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DID THEY CUT THE MUSTARD IN 2017? : #1 : RANDOLPH’S LEAP and PELTS

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As I’m not expecting to get to anything like the same number of gigs in 2017 as I have in recent years I’m going to make more of an effort to share my thoughts on any live experiences. My only worry is that I’ve never really liked the idea or concept of the blog being used to rubbish something – that’s why when a new release or a gig has not lived up to my expectations that I don’t mention it at all rather than offer some derogatory observations. But I promise to be honest and be brutal, should the need arise, throughout this series.

My first gig in 2017 only came about from being badgered by MJ, a mate of many years standing and whose interests in music occasionally dissect with my own. MJ does like his indie music – indeed he was saying on the night we met up how much he had enjoyed Echorich’s ACR ICA as it brought back happy memories of seeing and then meeting them backstage in Aberdeen in the mid-80s when it took a great effort not to do his fan-boy thing and ask all about Joy Division/New Order/Factory Records. MJ however, also has a predilection for some of the traditional folk material that has been the mainstay of Scottish music for centuries and so he has always been a huge supporter of the Celtic Connections festival that takes place in Glasgow each January/February.

He was insistent that we go to a gig together this year and he gave me free rein to choose and I plumped for something on the final night of the 2017 event with Randolph’s Leap headlining at Broadcast, supported by Pelts. I did so on the basis that I thought MJ, knowing very little about the Leap, would find something enjoyable in their music and performance. I’ll come back to that in due course…..

First of all though, I want to give a thank you to Pelts for getting 2017 off to a decent start in terms of live music. I knew nothing about the band in advance and deliberately didn’t seek out any info beforehand as I wanted, as dear old George Michael advised, to listen without prejudice.

There were six members of Pelt on stage last Sunday – seemingly there is a magnificent seventh who plays a little bit of horn but who was otherwise professionally engaged and unavailable. That left us with two vocalists (one of whom doubled up on rhythm guitar), a lead guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and drummer. They were neither young nor old (although compared to your 53-years of age scribe almost everyone else inside the 200-capacity Broadcast was young) – the sort of folk who you could picture being  decent and popular work colleagues; and nor could I help but think such was their technical abilities and lack of nerves that most, if not all of them, had been performing in bands for quite some time.

They played a set of maybe seven or eight songs, most of which started off quietly and then gradually built up a wall of sound to which all the musicians contributed impressively while the contrasting styles of the two vocalists – Graham and Natasha – suited perfectly. The set included a number of past singles, one of which they were rightly proud to inform us had been praised on social media by the comedian Johnny Vegas, before they brought things to a close with the two songs that were making up their latest double-A sided single that had been released specially to coincide with the gig. Maybe it was the fact that the band was naturally less familiar with the newer material but the two new songs didn’t quite seem to have the punch and instant appeal of some of the material, but again, maybe that’s as much to do with me having really enjoyed the opening 20-25 minutes and then thinking the eventual final running order didn’t quite work. But on this first exposure, I’d certainly be happy enough to go see Pelts again, as indeed I imagine would most of the those present, judging by the appreciation shown throughout the gig (nobody was talking during the quiet moments) and the loud applause at the end.

Here’s where you can read more about them as well as listen to some music. Here’s one of the past singles which dates back all the way to July 2013 :-

 

After a quick turnaround, all eight members of Randolph’s Leap came on stage for what was their first show of 2017. It was an occasion when they had asked fans in advance to make suggestions via Facebook and so it was odds-on that some old favourites would be aired for the first time in ages. Over the piece they delivered with aplomb, thanks to a 19-song set that leaned for the most part on the two studio LPs Clumsy Knot (2014) and Cowardly Deeds (2016) but which also delved into the earlier lo-fi releases that had earlier brought the talents of frontman Adam Ross to the attentions of many across the Scottish blogging community.

It was as confident, vibrant, self-assured and as tight a performance as I’ve ever seen from the band albeit we had the amusing and highly unusual sight of Adam forgetting one or two of the lyrics along the way. There was a great rapport with the near-capacity audience who, as with Pelts previously, behaved impeccably and showed great respect during the quieter moments. It would be great to think the rest of the gigs I head out to in 2017 will be similar….but I know it won’t work out that way.

MJ came away very impressed at what he’d seen. This was his sixth Celtic Connections gig of 2017 and it made enough of an impression that he raced to the merchandise stall to buy a CD before picking up a wonderful souvenir as the band, thanks to the help of manager Lloyd Meredith, put each of their signatures to the promo poster.

I know Randolph’s Leap don’t perform all that often outside of Scotland which is a real shame for those who do live further afield for they make for a great night out with the live versions of the songs achieving that rare and difficult trick of proving to be better than they are on record – and given that I went on record that Clumsy Knot was the best LP of 2014 you can tell I’m not offering the live observation as any double-edged sort of compliment.

Set List

Deep Blue Sea/Not Thinking/Real Anymore/Goodbye/Back Of My Mind/Under the Sun/Isle of Love/Microcosm/Psychic/News/Hermit/Like A Human/Nature/Counting Sheep/I Can’t Dance To This Music/Crisps

Encore

Weatherman/Indie King/Light of the Moon

The band also revealed that they will be next on stage in Glasgow on Saturday 1 April, headlining what will be the fifth of their own special curated festivals of music and comedy under the banner ‘Can’t Dance To This Music’. The other acts on the bill will be announced over the coming weeks, but given that these were the previous musicians you can guarantee quality:-

I Can’t Dance To This Music 1 : July 2014 (daytime event): Randolph’s Leap/BMX Bandits/The State Broadcasters/Skinny Dipper/Neil Pennycook (Meursault)/David MacGregor (Kid Canaveral)/Vic Galloway (DJ set)

I Can’t Dance To This Music 2 : November 2014 (evening event) : Randolph’s Leap/Teen Canteen/Ballboy/CARBS/Adam Stafford/Chrissy Barnacle

I Can’t Dance To This Music 3 : February 2015 (two-part all-day event): Randolph’s Leap/Tigercats/Withered Hand/Henry & Fleetwood/Eagleowl/Viking Moses/Prehistoric Friends/Kate Lazda (Kid Canaveral)

I Can’t Dance To This Music 4 : October 2016 (two-part all-day event): Randolph’s Leap/Kathryn Joseph/James Yorkston/Ette/Spare Snare/Book Group/Life Model/

Keep an eye out for tickets for edition #5. It will be a grand day out

mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – Hermit

 

 

More stuff available here

Enjoy.

NEW MUSIC REVIEW : COWARDLY DEEDS by RANDOLPH’S LEAP

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Maybe it is the onset of old age, but I’m struggling to remember a time like now for Scotland experiencing such a glut of talented musicians. Hardly a week seems to go by without someone or other putting out some sort of new material in the shape of singles, downloads or albums that deserve to find a place on the shelves of any serious collection (or at worst on the hard drive of your laptop if you’re digitally inclined).

I always thought the 80s would be the high point as evidenced by the number of features on this blog over time but the time has come to reassess things and accept that the past ten years or so has been better than ever. Just off the top of my head – Franz Ferdinand, Twilight Sad, Young Fathers, Sons & Daughters, Butcher Boy, Biffy Clyro, Django Django, Meursault, PAWS, The Unwinding Hours, Adam Stafford, Phantom Band, Frightened Rabbit, De Rosa, King Creosote, Admiral Fallow, RM Hubbert, Honeyblood, Miaoux Miaoux, Hector Berzerk, C Duncan, Kid Canaveral, Plastic Animals, Withered Hand, Zoey van Goey and Errors have all emerged and made some ridiculously good music (yes….. I know I’ve missed out obvious others…as I said it was off the top of my head in the time it took me to type it!!). And that’s without listing your Mogwais, Edwyns, Aidans, Malcolms, Roddys and Emmas who pre-date the 21st century but continue to make equally ridiculously good music decades on.

This week, I find myself wishing to sing the praises – again – of Randolph’s Leap who are about to release sophomore album Cowardly Deeds on Olive Grove Records.

The band have been part of the music scene around these parts for about six years now making what has accurately been described as joyous brass-tinged, folk-pop centred around the not inconsiderable talents of singer-songwriter Adam Ross. There had been a number of low-key, lo-fi and largely home-made cassette and CD released in the initial years and it wasn’t until 2014 that the debut LP, Clumsy Knot, was made available bringing together all eight members on all sorts of instruments. The album became an instant favourite at Villain Towers with a number of big-sounding and upbeat songs where keyboards, violin, trumpet and trombone combined in a way that invoked memories of Dexy’s at the height of their powers laced with lyrics that were akin to the gentle humour and playfulness of Neil Hannon. Alongside these were some lovely folk-like ballads laced with wry amusingly bitter one-liners that brought to mind the genius of early Martin Stephenson.

And like any other band worthy of attention, Randolph’s Leap were somehow even more enjoyable in the live setting than on record.

My great fear however, was that the band would suffer from second album syndrome with Cowardly Deeds failing to scale the same heights. And if truth be told, when I got my advance copy a few months back courtesy of Lloyd Meredith (band manager, proprietor of Olive Grove Records and one of the nicest and most genuine fellas in the local music industry), my first couple of listens seemed to confirm those fears. The mistake I was making however, was that I was listening out for a re-hash of the debut as that was what I was probably secretly and deep-down hoping for.

It is a record which is less diverse than the debut but that is more than compensated for by the fact it is a very polished and accomplished piece of work jammed with tunes that would and will sound marvelous when broadcast by radio stations. The sort of songs – fast and slow alike – that if you hear the first thing in the morning stick around in your brain all day long, with the chorus just demanding to be sung or whistled. You want proof? Well, here’s the tracks that have been made widely available via videos:-

Cowardly Deeds is a spring/summer sort of album. One for light mornings and later evenings when the sun seems to take forever to go down. It’s a record which cements Randolph’s Leap as being worthy of adding to that list at the top of this posting. And somewhere quite near the top if I was to rank them.

Keep an eye out for the band hopefully heading your way (in the UK at least) over the coming months. Whether in their full 8-piece ensemble or just Adam on stage with his acoustic guitar, you are guaranteed a great night out.

Here’s some older material to give you a flavour:-

mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – Deep Blue Sea (from The Curse of The Haunted Headphones home recordings, 2012)
mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – Rough (from As Fast As A Man, home recordings, 2012)
mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – Counting Sheep (from Introducing, self-released compilation 2012)
mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – Indie King (from the Real Anymore mini-album, 2013)
mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – Hermit (from Clumsy Knot CD, 2014)

Click here for the album which is officially released on Friday 20 May. (and with a bit of luck I’ll be at the launch at this gig in Glasgow)

Cheers.

THE 500th POST On T(n)VV

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With thanks to everyone, whether you’ve submitted a guest post, left a comment, sent me an e-mail or simply dropped in for a look.

It’s sometimes been a bit of a struggle keeping the new blog going – I’m not sure it will ever give me the same sense of excitement and satisfaction as the old blog – but every now and again there’s something drops into the inbox or comments section that makes me realise that it is still all worthwhile.

I thought I’d celebrate by featuring some songs ripped from the vinyl collection that I don’t think have ever appeared previously on this or the old blog.

mp3 : The Jam – Happy Together
(From the LP The Gift (which I still I have in its pink and white gift wrapping))

mp3 : Meursault – Settling
(from the LP Something for The Weakened (in recognition of one of the best bands to have come and gone in the few short years I’ve been doing this nonsense – good luck with the new venture Neil)

mp3 : The Cramps – Jailhouse Rock
(from the NME compilation LP The Last Temptation of Elvis (in acknowledgement of my first ever gig more than 35 years ago))

mp3 : Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone
(from the LP Highway 61 Revisited (the original 1965 mono version – gifted to me by someone a few weeks ago when they learned I had a passion for vinyl))

mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – I Can’t Dance To This Music Anymore
(from the LP Clumsy Knot (just a way of sneaking in a track from my favourite album of 2014))

Here’s a live ‘unplugged’ version of the Randolph’s Leap song which was filmed in a pub very very close to my place of work in the east end of Glasgow and which was the venue for some of my most magical musical memories this past 12 months.

Enjoy.

And here’s to the next 500 bits of nonsense.

CLUMSY KNOT by RANDOLPH’S LEAP

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I’ve temporarily taken over S-WC’s spot this week as I want to draw your attention to what has a very strong chance of finishing 2014 as my favourite LP of the year.

Officially released yesterday, but launched at a gig last Saturday evening at a venue about a mile from Villain Towers, Clumsy Knot is the ‘proper’ debut LP by Randolph’s Leap. It has come out on a relatively new label, Lost Map, which is run by Johnny Lynch, (aka The Pictish Trail) a name which will be very familiar to fans of Fence Records, a venture which he was a huge part of  until late 2013.

I was lucky enough to have been passed on an advance copy of Clumsy Knot about three weeks ago and it has been on heavy rotation ever since.   While I’ve been well aware of the band for a while, not least for the fact that some of the best and most knowledgable Scottish music bloggers out there (and in particular Mike from Manic Pop Thrills and Lloyd from Peenko) have been raving about them, this was the first I had really sat down and given the music my close attention.

There are 13 tracks on the LP.  Some of them are re-workings of songs previously available on a range of low-key and lo-fi recordings these past couple of years.  Now I’m in the fortunate position of not having to compare the merits of the earlier home-made versions against what has now been released and so I’m coming to Clumsy Knot without any pre-conceived ideas.  And I’m prepared to say that it is an exceedingly fine record with loads of moments that thrilled me in ways that are all too rare nowadays when I’m listening to new and emerging bands for the first time.

There are loads of bands out there, particularly here in Scotland, who are incredibly adept at blending folk, indie and pop in ways that are hugely enjoyable.  But Randolph’s Leap have raised that particular bar just a bit higher.

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It’s an album on which the talents of all eight performers can be appreciated,  especially on the big-sounding, uptempo and impossible not to dance-to songs such as past single Hermit where the keyboards, violin, trumpet and trombone invoke marvellous memories of Dexy’s at the height of their powers but with lyrics that invoke the gentle humour and playfulness of Neil Hannon.  On the other side of the coin, there’s a song like Weatherman, a gut-wrenching break-up song laced with a couple of wry and amusingly bitter one-liners,  while Black & Blue is one which musically got me thinking about some of the acoustic material written back in the early years by Martin Stephenson.

And thinking about it further – just as  Boat to Bolivia veered all over the place some thirty years ago in a way that has made it one of my favourite albums of all time, then Clumsy Knot is a record impossible to pigeon-hole given the wide range of styles employed throughout.

I think it’s also worth mentioning that, on the first couple of listens, I was also struck by a similarity that some of the songs had in sound to material written and recorded by Paulo Nutini. This observation was and remains based admittedly on a limited knowledge of the Paisley troubadours material, but given how his catchy and radio-friendly songs have earned him millions of pounds while keeping on the right side of the critics, then there’s surely enough room and interest to put the band and this new label firmly on the map.

However, my praise for this particular record and the band is not simply down to a few weeks on the i-pod.

Readers of old will know that the music snob in me holds back from giving out fulsome praise until I’ve had the chance to see if the singer or band in question can cut the mustard in a live setting, and up until last Saturday, I had only seen Randolph’s Leap-lite – i.e either frontman Adam Ross on his own or with just some of his bandmates and never as the main attraction.

This time it was the full thing, and despite being handicapped by a venue that was less than ideal for sound (it’s part of 100-year old former school building with a lot of echo) as well as what seemed like a bit of an below-par PA, Randolph’s Leap turned in a mesmerising, energetic and captivating performance, roared on by 250-strong audience delighted to be part of what was such a special occasion.  My roars were as loud as those who have been following the band from the beginning.

It was a gig I went home from with a big daft grin on my face.  One that stayed with me all of Sunday as I went through to watch my football team compete in a cup final for the first time in 20 years.  The daft grin just got wider as I watched my team defy the odds and pull off what many regarded as a shock win.

Today, I went back to work and again played the album one more time.  The gig and the football match are now intertwined events in my mind and always will be.

Forget the  ‘strong chance’ I gave Clumsy Knot for album of the year.   It’s a shoo-in………….

mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – Hermit

Clumsy Knot is available to buy here. It can also, for a short time, be listened to here.

Enjoy