SA ROCK DIGEST ISSUE #54
The South African Rock Music Digest
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by Brian "Vagabond" Currin and Stephen
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For your interest and reference purposes: The SA Rock Digest has its
own online site at http://rock.co.za/sarockdigest/
Use the website search engine to find any information published on each and every previous Digest. That includes CD reviews, live reviews, links, artist biogs, history and whereabouts, and lots of other relevant info on SA music and artists past and present. These archives are updated weekly.
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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW
ALONG THE WAY
Gabor Kleinbloesem, Strutterzine
The third album 'Along the way' of the South African sister duo LITTLE SISTER was released way back in 1993. A shame it didnt get any attention of the AOR press back then, because this album really is a fantastic female fronted AOR rockalbum. But we all have to remember that back then the AOR scene was almost dead, so it was hard for an AOR record to get at least some attention. Now that everything is coming back again, I am sure many AOR fans will be interested in knowing about this album of LITTLE SISTER.
'Along the way' is a wonderful record that can easily be compared to the likes of SARAYA, HEART, VIXEN, LAOS, DANTE FOX and the first two TONE NORUM albums. This album is filled with first-class female fronted AOR/Melodic Rock from a very high level, no wonder LITTLE SISTER is one of the top bands in their homeland. Mike Flicker (HEART) and Dennis East produced the album 'Along the way'.
I was surprised to see the name DENNIS EAST popping up, because this guy sang in the AOR/Pomprockband STINGRAY in the late seventies and released two great LPs of which the debut contained some of the best AOR/Pomp ever written! I still remember the song 'Lovesaver' of the debut album of STINGRAY, this song was so incredible catchy, probably one of the best songs ever written! Anyway, I have been wondering all my life whatever happened to Dennis East and now I see his name appearing on a record by a band called LITTLE SISTER. And this album is also very good, so this DENNIS EAST guy is kind of an AOR magician. I would love to interview the guy someday and ask him about the time with STINGRAY and whatever happened to them.
Anyway, back to this LITTLE SISTER record which starts rather dull with the song 'Mystery of life', a poppish song like WILSON PHILLIPS. But from the next track on till the end of the CD it is pure AOR in the best 80s tradition of bands like HEART, WITNESS, SARAYA... 'Something happened to us (along the way)' is a wonderful midtempo AOR track that is totally 80s HEART. 'Love is a weapon' is one of the bands major hits in South Africa. This song is a great Melodic AOR Rocker that is sounding very much like SARAYA.
Next track 'Never say never' is totally awesome pure AOR! The song is midtempo AOR with lovely hooklines, brilliant vocals of the girls and a classy 80s AOR chorus. This fantastic song sounds huge and comes close in style to 80s HEART, DANTE FOX and WITNESS. Following track 'Whenever I need somebody' is a good AOR rocker that is a little in the style of the first two albums of TONE NORUM. 'Loves a bitch' follows and is another good uptempo AOR rocker that sounds like a cross between WITNESS and DARBY MILLS.
Next up is 'Verge of love' which is good midtempo melodic rock a la SARAYA. Then comes 'Never know a good thing till its gone', a slowtempo semi AOR ballad like HEART, although the sound of the song does also has a lot of resemblance with ALLANAH MYLES major hit 'Black velvet'. Anyway, this is a great song, just like the rest of the CD.
After so many wonderful pure AOR/Melodic Rocksongs, the CD gets a little weaker towards the end of the CD with songs like 'When the sun goes down', 'Perfect thing' and 'Wrong way round'. These songs are nice rockers, but nothing special if compared to the other AOR oriented songs of the CD. The album finishes off with an unplugged version of the opening tune 'Mystery of life' which is the only real weak song on the album. If you skip the first track, then you get a truly superb AOR/Melodic Rockalbum that is a must for fans of acts like WITNESS, DEVAY, SARAYA, 80s HEART, VIXEN...
Little Sister on the Net
ON A SAD NOTE
Just a short and rather tragic note. My buddy, Issy Fataar, one of the best guitarists that this country has ever produced passed away after long illness in Zurich. My deepest sympathies to his wife and family, the rest of the Fataar family -"The Flames" and his mum.
Newcomers Plastic Ocean, a two-piece Johannesburg-based band is setting Pretoria alight with electrifying performances and ever-improving attendances. Their brand of electronic / new pop, combined with Afrikaans lyrics is striking the right chords amongst people hungry for new and progressive sounds.
The erotic yet funky dancefloor killer, 'Wikkellywe', is one of the favourites. But everyone seems to have a different favourite, from the melodic and trancelike 'Conviction', which is currently playlisted on RAU Radio, to the urban thump of 'Clubnight' (aka 'Klub Aand'), which is playlisted on Radio Tuks.
Plastic Ocean still has a number of gigs in Pretoria, after which they will hit Johannesburg again. Not to be missed is their gig at Boogie Nights with the progressive Afrikaans band, Duusman, on Sunday 30 April. A huge turn out is expected, with the substantial following of Duusman combined with Plastic Ocean supporters.
The band plans to launch a 5 track EP in June.
Sunday, 30 April: Boogie Nights, Lynwood Rd, Pretoria (With Duusman)
Saturday, 13 May: The Nile Crocodile, Glenwood Rd, Pretoria
THIRD EAR MUSIC, SHAWN PHILLIPS AND FOLK JUSTICE
David Marks writes: Just to let you all know that we are back from the Shawn Phillips SA Tour 2000.
The Shawn Phillips tour, was to say the least, quite an amazing experience for a number of reasons. I will try not to go into too much detail now - BUT......what can we do? As I always say - the convenience of eMail, is that the delete button is but a motion away. If anything, this tour proved conclusively that unless the mainstream / conventional media and record industry jump - not even the Net will save them. As we now know the internet is basically a word-of-mouth tool - where the advertisers, the media and the industry no longer rule alone, from the top down. The consumer has been empowered to play a major interactive role. So saying, 3eM will embark on an adventurous & unique marketing process with our next tour - that will feature an utterly unique 'artist'. In the meantime, hear me out and see where the Shawn Phillips tour & following missive will lead us.
Xenophobia in Local 'folk' circles?
3rd Ear Music's unequivocal support for local music & musicians who play & work outside of the commercial mainstream - against all industry and media odds - needs to be reviewed in 2000. Not that our commitment to local music and musicians will be any less than it has been for 35 years. For what that's worth - I'm not trying to inflate 3eM's importance here. But I do think that we need to take stock of where we are at in this global music business, given it's international & cyber-space dimensions - and to re-consider where we come from and where in the world do we think we are going - if anywhere at all. Let me know if I'm out of line here.
Remember how books were burned & banned without having being read? Not too long ago. Well, most of the Shawn Phillips critical detractors - as few as they may be - seem to be those who have never seen him perform or met the man. He is just quite a remarkable person to meet and work with. I know it's an old SAfrican custom, but I thought we'd grown out of being judgmental - sight unseen - since 1990. There were one or two musicians and the odd media person who seemed to resent Shawn being here and more disturbing than that, he's natural ability to make music and be a community worker (Fireman) at the same time.
The media were, in general, very supportive - from all quarters. Given that there were no sponsors or budget to buy time & space, this media support is greatly appreciated. However, there were a few exceptions - in Cape Town specifically. What a pity for those who didn't / couldn't / wouldn't listen. If Shawn Phillips & Van Wilks had been a professional touring sports team, I wonder if the sports editors & SAfrican professional sportspeople would have ignored or avoided them - complaining about 'expensive foreign tours'? That there was no media space & time to mention the Shawn Phillips Tour, because there was too much going on in Cape Town at the time? Isn't this what an International Tourist City of some 8 Million people needs? (Joan Armatrading, the North Sea Jazz Festival and a Folk Festival). The Shawn Phillips promoters were not looking to compete here - just the courtesy of a mention, an acknowledgement, would have sufficed. If our musicians (young & old) are to learn anything about being part of the global music scenario - it's going to come from as wide a range of experience, connection & contact, as is possible. Shawn Phillips, whether you know him or not, is a legend who has a lot to teach us.
Accompanied by fellow Texan Guitarist Van Wilks - another wonderful musician and person to have met - the Shawn Phillips concert tour was, for all who did see/hear, a glorious success. Thanks to Theo Coetzee & his team for arranging such a professional Music Safari. And to Arlo Hennings of Lodestone Management USA for being a thoroughly good gentleman & manager to Shawn over all these years - reviving Shawn's career in Canada, Italy & England. The proceeds of the CD sales (all sold out!) went to the Hidden Years Music Archives Project - which has recently received a National Arts Council grant. Thank you Shawn for that contribution.
A Fire-Fighting Musician? Who the hell does Shawn Phillips think he is?
Perhaps 30 years of international isolation has taken it's reality toll - playing havoc with attitudes of some post-1990 local musicians, the Folk (?) music clubs & certain music media people? The misunderstanding of the terms: Professionalism, dedication, transformation, development and just plain old fashioned humility...or lack thereof - come immediately to mind. So too does Xenophobia, experience & mediocrity.
Whether you are a Shawn Phillips follower or fan or not, he is singing, sounding & writing better than he ever has before. While many of his contemporaries find it hard to hit the notes after 25 / 35 years of singing, Shawn's voice has lasted and seems to have matured with age. I could be wrong, but my theory is that Shawn was one of the few male folk singers in the early 60's, who did not shout! He really could sing, so he sang! He used & trained his voice as an instrument - A white Texan singing 'Civil Rights Protest' songs in tune? His love of a good 'folk' song and his commitment to the civil rights movement down South, got his music career off to a unique & troublesome start. For almost 15 years he would be avoided by the mainstream commercial record & music industry in the USA - so he emigrated to Italy. Sound familiar? In the early Folk days it was generally only the Folk ladies (Baez, Collins, Odetta) who were considered 'real singers' - while the crusty young male hippies & folkies were usually labelled screamers.....as unique and wonderful as those early popular folk 'singer songwriters' sounded, technically speaking, they were indeed screamers. In contrast, and like an opera singer, Shawn has always kept his vocal chords in tune and well trained. And he is not a shabby guitar player either.
Effortless & Zen - as one of many fans put it....whether you like his music or not - Shawn charms audiences anywhere - cynic & musician alike - totally focused & humble. He refused the usual 'star treatment' normally associated with touring celebrities - 35 years as a pro with 4 million sales & 17 albums recorded - he certainly deserves celebrity status, but he insisted on just being 'one of the people.' It was unfortunate therefore that a few odd local musicians and 'folk clubs' were so scathing of Shawn. This prompts me to be equally viscous and remind many of them that they and all their members have not managed to sell more than a handful of albums / CDs / Tapes over the years - but somehow, they still believe the world owes them a living! For what ever reason, our traumatic political past, justifiable or not, the 'culture of entitlement' has spread like a virus in South Africa and somehow it must be stopped. So who the hell does Shawn Phillips think he is!? Well, I'll tell you what I learnt......
Shawn has not stopped playing his music for 35 years and more - in Concert, at Festivals, Busking on street corners, studios, clubs & tours. He is also a very proud and dedicated professional 'Fire Fighter' - an adrenaline junkie who just wants to serve people - whoever and where ever they may be - his community in Austin, Texas, specifically. But through all the smoke and badges he remains primarily a great musician. Personally I never took off on Shawn's commercial career (2nd Contribution etc) - I'm still struck & stuck with his first two 'protest folk' albums of the early 60's - I Am A Loner (1964) and the London recordings of 'Shawn - First Impressions' from 1965. These albums were 'smuggled' into South Africa - as all good folk & jazz music records were in those days - and they made a marked & lasting impression on the Johannesburg folk scene & music protest movement in the coffee bars and on campuses.
As naturally as you and I walk & talk he plugs in and plays - firing up his 5 guitars from total silence to a wall of sound that has audiences pasted to their seats. As one Johannesburg Radio presenter pointed out - Shawn makes the 'more stressful & serious' among us feel a little uncomfortable at times...and then with a well placed chord and carefully chosen word, we are relaxed and entertained - transported into a world of words, music & fantasy - with the odd dash of reality.
Are we still alone - playing with ourselves in SAfrica?
For some inexplicable (isolation?) reason, there are still some local music media people & musicians who can not reconcile this 'folk process' - being a community worker and a professional international triple platinum selling musician at the same time. Is this because he hasn't had any recorded music on the commercial hit-parades for many years? Does this make him a lesser musician? Perhaps Shawn's natural music ability, talent and many say: genius, scares them? I now believe that this sort of attitude among some music administrators is the reason why so many great SAfrican & 3rd Ear Music musicians have not been taken seriously over the years. Many of them are natural musicians and extraordinary people - news cameramen, journalists, authors, teachers, miners, panel beaters, fitters & turners, even politicians, .....The commercial record industry's emphasis on 'star status' & colour seems to have split the reality and fantasy-world of music away from the natural grass-roots 'folk' process & robbed us of much talent in this country....from whatever pop or commercial label they tag it with - Rock, Folk, Jazz, Maskandi, Classical.
In a 180 degree turn from the pre-1990 days, the mainstream music media still patronises us by claiming these forms of music are elitist & marginal - whereas before they often were a threat to the security & safety-of-the-state - not to mention the old Calvinist morals. Today it's the same old song - just a different side of the coin flipped by a few self-appointed music minders, radio compilers and print editors who claim: Our listeners / readers don't want to hear that stuff!! But if it remains unheard and people have no choice? So now we have Techno & Kwaito promoted to popularity by the Record Industry who can afford to buy space & time and any variation on that pre-programmed (mainly imported) pop theme is not considered worthwhile mentioning? Of course there are exceptions, but they only prove the rule.
Poetic & Folk Justice
For Shawn Phillips, a thank-you from an old lady whose life he has helped save, means more to him than the glorious memory of a 400, 000 strong standing ovation at the Isle of Wight - or the 35 years of gold records, concert & club adoration in-between. But his commitment to his fans & followers in concert is equally dedicated. Besides being one of the nicest people anybody could wish to meet in person - and a few thousand did over the past 2 weeks in South Africa - his shows & his musicality continue to amaze & entertain.
Shawn had worked for 4 years in the Austin Fire Department (touring in Canada, Italy, the UK & the Northern USA at every available opportunity) before his fellow Fire Fighters realised who he was. Someone in the Austin Fire Department stumbled on his impressive Website. http://www.shawnphillips.com
We all understand & appreciate the problem that newspapers & regional radio have with space & time. But given the above scenario and the legendary status of the man, the quality of the show & the sentiment behind it, one would think that a line in the Cape Times Events Diary and the occasional mention by the Regional Public Broadcaster (Radio Goodhope), would not have been out of place.
However, despite this the Shawn Phillips show at the 3 Arts attracted a 1,000 people. When the Phillips tour promoters heard that the Barleycorn Folk Festival was on the same weekend, they offered to do a joint-venture - after all Shawn is part of contemporary Folk Music history. The Barleycorn Music Club (at least they had the decency to finally drop the word 'folk') refused to compromise I hear - and their 'folk' festival got all of a 100 people that night. Radio Goodhope refused to mention that Shawn was in town - because, quote: 'he doesn't fit our format'. So much for the 'power of the media'. That's poetic & folk justice for you.
And we still have the nerve to wonder why nobody outside of our small circle of Clubs & Cliques & beyond our Radio Active Waves, can hear SAfrican 'folk' music. As far as I can hear, the music & the talent are not the problem....we have amazing artists and much to sing about in SAfrica. So, does Groucho Marks have the right to keep moaning & pointing at the industry and infrastructure who are quick to claim how lax local musicians are? I don't know of many professional sportspeople who train their teams, book the stadiums, arrange the tours, write the reviews, market & promote the events & then go out there and play the game.
David Marks - 3rd Ear Music Durban
3rd Ear Music Company / The Hidden Years Music Archive Project mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: +(27)(31) 207-5314
Fax: +(27)(31) 207-5305
Splashy Fen - Order or Listen to the Double CD Celebrating 10 years of Music: http://www.splashyfen.co.za
This month, Heads Up International released an enhanced CD recording titled 'Smooth Africa' featuring several of Africa's top jazz musicians joining internationally-recognized talents like guitarist Jonathan Butler, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, pianist Joe McBride and steel pan master Andy Narell. President of Heads Up Dave Love visit to South Africa was a life-changing event that led him to eventually record several of South Africa's most exciting and energetic players. 'Smooth Africa' will undoubtedly play a major role in introducing wider audiences to some of the country's unknown, but deserving artists and their unique musical style.
In conjunction with this release, I am developing an internet marketing campaign that will combine Real Video features, streaming audio clips and a MP3 with possible CD giveaways to further increase the visibility of this release. If you are interested in participating in any or all of these opportunities through your website, please contact me at your earliest convenience and I'll would be happy to send you a press kit. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Check out the feature on the Heads Up website at:
Marlene M Kelly
Telarc / Heads Up Records
23307 Commerce Park Rd.
Cleveland OH 44122
THE WAITING IS OVER!
We are glad to inform everyone that we have signed a distribution deal with UNIVERSAL MUSIC for the Southern African territories for the next two years. The agreement is based on a distribution and warehousing deal only and will therefore let us keep up the good marketing as well as allowing us to control our own artwork, design and manufacture.
We have further concluded several exclusive, international license deals and are planning to release our first two to four licensed albums for May/June 2000. Thereafter we are going to release albums on a regular monthly basis. We are currently also negotiating with two local bands for whom we are confident to achieve a good market presence in some of the international territories.
After being tied up almost a week in Johannesburg in several business meetings and for over three weeks in Germany due to compassionate reasons, Frankie Riester is now very glad and confident that things are really taking off at RIESTER INTERNATIONAL RECORDS especially relating to the band booking division. "We have had an enormous response from bands and venues from all over the country and even from American bands through our website. Our booking pool has become absolutely significant in a short time but we were only able to arrange several single bookings yet due to the fact that I was out of the office for weeks now" says Frankie and adds "we are aware of each new cycle period of a venue which will always make space for other bands but generally bookings are quite limited as cycle periods are the targets for cover bands in most of the cases", says RIESTER.
"We are trying very hard to establsih a good market for original bands in the venue scene in Cape Town, too, especially also on weekdays. But it'll take quite some time as it is always advisable to operate step by step which is indeed also extremely important in order to stick to our main motto: "quality instead of quantity" !!!
The RIESTER team.
LOOKING FOR YUSEF WILLIAMS
I'm working for the Swedish tv-production-company Nordisk Film TV in Stockholm. We are producing the programme "Desperately seeking" (Spårlöst försvunnen). Our viewers can write to us if they are looking for a relative or near friend they lost contact with - and we help them in their search.
One of the viewers who wrote us is looking for a South African musician who was on tour (and probably lived) in Gothemburg/Sweden 1960.
His name is Yussuf (or Yusuf) Williams, and he is probably born in June 1936.
Do you know who he is or where to find him? Is he still going strong and playing music?
Thank you very much for your help in advance!
Greets from Sweden/Scandinavia
Editor and researcher
Nordisk Film TV
I am looking to buy, trade or swop South African music on vinyl. Of particular interest would be private / test / promo / demo or unreleased material.
All types of music considered from 50's - 2000
We have just launched a new short wave radio service targeted to the African continent. The broadcast format is Christian, focusing on gospel services and music. We would like to focus on African Gospel and Christian music.
Can you assist us in building a list of African artists we might feature on the air? Is there any official source of top ten African gospel/Christian artists/albums that might help us build our play list? What is a good source for purchasing this music?
Thanks very much for your help.
With warm regards,
The World Beacon
1600-1800 UTC 6145 KHz
1800-2200 UTC 9745 KHz
Mainstays How's your Mother? Easter Festival 2000
21 to 23 April @ Oppikoppi
The Easter festival at Oppikoppi is viewed by many as the most pleasant of
all the festivals hosted by Oppikoppi during the course of the year. With
the legendary wooden top stage forming the focus point of attention, the
festival is a great deal more intimate than the gigantic August event. With
an attendance between 1000 and 2000 people it has become a very friendly and
affordable Easter weekend getaway.
Although much smaller than the August festival, the musical selection
remains diverse. Artists to look forward to on the Friday include: Baraka,
3rd Stream, Duusman, Ethel My Love, Blk Sonshines and Tidal Waves. The
Saturday line - up will start at 15h00 with the Brixton Moord & Roof Band,
Liela, Valiant Swart, Collosal head, Jennifer Ferguson, Nine, and Not My
Dog. Finally, on the Sunday you can certainly expect a very stylish program.
The line-up will feature: Syd Kitchen, Matthew & Chris, Unofficial Language,
BVK, Sugardrive and Firing Squad.
Another gig on the Sunday that should be highlighted is Wayne Hussey
from The Mission. The band is currently on visit in Gauteng. Frontman and
vocalist Wayne Hussey and part of the band will take the stage around 19h00
on Sunday evening.
A performance not to miss is Jennifer Ferguson, who will be making her
first appearance at Oppikoppi, she is also currently busy re-releasing her
1989 album Untimely, which will contain a couple of new tracks as well.
For the complete line-up and performance times, visit Oppikoppi's web site
The festival starts on the evening of the 20th of April and will carry on till Sunday the 23rd of April. Festival tickets are available from Ticketweb at R120 per ticket for the entire weekend and include all camping fees. Tickets will also be available at the gate
The unique setting and select nature of the Oppikoppi Easter festival makes
this one of the most enjoyable festivals in all of Southern Africa.
Ethel My Love
Brixton Moord en Roof Band
Not My Dog
Matthew & Chris
Wayne Hussey (The Mission)
206 Live DJ's
Friday & Saturday
The Oppikoppi contact numbers are:
PIET BOTHA & JONATHAN MARTIN
22 APRIL OPPIKOPPI EASTER FESTIVAL
27 APRIL SPLASHY FEN - KZN
29 APRIL THABAZIMBI WILDSFEES
Buy the new Jack Hammer Anthology CD at One World
April 23 - Zilletal Restaurant Pretoria
April 29 - The Bridge Shopping Mall - Port Elizabeth
May 12 - Dundee - waiting details
May 20 - Harrismith - waiting details
May 26 - Secunda (waiting more details)
June 4 - Panorama Flea Market - tel 682 2222
27 April to 1 May 2000
PR AND PROMOTIONS:
NANCY HILLARY / BETH HILLARY
21st - 24th April 2000
EASTER ROCK FESTIVAL
The Rand Show Show Grounds - 22nd April
011 646 6467/58/69
22nd to 25th of September
Heidelberg Kloof - Gauteng
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