WORONZOW is a label that exists for all the right reasons; they describe themselves as "dedicated to issuing new albums by artists we like, with little or no regard for whether or not they'll sell well. Basically we just want to release great albums by talented people, regardless of hip status or fashion". The music on Woronzow mostly comes under the psychedelic umbrella, though as will be seen, there is lots of diversity, this isn't a label where all the bands sound the same. The people behind Woronzow are Nick Saloman and Adrian Shaw of The Bevis Frond, and the label has put out a number of releases by The Bevis Frond and solo material from Adrian Shaw. Since I last wrote about Woronzow, both have two new albums out. Long running band The Bevis Frond have released 17 albums so far. The Frond is essentially Nick Saloman, but he's joined by a number of guest artists including Andy Ward (ex Camel) and Adrian Shaw. Nick is a hugely influential songwriter whose songs have been covered by the likes of Elliot Smith, Teenage Fanclub, Juliana Hatfield and Mary Lou Lord. He has also been favourably namechecked by Dave Grohl, Evan Dando and Robert Pollard.
According to the Woronzow site, The Bevis Frond's What Did For The Dinosaurs is now sold out, but I do feel it's still worth mentioning in case there are still copies out there somewhere. The title track is a dramatic song of epic proportions, excellently arranged with horn, sitar and harpsichord, and with incisive lyrics aimed at mediocre famous musicians: "I look at you and fail to understand/Just what it is that gives you wealth and fame/When so many people seem to have exactly what you got/But somehow it never quite works out the same". Yeah, I've had similar thoughts myself. As the album progresses, we get to hear well-crafted songs with powerpop and psych elements, more laid back songs, psych-rock, the Byrds-y Silver Dart, the heaps-of-fun rock n' roll of Yo-De-Lo, riotous punk-tinged stuff, folk-tinged acoustic balladry, and spaced out atmospheric instrumentalism. The lyrics have real meaning and are often infused with a great sense of wit. The theme covered in What Did For The Dinosaurs, and part of the tune, returns on the final track Dustbins in the Rain; I thought that was a great idea to give the album a real beginning and ending like that. In an age when so many bands run out of ideas on the 2nd album, it's really refreshing to know that bands like The Bevis Frond exist - this is their 16th album and there are no signs whatsoever of Nick and co going all bland on us. A brilliant album, and a real shame it's probably hard to find now.
The latest Bevis Frond album is Hit Squad, which is definitely still available. This album, complete with amusing pulp novel spoof artwork, continues to show that The Bevis Frond are a band of great talent and creativity. All Set? begins with an acoustic intro, before launching into a prime slice of brass-fuelled 60s-tinged pop. Dragons is somewhere between powerpop, punk and heavy rock. Strong songwriting and psychedelic instrumentation come together in Through the Hedge. I Feel Bad About You features a riff pilfered from The Beatles' Come Together, the only obviously derivative thing from an otherwise talented set of musicians. Hit Squad is a humorous, possibly autobiographical (although sung in the 3rd person) song with music industry inspired lyrics. The music combines rock n' roll, surf, 70s car chase movie music and sophisticated pop, and is a lot of fun. Way Back When is classy laid-back pop, quite 70s-ish, and with very effective backing vocals from Nick's daughter Debbie. Your Little Point is excellent late 60s/early 70s-ish sophisticated pop. Powerpop meets psych in It's A Gut Thing. No Attempt is an unusual and effective mix of tuneful pop, spacerock-type synth sounds and trumpet. Am I Burning? is heavy 70s psych rock. The album ends with the 11 mins plus Fast Falls The Eventide, an atmospheric track that is melodically and lyrically dark.
Adrian Shaw, as well as playing bass with The Bevis Frond, has played for Arthur Brown, Hawkwind, Magic Muscle and Atomic Rooster. His fourth solo album, Look Out, features guest contributions from Simon House (Hawkwind), Tony Hill (High Tide/The Misunderstood/The Answers), Nick Saloman (The Bevis Frond), Bari Watts and Aaron Shaw. Like The Bevis Frond, Adrian's solo material covers an eclectic selection of sounds. There's the heavy 70s psych-rock of I Don't Think So, the much more restrained piano-based Another Face, the country rock of Rhododendron Mile, the quirky Few Are Called, combining off-centre pop and bizarre psychedelic samples and sound effects, and the instrumental Oh To Be Young, which sounds like a cross between Victorian dance music and traditional Greek music.
The new album from Adrian Shaw is String Theory. There are guest artists on a few tracks, but the majority of the album is played by Ade himself. This cd encompasses hard psych-rock with wailing guitars (Mirrors), great imaginative prog/psych-rock (Thirty Two), country rock with (possibly ironic?) lyrics about heroin (Do It Again), the excellent classical-inspired Cotham Hill, the hardhitting anti-hunting song Stirrup Cup, the laid-back Oak And Brass with its sophisticated piano and synthesised orchestral arrangement, and the ultra-psychedelic Saving Grace, which combines Indian-inspired instrumentation, surreal sound effects, rock guitar soloing and witty lyrics about being in a band. This track is over 18 minutes long, but never drags due to its diverse and inventive musical content.
The Lucky Bishops' previous self titled album was excellent, and now they have another album out, Grimstone, which is similarly impressive. The band are rated very highly by the people at Pink Hedgehog Records, who featured their early works on compilations and who have subsequently released albums by other bands which include members of The Lucky Bishops, namely Cheese and The Bitter Little Cider Apples. Pink Hedgehog is known for intelligent, imaginative pop music, which pretty much sums up The Lucky Bishops' own sound. They make ultra-melodic and very original guitar-based pop with prog and psych elements, and even a smattering of lounge music in Napoleon. They're a very inventive, talented band. The tunes here are really strong and addictive - I've had songs like You Come Alive, Doppleganger, Life In Hell and Strange Times going round my head a lot. Rock Stars has a section that's melodically similar to Subaqwa's Ricetones, but that could just be coincidental. As well as the 12 tracks listed on the cover, there's a secret track which is a bizarre nonsense rhyme in the Lewis Carroll/Edward Lear tradition. A brilliant album, very highly recommended.
I have a couple of other albums by Anton Barbeau, who makes excellent, original, offbeat pop. During a stay in London, he recorded the album King of Missouri with The Bevis Frond. An album featuring both Anton Barbeau and The Bevis Frond should be highly impressive, so it's no surprise that it is. This isn't as homemade sounding or quirky as the Guladong album, but the combination of psych-rock and powerpop The Bevis Frond are known for. Whilst most of the music and arrangements aren't as eccentric as you may expect if you've only heard Guladong, some eccentric lyrics crop up at times, for example in I'm Always Offending My Sensitive Friends and Cheque's In The Mail. The music gets a little quirkier in Sylvia Something, with its changey bits and odd background noises. This is a really great album, highly recommended for fans of both Anton Barbeau and The Bevis Frond. The bad news is that this edition is now sold out, but the good news is that it has been reissued by Canadian label Bongo Beat (remastered with extra track, new artwork, lyrics, and notes from Nick Saloman, Adrian Shaw and Anton). I don't have the reissue so can't comment further, but thought I'd mention it in case the original version is hard to find.
Singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist Keith Christmas released a number of albums in the late 60s & 70s and has also worked with several household name megastars such as The Who, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, and David Bowie (playing guitar on Space Oddity). Playing bass on Keith's earlier solo material was Adrian Shaw, which is how Ade and Nick came to know him. Woronzow have released an album of acoustic guitar instrumentals by Keith Christmas, titled Acoustica. The music here is very beautiful; it's simultaneously atmospheric and strongly melodic, and incorporates elements of English folk, acoustic rock, country, blues, spacey atmospheres, and other stuff that transcends genre classification, all played with astonishing virtuosity. Keith is such a creative and talented artist that he is able to combine all these familiar styles in a way that sounds totally new and individual.
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