Mojo Review Challenge #004 – Voodoo Queens – Chocolate Revenge

MOJO4_FrankZappaWhere I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

The Voodoo Queens were a big-ish enough deal at the time of Mojo #004 that their name adorns the cover. Along with an interview, there was a lengthy review about their one and only album – Chocolate Revenge.

There were two distinguishing things about Voodoo Queens – their riot grrrl energy and sound, as well as South Asian background of lead singer Anjali Bhatia, as well as the ethnic backgrounds of the others. Along with the emerging Cornershop, the critic world started to wonder if there was a scene coming along. Fear not, as the Strokes came along and that was that.

On the back of some fun singles (‘Supermodel Superficial’) and some making fun of Keanu Reeves, there was some anticipation for the band’s debut record. The result was a slightly over produced record that is not very riot grrrl. A lot of things that probably got A&R’d to be potential hit singles. It sounds anonymously 90s.

There are some fun moments – and they are the silly ones. ‘I’m Not Bitter – I Just Want To Kill You‘ or ‘You’re Dumped‘, are as silly as the titles suggest. Big fat guitars make them even sillier. But then there’s ‘Neptune‘, which sounds like Pavement, or ‘Face Ache‘, which is so one note that it seems almost incompetent. It’s a little all over the place.

Luckily, the album ends with a brace of great pop songs. ‘Shopping Girl Maniac‘, ‘Chocolate Eyes‘ and ‘My Favourite Hand Bag‘ show a band just having fun, but writing catchy songs. ‘My Favourite Hand Bag‘ in particular seems to merge it all together, and the best track on here.

It’s more teen garage rock than the teeth of riot grrrl and maybe their fans turned on them. Regardless, the album didn’t really do anything, none of the songs got away, and the band broke up soon after.

A shame as there is a lot of interesting things about the band and on the record. There’s definitely a fun girl power on show here that would be watered down a few years later. Some cool guitar playing all over the record. But it’s not raw or daring enough to be indie, and to weird for the pop charts.

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Mojo Review Challenge#003 – Pentangle – Basket Of Light

MOJO3_JohnLeeHookerWhere I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

#003 – Pentangle – Basket Of Light

My love affair with folk music lasted only a couple of years and leaned very American. The stars of the English folk scene I know but don’t really know. I smidgen of John Martyn. Nick Drake of course. The music of Pentangle and Bert Jansch has always alluded me.

I have friends (hello Tom) who love Jansch. Every so often you meet a devotee. Many of my musical favourites loved him too – especially the American folkies and guitar heroes. For me, he seems to have made 80 albums and one of those people whose catalogues were impenetrable.

Pentangle was his band and this record, Basket Of Light, is their most famous and commercially successful. It’s a record that makes a lot of lists. I liked the album cover (it reminded me of The Beach Boys‘ album Holland). This record was reviewed as part of some big catalogue move. Mojo saw it fit to give a whole double page to a bunch of Jansch related releases.

I don’t know if I’m ever going to be a big English folk guy. This apparent classic of the genre is helping any. There’s something so twee and distancing about it. I also find the subject matter on this album so distancing. It’s so impressionist it fails to really make an impression. Again this might be me unfairly comparing it to its American brother, who seemed to say everything music could say in the 60s (and that’s just Bob Dylan).

You can definitely hear some cool guitar stuff, but the baroque-y, almost choral music just puts me off. Light Flight and Springtime Promises are lovely. Jansch in particular has a lovely vocal. Lyke-Wake Dirge – utterly horrible. I’d also like to note here that I’ve never bought into that very Tolkien-esque lyric bands.

I’ll keep this on the iPod a while longer, and let it perculate. I feel like there is something I’m not hearing in that pastoral English Folk music.

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Mojo Reviews Challenge #002 – World Gone Wrong – Bob Dylan

MOJO2_KDLangWhere I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

#002 – World Gone Wrong – Bob Dylan

In the often rattled out argument between the Beatles and the Stones, my go-to 60s legend is usually Bob Dylan. He released 400 albums in the 60s, the least of which means more to me than the entire Stones and Beatles catalogue combined.

Which is odd that I have never ever heard World Gone Wrong.

Truth be told, I’ve probably known about this album almost as long as any other. It was the first Dylan album to be released in a time when I was aware he was still going. I remember one especially hip girl listening to it in school (I thought she was talking about The Screaming Jets album World Gone Crazy).

I followed Dylan happily into the late 70s but I lose track after Slow Train Coming. I have various compilations that cover off the 80s and onwards. I have a couple of the records, and since the groundbreaking Time Out Of Mind I have bought every Dylan since. I also have hundreds of bootleg recordings and other things.

It’s odd that I’ve avoided this one. First, it’s old timey songs and I love old timey songs. Second, it’s reputation is still pretty good. But I was always tracking down another love bootleg from 67 and ignoring all his late 80s and early 90s.

MOJO deemed it worthy enough to give it the lead, double page album review in their second issue. Dylan, even before Time Out Of Mind, was a big deal in their world. And the album before this one – Good As I Been To You – is the same as this album – old folk songs of just Dylan and guitar. It got pretty good acclaim.

This album is good – very good. If you hate the voice then there is little for you here. But it’s just Bob and a guitar and it’s such a lovely sound. The song choice is full of gentle, dark songs. Lots of murder and crime afoot. Lots of broken hearts. It feels like those strange puzzle songs he would write (and cover) in the 60s and 70s.

The title track which opens the record deserves to be placed on those Very Best Of Bob Dylan Volume 4 or something. It’s as good and as direct as anything he’s ever done. He’s still rocking out the blues guitar on things like ‘Broke Down Engine’, but it’s the sweetness of ‘Love Henry’ or ‘Delia’ that really hit home..

It’s also a nice short 10 track record. Every Dylan album since this one is 20 minutes (and sometimes 40) too long. It’s my one big complaint about recent Dylan. Just make 40 minute records, dude. This is like another version of Nashville Skyline. A lovely collection of traditional tunes from a man who knows his traditional tunes.

It’s odd to think of Dylan if Time Out Of Mind had not happened. Would he be just making albums like this every few years? Filed under folk and sitting with Loudon Wainwright III albums or something? I don’t know if that would be such a bad thing.

Now, to get Good As I Been To You.

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Mojo Reviews Challenge #001 – The Best Of 2-Tone

Where I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

MOJO1_DylanLennon#001 – The Best Of 2-Tone

When Mojo started in 1993, the review section was very different to what it is today. They only really reviewed 10-20 albums, and the lead reviews would cover several records as one story.

With that, the choices are pretty limited in these early issues. The ‘new’ albums are full of established classics – In Utero, Come On Feel The Lemonheads, Thirteen, Together Alone, New Miserable Experience….

So we go to the reissues. The lead review both have to do with Reggae, and it’s tight trousered younger brother, Ska. A 4 disc Jamaican overview called Tougher Than Tough, and a 4 disc box set on of the 2-Tone label called The Compact 2-Tone Story. There’s a one disc version – The Best Of 2-Tone. That’s our pick.

According to the review, the 4-disc 2 Tone set is too much, but the 1-disc is not enough. But I know so little about 2 Tone, I figured the 1 disc is the way to go. Nothing but the towering anthems.

There’s svereal big ones here. The Specials loom large – the set opens with their immortal ‘Ghost Town‘ and ‘Nelson Mandela‘. In fact, the Specials make up half the collection. There’s some ‘name’ appearances by Madness and Elvis Costello who all recorded for the label at some point, but broke out of that scene very quickly. Which sadly leaves little room for The Beat, The Selector and others.

What is clear on the first couple of listens is that this collection is a whole lot of fun. It sounds great in the car, and I’m in West London in the late 70s. Theres only ‘The Boiler‘ that brings the mood down, but the rest are all big sing-along anthems, the masterpieces of the genre that won over a generation. Fun music, and important too.

Great to have this stuff on the iPod finally. Pretty embarrassing that I didn’t have ‘Nelson Mandela‘ on there before. This world – that can fill a whole record store like Honest John’s, has always been a bit of a blind spot for me. Let’s see where this leads.

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