Tracking Alex Chilton down by phone while he‘s touring in Spain is a hit-and-miss affair. And ifyou miss, which can happen, you sit tight until he comes by your town, and clutch your copy of the man‘s new ‘Black List‘ LP (New Rose). Comprising six R&B-steeped tracks, ‘Black List‘ was recorded in his favourite studio, Ardent, in Memphis. with long-term partners Doug Harrison on drums, Tommy McClure on bass and Jim Spake playing some slinky sax.
Not long out of school when he scored massive hits with ‘Cry Like a Baby’ and ‘The Letter’ as a member ofThe Box Tops, and carrying on his subsequent group, Big Star, till the I bitter end through a drink-induced haze, Chilton is still very much an underground hero. In the absence of great access to his music, he is often defined in terms of his more recognisable admirers— Tom Waits, REM, Mark E. Smith and Edwyn Collins, The Replacements (who penned a tribute entitled ’Alex Chilton‘) — and the artists he has produced — like The Cramps and Tav Falco‘s Panther Burns.
Just ask This Mortal Coil, who smoothed out the rough edges of Chilton‘s ‘Kanga Roo‘ (the original sounded like it was being improvised on the spot by some inspired but confused avant-garage band) and highlighted its fragile beauty at the expense of the sense of imminent breakdown that ran through Chilton’s version. He has never lost his knack for spinning a deft pop tune, though it mutated alarmingly over his period with Big Star, and it‘s manifest in chips ofbrilliance like ‘September Gurls‘ and ‘Bangkok‘ — all-time greats both. (Alastair Mabbott)
Alex Chilton plays at Glasgow College on Sun 4.
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It you harbour preconceived notions about big hands being dull and unimaginalive purveyors oi outdated music, or a reiuge ior musicians who can’t hack the demands oi improvisation (and in many cases, there is an element oi truth in both these accusations), then amble along to Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms and let the Danish Radio Big Band shatter your prejudices.
The 20-strong band, under conductor Ole Kock Hansen, make a second visit to Scotland (the iirst was recorded by the estimable Alastair Robertson tor his HEP label; the resulting record, ‘Crackdown’, has just been issued on CD) and should coniirm the good impression they made last time. They draw on a repertoire of original arrangements which their new manager, Niels Christensen, who ran
Copenhagen’s celebrated Montmartre club ior many years beiore joining the DRBB, tells me now stands around 2000.
Trumpeter and arranger Thad Jones (late brother oi Elvin and Hank) presided overthe building oi the band into its present iorm, and his unmistakable stamp still marks their iresh, decider un-nostalgic approach to what they clearly see as a developing music, ratherthan the irozen-in-asplc reltexes oi too many— and alien better known — big hands. Van Morrison clearly agrees: he has chosen to work with them on several occasions, and will be taking time all his own tour to play their London date on 19 February (but not, sadly, the Scottish one), which will also be recorded.
The DRBB played with Miles Davis on Palle Mikkelborg‘s superb tribute to the master, ‘Aura’, released last year on CBS aiter a long delay, demonstrating their command oi contemporary registers. tasked Niels ii there was any hope oi seeing the piece periormed again, but ‘when I asked Palle it he would be prepared to do it ior astronomical money at a big rock Festival in Denmark, he tumed it down itat. He doesn’t believe they could recapture the spirit of the original again, and would rather not see it compromised. He thinks the record is enough.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
Danish Radio Big Band, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, 25 Feb, 0pm.
. , - A“ ‘t’ll pound out a tune and very soon I’ll have too much to say and a dead stupid name.‘ Thus, Irvine’s Trash Can Sinatras stake their claim to imminent greatness with halt a notion oi seli-mockery, hali oi mendacious mutterings. Not only do they possess one oi the best names tor a band this side oi The Surilng Turks (who?), but also, theirs is a talent oi weighty measure: spring-like guitars, sunny spring-time vocals, and a debut EP with an almighty spring in its step. ‘Dbscurity Knocks’ is the ireshest breath, lresherthan Listerine mouthwash, but, unlortunately, independent tests show that it doesn‘t kill bacteria.
What it does do, though, is tell us that days oi jangle spangle beat groups are here again, and The Trash Can Sinatras and lellow Go! Dlsc-ers The La‘s are leading the crusade. ‘That’s an easy comparison to make because we’re on the same label and are both guitar
bands,’ guitaristJohn Douglas reproaches irom a phone box in London.
Okay, how about the Sound at Young Scotland eight years on? The ghost oi Roddy Frame circa ‘Pillar To Post’ waits in and out oi the groove (‘Aw naw, not Roddy Frame. . .’). These are domestic strummings oi the post-adolescent type, sensitive and costly-rendered heartielt pleadings. But The Trash Can Sinatras are never pttiiul. Their lyrics are too special ior that— a mixture at clever-clever linguistic teasings, pent-up bitterness, and wry glances at everday existence.
The Sound oi Young Scotland 1990? Is this why the Trash Can Sinatras have stayed north oi the border to record their album? ‘ltaw, it’s ‘cos you get your washing done by your mammle.’ (Craig McLean)
The Trash Can Sinatras play King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow on Fri 2.
Songwriter and guitarist Carlos Arredondo left his native Chile after the murder of Allende, when the expression of democratic ideals in song was inviting a bullet in the head. Now, married and living in Edinburgh, he runs Rincon Chileno, literally ‘Chilean corner‘, which has been going for over a year, with a range of guest musicians and poets— everything from Hamish Henderson to Le Jazz Hot. Arredondo himself, however, is not always what its patrons expect.
‘preople in Britain think of Latin American music,‘ he says, ‘they think of it as danceable, not about songs like mine. So it's not so easy. We started El Rincon as a venue partly because I was ﬁnding it difficult to get somewhere to perform, and because, when we had ﬁnished recording the cassette, Jim Sutherland, who produced it, told me to go out and sell it at concerts. Sol started my own.‘
The recording has brought in several invitations. In the spring, he will depart for London, Manchester and the Shetland Folk Festival with guitarist Galo Ceron, who performs modern Latin American composers like Villa Lobos and Piazzolla.
Carlos‘ abilities were spotted by John McGrath, and from 1984—88 he worked with the 7:84 theatre company, travelling twice to North America and writing and performing music for shows like TheAIbannach and Baby and the Bath water.
‘Although I've been here for 15 years,‘ says Carlos, ‘it was an honour for me, as a foreigner, to take part in Radio Scotland's Burns Night programme. A radio Burns Supper with Archie Fisher, Billy Kay, Jean Redpath and others. The cultural elite,‘ he says, with tongue a little in cheek, ‘even Richard Demarco was there!‘ (Norman Chalmers)
El Rincon Chileno, Cornerstone Cafe, West End, Edinburgh, Fri2.
LISTINGS: ROCK 37 JAZZ 39 FOLK 41 CLASSICAL 42
The List 23 February - 8 March 1990 33