Wednesday, 30 January 2019

The Specials: Encore - Album Review

The Specialsthespecials
Universal Music / Island Records
Vinyl / CD / DL
Release date: Friday 1st February

After 37 years from the release of Ghost Town, The Specials are back with Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, Horace Panter and co with this modern uptake on life in Britain and how it’s (not) changed much from the bleak times of the late seventies / early eighties. Wayne Carey gets all excited and is not disappointed!
Back when their hit single Ghost Town was released on the masses I was an 11 year old nuisance, buzzing off all the E numbers in the sweets and crisps running riot on a council estate up North. Basically this band changed it all for me and stopped me being a little fucker. I got a paper round and started to save my money to buy the latest 7in vinyl from Woolworths. I was already a music junkie and The Specials were one of those bands that made me jump up and down with their early hits like Concrete Jungle and Too Much Too Young. Now I had a bit of pocket money I could actually buy records. My first score (ahem) was Ghost Town with it’s haunting menacing sound and stark lyrics about the state of Thatcher’s Britain and the scary streets of Coventry back in the day.
Fast forward to 2019….
This album is gonna divide opinion. The purists out there will say “oooh, The Specials aren’t The Specials without Jerry Dammers or Neville Staple” Ok, point taken. They were a crucial part to the band at that time, however things move on. Just remember, they all had an input, and to me Terry Hall was that crucial element with his unique vocal that sounds so familiar even today. You may miss the great toasting from Neville and the pure ska look of Dammers but move on. Three key players are still here and the replacement members Steve Cradock (Ocean Colour Scene) on guitar, Kenrick Rowe the master ska/reggae drummer and Nikolaj Torp Larsen on keyboards all give this album a modernist feel to bring you into the future.

First track is a cover of The Equals – Black Skinned Blue-Eyed Boys and it’s transformed into a disco funk number that will throw the early fans like me. It actually sounds like something Winachi Tribe are doing at the moment which is not a bad thing if Terry Hall has been listening.

Next up Lynval Golding gives B.L.M. (Black Lives Matter) a track which covers three generations of dealing with racism after the Windrush. His father facing the ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish Slogans, his own journey through school being labelled ‘ black bastard’, then his experiences in the USA and the N***** word. The thing is the lyrics are all layered over a fuckin ace Funkadelic type tune that has your head nodding and your arse wiggling.

Vote For Me is vintage Specials. Taking a crack at politicians with intelligence, it’s haunting and has the Ghost Town comparisons which I reckon has been done on purpose just to fuck the purists off! A brilliant track that takes me back but has been polished by the brilliant musicians on board.
This next track is a pleasant surprise being a Fun Boy Three track. A cracking rework of The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum, it’s a proper slow burning ska/reggae head nodder and the lyrics are as relevant today as they were back in the day. Think about it…

Breaking Point is dark and has a haunting fairground feel reminiscent of The Good The Bad & The Queen, loads of oompah shit and swirling keyboards. Lines like “Social media is a trend that’ll send us all around the bend” gives you the theme of Hall’s lyrics, harking on the world going wrong.
Blam Blam Fever is the last cover and a rehash of the original Valentines number and is as old skool as The Specials get, addressing gun crime which is as relevant as ever in this climate.

10 Commandments is a spoken word piece by Saffiyah Khan (Specials T-shirt donned activist who had a face of with the EDL in Birmingham). A trademark Panter bassline and smooth groove blended in with a mix of lyrics about womens rights, sexism (Prince Buster anyone) and being a woman in 2018.

Embarrassed By You is a ska reggae rant duet with Golding and Hall, covering knife crime, hoodies, moped gangs and misguided youth spilling on our streets. Take the line “We never fought for freedom for nasty little brutes like you, to come and unwork the work we do” Says it all in one sentence….
Terry Hall then tells us a tale of his own battles in an Ian / Baxter Dury like tale story on The Life And Times (Of A Man Called Depression). A stark blues reggae number which has some  Ray Manzarek style Riders On The Storm keyboards going on to give it a dark feel whilst retaining that Specials sound.

Album closer We Sell Hope will probably be the next single, top drawer ska tune that made this band so close to my heart. More meaningful commentary about our country 37 years on from that magic they spread but made for these times.
Like I said, there are many people who will shun this album for reasons of their own. I say get a grip and embrace the effort these guys have made to make a brilliant album that keeps them grounded yet retaining what they aimed to do in the first place. Give us a message through music…

Tour dates:
Mon April 15 2019 – BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Tue April 16 2019 – PORTSMOUTH Guildhall
Wed April 17 2019 – BRIGHTON Dome
Fri April 19 2019 – PLYMOUTH Pavilions
Sat April 20 2019 – EXETER University Great Hall
Sun April 21 2019 – CARDIFF University Great Hall
Tue April 23 2019 – BLACKBURN King Georges Hall
Wed April 24 2019 – LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Fri April 26 2019 – BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Sat April 27 2019 – LIVERPOOL Eventim Olympia
Sun April 28 2019 – MANCHESTER Academy
Tue April 30 2019 – LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Wed May 01 2019 – CARLISLE Sands Centre
Thu May 02 2019 – GLASGOW Barrowland
Sat May 04 2019 – NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Sun May 05 2019 – MIDDLESBROUGH Town Hall
Mon May 06 2019 – SCARBOROUGH Spa
Wed May 08 2019 – SCUNTHORPE Baths Hall
Thu May 09 2019 – YORK Barbican
Fri May 10 2019 – SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Sun May 12 2019 – CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange
Mon May 13 2019 – SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion
Tue May 14 2019 – MARGATE Winter Gardens
Thu May 16 2019 – LONDON O2 Academy Brixton.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Alphabet Brewery Live Event News and Feature

Alphabet Brewery Live Event News and Feature

Following on from the success of turning Alphabet Brewery into Manchester’s newest pop up venue by staging the Punks 4 West Papua gig with The Blinders, Membranes, Witch Fever and Modern Family Unit, Georgina Robinson (Factory Records) and Jo Lowes (Puffer Fish Press, Fab Radio) are teaming up again under the guise of new venture “Birds on a Wire” to bring more unique gigs and events to the Alphabet Brewery Tap.
This first funked up offering will be Saturday February 23rd in aid of Musicians Against Homelessness featuring The Winachi Tribe, Manc street poet Argh Kid, SWJ Group, The Pagans: Shepherds of Humanity, Karl Hildebrandt and Silverfish Singh. After the live music is wrapped up the Winachi Tribe will be hitting the decks. The brewery will be offering it’s usual blend of Alphabet drinks and street food in their extended outdoor space.
Each band on the bill offer their own unique style, so what better way than to give you the lowdown on each act says Wayne Carey.

SilverFinger Singh
Son of Inda from Ian Brown fame / Winachi Tribe all round geezer he blends a fusion of Hip Hop, Reggae, Indian style to his craft. debut music album in 2018 titled (Education Road EP).
As an artist his music has been featured across BBC Asian Network / BBC Radio Leeds / BCB Radio / TV Conwy / Radio Sangam / Fever FM / Soho Radio & Radio Panj.
In live shows he has had the honour to support live on stage the likes of Ian Brown (The Stone Roses), The Sugarhill Gang, Panjabi MC, Celt Islam & The Winachi Tribe. A great addition to this line up.

Karl Hildebrandt
Poet and professional gobshite from the Dirty North West. Writes to keep the noise quiet. His words have had glowing recommendations from Denise Johnson and MC Tunes amongst others. Currently looking at a busy year. Writes with a honesty that sometimes scares yet titalates. Wears lovely trainers.

Photo Credit: Anthony Conway Photography.
The Pagans S.O.H.
Straight Outta West Brom these guys are one of my tips this year. I saw them first at The Castle last year supporting another promising band Cold Water Swimmers (review here: and they had me from the start. Think Chilies, R.A.T.M, hip hop / grime and a bonkers frontman. Just check the excellent debut single out and decide for yourself.


SWJ Group.
SWJ Group are a Mancunian band who make music to nod your head to. Our own Emily Oldfield had the radar out from day one (review here: Funky, groovy tunes with a hint of Manchester grit, they hit a groove and stay on it, making every gig an event filled with happy vibes. Wah, beats, keys and above all else top tunes combine to make a huge sound, some call it slacker funk, some call it Mancadelic – It’s best you see them and make up your own mind.In the words of the band themselves “All you got to do is live and love”

Photo Credit: Paul Grogan Photography.

Argh Kid.
Another recommendation from a LTW fellow writer prompted me to check him out live when he dropped in on Northwich late last year (review here: Definitely one to watch as his debut album hits the streets from March and will be up there in the album of the year polls if the stuff I’ve heard is anything to go by.
This Manchester raised poet is winning hearts and minds with his verbal energy, gaining celebrity fans such as Liam Gallagher, Christopher Eccleston and Chris Evans. The “Acapella Eminem” is now the Official Poet for the NSPCCUEFA and Manchester United and his work has been broadcast to homes across the globe. There are few artists in his genre able to provide on-point commentary and storytelling with the same spirit, skill and compassion. David is also a poet on a mission to make the art form accessible to the masses. Using his own experiences as a template he facilitates workshops across the country, creating a sense of what is possible to young people when you pick up a pen. He is often found across UK media and is a regular on ITV, BBC, BT Sport and beyond. His work has been reproduced in different languages and publications around the world from Denmark’s Politiken to The New York Times.

Photo credit: WAM Warrington Music.
Winachi Tribe.
‘Since the formation of the band in 2015 opening for Ringo Star’s Son ‘Zak Starkey’ in London’s West End ‘The Winachi Tribe’ have not stopped for a second.
Releasing a number of critically acclaimed singles (with two promotional videos starring acting greats Keith Allen and Hollywood star Tommy Flanagan (Sons Of Anarchy / Gladiator / Braveheart), the second filmed with Tommy Flanagan at his Ranch in Malibu, California, who starred in the bands video for single ‘A Room With A Zoo’ (not a bad black book eh?), collaborating with legendary producer’s ‘Howie.B’ ‘Danny Saber’ & ‘John X (Recording sessions with Danny Saber took place in the Laurel Canyon at his notorious Batcave studio & John X at the legendary Venice Beach Creation Centre). John is currently co.producing the bands debut album. They have gained Global press / airplay in both the U.K, U.S and China, including rotation on national BBC 6 Music, BBC Introducing, KCRW, KEXP, plus features in major publications such as L.A Times, L.A Record, Buzz Bands L.A,  NME, Billboard China Manchester Evening News & The Big Issue (All this achieved with no corporate backing, just raw talent and relentless hard work!!!) Tearing up stages at some of the UK’s biggest music festivals including Victorious Festival, Tramlines, Shiiine On Weekender, Moovin Festival, Bearded Theory & Sunflowerfest Belfast. Being booked as official tour support for Happy Mondays, Soul 2 Soul, Sugar Hill Gang, The Furious Five and The Charlatans, plus also headlining three of their own national U.K tours . The Winachi Tribe show no sign of slowing down!!! 2018 has seen the band head to America in March for their debut headline tour of the U.S (California) and a second tour of L.A in September which saw the band open for U.K Indie legends The Charlatans at the Teragram Ballroom L.A (it’s fair to say L.A has become the second home for this Northern U.K band of Funked up misfits…with their management H.R.B management also being based in West Hollywood). Summer 2018 also saw the release of critically acclaimed single ’Transition’ (picking up an official ‘Grammy’ entry along the way for best Dance track!!!) the release was backed by a 20 date headline U.K tour which was met by rave reviews throughout the U.K music press. The Winachi Tribe’s rise in a relatively short space of time has been astonishing. From humble beginnings as the U.Ks North West Electro Funk underdogs, to collaborating with a large impressive cast of legendary names from the world of music and acting, gaining major press / airplay all over the world and touring both the U.K & L.A to rave reviews. The world seems to literally be in their hands of Winachi, if they choose to take it. It’s an exciting prospect to see what the future holds for this unique band, dare I say it, Tribe.

Tickets are £10 and on sale through Skiddle.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Steve Ignorant's Slice Of Life - S.A.D - New single.

Steve Ignorant’s Slice Of Life are back this year with an as yet untitled album scheduled for Summer. I speak to Carol Hodge and Steve about the new song and video.
Carol Hodge:
“S.A.D is a song very close to Steve’s heart. Written with a definite nod towards its Seasonal Affective Disorder namesake, the lyrics plead with the listener for “some kind of love”, always indecisive as to whether such a gesture will be accepted or rejected by the sufferer.”
Steve Ignorant:
“Anyone that suffers from depression or S.A.D. will probably recognise what I’m talking about. Hope it helps people to know that they are not alone.”
Filmed in Union Mills in Bolton, home to Upender Mehra and his Beaver Of Bolton clothing line, the location echoes the dark themes of the song. If this song doesn’t touch you with it’s stark message and beautiful harmonies then you’re a tougher person than me….

Video filmed by RKid Media, 
Steve Ignorant Official Website
Slice of Life Facebook