outsiders? Always. But from there, they can do whatever they want.

Out On Role Play/Black Candy

Remedy Rating : 4/5 A Second Wind

Eurovision Song Contest, Lisbon, Saturday 12th May

Is it really 63 years, etc, etc. Lisbon this year, it’s been such a long wait for them that it’s good to see, nice for them etc etc.

The night rather creeps in, softly, teasing us. And then a singer in a half finished dress, like she’s made 14 payments out of 25; then Barca, with hands the size of shovels. And the 4 hosts are clashingly annoying from the first; just as should be. Looks sumptuous, glittery, huge, explosive, Portugal have done the same as other countries do, no quality has dipped, expense has been spent, even in a time of real or ideological austerity.

Ukraine first up, stuck behind a window, catapulted onstage then at piano and on fire. Took our minds off the basic song. Spain’s entry are a real couple, only together for 3 months; sounds like they’ve only been singing for that long aswell…

Slovenia are at a party. Not a party you’d want to be invited to, the sounds are standard dance and it looks like someone’s just slipped them a dodgy pill. Lithuania might do well, it’s the kind of mawkish fluffpuppy that works herel; it would be better in the bargain bin.

Austria? Pleasant, but put the song up a few notes, he can’t get any volume in it – his power walk to the audience makes him look like he’s got haemorrhoids. Now, Estonia, if you’re going to do an operatic song, make sure to get an operatic singer, liked in the hall, the dress protection was good too.

Ryback is…back. From winner in 2009. And here he is again. And Nile Rogers should have royalties for that funky riff; he has charisma and this has an easy rolling groove. Hosts Portugal had to follow that. It’ll start in a minute…no, it will…hang on…no one told them to light the blue touch paper…

The UK are hated now in Eurovision, it’s said . And rightly so, for our empire-losing wedontwantthemhere frightened shout. But the crowd are singing along. It’s a charttastic thing but very immediate. And although she appears like Annie Lennox on steroids, Surie does a palatable job. Not bad at all….hang on, someone got on stage there, but she looked angry and got through it. We’re hated, aren’t we?

First drumming of the night from Bulgaria, three female warblers and a bloke dressed like he’s a Goth Metal frontman does not a good song make. And the a German Mick Hucknall singing an ‘X Factor’ tune? Who wants that?

Albania’s guitarist thinks he’s Slash. And that’s all. Hang on, his voice is OK and the choral melody is a bit of an excitement.

Czech republic entry may look like Thomas Dolby and the B Boys, but that trumpet refrain is infectious and the beat works for me too. Why is he wearing a backpack though? Is he not stopping? Another ‘X Factor’ chart dance song for Euro Annexe Australia; bore bore bore…And the only way Finland would entertain is if they threw knives at the vocalist whilst she was on the rotating disc.

Come on, Moldova tried to stage it. They must have some kudos for that. But then we have Sweden, a Moroder, Timberlake sexy throb in the background, not a Eurovision song really, but beautifully done; vocoder in place, ticking those boxes….

I should like the Hungarian entry. It’s a Rock song, innit? Yep, modern Rock song, dropped out verse and a singer who looks like his face has been caught in a vice. Israel are favourites, but you know, we’ve already got one Bjork…Netherlands, we already have one Black Stone Cherry…

Well, the popular vote really works for a bit of excitement, doesn’t it? The Czech Republic almost made it from the foothills of the voting to the top 5. Things change massively here, songs disliked by the ‘panels’ are loved by those who really matter, the fans – how long before the panel vote is ditched for that popular vote?

The Eurovision Song Contest is an excitement for many reasons, odd staging, traditional music to gawp at, surprises and that geopolitical preference about politics but absolutely of it, friends and neighbours, boos and cheers; think Corbyn and May is Punch & Judy? Eurovision shows how playground politics at grassroots level really can be.

Israel won, with their Bjork-copying, chicken impressioning, empowerment feel of banging beats. It is a bit ‘Tonight, Matthew…’, but then the Swedish entry was a Timberlakealike and I liked that. As a spectacle, there is very little like Eurovision out there, so big, so sparkly, so powerful, a symbol for people living together and loving each other, but geopolitically, that’s the really interesting thing – Eurovision is about countries getting along and the people in them getting along too, this is the real barometer for European politics. We came third from boytom; a barometer, see what I mean? And if this shows politics at the people level, what a mess it is, people thumbing their noses and blowing raspberries over borders…

Remedy Rating: 4/5 Glitter Salves Every Wound

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base & Casino

We’ve been looking for a band who connects with us since Happy Mondays and then Oasis, a Northern no nonsense band, haven’t we? The Arctic Monkeys were that band, Alex Turner singing in his own accent and the band a guided missile of youthful energy.

But when success calls, we pause and breathe, it seems. And for AM, Alex Turner has been residing in the States, taking in influences, seeing how it affects his writing. And as he stretched his wings, the music became more of a Rock sound and less of their own; not that this is a problem, just that it’s a difference and pitches them in with a lot of other bands. When you lose your Unique Selling Point, you have to really up the quality. Last album ‘AM’ had some lovely moments but this curiously titled release is a curveball; ‘Star Treatment’ has a late 60’s whoisthatgirl dreamy Euro film sound and if it wasn’t for Turner’s acerbic lyrics, the feel of yesterday’s singing star complaining might be too much to take. Followed by the disquieting single background piano note repetition of ‘One Point Perspective’, the paucity of music throws the light onto the lyrics, but does add a Yacht Rock guitar solo, but ‘American Sports’ is a messy melange of jazzy backing drums and piano with narrative.

It’s a bold move, the richness of ‘Batphone’ with Waitsian chat over it is a long way from the cheeky Sheffield wink fans are used to and some don’t like it. There’s ‘Golden Trunks’ you see, a seemingly we rigeur attack on Trump but wrapped in a late 60’s cop show theme tune whilst ‘Four Out Of Five’ has Country Rock Eagles moments, for goodness sake. And ‘The Ultracheese’ is a torch song like Richard Hawley soundalike.

Whilst I can understand those who are shocked and upset by this album, I admire the following of musical heart and where that heart takes him? I absolutely love it. This is Turner’s Jazz album; not in music but in open, damn the consequences, wonderful new music; the brochure for this retreat makes it look stupendous.

Out On Domino

Remedy Rating : 5/5 New Strain Of An Old Virus