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GOSPEL Blind Boys of Alabama Glasgow: Old Fruitmarket, Sun 31 May.
As commentators get all nostalgic and wise over the tenth anniversary of acid house, or bemoan the 30-plus year motion of the Rolling Stones, it's somewhat humbling to consider that the Blind Boys of Alabama are nailing down their sixth decade of creating God's music.
Clarence Fountain formed his first gospel group, The Happy Land Singers, at the Talladega Alabama Institute For The Deaf And Blind back in 1939, when he was eight years old. Lining up alongside the young Fountain in that original group were Johnny Fields, Jimmy Carter and George Scott, all of whom will be present when the Blind Boys of Alabama take to the stage of the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow as part of this year’s ,Big Big Country festival.
'We had an advantage over all the of the rest of the gospel groups,’ Fountain remembers, ‘because you hardly ever saw a bunch of blind guys on stage in concert.’
The Happy Land Singers became the Blind Boys of Alabama — Fountain, Fields, Carter and Scott are all blind - when they heard about a rival group, the long
The beautiful Deep South: Blind Boys of Alabama deceased Blind Boys of Mississippi. It was as such that they signed to Speciality Records, releasing their debut 78 in 1948. Label mates with both Little Richard and Sam Cooke, Fountain remembers being in the studio when Cooke, then the lead tenor with gospel outfit The Soul Stirrers, first began recording ’pop songs’ at the urging of Speciality's A&R department in 1956. ‘Sam was the best at gospel and rock ’n' roll,’ he says. ’I wasn’t surprised he switched. We all knew gospel didn’t pay enough.’
Like Cooke and Richard, Fountain began singing as a child at the Baptist church and revival meetings he attended ’five days a week and twice on Sunday'. Unlike them, though, he and the Blind Boys have never left the path they first set out upon for the charms of secular music. Despite slight infusions of funk and soul stylings, the sound the Blind Boys of Alabama make stretches in a direct line to the raw-boned, jubilant river- bank prayer meetings of the early part of the century. It's a thrilling, hypnotic, organic noise, at times almost terrifying in its power and spirituality. The key to their music, though, is celebration.
Though raised in the south of America in times of both depression and vehement racism, the group truly make a joyful noise unto the Lord. We won't see their like again. And that's gospel. (Damien Love)
Pop eccentric Peter Blegvad is something for Le Weekend
stadium. So, on a practical level it's quite easy to approach these people to get involved.’
Le Weekend has grown out of the success of two unforgettable concerts staged at the town’s Tolbooth Theatre last year featuring Death Ambient and Gr0und Zero, whose mainman Otomo Yoshihide is returning with his new guitar / sampler / electronics free-fall collective ISO.
Shearer acknowledges that, on those initial nights, there were more people turning up from Glasgow and Edinburgh than from Stirling itself. However, although bringing people into Stirling is a major aim of the weekend, she has hopes that more
Stirling: Tolbooth Theatre, The Changing Room, Fri 29—Sun 31 May.
Though famous for, oh, tons of stuff probably, down through the pages of Scottish history Stirling has never been the first town to leap to mind when it comes to challenging, cutting edge, contemporary avant-garde musical activity. Until recently, that is. Now, with Le Weekend, a three-day festival devoted to what the street kids are calling ’inventive new music’, this
42 ‘I’IIEIJST 28 May- ll Jun 1998
former seat of many a Scottish monarch is playing host to a line-up of conceptual noise terrorists and guerrilla improvisers one would more readily expect to find among the rarefied, art- headed climes of the likes of London's lCA.
’There's a democracy to this kind of music, it runs at a parallel to the mainstream,’ says Jackie Shearer, Stirling’s Arts Development Officer, whose brain-child the shebang is. ’They're not using the same systems of publicity, you don’t have to go through agents, don’t have to have a massive
Stirling natives will get involved and has been working with local DJs on the programming of Le Weekend planning to run a hands-on deejaying workshop during the event. Waterstones bookshop are also getting involved, providing a selection of appropriate titles and avant-muso zine The Wire will have a presence, too. The hope is that this is the inaugural episode of what will become an annual occurrence — so cross your fingers. And buy your tickets. (Damien Love)
I More info on 01786 473 544. For full line up see listings.
The Young Offenders
Glasgow: KTWWH,Wed 3 Jun; Edinburgh: (35 Rock, Thu 4 Jun.
In the current climate, where musical and lyrical honesty seems to be the optimum mode of expression, it’s refreshing to come across a band who blithely admit that they are a bunch of contrived opportunists and an this time we’ve been telling lies to you’ as The Young Offenders do on 'Cry Babies', an extra track on their current single ’Science Fiction’, which itself is a Rocky Horror glam punk stomp about a perennial favourite topic.
’lt's a blatant attempt to get in the charts,’ says curlytopped singer Ciaran MacFeely with no trace of bashfulness. ‘Everyone is talking about pre- millennium tension so we jumped on the bandwagon. Any excuse to have a year 2000 hit. It was written about when we came over at first and we were aliens in London. It's a cheesy version of that.’
The four-piece relocated from their home town of Cork — ’an anagram of rock as i always like to point out' - to the Big Smoke, which provided further opportunity for blatant dishonesty.
’I really have a problem with that thing when you become a teenager and you find out what you’re meant to be and people who know what you used to look like always slag you off,’ says Ciaran. ’PeOpIe never let you change and I just had to leave a place where peOpIe knew what I used to be like.
'We signed in London and we didn’t go home. No one knew who we were, which was great for the band because it meant we could tell lies about who we were and no one could see the past bad haircuts. We could become Young Offenders.’
Though not literally, of course, because they’re nice boys who promise to combine Bowie glam, bratty punk, pomp rock and MGM musicals, when their debut album sees the light of day.
’There's no reason why any young man under the age of 25 should release an album that is not completely over-the-top and pompous,’ concludes Ciaran. Long live the Queen influence. (Fiona Shepherd)
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The Young Offenders doing the borstal boy stomp