Record rambling day 313.
Steady As She Goes, (songs and chanties from the day of commercial sail).

Take four traditional singers, Louis Killen (ex Clancy Brothers), Jeff Warner from the USA (currently touring the UK), his brother Gerret and John (Fud) Benson a monumental stone mason (he sculptured the JFK memorial and Tennessee Williams' tombstone amongst many more) and give them the project of recording the songs of the sailors of the 1800's.

This LP came shortly after the Tall Ships visited New York in 1976 to commentate America's 200th Birthday of Independence.

There's shanties (or chanties if you prefer) for every task on board ship from lifting sails to raising the anchor, there's songs about the escapades on shore (which usually mean the seaman comes off the worse from the attractions of the booze and the Ladies).

Four strident voices and the occasional English Concertina accompaniment, songs you will recognise such as "Paddy Lay Back" (a song claimed by Liverpool as their own), "Bold Riley" (which has been recorded by the likes of Kate Rusby and the Oysterband), "Rolling Down To Old Maui" (Bellowhead amongst many others).

If you love sea shanties then you'll know "Blow The Man Down" and "Shallow Brown" and there might be ones you haven't heard before such as the "Topman And The Afterguard" a story about life on board a Royal Navy vessel and the hierarchy.

Songs to lighten the hell on board ships, sailors with no rights, no regulations, no unions, the word of the Master was the law, stronger than a plantation owner's hold over their slaves. At sea they had nowhere to run, no escape from the whim of the captain, to resist was mutiny, to succeed in mutiny was piracy, the only option was to yield in everything.

If you are interested in these sorts of things, I'd recommend Richard Henry Dana Jr, book "Two Years Before The Mast". Dana from a rich family was suspended from Harvard for joining a student protest, he left and chose to work his way as a merchant seaman rather than rely on the family fortunes. His memoir of that time includes graphic descriptions of life on-board including a flogging on the whim of the Captain purely for the sailor asking a question. Dana's writing shows his sympathy with the downtrodden and lower classes, he went on to dedicate his life to these improving the sailor’s life and also became a prominent anti-slavery activist and helped found the Free Soil Party.

As usual I'm rambling again, it's my "injustice" soapbox, but God forbid I ever lose that internal "rage like thunder" (an oblique reference to a song on Merry Hell's cracking Ghost In Our House album).

So if you love sea shanties search it out (deezer is your friend), Bellowhead it ain't but it's good.

Till tomorrow and I'll soon be on the last fifty, a year in my life almost done. Thanks for reading and hopefully listening. Cheers one and all.

A record a day number 270.
Take Your Head Off And Listen Various Artists.

The first ever release by Rubber Records, this 16 track sought after sampler promoted all that was good from Newcastle, the surrounding areas and even north of the border with the JSD band and more.

It contains early Lindisfarne members Alan Hull, "Where Is My Sixpence" and "We Can Swing Together" under the name of Brethren a group which contained Si Cowe, Ray Laidlaw and on the track "Positive Earth" a certain Rod Clement added fiddle.

Other North East luminaries included Trilogy who became Prelude, a group that had a massive smash with Neil Youngs "After The Goldrush", Hedgehog Pie, and The Callies, lead singer of which Billy Mitchell would go on to lead the fantastic Jack The Lad before front- ing Lindisfarne for a period too.

Take Your Head Off And Listen also includes a self-penned song by Alan Moffatt who would later find fame in the group Doll By Doll under the stage name of Jackie Leven.

It's a great collection I just wish I could find out more about Ian Mills, his delivery and timing on "Copper’s Song" an amusing take on policemen finding a dead body on their beat and its subsequent travels cracks me up every time, even now.

Seek it out if you can, it's well worth the effort and one final thought maybe it's just me but doesn't the drawing on the cover remind you of a certain drummer

Record ramblings number 241.
Nice Enough To Eat Various Artists.

An ace sampler from Island Records, arguably the best they put out. This introduced me to so many groups that I subsequently went out and bought records by. In short it did its trick.

My favourites were Traffic's "Forty Thousand Headmen ", King Crimsons "21st Century Schizoid Man" and Dr Strangely Strange's quirky folk on "Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal" - anything but if you ask me.

The whole compilation throws in classic tracks by Free by Nick Drake along with Heavy Jelly's "I Keep Singing That Same Old Song", it's a joy that I keep indulging in.

Is there a better kind of record?

Record ramblings number 200.
Honey For Tea Various Artists.

Subtitled "A selection of Cambridge Bands" it does exactly what it says on the sleeve, the only common denominator is that all the tracks were recorded at the Spaceward Studios in 1982.

It's a fantastic reminder that there is so much good music (and a little bad) that never gets the publicity or the recognition that it deserves. The difference between success and failure, small and arbitrary.

One who did make it was "The Great Divide", they open the album with "Elements And Innocence", their lead singer Mr Boo Hewerdine has had his songs covered by over 50 other artists, including Eddi Reader, KD Lang, Natalie Imbruglia, Hepburn, Marti Pellow, Swan Dive and Suggs. Boo on top of being an artist in his own right, is also a producer and a nice guy to boot.

Other bands include "Your Dinner" who sound like a ska version of "Gong" weird and wonderful. "Sindy And The Action Men" scratch a " Siouxsie and the Banshees" vein whilst "Pure Thought" are pure pop and not three bad either.

"Hondo" could be "Madness" an eight piece big band that get you wanting to dance with their ska reggae heavy mix "Party", it's 4:29 of sheer fun, a true festival type band.

"Su Lynn Band": think a progressive "Curved Air meets Kate Bush on the Ledge", it's lovely it's "Feels Like Magic" an apt title, great synthesiser runs too.

A record a day number 159.
Back On The Road Again Various Artists

This could be almost a soundtrack to my early life. It contains virtually everything I ever wanted.

"All Right Now" by Free starts it off, there's Jimi Hendrix, there's yodelling courtesy of "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, Hawkwind's "Silver Machine " the list goes on.

Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Velvet Underground, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, I'm sure you can guess the tracks.

Originally, I had this on cassette tape and wore it away driving up and down the country.

A month or so ago I finally picked it up from Rubber Soul Records of Stoke-on-Trent as a LP. It's was too good a compilation not to replace.

Listening to "Out Demons Out" by the Edgar Broughton Band then Ten Years After before opening a can of Spirit's "Fresh Garbage". What better way to welcome a weekend.

Oh and for those more quieter moments Nick Drake's "Northern Sky" works its charms, Roy Harper's "Tom Tiddler's Ground" and Matthews Southern Comforts "Woodstock" are pure delights and Fairport’s "Meet On The Ledge".

A bargain.

A record a day number 337.
Curved Air Live Atmosphere.

Sometimes you just can't give it up. I first saw Curved Air on their "Back Street Luv" tour at the Kings Hall in Derby back in the early Seventies. In the days when being at the very front of the stage didn't involve barriers or mosh pits.

"Live Atmosphere" is a 2012 release of their 2010/11 world tour with only Sonja Kristina and drummer Florian Pilkington- Miksa from the original band. It matters not, this is a fresh and vibrant re-working of the old familiar material such as "Phantasmagoria" and *It Happened Today".

In a nice touch, rather than compress the sound on the vinyl, this release bought on Record Store Day includes a single with "Back Street Luv" and "Everdance" on it and I confess to listening to the single first with a live version of luv lasting 5 minutes 22 seconds.

Record Store Day is Saturday 18th April, it's a celebration of the UK's and other countries unique independent sector as the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists across the globe make special appearances and performances.

Festivities include performances, meet & greets with artists, DJ's, in store quizzes and many other events. Full details of what's on and the special release can be found here The free Cheese Oakcakes and tea at Rubber Soul Records went down well last year.

Back to the record though. Sometimes you just can't give it up. This is one of those occasions. It's a wonderful album. Enjoy.

Record rambling day 315.
Hawkwind - Quark, Strangeness And Charm.

How can you not love an album called "Quark Strangeness And Charm", especially if you're a Sci-Fi nut like me. Quarks being sub-atomic particles whilst strangeness and charm refers to different types of quarks, or sommat like that, beam me up Scotty.

Musically it's not the Hawkwind of the past, it's lighter, quieter, brighter.

Song have preludes, you have to wait for them to get going.

"Spirit Of The Age" suspended animation, clones freeze dried and warmed up again, morse code S.O.S.; telepathic men all writing "Oh for the wings of any bird / Other than a battery Hen".

Yes it's weird.

"Damnation Alley" almost makes punk or new wave based on Roger Zelazny's book of the same name. A post apoplectic landscape filled with radioactive trash, although when "the sky is raining fishes / it's a mutation zoo" you suspect the band themselves aren't being too serious. Or maybe they are!

The real joy though for me is the title track "Quark, Strangeness And Charm" as it enters into the realm of the suspected love lifes of Einstein and Copernicus. It leans towards Bolan or Bowie, it's brilliant, you can't help but sing along. A fun track.

"Hassan I sahba", riff laden, is the closest they get to the Hawkwind of old with hard driving rock and Simon House's incendiary Violin.

"Days Of The Underground", Lost In Psychedelic Space, you half expect Will, the Robot and Dr Zachary Smith to turn up. “Danger, Danger”.

As it is they don't. But this was Robert Calvert and Dave Brooks swansong before the group crashed and burned to raise phoenix like as the "Hawklords".

It's an interesting listen after all these years. Now where did I put my copy of my old single "Silver Machine"?

A ramble through a record collection number 50.
Quicksilver Messenger Service.

I like to say this album changed my life, I like to say it made me rich and famous, that it gave me everlasting health. Of course it didn't, but it made me want to move to San Francisco and the West Coast and as a youngster that was enough believe me.

From the opener "Pride Of Man" through to the last track, the twelve minute long "The Fool" this is music that doesn't disappoint. John Cippolina's fluid guitar wandering, Gary Duncan's guitar keeping it all tight. Clipped notes of sound that leave you waiting for the next ones and leave you stunned and amazed as to how space in a song can be so effective.

Psychedelia, jazzy undertones, rock, folk all mixed into one.

One album that for me I will always cherish (this is the first pressing mono version if anybody cares) I sought it out and it's repaid me over and over.

Bill Graham once said live on stage the group that "Quicksilver were one of the baddest groups" he knew and as a renowned promoter he knew considerably more than most.

I guess it just proves everybody loves bad boys.

Enjoy if you can.

Vinyl vignette number 21.
On The Road - Traffic.

A ramble through a record collection warts and all.

So four sides of black plastic, the road.

Seven songs stretched out in a dotted line, some join, some clash, it is an expansive blow out of a live album and catches the band at a moment in time. The lightness the band where capable of though is missing, it errs towards plodding rather than soaring. Some bands manage to capture their energy in live performances on record, this doesn’t quite reach those levels.

Somebody at Island decided to add funny road signs to the inner sleeves in a last ditched effort to lighten the mood, add humour and have something to look at whilst you listen. As a novelty it's short lived and certainly doesn't last for the seventeen minutes minimum needed per side.

That said it's okay, I quite liked Traffic beforehand, Forty Thousand Headmen, John Barleycorn and all. This isn't though of that standard. Pulling it out has encouraged me to listen again and see if it has aged well. Or at least better than me.

A record a day number 29.
It's A Beautiful Day - Today.

The inspiration for choosing this was driving yesterday A1, long day, sheet rain, standing water, aquaplaning even at 40, BMW flashing past, you couldn't see a thing. It was an awful drive. It had to better tomorrow. It had to be a beautiful day. Today.

This is the fourth (studio) and last album put out by the band who went through the same number of line-up changes in five years. Gone are David LaFlamme, the bands original violinist, famous for "White Bird" the most well-known song, gone is the lightness, the definitive fiddle riffs that made the "Marrying Maiden" LP a chart hit.

What's left is Pattie Santos the original female voice, Fred Webb on keys, Val Fuentes (drums) with the addition of Greg Bloch on violin and the gruff, gruff vocal of Bud Cockrell.

Does it work? Yes at least partly "Creator", "Down On The Bayou" and "Watching You Watching Me" from the pen of Cockerill, "Child" and "Aint That Loving You Baby" by Webb and a cover of the Seals and Croft song "Ridin Thumb" are the stronger tracks.

It's West Coast Seventies rock pure and simple, it's fine just not what you would expect from IABD.

Watching the sun rise over the rooftops as I type. Yes today - It's A Beautiful Day.