Friday, 12 July 2019

Spelunking

I’ve been listening to a lot of what you would loosely categorise as library music and exotica recently. This is thanks primarily to my friend DJ GeorgyGirl, whose show, High Waisted Modernists, follows my own World’s Worst Records Radio Show on a Wednesday evening (and is an absolute must-listen), and to the recent purchase of a Martin Denny CD collection which pulls together eight of his albums, including Exotica, Exotica 2, Exotica 3 and Forbidden Island.


Today’s disc comes from the world of Exotica, a genre that took its name from Denny’s 1957 album and which is defined by Wikipedia as “the non-native, pseudo experience of insular Oceania, Southeast Asia, Hawaii, the Amazon basin, the Andes and tribal Africa. Denny described the musical style as ‘a combination of the South Pacific and the Orient...what a lot of people imagined the islands to be like...it's pure fantasy though.’ While the South Seas forms the core region, exotica reflects the ‘musical impressions’ of every place from standard travel destinations to the mythical ‘shangri-las’ dreamt of by armchair safari-ers.” Well, that clears that up then.

Chuck Holden’s The Cave not only encompasses the above, it also adds a wonderful layer of weird, a patina of peculiar if you will. When I found that it was also issued by Joe Leahy’s Unique Records, well I just had to have a copy.

I don’t know a lot about Holden: this is the only disc listed by him at Discogs, and that only appears to exist as promos – no one yet has turned up a stock copy. But it’s an absolute pip: Holden strums his zither (or I guess it could be an autoharp) while some unnamed, dusky sounding maiden shrieks over the top of his rather basic instrumentation. It’s mad and it’s ace! I have unearthed a few details though: as leader of the Charles Holden Orchestra he had a residency at Manhattan’s El Morocco nightclub in the 1950s and ‘60s. Credited as Charles Holden and Orchestra, they released one album, again on Unique, Dancing at “El Morocco”, 25 light jazz arrangements of popular classics including You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Putting on the Ritz and, tantalisingly, The Third Man Theme which I’ve not heard but one has to wonder if Mr. H dusts off his zither for. According to the album’s sleeve notes “the most unique and outstanding characteristic of Mr. Holden’s eight-piece group is its tremendous repertoire which includes the favorite songs of every well-known patron who frequents the club.”

Anyway, make of this what you will. I love it, and it led me down a path of discovery towards more cave-themed oddities, some of which you’ll hear if you tune in to next week’s World’s Worst Records Radio Show.

Here are both sides, The Cave and My Lost Melody. Enjoy!


Download Cave HERE

Download Melody HERE

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Bandwidth Exceeded

Just the briefest of notes.

I know many of you have been frustrated, coming here to download the latest aural calamity simply to be told that your request has been denied because we have exceeded the limits of our bandwidth and that you need to try again later.

Well, hopefully, that is now a thing of the past! For today I have started paying for extra space in the ether to store and share our audio horrors. From tomorrow (Sunday, 7 July) you should no longer have any trouble downloading any of the live links on the blog. Ain't I kind?

This blog has been running for 12 years now: the money I'm paying for that extra bandwidth is not enormous, so I'm not asking for any of you to chip in, but please remember that I make no money from this, all of the costs incurred come straight out of my pocket. If you'd like to do something tangible to show support, listen in to the World's Worst Records Radio Show, and join the Facebook page to help grow this community of like-minded mad music fiends. If you're feeling exceptionally generous, check out my books.

Ta!

Friday, 5 July 2019

Xylophones for Jesus


On my never-ending hunt for peculiar recordings, I often pick up things that look ‘different’, only to be disappointed. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have purchased a record just because I liked the otherworldliness of its cover simply to find something mediocre inside the jacket.

Today’s disc almost fell into that category, in fact, I had earmarked it for return to a charity shop or some such, but on closer inspection – and a good listening to – it proved to be not only worthy of my collection but also worth bringing to your attention, dear readers. And, as a bonus, it’s autographed by the main protagonist.

Ken Cushing Xylophone with Margaret Veal Pianoforte has to be one of the most peculiar Christian-themed records released in the UK, easily on a par with Marcy Tigner’s trombone albums. Who on earth ever thought that a man hammering away at a bunch of wooden blocks with a pair of mallets was going to lead sinners onto the path to salvation?

Searching for info, I discover that Mr. Cushing originally hailed from Halifax and had been playing xylophone professionally since at least 1942. He was still playing concerts for the Salvation Army into the mid-1970s, having himself relocated to the seaside town of Flamborough. Margaret Veal, a pianist from Abertillery in South Wales, also began her career in sacred music in the 1940s and often played Salvation Army concerts and fundraisers through until the early 1970s.

I also discovered that Ken and Marge had played together in Bristol, my hometown, in 1968. On 27 April of that year, the duo played a fundraiser for the Salvation Army Bristol’s Easton Road Corps, alongside the Bristol Easton Road Band and the Treorchy Male Choir. During the 40s Ken played in Gloucester, the city I was born in (and couldn’t get away from fast enough). Later He became involved with Christian Endeavour, an inter-denominational organisation which trains and equips young people to become church leaders. A woman called Margaret Veal worked extensively as a musical director and accompanist in the 70s and 80s, but I doubt that was our Marge, as her repertoire was decidedly more secular.

Issued by Pilgrim Records in 1964, the Ken Cushing Xylophone with Margaret Veal Pianoforte EP appears to have been Ken’s sole release, although he did appear on recordings by other artists, including the 1976 album by the Cambridge Heath Songsters, May Jesus Christ Be Praised! Ken’s photo appeared on the back of the album sleeve, even though he only performs on two songs. The same year that this EP was released, Ken and Marge played together at the inaugural Festival of Evangelical Mixed Voice Choirs at the Albert Hall, a huge choir festival that would grow to incorporate thousands of voices.

Here are both sides of this oddity. Enjoy!

Download Side 1 HERE

Download Side 2 HERE

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