MIS Bulletin #731 – Sunday 12th May to Saturday 18th 2013
It’s been a long time in the making, but after much hard work by the band and much anticipation from ourselves, we finally got ourselves on the finished Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra album, The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius.
Although the album’s not due for release until June we’ve managed to get hold of a copy early, and you can find a track-by-track lowdown of the The Ska Orchestra’s production in this very issue.
If that doesn’t whet your appetite for it, we don’t know what will.
Enjoy the read!
See below for all forthcoming Madness and Madness related gigs and events. If there’s something we’ve missed off or you feel should be added then please let us know.
June 9th Rockness, Iverness, Scotland
June 12th Armada Festival, France
June 14th Chepstow Race course, UK
June 15th Newark Festival, UK
June 28th Newcastle Race course, UK
June 29th Daytripper, Waterford, Ireland
July 6th Carlise Racecourse, Carlisle, UK
July 7th Nuits De Fourviere Festival, Lyon, France
July 8th Les Deferlantes, d’Argeles Sur Mer, France
July 10th Jazz Montauban Festival, France
July 11th Festival De Poupet, France
July 12th Henley Festival, Henley On Thames, UK
July 17th Sandown Park Racecourse, UK
July 19th Newmarket Racecourse, UK
July 20th Haydock Park Racecourse, UK
August 10th Fete Du Bruit, Landerneau, France
August 11th Brussels Summer Fest, Belgium
September 16th L’Olympia, Paris, France
September 22nd Northants CCC, UK
September 28th Alexandra Palace, London, UK
October 12th Esprit Arena, Duesseldorf, Germany
November 22nd-25th House Of Fun Weekender, Minehead, UK
For tickets see links via: www.madness.co.uk
May 14th Peterborough Cressett, May 15th Scunthorpe Baths Hall
May 16th Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall, May 17th Poole Lighthouse
May 18th Worthing Pavilion, May 20th Harrogate Theatre
May 21st Bridlington Spa Theatre, May 22nd Stockton Arc
May 23rd Whitley Bay Playhouse, May 24th Durham Gala
May 25th Glasgow Pavilion, May 26th Barrow Forum
May 28th New Brighton Floral Pavilion, May 29th Lancaster Grand
May 30th Warrington Parr Hall, May 31st Preston Charter Theatre
June 1st Spalding South Holland Centre, June 2nd Ipswich Corn Exchange
June 5th Chatham Central Theatre
For Tickets: http://www.suggslive.com/
The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra
May 16th Chelsea, Under The Bridge, London, UK
May 20th Bristol, The Fleece, UK
May 24th Manchester, Band on the wall, UK
May 25th Newcastle, Think Tank, UK
NEW * May 28th ALBUM LAUNCH, London, Dublin Castle, Camden
August 11th United Colours Festival, Sheffield
August 16th Belgium (Brussels Summer Fest)
See ticket links via: www.ltso.mis-online.net
If you’re stuck for something to spend your money on, perhaps we can help…
Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da Special Edition: 70 Track CD/DVD 4 Disc
Near Jazz Experience: Acoustic Part I & II, 3D 7″ or Mp3
Pre Order: Benevolence Of Sister Mary Ignatius – The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra.
Out June 3rd
Pre Order: Suggs That Close My Story Book.
Out October 24th
Live Suggs T-shirt and more at Suggs Live Store:
Keep Moving T-Shirt
Now on sale at a mere £10
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Below is a selection of interviews, articles and other items of recent news that have caught our eye over the course of the past week. Click on the links to be taken to the relevant page.
Newly uploaded – One step beyond 1980 on French Top Club.
Robert Elms – Radio show. LTSO session. (Uploaded by Darren Dixon)
Hear the acoustic Napoleon Solo session and the interview in which Lee announces the album launch and talks about buying old Ska and reggae records. It Mek was the first record Lee ever bought.
WOODY BLOGS TO MAGIC BROTHERS WEBSITE
In a blog post to the Magic Brothers web site Woody mentions a few of the forthcoming tracks on the album. These include:
Always Be With You
You Don’t Have to Hide Your Love Away
Check out the band’s website with the full blog from Woody on The Magic Line album, where he talks about all the musicians working on the production. These include many who have worked on previous Madness albums.
SUGGS A LIFE OF MUSIC
They lived in a succession of rented rooms, the young lad trailing around after her when she went drinking in famous watering holes like the Colony.
“I’ll never forget it,” says Suggs. “You’d walk up this rickety green staircase and enter a room full of artists and actors and various hangers-on, all drinking and smoking. But, amid all the booze, it was a creative hotbed. Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, George Melly, Jeffrey Bernard – they were all regulars.”
REGGAE STEADY SKA – LEE THOMPSON INTERVIEW
“We were offered a support at Camden Town’s ‘Music Machine’ – a place where the BBC had recorded radios comedies in the 50s and where Charlie Chaplin had performed before. My granddad was a fan of the Bedford Music Hall opposite. We were billed as ‘Morris & The Minors’, a name that Mike had come up with. It stayed with us for one gig!
‘Sore Throat’, a band I had seen on many occasions, headlined. They were good but we played and performed better. The amphetamines may have played a part but, as a band, together as a team, before realising what business we were getting ourselves into… I wouldn’t change it for the world!”
TWEETS OF A DOVE
Snippets from Twitter or the Madness Message Board that have caught our eye…
Mark was asked on Twitter, “Who was the guy in bed in the One Step Beyond video?”
Mark replied by saying, “What I do know is that he followed the band everywhere in the early days.”
In the cupboard Chris was asked about reviving the song Sunshine Voice, and replied with, “I was thinking that we could play that song one of these days. Doubt if we will, though.”
I LIKE TO STAY IN AND WATCH TV
MIS Online bring you an exclusive video and mix from the Special Edition era of songs. Check out Man of Steel (Aka Doollaly mix)
This is a montage of war films and Pathe news clips set to an earlier mix of a track that then appeared in it’s final form on the Special Edition Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da album. The project has been masterminded by Lee Thompson choosing the clips, and green lighting the edits of the footage as the project went along.
Compiled and produced by Darren Dixon, it shows a montage or moodboard for the kind of things that go through the songwriters mind when working on this track.
I REMEMBER WAY BACK WHEN
This week, MIS co-editor Rob Hazelby, goes back 5 years to issue 471, and the week of Sunday 11th May to Saturday 17th May 2008, and then back 10 years to issue 209 and the week of Sunday 11th May to Saturday 17th May 2003.
5 years ago…
Issue 471 – Sunday 11th May to Saturday 17th May 2008
This issue got off the starting blocks thanks to Looby, who kindly gave us an in-depth review of the recent Crunch! gig, held in Brighton on the 4th of May.
“I’ve never been to a Crunch! gig before, so this was a whole new experience for me. I was trying to keep an open mind about what to expect and not let what I’d heard and read about previous gigs cloud my judgment. Not only was I concerned about the band’s lack of rehearsal time, I’d also noticed a recent bulletin on Myspace posted by Chrissy Boy himself stating that the band’s saxophone player (Sexy) Steve Annan had gone ‘AWOL’. Despite all this I was still excited to hear the band play live and I hoped and prayed all would go well and that plenty of people would turn up and support them”.
Thankfully, all went to plan, and all enjoyed a fantastic gig. For those wondering whether any further Crunch! gigs would take place, towards the end of the evening Lee was heard to say “I really enjoyed that, I think I’ll do it again sometime.”.
For the anoraks out there our next article came courtesy of Darren Dicka, and simply gave a lowdown of the cast list for those performing the latest run of the Our House musical.
Next, it was over to The Pet Shop Boys. Why? Well, the duo recently performed at London night club Heaven, as part of the “Can You Bear it?” benefit night for the family of Dainton Connell, who was tragically killed in a car accident. What did this have to do with Madness? Well, Suggs and Carl took to the stage to perform a chaotic version of My Girl alongside The Pet Shop Boys.
We moved on to the subject of concept albums for the next article, as Jonathan Young decided that whatever the weather we’d have this July, August and September you could make yourself a Madness album to be the soundtrack of the summer.
Entitled “The Weather Album”, the tracklisting was as follows:
1. Forecast (Michael Fish)
2. Wonderful Summer
3. White Heat
4. Summer in London
5. (Hear the) Sunshine Boys
6. Patience (vocal mix)
7. Grey Day
8. (In the…) Rain
9. The Coldest day
10. Thunder and Lightning
11. The Sun and the Rain 12″
We brought this issue to a close with a selection of short fan reviews of The Pet Shop Boys demo of “My Girl”.
Chris Carter-Pegg commented; “It’s not bad but slightly disappointing – not the best PSB track I’ve ever heard, a bit of a half-hearted effort… I think I’ll stick with Tracey Ullman’s version!”
Meanwhile, Paul Rodgers was certainly less favourable;
“God this Pet Shop Boys version is awful and I say that despite not being averse to all things Pet Shop. Horrendous, quite possibly the worst cover I’ve heard including some of those on the Madland cassette from the 80s, even people on X Factor are better than that.”
10 years ago…
Issue 209 – Sunday 4th May to Saturday 17th May 2003.
We started off this week’s issue by pointing readers in the direction of a site which we declared was full of pages and pages of purile rubbish. The “1000 People More Annoying Than Mick Hucknall” web site contained (as we said at the time);
“some of the most pathetic drivel I have ever had the opportunity to read on the internet. The forums aren’t amusing, they’re just a place where people are openly abusing celebrities. There’s no amusing explanations about why such-and-such a person should be listed. In the case of the Suggs entry it’s just a number of people being down right abusive.
It’s interesting to note that the people providing reasons (usually just saying he’s sh1t, or words to that effect) are the people on there with the poorest grasp of the English language. You’ll also, be pleased to know that the people knocking our Mr McPherson are hideously outnumbered, and people are demanding that Suggs be removed from the list.”
With the ball now rolling on this year’s Madness Weekender, we included an update, which listed the line-up of weekend events, and the price. The very reasonable £120 would get you three days of bed and breakfast, Badness, One Step Behind, a disco, karaoke, a buffet, and a charity auction.
Elsewhere, and many people were having trouble finding new posts submitted to the official Madness messageboard, as posts were appearing randomly, meaning that newly posted items were proving difficult to track down. Thankfully, help was at hand, as members of both the MTR and MIS moderation/editing team had pulled out the new and interesting posts, so that you didn’t have to.
Madness tribute bands – The UK has more than a couple of them up and down the country, and this week we discovered that Wales had also given birth to their own tribute outfit, in the form of ‘Baggy Trousers’.
We finished off this week’s issue with heads-up on forthcoming gigs from two London bands. First-up were MOT, who would be performing at The Cherry Jam on Thursday the 15th of May, and then on the 31st of May the legendary Like Father, Like Son would be appearing at non other than The Dublin Castle, in Camden Town.
Later… With Sister Mary Ignatius
The great news over at Mission Mary HQ is that The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra are due to appear on Later with Jools Holland, live with Bitty McLean, in tow for the May 21st edition of the BBC music show. Airing Fu ManChu to the masses, with a second track to air on the Friday show.
With the May dates about to kick off in Chelsea, more dates up north, and the album launch set for The Dublin Castle on May 28th, it’s time for us to review the album in it’s entirety.
THE BLESSING OF SISTER MARY
In a stylish blue card sleeve (with booklet), front adorned with a classic shot of rude-boys of an adolescent age, comes the début album of The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra. “First one since 1990”, I said holding the album up to the main man at the band’s video shoot. “Yes” he replied, raising his eyebrows in acknowledged reflection to the birth of his latest solo album project, the hard work now wrapped in tangible CD form, ready to hit music players far and wide.
It feels like an impossible mission to get through a review without side reference to Madness, Dangermen, Crunch! Butterfield 8, Near Jazz, All-stars, Scapegoats, Dance Brigade, (maybe even LP6!) or most overshadowingly all the original ska artists writing or inspiring these songs to be covered. So that has been done, but then chucked out to the end of this review.
Instead, we first answer the question what is The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius?
It’s a very generous showcase highlighting a range of musicians in a fine set of grooves. It’s a wide sound of upbeat toe tapping joy. It’s playable loud for a dance party BBQ, a windows down day in the car and sunshine. It’s a mood lifter. Of course the word Ska jumps out skanking, but there is a hint of jazz, country, old rock n roll and big band swing. With a jewel in the crown modern pop hit thrown in worthy of 1xtra and BBC TV fame, add just a touch of film soundtrack like production and some dubbed out reggae moves. It’s totally fitting of the name “Orchestra” and comes with 5 vocal outings from the main man, Mr Lee Jay Kix Thompson, for all to enjoy.
Sister Mary is a nun who ran the Alpha School. A benevolent caring figure without who’s nurture some key players in the early days of Ska would not have gone on to be the people they became, people who entertained and then inspired generations including the musicians here playing. Thommo isn’t a nun of course but he’s been equally generous to all in his fold, the result is a resplendent team effort.
1. Gun’s Fever
A few piano notes bounce then a rattle of percussion. An organ slide. The brass fires up.
Attack. Dont argue with Mr Capone, The Ska Orchestra are here. “Gun’s Fever” declares Fordie. The battle for your ears is already a step beyond on this perfect intro track by the time the ska “hup hup” ing starts. Sax solo. Trumpet solo. Trombone solo. All follow. Turner, White, Mitchell, take a step into the spotlight each. The instruments introduced. Range, triple barrels, with two more big brass guns in the main refrain.
We drum roll over straight into the second groove. Just enough vocals to catch an ear, beyond being an instrumental. “Woman no wan no bangarang” harmonise Lee and Darren. They debated which version to cover in early rehearsals. “Mama no wan no bangarang?” is the version implying kids make too much noise, but I’m glad they went with the more universal “woman” highlighting the conflict between the sexes.
Bangarang what a word. Jamaican slang and yet still sounding plausible within the mouths of our white boys. It’s so onomatopoeic you can hear the clatter of a spinning dustbin lid metal and concrete in the word. Too much noise, too much hassle. Who doesn’t want Bangarang removed from their lives. It’s everywhere in modern life and you need relief. Lee Thompson’s Ska Orchestra is that pill. The organ on this track beginning Seamus’ massage to remove stress, laid back and danceable. Particularly good is the ger-ang-ger-ranging vocalising Lee extends over. Made this tune their own. Mike Pelanconi feeds the end through the dub echo machine, and it rattles out of your head before you know where you are, you are better for it.
3. Midnight Rider
Into the first proper song, via Fordie’s harmonica locomotive, married with picking guitar, and lilting piano, a country cowboy turn takes place. This has been a long time favourite on Lee’s home jukebox, filtered through many a line up of his band’s covering this live, he finally lays it down in the albums first full vocal. Important in the sequencing, I feel, to establish Lee’s voice as the main album voice. It’s stamped on the final notes here. Took a few takes to nail in the studio, but the final timing ends the song brilliantly with a punch of complete arrival.
4. Fu ManChu (Featuring Bitty McLean)
The inclusion of Bitty raised eyebrows when diehard fans first heard the news, didn’t seem that interesting that someone else was taking over vocals, not least a 90’s one hit wonder we remembered from the charts. It passed us by a bit when we first got offered a listen, we just didn’t find the time. Batting perhaps for Thommo, the thinking “why, when he’s out of his main band, should he give away the recorded vocal duties to another?” Fans don’t want that surely. Did it make sense? Well yes it did. When first actually heard in action, instantly melted away the sceptic fan voice. Bitty’s powerful evocative vocal take. Like Dekker was reborn in the now of pop, showed the logic in a heartbeat. Thommo was in two minds for a while on the route the album was taking to the market place. Bitty tracks may have been a seperate release. In the end the decisions they made with Dave Robinson championing this version, included Bitty onto the album and single and allowed the vocal to be a guest of The Ska Orchestra. “Feather in their cap” was Thommo’s thinking. How incredibly bang on that move is. The powerful “Play by the king” Mcing added a modern world to this bands sound. A general assault on radio, and modern black music’s ear begins. 1Xtra played it. What will the press make of it at the album Launch? Bitty deserve a hit with this, the loop of his own tributary past to Fat’s Domino now alligned with Lee’s own interest in that begining. It should go far. Out of the reggae cul-de-sac and at least a moment in the mainstream. The single is so loopable. It’s pratically a brain wave. Once you get into it.
5. Ali Baba
Lee’s best vocal on the album. Begins with a 7 dwarfs Hi-ho sample. The nursery rhymes quality of the lyrics suit him perfectly. The accenting and satisfied sighing performance, is like being read a story by an eccentric uncle. Edwards adds flute range to the orchestra’s sound. A simple and repeating song, you’ll sing along, because by now the pipers son’s are hypnotically good The Ska Orchestra have captured you there is no going back. The front loaded 5 tracks are all brilliant. If your car journey only takes as long as this through the album, it will be great every time. No skipping.
6. Mission Impossible
The second stage of the album comes with a triple bill of instrumental play. First up is the piano heavy MI same as the Butlins EP. Solidly good TV theme tuning. With organ grooves, and guitar highlights, a melody of brass menace. 70’s TV hit. Should you decide to accept it.
7. Eastern Standard Time
Incredibly infectious big band sound, all the brass players sounding like they are on one in this. The track that makes James Bond run to the album shops, and the 60’s ska sound, transports you back to the time of the original forgetting this is even a cover version.
8. Hot Reggae
Third instrumental middle. Keys climbing upwards. Different standard mix, to the dub mix on the EP. This is the original. Explained as a James Brown funk track Hot Pants turned to a reggae cover version. A fine sax solo or two. Great drum start. Melted brass.
9. Hello Josephine
All the way back to rock and roll. Lee previously explained that the Fat’s Domino blues being heard wrong due to shortwave radio fading in and out is how SKA may have started. A delightfull seductive breathy vocal, makes a worthy Lee lead with barber shop style backing vocals. This track winning out over Four Winds that the band also tried out, similar. Rightly so. It’s the ending that builds and builds as the whole band gel faster and faster playing the two crossing riffs that make this a magnificent jet taking off. As a sax kicks in with a third noise, it’s wild and free and out of control. The layers drown and fight each other for your attension into a hand shaking final note. POW!
10. Napoleon Solo
A contrasting minimalist instrumental, not so much to it. Great Guitar near the end though.
11. Soon You’ll Be Gone
Forewarning that things are nearly over comes the last vocal song. Very catchy. A crying shame to the ending of a great album. A live favourite. Same as the EP. It’s Peter Cooke Dudley Moore singing off with “Goodbyee” in a more upbeat rock and roll tune, we will see all you Aligators later, after this sing-a-long.
12. Soul Serande
A sweet breeze key laden lullaybye ending. Goodnight.
Now vs the originals. That’s perhaps an article for another time. But it’s hard to capture the mystique of old records, enough when using analouge methods, and inevitably this sounds more modern.
The cover versions all stay pretty faithful to the original songs in structure, on an album that exists to highlight, pay tribute and hopefully send a few royalties towards the originators. It’s not re-invention that’s the aproach often, but it’s not slavishly copying either. It’s more a case of the feel for the sound being found between all the players present.
Arrangement and fade times were certainly things heavily debated back and forth in the studio from Seamus to Louis, to Mark and Lee and back again many times. With lists brought to Mike for corrections.
So as a set of ska covers bought by us fans of previous efforts, it most sits alongside The Dangermen in the Madness Cannon. That near-side project of the main band, certainly on tracks like Danger Man, or Phoenix City that they used to air live. You can match up to this, but this album has better production I feel. While it doesn’t pack enough vocal tracks to really beat the Madness 2005 CD instantly, it does do a better job at times of re-inventing and placing this band’s own stamp on songs, particularly on Bangarang and Fu ManChu.
It sits higher up as an achievement than Butterfield 8’s Blow album, featuring 4 of the same musicians. This new album has more range and memorable catch points to the grooves than Bedford/Edwards previous penned incarnation, with much less free improvisation than their current Near Jazz enjoyment, but retains all of the power and skill of their playing.
Sadly Terry’s wildest sax solo was a track that didnt make the final album. It’s a few notes less rich because of that missing an untamed scapegoat like breakout element.
On the Crunch!/Nutty Boys album front, Midnight Rider is the token track here, once a live favourite of Crunch! shows, to please those still waiting decades for the 2nd album of the Foreman/Thompson band.
Beyond that the effort on this album trounces the home programmed production of that 1990 album, with it’s full studio producer efforts, something Crunch! never quite managed to invest in. While the vocals here are not powerful rock poses like Crunch! neither are they self penned poetic. Ali Baba can still delight in that same way. It feels like an inspiration or cousin of Whistle. Thompson himself picks Midnight Rider as a black sheep not matching Crunch! versions.
The Ska Orchestra is not without a moment of eccentric vocalising though. A tremendous cackle at the end of Soon you’ll be gone is a delightful last moment of voice to the album, but over all it’s an adult and mature approach to presented singing rather than showoff shouty that Nutty Boys power once thrived on.
People forget sometimes amongst flying saxes, dressing up and painted faces the more understated past performances like Razor Blade Alley and Maybe in another life, it’s those that are professional embodied throughout The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius.
Having been privileged to see the album from rehearsal to production to completion, I can’t put into words how personal some of the tracks feel as a result. Bangarang will always remind me of a happy day in Hackney witnessing the birth of the band before their 1st gigs. Fu ManChu is probably the astounding stand out track, I’ve been looping, but Bangarang I feel they made their own and it will always be a joy to hear for me.
For all the years I’ve followed Thommo solo bands, I’ve often dreamed of them doing more, but with the release of this album, The Ska Orchestra has impressed me beyond what I thought these bands could achieve. It’s made Mark Bedford’s missing Madness years all the more interesting than repeated Our House bass slides, it’s brought brass and organ sounds widening my appeal and appreciation of past music eras, and delivered a ton more great Lee moments to enjoy. I’m perhaps only slightly dissapointed that maybe Sit and Wonder could replace Napoleon Solo for me, in the tracklisting to make this more the album, I had wished for. But when so much is so right, it’s not nice to be greedy. It feels a finely fitting first album, for a great band, and a platform by which they can and should make a self penned second album to follow in future.
That we would ever be in a position to find ourselves saying that as fans, and that you can all enjoy this in your ears in June. Thank you Sister Mary. We are Blessed.
The tour begins. This week in Chelsea. Get along and enjoy the shows.
We’re just about done for this week, but before we go news has reached us from France revealing that the Madness gig in Paris will be streamed by RTL2.fr
Don’t get too excited, though. The gig doesn’t take place until September 16th, so you’ve got a bit of waiting to go yet.
Have a good week.
(With thanks to Darren Dixon)