We are very proud to be hosting our first event at the renown Edinburgh International Festival and will be featuring one of the city’s most classic of albums. We will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the classic album The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion by Edinburgh’s own Incredible String Band. The event will be hosted by Classic Album Sundays founder and BBC Radio host Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and will feature special guests Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band along with the album’s producer Joe Boyd.
The event will take place on Friday, the 18th August at 2 pm at the Festival Theatre Studio. Colleen will discuss the making of the album and its incredible legacy with Mike and Joe. The interview will be followed by an uninterrupted audiophile playback of the album on vinyl on a world-class hi-fi installed by Edinburgh’s Loud & Clear so that listeners can hear details in the recording they have never heard before. The session will conclude with a Q&A with our intimate audience.
This event will give the Incredible String Band fan a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Seating is very limited so make sure you book your tickets as soon as you are able here.
Date: Friday, 18th August
Time 2 pm to 4:30 pm (please see timetable below)
Venue: Festival Theatre Studio, 13-29 Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9FT
Tickets: £15.00 Adults, £7.50 Children, European Youth Card Holder, Young Scot Card Holder here
Mike Heron is a Scottish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist widely known for his work in the psychedelic folk band The Incredible String Band. He has also performed with Keith Moon, Pete Townsend and John Cale amongst other luminaries. Mike Heron continues to tour and perform with his daughter pianist Georgia Seddon and a variety of line ups including Trembling Bells. His memoir You Know What You Could Be was published by Quercus in April 2017.
Joe Boyd signed The Incredible String Band to Elektra Records and produced the band’s albums from their inception through to 1971. He played a crucial role in the folk and psychedelic rock movements with his work with acts such as Pink Floyd, Nick Drake and Fairport Convention and the UFO Club that he co-owned with John Hopkins. He is the author of White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s.
The Incredible String Band’s second album, 1967’s 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, is widely recognised as a cultural milestone in psychedelic folk music and is one of Edinburgh’s very own classic albums. It was a favourite of Paul McCartney, celebrated on John Peel’s radio show The Perfumed Garden and was accompanied by performances at London’s UFO Club, Queen Elizabeth Hall and later at the legendary Woodstock Festival.
You should know who we are, but in case you don’t, Classic Album Sundays is the world’s most popular and respected album listening experience as it allows the fans to get as close as possible to the artist’s original intent. Their immersive sessions are a transformative and inspirational shared experience and remind people what they love about music and has been one of the instigators of the renaissance of the vinyl record.
Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy is the founder of Classic Album Sundays. She hosts ‘Sounds of a City’ for BBC 6 Music and ‘Turntable Tales’ for BBC Radio 4. She is a spokesperson and cultural commentator on music, audio and vinyl.
2 pm Doors Open
2:15 pm: Interview with Joe Boyd and Mike by Colleen
3 pm: Refreshment Break
3:15 pm: Album Replay
4:00 pm: Q&A
4:30 pm: Event Finishes
What upgradable means in the context of a sound system is the option to improve sound quality by changing certain parts rather than replacing the whole thing, usually in a piecemeal fashion, eg one new component or cable at a time. You can upgrade a car by putting better tyres or a sporty suspension on it but to get a big improvement you have to buy a new car. With component based sound systems it’s possible to change one component at a time and improve overall performance with every step. Some brands base their whole ethos on upgrading, the most obvious being Naim whose electronics can be augmented with external power supplies of varying quality that effectively transform the amplifier, streamer or CD player that they are connected to.
The source is arguably the most important part of a music system to get right, the amp and speakers depend on the turntable, CD player, streamer etc to deliver as much of the signal as possible from the playback medium (vinyl, CD, file, stream etc). Thereafter it’s a case of getting as much information and as little distortion out of speakers as possible. So if you have plans to build a great system in the long term there’s a lot to be said for spending more on this part than any other. Back in the day Linn Sondek nuts used to joke that you only needed an LP12 and two pieces of string attached to tin cans. Which might be why they made a small speaker called Kan, but that’s another story.
The basic principle still applies though, spending the 60% on the source and the rest on decent but less ambitious amp and speakers makes sense, especially where vinyl is the preferred format. Turntables are intrinsically more expensive than digital sources because they depend on precision engineering and are no longer mass produced, not decent ones anyway. So if for instance you have the a £2,000 budget, spending £1200 on turntable, arm and cartridge and the rest on amp, speakers, stands and cables makes a system that can be upgraded in the future with a better amp, then better speakers and finally more revealing cables. It’s tempting to buy a big pair of speakers and then compromise on the source and amp, but that results in poor quality going into the system at the beginning and being amplified by speakers that will reveal all of the limitations of the source and amp.
With turntables it’s often possible to upgrade individual elements like the cartridge and the tonearm, and while changing tonearms is limited to more expensive designs it can produce substantial performance gains. The cartridge is the most obvious thing to upgrade on a budget record player but you can often make greater gains by moving up to a better phono stage, especially if you currently use the one inside an integrated amplifier. Digital sources such as budget DACs and streamers can often be upgraded by replacing the wall-wart power supply with a good quality linear supply. Dutch company SBooster makes a range of these with prices starting at £240, they offer big improvements for the money.
Amplifiers are probably the most upgradeable part of a system, many integrated amps can be used with a separate power amplifier and some models can be improved with a separate power supply. Some can be used as a power amplifier if you bypass the internal preamplifier with a separate one, this is one of the less obvious upgrades that reaps surprising rewards. It’s easier to make a decent power amp than a good preamp so that’s usually the most compromised part of an integrated design.
Loudspeakers can’t usually be upgraded, you can however make any speaker sound better by giving it good isolating support. Townshend Audio makes a range of damped spring speaker bases for standmount and floorstanding speakers that transform the sound. If you are thinking about upgrading speakers in future buy from a dealer who will offer you a good trade-in for them, and buy a brand that holds its value by looking at prices for pre-loved speakers online. Generally the better a brand’s reputation the more demand there is for used products, Linn and Naim are particularly strong in this respect but so are many others.
The most popular thing to upgrade is cabling. Cables do make a significant difference in key areas like timing, imaging and dynamics but there are few places where you will find more spurious claims than in cable marketing. The biggest upgrade with cables is usually the first, when you go from in-the-box freebies to something not designed down to a few cents. The best value cable brands include QED, Chord Co and a smaller British brand called Vertere. I include them because of the way one of their entry level D-Fi cables transformed the sound of my computer when using the headphone output, it was a jaw dropper.
Cables are often used as tone controls to add weight to bass or make the treble more sparkly, but this can lead to an unbalanced sound that favours some types of music over others. Which is fine if you only listen to one type of music but is effectively a distortion and best avoided, with any element of the system it’s best to aim for a neutral, tonally even balance if you want to hear more of what’s on the recording.
Jason Kennedy – Editor ‘The Ear’
Legendary record producer Joe Boyd has worked with Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairpoint Convention, Sandy Denny and The Incredible String Band. Here he reveals his top five albums of all time to Classic Album Sundays. Joe will be joining us for a very special Nick Drake ‘Bryter Layter’ session for the House of St Barnabas charity on Sunday, 13 October. More info and ticket links can be found here.
Paul Simon – ‘Graceland’
I am known in world music circles as a curmudgeonly anti-fusion person, but to me the whole point is rhythm. If you put an exotic melody or exotic singing over a kind of bland mid-Atlantic track like ‘Giant Leap’ or a lot of Peter Gabriel stuff, that’s just so boring. The way Paul went about it was to go and record African rhythm sections playing real South African rhythms. Then as the musicians were so great, they challenged him to write the best lyrics he’s ever written because he had to come up to the bar they had set on the rhythm tracks. The album isn’t flawless as he himself admits as the thing with Los Lobos and the Cajun thing didn’t really work that well as he was trying to bring accordions together with the South Africans. But I just think as a project it is an extraordinary thing.
I interviewed Paul for the book (for my new book on World Music) and some of the things that came out were so great. For instance, Malcolm McLaren had messed everything up two years earlier by going there and ripping everyone off and behaving kind of boorishly. This made people very resistant and very suspicious. Then they played for a few hours and while Roy Halley was getting the sound, they came in for a playback. After they listened to it everyone was fine from then on as all the musicians were so amazed at how it sounded and how thrilling it was.
I’ve gained knowledge through the research I’ve been doing and discovered that ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’ with the male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing and Paul did not know what they were singing about on the subject of this girl. You discover that Paul’s singing admiringly of this girl and these traditional Zulu guys are saying “What’s going wrong with the world when a girl can be so independent?” There is this tension between the New York Upper West Side sensibility and the Natal province South African sensibility. That is my current obsession with ‘Graceland’ and all the implications of it. It is such a complex thing and the music is great.
Lucinda Williams – ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’
It’s funny because when Lucinda Williams was making ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’, I met her in Austin and she had just finished the first version of it which she then threw out to do all over again. At that point she was in this state and she kept calling me in London and sort of telling me what was going on so I feel as if I was kind of following the progress of this record and in a way that album made me move back to New York from London.
I loved living in Europe (I was running Hannibal Records at the time), and I loved the way European musicians deal with their roots, whether it is a Hungarian traditional band or Bulgarian or French or English. However, I couldn’t really imagine that there would be an album with a group of songs written by a contemporary artist that would connect the personal confession story with their own root music as vividly as Lucinda did in that record. She has the ability to write non sequiturs that are just so incredible as they are so perfectly disconnected and connected. My favorite line is on ‘Metal Firecracker’ and she is talking about the end of this relationship and she says, “We’d put on ZZ Top and turn ’em up real loud. I used to think you were strong, I used to think you were proud, I used to think nothing could go wrong. All I ask, don’t tell anybody the secrets I told you”. It’s amazing.
Dinu Lipatti – ‘Final Recital at Besancon’
This is the slightly more arcane end of my choices and one of the first records I absolutely treasured. I still have the very first copy I bought and I now have a digital copy on CD, as well. A music teacher I had as a teenager introduced me to a pianist called Dinu Lipatti who was a Romanian pianist and who to me is still the greatest classical pianist ever. He died of leukemia at the age of 33. He did this concert at a festival called Besancon Festival in France and on the recording he plays Chopin and Bach. It’s the most soulful classical performance (with the possible exception of Maria Callas) that I have ever heard and it’s just heartbreaking, beautiful, incredible stuff.
I have never stopped listening to Dinu Lipatti. I listen to classical music but there’s classical music and there’s Dinu Lipatti. For me it is a separate category.
¡Cubanismo! – ‘¡Cubanismo!’
I thought what the hell, I’ll throw in one of mine because on a number of levels this record was probably the most fun adventure I have ever had making a record. The level of musicianship was the highest I have ever experienced in a studio and my experience after it was released gave me some of my biggest thrills during my time as a producer.
The record started because I used to spend a lot of time in New York in the eighties at my record label Hannibal. We had offices in New York and London (it was the world’s smallest multi-national), and when I was in New York I went to this place called ‘The Gate’ every Monday night because they had this thing called ‘Salsa Meets Jazz’. It was an amazing event as they would book two Latin dance bands like Orchestra Broadway or Conjunta Libre or Eddie Palmieri. They would have these two bands, a dance floor with people dancing and then they would have a guest jazz soloist who would play the last number of each set. There were four sets, two by each band, over the course of the night and during the last number of each set they would be joined by Lester Bowie, David Murray, Fathead Newman and these great jazz guys in New York.
There were some incredible nights and I would go and try to find records that were like what I was hearing. However, there weren’t any because Latin Jazz isn’t like that. Latin Jazz is jazz with a conga drum and a flute and with a kind of Latin decoration on it but it is jazz basically. Latin commercial recordings are very vocal orientated, and very slickly produced for Latin American commercial radio in New York. It is very compressed and very slick productions with very few solos.
So having soloists playing against these fantastic rhythm sections and playing dance music didn’t exist. So I said, “I want to do a record like that.” I tried to do a deal with Conjunto Libre who was really the best of those bands at the time but they just finished making a record with some finance guy with a funny bent nose and a funny Italian name and he wore a camel hair coat without putting his arms in the sleeves to the meeting and I just thought, I’m gonna get in trouble here trying to make a deal with this guy. He wanted fortunes for the record and everything.
So I was still nursing this idea and my friend Lucy Duran who does the world music show for Radio 3 is an expert on world music. She kept driving me to see these Cuban band whenever they came to London and I didn’t really think any of them were as good as the Puerto Rican / Nu Yorican bands I was seeing in New York.
Then I saw this band Sierra Meastra and I thought, well now we’re talking. Sierra Maestra’s lead trumpet player was Jesus Alemany and I thoght this guy is good! When the band went back to Cuba, he stayed behind and married Lucy so I got to know him. One night over dinner I told him about my dream of doing this kind of record and he said, “Well we could do that in Cuba in a minute. I’ll put that together for you.” The next thing I knew I was on my way to Havana and he had set this whole thing up.
By this time Hannibal was owned by Rykodisc and I gave them slight heart attack by going and saying, “Can I have $25,000 please in a suitcase because I’m going to Havana?” They said, “What’s the projection?” and I said, “Well I don’t know! It depends on how it turns out.” This was before Buena Vista Social Club or any of that kind of stuff. So I took the engineer Jerry Boys and we went to Cuba.
The first day I was in Havana I remember walking in apartment building hallway where this group was rehearsing. It was all tiled and the acoustics were incredible and they were packed in like sardines and people could barely move because it was such a small space. I just walked in there and went “This is unbelievably good!” It was like the best rhythm section in Cuba with Tata Guines who is like the father of the conga. There were great soloists on every instrument and we went in the studio and basically made the record in four days.
When we put it out and I didn’t understand that Cubans in America would never play it as the Cuban exiles control all of the Latin radio in America. Because it was a communist record, they would never play it. But then it just magically started to sell and I remember because everyone was really frustrated we couldn’t get reviewed in the Latin press and we couldn’t get played on Latin radio. A few white people in world-music-type places were reviewing it and were talking about it and a few FM radio stations were occasionally playing it. Then it mysteriously started to sell and about two months after it had been released.
It was a June night in New York and I was seeing a friend who was playing at 9th Street and Avenue C and another friend was playing way over in the West Village later that night. On this balmy summer night, I walked from Avenue C to the Hudson River and I swear I heard my record coming out of four or five bars as I walked.
The record is called ¡Cubanismo! and then the band toured as ¡Cubanismo!. They played the New Orleans Jazz Festival and everything like that. I have made records that have been successful, but they’re more successful with nerdy white guys who collect records, the folkies in the specialty corner. But to walk across downtown New York on a summer night and hear your record coming out of bars was like a peak for me.
Swan Silvertones – ‘Saviour Pass Me Not’
The fifth in my personal taste is the greatest LP ever made and you have triggered something. It has been a source of great angst for me that somewhere along the line I lost my copy of this record. My brother has a copy and I taped his copy so I have it on a cassette. Yesterday I went online and have now invested $180 in buying a copy of this record. It is pristine and still in it’s shrink wrap and I found it on some obscure website.
The record actually ties back to ‘Graceland’ because it’s a taste that I share with Paul Simon. He has always been obsessed with American Gospel music and his ‘Loves Me Like a Rock’ song features the Dixie Hummingbirds. He added the high voice of Claude Jeter who was the falsetto singer of the Swan Silver Tones which many aficionados agree is the greatest of the gospel quartets. They made a lot of records over the years and some of their LPs have unbelievable tracks.
On this particular day in 1962 while recording for VJ in Chicago, they went into a studio and nobody put any effects on it and the sound and the mood and everything came together and it’s an unbelievable record. I could sit and listen to that record over and over again as it’s just an incredible record. That is my greatest record of all time.
Classic Album Sundays will be hosting a special event with Joe Boyd at The House of St Barnabas celebrating Nick Drakes “Bryter Layter”. We will be having a Q&A session with Joe as he discusses the making of the album, then we will be listening to the album in full on our audiophile hi-fi system.
For more info and tickets: http://ift.tt/2seCwcx
Richer Unsigned partnered with Stone Free Festival for the second consecutive year to provide some great emerging ‘Rock’ bands for the festival. Stone Free headliners included bands such as Rainbow, Sweet and Evil Blizzard. There was a huge demand to play the festival. Out of those that applied through Richer Unsigned, 5 were chosen to perform. They were:
British soul-jazz singer/pianist Oli Rockberger is set to release his new album, Sovereign, on 20 October on the Whirlwind Recordings label. Rockberger has recently relocated to London after an extended stay in the US where he toured and recorded extensively with the likes of Carly Simon, John Mayer, Steve Gadd, Randy Brecker, Steve Jordan, Nathan East, Becca Stevens, Louis Cole and Chris Dave’s Drumhedz.
The keyboardist now divides his time between touring with Jazz FM Award-winning singer Laura Mvula and leading his own band, which for several UK dates to support the album release features drummer Marijus Aleksa, guitarist Giorgio Serci, vocalist/fiddler Hannah Read and bassist Michael Janisch. Dates are: Soundcellar, Poole (12 Oct); The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (18 Oct); Pizza Express Jazz Club, High Holborn (19-20 Oct) and EFG London Jazz Festival @ Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho (14 Nov).
Ahead of all that Jazzwise has an exclusive first look at the video for ‘My Old Life’ – performed live at Dubway Studios in New York:
For more info visit http://ift.tt/2sSrHPy
An unmissable special screening of the 1964 French New Wave jazz musical classic Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) with an exclusive ‘live’ jazz performance will take place next Sunday 2 July at the Cine Lumiere in Kensington. The film will be preceded by a ‘live’ set by the highly acclaimed London-based contemporary jazz singer Brigitte Beraha alongside her regular duo partner, the pianist John Turville. Beraha will offer her own unique interpretation of the Michel Legrand soundtrack, which will feature jazz standards such as ‘I Will Wait for You’ and ‘Watch What Happens’. Those readers who have followed Beraha’s recording career to date might already know that she also sings in the French language, having spent her childhood in Monaco.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A chaired by the International Sight & Sound film magazine journalist Michael Brooke with Brigitte Beraha and Jazzwise writer and Jazz on Film Records Selwyn Harris on the panel.
A visually intoxicating cinematic masterpiece starring Catherine Deneuve (pictured), Demy’s popular musical opera featuring the legendary jazz pianist Michel Legrand’s memorable soundtrack won the 1964 Palme d’Or in Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar. The film also celebrates Michel Legrand‘s 85th birthday as he arrives for a special performance at the Sevenoaks Jazz Festival on 6 July. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was one of the key inspirations behind the jazz-loving film director Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning La La Land, as featured in Jazzwise‘s Jazz on Film column in May 2017.
The event kicks off with live music at 4.20pm and is produced by Offbeat, a ‘Jazz on Film’ event’s organiser that previously run the recent screening events for Round Midnight and Lift to the Scaffold in conjunction with the Cine Lumiere.
– Mike Flynn
For more info and tickets visit http://ift.tt/17xvTFl
Mixing disco and house with catchy vocals and hooky guitar riffs, Sweetmates are an indie pop duo from Brighton and this week’s Artist Of The Week. The duo take on a wide range of influences from genres as far apart as EDM and indie-rock which they blend with soulful pop vibes to create a thundering sound you can’t help but dance to. We’ve picked “WOOF” from their Disco Turd EP, as we think it’s catchy chorus and driving rhythm is a great fit for late night summer parties. If you’re a fan of Holy Ghost and Friendly Fires, you’ll definitely want to give Sweetmates a spin!
Tickets for a forthcoming Rolling Stones gig at the Hollywood Bowl were set to become the most expensive in rock ‘n’ roll history. Fans would have to pay up to £249 for a seat – £2 per minute to watch the Stones.