Laurence Jones – Take Me High (RUF )

 

LJ1Fifty years on from the famous ‘Beano’ album featuring Eric Clapton with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Producer Mike Vernon still gets a tingle of excitement when he hears someone bringing something special to the Blues.  In 2010 a young Brit named Oli Brown excited Vernon enough to lure him out of retirement – in 2016 another young Brit has caught the great man’s attention.  Laurence Jones is the young man in question and ‘Take Me High’ could almost have been what Jones said to lure Vernon back into the studio.    the result is one of the best guitar sounds I’ve heard on a disc for years and very possibly the start of something very big indeed.

 

Not that the attention of a legendary producer is required to get me putting ‘Take Me High’ on my CD player this weekend.  Laurence Jones has been on my musical map since his stint on the RUF Blues Caravan what seems like light years ago already.  Internet and Blues magazines had told me that Laurence Jones in 2016 was beginning to find his own style visually – slicked back hair and stylish photo-shoots.  Did he still have time to hone his chops on the guitar though?  A picture inside the new CD’s cover has him reading up on a certain hero named Gary Moore, and having heard the new disc from end to end I find myself wondering if some up-coming rock guitar hero will be pictured with a similar magazine showing Laurence himself on the cover in 30 years time.

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Blues brothers – Jones with Roger Inniss

Track one certainly flies straight off the disc with a hard driving riff powered number.  Straight away the thick production is an attention grabber.  Roger Innis’ bass line hits you between the eyes even before the blinding fret bending solo of Mr Jones takes centre stage.  There’s a ‘no prisoners’ air about both men’s playing.  ‘Something’s changed’ gives drummer Phil Wilson a chance to show he’s taking no prisoners either as he delivers a rock solid backing while Laurence sings like a seasoned veteran of some woman’s  fickle feelings over a reggae fuelled backbeat.

 

Track three ‘Live it Up’ takes the pace up a notch.  “Live every day like it’s your last” is the advice on offer and the tempo is up with it.  When I was Laurence’s age I was wishing to be a little older but here is the man advising me “Don’t wish your time away” and I suspect that if I was Laurence Jones and having the musical time of my life I might just be inclined to enjoy the here and now.

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‘Addicted to your Love’ has something of Led Zeppelin about it and a cocky, self-assured vocal that says Laurence Jones is very much living the advice of the previous track.  The solo here has a savage intensity that makes me think Mike Vernon was indeed revisiting his Clapton ‘Beano’ days when he put this track down.  The bass is pushed so deep that it growls with distortion .  I can well imagine young Laurence setting fire to the Fender when this ends – or at the very least using it to slice his amp in half.  Monster stuff.

 

‘I Will’ is almost a relief in it’s straightforward pop style.  A pleasantly phrased solo bites into your braincells helped by a chorus that you just know won’t be going out of your head any time soon.  Let’s hear the audience joining in the “I Will’s” on this one.  I certainly will!

 

As the title suggests ‘Thinking about tomorrow’ has a reflective air about it.  “I knew a girl…”  Nice keyboard on this one – ah, King King man Bob Fridzema.  That explains it.  Time here also to mention how mature the vocals are on this disc.  It’s strange to hear someone half my age giving me advice on love and life with such an authoritarian voice.  Jones’ ‘voice’ on guitar is equally mature and on this track it’s positively mesmerizing.  Great vocal, great guitar, great tune, what stands between Laurence Jones and Pop superstardom?  This track suggests he could be up there in charts that are other than coloured Blue.

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The funky swagger of ‘Take me High’ again has a determinedly confident guitar presence that reminds, dare I say the J word?  Of Jimi.  There, I’ve said it.  The mood on here to take the solo where he feels like it and damn the rest of the band – follow if you can!  Luckily Roger Innis and Jones are almost joined at the hip when it comes to following a groove.  Amazing stuff indeed.

 

‘Down & Blue’ is what it says on the tin.  “I got me some pills…”  “People always ask me if I’m feeling okay”.  If I didn’t know that young Mr Jones was a martyr to Crohn’s disease I’d think this was another ‘drugs n rock n roll’ number.  Well, I guess it is just that actually, and I’ve been down this road myself Laurence.  Down and Blue indeed.  Again a fire and brimstone solo and time to credit Phil Wilson for keeping it all together.

 

Taking the disc out are two bluesy numbers.  ‘The price I pay’ gets some funky harp support from the legendary Paul Jones so plays on Radio 2’s BBC Blues programme are assured but this disc is going to hit more than the late night Blues playlists for sure.  ‘Higher Ground’ won’t be mistaken for Stevie Wonder’s original but man oh man is that another titanic guitar solo!  Shared vocals with Reuben Richards  but there’s enough snarl in the young man’s voice that the added voice isn’t really necessary.

 

A breathtaking display overall by Laurence Jones.  Excellent vocals but really Mike Vernon has got a glorious guitar sound on here, reminiscent more of Clapton in his power trio days than the John Mayall ones, that overshadows everything.

 

It’s been a couple of years since I last saw Laurence Jones in Portsmouth at the now defunct Cellars where he sounded much better than on his previous release ‘What’s it gonna be’ (and even on that CD the promise was undeniably  there).  As I write this I hear that ‘Take Me High’ is number one on the Amazon Blues chart and even making waves on the UK Pop Charts where it’s entered the top 200 and makes a welcome change from the tired old greatest hits packages currently plying their dusty trade (Springsteen, Neil Diamond, ELO etc).  “I asked Laurence to play each track in the studio as if he had an audience of 1000 in front of him” describes Mike Vernon on the sleeve.  Given the ferocity of some of his solos here I can’t begin to imagine what he will sound like actually playing in front of ten times that figure.  ‘Take Me High’?  On the evidence here, particularly the guitar playing, the sky is the limit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfgang Niedecken’s BAP – An evening with the ‘Marathon Man’

BAP--31It’s 7.30pm at Bonn Kunstrasen and I meet some friends out back in the audience.  “This is still the support act?  Right?” one of them asks.  By this time Wolfgang Niedecken and his band the legendary BAP have already been onstage for an hour and I have to explain that there ARE musicians out there who play according to their feelings and not to a 90 minute stopwatch – and yes, these guys were due to remain onstage until 10 pm.  Fortunately they still had another two and a half hours to move up front in the audience and enjoy the finest Kölsch-rocker that ever trod the boards at Chlodwigplatz.

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Paolo Pacifico – Have Harps will travel

PPweb1“When I want sax, I call Candy” was how Prince once famously described his admiration for the musical abilities of Candy Dulfer.  At Bonn Folk Club John Harrison might well say the same for Paolo Pacifico and his Harmonica.  The familiar sight of Paolo ambling calmly from his pint at the bar to pull a C harp out of his top pocket and nonchalantly ‘just join in’ is deceptive.  I suspected that you can only ‘just join in’ if you really know what you’re doing, so I figured there was a story behind Paolo’s seemingly effortless appearances – and I was right.  Here it is.  Enjoy!

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Rheinbach Classics – Big Cars & Big Skirts

RheinbachClassics--13The 50’s were a time when life was simpler, men were politer and cars were… well, the best were big and American.  Truth or fiction?  It’s certainly true that there are an awful lot of people who would like to be living then in preference to now and in a World of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump who can blame them?  Rheinbach is a place many such people can be found once a year,some 25000 people in fact visited the festival to see or drive the ‘Oldtimers’ and as my blue suede shoes were being re-soled Andreas Tehaer made a visit on the Festival Friday of Rheinbach Classics to capture not the classic oldtime cars but instead some of the classic old time music.

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Ashes, Dust & Diamonds with Warren Haynes

WarrenHaynes-(21-of-158)-Edit_DeNoise-Edit_DeNoiseThey didn’t do too badly for guitarists did they?  The Allman Brothers  lost Duane tragically in 1971 but continued on with three of the finest southern style men that ever plugged in a Les Paul, in the shapes of Dickey Betts, Derek Trucks and tonight’s guest at the Kantine in Cologne – Warren Haynes.  Sadly we will never know how great Duane Allman might have become.  We can however check up on the playing of Mr Haynes, and I think Duane would have been smiling on Saturday.

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Chris deBurgh and a Lady in…

DeBurgh--8“I once did a song about a lady wearing a particular colour.  Can’t remember which colour  now… Anyway, this song was the sequel to it”  No prizes for guessing that the original song was ‘Lady in Red’ and the man in front of us on a cloud covered Kunstrasen stage was an Irishman named Chris de Burgh.  Did it rain?  It did.  Could he stop it raining? No he couldn’t.  Could he make us forget it was raining?  Well, he did his best.

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Rockaue 2016

Rockaue (1 of 56)Famous for 15 minutes?  The music  flew so thick and fast on Saturday at the Rheinpark that the biggest danger was having your set forgotten a half hour later.  I am indeed envious of the heavy metal or local hero fans who could stay in one place for the day.  For the rest of us who wanted a taste of everything it was a challenge – and for those I missed, I salute you and apologize.  This year’s Rockaue, the second of its kind, was indeed a chameleon of a beast.

 

Heading down to the Rheinpark on Saturday I had attempted to make a shortlist of must- see acts.  The problem was that everyone, short of headliners Culcha Candela, was to me an unknown quantity.  Anyway, Let’s check the English-speakers first and Kelvin Jones was a must see.  Not least because he is based in my hometown of Portsmouth, England.  Will we finally have a music hero even more local than Fareham’s Joe Jackson?  Then there’s metal band Heart of a Coward from Milton Keynes.  That was about it really.  So much for pre-planning…  Think I’ll just go where the going takes me.

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It’s a blazingly sunny day when I arrive  and no sign of a rain cloud.  Have the promoters made a pact with the devil?  Will there be Blues?  There IS Rock of the heavy metal variety and it’s the first stage to hit you when you enter  the festival ground.  Like last year it seems oddly at ease with the sunshine and blue skies.  Rock and metal belong to dark skies and sweaty pubs with beer sucking your every footstep from the soggy floor around the bar.  The band Sleepers are going down a storm despite the heat anyway.  I make a note to return to the Rock n Heavy Stage when it gets darker but in the event only make it back to catch the excellently energetic Aachen trio Fjord.   Metal edged rock that had a melodic punch, I can recommend giving them a listen – and they made for great photos too, lots of posing and dramatic faces.  Certainly an early highlight.

 

Fjord were a roaring success

Fjord were a roaring success

Between my two hard n heavy visits was the set by my local hero Kelvin Jones and what an excellent set it was too.  I never cease to be amazed by guys who can hold a large audience in thrall with just a Martin acoustic and a loop pedal.  His best tune to date is ‘Call you Home’ and it gets an extended run-out today but my favorite was a bluesy cover of Aloe Blacc’s ‘I need a dollar’  “Come and say hello after the set” he said at the finish, which seemed easy enough at the time as he was standing on a stage alone.  I never did find him to ask about the music – so local promoters, please book Kelvin Jones – he’s good, and Portsmouth needs a new hero after all these years, Charles Dickens is long dead after all.

 

The rest of my day was spent rushing from Mainstage to Local stage and back with an ever diminishing reserve of energy.  Indeed, at one point I even ventured into the, for me, unknown territory known locally as ‘The Electronic Stage’.  Normally I would avoid a stage emitting music that is devoid of a real musician – but boy that water hose playing down on the smiling faces below looked inviting.  Both sanity, and a fear of writing off my Nikon under a deluge of water, prevailed though and I got back to the live musicians.

 

Geist taking it seriously on the Local Stage

Geist taking it seriously on the Local Stage

The Local Stage is somewhat curious in that I have the impression that a large proportion of the people there enter at the Rheinaue entrance and never venture further.  Do they know there are other stages?  Do they care?  Does it matter?  No, not really, because the local stage really is worth a day in itself.  I caught up with Ju & Me who were last seen, by my eyes at least, supporting Blümchenknicker at the Harmonie this year.  I also caught the Foggy Mountain Rockers who I have been meaning to see at that same Harmonie for some years now and always missing.  Theirs is a great blend of semi-caricature  involving that wonderful period when Rock n Roll was most likely to mean you were a Teddy Boy as opposed to a Mod.  For that reason ‘Thank God I’m a Teddy Boy’ was a particular favourite of the evening.  Back in my childhood the neighbours had a band just like this and it seemed like a relic of a bygone age even then, so it’s wonderful to find that there are people out there who still love both playing and hearing such music – and it’s great music too!

 

Cool music and cooler water at the Electronic Stage

Cool music and cooler water at the Electronic Stage

That would have been it for the Local Stage except that all afternoon I had noticed the giant poster and equally huge selection of T-shirts advertising Lord Bishop.  The man himself was not to be overseen either. Mr Bishop is from New York and how can you not be tempted to stop by for some ‘Hendrixian Motörfunk’ as his website calls their music?   It goes on to proclaim that “What is for sure is that sooner than later Lord Bishop Rocks will be rock music’s most well known and sought after pure rock trio in the history of the music world”.  Add to that the fact that the drummers nickname is ‘The Bricklayer’ and how can you NOT find time to visit the Local Stage at 9.15 pm?

 

Culcha Candela give the day a lively send-off

Culcha Candela give the day a lively send-off

I’m back at the Main Stage waiting for the Main Event Culcha Candela and I realise I’ve yet to mention two previous visits here today.  Actually, it’s three as I caught half a song from the promising Tonbandgerät who all looked very young or maybe that was because I was a long way from the stage when I heard them.  They looked small anyway.

 

When I did get to the photopit I was just in time to catch a familiar face – that of Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan.  Not wishing to get political here but it was good to see Mr Sridharan a couple of hours later still listening to the music and obviously still keen to support his stance on making Bonn a fit place for live music again.  The Lord Mayor was actually here to introduce Phillip Dittberner.  The audience in front of him was largely young and female and more keen to see Mr Dittberner who delivered a good set and had a nice mix visually of Elvis meets Johnny Cash at twenty that meant he was on to a winner before he opened his mouth.

Kenay - baseball cap beats

Kenay – baseball cap beats

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Eyecandy for the girls – Phiilpp Dittberner

I also seized the opportunity to become even more familiar with the Baseball cap and rap brigade.  Kenay had plenty of energy and a lively band that I enjoyed.  OK Kid seemed to be a tad too serious for my liking but redeemed themselves nicely by a late in the set crowd surf just as I was getting bored.

 

Which ultimately leads me to the end of the musical evening with Culcha Candela.   Lots of energetic running around the stage.  Their name translates as ‘Hot Culture’ and there’s is a Multi-Culti hot pot of sounds with Pop and Politics all mixed  together.  A perfect blend to end a perfect day’s music in Bonn in fact.

 

Already looking forward to Rockaue 2017 in fact.   Complaints are few.  Music from the the Electronic Stage tended to bleed onto the Main Stage at times which was a pity given the quality of the music on the latter.  Shame that the Local Stage can’t have a more prominent position given it’s popularity.   Small things really when compared to the huge success of bringing 15000 people together in one place with an atmosphere of fun and relaxation.  Not a drunk in sight despite the heat and good music as far as the ear could hear.

OK Kid goes walkabout

OK Kid goes walkabout – watched by a brigade of cellphones

 

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